Observations on NFL combine, Troy Vincent, free-agent WRs and more
Two weeks after the Super Bowl, three days before the Scouting Combine, two weeks before free agency, here are four NFL observations -- including one that stunned a lot of people in the football business -- and one regarding
In my calls around the league in the last few days, I spoke to one club architect who shall remain nameless at his request. He told me his team had changed its way of doing business in the scouting realm this year, and his team's draft board is "90 percent set.''
Quoth this architect: "You know why it's 90 percent set now? Because guys go to the Scouting Combine and they change their grade on a player based on things that have nothing to do with playing football. I'm convinced if you took the stopwatches away from a lot of these guys, most of 'em would not be able to tell you whether they liked a player or not.
"These guys go out and watch players all fall, then we all watch the tape of all these guys, and we see what kind of football players they are. That's scouting. Who plays good football in pads? That's scouting. Now we need the combine for the medical evaluations and the personal baggage stuff. But don't come in after the combine and tell me you want to change some guy and move him way up because he ran faster than you thought he would. That's where you get in trouble, and that's why our draft board is pretty well set.''
If I told you who this speaker was, you'd all say, "Whoa, we have to listen to this guy. We respect him.'' Just take my word for it. He's legit.
I enjoy the combine. It gives me the chance to meet a lot of players I'll be covering in the future and to see people in the NFL and get team-by-team updates. It's valuable. But it's way overrated in terms of deciding who should get picked where in the draft, and it always will be.
"Why not?'' Vincent asked innocently Saturday night, over the cell from his Virginia home.
Uhhh, well, because 11 months ago you were the leader in the clubhouse to replace the late
On Thursday, the NFL hired Vincent to be vice president for player development of active players. He succeeds
Vincent is the second former NFL Players Association president to be hired recently for a job with NFL ties, with former Giant
Vincent starts his job today, and he'll take his act on the road in midweek at the combine in Indianapolis, addressing the 300-plus potential draftees.
"When I knew Mike was leaving the job,'' Vincent said, "I knew it would be the perfect job for me. I knew I had the skill-set to help players succeed off the field. I know what the NFL did for me, from the continuing education it enabled me to get while a player to later on helping write the programs for [rookie] players as they came into the league. This league is good to people who are proactive in their lives, creating lots of opportunities they would normally not have. I think we can produce better men, better pros, and make the league better overall by doing it.''
I've been told the election loss stunned Vincent and sent him into a funk. But he says he harbors no bitterness. "It was simple,'' he said. "I wasn't who the players wanted. They wanted to go in a non-player direction. In an election, you're going to have a winner and a loser. De's a wonderful individual and he's hired a very good staff around him.''
Vincent says he left Hawaii after the election and that he wasn't surprised Smith never approached him about joining the PA in any capacity. He adds that he's removed himself from the process and hasn't been involved on either side of the labor dispute that could lead to a player lockout in 2011. When players call him about it, he tells them he's out. He says has no input into negotiations or feelings about them. He sounded like Switzerland every time I tried to get him to opine about the hard line stance each side has taken in the negotiations.
And he was adamant that any knowledge of the players or connection to them from his campaign to win the executive director position was not part of his interview process for this NFL job. When he talked to commissioner
"I'm not involved anymore, it's not my responsibility, and I don't even think about it today,'' Vincent said. "When I'm asked about it, I don't even respond. I have no knowledge about it. There will be labor peace at some point. It's what's supposed to happen. I just don't know when. The leadership is in place on both sides to get a deal done, and doing that is not what I'm here for. I'm here to help players grow into better young men and better pros.
Vincent said Goodell is "very concerned'' about players transitioning from the field to life after football. To that end, Vincent wants to get to players early and often. He wants to hit the rookies now, at the combine, then heavily at the Rookie Symposium in June in California, then in regular team meetings.
"I want players to know that many of them are going to be 25-, 26-years-old [one day], and they're going to learn, 'This game doesn't want me anymore. I've got to do something with my life.' My job is to help them realize that football is part of their life's journey, not the entire journey.''
In restricted free agency are four veteran Pro Bowl wideouts sure to be tagged with restrictive pricetags by their teams:
That isn't to say a team can't make an offer of something less and get one of those players. But keep in mind that to get one of them, you'd have to not only give a high draft choice or choices, but also pay the player $9-million or so per year. So most teams would say it's ridiculous, particularly in a draft as strong overall as this one, to give a first-round pick and $10 million a year, for example, for a wideout.
Who will be out there fishing for them? I wouldn't be surprised to see Miami and its former Dallas triumvirate of
The top candidate, I think, will be Baltimore investigating Marshall or Jackson. The Broncos, despite what coach
The Ravens are a good trading partner in one way -- they aren't afraid of taking a chance, and owner
We'll see. If I had to guess, I'd say Marshall has the best chance to go somewhere, for a second-round pick.
The NFL's statement on the McKinnie slap-on-the-wrist: "As a result of his dismissal from the NFC Pro Bowl team prior to the game, Bryant McKinnie has forfeited his $22,500 game check and is required to reimburse the NFL for $4,285.13 for Pro Bowl expenses that he incurred. The Competition Committee will review this matter to determine whether additional steps should be taken to deter this type of conduct at the Pro Bowl in the future."
1. Who in the world thought he was getting the $22,500 in the first place, after being whacked from the team the day before the game? That's no penalty. That's an expectation.
2. Who in the world thought the NFL would have picked up his expenses for travel to and from and hotel room at a game he, of his own free will, did not participate in? Again, that's no penalty. I would expect the league would take expense money back from a person who didn't live up to his end of the expense deal.
3. I do appreciate that the Competition Committee will now set some sort of sanction for Pro Bowl players who, for some incredibly immature reason, don't show up for practice or other team functions. But this deserved a $100,000 fine by Goodell.
Here's why: McKinnie openly campaigned on his Twitter feed to get votes for the game, then was voted into the game. He didn't show up for Wednesday's mandatory practice and offensive line meeting. He arrived at Thursday's offensive-line meeting five minutes before the end of it, leaving the players in the room seething; if they had to be there, why didn't McKinnie? In the room were teammate
McKinnie didn't show up at all Friday for the meeting or practice. He did have the intelligence to Tweet about his nocturnal activities while in Miami.
This is not the most important decision the league will have to make this year. Far, far from it. But Bryant McKinnie spit in the face of the Pro Bowl, and the NFL whiffed on sanctioning him.
And as far as reading Woods' honesty or dishonesty in the statement, I mean, the truest thing about this guy is that we really don't know him. He doesn't allow the public to know him. So how on God's green earth could we watch a scripted 13-minute statement -- that for all we know could have been edited or written by some sort of
We don't know. Let time prove whether the guy has changed or not. That's the only way we can know.
"You know the Patriots don't really pay, so when I got my second contract from them that was a blessing in disguise. I understand the business. I don't think they're going to re-sign me back. I'm not mad. I'm not bitter. It's just the way things are in this NFL, so like I said, after this year, I'll be looking for a new team. I think so.''
"I coached 20 years in the NFL, and we cut players all the time who can still play in the league. It takes time for players to develop. The NFL needs this league.''
"Football's come so easy to him. Does he love it the way
About that hockey game last night: Wow. Or in the words of NBC color man
I counted seven Canadian shots on goalie
I have heard the NHL is waffling on whether to interrupt the NHL season in 2014 for the Olympics, when the Games are in Russia. Big, big mistake. The NHL is getting more exposure than it ever would under any other circumstances. The NHLers simply must remain a part of the Games.
Hero of the night, obviously: Miller with his 42 saves. "My job is to stay very consistent," he said on MSNBC. "If we see these guys again, they'll be plenty mad." No kidding. But the upshot of this game is the Canadians will have to win four games in a row to win the gold medal now, and they're firmly behind the 8-ball.
Now a nod to the 25 or so hours I've watched of the Olympics in the last week. Five quick observations:
1. Ski racing is more dangerous than NASCAR.
2. I love curling. It's mesmerizing. But for me it's like field hockey was when my kids were in school: By the time you figure out all the rules, the games are over.
4. Best event of the first 10 days of the Olympics: Canada 3, Switzerland 2 (shootout), men's hockey, on a
5. There can't be many more beautiful places on earth than Whistler, where the skiing is taking place.
Now for a few awards, good and bad:
He made three saves that defy description in the 3-2 shootout loss to the Canadians, and if you ask anyone who watched, they'll tell you it should never have gone to a shootout -- that the Swiss should have lost this game 6-2 or 7-2 in regulation. The Anaheim Ducks' goalie stopped a perfect shot in a 4-on-2 chance and made 43 other saves in a dream game for an underdog goalie in Vancouver.
If, like me, you have been drawn to the TV by the
After being helped by two aides off the course, she was headed for the hospital, I was sure. "If you see the crash, it is a amazing she can actually walk,'' her coach,
It's a real word, sort of. Urbandictionary.com defines "dillweed'' as "a person who is generally not smart. This person cannot realize the obvious and is oblivious to reality.'' That defines Plushenko and his camp after the dillweed lost the gold medal in men's figure skating to
"It's not men's figure skating, it's dancing,'' Plushenko said, ripping Lysacek's program because the America didn't have a quad jump in his routine. But watch the two programs. Lysacek was clean. Plushenko was wobbly. His logic was even more wobbly, and he personified bush-league with his babyish rant.
The Baltimore Ravens have a soft real-and-fake grass mix at their training facility in Owings Mills, Md., called SportGrass. No player likes to be timed on SportGrass, preferring the faster track of a tartan track or artificial turf. But the Ravens have used the surface to time players for the 40-yard dash for several years, and it usually results in a time about two-tenths of a second slower than the time a player would run on a track or pure artificial turf.
Someone asked me this week what the Hall of Fame selection committee, of which I am a member, is going to do about the logjam of wide receivers at the doorstep of Canton. I said, "Damned if I know.''
I've been adamant that we have to start getting some of these guys -- of the
OK, I realize the game is different than when Hayes played. But Monk often played in three-wide formations as the passing game exploded, and Irvin is a peer with Carter, Brown and Reed. We have to ask ourselves as a committee: Is Carter, with double the touchdowns of Irvin, 351 more catches and being a better boundary ball-catcher ... not deserving just because Irvin leads him in Super Bowl victories 3-0?
I had the immense good fortune on a short family trip to California last week to visit Santa Anita Park, about an hour east of Los Angeles and with the San Gabriel Mountains as a gorgeous backdrop. I've been to a few racetracks in my life -- Churchill Downs, River Downs, Monmouth Park, Fairgrounds in New Orleans -- but even the site of the Kentucky Derby can't compare to the combo platter of the scenery and the classy garden-like physical plant of Santa Anita. Moreover, I hit the first exacta of my life (as you can see, I'm a horse novice), Sidepocket Lou and Wicked Mischief in the fourth race, paying a whopping $17.60. I know this: If I had grown up in southern California and visited that place as a kid, I'd be a degenerate gambler right about now.
"Just finished a public signing in San Jose. Probably signed 5 hours straight, about 3000 items, and my hand is killin me!''
1. I think you should take a moment and read the Denver Post story, by
According to Klis: "Marshall has been left emotionally scarred by Williams' murder in the wee hours of Jan. 1, 2007. Marshall was with Williams minutes before his Broncos teammate and good friend died almost instantly from a bullet wound to the neck. Preceding the shooting, police say there was an altercation outside The Shelter, a Broadway nightclub that was hosting a
2. I think I would be shocked -- as would the St. Louis Rams, quite frankly -- if the Bucs were remotely serious about trading up to number one in the draft from their spot at three. If you haven't noticed in the last 15 months, the Bucs are shedding salary the way I wish I could shed pounds, which is to say, with consistent regularity. Paying
3. I think the Donte Stallworth deal -- totally non-guaranteed, for $900,000 in salary and $300,000 in incentives, according to
Look at it this way: The Ravens will get to training camp sometime near the end of July, and they'll have 45 days to figure out if he can play. For free. Or actually, simply for the training camp pay plus per diem that every player makes. If he is on the Week 1 roster, that's when his $900,000 salary becomes guaranteed for the year. If a veteran receiver, healthy, runs the fastest time of anyone on your team, what's the drawback (other than publicity and/or moral outrage) of signing him?
4. I think we can argue all day about the sentence given to Stallworth -- and the Twitter universe was about 80-20 against Stallworth being allowed back into football after such a light sentence (he served 24 days and has eight years of probation, as well as paying a settlement of at least $3 million to dead man's family). But at the end of the day, there were mitigating circumstances.
The man who was hit,
While I think the incarceration portion or the sentence was light, I don't think there's much more the league could have done once Stallworth was released from jail, other than suspend him for a year. And if he's sufficiently repentant in the eyes of the commissioner, he deserves to be reinstated. Whether he gets signed by someone after that is up to whether a team wants to deal with the distraction and the moral outrage of at least part of its fan base. If a man has done his time and been banned from his livelihood for a year, how much longer would the ban have to be before you'd think he deserves to play for his living again? Two years? Five? Fifty?
5. I think, just for the record, here's the way this week will work in free agency: Teams have until Thursday by which to place a franchise or transition tag on a player, thereby restricting him in free agency. It's unlikely the Panthers will place a tag on Julius Peppers because they'd have to guarantee him at least $21.3 million on a one-year contract if he chose to sign it and play for the one-year deal this year (and I certainly would if I were him).
But other teams will have interesting decisions with free agents -- New England with nose tackle
6. I think I'd be surprised if
7. I think these were the two interesting nuggets from my chat with Browns president
8. I think the toughest thing for Holmgren is to mesh three key people to the long-term success of the Browns who have not worked together before -- Holmgren, GM
9. I think this is my
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Ever wonder how you're going to be remembered when you're dead? Two reminders of the famous, and semi-famous, in the last few days.
That's what the former Secretary of State said the day
c. I don't blame the
d. I can see it now (or, rather, I can't see it, because I'll be dead): In my obit, the second paragraph will read, "King, who worked for
e. Coffeenerdness: Peet's Italian Roast. One of the finer things in life.
f. Dr. Z Update: So many of you have asked for an update on
g. Tremendous fun the other night over at Harvard, watching the Crimson host Cornell at Lavietes Pavilion. Cornell's the Ivy team that lost at top-rated Kansas by five last month, with a mobile 7-foot center,
What was cute afterward: The fans just standing around, moms and dads and roommates, mingling with the Cornell players and giving them food for the trip to Dartmouth after the game. Reminded me of a big high school game, with fans on top of the floor and players who are not headed for the next level playing like it was the biggest game of their lives. Very fun night.