Notebook: Grant Not Only Veteran RB Available

With 19 running backs selected in draft, few openings remain around the league. Plus, only one player from historically black colleges and universities was selected, and notes on Junior Seau and the Saints from national writer Len Pasquarelli.

There have been reports that Green Bay tailback Ryan Grant is in negotiations with the — Grant and the Lions will get together on Monday — but things remain quiet for most unrestricted free agent tailbacks even after the draft.

Veteran runners such as Cedric Benson, Jackie Battle, Joseph Addai and Tim Hightower haven't heard from many clubs, some of whom were expected to add runners after the lottery.

Hightower and Addai recently auditioned in New England, and none other than Peyton Manning said Addai probably will sign with the Patriots. Battle appeared to be in demand early in the free agency process, but the market seems to have gone away from him.

With 19 tailbacks chosen in the draft, and the trend toward selecting younger players at a position noted for its short shelf-life, veteran backs may be forced to sign one-year, minimum salary contracts, if they are even offered deals at all.

Historic Black Colleges shunned in draft

This year's draft again magnified the diminished profile of the historically black colleges and universities in the NFL draft, with just one player, South Carolina State safety Christian Thompson being chosen last weekend.

The selection of Thompson, by Baltimore in the fourth round (130th overall), represented the fewest prospects from HBCU programs since the NFL implemented the common draft in 1967.

Talent evaluators, the latest being Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta, insist their scouts spend just as much time at the HBCU schools as everywhere else. DeCosta's boss, general manager Ozzie Newsome has several times told The Sports Xchange the same thing. But there just don't seem to be as many "draftable" prospects at the schools as in the HBCU heyday, when the programs regularly produced a couple dozen candidates.

"It's still football," said Thompson, who began his college career at Auburn before transferring, "but you've got to really be good to be noticed."

In the last five years now, only 16 players from HBCU programs have been chosen, and the schools haven't reached double-digit prospects since 2000.

There have been just three HBCU players above the fourth round in the last five drafts.

In late February, The Sports Xchange noted that just two players from black schools, Thompson and Hampton cornerback Micah Pellerin, had been invited to the combine. Pellerin signed this week with Indianapolis as an undrafted free agent.

The Packers had been chasing Pellerin, a cornerback, for months and might have drafted him if not for the bold move to get Casey Hayward. The Packers haven't selected an HBCU player since drafting Bethune-Cookman's Nick Collins and North Carolina A&T's Junius Coston in 2005.

Seau and rushing to judgment

There is no denying the tragic nature of the death of linebacker Junior Seau on Wednesday afternoon, but the media, as it has done so far, needs to continue to practice the responsibility demonstrated to date, and to keep tapping the brakes on any rush to judgment about the potential role of chronic traumatic encephalopathy on his suicide.

Chances are that head trauma, and the ancillary ramifications of it, played some element in Seau's decision to end his life at age 43. But the results of potential brain trauma — even with the presence of CTE expert and forensic pathologist Bennett Omalu in San Diego for the Thursday autopsy — may not be confirmed for months.

In the meantime, several sources close to Seau told The Sports Xchange over the past few days that the 20-year veteran linebacker had long ridden a financial roller coaster, that investment decisions frequently impacted him, and that late in his career, he was often delinquent in commission payments to representatives and in arrears on other fiscal responsibilities.

It would be irresponsible to conclude what weight those carried on any individual. And there's no reason for conjecture on whether such things prompted Seau's suicide, the same way it would be to suggest with any degree of certainty that 20 seasons of violent concussions did. Of course, given recent events and the enhanced knowledge with which pathologists now operate, it will also not be surprising if the head trauma played a part in Seau's death.

Now that his family has opted to donate his brain for research, experts should be able to determine the answer.

But Seau had other ancillary concerns as a compelling if unwanted element to his post-NFL life, too, and, while the easy conclusion anymore is to blame CTE, everyone would do well to wait for the results.

Saints' eavesdropping A federal source not directly involved in the case, but familiar with the charges and the work accomplished to this point, said that it "might be problematic" for the evidence to rise to the level necessary to bring action against the general manager.

As a matter of course, federal authorities typically do not bring charges unless the evidence is solid enough to provide them a strong case of conviction. It is not known how the state police, who according to Louisiana law have jurisdiction any wiretap-related situations in the state, operate.

Loomis, of course, has denied the existence of a mechanism that allegedly allowed him to monitor the game-day transmissions of opponent coaches.

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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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