With minicamps coming to a close, let’s do our weekly thing and break down nine really random things going on around the NFL…
So, what’s been up?
1. One thing we all learn to be cautious about is timelines for surgeries. Players are always either ahead of schedule, behind schedule, though rarely on schedule. Who knows? Probably the best way to do it is to understand why a guy is where he is. For instance, some teams view six or so months to return from an ACL tear to be a reach. When Patriots WR Wes Welker tore his knee up on Jan. 3 a few years back, he was essentially ready for training camp. That was seven months. But it was actually six months from surgery, since he waited an entire month for swelling to go down. What does this mean for Vikings RB Adrian Peterson?
Peterson tore his on Dec. 24, then had surgery five days later. No wait. So, his clock actually started a month before Welker’s when you compare timelines. Welker was on the field six months after surgery, but he started to look like himself after eight months. For Peterson, without complications, that would put him on the field in early July (before camp) and have him feeling like himself in early September. That’s why he may not start the year on the PUP list. “I think it sped up my timetable,” Peterson told me, about not waiting for surgery. “My first thought was, ‘Hey, I want to get the surgery done as fast as possible to go ahead and start this process. Get it going. I haven’t had any setbacks.”
2. I’m always a little intrigued by how different teams and players handle this summer break. Eagles QB Michael Vick told me last week he would be watching all of his bad plays. Yet the Vikings sounded like they wanted QB Christian Ponder to take a mental break. They’ll hit him with some emails to keep his mind fresh, but offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said, “We also want them to decompress a little bit and recharge their batteries so they can crescendo when we get to Mankato. It’s tough to keep that intensity for a long period of time.” As always in life, a mix of the two is probably best. But my thought is that coaches give players one or two things to focus on, then leave them alone. Training camp is looooooong, and there is plenty of time.
3. We media peeps love to debate how one player ranks compared to another player. Perhaps you’ve seen this a time or two on TV. Lists are always fun, especially during down times. Just like our Top 100 feature, it’s great to see how one player views another. Thus, it was noteworthy that RB LaDainian Tomlinson said earlier in the week that he considered playing this year for just one team — the Broncos. And that was because of Peyton Manning. That’s a pretty solid show of respect. LT was so enticed by the thought of playing in that situation — for and with Manning — that he nearly put off retirement. Money is important and all of that, but these are the kind of feelings that shape free agency, too. Players want to play with guys they respect. If Manning wins this year, I don’t think free agent recruiting will be that difficult for the Broncos.
4. Hearing the back and forth about evidence in the bounty case makes me want to claw my eyes out. I thought Jeff Duncan of the Times-Picayune summed this up nicely. Even the lockout was more interesting than this. Some of the arguments and slicing and dicing of evidence doesn’t even make sense. Players find themselves contradicting statements made by other players (like denying that any program exists while another said it did in some form.) It’s also frustrating to many parties, I’m sure, that players refuse to testify in hearings, but then speak in public and say whatever they want. Sigh. When Commissioner Roger Goodell rules, we’ll all move on. And that will be nice.
5. As noted here and other places, it really does seem that the Patriots and Andre Carter are headed for a reunion. I base this on common sense and what I know both sides want to happen. Carter wasn’t shy about his desire to return to the Patriots. Patriots coach Bill Belichick has always wanted Carter back… provided it’s not too expensive. Why hasn’t Carter been signed yet? First, Carter must show he’s healthy. That torn quad has taken a while to heal, and he’ll likely need to work out for whichever team wants him. Two, Carter’s side has had to come off their desire for big money. I assume that’s happened. That big-time, multi-year deal it looked like Carter was closing in on with his first Pro Bowl year looks too unlikely now. The Patriots played this one nicely. Teams have made most of their moves already. There is a lot less room on rosters. Carter won’t be able to demand much, because the Patriots won’t have much competition. So, Carter should provide them good value.
6. Cowboys NT Jay Ratliff told a radio station this week that his teammates are going to spend this year shutting up and doing their job. Probably not the best news for media members who spend a lot of time talking to people, but whatever. Ratliff is much bigger than I, so who am I to argue? I mean, I think it’s ridiculous to believe there is a correlation between how much a player speaks with the media and success. But I think the actual message is a good one. This Cowboys defense is confident. That’s the thing I took way from Ratliff and players in the locker room. Sounds to me like Ratliff really likes what he’s seen, and he doesn’t want words to screw it up. Veteran DE Marcus Spears kinda said the same things. These guys are really starting to think they’ll be pretty awesome on D this year in Year 2 of Rob Ryan. So, that’s promising.
7. I am really loving the decision made by college football’s leaders to have a four-team playoff instead of whatever the heck the BCS was. As someone who covered college football for five years and grew to think the BCS was pretty stupid, this is pretty cool. Not as cool as an eight-team playoff, but maybe they’ll get there. Anyway, this could be a really big thing for NFL stadiums. Cowboys Stadium has already expressed interest in hosting a national title game, and so has EverBank Field in Jacksonville. There will be others, too, (I’m looking at you, Georgia Dome). No, this won’t actually affect any of the NFL teams. But it’ll be pretty fruitful for the cities. And, considering I live in Dallas, I fully support Jerry Jones’ bid for the first one.
8. According to reports on the scene, Dolphins WR Chad Ochocinco had quite a performance during minicamp. Some were fairly breathless. One should be sure to take all of this with a grain of salt. It’s easy to look good with no pads, and playing catchup with that offense is no easy task. Still, if Ochocinco really, truly, seriously, for real looked like a star during camp, that’s a good sign. As much as those of us in the media (including me) tried to explain it away last year, we saw signs of Ochocinco being bad in training camp with the Patriots. He just dropped too many passes and needed everything spelled out, and those issues would prove to be a problem during the season. I think concentration for Ochocinco is just as important as whether he has his legs or not. How well he can maintain both of those things will determine his season. But maybe a fresh starts has helped.
9. Should be a quiet week over here, with all minicamps over. But it won’t be completely devoid of things to talk about. The NFL rookie symposium starts today, and it’ll last in some form or fashion for the next week. So, that’s something. I’m sure we’ll be all over it, and the list of speakers is tremendous. I really can’t wait for the player formerly known as a Pac Man Jones. I hope we get to hear a report of his speech to rookies (or even the actual speech). I can’t think of a player in a better position to deliver a message to rookies than him. Despite that time he cursed me out last year in the locker room after the playoffs when I happened to be standing where his elbow could accidentally brush against my elbow, he seems to have really worked to turn his life around. Rookies would be wise to listen.