Wade backs away from his comments about Roy Williams

Phillips_Jones.jpgNot long after explaining that receiver Roy Williams, a phenomenal disappointment since arriving in Dallas during the 2008 season via a modern-day Herschel Walker trade, would have to fight for his starting job in 2010, Cowboys coach Wade Phillips is claiming that his comments were misinterpreted, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com.

Coincidentally, Wade’s boss also has chimed in on the matter.  Asked whether he could imagine a situation in which Williams doesn’t start in 2010, owner Jerry Jones said:  “A big no.”

We’re not sure how Wade was misinterpreted.  He said of the receiver position that he “would play the best player, no matter what.”  Apparently Phillips meant to add “if Jerry lets me” or “as long as the best player’s name is Roy Williams.”

And now we know why Jones continues to employ as his head coach a guy who is the exact opposite of Bill Parcells.

So what does Jones expect from Williams?  Basically, what Jones expected — but didn’t get — in 2009.

“I think you could look for him to have the kind of year we expected him
to have last year,” Jones said.  “I’m optimistic about Roy Williams. 
We’ve got to do some things to help Roy, to help his game.  We’ve got to
do some things with the way we get him the ball to enhance his game. 
We’re going to do that.”

Ensuring that Miles Austin will constantly receive double coverage will help.  Heck, even Alvin Harper was able to succeed in Dallas across from a guy who could actually play.

Merriman isn't pleased with RFA tender

50690_Merriman_Arrested_Football.jpgEven though he’ll receive the highest possible tender as a restricted free agent, Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman doesn’t seem to be happy with the situation.

Not happy at all.

Speechless today,” he said earlier tonight via Twitter.  “Business is business but some things just aren’t right.”

He’s surely talking about the fact that, despite five NFL seasons and an expired contract, he’s not eligible to hit the open market, and he’s restricted by a provision that would require a team who signs him to give up a first-round pick and a third-round pick to the Chargers.

But Merriman shouldn’t be upset with anyone but the NFL Players Association, which agreed to a provision that extends by two years the minimum years necessary to become an unrestricted free agent in an uncapped year.  And if he wants to see that change, he needs to press the union to get a deal done by Friday that moves the minimum from six back to four.

Merriman also shouldn’t be speechless.  He knew or should have known this day was coming since May 2008, when the league exercised its right to terminate the CBA two years earlier, making 2010 an uncapped year — and preventing Merriman from becoming a UFA.

An example of the real value of the Underwear Olympics

As the Winter Olympics conclude and the Underwear Olympics a/k/a the Scouting Combine continues, a league source has shared with us some anecdotal information regarding the correlation between the perceived performance in drills and on-field football performance.

The source says that, several years back, he had video of a running back doing a workout that included various drills — running, cutting, receiving, etc.  The tape contained no markings on the field or the T-shirt that could be used to identify the player.

So the source had various scouts and personnel types review the tape and evaluate the player, without telling them that the player already was in the league.

The response was lukewarm.  “He’s OK,” one guy said.  “Nothing special,” said another.

Not only was the player already in the league, but he was playing at a Pro Bowl level.

The point is that scouts often are influenced by the names on the shirt, and that grades applied to players could be much different if the drills were conducted blindly.

That’s why some personnel types joke that grades given to some players are written in pencil, and that grades in a player’s files can mysteriously change at various stages of his NFL career.

Mixed reviews on the new Mike Williams

1257189354716.jpeg.jpgFive years after an eventual bust of a receiver named Mike Williams entered the NFL via the top ten of the draft and nine years after an eventual bust of a tackle named Mike Williams entered the NFL via the top five, there’s another Mike Williams in the draft pool.

And despite a glowing review from some for the catches he made at the Scouting Combine, a league source offered a much more sobering assessment.

“Mike Williams did not help himself,” the source said.  “He was supposed to be a 4.4 guy and was closer to 4.62.  He was horrible in interviews blaming everyone but himself for his problems at Syracuse. . . .  He did catch the ball [at the Scouting Combine] but everything else was poor.”

The source also pointed out that Williams, who quit the Syracuse football team in November, won’t be permitted to work out at the Orange Pro Day.

“He is a great talent but a train wreck as a person,” the source opined, expressing regret for the fact that draft experts who pump up Williams’ chances are only setting the player and his family up for disappointment when reality strikes.

Though it remains to be seen where Williams is drafted, the source believes he’ll go in the late rounds, and possibly not at all.

McNeill getting highest tender from Chargers, too

One the same day that Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune broke the news that three key members of the Chargers — receivers Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd and linebacker Shawne Merriman — will be tendered at the highest possible level, Acee now reports that the Chargers will tender left tackle Marcus McNeill at the top level, too.

Per Acee, McNeill will get an offer that will give the Chargers a right to match and, if they don’t, a first-round and third-round pick as compensation.

So if they get raided for each of those players, the Chargers will end up with five first-round picks and five third-round picks in the 2010 draft.

Bucs apply third-round tender to Stovall

With the Buccaneers allowing receiver Antonio Bryant to leave via free agency, the teams needs to have enough warm bodies to man the position in 2010.

One of them will be Maurice Stovall.

Per the Tampa Tribune (via PewterReport.com), the Bucs have tendered Stovall at the third-round level.  The move gives the team a right to match any formal offer he receives (and accepts), and it provides the Bucs with a third-round pick if they choose not to match.

The price for the third-round tender, which corresponds with Stovall’s original draft round, is $1.176 million.

Okung wanted to keep going

In response to the news that Oklahoma State lineman Russel Okung didn’t finish his Scouting Combine workout due to an injury, a source with knowledge of the situation tells us that Okung wanted to continue.

Per the source, trainers directed Okung not to finish the workout.

Though we’ve never caught wind of liability concerns regarding the Combine drills, we can understand why the powers-that-be would pull the plug on a guy who could do more damage to himself — and thus harm his draft stock — by working out while injured.

We’re told it’s a minor tweak to the groin, and that it should not affect Okung’s pre-draft preparations.

Tate is one of many receivers to boost stock Sunday

Well, Golden Tate was right.  He ran a 4.42 forty, besting expectations and helping his chances to be the second receiver taken in the NFL Draft.

Tate struggled during one drill (the gauntlet), but finished out his session well.  I watched the receiver group with NFLDraftScout’s Rob Rang, among others.  Tate was one of the wideout Rang felt helped their draft stock Sunday. Some other rising receivers:

1. Mike Williams, Syracuse: “He needed to have a big week, and he did,” Rang said.  Williams’ off-field concerns are serious, but he’s a physical beast and made a lot of tough grabs.

2. Carlton Mitchell, South Florida: The 6’2, 215-pound receiver has speed that translates on the field.  He ran a 4.49 and looked fluid for his size.

3. Damian Williams, USC: Rang said he was not surprised by Williams’ excellent day.  He ran in the low 4.5s and showed quick feet on a day where we saw a lot of weak routes. He could sneak into the first round.

4. Taylor Price, Ohio: Cornerback Kyle Wilson said Price was the best receiver he saw at the Senior Bowl. The small school player caught every single pass thrown to him Sunday.  He ran a 4.41.

McCoy "fine" if he's not the top pick

Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy just finished perhaps the last player interview here at the Scouting Combine, and it may have been the best. It certainly drew the most laughter.

Quick with a joke, McCoy said he’s extremely competitive, but isn’t worried about being the top overall pick.  Asked if he preferred the Rams or the Lions, McCoy said either one would be just fine.

“The one or two pick, third pick, thirteenth pick, a pick, it’s good with me,” McCoy said.  “I just want to get picked.”

McCoy said he’s good friends with Ndamukong Suh.  “From the day we met, and we met on the field, he said, ‘Go out and ball out, and get that money.’  I said the same thing.  And it’s been like that ever since.”

Later he made it clear it would be an honor to be St. Louis’ selection.  “To be considered the number one anything is great.  Imagine if they announced the best interviewer, and said your name first.”

McCoy weighed in at 295 pounds, but says he could play five pounds heavier if necessary.  He says some teams have talked to him about playing defensive end.  (These were likely 3-4 teams.)

Clearly, there is a difference in styles.  McCoy is more of a penetrator, with Suh stouter against the run.  Based on what we’ve heard this week in Indianapolis, there are absolutely zero concerns about the attitude, leadership skills, and intelligence of both defensive tackles.

Report: Cromartie could soon be a Lion

Cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who has fallen out of favor in San Diego due to a stew of reasons that likely includes an alarming lack of tackling effort during the AFC playoffs, has been on the trading block for a while.

And he apparently will soon be off the block — because he apparently will soon be traded.

According to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Cromartie “could be” a Lion in the near future.  There are no details regarding the compensation that Chargers would receive.

Trades officially can be made as of the first day of the league year, which this year is March 5.  But teams can loosely agree to terms before March 5, with the deal consummated at some point after the clock strikes 12.

As Acee points out, regardless of whether Cromartie becomes a Lion, Cromartie “has almost certainly” played his last game with San Diego.

Meanwhile, feel free to start making the Wizard of Oz references.  Bonus points are available if you can tie them together with the whole Travis Henry thing.

Tim Tebow defends Urban Meyer, breaks record for using word "blessing"

It’s fitting, we suppose, that with the retirement of one NFL quarterback whom we think might be using his religious views as a not-so-subtle way to put himself above the rest of us comes the arrival of another NFL quarterback who is even more over the top with the notion that he was in some way “chosen” — and thus is in every way “better.”

Before I go any farther here, I need to set the record straight.  My position on people who are too obvious regarding their beliefs is not anti-Christian.  I am a Christian.  I go to church every Sunday.  I have 12 years of Catholic education.  And I personally believe that the likelihood that this planet of ours was created and populated with plants and animals by accident is even slimmer than the chances of dropping a bowl full of eggs, flour, and sugar and having it land as a five-tiered wedding cake.

But I’m naturally skeptical, by virtue of 12 years of Catholic education and many more of regular church attendance, of anyone who wears these beliefs on his or her sleeve.

Or, as the case may be, on the black strips under his eyes.

I was going to leave it all alone until Tebow broke out the word blessing multiple times during a short interview on NFL Network, including a response to his critics that sounded like a machine gun that fires not bullets but “blessings.”

We get it, Tim.  You’re blessed.  More so than the rest of us.  If we get to Heaven, we can watch you play quarterback against the All-Hell defense.

Earlier today, I dropped a link to Matthew 6:5-8 when discussing Tebow.  Here’s the text of it, for those of you who are interested:  “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners seen by men.  I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.  But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

I don’t think that verse ever appeared on Tebow’s eye strips.

Meanwhile, Tebow offered during the NFLN interview a strident defense of Florida coach Urban Meyer, claiming that players who come from the Gator program “know football,” and that Meyer and his staff teach schemes and concepts that apply to the next level.  “When our guys go to the next level,” Tebow said, “they know what they’re talking about.”

Of course, the issue isn’t Tebow’s ability to read or understand an NFL playbook.  It’s his ability to properly throw the ball.  And though Tebow tried to downplay the change to his throwing motion by saying that he’s not really changing his throwing motion, if it wasn’t such a huge problem he would have been doing everything they wanted him to do at the Scouting Combine, instead of merely talking about what a blessing it will be to do everything that they want him to do at his Pro Day workout next month.

By pointing these things out, I don’t “hate” Tebow.  He was a great college football player, arguably one of the best ever.  But I’m skeptical because his behavior falls into the category of Matthew 6:5-8 that I’ve been taught to avoid, and because I wonder whether his purpose isn’t to spread the Good News but to cultivate and maintain an image that will serve separate interests.

The easy thing to do in this case would be to parrot the universal praise for Tebow.  The harder task is to look past the facade, and to question whether this guy is as good as advertised — or whether he’s too good to be true.

UPDATEHere’s the video.  And here’s the key quote.  “Well, I have been truly blessed.  And the past four years have been a blessing to me.  My whole career has been a blessing.  I’ve truly been blessed. . . .  So I just look at all the criticism . . . as another blessing.”

Cable: "We'll see" about Javon Walker

Yes, Javon Walker is still on the Raiders.  No, it doesn’t make any sense to carry an expensive player that didn’t have a single catch last season.

I asked Tom Cable Sunday why Walker couldn’t couldn’t get on the field.  Cable spoke about the emergence of Oakland’s young players at wide receiver.

“Will [Walker] be there next year?  We’ll see,” Cable said.

Logic says Walker will finally get dumped, which will be at least a year too late.  Cable’s words appeared to support that notion, we’ve given up applying logic to Oakland’s personnel decisions.

Snead enjoys strong throwing session

The NFL allows a group of journalists in to the NFL Scouting Combine each year on Sunday to watch a set of quarterbacks and wide receivers run through there drills.

Since they have loose rules on what qualifies as a journalist, I went in to watch the second group of quarterbacks Sunday.  I’ll have some thoughts on the general atmosphere inside the antiseptic stadium later, but I’ll pass along what I saw in the meantime.

Cincinnati’s Tony Pike was the highest regarded quarterback in the group, but had an up-and-down day.  He threw well between the hash marks early, but struggled quite a bit on any vertical throws late in the session.

Ole Miss’ Jevan Snead appeared to have the strongest day of the group by consensus.  He was accurate on every level, and had some nice throws deep.  West Virginia’s Jarrett Brown got the best reviews by far among a weak morning quarterback group. 

We’ll be back with some thoughts on the wide receivers in a bit.

Cards to dump Rolle, then will try to keep him

As expected, the Arizona Cardinals are poised to deal with the back end of a bad rookie contract by dumping safety Antrel Rolle, a top-ten draft pick in 2005.

Per Adam Schefter of ESPN, the release is expected to come this week.  But Schefter also reports that the Cardinals will attempt to re-sign Rolle.

Rolle is due to earn a $4 million roster bonus soon, along with an $8 million base salary during the 2010 regular season.

And that’s way too much for any safety to make.

Pacman invites NFL teams to watch him work out

On Friday we at PFT received an e-mail advising us that former Titans and Cowboys cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones had “tentatively scheduled” a March 19 workout in New Orleans for any interested NFL team.

We weren’t quite sure what to make of the e-mail (which was attributed to “Jones’s advisors” and seemed to be from an agent not certified by the NFL Players’ Association), but we were reminded of it when Jason La Canfora of NFL Network reported today that Jones has scheduled the workout.

The workout will apparently take place immediately following Tulane’s pro day, so presumably some NFL scouts will already be there and figure there’s no harm in sticking around to see what Jones can do.

Jones worked out for the Bengals this month but didn’t sign with Cincinnati. After two seasons with the Titans in 2005 and 2006, his repeated off-field problems got him banished from the NFL in 2007. He returned with the Cowboys in 2008 only to run into more off-field problems, and he wasn’t in the NFL at all in 2009.

Jones is an excellent athlete who ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash and vertical jumped 39 inches when coming out of West Virginia, so if he’s in shape he’s certainly capable of putting together an impressive workout for NFL scouts. But it’s likely that NFL teams will decide that Jones’ propensity for finding trouble outweighs his ability to run and jump, and that he’ll remain unemployed after the March 19 workout.