Vikings now considering site near Metrodome

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With the proposal to build a new Vikings stadium at the site of the Metrodome likely requiring the team to spend three seasons at TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota, a site close to the Metrodome is now being considered, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  This approach would allow the Vikings to stay in the Metrodome while the new stadium is built.

But, like every other potential solution to the Vikings’ stadium dilemma, there’s a major problem.  An owner of a piece of land that would be covered by the new facility isn’t interested in selling.

Still, look for the parties to attempt to work this out, especially since it will cost the Vikings an estimated $48 million to spend three seasons at the 51,000-seat open-air stadium where the Golden Gophers play college football.

“We’re trying to be smart about making that work, and it’s in everybody’s best interest to limit or eliminate any time spent playing at the university,” Vikings V.P. Lester Bagley told the Star Tribune.

Absent a meaningful solution, the team could still limit or eliminate the time spent playing anywhere in Minnesota.

Report: Peyton hits a plateau


With each passing day, it seems less and less likely that Peyton Manning ever will play again for the Colts.  The next question is whether he ever will play again for anyone.

On that point, there are ominous indications.  Peter King of Sports Illustrated reported during last night’s Pro Bowl pregame on NBC that Manning isn’t doing well.  Now, Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports reports that Manning has not shown improvement in the velocity of his passes since he began throwing again in December.

Two unnamed “league-affiliated doctors with experience in spinal fusion surgery” tell Cole that it could take up to a year for Manning to know if he can return to action.

As Cole points out, Manning naturally remains optimistic and determined.  But if the nerves don’t improve, there’s really nothing he can do.

And so while his status with the Colts will be known with certainty soon, everything else about his future will remain uncertain for weeks, maybe months.  Maybe longer.

Browns have renewed interest in keeping Peyton Hillis


Halfway through the 2011 season, Peyton Hillis appeared to be on his way out of Cleveland. His disastrous 2011 season included injuries, poor play, and finger-pointing from his teammates.

A quietly strong end to the season has apparently changed the team’s mind.

Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reports via a league source the Browns are interested in re-signing Hillis at the right price. Cabot says the Browns and Hillis’ agent have yet to talk because the team has yet to contact agents about a contract.

It’s not a total shock the Browns would want Hillis at the “right price” but that price has surely gone down after a miserable year. The right price may not make Hillis very happy.

Hillis will get a contract somewhere this year, but he may have to be willing to take a smaller one-year “prove it” deal. The offers Hills gets very likely will be less than some of the multi-year contracts he turned down from the Browns last year.

David Cornwell takes on De Smith


Three years ago, sports lawyer David Cornwell was a finalist for the position of NFLPA executive director.  Today, he’s taking aim at the man who ultimately won the job.

DeMaurice Smith’s contract expires in March.  With no candidates yet challenging Smith, Cornwell possibly has laid the foundation for another run at the position by distributing to all agents a nine-page letter outlining Cornwell’s concerns with Smith’s leadership of the union.

“I believe that certain matters warrant your consideration and should be discussed with your clients as they assess De’s performance,” Cornwell writes.  “De should be required to explain important decisions he made that will affect the lives of over two generations of NFL players over the next 10 years.  Just as they did in 2008, the players will decide who leads them in 2012.”

Cornwell then outlines various questions regarding the financial aspects of the 2011 CBA, along with specific noneconomic concerns, including the handling of the Terrelle Pryor suspension, the treatment of players who tested positive under the substance-abuse policy following the lockout, the deal struck regarding players who violated the personal-conduct policy during the lockout, and an alleged failure to enforce regulations regarding agent conduct.

As to the substance-abuse policy, Cornwell claims that during CBA negotiations Smith “requested that ‘players who tested positive during the lockout’ be granted amnesty.”  If accurate, this reflects a fundamental, and stunning, misunderstanding of the realities of the lockout.  There was no drug testing during the lockout; thus, no players could have tested positive.  Cornwell suggests that Smith was “embarrassed” once he realized his error, and that he thereafter did not raise the issue until after the CBA had been finalized.

Cornwell’s letter concludes with a plea for change:  “Given that the term of the new CBA is 10 years, you and your clients may conclude that they and two generations of future players are stuck with it. No doubt the major elements ofthe CBA are here to stay for the next 10 years. But, that does not mean that players are stuck with the man who negotiated the deal.”

It’s strong stuff.  The fact that we’re reporting on the letter doesn’t mean we agree with it.  Smith is entitled to speak his mind in response, and he has an open invitation to do so, in writing or via an appearance on PFT Live.


Jonathan Kraft says Pats have underdog mentality

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Monday’s three-hour NBC SportsTalk extravaganza included a visit from Patriots president Jonathan Kraft.

He touched on a variety of topics, including his reaction to the final moments of the AFC title game, the importance of family-owned NFL franchises, and the current mindset of the 2011 Patriots.

Though the Pats are favored, Kraft said the team has the mindset of an underdog.  And for good reason, despite having an accomplished coach and quarterback, these Patriots are young.  And they’re hungry.

The full show will be re-aired beginning at 10:00 p.m. ET (or thereabouts), with additional re-airs in the morning.  And we’ll be back Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. ET for another live, three-hour show.

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Keith Butler changes mind on Colts, will stay with Steelers


Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler has had a change of heart about becoming the next defensive coordinator of the Colts.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Butler decided against going to Indianapolis after meeting today with team president Art Rooney II and head coach Mike Tomlin.

Butler’s contract with the Steelers had expired and he was free to leave for the Colts whether the Steelers wanted him to go or not, but he has apparently agreed to a new deal. Presumably, Rooney gave him a significant raise to keep him around.

The 55-year-old Butler is expected to become the Steelers’ defensive coordinator whenever the 74-year-old Dick LeBeau retires.

Belichick’s kind of roster: Patriots have 18 undrafted free agents


The Patriots have put together a roster full of guys that no one else wanted. It’s a motley crew and that seems to suit this organization best.

Sure, Tom Brady is protected by an offensive line with a good pedigree. The defense is led by first round picks Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork.

But overall this is one of the most random rosters in the league. 18 undrafted free agents dot the 53-man roster, including eight starters.

More than one-third of the Patriots roster was undrafted. The Patriots also have eleven more players that were taken in the fifth round or later in the draft.  Less than half of the team was drafted in the first four rounds. 12 Patriots were signed “off the street” or during training camp.

Essentially, the Patriots have a roster of misfits. We think that’s been a big part of their success this year. It’s a roster that Belichick embraces, and one that falls in line with the “Patriot Way.”


Tuck thinks Giants can frustrate, confuse Brady


Giants defensive end Justin Tuck thinks that if the front four gets to Tom Brady on Sunday, the Patriots are in trouble.

Tuck said today that he believes Brady will struggle if the Giants bring enough pressure.

“I think it starts with hitting him, even when you don’t actually get sacks, just keeping people around him so he can’t step up,” Tuck said. “I think he gets a little frustrated when he has to go to his second or third receivers. You can kind of confuse him sometimes with our coverage. I think there are a lot of things that can get him rattled, but it just seems like not too many people are able to do that.”

Tuck sacked Brady twice in Super Bowl XLII and said that pressuring him will be the key to Super Bowl XLVI.

“We had a lot of hits on him,” Tuck said. “Even when we didn’t hit him, he didn’t have the time to sit back there and allow some of the routes to develop. We know that as a D-line, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make sure that we are in his face. He is a hell of a quarterback, and he is going to do a lot of things to throw us off our rhythm.”

And Tuck will be trying to throw Brady off his rhythm.

Victor Cruz in Indy for the Super Bowl after missing the Combine


When Victor Cruz finished his college career at UMass two years ago, the NFL didn’t think he was good enough to get an invitation to Indianapolis for the Scouting Combine. That was a slight miscalculation.

Cruz may not have been good enough to do the three-cone drill at Lucas Oil Stadium, but he’ll be one of the best players on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium on Super Bowl Sunday. But Cruz, who signed with the Giants as an undrafted free agent and made the team after a strong preseason, said today that he doesn’t hold any hard feelings to the folks who didn’t think he was good enough two years ago.

“Being from a small school, I understand how that whole thing goes,” Cruz said. “I wasn’t 6-foot-5, 220 pounds or I didn’t have off-the-wall statistics, so I understood how that whole thing goes. I’d rather be here for the Super Bowl now than the Combine.”

Cruz said he never viewed the lack of an invitation to the Combine as a sign that he couldn’t make it in the NFL.

“I just knew whatever opportunities were in front of me, whether it be Pro Day, Combine, or whatever it was, I just had to make the best of it,” he said. “I just did the best I could and was fortunate enough to open up some minds.”

The Giants are fortunate that someone in their scouting department thought Cruz had enough talent to merit an offer as an undrafted free agent. And the Giants were smart to keep him after his great preseason as a rookie. Just two years after Cruz was one of the best receivers in the Colonial Athletic Association, Cruz is now one of the best receivers in the NFL.

Giants put first Super Bowl non-story story to bed


NFL players are always looking for a motivational edge. They are prone to manufacturing disrespect from opponents or the media even when it really doesn’t exist.

And yet the Giants still didn’t bite when presented with Tom Brady’s words from Sunday’s rally at Gillete Stadium.

We wrote that Brady’s words were completely innocuous on Sunday, and the Giants agreed with the sentiment. Mathias Kiwanuka said it wasn’t “legitimate” trash talk.

“It was just a pep rally,” defensive lineman Justin Tuck said via the New York Daily News.

Thank you, Justin.

Deion Branch says Patriots aren’t thinking about Super Bowls past


Deion Branch has earned two Super Bowl rings and one MVP award with the Patriots, but he’s not interested in talking about past Super Bowls this week.

And Branch, who left to sign with the Seahawks and wasn’t around for the Patriots’ loss in Super Bowl XLII, says his teammates really aren’t interested in talking about that Super Bowl this week.

“This team doesn’t talk about the past,” Branch said. “Since the day we knew we were going to the Super Bowl, in the locker room nothing was spoken about Super Bowl XLII. It’s behind those guys. They lost the game. It is what it is. They didn’t play good football and they lost. This is a different game, different team, different players, and it’s going to be a different game Sunday.”

Branch also said that while he likes talking to younger players about his experiences, he doesn’t think he has any particular wisdom to impart.

“I truly enjoy sharing the knowledge with the younger guys in our group and talking to the guys about the experience in the past, but as far as talking about what we did in the Super Bowls in the past, those guys watched the game,” Branch said. “I’m pretty sure they’ve seen the highlights that have been shown on the NFL Network and ESPN and all that stuff. I’m not treating it any different. Practicing hard, doing everything we’ve been doing all year long.”

At his press conference today, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked whether Branch is overlooked in the Patriots’ passing game, and Belichick went on at length about all the ways Branch contributes to the team. Branch’s contributions to past Super Bowls may not be relevant, but Belichick clearly sees a lot of benefits Branch can bring to the Patriots this Sunday.

Eli Manning is a prankster


The Giants have landed in Indianapolis, immediately shuttled to their hotel and presented to the media Monday afternoon.

It’s not like the Giants have a practice to go. Just time to kill. We saw a group of Giants that weren’t set to meet with the media awkwardly standing around at Starbucks killing time, while a few fans lingered nearby trying to figure out who they were.

We’ll dive into more later, but here were a few quick hits from the Giants media session.

1. Asked about no longer being big underdogs, Mathias Kiwanuka seemed surprised. He said the team would have to find more room for the bandwagon.

2. Victor Cruz, who couldn’t contain his glee about reaching the Super Bowl, answered about five minutes of questions in Spanish. He relayed a prank that Eli Manning pulled on him this morning which involved dousing Cruz’s towel with hand soap.

Other Eli-to-Cruz pranks over the years include putting baby powder in his cleats and dye on his gloves. All the classics.

3. The Giants uniformly dismissed Tom Brady’s words at a Patriots rally Sunday as a form of motivation.  Kiwanuka said it wasn’t legitimate trash talk.

4. Dumbest question of the day goes to the reporter that asked Tom Coughlin to predict the Super Bowl MVP.

5. The picture above is Giants tackle James Brewer carrying a teddy bear off the team plane. We’re going to assume someone made him do that.

Jim Irsay is only talking about the Super Bowl this week


We’ve been engaging in a fair amount of Peyton Manning chatter on these pages Monday, but you shouldn’t expect Colts owner Jim Irsay to join in the fun.

Irsay, at a press conference Monday for the Super Bowl host committee, said that he would be taking a break from talking about Peyton Manning this week after engaging in a little sniping with the quarterback before issuing a joint press release pledging civility. Irsay let everyone in on his plan when asked about Manning at the presser.

“Obviously the media has been very hungry for comments and those sort of things,” Irsay said, via the New York Daily News. “There’s a great interest here in Indianapolis. But Peyton and I, in talking this weekend and everything, we want the focus to be on the game. He’s excited about Eli, having his whole family coming in. And hosting the game. That’s where the focus should be. Obviously, it’s a story that has a lot of interest. But we’re going to go about this week with that focus in mind.”

Manning’s status was going to be a big issue this week regardless of where the game was being played. The fact that the game is in the Colts’ stadium with his brother starting for one of the teams makes it all the harder to ignore. Irsay and the league would obviously prefer to keep the talk on the game, but, if Monday is any indication, there will be plenty of people willing to fill the void even if nothing can really happen until the Colts decide whether or not they will be exercising their $28 million option on Manning’s services.


Dennis Allen says Carson Palmer is the Raiders’ starter

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Hue Jackson was the driving force behind the Raiders’ acquisition of Carson Palmer during the 2011 season, but Jackson’s firing doesn’t mean Palmer’s job is in jeopardy.

New Raiders head coach Dennis Allen told Mike Florio and Russ Thaler on NBC Sportstalk that Palmer “absolutely” will be the Raiders’ starter in Week One of the 2012 season.

The Raiders gave up a first-round pick and a second-round pick to the Bengals to acquire Palmer, and everyone in Oakland was hoping at the time that he could lead them to the playoffs for that expensive a price.

But while that didn’t work out, Allen is still optimistic that Palmer can do enough for the Raiders to make that trade look like a good deal in Oakland.

Tom Coughlin thinks Colts fans will become Giants fans this week


The Giants have arrived in Indianapolis and their coach is making a bid to become the home team this weekend.

At Monday’s media session, Tom Coughlin said that he “would think Indianapolis fans will become Giants fans” for this weekend’s game. There are two reasons why things would play out that way. One is that the Patriots and Colts have had a rivalry for the last decade that has ended up in some memorable games and some painful losses for both sides. It would be natural for that antipathy for the Patriots to become a rooting interest in the Giants.

There’s also the matter of the last name of the Giants quarterback. Colts fans are pretty used to rooting for a quarterback named Manning, which should make it fairly easy for them to pull for Eli this Sunday.

I’m not in Indianapolis right now, but Rosenthal sends back word that he thinks things are playing out the way Coughlin predicted. Giants beat writers Mike Garofalo of the Newark Star-Ledger agrees with that assessment. Conference pride just isn’t what it used to be.