Around the League
--During the debut of his new "V7" athletic wear
clothing line this week, Michael Vick described himself as "excited"
for the start of the Philadelphia Eagles' season.
From talking to a few Philadelphia coaches, the
sentiment was more than just words for Vick, who they insist has been
working harder than in the past on some nuances of the game, and on
grasping the totality of the Eagles' offense. There have been times
when Vick's wondrous physical skills have almost been a crutch for him,
when he has relied too much on those abilities to pull him through, and
didn't work enough on some of the more cerebral pursuits.
But Vick apparently has released he's into his 30s
now, and is aware the Eagles were one of the league's biggest
disappointments in 2011, and has dedicated himself to reversing that.
The club's "dream team" year wasn't quite a nightmare for Vick
personally -- he still established career bests for completions and
yards -- but it wasn't memorable, either.
His interception total from the previous season
more than doubled, his quarterback rating plummeted by more than 15
points, Vick turned the ball over at critical junctures of games and
his decision making was frequently flawed. And so he has spent
considerably more time at the team's Nova Care facility this offseason,
picked the brain of offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg more than in
the past, and led by example. It's a big jump from, say, some of his
years in Atlanta, when Falcons officials worked hard to camouflage
Vick's questionable work habits and reliability.
Vick was rarely one of the first into the building
or the last out, often showed up late or at the last minute, and for
some responsibilities, didn't show at all.
There was one occasion on which the Falcons were
forced to cancel a press conference to introduce new uniforms because
Vick, scheduled to be one of the models and whose promised presence was
used to lure the media for the event, blew it off.
--Just a reminder, one that will get plenty of
play over the weekend but was addressed by The Sports Xchange more than
a week ago, that the deadline for "franchised" players to sign
multi-year contracts is Monday.
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, who reportedly
signed a five-year, $100 million deal with $40 million in the first
year of the deal and $60 million in the first three years, is off the
franchise player ticking clock.
There are six other franchise players -- wide
receiver Dwayne Bowe (Kansas City), tailbacks Matt Forte (Chicago) and
Ray Rice (Baltimore), defensive end Cliff Avril (Detroit), safety
Dashon Goldson (49ers) and kicker Josh Scobee (Jacksonville) -- who
have yet to sign.
And there are eight more players who signed only
one-year tenders, most of whom are still negotiating for long-term
Toting The Rock
--There are several second-year tailbacks being
counted on by their respective teams to become big-time ball carriers
But few of them posted only three attempts, or
gained a whopping 11 yards, as Alex Green did for the Packers in his
Yet the former third-round draft choice from
Hawaii, who appeared in just four games before a knee injury ended his
initial NFL season, is regarded as an essential part of the Green Bay
running game for '12. The Packers have not signed a veteran back,
didn't invest a draft choice in a runner, and don't appear interested
in re-signing unrestricted free agent Ryan Grant, the last Green Bay
runner to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season (2009).
The carries might not be split 50-50, but Green is
expected to share time with James Starks at tailback.
"It really is kind of a vote of confidence,"
Green, who continues to rehab from his knee injury," said this week. "A
lot of people might (view) last year as wasted, but I learned a lot
about what it takes to play at this level, (and) I'm anxious to show
The Packers' brass might be keeping the phone
numbers of a few veterans on speed-dial, but for now the plan seems to
be to go with Starks, Green, and perhaps Brandon Saine, an undrafted
rookie in 2011, who logged just 18 carries.
Browns ' Gordon Can Have An Immediate Impact
--One underrated factor in Cleveland's selection
of wide receiver Josh Gordon in the supplemental draft was the quick
success, relatively speaking, that the Browns experienced with Little
The aforementioned drops aside, Little progressed
fairly well as a rookie, and did so minus the benefit of any offseason
work, because of the lockout.
It's clearly not the optimum situation, but
Cleveland officials note that Mike Wilson did a nice job with Little
last season, and that the wide receivers' coach learned from the
experience of preparing a player without participation in minicamps and
The situation for Gordon and Wilson will be
similar, with very little exposure, none on the field, to the Cleveland
offense before camp starts for rookies July 24. Wilson, kind of the
unsung guy in the Browns' rationale to aggressively go after Gordon,
will be expected to ready the rookie the same way he did Little last
Remember, because he was ruled ineligible by North Carolina officials for receiving improper benefits from agents, Little
didn't play a single game the season before he was taken by the Browns.
Gordon didn't play at all last season, after
transferring to Utah, after he was dismissed by Baylor following a
marijuana-related incident. Gordon was also said by Browns' officials
to have been very impressive, and notably candid about a background he
described as "spotty," during his two-day visit with the team.
The Browns, who brought Gibson to Cleveland last
Thursday and Friday, were the lone club to have him in for an official
While just about everyone agrees that Gibson needs
plenty of work on his route-running, his football acumen, the ability
to translate concepts while working "at the board" and to assimilate
principles of the Cleveland offense, were said to be very high.
Holdout In Baltimore?
--Team officials still hold out hope that Ed Reed
will be in camp on time, but the perennial Pro Bowl safety keeps making
noises about not reporting, primarily because of his contract.
Reed is in the final season of his deal, a
six-year extension worth $40 million signed in 2006, and is scheduled
for a $7.2 million base salary.
The problem: Reed will be 34 less than two weeks
into the season and, despite some public protests from coach John
Harbaugh abut the 10-year veteran's play in 2011, the consensus seems
to be that his performance slipped a bit.
Plus, there are some injury issues, and the Ravens
don't want to invest too much money for too many years for a guy who
has flirted with retirement talk the last two seasons.
--Six players with 10-plus seasons of NFL tenure,
and 11 with seven years or more of league seniority, are projected as
starting centers in 2012.
So the position remains one steeped in longevity,
anchored by greybeards such as Matt Birk, Brad Meester, Dominic Raiola
and Jeff Saturday.
But there are also 13 projected starting centers
with four seasons or fewer of prior experience, and the young guys seem
to really be coming on.
"(Centers) have to be both strong and athletic,
and you're starting to see the position develop more, and take on more
(prominence)," said Pittsburgh standout Maurkice Pouncey. "It's not the
same as it used to be."
Punts: It's not believed that this week's action
against Andre Rison, in which he was sentenced by a Phoenix court to
five years of probation and ordered to fork over $300,000 in
restitution for unpaid child support, will keep the onetime Pro Bowl
wide receiver from working with the Michigan State staff this fall as a
coaching intern. "I can teach those guys a lot -- on and off the
field," said Rison, who recently resigned his position as a high school
coach in Flint, Mich., of the pending stint at his alma mater. ... The
2013 draft sets up as another big year for quarterback prospects, and
the buzz is that three players who have improved their stock at this
early stage are Logan Thomas (Virginia Tech), Mike Glennon (North Carolina State) and Tyler Wilson (Arkansas). Word from scouts is that
Glennon and Thomas have improved their arm strength and accuracy and
that Wilson's overall footwork and general movement skills are believed
better than some people felt. ...
Even with the signing of wide receiver T.J. Graham by Buffalo this
week, there seemed to be little movement to break the logjam at the top
of the third round where, as pointed out by The Sports Xchange two
weeks ago, players and agents are attempting to maximize the
"25-percent" rule for base salaries in the final three seasons of
four-year contracts. Graham was the sixth player in the round, but the
only prospect in the top nine to have a contract. ...
A similar impasse exists at the top of the first round, where the first
eight players are still unsigned, and where the primary issue remains
so-called "offset language." Saturday is Bastille Day, the French
equivalent of Independence Day and the day late NFL general manager
George Young said most negotiations for rookies began, and club
officials hope that the proximity to training camp report dates stirs
some action. ...
On the success rate of former second-round wide receivers, cited
earlier: It is notable that the Browns have had mixed results recently
taking pass-catchers in the round. Little figures to become a good
player, but Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie, both selected in the second
round in 2009, haven't exactly panned out. Massaquoi has 110 catches in
three years, but might be hard pressed to earn a spot in Cleveland's
top three wideouts in 2012. Robiskie was released last November, after
catching just 39 balls in two-plus seasons. ...
The rolls of former players suing the NFL for concussions and
head-related trauma continued to mount this week, with the addition of
Hall of Fame center Dermontti Dawson most obvious. But perhaps the most
damning comment might have come from former tailback Stephen Davis, who
noted of the tests doctors and trainers once used on the sideline to
determine concussions: "If you could put your hand on your nose, then
you were good to go back in." ...
Dallas, which has used more supplemental draft choices than any other
team in the league since the summer draft was implemented in 1977 - the
Cowboys have exercised five supplemental picks and San Diego (three) is
the only other club to use more than two - had some interest in Gordon,
but not until the middle rounds. The Cowboys still seem to be confident
they can develop a No. 3 receiver to go with Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, and replace the departed Laurent Robinson, from a group of
young and relatively untested players. ...
There's been some curiosity of late from a few clubs about a pair of
onetime Dallas offensive linemen, center Andre Gurode and guard Leonard Davis, but no offers. ...
Carolina linebacker Jon Beason this week proclaimed himself ready to go
in camp, after an Achilles injury that limited him to just one game
last season. What Beason did not say, though, was where he'll line up
for the Panthers, who still have not revealed how they will align
Beason and first-round pick Luke Kuechly. The two players can both play
middle and weak-side 'backers, and alternated at minicamp at the two
spots. If coach Ron Rivera and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott
have decided who will play where when camp opens, they're staying
quiet, at least publicly, about the situation.
*The last word: "For me, it's a personal thing,
because I grew up with these guys. It's shocking to me to see guys who,
when they were players, you'd say, 'This guy is going to have a good
post-football career ... (he's) very smart has his degree ...' And then
it's 10 years later, and he's broke and out of work. It kills you to
see that. It absolutely kills you." -- Giants co-owner John Mara, per
The Newark Times-Ledger, acknowledging the league probably hasn't done
enough for retired players
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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