MMQB Mailbag: 10 rookies who've impressed; Cowboys video fallout

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You guys are all fired up over the Dallas Cowboys videoboard, and we'll get to that. But first, Tim of Modesto, Calif., has a question about rookies:

"Glen Coffee looks like the unquestioned steal of the draft up to this point (granted the season hasn't started). Is he the most impressive rookie you've seen three weeks into training camp? If not, who is?''

I love Coffee, the first real good backup the 49ers have had for Frank Gore, who has a long injury history. Here are the 10 rookies I've seen who've impressed me in the preseason:

1. Percy Harvin, WR/KR, Minnesota (22nd pick). Impact player beginning opening day.

2. Glen Coffee, RB, San Francisco (74th pick). Nice burst, reliable, excellent Gore insurance.

3. James Laurinaitis, LB, St. Louis (35th pick). Took over starting mike 'backer job after three pro practices.

4. Ziggy Hood, DL, Pittsburgh (32nd pick). The next Casey Hampton, with some pass-rush ability.

5. Alphonso Smith, CB, Denver (37th pick). Faces tremendous pressure if Broncos have a bad year because Denver gave up next year's first-rounder to get him.

6. LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia (53rd pick). Has picked up the blocking and receiving parts of the Philly offense quickly.

7. Julian Edelman, WR/all-purpose, New England (232nd pick). Could be Wes Welker. Could be a wildcat QB.

8. Nic Harris, LB, Buffalo (147th pick). Could be special-teams demon while waiting for a defensive role.

9. Austin Collie, WR, Indianapolis (127th pick). Could play 20 snaps as Manning's slot receiver opening day.

10. Stefan Logan, RB/KR, Pittsburgh (undrafted). Said it Monday: Steelers have to find a roster spot for this return man.


You flooded me with e-mails, Tweets and texts about the Dallas videoboard issue. For background, a Tennessee punter, A.J. Trapasso, hit the 160-foot wide videoboard in the first game Friday night at the new Cowboys Stadium, negating the play and making the Titans kick again. Even if the dubious claim of some on the Dallas side that the Titans were trying to hit the board is true, it doesn't matter. As one league source told me over the weekend, the danger is having a different set of ground rules in Dallas than there are for the other 31 teams.

What's amazing to me, and a sign of the media times, is the amount of coverage this thing has gotten. I opened the New York Times this morning and found a long story by Richard Sandomir on it, plus a column by NFL writer Judy Battista. It's on the sports cover of USA Today. All about the height of a videoboard that clearly is going to be fixed before the start of the regular season. It says one thing to me: The NFL is king, and nothing is close for second place.

I'm going to run the most representative e-mails and a Tweet before responding.

• SOUNDS LIKE A DALLAS FAN. From Chris P. of Arlington, Texas: "If I'm Jerry Jones and the NFL has the audacity to order me to raise the videoboard at Cowboys Stadium, I tell Roger Goodell he'd better get the checkbook out. Why should Jerry or the Cowboys pay when the NFL said it needed to be 85 feet and they put it at 90. Then, because a guy doing nothing but trying to hit the board without regard to how far the punt was going to go, the league wants Jerry to pay for the renovation. Doesn't seem right to me. This is an NFL office problem, not the Cowboys' problem.''

• INTERESTING CONCEPT, BUT I DON'T SEE IT WORKING. From Brad of Detroit: "Couldn't they just make hitting the scoreboard on kickoffs and punts an automatic touchback? If they kick off and someone hits it, the team getting the ball starts on the 40. If punting, the ball strikes the scoreboard, place the ball on the 30. Why do do-overs? It slows down the game and threatens everything else you mentioned in your story.''

• NEVER THOUGHT OF THIS. From @lyingit (Via Twitter): "What happens if a QB hits Dallas' big screen with a pass intentionally?''

• I DON'T THINK THIS IS TRUE, BUT I CERTAINLY HAVE HEARD THIS A LOT. From Michael of Knoxville, Tenn.: "I think Jeff Fisher, who's on the NFL Competition Committee, told his punter to hit the videoboard on purpose. That way, the problem would be out in the open during the preseason and not affect a game in the regular season. The Cowboys, and the NFL, should be thanking Fisher for saving them the embarrassment.''

OK. Four points:

1. I am attempting to clarify exactly when the NFL Game Operations Manual added the rule about hanging scoreboards. But the rule about a scoreboard having to be at least 85 feet above the field, I'm told, "is probably one of those rules that's been on the books for years and no one ever thought about it because no one ever put a scoreboard that low,'' one veteran general manager told me. (Jeff Fisher reiterated this point on the Dan Patrick Show this morning.)

Technically, you're right, Chris; it isn't the Cowboys' fault if the placement of the videoboard complies with league rules and passed NFL muster. But it seems if the Cowboys have a punter who reached 90 feet in the air with his practice boots (even the moderately booming Hunter Smith reached 90 feet in Indianapolis when the Colts tried it a couple of years ago, negating any thought they had about hanging the videoboard over the field of play), it's not very smart that the Cowboys put the board at 90 feet. "Not very smart'' doesn't mean they should have to pay for it. I just am surprised it was set at a position that a punter with a strong leg could hit without a strain.

Chris, on your other point: You've got a rookie free-agent punter trying to make the team, or to make an impression on future NFL employers. You honestly think he's going to waste one of his chance to impress by trying to hit the videoboard?

2. The NFL is dead-set against making a do-over ground rule part of the rules. For that reason, I see no other way around raising the scoreboard 15 to 20 feet by the Sept. 20 regular-season opener against the Giants. This afternoon, the Competition Committee will convene via conference call about the issue, and I expect a rules clarification to be in place by the time the Cowboys play the 49ers at home Saturday night.

3. Re the pass, I'm told the same thing would happen, as of now, if a pass hit the videoboard as if a punt or kick hit it. Do-over.

4. As for who will pay for the board to be moved, my money's on the NFL picking up the tab. Why? Because the league inspected the most minute of details at the new stadium -- I'm told even rubber-stamping the size of the X-ray room and medical facilities for players at Cowboys Stadium. If they're looking at those things, they're looking at everything.


Now for a few other e-mails.

• THE WHOLE THING IS SAD. From George of Houston: "Seriously, Plaxico Burress gets two years for accidentally shooting himself in the leg? I realize carrying guns in NYC is illegal, but come on. This is clearly a case of punishing a celebrity just to set an example."

The Plaxico Burress sentencing is sad, because what happened was an accident, if you believe his interview with Jeremy Schaap. And while I sympathize with Burress to a degree, I think there are two reasons I can find only a very small problem with what appears to be an excessive sentence.

Burress had a loaded handgun not licensed for the state of New York in a very public place. The gun could have gone off and killed someone. As it was, the gun went off and slightly wounded Burress, but the point made the sentencing.

I am in favor of mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes. If you don't have them, then a good lawyer can make a terrific argument for extenuating circumstances in almost every case. Let's say Burress' lawyer makes an impassioned plea about how careless this was, but also how harmless it was, and a jury buys it, and Burress gets a suspended six-month sentence. How does that serve society? The next guy who thinks about walking into a crowded public place with a gun hidden on him could either not think about the consequences (likely) or he could think, "I'll get a great lawyer and get off if I get caught with the gun.''

Suppose 50 thugs hear on the street or in the media about the Burress sentence. And suppose 40 of them scoff at it and have it not affect their lives at all. But suppose 10 of the gun-toters think, "I better keep that thing in the car when I go to the club.'' I have no idea if that will happen, because I'm not a gun-toter. But as a society, all we can do is create laws to safeguard the public, and this law -- a mandatory minimum sentence for a major public hazard with real teeth -- is good for society.

• YES, CHAD IS A GEM. From Andrew Schaefer of Chicago: "Chad Ochocinco's kicking is a perfect example of how the NFL has changed, for the worse. So he's good at it, and he wants to do it, and it would be incredible publicity for the team, and what do the Bengals do? Shut him down, of course, for fear of injury. I wonder what George Blanda would have to say about that. I realize the game has evolved and that money has taken over, but would it really have been such a crazy idea?''

I hear you, Andrew. But if you haven't been kicking regularly, and if you're not going to be kicking once the season starts, and you're the team's best receiver, it seems silly to have him continue kicking and risk injury just because it's cool.

• THE SAN DIEGO DOMINO EFFECT. From Dan S. of El Cajon, Calif.: "Now that Philip Rivers has re-signed, do you think GM A.J. Smith will sign more guys on a team with lots of unsigned players coming up after the season?''

Unlikely. I saw where Adam Schefter Tweeted this morning that with Rivers done, now there is a slew of other players whose contracts will expire after the season to worry about -- Shawne Merriman, Marcus McNeil, Darren Sproles, Chris Chambers, Vincent Jackson. But there's a very big "if'' there: If there's no new CBA after this season, only one of those players, Chambers, will be an unrestricted free agent. Because in an uncapped year, four- and five-year veterans will be restricted free-agents, and Merriman (five), Sproles (five), Jackson (five) and McNeil (four) will all be restricted. I think Smith will try to get McNeil done next, and after that, who knows?

• YES I WOULD. From no less than 500 of you via e-mail: "So you'd take Derek Jeter over Albert Pujols? You'd be the only one.''

Never thought a baseball opinion would generate so much froth. What I should have said is Derek Jeter is the best player of my adult lifetime. Say, 1975 and beyond. And I stand behind that.

It could be that Pujols will overtake him in a few years; I don't know. But Pujols is in his ninth year, Jeter in his 15th. Let's see how Albert stands the test of time. This, by the way, is not just about stats. It's about leadership, playing under the great New York microscope and consistently delivering at a championship level, and playing doggedly well, whether the game is vital or a blowout. He's everything a baseball player should be.

Hey, if you don't agree, that's fine; it's certainly not an open-and-shut case. I love Pujols, and I've loved Mike Schmidt, Cal Ripken, Greg Maddux and many others; Johnny Bench would be awfully close to Jeter. I just value a lot of the qualities and things Jeter brings to the game other than fielding and hitting.