Throughout the 2010 NFL season, SI.com's Nick Zaccardi will work with Jerome Bettis to get the six-time Pro Bowl running back's observations about the latest happenings in the league. Bettis retired from the NFL in 2006 after a 13-year career.
• Holding out through August isn't going to be a huge deal for Darrelle Revis. Whenever you miss time in training camp, it's naturally going to hurt from a conditioning standpoint, but with Revis' shut-down abilities, it's not much of a problem. There's really only one fear early in the season: Conditioning. To be an elite cornerback, you need to be in superior shape. Revis won't be in football shape at first, so Anquan Boldin, Randy Moss and even Brandon Marshall may not be stranded on Revis Island the first three weeks, but the Jets don't need to worry.
Defensive players can still be effective after holding out. They still have an idea of what's going on in the grand scheme. Unlike, say, a quarterback, Revis doesn't need that time to get in sync with his teammates. Offense is about timing and being on the same page, so missing practices makes a big difference on that side of the ball. You can miss time defensively and jump right back in.
It goes without saying that the Jets are a different team with Revis on board. That's why Rex Ryan was willing to fly down to Florida and speed up the negotiation process. He understands that if the Jets are going to be a Super Bowl contender, the first weeks are going to be key against three AFC contenders (Ravens, Patriots, at Dolphins). You want your best player on the field for that.
• Matt Leinart was never capable of being a franchise quarterback. The Cardinals lost belief in Leinart early. He never got comfortable in Arizona, beginning with his holdout as a rookie in 2006, the longest among his draft class. I look at when Ken Whisenhunt started playing Kurt Warner early in 2007, when Matt was the starter. They didn't believe Matt was ready then, clearly, and then he had some off-the-field issues that didn't help his situation.
I thought he was finally ready to take on the opportunity after Warner retired. What went wrong? The franchise looked at Matt from a whole and factored in his skill set; his ability right now versus what they were going to have to pay him (he signed a six-year, $50.8 million contract in 2006). The Cardinals came to the conclusion that he wasn't worth making that type of commitment. If they had committed to him, they would have had to redo the contract next year and give Matt the going rate for franchise quarterbacks. Once you decide to go with him, you're in bed with him, so to speak.
It's never been about Derek Anderson as a fallback option. The team's new mindset is, "We're going to have to manage." Anderson is expendable, which offers the leverage to go out and make a franchise-type move next year. I don't see Anderson as the missing link; I think they'll struggle this year. They've come to grips with that. They're going to have to play smash-mouth football and hope Anderson can manage the game.
• I'm questioning the 18-game season. I'm questioning it with the understanding that it's going to happen. It's inevitable. When they went from 12 games to 14 games and from 14 games to 16 games, I'm sure a big list of players said they were already playing enough games. Fans have been crying out for more regular-season football. I understand that.
With that, situations need to be addressed for the players. You have to try to find a way to take care of the players because we all know there's going to be increased revenues. What you have to do is threefold.
First, find a way to include the players in the added revenue because all of these contracts were predicated for 16 games. They need to be reworked. Second, you need to address the time it takes for a player to become vested -- currently four years -- because the life span for a player just got shorter. Third, rosters must be expanded. Over the course of the year, guys get beat up. Add two more games and it becomes a difficult proposition. I suggest going from a 53-man roster to a 60-man roster and from 45 active gameday players to 52 or 53.
Eighteen games is going to happen one way or another. We've just got to find a way that the players can benefit the same way the owners will.
• Mike Tomlin should start Charlie Batch over Dennis Dixon. Just look at it the other way. The Steelers start Dixon, and he doesn't give them enough spark and he's benched, it destroys the confidence of a young quarterback and it could be detrimental to his career. If the veteran Batch starts, struggles and is pulled, Dixon gets a confidence boost coming in that situation. And even if Batch starts, Dixon is going to play in certain situations anyway. Pittsburgh has nothing to lose and everything to gain by starting Batch.
It's a really difficult situation with Ben suspended and Byron Leftwich injured. If you start 1-3 or 0-4, the season is all but over. It's not that Ben can't resurrect a season, but the division is going to be so tough and the only sure way to get into the playoffs is to win the division. That's not to say it's impossible, but it becomes slim.
A few more quick thoughts ...
• This is a year of intrigue at the receiver position. I'm curious to see how Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh fit in Baltimore. How will T.O. do in Cincinnati? And Brandon Marshall in Miami? Santonio Holmes will be interesting to watch after his four-game suspension in New York. What's going to happen with Vincent Jackson? Is Randy Moss still in top form, or will he slow down at 32? A lot of questions among the receivers this year.
• Pete Carroll will be relatively successful in his return to the NFL, even without Houshmandzadeh. He's in an easy division with the ability to make the playoffs, but it will be hard to get championship-caliber talent to come to Seattle in the long run. Most of the country doesn't see you play.
• The rookie class doesn't wow me this year. The one guy I think has potential to break out is C.J. Spiller, but he could also have a rough year in that offense. The one guy certain to have a good year -- not necessarily a great year -- is Ryan Mathews with the better team in San Diego. Every position around him is pretty much filled. I've been impressed and surprised by Sam Bradford's arm, even though he's going to take his lumps. Tim Tebow is a winner, but he's also a project with a lot to learn.
• L.T. is not finished. I saw the quickness, the acceleration and the burst from him in the preseason. Look closely. His feet are still there. Last year there was a lot of tripping and stumbling, but I knew part of that was his offensive line was not as good as advertised. I knew he wasn't done yet. Training camp confirmed that for me.
• I don't see Carolina getting any better any time soon. When you don't have the quarterback position sewn up, it presents problems. They've got to develop trust in Matt Moore, a guy I'm not sure is capable. If Moore doesn't work out, the offense falls in the hands of a rookie, which is usually a sign of bad things to come. Even if that rookie is from Notre Dame.