A couple of NFL teams elected to jump ship from "off-campus" training camps and bring them in-house at the expense of fans and the cities that used to host them.
The first shoe fell Wednesday, when the Baltimore Ravens
regrettably announced that they will not convene training camp this summer at McDaniel College in nearby Westminster, Md. The Jets followed suit with the news that they will hold camp at the Atlantic health Jets Training Center rather than at SUNY Cortland, where they have held training camp the past two years.
Expect a few more clodhoppers to hit the floor in the next few weeks. Even though there is optimism in the labor talks, some clubs are already perilously close to "drop dead" dates for having camps at smaller colleges, where roughly half the league's 32 franchises train in the summer.
At least three more teams, The Sports Xchange has confirmed, are within two weeks of taking the same step the Ravens enacted. The city of Westminster will suffer, by the town's accounts, a $2.2 million hit. The Sports Xchange hasn't reached representatives for all of the cities or college in peril of losing camps, but the going rate for lost revenues seems to start at seven figures.
Another ramification of the Ravens not going to McDaniel College is that some fans will be unable to see the club in workouts. Roads leading to the team's Owings Mills complex can't accommodate the traffic typical for camp. So fans will either see the team in preseason, in one of the workouts at M&T Bank Stadium (the number may be increased), or not at all.
The revelation that owners want the ability to have a right of first refusal on some pending unrestricted players, as reported by ESPN and Howard Balzer of The Sports Xchange, is strangely reminiscent of Oakland owner Al Davis
' stance in 1993. Davis argued that every team should annually have 4-5 franchise tags at their disposal, and his stance probably delayed the CBA agreement for a while.
Despite his legion critics, Davis has been a league visionary, but he was wrong about that one. Most clubs don't even employ the one franchise designation at their disposal. The concept isn't likely to fly. Nor is an argument that clubs should be able to get a "second bite" at applying the franchise marker to four- or five-year veterans that they didn't tag back in February at the deadline.
Former University of Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins last week officially transferred to North Alabama, as had been previously anticipated, to finish his college career. Draft analysts Rob Rang and Chad Reuter of The Sports Xchange rated Jenkins as the No. 3 cornerback prospect in the 2012 draft, before first-year coach Will Muschamp dismissed him from the Gators' squad.
After this space referred last week to a handful of four-year veterans who might get surprisingly good play as unrestricted free agents, a number of league general managers called to mention another: San Francisco defensive end Ray McDonald. A third-round pick in 2007, McDonald has only nine starts in four seasons, but is just 26 years old, and the onetime Florida standout is a solid 3-4 end. Coincidentally, McDonald told The Sacramento Bee this week that he wants to get to a situation where he can start. That might actually be the case in San Francisco if nose tackle Franklin Aubrayo departs and end Isaac Sopoaga slides over into the middle.
Speaking of four-year veteran free agents, the inclusion of the four-year group really enhances the depth of the wide receiver pool, with guys like Steve Breaston (Arizona), James Jones (Green Bay), Sidney Rice (Minnesota), Mike Sims-Walker (Jacksonville), and Steve Smith (N.Y. Giants). That's especially true if Smith, one of the league's best third-down receivers, is healthy.
The Atlanta Falcons' veterans have been even more impressed by first-round wide receiver Julio Jones' precise route-running and attention to detail than his explosiveness so far in unofficial workouts.
RIP Clarence Clemons, aka "The Big Man," the Bruce Springsteen sidekick and saxophonist who died last week after battling two recent strokes. A standout center and defensive end at Maryland State, now Maryland-Eastern Shore, Clemons was to have a tryout with Cleveland in the early 1960s when an automobile accident and knee injury ended his football career. "God had another plan for me," Clemons, a longtime NFL fan, told The Cleveland Plain Dealer a few months ago.