Friday, June 29, 2007

NFL Europa (RIP 1991-2007)

It had many names. The World League of American Football, the World League, NFL Europe and NFL Europa.

The developmental league of the NFL also lost money hand over fist and now it's no more.

After 16 seasons the National Football League pulled the plug on it's European venture, citing lack of interest (except in Germany) and the fact the league was losing $30 million per season.

The announcement came less than a week after the Hamburg Sea Devils beat the Frankfurt Galaxy 37-28 in the World Bowl title game in Frankfurt before a crowd of 48,125. Five of the league's six teams are based in Germany, with the other in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said the NFL will focus on bringing regular season games to the continent, in particular, Germany and England. The league also will have games in Mexico and Canada.

NFL team owners decided in October to play up to two regular-season games outside the United States. The first such game is Oct. 28 in London between the Miami Dolphins and the New York Giants.

The European league began in 1991 as the World League of American Football, with 10 teams from the United States and Europe, spreading from Scotland to Spain. After closing for two seasons in 1993 and 1994, the league returned with six European teams and retained the same format until the end.

The league was used by NFL teams to test young talent and produced players such as quarterback Kurt Warner, who led the St. Louis Rams to the 2000 Super Bowl championship and won two NFL Most Valuable Player awards; Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme; and star Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri.

In its latter years, the European league became far less a laboratory for player development and more an excuse for exemptions into NFL summer training camps. Teams that allocated players to NFL Europa received exemptions that permitted them to bring more guys to training camp every July, and to keep them around longer.

The other reality is that NFL teams stopped sending quality players over. Most head coaches in the NFL prefer to have their players participating in their own offseason conditioning programs, rather than several thousand miles away under the tutelage of another staff. So a lot of the players allocated to Europe weren't even fringe guys.

And that coupled with rising costs and debt spelled the end for NFL Europa.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Impact Rookies: Defense

(This the second of a two-part series focusing on the top six offensive and defensive rookies who will have the biggest impact in the NFL this season. Today we look at offense)

Which rookies will have the biggest impact on the field in 2007? The Football Fanatics gives you the answers right here. This is our prediction for the top six (everybody does top five so I wanted to be different) defensive rookies who will have the greatest impact this upcoming season.

1. Patrick Willis, LB, San Francisco 49ers: Willis has a chance to become the fifth consecutive linebacker to win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. The former Ole Miss standout is a team leader on and off the field. He can play inside or out and is very athletic and strong. Is solid against the run and pass. He's a hard worker who will play hurt. Everything you want in a linebacker. Has Hall of Fame potential.

2. LeRon Landry, S, Washington Redskins: The complete package at safety. Has size, speed, strength and instincts to play the run and pass. He will be a difference maker for the Redskins. Had 315 tackles and 12 interceptions in college. A terrific matchup safety who will form a solid 1-2 tandem with Sean Taylor.

3. Adam Carriker, DT/DE, St. Louis Rams: Strong, athletic player who can handle both defensive tackle and end duties. The Rams will move him inside where his toughness will be much needed. Carriker has bulked his 6-6 frame to 315 pounds and looked very good at the Rams minicamp last week. Has a solid work ethic and dominated at the Senior Bowl. Should be an excellent pro.

4. Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets: The best cover corner in the draft. Revis is an excellent athlete, a good playmaker and has the skills to fit well in Eric Mangini's Cover 2 scheme. Great size and speed combo who also is a deadly return man. Will thrive under Mangini.

5. Gaines Adams, DE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Has the skill set and the bloodlines to be an effective NFL pass rusher for many, many years. He has all of the makings of a dominant pass-rushing force, with tremendous speed and cat-like quickness off the ball. Will make an immediate impact in an aging Bucs defensive line.

6. Lawrence Timmons, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Will be counted on to replace the departed Joey Porter. The Steeler defense has developed solid linebackers in the past and Timmons will be the latest. He is an exceptional athlete. His considerable athleticism and versatility are what the Steelers need for a defense that, under new coach Mike Tomlin, will likely incorporate both 4-3 and 3-4 schemes. The Steelers need to get better up front, and Timmons can help them do that regardless of the alignment.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Impact Rookies: Offense

(This the first of a two-part series focusing on the top six offensive and defensive rookies who will have the biggest impact in the NFL this season. Today we look at offense)

Which rookies will have the biggest impact on the field in 2007? The Football Fanatics gives you the answers right here. This is our prediction for the top six (everybody does top five so I wanted to be different) offensive rookies who will have the greatest impact this upcoming season.

1. Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Ohio State: Gonzalez will be a perfect fit in the Colts offense, taking over for the departed Brandon Stokely in the slot. He's quick (4.44) and has decent hands. Ted Ginn Jr. got more headlines at Ohio State, but Gonzalez was and is the better receiver. With Peyton Manning as your quarterback and Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Joseph Addai around, look for Gonzalez to have a big rookie season in 2007.

2. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings: Peterson is the real deal provided he can stay healthy. Despite having to share time with Chester Taylor, running backs usually make the biggest impact as rookies. Peterson runs like Eric Dickerson and will be counted on right away. Second-year quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and a weak Viking receiving corps will mean plenty of touches for Peterson.

3. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions: Johnson is a physical freak at 6-5, 239 pounds, while running a 4.3 in the 40. He catches everything thrown at him and now he'll be playing in an offense designed by the madman himself, Mike Martz. You know Martz had to be drooling when the Lions selected him second overall. Mike Furrey caught 98 passes for Detroit last season, so imagine what CJ can do in this system. Sorry Jon Kitna, the Lions won't win 10-plus games this season, but you have every right to be excited about a weapon like Johnson.

4. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Buffalo Bills: For a rookie to have an impact he needs playing time and that's something Lynch will get plenty of in Buffalo. Willis McGahee was sent packing to Baltimore leaving Lynch to battle Anthony Thomas for the starting spot. While Thomas is a former 1,000-yard rusher, he is a straight-ahead runner with not much burst or movement. Lynch is a consistent big-play threat and has the makings of a prime time player.

5. Ben Grubbs, G, Baltimore Ravens: Grubbs is a 6-3, 311-pound blocking machine who should jump into the starting lineup and stay for the next 10-12 years. Grubbs is very competitive and intense and moves well for his size. he's the perfect combination of size, strength and intensity you want in a guard. He also played center, tight end and defensive line in college, showing his versatility. He will be a great one.

6. Greg Olsen, TE, Chicago Bears: The perfect place for Olsen to end up was in Chicago. The Bears needed a pass catching tight end to take the pressure of inconsistent QB Rex Grossman. Now Grossman has an outlet if he's in trouble. Olsen (6-6, 254 pounds) will allow Lovie Smith to run two tight end sets with Desmond Clark and open up the boring Chicago offense. Olsen is a big, strong physical receiver who will be dangerous underneath.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Kitna Falls Victim To Joe Namath Disease

Ever since Joe Namath predicted his underdog New York Jets would defeat the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, it seems every year an athlete opens up his mouth, inserts foot and makes a bold prediction.

This year the affliction, which I have named Joe Namath Disease, has caught hold of Detroit Lions QB Jon Kitna.

Kitna recently told a Detroit radio station that the Lions would win more than 10 games in 2007. Here's a little snippet of the Kitna spiel.

"I'll keep to myself what I think we actually will win. But it's more than 10 games. I don't like putting a lot of pressure on people, but Calvin Johnson, to me, will have about the same impact that Reggie Bush had in New Orleans," Kitna said. "He's everything that they said he was and more. ... I mean he's 235 (pounds), runs a 4.3 (40-yard dash), he's got tennis rackets for hands. ..."

Whoa Jon, I'll have some of whatever your smoking.

History has proven that teams can go from 3-13, what the Lions were last season, and make the playoffs. Take a look at New Orleans last season. The Lions are in good shape with Rod Marinelli and offensive coordinator Mike Martz, but to win more than 10 games this season is a little far-fetched.

This is a team that has a record of 24-72 with Matt Millen as GM and hasn't had a 10-win season since 1995. Any offense will be solid under Martz, that's a given. Except when he runs it only five or six times in a game and throws it 45-50, ripping the hearts from the Detroit faithful.

The defense lost Dre Bly and will be dangerously thin in the secondary. The front seven is getting better, but needs to be more consistent. The offensive line is shaky and Kevin Jones may not play this season.

The Lions are improving and should win six or seven games this season. Kitna may prove us all wrong and actually achieve his goal, although I doubt it. The difference between Namath and all the others who have come after is "Broadway Joe" backed up his words with action.

Now it's time for Kitna to do the same.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Johnson Cut By Bears

Who would have thought that being fast would mean the end of the tank in Chicago?

Tank Johnson was released Monday by the Chicago Bears, who are "embarrassed" by the defensive tackle's legal troubles and say he "compromised the credibility" of the team.

Johnson was waived three days after he was pulled over by police in Arizona. He already had been suspended for the first eight games of the 2007 season for violating probation on a gun charge. He spent two months in jail and was released in May.

"We are upset and embarrassed by Tank's actions last week," general manager Jerry Angelo said in a statement. "He compromised the credibility of our organization. We made it clear to him that he had no room for error. Our goal was to help someone through a difficult period in his life, but the effort needs to come from both sides. It didn't, and we have decided to move on."

Police in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert said Johnson was stopped for driving 40 mph in a 25 mph zone at 3:30 a.m. Friday and the officer made observations that led him to believe Johnson was impaired.

Sgt. Andrew Duncan, a police spokesman, said Johnson was arrested for "DUI Impaired to the Slightest Degree" but was released without being booked or charged.

Johnson released a statement Monday evening through his Chicago attorney Lorna Propes:

"I want to thank the Bears organization and fans for their support during a difficult time," he said. "I regret that I have to leave Chicago under these circumstances and wish my friends at the Chicago Bears nothing but the best."

Last December, police raided the 300-pound defensive tackle's suburban Chicago home and found six unregistered firearms -- a violation of his probation on an earlier gun charge.

That charge stemmed from Johnson's 2005 arrest after a Chicago nightclub valet reported seeing Johnson with a handgun in his SUV. He subsequently pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge.

Two days after last December's raid, Willie B. Posey, Johnson's bodyguard, was shot and killed in an early morning fight while he and Johnson were at a Chicago nightclub.

Johnson was suspended by the Bears for one game for being at the club. He played in the Super Bowl as the Bears lost to Indianapolis.

In March, Johnson began his two-month jail stint and during his time he was visited by numerous teammates and members of the Bears staff.

Johnson was chosen by the Bears in the second round of the 2004 draft out of Washington. He played in 46 games, starting 15.

For his career, Johnson has registered 63 tackles, nine sacks, one forced fumble and two passes defensed. The departure of Johnson further weakens a tackle corps that has suffered plenty of attrition this offseason.

Veteran tackles Alfonso Boone (to Kansas City) and Ian Scott (to Philadelphia) exited the Bears as unrestricted free agents this spring. The team's top tackle, two-time Pro Bowl performer Tommie Harris, is rehabilitating from hamstring surgery that cut short his 2006 season and was only recently cleared to return to the field.

That means Chicago may have to rely on young and untested tackles, like second-year pro Dusty Dvoracek, a third-round choice who missed his entire 2006 rookie season because of a foot injury, to fill the void. The Bears did sign one unrestricted free agent, four-year veteran Anthony Adams, formerly of San Francisco.

Because he has accrued only three seasons toward the NFL pension plan, Johnson is subject to waivers, but it is unlikely, given his circumstances, that the former University of Washington star will be claimed by another club. If he is not, Johnson will become a free agent able to sign with any team.

Johnson, 25, had two seasons remaining on his original rookie contract with Chicago, at base salaries of $510,000 for 2007 and $548,750 in 2008.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Disabled Players Will Get Benefits Faster

Thanks to the efforts of Mike Ditka, Harry Carson and others, disabled NFL Players will get their benefits faster.

The NFL will speed up the process of getting benefits to disabled former players by using the Social Security Administration's standards for defining disability.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Players Assn. Executive Director Gene Upshaw agreed that any retired player who qualified for Social Security disability benefits will be automatically approved for NFL disability

Players previously had to wait for as long as two years before receiving benefits, and league records show 284 former players last year received disability payments, totaling less than $20 million, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law scheduled a Tuesday hearing to examine whether former NFL players are receiving adequate financial assistance from the league's benefits program.

Potential witnesses include former Oakland Raiders guard Curt Marsh, who had a foot amputated after his playing career ended; Hall of Fame player and coach Ditka; and Hall of Fame linebacker Carson.

Those two, along with Hall of Fame offensive lineman Joe DeLamielleure, have complained that the league's pension plan provides insufficient help to disabled former players.

They've also said Upshaw isn't doing enough to help retired players, charges that Upshaw denies.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Pacman Jones Facing Two Felony Chargers

The saga of Adam "Pacman" Jones continued today.

Jones, vying for the title of stupidest man to play professional football, will face two felony charges in a strip-club melee that preceded a triple shooting in February, Las Vegas police and the Clark County District Attorney's office said.

Two other people previously identified by police as friends of the troubled Tennessee Titans cornerback also will face felony charges in the fracas inside the Minxx club, police said in a statement.

Since Jones was drafted by the Titans in April 2005, police have interviewed him in 10 separate incidents. He has been arrested five times; he hasn't been convicted of any crimes.

Jones was being sought by police this week for questioning about a shooting early June 18 involving members of his entourage after a fight at an Atlanta strip club.

No one is named in the Las Vegas shooting that occurred later outside the club and left a bar employee paralyzed and two others with minor injuries, police Capt. James Dillon said.

Warrants were issued for the arrests of Jones, Robert Reid of Carson, Calif., and Sadia Morrison of New York, Dillon said.

Police said the Feb. 19 fracas broke out inside the club, Minxx, several blocks off the Las Vegas Strip when dancers on stage were showered with thousands of dollar bills near the end of NBA All-Star weekend.

Jones is also being sought by police for questioning about a shooting that occurred early Monday morning involving members of his entourage after a fight at an Atlanta strip club.

The Las Vegas allegations were the 10th time Jones had been questioned by police, which also included an incident in April 2006 when police identified him from surveillance video diving for cover after shots were fired at a Nashville gas station.

Jones has been arrested five times. Two arrests he did not report to either the Titans or the NFL, leading NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to suspend Jones in April for one season. But Jones has not been convicted of any crimes since being drafted in 2005.

Jones has done little to help his case since being suspended.

The cornerback agreed last week not to appeal the suspension. The 23-year-old player could be reinstated after 10 games for good behavior if he adheres to conditions set by Goodell and is not arrested again. Missing the entire season would cost him his entire 2007 salary.

Note to Pacman: dump your entourage and stay the hell away from strip clubs!

It's really pretty simple, but obviously either Jones doesn't get it or he just doesn't care. Either way, he may have flushed his NFL career right down the toilet.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Indiana Coach Hoeppner Dies From Tumor

Sad, sad news today coming out of Bloomington.

Indiana football coach Terry Hoeppner died Tuesday of complications from a brain tumor. He was 59.

Hoeppner, who had two brain surgeries in the past 18 months, spent the last four months on medical leave. He died at 6:50 a.m. at Bloomington Hospital with his family at his side, school spokesman J.D. Campbell said.

Hoeppner, who went 9-14 in two seasons, had taken three medical leaves since December 2005. He hadn't been seen publicly since late February. Late last week, the school said assistant Bill Lynch would replace him as coach for the 2007 season.

In December 2005, doctors removed a tumor from his right temple a year after Greenspan hired Hoeppner

In September, a CT scan revealed another cancerous growth in the same area of Hoeppner's brain.

Hoeppner was hired in 2004 to rebuild Indiana's football program. He soon nicknamed the Hoosiers' home field "The Rock'' and then had the giant limestone boulder added to Memorial Stadium to reinforce the message.

In eight seasons as a head coach, six at Miami (Ohio), Hoeppner was 57-39, and he took Miami to consecutive bowl games in 2003 and 2004. Before that, he spent 19 seasons as an assistant at Miami (Ohio).

After the September surgery, the energetic coach, whom players often called younger than his age, returned sooner than expected. Three days after surgery, he sneaked into Indiana's coaching box at Memorial Stadium and watched the Hoosiers lose to Division I-AA Southern Illinois. Two weeks later, he resumed coaching.

Hoeppner later inferred that test results from the second surgery showed what doctors removed was only scar tissue, not cancerous, and university officials never acknowledged Hoeppner had been suffering from a terminal illness.

Hoeppner is survived by his wife, three children -- Amy, Allison and Drew -- and four grandchildren. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

Our prayers go out to the Hoeppner family and the University of Indiana football program.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Cops Want To Question Pacman About Shooting

Trouble seems to be a constant companion for Adam "Pacman" Jones. Even when he's not actively searching for it.

Jones was being sought by police for questioning about a shooting early Monday involving members of his entourage after a fight at an Atlanta strip club.

The Tennessee Titans cornerback is on suspension following a melee and shooting at a Las Vegas strip club, his group and three other people got into a fight, apparently over a woman, at a club around 4 a.m., officer Ariel Toledo said.

After everyone involved left the strip club -- the three people in one car, and Jones and his entourage in three other cars -- someone in Jones' group shot at the car, and the others returned fire, Toledo said.

Toledo said Jones was not present when the shots were fired.

"We believe he knows some of his entourage who were involved in the shooting," Toledo said. "On himself, we do not have any charges on him. He wasn't there when the shooting occurred."

One person who was outside the vehicles and not involved in the dispute was injured by debris in the shooting and was treated by emergency medical technicians, Toledo said.

Authorities have also been investigating what role Jones had in a February shooting outside a Las Vegas club that left a bar employee paralyzed and two other people wounded.

The Las Vegas allegations were among a series of arrests and encounters with police that led NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to suspend Jones for one season.

Jones agreed last week not to appeal the suspension. The 23-year-old player could be reinstated after 10 games for good behavior if he adheres to conditions set by Goodell and is not arrested again. Missing the entire season would cost him his salary of nearly $1.3 million.

Jones is turning out to be the poster boy for character accounting for much when NFL teams draft players. If he doesn't wise up soon, Pacman may have played his last game in the National Football League.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Former All-Pro Indicted For Fraud

Sometimes life isn't that rosey for former NFL players. Case in point, former NFL ALl-Pro DE Sean Jones.

Jones pleaded not guilty Thursday to bank fraud charges alleging he and four others ran a scheme to pocket portions of more than $42 million in mortgage loans.

Jones, handcuffed and chained at the waist, didn't comment during or after the arraignment aside from entering his plea. The other men in the case also entered not guilty pleas, and bond was set for $100,000 for all five.

Jones, now a 45-year-old sports agent living near Houston, played with the Los Angeles Raiders, Houston Oilers and Green Bay Packers from 1984-1996. According to a federal indictment unsealed Thursday, the men face 12 counts of bank fraud, which carry a penalty of up to 30 years in prison.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Smith set an Aug. 6 trial date.

Prosecutors contend the men defrauded three Houston banks by acquiring mortgage loans far in excess of the properties' value and then diverting the money for personal use.

Also charged were Jerome Karam, an attorney and real estate developer; Tommy Jay Trammel and David Ranostaj, former loan officers with Southwest Bank of Texas, Bank of Houston and Whitney National Bank; and Jay Westrick, a real estate appraiser.

The indictment charges the men with colluding from 1999-2001 to acquire more than $42 million in loans based on false appraisals by Westrick and then divert the money to their personal accounts at closing.

Jones, Karam, Trammel and Ranostaj set up shell corporations to disguise their role in the enterprise, according to the indictment.

Federal officials say Trammel's and Ranostaj's role in the scheme was unknown to their supervisors at the banks.

Each of the men faces a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $1 million.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

NFL News and Notes

Five-time Pro Bowl linebacker Jessie Armstead signed a one-day contract Wednesday so he could retire as a New York Giant.

To make room for Armstead on the roster, the Giants placed starting fullback Jim Finn on season-ending injured reserve. Finn had shoulder surgery Monday.

Taken in the eighth round of the 1993 draft, Armstead played nine seasons for the Giants, helping them reach the Super Bowl in 2000.

A special teams standout for his first three seasons, Armstead became the starting weakside linebacker in 1996. He had five straight seasons of more than 100 tackles, including a career-best 134 in 1997 when he first made the Pro Bowl.

Armstead was released by the Giants in 2002 and signed with Washington, playing with the Redskins for two seasons. He signed with Carolina in 2004 but was placed on injured reserve with a biceps injury.

The Jaguars apparently wouldn't mind seeing Daunte Culpepper join them this season, even though they already have two capable quarterbacks in Byron Leftwich and David Garrard.

Leftwich and Garrard both said Wednesday that the Jaguars have told them they have interest in acquiring Culpepper -- that is, assuming the disgruntled Miami quarterback gets the release he's seeking from the Dolphins, who are trying instead to trade him.

Culpepper, acquired by Miami before the 2006 season, had his best NFL seasons with the Minnesota Vikings and coach Mike Tice -- now an assistant head coach in Jacksonville under Jack Del Rio.

Culpepper, who serves as his own agent, obtained permission from the Dolphins last week to talk to other teams.

Miami began trying to trade Culpepper -- still rehabbing from a serious knee injury in 2005 -- last week after trading for Trent Green with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Plenty of news involving Jacksonville,

First, defensive end Bobby McCray re-signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Wednesday.

McCray, a 2004 seventh-round draft pick from Florida, had previously refused to sign the one-year offer and had been skipping minicamp. Because McCray was not under contract, the team couldn't fine him. McCray is entering his fourth season with the Jaguars.

McCray, 25, had 97 tackles in his career and had a career-high 10 sacks last season.

In a surprising move, the Jaguars on Thursday abruptly released starting strong safety Donovin Darius, a nine-year veteran who started more games on defense than anyone in franchise history.

Darius, 31, is still rehabilitating from a broken right ankle that limited him to 10 games last season. Although he was unable to participate in the team's offseason program this spring, as he continued his recovery, it was believed that Darius was making good progress and was on pace to be ready for training camp.

Darius was the Jaguars' first-round choice in the 1998 draft and the former Syracuse star became an immediate starter with the team. He appeared in 115 games, all starts, and had a franchise-record 846 tackles, along with two sacks, 14 interceptions, 35 passes defensed, eight forced fumbles and six recoveries.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Dolphins Not Doing Right By Culpepper

Daunte Culpepper isn't a happy camper.

He wants out of Miami in the worst way and will seek help from the NFL Players Association to expedite matters.

Just three days after threatening to bring the union into the matter, the NFLPA filed a grievance Tuesday on Culpepper's behalf.

The grievance is similar to one filed by the NFLPA last year against the Tennessee Titans after the team barred Steve McNair from working out at its facility. McNair was eventually traded to Baltimore for a fourth-round draft pick.

Culpepper -- who started at quarterback for the first four games for the Dolphins last season -- asked to be released last week, shortly after Miami acquired Trent Green from the Kansas City Chiefs. The Dolphins told Culpepper they wanted to trade him; Culpepper, who is owed $51.5 million over the remaining seven years of his contract, said he wants a release and vowed to block any trades.

In reality, a injured quarterback with a fat contract is not the type of trade bait teams salivate over. Culpepper would have to restructure his contract for the Dolphins to even get a low round choice for him.

Culpepper, being his own agent, won't do that. He wants to be released so he can land with a team that will give him a chance to start and runs an offense similar to what he had in Minnesota. The obvious choices being Baltimore and Jacksonville.

Culpepper was among five quarterbacks taking part in individual drills when a minicamp began last Friday; about an hour into the first of five scheduled practices over the weekend, though, Culpepper walked off the field, escorted by a member of the team's security staff. Afterward, Culpepper said quarterbacks coach Terry Shea told him he was barred from team drills.

It was a dirty tactic when the Titans did it to McNair and it's even dirtier now that the Dolphins are doing it to Culpepper.

The whole situation boils down to greed on the part of the Dolphins organization. It's obvious Cam Cameron and GM Randy Mueller don't want Culpepper around. Yet they're willing to hold onto him to see if someone will toss them a bone. It's not going to happen. All it's doing is keeping Culpepper in limbo.

Culpepper is an All-Pro quarterback who's trying to regain his form after a devastating knee injury almost ended his career. In 84 games as an NFL starter, Culpepper has completed 64.2 percent of his passes and thrown for 21,091 yards and 137 touchdowns.

He deserves a chance to put his career back together and if Miami doesn't want him, the franchise should let him go, instead of displaying this low-brow, no-class attitude.

Culpepper did the right thing in filing a grievance. Now it's up to the NFLPA to do its part.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

McNabb Back On Field Early

If you're a Philadelphia Eagles fan, you have a reason to smile. As does head coach Andy Reid and owner Jeff Laurie.

Donovan McNabb is back on the field, earlier than expected, as the the Eagles opened up their mandatory minicamp on Monday.

The five-time Pro Bowl quarterback participated in non-contact drills in his first action on the field since he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last Nov. 19.

"It felt great to get back out there on the field with all of the guys," McNabb said. "It's just part of the rehab process and hopefully good things will continue to come. It's important to continue to monitor my progress, but also be smart about the whole situation."

McNabb rehabbed vigorously since his latest injury ended his season early for the third time in five years. He had been throwing on the side for weeks and simulating practice movements, but hadn't been expected to take part in drills with the team until training camp opened next month.

McNabb even stayed on the field after individual drills to work with the first team offense.

That's good news for Reid, who despite having veterans A.J. Feely and Kelly Holcomb in the fold, would love to see McNabb line up under center on opening day. Also in camp is second round draft pick Kevin Kolb.

"He's where we hoped he would be," coach Andy Reid said. "He worked very hard to get to this spot, so we let him test it out. We didn't give him too much. We want to make sure he can move around tomorrow, if possible. So we gave him a few shots and got him back to the ice tub. I thought he did a nice job. He looked strong."

The Eagles will practice three more days before breaking camp until July 27. McNabb's status for the rest of the week is day to day.

McNabb was having one of the best seasons of his career before he was injured against the Tennessee Titans, throwing for 2,647 yards and 18 touchdowns for a quarterback rating of 95.5 in 10 games.

If McNabb is 100 percent by September and stays healthy, something he hasn't been able to do in recent seasons, the Eagles are legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Walker Could Be Headed Back To Philly

Darwin Walker is a man without a football team.

It's looking more and more like Walker, traded from the Philadelphia Eagles to the Buffalo Bills for Takeo Spikes and Kelly Holcomb in March, will not be going to Buffalo after all.

Walker is holding out for an extension on the two years he has remaining on the contract and it appears his money demands are more than the Bills are willing to fork over.

Talks continue but general manager Marv Levy said the ultimate decision to report to the team rests with Walker, who is under contract, and has been advised he's subject to being fined.

"We'd like to have him," Levy said. "But if he's not going to be here, we'll go on without him. That's all it amounts to."

The team minicamp begins today and Levy has stated that Walker will be fined everyday he's a no-show. Doesn't sound like a budding relationship is happening between the two does it?

Negotiating a new deal was a condition the seven-year NFL veteran placed on the Bills when the trade was made.

The Bills can return Walker to Philadelphia if he doesn't report by Aug. 5. Buffalo would receive a sixth-round pick in next year's draft as compensation. The Bills would keep the fifth-round selection that the Eagles gave them in March.

If that happens, it would be a huge loss for the Bills, who are trying to rebuild the interior of the defensive line. Last years number one selection, John McCargo, is recovering from a broken foot that cost him most of last season. That leaves Larry Tripplett, Tim Anderson and solid second-year pro Kyle Williams manning the DT spots.

Walker not signing with Buffalo would leave them with two lower draft picks for 2008, while losing an All-Pro performer like Spikes and a solid veteran in Holcomb. Not something to smile about if you're a Bills fan.

Walker is a penetrating tackle who can pressure the quarterback and is a good fit in the Bills defensive scheme.

He had eight sacks in 17 games -- including playoffs -- last season, and has 26½ sacks over the past five years, fourth best among defensive tackles during that span.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Culpepper's Probable Destination; Kennedy Traded

Where will Daunte Culpepper, who will soon be released by Miami, end up in 2007?

If you look at the situation, it's fairly easy to tell where his destination point will be this season.

Culpepper is still trying to recover from a devastating knee injury that sidelined him for most of 2005 and 2006. He'll have to take a dramatic pay cut and most likely accept the fact his role will be a backup one in 2007.

Culpepper needs to reinvent his career and he probably needs a little time behind the scenes to help him return to the form he had in 2003-2004 when he threw 64 touchdowns to just 22 interceptions, while converting 50 percent of his third-down attempts.

He would also like to go to a place where he's familiar with the offense, the coach and have a chance to start in 2008, when he hopes to be 100 percent healthy.

That leaves just two teams in the mix - the Baltimore Ravens and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Culpepper knows Billick's offense thanks to his years in Minnesota. Billick didn't coach Daunte, but Mike Tice ran Billick's offense with the Vikings during Culpepper's tenure.

Also, Steve McNair is 34-years old and despite leading the Ravens to a 13-3 record last season, doesn't have many years left. Baltimore QB coach Rick Neuheisel is an excellent teacher and Culpepper could regain his form and be a starter in 2008.

The Jaguars are another possibility, thanks in part to Tice being an assistant coach in Jacksonville. Byron Leftwich is in the final year of his contract and doesn't have a very good relationship with head coach Jack Del Rio. Culpepper could come in, get healthy behind Leftwich and David Garrard this season and emerge as the go-to-guy for the Jags in 2008.

In the end, look for either the Ravens or Jaguars to be the most enticing spots for Culpepper to land.

The St. Louis Rams, upset by four lackluster seasons from former first-round pick Jimmy Kennedy, decided enough was enough.

The Rams traded the former Penn State star to the Denver Broncos for what is believed to be a sixth round pick in next years draft.

Kennedy was counted on by St. Louis to be a run-stuffer, but it never panned out that way. St. Louis now has LeRoi Glover, second-year player Claude Wroten and three rookies (Clifton Ryan, Keith Jackson and No. 1 pick Adam Carriker) in its tackle rotation.

This marks the second DT signed this week by the Broncos, who wanted to get bigger on the interior. Sam Adams (6-3, 345 pounds) signed a few days ago. Kennedy is 6-4 and weighs 325 pounds.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

NFL News and Notes

San Francisco 49ers defensive end Melvin Oliver tore a ligament in his right knee during organized team activities this week.

Oliver, a sixth-round pick from LSU in 2006 who started 14 games for the 49ers last season, was injured during a non-contact drill Tuesday. Team doctors discovered the torn medial collateral ligament Wednesday.

Oliver made 50 tackles and returned a fumble for a touchdown last season, but his role was expected to diminish this season in San Francisco's 3-4 defensive alignment. The 49ers signed free agent Aubrayo Franklin, and former Eagles defensive lineman Sam Rayburn.

Saints first-round draft choice Robert Meachem has had a rough first month as a pro.

Head coach Sean Payton says it's better that he goes through it now than during the season.

Meachem, will spend the next month to six weeks rehabilitating his right knee following an arthroscopic procedure to clean out some loose cartilage and repair his medial meniscus.

This comes after he showed up for rookie camp -- in his own and Payton's evaluation -- overweight and out of shape, then sprained his left ankle.

"I kind of feel discouraged a little bit because I want to show the coaches what I can do and you can't show them what you can do when you're hurt," Meachem said Wednesday. "For me, it's going to be a time I've got to keep praying and just stay focused -- don't let the knee injury get to me."

The Saints knew that Meachem had undergone surgery on the same knee in 2003, when he sat out a season as a medical redshirt for Tennessee. But Payton said there was no evidence in medical reports that team officials saw or in Meachem's performance at the NFL's scouting combine in Indianapolis that Meachem had any serious problems.

People have told investigators that Michael Vick was involved in a dogfighting operation at a house he owns in Surry County, the sheriff said Wednesday, and Vick will be charged if investigators can find evidence backing those claims.

Sheriff Harold D. Brown, who is leading the investigation, said he hopes members of a task force that have been gathering evidence in the case can meet by sometime next week to see how credible the evidence is and how best to proceed. At least one of those informants wrote from a prison in South Carolina.

"People are saying that he was there, Michael Vick was at the residence, and that he was involved," Brown said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "I don't want to get into details of the case right now, but that's what we're looking at. If he was there, then we're going to charge him, also."

Brown said the task force involves five or six people, including a representative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Virginia State Police.

Vick, a registered dog breeder, has refused to comment directly about the case, saying his attorney "has advised me not to talk about the situation right now." Vick has claimed since the investigation started that he rarely visits the home, and he has blamed family members and others for taking advantage of his generosity.

On April 25, a search of the house owned by the Atlanta Falcons quarterback and inhabited by his cousin, Davon Boddie, uncovered drug paraphernalia and 66 dogs in the backyard. A search warrant affidavit said some of the dogs were in individual kennels and about 30 were tethered with "heavy logging-type chains" buried in the ground.

The chains allowed the dogs to get close to each other, but not to have contact, one of myriad findings on the property that suggested a dogfighting operation.

Others included a rape stand, used to hold non-receptive dogs in place for mating; an electric treadmill modified to be used by dogs; a "pry bar" used to open the clamped-down mouths of dogs; and a bloodied piece of carpeting the authorities believe was used in dog fights. Carpeting gives dogs traction in a plywood fighting pit.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Green Finally A Dolphin; Culpepper Future In Doubt

It finally happened. Former Kansas City QB Trent Green is now a member of the Miami Dolphins.

After the two teams bickered back and forth for months, the Chiefs finally agreed to receive a fifth round pick (they wanted a fourth) and sent Green to the team that wanted him.

The deal gave Green a new lease on life and spelled the end of Daunte Culpepper's brief stint in Miami.

Culpepper was told right after the Green deal by Dolphin officials that they would like to trade him instead of just releasing him outright. The question is, will he ever be the same as he was and will any team take a chance on him?

Culpepper -- who is due to make $5.5 million this season -- played in only four games a year ago because of knee problems and is still trying to recover from major surgery in 2005. He also intended to take part in this weekend's minicamp, after receiving clearance from orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews to resume football activity earlier this week.

Green is expected to undergo a physical in South Florida on Wednesday. If he passes it, the long-awaited deal between the Dolphins and Chiefs will be completed. If completed, Green will be at the Miami minicamp on Friday.

In 5½ seasons as Kansas City's starter, Green threw for 21,459 yards -- an average of 244 per game -- and 118 touchdowns while completing 62 percent of his passes. He missed eight games last season because of a concussion suffered in the season opener, and didn't believe he'd have a chance to fairly compete with Brodie Croyle and Damon Huard for the starting job in KC in 2007.

Green was throwing the ball well at a recent Chiefs minicamp and will move in immediately as the Dolphins starter. They also drafted BYU QB John Beck and have Cleo Lemon as backups.

Green still has some years left in his arm and with his long relationship with Cam Cameron (he was quarterbacks coach when Green was in Washington in 1995-96) the offense should click right away with Green at the helm.

Culpepper will have to wait and see what develops in the trade market. Most teams will be hesitant to pull the trigger on Culpepper until they see if he's a hundred percent back. It could be awhile before the former All-Pro learns his fate.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Samuel Won't Report To Camp

It's deja vu all over again for the New England Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick.

Another year, another disgruntled player holding out for a new contract. Last season it was Deion Branch. Now CB Asante Samuel is threatening to hold out all the way through mini-camp, training camp and up until week 10.

Samuel, upset after being assigned the team's "franchise" tag, was a no-show at the Patriots Charitable Foundation golf tournament on Monday at the The International Golf Club in Bolton, Mass. Reached by phone afterwards, he told The Boston Globe he is unhappy with the lack of progress in contract talks with the team.

"I'm not coming to camp," he told the newspaper. "I'm not showing up until the 10th week [of the season]. I feel unappreciated. The way they're treating me is just wrong."

Samuel has yet to sign the one-year, $7.79 million contract he was tendered when the Patriots franchised him, so he is technically not under contract and cannot be fined for missing minicamp. Under the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the players union, if a deal isn't reached by the afternoon of July 15, he can sign only a one-year deal and cannot have his contract extended until the regular season ends.

If he shows up for Week 10, Samuel will receive a pro-rated portion of that $7.79 million salary. If he sits out the entire year, he'll get nothing -- and the Patriots will be able to put the franchise tag on him again for 2008.

Samuel had a breakout year in 2006 with 10 interceptions and 65 tackles. Even so, the Patriots are a tough team to play hard ball with.

Belichick's teams and players are interchangeable. It's his system that has brought all the success to New England. The only untouchable on the team is Tom Brady. Players have come and gone and the Patriots have still won.

New England doesn't need superstars to win. Hell, the Pats went to the AFC title game last season with Reche Caldwell and Troy Brown as their starting receivers.

Samuel may be serious about holding out until week 10, but the Patriots are just as serious about playing without him if they must. Belichick has never allowed distractions like this to interfere with his gameplan and he isn't about to do so now.

Despite the fact the Samuel feels underappreciated, the truth is he had a great season, but he's only done it for a year. What he should do is prove he can perform at a consistently high level and then the money will come. One All-Pro year is not enough to deserve the kind of contract he wants.

The franchise is already reeling after the death of Marquise Hill and now Samuel's intentions have really put this team on the ropes. But if anyone can overcome this adversity, it's Belichick and his Patriots.

So a potentially long wait begins and the only question remaining is where will Samuel be in 2007?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Tank Is Shut Down For Eight Games

The Chicago Bears suddenly thinning defensive line just got thinner.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell came down with an eight-game suspension on Bears defensive tackle, Terry "Tank" Johnson.

Goodell gave Johnson a chance to reduce the suspension to six games if he complies with certain conditions. The league notified Johnson he could reduce the suspension by two games if he has no further adverse involvement with the law, follows all the league requirements and doesn't participate in any practices or organized team workouts during the suspension.

Johnson will be allowed to be at the Bears facility during the suspension for counselling sessions and other approved activities, including physical treatment or individual workout sessions.

Johnson stands to lose $255,000, based on his salary for next season of $510,000, if the suspension lasts the entire eight games.

The suspension is not as severe as Pacman Jones of the Titans, who is expected to miss the entire season despite not having any previous convictions. It's the same length as Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry, who had a few incidents that led to convictions.

This is a good call by Goodell. Johnson came up with his own 10-point plan on how he would clean up his behavior and presented it to the commissioner. The document shows his admittance of past mistakes and his willingness to change.

Jones and Henry have had many more run-ins with the law and have yet to show any kind of remorse or willingness to change their behavior.

The Bears are obviously happy he isn't done for the season, but suddenly a once strong position is compromised depth-wise.

Tommie Harris is coming off a severe hamstring injury that caused him to miss the final eight games and the playoffs. Starter Ian Scott and reserve Alphonso Boone are gone. That leaves the Bears with Harris, free agent signee Anthony Adams, Antonio Garay and rookie Dusty Dvoracek manning the tackle spots.

Johnson is eligible to participate in the team's offseason workout program and will be allowed to participate in preseason games.

Adams Signs With The Broncos

Run-stuffing defensive tackle Sam Adams, who was let go by the Cincinnati Bengals last month, is unemployed no more.

The 13-year veteran signed a one-year deal with the Denver Broncos today. Financial terms were not yet available.

Adams also visited St. Louis and Houston before signing with Denver. The move is good one for Mike Shanahan and company. He is an elite run stopper, a classic two-gap player, who will take two blockers on, freeing up his teammates.

His stay in Cincinnati, where he played only one season of the three-year contract that he signed last spring, was surprisingly short-lived, given his relationship with coach Marvin Lewis. But the Bengals wanted to get younger at defensive tackle and there were some concerns about Adams' health and age, despite the fact that he has never missed more than four games in a season in his career.

Denver has been very aggressive in free agency this offseason, acquiring RB Travis Henry, WR Brandon Stokely, TE Daniel Graham, G Montrae Holland, DT Alvin McKinley, CB Dre' Bly and now Adams.

A former Texas A&M star, Adams was a first-round draft choice of the Seattle Seahawks in 1994, the eighth player chosen overall that year. In stints with Seattle (1994-99), Baltimore (2000-2001), Oakland (2002), Buffalo (2003-2005) and Cincinnati (2006), he has appeared in 195 games, with 166 starts, and has registered 452 tackles, 44 sacks, six forced fumbles, five recoveries and 32 pass deflections.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Troubles Continue For Vick

The problems just keep mounting for Michael Vick.

AirTran Airways has ended its relationship with Vick, who has been a pitchman for the airline since 2004, but whose image has been tarnished in several off-field incidents.

"Michael's contract expired May 8, and we advised him then that we would not renew it," AirTran spokesman Tad Hutcheson said Thursday.

Hutcheson said Vick had appeared on five billboards and did radio commercials under a one-year contract, which had been renewed twice before. He said AirTran has Falcons running back Warrick Dunn under contract, and other sports celebrities in other cities.

Most recently, Vick's name has been dragged into a Virginia investigation of dog fighting after authorities confiscated dozens of dogs at property owned by Vick and said they found evidence related to fighting.

Among Vick's other publicity problems, he was sued by a woman who claimed he gave her herpes, he made an obscene gesture to spectators while leaving the field after a game, and security screeners at the Miami airport stopped him from boarding an AirTran flight in January with a water bottle that turned out to have a hidden compartment. Vick said he used it to store jewelry, and police found no evidence of smuggled drugs.

Especially stinging to AirTran, though, was that Vick's publicist blamed the airline when the quarterback known for his quickness failed to arrive in Washington to speak before Congress. AirTran said Vick had ample opportunities to get to his destination on AirTran but chose not to.