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Albeit small, a window of opportunity opens to strike a new CBA

It widely has been presumed that, once the uncapped year started on March 5, there’s no way a new labor agreement would be negotiated before 2011.  Generally, we agree.

But there’s talk — limited, for now — that a window of opportunity currently exists for getting a new deal done.  Why?  Because a new deal would entail a rookie wage scale, which would limit dramatically the money that otherwise will be pocketed under rookie deals paid out to the likes of Sam Bradford and Ndamukong Suh.

The incoming rookies likely would regard the change as unfair.  But the incoming rookies don’t have a vote.

Of course, it could get even more interesting if the deal gets done — and if the rookie pay rules change — after the players have been drafted.  In that case, the outcome could seem even less fair.

Still, there are many issues to be resolved and the owners, in our view, simply aren’t likely to abandon the leverage they’ve carefully cultivated over the past couple of years.  The owners, we believe, intend to fully exert that leverage, culminating in the unilateral imposition of the last, best offer made before the current deal expires — and then possibility the negotiation of a new CBA on the eve of the 2011 regular season.

That said, we’d welcome the negotiation of a new deal before April 22.  Of course, before that can happen, the two sides would have to have, you know, a meeting.

Finally, if there were a new deal by the start of the draft, the financial rules (including, presumably, a salary cap) likely would apply next year.  The rookie wage scale would apply right now.

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Tomlinson says Chargers changed more than he did

LaDainian Tomlinson gained a career-high 1,815 yards for the San Diego Chargers in 2006, and then his production declined each year until he had a career-low 730 in 2009. But Tomlinson says he’s not the one who changed.

According to Tomlinson, he’s still capable of being the kind of player he was at the peak of his career, even though he’ll turn 31 on June 23. He says the problem in San Diego was that coach Norv Turner changed the offensive approach.

“The things that happened in San Diego, everything was taken away from me,” Tomlinson said today. “There wasn’t an emphasis on running the football anymore, my best fullback was gone, the linemen were pass blocking and it was a passing quarterback and a passing coach. So, the situation’s kind of misleading when you look on film.”

Now that Tomlinson is playing for the Jets, he says he thinks he’s playing in an offense that will properly utilize his talents.

“I knew it was time to leave,” Tomlinson said. “The transition wasn’t as hard because I kind of prepared myself for it and I was ready to kind of move on to something else.”

Still, Tomlinson knows that he won’t be the workhorse he was in San Diego, when he had more than 300 carries in each of his first seven seasons. With the Jets, he’ll share carries with Shonn Greene.

“Shonn and I work well together,” Tomlinson said.

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Rich Eisen punks Shawne Merriman

Though most NFL-related April Fool’s Day gags fell flat this year, NFL Network and Rich Eisen pulled out the perfect prank on Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman.

We could explain the thing in detail, or we could simply give you the link to the video on NFL.com.

Our official position is that you’ll enjoy it more by watching the video.  Our unofficial position is that we’re too lazy to explain it.

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Donte' Stallworth still thinks about accident "every day"

Ravens receiver Donte’ Stallworth met with the media on Thursday to discuss the incident that resulted in his suspension from the NFL for all of the 2009 season — and the death of 59-year-old Mario Reyes.  The car that Stallworth was driving collided with Reyes in Miami.  Stallworth was legally intoxicated at the time, and he pleaded guilty to felony DUI manslaughter.

Prior to that, he told Peter King of SI.com, “I drive that causeway all the time.  I never see people running
across it.  [My reaction] was utter disbelief. . . .  I have
taken responsibility for the accident since it happened, and I will live
with it for the rest of my life.  I think about it every
day
.  I think about his [15]-year-old daughter all the time.  It’s something I’ll never
escape.”

Stallworth’s second chance in Baltimore was fueled by his relationship with receivers coach Jim Hostler, who worked with Stallworth in New Orleans, and with Eagles coach John Harbaugh, who worked with Stallworth in Philly.

The 2002 first-round pick reportedly can still run a 4.4, and he plans to make the most out of his second chance.

“I told John [that I’m not satisfied at all
with my career, and I’m so focused on playing well for this team,” Stallworth told King.  “I told him my career, really, was a little disappointing to me.  I
haven’t really taken care of my body the way I should.  I think I have a
lot more left in my tank.  I think I’ve got a good five years left, with
the shape I’m in and the maintenance of my body over the past year.  I
really appreciate the chance I’m getting here.  John told me, ‘You’ll
have an opportunity to turn that around.’  That’s all I can ask for.”

The concept of “turning that around” is a bit misplaced.  As King points out, Stallworth has never had a 1,000-yard receiving season, and he’s never caught more than 70 passes in a single NFL campaign.

Still, Stallworth could be an asset in Baltimore.  With Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason on the roster, Stallworth should enjoy plenty of single coverage.

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Sponsored post: Four years and counting with Sprint

Before February 2006, ProFootballTalk.com was a hobby for me.  From November 2001 until late 2002, the site didn’t earn a penny.  Starting in late 2002, we solicited donations from time to time, which eventually covered expenses and provided a few extra bucks to buy a periodic bowl of soup.

We then began to churn up some cash via click-based ads, along with the rare direct sale of ad space.  The numbers were decent, but it was still a hobby — something that justified a couple hours of effort in the early morning, and maybe another hour or two after wrapping up the “day job.”

In February 2006, that changed.  Dramatically.  Sprint became the official telecommunications partner of PFT, and this thing became much more than a hobby.

At that point, I started shrinking my law practice and spending more time churning out content.  As we churned out more content, the traffic grew.  We started to hire other writers, and we began to update the site all day long, every day of the week.  By July 1, 2009, when we launched the NBC partnership, PFT was a full-time operation, and it will continue to be for as long as I can type — and hopefully well beyond that.

We’re fairly confident that PFT would have survived without Sprint, but it never would have really thrived.  Now, even though Sprint’s official sponsorship of the NFL has concluded, Sprint’s relationship with PFT will continue.

Starting today, Sprint’s NFL Mobile Live becomes Sprint Football Live, with a PFT news feed, PFTV segments, a football-themed Twitter feed, and many more features.

For the upcoming draft, Sprint Football Live also has exclusive blogs from Sam Bradford, Ndamukong Suh, and Jay Glazer.  (Glazer is projected to go in round seven, to a team that needs someone to run out and get the tee after kickoffs.)

So check out Sprint Football Live, if you’ve got a Sprint wireless device.  If you don’t have a Sprint wireless device, you need to get one.

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Eli Manning finds Donovan McNabb trade talk "shocking"

EliManning.jpgWith one high-profile NFC East quarterback by all appearances on the trading block, another high-profile NFC East quarterback can’t believe what’s happening.

“It’s shocking that a guy who’s been such an important part of their organization, that they’d want to get rid of him,” Eli Manning said of Donovan McNabb, per Reuters (via ESPN.com).  “He’s had great seasons these last couple of years.”

Manning is right, but McNabb is on the wrong side of 30 — and his replacement is by all appearances ready to roll.  Really, this die was cast back in 2007, when the Eagles traded out of round one to the top of round two and picked Kevin Kolb.

Eli may also be wondering whether, at some point, he’ll receive similar treatment.  Despite that Super Bowl win, Peyton’s kid brother hasn’t become a clear-cut, top-two NFL quarterback.  Eventually, the Giants will have to think about life after Eli.

And when that time comes, the worst thing the Giants can do is focus on the past.

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Ken Whisenhunt hopes McNabb gets everything he wants

K. Whisenhunt.jpgDonovan McNabb reportedly wants to play for the Cardinals sometime in the future.

Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, in a generous mood, hopes McNabb’s dreams are realized.

“As of right now, he’s with another football team so it’s not something I can comment
on,” Whisenhunt said. “I’ve known Donovan from being on the field with
him, and he’s a good football player and a good person. Hopefully, things work
out for him the way he wants it to.”

We saw these comments and thought they were a little too transparent to mean much.  Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, who knows Whisenhunt well of course, thinks the Whiz was just having a little fun.

“Whisenhunt rarely says anything without thinking it through or without a
purpose,” Somers writes.  “But, he also likes to tease and he could well have made the
comment for his own amusement, to see what sort of storm it might
create.”

April Fool’s?

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Browns comment on Rogers arrest

In case it wasn’t already clear, Browns defensive tackle Shaun Rogers’ arrest on gun possession charges wasn’t a prank.

“We are aware of what transpired with Shaun Rogers,” Browns President Mike Holmgren said in a statement.  “We will continue to
gather additional information, and until the legal process has taken its
course, we will reserve any further comment.”

According to Cleveland police, Rogers was found with a loaded 45 caliber handgun that was in his carry-on luggage.  No charges have been filed yet.

Guess you can forget about any trade offers coming for Rogers now.

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Sanchez expected to miss some OTAs

M. Sanchez.jpgWe’re not sure what knee surgery Mark Sanchez got after the season, but we do know that he’s not running six weeks after undergoing the procedure.

This is nothing for Jets fans to freak out about, but Kellen Clemens is likely to take first-team snaps from center for the Jets during OTAs and minicamp, according to the Newark Star-Ledger  could be taking some snaps from center during OTAs. 

Sanchez was asked when he could resume football activities.

“No clue yet,” Sanchez said.  “They’ve used the term ‘cautiously aggressive.’ They
want to make sure I’m getting sore, the right kind of sore, without
hurting it — the kind of sore you can bounce back from. That’s the way
it’s been the entire time. It’s getting stronger. I’m just happy I can
walk around already.”

He hopes to participate in “as many OTAs as possible” but it sounds like he will miss a big chunk of pre-training camp practices.

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Milledgeville police will soon send Roethlisberger case to prosecutor

Four weeks after an alleged incident of sexual assault, police in Milledgeville, Georgia soon will present the case involving Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to the local district attorney, according to WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh.

The prosecutor, as explained in our latest PFTV segment, will then consider whether there’s enough evidence to justify the filing of charges.

The decision won’t depend on whether the prosecutor thinks Ben is guilty.  The question is whether the prosecutor thinks that a conviction can be obtained under the very high standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

In this regard, the prosecutor has considerable discretion.  And if that discretion is exercised in favor of pursuing charges, Roethlisberger’s life will be turned upside down — regardless of whether he ultimately is found guilty.

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Jimmy Clausen continues to describe himself as "loving" and "caring"

On Wednesday, Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen described himself as a “loving, caring person” in response to criticism of his leadership skills.

We’re starting to wonder whether he’s written that phrase on his hand.

In an ESPN interview with Jim Rome, Clausen once again described himself as a “loving, caring person.”

Jimmy, please.  Give it a rest.  You’re doing more damage to yourself with this “loving, caring” crap than Marty McShay could ever do.

Frankly, I’d much rather have an asshole prick rat bastard on my team than a guy who’d described himself on consecutive days as “loving” and “caring.”  And if I did have on my team a player who had described himself on consecutive days as “loving” and “caring,” I’d check to see whether someone replaced his vitamins with estrogen, Longest Yard style.

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Larry Johnson doesn't see new team as "fresh start"

1315.jpgIn his first media availability as a member of the Washington Redskins, running back Larry Johnson disagreed with the notion that he’s getting a “fresh start” in his new NFL city.

“I don’t see it as a fresh start,” Johnson said.  “There have been so many fresh starts that I have had.  I think that this is going into a different era of my own.   It’s pretty much coming in here and being here and trying to work as hard as I can to impress the coaches and see where it goes from there. I wouldn’t say it’s a fresh start because being 30, your fresh starts are already gone.”

Johnson claims that he has “a lot left” in the tank.  “People forget, I didn’t play much my first couple years in the NFL, let alone college,” Johnson said.  “I still have a lot of burn left and haven’t really been nicked up or hurt, thank God, as far as my whole career.”

In this regard, Johnson’s right.  Though he’s only five months younger than LaDainian Tomlinson, L.T. has 3,410 career regular-season touches; L.J. has only 1,575.

On whether he arrives in D.C. with the mindset of a starter, Johnson said, “That’s what you have to do.  I wouldn’t come in and say I want to be the third guy or the fourth guy.  I just come in to work hard and wherever they have me on the depth chart is where they have me.   It’s going to be all predicated off of how hard I work here.”

Still, he said he thinks he can coexist with Clinton Portis, and Johnson welcomes the reduced wear and tear that comes from sharing carries.

It all sounds good for now.  But Johnson has created more than his fair share of problems.  It’ll be interesting to see whether he says and does all the right things if he’s not getting the kind of playing time he envisioned when he joined the team.

And it’ll be interesting to see what Portis has to say if Johnson does.

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PFTV looks at the new draft format

In three weeks, the NFL draft will launch at Radio City Music Hall.  Round one will be held on Thursday night, rounds two and three will be conducted on Friday night, and the rest of the draft will unfold on Saturday.

The new format moves the draft into prime time, where the audience presumably will be larger.  It also creates an intriguing dynamic, via the gap between round one and two.

For more, it’s PFTV time.

 
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Chris Johnson skips out on offseason workouts

C.Johnson-2.jpgTitans running back Chris Johnson said he wouldn’t be working out with the team this offseason.  And he isn’t.

Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean reports that Johnson isn’t attending the team’s offseason workout program.  As Wyatt points out, Johnson worked out on his own in Florida last year — and it didn’t keep him from rushing for 2,006 yards in 2009.

It’s unknown whether he’ll show up for Organized Team Activities — basically, practice in helmets, T-shirts, and shorts.  He participated in these sessions, during which much of the offense and defense are installed, in 2009.

Wyatt also reports that other players have skipped the workouts, and that overall attendance has been “spotty.”

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Rob Sims to sign Seahawks' tender in advance of trade

In an indication that he’s likely to be traded soon, restricted free agent guard Rob Sims is reportedly set to sign his tender with the Seattle Seahawks.

ESPN is reporting that Sims plans to sign his one-year, $1.101 million restricted free-agent tender today and that he’s doing so in hopes of speeding up a trade.

The Bears and Lions have both been publicly identified as possible trading partners, and ESPN also reported that the Eagles might be interested.

Sims started 14 games in Seattle last year, but the new coaching staff has told him he’s not in their plans.

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