Tag Archive | "Washington Redskins"

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Former Ravens players and current NFLPA reps: “When an agreement is finally reached, it will be forgotten and we can focus on football”

Posted on 09 March 2011 by Ryan Chell

The Ravens have always been able to grab guys in the draft and free agency to best suit their needs for that upcoming season.

For years, guys like Ozzie Newsome, Eric DeCosta, and Phil Savage have reached out to relative unknowns and made them into super stars on the football field.

But what you may not realize is that the Ravens have also been adept at having smart players on their team, and many of them are out representing the players union in the latest labor talks as player reps defending their fellow constituents’ rights-even if their time in a Ravens uniform has long since passed.

The Ravens’ player reps are Chris Carr, Matt Birk, and Derrick Mason, and joining those three are corner back Domonique Foxworth on the Executive Committee of the NFL Players Association.

Several former Ravens also litter the other 30 teams as fellow player reps. Joining Birk are former Ravens offensive tackle Tony Pashos(now a Cleveland Brown) and former center Casey Rabach-now a center for the Washington Redskins.

The three of them joined “The Afternoon Drive” last week to update Ravens fans on how the talks are progressing and what they’ve learned from the mediation and chats going on with the owners in the hopes of preventing a work stoppage due to labor unrest.

After grinding it out on the football field the last six months, these NFL player reps find themselves fighting in a new arena trying to best represent their fellow players in labor talks with the league’s owners.

It is their desperate hope that they not only can play football next year and not get locked out by the 32 NFL owners, but to also make sure that they get a fair shake of the NFL revenue for player salaries and post-career benefits.

Some fans out there following all this may see billionaire owners and millionaire players arguing over a big pot of money, but Pashos said that it’s not like that at all.

“There are only ten millionaires in a locker room,” Pashos said. “But there are 53 guys on a roster. There are guys who have been cut by different teams, so that’s not accurate.”

“But, it’s not a good fight,” Pashos continued, “as it represents greed to the fans. It’s coming off wrong to a lot of good people.”

The two sides have had two-plus years to get their issues straight with each other, and with the owners backing out of the collective bargaining agreement as they had the clause to do so, both sides have been hard at work over the last two weeks in attempting to draw up or renew it so that would benefit both sides.

There was definitely a lot of question marks and doubt thrown out there last week when it came to what was going to come down.

“The deadline was thrown out there,” Birk said, the Ravens center. “We knew the lockout was coming. I’m not sure what’s going to happen.”

All in all though, every player rep WNST talked to-former or current Raven-felt like there wasn’t a ton of pressure on them to get a deal done.

At least right now. Now, it’s about getting the money situation straightened out now when actual regular season games aren’t at stake.

“With a lockout in March, I’m not sure if that’s a big deal because nothing happens in March,” Birk said.

Rabach-who was drafted in the third round by the Ravens in the 2001 NFL Draft out of Wisconsin and played in Baltimore until 2005 when he joined Washington via free agency-agreed that right now the focus should be on using this time to get the discussion going on how best to fix the problems between the owners and the players.

“There’s not a ton of pressure right now,” Rabach said. “We were really happy with the deal we had last time. We didn’t pull out of the deal. But I do not want to send the players back to 1992 with a bad one.”

Last week’s deadline to bargain for a new CBA was expected to come without a new deal in place, but not before two delays-one for 24 hours and another for a week-were enacted.

“That could be a good thing,” former Ravens right tackle Tony Pashos said, who spent 2003-2006 in a Baltimore uniform. “If they need it, let’s do it and get it over with. It’s a dark cloud hanging over the cities and the league.”

Rabach agreed that was the best thing that could have happened because it continued to keep the players and owners in the mediation room and kept the work “Lockout” out of the discussion for one more week.

“Anytime you can keep the negotiations going, it’s better for everyone,” Rabach said. “Hopefully we can get something done and play football.”

Now,  this Thursday is the target date for the players union to decide whether to decertify, effectively sending the debate between the money shared by owners and players into court on the grounds of violating anti-trust laws.

That would begin the long process of fighting and “gnashing of teeth” from players and owners and probably would go towards there not being football in 2011 and in the future.

The official end to the 2010 CBA is this Friday.

But the players and these particular reps representing them really are trying to keep a positive mindset in all of this turmoil. They are planning on being in training camp at the end of July, and working with their owners to put a good product on the field at the beginning of September.

“I plan to prepare for August,” Rabach said. “I’m back in the weight room and have been for the last three weeks. You just worry that everyone isn’t doing the same, and you make sure that everyone is staying fit and is on the same page.”

Pashos meanwhile hasn’t yet had an opportunity to meet with his new coaching staff, including his new head coach in Pat Shurmur, who was recently hired to replace Eric Mangini.

That might makes things difficult for the Browns to gel properly should off-season workouts be missed.

“From the Browns perspective, I want to pick up the phone, meet with the coaches, and learn the game plan. I hope the football doesn’t suffer.”

Birk agreed. He’s ready to put all this behind him and play football.

And this is coming from a Harvard guy!

“If I had my choice, this wouldn’t happen either,” Birk said. “But because this is the NFL, it dominates the news daily. I get sick of hearing it too. But when an agreement is finally reached, it will be forgotten and we can focus on football.”

But the timeframe in that might be the biggest question.

“We’re gonna play this game,” Pashos said. “It’s a guess now trying to figure out when.”

WNST thanks the three NFL player reps for joining WNST last week! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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A mistake on a pop quiz nearly ended former MD QB Josh Portis’ football career-now with a fresh start wants to finish this NFL test the right way

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A mistake on a pop quiz nearly ended former MD QB Josh Portis’ football career-now with a fresh start wants to finish this NFL test the right way

Posted on 17 February 2011 by Ryan Chell

Josh Portis

Josh Portis has traveled far and wide in his football playing days.

The Woodland Hills, California native was once one of the most highly touted, dual-threat prep quarterbacks in the nation, and appeared to be well on his way toward building up a decent pro resume in the NFL playing for the University of Florida and the Maryland Terrapins.

That was until his Division-I college career was derailed by coaching changes, transfers, and some bad decisions on his part.

Ultimately starting over though for Portis, while it may have appeared  to end his chances at making the NFL, it turned out to be a good decision on his part.

Portis joined Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction” this week to share his enthusiasm for being invited to next week’s NFL Rookie Combine in Indianapolis on July 24th.

“It’s great to work out with the best competition, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity,” Portis told Forrester. “I’m excited, anxious, and I’m looking forward to playing in the NFL on Sunday.”

Portis-whose cousin, Clinton, is an All-Pro running back in the NFL having played for the Denver Broncos and the Washington Redskins- saw his career as a Gator fall apart due to the presence of one Tim Tebow in Gainesville, forcing a transfer to College Park as he became a Maryland Terp for three seasons.

But Portis saw the same problem occur at Maryland as he did at Florida, where he could not break the depth chart in 2008 due to Chris Turner stepping up as the starter for the Terps.

This was after missing all of 2006 sitting out because of the transfer to Maryland. And in 2007, things seemed to get even worse for Portis, as a small but dumb decision on his part at the time may have cost him at chances at playing football for good.

Portis was caught cheating on a pop quiz while enrolled at College Park, and ultimately suspended for the year for violating the school’s Honor Code policy.

“Everyone knows about it. At Maryland, when I was there, it was a ten-point pop quiz. I made a mistake, and happened to copy someone else’s answer. Everybody moves on, but the school decided to suspend me for the whole year, but not the NCAA.”

With a ten point quiz, everyone makes a mistake. Something major happened to me on my part, and I moved on from it.”

And he expects the NFL scouts at the Combine will also ask him about his mistakes at Maryland the same way Forrester asked him about it on “The Morning Reaction.”

And Portis knows that he has to face it head-on the same way he would face an opposing defensive lineman barreling down on him.

“I feel like if you’re just open and honest about off the field things, it will take care of itself,” Portis said.

And so far, since his departure from Maryland, he has been forthright about what happened. But in order to make the NFL, you have to prove that you can play football too.

But most schools wouldn’t take a flier on a guy jettisoned from two Division-I programs, let alone one that barely played. So instead, Portis had to eat “humble pie” and and try and make an impression on NFL scouts at the Division-II level.

Which is what he did.

Portis was ultimately  invited to the NFL Combine mostly because of his play for the two seasons at the University of California in Pennsylvania, a Division-II program.

In those two years as a Vulcan, he had 69 passing touchdowns, a Cal U record. His 6,072 career passing yards were good for fourth best in school history.

He becomes the first ever player from the school to be invited to the biggest step in the process of becoming an NFL player.

Portis was actually eligible to come out for the NFL Draft after his first season as a Vulcan, but stayed on for a second year to boost his draft status.

Doing so helped become  ranked as the second-best Division-II quarterback prospect trying to make an NFL squad.

“It’s been a journey,” Portis said. I went to Florida, Maryland, now I’m at Cal U. It’s been a difficult road, but I’m finally here. God has given me perseverance, and I continue to work hard and continue to live my dream.”

In reality, Portis said the competition was challenging at that “subdivision” of college football, and while it definitely wasn’t like playing in the ACC or the SEC, it still tested his skills.

“The competition obviously at the D-II level is a little bit lower,” Portis said.  ” The atmosphere may not be as big, but D-II is still some pretty good competition.”

And even before his invitation to next week’s NFL combine, he has already had his NFL-cousin, Clinton Portis, giving him advice on how best to direct his preparation toward making an NFL squad.

“I mean you guys have been around him when he was with Washington, you know he’s a straight forward guy,” Josh said of Clinton Portis. “You know, he definitely doesn’t play around with giving me advice. He’s just been telling me to stick it out and keep working, that my time will come. He’s been a great addition and help to me as I develop my career.”

Josh Portis said he hopes to have as long an NFL career as his cousin.

“Obviously he’s given me some confidence because he’s been at that level of play in the NFL for a long time..that level for a long time with the Redskins and the Broncos. He’s been there for nine years as a running back which is pretty good. He knows how to take care of his body how to be mentally prepared, and how to go out and get the job done on Sunday.”

Portis recently participated in the former NFL PA game, now known as the “Texas versus the Nation” game on February 5th showing off some of the NFL’s eventual rookie class prospects.

Portis was 7-of-17 for 80 yards, helping the Texas team beat the Nation, 13-7.

In the game, he got a lot of comparisons based on his play and physical attributes.

“Players were telling me, “Oh, you’re like another Mike Vick. Big, fast, strong arm, move out of the pocket, pocket awareness…but I want to be a quarterback who sits in the pocket for a little awhile and run when I need to. So I kind of see myself as a Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick late in his career.

“I’m like a Tom Brady and a Vince Young. The kind of QB who moves around and throws the ball first…Aaron Rodgers is another late in his career and he has won a Super Bowl. He’s not really an actual athletic quarterback, but he has some mobility around the pocket so he can make some throws.”

But maybe Portis’ biggest asset so far other than his physical skills?

His perseverance to keep going and rebounding after making some dumb decisions in his life.

“I mean, just not giving up on your dreams, keep working hard…God has a role for you at the end of the day. You just have to believe in him and you have to work and strive for your success.”

Glenn Clark will check Josh Portis out next week at the NFL Combine! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

And continue to follow all of Josh’s exploits at his website!


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Did President Obama call Steve Bisciotti?

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Did President Obama call Steve Bisciotti?

Posted on 30 December 2010 by Rex Snider

This weekend, the National Football League wraps up the regular season and enters the “elimination round” for determining the next Super Bowl Champion. Indeed, this is the most exciting time on many sports lover’s calendars.

Heck, we’ve already enjoyed a pretty entertaining and, at times, surprising slate of action across the NFL’s universe. All of us have been right, all of us have been wrong, and most of us have been simply shocked on more than a couple occasions …..

The Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears have served as the most recent examples of fortunes changing for the better in just one season …..

At the same time, the Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals and Minnesota Vikings have proven that NOTHING is ever guaranteed …..

And, to the chagrin of many observers, the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers have proven, once again, that dismissing their reputation and stability as major factors in overcoming injuries and depth issues is a foolish proposition …..

Indeed, the upcoming postseason will be representative of surprising entries, as well as the most dependable late season finishers. But, this is a reality of every playoff picture, right?

In addition to team results, individual performances have also been a major part of the game’s lure, in this 2010 season …..

Once again, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have lived up to reputations of being the best players in the game. Donovan McNabb was predictably snake-bitten by the Redskins dysfunction. And, as expected, Ray Lewis rattled off another Pro-Bowl caliber effort.

As for surprises, who really expected a long haired Clay Matthews to join the ranks of the most feared players in the game? Did any of us really know much about Arian Foster, just six months ago? Alas, did we expect Michael Vick to ever contend for another MVP award?

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 28: Michael Vick  of the Philadelphia Eagles in action against the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field on December 26, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Pleasant surprise performances are always a nice way of wrapping up a season and looking ahead to the future. But, unfortunately, these same surprising players can and will be exploited for the gains of others.

We shouldn’t be surprised to be seeing entourages of hawkers latching onto the NFL’s hottest, new or “reborn” commodities. Yet, to see the President Of The United States doing it is pretty disappointing …..

A few days ago, the world learned that President Obama called Philadelphia Eagles owner, Jeffrey Lurie, and commended him for giving Michael Vick a fresh opportunity, because “so many people who serve time never get a fair second chance.”

Fair enough, I suppose …..

But, if expressing such a humanistic approach to helping others and recognizing compassion is a mission during this holiday season, I do wonder if President Obama also used his trusty Blackberry to give Baltimore Ravens owner, Steve Bisciotti, a phone call with the same spirited message?

After all, Mr. Bisciotti has provided the very same effort for Donte’ Stallworth, right? A year ago, Stallworth had no clear indications of how or where he might be able to make a living. The Ravens have afforded him a “second chance”

Better yet, did President Obama spread a little more goodwill by gracing Cincinnati Bengals owner, Mike Brown, with such a spirited “attaboy !!!!” phone conversation? God knows Mr. Brown and the Bengals have doled out more second and third chances than Carmella Soprano and any girlfriend of Alex Rodriguez, combined.

Let’s not stop with football and current players, either …..

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The “Most Disappointing Performers” of 2010 …..

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The “Most Disappointing Performers” of 2010 …..

Posted on 22 December 2010 by Rex Snider

A week ago, I introduced my first LIST chronicling sports and events, in 2010. At the time, I guaranteed variations of such rankings, including the GOOD, BAD and downright PATHETIC. For some odd reason, developing this year’s lists has not been an easy endeavor. Hence, the delay in posting …..

Today’s list regards the “MOST DISAPPOINTING PERFORMERS OF 2010”. The criteria are simple; the list applies exclusively to professional athletes and the 2010 year. As always, I look forward to your thoughts and suggestions …..
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10) Donovan McNabb – while he certainly maintains a healthy core of supporters, it’s pretty difficult to blindly overlook McNabb’s tumultuous, yet brief stint in the nation’s capital. He’s grinding thru a tough season that has yielded the fewest touchdown passes (14) and most interceptions (15) of his 10 seasons as a starting quarterback.

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 19: Quarterback Donovan McNabb  of the Washington Redskins on the sidelines against play against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

It’s become quite obvious that McNabb and Mike Shanahan are not on the same page, as two benchings would certainly indicate. The Redskins are mired in another losing season, and regardless of a potential Hall of Fame career, McNabb must accept a great deal of accountability for a lackluster offensive attack.

Hmmm …. do you think they’re smiling up in Philly?
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9) Alex Rodriguez – I never thought this name would appear on such a list; well, not in 2010, anyway. However, I think it’s pretty fair to say A’Rod easily suffered through the worst season of his career as a starting 3rd baseman/shortstop.

Aug. 11, 2010 - Arlington, Texas, USA - August 11, 2010. Yankees third baseman ALEX RODRIGUEZ in the dugout as The New York Yankees played the Texas Rangers in a Major League Baseball game at the Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.

While the Orioles (and a few other teams) would gladly receive a 3rd baseman who hits for a .270 clip, with 30 homers and 125 RBI, the New York Yankees expect much more production. And, when they’re paying that player an annual salary of $33 million, I’d say such demands are warranted.

The 2010 season was a downer for A’Rod, as he’s still counted as a true five-tool player. At 34, his best days are assuredly in the rear view mirror …. but, I’m sure the Steinbrenner’s still expect a batting average in the vicinity of .300, with 35 homers, 30 doubles, 10 steals and 125 RBI.

And, for the money they’re spending …. I don’t blame them.
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#8) Chris Johnson – I think everybody remembers Johnson’s season of domination, in 2009, right? He became the sixth player to rush for 2,000+ yards, in NFL history. He basked in the spotlight and became the top pick in most 2010 Fantasy Football Drafts.

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 18: Running back Chris Johnson  of the Tennessee Titans warms up prior to the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on October 18, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Of course, Johnson fed the adoration and suspense by predicting he would rush for 2,500 yards, in this 2010 season. It was a ludicrous goal to set and an even crazier hope for a growing collection of fans. With a couple games remaining, Johnson finds himself with 1,267 rushing yards.

Not a bad year, huh? By most accounts, it wouldn’t be a disappointing season …. but, even Johnson expected and guaranteed more.
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7) A.J. Burnett – here’s the one guy who justifies Andy MacPhail’s reluctance to overpay free agents, huh? Just a couple years ago, A.J. Burnett shared prospective shopping lists with Mark Teixeira. As we know, the Orioles made token offers and both players ended up in pinstripes.

New York Yankees starting pitcher A.J. Burnett throws a pitch in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium in New York City on April 17, 2010.  UPI/John Angelillo Photo via Newscom

While Teixeira has produced at an expected level, Burnett has struggled to achieve the lofty statistics that rendered him one of the most coveted pitchers in the 2008 shopping market. And, 2010 was simply a season to forget, as Burnett produced a 5.26 ERA and 1.51 WHIP, while finding a way to lose more games than he won.

Perhaps, A.J. Burnett is on the shortest leash, heading into 2011. The Yankees are a team that can withstand bad contracts, and unless he recaptures some dominance, Burnett might find himself pitching in Kansas City or Baltimore …. sooner rather than later.
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6) Dale Earnhardt Jr. – I have never maintained the belief that Earnhardt was among the very best talents in NASCAR, let alone comparable to the legend of his father. However, I also never foresaw him performing this badly, either.

CONCORD, NC - OCTOBER 14: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the  AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, stands in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 14, 2010 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

We’re approaching three years since Earnhardt won his last race, and he’s finished outside the Top-20 in season standings for two straight years. On a weekly basis, he’s being viewed as just part of the field, rather than a threat win any particular race.

Still, Dale Earnhardt Jr. remains NASCAR’S most popular competitor and he easily earns more money than any fellow driver (and most ballplayers) on an annual basis. Only in America, huh? What’s the incentive to win? Perhaps, Earnhardt’s popularity really is undermining any hunger to win …..
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5) Greg Oden – as he’s shelved in his fourth season as a pro basketball player, Oden stands to potentially become one of the biggest BUSTS in NBA history. To date, the former #1 overall pick has earned almost $20 million, while playing in just 82 career games.

ATLANTA - MARCH 30:  Greg Oden #20 of the Ohio State Buckeyes warms up during practice for the NCAA Men's Final Four at the Georgia Dome on March 30, 2007 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Hmmm …. my calculator says that’s about $230,000, per game. Not bad for a night’s work, huh? In 2010, the figures are even uglier – Oden hasn’t played a single game, this year. But, he’s being paid $4.3 million for such services.

To suggest Greg Oden has been a disappointment, in 2010, is an absolute understatement. Then, again, maybe the Trailblazers don’t expect anything from him – which is exactly what he’s giving them.
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4) Randy Moss – how about a standing ovation and resounding applause for the first dude who makes both of my BAD lists, in 2010. As the 2010 season winds down, Randy Moss finds himself making no real contribution to the Tennessee Titans offense.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 11: Randy Moss  of the Minnesota Vikings looks on against the New York Jets at New Meadowlands Stadium on October 11, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets won 29-20. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Ironically, the same can pretty much be said for his brief stint, in Minnesota, as well. That’s right, it’s been a couple months since Moss forced his way out of New England – where they’re readying to seize the top seed in the AFC playoff picture.

He entered the 2010 season as one of the most legitimate receivers in the NFL. Yet, thru 14 games, Moss has just 5 touchdowns and 27 receptions. Of the 5 scores, he has only two over the last couple months. Is he disappointment? Yes, very much so …..
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3) Lebron James – you can call him King James, All Star or Chosen One …. just don’t call him a WINNER. While his 2010 has been the tale of two cities and teams, Lebron James has failed to establish himself as the driving force behind a corps capable of winning BIG GAMES.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James stands on the court during the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bulls in game 3 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at the United Center in Chicago on April 22, 2010. The Bulls won 108-106 and trail the Cavliers 2-1 in the best of seven series.  UPI/Brian Kersey Photo via Newscom

He packed it in against the Celtics, back in May. He chose to flee a team he commanded for a team where he’s surrounded. Leaders don’t need such security – just see Jordan, Magic or Bird.

The story of the 2010-2011 Miami Heat has not been written. They’re winning regular season contests, but will they win the postseason games, where leadership is a MUST? Based on his past, it’s pretty safe to assume Lebron cannot be counted upon when it matters most – and such a reality defines disappointment.
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2) Brett Favre – if he just had a crystal ball, huh? In some distinct ways, I feel badly for Favre. He obviously plays the game with a sheer love for the competition, and a legend of his stature should not walk away in such a beaten state.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 05: Brett Favre  of the Minnesota Vikings leaves the field after defeating the Buffalo Bills at the Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on December 5, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

But, Brett Favre gambled on one season too many. Buoyed by last January’s NFC Championship Game …. and near miss, he caved to pressure from the Vikings and returned for another season and shot at the Super Bowl.

It has proven to be a mistake. Favre wasn’t healthy when the season began and he should’ve been smart enough to realize and accept it. Of course, America’s favorite bimbo, Jenn Sterger, has only added to the dysfunction of this disastrous season.

In the words of the great Clint Eastwood, “a man must know his limitations.” Unfortunately, Brett Favre did not recognize his limitations, as 2010 became his worst season, ever.
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#1) Tiger Woods – well, could it really be anyone else? As the entire world knows, Tiger’s life unraveled into a sordid, corrupt mess, in 2010. From adulterous affairs, to domestic discord and lost sponsorships, Tiger lost an awful lot …..

Tiger Woods waits to hit off of the 11th tee box during the first round of the Quail Hollow Tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina on April 29, 2010.  UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

The losing also carried onto the golf course. He played the worst golf of his professional career and looked totally lost, at times. From the hecklers speckled in the galleries, to the gaudy airplane banners soaring overhead, Tiger’s presence at a golf tournament became very “tabloid-ish”.

However, I think Tiger Woods is the MOST DISAPPOINTING PERFORMER of 2010, because we expect such greatness from him. He is easily the most dominant athlete of the last decade. And, to see his game struggle due to something other than the natural progressions of age or injury is very sad, indeed.

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Sunday’s NFL action provides a clear message; Ravens are still a top team

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Sunday’s NFL action provides a clear message; Ravens are still a top team

Posted on 13 December 2010 by Rex Snider

Well, I’m imagining most of us spent yesterday afternoon partaking in some similar Sunday rituals; gauging the competition around the National Football League, and collectively hoping the Cincinnati Bengals might find a way to upset our nemesis up in Pittsburgh.

In totality, the day offered some pretty daunting realities, both on and off the playing field …..

- Having a “trash bag” roof eventually proves to be a bad idea …..

- Tom Brady’s game is just as good on snow tires …..

- Rex Ryan’s Jets really are the NFL’s equivalent of the pro rasslin’ product …..

- While his comeback is pretty impressive, Mike Vick is NOT Tom Brady …..

- Brett Favre evidently owns a pretty sharp razor knife, and access to the dome’s roof …..

Indeed, yesterday was no ordinary Sunday around the NFL. The slate of games was less than impressive, as a large bulk of the contests were nothing more than mismatches. But, weather and interference by off-field personnel really provided some drama to what many of us perceived to be a day full of bad football.

Maybe, I’m being too harsh …..

Instances of occasional “bad football” at the pro level are generally a seldom-seen phenomenon, right? Of course, yesterday provided a few glaring examples of horrendous execution by teams vying for playoff position, as well as those playing out the string …..

- Graham Gano may very well find himself joining Jeff Reed in the unemployment line after missing an extra point and chip shot field goal, in the Redskins embarrassing loss against the Buccaneers …..

- Brodie Croyle and the Kansas City Chiefs mustered just 67 yards in total offense, while being shutout, 31-0, by the San Diego Chargers in a prime AFC-West showdown …..

- Mark Sanchez looked very much like the rookie from last season and the “clown” from HBO’s Hard Knocks, in the Jets second straight loss, which now tasks Gang-Green with trying to stem a late season collapse – on the road, in Pittsburgh, next week …..

- And, of course, speaking of the Steelers …. we must cite the “steaming stinker” Carson Palmer left on the newly sodded turf, at Heinz Field. Yesterday’s line for Palmer: 20 for 32, 178 yards & 2 touchdowns.

Not horrible, huh? Oh yeah, that’s right, those touchdown passes were both tossed into the waiting arms of Steelers defenders …..

PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 12: Troy Polamalu  of the Pittsburgh Steelers intercepts a pass from Carson Palmer  of the Cincinnati Bengals during the game on December 12, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Any chance of witnessing a ‘Bungals upset of the Steelers was lost amid predictable breakdowns and missed assignments. Welcome to the 2010 edition of the “Great Cincinnati Disaster”. While they punished Ben Roethlisberger early in the game and even broke out to a quick lead, the ‘Bungals looked very much like a certain black and orange baseball product.

Cincinnati’s string of consecutive losses now stands at TEN AND COUNTING. Given the knuckleheads on that roster, it might be a good idea for the networks to consider slotting this 2-11 team into a nationally televised contest or two.

Say what you will, I’ve got a feeling the ‘Bungals have a “meltdown moment”; a behemoth mutinous catastrophe on the field and I don’t wanna miss it !!!!

In summing up everything observed in yesterday’s NFL action, I’m developing some pretty distinct conclusions:

We are going to see one of the season-long contenders go down in bursting flames over the final few weeks of the regular season …..

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Blog & Tackle: NFL one-liners through Week 13

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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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Will he ever outrun the dogs?

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Will he ever outrun the dogs?

Posted on 18 November 2010 by Rex Snider

Like many football fans, my Monday evening was devoted to watching the Philadelphia Eagles dismantle the Washington Redskins before the eyes of a national audience. I could call it a “beatdown” or “trouncing”, but such terms fall short of describing the true disparity in performances by both teams.

For the record, you can count me among the MILLIONS who believed Michael Vick would never really be a star performer, again.

Not in the National Football League, anyway …..

Monday’s performance, by Vick, was a pretty awesome display. He carved through the porous Redskins secondary with a surgeon-like expertise. He escaped the pocket and pursuant defenders like bigger kids bully smaller ones.

The statistics are pretty daunting : 413 yards (333 passing & 80 rushing), 6 touchdowns (4 passing & 2 rushing). Not too shabby, huh?

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 15: Michael Vick  of the Philadelphia Eagles makes a break past Brian Orakpo  of the Washington Redskins on November 15, 2010 at FedExField in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

During the course of Monday’s game, I can recall ESPN’s crew, including Ron Jaworski, Jon Gruden and Mike Tirico, tying Michael Vick’s dog fighting crimes and subsequent incarceration into the conversation regarding the night’s contest.

One of my immediate resulting thoughts was “are these guys ever gonna let it go?

And, to a more substantial degree, I asked myself “will our society ever put it in the past?”

I sensed that I really was tiring of the story. I was tiring of the talk of redemption. I was tiring of the talk about a career renewed. I was pretty much tiring of everything – except, football.

When I’ve had my fill of something, I have a consistent habit of tuning it out. Call it self-serving or close-minded, but I simply turn my casual attention to something else.

That’s what I started to do with this entire Michael Vick saga. And, then something surfaced to bring it back into the spotlight …..

The Eagles opened their 2010 season with a new leader. He paid his dues and served as Donovan McNabb’s understudy, for 3 seasons. The job belonged to Kevin Kolb and he was touted as the new face of the franchise.

With thanks to the Green Bay Packers, and special thanks to Clay Matthews, Kolb’s stay as Philly’s starting quarterback was short lived. Michael Vick entered the season opener for an injured Kolb and performed very well.

With exception to an injury of his own, Vick has really claimed the job for his own and appears to be Andy Reid’s long term selection.

Why not?

He brings a dynamic to the game that’s minimally described as “unique”. How many quarterbacks sporting blazing speed and a decent arm come along in a lifetime?

Yeah, I hear the MVP talk and that’s just ridiculous. Vick has missed 5 of 11 games and he trails the likes of Philip Rivers and Tom Brady in overall production.

But, he’s having a great season and his redeeming himself …. ON THE FOOTBALL FIELD.

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Vick shines in DC: Can’t Dog Him Now

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Vick shines in DC: Can’t Dog Him Now

Posted on 16 November 2010 by Drew Forrester

So that’s what it looks like to have your offense do some damage on the road in the first half?

Well, it was impressive to say the least.

Michael Vick guided the Eagles to an early 35-0 lead in Washington last night as the visitors cruised to a 59-28 beatdown of the Redskins. Along the way, Vick tortured the ‘Skins in virtually every way imaginable, using his arms, legs and athleticism to churn out 6 touchdowns on the night. He became the first QB in league history to throw for 300 yards, run for 300 yards, throw 4 TD’s and run for 2 TD’s in the same game.

It was an epic performance.

Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback Michael Vick walks off the field after they defeated the Washington Redskins in their NFL football game in Landover, Maryland November 15, 2010.      REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Some would even say it was “electric”, but there are too many puns we could attach to that one, so I’ll leave it alone.

One thing for certain: The Eagles, with a healthy Vick at the helm, are a legitimate threat in the NFC.

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Short week

Posted on 08 November 2010 by Domenic Vadala

The Ravens played yesterday, and will proceed to play again on Thursday evening at Atlanta in the NFL Network’s first Thursday night telecast of the season. The way I see things, this is sort of a catch-22. On one hand, from here on out there’ll be football on Monday and Thursday nights, which is always entertaining to watch. However, I also see a huge issue with this from the perspective of players and coaches on both sides. Most teams understand that on occasion there’ll be a short week due to a Monday nighter. However that’s only really losing one day. In this case, the Ravens (and Falcons) played yesterday, which means that many players will be in for treatment today. I would suspect that both teams will forego the weekly “day off” for NFL players, which is traditionally Tuesday. In general, most teams have “walk-throughs” the day before games, however in this case I would suspect that on Wednesday both teams will have something between that and a normal practice.

In the Ravens’ case, they’ll have to travel on Wednesday evening in preparation for the game on Thursday. (I’m not sure how the Ravens are handling it, but I’ve seen teams in situations like this that will travel the morning before the game so that they can have a full practice at the actual stadium as opposed to a walk-through at their practice facility.) Obviously baseball has three-game series’ which makes teams play everyday, and basketball and hockey players sometimes have quick turn-arounds as well. However football is a bit different due to the physical nature of the sport. I’m not sure that it’s really fair to the players to have these Thursday nighters in that some guys need the entire week to get back into game shape. So in this case they have to turn around and play four days later…?

Ultimately, these leagues are about money, and the NFL knows that having Thursday night games adds to it’s bottom line. However with the above-stated point about it not being fair to players, I have to question if the fans are getting what they’re used to getting on Sundays. Some players who sustain concussions are in fact able to play the following week. However if that team had a game on Thursday as opposed to Sunday would he be allowed in the game? Survey says probably not. We’ll all watch the game because it’s the Ravens, and it’s the NFL. However if the NFL wants to protect it’s players so much, perhaps they should take a look at their scheduling techniques and decide if they’re doing more harm than good at times. As I stated above, in this case the Ravens have to travel. I would suggest that if the league wants to continue these Thursday nighters, they should try to make them “regional” games; Baltimore-Atlanta is probably a decent one in terms of mileage. However I wouldn’t see it fair for them to schedule the Ravens at the San Diego Chargers on a Thursday night, with the Ravens having to travel across the country.

On the flip side, many players and coaches have also said that these Thursday nighters are similar in nature to a second bye week. If you can make it over the hump of playing two games in half a week’s span, the players do get some time off. However my point is that I understand that the NFL wants to make money. However, if ultimately we see a 10-7 vanilla game, does that really help the product? Interestingly enough, while most NFL fans claim that they love their team playing in primetime, I would suspect that more tickets change hands for primetime games during the week (Monday or Thursday) than on Sunday afternoons. As a Washington Redskins season ticket holder, I’ll be attending next week’s Monday nighter against the Philadelphia Eagles; I’m also planning on working Monday and Tuesday. Many people sell or give away their tickets because they don’t want to take a vacation day, nor do they want to be up that late coming home. Needless to say, it’s a catch-22 one way or the other.

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Do teams take on the personality of their fan bases?

Posted on 04 October 2010 by Domenic Vadala

Let me preface this by saying that not every team or fan base falls into this argument. However each city and each team in every sport is known for something in a sense. My question is whether or not these two things go hand-in-hand to a certain degree. First off, this can be a good thing or a bad thing. As an example, Pittsburgh is a tough old blue collar town. As much as we may dislike them, does that not describe the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Pittsburgh Penguins? (I suppose that the Pirates wouldn’t fall into that category though). The Steelers have always had tought teams composed of guys that “brought their lunch pails to work” everyday. So in that sense perhaps the team(s) take on the persona or moxie of the people. (Notice that I’m using the term fan base as opposed to community; with sports being much more national than in the past, your main fan base might not necessarily be isolated to the local area.)

On the other hand, take a look at the San Francisco 49ers. California is an extremely laid back kind of place. Over the past few seasons, the 49ers have almost played so relaxed that they didn’t seem to realize they were competing. Even when they were winning the Super Bowls they never seemed to play with the fear of God in their eyes. We all remember the story of Montana eyeing John Candy in the stands at the Super Bowl. The New York Yankees are another one; New Yorkers as we know can be fairly arrogant if they want to be, but they generally pack a pretty mean punch. The Yankees seemingly carry a quiet arrogance about them (which generally ticks the rest of us off), and they back it up on the field. Go up the road to Boston…they were lovable losers for so long, and suddenly they win a few world series’. If you say something bad about the Red Sox their fans almost seem to get militant in defending them. The team seems to play with a chip on their shoulder to the point that if you look at them wrong they’re ready to come out with their dukes up. New Orleans is a party town…the Saints didn’t really seem to stop celebrating their Super Bowl victory until the 2010 season kicked off.

Again, these attributes can be both good and bad. How can you go wrong by celebrating like the Saints? By doing so I think you run the risk of becoming the Boston Red Sox who seem to treat every home run like one might a world series win. (Yes Kevin Youkilis I’m talking to you who likes to tackle guys in the dugout to celebrate homers.) I suppose that what I’m saying is that even if you’ve never been there before, act like you have. To keep with the Boton motif, we all know that the fans there can be brutal in that they expect nothing less than success. How many times has Bill Belichek been (justifiably) criticized for running up the score on someone? The Red Sox seem to enjoy doing the same thing when they get a lead. I agree with Belichek in that it’s not his job to stop his offense, but there’s a right way to win and a wrong way. The same could be said to the Steelers, who didn’t seem to want to take out their starters with a 30+ point lead in the fourth quarter.

Here’s a sensitive one for me personally: the Washington Redskins. I’ve been a Skins fan my entire life, an I’m a season ticket holder. But I do see some less-than-desirable qualities in my fellow fans. While the Redskins are noted for having loyal fans, I routinely see people bringing their friends to games who happen to root for the team the Redskins are playing that day. I also routinely hear “down in front!” when you so much as get up to get a soda during the game. Unfortunately many people see Redskin games as entertainment rather than as NFL games I suppose. Furthermore, I’ve had people at games tell me that the fans shouldn’t make noise when the other team’s on offense because not only is it unsportsmanlike, but it makes it all the more sweeter for that other team if they win. Um…excuse me?! (I’ve also seen fans buy beer for opposing fans because for some reason if you come all the way from wherever to see your team play on the road you deserve a free beer.) Two weeks ago the Skins had a 17 point lead on the Houston Texans in the 4th quarter…and lost. Granted this sort of contradicts what I said about Boston fans (with regard to running up the score), but while you don’t need to rub salt in the wound you don’t want to totally take your foot off the gas either. However if there are fans that act as I just described, couldn’t you argue that the Redskins take on that persona?

So do Baltimore’s teams take on the persona of the fan base? I would say that similar to the Steelers, the Ravens tap into that blue collar nature of the city (although Baltimore is a much more afluent place than Pittsburgh). Baltimore also likes to party…Orioles Magic anyone? All of these arguments are matters of opinion, however I think it’s an interesting concept. As I said, this isn’t necessarily a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just a thing. Take it or leave it.

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