Shape up or ... well, you know the rest. To date, at least three players are known to have been shipped out because of poor conditioning/weight problems ostensibly resulting from the lockout and the fact teams weren't baby-sitting and monitoring them per usual in the offseason.
Not surprisingly, all three of the players – Max Starks (Pittsburgh), Bryant McKinnie (Minnesota), and Deuce Lutui (Cincinnati, signed as a free agent from Arizona) – are offensive linemen. Coming off a neck injury that sidelined him for nine games in 2010, Starks might get a little slack. But Lutui, who returned to the Cardinals after he failed a Bengals physical, checking in at nearly 400 pounds, has experienced weight problems in the past and should have known better.
Teams aren't saying much about it publicly, but several coaches and trainers who talked to The Sports Xchange last week conceded that conditioning, particularly in the heat that has enveloped much of the nation, might be just as critical a factor as teaching or re-teaching the playbook. Maybe even more critical in a few cases.
"You're going to see more of it, guys falling out or getting cut, because they (slacked) off during the lockout and didn't take care of themselves," said one veteran trainer. "The (voluntary) workouts teams held were just a dog and pony show, believe me. There are more to come."
Inside straight: Eagles coach Andy Reid has long focused on adding depth to both his line units, notably at the defensive tackle spot, and that could be important in Philadelphia if starter Mike Patterson is forced to undergo brain surgery to address the condition that prompted a seizure at practice earlier this week. The Eagles earlier signed free agent Cullen Jenkins, who will move from 3-4 end in Green Bay to his more natural position of 4-3 tackle. Then they further bolstered the position with the less-sexy additions of free agents Anthony Hargrove (New Orleans) and Derek Landri (Carolina), two solid inside defenders. And they've got young holdovers Antonio Dixon (10 starts in 2010) and Trevor Laws, though both are hobbled at the moment. Even with Patterson's situation up in the air – and sources close to the tackle tell The Sports Xchange he could miss the 2011 season – and the trade of former first-rounder Brodrick Bunkley to Denver, the Eagles seem well fortified at tackle. Said Hargrove: "They've always been a team that's loaded up on big guys when they could. The competition is great, and they let the chips fall where they may."
Prime Time in Canton: With Deion Sanders enshrined in the Hall of Fame last weekend, it's worth reiterating a point made here previously, and in our presentation of the Hall presenters five months ago: It may be difficult to separate Sanders the player, the performer, and the personality, but there is no denying the guy set the standard as a cover defender and playmaker.
In his first six seasons in the NFL, Sanders averaged five interceptions, despite the fact quarterbacks usually threw to the other side of the field and avoided him. The two premier corners of this era, Asomugha and Derrelle Revis, had zero interceptions combined in 2010. Jets coach Rex Ryan loves to emphasize that teams don't throw at Revis. But no one threw at Sanders, either – "Even in practice he would embarrass you," said former NFL quarterback Bobby Hebert, who played both against and with Sanders – and "Prime Time" still found a way to get the ball in his hands and make plays.
"I always felt like, if I could get the ball, I could score," Sanders told The Sports Xchange. "I had to basically invent ways to get [the football], but I did it."
The last word: "He's like Elvis now. People just won't let go." – agent Bus Cook, on reports that the Miami Dolphins might have some interest in luring client Brett Favre out of retirement
McKinnie had company with poor conditioning
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