Upon further review: The Top 9 things we learned after the referee lockout

So, the refs are back. Yay. The NFL and the referees union struck an eight-year deal last night, which you can read about right here. Reaction has been pouring in all morning, both from Twitter and online. Finally, we can stop discussing lockouts for a while. Commissioner Roger Goodell chimed in here. Now that it’s over, let’s begin the process of looking back. Most importantly, what did we learn from this surprisingly lengthy labor issue? Well… 1. As much as it seemed we ridicule the referees, we really like them deep down: That was obvious. It was a case of absence making the heart grow fonder. Who knew anyone missed the same refs who they boo constantly on Sundays? Who realized how […]

How the Tampa Bay Bucs expect a trade-style acquisition on the defensive line soon…

The Tampa Bay Bucs were dealt a harsh blow last Sunday, and I don’t just mean the loss to the Cowboys. Disruptive defensive lineman Adrian Clayborn, a former first-round pick, went down for the season with a knee injury. He tore his MCL, partially tore his ACL, and will almost certainly need surgery. For a Bucs D-line that has stopped the run better than anyone, it stings. And that’s especially true because they haven’t been quite as effective pressuring quarterbacks. Clayborn has no sacks this year, but he’s definitely tough to block, generating a lot of attention. How will the Bucs defense make up for this loss? Well, temporarily, they signed DE Jeff Charleston. But for the long term, they […]

Rap Sheet Rankings: The Week 4 Edition

Well, it’s that time again. The replacement referees generated plenty of discussion this week, and that continues today. The fallout from Monday night, the negotiations, all that… but it’s time to turn the page. Let’s focus our attention on Week 4, which begins tomorrow night with the Ravens and Browns on NFL Network. A pretty solid slate of games, but there was no doubt which was No. 1. When the Giants and Eagles play in one of the NFL’s most fun feuds, it’s worth watching. What else? Which games should capture your attention Sunday? Glad you asked. Just posted on NFL.com, here is the Week 4 version of the Rap Sheet Rankings, games 1-15.

What else did we learn about the Seahawks-Packers game?

There is a lot to say about the outcome of the “Monday Night Football” game. Most of it has to do with the refs. People have been asking my opinion all day, and it can be summed up like this: This whole thing kinda sucks. That’s … kinda all I got. With the refs and their union talking for the fourth straight day, maybe something will work itself out. Hopefully. Would be tough to go through another week like this. So, plenty more to say, but with the NFL’s statement, one thing is clear: The game is over. We’ll still talk about it — on NFL.com we now have more than 25 (and growing) headlines, videos or links directly or […]

Why Eagles coach Andy Reid said something that makes him the scariest kind of coach

The Eagles lost yesterday to the Cardinals, turning the ball over three times. They are now second-to-last in turnover margin, despite being 2-1. And, as I mentioned in this week’s Rap Sheet Rundown, they need more from QB Michael Vick. The extent they are willing to go to get Vick to pull himself together and play smarter is staggering. It is something I would not have predicted. And it tells you all you need to know about coach Andy Reid this year. Reid told reporters earlier today that, while he supports Vick, he wasn’t ready to rule out a possible competition with rookie Nick Foles. “We’ll evaluate it as we go,” Reid said. Forgive yourself if you gave a WHAT?! […]

Rap Sheet Rundown: The Week 3 Edition

The Cowboys pulled out an ugly win yesterday over the Bucs, the kind of gritty, hard-fought battle that allows you to learn about yourself. For sure, they learned about their quarterback, though it’s something they already knew. Tony Romo is a tough dude. Yesterday, he was the symbol of toughness, rising again and again despite being brutalized by the Bucs defense. He was sacked and belted, hit helmet-to-helmet and flung to the ground. He kept getting up and was perfect in the fourth quarter despite all that. Teammates were impressed, and they took notice. “Some quarterbacks who take hits like that don’t want to go back,” Cowboys WR Dez Bryant said. “Not him.” The Cowboys fed off their quarterback. The […]

Cowboys take home an ugly win: “The defense bailed us out”

The Cowboys won ugly… unless you like defense. Then, it was pretty. Dallas took down the Bucs in a grind-it-out slugfest, leaving with a 16-10 victory at Cowboys Stadium. They did it while having 119 yards of offense after three quarters and just 38 rushing yards on the game. Oh, and QB Tony Romo was brutalized all game, looking shaky in several instances. He took a couple hits that might lighten the wallets of some Tampa Bay defenders. All he did was shake off some missed opportunities and poor execution early to drive for two fourth-quarter field goals to ice it. “This was a hard ballgame, and we made enough mistakes to lose,” owner Jerry Jones said. “But the defense […]

Nine really random things and whatever else is going on around the NFL…

As we do every week, let’s take a swing around the NFL, looking at a bunch of random things… So, what’s been up? 1. The Buccaneers have a serious challenge today in facing the Cowboys, but they will have some big-time weapons to use. One of them is blue-chip receiver Vincent Jackson, a monstrously tall former Chargers star who was the prize of this free agent class. He has nine catches for 175 yards in two games, and QB Josh Freeman seems to have already built a connection with him. As Cowboys CB Brandon Carr was telling me, Freeman is already following the lead of Chargers QB Philip Rivers. “They both have the same mentality,” Carr said. “They’re going to throw […]

Bucs coach Greg Schiano: “It’s important that our guys understand what we’re walking into.”

It was an interesting and slightly tumultuous week in Tampa Bay. Following a late loss to the Giants, one that saw them squander a big lead, Bucs coach Greg Schiano saw his end-game tactics widely debated. He was a target. How did his team respond? Were they focused. How ready are they to play the Cowboys? That’s one of the things I asked Schiano when we spoke yesterday. “I’m just honest with them,” Schiano said, answering my question about how to get the team to react properly. “I’m as disappointed as they are, but this is the National Football League. It’s not like you’re going to win every game, that doesn’t happen. We just gotta get back to work and […]

Cowboys DC Rob Ryan: “I don’t think the (Seahawks) pushed us around, I know they didn’t.”

If you look at the stats from the Cowboys last game at Seattle, it was ugly. Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch ran for 122 yards on 26 carries, and the real damage was done in the second half. The Cowboys defense, one hit by a bunch of injuries, allowed two bruising touchdown drives to clinch defeat. It led some locally to view them as being bullied, and watching the game, one could easily draw that conclusion. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan understands that inclination. He just doesn’t agree with it. “People are going to say that,” Ryan said, speaking with reporters today. “When you look at the stats, it’s 185 yards rushing, so obviously, anybody can stake their claim to that’s what […]

Tampa Bay Buccaneers go back to basics a week after losing a lead to the Giants

The Bucs have been in the news this week, which really isn’t something you said in 2011. But with the last-second kneel-down vs. the Giants drawing a discussion, that’s reality. In fact, there will be a fascinating interview with Bucs coach Greg Schiano by Melissa Stark on Sunday morning’s First on the Field. Lost in all this is that the Bucs let a late lead slip against the Giants, losing after being up 11. Now, they’re gearing up to face the Cowboys, which is the game I’m covering Sunday. For some prep work, I spoke with Bucs DT Gerald McCoy about the week. First of all, he began the phone call with a memorable introduction: “Iaaaaannnnnnnnnnnn!!!!” McCoy said. “If you […]

Lots of rush to judgment about the Cowboys… just not in this building

It’s always interesting how a team will react to a lose. A close loss will often draw out the emotional response. An ugly, beat-down like they suffered in Seattle? Well, who knows? The Cowboys were even-keeled today, several days after licking their wounds. There wasn’t shock or anger or panic. Just a business-like sense of trying to figure out what went wrong. That comes from coach Jason Garrett, and the players are buying in. As with any Cowboys team — one that deals with so much media coverage either way — that’s key. Not listening to all the hoopla wanting to anoint them in Week 1 and crush them in Week 2. As DL Marcus Spears told me, they knew […]

What is going on with the New England Patriots and Wes Welker? Well…

Wes Welker has been part of a main storyline for the Patriots since the Super Bowl. The Patriots receiver was deemed their franchise player, then there were questions about whether he would sit out or make a stand. Well, he sat out some, talked about not feeling great about the way he was treated, then returned for mandatory mini-camp and signed his tag. The questions haven’t gone away. As you’ve probably read — the Boston Globe and Boston Herald have it well covered — Welker’s playing time is down while the snaps for Julian Edelman are up. Edelman even started on Sunday. Our own Albert Breer has a really good look at this situation, too, to lead off his picks […]

Rap Sheet Rankings: The Week 3 Edition

If there is one way to move on to the next week in the NFL, it’s to sit in front of a schedule, look at the slate of games, and start to make sense of it. That, to me, is how the following week begins. And then, I write it up in our weekly feature, the Rap Sheet Rankings. I rank ’em 1-16 based on my interest in each game. This week’s top choice was easy. Any time the Ravens and Patriots play each other, it’s one you’ll want to be in front of a TV for. I gave you a little taste this morning with this post on Patriots nemesis Bernard Pollard. While he noted, “The Super Bowl’s not won […]

With the Patriots looming, Ravens S Bernard Pollard discusses his response when fans call him “The Brady Killer”

For years, major Patriots injuries have had one constant — Bernard Pollard was either involved or had a front-row seat for them. Think about it. When Tom Brady tore his ACL, it was Pollard with the Chiefs who slammed into his left knee. When Wes Welker tore his ACL, Pollard with the Texans was inches away from drilling him. And last year, when TE Rob Gronkowski suffered a brutal high-ankle sprain leading up to the Super Bowl, it was Pollard with the Ravens who brought him down (left). Three different teams for Pollard, three different injuries to Patriots. Yikes. It’s no wonder that he’s considered one of the all-time Patriots villains by fans. There are even T-Shirts honoring, um, his […]

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