AFC East: Owners Meeting 2010

Jets' playoff miracle not NFL's preference

March, 25, 2010
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The New York Jets certainly didn't have a problem with it, but the NFL does.

The league is looking into ways to ensure playoff-bound teams field honest lineups in the final weeks of the season. The Jets slipped into the postseason last year when their final two opponents, who'd clinched their divisions, kept their best players on the sideline.

In his closing remarks at the NFL owners meetings, commissioner Roger Goodell noted changes are afoot to keep late-season games from turning into charades.

"It is still an issue, and I spoke to the competition committee about it on Sunday," Goodell said. "One of the key things we are doing in the short term is in our scheduling. We are trying to schedule it so that potentially Week 17 will be all division opponents and maybe even a large part of Week 16 games.

"We think that will address this to some extent. It will not necessarily eliminate the issue, but the competition committee knows, and I've stressed to them, that we need to continue to look at this because it's important for the quality of what we do and for the integrity of our game."

The eight-man competition committee includes prominent figures in the Jets' miraculous wild-card berth: Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Polian and Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis.

The Colts and Bengals were incredibly gracious in ushering the Jets into the playoffs. The Jets had to win their final two games, and both opponents benched starters.

In Week 16, the Colts pulled quarterback Peyton Manning in the third quarter. The Jets came back to win 29-15.

In a do-or-die Week 17 games, the Bengals scratched some starters and pulled many others, including quarterback Carson Palmer and receiver Chad Ochocinco, at halftime. The Jets blew them away, 37-0.

Are Bills making a play for McNabb?

March, 24, 2010
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid reiterated Wednesday that Donovan McNabb is his starting quarterback.

Reid, however, declined to engage in a semantics joust with reporters who wanted to know if that's a statement of fact for the here and now for the 2010 season.

The Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders have contacted the Eagles about trading for McNabb, according to Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Ashley Fox and Yahoo! Sports writer Charles Robinson. Fox reported the Eagles have lowered their asking price to a second-round draft choice.

Reid admitted he was entertaining calls from teams he didn't identify, the coach measured his words while speaking at the NFL owners meetings.

The Eagles are jammed at quarterback with McNabb, apprentice Kevin Kolb and veteran Michael Vick.

"I can say it again," Reid said, speaking slowly for emphasis. "Donovan is our No. 1 quarterback, and Kevin is our No. 2 quarterback, and Michael is our No. 3 quarterback. That's how I feel."

Would Reid say that McNabb will not be traded?

"I'll tell you Donovan's our starter, our starting quarterback," Reid said. "I can't make it any clearer. We can get into semantics, but Donovan is our starting quarterback."

A reporter followed up that statement by asking what Reid meant precisely. For today? For the season? For how long?

"I guess we're all living for the day here, but, to answer your question, yeah, today he is our quarterback," Reid said.

Bills general manager Buddy Nix and head coach Chan Gailey repeatedly have stated they'd be willing to add another quarterback. They have an open competition as it stands now, with no obvious favorite among Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm.

Gailey said Tuesday he would like to have his quarterback situation settled by the draft.

Cards think Joey Porter still has star power

March, 24, 2010
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Good luck, Ken Whisenhunt.

That has to be sentiment coming from the Miami Dolphins' front office.

The Arizona Cardinals coach signed outside linebacker Joey Porter last week with the belief he still can make a positive contribution.

Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland insisted in between the first and second time they released Porter that the club's decision was based solely on production. Of course, Porter's rantings against head coach Tony Sparano and young pass-rusher Cameron Wake only bolstered their conviction.

Whisenhunt wasn't concerned about diminishing skills or the potential for distraction. The Cardinals signed him to a three-year, $17.5 million contract.

"I think it was critical when he came in for the visit with us to sit down and talk with him, watch tape with him, go through where he was to have a better understanding of what point in his career he felt like he was and what he felt he could still accomplish," Whisenhunt said Wednesday morning at an NFC coaches breakfast.

Whisenhunt isn't wearing blinders. He was on Bill Cowher's staff when Porter helped the Pittsburgh Steelers win Super Bowl XL.

He knows Porter's act and is prepared for the inevitable outbursts that inevitably will create sexy headlines in Phoenix and the upcoming opponent's city.

"For us, there's a lot of things I know about Joey and how he is in the locker room, what type of leader he is," Whisenhunt said. "You know with Joey that there's going to be the occasional bulletin-board material for the other team.

"But there's a lot of passion that comes with Joey. There's a balance that you have with him, but I've never had a problem with Joey. I've never been on a team where anybody has had issues with Joey."

Sparano and Wake wish they could say the same.

Porter turned 33 on Monday and is coming off a wacky season. He led the AFC with 17.5 sacks in 2008 and followed that up with nine more, a respectable number. But half of those came in two games. He clashed with Sparano, was benched for breaking team rules and endured hamstring problems.

"I still see him having gas left in his tank," Whisenhunt said. "He can make some plays, can be a good leader for us. It helps bring a mentality to our defense that hopefully gets us to a level where we can be a little more consistent.

"We've shown flashes of being pretty good. We’ve shown flashes of being pretty bad. Hopefully, if you bring in players with the credibility of Joey, who has been to Pro Bowls, that helps."

Carroll big fan of Fins' mystery receiver

March, 24, 2010
ORLANDO, Fla. -- One of the bigger unknowns on the Miami Dolphins' roster is second-year receiver Patrick Turner.

[+] EnlargePatrick Turner
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesPatrick Turner blossomed his senior season at USC, catching 49 passes for 741 yards and 10 TDs.
The Dolphins selected him 87th overall in last year's draft, hoping the 6-foot-5 target would make an impact on third downs and in the red zone. Turner was Mark Sanchez's favorite target at USC and led the Trojans in touchdowns his senior season.

Yet he failed to catch a pass his rookie year. He was a healthy scratch for all but two games. Ohio State rookie Brian Hartline, drafted 19 spots after Turner, caught 31 passes for 506 yards and a team-high three receiving touchdowns.

At the NFL scouting combine last month, Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said Turner "has to step it up," but added, "He's a player for the future. We like the player very much. He's a big, huge target, which this quarterback needs. We feel very good about his development."

As Ireland noted, players develop differently, and Turner's college coach noted the process was a little longer at USC, too.

Pete Carroll, now with the Seattle Seahawks, talked about Turner at the NFC coaches media breakfast Wednesday as part of the NFL owners meetings at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes.

"I think Patrick is a guy who has to develop his relationship with the club," Carroll said. "It took him a while at SC to really take over. He had a very good junior year, but it took him all the way to his senior year, while other guys we had who played the position had taken over immediately as freshmen.

"We watched him develop a little more slowly and get comfortable. Once he did, he took over.

"I would bet that if it's [similar to his college transition], he'll develop a very comfortable feeling and be a factor for them. He's a very, very good player."

Three-day draft gives Patriots leverage

March, 24, 2010
ORLANDO, Fla. -- I wonder if the New England Patriots sent the NFL a thank-you note for breaking up the draft into three days.

On April 22, the first round will take place in prime time and stand alone, the next step in the evolution of the NFL draft as an event. The first round is special, and the league wanted to treat it as such by separating it from the rest of the process.

"We think moving it to prime time on Thursday night is just going to expose it to a much wider audience," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday at the annual owners meetings. "We think it's going to be a terrific thing for our fans. We're excited about it."

The new format also should invigorate trade talk before the second round begins April 23 because general managers and coaches will have several hours to review their updated draft boards and plot their next maneuver.

The Patriots, the only club with three second-round picks, will be awaiting calls.

As's Mike Reiss points out, the three-day draft has improved the Patriots' leverage.

"I'm sure there will be some interest in those picks," Belichick said Tuesday during a coaches media breakfast at the NFL owners meetings. "I can't imagine [otherwise] because that's usually the way it is, when you have multiple picks after the draft just stopped at a point and you've restarted."

The New York Jets wound up with Iowa running back Shonn Greene last year because they had all night to contemplate it. Last year's draft ended after two rounds, and Greene still was available.

Jets coach Rex Ryan, vice president of college scouting Joey Clinkscales, senior personnel executive Terry Bradway and general manager Mike Tannebaum debated their next move and decided to trade up, snagging Greene with the first pick of the second day.

"I think the emotion dies down and you sleep on it," Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum told Reiss. "We decided we'd make one call to Detroit because of the value he had on our board, and if the price was right, we would go ahead and do it."

Belichick is interested to see how the new format will stimulate interest and creativity.

"I don't know whether that will happen or not," Belichick said. "I think it's certainly a possibility because historically that's been the way it's gone. To move up you have to give up something, and it's a question of whether there are teams that want to do that.

"I've been sitting there before thinking, 'If we could just get anything for this -- a case of beer, a gift certificate -- we'd gladly trade this pick.' But there are no takers. You just never know how that's going to go."

Buffalo doesn't have secondary concerns

March, 24, 2010

Ed Mulholland/US PresswireLed by rookie Jairus Byrd, the Buffalo secondary was one of the deepest in the league.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Buffalo Bills are an organization engulfed by uncertainty.

Who will be their quarterback?

What difference will new head coach Chan Gailey and rookie general manager Buddy Nix make?

Will Pro Bowl pass-rusher Aaron Schobel play or retire?

Can running back Marshawn Lynch bounce back?

How will they transition into their new 3-4 defense?

One area that cannot be questioned is the depth in Buffalo's secondary.

The Bills' defensive backfield isn't loaded with star power, but the quality of depth is remarkable.

The Bills ranked second in pass defense last year despite injuries pushing them to the limit. Ten defensive backs started for them.

Right cornerback Leodis McKelvin, the 11th overall pick from 2008, lasted only three games before getting hurt. Free safety Donte Whitner, the eighth overall pick from 2006, lost his job to rookie Jairus Byrd, who tied for the NFL interception lead and was selected for the Pro Bowl. Left cornerback Terrence McGee missed five games with a knee injury. Strong safety Bryan Scott started six games at linebacker.

Despite all that, the Bills allowed only 184.2 passing yards a game and 14 touchdowns. They snagged 28 interceptions, second in the NFL.

Now that's depth.

"I've gone to a lot of teams," Gailey said at the NFL owners meetings. "I don't know that I've ever gone to a team that the secondary -- I'm talking corner and safety position -- is as strong as we have right now overall.

"When I went to Dallas, when I went to Miami, when I went to Pittsburgh they were all good. But I'm not so sure that this isn't the strongest group."

Gailey isn't about to compare them player for player. After all, when he was head coach of the Dallas Cowboys he had cornerback Deion Sanders and safety Darren Woodson together.

"Those are two pretty good players," Gailey said. "We had a couple of other good players, but we were always trying to fill a hole."

Gailey joined the Denver Broncos as a defensive assistant the year safety Dennis Smith and cornerback Louis Wright went to the Pro Bowl. The Broncos later lined up Smith and Steve Atwater at safety while Gailey was there.

Gailey was on the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive staff when they had future Hall of Famer Rod Woodson. As offensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins, Gailey practiced against three repeat Pro Bowlers: Sam Madison, Patrick Surtain and Brock Marion.

No, the Bills aren't that good yet. Gailey isn't going to make like New York Jets coach Rex Ryan and proclaim they could reach legendary status. On Tuesday, Ryan said his star cornerbacks, Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, remind him of the renowned Los Angeles Raiders tandem of Mike Haynes and Lester Hayes.

What the Bills do have is a quality starter and backup at every spot. One of only three assistants Gailey retained from Dick Jauron's staff was defensive back coach George Catavolos.

"Even the backups at Buffalo, I'm talking about eight players, your top eight players," Gailey said, "this is as strong a group as I've ever been around."

The importance of depth in the secondary can't be emphasized enough.

As Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz explained Wednesday morning, you can't have too many serviceable defensive backs.

"You're going to play more defensive backs than you are at other positions," said Schwartz, known as one of the NFL's brightest defensive minds. "You're not just going to play four. You're going to play five for half the game and you may even have a quarter of the game when you're playing six defensive backs.

"The other thing to look at is defensive backs get hurt at a higher rate than just about every other position on the field. Other positions have gotten bigger and bigger and bigger. Defensive backs have stayed the same, particularly corners. So with everybody else getting bigger and corners staying the same, it's not a matter of if somebody gets hurt and has to miss a game, it's a matter of when."

Five Buffalo defensive backs finished the season on injured reserve, including both of the opening-day starting cornerbacks, McGee and McKelvin.

Schwartz mentioned another important facet of defensive backfield depth.

"One person in the secondary that doesn't play well makes the whole secondary look bad," Schwartz said. "It's how the whole group plays, and if there's one weak link in that chain, then the whole group can look bad, and offenses are real good at finding that one guy and exploiting him."

Nobody can look at the Bills and call their secondary a weak link.

Ryan giddy over Revis, Cromartie pairing

March, 24, 2010
ORLANDO, Fla. -- When he considers the possibilities cornerback tandem Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie will provide, New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan imagines legendary greatness.

"It reminds me of when the Raiders had Hayes and Haynes, where it was just 'Lockdown and here we come,' " Ryan said, referring to sublime Los Angeles cornerbacks Lester Hayes and Mike Haynes.

Hayes went to five Pro Bowls. Haynes went to nine and is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

That's a lofty comparison, especially considering Cromartie's past two years have been disappointing on the field and off. But Ryan is elated to partner up Cromartie with Revis.

Ryan spoke with reporters Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, where he held court for the first time since the Jets acquired Cromartie in a trade with the San Diego Chargers.

"He might have as much talent as any player I've ever been around at the corner position," Ryan said. "He's got everything. He's got the size, the height, the length, the speed, the recovery speed, probably as good ball skills as any corner I've been around."

OK, let's keep in mind Revis was an All-Pro last year and Ryan banged the drum for Revis to win the NFL's defensive player of the year award. Cromartie was an All-Pro in 2007, when he led the league with 10 interceptions.

"That's going to be a pretty lethal combination," Ryan said. "It's going to allow us to not just roll our coverage to one corner or another, which we had to do a lot last year. We're not going to let teams lock in on what we're doing defensively.

"From a matchup standpoint, this will be a tremendous advantage for us.

"You might know there's man coverage over there, but you've got to deal with nine guys coming at you. I think that might be a problem."

Ryan believes the Jets will provide the right organizational environment to help settle Cromartie's turbulent life. The Jets advanced him $500,000 from his contract to address various paternity issues. He has seven children in five states.

"I think it's probably pretty obvious to him now," Ryan said. "He had some maturing to do. He's a nice young man. Is he perfect? Probably not, but I don't think anybody is. That's just some issues off the field. It doesn't affect him as a football player.

"We're going to let him come out here and be himself and join his teammates. He was there the first day of offseason workouts. He's just happy to get a fresh start, meet his new teammates. He had a lot of success at San Diego. It’s going to be exciting.

"I think our whole team is excited about seeing Darrelle Revis and Cromartie out there."

Bills want QBs sorted out by draft

March, 23, 2010
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Up until this week, the Buffalo Bills' front office didn't have much to say. In a couple of news conferences, new general manager Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey couldn't provide much of a roster analysis, repeatedly citing their "evaluation process" to learn what material they have to work with.

Now their ideas are starting to emerge.

Gailey gabbed between bites of muffin at an AFC coaches breakfast Tuesday morning. The get-together was part of the NFL owners meetings at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes.

I've already posted on some of Gailey's thoughts, including his interest in drafting a scatback and his thoughts on University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.

But here are a few more for ravenous Bills fans hungry for information on how their team's front office views the team:

Preference to have quarterback situation settled before draft: Gailey said he would like for the Bills' quarterback ambiguity to gain definition.

"That would be ideal," Gailey said. "You'd like to have everything settled before you went into the draft. The problem comes if you don't solve an issue before the draft. Then you have to try and solve it in the draft. Then if you don't solve it before the draft or in the draft, now your back's to the wall and everybody knows it. That's a bind you get into. Now they can hold you up."

No update on Schobel: Gailey said he's still waiting to learn whether two-time Pro Bowl pass-rusher Aaron Schobel will return to the Bills or retire.

"The biggest thing for him is his family," Gailey said. "He's been moving his kids back and forth. He wants to get them a little bit more established I think. Now, if he does that, then does he want to be gone for that long? That's a tough call, to be honest with you.

"I can see his dilemma. I'd love for him to play, but I understand being a husband and a daddy, too."

Defensive front seven: Gailey declined to name starters or designate a nose tackle, but he sketched out who will play where in the new 3-4 defense. On the defensive line, he listed Dwan Edwards, Spencer Johnson, Marcus Stroud, Kyle Williams. At inside linebacker, he named Andra Davis, Paul Posluszny and Kawika Mitchell. At outside linebacker, he named Chris Ellis, Chris Kelsay, Aaron Maybin and Schobel.

Intrigued by Bell at left tackle: Many looked at Demetrius Bell's season at left tackle and saw a train wreck. Gailey was shocked at how well Bell performed relative to how raw he was coming out of Northwestern State. But it sounded like Gailey viewed Bell as more of a work in progress than a genuine NFL left tackle.

"I was shocked at how well he played because I watched him just like everybody else did and said 'That guy is a loooong way away' when he was coming out and being drafted," Gailey said. "I was impressed with how he played last year. Everything's relative. I was impressed because of where he was compared to where I thought he would be, not because he's a seasoned pro, ready to take on the world and be an All-Pro player. But I was impressed with how far he'd come."

When asked how Bell looks as a reliable left tackle, Gailey's response was tempered.

"Got a lot of work to do, but has a lot of ability and a chance to get there," he said.

Gailey cast Buffalo's 'No' vote on OT change

March, 23, 2010
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey has made his first official call.

The Bills allowed their new coach to make the decision on how they would vote for the NFL's modified overtime proposal. The Bills were one of only four teams to vote against the proposal, which was recommended by the competition committee and approved Tuesday afternoon at the annual owners meetings.

The new format was adopted for the playoffs only and gives the team that loses the coin toss a possession if the team that wins the flip kicks a field goal on the opening drive. The Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals were the other teams to dissent.

Bills general manager Buddy Nix told reporters Monday he was in favor of the change, but after discussing it with Gailey, the organization reached a consensus.

"I'm speaking for him and I shouldn't be, but he didn't like the rules changing when you go into the playoffs," Nix said. "They should be the same, but now your strategies are different.

"It's not that big a deal, but since it passed, we'll go by the rules."

Nix allowed Gailey to determine the vote because the coach has work within the game's rules, not the scouts or business administrators.

"If it's a decision that involves the game and playing, then I think the coach should make it," Nix said. "To me, he's the guy that's got to deal with it."

Henne No. 1 for Fins, but then who?

March, 23, 2010
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano made an unnecessary public avowal Tuesday morning.

Chad Henne will be his quarterback in 2010.

[+] EnlargePat White
Doug Benc/Getty ImageMiami drafted Pat White in the second round in 2009, but he didn't complete a pass last season.
But what about the rest of the depth chart?

The Dolphins have one of the league's more intriguing quarterback rosters.

They re-signed veteran Chad Pennington, who's recovering from reconstructive surgery on his throwing shoulder. They also have backups Tyler Thigpen, whom they traded for last year, and Pat White, a spidery sophomore they drafted in the second round.

Sparano did say Pennington is Miami's third quarterback -- for now. Sparano wouldn't slot the other two for us, but it's not difficult to see White is on the bottom.

"I'm not going to reveal my hand, but we do have four quarterbacks," Sparano said. "I feel like we have four good quarterbacks right now.

"We need to go into spring and see who does what. There's been a lot of balls thrown from the time the season ended until now. You can't imagine the number of passes that were thrown out there by some of these young players. Some of these guys literally took a week, 10 days off before they started back into this process. So we have to see how far those players have come. And the spring is when we see it."

The Dolphins drafted White out of West Virginia because of his scrambling abilities more than his arm. They envisioned him as a weapon to complement their Wildcat offense, a runner who can throw to keep defenses honest.

White hasn't shown he can be an NFL passer. White got into 13 games with disappointing results. He completed none of his five pass attempts and was sacked once. He ran 21 times for 89 yards.

White's season ended when Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Ike Taylor knocked him cold on a sideline hit in the finale.

Sparano said he considers White and Thigpen to have the same skill set as running quarterbacks. Thigpen, however, has a decided edge in experience and presence. Thigpen, a seventh-round draft pick out of Coastal Carolina in 2007, started 11 games for the Kansas City Chiefs two seasons ago.

"My biggest concern with Pat, and it always has been, is completely understanding our offense, understanding all that there is to understand," Sparano said. "He's a young kid who digested an awful lot of information last year very well.

"I saw growth from season's start to season's end with what Pat can handle from the offensive standpoint. At the end of the year there were no restrictions. He was able to handle it all mentally that way. And I've seen growth from a fundamental standpoint out on the practice field.

"Now, at the end of the day, with the competition out there, whether it's going to be good enough or not, that really isn’t up to me. It's going to be up to those players."

Gailey wants to draft a scatback

March, 23, 2010
ORLANDO, Fla. -- On paper, the Buffalo Bills have one of NFL's most impressive backfields.

Fred Jackson rushed for over 1,000 yards last year. Marshawn Lynch did it each of the previous two seasons and went to a Pro Bowl.

But there's one significant problem with the Bills' running back depth chart.

It stops at two.

With that in mind, Bills head coach Chan Gailey said Tuesday morning at the NFL owners meetings that adding another back will be a priority in the draft along with the offensive and defensive lines and a wide receiver.

"I don't mean to insinuate we'd take a running back with the first pick," Gailey told me. "Right now, we only have two running backs on the roster.

"We've got to start to upgrade there in some way, shape or form."

Gailey has a prototype in mind, a complement to the size and power Jackson and Lynch offer.

"There's some good running backs in the draft this year different than what we've got. So change of pace, again, might be something you could do there with a different type of player.

"The guys that are coming out now, there's a bunch of those 5-9, 185-pound or 195-pound, quick-as-a-cat water bugs that are running backs-slash-receivers that might give you a little bit of a punch on the field, maybe make a big play."

The Big Question: New OT?

March, 23, 2010
NFC Big Question: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Should the NFL change its overtime format?

ORLANDO, Fla. -- One of the biggest topics of discussion here at the NFL owners meetings is whether to tweak overtime rules.

[+] EnlargeVinatieri
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesUnder the proposed overtime rules changes, this Adam Vinatieri field goal would not have immediately ended the game.
The competition committee has recommended the league adopt a system for the playoffs allowing the team that loses the coin flip a possession if the team that wins the coin toss kicks a field goal on the opening drive.

Sudden death would occur only if a touchdown is scored.

There has been spirited debate about whether it will pass.

Traditionalists such as Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano and New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan prefer the current system. First team to score wins, no matter what. They view the proposal as too radical.

Buffalo Bills general manager Buddy Nix and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick prefer change.

"I think probably it's a good idea," Nix said. "Fans want it and what it does is if you're a team that gets beat without ever touching the ball by a field goal, obviously, you feel that you've been cheated if you don't get a shot at it.

"I probably shouldn't say this -- I usually do anyway -- but I think any time you take a kick out of it, a field goal out of the equation, then it helps. And it will limit some because a guy on fourth-and-1 from the 15, he might go for the first down to try to get the game over with, which I think is a good thing."

My take is that the proposal would be an effective and fair way to determine a winner, but it should be instituted for regular-season games too. If the NFL deems the current system inadequate for money games, then how can it justify maintaining the overtime system for a crucial game in Week 16 or 17 with a playoff berth on the line?

Ryan on 2010 Jets: 'Take it to the bank'

March, 23, 2010
ORLANDO, Fla. -- New York Jets coach Rex Ryan already has dropped about 30 pounds since he had lap-band surgery a couple of weeks ago. The moment you look at him, you can tell he's slimmed down considerably.

[+] EnlargeRex Ryan
Jerry Lai/US PresswireEven though the Jets have established themselves as contenders, don't expect coach Rex Ryan to tone down the bravado.
His words are as large as ever.

The bombastic Ryan met with reporters for the first time in months Tuesday morning, sitting down at a media breakfast as part of the NFL owners meetings. Ryan didn't have a plate in front of him, but he dished out several quality quotes.

As we were being chased out the door and reporters were jockeying to get in one last question for Ryan, Boston Globe writer Albert Breer asked Ryan if he would tone down his rhetoric to avoid overconfidence now that the Jets have established themselves as a team to fear.

"Facing Tom Brady, facing [Ronnie] Brown and all these guys you face every week, overconfident will not be an issue," Ryan replied. "We go into every game thinking we're going to win. Every single game. I don't care if we're playing the Pro Bowl team, we expect to win. That's just our mentality. That's our belief in each other, our belief in our systems and our coaching staff and everything we do.

"But to say we're overconfident, we're going into the season 0-0 like everybody else, and we've got to earn our right to get to what we were and fight your tail off to get in the playoffs. We're the same team that, in our division alone, got swept by Miami, split with New England and Buffalo.

"We'll always have the underdog mentality, but now I think we've earned some respect throughout this league, whether through the national media or the opponents. We earned their respect.

"When we were saying things, everybody thought we were crazy. I don't know if they think we're crazy now. We did go in there, saying we were going to have a dominant defense; we led the NFL in total defense. We said we were going to have a ground-and-pound offense; we led the league in rushing. So when I think we have an excellent football team, maybe you should take it to the bank because we've got an excellent football team."

Sparano explains re-signing Ferguson

March, 23, 2010
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins decided to bring back 35-year-old free-agent nose tackle Jason Ferguson despite his eight-game suspension to start the season because they view him as a scarce commodity. Ferguson also is rehabbing from a season-ending quadriceps injury.

Nose tackles of Ferguson's quality are so integral to a 3-4 defense that head coach Tony Sparano suggested the Dolphins had no choice.

[+] EnlargeJason Ferguson
Doug Murray/Icon SMIDolphins nose tackle Jason Ferguson recorded 23 tackles last season.
"Obviously, Jason has the suspension. We're not happy with that, but at the end of the day, it's something that we have to deal with," Sparano said Tuesday morning at the NFL owners meetings. Sparano took part in an AFC coaches' media breakfast, his first interview in nearly three months.

"When Jason got hurt [in November 2009], our tongue would've been hanging out to find a player like Jason Ferguson sitting out there at that time. We couldn't find a player like that. To have the ability to have a player like that when he comes back off a suspension, I think is a positive thing for us."

Ferguson was suspended for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. It's his second suspension, the previous one coming with the New York Jets.

Who will handle the job until then?

Paul Soliai started four games at nose tackle after Ferguson suffered a torn quadriceps, but the Dolphins could draft a nose tackle next month. They own the 12th overall selection. Tennessee's Dan Williams should be on the board then.

"I think that none of these signings will stop us from going out into the draft and potentially signing the better players," Sparano said. "Of course, Jason, I love him to death, but he's not a young guy. I would say that all these positions are positions we'd consider addressing in the draft."

I asked Sparano if it sends a mixed message to his team that a defensive captain was re-signed despite multiple violations.

"He's been suspended one time since he's been here with us as a captain," Sparano said. "But I would say to you that ... to send a mixed message? I don't think it sends a good message. I really don't. But I know this player. I know Jason Ferguson pretty well.

"I think that the guy made a mistake. But at the end of this, the middle of last season we really would've been looking long and hard to find a player like Jason Ferguson when he got hurt and we couldn't. ... When the suspension is over, we'll see where we are during the course of the season and where we are at that point. It may possibly be a great move."

Culpepper to Bills: 'I can be the guy'

March, 23, 2010
Dante CulpepperJim McIsaac/Getty ImagesVeteran quarterback Daunte Culpepper says he feels he can still help a team.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- I spoke with the NFL's most proactive free agent Monday.

Daunte Culpepper strolled around the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes, happy to be recognized and hoping to plant an idea.

Culpepper doesn't have an agent. The three-time Pro Bowler represents himself, and what better way to market himself to prospective employers by attending the NFL owners meetings, a convention of executives and head coaches from all 32 teams?

"I'm here," Culpepper said, "to maybe have some conversations with whoever it may be, GMs or player personnel guys or head coaches, just to reiterate that I'm available and see if there were any situations where I can be brought in to contribute to an organization."

I asked Culpepper what clubs he wanted to make it a point to speak with. After a broad smile, the Buffalo Bills were the first to tumble from his lips. In fact, they were the only club he mentioned.

"I would love to talk to Buffalo," Culpepper said. "I don't know if they'd have an open mind, but I'd love to talk to them. I would love to have a chance to compete there.

"Give me the opportunity. I can be the guy."

Culpepper is well aware the Bills have an unsettled quarterback situation. They have three who started at least one game last year. Trent Edwards was former coach Dick Jauron's choice to start the season. Ryan Fitzpatrick was interim coach Perry Fewell's preference. Brian Brohm started a game because of injuries.

None, however, seem to appeal to new general manager Buddy Nix or head coach Chan Gailey.

"They haven't made any moves at quarterback," Culpepper said.

Earlier on Monday, in the same hallway I interviewed Culpepper, I asked Nix if the Bills' opening-day quarterback was on their roster.

"I have no idea," Nix replied. "I really don't know. I know that's what we got now, and it's open. Chan's made that clear. We're going to see who comes out. The fact that those are the three guys we got, we like all three of them, all of them got redeeming qualities, but if something else comes available, we might add a fourth to the mix. I don't know."

Culpepper's available. That's the whole point of his trip to Orlando from his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He never has attended the owners meetings before to shop his services.

"It's definitely humbling, but it's exciting to see everybody here," Culpepper said. "Hopefully, I can get some positive feedback and something would come from it.

"It's a process. I represent myself, so I figure I've got to do the things my agent would be doing. I put in the calls, but to be able to come to a place where everybody is here, just to talk, I think it would be very positive."

In the five seasons since Culpepper threw for 4,717 yards and 39 touchdowns for the Minnesota Vikings, he has been a vagabond, playing with four teams in that span. The Vikings traded him to the Miami Dolphins. He then bounced to the Oakland Raiders and Detroit Lions.

He turned 33 in January and claimed he's fully recovered from the knee and foot injuries that have slowed him in seasons past. He said he's ready to work out for any team that wants to take a look-see.

As far as AFC East teams, the only one other than the Bills that might have room would be the New England Patriots. Undrafted sophomore Brian Hoyer is the lone reserve behind Tom Brady on the their QB depth chart. The Dolphins and New York Jets have four quarterbacks apiece and youngsters in the starting role.

"I would love to come in and compete for a starting job," Culpepper said. "I feel great physically. I'm 100 percent right now. I'm working on that every day. But whatever the role might be ... If a team needs a veteran backup to come in, either way. I feel I can contribute."