Words of wisdom from LaMarr Woodley

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When Ian Rapoport, formerly of the Boston Herald but now of NFL Network, forwarded the link to his conversation with Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley regarding the bounty controversy, the natural inclination was to scoff at Woodley’s comparison of bounties to contract incentives.

But then I considered what he was saying.  And it started to make some sense.

“If you think about it, when you say there’s an extra incentive, the ‘bounty,’ that’s like people having incentives in their contract,” Woodley told Rapoport.  “You get a certain amount of sacks, you get an extra bonus.  Is that considered a bounty?

“You’re still going to go out there to make the plays in order to get some extra money.  Is that putting that much more pressure to go out there and want to hit a quarterback because you know you have a $100,000 bonus coming if you do this?”

In other words, football players play football.  Different tactics are utilized to get players to play football harder, better.  Whether that extra kick comes from a contract incentive or a cash payment for playing so hard that it puts an opponent out of the game, it’s more about motivation and focus than it is about inflicting injury, especially in the absence of a specific pattern of cheap shots or other clearly beyond-the-bounds behavior that could serve no purpose other than to create bodily harm.

“When I’m going to hit the quarterback, I’m not thinking, ‘I should hit this guy soft,’ I’m thinking, ‘I’m about to take this dude down to the ground,'” Woodley said. “With a running back going through the hole, he’s trying to lay a hit on you, I think everybody is out there trying to lay a hit on somebody.”

Contract incentives, bounties — whatever the device — get players in the frame of mind to go out with the single-minded purpose of delivering hard hits and fighting through pain and fatigue.  These weren’t Nancy Kerrigan-style kneecappings.  These were, in many respects, good performances procured by bad intentions.

That’s not to say the process flies off the rails when members of a team’s coaching staff put together a formula for “knock-outs” and “cart-offs” and packs bills into envelopes and hands them out like gold stars, and then lies about it when the league investigates.  But there’s a certain amount of appeal to the notion that a disconnect exists between the unsavory methods of getting players to play with reckless abandon and the reality that, in the end, guys were simply playing football, often with reckless abandon.

None of this means the NFL should look the other way.  The Saints screwed up, at the worst time in the history of the sport.  But absent evidence that Saints players were using brass knuckles or dipping tape in plaster of Paris or hiding outside locker-room doors to cold-cock unsuspecting quarterbacks, it’s more than a little difficult to paint the outcome of the bounties as anything other than the kind of aggressive, nasty football that we see from any team whose players are properly motivated and focused to play hard and fast and mean.

Tom Moore says Colts should take Luck “and never look back”

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[Editor’s note:  Emmy-nominated reporter Michele Tafoya, a key member of NBC’s Sunday Night Football, interviewed by phone long-time NFL coach Tom Moore regarding his recent work with quarterback Andrew Luck.  Her article regarding the Tuesday interview appears below, as a guest submission to PFT.]

If any Colts fans are still wondering whether Andrew Luck is the right quarterback to lead Indianapolis into the post-Peyton Manning era, those concerns can be addressed by one of Manning’s most important mentors.  Tom Moore, the offensive coordinator who oversaw Manning’s record-setting career from 1998 though 2010, became Luck’s football tutor shortly after the 2011 NFL season concluded.

Luck’s father, Oliver, played quarterback for the Houston Oilers from 1982 through 1986.  A Rhodes scholar finalist in 1981 who later served as President and CEO of NFL Europe, Oliver Luck asked Moore to work with Andrew in a one-on-one classroom setting while Andrew was preparing for the Scouting Combine.

For three weeks, Moore and Andrew Luck spent three-to-four hours per day studying film and reviewing protections, coverages, blitz recognition, and more.

I spoke exclusively with Moore about his time with Luck. Here are the highlights of our conversation:

MT:  So what was your overall impression of Luck?

MOORE:  He’s the real deal.  If you draft him you never have to worry about anything.  You know he’ll be prepared.  You know he’ll be in shape.  You know he’ll study.  You know he’ll practice hard.  You won’t have to worry about anything.  And you’ll know he’s going to go home and spend two-to-three more hours working on what you talked about.

MT: What does he have going for him that others don’t?

MOORE:  Number one, he’s very intelligent.  He’s extremely intelligent.  Second, he’s from a football family.  In the classroom, he has the things you’re looking for.  He has recall.  You go over something on Monday, and on Friday when you put in the tapes he has instant recall.  If I was still coaching I’d love to have him because he can do the things I like to do:  audibles at the line of scrimmage; no-huddle.  He has a great awareness of what’s happening.

MT:  How soon do you think he could become an NFL starting quarterback?

MOORE:  The first day of the first practice.  That’s what we did with Peyton.  I told Kelly Holcomb, “Go stand behind me. Peyton’s taking the snaps.”

MT: What about reports that the Colts are considering signing Byron Leftwich to mentor Luck?

MOORE:  Andrew Luck doesn’t need a mentor.  I’ve never bought into the theory that you learn by watching.  I think all that stuff is really overrated.  Is he going to make mistakes?  Yeah, who hasn’t?  But I know Andrew’s a strong enough person that he’s going to handle the comparisons [to Manning], and he’ll handle it perfect.

MT:  What do you make of the reports that the Colts are considering taking Robert Griffin III with the top pick?

MOORE:  This kid [Luck] is the first pick in the first round and there’s no question about it.  I would draft him and I would never look back.

MT: How do you envision him taking command of an NFL huddle as a rookie?

MOORE:  He has no qualms or questions about his convictions and what he sees and what he thinks should be done [on the field]. So when he gets in the huddle he’s gonna take control.

MT:  I know it’s not fair to compare Andrew Luck to Peyton Manning, but it sounds like they share a lot of the same characteristics.

MOORE:  Andrew’s special.  And I thought Peyton was special.  A lot of people want to be good.  But do they want to do what they have to do to be good. There is no doubt in my mind that Andrew is willing to do what it takes.  God gave him the ability to do it.

MT: How do you think Luck will fit in with what Bruce Arians will do as the Colts offensive coordinator?

MOORE:  I know Bruce, and I think it’ll be a great fit.  Bruce is an excellent coach.  Bruce is the type of coach that’ll do what is good for Andrew.  As a coach, your job is to give a guy the chance to be the best he can be.  To take advantage of what his skills and strengths are.  Bruce has had great success and will design things to take advantage of Andrew’s skills.

MT: Final thoughts?

MOORE:  [Luck] fired me up when I was out there [working with him].  I was thinking, ‘Would I love to have an opportunity to coach this kid!’  He’s what you want.  And he got [former U.S. Secretary of State] Condoleezza Rice to autograph my copy of her book.”

Breer: NFL needs to hit Saints players hard to prevent future bounties

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Our buddy Albert Breer of NFL Network made a return visit to PFT Live on Tuesday to discuss, among other things, the ongoing discussions between the NFL and the NFLPA regarding the penalties to be imposed on Saints players who funded and/or received funds from the bounty system.  The league continues to want the union to make a recommendation regarding the punishments for the players.

While discussing the situation, Breer made an excellent observation regarding the challenge the league currently faces.  Though coaching staffs are now out of the bounty business, there may be no way to effectively prevent players from maintaining their own programs for generating cash via fines and paying it out via big plays and, possibly, knocking opponents out of games.  If the players are committed to keeping it secret, and unless the coaching staff is willing to aggressively police the players, it could still happen.

And so, as Breer explained it, the best way to deter players from having off-radar bounty funds in the future will be to clobber the Saints players who were involved in the three-year bounty system.

Having the NFLPA on board with that approach could help the league minimize the P.R. fallout, nationally and, more importantly, in New Orleans arising from the imposition of significant suspensions on players like linebacker Jonathan Vilma, whom the league believes offered $10,000 to any player who knocks Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC title game.  Though it remains unlikely that the NFLPA will make any recommendations or otherwise cooperate with the league’s intended discipline, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Or, in this specific case, keep asking.

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Chargers add Roscoe Parrish

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Chargers owner Dean Spanos recently explained that, by not re-signing receiver Vincent Jackson, the team was able to bring in multiple additional free agents.

The Chargers have now added their third receiver since Jackson left.

Per a league source, the Chargers have agreed to terms with former Bills receiver Roscoe Parrish on a one-year deal.

Primarily a return specialist, Parrish had spent all seven of his NFL seasons with the Bills after joining the team via round two of the 2005 draft.  He appeared in only two games last season, missing the remainder with an ankle injury.

Michael Floyd looks like Top 10 pick at Notre Dame Pro Day


Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd made the most of his opportunity to work out for NFL scouts today.

At Notre Dame’s Pro Day, Floyd put on a performance that firmly establishes him as the No. 2 receiver in this year’s NFL draft, just behind Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, who saw plenty of Floyd while calling Notre Dame games on NBC, liked what he saw on the field and liked what he saw at Notre Dame’s practice facility today.

“Michael Floyd, to me, had an excellent workout,” Mayock said on Path to the Draft. “What you get with Michael Floyd, you get a 6-foot-3, 220-pound wide receiver who gets tremendous breaks in and out. His explosion off the line of scrimmage is exceptional — I would compare it to Blackmon.”

Most projections have Blackmon off the board somewhere in the 3-6 range, and Mayock said he sees Floyd going shortly after that.

“I think the interest should start at No. 7 with Jacksonville, Miami at 8, Carolina at 9, Buffalo at 10,” Mayock said. “Seven through ten there has to be some interest, but in no event can I see him going past the Jets at 16.”

Floyd was a four-year starter who is Notre Dame’s all-time record holder in catches (271), receiving yards (3,686) and receiving touchdowns (37).

New NFL uniforms look the same, but performance will change

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The Nike NFL jerseys that were unveiled today look a whole lot like the Reebok NFL jerseys that players have been wearing for years. (Except in Seattle.) But the players who tried them on say the performance will change.

Nike touts what it calls a “lock-down fit” on its jerseys, making them tighter around the shoulder pads and harder to grasp. Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher told SI.com the new jerseys will make it “harder to get held, which is good since I get held on every play.”

According to Nike, this year’s NFL uniforms will also be lighter, will keep the players wearing them cooler, and will stay drier than the materials used on the old uniforms.

Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor, who modeled the “new age” new look that the Seahawks have adopted, said he likes the new uniforms for more reasons than than the aesthetics as well.

“The shrink-wrap fit, we can move our body around,” Chancellor said. “We can move and be free.”

For fans, however, the biggest question is whether other NFL teams will follow in the Seahawks’ footsteps and go with that new-age look that Nike likes. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suggested that it’s just a matter of time before that happens. We’re never going to see all 32 teams going with those futuristic designs that have circulated around the web for a couple years, but Nike’s uniforms are the future of the NFL.

David Hawthorne signs with Saints

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The Saints linebacking corps is going to look very different next season.

They signed Curtis Lofton earlier this month and now comes word that they have signed former Seahawks linebacker David Hawthorne as well. The team announced that it is a five-year deal via Twitter on Tuesday afternoon. No financial details have been announced.

Hawthorne has started 41 games for the Seahawks over the last three years and finished with more than 100 tackles in all three seasons. He got his first shot in the starting lineup after an injury to Lofa Tatupu in 2009 and did good work inside for the Seahawks, including a career-high three interceptions last season. He first joined the team as an undrafted free agent out of TCU in 2008.

Where he fits with the Saints remains to be seen. Lofton projects to be their starting middle linebacker, but there are certainly openings at the other spots with Jo-Lonn Dunbar signing in St. Louis and no one else really distinguishing themselves last season.

Hawthorne’s arrival makes it seem like the Saints are preparing for life without Jonathan Vilma. Whether that’s because he’s suspended as a result of the bounty investigation or not, Vilma’s days in New Orleans seem numbered.

Goodell will hear Saints’ appeal on Thursday

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will hear appeals on the punishments he handed down for the Saints’ bounty scandal on Thursday.

Albert Breer and Steve Wyche of NFL Network report that at least some — and maybe all — of those punished will have their appeals heard Thursday at the league office in front of Goodell.

Saints head coach Sean Payton is appealing his yearlong suspension, General Manager Mickey Loomis is appealing his eight-game suspension and assistant head coach Joe Vitt is appealing his six-game suspension. The Saints are also appealing the team’s $500,000 fine and forfeiture of two second-round draft picks.

It’s highly unlikely that Goodell will overturn any of his punishments on appeal, as he indicated at the league meetings last week that he thought he had all the information he needed at the time he handed down the punishments. But the appeal does buy Payton some time, as his suspension was supposed to begin this week, and it buys the Saints more time to work out a plan for an interim head coach, which will likely be either Bill Parcells or one of the team’s assistants.

Goodell says he’ll expedite his ruling and will announce his decision on the appeals shortly after he hears them.

Nick Fairley arrested for marijuana possession

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It’s been a bad week for the Lions.

A day after 2011 second-round draft pick Mikel Leshoure made the wrong kind of headlines for, among other things, allegedly treating “wacky tobacky” like chewing tobacco, 2011 first-round pick Nick Fairley has been arrested for marijuana possession.

According to the Mobile Press-Register, Fairley has been charged with second-degree possession, a misdemeanor.

Police had received complaints about a car speeding through the Morningside Manor neighborhood.  As it turned out, Fairley was driving the vehicle.  Marijuana was then found in Fairley’s possession.

A Mobile native, Fairley played college football at Auburn before sliding to the middle of round one last April.  A preseason foot injury limited him to 10 regular-season appearances, with no starts, in 2011.

Jets sign rugby star to play tight end

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We’ve seen some former college basketball players make the switch to tight end in the NFL, now we’ll see if a rugby player can make the same transition.

Hayden Smith, an Australian who plays rugby in England, has signed with the Jets according to Tim Brewster, the former University of Minnesota head coach who has been training him to make the transition. Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News passes along Brewster’s report along with word that the Jets haven’t confirmed the signing.

Smith is 6’6″ and 265 pounds and has also played for the U.S. national rugby team. Like Gates and Jimmy Graham, Smith played college basketball in the U.S. before turning to rugby. Brewster, who also worked with Gates before Gates hit the professional ranks, tweeted that he thinks Smith has great upside.

We’ve seen Australian Rules football players transition to the NFL before as punters, but Smith’s move is very different.  Should the Jets wind up back on Hard Knocks this summer, Smith’s transition should make for a non-Tebow storyline.

With Marlins getting new stadium, Dolphins lose a tenant

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The good news is that when SunLife Stadium is empty on Sunday afternoons between now and September, there will at least be a good reason for it.

The Marlins christen their new park this week, which means that SunLife Stadium will lose its 81-games-per-year tenant.  Since Dolphins owner Stephen Ross also owns SunLife Stadium, the departure of the Marlins means that he’ll be taking an undetermined financial hit.

According to Local10.com in Miami, the Dolphins won’t say how much they’re losing as a result of the Marlins move.  Team P.R. chief Harvey Greene specifically said it’s merely an assumption that the team will lose any revenue, which means that it’s possible the Dolphins didn’t realize much if any profit from hosting the Marlins.

As Greene points out, the move clears dates on the calendar that can be replaced with concerts and other events.  On Sunday, SunLife Stadium hosted Wrestlemania, a “sport” which entails baseball bats hitting things other than balls.

OK, baseballs.

New Panthers jerseys pay tribute to Sam Mills

There’s much to like about the new Nike-manufactured NFL uniforms, notwithstanding the Seahawks’ new psychedelic Rollerball ensemble.

The thing I like most about the jerseys will never be seen during a game.

As pointed out by Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer, the phrase “KEEP POUNDING” is stitched into the interior trim of the neck area on the new Panthers jerseys.

It was a phrase used by the late Sam Mills, a Panthers linebacker and assistant coach who died of cancer in 2005.  Per Fowler, Mills gave a stirring pre-game speech the night before a 2003 playoff win over the Cowboys.

“When I found out I had cancer, there were two things I could do — quit or keep pounding,” Mills said.  “I’m a fighter.  I kept pounding.  You’re fighters, too.  Keep pounding.”

Years after Mills’ passing, it’s great that he’s still remembered.  And it’s incredible that the team saw fit to do so by including the “KEEP POUNDING” message inside every jersey that every member of the team will wear.

Report: Bruce Arians wants Colts to sign Leftwich

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The Colts are going to get their quarterback of the future with the first overall pick in the draft, but a report out of Pittsburgh has them looking for someone to show the new guy the ropes.

Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians wants the team to sign Byron Leftwich as a backup quarterback/tutor for Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. Leftwich spent three years playing for Arians with the Steelers, who have expressed interest in keeping Leftwich around as Ben Roethlisberger’s backup.

The Steelers are tight against the cap, though, and are still looking for free agent help at other positions. The Colts could offer Leftwich more money, although it’s unclear how much they would be willing to spend to bring Leftwich to Indy.

If Leftwich does wind up in Indianapolis, Drew Stanton would find himself in his second difficult situation of the offseason. Stanton signed with the Jets just before they traded for Tim Tebow, a move that led to another trade that sent Stanton to the Colts. Leftwich’s familiarity with Arians and the offense would likely make him the second-stringer and force Stanton to wonder if he walked underneath a ladder at some point before the start of free agency.

LeGarrette Blount: I won’t be happy if Bucs draft Trent Richardson


The Buccaneers may select Alabama running back Trent Richardson with the fifth pick in this year’s NFL draft. If they do, they’ll have an unhappy camper in running back LeGarrette Blount.

Blount told Will Brinson of CBSSports.com that if the Bucs draft Richardson, “I would not like that pick. I would definitely not be happy with that pick.”

Speaking at the unveiling of the NFL’s new Nike uniforms (an event for which he’s missing the start of the Bucs’ voluntary offseason program), Blount told Brinson he doesn’t want to be a Brandon Jacobs-type player who comes in for short-yardage situations. Blount wants to be the every-down back, and if Richardson comes in as the fifth overall pick, Blount will view Richardson as a competitor for the No. 1 running back job, not a partner on a team that uses a running back-by-committee approach.

As JoeBucsFan.com notes, if Blount were the type who offered politically correct answers, he’d have said that he’ll welcome whoever Tampa Bay takes with open arms. But Blount is not interested in political correctness. And Blount is not interested in sharing carries with Richardson, either.

Leslie Frazier impressed by Adrian Peterson’s first run

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In February, Adrian Peterson said he wanted to be ready to play in Week One after tearing his ACL on Christmas Eve.

Everything appears to be on track so far. Peterson ran for the first time last week since having surgery to repair the injury and Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Tuesday that the session went very well.

“Did a great job,” Frazier said, via Tom Pelissero of ESPN 1500 Radio. “Everybody was impressed. Our trainer, Eric Sugarman, was really impressed with his movement and the things he was able to do. He’s on schedule. He’s doing well.”

Frazier joked that Peterson wanted to run a 4.3 40 while the team just wanted to gauge where he’s at in his rehab schedule. The results showed that he’s on the schedule laid out for him after the surgery, which means that there’s a very good chance Peterson will be in the lineup when the Vikings kick off the 2012 season.