Shutdown Corner - NFL - Yahoo Sports
Latest Shutdown Corner - NFL from Yahoo Sports
Anyone who has followed along here for a while knows I respect Peyton Manning. He's a great player. He's not a bad interview either. He's a pretty sharp, funny guy. He's also one of the league's good guys, as far as charity work goes.
All that said, would I pay him $105,000 to speak for an hour? ONE HUNDRED AND FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS? Oh my goodness, no. Nobody would.
Wait, Oklahoma State University really did pay Manning that much? Sigh. Never mind.
Manning, the Broncos quarterback and reigning MVP, spoke to about 4,250 Oklahoma State students at Gallagher-Iba Arena on Wednesday night. He spoke for 30 minutes and had a 30-minute Q&A session afterward. According to the Tulsa World, Manning told the students things like, "This is your world. Own it" and "Enjoy the journey, not the destination,"
Yep ... $105,000. From a public university that Manning has no significant attachment to. At least there's not a problem with the ridiculous cost of higher education in this country or anything.
The Tulsa World wrote there was "a debate on campus" about how much the school was paying Manning, as there should have been. The chairman of the OSU Speakers Board, Patrick Alland, told the Tulsa World the money on Manning was well spent and he would do it again. Really though, what's he supposed to say, he wanted a refund? I guess if you're going to pay a football player six figures to speak, Manning probably is the right one.
He can teach lessons on preparation, dealing with adversity physically and mentally, and he's as good of a leader as there is in the NFL. You could certainly see Manning being a politician someday when he's finished playing, if he wanted. Or, obviously, he could get into public speaking, which brings in a lot of money. Forbes says the price of a "serious" speaker starts at $5,000, jumps to $40,000 for a New York Times bestselling author. Elite speakers such as former U.S. Presidents can get six figures. Bill Clinton averaged $189,000 per speech in the 11 years after his presidency, the Washington Post said. Manning is a bright person with a great deal of charm and charisma, so he could make it in that realm, and obviously OSU was willing to pay him like a former President. (It should be stated as well that Manning is as generous with his money as anyone in sports, having given more than $1 million to various charitable causes last year including $500,000 to the Pat Summit Foundation to help fight Alzheimer's disease.) And I have no doubt it was a tremendous speech and he was fantastic in the question-and-answer portion. Manning doesn't do anything half way; that's part of what makes him great.
But for that price? How about you just get them Brandon Weeden for a few bucks and let the students keep the change?
- - - - - - -
The Baltimore Ravens are giving Rolando McClain another shot. We think.
Interesting: Ravens reinstate Rolando McClain from reserved/retired.— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) April 17, 2014
McClain had retired from football and yet stated his intentions to come back this season, and the Ravens gave him a workout on Tuesday. But it didn't go well, per an NFL.com report, and all indications were that his career might be over when he showed up late, couldn't finish his conditioning test and didn't do everything that was asked of him.
Rolando McClain got his workout w the Ravens and I'm hearing it was NOT a roaring success. Didn't finish conditioning test, didn't do drills— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) April 15, 2014
So why did the Ravens change his status? It could be a procedural affair, and the Ravens plan to waive him at some point. But right now, he's on their roster.
The former No. 8 pick in the 2010 draft started his career with the Oakland Raiders with promise, but things quickly derailed, which led to the team walking away from him. In a 17-month span between 2011 and 2013, he was arrested three times, including a year ago for disorderly conduct — just two weeks after he signed a contract with the Ravens, who opted to give him another shot.
Less than two weeks after that, McClain announced his retirement from the league. He was said to be addressing his issues, and the Ravens kept watch on him, as GM Ozzie Newsome — a fellow Alabama player — hoped to keep McClain in the Ravens' picture and get his life in order.
During last month's Alabama pro day, which McClain attended, he told the media that he felt he was making strides.
"I really focused on the things I need to get right, and football wasn't one of those things," he said. "I feel better as a person overall.”
So could McClain, still only 24 years old, get yet another chance? Even with this designation, it's not clear if he has a real future in the NFL, with Tuesday's workout an indication that he still has a lot of work to do. But it appears, as of this writing, that the Ravens hadn't completely closed the door on giving him that shot to do so.
- - - - - - -
Chad Johnson is back in football.
It's not exactly what the one-time star receiver envisioned, probably, but it'll do. Johnson, who is mostly known for his time with the Bengals, signed with the Canadian Football League's Montreal Alouettes, the league announced on Thursday.
It's unlikely that this could lead to a NFL return. He's 36 and his last four seasons in the NFL weren't too productive. He was cut by the Dolphins before the 2012 season after he was arrested on simple battery/domestic violence charges. Johnson has let it be known, mostly through his Twitter feed, how much he regrets how his time in the NFL ended.
The CFL isn't the NFL, but that's fine with him.
"A dream of mine since I was 4 years old was taken from me, rightfully so, by my wrongdoings and I just want to get back to doing something that I love to do, regardless of where it is," Johnson said, according to the New York Daily News. "Montreal, flag football, back in the street the way I grew up. I just want to play football.”
Johnson is taking a rather unusual path. There aren't many established NFL stars who have gone to play in Canada after the NFL wouldn't give them a job. Running back Ricky Williams (who was suspended for a year by the NFL), defensive end Mark Gastineau, running back Lawrence Phillips and receiver Andre Rison are a few who have played in Canada after starring in the United States. Others, like Warren Moon, Doug Flutie or Cameron Wake have gone to the NFL after showing off their pro talent in Canada first. But reviving a once-successful NFL career by going to Canada first is very rare.
Johnson is, by all accounts, in great shape, and he's likely to be motivated after being out of football. Will a strong showing in Canada be enough to get even one NFL team interested in him? That's unlikely, but it sounds like the NFL isn't consuming his thoughts right now. He just wanted to be on a team again. If nothing else, the CFL should be even more entertaining because of him.
- - - - - - -
It is hard being single and searching for the perfect companion. Your so-called friends try to set you up on dates with people who are only attractive to those with their eyes closed. Speed dating is the easiest way to condense a year of letdowns into an hour-long session. Online dating allows romantics to sort through incompatible prospects from the comfort of their home.
Imagine if someone invented a dating website based on the most important criteria – being a Packers fan. Then singles could find someone to wear a cheesehead with on Sunday.
Packers fans, it is time to take a selfie in the bathroom mirror.
GreenBayPackersLovers.com is a new dating website geared toward connecting Packers fan. Yes, everyone knows true love begins and ends with a dinner discussion around the pros and cons of Aaron Rodgers’ mustache.
Here is a description of the website:
Green Bay Packers fans are the most loyal fans around. Just look at Pack's die hard fans that tackle the brutally cold winters to storm outside and cheer on the Pack Attack. At our site you can find other Packers Bakers cheeseheads looking for love. Whether you're looking for true love, a long term relationship, are marriage minded, just looking for fun or maybe even just looking for friendship.
Of course, there are more men than women signed up, which should attract all the single ladies. Women can choose between dating a guy who paints his chest or the one who wears hunting gear on game day. Either way, he is a Packers fan. Who cares?
The “Lambeau Leap of Love” is only one click away.
- - - - - - -
Two of the NFL’s top free agents signed contracts this offseason that would allow them, if they so chose, to put their money in a simple savings account and in theory be set for their lives.
And yet DeMarcus Ware and Zane Beadles, who signed deals that will combine to earn them more than $32 million guaranteed with their new teams, want more.
Not more money, necessarily. But more knowledge of how best to put it to use.
We all know that the NFL deals in funny money. To wit: A five-year, $50 million deal isn’t worth 50 mil proper — how much of that is guaranteed? And also, there’s the painful truth that the majority of the players in the league will have blown most of whatever they have earned, or perhaps all of it.
Ware and Beadles were two of 28 current and former NFL players who attended last week’s NFL Business Management & Entrepreneurial Program at the University of Notre Dame. The program was designed to help players of all strata — from the Wares of the world down to league-minimum players, and even those no longer earning a league paycheck — to help better manage their funds and perhaps even invest them properly.
In fact, most of the players who attended were not on Ware’s or even Beadles’ level of fame or talent. They either were fringe players, or currently out of the league.
The pro athlete is a potential victim for myriad pitfalls when signing big-money deals: poor management, friends and relatives seeking handouts or loans they never intend to pay back, or even bad investments. But players also can get caught up in a lifestyle that drains their accounts because of bad spending habits.
Patrick Kerney was not one of these players. The former Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks defensive end signed two big contracts in his NFL career but always was smart with his money and always keeping an eye not only on his own bank accounts, but also seeing how frivolous some of his teammates over 12 years in the league were. Kerney twice attended this program when he was still playing, and right after his career was over he earned his MBA in Finance from Columbia University.
“That’s what took me to Columbia: My desire to work with players,” he said. “Helping them understand the vernacular a little bit. Understanding what asset class is. But more than that, helping them not miss out on the right opportunities. I have seen too much of that over the years. It’s tough to watch.”
Kerney now serves as the NFL’s Vice President of Player Benefits and NFL Legends Operations, and his mission is to help open players’ eyes not only to the potential dangers of a large portfolio but also open their minds to the possibilities — the smarter ones — of what that money can mean for them and their families.
“The first thing is to understand appropriate risk,” Kerney said. “What kind of a cap you want to put on your investments, what your nest egg should look like. As [former NFL receiver] J.R. Tolver said as a speaker the other day, ‘Before you start this, come up with a number and how much you’re willing to lose on a venture. If you hit that number, you’ve got to walk away.’”
But for Kerney, this approach is not simply about money and investments. It’s also about securing quality of life and meaning.
“There’s the fact of, OK, you get to the end of a solid NFL career, and you’re 34,” he said. “You still need some meaning, some purpose, every day. The way I look at it is that there are multi-billionaires who still get up and go to work every day.”
That’s why for Kerney, this isn’t just a forum about how to turn a player’s $1 bill into $2. It’s about planning the next stages of their lives, and about the myriad challenges they’ll face — during and after their careers. And for him, it’s a no-brainer for any kind of player to attend the program and enrich their lives. In fact, he’d pitch every NFL player on it if he could.
“It doesn’t cost you a dime. It’s just about human capital, and the economic return you will get from that human capital is absurd,” Kerney said.
Ware said he thought about his place in football and life after it following a serious neck injury in 2009. Since then, he has been very proactive about planning out the stages of his post-football life, knowing that his time in the NFL can end in an instant.
If that reality wasn’t clear before, it was the minute the Dallas Cowboys — a team he thought he always would play for — cut him. Despite the fact he was signed by the Broncos very soon after, Ware hasn’t slowed down thinking about his next move after playing, and it could involve something in the safety field in relation to sports.
“Guys are suffering a lot of injuries these days, so I want to focus more on that at some point,” Ware said. “Not just football either. Sports in general. I am really passionate about that. I am trying to figure out what my niche might be in it.”
Ware said he hasn’t had any specific discussions about starting a business venture in that field yet, but he hopes one day to get involved in maybe forming his own line of protective sports gear.
“It’s something I have thought about a lot,” he said. “I’ve wanted to give back to the game. This is not just a money-making thing. It’s a way for me to take my personal experiences and put them to good use as well.”
Beadles still has several seasons left in his prime but imagines a post-career career that could involve assisting players with money.
“I could see myself working as a financial analyst or vetting out different investments for people,” Beadles said. “I have a passion for sports, obviously, and I enjoy the mental side of sports. I am trying to use my time in the NFL as a launching pad for my next career. I absolutely could see myself working with players on their portfolios one day.”
Beadles first heard about the program his rookie year but never had gotten involved until this year. A mechanical engineering major at Utah, Beadles certainly is smart enough to understand complex concepts, but he only really started getting a taste for business-related things the past few years. And yet he gets why the number of players attending the program is limited.
“I think it’s extremely intimidating,” Beadles said. “You’re coming in and trying to comprehend very complex things. I don’t think, even with formal training, you’re ever fully comfortable putting your money in other people’s hands and not feeling entirely comfortable. If you’re like me, you want to know where it is at all times.
“As you go on, it becomes less intimidating, but there is so much to it. But I feel a lot more enlightened [having gone through the program] now, and it’s giving me more ideas of the possibilities.”
Ware was a business information systems major at Troy, so some of the complex concepts were not entirely foreign to him coming in. But he very much knows he has a lot to learn when it comes to finance and business and understands why many players are intimidated by attending such a forum.
But both players say they also have looked around them and watched teammates waste their money or fail to come up with a post-football life plan, and it depresses them.
“You always hear the statistics, that like 75 percent of the guys are broke within five years of being out of the league,” Beadles said. “I don’t want to be a statistic. I don’t want to be that person.”
“More guys need to take advantage of this stuff,” Ware said. “It’s there for their benefit. There’s something for everyone to learn, whether it’s business or entrepreneurial or whatever. It can help players narrow their focus as far as what they want to do after their careers.”
- - - - - - -
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt is likely the best defensive player in the NFL, and he also seems to be one of the league's better guys off the field.
Watt seems to spend his offseason looking for ways to do nice things, particularly with kids. He had a pretty good one this week.
Apparently a boy named Trey struck up a friendship with Watt, the former NFL defensive player of the year. Would you believe that story? The kids at his school apparently didn't either. So Watt posted a video to his Instagram account where he appears with Trey, introduces himself and Trey as friends, then has Trey throw him a touchdown.
"All those of you who don't believe Trey is my friend, believe this touchdown," Watt says in the video.
Nicely played, J.J. And nice throw, Trey.
The NFL will always have some knuckleheads, but it's also great to know that there are players like Watt, Seahawks running back Christine Michael and many, many others out there using their fame to make many people happy.
- - - - - - -
Michael Sam is not expected to be a first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft. He may not be selected in the middle rounds. In fact, there is a chance Sam is not drafted at all.
However, there are plenty of NFL teams very interested in him.
The Baltimore Ravens, Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns and New York Jets are the teams most interested in Sam, according to The Baltimore Sun. Sam met with several teams, including Baltimore, at the NFL scouting combine.
Sam is poised to become the first openly gay NFL player.
However, Sam has struggled during the NFL evaluation process.
Sam turned in an unimpressive performance at the scouting combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.91 seconds (tied for 18th); bench pressed 225 pounds 17 times (tied for 47th/second to last); had a vertical jump of 25.5 inches (tied for 39th) and his broad jump was 114 inches (tied for 14th).
During Missouri’s pro day, Sam ran the 40-yard dash in 4.72 seconds, plus finished with 19 reps of 225 pounds. Unfortunately, for Sam, he sustained a hamstring injury during the workout, and struggled to finish the drills.
One thing working on Sam’s behalf is most NFL teams are more concerned with what they see on film than evaluating predraft workouts. Sam was named the SEC’s co-defensive player of the year after leading the conference in sacks (10.5) and tackles for loss (18.0) last season. Some scouts believe Sam is not athletic enough to play outside linebacker and not big enough to be a defensive end in a 3-4, which means he will have to make an NFL team as a special teams contributor.
And there are six NFL teams seemingly poised to give Sam a chance.
- - - - - - -
There are few men on earth who can understand what it's like to be Tony Romo, quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. Fewer still understand what Romo is going through from an injury perspective, and one of those is a bit concerned.
Troy Aikman, a Cowboys legend, retired after 12 years in the league in large part because of back difficulties. Speaking to the Cowboys' website, Aikman was frank about his perspective on Romo's prospects: "Two back surgeries in less than a year at his age, I would be a bit concerned."
Make no mistake, Aikman is firmly in Romo's corner. But he's taking a pragmatic view of Romo's injury recovery. “I’m hopeful that he’s able to come back," Aikman said. "Everybody is. This team won’t be the same if he’s not able to. I anticipate that he will come back. But to say that, ‘Hey, he’s ahead of schedule and everything’s going fine,’ I’m not sure how you can really measure that here in April.”
Romo and Aikman have plenty of parallels. Romo is also entering his 12th year, and he'll turn 34 this year, the age Aikman was at retirement. Aikman didn't hint that change was on the way, noting instead that Brandon Weeden and, presumably, Kyle Orton will be suitable backups.
"It doesn’t sound like they’ll be drafting [a quarterback]," Aikman said of the Cowboys. "But if they can find a free agent to come out and at some point down the road play like Tony has played, that’s a pretty good way to go.”
You know where this ought to head, though. Johnny Manziel to the Cowboys. Make it happen, Jerry.
Sidney Rice weighed his options, including a visit with the New York Jets, and decided it was best to come back to Seattle.
Rice, who missed out on the Seahawks' Super Bowl run because he tore his ACL during the season, announced after his visit with the Jets was done that he was going back to Seattle.
Multiple media reports said Rice and the Seahawks agreed to a one-year deal.
The reunion makes sense. Rice is comfortable in the offense after three seasons. He had seven touchdowns for the Seahawks in 2012. And Seattle still needs difference makers at receiver. Most of their receivers are young, they lost Golden Tate during the offseason, and top option Percy Harvin can't be trusted to stay healthy for a full season.
Rice isn't a big star anymore, surely not like he was when he had his career year with 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns in 2009 for the Vikings. But if he can return from ACL surgery and stay healthy, he'll give the Seahawks another option in the passing game as they try to defend their Super Bowl title.
- - - - - - -
Future NFL wide receiver Brandin Cooks is known for his speed. He recently made a name for himself with his mouth for comparing his skills to DeSean Jackson's. Now Cooks is showing he has an incredible heart.
Cooks, a former Oregon State standout, will likely make a lot of money in the NFL. He is expected to be selected in the early rounds of this year’s draft. After running the fastest time at the NFL scouting combine (4.33 seconds), Cooks received a check for $100,000 from Adidas for clocking the quickest 40-yard dash time.
Instead of making a lavish purchase for himself, Cooks decided to reward his mom, Andrea Cooks, with a new Mercedes-Benz GLK 350.
Brandin was 6 years old when his father died of a heart attack. Andrea Cooks held the family, including two other sons, together after her husband’s death, and Brandin took care of his mom when he had the chance.
Here is the emotional video Cooks posted on YouTube:
- - - - - - -
In a free-agent move that was entirely predictable from the moment Chris Johnson was cut, the former Tennessee Titans star running back agreed to a deal with the New York Jets.
The Jets were one of the few teams in the NFL that was still pretty unsettled at running back, aside from Chris Ivory, at least until Johnson was cut. Then it became clear who the Jets' main tailback in 2014 would be. Johnson visited the Jets this week, and the two sides came to an agreement on a two-year deal according to ESPN. Again, this should have surprised nobody.
Now Johnson gets to be the focal point of an offense that is still breaking in quarterback Geno Smith, who had his ups and downs last year. The Johnson that gained 2,006 yards in 2009 during one of the great single-season performances in NFL history isn't what the Jets are getting. That player isn't around anymore. But what Johnson can bring to the Jets is a good running back who still has big-play potential. Johnson gained at least 1,000 yards in each of his six NFL seasons and hasn't missed a game since his rookie year of 2008. He averaged at least 4 yards per carry each season until last year, when he just missed at 3.9.
Johnson complained about his role off and on with the Titans, but he shouldn't have many concerns with the Jets, although Ivory should get some touches too after a very promising 2013 season. Still, given Rex Ryan's style and Smith's inexperience at quarterback, Johnson should have all the carries he can handle. Another 1,000-yard season shouldn't be too tough for Johnson to get, although it's probably not wise to bet on him reaching 2,000 again.
- - - - - - -
Pursuing a professional basketball career overseas no longer seemed appealing to Erik Swoope after the University of Miami forward had an end-of-the-year meeting with his head coach last month.
Almost unfathomably, he suddenly had a more enticing opportunity.
Miami basketball coach Jim Larranaga informed Swoope that someone from the Denver Broncos had left a voicemail asking whether the senior had interest in scheduling a workout before the NFL draft. Swoope had never played organized football at any level before, but the Broncos believed his 6-foot-5 frame, explosive athleticism and aptitude for learning gave him a chance to make the same transition from undersized power forward to NFL tight end that stars Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham once did.
"I was completely shocked," Swoope said. "That was about the last thing I expected Coach L to tell me. Once I figured out this was real and that he wasn't kidding, I was really excited. I took a week to think about it but then I decided I wanted to see what they had in mind."
In the four weeks since his unexpected discovery that he was on the NFL's radar, Swoope has taken a crash course to familiarize himself with a sport he'd only watched on TV before. He has lifted weights to add muscle to his already chiseled frame, done basic drills to improve his pass catching and route running skills and sought out advice from athletes who have made a similar jump from basketball to football.
Swoope's commitment has impressed NFL scouts enough that they've told him he has a good chance to make an NFL team's practice squad next season even if he is not selected in the later rounds of the draft next month. His workout with the Broncos last Thursday went well enough that officials from the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs have since called to express interest.
"I think he has a great chance of playing in the NFL," Larranaga said. "He's a phenomenal athlete, he's a hard worker and he'll pick up new concepts quickly because he's just very bright. One of the easiest ways for me to judge is that I was able to play Eric four positions. Most guys can only learn their position, but there were games I had Eric guard the point guard and games I had him guard the center. His athletic ability allowed him to be very versatile in basketball and his intelligence allowed him to learn every position."
The notion of an NFL career is sometimes still difficult for Swoope to fathom because of his lack of football experience. Whereas others who attempted the same transition at least dabbled in football in high school, the only football Swoope played prior to the last month were games of two-hand touch in the cul-de-sac outside his childhood home in Lake Elsinore, Calif.
In fifth and sixth grade, Swoope was already too heavy to meet the weight restrictions to play Pop Warner football with his friends. And throughout his four years at prestigious Harvard Westlake High School in North Hollywood, he resisted frequent recruiting pitches from football coaches because basketball was his top priority.
"Every week they'd tell me, 'Anytime you want to play, the field's right here,'" Swoope said chuckling. "It was difficult to resist because I had friends on the team and some of my friends on the basketball team were like, 'Man, we should just all go out for football and have a great senior year.' I thought about it every year, but I'd been playing basketball for so long and the scholarship opportunities I had were there for basketball."
Basketball certainly wasn't a bad alternative.
Swoope helped lead Harvard-Westlake to a section championship as a junior and averaged 21.8 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks for a Warriors team that went 25-5 as a senior. His playing time was sometimes sporadic at Miami, but he finished with a flourish as a senior, starting his last 10 games this past season and scoring in double figures in six of his last seven.
It's unclear exactly how Swoope got on the NFL's radar since a Denver Broncos spokesman declined comment until after the draft. The idea Denver might scout college basketball in search of draft prospects is conceivable, however, considering its tight ends coach worked with Gates with the Chargers and has since molded ex-Portland State basketball player Julius Thomas into a Pro Bowler with the Broncos.
If the Broncos indeed stumbled across Swoope watching ACC basketball, Larranaga has a good idea what intrigued them. From his penchant for catching alley-oop passes seemingly headed out of bounds, to his knack for out-muscling or out-leaping taller players for rebounds, to his love of contact and physicality, Swoope's style of play in basketball translates well to football.
"In Erik's case, he's best when there's contact," Larranaga said. "I don't think that's going to discourage him at all. I even told my coaches, I could see him being on special teams tracking guys down and throwing people away to get to the ball carrier."
Something that should inspire Swoope is that his transition isn't the most difficult one attempted by a member of his family. Older brother Devin competed in track and field, and basketball in high school before a junior college football coach spotted him during a basketball game and persuaded him to give a new sport a try. Devin began as a 315-pound nose tackle at Glendale College, moved to outside linebacker when he first arrived at Division II Northwood University and eventually shed enough weight to finish his career as a 215-pound wide receiver.
"All they're asking my brother to do is gain 10 pounds rather than lose 100," Devin joked. "His transition is easy compared to mine."
Jokes aside, Devin is the ideal mentor for his younger brother since he has experience catching passes, running routes and learning a brand new position and sport. They've done many of the same drills the past few weeks at Miami that Devin did at Northwood as he was first learning the receiver position.
"I've made it as difficult as I possibly could for him just to see how he would react," Devin said. "I was rifling the football at him and he was catching everything. There's a tempo to running routes and he'll have to learn that, but even on grass he's still very fluid and very explosive. I definitely did not feel like I was working out with someone who had never played football, that's for sure."
Between drills with his brother and friends on the Miami football team, intense weight lifting sessions with his strength coach and chats with Graham and others who have been in his position, Swoope feels he is making swift progress.
Ideally, he'd love to wow the Broncos or another NFL team enough to be a sixth- or seventh-round draft pick in May. Realistically, he hopes to latch on as an undrafted free agent, continue to soak up as much new information as he can in training camp and earn a spot on a practice squad next season.
"It will come down to the conversations I have with teams and my workouts," Swoope said. "In a perfect world, maybe I'd go in the seventh round. But no matter what this has all been extremely exciting. Just the fact I'm getting calls and that I'm considered a potential NFL player is so flattering and so enjoyable."
Highlights from Erik Swoope's final basketball game with Miami last month:
- - - - - - -
Remember last year, when there was a bunch of mystery about why Rob Gronkowski hadn't returned to the New England Patriots lineup from injury, and the weekly questions about when the tight end would make his debut?
Well, here we go again.
Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman, quoting a source, says that Gronkowski's rehab "take his time and then take more time" in returning from a torn ACL and MCL suffered last season.
This makes sense. Gronkowski needs to make sure he's fully healthy, because his body hasn't always cooperated the past couple years. His concern shouldn't be getting back as soon as he can for the 2014 season, but making sure he isn't cutting his career short by rushing back. But that was the case last year, and it didn't stop a lot of grumbling about why he hadn't made it back to the lineup when it seemed like he was due to play. Let's go out on a limb and predict this won't be the last Shutdown Corner post in 2014 that has to do with Gronkowski's rehab and when he might return to the lineup.
Hopefully one of the league's most dynamic and entertaining players feels 100 percent sooner rather than later. Early indications are his rehab is going just fine. And we know that America's favorite bro is eating well this offseason, at least.
- - - - - - -
Carson Palmer is 34. He hasn't had a quarterback rating over 85 since 2007. He had 22 interceptions last year, second-most in the NFL.
He's a stopgap quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals. He's not so bad he'll kill your chances of winning, considering he had 4,274 yards and 24 touchdowns to go with all those interceptions last year. But if the Cardinals haven't been looking for his replacement, they've been making a mistake.
Palmer seems to realize the inevitability of the team finding a younger quarterback, and he told Cardinals' web site writer Darren Urban that he's fine with the team drafting his eventual replacement.
“If you are in a position to draft the best player on your board, and that’s the best position to be in as an organization, and (a quarterback) is the best player on the board, you are not only making your team better by creating competition but you are helping out the future," Palmer told AzCardinals.com.
Not that the team would have passed on a quarterback if it would have upset Palmer, but it makes a lot of sense if they invested in a quarterback of the future in this draft. The Cardinals have often had a high pick through the years, but this isn't one of those years after they finished 10-6. But this quarterback class not only has a few quarterbacks that should go in the top 10 but more than a few that could end up being drafted ether late in the first round or after the first round who could become solid NFL starters. Given an offensive-minded head coach like Bruce Arians to work with, a second-round or mid-round quarterback could be a great value for the Cardinals.
And the incumbent doesn't seem like he would create any waves.
"That’s the business," Palmer told AzCardinals.com. "It doesn’t matter how you feel about it, whether it irks you or you don’t care. That’s the game.”
- - - - - - -
The New York Giants are giving Josh Freeman another chance to salvage his NFL career.
According to ESPN’s Adam Caplan, Freeman signed a one-year deal with the Giants on Wednesday, which was confirmed by the quarterback's agent. Freeman is expected to be Eli Manning's backup this season.
Congrats to Josh Freeman on his deal with NY Giants— Erik Burkhardt (@ErikBurkhardt) April 16, 2014
Freeman began last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but was released after a rift with coach Greg Schiano. He eventually signed with the Minnesota Vikings, and it appeared Minnesota found a quarterback to replace Christian Ponder. However, Freeman struggled in his debut against the New York Giants in Week 7.
Freeman completed 20-of-53 passes for 190 yards and one interception during a 23-7 loss. Even though his lack of productivity could have been blamed on being thrown into the fire so quickly, Freeman was never given an opportunity to start in Minnesota again. The Vikings didn't pursue Freeman in free agency.
Prior to visiting the Giants, Freeman worked out with the Chicago Bears, but left without a contract. Caplan said the Green Bay Packers were also interested in Freeman.
Interesting sidenote: The #Packers had strong interest in signing Freeman had Matt Flynn signed with the Giants.— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) April 16, 2014
Freeman, who was Tampa Bay's first-round pick (17th overall) in 2009 and is just 26 years old, has thrown for 13,724 yards, 80 touchdowns and 67 interceptions in his career. He was the third quarterback selected after Detroit's Matthew Stafford (No.1 overall) and New Jets' Mark Sanchez (fifth overall) in 2009, and he had 3,451 passing yards, 25 touchdowns and six interceptions with the Bucs in 2010. Freeman led Tampa Bay to a 10-6 record, but his team missed the playoffs.
New York is not interested in Freeman competing against Manning, but he could develop into a reliable backup with an entire offseason to learn the playbook.
- - - - - - -
Leading up to the NFL draft on May 8-10, Shutdown Corner will examine some of the most interesting prospects in the class, breaking down their strengths and weaknesses.
6-foot-4, 228 pounds
2013 stats: 238-of-389 passing (61.2 percent completions) for 2,958 yards, 21 touchdowns, nine interceptions; 76 rushes, minus-208 yards, three touchdowns
40-yard dash: 4.97 seconds
The good: Who is Tom Savage and why is he perhaps the hottest mystery quarterback heading into the 2014 NFL draft? Savage stepped up with a strong final college season — his only one on the field at Pitt — and lived up to the hype he received when he was a highly rated passer in high school. Things didn't go according to plan, as he committed to Rutgers, started for parts of two years there and then transfered to Arizona but left before playing a game for the Wildcats. Savage attempted to re-enroll at Rutgers, but his hardship waiver to play immediately was denied, so he landed at Pitt and sat out the 2012 season.
Savage's stock grew again as the 2013 season wore on, and he took care of the football well (three INTs in his final nine games) after a shaky start. His arm strength rivals that of two of the draft class' best flamethrowers — Fresno State's Derek Carr and LSU's Zach Mettenberger. As one AFC offensive coordinator told Shutdown Corner about Savage, "He can really shoot it."
Savage also has an NFL-caliber frame, played in a pro-style offense under Paul Chryst (who tutored several future NFL quarterbacks, including Russell Wilson at Wisconsin) and had his stats skewed by some dropped passes. It also says something that his teammates named Savage a captain despite him transferring in.
The bad: There are concerns about Savage's lack of athleticism, as the same offensive coordinator pointed out, and ability to throw on the run. For having such a strong arm, Savage was asked to throw horizontally and short quite a bit, which was odd, and his accuracy wavered at times. Also, pressure appeared to bother him; although Savage doesn't back down from the rush, standing tough against some big hits, he can deliver some wild passes in those situations.
He turned in some real clunkers this season — there's no shame in Florida State getting the best of him, but Savage also struggled noticeably through stretches against marginal opponents such as Virginia, Virginia Tech, Old Dominion and Georgia Tech. Savage turns 24 two weeks before the draft.
The verdict: Savage bears a striking resemblance as a prospect to the Philadelphia Eagles' Nick Foles, Savage's former teammate for a year in Tucson. It's all there, from Foles' size to his circuitous college route (Foles committied to Arizona State, then signed with Michigan State before transferring to Arizona) to him also toughing it out and taking a beating behind a bad offensive line. That's Savage, too, although he's not quite as big as Foles, and Foles' incredible statistical success last season under Chip Kelly might skew this comparison somewhat unfairly.
Savage has enough tools to be attractive to NFL teams seeking a pocket passer with a big arm, and he appears to care greatly about football and getting better. He can make every NFL throw there is; turn on the Duke or North Carolina games this past season for proof of that.
But Savage also has enough sub-par tape to question his pro potential, especially given that he's a year or two older than most of the other prospects in this class. Savage has one full season of football to his name since 2009, and he could benefit from learning in a scheme that favors his arm strength where he doesn't have to play immediately — the Arizona Cardinals, Tennessee Titans and Dallas Cowboys are a few teams that come to mind here.
But there's a good chance that Savage could, like Foles did in 2012, come off the board higher than many expect, perhaps even in the draft's first 64 picks.
Previously Under the Microscope
- - - - - - -
Talent excuses most actions in the NFL, but at some point teams reach their tipping point.
Judging by the Mercury News' Tim Kawakami's latest report on linebacker Aldon Smith, the 49ers have passed that line. They're fed up. And, as such, Smith is "probably" not going to play with the 49ers in 2014, Kawakami reported after speaking to team sources. Kawakami said the top of the organization, including owner Jed York and the York family, general manager Trent Baalke and coach Jim Harbaugh, are all embarrassed over Smith's arrest on Sunday for causing a scene at Los Angeles International Airport and allegedly saying he had a bomb.
And if Kawakami's report about Smith not being a 49er in 2014 comes to pass (and that's not discounting his report, but as far as the team goes, it's a lot easier to act tough in mid-April than it is when you're faced with the reality of losing an All-Pro pass rusher), it would be easy to understand why the team couldn't handle any more. They went out of their way to support Smith after his second DUI arrest last year, and drew criticism for it as he went off to rehab but returned late in the season. Sunday's incident included the detail that police thought he was drinking earlier in the day. That wasn't a factor in his arrest, but it could not have sat well with the 49ers.
There have been recent instances of teams becoming frustrated with extremely talented players and moving on. Philadelphia released receiver DeSean Jackson after a great season. Two teams traded receiver Brandon Marshall early in his career despite great on-field performance, at a lesser price each time. It happens, but it's rare. However, Kawakami wrote that he noticed "a weariness and frustration over Smith’s behavior that I’ve never heard involving any recent 49ers player."
The 49ers can take their time in deciding on Smith's 2014 status, as Kawakami notes. They have to decide to exercise Smith's $9.75 million 2015 option by May 3, and NFL Network reported that seems unlikely to happen even though that money won't be guaranteed and there's not a lot of monetary risk involved. But if the 49ers continue to be as angry about Smith as Kawakami says they are (it was telling on Sunday that the 49ers released a statement saying they were disappointed in Smith before the LAPD ever identified him as the man who was detained, basically announcing to the world that Smith was the one who did it), why even send the message that having Smith in 2015 is possible? It doesn't seem having Smith in 2014 is guaranteed.
If the 49ers were truly through with Smith, they'd have cut him already. By waiting around to see how the legal system treats Smith, they're leaving the door open for him remaining a 49er. Maybe sending out the message through a respected and widely-read columnist that they're this close to cutting Smith is a last-ditch attempt to see if Smith can be scared straight.
The 49ers obviously don't want to get rid of a player as good as Smith, seeing as how they're one of the favorites to win next year's Super Bowl. But no matter how it ends up playing out, it's obvious that the 49ers are at wit's end over one of the best and most high-maintenance players in the NFL.
Your browser does not support iframes.
- - - - - - -
A couple months after being part of a Seahawks team that won a Super Bowl, Christine Michael couldn't have looked any happier dancing at a high school prom.
His date, Taylor Kirkwood, looked even happier.
Kirkwood, from Houston, is autistic and suffered from scoliosis until surgery a couple years ago. Michael, a former running back at Texas A&M, was a friend of the family and gladly accepted an invitation to be Kirkwood's prom date, according to a story on Click2Houston.com.
That's how the running back, a second-round pick of the Seahawks last year, ended up at Anahuac High School getting down in a pink shirt that matched Kirkwood's dress.
"I'm just here for Taylor," Michael told Click2Houston.com. "It's a blessing. Like I said, she's a beautiful kid. I'm very proud of her."
It isn't too unusual for a high school senior to go to prom with a football player, it's just rare that the player is already in the NFL. Good for Michael. It definitely gives Kirkwood a pretty cool story about her high school prom to tell for years to come.
- - - - - - -
Brandon Lloyd is back in the NFL. The extent of his return has not been determined.
Lloyd signed a one-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers, according to the team. He was not on an NFL regular season roster last season, but will try to resurrect his career in San Francisco, the team that originally drafted him 11 years ago.
New England released Lloyd last April after he recorded 74 receptions for 911 yards and four touchdowns in 2012. Lloyd had several teams interested in him, but decided to pursue an acting career. He appeared in one movie and has decided to pursue football again.
Lloyd will compete to backup Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin. San Francisco is seemingly kicking the tires on Lloyd, 32, to see if he has anything left in the tank. If Lloyd can still play on a high level, San Francisco landed a veteran receiver who can be plugged into its offense. If not, he will just be a training camp body.
During Lloyd’s 11 NFL seasons, he has played for six teams (San Francisco, Washington, Chicago, Denver, St. Louis and New England). He has compiled 5,695 receiving yards and 35 touchdowns in his career.
- - - - - - -
Leading up to the NFL draft on May 8-10, Shutdown Corner will examine some of the most interesting prospects in the class, breaking down their strengths and weaknesses.
6-foot-3, 251 pounds
2013 stats: 100 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 19 tackles for loss, three interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), 10 passes defended, five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries
40-yard dash: 4.65 seconds
The good: How did such a lightly recruited player become such a coveted NFL prospect? It certainly adds mystery to him heading into May 8. Mack redshirted his first year in college and then spent most of the next four college seasons living in opponents' backfields. He racked up 18 sacks and 56.5 tackles in his first three seasons with the Bulls, earning all-MAC mention as a sophomore and junior. Mack then kicked off his senior season with a life-changing performance in the opener at Ohio State, with nine tackles, 2.5 sacks and an interception return for a touchdown.
That game started the talk: Perhaps Mack could rise into the top-10 in the 2014 draft. Rest assured, he will.
His combination of athleticism and power was on display at the scouting combine (a strong 40-yard dash, and top-eight numbers among outside linebackers in every other drill he performed), and his game tape reveals an instinctive, disruptive and competitive force off the edge. Mack might be best standing up — either as a Clay Matthews-like 3-4 outside linebacker, or a Von Miller-like 4-3 edge rusher — but also could be put in a three-point stance on a lighter front in passing situations.
The bad: Mack's level of competition has been scrutinized, even with games against Ohio State, Baylor, nationally ranked Northern Illinois, Georgia, Pitt and Tennessee the past few seasons. Others have pointed to a few of his weaker performances (including against Bowling Green, with a MAC title game appearance on the line, and vs. Baylor). Some note that Mack's monster game against the Buckeyes came predominantly against a freshman tackle making his first college start. All must be taken into consideration. Mack also might not be big or forceful enough to handle the NFL rigors as a full-time player in the trenches, which could limit his value.
The verdict: Look, we understand that scouts must find holes in players' games. But Mack has few evident ones. He's a polished, experienced, versatile and explosive rusher who could be just shy of the Matthews-Miller-DeMarcus Ware-Aldon Smith level, but if he is it's not by a lot. Mack's ball-jarring and edge-rushing ability make him something of a John Abraham-Ahmad Brooks clone, and that's a very, very good thing.
"I don't want to limit myself to just playing one specific thing," Mack said at the combine, adding that he often will work out with defensive backs just to "stay loose."
The NFL, now more than ever, seeks talented and versatile edge players who can run the gamut: rushing the passer, stacking and shedding against the run, backside pursuit ability and dropping into coverage. There are few players in the league who can do all of these effectively, but Mack appears to have that ability and potential. It would be a shock if Mack makes it out of the first seven picks in the draft, and he could go as high as No. 3 to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Previously Under the Microscope
- - - - - - -
Many rumors flew around about why the Philadelphia Eagles cut receiver DeSean Jackson, who was coming off a big season in the prime of his career. During most of that time, even after Washington signed Jackson, it was hard to find a former Eagles teammate that publicly defended him.
But as more was written ripping Jackson, quoting unnamed Eagles sources, a couple of Eagles went on the record to say that some of the claims weren't true.
CBS Philly had an explosive story last week that stated, through some of his former teammates and other team sources, that Jackson was a malcontent and cussed out coach Chip Kelly in front of the team. Running back LeSean McCoy told Philadelphia media, including CSN Philly, that he never saw that happen.
“I’ve never seen that,” McCoy said. “I’ve never seen the two of them get into it. Coach Kelly, the good thing I will say about him, is his understanding. If you have an issue or problem he seems to always work it out.”
Then safety Kurt Coleman, who signed with the Vikings this week, went on Sirius XM Radio and specifically wondered why people were assassinating Jackson's character.
“I think Philadelphia is going to miss him big time,” Coleman said on Sirius XM Radio, via PhillyMag.com. “I find it troubling to hear some of the stories — and I don’t know who is really putting them out there. I thought DeSean was a good guy in the locker room. He was someone I could talk to and could relate to.
"Did he kind of do his own thing? Yeah. But we kind of all do our own thing in our own way. But when it came game time I would talk to him every game and I would ask him, 'Is 10-mode on?' And there was no question. He would give 100 percent. He would take those big hits for the team. And he was one of those guys that you wanted to play every Sunday because the explosiveness, the X-factor that he brought to a team is [unmatched]. I think Philadelphia is going to miss him."
That's a specific description of Jackson as a teammate, and Coleman brings up a good point: Who is putting this out there? And why?
Motive has to be considered with anonymous character assassinations. That's why some of the most extreme and anonymous criticism of draft prospects like Teddy Bridgewater and Jadeveon Clowney are dubious (and, from a journalism standpoint, irresponsible at best). Why would teams that dislike those players so much put their deficiencies out there? Wouldn't they want teams ahead of them in the draft to take players they hate? A team executive that hopes a player slips a few spots to them and can rip a player without concern about their name being used is a more likely culprit.
Whoever is ripping Jackson might want to lessen any criticism the team will get for cutting him or has a grudge against Jackson. Who knows. But it's worth paying attention when players like McCoy and Coleman say on the record that it's not true. At least they're willing to attach their names to those quotes.
- - - - - - -
The NFL has this promotion thing down pat, and if Warren Buffett can engineer a billion-dollar bracket challenge, then by golly, the St. Louis Rams can have a pretty good consolation giveaway.
Anyone who can correctly guess, game for game, what the St. Louis Rams' schedule will look like can win $100,000. Again: Fans are being asked to predict the team's schedule for money. What a brilliant idea that underscores fans' hunger for all things NFL.
The Buffalo Bills have their own version of a schedule contest. If a fan can nail every game perfectly, he or she will win tickets for life. The most correct entries this year will earn 2014 season tickets.
But we're talking every game here, home or road, plus the day. In the Rams contest, you must predict Thursday/Sunday/Monday for every week, plus the bye, and there's even a Saturday option for Week 16, when the NFL will have a doubleheader on that day. (Here are a few hints to get your Bills entry started off right: It appears the Bills will be at Detroit on Thanksgiving, and they are rumored to be hosting the Packers in a Monday night game this season.)
Can you do it? Seems like a tall order, but a fun promotion nonetheless. And with the NFL announcing that the schedule will not be announced this week, it appears fans will have ample time to get their entries in.
contrary to some tweets, the #NFL '14 schedule will not be released this week. we will announce when we will announce it— Brian McCarthy (@NFLprguy) April 14, 2014
- - - - - - -
An aside: Is that not the most NFL tweet ever?
The New York Jets should have a simple goal on Tuesday – do not let Chris Johnson leave without a signed contract.
After days of speculation, Johnson is currently visiting the Jets’ facility, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Johnson was recently spotted in New York, but this is his first official visit with the Jets since the Tennessee Titans released him nearly two weeks ago.
Former Titans RB Chris Johnson is visiting the Jets right now, per team sources who spotted him in the teams' training facility.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 15, 2014
If Johnson signs, he would join Jets running back Chris Ivory, who struggles to stay healthy, in New York’s backfield. Johnson could be paired with Michael Vick, who will battle against Geno Smith during training camp to determine the starting quarterback this season.
Johnson was slated to make $8 million with Tennessee this season, but will likely receive much less this year. He is no longer in the conversation with Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy, Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles and Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson as the NFL’s top running back. Instead, Johnson is viewed as an above average runner who teams are not willing to overpay.
However, that was not always the case.
Johnson rushed for 2,006 yards and 14 touchdowns, plus had 502 receiving yards and two touchdowns, in 2009. He was considered the league’s top running back, and most NFL observers believed he could duplicate that performance.
Instead, Johnson rushed for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2010; 1,047 rushing yards and four touchdowns in 2011, plus 1,243 rushing yards and six touchdowns in 2012. Last season, Johnson had 279 carries, 1,077 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
If Johnson does not sign before the NFL draft, his options will probably diminish. Teams in need of a running back will likely select one in the draft, which would force Johnson to accept a less than favorable contract offer.
Nevertheless, Johnson has an opportunity to play for the Jets if he has a good visit on Tuesday.
- - - - - - -
The Donald is not going away.
The billionaire celebrity Donald Trump, who is now famous for being famous, is hoping to add another feather to his peacock-like cap. He has stated his interest in buying the Buffalo Bills, and now he is reiterating his said interest in buying the team.
More interestingly, per the Buffalo News, Trump says he wants to keep the team in Buffalo. Or so he says.
“I’m going to give it a heavy shot,” Trump told The News on Monday from his office in Manhattan. “I would love to do it, and if I can do it, I’m keeping it in Buffalo.”
Most people believe that Trump would buy the team so as to move it to Los Angeles, or perhaps sister Bills city Toronto. But he's trying to quash that notion for now with the idea that it could hurt his chances to purchase the team if public sentiment as any seat at this table.
Trump uses sound logic: He curries favor with the locals by explaining the team's rich tradition and the local ties to the team. But then he can't help but return to personal interest on the matter.
“I live in New York, and it’s easier for me to go to Buffalo than any other place,” Trump said. “Where am I going to move it, some place on the other side of the country, where I have to travel for five hours?”
(Never mind that Trump has hotels in Chicago, Las Vegas, Toronto, Washington D.C., Miami, Vancouver, Rio Di Janiero, Ireland and Panama, not to mention several golf courses in various other locations. He doesn't seem to have troubles getting to those places.)
This is where the movie "Wall Street" comes in handy in explaining life. Gordon Gekko, the brilliant Michael Douglas character whom Trump has become, delivers a role-defining line to young protegé Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) when explaining why the magnate must take a fledgling airline and break it up into pieces, after initially saying he would not.
Fox: Why do you need to wreck this company?
Gekko: Because it's wreckable, all right? I took another look at it and I changed my mind!
Trump is going to do what he wants, when he wants, and if the NFL owners approved him — remember, the membership must first give him a key to the executive swimming pool; 24 of the 32 teams must vote yes to any prospective ownership group — he'd try to move the team to Doha, Qatar if he thought it was best for The Donald.
But that's the key: Would the owners approve Trump over the suspected major competition, Jon Bon Jovi's potential involvement with the Toronto company Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment group? After all, Bon Jovi is buddies with the New England Patriots' owner, Robert Kraft, who quietly is one of the two or three most influential owners in the NFL, which could tilt the scales away from Trump.
The NFL ownership has something of an image problem these days, and Slate's Jack Hamilton brilliantly summed up this idea in his review of "Draft Day.
"The NFL is in an awkward place right now, the most popular kid in school whom everyone’s starting to hate, and the kid knows it."
That's why Trump getting his chance to own an NFL team, after driving a stake through the USFL 30-plus years ago and threatening to attack the NFL with a series of lawsuits aimed at breaking it up being absorbed by it, just seems a bit unlikely.
Besides, the NFL has enough unfiltered loudmouths.
Oscar Pistorious, "the blade runner," is as guilty as O.J. I wonder if the result will be the same?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 15, 2014
- - - - - - -
Every NFL team should have more than enough information on Jadeveon Clowney at this point.
He played three seasons at South Carolina, where he went from being one of the most highly touted recruits in the last decade to a bonafide star at defensive end. He worked out at the scouting combine. He had a pro day.
If, after all that, you still needed a private workout to figure out if Clowney is any good, you're probably borderline incompetent as a front office. And Clowney was correct when he put an end to the dog and pony show, telling teams he was no longer holding private workouts for the draft, according to MMQB.com.
One NFL general manager "took exception" to this, according to MMQB.com.
“I’d want the guy who’s going to be coaching him to put him through some of our drills, and see how he responds," the unnamed GM told the site.
A lot of the pre-draft lead-up seems to be NFL teams exerting their control over prospects. They can make players jump through as many hoops as they want, because who wants to be the player to make a potential employer mad? Even though any NFL team has more information on Clowney than it could ever use, having an assistant "put him through some of our drills" is a way to make sure the player know who is boss. Or maybe for future scouting reasons, which don't benefit the player.
So teams are upset about it? Fine. Then don't draft Clowney. Pass on a player who, if you watch the film, is as impressive as any prospect in many years. Take the chance you're letting the next great defensive end slip by because your assistant couldn't "put him through some of our drills." That won't happen, obviously. It's ridiculous to think it would. Clowney and his camp finally saw through it. Good for him.
The wake-up call was Clemson offensive lineman Brandon Thomas, who blew out his ACL in a private workout with the New Orleans Saints. It was a freak injury in a non-contact drill, but Thomas has to wonder if it was necessary. What could he have done that would change a team's perception, which for the most part is set through watching film and adjusted on workouts? Would letting an assistant "put him through some of our drills" move him up a round? Of course not.
Clowney could have told teams in January he refused any private workouts, and he would have gone in the same spot he would have had he worked out privately for every team. And if any team passes on him because he doesn't work out for them privately, Clowney is probably better off anyway.
- - - - - - -
Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III’s offseason publicity train left the station when his logo was recently revealed. For those who want to catch up, Adidas has a sneaker just for you.
The “Adidas RG3” cleat is the newest addition to Griffin’s marketing brand. His signature cleat is in Adidas’ “carmoflauge” color, which is a unique (to say the least) spin on camouflage, and cost $150. Nobody can say the sneaker is boring, considering it resembles a QR code you'd scan with your phone.
Adidas’ excited description of Griffin’s new sneaker talks about its support without bulkiness and weight, with a special liner that's a "sock-like fit." Clearly, Adidas is investing heavily in Griffin and the popularity he gained winning the Heisman Trophy and NFL offensive rookie of the year in 2011 and 2012, but Griffin's critics will see a problem with the widespread branding coming off a disappointing 2013 season.
Griffin was heavily criticized by NFL observers after his personal logo was revealed, and the quarterback should expect more condemnation. Until Griffin improves as a quarterback, many will continue to view him as a marketer instead of a winner. The amount of attention Griffin is garnering this offseason will intensify his scrutiny this season, which he is not shying away from. The same thing happened last year, when Griffin was rehabbing his knee injury but still found his way into the headlines, including an ESPN reality special that documented his offseason including the work coming back from ACL surgery.
Hopefully for Griffin, the new cleats aren't the only flashy part about his 2014 season.
- - - - - - -
6-foot-7, 322 pounds
2013 stats: During regular season had 14 knockdown blocks and allowed just 1.5 sacks in 286 pass attempts
40-yard dash: 5.59 seconds
The good: On the 2012 Alabama offensive line, sophomore Kouandjio was the next star. It was one of the great offensive lines in college football history. Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker were first-round picks last year, Barrett Jones was a fourth-round pick but had the best college career of the bunch. The left tackle, Kouandjio, was going to be a high pick too once he could come out.
He is a huge tackle, opening big holes for 18 100-yard rushers over the 2012 and 2013 seasons. He was a first-team All American as a junior last season. He has elite size and was a standout player in the best conference in college football. Based on the hype he was getting after the 2012 season, his junior season should have been enough to get him into the top half of the first round when he declared.
The bad: The Sugar Bowl was not kind to Kouandjio. Oklahoma speed rusher Eric Striker beat Kouandjio often to the outside. Alabama gave up seven sacks as a team and Kouandjio gave up way too much pressure. Striker beat him for a strip-sack of AJ McCarron late in the game that sealed the Sooners' win. To Kouandjio's credit, he took the blame after the game, even apologizing to Alabama's fans. But it was a tough blow to have that be his last game before the NFL draft. It got worse.
Kouandjio had a poor scouting combine performance, with a slow 40-yard dash and sub-par times in the three-cone drill and short shuttle. He also had just 21 reps in the bench press, which was low for a tackle known for his size and strength. Then NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport said many teams failed Kouandjio on their physicals as a result of an arthritic knee from a failed surgery dating back to 2011, when he tore his ACL as a freshman. Dr. James Andrews, on behalf of Kouandjio, sent letters to NFL teams saying his knee was fine and he has had no issues with it, CBS reported.
''That's not even a worry,'' Kouandjio told the Associated Press. ''It was never a worry for me. And it's starting to clear up, which is what I expected.''
If there is concern among NFL teams about his knee, combine that with questions about whether he's athletic enough to be a top NFL left tackle, and it hasn't helped his stock.
The verdict: Kouandjio's draft stock has taken hits since the calendar turned to 2014. Striker is a good college player but Kouandjio will face much bigger and better pass rushers in the NFL.
Kouandjio played right tackle throughout high school and said at the combine that he's comfortable on either side, and maybe some teams would prefer him on the right. Kouandjio is still expected to be a late first-round or second-round pick. He might never be an elite athlete at tackle, but he was an exceptional college player at a great program, and with the right line coach to perfect his footwork, he could be a good NFL starter.
Your browser does not support iframes.
- - - - - - -
Tim Tebow’s NFL career is seemingly over, but the jokes about him will never end.
Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy was recently approached by a TMZ reporter at Los Angeles International Airport. McCoy is not a controversial NFL figure, so it promised to be an uninteresting interview. When the first question thrown at McCoy was to ponder if Will Smith or Rocky Balboa was Philadelphia’s biggest star, it appeared the interview would be a catastrophe.
McCoy was later asked who were the best free agents remaining (assuming he cared), and Tebow’s name was thrown at him. That prompted a cynical look by McCoy.
"Tim Tebow?" McCoy said. "My son’s two. I’ll take my son over Tim Tebow."
McCoy admitted he liked Vince Young, his Eagles teammate in 2011, but former Titans running back Chris Johnson received the nod.
Tebow signed a contract to be on ESPN’s SEC Network pregame show starting in August. He still aspires to play in the NFL, even though no team has expressed an interest in him. Tebow was released by the New England Patriots after a dismal preseason in 2013 and remains a free agent. His name arguably provokes more emotion - good or bad - than any football player.
Here is McCoy’s take on Tebow, a former first-round NFL draft pick:
- - - - - - -
San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith is one of the NFL's most talented players, but he's quickly becoming just as well known for the trouble he's geting into off the field.
Smith was detained at Los Angeles International Airport, according to numerous reports including the Sacramento Bee, after being uncooperative with authorites and indicating he had a bomb. The 49ers said they were aware of the incident with Smith. TMZ published a video of police taking Smith away from the gate.
Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group reported the LAPD booked Smith on a violation of California Penal Code 148.1(a), which is a false report of a bomb threat. Inman reported that Smith was released on $20,000 bail.
"We are disappointed to learn of the incident today involving Aldon Smith," 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said in the statement, via the Bee. "As this is a pending legal matter and we are still gathering the pertinent facts, we will have no further comment."
According to the Sacramento Bee, witnesses say the problems started with an argument with an agent at the ticket counter. The Bee had a statement from the airport police about the incident. It read, in part, that after being selected for secondary security screening, "The suspect then became belligerent and uncooperative with the process and with the TSA agent, making a comment indicating that he was in possession of a bomb before proceeding towards the gate area."
Police caught up with Smith at the gate, he was uncooperative again, and then taken into custody by five officers, the Bee said.
Smith was a first-team All-Pro after a 19.5-sack season in 2012, but it has been a rough ride since then. Last season Smith missed six weeks after going to rehab following his second DUI arrest. Smith also faces three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon following a 2012 house party.
(UPDATE: According to the Sacramento Bee, airport police Sgt. Karla Ortiz said it appeared that Smith had been drinking earlier in the day. Police said they didn't test if Smith had been drinking because it didn't factor in his arrest, but it's a disturbing detail given Smith's past issues.)
Smith puts the 49ers in a difficult spot. Smith was on the reserve/non-football injury list after his DUI arrest last September, but that was after making the baffling decision to allow him to play two days after that arrest. So the 49ers have shown Smith's ability is enough to force them into some bad decisions. It'll be hard for them to excuse Smith doing something as ill-advised as indicating he has a bomb in an airport.
Smith is a fantastic player, but his decisions away from football are quickly making him a big problem for the 49ers.
- - - - - - -
Chad Johnson's football career looked to be over when the Miami Dolphins cut him and nobody offered a job, but maybe he can revive it north of the border.
The Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League are giving the former Bengals star receiver a tryout. On Twitter Johnson confirmed NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport's report, saying he'll work out for the team Tuesday in Vero Beach, Fla. Rapoport quoted Alouettes GM Jim Popp saying talks between the team and Johnson have "escalated over the last week."
Johnson rarely holds back on his Twitter feed, and it has been clear for a while that he wants another shot and he has a lot of regrets about how his last chance ended. The Dolphins cut Johnson before the 2012 season after he was arrested on simple battery/domestic violence charges. Johnson, who turned 36 in January, couldn't hook on with another NFL team.
NFL owes me nothing, I messed up RT @futureofthecity: atleast you'll get to play sucks you got such a raw deal!! Still rooting for you bra!!— Chad Johnson (@ochocinco) April 12, 2014
Maybe Johnson can have some closure to his football career with a good stint in Canada, although it seems hard to believe that the NFL will ever give him another shot. Johnson was always outspoken and entertaining, and that rubbed some in the NFL the wrong way. It also obscured a really good career. He had 11,059 yards and 67 touchdowns, mostly with the Bengals. His production trailed off dramatically in his final four NFL seasons, ending with a really disappointing 2011 campaign with the Patriots.
The CFL isn't the NFL, but at least it would be a return to football for Johnson.
- - - - - - -
The Cleveland Browns didn't want to send any mixed messages to center Alex Mack.
Mack, who was transition tagged by the Browns before free agency, signed a five-year, $42 million offer sheet with the Jaguars, making him the highest paid center on a per-year basis in the NFL. The Browns had the right to match and had five days to do so. It took them a few hours.
The Browns announced that they had matched the offer sheet to Mack.
BREAKING: Browns will match offer sheet for Pro Bowl Center Alex Mack. Follow http://t.co/TFhsZHhQHp for details.— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) April 11, 2014
That came shortly after Jacksonville officially executed the offer sheet to Mack on Friday.
While the Browns probably ended up paying more than they wanted, they retained Mack, and that was the point of putting the transition tag on him.
The Browns have a new coaching staff and some good pieces in place on the roster, and two first-round picks to add to the talent. The offseason has been quite the bumpy ride at times, but at least Cleveland didn't lose one of the best centers in the league.
- - - - - - -
Saying that TMZ made up things "that never happened," 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick defended himself in a simple three-tweet statement on Friday.
The gossip site posted a story on Thursday morning saying Kaepernick was being investigated for a "possible sexual assault" in Miami. By Thursday night, Miami police had said there was no evidence that a crime had been committed during an incident that happened in which a female acquaintance ended up at a hospital after drinking with Kaepernick and two other NFL players without knowing how she got there.
(1/3) The charges made in the TMZ story and other stories I’ve seen are completely wrong. They make things up about me that never happened.— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) April 11, 2014
(2/3) I take great pride in who I am and what I do, but I guess sometimes you have to deal with someone who makes things up.— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) April 11, 2014
(3/3) I want to thank all of the people who have shared their encouraging sentiments. I assure you that your faith is not misplaced.— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) April 11, 2014
TMZ has not backed down, and even posted about Kaepernick's statement but claims that he never said how its original story was wrong, saying a police source told the site Kaepernick was a suspect in a sexual assault case and that Miami police told USA Today the same thing before backtracking and calling it a "suspicious incident." The woman reportedly told police that she and Kaepernick did not have sex on the night in question.
Being as famous as Kaepernick means drawing the attention of TMZ, which has become famous chronicling the exploits of celebrities. It hasn't been a positive experience for the quarterback.
- - - - - - -
Now that former NFL linebacker Shawne Merriman has joined WWE, it makes sense.
You can picture Merriman in professional wrestling, right? He has the "Lights Out" nickname, looks like he could hold his own in the ring and it's easy to see him doing his old sack dance right before his finishing move.
The news that Merriman is working with the WWE came from "The John Layfield and Michael Cole Show," via SB Nation's Testudo Times blog. The Testudo Times says it's unclear what role the former Chargers and Bills linebacker will have with the wrestling organization. WrestleChat.net said the plan is for Merriman to be an announcer while he trains to be a wrestler, then make the transition to the ring when he's ready.
Merriman took the NFL by storm as a first-round pick by San Diego in 2005. He won the NFL defensive rookie of the year award in 2005, led the NFL with 17 sacks in 2006 and made three straight Pro Bowls in his first three seasons. Merriman tore knee ligaments in 2008 and tried to play through it before eventually having surgery. He was never the same, with just six more NFL sacks before walking away from the game after the 2012 season.
The rumors really got going when WWE star Rey Mysterio Jr. posted a photo with Merriman on his Instragram account with the hastag #futurewwesuperstar:
Merriman is a big wrestling fan, and his current avatar on Twitter is a tribute to the Ultimate Warrior, a former wrestling star who died this week. He has made WWE appearances before. If he can get down the nuances of wrestling, it would seem he could have a nice career. He's obviously a huge guy and an elite athlete (everyone who remembers how destructive he was early in his NFL career can tell you that), and has the charisma that plays well in that arena.
There's a long history of men who have taken up wrestling after their football careers are done. The WWE seems ready to find out if "Lights Out" can follow that path.
- - - - - - -
Cleveland Browns fans have been through enough. This proud franchise does not deserve to be kicked again by being associated with “Draft Day."
Kevin Costner’s newest film, released nationwide on Friday, is more of a bust than Ryan Leaf ever was. Some critics compared it to “Moneyball," but at least that movie was well-written and compelling. “Draft Day” may have been written, but moviegoers will be compelled to wonder how they can salvage a bad date night.
Costner plays Sonny Weaver Jr., the fictional general manager of the Cleveland Browns. He is an incompetent front-office executive who seemingly does not understand how to run a team (insert Browns punch line here). The film is based on what occurs during the first day of the NFL draft. However, Costner’s character is expecting a child with the salary cap manager for the Browns, who is played by Jennifer Garner, and their story adds no value to the movie. There is nothing compelling about their relationship, other than wondering how many drinks it took her to find him attractive.
The movie borders fiction and non-fiction, which makes it hard to follow. Comparing Andrew Luck to fictional characters is confusing, and the picture would have been much better if based on actual events.
A big complaint about most movies is the story was nothing like the book. Well, any person who watches this film that has a basic understanding of the NFL draft, or common sense, will continuously roll their eyes while watching unlikely events unfold.
Without spoiling the plot, which there is very little of, Costner is pressured by his team owner to make a splash in the draft. That message is relayed on draft day, the most unlikely time an owner would convey that desire. Most owners express their expectations of coaches and general managers at the end of the regular season, not at a water park on draft day morning.
Even if viewers overlook that inaccuracy, Cleveland’s coach, portrayed by Denis Leary, has zero faith in his boss' vision. Leary’s character even flashes a championship ring he won as a coach of the Dallas Cowboys at one point to prove he knows how to win.
Really? Dallas was awarded a championship ring for an 8-8 season?
As the general manager struggles to make decisions, he begins researching a top-10 pick on draft day. Any GM who does not know everything about a potential top-10 pick weeks before the draft should be immediately fired.
However, the ignorance does not prevent him from somehow making moves.
Of course, the tables eventually turn, and Costner emerges as a genius as other general managers somehow lose their ability to think. They even call Costner’s character to ask for his advice during the draft. The scouting department for those teams had to wonder why they were not working for an organization that respected their skills, like the Miami Sharks from "Any Given Sunday."
Houston Texans running back Arian Foster had a small role in the movie. It was a great acting opportunity for him, but nothing he will be remembered for. Foster was a decent actor, but his skills were wasted in this subpar film.
If “Draft Day” was an NFL prospect, it deserves the “Mr. Irrelevant” title.
And Browns fans deserve a better movie to be associated with.
- - - - - - -
TMZ created a stir on Thursday morning when it reported that 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was being investigated for a possible sexual assault, but Miami police say TMZ took the incident report out of context and there is no evidence of a crime, much less a sexual assault.
The incident report said, on April 1, a woman was at the apartment of Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette with Kaepernick and 49ers receiver Quinton Patton. She drank with the players, alleges she was encouraged to smoke marijuana and woke up in a hospital room without knowing how she got there. Miami police spokesman Rene Pimental said none of the three NFL players involved in the April 1 incident were arrested, charged or even questioned, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
"There's no evidence of a crime or a sexual assault," Pimental told the Mercury News. "This report is simply an incident report taken at the woman's request. ... there are no specific allegations of wrongdoing."
The incident report said the woman felt lightheaded after watching a basketball game on television with the players so she went to a bedroom. Kaepernick, who had had a previous sexual relationship with the woman according to the Mercury News' citation of the incident report, started to kiss and undress her. He left her naked in the bedroom, the woman said according to the incident report. The two did not have sex that night, she told police. She said she woke up in a hospital, unsure of how she got there, according to the Mercury News.
TMZ reported Kaepernick was being investigated for a possible sexual assault on Thursday morning. The site's headline and story still reflect that despite the Miami police's explanation.
- - - - - - -
The Jacksonville Jaguars exposed the risk that the Cleveland Browns took when they gave center Alex Mack the seldom-used transition tag, not the franchise tag.
The Jaguars will sign Mack to a huge five-year, $42 million offer sheet, according to a report from NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. That is expected to be executed officially on Friday. Cleveland has five days to match, and all indications are the Browns will match it and retain Mack.
Part of that is they are stuck in the corner with little choice.
The transition tag works similarly to the franchise tag with one major difference: There's no compensation in return if a player signs with another team. If Mack was under the franchise tag and the Jaguars signed him to that offer sheet, the Browns would probably have let him walk, and wouldn't have been too upset with how it turned out for them. And it's safe to say Jacksonville wouldn't have risked signing Mack to that much money and also run the risk of losing a draft pick if he was franchise tagged. As it stands with the transition tag, the Browns either make Mack the highest-paid center in the game on a per-year basis or lose one of their better young players for nothing and look foolish for not franchising him.
Sporting News' Ross Tucker, a good football analyst and a former NFL offensive lineman, said he wouldn't give any center $10 million a year. Mack won't get quite that but it's close. And the contract is just $18 million over the first two years, so the Jaguars didn't put the Browns in a position where they would be crazy to match a comically front-loaded contract. Cleveland can justify matching the deal for Mack. If it's overpaying a bit because the Jaguars put them in a corner vs. losing one of the best centers in football for nothing, the Browns obviously will choose the former.
The Browns' foray into the transition tag world shows why teams don't use it much. It seemed like a decent idea at the time, a way for Cleveland to get a tangible read on the market for Mack and decide whether to keep him. But it takes only one team to make it a high-risk endeavor. Jacksonville was that team, and now Cleveland has to pay up.
- - - - - - -
The San Francisco 49ers said they are aware of a TMZ report saying quarterback Colin Kaepernick is being investigated for an incident in Miami and are gathering facts on the incident. Miami police said on Thursday that the report was taken out of context, and there is no evidence of any crime.
TMZ reported Thursday that police are in the beginning stages of investigating an alleged incident which TMZ said happened at the Viceroy Hotel in Miami earlier this month. The story said the police were investigating for "possible sexual assault," but Bay Area News Group crime reporter Natalie Neysa Alund wrote that the incident is not being investigated as a sexual assault.
According to the Mercury News, TMZ took the initial incident report "out of context" in saying it was a possible sexual assault investigation, and nobody involved including Kaepernick have been arrested, charged or even questioned in the incident.
"There's no evidence of a crime or a sexual assault," Miami Police spokesman Rene Pimental said. "This report is simply an incident report taken at the woman's request. ... there are no specific allegations of wrongdoing,"
The Sacramento Bee's Matt Barrows reported that according to the Miami Police Department report, the incident actually happened at Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette's apartment in Miami on April 1, and that Lockette and 49ers receiver Quinton Patton are also part of the investigation.
The 49ers responded with a statement.
“The 49ers organization is aware of the recent media report regarding Colin Kaepernick and is in the process of gathering the pertinent facts," the statement said.
Kaepernick, 26, has become one of the league's best and most popular quarterbacks since taking over as San Francisco's starting quarterback in the middle of the 2012 season. This offseason, the organization has been adamant about getting Kaepernick a lucrative long-term extension that would make him the 49ers quarterback for many years to come.
UPDATE: The Mercury News reported more details from the police's incident report.
The female went to Lockette's apartment at the Viceroy and made drinks for the three players. She says she was told to smoke marijuana before they would drink the shots of alcohol she served, the Mercury News said, citing the incident report.
After watching a basketball game on television the female said she felt light headed and went to a bedroom to lie down, according to the report. She alleges that Kaepernick followed her and started to undress her, the Mercury News said.
“She got completely naked. Mr. Kaepernick told her that he was going to be right back and left the bedroom. They did not have sex,” the incident report stated, according to the Mercury News.
The report said that the female stated Lockette and Patton looked inside the room, and she asked where Kaepernick was. Lockette and Patton closed the door and left, and the report said the female "did not remember anything after that other than waking up in a hospital bed."
- - - - - - -
Goodell showed up for Thursday's first round of the Masters wearing a green members jacket. You're not allowed to just wear that, you have to be a member of the club or a former Masters winner, and unless Goodell beat Larry Mize in a playoff way back when and we just don't recall it, it must mean he's a member. Yahoo's Dan Wetzel tried speaking to Goodell in Augusta but he declined interview requests.
It makes sense that Goodell would join powerful folks like former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the uber-exclusive club. It also didn't take long for the jokes to start.
Spotted at Augusta National: newest member Roger Goodell in a green jacket. Will he fine golfers for hitting the ball too hard?— 11Alive Sports (@11AliveSports) April 9, 2014
RT @gerrydulac Roger Goodell at Augusta National today, wearing his new green jacket. /does he have to move shot back 20 yds before he hits?— Jerry Micco (@PG_JerryMicco) April 9, 2014
If it's true that Roger Goodell is now an Augusta member, might not be long before the Drive, Punt, Chip, Pass, Putt and Kick competition.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) April 6, 2014
They'll eliminate Masters tee shots for patron safety. RT @gerrydulac: Augusta National has a new member -- NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.— Ryan Ballengee (@RyanBallengee) April 4, 2014
Roger Goodell is a new member at Augusta National, he's already plotting to ban mixing tea and lemonade.— Erik Sommers (@Tater596) April 4, 2014
Hey, jokes aside, it's a nice deal for Goodell. Not many of us would turn down the oppotunity if it presented itself and we made $44 million last year to cover the cost. It's good to be king.
- - - - - - -
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson having to prove he is a leader is like Bill Gates demonstrating he has enough money to pay for dinner.
It really does not need to happen.
Peterson has rushed for 10,115 yards and 86 touchdowns during seven NFL seasons. He rarely complains about Minnesota’s lack of success despite having only three playoff seasons. The running back has been forced to endure Tavaris Jackson, Gus Frerotte, Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel as his quarterbacks. Outside of Brett Favre’s outstanding season in 2009, Peterson has been forced to carry the Vikings every year.
Nobody has ever questioned Peterson’s leadership ability, but the running back wants to show first-year coach Mike Zimmer he is someone who can be relied on.
"I'm sure not only me, but everyone else on the team has to prove that they are leaders of the team," Peterson told TwinCities.com. "That is something that I take pride in."
Heck, Peterson’s willingness to prove he is a leader shows he is one.
The leadership subject in Minnesota began after Zimmer recently told a radio station he did not believe being a well-known player meant that person was a leader.
"Obviously, you'd like to have your great players be the leaders, and it could be that Adrian is," Zimmer told Austin, Texas, station 104.9 The Horn (via TwinCities.com). "But it's more about how the guys react with one another. We'll take the minicamp (this spring) to try to figure out who really is the leader of the group here."
Of course, it works both ways.
Minnesota’s past two coaches have been Brad Childress and Leslie Frazier. Zimmer must prove he can build and maintain a winning franchise, something his predecessors were unable to do. If Peterson has something to prove, Zimmer has a lot to demonstrate.
Peterson rushed for 1,266 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, but said a groin and foot injury limited his production. He had groin surgery after the season and expects to participate in offseason workouts.
"I can't say I'm back right now," Peterson told TwinCities.com, "but I'm not far off that at all."
Peterson does not have anything to prove, but his willingness to try reflects his leadership ability.
- - - - - - -
And now, there are indications from all over — including this follow-up report from Birkett — that the Lions' interest in Watkins is very much mutual.
There are several layers to this story.
First, Lions fans bristle at the mention, but history has a seat at this table. The team has hit the entire spectrum at drafting receivers high, with Johnson the lone high note (albeit one of the best high notes ever), middling Roy Williams (who produced one big season in Detroit then netted a draft haul from Dallas), plus all-time flops such as Charles Rogers and Mike Williams. But even the team's recent second-round swings, Titus Young and Ryan Broyles, have been misses.
Second, is Watkins really even that needed? He's great — no arguing that. But with Tate on board and this being such a deep class of wideouts, would Watkins be something of a luxury pick? Clearly, the team wants as much of a sure-thing pick as possible, and there's little doubt they are doing everything they can to help out Matthew Stafford be the best he could be. Adding another prime target would only be the latest move toward that end, and it would give new coordinator Joe Lombardi a Saints-like attack in terms of diversity and talent. The upside of the deal from that perspective is fairly obvious.
But, third, there's the cost. Consider: This was a flawed team last season that blew leads late. It had problems on all three levels of the defense, ones that only partially have been addressed this offseason. The Lions appear to want to let their young corners figure things out and develop, but that's not a position of certainty. Neither is safety. There is an outside linebacker spot open. Another pass rusher is needed.
So would trading up and giving up multiple picks be the best option?
Let's explore what it might cost the Lions. Here's a look at the draft trades the past two years involving picks inside the top 10:
|Draft year||Highest number pick (overall) traded||Team receiving highest pick||Picks traded in return (all same year unless noted)||Other trade team|
|2012||2||Redskins||6, 39, first-rounders in 2013, 2014||Rams|
|2012||3||Browns||4, 118, 139, 211||Vikings|
|2013||8, 71||Rams||16, 46, 78, 222||Bills|
(FYI: I only included trades involving the 2012 and 2013 NFL drafts because I believe that the pre-CBA ramifications of the 2011 NFL draft changed the value dynamic that year that doesn't apply now.)
In order to move up to assure they land Watkins, the Lions likely would have to make a deal up to the 2nd overall pick with the Rams, who — as this chart clearly shows — are willing dealers. They have made more significant draft-related trades than any other team the past few years. Would they move all the way down to No. 10? With myriad needs (receiver, offensive tackle, safety and linebacker, for starters), the Rams just might, and it still would give them two picks inside the top 13 (they netted the No. 2 overall pick in that 2012 trade with the Redskins listed above). But then again, maybe they have eyes for Watkins, or one of the top offensive tackles. That's the leverage the Rams and GM Les Snead could use against the Lions in order to raise their price in return.
So of these trades above, we probably can throw out the Rams-Redskins deal — there's no way the Lions would give up that kind of insane bounty, and with no franchise QB as bait, the price drops precipitously. That one is out.
But if we look at the deals involving the Cowboys and Rams and Dolphins and Raiders, we might have a decent starting point for the Rams and Lions this year. The Lions have eight draft picks this year — Nos. 10, 45, 76, 111, 133, 136, 189 and 227 overall. Picks 133 and 136 are compensatory choices and can't be traded.
Would the Rams take 10 and 45 straight up for No. 2 overall? Would the Lions be willing to give that up? There would be a long wait for the Lions between Watkins and the mid-third-round choice at 76, but such would be the cost of doing business. And the Rams might say, "Hey, give us 111, too" or perhaps a 2015 pick. That might be their counter.
If you're Lions GM Martin Mayhew, Watkins is your guy and you're trying to convince beat-up Lions fans that you should be kept in your current position, do you throw in 111 as the sweetener to make the deal happen, knowing you have those two compensatory picks in your back pocket?
It's a deep draft, and it certainly would be tempting. But that would also put the onus on the Lions finding, let's say, a safety, a pass rusher and one more front-seven player in Rounds 3 and 4. Can it be done? Sure. Some defensive gems — Tyrann Mathieu and Logan Ryan — will slip into that range, and this is considered a talent-richer crop than the past few years. The Lions themselves also struck gold in Round 3 a year ago, selecting guard Larry Warford, who could anchor the interior of the offensive line for years.
The Lions' secret fear might be not making a deal for Watkins, and then also missing out on a pretty good consolation prize in Texas A&M's Mike Evans. What if he goes 5th to the Raiders, 7th to Tampa Bay or 9th to the Bills? He could fit on any of those rosters.
This is the Lions' dilemma. It has many layers. This will not be an easy decision. And as Lions fans surely know, nothing ever seems easy for their team.
- - - - - - -
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones cannot brag about his team’s recent success in the playoffs, so he had to boast about something.
On second thought, he really could have kept those thoughts to himself.
Jones recently held a press conference to announce AT&T Stadium will host the 50th annual Academy of Country Music awards next April. Instead of just bragging about the beautiful stadium, or everything Dallas has to offer, Jones made a horrible analogy involving his football team.
"As you know, the Cowboys have not gone to the playoffs in several years," Jones said (via The Dallas Morning News). "We have not gone, yet we’re the most popular TV show there is on television. We lead all teams in TV ratings. We lead, 24 of the last top 25 shows were NFL games, and any time your Cowboys play they’re up there at the top and leading. Now, what causes that? What causes that is creating some aura, creating some excitement. We want to use that as best we can to make this award show the greatest ever."
That observation should do wonders for season ticket sales.
There is a difference between being popular and good. A random search on YouTube will produce several popular videos, but that does not mean it is quality entertainment.
Jones also does not realize many people enjoying watching Dallas because of its annual collapse. Dallas has finished 8-8 the past three seasons, while quarterback Tony Romo’s record in December is 14-19.
Dallas may be a popular team, but Jones should be uncomfortable settling for that insignificant accolade.
- - - - - - -
No, no, not the real schedule, with games that count. The preseason schedule.
As someone who is on record as saying the NFL preseason is the biggest scam in sports, with owners refusing to do the right thing and cut two games from the bloated exhibition season because they want to squeeze the fans for every dollar they can, it's not an unofficial holiday for me. But so be it. On Twitter, shortly after the schedule was released, "Wk 1" was the top non-promoted trending topic due to people posting about their team's August schedule. I kid you not.
The regular-season schedule should be out this month, and that'll be a real moment for excitement, seeing the matchups that matter slotted into fall dates. And if you are one of those so desperate for football you're frothing over the prseason schedule (and really, it's hard to blame you for getting excited about any news of football games), here's the full preseason slate from NFL.com:
HALL OF FAME GAME (Aug. 3)
NY Giants vs. Buffalo (NBC)
WEEK 1 (Aug. 7-10)
Buffalo at Carolina
Cincinnati at Kansas City
Cleveland at Detroit
Dallas at San Diego
Green Bay at Tennessee
Houston at Arizona
Indianapolis at NY Jets
Miami at Atlanta
New England at Washington
New Orleans at St. Louis
Oakland at Minnesota
Philadelphia at Chicago
Pittsburgh at NY Giants
San Francisco at Baltimore
Seattle at Denver
Tampa Bay at Jacksonville
WEEK 2 (Aug. 14-18)
Jacksonville at Chicago (ESPN, Aug. 14)
Kansas City at Carolina (FOX, Aug. 17)
Cleveland at Washington (ESPN, Aug. 18)
Arizona at Minnesota
Atlanta at Houston
Baltimore at Dallas
Buffalo at Pittsburgh
Denver at San Francisco
Detroit at Oakland
Green Bay at St. Louis
Miami at Tampa Bay
NY Giants at Indianapolis
NY Jets at Cincinnati
Philadelphia at New England
San Diego at Seattle
Tennessee at New Orleans
WEEK 3 (Aug. 21-24)
Oakland at Green Bay (CBS, Aug. 22)
New Orleans at Indianapolis (CBS, Aug. 23)
San Diego at San Francisco (FOX, Aug. 24)
Cincinnati at Arizona (NBC, Aug. 24)
Pittsburgh at Philadelphia
Jacksonville at Detroit
Tennessee at Atlanta
Chicago at Seattle
Tampa Bay at Buffalo
Dallas at Miami
Carolina at New England
NY Giants at NY Jets
Washington at Baltimore
St. Louis at Cleveland
Houston at Denver
Minnesota at Kansas City
WEEK 4 (Aug. 28)
Arizona at San Diego
Atlanta at Jacksonville
Baltimore at New Orleans
Carolina at Pittsburgh
Chicago at Cleveland
Denver at Dallas
Detroit at Buffalo
Indianapolis at Cincinnati
Kansas City at Green Bay
Minnesota at Tennessee
New England at NY Giants
NY Jets at Philadelphia
San Francisco at Houston
Seattle at Oakland
St. Louis at Miami
Washington at Tampa Bay
- - - - - - -
Brandon Spikes hits hard on the field. He also pulls no punches on Twitter apparently.
The former New England Patriots linebacker took several shots at his former team on Twitter on Wednesday, and said he planned to deliver them two losses as a member of his new team, the Buffalo Bills.
Something tells us that the hard-edged Spikes and his new defensive coordinator, Jim Schwartz, who never shied away from that kind of bravado, will get along quite well.
Here was Spikes' parting shot: A comparison of his four years in New England to slavery, with a bit of a nod to the Oscar-winning film from this past year.
4 years a slave— BrandonSpikes51 (@BrandonSpikes51) April 9, 2014
Shockingly, a few New Englanders took umbrage to the comments and responded. It appears that Spikes spent half his day blocking people on Twitter.
- - - - - - -
6-6, 266 pounds
2013 stats: 40 tackles, 3 sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble
40-yard dash: 4.53 seconds
The good: Clowney has been in the spotlight since high school, when he was Rivals' No. 1-ranked recruit coming out in 2011. Locally, he had been a legend since grade school — no joke. And when this born-to-be-great freak of an athlete notched eight sacks, including two in the bowl win over Nebraska, and was named SEC Freshman of the Year, the hype grew even further. When Clowney capped off his sophomore season with the hit heard around the world, this helmet popper against Michigan, his stock went supersonic.
But Clowney had to return to school because of the NFL's three-year waiting period for underclassmen, and he had only one place to go. But even in an underwhelming junior season, production-wise, the elements of dominance are clearly on display. Forget the talk of triple teams last season — didn't happen. But other things did: Doubles, slanted protections, offenses going quick game, running away from Clowney (see especially Georgia and Missouri games), chips from backs and tight ends and Clowney perhaps caving slightly from the enormous pressure bestowed on him. Which, of course, only would magnify if he's the No. 1 pick. But we're talking about a rare horse here.
The bad: Clowney has his backers, yes, but it's concerning when his head coach Steve Spurrier — caricature as the old ballcoach might be — gives his player tepid support publicly much of the time. Clowney missed some time with injuries that some have deemed to be minor ones; we'll likely never know how hurt he was, or wasn't. On the field in 2013, Clowney wasn't a finisher, and he too often was blocked effectively one on one by prospects below the elite level, such as Clemson's Brandon Thomas (a second- or third-rounder before tearing his ACL) and Mizzou's Justin Britt (a late-rounder). Clowney is the definition of a spurt player, so his production could be sporadic on the next level — three sacks one game, then three games without one. But box-score scouting is and always will be a dangerous and incomplete game.
The verdict: Some have whispered that Clowney is entitled and selfish, although there's no real tangible proof of this. And really, if he was thinking about himself last season, can you completely blame him? It's a double-edged sword: Scouts want players who give every ounce of effort, but if Clowney was — even subconsciously — playing with some reservation or hedge in his game last season in order to protect himself, can you blame him? Some will.
Clowney is an elite height-weight-speed prospect, a once-or-twice-a-decade physical specimen who could use a little grit under his fingernails. He might not be a 12-sack producer from the instant he steps onto an NFL field. But he will be a type to impact games, and teams will be well aware of his run-and-chase ability as well as his versatility and disruption. Clowney causes quarterbacks to speed up their throws, flush the pocket and alter their deliveries, and that alone gives him tremendous value to a defensive coordinator. He can be lined up on either side, in multiple techniques, and we saw with his blistering combine and pro day workouts that he has the hips, quickness, speed and fluidity to be used as a linebacker, if a team so desires. This is a special player who, with the right guidance and pushing, could be truly special.
Previously Under the Microscope
USC WR Marqise Lee
- - - - - - -
Aloha, Hawaii. The Pro Bowl is moving to Arizona's University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, the site of the next Super Bowl, following the 2014 NFL season, as first reported by CBSChicago.com.
The NFL confirmed the move later on Wednesday.
Ratings for the game have been low, and fan accessibility even more remote on the island, even though the destination is seen as a paid vacation for the players who are elected — and oftentimes for their families, friends and teammates.
The NFL is hoping that moving the game to the same location as the Super Bowl will bring with it a lot more media attention. The league tried this in 2010 when the game was played in Miami, and ratings were through the roof. They moved the game back to Hawaii the following year, likely because the idea of a Pro Bowl in Indianapolis — the site of of the next Super Bowl — seemed fairly ridiculous.
But why? They have NBA all-star games in Salt Lake City and Houston and Toronto, and baseball's all-star games can be played in Baltimore and Milwaukee, but the coddled NFL fans can't go to places akin to these?
We are sure the league fears that the top players will continue to drop out of the game the more it's played in less weather-friendly cities, and there's no way the tail will wag the dog as far as Super Bowl locations are concerned. But for now, this appears to be a friendly, one-year fix of an annual problem.
- - - - - - -
If you wanted to get that top-of-the-line jersey of your favorite NFL player before next season starts, hopefully you did so before April 1.
ESPN.com reported Nike raised the prices on the two highest tiers of the NFL jerseys it sells at the beginning of this month, although no announcement was made. The price of the Elite jersey, as close to what the players actually wear as you can get, went up from $250 to $295. The Limited jersey, the second tier, went up from $135 to $150. The Game jersey, the lowest tier, stayed at $100.
The league put all the blame on Nike, with a league spokesman telling ESPN.com that Nike and retailers determine the prices. That's dubious, at best. If the NFL struck their big-money exclusive deal with Nike and relinquished all say in how much jerseys could be sold for, that's not really looking out for its fans very well.
The story said 75 percent of jerseys sold are the Game jerseys, so maybe it won't have an enormous impact on NFL consumers. But still, $295 seems very steep for a shirt, and an 18 percent price hike for the best jerseys seems a bit steep.
But Nike has a monopoly on (legal) NFL jersey sales, the NFL has washed its hands of any responsibility, and now it's up to the fans to decide if the price has finally gotten to be too much to buy the jersey of their favorite player.
- - - - - - -
Oregon State receiver Brandin Cooks is a breath of fresh air in an NFL world where hitting is frowned upon, celebrations are discouraged and trash talk can leave a player labeled a thug.
Cooks is a throwback to an era when boasting was not a problem if you could back it up. He is not shy about describing his athletic ability. If there is a receiver better than Cooks in the upcoming NFL draft, he has never heard of that person. When Cooks (5-foot-10, 189 pounds) is asked to compare himself to Washington Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson, he does not mind telling you he can do it better than the veteran.
Cooks might be able to back up his bravado.
Cooks, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds at the NFL scouting combine, was the Biletnikoff Award winner as the nation's top receiver last season. He finished with 1,730 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. He decided to skip his senior season to enter the NFL draft.
He also spoke with Shutdown Corner about everything NFL related:
Shutdown Corner: Let’s start with the most important question? Did you get that $100,000 check from Adidas for running the fastest 40-yard dash time at the NFL scouting combine?
Brandin Cooks: Yes, sir. I actually did, and it’s sitting in the bank right now. First of all, I was very careful when I walked in there [the bank]. I had to be pretty sly about it because I didn’t want everyone to know that’s what I had.
On a serious note, it was an amazing feeling to be able to have something like that. First check, it was just a blessing.
SDC: How important was it for you to run the fastest time at the combine?
BC: It was important due to the fact that the night before I had my formal interviews with teams, and coaches asked me what did I think I was going to run. I gave them a time, and I set the goal high. I wanted to back my word up and show these coaches what I say is what I mean.
SDC: Do you think you could have run faster?
BC: No doubt. No doubt about it. Actually, at the end of the 40, I started to pick my knees up a little bit more. I definitely could have ran in the 4.2 range.
SDC: What has the pre-draft process been like for you?
BC: It’s a dream come true. God has blessed me to be in a position like this. I’m having a great time with all of this. I’m having a fantastic time with the interviews and everything. It’s just amazing. I got to go down to L.A. and be on the NFL Network for the first time. It’s a dream come true. Once you know about the NFL, you would love to do this, and now I’m actually living, and I’m really happy about that.
SDC: Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans have received most of the pre-draft attention, but do you believe you are the best receiver in this draft?
BC: Honestly, I really do. If I’m not getting attention like those two other guys, it is what it is. At the end of the day, when we suit up and have our rookie year, it’s going to tell. It’s one of those things that I know how hard I work. We all put our pants on the same in the morning, but I go to sleep at night knowing I worked the hardest, and there’s no one out there that’s outworking me. It’s as simple as that, and I really feel like I’m the best receiver in this draft class.
SDC: Do you think you will have better statistics as a rookie than any other receiver?
BC: Exactly. That’s my goal, and that’s the way I’m approaching everything.
SDC: What gives you that kind of confidence?
BC: I’m putting in the work to be the best, but I have so much untapped potential, and I did what I did in college. Once I get to an NFL coach and he puts me under his scheme, I think it’s going to continue. At the same time, my faith in God. He gives me the confidence, and it’s true confidence. After that, I don’t have to worry about anything else. As long as I have my confidence in him, it is what it is. I love the game so much, and the competition, I love it. I like to compete. I think that’s what inspires me every morning.
SDC: How much will playing in a pro-style system at Oregon State help you in the NFL?
BC: I think it will help me a lot. You get to the NFL, and it’s a pro system. Coming from a pro system, you’re running your basic routes, you’re doing everything, you’re learning coverages, you’re learning adjustments and hot reads. I feel like I will understand the terminology to the fact I’m coming from something like that. I’m not coming from these spread offenses or things like that.
SDC: You were not a slot receiver in college. Would you prefer to stay on the outside?
BC: I would prefer it. Honestly, I feel like I could do a lot of damage out there. But these coaches know football and what to do with me. If they want to put me in the slot, I feel like I could be dangerous in the slot, too. I have a great feeling they will use me in both places, and I’m totally fine with that.
SDC: What did you think of Chip Kelly’s offense when he was coaching at Oregon?
BC: When I saw Coach Kelly and what he was doing in college, I was like “wow.” Honestly, I felt like in order to be successful in that offense, you had to have some ability. He likes the blow the top off, he likes to run shadows, he likes to run screens. That’s an offense for fast people.
SDC: Do you think the Eagles’ offense is tailor-made for your skill set?
BC: I think I can [excel in Kelly’s system], but whenever I go, I’ll be ecstatic. It doesn’t matter what the offense is. I just saw his offense first-hand in college, and that’s why I’m so familiar with it.
SDC: Let me give you the opportunity to backtrack. You previously said you could do it like DeSean Jackson, and even better. Did you really mean that?
BC: I said it. Before that I said he is a heck of a player, he blows the top off, he’s a freak. I understand that. At the same time, I don’t think anything less of myself. Just coming from this type of offense, a pro-style system, having that type of background, I just feel once I get to the NFL, I do it better at a higher level. It’s no disrespect to DeSean Jackson. I know what I can bring to the table, and it’s as simple as that. I feel like I’m a freak also. If he’s a freak, I think I’m one, too. It’s as simple as that.
SDC: When you say you can do it better, what does that mean? More yards than DeSean? More touchdowns than DeSean?
BC: Basically, I’m telling you if they [Eagles] were to pick me up, they wouldn’t have to worry about a decrease in playmaking ability. I feel like I have the same playmaking ability in the receiver spot also. That’s what it’s entailing. It’s not entailing that I’m going to have more yards or anything like that. It’s entailing that I’m going to do it at that level and on a higher level.
SDC: So if you were drafted by Carolina, do you feel like you can be on the same level as Steve Smith or even higher?
BC: See, now you’re trying to get me.
SDC: I’m not trying to get you. I’m trying to see where your head is.
BC: That’s a Hall of Famer. I expect teams when they draft me, I expect myself to come in and play right away and not to be waiting around as a rookie. I’m not going to consider myself a rookie. This is a grown man’s game. I’m going to come in there and do what I have to do, plug into an offense, and I’m going to make sure that offense is successful. They don’t have to worry about, “Oh, I’m drafting a rookie. It’s going to take a long time.” It’s not going to take me a long time.
SDC: Have you worked out for any teams yet?
BC: I had a couple of private workouts [Patriots and Panthers]. I have a visit to New York [Jets] on April 20. I leave next Sunday. There are few more.
SDC: You majored in human development and family sciences, and minored in communications. When do you plan to graduate?
BC: I’m going to graduate next fall. I’m taking classes now and took classes during the winter term. I’m right around the corner on being finished.
SDC: Will your mom be more proud of you getting drafted or obtaining a college degree?
BC: Probably the college diploma due to the fact she preached education all the time. She made sure I was taking classes even though I was training for the combine. Every time I talk to her, it’s, "How is school? How is school?" Then she asks me about football.
- - - - - - -
Erin Henderson had a young son, a wife, and two DUI arrests in less than two months.
He also had a NFL career, but that was on the edge of falling apart. After the second arrest he was out of a job. Even though he was coming off his best season as the Vikings' middle linebacker, with 112 tackle, four sacks and two interceptions (all career highs), the team cut him after the arrests. He had a problem with drinking and marijuana.
Here's where the story turns good, hopefully. Henderson checked into rehab, and told USA Today's Tom Pelissero in a great piece that he has turned his life around and wants a second NFL chance. Henderson told TMZ he "cannot be more grateful" for the arrests, and from the sounds of it, it was probably a blessing in disguise.
"There would be times where I would come to practice hung over," Henderson told USA Today. "Never just fresh off of drinking coming into practice. But I might have had a rough night the night before, and I'd be in front of the huddle calling plays. And everybody would know that I had been out drinking the night before.
"Of course, that affects the ability to go out there and perform and be the best that you can be. But I'd been doing it for so long and it's something that I had gotten used to."
Henderson should get a second shot. He's just 27 years old, although teams will ask him a lot of questions about his life changes, and he still faces nine charges from the two arrests, on Nov. 19 and Jan. 1, including four counts of DUI and two counts of drug possession. The NFL office will have something to say about that, presumably. But he is saying the right things. He talked in the USA Today story about being more present with his son, who turns 3 this week. He said he has found religion, especially after a rehab visit from former Vikings teammate Greg Jennings.
There have been countless stories of players having substance abuse issues, and not doing anything about it until their football careers were long gone. It seems like Henderson has fixed his life before it's too late.
"That's one of the things I'm most curious about — what happens when I can remove a lot of my off-field issues and just play with a clear mind and actually enjoy the game like I used to?" Henderson said. "I like to call myself a recovering alcoholic. I understand it's an ongoing battle. It's a lifelong thing. Anybody that's dealt with me, anybody in the Vikings organization, know that the things that transpired aren't me. That was a different person that had taken over my body, pretty much."
- - - - - - -
6-0, 192 pounds
2013 stats: 57 catches, 791 yards, 4 TDs
40-yard dash: 4.52 seconds
The good: See those stats above? Definitely not befitting a guy who is considered a first-round prospect. They don't tell the whole story. In 2012, Lee was phenomenal and it seemed like he would be considered the can't-miss top-10 receiver in this class, a role Sammy Watkins has assumed.
In 2012, with Matt Barkley at quarterback, Lee had 118 catches, 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns. Yes, more than double his output last season. He was dominant, and a 16-catch, 345-yard game against Arizona went in the history books and clinched the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation's best receiver. He looked fluid, athletic, caught the ball well and did great things after the catch. But, because of the NFL's unfair rule that a player needs to be in college three years before he can enter the draft, Lee was stuck in school for 2013. But what could possibly go wrong?
The bad: In 2013 just about everything went wrong. He had knee and shoulder injuries that seemed to affect him all year, and he missed three games. USC had some quarterback uncertainty, which didn't help, although it should be noted that USC's top two quarterbacks were each among the best in their recruiting class. They went through a midseason coaching change as well. All of a sudden questions about Lee's size and durability arose, as did questions about his focus after some drops. And although a 4.52-second 40-yard dash at the combine isn't awful, it's not anything great for a receiver without elite size. Can he get off the line against NFL cornerbacks? And if he does, can he outrun them? He plays faster in pads than he ran at the combine, but his big plays were against Pac-12 competition. The pedestrian output last season as a junior has to be a concern to any team thinking about using a first-round pick on Lee.
The verdict: Although Lee has slipped, he still seems to be a good bet to go late in the first round. A team like Carolina, San Francisco or Seattle will put on the 2012 tape and talk themselves into the unbelievable plays and production they see, chalking up 2013 to uneven quarterback play and injuries. Besides, Watkins had a bad season in college too and it hasn't hurt him, because fortunately for Watkins it was his sophomore year and not his final impression for NFL teams. At least Lee had a good final game, getting 118 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Las Vegas Bowl after he was able to rest for a few weeks and heal up. Because he was so good in 2012, don't rule him out being a very productive NFL receiver, though it would probably be best if he landed on a team that already has a reliable possession receiver on the other side.
- - - - - - -
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon must wake up each day wondering what he did wrong.
Glennon was a third-round draft pick who was forced to start after three games last season because of a rift between former coach Greg Schiano and quarterback Josh Freeman. The rookie finished with 2,608 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He was the quarterback on just about anyone's all-rookie team from last season. With one season under his belt, Glennon could have improved this offseason.
Bucs coach Lovie Smith had other plans.
Smith signed former Bears quarterback Josh McCown during free agency, and immediately announced his new acquisition would start in 2014. As if getting demoted was not bad enough, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had a pre-draft visit with Tampa Bay on Monday, and Smith previously attended the pro day workout of UCF quarterback Blake Bortles. If Tampa Bay selects a quarterback, Glennon could find himself battling to remain on the roster during training camp.
Despite Glennon’s rapid descent, even though he hasn't done anything to deserve it this offseason, he intends to continue battling this offseason.
"I’m just going to go out there and compete every day and help the team win in whatever way possible," Glennon told ESPN’s Pat Yasinkas on Tuesday. "Josh has been great so far to me and it’s going to be a great opportunity to work with him every day with a guy that has so much experience like that. But, at the same time just by my nature I’m going to go out there and compete. Whatever my role may be I’m going to do it to the best of my ability and help this team win."
Glennon should not feel too bad about his current situation.
Smith has released guard Davin Joseph, left tackle Donald Penn and cornerback Darrelle Revis since being hired earlier this year. He has also traded receiver Mike Williams and guard Jeremy Zuttah. Smith’s motto seemingly is, “It’s not personal, it’s business.” Glennon’s demotion is strictly a business decision by Smith.
At least Glennon still has a positive attitude.
- - - - - - -
The Buffalo Bills put up a handy list of facts on the team's official website on all of the 2014 opponents for the yet-to-be-announced NFL schedule.
Check out the note on the Detroit Lions (h/t SI.com) at No. 8:
"Buffalo and Detroit will meet for the 10th time in the regular season in 2014. The Bills have played in eight previous Thanksgiving Day games (4-4) in team history with their last appearance on Turkey Day coming in 1994."
Hmm, did the Bills just spill the fact that they'll be playing the Lions in the traditional early Thanksgiving game? The league typically rolls these games, and a select few others, out in an NFL Network ratings grab, so the NFL can't be too happy about this mini-spill, even if it's no big deal in the grand scheme.
But the parent clubs often are giving time for their PR staffs to collect information on matchups and such ahead of time, so it would make sense that this would be the case and why they would have this information in advance.
Using the power of deduction, our own Frank Schwab makes this smart observation on the situation: Dallas and Detroit, two NFC teams, host the early two games on Thanksgiving, and Fox gets the all-NFC game. Last year, it was Green Bay at Detroit and Oakland at Dallas, so this year, we can expect an AFC team visiting Detroit. The only two AFC teams visiting Detroit this year: Miami and Buffalo.
So, Detroit, are you ready to welcome back Jim Schwartz (the Bills' new defensive coordinator) to town? Oh, that might be fun. We seem to remember a few notable games involving Schwartz — the challenge flag fiasco and Ndamukong Suh's head-stomping, to name two — and Thanksgiving over the years.
Turkey for everyone!
But on a more serious note, this game will be a great opportunity to honor two of the NFL's longest-tenured and recently fallen owners, the Lions' William Clay Ford and the Bills' Ralph Wilson, both of whom died in the past month. Expect a worthy pre-game tribute to two men who owned NFL franchises for decades and both of whom have deep ties to the city of Detroit.
- - - - - - -
Clemson offensive lineman Brandon Thomas, whose draft stock grew when he held South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney in check one-on-one last season, has suffered a torn ACL in a pre-draft workout.
The workout occured with the New Orleans Saints, ESPN's Mike Triplett is reporting.
Confirmed via league source that Brandon Thomas' injury occurred during non-contact drill in workout with #Saints. ... Such a shame.— Mike Triplett (@MikeTriplett) April 8, 2014
Thomas was a prospect on the rise who might have slipped into the top 50 picks before the injury, but not now. The torn ACL almost certainly will drop Thomas a few rounds and make him a PUP list (physically unable to perform) candidate for whatever team ends up drafting him.
But Thomas will be picked. His strong senior season, positional flexibility, the Clowney performance and a strong Senior Bowl all bode well for his football future once his knee recovers.
There are a number of teams that have the combination of good depth and additional draft picks — such as the San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots, all of whom have made "redshirt" draft picks on injured players recently — that might find Thomas a good home.
But the Saints, who were working Thomas out, should consider taking him. After all, they have no responsibility to say much more than "sorry, bro" but it would be a nice makeup call if it could happen.
- - - - - - -
MARTINSVILLE, N.J. – Jamaal Westerman is going all Darth Vader to get ready for the NFL season.
The free-agent linebacker, set to enter his sixth season in the league, is known for his conditioning and being a physical specimen. But now Westerman is set to take it to a whole other level by utilizing a high-elevation training mask in his workouts that limits oxygen intake during his workouts.
He found the mask online and was intrigued by the science of making it harder to breathe when he trains.
According to the makers of the Elevation Training Mask, the device is fitted over your face and “will help you regulate your breathing, increase lung stamina, lung capacity, oxygen efficiency and increase overall mental focus. Training Mask can help your overall performance in all sports and daily living.”
In short, the mask makes him work and breathe harder while doing an exercise, which helps conditioning.
“It's just a tool. I don't think there is one thing that is an end-all, be-all. It's just a tool to augment my workout regimen – like players using a parachute when they run or the sled or something like that,” Westerman told Shutdown Corner.
“It feels that it has been working. I like to use it not just with cardio but with the movement based stuff like lunges and box jumps. It's a tool to use. It trains your muscles, it is hard to inhale, harder to exhale.”
Jerry Hughes of the Buffalo Bills told Westerman about the device. After some research and seeing other players in the league utilizing it during their workouts, Westerman went out and purchased one for himself.
The mask and devices like it are part of a new trend in offseason conditioning for NFL players.
A former All-Big East selection at Rutgers, Westerman currently trains during the offseason at TEST Sports Clubs in central New Jersey along with current NFL players such as Cleveland Browns cornerback Royce Adams, Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman Ropati Pitoitua, Minnesota Vikings guard Vlad Ducasse and former NFL linebacker Bart Scott, among others. Westerman has played with five NFL teams in his five seasons, including Indianapolis and Pittsburgh last year, and is currently looking to latch on with a team. He should be in good shape when the call comes.
A little over a month ago, he tried the mask for the first time and after some hazing from Scott - “You look like Hannibal Lecter” - he is starting to feel the effects.
The mask has six levels – it can be adjusted to restrict or expand how much oxygen comes in - and Westerman is at the midpoint level in terms of limiting the air flow.
“You do feel it. First time on, you feel like you can't breathe,” Westerman said.
“I feel like I'm focusing more on more breathing. I don't know how long it will take effect to see results – maybe in camp. But I feel like I'm running more efficiently, running better. I do feel like it is helping.”
Check out what's buzzing on the Yahoo Sports Minute:
Kristian R. Dyer covers the Jets for Metro New York and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KristianRDyer
Last season, after quarterback Josh Freeman was cut by Tampa Bay, multiple teams were interested. MInnesota landed him on a one-year deal for $3 million, not a bad sum for less than a full season.
Less than a year later, Freeman hasn't been able to find a job on the open market. Teams have had a month to acquire him as a free agent, but there has been surprisingly little news on Freeman, before reports this week that he visited with the Chicago Bears.
Even though Freeman is just 26, it seems like he's at the point where he really needs the Bears and offensive guru coach Marc Trestman to sign him, just to save his career. ESPN Chicago said there were no immediate plans to sign Freeman after a workout Monday, although that could change down the road.
What happened to Freeman? He's a former first-round pick whose 2010 season (25 touchdowns, six interceptions, 95.9 rating) is far better than anything fellow quarterbacks such as Brandon Weeden or Colt McCoy have done in the NFL, and those two signed as backups.
Freeman was embroiled in a controversy in Tampa Bay, but coach Greg Schiano deserved more than his share of the blame for that. He seemed to be getting a new start in Minnesota. He started a game at the Giants shortly after he was signed, and couldn't have been ready to run the Vikings offense. Despite that, the Vikings had a mind-numbing game plan to let Freeman throw 53 times. And he was terrible. He completed just 20 of those passes and most of the incompletions weren't close to the target. Still, it didn't seem like a career-ending performance at the time. But he never played for the Vikings again, and he's still looking for a job weeks after free agency started.
If anyone can revive Freeman it might be Trestman. Josh McCown never played as well as Freeman in his first 10 NFL seasons, but in the Bears' offense he had a great stretch of six starts. McCown parlayed that into a nice deal with the Buccaneers to start for them (Tampa Bay might be in for a lesson on sample sizes pretty soon). Bears starter Jay Cutler has dealt with plenty of injury issues the past few years, thanks to the beating he has taken in his career. Ending up as the Bears' backup would be a fantastic opportunity for Freeman, considering there has been very, very little interest in him to this point. Though, the fact that Freeman left the Bears without a contract, even though Chicago has no proven veteran backing up Cutler on the roster, isn't the best sign for him.
Wherever Freeman ends up (assuming he ends up somewhere), he better make the most of his chance, because it seems like he's close to being out of the NFL for good.
Check out what's buzzing on the Yahoo Sports Minute:
- - - - - - -
New York Jets quarterback Michael Vick might be able to escape a pass rush, but he will never shake his criminal history.
When the Jets signed Vick this offseason, most NFL observers focused on his quarterback battle with Geno Smith. Many, however, will never forget the horrific details that prompted Vick to plead guilty to a federal dog fighting conspiracy charge in 2007. He served 19 months in federal prison and lost millions of dollars.
Now there is a petition to ban Vick from SUNY Cortland’s campus, where the Jets will hold training camp this summer. The Jets have held training camp at SUNY Cortland every season since 2009, except for the lockout year in 2011.
So far, the petition has nearly 3,000 supporters.
Here is the explanation of the petition:
I love SUNY Cortland, and cannot abide welcoming this sociopath onto our campus with open arms. We need to stand by what is right as a university by barring him from the grounds. I don't want him anywhere near my beloved college or community. We MUST send the message that we won't be party to the torture of animals by conveniently forgetting what he has done. If we welcome Vick onto our campus, we are complicit in his crimes.
According to NYDailyNews.com, the Jets and SUNY Cortland have not commented.
Animal rights groups routinely protest games outside of stadiums Vick appear in, so the current outcry is nothing new.
Jets owner Woody Johnson reached out to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell prior to signing Vick. Goodell, who previously suspended Vick indefinitely because of the criminal activity, supported the quarterback during the recent NFL owners meetings.
"I’ll refrain from sharing anything about the conversation, but I’ll be happy to talk about the general views toward Michael," Goodell said. "Michael is a young man who made a tragic mistake. He paid a very heavy price for it, but I’ve seen him, in everything he’s done, exceed expectations. He has worked very hard to be a positive force in a lot of different areas. That’s something I admire about him. When we went through the process of reviewing whether he would come back into the league, he demonstrated that he was somebody who was committed to saying, ‘I am going to do this the right way. I am going to be a positive force.’ He has, and I’m proud of the work he has done. I think that’s the kind of thing we should have."
As we see with this petition, not everyone agrees with the commissioner.
- - - - - - -
Running into an NFL athlete is often a once in a lifetime experience. When that moment happens, the fan usually asks the football player for permission to take a picture together. Once that picture is snapped, the evidence is immediately posted to every social networking service downloaded on a cell phone.
Unfortunately, Jenni Bazard turned her shining moment into an embarrassing one recently.
Bazard thought she ran into Houston Texans running back Arian Foster, and took a picture with him. She decided to share that picture on Twitter and tag Foster:
There was only one problem.
The guy in the picture was not Foster. In fact, Foster kindly let her know she had the wrong person in his reply:
There are so many things wrong with Bazard’s encounter with this random person.
Did Bazard ask the impostor if he was Foster and he said yes? Did she ask a random stranger to take a picture with her, and he obliged? Is Bazard the last person you want to give officers a description of someone who attacked you?
Hopefully Bazard will ask more questions the next time she thinks J.J. Watt is sitting in her hotel lobby.
- - - - - - -
Mock drafts are a blast. I write them up, and you flamethrow me after reading them. It's fun for everyone involved.
But as I see it, there often are problems when people do mock drafts. Too often they blur the lines between what they think teams will do and what they think teams should do.
So we'll solve that problem with a handy double shot: both things in one side-by-side list. Sometimes the picks will align. We realize that teams are smart, too, and often have the best idea of what they need. But we also have a few thoughts of the way this thing should go on May 8.
In this first-round mock draft, you get the best of both worlds. And that means twice the feedback of how terrible I am — at football, at life, whatever.
|Pick||Team||Who they will take||Who they should take||Explanation|
|1||Houston Texans||South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney||South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney||I know that esteemed beat writer John McClain says it's Johnny Manziel for now (and has said QB first the entire process). But I still believe Clowney will be too hard to pass up here.|
|2||St. Louis Rams (from Redskins)||Auburn OT Greg Robinson||Clemson WR Sammy Watkins||If a team is not drafting Watkins because it used a first-round pick last year on Tavon Austin and then signed Kenny Britt to a contract this season, its priorities are messed up. That said, Robinson and Jake Matthews could be great ones.|
|3||Jacksonville Jaguars||Clemson WR Sammy Watkins||Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater||Maybe we're wrong, but the precocious Bridgewater might be the leader Gus Bradley could use for his ascending team, and there's no pressure to start him immediately. Then again, Watkins is one of our favorite players in this draft.|
|4||Cleveland Browns||Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews||Auburn OT Greg Robinson||The Browns do the right thing? Look, if you're in love with Derek Carr, then fine ... take him at 26, or thereabouts. But please, for the love of all good things, don't reach for him here. Don't believe they will. Either Matthews or Robinson would be a hit.|
|5||Oakland Raiders||Central Florida QB Blake Bortles||Buffalo LB Khalil Mack||The Raiders need a QB, so they take one. Is he the franchise savior? No. There is chatter the Raiders might go way off the grid here. I know, shocker, right?|
|6||Atlanta Falcons||Buffalo LB Khalil Mack||Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews||We actually like the Mack fit, if he's there. The Falcons were one of the worst teams rushing the passer without the benefit of the blitz last season. If Mack is not there, Matthews would add the skill they need up front.|
|7||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Texas A&M WR Mike Evans||Michigan OT Taylor Lewan||Evans might not be the receiver everyone is making him out to be, but an Evans-Vincent Jackson combo would rival the Bears' WRs as the most physical combination going and give Josh McCown two similar types of targets. Lewan would give them more blocking help and nastiness. A win either way.|
|8||Minnesota Vikings||UCLA LB Anthony Barr||Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel||We admit: We just want to see what a Manziel-Mike Zimmer-Adrian Peterson-Cordarrelle Patterson-Norv Turner situation would produce. It would be fascinating and get people pumped about the Vikings again.|
|9||Buffalo Bills||Michigan OT Taylor Lewan||Texas A&M WR Mike Evans||If you're going to support your almost-rookie quarterback (considering how much time EJ Manuel missed last season), then you need to help him out, and either a right tackle (Lewan) or a seam-stretching receiver (Evans) would achieve just that.|
|10||Detroit Lions||Alabama S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix||UCLA LB Anthony Barr||We're not quite as jacked on Clinton-Dix as everyone, and this pick feels like it's a bit too needs-based. Barr fits what the Lions do not have (and actually have said they needed): a pass-rushing linebacker opposite Ziggy Ansah. Maybe they surprise and take the right guy here.|
|11||Tennessee Titans||Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert||Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert||Too easy. You lose your top corner, Alterraun Verner, to free agency and your new defensive coordinator is one of the most aggressive, blitz-happy play callers out there. The Titans need a man-cover ace, and Gilbert is the guy.|
|12||New York Giants||Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald||Pittsbugh DT Aaron Donald||Once more, fiction and reality intersect. The Giants have been big middle-class players in free agency, helping rebuild the core of the roster. Smart stuff. But they need more help on the defensive front with Linval Joseph and Justin Tuck gone.|
|13||St. Louis Rams||Louisville S Calvin Pryor||Alabama LB C.J. Mosley||We're higher on Mosley than others and not as high on Pryor as some. The Rams need a safety more than they need a linebacker, per se, and Mosley might not be best on the strong side, which is where he would play here. But he can cover tight ends and be a more disciplined answer to Alec Ogletree on the other side. The Rams could lay claim to the best front seven in football.|
|14||Chicago Bears||Minnesota DT Ra'Shede Hageman||Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard||
GM Phil Emery might be disappointed if he was left to pick from the options on the left side of the equation. Our choice, Dennard, might not excite Emery enough, however, even though it's a need position and a good value. We say he rolls the dice on the scary — both good and bad — Hageman.
|15||Pittsburgh Steelers||Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard||Ohio State CB Bradley Roby||I think their need at corner trumps everything, but I am guessing they would not go that direction if Gilbert and Dennard are off the board. Still, Roby could be one of the 20 best players in this draft when it's all said and done.|
|16||Dallas Cowboys||Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan||Notre Dame OG-OT Zack Martin||I hate their options here but resist the temptation to force defense because Jernigan is not the 16th best player available (and because he's something of a Henry Melton clone), even with the defensive front being such a wasteland. Martin is a huge upgrade over both projected starting guards and can replace Doug Free at right tackle in a year.|
|17||Baltimore Ravens||Notre Dame OT Zack Martin||Alabama S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix||Martin is an Ozzie Newsome type of player and would give the Ravens their starting right tackle. Clinton-Dix would be a decent fallback and a nice SEC-proven combination at safety with Matt Elam.|
|18||New York Jets||North Carolina TE Eric Ebron||LSU WR Odell Beckham Jr.||An almost can't-lose scenario for the Jets. Either way, they add a much needed target with separation ability in a unit that severly lacks it.|
|19||Miami Dolphins||UCLA OG Xavier Su'a-Filo||UCLA OG Xavier Su'a-Filo||We're giving the Dolphins some credit here. They almost feel obligated to upgrade their offensive line in three regards — talent, versatility and character — and this would represent all three. Best value at 19? Perhaps not, and this might be a trade-down spot for a team angling to move up for a QB. But it would be a rock-solid pick in our minds.|
|20||Arizona Cardinals||Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller||Fresno State QB Derek Carr||Fuller appeals to the Cardinals because he's big and athletic, and provides depth with Patrick Peterson a year removed from free agency. (Plus, for good measure, Bruce Arians is a Hokie.) But we'd be tempted here to roll the dice on Carr, who could sit for as long as needed behind Carson Palmer and has the arm strength Arians covets in a quarterback.|
|21||Green Bay Packers||Alabama LB C.J. Mosley||North Carolina TE Eric Ebron||We actually like the first scenario better, but having used Mosley on the "should take" list previously, we'll switch to another need, which is at tight end. Either way, one of two sore spots gets a boost.|
|22||Philadelphia Eagles||Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks||Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks||Yes, the defense needs help, but there is no need to reach here. The loss of DeSean Jackson, while necessary in Chip Kelly's mind, creates a speed void — one which Cooks would fill perfectly, keeping Kelly's Pac-12 talent scoop alive and well.|
|23||Kansas City Chiefs||LSU WR Odell Beckham Jr.||USC WR Marqise Lee||We like both players, although Beckham > Lee. We might be wrong about Lee, whose 2013 season raised some questions about his NFL ceiling. But he's an ideal fit in a West Coast scheme and would be a nice No. 2 option — albeit one lacking deep speed — opposite Dwayne Bowe. Still, Lee plays faster than he times.|
|24||Cincinnati Bengals||Auburn DE Dee Ford||Central Florida QB Blake Bortles||OK, is Blake Bortles falling to 24? Nah, likely not. But we think that he should be a mid-to-late first-round pick based on his body of work and need of refinement, and there would be quite the intriguing situation with Andy Dalton's contract coming up. Again, likely? No. But a trade would work. Short of that, we think Ford might be the actual pick.|
|25||San Diego Chargers||Ohio State CB Bradley Roby||Notre Dame NT Louis Nix III||Either pick looks like a winner, although one that carries risk. Neither played to expectations last season, but the Chargers are so thin at both spots, that Nix or Roby would be Day 1 starters and instant upgrades. Sean Lissemore isn't a starting-caliber nose tackle. Not in the NFL, certainly.|
|26||Cleveland Browns (from Colts)||Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater||Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo||In our "should take" minds, they'd be trading up to No. 19 and snagging Bortles or Carr so the Dolphins can take Su'a-Filo here, which would harmonize the universe and not make the Browns look like they are playing out the script of "Draft Day" that the NFL likely rejected. But in lieu of that, and in dire need for a quarterback here, they'll settle for Garoppolo, in whom they have shown a lot of interest. Hey, we're not perfect.|
|27||New Orleans Saints||Missouri OLB-DE Kony Ealy||Auburn OLB-DE Dee Ford||Rob Ryan would run from Metarie to Bourbon Street and buy drinks for everyone if he could get another pass rusher such as Ealy or Ford.|
|28||Carolina Panthers||Tennessee OT Antonio Richardson||Virginia OT Morgan Moses||Taking a receiver, such as Lee, would put a lot of pressure on him "replacing Steve Smith," so the guess is that the Panthers shift to their other glaring need: left tackle. Yes, Jordan Gross will be hard to replace, too, but he wasn't the best player in Panthers franchise history|
|29||New England Patriots||Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel||Louisville S Calvin Pryor||The Internet would break. Johnny to the Patriots! Not so fast. Yes, they brought him in for a visit, and oh boy, the thought of him playing for Bill Belichick would be incredible. But the guess is that the Patriots would trade down to a team high in Round 2 that still needs a quarterback. Can you imagine Belichick and BIll O'Brien cooking this up so that the Texans get Clowney and Manziel? Oh, my beloved goodness.|
|30||San Francisco||USC WR Marqise Lee||Minnesota DL Ra'Shede Hageman||In both scenarios, we project them a highly rated "need" position that represents great value. The 49ers are set up to have a banner draft, but we expect them to consider moving up at some point along the way. A cornerback also would make sense — someone such as Fuller.|
|31||Denver Broncos||Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier||Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin||We love Shazier and could see him being a four-down player (defense and special teams) immediately for whatever team drafts him. But if he's not available, Benjamin could be a nice addition for a team that has to start thinking about WR depth with Eric Decker gone and Demaryius Thomas' contract situation unresolved.|
|32||Seattle Seahawks||Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin||Missouri DE Kony Ealy||Cliff Avril is in the final year of his deal, and Ealy is the kind of versatile, playmaking defender they love in Seattle. But Benjamin tempts the Seahawks, too, and he'd be a perfect project for a team that always could use another big, physical receiver to battle in the NFC West.|
- - - - - - -
The Washington Redskins began organized team activities (OTAs) on Monday, which is “voluntary” for all players. And DeSean Jackson knows the difference between mandatory and voluntary.
As Redskins players began working under first-year coach Jay Gruden, Jackson was enjoying himself at a private villa. In fact, Jackson posted a picture of himself on Instagram:
However, it appears Jackson is not playing hooky. This was a preplanned trip.
The NFL allows first-year coaches to start OTAs two weeks before other teams. Philadelphia’s OTAs will begin on April 21, and Jackson probably made his travel plans with the expectation he would be ready for Eagles practice. Besides, Jackson is only missing Phase One of OTAs, which is two weeks of strength and conditioning and physical rehabilitation only.
That is why Jackson’s absence appears excused.
Also, as far as DeSean Jackson goes, he told the #Redskins about this trip pre-signing. Expected to in town next week.— John Keim (@john_keim) April 7, 2014
It is hard to blame Jackson for taking some time to unwind.
Jackson spent the past few months hearing trade rumors. He was accused of having gang affiliations prior to his release from the Philadelphia Eagles. Jackson eventually rebounded and signed with Washington. The man definitely deserves to sit on a beach with the beverage of his choice after this offseason.
As long as Jackson shows up during the regular season, and possibly the postseason, nobody will care about his current getaway.
- - - - - - -
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman doesn't seem like the type who has any desire to diffuse a rivalry.
We've seen, especially when he's wired for sound for a game, that he can be an agitator. That works for some players, and it certainly works for Sherman, one of the best cornerbacks in the game. Someone else might not want to poke the bear and remind the 49ers and Michael Crabtree of the NFC championship loss and his riled-up comments afterward, but Sherman went ahead and did it.
Sherman is signing autographs of his NFC-clinching tipped pass, intended for Crabtree in the end zone, with the additional message: "Sorry Crabtree."
That's a bit of a takeoff on Sherman's infamous comments to Erin Andrews after the game, when he called Crabtree "sorry." He apologized for attacking Crabtree shortly afterward, but the autographs will add a little more gas to the fire. And there's nothing wrong with that. The 49ers-Seahawks rivalry is one of the highlights of the NFL right now.
And if we've learned nothing else about Sherman, we can safely say that he really won't care what Michael Crabtree or anyone else thinks about it.
- - - - - - -
Mock drafts, especially a month before the draft, aren't going to be gospel. But this year, everyone is waiting on every mock draft John McClain puts out.
For those not plugged into the NFL media scene, McClain is a highly respected longtime NFL writer for the Houston Chronicle. Nobody, it seems, knows what the Texans are going to do with the first overall pick because they've done a tremendous job keeping their thoughts close to the vest. However, if anyone is going to get the inside word, it's likely McClain.
So you can decide how much weight to put into this bit of news, but McClain has the Texans taking Johnny Manziel first overall in his second mock draft.
McClain changed his pick from his first mock, when he had them taking Central Florida's Blake Bortles. Did Manziel's pro day force McClain's hand? Or did Manziel wow the Texans, and someone in the organization let McClain know that he might wanna move Johnny Football up to the top spot?
It will be fun to see how it plays out before the draft. Usually there's a pretty good idea who will be the top pick at some point before the draft, sometimes well before the teams head to New York City for the festivities. This year it seems there's a chance it might be a mystery until commissioner Roger Goodell reads the card.
The one thing McClain has been adamant about for a long time is that the Texans will take a quarterback with the first pick. Once again, it's probably fair to assume he's not flying totally blind when he says that. It also seems hard to believe the Texans wouldn't at least consider defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, but again, McClain is plugged in pretty well.
Manziel to the Texans would be an exceptionally interesting pairing. He'd go to a team only a year removed from the playoffs, with Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins at receiver, in his football-mad home state. Hopefully McClain knows the future, because it would be an entertaining landing spot for the draft's most interesting player.
- - - - - - -
Yahoo Sports - NFL News
Latest news and information about the NFL.
Former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb was released Thursday from an Arizona jail after serving a one-day sentence for a DUI arrest late last year. Records released by West Mesa Justice Court show McNabb served his time Wednesday and was released about 1:30 a.m. Thursday. McNabb, 37, was arrested Dec. 15 in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community east of Phoenix, according to court records. A copy of the citation shows McNabb was stopped on the Loop 101 freeway just after 3 a.m. and radar clocked his Range Rover at 81 mph in a 65-mph zone.
An associate of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was arrested in a gun trafficking investigation related to the murder case against Hernandez. Oscar Hernandez Jr., 23, of Orlando, Fla. - no relation to Aaron Hernandez - was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Boston on charges of obstruction of justice, witness tampering and lying under oath. Aaron Hernandez and two other men are charged in the June 17 shooting death of Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player who was found dead in an industrial park about a mile from Aaron Hernandez's North Attleborough home.
Chris Johnson knows what a lot of people are saying about him. Well, the New York Jets running back is listening - and can't wait to silence the critics. ''I can turn the bad things people are saying into a good thing for me ... and prove the naysayers wrong.'' Johnson was signed Wednesday to a two-year deal after he was released by the Tennessee Titans on April 7. He said there were other teams interested, but New York was his first - and, it turned out, only - visit.
Former NFL star Chad Johnson will make his return to the gridiron in the Canadian Football League. The veteran receiver signed a two-year deal with the Montreal Alouettes on Thursday after impressing team officials at a minicamp in Vero Beach, Fla. He last appeared in an NFL game during the 2011 season with New England. ''Chad Johnson did an outstanding job the last three days,'' Alouettes general manager Jim Popp said in a statement. He was very happy and very excited to be on the field again and we are happy to welcome him to the Alouettes.'' Johnson, who once changed his last name to Ochocinco, spent most of his 11 NFL seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals.