Friday's NFL Blog: Early Edition

December 29 ... San Fran's bad boy reportedly sips some bubbly while his team prepares for action ... some coaches prepare to pack up while others await the call of opportunity ... Maurice Jones-Drew talks about the Pats' "extra stuff" ... why you shouldn't "dis" the Chargers' corners and more!

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Don't cry for me San Francisco: While his teammates were preparing to play the Arizona Cardinals last week, a published report claimed that suspended wide receiver Antonio Bryant was spotted ordering Crystal champagne at a nightclub at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. Our 49ers site has the scoop on the current status of Bryant, who was suspended by the league for four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy. According to their update, Bryant has pled not guilty to charges of reckless driving and resisting arrest regarding his November 19th incident where police reportedly claimed he showed signs of drunkenness after they spotted his orange Lamborghini at more than 100 mph on Bay Area freeway.

By contrast… 49ers backup quarterback Trent Dilfer has been a mentor to young quarterback Alex Brown in San Francisco and has provided veteran leadership to the team without taking a single snap this year. "The best thing you can do as a quarterback is make those around you better," Dilfer says in this subscriber feature at our 49ers site. "When you're not doing it as a player on Sundays, you need to find other ways to do it." If you're looking for your feel-good story of the day, make sure you read this one.

I hear voices sometimes: When you read articles, do you hear your own voice? Sometimes I can hear others, like when I took a look at this article at our Seahawks site on Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden. Read this intro by Doug Farrar and tell me who you hear in your head: "Four seasons ago, he stood at the precipice of football immortality, the final engineer of the decade-long makeover that ended with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers winning Super Bowl XXXVII in a 48-21 rout over his former team, the Oakland Raiders. Four seasons ago. Jon Gruden was The Man." Now tell me you didn't hear the deep voice of the announcer who does the voice overs for NFL Films. That's some good writing, so go check it out as Farrar outlines the decline of one of the NFL's previously most heralded and sought after head coaches.

Chargers CB Quentin Jammer (Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
So back off… Michael Lombardo at our Chargers site weighs in with this analysis on San Diego's cornerbacks, who according to Lombardo aren't getting the credit they deserve this season. "The success of the cornerbacks has affected every facet of the team," he says. "Their stellar coverage has helped allow the team to lead the league with 60 sacks. Those sacks produce turnovers, which gives the league's highest-scoring offense more opportunities to put points on the board." Find out more about Quentin Jammer, Drayton Florence and even Antonio Cromartie have been accomplishing this year for the Bolts in this subscriber feature.

Monday, Monday… Senior NFL Reporter Adam Caplan provides you with his insight on the head coaches that are likely to be packing up next week in search of a new job – and the top ten candidates for any vacancies. "A league source told this week that head coach Dennis Green already has boxes lined up in his office which signifies he could know about his pending fate," says Caplan. Don't miss this feature, and be sure to link to it from your favorite team's fan forum. These possible coaching moves impact practically every team directly or indirectly.

The Answer Man: Want to know what's going on with the Pittsburgh Steelers and their potential job search for a new head coach? Then check out this fun and enlightening article at our Steelers site where their "Answer Man" fields lots of questions that you probably didn't even consider yet about that expected vacancy in the Steel City.

Should old acquaintance be forgot… In the spirit of New Year's Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis shared his thoughts on the possibility that Sunday could mark the last time the he gets to square off against Pittsburgh head coach Bill Cowher. The Bengals are 0-4 against the Steelers at home since Lewis took over the reins, so perhaps he'll only shed a few crocodile tears for Cowher if he makes it 0-5 this Sunday. But during his interview with Sirius NFL Radio this week, Lewis also talks about veteran offensive lineman Rich Braham, who announced this week that he'll be hanging up his cleats. You can check out the interview highlights in this article at our Bengals site, and subscribers can listen to the audio of the 7-minute interview there as well.

Need a wide receiver? Then check out the Liberty Bowl at 4:30 ET on ESPN if you're not still stuck at work. Tony Pauline of TFY Draft Preview provides you with the info you need about the top 14 players from South Carolina and Houston that will be evaluated by your team before the draft. If your team needs a first-round caliber wide receiver, keep your eye on South Carolina's Sydney Rice, who could enter the draft as a junior. Pauline describes him as a "Productive game controlling wide out who is silky smooth," in this subscribers feature.

Titans QB Vince Young (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Quotable: "If you weren't playing them, it'd be a lot of fun. If you didn't have to defend it, it would be entertaining." -- Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, when asked if it is fun to watch film of Titans QB Vince Young. Check out the top ten Patriots-related quotes of the week and Darren Kelly's translations of what they really meant to say at our Patriots site today. It'll make you laugh, even if you don't like the Patriots.

With the first overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft… Those words will be spoken before you know it, so NFL Expert Randy Taylor has put together our network's first NFL Mock Draft, projecting out the first round for you. Take a look and then link to it from your favorite team's message board and get busy on making your projections.

On the firing line? Raiders head coach Art Shell doesn't know yet what his future looks like with the Raiders organization as his 2-13 teams gets ready for their last game of the 2006 season against the Jets. But this week he answered questions for the media and shared his thoughts on a wide variety of topics, including how the game has changed since the last time he was a head coach. "The game has changed in the sense that that there are a lot more zone blitzes going on in the league then before," he said. "There's more of getting to the quarterback before he can get the ball out and coming from different directions. You have to be able to pick up the zone blitzes and those things, because they create problems for you." subscribers can read the rest of his comments at our Raiders site by clicking here.

Questions abound… About the job that first-year head coach Brad Childress has done in Minnesota according to this feature at our Vikings site, including his recent decision to release WR Marcus Robinson. According to the article, "Not surprisingly, none of the players spoke out against Childress, but don't think for one second that the decision to cut loose Robinson this late in the season won't be noticed by potential free agents around the NFL. It also will be noticed all through a Vikings locker room where Childress has managed to create an air of negative tension throughout the season." Get the full scoop by clicking the link above.

It hardly seems fair: At our Colts site, they provide weekly in-depth key matchups analysis – a full article on each of the top three to four matchups per week. But today they've done one like never before. Instead of matching up two opposing players, Greg Talmage takes a look at the matchup between Miami rookie QB Cleo Lemon against Indy's 12th man … roughly 60,000 fans. Find out why this unusual key matchup could have a big influence on the Colts-Dolphins game with Indy trying to keep their hopes alive for a No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.

Quotable: "Oh, that's my man, Laurence and I are real cool, so I got to talk to him before and after. We had a good time and it was pretty cool to get to talk to those guys. He was talking trash because I told him "you can't go to my fans and shake your shoulders..." (laughs). – Jaguars rookie RB Maurice Jones-Drew talking about Patriots rookie Laurence Maroney in this exclusive interview with at our Jaguars site for our subscribers.

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