NFL Notebook: Lockout Assistance

A former NFL assistant is considering forming a group of out-of-work coaches to help players. Plus, Len Pasquarelli writes about the "James Harrison Rule" and much, much more.

One never knows exactly what will precipitate an idea, but when one former NFL assistant coach noted this week the alleged retirement of longtime offensive coordinator Tom Moore, and the fact the former Indianapolis mentor of Peyton Manning spent some time discussing "red zone" concepts with the New York Jets' staff, it fired a synapse.

The thought: Particularly with the possibility of truncated training camps, and the potential need for more learned eyes on players, why not cobble together a sort of pseudo "consulting service" comprised of former league assistants?

In practice, it would probably be a lot more difficult than it sounds on the drawing board, but the assistant, who left his NFL job in the past few years, thinks it can fly.

"There is a lot of need out there, and there are a lot of experienced (coaches) who need to be busy," the former assistant told The Sports Xchange. "Definitely, it would ruffle some (current coaches') feathers, but it certainly could be a positive for all the people involved, coaches and teams alike."

The former assistant, who never served as a head coach in more than 20 years in the league, noted that much is made of the former Super Bowl-winning coaches who currently aren't on the league's sidelines. He rattled off a list of names — Joe Bugel, Dan Henning, Jim McNally, Ray Sherman, Mike Haluchak, John Marshall and possibly Jimmy Raye, among others — who might abandon their golf clubs for a few weeks to consult in camps.

The former "lifer" assistant coach claimed he is "going to start making some contacts," to gauge interest, first from the onetime peers, and then from teams. The idea isn't likely to fly, and will probably get no further than the drawing board, granted. Most head coaches, after all, don't want to create a perception that there are people looking over their shoulders or second-guessing them. But it's one of the more intriguing notions that we've heard posited lately in these tenuous times.

A fine mess

When the NFL competition committee in March first proposed rules changes aimed at further policing late hits or what it deemed as unnecessary roughness and excessive contact, The Sports Xchange dubbed the tweaks the "James Harrison Rules," since the Pittsburgh linebacker and former league defensive player of the year was fined $100,000 in 2010 for roughhouse play.

This week, some of the media termed the changes "The Steelers Rules" when the proposals were passed by a 32-0 vote at the league meeting in Indianapolis. Of course, league officials took umbrage to that characterization — not to mention the reactions of Harrison (who termed the rules makers "idiots") and fellow linebacker LaMarr Woodley and comments of team president Art Rooney II — and stressed that several other franchises would likely have drawn punishment in 2010 had the new rules, which permits the NFL to fine club for repeat violations, been in effect.

It's difficult to say which teams were under the microscope, but a team official, who is not on the competition committee, told The Sports Xchange that Tennessee and Philadelphia were "almost probably" among them. The Eagles had seven players fined a total of $135,000 in 2010; Tennessee accrued $130,000 in fines, not counting the $40,000 meted out to then-defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil for an obscene gesture, to seven players. That included $45,000 to cornerback Courtland Finnegan, who was sanctioned on four occasions.

There were eight players fined more than once in the league and eight franchises that had four or more players fined for on-field conduct. Amazingly, Harrison and Woodley were the only Pittsburgh players fined during the regular season. The league dispensed 99 fines for on-field or field-related acts, and it's believed that Miami and St. Louis were the only franchises that did not have a single player draw a fine.

Extra points


Riley Cooper was the target on Tramon Williams' gave-saving interception in the playoffs.
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
A few possible reasons the Eagles may not sign Burress when his jail term is up: The coaches feel that five-year veteran Jason Avant and second-year pro Riley Cooper can develop into good red-zone threats. Arguably the most physical of the Philly wideouts, Avant had a career-high 51 catches in 2010, although just one for a touchdown. A fifth-round pick in 2010, Riley is 6-feet-5 and, while he posted just seven receptions in 13 games, figures to provide a different dimension to the receiving corps. The Eagles also feel that former New York Giants second-rounder Sinorice Moss, signed in January after a career wracked by injury since 2006, can still be a player. ... Somewhat curious that, at a time when players' every words are analyzed, no one pointed out the inherent irony in the statements of Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, who contended the crime rate will escalate if there is no football in 2011. Lewis pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of misdemeanor obstruction of justice in 2000, following two post-Super Bowl XXXIV deaths in Atlanta earlier that year, and was fined $250,000 by the league. ... Even though Tennessee tailback Chris Johnson, perhaps the NFL's fastest player, has said he will pursue a temporary track career during the lockout, he has yet to compete in a meet and currently has no plans to do so. ... Atlanta star wide receiver Roddy White was upset with local media when it was accurately reported this week that his cousin, Ali White, was arrested on robbery charges. While essentially brought his cousin to live with him four years ago and has done some admirable work with at-risk youngsters in general in the community. But it should also be noted that, before Falcons officials signed White to a six-year, $50 million contract extension in 2009, they demanded he cut ties with some old friends and hangers-on they felt were a negative influence on him. ... There were only 20 safeties chosen in the draft last month, the first time since 2000 there were none in the first round — none by the Packers — but four or five of them are expected to start as rookies. If second-round Jaiquawn Jarrett of Temple starts for Philadelphia, the Eagles could have a rookie and a second-year veteran (Nate Allen) as their starters. Both players were chosen in the second round. The Eagles are not expected to re-sign pending free agent Quintin Mikell, an eight-year veteran. ... Speaking of safeties, there's a bit of an awkward situation in Denver. The Broncos' unofficial workouts are pretty much being supervised by Brian Dawkins, and the team was likely going to jettison the 15-year veteran before the season started. Given his role in the workouts, and the likelihood that younger players like second-round pick Rahim Moore will have a truncated training camp, the Broncos may instead have to hold on to Dawkins, who will be 38 in October, for another year. ... Although the Cowboys hope to upgrade the safety position in free agency, don't discount the possibility Dallas attempts to re-sign six-year veteran Gerald Sensabaugh as insurance. ... The Bengals have to be wondering when people are going to buy their stance that they are not going to trade reluctant starting quarterback Carson Palmer. In alternate months since March, either coach Marvin Lewis and owner Mike Brown proclaimed that Palmer, who has threatened to retire if not traded, won't be dealt. But when Brown reiterated that during this week's league meeting, it created headlines. Said Brown in reaction: "I'm just saying what I've said before." ... On the subject of Bengals' quarterbacks, there's been an impressive initiative launched, including a terrific statistical analysis by Kerry Byrne of Cold Hard Football Facts, touting the candidacy of Ken Anderson for the Hall of Fame. Anderson, who won three league passing titles, moves from the modern-era to the seniors category this year. ... Atlanta, which bypassed in the draft what many feel was its biggest defensive need, defensive left end, hopes to sign a veteran at the position when (or if) free agency commences. But the Falcons' chances of adding a bookend for right end John Abraham could be tied to CBA negotiations and how the matter of free agency is determined. The Falcons' top two targets, Ray Edwards of Minnesota and Carolina's Charles Johnson, are five- and four-year veterans, respectively, and whether or not either is unrestricted will be a function of the CBA talks.


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