ROONEY BACKS NEW IR RULE
Somewhat interesting that Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II
is essentially the impetus behind a proposed by-law change, one that
will formally be proposed at the league's annual meetings this week in
Palm Beach, Fla. that would allow a club to designate one player from
its injured reserve list to possibly return later in the season.
As long ago as 1995, the Steelers declined to place some injured
players on I.R., hoping they might rehabilitate sufficiently to return
to the field at some point. In '95, it was defensive back Rod Woodson,
who tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the season opener, but ended
up coming back for Super Bowl XXX. In more recent seasons, it has been
defensive end Aaron Smith. The change, if adopted, would allow the
designated player to begin practicing after Week 6 and to play after
Week 8, and seems to have pretty good support.
LEGAL RECOURSE UNLIKELY FOR PAYTON, WILLIAMS
While it hasn't received much attention in the past few days, there
might be some legal implications to the Bountygate mess, perhaps none
more interesting than the futures of Sean Payton and Gregg Williams.
Because of the standard contracts that are signed by NFL head and
assistant coaches, the men cannot sue the league, an NFL spokesman told
The Sports Xchange. They are, as are most employees in the league,
subject to discipline from the commissioner.
But that might not stop the coaches, particularly in the case of
Payton, from suing their employers, particularly if they are eventually
fired. Attorneys who, admittedly, have not specifically reviewed the
contracts of Payton and Williams, but have negotiated contracts for
coaches in the past, contend such actions would probably be little more
than nuisance cases. And two attorneys with extensive business
backgrounds contend that Payton and Williams could probably be
summarily dismissed "with cause."
Saints owner Tom Benson, who has not been even remotely implicated in
the scandal, and has publicly supported Payton and general manager
Mickey Loomis, appears to have no designs on dismissing high-ranking
club officials. The matter could be moot. But he now faces a full year
without Payton, whose ego and arrogance seems to have gotten out of
control, many agree, and that's a long time for opinions to change.
One opinion, though, that likely won't be altered is that the coaches
would face long odds in any sort of legal proceeding.
WHITWORTH SLAMS BOUNTYGATE PENALTIES
One of the harshest critics of the hammer that Goodell brought down on
the New Orleans organization has been Cincinnati offensive tackle
Andrew Whitworth, who was a key voice in CBA negotiations last year.
"This is ridiculous," Whitworth told the Bengals' website. "To give a
guy the same suspension that you (gave) a guy who went to jail for a
felony … that doesn't make sense. A guy who gets suspended for steroids
can come back in four or eight games and make money, and we applaud
that. The (Bountygate people) weren't gambling. They weren't drinking
or driving. If you want to make an example of someone, make an example
of someone who commits a crime."
Whitworth wasn't directly addressing, of course, the checkered past of
teammate Adam "Pacman" Jones. But given his strong words, it should be
interesting when he and Jones get together for minicamp. An
unrestricted free agent who apparently merited no attention in the
market, Jones this week re-signed with the Bengals.
STEELERS QUIET ON FREE-AGENT FRONT
There is only one franchise that, to date, has done nothing with
unrestricted free agency. Hasn't signed a player from another team.
Hasn't lost a player to another club (little-used offensive tackle
Jamon Meredith, who on Thursday signed with Tampa Bay, was not tendered
a qualifying offer, so he doesn't count). Has yet to re-sign any of its
own unrestricted free agents. Owns a big, fat zero on the unrestricted
free agency scoreboard. And that team is the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Even by the club's stealthy standards, it's been a quiet first 10 days
of free agency for the Steelers, who probably won't do much during the
The "Steelers' Way" remains to draft and develop players, not add them
from outside. Pittsburgh coaches were keen, early on, for Chicago tight
end Kellen Davis, but he re-signed with the Bears. Ever since that
brief flirtation, there hasn't even been a hint that the Steelers had
their eyes on a player. As of Friday morning, just six other teams had
yet to sign an unrestricted free agent from another club.
# Although he is familiar with the Wildcat offense from his tenure as
Miami head coach, first-year New York Jets offensive coordinator Tony
Sparano is expected to at least pick the brain of longtime coordinator
Dan Henning about the use of the formation and the implementation of
Tim Tebow on it. Henning, now retired, was essential to the success of
the Wildcat in Miami a few years ago.
# With the addition of RB Mike Tolbert, the Panthers definitely will
listen to offers forJonathan Stewart. But there hasn't been anything
serious yet. How do we know? Stewart is entering the final season of
his rookie contract, no team will deal for him simply to rent him for a
season, so an extension will be necessary. And no club has yet spoken
to Stewart or his agent about an add-on. Because of coach John Fox's
familiarity with Stewart, everyone is making Denver the favorite. But
don't rule out a few other clubs, including a sleeper like Pittsburgh,
where the suggestion is thatRashard Mendenhall might not be
sufficiently recovered from the ACL injury sustained in the 2011 season
finale to play in 2012.
# There have been some raised eyebrows around the league concerning the
bigD'Qwell Jackson contract cited earlier. But the Browns' deal
catching as much scrutiny is the five-year contract to which the team
signed Cincinnati unrestricted defensive end Frostee Rucker. The
six-year veteran has only seven career sacks in the five seasons he has
been healthy, and four of those came last season. But he got a reported
$8 million in guarantees on the $21 million deal.
# Jacksonville coach Mike Mularkey and Green Bay counterpart Mike McCarthy have both said in the past few days that their clubs were
legitimately interested in Tebow before the trade to the Jets overcame
some snags and was completed.
# The potential by-law change noted previously might have more impact
on the game, some feel, than a possible change in the trade deadline
rule. The competition committee will propose that the deadline be
pushed back from the Tuesday following the sixth weekend of play to the
eighth weekend. While it could be approved, most general managers
surveyed the past few days don't believe it will dramatically increase
the number of so-called "deadline" deals. Since 2000, there have been
just 18 trades on deadline day, involving only 21 players. The NFL has
had just 30 deadline-day deals since 1990.
# There aren't many guys signed from the "non-tender" scrap heap who
make a difference for the franchises acquiring them, but credit Detroit
for identifying one of the better ones and rolling the dice at a cheap
price. The Lions this week signed former Colts cornerback Jacob Lacey,
a three-year veteran who, despite starting 25 games in 2009-2011,
wasn't even given a restricted tender by the talent-thin Colts. Lacey
was benched last season, but the former undrafted free agent is only 24
years old, has experience playing in a good system at least be a decent
special teams player. He's better than most of the players signed from
the non-tender free agent pool.
# A couple teams actually inquired casually about retired quarterback
Marc Bulger is the past few weeks, but were apprised he does not plan a
# Ironically, Payton e-mailed Whitworth just 30 minutes before the
Bountygate sanctions were announced to confirm he will speak at the
tackle's charity dinner next weekend. No word yet as to whether Payton
will now make that appearance.
# Early returns on the trade that sent inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans
to Philadelphia: Personnel people think the deal was a big win for the
Eagles, and, while there is a ton of respect for Houston coordinator
Wade Phillips, people wonder how well the Texans will play without both
Mario Williams and Ryans. That said, there is a consensus that both
players will be better returning to 4-3 fronts.
# The last word: "If I was on that ballclub, I'd have to learn to love
to be miserable. But if they brought him on my team, I'd have to follow
him, because I'd have to see if the magic … if he could bring it to me.
Until the wheels fall off, and the horse breaks down, I'm gonna ride
him. But it's a miserable state to put yourself in." – Warren Sapp,
before the Tebow trade to the Jets, on the prospect of playing on the
same team as the two-year veteran quarterback
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