Osi Umenyiora misses media session


Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora was absent from Wednesday’s league-mandated media session on Wednesday for undisclosed reasons.

NFL Network’s Albert Breer says it’s not contract related.

“The league is also looking into Osi Umenyiora’s absence today. Could be nothing. Could be something,” Breer writes.

So that narrows it down. We’re guessing there isn’t much to the story, but we’ll let you know.

While Umenyiora missed his media session, his counterpart Matt Light was back on Wednesday. He was asked about his penchant for mixing it up with Osi.

“Can you have an individual rivalry? I thought rivalries were between teams in general. But, I’m ready to go out there and play whatever game I have to play. We’ll have fun doing it. I’m not sure that comes at a personal level.”

Light seemed crushed to have missed out on Media Day because of his sickness.

“I tell you what, I feel horrible about that. I do. And I love spending time with you guys. Not having the opportunity to be around so many of you in such a wonderful setting was very disheartening, but I’m pulling through.”

UPDATE 12:50 p.m. ET: A Giants spokesman confirmed to Mike Garafolo of the Newark Star-Ledger that Umenyiora was at the team’s 12:15 p.m. meeting. So it doesn’t seem like a huge concern.

Rams, St. Louis start trading stadium proposals

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The potential-divorce square dance between the Rams and St. Louis will intensify today, as the Convention and Visitors Commission prepares to make a proposal to the team regarding an extension of the lease that the team can escape after the 2014 season, if the venue isn’t among the top 25 percent in the league.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the CVC will make a proposal today, which happens to be the deadline for doing so.  The Rams may accept or reject by March 1.  If they pass, the Rams have until May 1 to make counter offer.  If an agreement isn’t struck by June 15, the issue would be submitted, per the Post-Dispatch, to arbitration.

But the arbitration apparently wouldn’t be binding, since the absence of an agreement between the two sides would permit relocation after March 1, 2015.

These various deadlines make it a foregone conclusion that the stadium won’t be among the top fourth of the entire NFL by 2014.  The question is whether the Rams and St. Louis can work something out.

In this regard, the Rams haven’t tipped their hand.  And by keeping all options (including L.A. and London) open, the Rams could end up with a sweeter-than-sweetheart deal to stay in St. Louis.  Or an equally sweet deal to move.

Kenny Britt resolves New Jersey court case

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Last summer it seemed like Titans receiver Kenny Britt was winding up on these pages almost daily for running afoul of the law in Nashville or New Jersey.

He’s started to clear his docket of some of those cases. He had charges of providing false information on drivers license dropped last month and he resolved a case stemming from an arrest in New Jersey last June on Tuesday. For those who have lost track of Britt’s history, this was the case dealing with Britt destroying a marijuana blunt while cops were approaching him on suspicion that he had illegal drugs. Britt was charged with resisting arrest, tampering with evidence and obstructing government functions. He pleaded not guilty to those charges in July.

On Tuesday, Britt pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace and paid a $1,500 fine to settle the case, according to the Associated Press. Britt tore his ACL in the third week of the 2011 season and the Titans believe he’ll be ready to go once training camp rolls around. Assuming, of course, no more legal trouble gets in the way.

Brandon Spikes is glad Bill Belichick looked past his 40 time


Brandon Spikes was a two-time first-team All-American at Florida and figured he was sure to be a first-round draft pick. But Spikes ended up lasting until late in the second round before the Patriots took him 62nd overall.

Spikes blames his fall on his 40-yard dash time, and he credits Bill Belichick for being the one coach willing to take a chance on a productive player who was a step slow.

“I felt like it was overlooked. Bill gave me a chance and I play hard every day,” Spikes said today. “I think it was all about the 40 yards in a straight line. It is what it is. I’m not regretting anything that happened.”

That 40-yard dash appeared to hurt Spikes’ draft stock significantly. At the time, draft analyst Mel Kiper said, “Brandon Spikes had a high grade, then he runs the 5.0-flat 40, and I think that was an issue. . . . He had great productivity, really an instinctive kid, but that 40 time really threw a lot of people off.”

Paying attention to that great productivity, more than the 40-yard straight-line run, paid off well for Belichick.

Bradshaw on the new, mobile Manning: “Get down Eli!”

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Eli Manning will never be mistaken for Michael Vick, but he’s noticeably improved at buying time in the pocket before throwing passes.

He’s even been able to convert more first downs with his legs. PFT asked Ahmad Bradshaw for his reaction when he sees Manning take off.

“He’s had a lot of runs this year over ten yards. We don’t expect that as an offense,” Bradshaw said. “Everybody is just like, ‘Get down Eli!'”

A lot of Manning’s best improvisational plays have been tossess to Bradshaw.

“I’m the last line of defense. . . . He saves a lot of plays. I’m just there screaming his name, trying to get the ball any way I can,” Bradshaw said. “He’s been able to get out of a couple tackles and flip the ball to me.”

Manning’s ability to make people miss is why he’s a little different this year. It’s one of the reasons the Giants have to feel good about their chances Sunday. The Giants often make big plays against perfectly called defenses.

“Butterball” Vince Wilfork says people are surprised he can dunk

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On Monday Patriots coach Bill Belichick gushed about how athletic and in shape defensive tackle Vince Wilfork is. But Wilfork says most people don’t realize just what a good athlete he is.

Asked today what most surprises people that he can do, Wilfork said, “Probably dunk a basketball. People look at me and are like, ‘He’s a butterball, he can’t.’”

There’s no hiding the fact that Wilfork is fat. He’s listed at 6-foot-2 and 325 pounds, which pegs his body mass index at 41.7, on a scale where anything over 30 is obese. And Wilfork probably weighs a good deal more than 325 — in college the Miami Hurricanes listed him at 344 pounds, and he sure doesn’t look like he’s lost 19 pounds since college.

But football is a sport in which fat people can thrive, especially if they’re as athletic as Wilfork. If Wilfork plays as well against the Giants in the Super Bowl as he did against the Ravens getting to the Super Bowl, he could become the biggest Super Bowl MVP ever.

Greg Manusky interviews for Raiders defensive coordinator


The Raiders locked up Greg Knapp as their offensive coordinator and now they’re moving on to the other side of the ball.

Alex Marvez of FOXSports.com reports that the team interviewed Greg Manusky for the defensive coordinator position. Chuck Bresnahan, the coordinator for the 2011 season, hasn’t been officially discharged, but every indication is that he will not be retained for next season. Manusky was the defensive coordinator for the 49ers from 2007-2010 and led the Chargers defense before being dismissed at the end of the season.

49ers secondary coach Ed Donatell, who worked with new head coach Dennis Allen in Atlanta, has also been mentioned as a candidate for the job. Donatell was once defensive coordinator with the Packers.

The Raiders also wanted to speak with Broncos linebackers coach Richard Smith, whose candidacy seemed strong thanks to working under Allen with Denver last season. The Broncos denied their divisional rivals permission to speak to Smith, though, which means they will need to keep looking a little bit longer.

Jerod Mayo feels like a kid before Christmas

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Jerod Mayo was the Patriots’ first-round draft pick three months after they lost Super Bowl XLII to the Giants, so the Super Bowl experience is new to him. And like a lot of us, Mayo is getting anxious for the game to get here already.

“It’s like counting down days before Christmas,” Mayo said. “Guys are very excited and anxious to get on the field.”

Other than the media responsibilities, however, Mayo said he’s been surprised by how normal this week is.

“I think the coaches have done an excellent job making it feel like home and making everything the same except for things like this, obviously,” Mayo said at the team’s meeting with the press Wednesday morning. “Meeting rooms are the same. Meeting times are the same. [Bill Belichick is] still getting on us about little things, and that’s the way we like it.”

Victor Cruz came close to getting cut in 2010

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Victor Cruz turned in several of the biggest plays of this Giants season, but he almost wound up on the waiver wire before his run with the team got started.

Cruz was in a fight for one of the final roster spots as cutdown day approached at the end of the 2010 preseason. The team liked Cruz, but they also liked Derek Hagan and felt that Cruz could use some time on the practice squad. Giants vice president of player evaluation Chris Mara admitted to Mike Garofalo of the Newark Star-Ledger that the salsa dancing receiver was destined for waivers before some intervention from up above.

“He was saved by some upper-echelon Giants front-office people,” Mara said. “I’ll put it that way.”

According to Mara, Giants fans have Rex Ryan to thank for Cruz making it through the final cut. Cruz scored three touchdown passes to spice up an otherwise unmemorable preseason game between the Giants and Jets in the summer of 2010 and Ryan raved about him after the game. The voluble Jets coach went so far as to say he hoped the Giants cut him so that the Jets could pick him up. That helped the Giants make the decision to keep him because they felt sure that Cruz wouldn’t clear waivers and make it to their practice squad.

Ryan’s mouth hasn’t made him too popular with Giants fans over the last three years, but this is one instance where it seems his inability to keep his thoughts to himself worked out to their satisfaction.

Quick hits from Patriots media session

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We’ve reached hump day during Super Bowl week. Teams return to the practice field Wednesday.

Before that happens, both squads meet with the media this morning for an hour. Here are a few highlights from the Patriots session:

1. Matt Light is feeling better.  Sick the last two days, Light met with the media for the first time Wednesday. He’s feeling better and will be at practice. The Patriots will have Light, Nate Solder, and Sebastian Vollmer to man the tackle spots Sunday. Vollmer is fully expected to return to the lineup.

2. Rob Gronkowski may wear a special cleat. He wasn’t wearing a walking boot Wednesday. He said he’ll talk to the Patriots training staff about the cleat tonight. The team and Gronkowski didn’t sound overly optimistic about Gronk being able to practice on Wednesday.

3. Light sums up Gronkowski. This is how Light described Gronk having to answer the same question over and and over. “He’s a . . . well-trained animal.”

4. Chad arrives late, entertains. The Super Bowl’s most famous reserve showed up late, but came into the session with guns blazing. “Being here, man, it’s like watching porn. There’s nothing bad about it at all,” Ochocinco said via Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times.  Asked if he had any regrets this season, Ocho replied, “F— no.”

5. Belichick on the lack of competitiveness at the Pro Bowl. “What I’ll say, I shouldn’t say.”  We also thought his comments on his ’05 and ’06 teams were interesting, saying it’s a young man’s game and good teams can’t last forever.

Cam Newton still wants to be an entertainer

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When Cam Newton said before the draft that he wants to be an entertainer and an icon, it was viewed by many as an indication that he was more interested in becoming a celebrity than becoming a great football player.

But a year later, now that Newton has shown on the field that he’s capable of being a great football player, Newton isn’t backing down about wanting to be an entertainer. In an interview with ESPN’s Hannah Storm, Newton said that he goes into games hoping to entertain the fans.

“I thrive off knowing that people are coming to watch me play. That’s what I thrive off. That’s the entertainer in me. And when they come I’m trying to put on a show. Because it may be that person’s first time coming to watch me play, or it may be that person who said, ‘Cam isn’t what you all think he is,’ and then it may be by the end of the game, he said, ‘Man, Cam’s real.’ That’s why I do it.”

The way Newton played as a rookie was highly entertaining. Especially for Panthers fans.

Some things about Giants-Patriots haven’t changed

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The Giants and Patriots have repeatedly said all week here that this is not 2008. These teams are different.

Still, Tom Brady noted Wednesday morning at his media session that not everything has changed. The Giants defensive line is still talking.

“It wouldn’t be the Super Bowl if they weren’t talking about coming to knock me down, knock me out,” Brady said.

He’s not kidding. I heard Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and Jason Pierre-Paul all say they felt they could “rattle” Brady during their Media Day sessions.

“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.”

Even the Giants coaching staff is getting in on the act.

“We did some things that disrupted his timing. We caused him to stay jittery in the pocket. Hopefully we can do that again,” defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said.

Brady was off target in the first regular game, but that was more about his accuracy and New York’s coverage than their pass rush. His protection mostly held up.

Brady’s offensive line will need to play well again on Sunday, or it will really feel like 2008 again.

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Maurice Jones-Drew talks changes in Jacksonville


Maurice Jones-Drew likens himself to “The Wolf” in Pulp Fiction. He’s been hired to clean up the struggling ratings at OCNN.

Getting the Jaguars turned around figures to be even tougher.

“Sometimes change in the beginning doesn’t seem as right,” Jones-Drew told PFT Tuesday. “But I think he’s the right guy for the job. We’re going to add some weapons around our young quarterback.”

Jones-Drew figures to enjoy the run-first approach Mularkey brings to the table.  He said he liked a few ideas Mularkey told him, but is trying to get his mind off football a little this early in the offseason.

Since we also have video of Jones-Drew on NBC SportsTalk Tuesday, we may as well roll the tape.

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Reid admits he offered Spagnuolo a job

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The buzz in Indy, at least among those who ordinarily cover the Eagles but who are covering the Super Bowl instead this week, is that coach Andy Reid deliberately waited for the cats to be away until holding a press conference.

Though some of the regulars weren’t there to pepper him with questions, Reid said plenty.

One of the most significant nuggets came from his admission that he offered former Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo a job.

“If you can have two great coaches on defense, that’s even better than having one,” Reid said, via Andy Schwartz of CSNPhilly.com.  “That’s about as far as it went there.  We didn’t talk about titles.  We didn’t go into any of that. . . .  He ended up going to New Orleans.”

They didn’t talk about titles perhaps because they didn’t need to talk about titles.  What other title would Spagnuolo have than defensive coordinator?

While Reid predictably claims both Spagnuolo and Castillo would have remained on the staff, it’s the clearest piece of evidence that, unlike last year, Reid wanted to explore his alternatives before firing his defensive coordinator.  Since Reid ultimately could find no one better than Castillo — whose prospects were buoyed by the late-season performance of the defense — Castillo stays.

But if things don’t improve dramatically in 2012, Spagnuolo could be offered another job with the Eagles next year.  The title next time around could be “head coach.”