Fri May 24 01:40pm EDT
Some will tell you that the NFL is a height/weight/speed league, and St. Louis Rams undrafted rookie free agent Terrell Brown certainly has the first two nailed down. Brown, who played predominantly for Mississippi as a defensive lineman and will switch to the offensive line for Jeff Fisher, measured at 6-foot-10 and 388 pounds at his pro day on March 7. However, when the Rams signed him and weighed him in, it seemed that Brown had been spending extra time at the wrong training table.
"Actually, we weighed him in at 403," Fisher said on Thursday. "We had him in for the tryout, and he had some issues that we had to clear up from a physical standpoint. But he got that put behind us. We worked him out on both sides of the ball, defensive line and offensive line, and we felt like his best position would be right tackle. [Rams offensive line coach Paul Boudreau] said he'd love to have him. He's a defensive lineman that we've converted to offensive lineman."
Brown actually played on both sides of the ball in college, and Fisher also joked about using him to block kicks. And why not? As Gil Brandt of NFL.com said of him, Brown "just might be the biggest player we’ve reported on."
And as you can see from the video below, the Rams had best reinforce their folding chairs.
Fri May 24 01:11pm EDT
Admit it -- when you read this headline, you thought to yourself, "Wait a minute -- didn't the Chicago Bears already retire Mike Ditka's number at some point in time?" Well, no. But the organization will right that obvious wrong when the Bears take on the Dallas Cowboys in a Monday Night Football game on Dec. 9. Thus, nobody will ever wear #89 for the Bears again.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” Ditka said via a team statement. “It’s something that I didn’t anticipate or expect, but it’s a great honor. When you think of all the great Bears players who have had their jerseys retired, I can’t say that there’s any greater honor. I’m very humbled by it and very thankful that [team chairman] George [McCaskey] made the decision to go ahead and do that because it’s really great."
Ditka was selected in the first round by the Bears in the 1961 NFL draft out of Pittsburgh and went on to define the franchise's tough-minded mentality as much as anyone who's ever been a part of it. He caught 316 passes for 4,503 yards and 34 touchdowns in six years for the Bears at a time when tight ends were generally afterthoughts. But contract negotiations with George Halas went south when Ditka famously said that Halas "throws nickels around like manhole covers," and he was traded to Philadelphia. His playing career ended in Dallas in 1972, and Tom Landry immediately hired him as an assistant coach. Halas brought Ditka back into the fold by hiring him as the Bears' head coach in 1982. And in 1985, Ditka's Bears won Super Bowl XX with one of the greatest defenses of all time. He became the first person in the modern NFL to win an NFL championship (1963) and a Super Bowl with the same team as a player and as a coach.
“Mike Ditka embodies the spirit of everything the Bears are about,” McCaskey said. “He’s an icon. The last time we won the championship Mike Ditka was our coach, and the last time we won before that Mike Ditka was a player. The organization knew it was the right thing to do. He revolutionized the tight end position as a player and grabbed an entire franchise by the throat as a head coach and willed it to victory in the Super Bowl. We have more retired numbers than any other team in the NFL. After this, we do not intend to retire any more numbers but we thought if there is going to be a last one, there is no more appropriate one than 89.”
In 1988, Ditka became the first tight end inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“It’s the consummation of a career," Ditka said of the Bears honor.
Fri May 24 12:59pm EDT
A Dallas County, Texas judge has ordered Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent to undergo further alcohol monitoring while he awaits a trial on an intoxicated manslaughter charge, Selwyn Crawford of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Brent was arrested by Irving, Texas police following a Dec. 8 accident that claimed the life of Jerry Brown, a linebacker on the Cowboys' practice squad and Brent's former teammate at the University of Illinois. Brent's blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit when his Mercedes S600 hit a curb, causing it to overturn and catch on fire.
Brent faces up to 20 years in prison and his trial is scheduled to begin on Sept. 23. Brent is currently free on a $100,000 bond. Friday's hearing came about after the Dallas County District Attorney’s office filed a motion on Thursday to revoke Brent’s bond on the grounds that he had violated his bond by either drinking alcohol or being around it. Brent has been wearing a SCRAM bracelet on his ankle and failed to log data on 22 occasions.
Brent will continue to wear the SCRAM bracelet, which will now randomly sample for alcohol.
Tue May 21 02:33pm EDT
The New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys and St. Louis Rams each spent over $100,000 in guaranteed money on their class of undrafted free agents this offseason, according to a source with knowledge of rookie salary data.
NFL teams could spend a maximum of $78,170 in signing bonuses on undrafted rookie free agents this offseason, but there are no limits to the amount of guaranteed money teams can include in the standard three-year contracts signed by undrafted free agents. Seven NFL teams have spent more than the $78,170 signing bonus maximum in guaranteed money, with New England leading the way by spending $140,000 in guaranteed money on their undrafted free agents.
The largest individual guarantee among the Patriots undrafted rookie free agents belongs to Missouri wide receiver T.J. Moe, who received an $8,000 signing bonus and will receive $22,000 in fully guaranteed base salary regardless of whether or not he makes New England's 53-man roster for a total of $30,000 in guaranteed money. The 5-foot-11, 204-pound Moe excelled in the three-cone drill at the 2013 combine, posting the second-fastest time among all invitees. As explained here by Christopher Price of WEEI.com, the Patriots have shown a tendency to target players who perform well in that particular agility drill, so that Moe was a "priority free agent" for the Patriots does not come as much of a surprise. (Had Moe played at Rutgers, the Patriots might have requested that Foxborough officials award him the key to the town or make him an honorary selectman.)
Behind Moe on the Patriots' list of large guarantees is Nevada tight end Zach Sudfeld, who received the team's largest signing bonus ($12,000) and also has a $5,000 base salary guarantee for a total of $17,000 in guaranteed money. Sudfeld, who a month older than Rob Gronkowski and a few months older than Aaron Hernandez, caught just two passes in his first five seasons at Nevada catching 45 passes with eight touchdowns after being granted a medical redshirt for the 2012 season. Offensive lineman Elvis Fisher, Moe's former teammate at Missouri, received $15,000 in guaranteed money from the Patriots, while guard Josh Kline ($14,000), fullback Ben Bartholomew ($10,000) and linebacker Kanorris Davis ($10,000) also received five-figure guarantees.
The Cowboys ($104,500), Rams ($103,100), Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($94,670) and New Orleans Saints ($88,500) round out the top five in guaranteed money on rookie free agents. The Jacksonville Jaguars ($86,000) and Philadelphia Eagles ($82,000) have also exceeded the signing bonus limit. The Chicago Bears ($29,500) and Green Bay Packers ($35,500) are the two NFL teams to spend under $40,000 in guaranteed money on undrafted rookie free agents.
For the Patriots, Cowboys, Rams, Saints and Jaguars, committing larger-than-required amounts of guaranteed money to undrafted rookies is nothing new as each club spent $85,000 in guaranteed money or higher on undrafted free agents in 2012, as well.
The Cowboys, Patriots and Saints spent over $200,000 on undrafted free agents last season. Those guaranteed amounts were inflated as each team signed a single player to a contract with over $200,000 in guaranteed money. For the Cowboys, they paid undrafted offensive lineman Ronald Leary as if he were a fifth-round pick, guaranteeing him $214,000 ($9,000 to sign, $205,000 base salary guarantee). The Patriots' total was pumped upwards when they guaranteed Olympic silver medalist Jeff Demps $211,000 ($11,000 to sign, $200,000 base salary guarantee) following the London games.
As the first seasons of Leary and Demps show, large financial guarantees are not an indicator that the player will make an immediate impact in the NFL. Demps spent last season on injured reserve and was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the third day of the 2013 NFL draft. Leary did not make the Cowboys' 53-man roster, spent 15 weeks on Dallas' practice squad and was inactive for the two games he was promoted to the team's active roster.
For the second consecutive season, the Cowboys handed out the largest individual guarantee, signing former Arizona State linebacker Brandon Magee to a contract that includes a total of $70,000 in guarantees, including $65,000 in fully guaranteed base salary. The second-largest guarantee on the Cowboys belongs to safety Jakar Hamilton, who pocketed a $10,000 signing bonus. The Rams' large guarantees were made to offensive tackle Braden Brown and safety Cody Davis, each of whom received $20,000 in guarantees. Linebacker Jonathan Stewart was third with $17,500, while linebacker Phillip Steward and running back Benny Cunningham received $15,000 in guaranteed money.
Tue May 21 08:46am EDT
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo will miss his team's OTA practices after undergoing a minor surgical procedure to remove a cyst from his back, Todd Archer of ESPN Dallas reports.
The Cowboys' three-week OTA period begins on Tuesday and end on June 6. The Cowboys have a mini-camp scheduled for June 11-13, but the report suggests that Romo will be on the shelf until the team opens training camp in Oxnard, California on July 19.
Romo, 33, had a career-high 4,903 yards and his 28 touchdown passes were the third-most in his seven seasons as the Cowboys' starting quarterback. Romo also equaled a career-high and led the NFL with 19 interceptions. Those turnovers.
This is a big offseason for Romo, who signed a six-year, $108 million extension that included $55 million in guaranteed money on April 1. Following the 2013 NFL draft, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that Romo was going to be putting in "Peyton Manning-like hours" at the team's facility as Romo will have greater input in the team's offensive game-planning.
Romo, who cut back on the time he spends on the golf course in the offseason, can still put in that time at the facility, but the surgery means he will not get on-field work with the first-team offense until training camp.
Mon May 20 12:07pm EDT
It was quite the story last week, especially for those who enjoy outrage over the money made by professional athletes and the sense of entitlement they all supposedly have: Washington Redskins fans went to the Bed, Bath & Beyond website and bought gifts for quarterback Robert Griffin III and his fiancée, Rebecca Liddicoat from the couple's wedding registry. Those gifts included several pricey items (in the $200-499 range), which set quite a few people out of joint. After all, those people said, where does a guy who signed a four-year, $21,119,098, fully guaranteed contract in July of 2012 get off accepting gifts from fans?
Dan Steinberg, the Big Kahuna over at the Washington Post's indispensable D.C. Sports Bog, got all investigative instead, and actually reached out to the fans who bought those gifts to see why they did it. As you'd expect, Steinberg got some interesting responses.
Patrick Dibert, a 24-year old Redskins fan who works in the non-profit sector for a Virginia group that fights hunger ... bought Griffin and his fiancée, Rebecca Liddicoat, a set of Brita water filters for $30 (including shipping), and he isn’t about to apologize.
“It’s not like that was money I’m not going to donate to charity; I’m just not going to go out to happy hour one time during the week,” Dibert told me on Monday. “I mean, it’s just kind of funny to say I bought RGIII a present.”
Wes Taylor bought RG3 and Ms. Liddicoat a pair of spoon holders for $8, and seemed surprised anyone was taking this so seriously.
"It was kind of a goof," Taylor told Steinberg. “I just saw something on there that wasn’t that expensive and was like ‘You know what, I might as well send that.’ It was off the wall, it was goofy and no one else had bought it.’”
And for John Short, buying a simple wedding gift was more about the goofiness inherent to the hardcore Redskins fan than any sort of "give to the rich" mistake.
Fri May 17 11:22am EDT
Former West Virginia and current St. Louis Rams receiver Tavon Austin recently said that he can't believe how many people are crawling out of the woodwork asking for money now that he's set up as the eighth-selected player in the 2013 NFL draft. "Everybody wants to be around you," Austin told the Rams' official website. "My phone doesn’t stop ringing now. It feels like they’re counting my bank account now. So that’s probably the hardest thing for me."
If Austin wants to know how tough it can really get, he should talk to Dallas Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith, who was selected with the ninth pick in the 2011 draft out of USC. Smith signed a four-year, $12.5 million deal and went about becoming one of the best young blockers in the game. Considering what he was going through, it's amazing that Smith would be able to get his head together enough to find the field at all. As he recently told the Dallas Morning News, Smith agreed to pay his stepfather, Roy Pinkney, and his mother, Frankie Pinkney, a substantial sum of money in four installments to insure that they would want for nothing. But that wasn't good enough for the Pinkneys, or some of Smith's own siblings.
“There was a certain amount I agreed to give them, but it went way beyond that and I was just like, ‘I’m done,’” Smith said. “I feel like I shouldn’t have given them so much. There was nothing wrong with helping them out and making sure they were taken care of, but not something to where they live the same lifestyle as you.”
According to the Morning News story (and as we recalled on Shutdown Corner at the time), things got a lot worse when Smith tried to set some boundaries.
Last October, John Schorsch — Smith’s Dallas-based attorney at the time — said Smith’s “mom and/or the stepdad threatened the physical well-being of Tyron and the life of his girlfriend.” Smith filed a protective order against his parents last summer to keep them from having any contact with him. The order also prohibits contact from Smith’s parents through his siblings. During training camp last year in Oxnard, Calif., one of Smith’s brothers whom he said he hadn’t talked to “in a long time” showed up and had to be removed from the facility.
Six months ago, his attorney said, Smith discovered that his family had taken more than $1 million from him. “There was money missing, but I just don’t know where it went,” Smith said in the report. “There were times I would check my statements and it wouldn’t make sense and I hadn’t authorized it at all. I just felt betrayed and I was like, ‘Who can I trust?’”
Smith had been using a financial advisor recommended by his parents.
Mon May 13 06:17pm EDT
Sad tale out of Mississippi as former Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Jimmy Smith is currently serving a six years in the Mississippi Department of Corrections after being convicted of drug and weapons charges, Chad Cushnir of firstcoastnews.com reports.
According to Mississippi DOC records, Smith is serving two years for "possession of a firearm by a convicted felon" and four years for possession of cocaine. Smith began his sentence on March 29, 2013 and his tentative release date is November 8, 2018.
Smith finished his career with 862 receptions for 12,287 yards — both totals rank among the Top 20 in NFL history — with 67 touchdowns during his 178-game career, all but seven of which were spent with the Jaguars after beginning his career a second-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 1992. Smith was injured during his first two seasons in the NFL and spent the 1994 season out of football before latching on with the expansion Jaguars in 1995.
During his 11-season career with the Jaguars, Smith earned five trips to the Pro Bowl and remains the franchise's all-time leader in every major receiving statistical category. Smith also had a few brushes with the law — a DUI arrest in 2001 that would eventually be dropped — and was suspended for four games during the 2003 season for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
Fri May 10 02:57pm EDT
With rookie minicamps starting for so many teams through this weekend, there will be hundreds of young men new to the NFL who are convinced that the league sold them short. And every season, a few rise up from the rabble to become the new "How did THAT guy last THAT long in the draft?" stories. Perhaps the most glaring example that the 2012 draft was not an exact science came from former Florida Atlantic running back Alfred Morris, selected in the sixth round by the Washington Redskins. Morris ran for 3,506 yards and 27 touchdowns in three seasons for the Owls, but the team went 1-11 in his last year there, and 1-11 in the Sun Belt doesn't get you a lot of looks at the next level.
But Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan, who had a bit of success with another sixth-round running back in Terrell Davis, took a shot, and off Morris went. After decent preseason performances against Buffalo and Chicago, he ran for 107 yards against the Colts, which had Shanahan thinking he'd seen enough. He told Morris that he'd be the starting halfback the day before the season opener against the New Orleans Saints, and that proved to be a wise decision. Morris ended his rookie campaign with a franchise-record 1,613 rushing yards on 335 carries, including a 200-yard, three-touchdown performance in the regular-season finale against the Dallas Cowboys that clinched Washington's first NFC East title since 1999. Quarterback Robert Griffin III was the marquee rookie, but Morris gave just as much with far less fanfare.
So, when I spoke with Morris during his recent media blitz for a DirectTV sponsorship, I asked him what he'd tell this year's class of rookies who believe that they've been undersold for whatever reason.
"Don't go in with a chip on your shoulder -- at least, I couldn't have done it that way," he said. "Don't go in looking to prove anything. You just be who you've been since Day 1, and you'll catch their eye. Hard work pays off. You stay focused, you stay positive, and don't get down just because things didn't go the way you expected them to go. It's gonna be a grind, and when you get that opportunity, you make the most of it."
It was a gradual process for Morris -- he started the preseason in competition with the usual battery of running backs, and ended it as the de facto man in charge.
"As things progressed, I became a better ballplayer," he remembered. "My coaches were staying on me -- teaching me instead of just yelling at me. 'This is how you do it better,' and I became better. So, stay focused, and the hard work will pay off. I can definitely attest to that, because I busted my butt, and I came from nowhere, but I got an opportunity, and I made the most of it."
Like most rookies who prove their worth beyond their draft position, Morris was never told by anyone in the league why he had to wait so long. There were 11 backs taken before him in the 2012 draft, and none of those players -- including third overall pick Trent Richardson -- came close to his productivity. Morris had a few dings on his scouting reports that really didn't make sense in retrospect. Some said that he didn't have the burst to hit the edge with authority, when he did that quite a bit in the NFL. Others questioned his ability to run quickly through one-cut gaps, which he did about as well as any back who's ever played in Shanahan's well-established zone-blocking system. And, of course, there's always the default small-school question.
Tue May 07 10:15am EDT
Someday, when President Mike Ditka is sworn into office, all our problems will be solved. International tensions will be cleared up with a clothesline hit, a good cigar, and a steak. Fiscal deficits will be eradicated by the trading of multiple draft picks, the national anthem will be replaced by a simple cry of "DA BEARS!", and nickels will be the size of manhole covers. In the meantime, we'll have to dial our expectations down, and satisfy ourselves with Ditka's evaluation of one Timothy Richard Tebow, who's been out of the NFL since the New York Jets released him on Apr. 29.
Some would tell you that the former Heisman Trophy winner and first-round pick of the Denver Broncos is out of the NFL for good, at least as a quarterback. But Ditka, the ex-tight end and head coach of the Chicago Bears, who also served that latter function for the New Orleans Saints for a little while, believes that Tebow has a place in the NFL. Moreover, he's willing to go out on a limb in his current capacity as an NFL analyst.
From the Chicago Sun-Times, and his "4 Downs with Ditka" column, here's Ditka on Tebow's pro football future:
“I think [Tebow] can play quarterback in the NFL, but whatever offense you run might have to be tweaked a bit. This kid is a talent and he proved it in college. He is an outstanding leader. Now, does he have an unusual throwing motion? Yes. But there a lot of quarterbacks that didn’t have a perfect throwing motion. Some of them turned out to be great quarterbacks because they were great leaders. I really do think there’s a place for him. If not at quarterback, I think he could play tight end. If I was in the league and coaching today, I would take a chance on him at quarterback.”
Ditka has an interesting history with quarterbacks.
Posted Jul 2 2012
Posted Jul 3 2012
Posted Jun 21 2012