Saints fallout, Tannehill workouts get top billing as draft nears
Two headlines of the morning. Can't figure out which I like more, so I'll give you both.
• New Orleans is getting really ticked off about the bounty sanctions on the Saints, and fans are responding with their wallets.
• The Eagles are winging their way to Texas to work out Ryan Tannehill today. Hmmmm.
Jimmy Buffett did a concert last night on the waterfront in New Orleans. He wore a "Free Sean Payton'' T-shirt. He dedicated his first song to his friend and Saints head coach Payton: "Sitting Here in Limbo."
There is a town lots of New Orleans-area residents go to when they want to fish, Delacroix, La. It was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina. On the side of the road in Delacroix Sunday morning, as some of the fishermen left camps to return home, a woman with a tent was selling something. As the cars got closer, the drivers could see she was selling "Free Sean Payton'' T-shirts.
Outside the Superdome Sunday afternoon, about 30 locals gathered to protest NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's year-long suspension of Payton. One carried a sign reading, "Go to hell Goodell." Several wore T-shirts that read: "Quit hatin' on my boy Payton."
The Saints had two $100,000-plus suites available for the 2012 season as of the middle of March. Within 24 hours after the league's sanctions of the Saints were announced, both suites were sold. In addition, the Saints ticket office, in the three days after the sanctions were announced, had more than 150 callers asking to buy season tickets, with most saying they were doing it to show support for the team in the wake of the league's sanctions. None were available, the callers were told, but we can add you to our waiting list if you want. Add us to the waiting list, virtually every caller said.
There's a groundswell of anger in New Orleans, from what I can tell. Where it'll lead, I don't know. But I know New Orleans. It's not going to go away, regardless of how Goodell rules in the four appeals he must consider beginning Tuesday.
The Super Bowl is in New Orleans this season. Remember the booing Goodell got at the NFL Draft last year? That could sound charitable compared to the reception he could hear in New Orleans during Super Bowl week.
A contingent of Philadelphia Eagles will be in College Station, Texas, today for a private workout with quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
"I don't really know why,'' Tannehill told me Saturday night. "I'll just get ready to throw for them and do my best.''
Fact is, this is the time of year -- 24 days before Round 1 -- when teams buzz from town to town to get their drafting ducks in a row. The Eagles working out Tannehill could just be Philly doing its due diligence on a good player. That's what it probably is. But with the Eagles and quarterbacks, you never know. It could be more. The Eagles wouldn't seem to have a quarterback need, with Michael Vick set to play the season at 32, and the Eagles wouldn't seem to have the ammo to move up from their 15th spot in the first round -- without including their 2013 first-rounder -- to get their talons on a quarterback who might be picked as high as fourth (by Cleveland).
By the way, Matt Cassel's head shouldn't rest too easy on the pillow tonight either. The Chiefs travel to College Station later this week to get their own private session with Tannehill.
More from Tannehill shortly. Now for the remnants of the NFL meetings, and looking ahead to the Kiperization of our lives over the next three-plus weeks:
Number five on the list was a linebacker from the '50s, Hardy Brown, who played the prime of his career with the 49ers. A thin, 6-foot Texan, Brown perfected nailing blockers and ballcarriers in the open field with shoulder shots, knocking out more than his share in a 10-season career. Brown was shown making several brutal shots -- legal, but brutal -- and then he appeared on camera. Very matter-of-factly in the NFL Network piece (produced by NFL Films), he talked about the Rams putting a $500 bounty on him.
"The Rams had a $500 deal for my getting knocked out of the game,'' said Brown, who was not specific about which year it was. "The guy that told me was [Rams back] Paul Barry. I said, 'Paul, hit me and I'll fake it, and we'll split it, $250 apiece.' '' The segment wasn't quite glorifying the bounty aspect. But Brown told the story with a bit of a smirk, as though he was reveling in it.
On the first full day of the league meetings in which the shadow of the Saints bounty scandal touched everything -- and a day after league counsel Jeff Pash reiterated to me that Goodell was out to change the part of the culture of the league that reveled in violent and gratuitous hits -- NFL Network had a four-minute chunk of a program painting a player as proud that he was deserving of the other team putting a bounty on him, and matter-of-factly discussing it in an interview with the NFL's house filmmaker. If I'm the Saints, I'm searching YouTube today for the Brown segment, and I'm showing it when I appeal the league's sanctions. Wait --
Sean Payton is appealing his year-long suspension, and Saints GM Mickey Loomis his eight-game ban, and defensive assistant Joe Vitt his six-gamer, and the Saints their $500,000 fine and loss of two second-round draft picks. I can't imagine Payton has evidence to present in his defense that Goodell hasn't heard in their two face-to-face meetings already. But maybe Goodell could be persuaded to soften the team punishment, given two factors: Williams doesn't work there anymore and -- since the league has absolved owner Tom Benson of any wrongdoing -- the loss of the draft choices hurts the team over the long haul when the team has already incurred the biggest collective sanction in NFL history.
I read the item Sunday on ProFootballTalk.com, saying in essence that the coaches on the staff wouldn't take kindly to an interloper who doesn't know the team, and I don't doubt it's true. But this is a unique situation in pro football history. I'd be stunned if defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, the only non-sanctioned staffer who's been an NFL head coach before, didn't accept Parcells openly. But we'll see.
"This is my last coaching job, without question.''
-- Parcells, upon taking his second head-coaching job, in New England.
"I'm not going to coach any more football games. This definitely is the end of my coaching career.''
-- Parcells, resigning as the head coach of the New York Jets.
"You can write this on your little chalkboard -- I'm not coaching again.''
"I'm retiring from coaching football ... It's time to stop. I just have to let it go.''
I'm noticing a pattern here. Maybe Parcells should discipline himself to just never be quoted in the month of January again.
Club officials, including GM Jeff Ireland and coach Joe Philbin, dined with Tannehill in College Station Wednesday night, then spent about 90 minutes with him on the greaseboard Thursday after the workout. Any doubt now that Tannehill won't get past No. 8, where Miami picks?
Noted NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell says Tannehill is a more accurate passer on the run than Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, which is something to say for a guy who played wide receiver for two-plus seasons while waiting for the quarterback job to be his in 2010.
Tannehill worked with quarterback consultant Chris Weinke on his mechanics after the 2011 season, ironing out the herky-jerky motion in his pass-drops and working on opening his hips better on deep sideline throws to the left. But the attention from teams always goes to his time at receiver, where he was moved -- by former A&M coach and current Miami offensive coordinator Mike Sherman -- as a freshman because two quarterbacks were ahead of him.
"I was an arrogant little freshman at the time,'' Tannehill told me. "I said to coach Sherman, 'I think you're making a mistake.' He sort of chuckled to himself. I forget what he said. But they just told me to go out the next day at practice and run some routes. Two days later, I was in the starting rotation at receiver. Obviously, I was frustrated, but now I realize it gave me a different look at offensive football -- what receivers go through, how they see defensive backs, where they like the ball delivered. Things like that. So it worked out all right.''
It's pretty clear Cleveland and Miami are the leading candidates for Tannehill. I think he'd be a better fit in Miami because, after 19 starts at quarterback in college football, he may need a year of seasoning and time to get used to a new system before feeling the weight of a franchise on his shoulders. And right now, Matt Moore has more security -- and faith from the fan base in Miami -- than Colt McCoy has in Cleveland. One bad month and the fans would be calling for Tannehill in Miami. But one bad half in Cleveland and the chants for Tannehill would begin. Check out what Moore did in the last nine weeks of the regular season versus a rather prominent Super Bowl hero:
I wondered the other day, when Belichick retires, if Schiano is the kind of guy he'd recommend to be his successor as Patriots coach. You never know what the future could bring.
Ross told me he never offered his coach job to Jim Harbaugh last year and the Dolphins didn't have the comfort level and familiarity with Peyton Manning that Denver had with him. He also said he thinks Jeff Ireland "has done a terrific job and is a great talent evaluator,'' and the way to build a winning team is primarily through the draft.
I was encouraged to see Ross be more public during the meetings. He's begun to talk to the media in south Florida more, which he needs to do, and he picked his spots nationally, as he did with me last Tuesday. "We had to get out of the bunker mentality,'' Ross said, and he's right.
This draft is extremely important for Miami. If the Dolphins love Tannehill, they have to find a way to move up for him, even at the risk of overpaying.
I disagree, vehemently. I don't know if Tebow's ever going to be a starting quarterback in the league for five or six years, or for any length of time. But I do know he can be an asset to a winning team. And if Sanchez can't take the pressure, that's tough. He should play somewhere else.
I thought Tebow was going to be used five to eight snaps a game, but listening to coach Rex Ryan in Florida, he sounds like he's open to more -- up to 20 -- with the field spread, near the goal line, on two-point conversions, and maybe even using Tebow as the personal protector on the punt team. Having a defense in alert mode for Tebow will be a benefit no matter how accurate he is. Or isn't.
You could see why Gruden's so successful at this. Quarterbacks read him, and they learn from him. Luck accepted why he should be happy to take the short gains instead of the big risks that backfire. "You can't go broke taking a profit,'' Luck said to Gruden.
I'll be tuned in tonight at 9 -- yes, instead of Kentucky-Kansas -- when ESPN rolls out Gruden's session with Robert Griffin III.
"They [NFL officials] haven't turned over anything that we would consider to be direct evidence of player involvement in a 'pay to injure' scheme that we could consider for discipline. It's very hard to have a productive discussion about punishment when one side has kept, to itself, all the information. It's a very, at least from our perspective, unfair situation where you have a number of allegations floating back and forth in the press. There certainly appears to be some information that's been provided to the media about certain individuals' involvement and references to everything from e-mails to Powerpoints.
"It's difficult for those players to be in a situation where they can hardly defend themselves from unsubstantiated accusations that are being made in the public. If there is direct evidence of a 'pay to injure' scheme implicating players or anybody involved, we are asking the league to turn over that information. If the evidence demonstrates that the players or anybody else was involved in misconduct, then we've been as a union zero sum when it comes to the issues of health and safety for our players and that's where we're going to remain.''
"I was misused. Absolutely, I was misused.''
"Anything short of reverence is subject to ridicule.''
I covered many Kentucky home games for four seasons in the early '80s for the
I'll always recall sitting on press row at Rupp Arena and feeling like scum. Fans there hated the press. I recall one time at Senior Day -- in 1984, I believe -- seeing center Melvin Turpin's mother at the game in a wheelchair, and someone there said it was the first time in Turpin's career that his mom was able to attend a game. I thought it would be nice to go ask her at halftime what she thought of her son's fine career, and what it was like for her to be at a game. Which I did. And about two minutes into a nice conversation, I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was assistant coach Leonard Hamilton. He glared at me and said, "What are you doing talking to this woman?''
Tough gig. Much tougher for Tipton, who's been harder on the team than most over his 30 years of covering the Wildcats. In the
Why the Buffalo Bills are excited, now that Mario Williams is on the team:
New season tickets sold in the first two days after Mario Williams signed this month: 1,600.
New season tickets sold in the first seven days after Drew Bledsoe was acquired in 2002: 1,273.
In 1991, Jack Elway took over as coach of the Frankfurt Galaxy of the World League of American Football. His GM: Oliver Luck. They worked together for two years.
"I visited my dad over there after one of my Denver seasons,'' John Elway told me. "And I remember a little kid running around the place. It was Andrew.''
Andrew Luck would have been very little -- like one and a half or two and a half years old, depending if it was the 1991 or 1992 season when John Elway visited.
Just thinking: Jack Elway worked with Oliver Luck. John Elway played for Stanford. Jack Elway coached Stanford. Andrew Luck played for Stanford. John Elway went to work for the Broncos, and as his first major act running the football operations, signed Peyton Manning in free agency after Manning was made expendable by the prospect of Indianapolis drafting Andrew Luck. That's one strange circle of life.
Two hours down the road from Sanford, Fla., site of the Trayvon Martin killing that has inflamed the nation, I sat down for a relaxing exhibition game in Port St. Lucie the other day. On the scoreboard before the game was an ad, with a voiceover by the PA announcer, for a shooting range and gun shop near the stadium.
A fan (presumably a local person, though he never said) who I'd been talking with a couple of seats away noticed me listening to the ad --
"I've made sum mistakes, & have no excuses. I'm using the tools I've learned 2 move forward rather than backwards, & will B open 2 talking abt the details in the days 2 come. I'm confident that thr will B further understanding when the facts R revealed, & feel vry blessed 4 all of the support, esp from my friends & family.'' #beblessed
Last November, I had Leaf on my SI.com podcast. We talked for 25 minutes about the weight of being the second pick in the 1998 draft (behind Peyton Manning) and the rehab he went through after getting hooked on pain pills, and surgery to remove a brain tumor. After going through rehab, he said he was most impacted by therapy with this message: You've got to move past this bust thing, and you don't have to live the rest of your life making up for your football failure in the NFL. He told me that day: "The fact that they said I didn't have to do anything associated with football ever again was like a huge weight being taken off me. I felt like that might be the only thing I was ever going to be able to do and to have such a rock that I lugged around for so long, being the bust of all-time or whatever, that was just too consuming for me, I think.''
"Watched 5 gms of Cousins. Disappointed. Saw limited passer w/average arm strength. Needed functional space to throw. Plant + throw passer ... Would need to be highly managed by scheme.''
"Just went to see
In other words, is Trent Richardson at four too high? Is Richardson at 34 too high? Cosell makes you think, and that's a good thing.
The device protects the knee by shifting the effects of hits to the side of the knee to areas above and below the knee. The device was first used by Ken Stabler when he suffered a knee injury in 1977, and it continues to be used by players today -- particularly offensive linemen, many of whom say they can move freely without fear of further damage to the knee while wearing the brace.
Anderson was quasi-adopted by trainer Pepper Burress with the Packers after being dismissed by Al Davis in the mid-90s, and worked as a volunteer trainer for the Packers in their late-90s glory years. This is incredible: Anderson, in nearly four decades in the game, worked in 15 league or conference championship games with the Raiders and Packers. He was one of the legends in the business.
It makes sense for Philly to sign Demetrius Bell, the former Bill, who has played adequately at left tackle but not great. After playing a full season in 2010, he missed nine games due to injury last year. The Eagles could stay at 15 and pick up a good tackle, like Iowa's feisty Riley Reiff, but it'd be a stretch to think Reiff could play tackle better by opening day in the NFL than, say, the newly signed backup, King Dunlap.
a. I'll miss you, Joe Posnanski. Good luck in the new venture. Whatever it is, it'll be a home run.
b. I'll put the over-under at 11 years for one of the three Mega Millions lottery winners from Friday night to be broke and say, "I wish I had never won. All it did was ruin my life.''
c. Are you seriously telling me Danny Ainge tried to trade Rajon Rondo? What a ballplayer. Rondo being Rondo is the only way the Celtics have a chance in the playoffs. What a performance Sunday against the Heat.
d. I have tremendous admiration for Notre Dame's women's basketball team. Drilling three straight threes in overtime to beat UConn? That's the mark of a great team -- one that will have its hands full with Brittney Griner and undefeated Baylor in Tuesday night's national championship game.
e. Now the officiating in the UConn-Notre Dame semifinal ... not so good.
f. The problem with the women's game, to me, is that all four top seeds made it to the Final Four. Women's basketball needs a George Mason or Butler to happen. It's not March Madness in women's basketball. It's March Regularity.
g. You know what's strange? The worst two teams in the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League are Montreal (73 points) and Toronto (tied with the Isles, 77 points). How can Montreal and Toronto be so bad? Original six. Hotbeds of hockey. There's only one team, Columbus, with fewer wins than Montreal.
h. Rick Pitino was classy, at least, in saying for once Louisville would be rooting for Kentucky to win the national title.
i. You'd think the coaches in this tournament would say to their players, after the first two times there were lane violations on game-deciding free throws, "Remember: You can't rush for the rebound until the ball hits the rim.''
j. Coffeenerdness: I've got to hand it to the folks at the Starbucks on Okeechobee in West Palm Beach. (Or is it Palm Beach? I always get the borders of the two municipalities mixed up, except when I'm within a quarter mile of The Breakers, which is a far more luxurious a place than I ever deserve to step foot in.) Terrific baristas at that Starbucks, friendly, lots of power outlets, good place to write, nice little patio outside to write at too.
k. Beernerdness: As long as we've talked about Jimmy Buffett in this column, I raised a couple of cups of LandShark Lager while in Florida. It could have a little more taste, but it's better than Bud.
l. I'm getting addicted to Brian Williams and
m. TV feature of the week: Scott Pelley's
n. Radio feature of the week: Scott Simon on NPR Saturday morning with Yogi Berra and Ron Guidry, talking about their very close friendship forged in the last few Yankee training camps, a relationship documented in Harvey Araton's new book,
o. Reporter of the week: I'm late on this, a week late. But it goes to Chris Mortensen for his reporting during the Peyton Manning story. I know Mortensen got criticized because his agents happen to be Creative Artists Agency, the same as Manning, and it gave him an unfair advantage in Manning reporting. I can tell you that's not true.
Manning wasn't talking to Mortensen multiple times on many days during the process because they are represented by the same conglomerate. Manning talked to Mortensen because he trusted him, and because for the past 15 years, Mortensen has taken four or five days every summer and spent them at the Manning family's Manning Passing Academy. Those are the kinds of relationships that pay off one day in this business, and they paid off in this case with Mortensen getting the edge on so many parts of the story.