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Tag:Peyton Manning
Posted on: February 24, 2012 9:31 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2012 1:26 pm
 

2012 NFL Combine Day 2: Winners and losers

RG3 was the biggest winner on Friday. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- Day 2 of the NFL combine is in the books and we have a whole new set of fresh faces to judge. On Friday, wide receivers, tight ends and quarterbacks made the rounds. Perhaps you've heard of some of these guys.

Winners

Robert Griffin III: RG3 showed up to his combine interview sporting Ninja-Turtle socks, drew a crowd on par with Andrew Luck and absolutely wooed them. He said he wants a team to "fall in love with him," wouldn't care if he had to be a backup in year one, insists he is much more "football smart" than anyone would want to believe, and even said he models himself after ... Kenny Stabler. (And Randall Cunningham and "guys no one expects [him] to know about.") Oh yes, and he actually managed to growsince he last played football. The only question surrounding Griffin at this point is who's willing to give up the most in order to take him second overall.

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Alshon Jeffery: South Carolina's scrutinized wide receiver showed up the combine on Friday and laughed off reports that he gained so much weight he was tipping the scales at 250 pounds. ("Anyone can write anything on the Internet.") In fact, Jeffery lost weight, dropping from the 230 pounds during the season all the way down to 216 for his official weigh-in at the combine. Jeffery claims he just "drank a lot of water" to drop the weight. That seems unlikely, but it's not really important how he lost the weight. It's important why he lost the weight, and that was to show he's motivated to move up draft boards between now and April. We also feel compelled to note that his favorite food is lasagna.

Trent Richardson: Richardson's dealing with an injury so he's not going to participate at the combine. But he said the injury wasn't a "setback," and then he proceeded to be possibly the most quotable guy at the combine. His attitude was one of approachable confidence, and at one point he said that he's more than willing to meet Ray Lewis head on in the hole. It was throughly enjoyable to hear Richardson riff, and if he can back up his talk, he'll be worthy of a top-10 pick.

Peyton Manning: With the management from the Dolphins, Chiefs and Jets all talking to the media on Thursday and not much else going on during the day, Manning's name was freaking everywhere. On Friday, he was less talked about. Scott Pioli of the Chiefs straight no-commented any Manning talk and Ozzie Newsome looked a combo of incredulous and exasperated when he was asked about Manning replacing Joe Flacco. RG3 and Luck both got questions about Manning, but that comes with the top-pick territory, and they weren't grilled on it. With the Redskins rolling onto the schedule Saturday, Manning would be wise to enjoy the peace.

Orson Charles: The third-ranked tight end on NFLDraftScout.com's board, Charles showed up on Thursday and told the media that he'd be thrilled if he was drafted by a team like the Falcons and needed to sit until Tony Gonzalez was done. (It's an appropriate hypothetical for a kid who went to Georgia.) Then on Friday he made it a little harder for people to pass on him, when he benched 225 pounds 35 times. That's eight more than the nearest tight end and more than all but one offensive lineman.

Losers

Combine Changes: It's one thing to use fully automated timing devices for the sake of being more accurate. But what's the point of having two guys race against each other in the 40-yard dash? The answer: making the combine more fun to watch. And with all due respect to the fans who make the NFL the most popular sport in the world, there's just no reason to mess with a proven manner of evaluating players. Pitting guys one-on-one in the 40 might sound like the possibility to create really interesting matchups, but it would probably just create more "week before the combine" injuries.

Mike Adams: NFL teams can deal with a player having off-field issues. Adams has a pair of suspensions from his time at Ohio State and that has to be a concern, even if he's says he's "past" those maturity problems. Perhaps a bigger problem? He only benched 225 pounds 19 times. That's less than all but eight of the linemen who lifted on Friday, and less than all but five of the tight ends. Bench press isn't a clear-cut indicator of success, but that's a pretty big pair of red flags for the Ohio State product.

Tim Tebow: The phrase "one like Tim" would be insensitive, except John Elway's just talking about quarterbacks. But that was the phrase he used when we asked him what kind of backup quarterbacks he'd try to acquire to sit behind Tebow on the depth chart. And as Clark Judge wrote on Friday, Elway's pretty clearly not committed to Tebow as his quarterback of the future even though he and the rest of the Broncos keep trying to speak glowingly of their quarterback. Also, Tim, Fred Durst? Really? Really.

Panthers, Seahawks: Neither team did anything "bad," per se. They just happened to end up on the wrong end of a coin flip against the Dolphins and Chiefs, respectively. And while the loss only cost them one draft spot, that's a significant thing if you're a team like Carolina or Seattle who might be interested in bouncing up or down on the draft board. Lower picks are worth exponentially less in trades.

Justin Blackmon: This isn't to knock Blackmon, because we like the kid a lot. He's a talented, physical receiver who's managed to remain humble throughout his rise to stardom. But sometimes good qualities in people look bad in draft prospects: Blackmon isn't running the 40 (the primary concern about him is speed) because of a hamstring injury he said he suffered last week. He measured in shorter than the 6'1" and he admitted route-running is a problem for him. He's too talented to slip too far, but we wonder whether the Rams will definitely make him a top-five pick.

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Posted on: February 24, 2012 8:43 pm
 

Luck would 'absolutely' play behind Manning

Luck and RG3 both said they'd be willing to sit behind Manning next season. (AP)

By Ryan Wilson

Even if they're not throwing this weekend, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are saying all the right things at the combine. Two months from the NFL Draft, they're considered the two best quarterbacks, and there's the strong possibility that both are off the board with the first two picks.

Most people -- from fans half-paying attention to draft experts -- expect the Colts to take Luck first overall. The former Stanford star has been called the best prospect since John Elway. Given all the upheaval in Indianapolis right now -- from the new front office and coaching staff to the speculation that Peyton Manning could be released in the coming weeks ahead of a $28 million roster bonus -- there's also reason to believe that Luck, like Manning in 1998, would be the starter from Day 1.

Despite the writing on the wall, Colts owner Jim Irsay said recently that he "would love to have" Manning back in Indy. We're guessing those comments were more PR cover than heartfelt, but either way, Luck was asked Friday about the possibility of playing behind Peyton next season.

“If I have the opportunity to learn from a guy like that, of course you’re going to take advantage of it," he said. "Absolutely. … Peyton was my football hero. That’s who I modeled myself after," he continued. "You never replace a guy like that."

Except you do replace a guy like that, perhaps soon. And many Colts fans accepted that reality when the team was on it's way to a 2-14 season without Manning, who had multiple neck surgeries in recent years and his football-playing future is still in question.

There's also this: the organization is free to sign Luck starting Friday.

Griffin, who sported Ninja Turtle socks when he spoke with the media Friday, was also asked about playing behind Manning.

"Yeah I would embrace it," he said according to CBSSports.com's Will Brinson, who is in Indianapolis this week. "It's not very often you get chances to play -- or be on a team -- with a legend like that and learn from a guy like Peyton.

"Definitely I'd come in and compete to try and be the starter, but I wouldn't be upset if Peyton was the starting quarterback of the team I'm on. It would be an honor to sit behind him. I'd hold that clipboard with pride. I'm not going to come in and demand to be the starter."

It's a fantastic answer to questions that are likely irrelevant. We suppose there is some small probability that Manning could return, but all indications are that he's taken his last snap for the Colts.

"Who knows what happens?” Luck asked Friday.

Irsay does, that's who. And we're guessing Luck will be under center when the Colts take the field in Week 1 of the 2012 season.

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Posted on: February 23, 2012 6:07 pm
 

Report: Browns will go after Matt Flynn

Flynn

By Josh Katzowitz

The list of potential suitors for Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn continues to grow. Already, you know the Dolphins are interested, and Green Bay probably would like to bring him back so the team can then (possibly) trade him away.

But according to the Canton Repository, the Browns also will make a play for the fourth-year veteran who’s made exactly two starts in his career (though he admittedly was pretty awesome in both those starts).

As Steve Doerschuk writes, “There will be a budget that will not be exceeded in the play for Flynn. Peyton Manning’s presence on the market drives down his price.  … That still leaves the Dolphins as a suitor … and as the likely lander of Flynn.”

The paper also notes that Browns president Mike Holmgren is “no great fan” of quarterback competition, and if Cleveland can land Flynn, the team would make him the starter instead of Colt McCoy.

It’s still unclear whether the Browns, who hold the No. 4 spot in April’s draft, will try to trade with the Rams to move up to the No. 2 position to grab Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, but on Wednesday, Browns coach Pat Shurmur had some nice things to say about McCoy*.

In like Flynn?
"We're looking forward him to improving through the offseason," Shurmur said. "I think it will make a big difference in year two (of) me being here.  I told him to prepare himself to get as much out of this offseason as possible. I'm expecting him to attack this offseason and get as good as he can get within our system. He really works at things and that's going to help him."

*Basically, it seems like nobody has any idea what the Browns will do.

Flynn, meanwhile, is looking forward to striking out on his own as a potential starting quarterback.

"I'm a confident person but the element of the unknown makes you wish March 13 was tomorrow," Flynn said this week. "I've loved being a Packer, and it's not 100 percent sure I'm leaving Green Bay, but as a competitor and football player, that's what you play the game for -- to be a starter in the league. Hopefully some teams will be interested in me and I can find a good opportunity. I want to lead a team and I'm excited about it. But I can't talk to teams now. I don't know if I'm on their radar. It's going to be a long month leading up to that time -- waiting and wondering."

While you still have to consider Miami the favorite to land Flynn (even if there are no billboards of him on I-95) because of the connection with new Dolphins coach/former Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, it will be interesting to see if the Browns actually can make themselves a player in this lottery.

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Posted on: February 23, 2012 4:27 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 4:28 pm
 

Are Dolphins best fit for Matt Flynn's skills?

Green Bay might franchise Flynn but only to trade him to a team in desperate need of a QB.  (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

The Packers inked tight end Jermichael Finley to a two-year deal Wednesday night, which means that they can now use the franchise tag on backup quarterback Matt Flynn. The organization isn't interested in paying Flynn $14.4 million to watch Aaron Rodgers in 2012, but instead are hoping to trade him to a quarterback-needy team.

" If (the Packers) franchise Flynn before the March 5 deadline, they would be on the hook for a $14.4 million salary, but their intention would be to do a sign-and-trade," Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote late Wednesday.

"In other words, they would shop Flynn to those interested in him and take the best offer. Flynn would have to agree to renegotiate the one-year deal into a long-term contract before any team would be willing to make a trade. Then, once he was dealt, he would restructure the contract."

The Patriots did something similar with Matt Cassel in 2009 -- franchising him before eventually trading him to the Chiefs for a second-round pick.

So who might be in the market for Flynn's services? The Dolphins seem like the most logical destination; new head coach Joe Philbin was Flynn's offensive coordinator in Green Bay and Miami has no intentions of re-signing Chad Henne. Then there are the Redskins, Seahawks, Cardinals, and the Browns.

We went into painstaking detail about Flynn's future (as well as that of Peyton Manning, the other quarterback who will draw plenty of interest in free agency as soon as he's released).


NFL Films' Greg Cosell, who watches more game film than anyone whose not an NFL coach, wrote Thursday about Flynn's strengths and weaknesses. Many of the concerns scouts had about Flynn coming out of college remain (size and arm strength chief among them), but he still has the chance to be pretty good.

"Flynn, at 6-foot-2, does not possess prototypical size. He has above-average arm strength, nothing more," Cosell said. "There are power throws he will struggle to make, like deep digs at 18-22 yards, or deep comebacks. In fact, these are not throws you would ask Flynn to make. The bottom line: Flynn is not a top-level passer.

"His attributes, based on film breakdown of his two NFL starts, derive from his talent as a timing and rhythm passer who’s decisive with his reads and throws, and has shown good accuracy in the short to intermediate areas. …One thing I liked was his pocket movement. He showed the ability to slide and maintain his downfield focus. That’s a far more important trait than running out of the pocket."

So what are Flynn's long-term prospects? "Flynn, I believe, can be a successful NFL starter, but he must be carefully manipulated by the schematics of the passing game, and helped by the play-calling," Cosell said. "He’s not Aaron Rodgers simply because he put up better numbers in a late-season start. Rodgers is an exception, a supremely talented passer with rare traits. Few quarterbacks in NFL history have thrown with Rodgers’ combination of velocity and accuracy."

Cosell concludes that "It would make good sense for Flynn to join his former offensive coordinator in Miami. Philbin understands from personal experience Flynn’s strengths and limitations. If he gets the chance, he will take a page from the Bill Walsh book, and cast Flynn in his rightful role: an efficient passer in a multi-dimensional passing game in which the scheme rules, not the quarterback."

Flynn has drawn comparisons to Kevin Kolb, who was miscast in the Cardinals' scheme last season  (they run a completely different offense than the Eagles' version of the West Coast). The difference: if Flynn lands in Miami, he'll have a much greater chance for success.

Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said he hadn't heard about the grassroots South Florida "Manning to Miami" push until someone told him about it at the combine in Indianapolis Thursday morning, but said that "I don't think it has to be a long-term solution (at quarterback) -- I think you can look at a short-term solution."

Hopefully, Ireland meant that in the physical sense (Flynn's 6-2) and not in the "we can get a year or two out of this old-timer assuming he's completely healthy (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, we're getting Peyton!)" sense.

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Posted on: February 23, 2012 4:21 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 4:31 pm
 

Rex regrets guarantee, won't rule out Peyton

The Manning-to-New York speculation won't die just quite yet. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- This time last year, Rex Ryan stood up on the podium at the NFL combine and guaranteed that the Jets would win a Super Bowl in 2011. Whoops.

No such guarantees from Rex this year, but last year's promise was the topic of his opening remarks for his 2012 press conference. And Ryan said that he believes his guarantee "contributed" to last year's "terrible" season.

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"It's something I've been thinking about a great deal and obviously we had a terrible season and I'll take full responsibility for it," Ryan said. "I think part of that guarantee really contributed to that. Now looking forward, which I can't wait to do, with that upcoming season. First off: no promises. There won't be any promises."

Rex's own comments weren't the only ones he didn't like. Asked about Greg McElroy's comments regarding the team's locker-room chemistry, Rex made it clear that didn't sit well with him.

"I was angry about it," Ryan said. "I never agreed with all the statements he made, but hey, the thing about our football team is that we're truly a transparent organization. You're going to know a lot about the New York Jets in the great times, but you're also going to know a lot about us in the not-so-good times."

"Are you talking about my son? Or some other Peyton?" "First off, Peyton's under contract to a different team so I can't talk about him specifically. But with our organization, we will look at everybody. There's a list of 10 free-agent quarterbacks that I've looked at. There's the draft guys I've looked at. In my opinion, we have the best cornerback in football history -- along with Deion Sanders -- and we're still looking at a million corners.

"We will do -- always -- what's in the best interest of our organization. For us, that means we're going to be prepared. We're going to look at any possibility that out's there, perceived or otherwise.

"We will look at all possibilities."

In other words, even though Rex is currently throwing his full support behind Mark Sanchez, the Jets not looking at Peyton is far from a guarantee.

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Posted on: February 23, 2012 2:03 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 2:08 pm
 

Cardinals won't shut the door on Peyton Manning

Eye on Football Illustration (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Cardinals, despite having Kevin Kolb and John Skelton on their roster, are considered a candidate to land Peyton Manning if/when he's released by the Colts. CBS Sports Charley Casserly first talked about this way back in January, and with Arizona's freedom to get out of Kolb's contract before March 17, speculation has only increased.

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Ken Whisenhunt and GM Rod Graves, speaking Thursday at the NFL combine, did nothing to quell that speculation, leaving the door wide open for the possibility of making a change at quarterback.

"We're about opportunities to get better," Graves said when asked about the Cardinals depth at quarterback. "Everyone out there associated with our team understands that this is a competitive game and we're all looking to get better. So if those opportunities present themselves, so be it. Otherwise we've got an outstanding group of quarterbacks right now.

"We believe we can win with those quarterbacks and we're preparing as if they're going to be the group we're working with and we'll see what other opportunities present themselves if that happens."

So what about the bonus due to Kolb on March 17? Have the Cardinals talked about whether or not they're going to exercise it?

"No, we haven't had any discussions about that," Whisenhunt, not looking entirely pleased to be asked about it, said.

Graves was less direct about the discussions surrounding the Kolb decision, but also made it pretty clear (without being too precise) that the Cardinals will explore options if and when they become available.

"Every day you have to work with the information you have at hand," Graves said. "Right now as I look at it, we fully expect that Kevin's going to be with us so we'll honor the contract as it is, obviously. But we'll see what every day brings forward and we'll make that decision accordingly. Right now, as it stands today, we're not anticipating anything different."

Based on what Whisenhunt and Graves said, it's unfair to simply state that the Cardinals will ditch Kolb and chase Manning. But it's also pretty clear that such a process is something they haven't ruled out as of right now.

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Posted on: February 23, 2012 1:15 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 4:31 pm
 

Bill Polian explains why Colts struggled in 2011

One man's opinion: injuries conspired to sink Indy's season in 2011. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

The Colts won two games in 2011. Two days into 2012, owner Jim Irsay began the house-cleaning by firing team president Bill Polian and his son, general manager Chris Polian. The front office had come under scrutiny after quarterback Peyton Manning began the season on the sidelines while he recovered from multiple neck surgeries and the team had no viable backup to replace him.

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Then there are the swings and misses with recent first-round picks that had taken some of the luster off the elder Polians' impressive roster-building resume. Excluding Anthony Castonzo, Indy's 2011 first-rounder, Polian is on the hook for Jerry Hughes ('10), Donald Brown ('09), Anthony Gonzalez ('07), and Marlin Jackson ('05), all players who have, for various reasons, failed to live up to expectations.

On Thursday, almost two months after Polian was fired, he spoke to the media about where it all went wrong. The Boston Herald's Ian Rapoport asked Polian what he learned about team-building after Manning's injury kept him in civvies on game day.

“No. 1, don’t have injuries,” he said. “And don’t have them in big bunches, either, specifically not the offensive line. And six starters on defense. You can’t overcome that. You don’t use injuries as an excuse or a crutch during the season, but when you lose, I think we lost nine starters, excluding Peyton for the bulk of the season, you can’t overcome that. That’s just the perfect storm.”

Hmm. Here's what we got from Polian: Don't use injuries as an excuse or a crutch during the season, but after the season it's fine.

Look, injuries make it that much more difficult to win in the NFL, but it's not impossible. The Packers suffered a ton of injuries in 2010, slipped into the playoffs as a No. 6 seed and won the Super Bowl. The Patriots, Giants and Steelers also lost a number of key players this season and all three teams made the playoffs, and two made it to the championship game.

Polian also admitted that the quarterback situation behind Manning was a fiasco.

“From the backup quarterback standpoint, I’ve said all along, I thought that we probably, I probably could’ve done a better job of building up that position,” he said via Rapoport. “But it wasn’t for lack of trying. We tried very hard once we knew that Peyton was going to be a long-term situation to try to make a deal for an established quarterback, but we couldn’t do it.”

Again with the qualifications -- "It wasn't from the lack of trying!" and "We tried very hard!" This isn't Pop Warner where everybody gets a trophy and trying hard is all that matters. In the NFL, players and coaches are judged on one thing: results. Ultimately, Irsay judged Polian, too, and it cost him his job. Polian did admit, however, that he has a newfound respect for what the Patriots pulled off in 2008, when Tom Brady went down in Week 1 and Matt Cassel stepped in and went 11-5 (although New England missed the playoffs).

“Well, they did a nice job,” he said. “They did a nice job. But they didn’t have… they had a great defense to go along with it, we did not. Much of it was lost to injury over the course of the season. That’s the difference between the two.”

Remind us: whose fault was it that the Colts' defense wasn't very good?

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Posted on: February 23, 2012 10:15 am
Edited on: February 23, 2012 10:28 am
 

Colts could sign Luck as soon as Friday

Luck appears to be the future in Indy, the only question is when. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

The road to the first-overall pick isn't a smooth one. There's all the losing, the waning fan interest, the almost certain turnover on the coaching staff and the roster. But once the offseason arrives and the new faces are in place, hope is renewed.

Now that Colts fans seem to have accepted that Peyton Manning's best days are behind him and Andrew Luck is the future, there are reasons for optimism. Typically, the NFL Draft takes place on the last weekend of April, but the Colts, should they choose, can sign Luck (or any other draft-eligible player) as early as … Friday. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello tells PFT that after a pair of coin flips locks in the draft order, Indianapolis can ink Luck to a contract.

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Greasing the skids: the new CBA includes a rookie wage scale which means that holdouts are much less likely since there isn't much to negotiate. One of the benefits to doing this sooner than later: it will officially close the book on the Manning era, something owner Jim Irsay is probably eager to do, and the focus would be on Luck, the Colts' next franchise quarterback.

(Then again, maybe Irsay wasn't joking when he said he "would love to have Manning back.")

Should Indy sign Luck before the draft, however, it doesn't mean that the Rams would immediately be on the clock with the No. 2 pick. Aiello explains that only the team holding the first-overall selection has that option.

This is good news for the Browns, Redskins and any other outfit in the market for Robert Griffin III, who is expected to go as high as second overall. It's also good news for the Rams because they'll be able to trade out of the pick and improve their roster in the process.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com