Another old Cougar who is in the Vikings' secondary -- and also a special teams standout -- is Husain Abdullah. Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier recently told Pro Football Weekly that Abdullah has a chance to unseat one of the incumbent starters at safety, Madieu Williams and Tyrell Johnson.
Husain's older brother (and fellow Cougar) Hamza Abdullah sat out most of last season after being waived by Cleveland but came on strong for the Cardinals after being picked up in December. His limited time in Phoenix was well spent as the Cards re-signed him to a one-year contract. Terms were not disclosed.
BACK TO RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS. Another Cougar weighing his options this NFL off-season is Browns running back Jerome Harrison, who had a monstrous final five weeks last season. Cleveland has extended him a "qualifying offer" that he has until June 15 to accept. Terms are unknown. Harrison, unlike the rest of the Browns' restricted free agents, has joined the club's OTA sessions so one can presume he's warming to their offer and, perhaps, a little concerned that rookie Montario Hardesty might bump him from a starting job. Harrison earned $539,000 last season.
Erik Coleman, one of the all-time great defenders in WSU history, is entering his seventh NFL season and third with the Atlanta Falcons. He holds a distinction no one else in the league can claim. According to records released by the NFL this spring about its performance-pay program, Coleman has received more of this "bonus" money -- $838,000 -- over the years than any other player. The program is designed to reward guys whose base salary doesn't reflect their true productivity. Coleman's base salary last season was $1.28 million. Despite getting long-in-the-tooth by NFL standards, Coleman remains a tackling machine. In 2008, he was Atlanta's second-leading tackler, with 127 stops, while playing free safety and last season, playing strong safety, he was the team's third-leading tackler with 139.
In its coverage of the 49ers' OTAs last month, the San Francisco Chronicle noted that much-maligned quarterback Alex Smith continues to show great command of the offense, but it's Michael Crabtree and former WSU star receiver Jason Hill "who continue to make him look good, with their quick hands in full-stride catches."
THE LONG NFL CAREER OF Rob Meier, a standout on WSU's 1998 Rose Bowl team, has come to an official close. After nine solid sesons with the Jaguars, he spent all of last year on injured reserve with a bad shoulder and then was released by the Jags this past February.
He ranks fourth in Jaguars history with 138 games played and his 21.5 career sacks is No. 9 on the franhise list.
"Rob was a seventh-round draft choice back in the 2000 draft who developed into a ten-year player for us, playing in 138 games," said Jackonsville GM Gene Smith. "He's without question one of the toughest players to ever wear a Jaguars uniform."
ELSEWHERE IN PRO FOOTBALL, record-setting Cougar quarterback Alex Brink made his debut with the CFL's Winnipeg Bluebombers yesterday in the team's three-day off-season training session for rookies. Brink, who spent 2008 on the Houston Texans' practice squad, signed with the Bombers a month ago.
A Manitoba radio station liked what it saw after Brink's first day in action, saying, "Alex Brink of Washington State showed lots of poise on the practice field with his quick release and strong arm. Brink is expected to be a major factor in the quarterback derby."
Also in a CFL rookie camp this week is former Cougar offensive lineman Joe Eppele of British Columbia. He was the No. 2 overall pick in the CFL's recent draft of home-grown talent and just signed a two-year contract with the Toronto Arognauts. The 6-8, 309-pound Eppele, a discus-throwing project who never cracked the starting line up at WSU, had a year of eligibility left but opted to head to the CFL because, he recently told a Vancouver paper, he didn't think he was getting a square chance to play at WSU.
NOTABLE COUGAR NFL NOTES: