Shutdown Corner - NFL

  • It's not often you see a bunch of NFL questions on the game show "Jeopardy" (fine, it's answers, and you answer in the form of a question) but they recently popped up. 

    You never know how sports questions will go over on the show, known for much more high-brow categories than guessing quarterbacks' names. The category of "Touchdowns" was going pretty well, until the contestants blanked on the easiest answer.

    Of course, Tim Tebow was one of the answers. Of course. How could the history of the NFL be written without Tebow? The question (answer, whatever) in the $400 slot in the category, was "In overtime of a 2012 wild card game, this then-Bronco quarterback threw an 80-yard touchdown to Demaryius Thomas ... A miracle?" Well, who do you think it was going to be, Brian Griese?  

    Joe Montana was another answer, asking who threw the game-winning touchdown to John Taylor to beat the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII. Regular readers of Shutdown Corner could have gotten that in their sleep, and added when Montana was drafted and with what pick (1979, 82nd overall).

    A contestant named Brad was cruising in the category, and it seemed like he was going to run the table as the two other contestants looked on. Then there was this softball for $800:

    "Ahmad Bradshaw fell butt-first into the end zone to give this team a Super Bowl-winning TD against New England in 2012."

    Easy peasy. Except Brad didn't ring in. Nobody did. What the heck? IT'S THE GIANTS! This wasn't ancient history or some obscure question about who Joe Pisarcik was handing off to when the Giants lost the "Miracle at the Meadowlands" (Larry Czonka), this is who won the Super Bowl just a couple years ago!

    Ah, hey, whatever. At least they got the Tebow question right.

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    Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • For months, we've wondered what the Houston Texans might do with the first pick — take a quarterback or draft Jadeveon Clowney.

    So what's behind Door No. 3?

    There appears to be some smoke now for a possible trade of the pick, ESPN's Ed Werder suggests.

    The Atlanta Falcons are no strangers to moving up in the draft. They've made bold moves up in the first round for Julio Jones and Desmond Trufant the past two seasons, and sliding up from the No. 6 pick to the top spot for Clowney would fit that same pattern.

    The Falcons need pass-rush help, and even with talk of them transitioning to more 3-4 fronts under Mike Nolan, Clowney would be a great fit as a multiple-technique defender.

    Would the Texans be making a mistake moving out of the top slot? They have to be certain that one of their top-six-rated players will be available, if that's what the deal involved. The best bets would be that the Texans could select either DE-OLB Khalil Mack, an offensive lineman such as Auburn's Greg Robinson or Texas A&M's Jake Matthews, or perhaps a quarterback such as UCF's Blake Bortles.

    Hold those mock drafts for now. A trade could happen and blow them all up in short order.

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    Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • Before the NFL draft on May 8-10, we'll be looking at all the key prospects and also breaking them down by position. In our "Draft Needs" series we will also examine which teams will be in the market at each position, looking to fill their remaining roster holes.

    Defensive backs

    New Orleans Saints: Despite signing future Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey, the Saints still need a solid second option to compete for the other slot. Bailey signed a two-year deal, which indicates the Saints view him as a short-term solution. New Orleans signed standout safety Jairus Byrd in free agency to improve defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s impressive defense.

    According to Yahoo’s Eric Edholm’s latest mock draft, New Orleans should select Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller in the first round. Fuller was a second-team Walter Camp All-American selection and a first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference player last year. During the NFL scouting combine, Fuller ran the 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds, had a 38.5-inch vertical leap and bench pressed 225 pounds a dozen times. Considering New Orleans must face Julio Jones (Falcons), Roddy White (Falcons) and Vincent Jackson (Bucs) twice a year, the Saints must upgrade their cornerback position early in the draft. NEED LEVEL: Extremely high

    Chicago Bears: Yes, Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman were re-signed, but they are 30 and 33, respectively. Safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright struggled last season. Wright recently signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Chicago could use an upgrade at safety and cornerback. Alabama safety Hasean “Ha Ha” Clinton-Dix or Louisville safety Calvin Pryor could be on the board at No. 14. If either player is available, Chicago should not waste any time pulling the trigger. NEED LEVEL: Extremely high

    St. Louis Rams: Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson are the Rams’ top two corners, but this team could use some help, and Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard is the answer. Yes, the Rams desperately need a receiver, but the draft has plenty of quality pass-catchers. St. Louis released Cortland Finnegan earlier this year, and Dennard is a physical cornerback who could excel with the Rams. The Rams also need help at free safety, but it will be hard to let Dennard slip by. NEED LEVEL: Extremely high

    San Diego Chargers: San Diego re-signed cornerback Richard Marshall, but he is not exactly an upgrade at that position. Utah cornerback Keith McGill (6-foot-3, 211 pounds) stood out during Senior Bowl practices, and he has the body to hang with big receivers. Florida cornerback Marcus Roberson is a Day 2 option that could instantly improve a secondary that faces Peyton Manning twice a year. NEED LEVEL: High

    Detroit Lions: If there is one position general manager Martin Mayhew loves, it is defensive backs. Mayhew enjoys hoarding them like candy. Detroit did not re-sign safety Louis Delmas, but signed safety James Ihedigbo, who is on his fourth team in the past five years. Clinton-Dix would be a smart selection for Detroit at No. 10, but it is hard to argue against adding a premier cornerback. The Lions should consider Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert if Clinton-Dix is gone. NEED LEVEL: Medium

    Other teams in need: Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers.

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    Anwar S Richardson is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at NFLAnwar@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • Bernie Kosar was removed from the Cleveland Browns' preseason broadcast and he's hitting the NFL and Browns where it hurts most: Claiming the team did so because of his slurred speech caused by concussions.

    Concussions and the treatment of former players with health issues are two of the most controversial issues the NFL deals with, and Kosar checked off both boxes with his claim.

    Here was Kosar's statement, via the Akron Beacon-Journal:

    “I was informed yesterday by the Cleveland Browns and WKYC that I have been replaced as a 2014 preseason game day color commentator. I believe that this decision stems from my slurred speech impairment, which is a direct result of the many concussions I received while playing in the NFL. This is very unfortunate, as I believe my football acumen and ability to describe what is happening on the field, has been well received by Cleveland Browns fans. I love to put the personal touch, pride in the Browns, and pride in our Cleveland community into the broadcast. Being able to share these preseason games with my fellow Cleveland Browns fans is truly one of the remaining joys in my life. I would hope that WKYC would reconsider utilizing my in-game talents and overlook my concussion-induced impairment. I want everyone to know that I still bleed Brown and Orange.”

    One of the most popular ex-Browns has put the team in a bad spot. The Browns already tried smoothing it over, with this statement from president Alec Scheiner on the team's site announcing that Solomon Wilcots will replace Kosar on the preseason game broadcasts:

    "We welcome Solomon and are excited to look further into additional opportunities to continue to engage Bernie with our fans. We want Browns fans to look forward to seeing and hearing his continued contributions and analysis on not only our preseason telecasts, but also our radio network and ClevelandBrowns.com."

    Even if the team wanted to reassign Kosar and use him in other ways, Kosar sees it as a demotion, and it is. The team wasn't happy with Kosar last year when he was critical of Rams backup quarterback Kellen Clemens during a preseason broadcast, and the team apologized to the Rams. Kosar has blamed the hits he took during his career for other things, like when he told police last year that he couldn't do sobriety tests because his offensive line couldn't block.

    So what are the Browns to do? They don't want him in the booth for preseason games or they wouldn't have demoted him, no matter the reason. And Kosar put out a heavy guilt trip. And it's probably true that concussions have contributed to any slurred speech, although Kosar admits that it's just his belief that's why he was demoted, not that he was told that. It's always tough to see a former player struggling after his football career with injuries suffered while playing the game, and the Browns don't want to seem insensitive to that.

    If it was Kosar's desire to put the Browns in the most uncomfortable position possible for taking him out of the preseason broadcast booth, he did a perfect job of it.

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    Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • One of the best all-around athletes ever to play in the NFL might be more than 16 years removed from his final NFL career, but Herschel Walker believes he still could play in the league right now.

    Walker turned 52 years old in March.

    “I can play in the NFL today,” Walker told USA Today. “I couldn’t take every snap. But running backs nowadays don’t play every down. Now they send in the choir section.

    “Physically, I can still do it.”

    We want what Herschel is having!

    Walker's last game in the NFL was in the Dallas Cowboys' season-ending loss to the New York Giants in 1997. He returned two kickoffs that day for 36 yards and caught two passes for 16 more. Walker wasn't handed the ball.

    Every few years, Walker makes some noise about coming back into the league, as he did in 2011 while promoting a UFC fight. He was a spry 48 at the time.

    Perhaps more interest about the USA Today interview is that Walker says Donald Trump — for whom Walker played on the USFL's New Jersey Generals in 1984 and 1985 — would make a good owner of the Buffalo Bills.

    “He would be a great owner, and a credible owner,” Walker said.

    Walker noted that he had not spoken to Trump since the Bills' ownership opened up following the death of founder Ralph Wilson. But Walker threw his support behind a man he has known for 20 years.

    “People can think what they want to think about Jerry Jones — he’s a terrible general manager, but he’s a great owner. He has done a tremendous job in marketing his team to keep it relevant. I think that’s the same thing Donald Trump would do with the Buffalo Bills.”

    Walker, as his boasting about playing today would suggest, is a master of promotion. But Trump, he says, is even better at that.

    “He may rub some people the wrong way, but you can’t argue with his success as a businessman,” Walker said. “You want an owner with some flair. He knows how to promote.”

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    Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • Most of us don't think about the gymnastics that go into making the NFL schedule. We just complain that the league will never announce the exact date when it will be announced, then enjoy fantasizing about the matchups once it's released, while finding where our favorite team was slighted.

    Peter King of MMQB.com had a great look at how complicated it is to put together the schedule, and it included a few very interesting tidbits, including King speculating that the league made Packers at Seahawks the Thursday night season opener because it was worried that Broncos-Seahawks would be a repeat of the 43-8 blowout in Super Bowl XLVIII.

    "The league obviously thought a Denver-Seattle opener was risky—based on the outcome of the Super Bowl. Those are my words, not theirs," King wrote. 

    It's an interesting thought, because most people assumed the season opener would be the Seahawks hosting their main rival, San Francisco, or the defending AFC champion Broncos. The Super Bowl champion starts the season on the Thursday of Week 1, a fantastic tradition the NFL started a few years back that is generally the most anticipated game on the schedule. So we knew the Seahawks would be included. And the Packers are a fine opponent, just a surprise.

    In King's piece the NFL schedule makers explained that those three teams were the top candidates, and Dallas was briefly considered. They said San Francisco-Seattle was better suited for later in the year. But it wasn't explained why the Broncos weren't the choice.

    “We thought there were three likely possibilities for the opener: San Francisco, Denver and Green Bay,” NFL senior vince president of broadcasting Howard Katz said. “I guess we could’ve played Dallas, but we really liked Dallas for the FOX doubleheader for Week 1. Dallas also had Texas Rangers conflicts the first month of the season. Putting them on the road in Week 1 might have doomed them for four or five road games in the first few weeks. I thought we had a better place to use the San Francisco-Seattle game, because it has become such an incredibly great rivalry game. It seemed to us that saving that game for later in the season on NBC was probably a smarter move. Green Bay felt right.”

    King made it clear he was just guessing why the Broncos weren't the season-opening opponent for Seattle, and there might have been other reasons the Broncos weren't in that game. CBS ended up getting the Broncos-Seahawks game, in Week 3. It's a good bet that CBS fought to get that game, which will do great ratings. Every team and network makes requests that are considered. Even if the league was worried about 43-8 Part Deux, when has anyone willfully turned down the chance to put Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning on in prime time? Still, it's an interesting theory from King.

    The rest of King's story is a must-read because it gives any NFL fan a glimpse behind the curtain of making the schedule. And not everyone gets what they want. The schedule makers talked about how each of the schedules spit out by the computer generally had some flaw they wanted to avoid. As is, the Seahawks seem to have gotten slighted, with just one home prime-time game, something that's unheard of for a Super Bowl champion. And the one prime-time home game is the opener, which was a given. The Bears, who didn't make the playoffs in 2013, have the maximum five prime-time games. All of this won't make the people of Seattle happy.

    But there's not much getting around that. When putting together a 256-piece puzzle like the NFL schedule, someone's going to end up being angry.

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    Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • Weston Richburg drove his old Chevy truck recently from Mesa, Arizona, where he was training, to the Arizona Cardinals facility for a visit with the team. Then he drove home, 10 hours straight to Bushland, Texas — population 130 — where he grew up. There isn’t too much in the way of frills when it comes to Richburg, the blue-collar Colorado State center who just might be the best at his position heading into the draft.

    After playing well at the Senior Bowl and testing well at both the NFL combine and his pro day, Richburg has proven that he deserves a chance to play with the big boys. Not long ago, almost no one thought that was possible. He was a fringe college prospect who had to beg college teams to come look at him, and the Rams’ coaches took a leap of faith on a 240-pound offensive linemen who had missed two high school seasons with a torn ACL.

    Their gamble was rewarded. After 50 college starts, Richburg has shown the requisite talent and toughness to be considered as early as the second round in May. He took some time to talk to Shutdown Corner about growing up on a farm, “Friday Night Lights,” breaking his snapping hand during a game, listening to metal and being a burrito aficionado.

    SDC: Heard you played a little quarterback early in your HS career. Did you want to change positions or were you forced to give it up?

    WR: I kind of had to give it up. I played it from the beginning of my football career, which was like second grade, until my freshman year of high school. I was a quarterback, tailback, I played linebacker r… and then my sophomore year in high school, I actually tore my ACL playing linebacker. That actually kept me out for my sophomore and junior years.

    That affected my career a lot. I think I was probably 5-9, 180 pounds as a freshman, and coming back as a senior I was 6-3, 240 pounds. They moved me to left tackle. I really didn’t have a choice. I wasn’t upset over it. I was actually really excited just to get back on the field.

    SDC: And why did you miss two years for the torn ACL? Were there complications?

    WR: My growth plates [in my knee] hadn’t closed, so I had to wait a year to get surgery and then another six months post-surgery time after that.

    SDC: Makes sense. You also competed in a lot of track and field, even your first year at CSU. What was your best event?

    WR: Yes, I did. I [performed] shot put in the indoor season at CSU. I think shot put was always my best. I like it a lot.

    SDC: So what is Bushland, Texas like? I admit, it sounds like a made-up name for a town.

    WR: [laughs] Yeah, typical small town. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Friday Night Lights,” it’s very, very comparable to that. All the guys come out for  football and we really, really value our football and athletics here. Our stadium will be packed every Friday night. The stands are packed, and people are standing all around the field, too. We really treasure our athletics, especially football, and I think that’s where I gained my passion for football, just being [in Bushland]. I just had those values instilled in me early on.

    SDC: So Friday night would be the time to rob the local Food King, eh?

    W

    R: Well, back then, there really were no businesses in town. My family owned the only gas station in town. I think maybe we kept it open [during games], but there wouldn’t be many people there. It’s right on the highway, so all the highway people would stop. But everyone else definitely would go to the game.

    SDC: Did you grew up on a farm? What kind of farm was it?

    WR: Yes, sir. We raised cows, and we still have cows. I showed pigs in middle school through high school. We grew some wheat. We’re mainly involved in cattle and pigs.

    SDC: What was the worst chore of them all?

    WR: Oh, there were a lot that were bad. I would probably say cleaning out some stalls. We had horses at one time, and those stalls would just … they were awful. I’d have to go in there and clean it up and the mess, it would be a foot thick. I didn’t like that at all. That was probably the worst thing.

    SDC: But I would imagine that working on a farm on a daily basis growing up had to instill in you a pretty good work ethic.

    WR: Oh yeah, definitely. That has been … being raised the way I was raised has — and the work ethic I got from it — it has been the reason I have gotten as far as I have in football. No question. You have to do a lot of things you don’t want to do, but in the end they are very rewarding.

    SDC: You were born in Louisville and grew up in a small town in Texas. So naturally you went to Colorado State. How did that happen?

    WR: I was born in Louisville and maybe lived there for two years. We made a quick stop in Kansas City but basically have been in Texas since I was 4 or 5. As for Colorado State, as I said, I was injured those two years and didn’t get to play. And my senior year, I played only one year and no one knew who I was. I mean, I tried. I sent out tapes and tried as hard as I could to get Texas teams to look at me. But my high school coach sent out some stuff to [Colorado State], and pretty much they were one of the only teams to show interest. I went in for a visit and ended up committing then and there.

    SDC: Ever made that drive straight through from Bushland to Fort Collins, or vice versa?

    WR: Oh, plenty of times. Stopped for gas, but otherwise yes. It’s actually only about seven hours, and it’s through the middle of nowhere so …

    SDC: So you can maybe exceed the speed limit a little?

    WR: [laughs] Maybe a little.

    SDC: What kind of car do you drive?

    WR: I just have a Chevy truck.

    SDC: That would make sense. Well, let’s go back to start of your CSU career. You redshirted your first year and then started off initially playing guard before moving to center. How did that come about?

    WR: I played guard for the first three games of my career, I believe, and the fourth game they moved me to center. From then on, I played primarily center, but there were a few times where we had to move some guys around. I was mostly a center that first season, but some guard, too.

    SDC: Had you taken snaps at center before they put you there? That’s not a position it’s easy to just jump right into.

    WR: I had done it a little bit. They knew they needed a replacement at center. My true freshman team they had me running center on scout team. I was learning the position and the duties of that. They knew I could do it, but it is a tough position, like you said, to just throw a guy in there. So I think that’s why they started me at guard at first.

    SDC: You were tossed late in a game your freshman year against Idaho for fighting a guy, right?

    WR: Yeah. It was a hands-to-the-face deal, and I just got into the facemask. We actually appealed it, and there were no suspensions or anything.

    SDC: Tell me about the end of your sophomore year, breaking your right hand and playing a few other spots on the line.

    WR: Yeah, a game my sophomore year we played San Diego State. I broke one of the fingers in my right hand. It was my snapping hand, so I couldn’t play center. The next two games they moved me to tackle. Then the last game of the season I moved back to center and snapped with my left hand.

    SDC: That’s pretty impressive.

    WR: Yeah, man. My hand was really, really hurting. It was to the point where I thought I might have to sit out. My dad and I talked about it and thought it would be a pretty good challenge for me to play with a club [on the hand], especially playing center and snapping with my left hand. I am pretty proud of that. 

    SDC: And now you’re considered one of the best center prospects in the draft. Most guys I talk to say the NFL was their goal — but when did the league first become something realistic for you? When did you first think, OK, I think I can play at this level?

    WR: I think I started to get the realization when I was a sophomore. After my freshman year, I was a Freshman All-American. Sophomore year, I think I played really, really well. That just really helped my confidence and gave me the realization that working hard had made me better and that I would have the chance to play at the next level.

    SDC: I have only watched a few of your games, but the New Mexico Bowl game against Washington State — your final college game — seemed like a pretty strong game for you. I came away thinking you played with a defensive mentality.

    WR: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s what makes me a unique center. I don’t see other guys going after people the way I do. That’s something we really prided ourselves on at Colorado State — we really put an emphasis on finishing. We really focus on knockdown blocks and getting after guys. If you out a guy on his back, he probably can’t make the play. I always wanted to go out and get after people. We had some pretty nasty guys up front, and I just wanted to match that. We enjoy contact.

    SDC: How has working with former NFL center LeCharles Bentley been?

    WR: Yeah, he has so much knowledge about the position. Some of the stuff we’ve worked on has been adapting to the faster speed of the [NFL] game, getting more efficient with my movement in pass sets. Defensive linemen’s get-offs are a lot faster, so efficiency and quickness are big ones. Getting myself acclimated to the tempo of the game is the biggest thing.

    SDC: Who was your toughest matchup at the Senior Bowl?

    WR: Aaron Donald.

    SDC: No hesitation there in your answer.

    WR: Yeah, he was … there were a lot of guys there that week and he was the guy. Just talking about speed and get-off, that’s his thing. It took some adjustment to get used to that, but I really had a lot of fun going against him. He was a challenge, and he made me better.

    SDC: What was the Senior Bowl experience like for you? Most guys come away saying it was really valuable for them.

    WR: My goal down there was to silence the critics of whether I could play with the big-time competition and not just play with them but play well against the big-time competition. I was really excited during that week because I think I did a good job.

    But in addition to that, it was just really cool. I was in awe … well, maybe not in awe, but when we were meeting with teams there, sitting with Rex Ryan, sitting with Mike Tomlin and talking to him for a bit, that was one of the more special experiences I have had through this whole pre-draft time.

    SDC: What’s your best playing weight, do you think? I know you have dipped under 300 before.

    WR: I think my ideal weight is probably 310. I am 305 right now. I could drop 10 pounds in two days and gain it back in a day, so it’s just … in football, I feel like it fluctuates so much. After a tough practice you can lose [a lot of weight]. I think I’ll be about 310 when I report to camp, and I think that’s probably a good start.

    SDC: Have you been asked much by NFL teams about playing guard at all? Or has it predominantly been center?

    WR: It has been a little bit about guard. Most teams carry seven players [on the gameday roster] so they want to know how versatile you are. They’ve asked me about guard, and I tell them: That’s where I started. I am no stranger to it, and I am not opposed to it at all. I can play guard. I just want to play. Wherever they want me, I can do it.

    SDC: What teams have you worked out for privately?

    WR: Out of fairness to the teams, and their privacy, I’d rather not say. I’d kind of rather keep that between them and myself.

    SDC: Wow, you’re already a seasoned pro.

    WR: [laughs] It’s a giant poker game, and everyone wants to keep their hand concealed.

    SDC: OK, have time for a few fun questions?

    WR: No problem.

    SDC: So I hear Big City Burrito is all the rage up in Fort Collins. Is it all it’s cracked up to be?

    WR: You know what? It is [all the rage], but I only have been there like one time. I didn’t think it was the best place ever.

    SDC: So what is the best place ever?

    WR: I think Café Mexicali is probably the best place there, in my opinion. It’s a burrito place as well.

    SDC: You’ve now started a burrito holy war, no doubt.

    WR: A huge one, I am sure. [laughs]

    SDC: Besides the burrito joint, what’s the most fun thing to do in town? For me, it would be visiting the breweries.

    WR: I’d probably tell them to go out to Horsetooth Reservoir during the summer and rent a boat, take it out on the lake and just enjoy life. We’ve done that a couple times during the summer and it is just really beautiful out there.

    SDC: Your teammate, tight end Crockett Gillmore, seems like an interesting cat. What’s the story on this guy?

    WR: [laughs] Yeah, we’re really similar in some ways. He can really get after guys as well. We’re from the same area of Texas. We are raised with the same values. We treat football the same way. If I could bring one guy with me anywhere in the NFL, it would be him.

    SDC: I loved the guy from the minute he showed up to the Senior Bowl mid-week as an injury replacement player, he caught a touchdown and dunked the ball over the goalpost. Even if that’s illegal now in the NFL, he had me right there.

    WR: That was awesome. That was so cool to see that. He’s always going to give it his all, no matter what it is. He makes waves. He’s going to be very physical and give it everything it takes to get the job done. A real tough player. And a really good dude, too.

    SDC: Best movie you have seen recently?

    WR: Probably “Lone Survivor.” It was just amazing to see that people actually go through that for our freedom. An amazing story.

    SDC: Best music to lift weights to?

    WR: I listen to all kinds of music, but if I am lifting weights and I have control [of it], I’ll put on some metal. Some really hard metal — stuff that you can’t even understand the words.

    SDC: Do your teammates and lifting buddies agree?

    WR: Definitely not. [laughs] I am a rare breed — us metal folks are a rare breed. Once you find a metal person, you really can appreciate their friendship and treasure that, because it’s rare.

    SDC: Ever listen to Mastodon?

    WR: I listened to that way back in the day. I am really into Lamb Of God. They’re probably one of the more popular ones. Any of the other ones, you probably have not heard of them.

    SDC: Favorite activity when you’re not thinking about football?

    WR: Oh, man. I really enjoy getting away in the weight room. I think it would be fun to body build after football, get some good curls in. Turn on the music, like we were talking about, and just kick back.

    SDC: How much can you squat?

    WR: I haven’t maxed in forever. I think the last time I squatted was maybe like 525.

    SDC: Uh, yeah. I can barely break 200.

    WR: Well, I have a little extra weight on me, which helps.

    SDC: I am heavier than you think. Where will you be on draft weekend?

    WR: I’ll be here in Bushland. I think I have about 4-5 teammates coming down, a lot of family coming in. It’ll be a big draft celebration with Crockett Gillmore’s family. 

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    Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • The NFL has a lot of television network partners to keep happy, and that job got more difficult when CBS was given a package of Thursday night games this season.

    The league for years used "Monday Night Football" to show its highlight game each week, but when NBC landed "Sunday Night Football" and ESPN went to Monday night, the league puts its best games on Sunday night. This year NFL needs to make sure CBS and FOX were happy with their regular Sunday schedules, give CBS some good games for Thursday night, and still make "Sunday Night Football" and "Monday Night Football" must-watch events.

    That's not easy.

    [Click here to see the full 2014 NFL schedule]

    The NFL placated NBC and ESPN this week, a day before the schedule was released. ESPN was given a wild-card playoff game. A divisional playoff game was added to NBC's schedule through 2022. That move made it seem like the Monday and Sunday night schedule in 2014 might be watered down a bit. Shutdown Corner's Anwar Richardson and Frank Schwab will take a look at the Sunday and Monday night games, week by week, and see how entertaining the prime-time schedule will be this season:

    WEEK 1
    Sunday:
    Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos
    Monday: N.Y. Giants at Detroit Lions; San Diego Chargers at Arizona Cardinals

    Frank’s take: Very nice Sunday night game. The Giants have improved and the Lions are entertaining. I wouldn't have thought this a year ago, but Chargers-Cardinals isn't bad at all for the second part of the doubleheader.

    Anwar’s take: NFL fans have been craving football for months. It really does not matter what games are rolled out on in Week 1. We will watch every minute of each game.

    Verdict: Stay up, call in sick on Monday ... and then again on Tuesday.

    WEEK 2
    Sunday:
    Chicago Bears at San Francisco 49ers
    Monday: Philadelphia Eagles at Indianapolis Colts

    Frank’s take: That Sunday game is interesting; pretty good test for Marc Trestman's Bears offense. And two up-and-coming teams on Monday night. Two thumbs up.

    Anwar’s take: Nick Foles vs. Andrew Luck? First team to 50 points wins. Do not go to bed early.

    Verdict: The boss may be getting upset, but it's time to call in sick on Monday and Tuesday again because you're staying up late for these games.

    WEEK 3
    Sunday:
    Pittsburgh Steelers at Carolina Panthers
    Monday: Chicago Bears at N.J. Jets

    Frank’s take: Always fun to watch Cam Newton. Not as fun to watch Geno Smith.

    Anwar’s take: Make sure you soak up all of the offense in Week 2 because these matchups are all about defense. First team to 21 points wins.

    Verdict: Catch up on your sleep, get to work early, assuming you still have that job.

    WEEK 4
    Sunday:
    New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys
    Monday: New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs

    Frank’s take: Guess this depends if you think the Chiefs are going to repeat 2013. Call me skeptical. Because we know Dallas is going to get run.

    Anwar’s take: Most fans will tune in to see in Drew Brees lights up Dallas’ secondary. Kansas City has not done much to improve its roster in the offseason, and this could be the first lopsided primetime game.

    Verdict: Better than raking the leaves.

    WEEK 5
    Sunday:
    Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots
    Monday: Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins

    Frank’s take: I get that the NFC East draws ratings. But, I'm not too thrilled about seeing the best team in the NFL vs. the team that was 31st last year. At least Sunday night is solid.

    Anwar’s take: Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman will take on Washington receiver DeSean Jackson. The trash-talk between both men should be very entertaining.

    Verdict: One outta two ain't that bad, and the Sherman-DJax sideshow should keep you awake on Monday.

    WEEK 6
    Sunday:
    N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
    Monday: San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams

    Frank’s take: Yes! Another NFC East game! All hail the NFC East! Monday night might not be a shootout, but the Rams aren't bad. It might be a sneaky good game.

    Anwar’s take: Is this the week Eli Manning throws three interceptions? History says it is bound to happen. It will be hard to get pumped up to watch St. Louis.

    Verdict: Stay awake on Monday night at least, and if the 49ers go up by a couple scores, call it a night. And call the NFL and tell them you're sick of seeing every NFC East game in prime time.

    WEEK 7
    Sunday:
    San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos
    Monday: Houston Texas at Pittsburgh Steelers

    Frank’s take: Oh man, here we go. Broncos-49ers will be fascinating. Great, A-plus game. And if you believe the Texans can return to 2011-2012 levels, Monday won't be bad either.

    Anwar’s take: Peyton Manning struggled against an elite defense in the Super Bowl, making this game a really good barometer for his team. If Johnny Manziel is with the Texans, this will be a great contest.

    Verdict: Don't even think about doing anything else on Sunday night. Or Monday night either, just in case.

    WEEK 8
    Sunday: Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints
    Monday: Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys

    Frank’s take: Two great quarterbacks on Sunday night. Fun game. And Monday night ... I'm not gonna even say it.

    Anwar’s take: Watching Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees square off should be entertaining. The NFC East battle on Monday will be fun to watch, regardless of the records.

    Verdict: Your fantasy team already demanded that you're not going anywhere for Saints-Packers, so not much more needs to be said.

    WEEK 9
    Sunday:
    Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
    Monday: Indianapolis Colts at New York Giants

    Frank’s take: Ravens-Steelers isn't what it was a few years ago, but it's usually a close, hard-fought game. And Monday night ... really guys? At least we get to see Andrew Luck.

    Anwar’s take: Mike Tomlin was fined $100,000 for hindering the kickoff return of Baltimore Jacoby Jones last year. Let’s see if he stays out of play this year.

    Verdict: Watch on Sunday, and then Monday is a good time to take the significant other to dinner. Earns points to cash in during a better prime-time slate.

    WEEK 10
    Sunday:
    Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
    Monday: Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles

    Frank’s take: Can't go wrong with the best traditional rivalry in the NFL on a Sunday night. And both teams will be good too. Panthers-Eagles is a good contrast in styles. No complaints here.

    Anwar’s take: Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is usually good for a few meltdowns each year. This could be the one when he becomes a turnover machine. Meanwhile, Carolina’s defense must find a way to stop Eagles running back LeSean McCoy.

    Verdict: Remember the brownie points from last week? Cash 'em in and find a spot on the couch, partner.

    WEEK 11
    Sunday:
    New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts
    Monday: Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans

    Frank’s take: I really like Patriots-Colts. Steelers-Titans? Well, I really like Patriots-Colts.

    Anwar’s take: Patriots and Colts has “game of the year” written all over it. The next night has “worst game of the year” written all over it.

    Verdict: One outta two ain't bad.

    WEEK 12
    Sunday:
    Dallas Cowboys at N.Y. Giants
    Monday: Baltimore Ravens at New Orleans Saints

    Frank’s take: Oh, hey, NFC East. Hadn't seen you in a while! I give up.

    Anwar’s take: Time to watch the Cowboys implode. Now the holiday season can officially begin.

    Verdict: Better than shoveling snow.

    WEEK 13
    Sunday:
    Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs
    Monday: Miami Dolphins at New York Jets

    Frank’s take: I still don't think the Chiefs have what it takes to beat the Broncos, but Arrowhead Stadium is a tough, tough place to play. And look, call me dumb (and I know you will, based on the comments in previous posts), but maybe Dolphins-Jets will be better than we think. The Ghost of Jumbo Elliott and all.

    Anwar’s take: Denver should be fighting for playoff position. Miami and New York will be fighting for draft position.

    Verdict: Each one has a good chance to put you to sleep early.

    WEEK 14
    Sunday:
    New England Patriots at San Diego Chargers
    Monday: Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers

    Frank’s take: Can see a lot of points in Patriots-Chargers, and hopefully no Patriots players dance on the logo at midfield if they win. ESPN must start praying now that the Falcons are better than last year. Do you realize ESPN paid $15 billion for these games? I guess $15 billion just doesn't buy the quality it used to.

    Anwar’s take: If the Atlanta Falcons are a bad team again, this horrible stretch of Monday Night Football games will continue. Any chance the Falcons can re-sign Deion Sanders and make this game interesting?

    Verdict: Take the kids to go see Santa at the mall.

    WEEK 15
    Sunday:
    Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles
    Monday: New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears

    Frank’s take: (banging head with a hammer) ... Wait, that Monday game is good.

    Anwar’s take: Jerry Jones’ failure to assemble a winning team is on public display again. Dallas is only a few games away from another 8-8 season.

    Verdict: Hey, we're getting down to the nitty gritty. Watch 'em. In a few weeks you'll miss these prime-time games. Even the NFC East ones.

    WEEK 16
    Sunday:
    Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
    Monday: Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals

    Frank’s take: I'm not sure Arizona repeats what it did last year. That has flex written all over it. Wonder if we'll be on Peyton Manning record watch for the Monday nighter.

    Anwar’s take: The NFL finishes strong with two compelling games. Arizona could dethrone Seattle and emerge as a surprise team this season.

    Verdict: Who are we kidding? You're not missing any of these games.

    - - - - - - -

    Anwar S Richardson is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at NFLAnwar@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • Now that the games have been slotted into dates and the 2014 NFL schedule is set, it's time for superlatives.

    What's the best game among the 256 regular-season games? What's the worst? What are the best and worst weeks of action? Who won schedule release day? Glad you asked. Here are the awards from the release of the NFL schedule on Wednesday night:

    Best game: With all due respect to Seattle and San Francisco, we're not getting too many more Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning games, and there's one scheduled for Foxborough on Nov. 2. And it's not just the novelty of the two greatest quarterbacks of their generation facing off again; their teams might be the two best in the AFC. That was the case last season, and then the Broncos went on an offseason shopping spree and the Patriots added the best player to switch teams this offseason, cornerback Darrelle Revis. The regular-season game last year between the two teams was entertaining. This one should be too.

    [Click here to see the full 2014 NFL schedule]

    Best game, part two ... and three: Fine, we're not leaving off San Francisco vs. Seattle. The NFC West rivals are two of the best teams in football. The NFC championship game last season was a classic. And we'll see if we get some fisticuffs between Richard Sherman and Michael Crabtree. The fact that the first meeting is on Thanksgiving almost got that one top billing over Brady-Manning. The teams meet again in Week 15, and if they're both as good as we think they are, there will be enormous playoff implications on the line.

    Best ... whatever, we're just adding four and five to the list of top games: Denver, Seattle and San Francisco might be the three best teams in the NFL coming into the season (yeah, New England, we see you too). Because the AFC West matches up with the NFC West this year, we get to see the Broncos against the great defenses of Seattle and San Francisco.

    Complain as you might that Denver can't compete with Seattle, the rematch on Sept. 21 should be better thank the Super Bowl. Keep in mind that Denver should have Ryan Clady, Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward, Emmanuel Sanders and Aqib Talib, and none of them played in that Super Bowl. Then the Broncos host the 49ers on "Sunday Night Football" Oct. 19, and it'll be fun watching Manning against that defense too. 

    Worst game: Cleveland at Buffalo, Nov. 30. Well, something has to rank 256th out of 256. However, this game moves up from the bottom spot if the Browns land quarterback Johnny Manziel in the draft because whatever team Manziel plays for will be must-watch football every week. 

    Most anticlimactic reunion: Last year, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning returning to Indianapolis to play the Colts was one of the biggest stories of the season. The two teams play again in Week 1, and the hoopla won't be the same.

    The second game against a former team is never quite as exciting. Also, the game will be in Denver, and a major part of last year's Colts-Broncos game was how the fans would react to Manning. Still, it's a fun game between two AFC contenders and the reigning NFL MVP (Manning) against the most exciting young quarterback in the game (Andrew Luck).

    Since this game is the "Sunday Night Football" showcase in Week 1 will give us a lot more time to hype Manning vs. Colts, but in truth it's less of a sideshow this year and just a good, entertaining football game.

    Best last call: Tom Brady and the Patriots will be in Green Bay on Nov. 30, the first trip to Lambeau Field for New England since 2006, and one would assume by the next time New England visits Green Bay, Brady will be hanging out with his supermodel wife in retirement. If any market appreciates football history it's Green Bay, and the chance to see one of the all-time greats one more time will be fun. And, it should be a really entertaining game.

    Worst guess: All offseason, everyone figured the Seahawks would start the season in the traditional Thursday night opener on Sept. 4 against one of two opponents: San Francisco or Denver. Both come to Seattle this season. The league threw a curveball by making Green Bay the opening night opponent. (Green Bay has to wonder why it can't have an easier opponent to start the season; the last two seasons the Packers played the 49ers in Week 1). It's a bit of a bummer. Nothing against Green Bay, but it was the third-best option for the opener. But Aaron Rodgers against Seattle's defense is still a darn good way to kick off the 2014 season.

    Best addition: Saturday games are back! Years ago, once the college season was done, stray Saturday NFL games were a staple of December. They were eventually phased out, and there were no Saturday regular-season games last year. Well, we're getting a couple on Dec. 20. San Diego will play at San Francisco and Philadelphia will play at Washington. Make sure you don't schedule last-minute holiday shopping for that weekend, because the NFL is giving us something to watch on Saturdays again.

    Best bet to be flexed Week 17: The league doesn't schedule a Sunday night game for Week 17 because the game with the most interesting playoff angle (or the one involving NFC East teams) gets flexed into prime time that week. It's disappointing the NFL didn't schedule 49ers-Seahawks for Week 17 because that would have probably been the one. Looking through the Week 17 games, the early guess is Cincinnati at Pittsburgh will end up closing the regular season. That game could end up determining the AFC North championship.

    Best revelation: The NFL, for realizing that it could make a couple minor changes to maximize the entertainment value for fans. Extending flex scheduling by moving it up to Week 5, and allowing up to two flexed Sunday night games from Week 5 to 10, was simple and smart. Adding a couple Saturday games late in the season can't hurt. The decision to add a "cross-flex" option so games could move between CBS and Fox allowed CBS to show an all-NFC game on Thanksgiving. That allowed more options and the NFL came up with maybe the best Thanksgiving schedule in recent memory. And the league also put some effort into scheduling interesting Thursday night games, and even though that had more to do with making CBS happy, fans will benefit too. The league put a lot of thought into making the schedule the best it could be (and it's not easy, considering all 32 teams have requests and the television partners need to be satisfied too). Nice work, NFL.

    Worst week: It's all relative, because a "bad" NFL week is still great, but if you need to plan a big event for a Sunday this fall, might as well make it Week 4. Two of the NFL's marquee teams, Seattle and Denver, have a bye. So do the Bengals, Cardinals, Browns and Rams.

    Fine, we won't really miss the Browns. But the week starts with the Giants and Redskins on Thursday night (seriously, enough already with the NFC East prime-time games), and while Packers-Bears will be fun, the only game on Sunday between two 2013 season playoff teams is Eagles at 49ers. NBC must have grabbed Saints-Cowboys for Sunday night for the curiosity of seeing how bad New Orleans' offense could destroy Dallas (no kidding guys, we are tired of seeing mediocre NFC East teams in prime time).

    New England at Kansas City on Monday night could be fun, but that doesn't save the week.

    Best week: Week 7 wins it. We start the week with Jets at Patriots, which is always a solid rivalry game, and will be amped up a bit by Darrelle Revis going to New England.

    The early set of games has some interesting contests: New Orleans at Detroit, Miami at Chicago, Carolina at Green Bay, Seattle at St. Louis and Cincinnati at Indianapolis. Kansas City at San Diego and Giants at Dallas anchor the late games, then there's a monster Sunday night game with San Francisco visiting Denver.

    Houston at Pittsburgh isn’t the best Monday night game, but it’s not all that bad, and are you complaining after that Sunday slate?

    - - - - - - -

    Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • "Thursday Night Football" has traditionally been similar to holding out a cup of water for a marathon runner – they are desperate for anything to quench their thirst.

    The NFL knows its fans are desperate for football, and mediocre primetime matchups were traditionally scheduled on Thursday night. It is usually the one time of year struggling teams like Jacksonville, Buffalo, Oakland and St. Louis can enjoy the national spotlight. The league must have figured it's football, and you're going to watch no matter who is playing.

    [Click here to see the full 2014 NFL schedule]

    However, that changed a bit this year after the NFL partnered with CBS to produce and televise seven games on Thursdays over the first half of the season. The NFL Network, which will simulcast the CBS Thursday games, will have seven late-season Thursday games all to itself. Also, two late-season games take place on Saturday, and this year’s schedule is banking on division rivalries to add more spice to the lineup.

    Green Bay will kick off the season on the road against Seattle on Sept. 4 in Week 1. That game will be televised on NBC with the Seahawks opening defense of their Super Bowl title against Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. While the Thursday opener has long featured the defending champion, the ensuing slate of Thursday games had been hit and miss. However, that slate has been upgraded.

    Pittsburgh will play on the road against the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 11 in Week 2. Baltimore was forced to play its first game of last season on the road against Denver after a Super Bowl victory, but the Ravens were given two consecutive home games to start this season.

    Most NFL coaches don't like playing a divisional game early in the season, but Pittsburgh and Baltimore will kick off its AFC North rivalry after one regular-season game.

    Green Bay’s home game against the Vikings in Week 5 marks the first week a team from last year’s playoffs appears on CBS' Thursday night slate. The last matchup between Green Bay and Minnesota at Lambeau Field in Week 12 in 2013 ended in a tie (26-26).

    New England will host the New York Jets in Week 7, which should feature a battle of Tom Brady against Geno Smith or Michael Vick. New York is expected to determine its starter during the preseason as coach Rex Ryan faces a do-or-die season. If Ryan’s team starts off slow, this game could determine his future in New York.

    CBS’ final Thursday game is San Diego at Denver in Week 8, another division rivalry that's also a rematch of last year’s AFC playoff game. Every one of CBS' Thursday games is a divisional game.

    The NFL Network takes over with New Orleans at Carolina in Week 9, followed by a slew of games with marginal interest. The most interesting game (right now) is Dallas visiting the Chicago Bears on Dec. 4. Dallas is notorious for its annual collapse in December, and if that occurs again, it could signal the end of coach Jason Garrett’s tenure with the Cowboys.

    In the past few years, if fans have turned on "Thursday Night Football" it was generally just because any game was on, even though the matchup usually wasn't good. This year's Thursday schedule isn't great, but it's certainly better than it has been.

    Here is the Thursday schedule:

    Week 1, Sept. 4 (NBC): Green Bay at Seattle

    Week 2, Sept. 11 (CBS, NFLN): Pittsburgh at Baltimore

    Week 3, Sept. 18 (CBS, NFLN): Tampa Bay at Atlanta

    Week 4, Sept. 25 (CBS, NFLN): N.Y. Giants at Washington

    Week 5, Oct. 2 (CBS, NFLN): Minnesota at Green Bay

    Week 6, Oct. 9 (CBS, NFLN): Indianapolis at Houston

    Week 7, Oct. 16 (CBS, NFLN): N.Y. Jets at New England

    Week 8, Oct. 23 (CBS, NFLN): San Diego at Denver

    Week 9, Oct. 30 (NFLN): New Orleans at Carolina

    Week 10, Nov. 6 (NFLN): Cleveland at Cincinnati

    Week 11, Nov. 13 (NFLN): Buffalo at Miami

    Week 12, Nov. 20 (NFLN): Kansas City at Oakland

    Week 13, Nov. 27 (CBS): Bears at Lions; Eagles at Cowboys (Fox); Seahawks at 49ers (NBC)

    Week 14, Dec. 4 (NFLN): Dallas at Chicago

    Week 15, Dec. 11 (NFLN): Arizona at St. Louis

    Week 16, Dec. 18 (NFLN): Tennessee at Jacksonville

    - - - - - - -

    Anwar S Richardson is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at NFLAnwar@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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