NFL Notebook: Pulling back the playbook

The NFL lockout continues and some of the game's top coaches are admitting that the playbook might have to be reduced when practices resume.

Regression depression: Several coaches, notably Bill Belichick and Andy Reid, were fairly outspoken this week about the ramifications of an offseason in which there are no minicamps and OTAs. Belichick candidly conceded the Patriots may have to cut back on the playbook. Reid admitted the overall quality of play could suffer.

But the upshot of the lack of work might also be, according to a few coaches to whom The Sports Xchange spoke, that there is actually less hitting than normal in camps. If that's possible.

"Your first priority will be to gauge the conditioning of your team," said one AFC coach this week. "All these unofficial camps they're having ... I mean, what can they do, besides seven-on-seven drills? There's no contact. The (irony) is that guys want less contact, and, because of the lockout, they're probably going to get it. The players could lose the battle but win a war that's important to them."

Bush league: Word is that, if tailback Reggie Bush doesn't return to New Orleans for the 2011 season — and despite an $11.8 price tag, that remains a possibility — he will be more sought after than some people think as a free agent.

Last week in this space, The Tip Sheet reported that at least one team, with time on its hands during the lockout, was reviewing videotape of Bush as a potential slot receiver. But we heard from some teams this week that he is just as valuable as a change-of-pace back, who gets maybe 10-12 "touches" per game as a back and return man.

Said one team executive: "The thing with (Bush) will be timing. You don't want to run out when free agency eventually starts, and sign a (versatile) back, and then have Bush pop free, because the Saints can't afford him. You might be kicking yourself for not waiting on Bush, and seeing what his market is out there. So it's probably going to take some legwork, you know?"

Back on the case: There hasn't been much news of late emanating from some government agencies' investigation of NFL player representatives, and the reason is because the Feds had a much more important diversion: due diligence following the death of Osama bin Laden. Sports and the potential indiscretions of agents simply haven't been priorities. But the several agents in the crosshairs of the probe, many of them located in the Southeast and a few of them fairly well-known names, shouldn't let down their guards just yet. One person very familiar with the government's digging told The Sports Xchange that the probe will resume at the end of the month.

Wade's world: Much has been made about the Houston Texans' transition to a 3-4 defense, and the personnel/positional changes that new coordinator Wade Phillips will enact: defensive end Mario Williams to linebacker, defensive tackle Amobe Okoye to end, strong-side linebacker Brian Cushing to inside linebacker, etc. But it's worth noting that Phillips, in inheriting a secondary that finished dead last in the league versus the pass in 2010, will confront some of the same problems he faced in Dallas last year.

That's particularly true at safety, where neither of the Houston starters from a year ago, Eugene Wilson and Bernard Pollard, will return. The Texans may start a rookie, fifth-round pick Shiloh Keo of Idaho, at one of the safety spots. Keo is alleged to be a very bright guy who is usually around the ball (11 interceptions in college), but who still struggled in coverage at times.

A solid tackler, Keo is nonetheless going to have a lot of responsibility for a youngster. The team may move one of its young veteran cornerbacks to safety as well, but there seems little doubt Phillips is going to have a pretty inexperienced interior secondary with which to cope, in addition to all the other changes he's making.


Viking Update Top Stories

\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"Several coaches, notably Bill Belichick and Andy Reid, were fairly outspoken this week about the ramifications of an offseason in which there are no minicamps and OTAs. Belichick candidly conceded the Patriots may have to cut back on the playbook. Reid admitted the overall quality of play could suffer. But the upshot of the lack of work might also be, according to a few coaches to whom The Sports Xchange spoke, that there is actually less hitting than normal in camps. If that's possible. \"Your first priority will be to gauge the conditioning of your team,\" said one AFC coach this week. \"All these unofficial camps they're having ... I mean, what can they do, besides seven-on-seven drills? There's no contact. The (irony) is that guys want less contact, and, because of the lockout, they're probably going to get it. The players could lose the battle but win a war that's important to them.\" Word is that, if tailback Reggie Bush doesn't return to New Orleans for the 2011 season — and despite an $11.8 price tag, that remains a possibility — he will be more sought after than some people think as a free agent. Last week in this space, The Tip Sheet reported that at least one team, with time on its hands during the lockout, was reviewing videotape of Bush as a potential slot receiver. But we heard from some teams this week that he is just as valuable as a change-of-pace back, who gets maybe 10-12 \"touches\" per game as a back and return man. Said one team executive: \"The thing with (Bush) will be timing. You don't want to run out when free agency eventually starts, and sign a (versatile) back, and then have Bush pop free, because the Saints can't afford him. You might be kicking yourself for not waiting on Bush, and seeing what his market is out there. So it's probably going to take some legwork, you know?\" There hasn't been much news of late emanating from some government agencies' investigation of NFL player representatives, and the reason is because the Feds had a much more important diversion: due diligence following the death of Osama bin Laden. Sports and the potential indiscretions of agents simply haven't been priorities. But the several agents in the crosshairs of the probe, many of them located in the Southeast and a few of them fairly well-known names, shouldn't let down their guards just yet. One person very familiar with the government's digging told The Sports Xchange that the probe will resume at the end of the month. Much has been made about the Houston Texans' transition to a 3-4 defense, and the personnel/positional changes that new coordinator Wade Phillips will enact: defensive end Mario Williams to linebacker, defensive tackle Amobe Okoye to end, strong-side linebacker Brian Cushing to inside linebacker, etc. But it's worth noting that Phillips, in inheriting a secondary that finished dead last in the league versus the pass in 2010, will confront some of the same problems he faced in Dallas last year. That's particularly true at safety, where neither of the Houston starters from a year ago, Eugene Wilson and Bernard Pollard, will return. The Texans may start a rookie, fifth-round pick Shiloh Keo of Idaho, at one of the safety spots. Keo is alleged to be a very bright guy who is usually around the ball (11 interceptions in college), but who still struggled in coverage at times. A solid tackler, Keo is nonetheless going to have a lot of responsibility for a youngster. The team may move one of its young veteran cornerbacks to safety as well, but there seems little doubt Phillips is going to have a pretty inexperienced interior secondary with which to cope, in addition to all the other changes he's making. 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