End of the line in Foxboro: Safety Rodney Harrison officially retired from the NFL after a truly memorable career.
For some fans, Harrison's legacy will be tarnished by the vicious hits that crossed the line of good sportsmanship, drawing numerous fines, including one that cost him more than $100,000 when he delivered a helmet-to-helmet blow to Jerry Rice.
But other NFL fans will remember him as a no-nonsense, business-like player who knew only one speed on the football field, a man who was driven to win at practically any cost.
"People have called me a dirty player. I'm a very passionate player," he said during a conference call with the media. "I also understand that this is not volleyball. This is a very violent, physical game, and if you hit someone in the mouth, they're not going to be your friend. That's what the game of football is."
No matter which side of the fence you're on when it comes to Rodney Harrison, I think you'd be hard-pressed not to agree that he was one of those rare players who brought a level of talent and emotion to the field every week that forced his opponents to account for him on every play.
And that's not a bad common ground on which to be remembered by all NFL fans.
Refocusing in Cleveland: The recent fuss in the media over Cleveland head coach Eric Mangini taking his team's rookies on a 10-hour trip to Hartford, Connecticut to work with youngsters at a football camp boggles my mind.
While the trip was voluntary, critics point out that with rookies trying to land a job with the club, they would have been nuts to stay behind and risk sending the wrong message to their boss.
Browns head coach Eric Mangini
AP Photo/Tony Dejak
Well, golly. Like that never happens to the rest of us in our respective jobs. Next time it happens to you, be sure to alert the media.
While people were pitying the poor rookies who had to endure the trip, they missed an important point. So Mangini properly put the spotlight where it belonged in regards to the weekend excursion.
"We ended up with 760 kids from five different states and 61 different towns," he said during a press conference. "A friend of mine brought a little boy whose father had been killed two weeks go, and his mom was in jail for drug dealing. To know that he had a good day and to see him smiling, and to let him know that people cared about him, to let him know that he was important, that was incredibly satisfying.
"To watch the speeches and hear Alex Mack talk about going into college and how he really wasn't highly recruited -- his emphasis was on school, but he didn't let anybody discourage him from the things he wanted to do in football -- and he built himself up into a first rounder. (New York Jets tight end) Dustin Keller talking about how your teachers and your coaches, they have your best interests at heart and how important it is to listen to them. Bryan Cox talking about finding a good mentor and Bryan growing up the way that he grew up and how he was able to find someone that could show him the right things to do and how important that was to his development."
So really, folks. Shouldn't that have been the real story that came out of the weekend trip to Hartford?
Lots of eye-rolling in Tennessee: I doubt that I have enough fingers and toes to count the number of people at Titans headquarters who rolled their eyes in disbelief over Vince Young's remarks earlier this week.
"Definitely I want to be in there playing ball and picking up where I left off, winning games and having a good time with my teammates and fans," Young said during a radio interview. "But at the same time if them guys don't want me in there, it's time for me to make a career change for myself.
"The fact is I'm ready to play ball, and if they're not ready for me to play ball, somebody is."
Is Vince Young ready to return as a starter?
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
I'm glad to see that Young is showing some spunk and his competitive fire again. After becoming a shadow of his former self, I like the fact that he's telling the world that he's ready to play ball again. And I'm sure the Titans are particularly relieved to hear it since they're on the hook to pay him a little more than $2 million this year.
Titans head coach Jeff Fisher didn't appear to be among the eye-rollers, at least not based on his comments during a radio interview this week.
"I would expect everyone on our football team to want to start. You need that attitude," he said. "I think he may have been led on a little bit in the interview, but I'm not paying attention to it, he knows there is no potential for us to move him and I am not backing down off of what I said at the end of that ball game or the Monday or Tuesday after Jacksonville. Kerry (Collins) is our starter, but Vince is eventually going to be our starting quarterback and the quarterback we drafted him to be, period."
Bottom line, Young needs to keep his feet on the ground if he's going to lead an NFL club. Spouting off and claiming that other teams are ready to let him play ball when his resume shows 22 touchdowns against 32 interceptions isn't a very convincing argument. He might want to do a quick poll of team owners before he blurts that one out again.
That said, I'd really like to see Young earn his way back into a starter's role if he can pull it all together. I certainly haven't forgotten the excitement he brought to the game of football when he was playing for the Longhorns. And as much as I respect the stability that Kerry Collins has brought to the quarterback position in Tennessee since Young fell from grace, there are times when watching him lead the offense is just a few steps above watching paint dry.
Unlike this year -- when the team would have taken a massive cap hit if they would have released Young -- the Titans can save almost $7 million next year by cutting him loose rather than paying him $12 million in salary and roster bonus money. So Young has a huge incentive to win his starter's job back before the start of the 2010 season.
Big man in Miami: Prior to the NFL Draft, the common assumption was that former cornerback Jason Allen would be one of the front-runners for a starter's role along with Will Allen. But then the team drafted Vontae Davis in the first round with the 25th pick overall and Sean Smith in the second round with the 61st overall pick.
Rookie CB Sean Smith saw action with the first-team defense this week.
Marc Serota/Getty Images
While there is still some uncertainty over who will eventually win the competition, former first-round pick Jason Allen appears to be fading in the early going. Head coach Tony Sparano was charitable with his comments while admitting that the 6-foot-1, 200-pound cornerback has some consistency issues to work out.
"Well, honestly with Jason, unfortunately he's been bouncing around a little bit positionally," Sparano said. "When we came here he was a safety, and then we looked at him as a safety. We moved him to corner. You know how the whole thing went down.
"So right now, it's just again, he's a guy that from a consistency standpoint who really needs to become consistent out there at what he does well -- which is he's a big guy that can run. So he needs to play like a big guy that can run out there and cover."
The Dolphins coach pointed out that in a division that features a number of tall wide receivers, big corners are an asset in coverage. And Sean Smith, at 6-foot-3, 214 pounds, projects a strong, physical presence as a cornerback.
The rookie played with the first-team unit on Tuesday.
"He's been getting better and better each
practice and getting his hands on more footballs. He is playing a little
more confident," Sparano said. "So as he starts to progress a little
bit, we just want to see him versus better people. So everybody's kind of
going to get an opportunity a little bit here to get some reps with that group
and it was his day today."
"He's been getting better and better each practice and getting his hands on more footballs. He is playing a little more confident," Sparano said. "So as he starts to progress a little bit, we just want to see him versus better people. So everybody's kind of going to get an opportunity a little bit here to get some reps with that group and it was his day today."
"We're going to be a defense that plays with relentless effort. That's (something) you're going to hear me say a lot: relentless effort." -- Seahawks head coach Jim Mora
"With Terrell (Owens) and Lee (Evans) out there on the outside, it opens up so many possibilities. There's so much speed out there with those guys and I think our part is just to try and find the open spots and do our part to help Trent out and try to bail him out." -- Bills tight end Derek Fine on the role of the tight ends who are competing for the starter's spot in Buffalo
"He is a really smart kid and he's picking things up very well. It's just a matter of him doing it over and over again here, so that's what we're working on, getting used to this offense. And he played a lot of inside slot receiver at Missouri and we're going to ask him to do a little bit more on the outside. He's picking it up very well." -- Eagles head coach Andy Reid on first-round pick Jeremy Maclin
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