INDIANAPOLIS --- I'd like to take this opportunity to remind certain NFL coaches and personnel people that if it weren't for the league's fans they've probably be coaching high school football making $40,000 a year instead of $2 million a season.
So quit the tight-lipped act, the paranoia is annoying.
Why do I bring this up? It's getting worse, rather than better -- even here at the scouting combine.
New Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli has put the clamps on the entire Chiefs organization in terms of talking with the media. Employees have been warned that they can be fired.
Now Jerry Jones, the everyman owner, the guy who never tires of hearing his own voice, is the lone voice when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys. His coaches can't talk to the media anymore.
Memo to Jerry: I said hello to Wade Phillips in the hotel elevator here at the combine and he said hello back.
Sorry, Wade. Didn't mean to tell.
This CIA-like mentality is getting sickening in the NFL. There's no reason for it.
There are no secrets.
But the Tyrant Trickle is now flowing faster and faster.
We lose guys like Tony Dungy to retirement, and get Pioli. We lose Jim Haslett and get another round of Eric Mangini.
I can't stand coaches and general managers who act like they invented the damn game.
We need more coaches like Dungy, Atlanta's Mike Smith, Jacksonville's Jack Del Rio and Arizona's Ken Whisenhunt, all accommodating and accessible. We need more front office personnel like Atlanta's Thomas Dimitroff, Carolina's Marty Hurney, Baltimore's Ozzie Newsome, Green Bay's Ted Thompson and Pittsburgh Steelers director of player Kevin Colbert.
In an economy where even the NFL is suffering layoffs and tickets might be tougher to sell in 2009, the league can't afford to tighten up the flow of information even more.
Enough is enough.
The fans, who have a right to know, pay those big salaries. And believe this: They're a lot bigger than coaching Nowhere High School.
---Teams are doing the smart thing and locking up their own free agents before the period begins next week. The Colts gave corner Kelvin Hayden a five-year, $43-million deal, the Dolphins signed Vernon Carey to a six-year, $42-million contract and the Eagles paid nickel corner Joselio Hanson to a five-year, $21-million deal. Keeping your own is always the best way to go.
---The more I watch and hear Baylor tackle Jason Smith, the more I like him. I had him rated as the top tackle before the combine and now I'm convinced of it. He did 225 pounds 33 times, but more than that it's his attitude. ""When I'm on the field, I take a lot of pride in physically assaulting somebody," Smith said.
Smith's case as the top tackle was helped Saturday when Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith left the combine unexpectedly and didn't show up for the workouts. Smith wasn't going to work out anyway, and said it was miscommunication, but that's not a good sign to be sending teams readying to spend millions on him.
It looks like a two-man race to be the top tackle drafted between Jason Smith and Virginia's Eugene Monroe.