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2010 NFL Power Rankings – Pre Training Camp by Lloyd Vance

Even without Big Ben to start the regular season, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin will be looking to get Pittsburgh back in the playoffs in 2010

With training camps set to open soon for most NFL teams, I thought it was a good time to unveil my first ranking for the 2010 season.  The great part about this time on the NFL Calendar is that rankings don’t matter as hope has sprung eternal around the league.

Every team is 0-0 heading into training camp and “Yes” even the St. Louis Rams (1-15) believe they have positively upgraded their roster and drafted well enough that training camp two-a-days can’t get here soon enough.  And why not…since 1996 there have been at least 5 new playoffs teams that had been sitting home the year before – highest total was 8 teams in 2003.

80-man rosters are pretty much set for every team…Sorry T.O… – still need to sign rookies as only Cowboys WR Dez Bryant is the only first rounder signed — so here we go with our rankings of all 32 NFL Teams.

1.  Saints – The 2009 Super Bowl Champions still remain in my top spot until someone knocks them off their perch.  In order to be the man, you have to beat the man…wooo!!  The Saints only lost players that they believe already have replacements on their current roster. Sean Payton’s offensive squad has more weapons than almost every team in the NFL, including an O-line that returns all of it’s starters from the Super Bowl.  However there are a couple things that New Orleans will need to shake out in the pre-season, which are their defense not relying on turnovers too much – produced an NFL best 39 fumbles and INTs plus 8 turnovers into touchdowns.  And the usual Super Bowl winner problems of complacency, money, and injuries.

2.  Vikings – All off-season it had to have bothered the Vikes that they were so close to playing in the Super Bowl (lost in overtime).  Keys for sustaining their success from last season will be veteran QB Brett Favre coming back (already a done deal…trust me), RB Adrian Peterson concurring his fumbling woes, and the Vikings’ defense getting better performances from everyone outside of Pro Bowl DE Jared Allen.  Head Coach Brad Childress has now tasted success, so it is easy to think that Minnesota will be right back at the top of the NFC North, but I think the Packers and Bears might have something to say about that.

3.  Colts – Another season, another 12 wins for Indy (NFL Record seven Consecutive).  The Colts are a regular season buzzsaw, but once again the playoffs, it was a different story.  QB Peyton Manning’s team lost in Super Bowl to the Saints and at some points in the game, the younger team from New Orleans “Out Physical-ed” Indy.  There is no doubt that Manning and his plethora of receivers will continue to put up yards and points.  But the Colts need more of a running game from veteran RB Joseph Addai and 2nd year RB Donald Brown plus their defense needs to get more physical at the point of attack.

4. Cowboys – Maybe the curse of Quincy Carter is over as the Cowboys won in the playoffs for the first time since 1996 by demolishing the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wildcard round.  Unfortunately the Cowboys got a quick taste of reality in the divisional round as the Viking pasted them 34-3.  However owner Jerry Jones obviously thinks that his team has a chance of playing in the Super Bowl in their home stadium so Dallas’ roster pretty much is set.  The keys for Dallas will be QB Tony Romo continuing to make big plays with WR Miles Austin, RB Felix Jones gaining a more prominent role and the Cowboys defense improving in their back four.

5.  Ravens – An already dangerous team just got a little bit tougher this offseason as John Harbaugh’s squad had a very good draft and also obtained quality veterans like WR Anquan Boldin.  With QB Joe Flacco coming off an impressive season (posted a 95+ passer rating in 9-of-16 games in ’09), underrated RB Ray Rice looking like the second-coming of Marshall Faulk and a hungry defense returning just about everyone, Baltimore is a scary bunch.  Expect team leaders MLB Ray Lewis, NT Haloti Ngata, and WR Derrick Mason to show younger players, like Terrence “Mount” Cody, how it is to make a playoff run.  But don’t forget the hated Pittsburgh Steelers and the Bengals should be ready to fight for the AFC North crown.

6.  Chargers – After dominating in the regular season and looking like a strong Super Bowl contender, the Chargers were out-physicaled by the NY Jets in a tough 17-14 home loss.  Fiery quarterback Philip Rivers could do very little as the J-E-T-S pounded the rock and played attacking defense.  Of course, recently jettisoned RB LaDainian Tomlinson will be blamed for some of the Chargers problems.  But in the end, the NY Jets dug deeper and Norv Turner’s team appears to be in need of a spark.  In the 2010, San Diego is hoping an influx of younger players including first rounder RB Ryan Matthews will be what they need, but the Chargers better be leery of the Broncos.  Also they better figure out what to do with unsigned players OT Marcus McNeil, WR Vincent Jackson, and LB Shawn Merriman.

7.  Patriots – Was it just me… or did the Patriots look like an old rusty team in 2009 as the Ravens hammered them out of the playoffs.  Though I am not ready to totally bury the 3-time Super Bowl champs, I do believe that head coach Bill Belichick also saw his team aging and went about give it an offseason makeover.  Veterans Junior Seau, Shaun Springs, Jarvis Green, and others are long gone, leaving a mix of former Super Bowl players and some youngsters.  It will be incumbent on Belichick to lean on former Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady and future HOF Randy Moss as the Patriots try to re-tool while holding off the hungry NY Jets.  Of course Brady doesn’t play defense, where Belichick’s unit needs to be better in deep coverage.

8.  New York Jets – Everyone’s pick for the team that won the offseason, the New York Jets, will be trying to catch lightning in a bottle for a second year in a row.  Last year after an up-and-down regular season, Rex Ryan’s team got hot at the right time beating the Bengals and Patriots to make it to the AFC Championship game.  However this year everyone will be gunning for the “cocky” J-E-T-S as there are high expectations on them due to the additions of OLB Jason Taylor, WR Santonio Holmes, L.T and others.  But you know and I know that everything will boil down to whether QB Mark Sanchez is ready to be more than a “Caretaker”.

9. New York Giants – It was a rollercoaster ride for the G-Men in 2009.  They started out like gangbusters as they jumped out to a 5-0 record against some cupcakes, but from there injuries – mostly in their secondary – and big plays against their defense caught up with the Giants.  An 8-8 record just is not good enough in New York City and volatile head coach Tom Coughlin knows it.  Expect a rejuvenated team based around bruising RB Brandon Jacobs, newly acquired veteran LB Keith Bulluck and an attacking defensive line – highest sacker in ’09 was DE Justin Tuck with only 7 sacks.

10.  Cardinals – The Matt Leinart era is about to kick-in out at University of Phoenix stadium.  The Cardinals’ former first round pick in 2006 finally will get his chance to replace veteran Kurt Warner after the future HOF retired.  Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt is preaching that the Cardinals will be a more balanced team on offense, which means 2nd-year RB Chris Wells should be more active.  I will be interested in seeing how their defense plays after surviving a pinball machine against the Packers and being throttled by the Saints in the 2009 playoffs.

11. Steelers – A year after winning the Super Bowl, Pittsburgh missed the playoffs in 2009 as they finished with a 9-7 record.  Some big reasons for the Steelers fall from grace were inconsistency, injuries (see Troy Polamulu), and a pass-happy offense.  Head Coach Mike Tomlin, who just received an extension, is preaching that his team is going to play “Steelers Football” again i.e. Run the football and play tough attacking defense.  Of course any talk about where the Steelers are as a team begins and ends with QB Ben Roethlisberger who is currently suspended for the season’s first 6 games.

12.  Bengals – It will be real interesting to see if last year’s feel-good team, the Bengals, can get back to the playoffs.  2009’s Beast of the AFC North (swept the division) looked good until the playoffs when the NY Jets hammered them.  Offensively QB Carson Palmer needs to produce more bigger plays and the rest of the unit needs to live-up to loudmouth receiver Chad Ochocinco’s boasts.  Head Coach Marvin Lewis is trying to get an extension so he will need another great season from his defense which is led by CBs Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph.

13.  Falcons – After battling through many injuries in 2009, the Dirty Birds seem to be everyone’s pick to be a rebound playoff team in 2010.  A good reason for optimism in Hotlanta is that this young team has bought into the teachings of fiery head coach Mike Smith and his staff.  The Falcons have the modern version of the quadruplets as they sport a leadership type quarterback in Matt Ryan, a workhorse running back in Michael Turner, a pass-catching tight end in veteran Tony Gonzalez and a big-play receiver in Roddy White.  If their O-line is stable, I am not really worried about their offense.  However their defense needs to rally around big-ticket free agent CB Dunta Robinson.

14.  Texans – You have to hand it to Houston as they accomplished a major goal in 2009 by producing their first winning season since their inception in 2001.  But as nice as it was to be over .500, the Texans still have a ways to go to catch the Colts.  Head coach Gary Kubiak and GM Rick Smith were given a half-hearted vote of confidence, but you can tell management wants a playoff contender now.  The Texans will need to lean on the offensive firepower of Pro Bowl QB Matt Schaub and NFL receiving yardage leader WR Andre Johnson. But it will be interesting to see if their defensive unit is better without disgruntled defensive back Dunta Robinson (Atlanta Falcons) and you know that will fall on DE Mario Williams (9 sacks in ’09).

15. Titans – Tennessee is another team stuck in the NFL’s ever increasing middle.  After a disastrous 0-6 start, everything seemed to finally click once Vince Young was named the starting quarterback.  However it was too much too late as they finished 8-8 and their defense was continually beaten deep.  In their first season sans Albert Haynesworth, Jeff Fisher’s team allowed a whopping 402 points and their former 2008 Pro Bowlers in their secondary looked average at best.  With an eye on fixing their defense, the Titans went heavily on that side of the ball in the 2010 NFL Draft. We will see if they have enough to catch the Colts and Texans, but If nothing else the Titans will be exciting with CJ2K running the ball.

16.  Eagles – The winds of change are blowing around the Philadelphia Eagles.  Former veterans like QB Donovan McNabb, CB Sheldon Brown, S Brian Dawkins, and RT John Runyan are long gone leaving a younger team searching for an identity.  The trade of McNabb to the Redskins changed the entire feel around the team and now it is up to first-time starter Kevin Kolb to take the reins of Andy Reid’s young squad.  Kolb will not have to do it on his own as he has Pro Bowlers WR DeSean Jackson, OT Jason Peters and TE Brent Celek to help him, but the defense is the Birds’ biggest question mark (allowed over 200 passing yards per game).  We will see if the Birds have made enough offseason changes to close the gap between themselves and the Dallas Cowboys – outscored 58-14 in last two games of 2009.

17.  49ers – To me last year was a tease in terms of the Niners.  You can clearly see that energetic head coach Mike Singletary had his team playing well at times, but consistency was not there enough – finished with an 8-8 record.  In order for San Francisco to finally pass the Cardinals and make the playoffs for the first time since 2002. They will need to have better quarterback play from Alex Smith, improved O-line play behind their two coveted first rounders and more defensive pressure — didn’t have a single player top 6.5 sacks last season.

18.  Dolphins – After shocking the NFL in 2008 by going from worst to first in their division, Miami came back down to earth in 2009 with a 7-9 record including a 1-4 stretch to end the season.  A lot of change is afoot in South Beach, but the Dolphins are hoping that are is more than just LeBron going to the Heat. Surprisingly the Dolphins biggest problem was their defense that allowed 390 points.  With Football Czar Bill Parcells watchful eyes over head coach Tony Sparano, the Dolphins attempted to fix their woes in the draft by going heavily on defense.  They also brought-in WR Brandon Marshall to help their offense.  We will see if these changes are enough to vault them over the Patriots and NY Jets.

19. Packers  –  There is no doubt that Green Bay and QB Aaron Rodgers have the offensive firepower to hang with any team in the NFL – 461 points scored — but the Packers’ 2010 hopes directly hinge on Dom Capers’ defense.  I know his unit allowed only 297 points in the regular season and they were ranked near the top of the entire NFL.  But against the Vikings –you know who torched them – and the Cardinals in the Wildcard round put up points too (lost 51-45) so they needed more than Defensive MVP, DB Charles Woodson. It should be another fun year when the Pack lock horns with Favre and the hated men in purple.

20.  Bears – The head coaching seat in the Windy City is getting extremely hot and it is incumbent on Lovie Smith to return the Bears to the playoffs for the first time since 2006.  Smith thought that he had solved his Super Bowl loser hangover dilemma by trading for talented QB Jay Cutler, but a 7-9 season in ’09 made the spotlight hotter.  With new offensive coordinator Mike “Mad Scientist” Martz and big-ticket free agents DE Julius Peppers and RB Chester Taylor on the team, it is now or never for Smith and GM Jerry Angelo.

21.  Broncos – Another year and another controversial player was kicked out of town by brash head coach Josh McDaniels.  In 2009 it was QB Jay Cutler (to Chicago) being ushered away and in 2010, it was talented malcontent receiver Brandon Marshall’s turn to leave the Rockies – shipped to the Dolphins before the draft.  McDaniels better hope he is right as his team badly slumped down the stretch of the 2009 season — 4-game losing streak to end the season — and some fans’ patience is running thin.

22.  Redskins – There’s a new sheriff in town and his name is “Mike Shanahan”.  The two-time Super Bowl winning head coach, veteran QB Donovan McNabb and new GM Bruce Allen have been called-in to restore the nation’s capital’s franchise.  Already Shanahan and Allen have brought in over 20 new players with many being veterans (McNabb, Larry Johnson, Joey Galloway, Jammal Brown, and others).  We all know this team will be nowhere near their 4-12 record in 2010, but you have to wonder if all these new faces can jell quickly enough.  All the NFL’s entire eyes will be on Philly for the October 3rd, McNabb-Eagles Grudge Match.

23.  Raiders – For once the Raiders don’t seem like the most dysfunctional team in the NFL.  Yes, they have the league’s worst record since 2003 (24 wins and 72 losses).  But already I have seen some positive moves including the jettisoning of underachiever quarterback JaMarcus Russell, bringing in veteran QB Jason Campbell, a solid draft that produced players like LB Rolando McClain, and the same head coach (Tom Cable) for the second year in a row for the first time in a long while.  Al Davis’ boys should be shooting for .500 this season, which would be a big step forward.

24.  Jaguars – It seems everyone in this organization is fighting for survival.  The team is trying desperately to sell enough season tickets to avoid a proposed move to L.A, QB David Garrard is trying to prove he can play like his 2007 form to justify his big contract and lastly head coach Jack Del Rio is fighting to stay in town after two losing seasons in a row.  Well at least the Jags have one of the NFL’s most dangerous players in RB Maurice Jones-Drew.

25.  Panthers –  If it now or never for head coach John Fox and GM Marty Hurney who are both entering the final year of their contracts.  Owner Jerry Richardson is healthy now and he will have a greater say in the Panthers this year, so it is incumbent on the team to continue helping their on-the-hot-seat head coach again – finished 4-1 in 2009.  Expect another great year of the NFL’s best two-headed backfield (DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart), but Carolina’s defense must recover from losing DE Julius Peppers. Expect QB Matt Moore (6-2 as a starter) to hold-off rookie Jimmy Clausen and establish himself as an NFL starter.

26.  Lions – Head coach Jim Schwartz and GM Martin Mayhew had one of the best drafts in 2010 as they brought in potential difference-makers DT Ndamukong Suh and RB Jahvid Best to continue their rebuilding.  With QB Matthew Stafford firmly at the helm, there is no reason why the Lions could not win 3 to 4 more games this year.  I am going to make an early prediction…watch out for the Lions in 2011, if there is not a lockout of course.

27.  Buccaneers – Some good young building blocks (QB Josh Freeman, TE Kellen Winslow and S Tanard Jackson) are in place for 2nd-year head coach Raheem Morris, but 2010 looks like another rebuilding year for Tampa.  However there still should be hope as the NFC South since 2003 has had 6 out of 7 years where a team went from worst to first including the New Orleans Saints last year.

28.  Seahawks – New head coach Pete “runaway” Carroll has brought in a ton of new faces (over 25 new players) including retread receiver Mike Williams, former NY Jets RB Leon Washington and former Chargers restricted free agent QB Charlie Whitehurst.  But Carroll’s team still has too many leftover players from the Mike Holmgren era (i.e. QB Matt Hasselback, WR Deion Branch, and others) that will need to figure out where they stand before the entire organization can move forward.

29.  Bills – Can you say, “Oh Canada”?  Right now the reality of playing more than two games a year in Toronto, Canada maybe facing this team.  I am not even sure if new head coach Chan Gailey and GM Buddy Nix have any idea of the mess on their hands.  The Bills have 3 quarterbacks competing and I don’t think any of them can be a week-in-week-out NFL starter and whoever is the starter, they will be playing behind on of the league’s leakiest O-lines.

30.  Chiefs – Head Coach Todd Haley and GM Scott Pioli are trying like crazy to make the hapless Chiefs into New England West, but something is amiss.  QB Matt Cassell after finally getting a chance to start regularly put-up even stats of 16 TDs and 16 INTs while the defense couldn’t stop anyone in 2009, letting up 424 points.  There is nowhere to go but up for Cassell and the rest of this young team who are looking like one big rebuilding effort.

31.  Browns – Football Czar Mike Holmgren took over early as he came in during the end of the 2009 season to start evaluating a roster that looked like multi-purpose threat Joshua Cribbs and not much else.  What Holmgren did find was that there were a few talented players (Cribbs, OT Joe Thomas, and CB Eric Wright), but unfortunately he still will need to put on his janitor’s suit as there is much more housecleaning to be done.  It looks like another long year awaits on the shores of Lake Erie, especially with washed-up QB Jake Delhomme under center.

32.  Rams – Just like the Saints at the top of the food chain…I have to start the Rams at the bottom.  However I do believe that head coach Steve Spagnuolo and GM Bill Devaney are making positive changes on this team. Hopefully RB Steven Jackson (back) and first rounders QB Sam Bradford, OT Jason Smith, and DE Chris Long will get some help to move this young team out of the basement. 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2010 NFL Pre-Training Camp Top Stories – CBA Negotiations by Lloyd Vance

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith are the principal figures in the ongoing NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations

The impending end of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) slated for March 2011 should be first and foremost in everyone’s minds associated with the NFL.  Right now the league is in the midst of its first “uncapped” season in 2010, but that will be a hill of beans, if there is an NFL owners’ lockout in 2011 – i.e. “No Football”. 

All anyone needs to do is go back and do some research from the 1987 NFL Players’ Strike – the last labor strife in the league which led to the owners playing “regular season” games with replacement players – to see the damage that labor unrest caused to the league and it’s fans.  There is no doubt that the NFL is the “Golden Goose” of sports with a model that produced approximately $9 Billion in revenues for 2009 and an unprecedented almost 25 years of uninterrupted play. 

The two sides involved, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA DeMaurice Smith, have begun talks but everything is very preliminary at this time.  There are so many negotiating issues around the NFL’s new CBA with the tip of the iceberg including:

Revenues — NFL owners are saying players are taking 60% of revenues, Smith is saying the owners want an 18% rollback on player revenues in the new CBA and the NFLPA is insisting that the league open the books. 

NFLPA talking about possible owner collusion — The owners are pointing to the 30% rule, but overall player salaries for 2010 are lower and it has been a very slow offseason for signing free agents / giving out big deals. Also owners will not say it, but they do not want to pay a signing bonus on new player deals which could potentially cover lost salary during a lockout – did you know the owners TV money for 2011 is guaranteed.  That is why future Hall of Famer and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who is in the last year of his 2004 contract extension – 7 years, $99.2M with a $34.5M signing bonus (due $15.8M in 2010), has not received a new deal yet.  Manning and Patriots QB Tom Brady are expected to get new contracts with at least $50 million guaranteed. Is something up??? Recently on ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike Show, DeMaurice Smith said, “You guys want me to say the collusion word, of course….Oh, wait a minute. There it goes.”

An owners’ proposed 18-game regular season schedule — Mostly supported by the owners, there are already many veteran players talking about long-term risks.  The NFLPA and it’s players are commissioning reports to see about the long-term health/injury risks from playing an 18-game regular season – 16 game schedule since 1978.  Let me go on record that I completely agree with getting rid of 1 or 2 preseason games.  But you know the players will definitely need extra incentives to approve more games. Patriots QB Tom Brady recently said of the 18-game proposal, “I’ve taken part in several postseason runs where we have played 20 games. The long-term impact this game has on our bodies is well documented. Look no further than the players that came before we did. Each player today has to play three years in order to earn five years of post-career health care. Our Union has done a great job of raising the awareness on these issues and will make the right decision for us players, the game and the fans.”

Retirement Benefits — Led by a very loud contingent of former players, including HOF Joe DeLamiellure, NFL retirees want to be heard regarding health benefits and pensions.  Every current NFL player better be thinking about life after football as the average NFL career is 3 to 4 years and a player that has accrued 3 years of play receives only 5 years of health benefits after their retirement.

A possible Rookie Wage Scale – Something has to be done to make sure that “proven” NFL players are getting larger pieces of the pie than unproven rookies.  All anyone needs to do is look at the $39M that JaMarcus Russell basically stole from the Raiders.  This year, first overall pick, the Rams QB Sam Bradford, is expected to receive a contract greater than Lions QB Matthew Stafford’s – 6 years, $72M with $41.75M guaranteed.

Player Misconduct Administration — Goodell has a ton of leeway under the current CBA to administer justice as he sees fit and some member of the NFLPA want to look into the “legality” of some of the commissioner’s decisions.  Owners are also talking tough about going after bonuses already paid, if a player screws-up.

Drug Testing — NFL currently doesn’t test for the performing enhancing drug Human Growth Hormone (HGH) as it requires blood.  And the NFL also needs to think about testing for codeine (i.e. the “Sizzurp”) after the recent events with the Packers DL Johnny Jolly and former Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell.

Roger Goodell recently said of the CBA negotiations, “There will be an agreement at some point…Everyone would like it sooner rather than later, whether it’s the players, the owners or the fans.  It’s important for us all to get more productive dialogue. Sometimes, these things don’t happen until you get a little closer to the end (of the CBA). That’s just the reality.”

DeMaurice Smith also has been on the offensive lately too.  He recently said on ESPN Radio about the on-going CBA negotiations, “As you guys know, we haven’t been shy about being aggressive in protecting players’ rights. If we have to be aggressive to enforce the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, you can bet that we will.”

FIGURE IT OUT GUYS as NFL fans don’t want to see a season lost, because a bunch of Billionaires and Millionaires cannot agree.

 BTW:  Anyone worried about seeing NFL replacement games, like during the 1987 NFL Players’ Strike, you don’t have worry as the current CBA does not allow the owners to play “Scab” games.

Other 2010 NFL Pre-Training Camp Top Stories

  • New York Jets winning the NFL offseason and can they reach the Super Bowl heights many are predicting for them
  • Position Battles (Carolina Panthers QBs, Philadelphia Eagles Safeties, Dallas Cowboys WR’s, NY Giants DE’s, Tampa Bay Buccaneers WRs, Arizona Cardinals QBs, Buffalo Bills QBs, etc)
  • T.O, Flozell Adams and other free agents still looking for jobs
  • Coaches on the hot seat trying to stay alive (Panthers John Fox, Texans Gary Kubiak, Jaguars Jack DelRio, Bears Lovie Smith, Broncos Josh McDaniels, and Browns Eric Mangini)
  • QB Donovan McNabb changing teams inside the NFC East
  • Brett Favre’s “Possible” Retirement / Return
  • Slow rate of rookie first rounder signings
  • Future Hall of Famers Peyton Manning and Tom Brady getting new deals or not
  • The Baltimore Ravens, Atlanta Falcons, and San Francisco 49ers being popular picks as NFL’s surprise team of 2010

 

 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2010 NFL Pre-Training Camp Top Stories – Player Misconduct by Lloyd Vance

Leading up to 2010 NFL Training Camps there have been too many stories of player misconduct.  Recently Green Bay Packers DL Johnny Jolly (pictured) was suspended for the season by the league for drug charges

Hard to believe 3 years after NFL Commissioner Roger “Hang’em High” Goodell instituted a Player Conduct policy that gave him much latitude in its application, we are still talking about players putting themselves in bad situations.  Sure the majority of the NFL’s over 1500 players are good up-standing types, but since the Super Bowl ended in February there has been a steady stream of player misconduct that has fans, media, and league officials concerned about a pattern. 

And to make matters worse, now the players involved seem to be more “high profile”.  No longer is everyone talking about the misdeeds of a 2nd string nickelback (i.e. Adam “Pacman” Jones), now quarterbacks who are the league and franchise’s faces are producing negative front-page news too, that may have implications going into the 2010 NFL season. 

Philadelphia Eagles backup QB Michael Vick (a shooting occurring after his 30th B-Day Party), Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (Bar hopping gone array in Milledgeville, GA), Tennessee Titans QB Vince Young (misdemeanor assault citation after allegedly punching a guy in a strip club for an upside down hook’em Horns sign), Tennessee Titans back-up QB Chris Simms (arrested for allegedly driving under the influence of marijuana in New York City), former Oakland Raiders QB / 2008 NFL Draft first overall pick JaMarcus Russell (arrested for illegal possession of Codeine to allegedly produce a drink called “The Sizzurp”) and too many others. 

The situation that Roethlisberger got himself into was most distressing to Goodell and everyone else as he is the marquee player of one of the NFL’s cornerstone franchises.  Though eventually the authorities in Georgia decided to not press charges for sexual assault against Big Ben, the salacious details and accusations, including the showing of taped interviews with the alleged victim, will follow Roethlisberger, the Steelers and NFL for a long time. 

The former 2-time Super Bowl winning quarterback has been suspended for the first 6 games of the 2010 Season, but it is looking like his early summer good behavior could have his suspension lowered to 4 games instead.  However good behavior by Roethlisberger and the NFL’s other bad boys withstanding, it will be interesting in CBA negotiations if NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith wants to call Goodell and his sometimes heavy-handed administration of the Player Conduct Policy to task.  Because you know the league will counter with tales of how disorderly players have taken signing bonuses and other guaranteed money and not lived-up to their end of the bargain.

Hopefully now that training camps have begun (Cleveland Browns rookies reported on July 23rd) player misconduct will be tempered as fans and media should be looking forward to the action on the gridiron rather than NFL players on the police blotter.

2010 Player Misconduct Suspensions

  • Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, 6-game suspension (Player Conduct – two sexually related incidents) — Out until at least Week 8 vs. New Orleans, but could be shortened to 4-games based on league review
  • San Diego Chargers WR Vincent Jackson, 3-game suspension (Player Conduct – Multiple DUIs) — Out until Week 4 vs. Arizona
  • Atlanta Falcons OT Quinn Ojinnaka, 1-game suspension (Player Conduct – Domestic Violence) — Out until Week 2 vs. Arizona
  • Seattle Seahawks LB Leroy Hill, 1-game suspension (Player Conduct – Drug Charge) — Out until Week 2 at Denver (also their could be an additional suspension coming for Player Conduct – Domestic Violence)
  • Green Bay Packers DE Johnny Jolly, indefinite suspension with the minimum for all of the 2010 season (Player Conduct – Drug Charge)
  • Free Agent WR Plaxico Burress, indefinite suspension (gun charges) that will end once he is released from prison

*** It should also be noted that when a player serves a suspension, he does not get paid and misses out on game checks.

Other possible misconduct violations

  • Miami Dolphins DE Phillip Merling – Domestic Violence
  • Cleveland Browns DT Shaun Rodgers – Carrrying a weapon into the airport
  • Atlanta Falcons DT Jonathan Babineaux – Drug Chrages
  • Cincinnati Bengals RB Cedric Benson – Assault
  • Tennessee Titans QB Vince Young – Citation for Assault
  • Philadelphia Eagles backup QB Michael Vick — Possible probation violation from a shooting that occurred after his 30th B-Day Party
  • Tennessee Titans back-up QB Chris Simms — Arrested for allegedly driving under the influence of marijuana in New York City
  • Free Agent QB JaMarcus Russell – Drug Charges

 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2010 NFL Pre-Training Camp Top Stories – Holdouts by Lloyd Vance

Even 3-time Super Bowl winning QB Tom Brady is a potential holdout before training camps start

Holdouts are a rite of passage leading up to training camp. When one player gets a shiny new contract (See Dolphins WR Brandon Marshall’s deal for four-year deal worth $47.5 million with $24 million guaranteed), there are five other players who are saying they deserve equal or more.

Of course NFL owners are pointing to the 30% rule, an uncapped 2010 season and the certain times around the CBA (owners want an 18% roll-back on player revenues), as the major reasons that they are taking a tough stance with potential holdouts.  But the NFLPA also is monitoring potential holdouts as overall player salaries for 2010 are lower than last year and it has been a very slow free agent market — can you say, “Collusion”… I know NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith can. 

Also owners will not say it, but they do not want to pay a signing bonus on new player deals which could potentially cover lost salary during a lockout.  That is why future Hall of Famer and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who is in the last year of his 2004 contract extension – 7 years, $99.2M with a $34.5M signing bonus (due $15.8M in 2010), has not received a new deal yet.  Manning and Patriots QB Tom Brady are expected to get new contracts with at least $50 million guaranteed.

However I have found most players talk tough about holding out during OTAs and the offseason until the prospect of fines — $14,000 to $16,000 dollars daily for missed training camp days — and missed game checks in the regular season come into play. The dollars can pile-up quickly — Seahawks receiver Deion Branch lost over $600,000 dollars in fines and 1 game check of $65,625 dollars during his 2006 holdout with the Patriots.

Holdout players under contract definitely need to understand that a prolonged stay away from their team could cause them to lose accrued seniority towards free agency. Under NFL rules, players under contract must report at least 30 days before the overall first NFL regular season game (August 10th deadline) or they will forfeit an accrued season of seniority.  Players talking tough about a holdout that might end up in this category are Brady, Redskins DT Albert Haynesworth, NY Jets CB Darrelle Revis, Titans RB Chris Johnson, Steelers OLB LaMarr Woodley and others.

As for unsigned draft picks, franchised players and restricted free agents that are thinking “Holdout”, the Week 10 of the regular season is huge.  Because players not under contract, who eventually sign after a holdout, need to be part of the team for at least in six regular season games in order to earn an accrued season towards free agency.  The biggest potential 2010 holdouts in this category are Chargers restricted free agents WR Vincent Jackson and OT Marcus McNeil.

Everyone associated with the league also is monitoring “Holdout” talk around unsigned rookie players. With training camps about 2 weeks away (Cleveland Browns rookies report on July 23rd), there are currently no first round selections signed at this time including first overall pick St. Louis Rams QB Sam Bradford –  expected to receive a contract greater than Lions QB Matthew Stafford’s – 6 years, $72M with $41.75M guaranteed.  Hopefully the NFL will avoid the rookie signing problems that force San Francisco 49ers WR Michael Crabtree to sit-out well into the 2009 regular season — 20 of the 32 first-round picks in 2009 were unsigned when their teams opened up training camp.  My guess for the longest 2010 first rounder holdout is Buffalo Bills RB CJ Spiller (9th overall pick)

In the end… if McNeil, Vincent Jackson, Haynesworth and the rest of the NFL’s many holdout candidates do continue to stay away, they need to understand that holdouts are a no-win situation everyone involved. The holdout game also usually produces animosity, lost team chemistry, and injuries. Plus most players coming back from holdouts quickly realize that their team’s have moved on without them as the “NFL Never Sleeps”. 

2010 Holdout Watchlist

Patriots QB Tom Brady

Colts QB Peyton Manning

Redskins DT Albert Haynesworth

NY Jets CB Darrelle Revis

Titans RB Chris Johnson (received a $2M escalator payment early)

Saints OT Jermon Bushrod

Cowboys WR Patrick Crayton

Cardinals DT Darnell Dockett

Chargers OT Marcus McNeil

Chargers WR Vincent Jackson

Colts WR Reggie Wayne

Broncos DE/OLB Elvis Dumervil (Signed new deal)

Ravens OT Jared Gaither

Browns LB D’Qwell Jackson

Eagles WR DeSean Jackson

Texans WR Andre Johnson

NY Jets center Nick Mangold

Jaguars CB Rashean Mathis

Chargers LB Shawne Merriman

Redskins LB Rocky McIntosh

Titans TE Bo Scaife

Steelers LB LaMarr Woodley

Bills RB Marshawn Lynch

Vikings DE Ray Edwards

SF 49ers NT Aubrayo Franklin (Unsigned Franchise Player)

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2010 NFL Pre-Training Camp Top Stories – Old Faces in New Places by Lloyd Vance

There was a lot of movement this offseason including some high profile players.  Probably the biggest name to switch teams was QB Donovan McNabb going to D.C after 11 years with the Philadelphia Eagles

Every year around the NFL there is one guarantee, “Change”.  Whether it is players, assistant coaches, head coaches, or front-office types every NFL team’s roster is constantly changing like an ameba.  Fans and media often wonder why teams need so many offseason workouts (OTAs, passing camps, etc). Well… the reason for the increased number of workouts in the offseason is that teams need as much “getting to know you” opportunities as possible to meld so many new faces together in a short period of time.  Training camps just are not long enough anymore to get so many new faces on the same page in order to be “competitive” for the upcoming season. 

Typically teams have 15 or more new players each season due to retirements, cuts, the draft, and free agency – this year the Washington Redskins lead the way with 20+ new faces including a new general manager (Bruce Allen), head coach Mike Shanahan, and quarterback (Donovan McNabb). Surprisingly after there were 11 new head coaches in 2009, there are only three new head coaches – four if you include Oakland Raiders taking away Tom Cable’s “interim” HC label — for the 2010 NFL Season (Buffalo Bills Chan Gailey, Seattle Seahawks Pete Carroll and Shanahan).

Some bigger names in new places for 2010 are:

Washington Redskins QB Donovan McNabb – The 11-year veteran was traded from the Philadelphia Eagles for a 2nd Rd (37) in 2010 and a 3rd or 4th in 2011. McNabb will be heading down I-95 to help revive the 4-12 Redskins while their division rivals will now turn to Kevin Kolb to be their starter.

Miami Dolphins WR Brandon Marshall – The volatile, but talented pass catcher was traded by the Denver Broncos for 2nd rounders in 2010 and 2011.  Marshall also was extended by Miami with the terms four-years, $47.5 million dollars with $24M Guaranteed.  It will be interesting to see if the former Broncos perennial 100-catch receiver is fully recovered from off-season hip surgery once training camp starts.

New York Jets WR Santonio Holmes – After being a major P.I.T.A during his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Rooney’s had seen enough.  In a total surprise, the Steelers sent their former Super Bowl hero to the NY Jets for a measly 5th round pick in 2010.  Even though Holmes will have to serve a 4-game suspension to start the 2010 season, the NY Jets are confident that Braylon Edwards, TE Dustin Keller, and he can form a solid receiving corps for young passer Mark Sanchez.

Chicago Bears DE Julius Peppers – The high-motor sack artist and easily 2010’s Free Agency “Big Fish” was signed by the Bears from Carolina Panthers (six-years, $91.5 million dollar contract with 30M guaranteed).  After signing Peppers, the Bears released former starter Alex Brown (signed w/ New Orleans Saints).  Chicago is hoping that Peppers is motivated enough to eclipse his 2009 sack total of 10 1/2.

Seattle Seahawks QB Charlie Whitehurst — This former unproven backup was traded by the San Diego Chargers to Seattle.  The two teams swapped second-round picks in 2010 and the Seahawks will send a future 3rd RD pick to the Chargers.  Seattle then extended Whitehurst with the terms $8M over two years, with another $2M available in incentives.

Chicago Bears RB Chester Taylor – After spending the last couple years as an under-utilized backup to Pro Bowl RB Adrian Peterson, Taylor will be a chance for more carries with the Bears.  The Viking unrestricted free agent signed a four-year, $12.5 million dollar contract that contains $7 million in guarantees in the first year.  Look for Taylor and 3rd-year back Matt Forte to form a lethal combination backfield like the Panthers’ DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. 

Arizona Cardinals OG Alan Faneca – After the NY Jets decided that this former Pro Bowl player wasn’t needed after drafting some younger players.  Former Steelers coaches Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm were more than happy to sign Faneca to help young running back Chris “Beanie” Wells. The 33-year old road grader was signed to a one-year, $2.5 million deal, which included a $300,000 signing bonus and a $100,000 workout bonus.

Arizona Cardinals S Kerry Rhodes – The NY Jets kicked Rhodes out of Rex Ryan’s doghouse by trading him for a 4th in ’10 and a 7th in ’11.  The Cardinals were excited to have him to team with Pro Bowler Adrian Wilson as shown by Rhodes’ five-year, $33.5 million extension.

Atlanta Falcons CB Dunta Robinson – Former first round pick was signed from the Houston Texans as an unrestricted free agent (six-year, $57 million dollars, w/ $25.5 million dollars in guarantees).  The Falcons are expecting Robinson to play close to NY Jets Pro Bowler Darrelle Revis, who always shadows his opponent’s best receiver.

Baltimore Ravens WR Anquan Boldin – The former multiple-time Pro Bowl receiver was traded along with a 5th Rd selection by the Arizona Cardinals for 3rd and 4th-round picks in the 2010 NFL Draft.

NY Jets RB LaDainian Tomlinson – Signed from the San Diego Chargers after being cut (two-years, $5.2 million contract w/ another $500,000 is available via incentives)

Kansas City Chiefs RB Thomas Jones – After surprisingly being cut, the Chiefs signed the former NY Jets leading rusher with the terms two-years, $5.5M — $3 million dollars this season, $2M in 2011, and has $500,000 incentives)

Other high profile off-season moves:

NY Jets CB Antonio Cromartie (Traded by the Chargers for a 2011 3rd RD pick)

Cleveland Browns Football Czar Mike Holmgren (former Seattle GM/Head Coach and Super Bowl winner with the Packers)

Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan (former Super Bowl-winning head coach for the Denver Broncos)

Detroit Lions OG Rob Sims (Traded from Seattle – 5th Rd in 2010)

Detroit Lions TE Tony Scheffler (Traded by Denver along w/ a seventh-round pick for a 5th Rd in 2010)

Jacksonville Jaguars DE Aaron Kampman (Packers – FA, four-year, $24 million w/ $11 million in the first year)

Baltimore Ravens WR Donte Stallworth (Signed after the Cleveland Browns cut him)

Miami Dolphins LB Karlos Dansby (Cardinals – FA, 5-year, $43 million w/ $22M guaranteed)

Chicago Bears OC Mike Martz (after one year in studio, the “Mad Scientist” returns with a new team and trigger-happy quarterback in Jay Cutler)

Denver Broncos QB Brady Quinn (traded from the Browns to provide competition for Kyle Orton, but Tebow is in the wings)

New England Patriots WR Torry Holt (long-time Rams Pro Bowl receiver left the Jags for New England, 1-yr, $1.7M)

New Orleans Saints DE Alex Brown (Bears – FA, two-year for $6M)

NY Giants DB Antrel Rolle (Cardinals – FA, 5-year, $37 million with $15 million guaranteed)

NY Jets safety Brodney Pool (Browns – FA, one-year, $1.3 million dollar contract)

NY Jets DE/OLB Jason Taylor (former Dolphins leading sacker)

Oakland Raiders DE/OLB Kamerion Wimbley (Traded from the Cleveland Browns for a 3rd RD in 2010)

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antwaan Randle El (Redskins – cut)

Cincinnati Bengals WR Matt Jones (Signed Street F\A — JAX)

Cincinnati Bengals CB Adam “Pacman” Jones (Cowboys – FA, 2-year deal)

Pittsburgh Steelers LB Larry Foote (Lions — 3-year, $9.3 million w/ $1.8M signing bonus)

Pittsburgh Steelers QB Byron Leftwich (Traded by the Bucs – 7th Rd pick in 2010)

Arizona Cardinals OLB Joey Porter (Signed after being cut by the Dolphins)

Pittsburgh Steelers CB Bryant McFadden (Traded by the Cardinals)

SF 49ers WR/KR Ted Ginn Jr (Traded by the Dolphins for a 5th Rd in 2010)

Seattle Seahawks WR Mike Williams (Signed as a F\A – Last players for Titans in 2007)

Tennessee Titans LB Will Witherspoon (Eagles – FA, three-year, $11M w/ $5M guaranteed)

Washington Redskins OT Jammal Brown (Traded from the Saints)

Denver Broncos QB Tim Tebow (I know this former Heisman winner is a rookie, but he already was a houehold name after being college football’s Superman for 4 years)

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Two Players selected in the 2010 NFL Supplemental Draft by Lloyd Vance

Former BYU running back Harvey Unga (Chicago Bears, 7th Rd) was one of two players selected in the 2010 NFL Supplemental Draft

The 2010 NFL Supplemental Draft is in the books and now two players have new homes.  Former BYU tough runner Harvey Unga (taken in the 7th Rd by the Chicago Bears) and former Illinois DT Josh Price-Brent (also taken in the 7th Rd by the Dallas Cowboys) will now go to training camp with their respective teams in hopes of beating the odds and making the 53-man regular season roster.

The Cowboys and Bears will now lose their 7th Rd pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, which will take place next April.  The two other players eligible for Thursday’s dratt, Truman State H-Back Vanness Emokpae and Northwestern State RB Quentin Castille will now hope for a training camp invite as an undrafted free agent or they will have to go the Arena Football / CFL / UFL route into professional football.

Here is a profile of the two players selected:

Dallas Cowboys DT Josh Price-Brent – Another big body for Wade Phillips 3-4 scheme.  Price-Brent will have to learn quickly, but practicing with Pro Bowl NT Jay Ratliff should help.  The former Illini fire hydrant is a big (6’2, 321) tough two-gapper.  Price-Brent had some academic difficulty at Illinois, but he is a cat-quick defensive lineman that compiled stats of 71 tackles, 17½ tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries in 3 years for the Illini. 

Chicago Bears RB Harvey Unga – The Bears were smart to take a flier on this bullish runner from BYU.  Unga (6’1, 244) should help as a FB, HB, 3rd down back and on special teams.  With Chester Taylor and Matthew Forte higher on Chicago’s depth chart, there is a good chance that we may see this former three-time 1,000-yard rusher – compiled stats: 3,446 yards on 692 carries with 35 touchdowns with an additional 102 catches for 1,085 yards and 9 TDs – on his team’s practice squad.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2010 NFL Supplemental Draft by Lloyd Vance

The NFL will hold it’s 2010 Supplemental Draft on July 15th and one of the players to keep an eye on is former BYU running back Harvey Unga

An event that most NFL fans don’t know about takes center stage on July 15th at 1 p.m. EST.  With only two weeks before training camps, the “League that Never Sleeps” will hold their annual “Supplemental Draft”. This is the other draft for players leaving school for “special” reasons (Academics, Family Obligations, etc) – nothing like it’s megawatt cousin, the bigger NFL Draft that occurs every April.

The supplemental draft used to be conducted on a conference call but now it is performed via e-mail. All 32 teams will be involved in the three-step, weighted process. Teams with six wins or less in 2009 participate in the first lottery for the top six picks, followed by a second group of non-playoff teams and a third group of the 12 playoff teams from last season. If a team elects to use a supplemental draft pick on one of the eligible prospects, that team will give up its pick in the same round in next April’s draft (2011).

We will have to see if any of this year’s 4 players that have applied will garner a pick. But usually the players in this “special “draft” go unselected and an undrafted free agent or Arena Football/UFL/CFL career awaits them. Since the draft’s inception in 1977, thirty-eight players have been selected with nine never playing in a regular-season game — future Hall of Famer receiver Cris Carter is the high water mark selected by the Philadelphia Eagles (4th RD pick in 1987) after Ohio State told him to take a walk for dealings with agents. 

Other notable former NFL Supplemental Draft selections from it’s heyday in the late-80s and early-90s were QB Bernie Kosar (1st Rd – Cleveland Browns), LB Brian Bosworth (1st Rd – Seattle Seahawks), QB Steve Walsh (1st Rd – Dallas Cowboys), QB Timm Rosenbach (1st Rd – Phoenix Cardinals), RB Bobby Humphrey (1st Rd – Denver Broncos), WR Rob Moore (1st Rd – New York Jets) and Dave Brown (1st Rd – New York Giants). Also current NFL players San Diego Chargers DT Jamal Williams (2nd Rd, 1998), Washington Redskins DT Jeremy Jarmon (3rd round, 2009) and Baltimore Ravens OT Jared Gaither (5th Rd, 2007) were selected in the supplemental draft.

Last year, Jarmon was the only player selected and in 2008 due to a lack of interest the league didn’t even hold the event.  But the 2010 NFL Supplemental Draft does appear to have a few solid prospects that probably will get selected somewhere after the 3rd round of today’s process, if they are lucky.

The prospects eligible for the 2010 NFL Supplemental Draft include:

Illinois DT Josh Price-Brent – What every 3-4 team in the NFL is looking for a big (6’2, 321) tough two-gapper.  Price-Brent had some academic difficulty at Illinois, but he is a cat-quick defensive lineman that compiled stats of 71 tackles, 17½ tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries in 3 years for the Illini.  He is expected to go off the board before the other eligible players with some saying Price-Brent could be a third- or fourth-round pick.

BYU RB Harvey Unga – A “bull” of a runner that has garnered attention from at least 10 teams.  Reminds me of former Steelers Super Bowl hero Jerome Bettis as he is big (6’1, 244) and fast (4.6 in the forty).  He may have violated his tough university’s code, but his stats show he has great ability.  Unga in 3 years at BYU compiled 3,446 yards on 692 carries with 35 touchdowns. A three-time 1,000-yard rusher, he also had 102 catches for 1,085 yards and 9 TDs.  Could go around the 4th or 5th Rd and definitely watch the Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots.

Truman State (Mo.) H-Back Vanness Emokpae – Played FB, TE, WR and Wildcat QB at a small Division II school.  Emokpae (5’11, 240) comeback from a 2008 knee injury to lead his team in rushing (97 carries, 546 yards, and 5TDs) and receiving (26 catches, 365 yards, and 4TDs) in 2009.  At best a team could take a shot on him in the 7th Rd, but looks like a free agent type.  Has an Alge Crumpler type build, but I am not sure he is pro tight end material.  Emokpae will need to impress on special teams and as a fullback if he wants to make an NFL team, that is if he even ends up in a training camp.

Northwestern (La.) State RB Quentin Castille – This former Nebraska Cornhusker was an underachiever in Lincoln and at Northwestern State.  Castille (6’, 245) only spent one year at the tiny Louisiana school where he produced minor stats 106 rushes for 337 yards and 1 TD.   Definitely will be a free agent type player that could possibly get a shot as a training camp “body”.
 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)