Posted on: September 22, 2011 7:59 am

More tests for Vick Thursday

Quarterback Michael Vick is expected to run through another batter of tests Thursday morning, after which the Philadelphia Eagles should make a determination on his availability for Sunday's game with the New York Giants.

So far, all indications are that Vick seems recovered from a mild concussion last weekend. If so, he almost surely would return to the starting lineup. But that, of course, is dependent on Thursday's results.

"If Michael Vick can play he will play," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.

That about sums it up. Vick went through a walk-through Wednesday with the first-team offense but sat out the afternoon practice. From all indications, he seemed fine throughout the day, with no lingering symptoms from his concussion.

He was injured last Sunday when he was tackled into offensive lineman Todd Herremans after Vick threw a pass.

The Eagles head athletic trainer, Rick Burkholder, on Wednesday told reporters that Vick's symptoms consisted mostly of a sore neck and jaw and that his test results Tuesday were close to normal.

But nobody is taking chances here, with Vick scheduled to be examined again Thursday morning. If those tests are normal, he would return to practice.

On Wednesday, quarterbacks Mike Kafka and Vince Young took snaps, with Kafka practicing with the first team. Young'r return, however, is significiant. He has been sidelined by a sore hamstring and becomes the backup to Vick when healthy.

For the moment, though, there is still concern about the injured hamstring. That means Kafka is the next option, and he looked poised, confident and accurate in last weekend's loss to Atlanta. If Vick were not ready -- and most persons around the Eagles seem to think he will be -- Kafka is the likely starter.

Generally, quarterbacks who take snaps with the first-team on Wednesday, the day game plans are installed, are the starters that weekend. But this situation is different because of the uncertainty of Vick's situation. He seems improved, and he seems OK, but he does not return until completely cleared by physicians.

One more thing: For Vick to play Sunday he would have to have at least one day of practice. I've known clubs that would start injured quarterbacks who didn't work out the previous week, but the Eagles don't seem to subscribe to that philosophy. If Vick doesn't practice this week, he almost certainly doesn't play.

Category: NFL
Posted on: September 20, 2011 11:10 am
Edited on: September 20, 2011 3:16 pm

Lucky Losers: Take Two

Two games into the season, and the field is starting to firm up for Andrew Luck, the first pick in next year's draft. Kansas City and Indianapolis appear to be the real deals, and it's not a stretch to imagine their Oct. 9 date in Indianapolis as the Andrew Luck Bowl, with the Lucky Loser taking a giant step toward the Stanford quarterback. But that's three weeks away. In the meantime, let's take a look at the early frontrunners:

5. Miami. Bad news, Miami fans. Your team goes on the road where, yes, it can win. Miami needs Andrew Luck like Texas needs rain, so a win complicates the future. Honestly, there's no way the Dolphins stay here long, but losing 11 of your last 12 home games qualifies for some list, and, congratulations, Tony Sparano, you just made it here. The Dolphins were supposed to have so many answers on defense they could overcome the shortcomings of the other half of the football team. Not so fast. In two games they rank dead last in overall defense and 30th against the pass.   Granted, they had to defend Tom Brady and Matt Schaub, but didn't someone tell us this was the best tandem of cornerbacks in the business? Yeah, sure, and Darrelle Revis is overhyped.

Next loss:
at Cleveland. This one's iffy. Cleveland hasn't won a home opener since 2004, and the Dolphins last year won their first four road games. In fact, they won six of eight there. Uh-oh.

4. Minnesota.  
I'll tell you why Christian Ponder looks so good to Minnesota fans: Because he hasn't thrown a pass. OK, so he's not Donovan McNabb, either. McNabb has taken a raft of grief for the Vikings' problems, but cut the guy slack. He's not the one who couldn't protect second-half leads. He just couldn't pad them. So fans want a change, and patience, people. Give the guy time, and I'm talking about McNabb AND Ponder. One's not ready to leave, and the other's not ready to stay. In the meantime, keep featuring Adrian Peterson, and you have a chance ... a chance ... to check out of the Lucky Hotel.

Next loss:
Detroit. The Lions have Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. The Vikings have the 23rd-ranked pass defense. What do you think happens?

3. Seattle.
People keep telling me the Seahawks aren't as bad as they seem and that they'll steady themselves once they get home to the 12th Man, which is this weekend. But then I look at who's taking the snaps, and, I'm sorry, but the Seahawks could play with 12, 13 or 14 men and it wouldn't matter. Not when Tarvaris Jackson is your quarterback, and Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett carry the football. The result's going to be the same, and that's not good. Seattle ranks last in offense, can't run, can't pass, can't block and has Sidney Rice and Robert Gallery -- two of its biggest offseason acquisitions -- sidelined indefinitely. You want to know the straightest road south? You just found it.
Next loss:
Arizona. The Cardinals fixed the quarterback position. Seattle did not. Seeing is believing, and here's where you can tell.

2. Indianapolis.
The more I watch the Colts the more I think Peyton Manning is the NFL's most underpaid quarterback. He makes all the difference in Indianapolis, and when he's gone so is hope for this football team.  I don't fault Kerry Collins for the Colts' bellyflop. The poor guy was thrown into an impossible situation. These aren't the 2008 Tennessee Titans. The Colts are built around the quarterback, and that quarterback is Peyton Manning, not Collins. One local columnist already is calling for the team to hire Brett Favre, to which I say, "Huh?" Bad enough to stink. But now you want the circus to come to town? Brett Favre isn't going to fix this. Nobody but Peyton Manning is going to fix this, and my suggestion is that once the ship starts to list, don't wait on Favre or Manning. Give the ball instead to ... you guessed it ... Curtis Painter. If you're going down, sink to the bottom with young players, not old ones. 

Next loss:
Pittsburgh. You saw what happened to Seattle. Get ready for more of the same, Warren Sapp. Let's see ... Ben Roethlisberger or Kerry Collins? Check, please.

1. Kansas City. 
The Chiefs lost tight end Tony Moeaki for the season. They lost safety Eric Berry for the season. They lost star running back Jamaal Charles for the season. You know it's grim when you lose more starters than ballgames. But give these guys time. They're going to lose a lot of ballgames, too. In two games they've been outscored 99-10, and, yes, that's a sign of how bad it is at Arrowhead. So what happened? Well, look beyond the injuries to turnovers. The Chiefs have a zillion of them. In fact, through two games they have nine. Nobody has more. In 2010, they had 14. Only one club (New England) had fewer. At the rate they're going they'll set an NFL record with 72, and we all know that won't happen. But neither will winning. These guys soared to the top of the AFC West last year with an error-free quarterback, the league's best rushing attack and an efficient and effective offense. Now, Matt Cassel has as many interceptions (4) through two games as he had through 12 a year ago, the top running back is gone and nobody can hold on to the football. Paint it black.

Next loss: 
at San Diego. The last time the Chiefs went there they lost 31-0. Of course, that was without Cassel. Now they're without Charles ... and Berry ... and Moeaki ... and hope.

Category: NFL
Posted on: September 19, 2011 5:54 pm

Fine of Robinson not enough

The NFL wants to clean up illegal hits to the head, so it should start cracking down on blatant offenders. Fining Dunta Robinson $40,000 is not what I'd consider cracking down.

Robinson blew up Philadelphia wide receiver Jeremy Maclin just as he blew up Philadelphia wide receiver DeSean Jackson a year ago. He was fined $25,000 in 2010 after appealing the original $50,000 penalty, and he apologized.

Great, except he did it again, and obviously taking money from this guy doesn't get the message across. So something stronger should have been done.

Something like a suspension.

Now that would have gotten his attention, as well as the attention of his peers. You want to clean up shots to the head ... you want to protect the defenseless ... then get serious about punishing the repeat offenders.

The NFL said it would, indicating that it could extend punishment to the clubs that employ them. But taking money from Dunta Robinson is just doing what you did a year ago ... and it didn't work. So make sure he knows you mean what you say.

The NFL had its chance. It passed, and here's hoping we don't hear from this guy again. Twice is twice too many.

Category: NFL
Posted on: September 18, 2011 7:12 pm
Edited on: September 18, 2011 8:02 pm

Someone give Bolts wake-up call

One of these days, San Diego will figure out how to get off to a fast start ... and I'm not talking about the first half of the season. I'm talking about the first half of games.

For the second straight weekend, they went into the half down by at least 10 ... and for the second straight week they mounted a furious comeback.

Only this one fell short for two reasons: 1) They were playing Tom Brady and 2) they committed too many mistakes. A Philip Rivers interception and Mike Tolbert fumble not only killed potential scoring drives, they produced 11 New England points.


For the record, dating back to 2007 the Bolts are 9-18 when trailing at halftime. Got to change that if they're going to go deep into the playoffs.

Category: NFL
Posted on: September 15, 2011 12:45 pm
Edited on: September 15, 2011 4:29 pm

It's hardly 'over' for Steelers

I see where Warren Sapp says the Pittsburgh Steelers are "old, slow and it's over." Well, he got two thirds of that right. I already said they're old and slow. Anyone who watched their defense in Baltimore would've come to the same conclusion. But "over?" Try again, Warren.

It's not over, and I'll tell you why: The Steelers draw Seattle this weekend. That's a win. Then it's on to Indianapolis. That's another win. Their non-division schedule includes the NFC West and the AFC South, and tell me the Steelers don't get fat on those opponents because they will.

Yes, their offensive line is a problem. But it's always been a problem. It's just one the Steelers were able to overcome because of Ben Roethlisberger and the plays he's able to make.

Only he couldn't last weekend ... but that was Baltimore. Now he draws Seattle, an opponent that surrendered 33 or more points in eight of its last 10 starts and lost its last four road games. Not only was Seattle 2-7 away from home last season (including the playoffs); it was outscored 269-158 -- an average margin of 12.3 points per game.

So that's going to change because the Steelers stunk last weekend? I don't think so. Nor do I think Pittsburgh commits another seven turnovers.

It's one thing to get buried by Joe Flacco and Ray Rice, but this is Tarvaris Jackson and ... Tarvaris Jackson. Pittsburgh will look a lot better this weekend than it did last, one reason it is a 14-1/2-point favorite.

But that doesn't mean there aren't long-term concerns here. I was struck by how slow the Steelers' defense seemed, particularly safety Troy Polamalu, who was out of position too many times ... just as he was in Super Bowl XLV. The defense has eight starters 30 or older, and that will change in November when cornerback Bryant McFadden joins the club. Old legs tire as the season progresses, which is a troubling sign for these guys.

But the schedule might be their ally. Not only are three of their last five starts at home, but look at their last seven opponents: The only one with a winning record last year was Kansas City, and we just got a glimpse of what the Chiefs might look like. They draw Cincinnati and Cleveland twice each; San Francisco and St. Louis, and tell me that won't help Pittsburgh.

Over? Check the schedule, Warren, and you might want to reconsider.

Category: NFL
Posted on: September 13, 2011 4:44 pm
Edited on: September 13, 2011 4:49 pm

No long FGs for Bolts' new kicker

OK, San Diego fans, here's the scouting report on Nick Novak from a coach who worked with him: Accurate kicker from 45 yards and within; not so accurate beyond.

The biggest problem: Kickoffs. He couldn't reach the end zone. Of course, that might change now that the NFL moved kickoffs from the 30 to 35-yard line. According to our assistant, it was leg strength -- particularly on kickoffs -- that kept Novak out of the league.

He hasn't kicked with a club since 2008 when he was Kansas City, and his resume isn't exactly what you'd call impressive. He's 13-24 from 30 yards and out, including 7-for-13 on field goals 30-39 yards long. Novak played in the UFL last year after failing to make the Chargers that summer.

The Chargers can only hope he's more accurate -- and stronger -- than he's been in the past. Kickoff returns have been an issue, with Minnesota's Percy Havin scoring on the opening kickoff last weekend and Seattle's Leon Washington scoring twice in one game last year.

Category: NFL
Posted on: September 13, 2011 10:16 am

Lucky Losers: Take One

It's never too soon to handicap the field for Stanford's Andrew Luck, a slam-dunk as the first pick in next year's draft, so let's get started. Essentially, this season goes this: You lose, and you win. That's right, the lucky loser gets a parting gift, and that gift is Luck, the most promising collegiate quarterback in years. The question, of course, is: Who is the Lucky Loser? Ah, that's why I'm here. Each week I'll rank the field, dissecting the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to be last, and let the roll call begin.

5. Cleveland-- That's five straight losses dating back to last season, including two to Cincinnati. The Browns aren't all that bad. In fact, I'll be surprised if they hang around our Bottom Five long. But that season-opening defeat does make you realize how intoxicating Atlanta's offer of five draft choices for Julio Jones was. Cleveland needs playmakers like McDonald's needs hamburger buns ... yet it passed on Jones. Oh, well, it could be another long year, Cleveland, and you know the drill. But look at this way: At least you have a quarterback. Now he needs help.

Next loss: Good news, Browns fans, your team just drew Indianapolis. You may pick up a "Get out of jail" card next Sunday.
4. Seattle -- OK, so the Seahawks lost their fifth straight road game, including the playoffs. Big deal. They lost to San Francisco last season, too, yet won the division ... then beat the defending Super Bowl champions. But there is something wrong in Emerald City, and that something is defense. There isn't one. In fact, there hasn't been for some time. Sunday's loss marked the eighth time in the last 10 starts that Seattle hemorrhaged 30 or more points, with opponents averaging 31.4 points in that span. That puts your quarterback at a disadvantage, and Seattle's quarterback is Tarvaris Jackson. Check, please.

Next loss: at Pittsburgh
3. Tennessee -- When the Titans made Vince Young the third pick of the 2006 draft they waited until the fourth game to swtich quarterbacks, sitting down Kerry Collins and sending Young on to the field. The same scenario could play out here, with Jake Locker getting the call, and maybe it should. There is talent, but without Chris Johnson doing much of anything -- and he had 24 yards rushing the other day -- the Titans are toast. I like Matt Hasselbeck, and he's a solid veteran who can win you games. But he keeps the position warm until Locker is ready. Locker is the future, and at some point, maybe soon, fans won't tolerate another lost season. They'll want a glimpse of the future.

Next loss: Baltimore

2. Kansas City -- This one's a little tough to digest. Eight months ago the Chiefs were a playoff team, coming off a sensational 10-6 season that earned them a division championship. But that was then, and this is now, and now they're in disarray. They just lost safety Eric Berry for the season. They lost tight end Tony Moeaki for the season. They lost to Buffalo ... at home, no less, where they were 7-1 a year ago. And it wasn't just a defeat; it was a blowout. Worse, it was to ...Buffalo. Obviously, they can right themselves quickly because they did a year ago. But there are disturbing signs that make me wonder if that's possible. I already pegged them as a team that would slide. I didn't think it would be this far.

Next loss:: at Detroit

1. INDIANAPOLIS -- Someone asked me if team vice chairman Bill Polian was so brilliant that he chose this year to tank the season. Preposterious. Unthikable. Ridiculous. I mean, they're not down here with Peyton Manning, right? Except they don't have Manning and may not for the season. So where does that put them? At the back of the class, that's where. The Colts aren't just hapless without Manning; they look pretty hopeless, too. Sad, huh? Not if you're interested in the long-term future of the franchise. I see where coach Jim Caldwell said the mistakes they committed vs. Houston are "all correctable". For the long-term health of the franchise, I hope not. If you're going to stink, this is the year to bottom out. Don't just be 5-11 bad or 4-12. Go for the gold. Make it 2-14 or 1-15. Heck, take no chances and pull a Detroit Lions. So you sacrifice a year. You gain a franchise quarterback for the next 10. People tell me the Colts should start looking for another quarterback, and maybe they're right. Start Curtis Painter, and hope for the worst.

Next loss: Cleveland.

Category: NFL
Posted on: September 9, 2011 11:32 am

Sadly, more shots from Plaxico

There are so many things that are disturbing about Plaxico Burress' interview in Men's Journal that I don't know where to start. Let me just say the more I hear from this guy the more I respect Michael Vick.

Now, before we go farther, let me say I was as horrified and appalled by what Vick did as you. But he was punished, took responsibility for his crime and today speaks out against abuse to animals. In short, he knows what he did was wrong and isn't afraid to admit it.

Burress, on the other hand, can't accept that he screwed up. So he blames Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning, Mayor Bloomberg, the media, the fans, heck, everyone for their roles in making him feel small -- forgetting, of course, that he wouldn't have gone to prison if he hadn't acted like a moron.

The facts speak for themselves. Burress broke a law, was punished and was released. Now he's on to another career. Simple as that.

But not in Burress' world it's not. When Coughlin in 2008 called the incident "sad and disappointing," Burress said in the interview that he was insulted because he wanted "support" and "concern." That led to outrage when Coughlin later told him, "I'm glad you didn't kill anybody," when the two met.

Sounds like a reasonable response, but not in Plax's world it's not.

"We're paid too much to be treated like kids," Burress said in the interview. "He doesn't realize that we're grown men and actually have kids of our own."

Actually, he does, Plax, which is what you're missing. Responsible, mature men don't carry loaded guns into nightclubs. Furthermore, responsible, grown fathers aren't carrying loaded guns in places not named Afghanistan. They're certainly not carrying them into nightclubs. In fact, they're not in nightclubs. They're at home with their kids, doing what they should be doing -- acting like fathers.

Burress thinks he should get a pass because "we're paid too much to be treated like kids." I don't know when salaries became a barometer of how to treat people. Stupid is as stupid does, and what Burress did was dumb, dumb, dumb. He gets paid for catching footballs, not solving problems, and when you act like a juvenile you get treated like a juvenile.

But Burress wants another pass because he "actually (has) kids of (his) own." Sorry, that won't fly, either. Most people with kids demonstrate a modicum of common sense. I don't know many kids who would have acted this irresponsibly, which means that makes Plaxico 0-for-2.

One of these days, Burress will look back on a career that self-destructed and realize that the only person who betrayed him was himself. He thought he was above the law. Mayor Bloomberg reminded him he wasn't. He thought he was bigger than the team. Coughlin and the Giants reminded him he was wrong there, too.

Other guys seem to get it. Why can't Burress? He just told us: Because he can't accept responsibility for his mistakes.

I thought prison would change Burress as it did Vick. I was wrong. No matter what happens, it's always someone else who's at fault. Maybe it's Rex Ryan who should be concerned now.

Category: NFL
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