The NFL is serious about coaches not having contact with players, which is causing team employees to ignore messages and send others to the phone.
There have been plenty of stories the past few weeks purporting that coaches have communicated with players in violation of the lockout rules. Even though the NFL's investigation of such allegations has churned up no such instances, one would be naive to believe there hasn't been some kind of contact in some cases.
But there are many examples, too, of coaches going out of their way to avoid breaching the lockout guidelines, and here's another one: Hoping to correct what he felt was a glitch in his approach to the ball, pending free agent kicker Jeff Reed recently traveled to Phoenix to work under the watchful eye of former NFL special teams coach Gary Zauner, a 13-year league veteran who holds workshops there for kickers, punters and deep snappers.
While in Phoenix, Reed made a call to the Cardinals' complex and special teams coach Kevin Spencer, who had been his special teams coach for his first five seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The two remain close friends, and the call was aimed at being nothing more than a quick "hello" between guys who had once worked together and maintained a solid relationship. But after waiting on hold for several minutes for Spencer to come to the phone, Reed was informed by a receptionist that the coach couldn't take his call.
Again, there are probably examples of coaches stepping over the line in contacting players, but there are just as many times, it seems, when coaches are freaked out by the possibility of league reprisal and are avoiding communication.
NOTESThere were only 20 safeties chosen in the draft last month, the first time since 2000 there were none in the first round, and four or five of them are expected to start as rookies. If second-round Jaiquawn Jarrett of Temple starts for Philadelphia, the Eagles could have a rookie and a second-year veteran (Nate Allen) as their starters. Both players were chosen in the second round. The Eagles are not expected to re-sign pending free agent Quintin Mikell, an eight-year veteran.
Speaking of safeties, there's a bit of an awkward situation in Denver right now. The Broncos' unofficial workouts are pretty much being supervised by Brian Dawkins, and the team was likely going to jettison the 15-year veteran before the season started. Given his role in the workouts, and the likelihood that younger players like second-round pick Rahim Moore will have a truncated training camp, the Broncos may instead have to hold on to Dawkins, who will be 38 in October, for another year.
Although the Cowboys hope to upgrade the safety position in free agency, don't discount the possibility Dallas attempts to re-sign six-year veteran Gerald Sensabaugh as insurance.
The Bengals have to be wondering when people are going to buy their stance that they are not going to trade reluctant starting quarterback Carson Palmer. In alternate months since March, either coach Marvin Lewis and owner Mike Brown proclaimed that Palmer, who has threatened to retire if not traded, won't be dealt. But when Brown reiterated that during this week's league meeting, it created headlines. Said Brown in reaction: "I'm just saying what I've said before."
On the subject of Bengals' quarterbacks, there's been an impressive initiative launched, including a terrific statistical analysis by Kerry Byrne of Cold Hard Football Facts, touting the candidacy of Ken Anderson for the Hall of Fame. Anderson, who won three league passing titles, moves from the modern-era to the seniors category this year.
Atlanta, which bypassed in the draft what many feel was its biggest defensive need, defensive left end, hopes to sign a veteran at the position when (or if) free agency commences. But the Falcons' chances of adding a bookend for right end John Abraham could be tied to CBA negotiations and how the matter of free agency is determined. The Falcons' top two targets, Ray Edwards of Minnesota and Carolina's Charles Johnson, are five- and four-year veterans, respectively, and whether or not either is unrestricted will be a function of the CBA talks.
The last word: "Next maybe we'll see a snake wrangler and we can all watch and see if he gets bit or something. I don't know. He's always up to some stunt. They amuse me in a way and yet they concern me because, let's face it, as we look at it, we want a football player. We aren't looking for a bull rider, or a dancer, or a soccer player. We want a football player. It's simple. That's where we want the focus, not on other things. ... He has a genius for bringing notice to himself, and I don't say that in a disparaging way. It's unique. I've never known any football player that can bring the spotlight on himself seemingly all year round. Now is that a good thing or a bad thing? And that gets to be a debate." - Cincinnati owner Brown, per Bengals.com, on wide receiver Chad Ochocinco.