Catching Up

Even in the middle of February, a week away can knock a football writer well off stride.<br><br> That thought occurred to me after returning from vacation and taking a quick glance at this site's message board. The idea of jumping right back into it was waylaid by a wall of information so voluminous that a crunch of the past week's newspapers had to be executed before making a comfortable return. So here's the rundown of what I'd missed.

Feb. 10
  • Jay Schroeder, who played four years of baseball before coming back to football, told Newsday that Drew Henson's biggest adjustment will be the physical pounding in football. Schroeder was starting in the NFC Championship game within two years with the Redskins. In the same story, former Giants coach Jim Fassel, who worked with John Elway as a rookie, said Henson's throwing motion shouldn't require much of an adjustment since he wasn't a pitcher in baseball. And here's what Henson's former Michigan teammate, Benny Joppru, told Newsday: "When we first got to Michigan, he was head and shoulders above the rest of us, and I think it will be that way now. He's a smart guy and takes command of the huddle. He will take control of the team, but not rub anyone the wrong way. ... You could tell toward the end of the baseball season that he wasn't that happy. He saw the success of Tom Brady and missed the team atmosphere. Football is such a team sport, much more so than baseball, and I think he missed that."

    Feb. 12
  • CBS Sportsline's Pete Prisco, in his mock draft, has the Steelers taking cornerback DeAngelo Hall. Prisco is fresh and smart but isn't thinking along with the Steelers, who certainly need a cornerback but won't put the 11th pick of the draft on the bench behind Chad Scott for a year.

    Feb. 13
  • The Providence Journal praises the Steelers for hiring QB coach Mark Whipple. "They almost certainly will score more points," writes Jim Donaldson, pointing out that "Whipple's teams always score. Frequently and prolifically. Excitingly and entertainingly." Whipple's 1992 and 1993 New Haven teams averaged 50.5 and 52.5 points per game. In 1994 under Whipple, Brown won a share of its first Ivy League title. In 1998 under Whipple, UMass shocked D-1AA by beating perennial power Georgia Southern in the title game. "My best teams," Whipple said, "have always been balanced between running and passing. But the fun part of the game for me is throwing the ball -- working with quarterbacks in the passing game." Of his job with the Steelers, Whipple said: "I think I can be a better position coach because I won't have to do all the other things I had to do as a head coach." Whipple had interviewed with Seattle and San Francisco in recent years but didn't want to leave a young UMass team. When that team didn't win another national championship, he joined the Steelers. "Last year wasn't a good year for the Steelers," he said. "But there was no finger-pointing. The feeling is that there's quality all through the roster, and that if we coach a little better and come together as a team, we'll be in good shape."

  • New England cuts three-year rushing leader Antowain Smith and allows that it might also cut back-up Kevin Faulk. It raises the chance that New England would trade its pair of late first-round draft picks to, say, the Steelers for the rights to, say, RB Steven Jackson. At the bottom of the first round, the Steelers would be more comfortable drafting a corner, tackle or quarterback.

  • Len Pasquarelli reports that the Chargers are looking to trade down and not draft a QB since they're still feeling stung by the bust that was Ryan Leaf. Funny thing about that is the Chargers sent a sports psychologist to interview Leaf before that draft 6 years ago. The doc came back and told the Chargers to avoid Leaf. They, of course, didn't listen to their man and Leaf blew up on them. Pasquarelli also reports the three fastest draft risers are LSU WR Mark Clayton and USC's DE Kenechi Udeze and CB Will Poole, and that the Lions want RB James Stewart back, an indication they won't draft a RB with the sixth pick.

  • The St. Petersburg Times reports that Ray Lewis is actively recruiting Warren Sapp to play for the Ravens. Ugh. More pre-game, in-game and post-game flatulence from the already gassy Ravens.

    Feb. 14
  • Hunter Kelly turned 7 today. It's sweet news on this Valentine's Day, since Jim Kelly's son wasn't supposed to live longer than 14 months.

  • Draft prospect Greg Jones' cousin, Joe Frazier, is arrested for assaulting the mother of one of his children. The former world heavyweight champion is 60 and suffering from diabetes.

    Feb. 15
  • The Yankees trade a stiff for an MVP and there is outrage throughout the land. But why is anyone still outraged by baseball's economics?

  • The Contra Costa Times reports that New England personnel boss Scott Pioli would have "zero" interest in SF WR Terrell Owens even if the Patriots "were in dire need." The CCT agrees, criticizing Owens' hands, toughness, route-running, durability and, of course, attitude. The Eagles are reportedly interested in the 30-year-old who's seeking a $20 million bonus. Owens would also like to play for the Falcons, who just hired former SF DC Jim Mora as head coach, but, oops, the Falcons also just hired Greg Knapp as OC. Knapp, we remember, is the sideline coach at whom Owens screamed in front of the TV cameras last season.

  • Mike O'Hara, a columnist for the Detroit News, says the Lions will draft either TE Kellen Winslow or FS Sean Taylor.

  • The best sports media columnist in the country, Phil Mushnick, found this on page 42 of the NFL's Super Bowl game program: "MTV is back and ready to provide viewers with one of the most exciting Super Bowl halftime shows yet! MTV will continue to push the envelope this year..." The NFL -- and us viewers I guess -- got what it deserved.

    Feb. 16
  • The day after Pitt's 75-68 basketball win over UConn, UConn Coach Jim Calhoun was quoted in the New York Daily News, saying "The Panthers were just too physical" and "This is a better Pitt team than last year's group" and "They have a lot of kids on their team with bravado" and "They could win the national championship."

    Feb. 17
  • The Chicago Tribune reports that Kordell Stewart will be released before next season. "It wasn't the easiest situation to be in," Stewart said of last season. "It wasn't the fairest."

  • The Cleveland Plain Journal reports that Kelly Holcomb will be out four to six months with a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. This while the Browns are attempting to lower the cap number on their other QB, Tim Couch. Poor Browns. Poor, poor Browns.

    Feb. 18
  • In a stunning story for more reasons than one, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Virginia Tech QB Marcus Vick was arrested and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The major news isn't mentioned until the eighth paragraph: "A search warrant was executed on Vick's Blacksburg apartment on Jan. 29 after two juveniles - one 14 and the other 15 - told police that they and another juvenile were served alcohol at the apartment. They alleged that pictures were taken of them dancing and undressing. Two of the juveniles told police that Vick had sex with the other juvenile, who was 15."

  • And in Steelers news, John Clayton reports that the salary cap limit has been extended $1.9 million to $80.6 million for each team, and that Steelers tackle Marvel Smith has reworked his contract and saved the team $1.372 million. The two figures combine to put the Steelers over the cap by a mere $1.428 million. We'll use that as our post-vacation jumping in point.

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