Quick Hits: Thomas, Spygate, Samuel & More

Quick hits from around the league on players who might land in Foxborough. Zach Thomas is a hot topic, drawing interest from more teams. Spygate continues with more lawsuits and ongoing investigations. Asante Samuel draws interest from a new team. Jim Kelly doesn't have a lot of respect for Bill Belichick & more

Zach Thomas Draws Interest Elsewhere

Former Miami linebacker Zach Thomas has identified the Cowboys as a team on his wish list of possible destinations after being cut last week.
The Cowboys have expressed interest in seeing how much Thomas has left in the tank. The two sides have set up a meeting for next Tuesday after the combine -- of course that's only if Thomas does not travel to Indianapolis to meet with several teams. He has already visited the Saints and Patriots. The Patriots have offered a contract for next year. He is also drawing interest from the Texans, the Colts and the Chargers.

Considering Thomas has always played in the 4-3 and is an undersized linebacker, there is a question of how he would fit into the 3-4 defense, where size at linebacker is a key factor. However, coach Wade Phillips is a Zach Thomas fan from way back. And he of course he has a history of plugging square pegs into round holes. In San Diego he used the undersized Donnie Edwards very effectively at inside linebacker in his 3-4 defense.
So if the Cowboys determine that Thomas is healthy enough to handle the rigors of playing inside linebacker in the 3-4 defense they might get into bidding for the former Texas Tech star.

Keep in mind Thomas' 2007 season was prematurely ended by a concussion. But the 12-year veteran says he is healthy and ready to go -- a fact confirmed by the decision by the Patriots to extend him a contract offer. If the Cowboys do go after Thomas he will likely compete with Akin Ayodele and Kevin Burnett for a starting role opposite Bradie James.

"The grass isn't always greener when you go somewhere else. But now that I'm not with the Dolphins, I want to go to a team that makes sense for me." -- Former Dolphins LB Zach Thomas, who visited the Saints last Wednesday, on trying to finding a new home.

Thomas was reportedly offered $830,000 plus incentives by the Patriots. He's also meeting with the Saints and Cowboys, with potential conversations with the Jets. "It's gonna be like I'm a college recruit again. ... I started breaking down the defenses of a bunch of teams on my computer." Thomas didn't want to be cut and would've preferred to end his career in Miami and play for Parcells, who he said treated him in a first-class manner.

Eagles Interested In Samuel

Considering that cornerback is near the top of the Eagles' offseason priority list, it was more than a little surprising last week when both ESPN and the NFL Network reported that the team had given two-time Pro Bowler Lito Sheppard permission to seek a trade.

The Eagles quickly denied the reports, and Sheppard said he didn't know anything about it. But that doesn't mean there isn't something going on.
Sheppard, who missed five games last season with a knee injury, hasn't made it a secret that he's not happy with his contract. He signed a long-term extension with the team in 2004, just two years after they drafted him in the first round.

It was good money at the time -- an $8.7 million signing bonus and a yearly average of $3.5 million on a deal that runs through 2011.
But as with most long-term deals, it has become outdated. It dwarfs in comparison to deals like the six-year, $56 million free agent contract the San Francisco 49ers gave Nate Clements last year. Clements' deal included $22 million in guaranteed money.
"Lito is signed," Eagles general manager Tom Heckert said. "Lito is here and he does not have permission to do anything. Lito is a member of our team and that's about it. There's nothing left to talk about."

While Sheppard is one of the league's better cornerbacks, he has had a tough time staying healthy. He hasn't played 16 games since his second NFL season in 2003. He's missed 14 games in the last three years, including five last year, as well as the Eagles' playoff loss to New Orleans in '06.
Even before the Sheppard trade stories came out, cornerback was expected to be one of the Eagles' top draft priorities. Their name also has surfaced as a possible suitor for Patriots free agent-to-be Asante Samuel.

The Eagles' other starting corner, Sheldon Brown, had an up-and-down season, and is better in the slot than he is outside. Joselio Hanson, an NFL Europe alum, is their nickel corner.

Spygate Over According To Reid

While U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) still isn't convinced the Patriots' Super Bowl win over the Eagles three years ago was on the up and up, Andy Reid is. Even though Patriots coach Bill Belichick has admitted he's been illegally videotaping opposing coaches to try and steal signals since he became the Pats' coach in 2000, Reid said that had nothing to do with the Eagles' 24-21 loss in Super Bowl XXXIX. "I believe (they won fair and square)," he said. "You can't know exactly what a team's doing. But you're changing your signals up all the time. As long as they weren't filming our game-week practices, I don't care about anything else." Specter has suggested that Belichick might've stolen the Eagles' defensive signals that year when the two teams played in the preseason and then used them in the Super Bowl.

Former Ram Files Suit

--As the "Spygate" case unfolds, there was reaction to a lawsuit filed in federal court in New Orleans, asking for damages resulting in alleged videotaping prior to Super Bowl 36. Stories in recent weeks have claimed the Patriots taped Rams walkthrough the day before that game. The lawsuit seeks to have plaintiffs approved as a class. Those plaintiffs include ticket-holders, as well as former Rams safety Willie Gary.
Said attorney Hugh Campbell, "We were cheated out of a Super Bowl."

The lawsuit also mentions the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. That could treble any damages.
Eric Deters, another attorney for the plaintiffs, said, "I don't take a case unless I can win it."

However, other law experts aren't so sure. Said Lawrence Dessem, dean of the University of Missouri Law School, "If I were a member of this class action, I wouldn't start counting any recovery quite yet. While plaintiffs allege that 'but for the videotaping ... the results of the game would have been different,' that will be difficult to prove in a court of law."

An associate law professor at Missouri, Douglas Abrams, said, the RICO Act can only identify immediate victims. Said Abrams, "It might be the National Football League. It might be the St. Louis Rams. But it most certainly is not some guy who happened to play on the Rams ... or someone who bought a ticket to go to the game." In addition, Abrams said, "They would have to prove that the filming caused the defeat. I don't think there's any way to prove that."

As for the videotaping itself, former Rams coach Mike Martz said, "Maybe it helped them, maybe it didn't. But you'll never be able to measure that if they did do that. You're assuming they did that and I choose to believe they didn't do that.

"Of course, I'm interested. I was involved in that. It was my responsibility. I was responsible for a lot of people in that game. I am interested. But I'm going to assume it's totally false. Until they prove otherwise, there's not much to talk about."

Former Patriot Passes

New Orleans businessman Odell Lawson, a former Saints running back, died on Feb. 16 at his home. Lawson was with the Saints from 1973-74, finishing his pro football career with the team after playing for the Boston Patriots and San Francisco 49ers. A former Langston University star, he was drafted by the Patriots. After retiring from football, Lawson remained in New Orleans, where he started L&R Security with partner Ed Robinson. L&R is a firm that supplied security at the Superdome, New Orleans Arena and Ernest N. Morial Convention Center among other venues.

Jim Kelly Doesn't Like Belichick

Bills Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly is no fan of New England coach Bill Belichick. During a sports banquet in Jamestown, N.Y., south of Buffalo, Kelly said he pulled for the New York Giants to upset Belichick's Patriots in the Super Bowl and enjoyed seeing QB Eli Manning earn MVP honors because he's a "class act." As for Belichick, Kelly told the Jamestown Post-Journal: "Bill Belichick almost got to the point ... that he thought he was so much better than everybody else. I don't care about 'spygate,' that doesn't bother me. It's just the person he is in general. I have other issues that I know about that we won't talk about. I like the way Eli handled himself, I like the Manning family and I wanted to see the Giants win, pure and simple."


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