Around the League: Flynn, Clements, Wells

Len Pasquarelli's quick-hitting notebook features three items on the Packers, including free-agent-to-be Matt Flynn, the future of quarterbacks coach Tom Clements and contract talks with Scott Wells.

Assuming Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy yanks his starter at some point in the second half of Sunday's game, the contest could be an audition of sorts for backup quarterback Matt Flynn. The four-year veteran will be an unrestricted free agent in the spring and, at age 26, is projected by some scouts to be the best passer available. Some people are surprised that the Packers got no trade inquiries about Flynn, a onetime seventh-round draft choice, last summer.

— On the subject of Packers' quarterbacks, don't discount Green Bay quarterbacks coach Tom Clements as a viable candidate at Penn State. Despite the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the school is holding together its recruiting class pretty well, and seems more focused on getting the right guy to succeed the legendary Joe Paterno than on rushing a decision. That could mean the Nittany Lions are willing to wait until Clements completes the season, which may not come until after the Super Bowl.

— Green Bay officials may take one more run at a contract extension for Pro Bowl center Scott Wells before the Saturday deadline for being able to use the 2011 season for bonus proration purposes.

— Except for a few occasions, like the silly and misguided attempt to expand the season to 18 games, we have agreed with most of the decisions made by commissioner Roger Goodell and with his initiatives. But the mandate by Goodell that all 16 games for the final weekend of the regular season be intraconference matchups was a flat-out masterstroke. Of the 16 games on Sunday, 14 will have some sort of impact on the playoffs or on postseason seeding, or on who owns the top overall pick in the draft. Those contests will affect the fortunes of 15 franchises, nearly half the league.

— With a pair of sacks Sunday, Dallas linebacker DeMarcus Ware will not only hit the 100 mark for his seven-season career, but will become the first player to record two 20-sack campaigns since the league recognized sacks as an official statistic in 1982. Ware led the NFL with 20 sacks in 2008. The only season in which he failed to post double-digit sacks was his 2005 rookie campaign, when he notched eight.

— Baltimore wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who underwent knee cartilage surgery last week, is said to be making a solid recovery, and the team seems to have no fears about him being ready for the playoffs.

— Barring a tie in either the Cowboys-Giants or the Eagles-Redskins games on Sunday, the NFC East will finish with 30 cumulative victories, the division's smallest win total since the realignment. A tie, obviously, would mean even fewer wins.

— If Oakland fails to earn a playoff berth, Raiders officials will start interviewing players as early as Monday about the direction of the franchise. Granted, such postseason "exit interviews" are common in the NFL, but the Raiders plan to be even more in-depth than usual. In fact, one of the former NFL executives who has consulted intermittently of late with Oakland officials in recent weeks could even be on-site for the interview sessions.

— The NFC won the season series with the AFC, 33-31, for the first time since 1995, when the conference claimed a 33-27 edge. The conferences tied in the series in 2000, 2001, and 2007.

— How quickly can fortunes change in the NFL? Only two years ago, linebacker Derrick Johnson was benched by Kansas City, and the Chiefs dangled the former first-round pick in trade talks. This week, Johnson, who's finally found a niche as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 front, was chosen for the Pro Bowl.

— Notwithstanding his contentions that Sunday could be his last game, people close to LaDainian Tomlinson say that the 11-year veteran wants to play again in 2012. Those same people, though, allow it won't be with the Jets.

— At least four franchises, including Chicago, inquired this season about Marc Bulger, his representatives tell The Sports Xchange. But Bulger was adamant that he is retired for good, at age 34.

— It's been a pet peeve of ours for a long time but, in a week when everyone is pontificating about perceived Pro Bowl "snubs," we'll repeat it: How about an entire position being overlooked? All six of the offensive tackles chosen for the Pro Bowl are left tackles. There's not a right tackle among the sextet of Joe Thomas, Jake Long, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Jason Peters, Joe Staley or Jermon Bushrod. It's like the position, which entails a different skills-set than left tackle, doesn't exist.

— Not to come off as too Pittsburgh-paranoid or anything, but you think the game officials in the Pittsburgh-Cleveland rematch on Sunday will be paying particular attention to Steelers' weak-side linebacker James Harrison?

— New Orleans wide receiver Marques Colston, a former seventh-round pick who is making $3 million in base salary this season and is probably headed to unrestricted free agency, credits tight end Jimmy Graham with showing him some "post-up" techniques for shielding off defensive backs. Likewise, Graham, who needs 78 yards on Sunday to set a new record for receiving yards by a tight end in a season, told The Sports Xchange that Colston has been a "tremendous (tutor)" for improving his route-running. "It's been a mutual admiration society," Colston said.

— Despite league efforts to insulate the players at the position, 21 of the top 22 players in fumbles through the first 16 weeks of the season are quarterbacks. And quarterbacks hold down the top 13 spots in terms of fumbles lost.

— Because he has been such a warrior and team leader for Indianapolis for nine seasons, it's hard to imagine Gary Brackett and the Colts parting ways. But there are rumors, given the strong play this season by second-year veteran Pat Angerer at middle linebacker the team could release Brackett in the offseason. Because of a shoulder injury, Brackett, who will be 32 before next season, played in just one game in 2011. And he is due a $5 million base salary in '12, with a salary cap number of about $7.4 million on the five-year, $33 million extension that he signed in 2010.

— Who'd have thought that when agent Drew Rosenhaus proclaimed back in November that, despite the fact zero teams were represented at Terrell Owens' workout, at least one club was "very interested" in signing the wide receiver, he meant an arena football franchise. Owens joins "retired" tailback Tiki Barber, and to a lesser extent offensive lineman Chester Pitts, as players whose agent/mouthpieces strongly suggested would be back in the league in 2011, but who aren't.

— Once ranked as high as second in the league in defense versus the run, Atlanta has fallen off to No. 8, after surrendering an average of 149.8 rushing yards the past four games and 5.5 yards per attempt. One big reason is that opposition guards and centers have been getting into middle linebacker Curtis Lofton too easily, and the noted tackling machine has found it more difficult to get off blocks. New Orleans' Pro Bowl guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks mashed Lofton too many times last Monday night. Lofton faces another Pro Bowl guard, Tampa Bay's Davin Joseph on Sunday, and he needs his tackles to better protect him.

— Update on the league's quarterback count entering the final weekend: There have been 54 different starters and 31 "switches" so far. At the same point in 2010, there had been 60 starters and 55 "switches."

— Given the kind of season Andy Lee has had in San Francisco, it's tough to argue with his selection as the punter on the NFC Pro Bowl team. But the New Orleans people are touting Thomas Morstead, and deservedly do. Morstead is sixth in the league in gross average (48.0 yards), second in net average (43.1 yards), has only three touchbacks versus 13 punts inside the 20-yard line, and is a monster on kickoffs. Aided by the rules change that moved the kickoff point to the 35-yard line this year, Morstead has shattered Billy Cundiff's record for touchbacks, with a mind-boggling 62. "He's a weapon," Atlanta return ace Eric Weems told The Sports Xchange last week. "He makes life frustrating for us (return) guys."


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Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008.


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