AFC East: Nate Clements
The failed tests occurred before the league cracked down on StarCaps, the diuretic that led to the suspensions of Minnesota Vikings defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams.
Deposition transcripts reveal Miami Dolphins tackle Vernon Carey, New York Jets right tackle Damien Woody (with the Detroit Lions at the time), former New England Patriots fullback Patrick Pass, former Patriots defensive end Marquise Hill, former Buffalo Bills cornerback Nate Clements, former Bills running back Damion Shelton and former Bills and Patriots receiver Jonathan Smith also failed drug tests but were exonerated.
All of the positive tests were linked to StarCaps. The diuretic contained bumetanide, a substance banned by the NFL because it's a common steroid-masking agent because it dilutes urine.
The Pioneer Press story explained Dr. John Lombardo, who oversaw the NFL's testing procedures, exonerated the players because they told him they ingested bumetanide unwittingly. But the NFL does not accept ignorance as a defense under its drug policy.
When Woody tested positive in August 2007 but was not referred to the league for discipline, the deposition stated NFL vice president Adolpho Birch confronted Lombardo.
"I essentially said I didn't feel comfortable setting the score without warning players they were going to be disciplined for diuretics," Lombardo said in his deposition.
"We knew about this StarCaps stuff, and so I think at that point I probably just explained to [Lombardo] 'What are you talking about?' " Birch said in his deposition. "The policy is that diuretics, if this is the result of inadvertent use through a supplement, that's a violation under the policy as clear as day and I don't understand what was going on."
Pat and Kevin Williams are suing the NFL to have their four-game suspensions overturned.
Joyner asserted Rex Ryan's defense is cornerback-friendly and the Jets have adequate depth at the position. Joyner contended there wouldn't be a significant enough dropoff from Revis to an assembly of Antonio Cromartie, Dwight Lowery and first-round pick Kyle Wilson to justify the monster contract Revis seeks.
Revis wants a bigger contract than the obscene deal the Oakland Raiders gave Nnamdi Asomugha, who will average about $16 million over the next couple years.
Readers bombarded Joyner with rebukes over his stance. He responded Thursday .
Joyner mentions further supports for his platform, including the Jets toying with the idea of using eight defensive backs in one exotic scheme. That sure sounds like a team with some serious depth.
Joyner then goes on to explain how other elite cornerbacks, including Asomugha and Nate Clements, slipped after signing their big contracts.
"These are two of the most respected players in the NFL," Joyner writes, "and even they weren't immune to the negative effects that signing a record-breaking deal can have on a player's motivation. I'll bet dimes to dollars that the Jets management is concerned about the very same thing happening with Revis and that is why is they are trying to keep him playing for that contract for as long as they possibly can."
A former coach delivered a reminder about Drew Brees that must feel like a punch in the gut and followed it up with a cheap shot.
Gregg Williams was a guest on Nashville sports-radio station 104.5 The Zone and sounded happier to be New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator than the Bills' head coach.
"I'm kind of at that point and time in my career," Williams said, "where the three W's are the most important of the choices that I make from now on in coaching: What am I doing? Where's it at? Who's it with?
"I'm never going to discount again on who's it with. I've been able to kind of pick and choose now after all these years about where I want to go to, and I really, really, really wanted to draft Drew Brees when I was the head coach of the Buffalo Bills, and thank goodness that didn't happen otherwise I'd still be stuck up there in cold Buffalo.
"Now I'm here. I do have a chance to go with him into [the Super Bowl]."
The San Diego Chargers selected Brees with the 32nd overall choice in 2001, Williams' first season with the Bills.
The Bills took cornerback Nate Clements with the 21st pick and also owned the 46th pick. As Williams explained to Sports Illustrated's Peter King in the fall, the Bills hoped to trade up to get Brees but couldn't find a willing partner.
"I almost pulled a hamstring in the draft room, jumping up and down because I was so mad,'' Williams told King.
The Bills eventually drafted defensive end Aaron Schobel with the 46th pick. A very good selection.
But instead of having a franchise quarterback for the next decade, the Bills' starting quarterbacks in 2001 were Alex Van Pelt and Rob Johnson. They traded for Drew Bledsoe the next year and have since called Kelly Holcomb, J.P. Losman, Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm starters.
Williams lasted three seasons as Buffalo's coach. He went 3-13, 8-8 and 6-10.
His first major decision will be to hire a head coach, and although he declined to discuss names, it sure sounded like interim coach Perry Fewell won't be the choice.
Here are a few highlights I picked up from Nix's Q&A with reporters Thursday at One Bills Drive.
The Bills want a coach with a proven track record. In outlining the qualities he most values in a head coach, Nix stressed the ability to assemble a staff. Fewell's only head coaching experience will have been the seven games Buffalo gave him after firing Dick Jauron.
"Another thing that's important, more so maybe sometimes than the head coach, is the assistants and the coordinators," Nix said. "If a head coach is a good CEO, then you got good coordinators and good offensive and defensive line coaches, you gotta have a good quarterback coach, somebody that can get that guy better -- and I'm not reflecting on anybody we got -- those are the guys you gotta have, a guy that can put a staff together."
Nix said Fewell will be interviewed for the job when the season is over, but Nix indicated he values experience in that role.
"I believe that a guy that's been a head coach probably has an advantage," Nix said. "There's not a way to prepare for it. It's different. I don't care how good an assistant you are or whatever, when you get to be the head man and got it all, you might be successful and you might not. You're rolling the dice.
"It's not a must that a guy's been a head coach, but it is important, I think."
Don't expect the Bills to dump a lot of cash into the free-agent market. Nix expressed his preference to building through the draft, dedicating money to players already on the roster and supplementing areas of need with mid-range free agents, not superstars.
Nix's philosophies sounded to be in direct contrast to the way the Bills have operated in recent years. The Bills have lost such players as Jason Peters, Pat Williams, London Fletcher, Nate Clements and Antoine Winfield because they refused to pay them.
"I've seen it done both ways over a number of years," Nix said, "but free agency to me should be middle-priced to below-priced guys, not the high-dollar guy that's going to bring you the big bang when you sign him.
"That money ought to go to our guys that played good and you reward them by extending them and keeping them around. We know what we got. Let's build that way. Let's make that team know that we're going to do that.
"Then we take places that we're weak after the draft and plug in guys. They don't have to be star players."
An overhaul in the strength-and-conditioning department could be looming. One of the first moves Bill Parcells made when the Miami Dolphins hired him as football operations boss was to fire the strength and conditioning coaches because of a relentless number of injuries during their 1-15 season in 2007.
Unsolicited, Nix broached similar concerns about the Bills' health problems. They have 19 players on injured reserve.
"To me, there's a lot more to a player being successful than how he was picked or what he was when you picked him," Nix said. "Obviously, the selection process is first, but second you've got to put him in an environment where you can get better.
"You've got to have good medical people, good strength trainers. You've got to have a coach that knows something about teaching. We ought to be getting better. You ought to get better. They're not rookies after about eight games, I mean, they're sophomores. They move up a peg.
"A lot of the things that happened to this team this year injury-wise is unbelievable. And that's a major concern, and I think something you've got to address and see if it's something that we're doing or not doing or whether it's just bad luck. But I think we've had it two or three years in a row. That keeps you from getting better."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
The Buffalo Bills never have seemed to grasp the marketplace for starting cornerbacks.
Over the past five years, they've lost Antoine Winfield, Nate Clements and Jabari Greer to free agency.
We'll see if they finally keep one by paying Terrence McGee market value.
Buffalo News reporter Mark Gaughan wrote this week the Bills have opened talks to sign their left cornerback to an extension. But the club will find out -- if it hasn't already -- the proposition will be expensive.
To me, this will be one of the more intriguing off-field story lines this year. It will show whether the Bills are willing to compensate the most important position in the game behind quarterback and left tackle.
On the surface, McGee might not do much for you as a player. He made the Pro Bowl as a kick returner in 2005, but as a corner he hasn't garnered any serious recognition.
That's neither here nor there. Within the salary structure of the NFL, McGee is due to make a nice chunk of change.
"This would be the best opportunity as far as a contract that I will get in my career," said McGee, who's entering the final season of a four-year, $18 million deal. "This would be it. So we'll see."
If McGee doesn't get his money from the Bills, then he will get it somewhere else. He said he would like to remain with Buffalo, but so did Greer.
When negotiations didn't progress for Greer this past offseason, he signed with the New Orleans Saints for a contract that averages $5.75 million over four years. Greer was Buffalo's No. 2 cornerback to McGee.
Gaughan pointed out some interesting comparisons to highly paid cornerbacks Corey Webster of the New York Giants and Kelvin Hayden of the Indianapolis Colts.
McGee, who will turn 29 in October, has better stats that either of them, and they're among the NFL's 12 highest-paid cornerbacks. They average about $8.5 million a year.
Football Outsiders, who track such things, noted that McGee was targeted 95 times last year -- more than any other cornerback in the league.
Because of the sheer number of times opponents threw at McGee, his name appears in several categorical rankings by Football Outsiders. By their count, McGee ranked 14th in passes defensed with 17 and second in yardage allowed with 1,341.
But those numbers can be misleading. The Bills had an awful pass rush last year. St. Louis Rams cornerback Ron Bartell gave up 1,223 yards last year but re-signed for almost $7 million a year in the spring.
In response to an item I posted about a Sunday morning San Francisco Chronicle article that broke down quotes uttered by New York Jets receiver Laveranues Coles about quarterback Brett Favre during a conference call with Bay Area reporters, I have received a complete transcript of the interview.
Here is Coles' full -- often surly -- interview. Based on the dialogue, although we can't detect voice inflections or general attitude, it reads as through Coles was more frustrated with the line of questioning than he is with Favre.
Now you can read and decide yourself ...
What do you think about Brett Favre professionally?
Laveranues Coles: Well, I just finished talking to him about it and the first thing he said is "Can you all go through an interview without everybody asking you about me?" And I just told him, "No, you're the first thing off the bat," and you opened up and now that is what you asked me. But, I mean, it's just like with anybody else. He's your quarterback just like every other teammate coming to work every day. You work hard at trying to build your craft.
Can you compare where you are with him in the offense right now versus at the beginning of the season. Is the chemistry dramatically better than what it was in September?
LC: I think we're still learning each other. We didn't spend a lot of the offseason together. We didn't get to spend none of the preseason time together working together because I was injured during the first part of the year. I think each day that we do get the opportunity to work together we're still trying to figure out what each other's likes and dislikes are. We're still trying to learn each other.
What are the differences in how you're being used? Is there any difference from how ...
LC: Well, of course. I mean, it's different. Now we're in a quarterback-driven offense where he pretty much has control of everything, where before the offense was pretty much driven through me in the past, where most of the offense ran through me. Now that we have a lot of guys that can make plays, and now all of our skill positions are making plays, now I just kind of become just a role player instead of a guy that teams had to prepare for. So my role is drastically changed based on the order of importance of the football coming to me.
Here is a look at two of the biggest position battles at Buffalo Bills camp:
McKelvin wasn't drafted No. 11 overall to watch from the sidelines, yet he's not a lock to unseat Jabari Greer, a veteran who always seems to shine on the practice field and will get an even bigger head start because the rookie is unsigned.
The Bills, still trying to find a replacement for Nate Clements, hope they've found one in McKelvin, making the Troy University stud the first DB taken in the draft. He's a lockdown corner, a hitter and a sensational return man. He'll need to develop better awareness to become a total player.
That's where Greer has an edge. Although he didn't become a starter until last year, he has been a steady player in his four NFL seasons. Greer might be the safer choice right now, but undrafted free agents can keep a blue-chipper off the field only so long.
Intensity Index: Hot
The Bills haven't possessed a formidable No. 2 receiver since Peerless Price was opposite Eric Moulds. Now they need a threat to complement Lee Evans, whose production dipped last year partly because there wasn't another go-to option.
Hardy was drafted to provide a much-needed big target. He's 6-foot-6, and that will look delicious to Trent Edwards after a year of throwing to three WRs who are 5-foot-10 or shorter. Fantasy alert: Hardy, the fourth receiver off the board at No. 41, could be a monster in the red zone.
But there's always a catch. Hardy doesn't have the greatest mitts, and drops could become an issue while trying to decipher NFL speed and schemes. If he can't shine in camp, Reed will be there to fill the role. He's entering his seventh season, and his 51 catches were only four behind Evans' team lead.
Intensity Index: Hot