Five Things: Agent Taking Stand

In the newest edition of Five Things, an NFL agent is making noise, the Chiefs players are working out on their own, our sneak peak at the teams 2011 MVP, college basketball recruiting and my thoughts on the passing of Royals Pitcher Paul Splittorff?

1. Labor Mess - I'm on record that the more NFLPA Director DeMaurice Smith talks the less and less I like the man. Last week after he met with NFL Commissioner for Lunch, hopefully to begin a truce, he bashed the NFL later that afternoon. It's irrelevant at this point what he has to say at this point.

He's taking down his union and I think he's fully aware that he's not going to be the NFLPA Director very long. His banter suggests a man who is desperate to keep his job and is afraid to do his job to salvage a union that is cracking at the seams.

Now the Union (even though they've disbanded) has begun to question the sanity at the top end of its own management and players are starting to speak out like Eagles Kicker David Ackers, Falcons Linebacker Coy Wire and his teammate running back Jason Snelling. More players are beginning to ask how did we get here and some are wondering if the 2011 NFL season will indeed have fewer than 16 games on its schedule.

And on Wednesday morning, NFL agent Joe Linta wants to take things a step further. He wants a copy of the latest proposal by ownership and would like to pass it directly to the 45 players in which he represents in the league. He wants them to decide for themselves if the latest offer from the Owners is a good deal or not.

With the cracks in the union growing into pot holes, I argue that if talks don't get headed in the right direction and a deal done by Independence Day, there is a strong and likely chance that the first month of the season will be missed.

But more directly with offseason arrests gaining steam, the real issue is that the NFL players need time to get back under the spell of their training staff. They can workout all they want on their own but they need the structure that their respective teams can offer and should the unsupervised workouts continue, as they are now throughout the country, injuries are going to mount.

And all it's going to take to bring these workouts to an abrupt halt is for one NFL superstar to tear an ACL or MCL.

Either way the shenanigans that the Owners and Players continue to play out in the courts has already taken its toll on the fan base. Websites like ours are leveled to come up with ideas to keep fan interest. Nationally speaking not many even talk about the NFL as the Premier sport any longer.

ESPN doesn't even do daily updates on the labor madness anymore because it's become a non-story. It's clear that neither the owners nor the players want to get a deal done in the foreseeable future. And when the scent gets cold about keeping the NFL in the news, generally one side grants an interview and the viscous cycle continues.

And for me, that's getting old! Let's hope Joe Linta pushes even harder because right now he has everyone's attention.

2. Give Casell Credit! - I have to give major props to the Chiefs starting quarterback for taking the lead in getting some of his teammates together. In fact, Cassel has gone as far as bringing in the Chiefs top draft pick, wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin to get him up to speed on KC's offense.

Cassel taking charge of unsupervised team workouts.
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Rumor has it he's done the same with Iowa Quarterback Ricky Stanzi among others. That's a good sign for Cassel. Last year in my view, Cassel was the teams MVP. He made the most improvement of any player on the roster. He had a big target on his back and he rose to the occasion.

Sure he didn't have a good playoff game but I'm not about to blame him for the loss against the Ravens – because he had plenty of help from his coaching staff.

Still the jury is always going to be out on the Chiefs starting quarterback but I have faith that in 2011 he's going to be even better than he was in 2010. In fact, with the addition of Baldwin and a switch to a younger offensive line, Cassel has the potential to put himself in the same class as Len Dawson.

I'm not saying the Chiefs are Super Bowl bound with Cassel at the helm. But I do think he will lead them further in the Post Season dance next year.

3. Chiefs 2011 MVP? - Since we're diluted with ‘What Ifs' to this point of the offseason, I still have the motivation to predict which Chiefs player might be the best in KC in 2011. It would be easy to predict Cassel, Running Back Jamaal Charles, Linebacker Tamba Hali or even Wide Receiver Dwayne Bowe. But I'm not taking that path. Instead, I think a rookie is going to lead them.

Something tells me that the steal of the entire 2011 NFL Draft is going to be Linebacker Justin Houston.
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When the Chiefs spent their third round draft pick in April on Georgia Linebacker Justin Houston; I had visions dancing in my brain of the late Derrick Thomas.

I've spent the last several weeks talking to a few people about Houston. And they all tell me he's a good kid, who made a big mistake. But despite his poor decision, he might be the single best athlete in this draft.

All the accolades went to Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller. After all, he was selected second overall by division rival Denver. But I'll take the stance now that Houston will end up with more sacks than Miller. Now I don't just base that on my gut.

The Chiefs defense is far better than the one that rests in Denver. Though with John Fox running the show in Bronco land that gap is going to close quickly. Still Houston to me is a much better pass rusher who possesses far more speed to the backfield than Miller.

The big difference between the two though is attitude and desire. Miller has it and Houston turns it on and off. But I think the presence of Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel will turn the tide and help Houston become a prime time NFL sack master. I see double digit sacks this season for Houston and it will be his play in the second half of the season that will make Pioli's decision to grab a ‘Risk' player one of his most brilliant moves of his tenure in KC.

4. College Basketball Recruiting - Being a Kansas Jayhawk Basketball fan can be both exhilarating and frustrating. In the last ten days, Bill Self and company lost out on another top recruit when Trevor Lacey spurned the Jayhawk program in favor of Alabama. And in the aftermath (according to message boards like, the wheels began to fall off of the entire program.

The big question in Lawrence these days is when will DeAndre Daniels choose a college program.
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Of course I jest! Though Kansas might not gain any more players this year outside of power forward Jamari Taylor who committed earlier this month, Kansas is still good enough to compete in the top of the league this year. Still one has to wonder how Kansas lost out on so many Blue Chips this year and for that matter a year ago.

Well the answer is easy. If the Kids were making the decisions, many more of them would land in Lawrence. In the case of Lacey, he had (from what we were told), committed to Self about two weeks ago shortly after his spring visit. His father was firm in his sons desire to play for Kansas but his mother wanted him closer to home. Momma won out thus he chose Alabama.

When Ben McLemore wanted to sign with Kansas last fall his mother would have no part of it. She wanted him to go to Missouri. Then when Mike Anderson jumped ship and left Columbia for the bright lights of Arkansas, the man-child finally won out and signed with Kansas.

And now Kansas has to deal with the same family friction with the still undecided DeAndre Daniels. Last January he was ready to come to Lawrence but Kansas didn't have an available scholarship. To make that happen, Head Coach Bill Self would have been forced to remove the scholarship he gave to former walk-on Connor Tehan. To Self's credit, he didn't got that route.

After what can best be described as a bit of immaturity on Daniels part after being spurned by Kansas, he did the dog and pony show at Duke and they kindly said thanks but no thanks when they told him his grades weren't good enough. Then he went back to Texas, the school he de-committed from last fall and now has made overtures to Oregon. Really?

Like Lacey's situation, Daniels father wants him to go to Kansas but the young man wants to go to Texas – or so some say and trust me gaining information about Daniels is as difficult as gaining launch codes from Norad.

The bottom line is that college recruiting; much like the NBA draft is a crapshoot. Everyone said that Josh Selby was the second coming of Danny Manning when he arrived in Lawrence last fall.

When coaches found out was the young man had a poor work ethic and he could not beat out a pair of seniors (Brady Morningstar & Tyrel Reed) as a starter, he rode the bench.

So you never know and right now if Daniels goes overseas which is a strong possibility and passes on college altogether, then Kansas will have to suffer through a solid but not a great class.

But don't lose the faith Kansas Fans, the 2012 class is already shaping up to what could ultimately be, the best recruiting class in the Bill Self era! And should that happen, nobody is going to say much about the 2011 recruits.

5. R.I.P. Paul Splittorff - As I began to post this article this morning, the news came across the wire that legendary Kansas City Royals Pitcher and Broadcaster Paul Splittorff had passed away. In recent years, he'd been battling oral cancer and melanoma and this morning he succumbed to both.

Some could argue that Paul Splittorff was the Royals first legitimate superstar.
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As a pitcher who came up to the big leagues in 1970, he was easily identifiable as the organizations first top level starting pitcher. He was a tall lanky left-hander who threw the ball with such ease and grace. His motion was flawless and his mechanics were so sound that he remained an effective pitcher for 15 seasons all in a Royals uniform.

And as the Royals began to rise from the expansion ashes, Splittorff grew into his role as a team leader. He was approachable off the field, a leader in the clubhouse and when his playing career ended he made a smooth transition into the broadcast booth.

Not many former big league pitchers have made a successful transition to the TV booth but Splittorff was different. He brought an ease and style that simplified the game for a brand new generation of Royals fans.

But for me it was his play on the field that made him one of my favorite Royals. There was a time in the 70's when the Royals had one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball. And Splittorff was the rotation anchor. And when Kansas City became relevant in the mid 70's, he became known as the ‘Yankees Killer' with his dominance over the AL East perennial champions from New York.

In the last year everyone began to notice that his voice was strained and though nobody really wanted to talk about it publicly, the Royals until a few weeks ago allowed Splittorff to remain on the teams pre-game and post-game telecasts.

And though at times this season it was difficult to understand some of his words, he still delivered incredible insight and dead on analysis about the only team in which he ever wore a big league uniform.

As I reflect on today's loss, one of the greatest memories I had of Paul Splittorff was as a kid listening to the Royals on my old AM Radio especially when they traveled to the West Coast.

But it was during the 1977 season when the Royals had won 16 straight games that I remember a post game interview in which Splittorff spoke of the Royals streak of excellence. He said that the team just expected to win every time they hit the field. It was simple, direct and accurate.

And that comment personified Splittorff, who took that same approach every time he climbed the mound for the Royals. He will surely be missed!

Our prayers and thoughts go out to the Splittorff family this morning.

What do you think of Joe Linta's take on wanting to show his players the latest offer from the NFL Owners?

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