Last week, some of the media termed the changes "The Steelers Rules" when the proposals were passed by a 32-0 vote at the league meeting in Indianapolis. Of course, league officials took umbrage to that characterization - not to mention the reactions of Harrison (who termed the rules makers "idiots") and fellow linebacker LaMarr Woodley and comments of team president Art Rooney II -- and stressed that several other franchises would likely have drawn punishment in 2010 had the new rules, which permits the NFL to fine club for repeat violations, been in effect.
It's difficult to say which teams were under the microscope, but a team official, who is not on the competition committee, told The Sports Xchange that Tennessee and Philadelphia were "almost probably" among them. The Eagles had seven players fined a total of $135,000 in 2010; Tennessee accrued $130,000 in fines, not counting the $40,000 meted out to then-defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil for an obscene gesture, to seven players. That included $45,000 to cornerback Courtland Finnegan, who was sanctioned on four occasions.
There were eight players fined more than once in the league and eight franchises that had four or more players fined for on-field conduct. Amazingly, Harrison and Woodley were the only Pittsburgh players fined during the regular season. The league dispensed 99 fines for on-field or field-related acts, and it's believed that Miami and St. Louis were the only franchises that did not have a single player draw a fine.
Cut(ler) man: Chicago middle linebacker and noted tough guy Brian Urlacher this week again chastised the critics, as he did following the NFC championship game, who openly suggested that Bears' quarterback Jay Cutler lacks courage. In what could be considered a validation of that stance, or conversely perhaps a sign that NFL defenders might feel that Cutler can be rattled, it's notable that hits on Cutler in 2010 resulted in a half-dozen fines. That's triple the number of hits on any other quarterback in the NFL that drew financial sanctions. By unofficial count, there were 18 quarterbacks who absorbed "finable" infractions, and only five others - Sam Bradford, Drew Brees, Todd Collins, David Garrard and Ben Roethlisberger - had more than one. Urlacher characterized Cutler's critics as "stupid" and "dumb."
School days: As announced last week, the NFL officially cancelled its annual Rookie Symposium, originally scheduled for late June in Canton, Ohio. But that doesn't mean the NFL has entirely scuttled some of the excellent business and entrepreneurial programs it has developed in recent years. In fact, one such session, a so-called "transition program" for retired players seeking to broaden their business experience and acumen, has been expanded.
The program recently returned to Georgia Tech, where it was initiated in the spring of 2010, and there will be another such program at Rice University in October. Last year, former NFL players such as tight end Mark Bruener and Donovin Darius raved about the time they spent in Atlanta.
Said Darius: "As athletes, we sometimes get stereotyped. But a lot of the same attributes we develop as players - leadership, accountability, working with others, problem-solving - are exactly what corporations are looking for. Those same skills are transferrable ... to the business world."
The league will also have its annual "Broadcast Boot Camp" next month, with about 16 former players expected to attend, including onetime veterans such as LeCharles Bentley, Drew Henson, Armani Toomer, Antonio Freeman and John Fina.
The cancellation of popular management programs at Harvard Business School and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania are not linked to the shutdown of the Rookie Symposium, as some have surmised. The programs and their curriculum and direction are actually being revamped by Troy Vincent of the league's NFL Player Engagement department.
Wither Plax?: Although good buddy Gary Myers of The New York Daily News last week floated the possibility that Philadelphia might be the team most interested in adding erstwhile wide receiver Plaxico Burress when he is released from jail June 6, there have been conflicting signals from Eagles officials this week.
That's not say there is a tug-o'-war among Philly officials, just that club insiders are putting out mixed messages concerning their interest, or lack thereof, in the wide receiver. The suggestion is that, just because the Eagles signed Michael Vick in 2009 after his incarceration and hiatus from the league, they will welcome Burress back to the NFL.
But the reality is that Burress, who will turn 34 next month, presents even more question marks than Vick did. In his four seasons with the Giants, Burress scored 33 touchdowns, but his average per reception reduced every year. In 2008, the last season he played, Burress averaged a career-worst 13.0 yards.
And while Burress still presents a tough red-zone matchup given his size - more than half of his career touchdowns, 28 of 55 scores, have come from the 20-yard line or inside of it - the Eagles don't employ a lot of fade- or corner-type routes inside the 20. The Eagles often struggle in the red zone, but coaches feel the presence of Vick, and the running threat he presents, help make up for any deficiencies.
There is also the fact that Burress will have endured a stretch of 33-plus months between games. Vick went about the same between regular-season appearances, but it took him a year to get his legs back and regain his form. If it takes Burress a year, he'll be a 35-year-old wide receiver, and there aren't many of those on NFL rosters.
Superagent Drew Rosenhaus, aka "An NFL Source," has pulled a lot of rabbits out of a lot of hats, and it's a good bet he'll stir up some suitors. But it remains to be seen if the Eagles are one of the teams interested.