Buzzing on Yahoo Sports:

NFL ROUNDUP: Wallace faces decision, Coughlin misses Ballard

The SportsXchange

Mike Wallace isn't reporting to Steelers' minicamp this week, but he has another decision to make by Friday.

Wallace, a restricted free agent, has until the June 15 deadline to sign his one-year, $2.7 million offer. If he doesn't, the Steelers can reduce the offer by 110 percent to $577,500.

The tactic isn't mandatory but has been used in prominent holdout cases such as those involving Logan Mankins of the Patriots and Vincent Jackson of the Chargers in 2010. Both players responded by holding out into October before reporting in time to be on the roster for the six games required to earn an accrued season toward the six needed to become an unrestricted free agent.

Wallace's position is that he expects the Steelers to offer him a long-term contract before the start of the season. Pittsburgh's salary-cap situation might preclude a landmark deal in line signed by Lions' wide receiver Calvin Johnson (eight years, $132 million) in March.

The Steelers' leading receiver with 72 receptions for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns last season, Wallace's production slowed over the second half of last season, when Antonio Brown was the most-targeted Steelers' receiver.

--Giants coach Tom Coughlin wasn't pleased with the loss of talented, young but injured tight end Jake Ballard on waivers.

The team attempted to slide Ballard, who had 38 receptions and averaged 15.9 yards per catch in 2011, his second pro season, through on waivers after failing a physical. The goal was to bring Ballard back and place him on injured reserve. By first clearing waivers and then being designated to IR, Ballard would not have counted against the Giants' 90-man training camp roster.

But the Patriots claimed Ballard, knowing that he won't likely play this season. Ballard suffered a torn ACL in the Super Bowl and the Giants didn't expect him to be on the field any time soon.

"Discouraged is a minor description," Coughlin said. "Very disappointed. I'm not going to have a lot to say about that one; just the fact that we are very disappointed. Very disappointed."

The Patriots said there were no so-called unwritten rules that apply to waiver claims, even for his good friend and former co-worker Coughlin.

"There aren't any unwrittens," Belichick said Wednesday. "I'm sure that you're aware that you can't negotiate a contract with a player while he's under contract. You can't negotiate a contract, release him, then renegotiate a contract with him that was already done in advance. I'm sure the Giants weren't doing that. If a player is on waivers, he's on waivers -- ours or anybody else's. I don't know what unwrittens you're talking about."

Ballard is under contract for two years with approximately $1.27 million remaining on his deal. The Patriots locked up tight end Rob Gronkowski with a long-term contract last week but Aaron Hernandez can become a free agent after the 2013 season.

That's when the Giants felt Ballard could return as an impact tight end because of his size and agility.

"I certainly thought so, for sure," Coughlin said of Ballard making a difference in 2013. "So did everybody. The whole building felt that way. Everyone did. It is obvious that it was a calculated risk and it didn't work."

--The Lions went from 6-10 in 2010 to 10-6 and a wild-card playoff team last season. General manager Martin Mayhew is done celebrating the team's first postseason trip since 1999.

"It's hard to win a championship," Mayhew said. "And things have to line up for you the right way. We expected to do that eventually, but we just want to keep being there. Keep knocking on the door consistently."

Mayhew's hand in rebuilding the Lions' roster is significant. He replaced Matt Millen, who went 31-97 with Millen as CEO and president. The Lions went from persistent draft misfires -- Charles Rogers, Joey Harrington, Mike Williams -- to steadily building a core around Calvin Johnson (a Millen pick), quarterback Matt Stafford and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

As constituted, the Lions have what Mayhew said is the "most talented team that we've been able to put together."

The Lions have 21 of 22 starters back from their 2011 roster. The one loss -- left cornerback Eric Wright -- appears to be significant given the overall uncertainty and instability in the secondary.

"I think, the maturity of our football team going into this season, now we're at a point where Matthew Stafford's not a young player anymore," he said. "Ndamukong Suh's not a young player anymore."

--When it comes to cautionary tales of being carried away by fame and fortune it football, Pacman Jones has plenty of stories to tell. He'll share them at the annual NFL rookie symposium in Cleveland later this month.

"The message is ... this is no joke," Jones said in an interview with Bengals.com. "At the end of the day you have to treat it like a business. And you're a business owner, and every decision you make is a reflection of you."

Jones was the sixth overall pick in the 2005 draft at age 20. The West Virginia product spent only two seasons with the Tennessee Titans before he was suspended by the NFL for the 2007 season for off-field conduct.

Of his six documented arrests, the most infamous incident took place at a Las Vegas strip club in February 2007 with Jones already on probation after a series of incidents. While a patron at the club, he tossed several hundred-dollar bills in the air but allegedly hit a dancer who tried to pick up money he'd thrown "for effect" and in the ensuing fracas allegedly threatened a bouncer at the venue.

Jones played part of the 2008 season with the Cowboys, who traded a fourth-round pick to the Titans during the 2008 draft, but wasn't signed and sat out the 2009 season. He is currently on the roster of the Cincinnati Bengals, serving primarily as a return specialist.

--Now starting at quarterback for the New Orleans Saints ... Sean Canfield?

It was only minicamp, but that was the reality for the Saints Wednesday. With Drew Brees away until his contract situation is resolved and backup Chase Daniel watching with his right hand bandaged because of a hairline fracture of his throwing-hand thumb, the Saints' offense looked nothing like the precision machine that scored 547 points with Brees at the helm last season.

A disjointed offense, also without running back Darren Sproles because of an approved absence, sputtered through interceptions, incompletions and the rust that comes with having Canfield, a seventh-round pick in 2010, and newly acquired veteran Luke McCown learning the Brees' mastered offense as they go.

That might be a familiar scene for the Saints. Interim coach Joe Vitt said Wednesday he doesn't expect Daniel to throw for 2 1/2 weeks.

Brees' contract might not be resolved soon. The deadline for the Saints' exclusive rights franchise player to sign a long-term extension is July 15. If the two sides can't agree by then, Brees could hold out into training camp. Vitt doesn't think that'll happen.

"I talk to Drew Brees every day," he said, "and am confident he'll be here for training camp.

NOTES: The Saints are likely to work with the Patriots in the preseason again, Vitt said. Patriots coach Bill Belichick sent a fax to the Saints Wednesday morning about working out before the Week 1 preseason game at Gillette Stadium. ... Offensive line coach Aaron Kromer said he's working with the best group of rookies he's had in New Orleans. ... Vitt said injured linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee) is making progress after surgery. Vilma has appealed his suspension for the 2012 season. A hearing with Commissioner Roger Goodell is scheduled for June 18.

--Tim Tebow will get reps with the Jets' first-team offense in the preseason, but mostly in the Wildcat formation. For the second straight minicamp workout, Tebow was relegated to backup duty and expanding his work on the punt protection team.

Coach Rex Ryan said Wednesday that Tebow could get reps with the first team but is with the "twos" for now. A spokesman for the team made sure to douse any inference to a QB controversy by clarifying after Ryan's morning media session that he was talking about special offensive packages, not the base offense.

It's the kind of perpetual distraction that most teams, including the Broncos, didn't want with Tebow on the roster.

"I think we were the only people that never had a problem with it," Ryan said.

Tebow has shown promise as a passer. Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano has worked closely with the quarterbacks and said Tebow has come a long way.

"He is getting better and better every single day," Sparano said. "Every day I see a ball come off of his hand that is better than it was yesterday or the last time that we practiced he made a couple of good throws today down there in the red area, so I think he is getting better and better fundamentally. (QB coach) Matt Cavanaugh has done a really nice job with him that way from a fundamental standpoint. ... I saw Tim when he came out (of Florida), and I mentioned this before I had him in the Senior Bowl fresh out of college, where he was then and where he is now are two totally different places fundamentally."

--Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to all 32 teams asking them to reinforce the dangers of driving while impaired.

In light of recent DUI incidents, Goodell is expected to seek harsh penalties for players charged in alcohol-related incidents. At present, players are fined the equivalent of a game check up to $50,000, but Goodell hopes to increase the punishment as part of the new substance-abuse policy. That policy would be enacted when the league and NFLPA find middle ground in their ongoing debate on HGH testing.

The memo, published by CBS Sports, also instructs team officials to remind players to avoid "trouble spots and places that don't provide adequate security" but "don't try to provide your own security by carrying a weapon."

The memo reads:

"There have been several negative law enforcement incidents in recent months involving both players and non-player employees. These incidents primarily have involved alcohol or drug-related offenses, specifically driving while impaired. Clearly, operating a vehicle under the influence of any substance poses a significant risk of injury to the driver and others. These risks are underscored by well-known tragedies within the NFL family.

"The Personal Conduct Policy makes clear that we must all conduct ourselves in a manner that is 'responsible, that promotes the values upon which the league is based, and is lawful.' Every negative incident undermines the respect we have earned from our fans, erodes the confidence of our business partners and threatens the continued success of the league.

"As your club concludes its mini-camp, it is essential that you take time to reinforce this message with your staff and players. In particular, the following points are suggested:"

Players and team officials have access to a league-sponsored program that provides driver services 24 hours a day for $85, including tip. But players haven't often used the service, and DUI incidents haven't been reduced.

Rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon was charged last week with aggravated DUI. The Jaguars' first-round pick had a previous DUI and his blood-alcohol content was almost three times the state legal limit.

--Pop Warner youth football leagues will implement restrictions in practices this year that limit head-to-head contact and the amount of practice time that can be spent scrimmaging.

The league cited exposure to head injuries in practice to reduce contact drills such as one-on-one blocking, tackling drills and allowing only 40 minutes per practice scrimmaging. Pop Warner caps practice at two hours per day, three days a week. Head-on-head blocking is no longer allowed.

"We thought it was important to address this as we've become more aware of concussions and continuing new research goes on," said Jon Butler, executive director of Pop Warner.

--Jerry Jones looked at Terrell Owens' film from 2011 and would endorse him to another owner if Owens asked.

"He really can reach out to me at any time," Jones told the Dallas Morning News. "Because I consider him a friend. I would feel good if he reached out. I think that he really, without having first-hand knowledge, of what kind of physical condition he is in, I know he has the right stuff and he could help someone.

Jones doesn't envision a place for Owens on the Cowboys' roster. Dallas is well situated with Dez Bryant and Miles Austin. The third receiving spot isn't set in stone. The Cowboys drafted Danny Coale in the fifth round to compete with Kevin Ogletree and Dwayne Harris.

"If he just wanted to talk about (a return to the NFL), I'd talk about it," Jones clarified. "But again, we are not planning on doing anything at receiver. I have no plans to do anything different than what we're doing right now."

Owens recently changed agents, firing Drew Rosenhaus and signing with Jordan Woy. At 38, he last played in 2010 with the Bengals. As a free agent in 2011, Owens tore his ACL and didn't play last season in the NFL but signed a player/owner deal with the Allen Wranglers of the Indoor Football League. Owens was released earlier this month and paid a severance of $50.

--Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is driven to change the perceptions of his franchise, one step at a time.

To address the many issues -- perceived or real -- facing the Dolphins and Ross, the embattled owner and real estate mogul embraced the fan-friendly approach he's demanded by holding an hourlong conference call with season-ticket holders this week.

The conference call is another step toward full-fledged organizational transparency, ending the cold war the Bill Parcells regime started with the local media.

Instead of allowing, if not inviting, rampant speculation, and media biases to shape public opinion, Ross said he realized he needed to open up.

"I hated reading in the papers, 'sources say' and everything being speculative in terms of what the Dolphins were doing or weren't doing or what they might do," Ross said. "I want to let the fans know what to expect, what we're doing and why we're doing it."

The Dolphins have hosted similar calls with general manager Jeff Ireland and head coach Joe Philbin this summer.

The change is palpable after drafting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and with news Monday night the Dolphins had signed six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Chad Ochocinco.

Those moves, in addition to a more fan friendly environment and the decision to appear on the HBO training camp documentary "Hard Knocks," have helped smother public outcry for change.

Ross, who bought the team and the stadium for $1.1 billion in 2007, acknowledged being an NFL owner is more difficult than anything he's ever done.

"It's a lot easier to build a great organization in business than to do it with the football team," Ross said, referring to the NFL's rules, like the salary cap. "There are so many rules!...You can't control it as much as you'd like to."

Ross consistently stressed he's not the type of owner who micromanages his employees. He insists he never has, and doesn't intend to take that approach with the Dolphins.

"You let the football people run the football team," Ross said when asked what his role would be throughout "Hard Knocks."

"I'm not looking to be out there running the team, evaluating players, or telling the coach who to play."

Ross wouldn't put a number on wins, and predict a playoff berth like past years. He talked about being patient with the new coaching staff.

When addressing the team's infusion of talent, Ross was cautious with his expectations of Tannehill, the team's first-round pick, saying he "hopes" the former Texas A&M star can become a "franchise quarterback."

"He's a fantastic kid, who is a great athlete," Ross said. "We think he has all the makings of a franchise quarterback."

Ross wasn't so guarded with praise for former University of Miami tailback Lamar Miller, whom the team traded up for in the fourth round.

"Lamar Miller is an unbelievable steal in the fourth round. We had him so much higher," Ross said. "(He dropped) probably because of his shoulder (issues). We're excited about him."

The Dolphins are exploring moving the seats closer to the field at Sun Life Stadium.

"With the Marlins moving out we have the ability to unwind what was done to the stadium," Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said, referring to the baseball retrofitting that was done in the early 1990s.

The Dolphins also have plans to put a canopy over the seats, but are in the planning stages of that project.

However, Ross said the Dolphins have no interest in enclosing the stadium.

Ross admits his goal is to make enough improvements to Sun Life Stadium that South Florida gets the rights to Super Bowl 50.

"I hope we can hold that in Miami with an improved stadium," Ross said.

Ross also said his goal is to bring some of the best soccer matches in the world to South Florida. Sun-Life has already hosted a few elite matches.

Ross said he talked to Philbin about the HBO show Hard Knocks when the NFL and the producers approached the Dolphins about the project.

Ross claims he tried to convince Philbin "we can do it next year, or the year after." But Philbin told him "I want to do it now....He wanted people to know what he's about."

Ross said doing Hard Knocks in Philbin's rookie season as a head coach was a bold move by the coach, and "sets the tone for what we'll see from him moving forward."

Ross labeled Philbin a "bold" and "unique" coach.

Ross also admitted from Day 1 he did not like the Dolphins fight song. He had two popular music artists redo it, but fan outcry prompts him to green light its return this season

According to Ross, the Dolphins are looking into logo and uniform enhancements in the near future.
View Comments (3)