Cutler finally responds to criticism
FRI, APR 8
6:01 PM CST
QB Jay Cutler
For the first time since he wasn't able to finish the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler opened up publicly to the Chicago Sun-Times about his knee injury, the barrage of criticism thrown his way and the current state of his image.
He suffered a Grade II MCL tear and still doesn't know if it's fully healed, but because he stood on the sideline in the second half -- no brace, no crutches, no grimaces -- and watched third stringer Caleb Hanie attempt to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against the rival Packers, even fellow players like tailback Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jaguars took to Twitter and essentially called Cutler a quitter, which never happens within the NFL fraternity.
After the game, later at the combine and later still at the owners meetings, Bears coach Lovie Smith had been bombarded with questions about his signal caller's toughness, to the point where even the mild-mannered Texan started to get a bit upset about it, yet Cutler himself couldn't have cared less and was more focused on a goodwill excursion to Kenya he took with his girlfriend, TMZ-friendly starlet Kristin Cavallari.
"I was gone, and I stayed away from it all," said Cutler. "But I can't say it didn't bother me that people questioned my toughness and desire to play. I think I've been through a lot here in Chicago, and I would have loved to play."
And through it all, every teammate he has in the locker room stood by him and said repeatedly that he is the toughest nut patrolling Halas Hall on a daily basis, from center Olin Kreutz to linebacker Brian Urlacher to tight end Greg Olsen, and those are the only opinions that ever mattered to Cutler.
"Those are the guys you are with a lot of the time," he said, "and those guys didn't flinch. I've got to thank them for that."
A lot of athletes say they don't care what people on the outside think, and most of them are lying through their teeth, but this one actually, truly, really means it.
For all the news, notes and quotes on the Bears, visit BearReport.com
Pouncey says he's headed to Big D
WED, APR 6
9:14 PM CST
C Mike Pouncey
Florida's Mike Pouncey seems to be the premier interior offensive lineman available in the draft, but guards and centers don't usually come off the board in Round 1.
However, not only does Pouncey firmly believe that he's sure to be a first-round pick at the end of the month, but he has already made a prediction that he's going No. 9 overall to Dallas. Via Twitter, the 6-5, 303-pounder said he's be "shocked" if he wasn't in a Cowboys uniform for the 2011 campaign.
If he does make his way to Big D, it probably won't be to play center, as Andre Gurode is solidified as the starter and has been invited to the last five Pro Bowls. Pouncey specifically went back to school for his senior season to become a center, as he previously had been a guard lining up next to his twin brother, Maurkice Pouncey. It was Maurkice leaving Gainesville a year early and declaring for the draft in 2010, which resulted in him being selected 18th and developing into an All-Pro right away as a rookie for the AFC-champion Steelers.
Mike, on the other hand, isn't a natural center and struggled with his snapping at times for the Gators, who run a spread-option offense almost exclusively out of the shotgun. At the guard position in Dallas, Kyle Kosier is a free agent and Leonard Davis may be deemed too expensive to keep -- he's just past the midway point of a seven-year, $49.6 million contract.
Naturally, there is speculation that the two siblings could end up next to each other again in Pittsburgh, which Maurkice suggested in a tweet of his own after Mike's: "Somebody call the steelers!! Mike says the cowboys love him!"
No way is he headed to Dallas at No. 9, but the Steelers have the 31st pick in Round 1, and that might be too late since Mike has been chosen somewhere in the 20s in most of the mock drafts out there.
For all the news, notes and quotes on the Cowboys, visit RanchReport.com
Draft invitations not going too well
TUE, APR 5
6:51 PM CST
RB Ryan Williams
The NFL originally invited 20 or so prospects to attend the draft in New York City, but it's safe to assume that the list has been expanded quite a bit.
The most recent player to accept an invitation is Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams. But while Williams is a quality ball carrier and one of the best available at the position, he is most likely no better than a second-round pick at this point and might not even come off the board until Round 3.
Rookies have been put in an awkward spot because of the current labor impasse between players and owners. Do the eventual draftees side with the veteran players, their future teammates, and boycott Radio City Music Hall as a sign of solidarity? Or they could side with the owners, their future employers and the ones that will be cutting the checks they have dreamed about cashing for all these years.
Usually only elite prospects are asked to attend the draft, as nobody is interested in having another Brady Quinn situation -- last man in the green room is the rotten egg. But if the league is desperate enough from an attendance perspective that second and third rounders are now expected to sit through all of Round 1 on Thursday and wait till Friday to finally shake hands with commissioner Roger Goodell, perhaps it would be best for everyone involved to give the jersey-and-hat charade a one-year vacation.
I have Williams going 60th overall in Round 2 of my latest mock draft to the Patriots, which wouldn't be a bad landing spot for the 5-9, 212-pounder, although it might not make for much of a Kodak moment in the Big Apple.
For all the news, notes and quotes on the Patriots, visit PatriotsInsider.com
Bowers out of the running for No. 1
MON, APR 4
9:14 AM CST
DE Da'Quan Bowers
Dale Zanine/US Presswire
Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck quite unexpectedly announced he was returning to Palo Alto for his junior year instead of making himself eligible for the NFL Draft some time ago, but not one of the top prospects available has seized the opportunity and made a convincing case for No. 1 overall to Carolina.
In all likelihood, the Panthers are going to address the defensive side of the ball at the top of the draft, especially since -- unlike Luck -- Missouri's Blaine Gabbert and Auburn's Cam Newton haven't been given the "can't miss" label by talent evaluators. The only other offensive player threatening to go in the top five is Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green, although it doesn't make a whole lot of sense for new coach Ron Rivera to take him because there is so little faith around the league in current signal caller Jimmy Clausen.
One defender that can be comfortably scratched off the list of potential No. 1 picks is Clemson pass rusher Da'Quan Bowers, who really talked a good game at the Scouting Combine last month but hasn't been able to back it up during the evaluation process. First he claimed to be 100 percent in Indianapolis, despite the fact that he was battling a knee injury and wouldn't work out until his Pro Day. After being pushed back once or twice, Bowers finally had his much anticipated Pro Day on Friday of last week, and by all accounts he was, well, an April Fool's Day joke.
Keep in mind that the majority of players perform better at their respective Pro Days than they do at the combine, which is expected since they're back on campus and surrounded by their college coaches and teammates, yet Bowers apparently didn't crack five seconds in the 40-yard dash on a few stopwatches. The torn meniscus he had surgically repaired in January robbed him of some speed, agility and explosiveness, and the 50 or so pro scouts on hand took notice.
While it's hard to quantify how much money Bowers cost himself, as the new collective bargaining agreement between players and owners -- assuming it ever gets done -- may include a fairly strict rookie wage scale, somewhere in the millions of dollars is where any counting should start.
My second series of mock drafts had Bowers indeed going No. 1 to Carolina, but I'll have a new first round Wednesday, and at this point Bowers may have a difficult time staying in the top 10.
For all the news, notes and quotes on the Panthers, visit PantherInsider.com
|John Crist is an NFL analyst for Scout.com, a voter for the Heisman Trophy and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America.|