Report: Fitzgerald, Manning to have dinner in Indy


ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on January 22 that the Arizona Cardinals have “real interest” in quarterback Peyton Manning, who is expected to become a free agent when the Colts decline his $28 million roster bonus before March 8. Schefter was adamant that Manning will be pursued by Arizona.

Larry Fitzgerald is making Schefter look good.

According to Tom James of the Terre Haute Tribune Star, Arizona’s All-Pro wideout is expected to dine with Manning in Indianapolis this week. James points out that Fitzgerald and Manning are friends, but reports Fitzgerald “would like Manning to consider [the] Cardinals” if/when the Colts release him.

Fitzgerald also took it upon himself to recruit Kevin Kolb to Arizona last summer. After a poor debut season with the Cardinals, it appears one of Kolb’s biggest supporters may already be turning the page.

Colts make hires to fill out coaching staff


Mike Florio broke the news a week ago that Chuck Pagano would be the Colts’ next head coach.’s Alex Marvez has the scoop on several of Pagano’s assistants.

Marvez, citing a source, reports that the Colts have tabbed Marwan Maalouf as special teams coordinator, Roy Anderson as safeties coach, and Alfredo Roberts to coach tight ends. Marvez also reports that Pagano is retaining running backs coach David Walker from Jim Caldwell’s old staff.

Maalouf and Anderson worked with Pagano in Baltimore. Roberts comes over from Tampa Bay, where he coached up rookie Luke Stocker and veteran Kellen Winslow this past season.

McNabb doesn’t sound ready to retire


Former Vikings, Redskins, and Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb drew little to no interest after Minnesota waived him on December 1. During a Wednesday interview on NFL Network’s Super Bowl Live, however, McNabb indicated that he intends to keep playing football.

I see three teams in the NFL, right now, that I feel like I can add a little bit of flavor to it from what they have,” McNabb said.  “I won’t mention those teams. But, if the phone rings, there will be a lot of decisions to make on that.”

McNabb’s “if the phone rings” statement confirms that the phone hasn’t rung. He’s going to have to be open to a backup job as a 2012 free agent, likely for the NFL’s minimum salary.

McNabb did say he’d be satisfied if his career were over at age 35.

“A lot of people take a lot of things from this game,” he said. “They take away a Super Bowl ring, they take away an opportunity to play with Hall of Fame players. When I walk away from the game, I take a little bit of everything.”

(Except a ring.)

Cliff Avril does not want to be franchise tagged


Cliff Avril has the potential to be one of the top free agent pass rushers on the open market this spring. He knows it, and he wants to capitalize.

Speaking to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press on Wednesday, Avril said he does not want the Lions to franchise tag him. He either wants a long-term commitment, or he wants to test free agency.

I definitely don’t want to be franchised,” said Avril, who recorded 11 sacks and six forced fumbles in 2011. “I mean, I’ve been in Detroit for four years, and I wouldn’t mind being there for another couple more years or whatnot. The franchise tag kind of makes it a yearly thing, and you want security.”

Avril did express optimism that he and the Lions can reach a long-term accord.

“(I’m) kind of getting positive vibes as far as for me being there again next year,” he said. “Hopefully, we can meet in the middle and make it happen, because I’d definitely love to be there.”

Channing Crowder plans comeback, but not with Dolphins

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Despite receiving interest from multiple teams, former Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder sat out the 2011 season to let his body heal up.

Appearing on Super Bowl’s Radio Row on Wednesday, the 28-year-old Crowder announced that he will make a comeback attempt. But it definitely won’t be with his former team.

I wouldn’t go on a team with [Dolphins G.M.] Jeff Ireland,” said Crowder in an interview with’s Dan Hanzus. “I’m not very confident in him. He doesn’t know what he’s doing in my opinion. He’s real disrespectful. He doesn’t know how to deal with people.”

The more he spoke, the more Crowder seemed to get into blasting Ireland.

“He’s not a good person,” Crowder said. “He has no class and I wouldn’t choose to go back and play there. And I would have to say it’s the only team I don’t want to play for.”

Ravens plan to extend Flacco’s contract, keep Ray Rice

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Speaking at a Wednesday press conference alongside G.M. Ozzie Newsome, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti adamantly confirmed that the team plans to keep quarterback Joe Flacco and free agent running back Ray Rice for the long term.

“Ray and Joe Flacco will be a part of this football team next year, period,” Bisciotti said.

Added Newsome, “We would like to have a deal done with Ray before before we have to put the (franchise) tag on him.”

The Ravens will be eligible to tag Rice beginning on February 20, but it sounds like they won’t do it immediately. The priority is to get Rice locked up long term.

Flacco’s future has been more of a question mark. The Ravens scaled back their offense in 2012, going more run-heavy down the stretch. Flacco has not yet led Baltimore to a Super Bowl, and he is entering a contract year.

“He’s trending up,” Bisciotti said of Flacco. “This is the sweet spot for him, years five through ten. … We’re just going to sit down and start grinding out contract terms. … I think he’s going to be extremely successful. I think he’s going to have rings.”

Notre Dame’s Floyd recovering from rib injury


Michael Floyd of Notre Dame is widely considered a top-three receiver prospect for the 2012 draft. He missed last week’s Senior Bowl for previously undisclosed reasons, but revealed in a Wednesday interview with the Chicago Tribune that a rib injury prevented him from participating in Mobile.

Speaking to the Tribune‘s Vaughn McClure, Floyd disclosed that the injury occurred during Notre Dame’s Champs Sports Bowl loss to Florida State. (Floyd did not finish that game because of the injured rib.) Floyd said he does plan to participate in February’s NFL Scouting Combine.

Floyd also revealed that he recently measured 6-foot-3 1/2 and 220 pounds at the Gatorade Institute in Indianapolis, where Floyd is training before the draft. Floyd has shed nearly ten pounds since last spring, when he was measured at 6-foot-3, even, and 229 pounds. Even after slimming down, Floyd has a size advantage on fellow top draft-eligible receivers Kendall Wright of Baylor and Justin Blackmon from Oklahoma State.

Asked by McClure whether he’d like to play for the Bears, Floyd replied, “Chicago would be great. But you never know how things go.”

Floyd is a projected top-20 pick in April’s draft. The Bears are scheduled to pick 19th.

Arians hints Colts will play with new quarterback in 2012

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In public, the Colts have been mostly tight lipped about Peyton Manning’s future since the season ended. Owner Jim Irsay initially insisted Manning would remain a Colt if healthy, though he’s gradually backed off that stance. Ultimately, Irsay has made no commitment either way while being as evasive about Manning’s 2012 whereabouts as humanly possible.

Newly hired offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was more forthcoming about Manning than Irsay has ever been in an item posted on the Colts’ website Wednesday. When reading Arians’ quotes, keep in mind that he was the Colts’ quarterbacks coach from 1998 through 2000 and is returning to the organization after 11 years away.

“It’s like deja vu like in 1998, starting off with a new general manager, a new head coach, and a new quarterback,” said Arians. “It was so exciting to watch that process grow into what it has become.”

Arians seems to be of the impression that the Colts are in a full, top-to-bottom rebuild. And that rebuild includes a quarterback change. Later in the article, Arian backtracked a bit.

“Hopefully we have Peyton (Manning) back — I have my fingers crossed — but possibly starting with another young one, it’s really exciting,” Arians said.

It’s no secret by now that the Colts expect to move on from Manning. Arians knows it; he’s openly “excited” about it. According to NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora, new G.M. Ryan Grigson knew about it “weeks ago.”

Arians is just the only one who has come close to saying it.

Longtime NFL line coach Bill Muir retires

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Adam Teicher of the Kansas City Star reports that former Chiefs offensive coordinator Bill Muir has retired. Muir informed the team of his intentions Wednesday morning.

The Chiefs wanted Muir back to coach their offensive line, but the 69-year-old told the Star that he’s had enough of football. He spent 28 seasons as an NFL offensive line coach and has been coaching in some capacity since the late 1960s.

“I feel badly because they want me to stay,” Muir said. “I’m not leaving because of anything that has gone on or will go on with the Chiefs. This is a personal decision. It’s very personal. I’ve been denying myself a lot of things over the years, but I’m at a point in my life where I want to do some other things.”

The Chiefs have interviewed quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn as a candidate to replace Muir as offensive coordinator.

Wade Phillips withdraws name from consideration in Tampa


We told you just a few hours ago that Wade Phillips sounded like he had mixed feelings about interviewing for the head coaching job with the Buccaneers.

Those mixed feelings have turned more certain. Phillips informed the Bucs he won’t meet about the position, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

There are a lot of reasons Phillips may have withdrawn his name to remain the defensive coordinator in Houston. SI’s Peter King points out the most likely reason: Phillips already knows he’s out of the running.  (That may explain why he had mixed feelings after sounding gung ho about getting a head coaching job earlier in the offseason.)

No matter the reason, it’s great news for the Texans and their fans that Phillips will stay put.

The Bucs have met with Marty Schottenheimer, Brad Childress, and Mike Sherman thus far. Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is also believed to be in the mix.

Cromartie: I’m better playmaker than Nnamdi

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Antonio Cromartie’s return to the Jets this summer came as a result of their failure to convince Nnamdi Asomugha to sign with them as a free agent.

That isn’t stopping Cromartie from saying that he’s a better cornerback in some respects than the man who wound up with the Eagles. He told Rich Cimini of just where he sees himself as being a superior player.

“My style of play and his style of play are totally different,” Cromartie said. “I feel I’m more of a playmaker than he is.”

Cromartie did make some big plays for the Jets on Sunday against the Jaguars. He picked off two passes and returned one to the one-yard line to set up a Jets touchdown. He can also make plays as a kickoff returner and the Jets have been giving him on snaps on offense, although that has only resulted in one rush for one yard and some extra tape for opposing defensive coordinators to watch.

There’s a reason why Cromartie gets to make so many plays, of course. Teams don’t much like throwing to the guy covered by Darrelle Revis, so Cromartie gets tested more often as a result. Asomugha has also been a corner left alone by opposing quarterbacks over the years, something that doesn’t give him nearly as many chances to make plays as Cromartie has with the Jets or when he was a member of the Chargers.

Cromartie left something out of his playmaking comparison with Asomugha as well. He left out the part where other teams make a lot more plays against him than they make against Asomugha. The Cowboys beat him twice for touchdowns in the opening game of the season, several other teams did the same thing during his first season with the Jets in 2010 and he draws a fair number of flags in the passing game as well.

The balance between the plays he makes and the plays he gives up still works out as a net positive for Cromartie, but there’s little doubt that you’d rather have a fewer big plays made if it means fewer big plays against you when all is said and done.

Broncos add a receiver

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Injuries have left the Broncos so thin at receiver that Tim Tebow took some snaps at the position on Sunday against the Bengals.

The team made a move to make sure that they don’t have to go down that route again this week. Denver signed former Bengals wide receiver Quan Cosby on Tuesday and released running back Jeremiah Johnson to make room for Cosby on the roster.

Cosby played every game over the last two seasons after signing with the Bengals as an undrafted free agent out of Texas. He only had six catches in that span, making most of his contributions as a kickoff and punt returner and averaged 10 yards per punt return. With Eric Decker moving into a leading role on offense and Eddie Royal out with an injury, Cosby could see some time in that role for Denver.

Royal is expected to miss the next couple of weeks with a groin injury. The status of Brandon Lloyd, recovering from a groin injury of his own, won’t be known until the team sees what he can do during practice this week.

Clinton Portis will work out for Titans

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It’s Tuesday, which means NFL players will be holding workouts for players looking for work.

One of the bigger names on that list is Clinton Portis, who will be in Tennessee for a visit with the Titans. The Redskins released the running back in February and he has been looking for work ever since the league resumed business after the lockout. He has previously visited with the Dolphins, Patriots and Seahawks, but hasn’t found much of a market for his services.

He’s unlikely to find one with the Titans, at least at this point. Any snaps not taken by Chris Johnson have been ably filled by Javon Ringer so far this season, leaving the Titans well stocked in the backfield. Portis is likely there to bid for a spot on the team’s list of players to call should calamity strike at some point this year.

Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean reports that the team will also take a look at former Lions running back Aaron Brown and other players on Tuesday.

Monday morning one-liners


Fred Jackson’s 43-yard touchdown run on the fourth play of the second half jumpstarted the Bills comeback.

CB Nolan Carroll and S Reshard Jones shared responsibility for the touchdown that sealed the Dolphins’ fate.

Patriots LB Jerod Mayo’s stop on fourth-and-goal in the second quarter helped set the tone for the win over the Chargers.

TE Dustin Keller took advantage of the attention paid to his Jets teammates.

The Ravens couldn’t match the intensity of the Titans on Sunday.

Failure to convert short third and fourth downs doomed the Bengals in Denver.

KR Josh Cribbs set the Browns up for two short touchdown drives with big returns.

The Steelers were pleased with the play of T Marcus Gilbert.

CB Jonathan Joseph impressed his Texans teammates with the way he returned to the field after hurting his foot.

Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star doesn’t think Kerry Collins is the answer at quarterback for the Colts.

The Jaguars defense wasn’t the biggest problem in the 32-3 loss to the Jets.

The Titans run defense did a much better job than it did in Week One.

Broncos WR Eric Decker atoned for his fumble with two second half touchdowns.

The Chiefs compounded their lousy play with costly penalties.

Said Raiders DL Tommy Kelly of the last play of their loss to the Bills, “Man, we’re the Raiders. If we were probably the Patriots or Bears or the Falcons or somebody, they probably would reverse it. But they ain’t going to reverse that call for us.”

The Chargers were never able to get TE Antonio Gates involved in Sunday’s game.

Cowboys K Dan Bailey redeemed himself by hitting the tying and winning field goals on Sunday in San Francisco.

Tom Coughlin might have a different opinion on blaming the coach for a team’s injuries than he did when he took over as Giants coach.

The Eagles defense looked great on Sunday night until they didn’t.

Tim Hightower and Roy Helu gave the Redskins 170 rushing yards in the win over the Cardinals.

Bears QB Jay Cutler got hit too often by the Saints.

Any student would be happy to come home with a report card like the Lions got for Sunday’s win.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers thinks the running backs need to get more touches.

Writes Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, “The Vikings haven’t just begun the 2011 with two losses, they’ve blown two games with poisonous second-half performances that call into question the ability of their coaches to adapt during games, their offensive philosophy, their choice of veteran quarterbacks and their ability to fulfill the lofty expectations of ownership.”

Said Falcons coach Mike Smith, “I don’t know if there’s a tougher guy than Matt Ryan. He took a number of shots and kept going. When you have guys like that, you have a chance to be successful. He’s a tough Irishman. I’ve said that before. He gets hit and he takes that hit and he keeps going.”

Panthers WR Steve Smith’s third quarter fumble mitigated a lot of the good things he did against the Packers.

Saints linebackers Jonathan Casillas and Jonathan Vilma both missed plays with injuries but returned to help the team to victory.

The Buccaneers rediscovered RB LeGarrette Blount in the second half against the Vikings.

There’s still work to be done on defense for the Cardinals.

It has been a long time since the Rams were playing on Monday night.

Seahawks CB Brandon Browner was targeted all day long by the Steelers.

Tony Sparano: I don’t have any answers


The Dolphins fell to 0-2 on Sunday in front of a sparse crowd at Sun Life Stadium and their coach doesn’t seem to know how to get the team pointed in the right direction.

“It’s baffling to me,” Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said, via Jeff Darlington of the Miami Herald. “It really is. I don’t have any answers for it. We’ve got to do a better job.”

While we don’t doubt Sparano was being honest, he might want to come up with a different approach to the post-game press conference. When your team has lost twice at home by double-digit margins, the local crowd seems to have tuned your team out and your owner openly flirted with other candidates for your job, it might not be the best idea to let everyone know that you have no clue how to fix the problems.

That seems like a pretty good way to suggest that someone else might be a better choice to lead the Dolphins to a better tomorrow. We know that Stephen Ross has already entertained such notions and he’ll likely pull the trigger before too much longer if the Dolphins don’t start finding a way to win games.