Unofficially, Gerhart can go

toby-gerhartjpg-38145f2119416570_medium.jpgWell, to the extent that any NFL scouts had doubts about the athletic ability of Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, the Heisman finalist has addressed them.

Unofficially, Gerhart ran the 40-yard dash in an unofficial time of 4.53 seconds at the Scouting Combine in Indy.

I know this because I’m watching the Underwear Olympics on my Sprint phone, and Rich Eisen and the gang are keeping my awake via a range of interesting topics and off-the-cuff discussion that makes it all seem like four or five buddies sitting in someone’s den.  Without the burping, cursing, or farting.  (Or, more accurately, without any farting that I can hear.)

So perhaps if Gerhart believes he’ll be compared only to other white players, perhaps he’ll be hearing less “John Riggins” and more “Don Beebe.”

Merriman to get highest tender, too

S.Merriman.jpgThe report from Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune regarding the decision of the Chargers to apply the highest possible tender to restricted free agents Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd has prompted speculation regarding the tender that will — or won’t — be given to linebacker Shawne Merriman.

And before the speculation could really get going, Acee has reported that Merriman will get the highest tender, too.

It means that Merriman will receive the greater of $3.268 million or 110 percent of his 2009 salary, which might have been only $2.72 million.  (The NFLPA web site recently was upgraded, and we’re currently unable to access base salary info.  Hopefully, the media will still have access to this information.)

The decision doesn’t mean that Merriman definitely will be a Charger.  It only means that he won’t be able to walk away without compensation as of March 5.  The team still could trade him — and it could decide to rescind the tender, too.

Quarterbacks who choose not to throw continue to be criticized

As the incoming quarterbacks who choose to throw at the Scouting Combine show what they can do on the lush fake grass of Lucas Oil Stadium, the NFLN crew continues to supplement the Underwear Olympics with insightful and thought-provoking commentary.

Most recently, Rich Eisen and Mike Mayock questioned the decision of quarterbacks not to throw — and ridiculed the suggestion from some agents that quarterbacks should throw at stationary targets only.

Eisen appropriately compared the idea to baseball players hitting a ball off the tee.

Though we can understand the logic behind deferring the throwing workout to the Pro Day (we made our case during a recent segment of PFT Daily), we can also understand the frustration regarding the refusal of plenty of the quarterbacks to show what they can do.  The quarterbacks always will be able to do their thing at their Pro Day workouts; why not show what they can do when the rest of the quarterbacks are there, too?

We’ve got a feeling that most of these guys would choose to throw, if the choice was up to them.  But they routinely yield the ability to make that decision once they sign up with an agent.

Chargers to put highest tenders on Jackson, Floyd

The San Diego Chargers are expected to let running back Darren Sproles walk away as a restricted free agent.  They won’t be granting the same courtesy to receivers Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd.

Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Chargers will apply the highest possible tender to both players, which means that they’ll get a first-round pick and a third-round pick if they leave.

For Jackson, a five-year pro, he’ll be eligible for a one-year salary in the amount of $3.268 million.  For Floyd, who has four years of experience, he’ll get $3.168 million.

But Jackson is likely to earn less than $3.268 million; his recent guilty plea to DUI charges virtually guarantees a stiff fine or a suspension without pay.

C.J. Spiller will run only

Clemson running back C.J. Spiller, regarded as one of the top prospects at his position in the 2010 draft pool, will be running the 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine on Sunday, as we recently reported.

But Mike Mayock of NFL Network recently said that Spiller will only run, and that he’ll participate in none of the other events of the Underwear Olympics, presented by UnderArmour.

Spiller will perform the other non-football football drills at his Pro Day workout.

Vague reference was made to a toe injury, but it’s apparently not bad enough to keep Spiller from showing how quickly he can get from the goal line to the 40.

More details on the possible overtime changes

Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports has some more details regarding the potential changes to the NFL overtime procedures.  (Thus the title to this blurb.)

Word of the possible tweaks comes from the Thursday meeting between the Competition Committee and players to discuss possible rule changes.  And Seahawks receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, whose past propensity for using his vocal cords has convinced us that he thinks “discretion” is new brand of Calvin Klein cologne, has gone on the record with Cole regarding the content of the meeting, which the veteran pass-catcher attended.

“It’s just something the league is looking at to make sure the playoffs go as good as possible,” Houshmandzadeh said. “I don’t think it’s going to get passed, but they’re thinking about it.”

Others think it’s coming.  But it makes plenty of sense for the league to be talking to the union, given that any change to the rules would expose players to more snaps, and thus more chances to suffer injury.

As Cole explains it, the somewhat convoluted tweak to the sudden-victory protocol would not be quite as simple as “first one to six.”  If, as Cole explains, the first team to get the ball fails to score and the other team gets only a field goal, the game would end.

But the team kicking off wouldn’t be guaranteed a possession; if the receiving team scores a touchdown, the game would be over.

Thus, we still prefer a system that gives each team one possession regardless of whether the first team scores a touchdown, and that then converts the format to sudden-victory if the game is tied after each team has had a crack at scoring.

Some have complained that this would give an unfair advantage to the team that kicks off, since that team would essentially have four cracks to gain ten yards if the receiving team scores.  We’re not sure that we agree with this — and we think that any benefit the kicking team derives would be balanced out by the fact that the team that receives the kickoff to start overtime would get the ball again once the game shifts back to the current first-to-score-wins-it format.

Bottom line?  The NFL looks to be working its way into the right church.  We simply now need to guide the powers-that-be to the correct pew.

Charles Davis says Florida tried to change Tebow's mechanics

081_tim_tebow--300x300.jpgAs part of an intriguing and at times spirited debate on NFL Network this morning, Charles Davis said that the folks at Florida worked with quarterback Tim Tebow to change his throwing motion, but that once Tebow found himself in game situations he reverted to his looping, windmill release.

The disclosure was jarring to us, given that it directly conflicts with Tebow’s proclamation that no one had told him until recently that he has a loop bigger than a steel roller coaster.

So either Florida is putting out bad information in order to control the damage, or the man who puts Biblical verses on his eye strips has opted to violate the message of Exodus 20:16.

We’re not sure what to believe because we’ve learned over the years when it comes to high-stakes matters of this nature to believe no one, especially those to whom Matthew 6:5-8 is directed.  Florida has every reason to get the word out that efforts were made to change Tebow’s throwing motion, and Tebow has every reason to suggest (while once again reminding the world of his work ethic) that he had no idea that there was a problem and now that he knows there’s a problem he’ll apply that work ethic (did you know he has a great work ethic?) to address it.

But if Florida’s version is correct — and the hiring of a pro-style quarterbacks coach in 2009 suggests it may be — then the recent comments from Browns president Mike Holmgren carry even more weight for us.  Holmgren said that throwing motion is “the most difficult thing to change” for any quarterback, and he suggested that, in pressure situations, old habits will return.

It means that Tebow’s effort to change his throwing motion are coming too late to make a difference for his NFL career, and that any effort to become an NFL quarterback will require every amount of that supposedly great work ethic, and more.

Vikings re-sign Greg Lewis

Well, one half of the most memorable regular season throw and catch from last season is returning to Minnesota.

The Vikings re-signed wideout Greg Lewis to a one-year contract Sunday, according to Judd Zulgdad of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Lewis’ game-winning catch against the 49ers was one of only eight grabs he had last season, but he helped the Vikings on special teams.  He looks like Minnesota’s fourth receiver at best heading into 2010.

Rumors fly that NFL has tried to buy the UFL

Florida_Tuskers.jpgWith most of the NFL media currently gathered in Indianapolis to focus on the Scouting Combine, we welcome the opportunity to give them a chance to chase a story not relating to grown men in UnderArmour who are participating in the various events of the Underwear Olympics.

So here it goes.

A strong rumor has reached PFT headquarters that the NFL recently tried to buy the UFL.

The specific rumor is that the NFL offered within the past few days payment of $50 million for 51 percent of the one-year-old minor league.  The second part of the rumor is that the UFL responded by offering 49 percent for $49 million.

The NFL surely wants to take control of the UFL, for reasons directly related to the protracted game of part-chess, part-chicken unfolding between the NFL and the players’ union.  With the NFL at a minimum trying to make the NFLPA believe that a lockout is coming and at worst planning to padlock the gates of team facilities throughout the league in 2011, 51-percent ownership of the UFL would give the NFL control of the primary alternative source of American pro football tournament during the 2011 season — for players, NFL employees, and most importantly fans.

The rumor currently is unconfirmed (and I can hear the dialing of the Sprint phones at the Scouting Combine from here).  We’ve requested a response from the NFL and we’ll be communicating with the NFLPA and the UFL on this issue as well.

The acquisition would raise plenty of issues, especially with the UFL broadcasting games during the Friday-Saturday window that, when done from September through early December, nullifies antitrust exemptions.

Remember for now that it’s a rumor.  And, as a rumor, there might be nothing to it.  But it’s definitely being talked about by people in pro football, and thus the topic falls squarely within the purview of the address you typed or the bookmark you clicked to get to this page.

We’ll leave it to the actual journalists out there who often confuse the coverage of sports with the coverage of politics and other truly important matters that people don’t follow for entertainment to debate whether we should have published the existence of a rumor before determining whether or not the rumor was accurate.  We’re moving on, but not moving out.

UPDATE:  NFL spokesman Greg Aiello says via e-mail that the rumor is “flat wrong” and that “no such offer was made,” based on his information from people who have “had discussions with the UFL.”

Tim Tebow can jump

We won’t find out at the scouting combine if Tim Tebow can throw. But we do know he can jump.

Tebow, the Florida quarterback who declined to participate in passing drills in Indianapolis, did participate in both the vertical jump and the broad jump. And he looked awfully good doing it.

Tebow posted a 38.5-inch vertical, which reportedly tied the all-time combine record for quarterbacks, previously set by Josh McCown. For the sake of comparison with another athletic quarterback, Rich Eisen noted on NFL Network that Michael Vick posted a 38-inch vertical at the 2001 combine.

Shortly after his record-tying vertical, Tebow also posted an impressive broad jump of nine feet, seven inches.

Of course, the obvious question is whether jumping ability is in any way relevant to assessing an NFL quarterback. What Tebow showed on Sunday morning is that he’s a good athlete, not a good quarterback. If anything, Tebow may have given some ammunition to those who believe he’s best suited to playing another position in the NFL.

Dimitroff: "We're going to be creative" in uncapped year

It’s hard not to like Falcons G.M. Thomas Dimitroff.  Anyone with the confidence to rock this haircut in the NFL isn’t afraid to be a little different.

His straightforward answers are also a plus.  I asked Saturday if there would be a temptation for teams to front-load contracts in the uncapped year. 

While most general managers said they were operating as if nothing would change, Dimitroff said, “We’re going to be creative with our contracts no question about it, but
that’s what this league is about.”

Like everyone at the Combine, Dimitroff wasn’t sure what exactly would happen starting next Friday.

“I’ll be interested, honestly, to see how we end up doing a lot of
contracts going forward. That’s going to yet to be seen, but no question
you’re going to consider everything that’s out there.”

Dimitroff also admitted that he’s often competing for the same players as some of his former co-workers in New England.

“I was up there arguing with [Scott] Pioli actually . . .  we were just talking about that very
thing,” Dimitroff said.  “How you take all that you’ve learned from a certain organization, like
New England, and the success we had.  We tend to talk about that often, whether it’s on the trade side of
things or whether it’s acquisition side. “

The group may tend to like players that have a certain makeup, but they make sure to not cross lines.  

“We do a little bit of busting on each other, no
question about it. Especially if we feel like the other person cut
around the back to try to get something taken care of,” Dmitroff said.  “But we’re usually
pretty good. I maintain that this league is about having a handful of
allies and it’s very important.”

Martz wants Manumaleuna in Chicago

As Mike Martz attempts to make the Chicago Bears’ offense resemble the offense he coached with the St. Louis Rams, he may be looking to sign one of his former players in St. Louis: Brandon Manumaleuna.

Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports that multiple league sources say the Bears have a strong interest in Manumaleuna, a tight end whom the Rams drafted in 2001, when Martz was their head coach, and who has five years of experience in Martz’s offense. Manumaleuna played the last four seasons in San Diego and will become an unrestricted free agent on Friday.

As we noted when a similar story emerged about the Bears’ interest in Antrel Rolle, it would be tampering for the Bears to come right out and say they want Manumaleuna, but it’s easy for teams to get around the tampering rules by leaking word that they’re interested in a player.

Martz has said that a tight end’s first responsibility is to block, and if the Bears sign the 295-pound Manumaleuna, that’s primarily what they’ll ask him to do. The Bears signing Manumaleuna would also be another indication that the team’s incumbent starter at tight end, Greg Olsen, is not a good fit in Martz’s offense.

We don’t yet know which other teams have already contacted Manumaleuna will contact Manumaleauna as soon as the clock strikes midnight Thursday night, but right now Chicago looks like his top suitor.

Sunday morning one-liners

The Bills sat down with Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen on Friday night.

The Dolphins are worried that bringing QB Chad Pennington back in 2010 would create too much of a shadow over starter Chad Henne’s shoulder.

Looking at whether or not linebackers Brandon Graham and Sergio Kindle would fit with the Patriots.

Their experiences with Joe Namath led the Jets to medically examine potential draftees which led other teams to follow suit which led, ultimately, to the Scouting Combine.

Friday was Cam Cameron Day in Terre Haute, Indiana, and the Ravens offensive coordinator had a street named after him next to his high school.  [Editor’s note:  They’ve also named a mile after him on I-15 in Las Vegas.  Right after the mile named after George Seifert and right before the one named for Steve Spagnuolo.]

Bengals DE Robert Geathers’ brother Clifton is a defensive end prospect from South Carolina.

Browns G.M. Tom Heckert suggested the team doesn’t need a veteran wide receiver because of the progress shown by Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiske.

Quarterback and tight end are the only positions that don’t interest the Steelers at the combine.

If Fred Bennett and Antwaun Molden broke through at cornerback, it would make Dunta Robinson’s departure less impactful on the Texans.

Colts defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are two examples of how teams can focus too much on size when looking at draft prospects and overlook productivity.

Don’t look for the Jaguars to be big spenders on the free agent market.

The Titans hope lightning strikes twice with the 16th overall pick, the same spot they used to select DE Jevon Kearse in 1999.

Starting jobs in the middle of the Broncos offensive line are up for grabs.

Chiefs coach Todd Haley said Branden Albert would start next season, but wouldn’t specify if he’d be at left or right tackle.

Film review of the Raiders’ 2009 season confirmed what you already knew:  They need a quarterback.

Bill Williamson of takes a look at many of the players who could step into the void at running back for the Chargers.

Cowboys coach Wade Phillips likes the extra practice time provided by a fifth preseason game.

Will last year’s free agent flops make the Giants less willing to participate this offseason?

What would DE Julius Peppers mean for the Eagles defense?

Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford, who is of Cherokee descent, didn’t want to discuss his feelings about being drafted by the Redskins beyond saying that he wouldn’t ask them not to draft him.

Recent knee surgery may slow Bears WR Earl Bennett’s education in offensive coordinator Mike Martz’s offense.

Cincinnati WR Mardy Gilyard liked working with Lions wide receiver coach Shawn Jefferson at the Senior Bowl and wouldn’t mind a longer relationship.

Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette breaks down the top prospects at positions of interest to the Packers.

The Vikings might take a quarterback in the draft, but want to avoid making the mistake they made by selecting John David Booty, who wasn’t a fit for their system.

G.M. Thomas Dimitroff envisions WR Harry Douglas playing a Wes Welker-esque role in the Falcons offense during future seasons.

South Carolina DE Charles Geathers thinks he could be a good fit for the post-Peppers Panthers defense.

LT Jamaal Brown is eager to get back on the field, whether he remains with the Saints or heads elsewhere after recovering from an injury-plagued 2009.

Said Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris of his offensive line, “You’re really hard on those guys during the season. Then
you go back and watch the tape, and it’s not as bad as you think.”

The issues with S Antrel Rolle’s salary have taught the Cardinals the wisdom of voidable clauses in contracts.

Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo is adamant that off-field issues like ticket sales won’t impact their draft decision.

Although they used the franchise tag on NT Aubrayo Franklin, the 49ers might still take a player at that position if they thought he was the best player available.    

Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times believes Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has an edge in the scouting of college players.

Stafon Johnson manages 13 bench press reps

USC running back Stafon Johnson bench pressed 225 pounds 13 times at the NFL scouting combine, an accomplishment that required a great deal of heart and determination from a young man who nearly lost his life while bench pressing five months ago.

The 13 reps were significantly fewer than Johnson was hoping for, but considering that his football career — and even his life — could have ended when he dropped a bar on his throat in the USC weight room last year, just being at the combine at all is a great achievement.

Johnson’s voice still sounded raspy as he introduced himself to the coaches before getting on the bench, but other than that he has basically made a complete recovery from the serious injuries he suffered in the accident. Whether he makes it in the NFL or not, he has a lot to be proud of.

Lonyae Miller of Fresno State and Ben Tate of Auburn were the leaders among the running backs, with 26 reps each.

Vrabel doesn’t like Kraft’s characterization of labor issues

Linebacker Mike Vrabel spent eight years playing for the New England Patriots, but as a member of the NFLPA’s executive committee, Vrabel says he doesn’t like the way Patriots owner Robert Kraft characterizes the relationship between the players and the owners.

Vrabel told the Boston Herald that Kraft “uses words like ‘partnership,’ and he throws the money and the dollars around,” but that Kraft isn’t accurately assessing the situation.

“What we have is not a partnership,” Vrabel said. “If we had a partnership, you would see what we made — they know what we make — and we would see what they made. We don’t have that. So don’t use the word ‘partnership’ or ‘bond’ and all that stuff.”

Vrabel, who was traded from the Patriots to the Chiefs last year, is about to become an unrestricted free agent, and he says he’ll play in 2010, although he doesn’t know where.

He does know, however, that he’ll be involved in the union’s efforts to get a deal done with the owners. And he seems to think those talks will take a long time.

“Is a lot getting done? No,” Vrabel said. “Right now there doesn’t seem to be, as you might say in coachspeak, a great sense of urgency to get anything done.”