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Tandon Doss

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Ravens fourth-round pick Tandon Doss on endorsement from Joe Flacco: “It’s very humbling. I feel blessed to be just in this opportunity”

Posted on 02 May 2011 by Ryan Chell

Tandon Doss

If you haven’t heard already about Ravens fourth-round pick-Indiana WR Tandon Doss, you might soon hear it enough.

Not only did Drew Forrester correctly predict that the Ravens were going to draft the 6’3”, 200-pound Hoosier receiver in this past weekend’s draft, but he also may have been hand-picked for his skills based on the endorsement of one Joe Flacco, the quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens.

And he joined WNST’s own Nestor Aparicio and Glenn Clark Monday on “The Morning Reaction” to offer his thanks for  becoming a Baltimore Raven Saturday, and said that he was honored by the recommendation and selection.

“It’s very humbling,” Doss told Aparicio. “I feel blessed to just to be in this opportunity and I’m just willing to make the most of it. Wherever they need me to make plays, I’m willing to make plays.”

And during his three years at Indiana, he made numerous plays for ex-Indiana coach Bill Lynch.

“He’s an outstanding football player,” Lynch told Rex Snider of “The Afternoon Drive” later on Monday. “Tandon is a great young man, and to watch him develop over his college career-and to now move to play in the National Football League-he really became a great football player and an even better leader on our team.”

Doss finished his career as one of the best for catch passes for the Indiana football team, as he finished his career with 154 receptions(4th best in school history), and seventh best in school history in both receiving yards (1,854) and all-purpose yards (3,786).

His 2010 season equated to 63 receptions for 706 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns. This was mostly due to teams trying to take him out of the ballgame after his deadly 2009 campaign in which he earned first-team All-Big Ten status with a 77 catches, 962 yards, five touchdown performance.

He also adds a dynamic element to the Ravens as a kick returner( 2010-his 1,016 kick return yards were fourth-most in Big Ten history). If healthy, he could compete with incumbent David Reed for the KR position as well as offer his skills up as a receiver as well.

But that’s where Doss’ issues lie. And why we fell farther in the draft than those who have the chance to win the college game’s Biletnikoff Award given to the country’s best wideout-

Injuries.

Despite playing in 11 of 12 games in 2010, Doss played with not one-but two sports hernias in his last season in Bloomington.

He had surgery on his groin twice in the off-season and it  that prevented him from attending the Combine, individual team workouts, and Indiana’s Pro Day, hurting his draft stock.

On top of not being the best in the business when it came to blazing speed, he saw his name drop to the fourth round, which was discouraging for Doss to say the least.

“Yea, it was a very long weekend,” Doss said. “I kinda new I wasn’t going to be in the first round, but I heard some things about maybe being in the second or third round.”

But the wait lingered.

“And I had a long night Friday afternoon and Friday evening, but you know unfortunately my name wasn’t called so I had to wait until the next morning.”

And now, he’s ready to prove that he was worth not only the endorsement by the Ravens and that he brings value to a Baltimore team selecting him with Saturday’s 123rd pick.

“I’m about to go get the route-stuff down and catch some balls getting ready to go down there,” Doss said.

But he will have to wait until the lockout ends to be able to have a look by the Ravens coaching staff and receive a playbook to get his transition to the NFL started.

Either way, he said he’ll be ready regardless whether he’s at the facility or not.

“They told me to stay in shape,” Doss said. “I need to be able to run all day as soon as I get there and just put on a couple of pounds to bulk up.”

His former coach said that Doss adjusting to the speed of the NFL is not going to be a problem, rest assured.

“I’ll say this for Tandon,” Lynch said. “He came in as a true freshman out of high school, and obviously Big Ten football is is a step-up from high school football. He caught up with the speed real quick, and we played him right away.”

So far, it seems like the coaching staff and the other Ravens players know he will fit right in with what’s going on over at 1 Winning Drive.

His head is certainly in the right place that’s for sure. Unlike a lot of other college juniors looking to go pro this year and forgo their senior seasons because of the expected rookie wage scale, Doss is doing it for another reason.

To support his family.

“That was a major part of my decision to come out early,” Doss said. “My father wasn’t really there growing up. I haven’t heard anything about where he’s at or anything.”

Doss’ mom worked numerous jobs in support of Tandon and his family, and on top of taking care of his schizophrenic brother who the two have supported, Doss said the decision to help her out by leaving school early was all too easy.

“I had to make a decision and come out early to try and support her,” Doss said. “I had to take some of the stress off her shoulders.”

“I love her to death. That’s why I’m doing it.”

With that kind of mindset, Ravens fans will be quick to welcome Doss to Baltimore.  That might not be the biggest adjustment Doss has to make.

Dropping his love for his previous loves-the Oakland Raiders and Colts WR Reggie Wayne.

“I actually grew up a Raiders fan,” Doss admitted. “I don’t know how it happened. I always grew up a Raiders fan and I enjoy watching the Colts. They’ve got a great offense.”

He explained why his love for Reggie Wayne is present in the back of his mind.

“Being from Indianapolis and watching a lot of Colts games, Reggie Wayne does it all,” Doss said. “His routes are crisp, he’s always consistent, he has great hands and catches everything so he’s able to separate.”

Clark and Aparicio made quick work of that conversation to make sure he had things on the right track now that he was a Raven.

“I, Tandon Doss, promise that I am not-in any way-a fan of the Indianapolis Colts,” Doss swore.

And with that, Doss was sworn in as a Baltimore Raven. It’s official by WNST-standards.

WNST thanks Tandon Doss for joining “The Morning Reaction”! Be sure to tune into AM 1570 WNST as we welcome your 2011 NFL Draft class to Baltimore the only way we can! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Ashley Ambrose

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Former NFL All-Pro CB Ashley Ambrose on coaching Jimmy Smith: “I wish I had the ability of this kid”

Posted on 01 May 2011 by Ryan Chell

Ashley Ambrose

Ashley Ambrose was a 13-year veteran corner back playing for four different NFL franchises including the likes of the Indianapolis Colts, the New Orleans Saints, Cincinnati Bengals, and the Atlanta Falcons.

The 1996 All-Pro recorded 42 interceptions in his dozen-year NFL career, and during his playing days was often tasked with covering the opposing team’s best receiver.

And since retiring in 2005, the 40-year old former CB has found his mark in the coaching ranks, and as of recently found his way to the University of Colorado coaching their defensive backs.

It was that move-and his eventual association with Ravens first round pick CB Jimmy Smith-that forced the former NFL veteran to do a different kind of defending.

Jimmy Smith

Doing his best to cover the character concerns of his pupil in Smith-who’s off-the-field incidents while in Boulder include marijuana use, arrests for possession and underage drinking, assault, and impregnating several women-eventually became a common practice for Ambrose the past two off-seasons as NFL teams probed him for inside information about Jimmy Smith the man as well as the corner.

Ambrose-who recently took over the defensive backs’ coach at the University of California-joined Rex Snider of “The Afternoon Drive” Friday afternoon after the Ravens selected Jimmy Smith with the 27th pick in the first round of Thursday’s NFL Draft, and he had nothing but good things to say about his former player and the situation he was ending up in Baltimore.

“I know there was a need for you guys,” Ambrose told Snider, “and I knew if Jimmy was going to fall down there that the Ravens were a possibility. I’ll tell you what…I’m happy for him. It’s a great place for him to be.”

Ambrose was probably Smith’s biggest fan Thursday night, and it began to worry him when the Ravens allowed the Chiefs to move ahead of them to make a selection because he was afraid that Smith’s rap sheet of character issues would force him to drop out of the first round and hurt his confidence.

“I read about it,” Ambrose said. “I didn’t know what was going on at first. I was nervous at first cause Jimmy’s a great kid. A lot of people go off what happened his freshman year and stuff like that.”

But he was glad to ultimately see the Ravens take the leap of faith on Smith and he assured the Baltimore coaching staff through Snider that they know they won’t regret the decision because of the man Smith has become recently.

“I said to myself that if they get a chance to see who Jimmy is as a person, they really would know what kind of kid he is being so mature now.”

Ambrose joined the Colorado program in 2008, with Smith having been a Buffalo since redshirting in 2006.

From the moment the two met, the two were inseparable and Ambrose brought with him a mentor-like approach when it came to guiding Smith down the right path and helping him become not only a better corner, but a better man.

“I really am confident in that. I was more of a mentor and a big brother to Jimmy as well as his coach,” Ambrose said. “While he was there, he did everything he was supposed to do. He was always on time. Jimmy was just really young when a whole lot of stuff happened.”

Ambrose didn’t want to make excuses, but he said a lot of young kids get themselves in similar trouble that Smith did and don’t get caught or the attention thrown their way.

“You get any kid going to high school to college, get them in a different environment, and things happen,” Ambrose replied. “Jimmy just happened to be one of those kids that messed around and got caught a few times, whatever it was. Some people go through it and never get caught, but it just so happens that he was a freshman, he got caught with it, and it was always over his head. But he’s not that kind of a guy.”

How fitting that Smith’s last known deviant act caught on the record was in 2007-the year before Ambrose joined the Colorado staff.

“I’m so proud of him. He grew up, and you’re talking about a kid who graduated from college,” Ambrose said. “Most kids like that..they’re not graduating from school. This kid was so focused about his academics that he got a degree, and I’m proud of him….and I don’t see him getting in any trouble.”

The only trouble Ambrose sees? The opposing receivers in the AFC North who have to go up against Smith.

“I wish I had the ability of this kid, and the sky’s the limit for him.”

“This kid is going to be awesome. I’ve been around the NFL for quite some time, and just being around the guy, there is no one with his size. Usually guys like that don’t have any hips, but Jimmy has very good hips. He can run, and he can be physical. It is rare to see that.”

Ambrose compared him to a similar corner in today’s game in Jets CB Antonio Cromartie-but hopefully without the off-the-field concerns as the New York defender.

And Smith’s other beneficial trait? He is eager to get better and takes learning seriously.

“I was amazed to see the things he can do just trying to teach him techniques. He is very coachable, he is willing to learn, and that’s the thing that makes him such an elite athlete because he’s ready to learn and he’s willing to do what you ask of him.”

Ambrose knows he’ll fit right in with player-coaches like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed-who hails from the same hometown as Ambrose-and he knows that those two in particular will guide Smith down the right path toward being an excellent football player and human being.

He knows so because he was forced to do the same thing several years ago.

“That’s what players do,” Ambrose said. “Ed Reed is from my hometown, and I know a lot of his family. Ed Reed is a great character person. Ed Reed is going to be the person to be there to help Jimmy out with anything. He’ll put him under his wing, and guide him in the right direction.”

“Now it is up to Jimmy to do the right things, but I think it’s perfect for Jimmy because he gets to be with a Hall-of-Fame type guy that’s doing it and leading by example on and off the football field. I think it’s a great thing, and he’s going into a great situation.”

But for now, Ambrose said Smith should take advantage of a fresh start as a Raven and be solely focused on adjusting to the speed of the NFL because for the former Mississippi Valley State star in Ambrose, that was the toughest thing to get adapted to coming out of college.

“It’s always a challenge,” he said. “Having now coached at the collegiate level, I kind of talk to these kids about it…telling them about the transition and those sorts of things.”

“You’re going to be in meetings all the time, and everyone’s going to be great players. You can’t take a week off and things like that. The thing for me when I first came out I thought I was so good at my level of college football that I could just bring it right to the NFL, and that opened up for me real fast.”

But he knows Jimmy’s ready for that change, and when he does, he should ultimately be able to kill two birds with one stone as he knows succeeding on the football field will push some of his past character-concerns under the rug.

“It’s a great fan-base, and what’s going to happen is he’s going to win a lot of fans over cause he’s going to play some good football.”

WNST thanks Ashley Ambrose for joining “The Afternoon Drive” with Rex Snider and welcomes Jimmy Smith to Baltimore! Check the BuyaToyota.com Audio Vault for the chat with Ambrose as well as tune into WNST Monday as we talk with Torrey Smith for the first time since being drafted by the Ravens! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Jordan Todman

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Former UConn RB and NFL-draft prospect Jordan Todman: “With Coach Edsall…he had a great opportunity to make me better”

Posted on 01 April 2011 by Ryan Chell

Former University of Connecticut running back Jordan Todman’s dream is to play in the NFL. It has always been to play football for as long as he can.

And when he joined Thyrl Nelson of “The Mobtown Sports Beat” Thursday, he had a lot of thanks to throw around for the position he is in, and he has one guy new to the Baltimore area to thank for his success.

The projected third-or-fourth rounder in April’s draft had current Maryland and ex-UConn football coach Randy Edsall for helping him raise his playing level to that the NFL caught notice of while he was in college.

Jordan Todman

“With Coach Edsall, I feel like I connected with the coach as well,” Todman told Nelson. “We all had the same interests. We just bonded real quick and I knew that he knew what he was doing and that he had a great opportunity to make me better.”

And Todman was pretty good for Edsall.

Todman was named the 2010 Big East Offensive Player of the Year and proved to be another talented running back  following the departure of Donald Brown to the NFL.

Todman gave a lot of credit to his predecessor in building the bridge for him to make plays.

“Donald Brown as we all know is a great running back and did well at the college level and is now out there. He and I are friends and I had the opportunity to play under him and have my game be better so that when I go to the NFL, I can be as successful as him.”

His 1,695 yards rushing for the Huskies this year was second most in school history, and the 14 scores he had were good for fifth-best for the program.

He became the first UConn running back to rush for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons, and finished third on the team’s career rushing list with 3,179 yards and 31 TDs in his three seasons in Hartford.

It wasn’t until Edsall coached him up and told him that he could play at the next level that Todman put his priorities in order.

“When you’re committing to school to play college football to eventually the NFL, that’s naturally not in your mind at first thought. I went to UConn and had no regrets about it, and I was finally able to to play in some games as a freshman and start some as a sophomore. Then to be the feature back my junior year, all-in-all it was probably the best decision I made.”

And he’s using that same ethic that Coach Edsall passed on to him when it comes to his NFL preparation.

“I felt like I put in all the work for the combine and my pro-day, and those things are over now. So, the next big thing and the next big date with football is having some meetings with some teams and draft day. Football is my full-time job now and as we speak I’m in the gym right now. It’s more of an opportunity to get better in the game of football.”

WNST thanks Jordan Todman for joining Thyrl Nelson and WNST! Could he be the next backup for Ray Rice? WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Matt Stover

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Former Ravens kicker and NFL player rep Matt Stover on current lockout: “I really feel strongly that they are going to have football this year”

Posted on 17 March 2011 by Ryan Chell

Longtime Ravens kicker Matt Stover recently made his official retirement known on “The Morning Reaction” with Drew Forrester on Tuesday, and while it may not come as a surprise to those who follow the NFL-having seen Matt Stover kick numerous field goals for a team with a Baltimore-tie for 18 seasons.

Matt Stover

Still, Stover, 43, may have had some usefulness to a team this year not soley for his kicking prowess, but for his time served as a player representative defending his fellow players in labor talks with the NFL owners.

And despite age catching up to the eighth most accurate kicker in NFL history and fourth-highest scorer, Stover has still been keeping up with the labor issues facing today’s game especially given Friday’s lockout by the owners and decertification.

And he’s been through it before, he told “The Morning Reaction” host.

“Well I was a player rep for 18 years and two of those years were back in 1992 and 1993 when we were negotiating the new collective bargaining agreement under decertification,” Stover told Forrester,  “so I know exactly whats going on right now and what should be happening.

Stover said that decertification and putting the decision into the hands of the courts of where the NFL’s money is going  was the only way to fix the issue.

“It’s unfortunate the players had to go this direction with it but in order to get the owners to negotiate fairly it’s the only way,” Stover admitted.

He knows this firsthand having dealt with owners and NFL leadership in labor contracts. Stover has been a player rep every year he has been in the league for every franchise he suited up and kicked for in games.

Matt Stover

And while he will not be playing football in 2011 as he closes the book on his NFL career  to take care of his family and his relationship with God, Stover feels like he will be watching NFL games come September.

“I really feel strongly that they are going to have football this year,” he said. “I feel that the decertification-with the injunction that the NFL has on it-will not hold. I believe that they will be a group of decertified employees, and that there cannot be a lockout and I believe there will be footbal in 2011.”

But, Stover still admits that he doesn’t want to see the owners take advantage of the players for yet another set of years, and ultimately given his position now as a retired NFL player, he definitely wants to make sure he, his family, and his fellow retirees are also taken for down the road when it comes to benefits and health care.

“I always think there is room in the collective bargaining agreement to negotiate for better benefits for retired players,” Stover said. “I really do.”

But, Stover did say that the system right now is being exploited not only by the owners, but greedy players as well who may not have served the time or have been through the abuse of a 20-year career like veterans in Matt Stover.

Whoever eventually handles that department is going to have to sometimes be brash with their decisions on how much money goes to one NFL player, says Stover.

In essence, the system needs fixing.

“In every negotiation since 1993, 1998, 2006, we always went back and helped players,” Stover replied. “We were always fair…I was on the benefit committee when we were trying to help these guys out and it became such an extensive way to go about it, and some of these guys you may realize too only played three or four years and they want to be made whole on there pension plan.”

Stover said in any business you need a long-standing tenure with a place of employment to earn benefits, and he thinks the NFL should hold similar standards.

“In reality when you look at the course of any employement it takes people 20 to 25 years to get any kind of pension and it’s just one of those systems that so many people may qualify for that we have to be very careful for how we fund the pension plan or it will be broke in no time…it’s underfunded as we speak in the NFL.”

And even as a retired player, he still has his ex-teammates in Baltimore and Indianapolis-where he almost got another Super Bowl ring-in mind.

Stover spent 13 seasons in a Ravens uniform and came over from the Browns when Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore.

He made his only Pro Bowl appearance in 2000 during the Ravens Super Bowl run, and ultimately was the driving force behind the Baltimore offense that went five games without scoring an offensive touchdown yet won two of those games thanks to Stover’s leg.

But, Stover doesn’t want any of the limelight. That’s not his style. Never was. It was the same way when he was ushered out of Baltimore by the new coaching staff under a new regime.

“I have been very quiet, and the reason for that is that last year I wanted just to step away. I didn’t want to be any attention drawn on me by the Ravens and  to have them not worry about me again.”

And he couldn’t be happier for a guy in Pro-Bowl kicker Billy Cundiff, who brought stability to a position that the Ravens took advantage of for years in Stover when it came to consistency.

“What it really comes down to for Billy is a couple of things,” Stover said of his replacement. “He had the passion, and he had the heart to do it.  He wanted to be the best and he just resolved himself to do it.”

And Stover’s departure and professionalism about it allowed him to do so.

“I love my guys on the team. I love the organization, I just felt like It was good to go rogue, good to go solo, to be silent,” Stover said.

And while Stover may want to fade into anonymity, it’s not going to happen. Eventually, Stover will make it into the Ravens Ring of Honor, and who knows…he could have the numbers for a Canton calling.

Stover was honored by the attribution.

“Just to be considered by you and the public to be thought of as a Hall of Famer is gratifying to me  knowing that I had an effect on a team,” Stover said.  “I was able to do my job well, and that’s really what it’s all about.”

“If the Hall of Fame came around would I be happy; absolutely, the goal to get [there] isn’t one of my goals, but it is something that could happen. If you look at my numbers there has not been a kicker out there who has been able to do what I do with the statistics and the environment I kicked in.  But at the same point and time it comes down to the effect I had on my team.”

Either way, Stover is happy with his career and still hopes to make the NFL better even from an outside persepctive regardless if he is invited back full circle in any form.

“If that never happens I have no regrets, none what so ever.”

WNST thanks Matt Stover for joining us to talk NFL labor! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Blog & Tackle: SI’s look at Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith

Posted on 20 February 2011 by Chris Pika

As the deadline for the expiration of the CBA between the NFL and the NFLPA gets closer, Sports Illustrated took a look at the two people who are at the head of the negotiations, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith.

The league and NFLPA are in uncharted waters with Goodell and Smith at the helms for this negotiation. At some point an agreement will be reached. The how and the how long are the unknowns. So, it is appropriate to pull back the curtain on the two men who are the faces and driving forces for their respective sides.

SI and SI.com’s Peter King wrote the personality piece on Goodell, “The Man of the Hour” for the Feb. 7 edition, and some parts are worth noting as the two sides try to reach an agreement.

First is on his relationship with his employers, the 32 NFL owners.

Goodell will have trusted lawyers and owners by his side during the negotiations, but make no mistake: This will be a deal the commissioner drives, in meetings both with the NFL Players Association and its head, DeMaurice Smith, and with leaders of the 32 franchises. One ownership source says Goodell’s level of trust among the owners is so high that if he recommends an agreement that passes muster with the players, it will easily get the three-quarters vote (24 of 32 teams) necessary for passage.

One thing Goodell has proven in private is that he will staunchly defend the “shield” as he calls it. Michael Vick ran afoul of it with his dogfighting activities, and learned first-hand.

But the commissioner has a cold and confrontational side that serves him well in staring down miscreants and business adversaries alike. “The way Roger talked to me when I was still hiding from what I’d done was such a slap in the face,” says Michael Vick. “Like, ‘Don’t you lie to me!” With stronger language than that. It was rough.”

Goodell was also key in the negotiations with the city of Cleveland to get a new stadium and an expansion franchise in 1996 that would take over the old Browns colors and records after the original Browns franchise moved to Baltimore to become the Ravens.

“There would not have been a deal without Roger,” says Cleveland’s chief negotiator Fred Nance. “No way. He came into a city under siege and was hard-nosed and stubborn. But he was sensitive to figuring out what we had to have to make a deal, and how much he could compromise knowing he had the owners to answer to whatever he did.”

Goodell and Chairman of NBC Universal Sports & Olympics Dick Ebersol are good friends, and the league and network are business partners, but this exchange shows where Goodell draws the line, and what the negotiations between the league and the players’ association might be like.

Now, fast-forward to the 2009 negotiations between the NFL and NBC over extending the network’s broadcast contract for 2012 and ’13. The NFL, according to Ebersol, insisted on a rights fee of $600 million a year, though NBC wasn’t getting a Super Bowl in either of those seasons. Ebersol and Goodell had a few back-and-forth discussions, and Goodell finally said the NFL wouldn’t take a dime less than $600 million.

“There was a coldness and a ‘that’s it’ tone in Roger’s voice that was chilling,” says Ebersol. “At his heart Roger can be a cold son of a bitch. I think the people on the other side of the negotiating table are going to hear that in the coming months. He’s going to show mettle, and he’s going to do what he thinks is best for the National Football League. It’s what he’s always done.”

On the other side of the table is Smith, who was profiled by SI’s Jim Trotter in “The Fighter” for the Feb. 21 issue.

When Smith took over the reins of the NFLPA, he was replacing a legendary and dominant figure in Gene Upshaw, who passed away in 2008. Smith had plenty of Upshaw’s observations and notes to work from as he prepares to negotiate with the NFL.

Smith reaches into his papers and pulls out a program from a 1991 union meeting. Former executive director Gene Upshaw, preparing to speak to player reps, wrote some introductory remarks in cursive on the back of the program. Smith begins reading to himself, then stops halfway through and recites: The owners will always take short-term loss for long-term gain.

Upshaw governed the NFLPA as a lone figure, but Smith’s style is more inclusive, trying to give the players a larger voice in the direction the PA will take in the coming weeks.

Smith doesn’t believe in secrecy. Before his election he told players he wanted them to take more control of their careers and their futures, and that if they were unwilling to educate themselves and be more involved in the process, he wasn’t the man to lead them. The other candidates included Troy Vincent and Trace Armstrong, two former players who’d served as union presidents, and a prominent lawyer, David Cornwell, who once worked in the league office. Smith was elected by a vote of 32-0.

His negotiating style is framed by a current player representative.

As much as Smith relishes a fight, he also knows he’ll have to make concessions to strike a deal. He has presented the league with a proposal for a rookie wage scale and made a counteroffer regarding the league’s proposal to reduce the players’ share of revenues. “De is a very intense guy, but he’s also a realist,” says All-Pro center Jeff Saturday, the Colts’ player-representative. “He’s not just a hype man. He’s telling you there are going to be things we’re going to have to compromise on, and here’s why. You have to be up front and honest. Not everything is going to go the players’ way. He’s done a good job of balancing that, so the guys understand that we’re in this to get this thing finished and to get a new agreement in place.”

Where the NFLPA has been effective is that unlike Upshaw, Smith isn’t afraid to prod the NFL’s power players. Earlier in Trotter’s story, Smith references the term “3-D chess” to describe the intricate game between the owners and players. Here is an example of one “chess” move.

One of the ways Smith tries to determine the power players in the league is by “poking the elephant” to see the reaction he’ll get. He has filed multiple legal challenges, including a complaint that the NFL left money on the table in its TV contract extensions in exchange for guarantees that the owners would be paid in 2011. (The special master in the case ruled that the league would have to compensate the players but did not nullify the agreements; the NFLPA is appealing that decision.) Smith has also charged the owners with colluding to limit player movement and earnings during the 2010 free-agency period. (That complaint is pending.)

And another “elephant-poking” move on Smith’s board:

Consider the collusion case. When the union leaked word that it would be filing suit, Smith received a call from Goodell urging him not to go forward. At that point Smith asked if the owners would make certain concessions during the lockout if he dropped the claim. Goodell asked for 30 days to consult the owners. Eventually he came back and said there would be no concessions. Those close to Smith say the endgame was not necessarily to get the concessions but to determine whether Goodell had the influence to get the owners to budge.

In both articles there are stories about Goodell’s and Smith’s upbringings, and how particular incidents in their lives shaped how they see the world today. The two men are not dissimilar in makeup, but both will have to work hard to find common ground.

They don’t have the close personal relationship at this point that their predecessors, Upshaw and Tagliabue, had. But both seem to have the strength to shut out the rhetoric that each side has to spew in labor negotiations, find a way to get things their side needs, and most importantly, allow the other side to save face when the deal is done.

For up-to-date Tweets on the NFL and the Ravens, please follow me on Twitter (@BlogAndTackle). For more national NFL stories, please visit my personal site at BlogAndTackle.net.

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The NFL playoffs have a strange way of turning strengths into weaknesses and weaknesses into strengths.

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Perfection not a positive in the playoffs

Posted on 19 January 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

The NFL playoffs have a strange way of turning strengths into weaknesses and weaknesses into strengths.

 

The playoffs sure have a way of punishing perfection, or near perfection. I have relayed several times on air this week a conversation I had with a friend on the night before the Vikings played the Falcons in the 1998 playoffs. On that occasion, one of the sports news shows was touting Gary Anderson, who had been perfect to that point in the season, as automatic. To that, my friend opined that the 15-1 Vikings were sure to see their season end on a missed field goal. That it happened the next day, at the hands of the Falcons was still quite a surprise.

Last weekend saw Tom Brady enter the postseason on the NFL’s all-time streak of passes without an interception. An early interception set the stage for the Jets’ improbable win. Likewise, Ray Rice entered the post-season without a fumble all year. While his fumble on Saturday was hardly the pivotal moment in the Ravens’ season ending loss, it certainly contributed.

 

You could even throw in Brady’s ’07 Patriots who went unbeaten into the Super Bowl, while striking a fear in opponents that kept them reluctant to blitz. The Giants ended that run unceremoniously with constant pressure on Brady. We could also mention that last season’s Colts were perfect in the times that they were trying to win. They too failed to finish the deal.

 

If we apply that logic to the remaining match-ups, we might guess that the Jets would beat the Steelers by running right at them. While that doesn’t seem to be the textbook game plan for beating Pittsburgh, the Jets already rode that strategy to a degree of success in the regular season. Perhaps instead they’ll win by causing Ben Roethlisberger to melt down in the two-minute offense, as that seems to be the Steelers other inherent strength. If the Steelers hope to win, they might make it happen by attacking Darrelle Revis often, or by backing out of their stacked fronts and spreading the field defensively, by making the Jets run and move down the field methodically.

 

In the other match-up, the Packers might win by kicking to Devin Hester or by attacking Julius Peppers at the line of scrimmage. And the Bears’ best bet might be to stuff the box and stop the Packers improbably successful ground game, and put the game on Aaron Rodgers’ seemingly able shoulders.

 

If history has shown us anything, it may be that regular season trends are subject to change in a big way once the post-season rolls around. On the other side of the coin, the ’06 Colts found their only opportunity in the Manning era to hoist the Lombardi trophy only when their historically bad (even for Colts standards) run defense turned stout for their playoff run. Or what about the ’08 Cardinals who couldn’t seem to get out of their own way on the road in the regular season? They became road warriors in the playoffs.

 

From that perspective it may make a little more sense. That teams would try to beat the Colts by running at them was predictable, so the fact that they were ready for it should have been equally predictable. Once teams found themselves at a loss to do it however, they had no answer for Indy. Maybe the Jets strategy against the Patriots on Sunday only worked because it was so out of the realm of the typical Jets / Pats game plan. Maybe Brady struggled with the pressure in ’07 only because the copycat nature of the NFL had teams backing away from the pressure against New England from at least week 6 on. Once charged with dealing with it again, as late as in the Super Bowl, the Patriots simply weren’t ready. And perhaps teams in ’08 simply failed to take the Cardinals seriously, assuming travel alone would have taken a heavier toll on them than in did.

 

To that end, perhaps we should count ourselves lucky as fans that the Ravens with perhaps the NFL’s best ever defense in 2000, were still able to ride that defense through the post-season. To that I’ll offer this, I always found it curious that as dominant as that defense was, they never scored on their turnovers. In week 17, against the Jets, Chris McAllister had an interception return for a TD, and Jermaine Lewis returned 2 punts for TDs too. Those were (by my count) the only defensive or special teams TDs that the team scored all season. Of course once the playoffs began the defense made up for lost time, piling up TDs on their way to the title. Maybe that was their saving grace against a shift in trend.

 

This much I’d bet. These have been some of the most curious / interesting playoff games in recent memory. If you could hit the reset button and start back over from the beginning 10 times, you’d almost certainly get at least 6 different winners. As the conference title games get closer and closer, someone else’s luck (2 more in fact) is bound to change for the worst.

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Ravens play a prime part in very “hairy” NFL weekend …..

Posted on 10 January 2011 by Rex Snider

If you look back on the totality of this past weekend’s games, I think it’s pretty easy to detect the obvious: every round of the NFL playoffs will present some unpredictable circumstances, as well as some very quirky results …..

Many of us thought 3 of 4 visiting teams would win their respective matchups. But, did we think the New Orleans Saints, as the most resounding favorite (-10.5 points) in NFL history, would be the sole “road loser?”

If I presented the following circumstances: the Indianapolis Colts are losing by one point, they’re driving inside the Jets 30 yard line with less than one minute remaining …. would you predict a Manning win or loss?

If you knew 2 running backs would rush for 100+ yards, and the weekend’s matchups featured names like Ray Rice, Joseph Addai, LaSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles and LaDanian Tomlinson, would you ever imagine that Marshawn Lynch and James Starks would be those guys?

A pretty telling factor …. Michael Vick’s last win was the week before Christmas, when he was being mentioned in the same breath with Tom Brady, for NFL MVP honors.

Does the respective, opposing defense matter? Well …. the Philadelphia Eagles averaged 28 points, per game, during the regular season and the Seattle Seahawks averaged just 19 points, per contest. Which team is still alive?

After a steady December of witnessing snowy, icy games across the midwest and northeast, the first two weeks of January have not been impacted by inclement weather, at all.

Did you ever imagine Joe Flacco and Dan Marino would be mentioned in the same sentence? That’s right, they’re the only quarterbacks to win 36 games in their first 3 seasons. With a win in Pittsburgh, Flacco will stand alone on this record.

Ten years ago, Brandon Stokley caught a touchdown pass in the Ravens Super Bowl victory. Did any of us think he would catch another touchdown, a decade later? He did it Saturday – in Seattle’s win.
Speaking of touchdown receptions …. Anquan Boldin went more than a month (5 weeks) without one. The troubling streak ended yesterday – let’s hope he can have two consecutive games with TD catches for the first time since October 17th and 24th.

With this weekend’s wins by the Ravens and Jets, both AFC wildcard teams advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs, in consecutive seasons, for the first time (2010 & 2011).

Yesterday’s win also yielded John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco as the only HEAD COACH and QUARTERBACK to win playoff games in their first 3 NFL seasons.

On Saturday, the Seattle Seahawks won their 8th game of the season. Their opponent, the New Orleans Saints, won their 8th game of the season, a mere 44 days earlier …. on Thanksgiving Day !!!!

Speaking of those Seahawks, it will be impossible for them to finish with a winning record, UNLESS they win the Super Bowl. That’s correct, if they lose the Super Bowl, they’ll finish the season 10-10 overall.

And finally …..

On a weekend when Matt Ryan debuts as one of Gillette’s new “clean shaven” models, Joe Flacco grew a beard. Who says Joe doesn’t want to be different?

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Ravens get “victimized” in NFL’s playoff mess …..

Posted on 03 January 2011 by Rex Snider

As we collect ourselves on this first day of business, in 2011, I’m certain the bigwigs within the National Football League’s power structure realize they have a great deal of BUSINESS to do beyond the final whistle in Super Bowl XLV.

Yeah, yeah, the most pressing issues revolve around the expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Players Association and ownership. But, other problems and dilemmas also need some clear and concise attention.

When the NFL’s Competition Committee convenes, this spring, I really hope they take a sobering look at the process of seeding playoff teams. Specifically, they need to address alternatives to the traditional mode of slotting teams with priority to divisional winners, followed by wildcard entries.

Better and more appealing prospects exist …..

Why not toss this current system aside and rank the six teams, per conference, by overall record?

It certainly makes more sense, and it truly rewards WINNING (even in the later stages of the season) to hinge overall records on respective playoff positioning. If you’re a traditionalist or simply someone who resists change, just consider the upcoming slate of matchups.

Of the four games scheduled for next weekend, three contests will be hosted by teams with inferior records to the visitors. Yep, given the Ravens are one of the so-called “victims”, I’ll assume this is the point where my detractors lob a few “kool-aid bombs”.

Think again …..

There is hardly any situation more unfair than seeing the defending Super Bowl Champions traveling 2100 miles to play a postseason matchup with a team that bears a losing record. The Seattle Seahawks won the putrid NFC-West, so they’ll host the wildcard-winning New Orleans Saints.

It doesn’t matter that Seattle finished a dismal 7-9, while New Orleans achieved an 11-5 overall record, right? Oh, and the head-to-head matchup? New Orleans smoked ‘em by 18 points, with a 37-19 thrashing.

The Saints had a better season than the Seahawks and they’re clearly a much more talented team. In fact, they’re favored by 10.5 points, in next week’s game. That’s a freaking touchdown and field goal !!!!

Yet, the Saints will board a plane and head to Seattle, because the LOSING record of the Seahawks was good enough to capture a divisional title.

As for the Baltimore Ravens, they too, had a better record than their hosts, the Kansas City Chiefs. Although, in devout honesty, both teams had stellar seasons. The Ravens had a couple more wins than the Chiefs, amidst a tougher schedule …..

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ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 11: Quarterback Matt Ryan  of the Atlanta Falcons converses with quarterback Joe Flacco  of the Baltimore Ravens after the Falcons 26-21 win at Georgia Dome on November 11, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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Blog & Tackle: NFL one-liners through Week 13

Posted on 09 December 2010 by Chris Pika

The 2010 NFL season has reached the three-quarter mark, and like any good game on Sundays, it’s usually the fourth quarter that decides success or failure.

It’s a chance to take stock of each conference after 13 weeks and 12 games with one-liners on each of the teams. Below are some stats, observations and conjecture as we look ahead to the final four weeks.

First, here is a look at the AFC by divisions. Records are through Week 13:

AFC East

New England Patriots (10-2): Patriots have won last four, including huge win over the Jets to solidfy their claim as AFC’s best team behind conference-best (+110) scoring differential; road to AFC title will go through Gillette Stadium and coach Bill Belichick.

New York Jets (9-3): Despite 3-1 stretch, Jets went from potentially being in line to host AFC title game to very vulnerable after shredding of New York’s vaunted D by the Patriots.

Miami Dolphins (6-6): Dolphins continue to confound with 5-1 road mark, but 1-5 home record — that will be main reason they will not make playoffs as well as offensive woes (-23 point differential).

Buffalo Bills (2-10): Bills finally saw results after 0-8 start with two straight victories, but close loss to Steelers and blowout defeat to Vikings has slowed Buffalo’s progress.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3): Steelers have grabbed choke-hold of AFC North after winning the war in Baltimore last week behind QB Ben Roethlisberger and stout defense; now Pittsburgh could host AFC Divisional Playoff at always-tough Heinz Field.

Baltimore Ravens (8-4): Only home loss of season so far to Steelers was costly as Ravens may have three straight playoff games on the road instead of one or two home games; predicted high-production offense has gone cold at bad times.

Cleveland Browns (5-7): Cleveland continues to be a “tough out” thanks to solid running game behind RB Peyton Hillis; if they get QB (and maybe head coach) situation settled in offseason, could be 2011 team to watch in AFC.

Cincinnati Bengals (2-10): The wheels have completely come off the cart for one of the preseason favorites to win the division — nine-game losing streak may spell the end of the Marvin Lewis era in Cincinnati.

AFC South

Jacksonville Jaguars (7-5): Jaguars, after 3-1 stretch, find themselves on top in the division, despite worst point differential among all division leaders (-43) — only question is can they hold off slumping Colts?

Indianapolis Colts (6-6): Colts’ injuries have finally taken a toll; forget Peyton Manning for a moment, being in position of having to pass so much has allowed opponents to tee off in crucial situations — but Indy can still catch Jaguars for division title.

Houston Texans (5-7): Lack of strong starts have doomed Texans, 1-5 in their last six games — last chance for Houston (and maybe coach Gary Kubiak’s job) comes with Monday night visit by Ravens in Week 14.

Tennessee Titans (5-7): When you didn’t think anybody else could surpass Minnesota as NFL’s best soap opera, here comes the Titans; normally unflappable coach Jeff Fisher has had to deal with Vince Young, Randy Moss and owner Bud Adams in recent weeks.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs (8-4): Chiefs seem to have control of the division after a three-game win streak and perfect 6-0 home mark; can they hold off the Raiders and Chargers over the final four weeks?

Oakland Raiders (6-6): Progress has been slowed by 3-2 mark in last five games, but 4-0 division record could be factor if they get help before Week 17 showdown at traditional rival Chiefs.

San Diego Chargers (6-6): Amazing how one loss changes things after blowout defeat by Raiders last week that stopped four-game win streak; season on the line vs. Chiefs this week.

Denver Broncos (3-9): A three-game losing streak coupled with Spygate-like scandal in London finally cost Josh McDaniels his coaching job; Eric Studesville gets his audition but the supporting cast is not there.

And now for the NFC by divisions:

NFC East

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 11: Quarterback Matt Ryan  of the Atlanta Falcons converses with quarterback Joe Flacco  of the Baltimore Ravens after the Falcons 26-21 win at Georgia Dome on November 11, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Philadelphia Eagles (8-4): The Eagles are tied for the division lead, but arguably have the NFC East’s toughest schedule left with two games vs. Dallas and one each against the Giants and Vikings — for what was originally expected to be a transition year, a lot is still on the table.

New York Giants (8-4): Giants are playing as well as any team in NFC right now, but head coach Tom Coughlin’s team must navigate Minnesota, Philadelphia and Green Bay the next three weeks to stay in the division and Wild Card mix.

Washington Redskins (5-7): The Redskins season has become a trainwreck as head coach Mike Shanahan has had to deal with several distractions, including DT Albert Haynesworth’s suspension for conduct detrimental; the Skins defense should be suspended as well, allowing the fifth-most points in the NFC.

Dallas Cowboys (4-8): The Cowboys have gotten off the deck to become a team no one wants to face down the stretch; Dallas could play spoiler in the NFC East and help Jason Garrett remove the interim coaching tag.

NFC North

Chicago Bears (9-3): The Bears have won five straight to hold the division lead by one game thanks to resurgent play by QB Jay Cutler and LB Brian Urlacher; Chicago has murderous final four weeks capped by Week 17 visit to Packers.

Green Bay Packers (8-4): Despite injuries, Packers are firmly in the playoff mix, but key Week 12 loss at Atlanta looms large as well as final three games against New England, Giants and Chicago — win those and Green Bay will have earned its postseason ticket.

Minnesota Vikings (5-7): A change in head coach to well-respected assistant Leslie Frazier has helped the mood in Minnesota, but the final four weeks will be all about Brett Favre’s literal limp to the finish of his career (I think).

Detroit Lions (2-10): Some of the strides made early in the season by the Lions have been erased by the current five-game losing streak; coach Jim Schwartz is still looking for consistent winning formula.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons (10-2): The hottest team in the NFC with six straight wins, the Falcons may do something no Atlanta NFL team ever has — host the NFC Championship Game in January; but they have to get through Week 16 Monday Night game vs. Saints.

New Orleans Saints (9-3): The defending Super Bowl champions are playing like it for first time all season with a current five-game win streak as the Saints try to go stride-for-stride with the Falcons; back-to-back road contests at Baltimore and Atlanta in Weeks 15-16 are New Orleans’ key games.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5): The air has finally come out of the Buccaneers’ balloon with two straight losses, but Tampa Bay is just one game out of a Wild Card spot with favorable matchups in the next three weeks before Week 17 at Saints.

Carolina Panthers (1-11): The Panthers just want the season to be over, and the housecleaning will begin soon after starting with head coach John Fox; Panthers are a NFC-worst minus-153 in point differential.

NFC West

St. Louis Rams (6-6): The Rams have quietly put themselves in position to make the playoffs out of a weak NFC West, but don’t mistake St. Louis as a weak team — QB Sam Bradford is one of the league’s feel-good stories of 2010, and division could come down to Week 17 tilt at Seattle.

Seattle Seahawks (6-6): The Seahawks are in position to capture the NFC West, but head coach Pete Carroll’s squad still has worst point differential among NFC teams with a winning record (-49); Week 17 vs. St. Louis could be the decider.

San Francisco 49ers (4-8): San Francisco not officially dead in NFC West race, but last gasp could come this Sunday vs. Seattle; if they win, they still have games vs. St. Louis and Arizona — teams they have already beaten in 2010.

Arizona Cardinals (3-9): Cardinals have gone south for the winter as they have lost seven straight and hold NFC’s second-worst point difference (-138), but have three winnable games in final four weeks.

For up-to-date Tweets on the NFL and the Ravens, please follow me on Twitter (@BlogAndTackle). For more national NFL stories, please visit my personal site at BlogAndTackle.net.

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GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 07: Aaron Rodgers  of the Green Bay Packers looks for a receiver against the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field on November 7, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Cowboys 45-7. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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Sunday Money – 6-Pack

Posted on 26 November 2010 by Rex Snider

Well, if you followed my advice, last week, your pockets are undoubtedly overflowing with plenty of cash for today’s Black Friday shopping spree. That’s correct …. I gave three LOCKS for the Week #11 NFL schedule, and I delivered in each one …..

My picks …..

New England (-3.5) vs. Indianapolis = MONEY

Dallas (-0.5, 40/over) vs. Detroit = MONEY

Baltimore (-13) vs. Carolina = MONEY

To add a little bit of credibility, I even predicted the Ravens vs. Panthers final score. Yep, it’s in the blog : Ravens 37 – Panthers 9

Thank me, NOW …..

For the believers among our WNST faithful, you’ve been rewarded with a financial pitfall …. and you’re welcome !!!! As for the more cynical crowd, you’ll get a shot at redemption, this week.

Don’t screw it up this time !!!!

Without further delay, here’s your trusted 6-pack for Week #12’s NFL games, along with a few personal guarantees …..

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