AFC South: Roger Goodell

INDIANAPOLIS -- The news of the Indianapolis Colts releasing receiver LaVon Brazill on Friday shouldn’t be surprising.

Brazill
Brazill
That was expected.

The only way Brazill had a chance of sticking with the Colts at the conclusion of his suspension, which will be at least a year, was if team officials were compassionate -- the same way they are with owner Jim Irsay -- and realized the receiver has a problem with substance abuse.

That evidently is not the case.

It’s easy to question the whole double-standard thing when talking about Brazill and Irsay because both parties have significant issues they need to address.

The difference between the two, though, is that Irsay is a businessman who helps the franchise. Brazill is a replaceable receiver. The Colts proved that when they signed a receiver -- Aaron Burks -- to take his spot on the roster Friday.

Don’t worry -- Irsay will get his punishment, too, once commissioner Roger Goodell figures out the best discipline for the owner.

As far as Brazill goes, he put himself in the position of not only losing out on the $570,000 he was scheduled to make during the 2014 season, but also being without a team to play on.

He knew that he could be randomly tested up to 10 times a month because he was in Stage 2 of the program following his first suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

He still failed to avoid the temptation.

Now Brazill’s money and roster spot, which wasn’t guaranteed anyway, are gone.

I talked to Da’Rick Rogers on the final day of the Colts’ mandatory minicamp last month and he said he was looking forward to the competition for one of the final receiver spots on the roster.

“I embrace the challenge,” Rogers told me.

You know what?

Rogers and Griff Whalen no longer have to worry about Brazill pushing them in the competition.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The final significant days of the offseason for the Indianapolis Colts (outside of when commissioner Roger Goodell disciplines owner Jim Irsay) starts Tuesday at the team's facility when they begin the first of three days of mandatory minicamp before breaking up for the final time prior to reporting for training camp July 23.

Let's take a look at several things to pay attention to during the camp:

[+] EnlargeTrent Richardson
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsThe competition at running back, including Trent Richardson, won't be decided in this week's mandatory minicamp.
Offensive line battle: You can go ahead and put Khaled Holmes down as the starting center, but with Donald Thomas (quad, bicep) still working his way back, the starting guard positions could end up taking some time. Hugh Thornton, who took Thomas's spot after he was injured last season, has been working with the first team at right guard during organized team activities. Lance Louis had been working with the first team at left guard, but rookie Jack Mewhort, the Colts' second-round pick, moved ahead of him last week. The competition will intensify during training camp.

Running back competition: Just like the battle for the starting guard position, we won't get full competition for the starting running back position because Vick Ballard (knee) isn't expected to take part, as he's still working his way back from ACL surgery. Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw, the other two primary candidates, both wore red non-contact jerseys during OTAs. So this is another competition that won't pick up until training camp. All three players will get playing time, but keep in mind that coach Chuck Pagano said earlier in the offseason they want a workhorse in the backfield.

Landry sighting: Safety LaRon Landry has been the most significant healthy player missing during OTAs. It's not required for players to attend OTAs and Landry prefers to work out on his own during the offseason. But it still would have been good if he would have popped in for some of the workouts because of the need for improvement for the defense, the transition from a seasoned veteran in Antoine Bethea to possibly Delano Howell, who lacks significant experience, and Landry simply didn't have a great first season with the Colts. The offense, as long as Andrew Luck is the quarterback, will be fine. He's shown he can be effective even without good blocking. The same can't be said about a defense that finished 20th in the league last season.

The Bjoern factor: The fact linebacker Robert Mathis (suspension) won't be with the Colts the first four games of the season has definitely sunk in. Now it's up to second-year player Bjoern Werner, who gets the first shot to start in Mathis's absence, to prove he was worth the Colts selecting him in the first round after an inconsistent rookie season. "This year it's just knowing the defense and to feel comfortable in the defense," Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. "Now it's just his ability to get to the passer, which it's kind of you want him to do that in these OTAs, but he's never really going to get there because you don't have the pads on. But he's been doing a great job at least from the calls and signals and getting everything lined up and knowing exactly what he's supposed to do. It's a great situation for him."

Can Adams help: The Colts signed veteran safety Mike Adams over the weekend to take Corey Lynch's spot on the roster after placing him on injured reserve. Howell is leading the race to start, but Adams has started 73 games in his career. The question about Adams is: Does he have enough left in his 33-year-old body to help the Colts and possibly supplant Howell as the starting safety alongside Landry?

Who won't be there: Barring a sudden change of events, here are the players -- not including those on injured reserve -- you won't see taking part in minicamp. Receiver Reggie Wayne (knee), Ballard (knee) and Thomas (quad, bicep).


INDIANAPOLIS -- OK, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. You’re officially on the clock.

Goodell said on multiple occasions -- starting with the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Florida, -- over the past two months that he wanted to wait to see how the legal process played out before deciding how he would discipline Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay.

Guess what? Irsay has been charged.

He was charged with one count of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, a C misdemeanor, and one count of operating a vehicle with a schedule I or II controlled substance or its metabolite in the body, also a C misdemeanor.

Now all eyes, especially those of the players in the league, will shift their focus to Goodell.

This is a situation where Goodell may have to be harsher on Irsay than he may have been any other time on a front office official because his reputation is on the line with the players, who believe there’s a double standard when it comes to how Goodell disciplines.

"The NFL's Personal Conduct Policy applies to all league personnel and holds all of us accountable," Greg Aiello, the NFL’s senior vice president of communications for the NFL, said in an email. "We are reviewing the matter and will take appropriate action in accordance with the policy."

Washington Redskins safety Ryan Clark was on ESPN earlier this week and questioned Goodell’s handling of Irsay.

"When does a charge necessarily warrant the penalty? We've seen in so many cases, Roger Goodell be judge and jury when it comes to players," Clark said. "… So here we have Jim Irsay, a guy, an owner, who has history of substance abuse, who's found in a car with over $29K and prescription drugs that weren't in his name, pulled over for driving under the influence, and now we're saying we need more information? What more information do we need than these aren't your prescription pills? You're obviously under the influence. You have $29K. There would be no questions asked if this was a player."

Clark's comments could easily be directed toward how Goodell dealt with Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Goodell decided to wait for the legal process to play out before he suspended Roethlisberger for six games (later reduced to four) in 2010 after he was accused, but not charged with, sexual assault.

It should be noted, though, that Goodell’s wait-and-see approach recently hasn’t been just with Irsay. He’s done the same thing with Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who was arrested in February for allegedly striking his fiancée. Rice will take part in a diversion program that may allow him to avoid jail time and fully expunge his record.

Late Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams was fined $250,000 for making an obscene gesture at Buffalo fans in 2009. Goodell fined Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand $100,000 and suspended him 30 days after he pleaded guilty to driving while impaired in 2010.

Whatever punishment Goodell decides for Irsay -- fine/suspension -- the commissioner must know it has to be good enough to appease the players.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Listen to members of the Indianapolis Colts talk and the common theme coming out their mouths is having people who fit in with their "horseshoe" tradition.

For so long, being in the "horseshoe" family meant staying out of trouble, proudly representing the organization and being a part of their winning tradition.

[+] EnlargeRobert Mathis
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesThe Colts can get by just fine if owner Jim Irsay is suspended, but it's a different story with sack machine Robert Mathis.
That "horseshoe" image has taken a substantial hit this offseason with two of the Colts' leaders at the forefront of the problems. If owner Jim Irsay's arrest in March wasn't embarrassing enough, Friday's four-game suspension of pass-rush specialist Robert Mathis for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances further put the Colts in a negative light.

Mathis immediately released a statement following the announcement of his suspension that said he tested positive for a fertility drug. He and his wife are expecting a daughter in the fall.

The mistake Mathis made, which he acknowledged in the statement, is that he failed to check with the NFL or the NFL Players Association to see if what he was taking was illegal.

That's a mistake players should not make, especially a veteran like Mathis.

This is the second straight year that the Colts will be missing a player at the start of the season. Receiver LaVon Brazill and tight end Weslye Saunders were suspended for the first four and eight games, respectively, for not following the league's substance-abuse policies.

Indianapolis isn't done with being disciplined.

Commissioner Roger Goodell still has to determine how he will handle Irsay following his arrest for allegedly operating a vehicle while intoxicated in March. He faces four felony counts of possession of a controlled substance. Irsay took part in the team's draft last week and will be in Atlanta for the NFL owners meetings next week after spending time in a rehabilitation facility immediately following his arrest.

There's little doubt Goodell will discipline Irsay. In March, during the league's owners meetings in Orlando, Florida, Goodell said the Colts owner is subject to league discipline for his arrest but would wait "to understand the facts" before making a decision.

The Colts will be able to get by without Irsay if Goodell fines and suspends him as expected because the franchise is in capable hands with general manager Ryan Grigson on the football side and chief operating officer Pete Ward on the business side.

The same can't be said about the Colts' defense without Mathis.

If facing Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos and the Philadelphia Eagles in the first two weeks of the season wasn't difficult enough already, now Indianapolis has to figure out a way to slow down those two offenses without the player responsible for 46 percent of their sacks (19.5) last season. Mathis, the heart and soul of the defense, will also miss games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans.

The Colts' image and aspirations to take another step in the AFC next season took a hit they couldn't afford to take Friday.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- To no surprise, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was asked Monday about what actions he may take with Jim Irsay after the Indianapolis Colts owner was arrested on suspicion of intoxicated driving last week.

And to no surprise, Goodell is waiting until the facts come out before deciding what type of discipline he plans to hand down to Irsay.

Don’t expect Goodell’s punishment to be light on Irsay. It really shouldn’t be that way for Irsay, who has a history battling pain killer addiction. Irsay faces four felony counts of possession of a controlled substance after being arrested on suspicion of intoxicated driving in the northern Indianapolis suburb of Carmel late March 16.

Ponder
Irsay
The Colts owner did the right thing by taking the first step in admitting he has a problem when he entered a rehabilitation facility on March 18. But that likely won’t change the type of punishment Goodell gives him.

Goodell can’t afford to go lightly on Irsay. Not with the players around the league keeping a close eye on what happens. You also have to take into consideration that the NFL fined late Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams $250,000 for making obscene gesture at Buffalo fans in 2009. Goodell fined Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand $100,000 and suspended him 30 days after he plead guilty to driving while impaired in 2010.

It's anybody's guess what Goodell will do with Irsay. Just don't be shocked if the NFL is harsher on him than it was on Lewand and Adams.

"We obviously will want to understand the facts before we take any steps as it relates to any potential discipline," Goodell said. "Obviously any policies or any laws that are broken, whether you're commissioner or owner or player or coach, those are subject to discipline."

Why Bud Adams isn't a Hall of Famer

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams is a Hall of Fame candidate who has a case and some support.

But the crowd in front of the 90-year old Adams and voters’ understandable propensity to elect players ahead of contributors is likely to keep him out despite the case several voters make for him.

[+] EnlargeBud Adams
Wade Payne/AP PhotoTitans owner Bud Adams believes he belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Adams told Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean:
“Besides the playoffs, one thing I would like to accomplish is to be considered in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I realize there may be some hard feelings about me moving the team to Nashville, but I truly feel my body of work …

“I don’t like tooting my own horn. But at my age, and now being the senior NFL owner, there is no one from back in those days than can really speak up for me now. I really feel this year could be a year I get serious consideration after 53 years. I’m sure hoping that’s the case.”

No, you can’t write the history of Pro Football without him. His part in the creation of the AFL and its ultimate combination with the NFL was crucial.

But history didn’t stop then, and his contributions to NFL in the 43 years since the merger didn’t do anything to build on those big contributions and don’t warrant a bronze bust in my eyes.

A good argument on Adams’ behalf is that if Ralph Wilson is in the Hall, Adams should be. The logical counter argument is that Wilson doesn’t necessarily belong there, and you can’t put the next guy in because the last guy got in.

Here are some nuts-and-bolts of a case against Adams:

  • He couldn’t build or maintain a relationship or partnership with Houston mayor Bob Lanier. That created a scenario where he had to break the hearts of a very good AFL/NFL market and move. (That move, I point out in the interest of full disclosure, was very good for my career.) Houston ultimately got an expansion franchise and the stadium Adams so desired. Had he been better at political relationships, the Oilers might still exist and perhaps Nashville would have been an expansion market.
  • In exchange for the league paving his way to Nashville, Adams basically agreed to be a "yes man" for commissioner Paul Tagliabue, and now Roger Goodell, in perpetuity. That means Adams has been a follower since 1996, not any sort of leader during a crucial era in league growth.
  • His best football moves also amount to ancient history. His most recent fingerprints on the franchise were the drafting of Vince Young (a major setback for a team that’s not fully recovered, still) and the foolish firing of beloved Oilers coach Bum Phillips.

Another event shouldn’t leave much of a mark. But in the Internet, cable TV age, it showed the degree of his disconnect that an inability to control himself left an indelible, negative imagine behind. On Nov. 15, 2009, after a regular-season win against the Buffalo Bills, he celebrated from his box by extended two middle fingers toward the visiting team. That was without purpose, cost him a $250,000 fine, and is the first thing that comes to mind for some when his name comes up.

Is that stuff bad enough to offset the strong part of his resume and his strong role in the early history of the AFL, and the AFL and NFL combining forces?

Four of five Hall of Fame voters who Wyatt talked to make a compelling case for Adams, despite it all.

I’m glad it’s colleagues and not me deciding.

But I’ll have no beef if they put a player in ahead of him, again.
Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

The NFL preaches tolerance for gays, but some players haven’t fallen in line with the policy, says Tania Ganguli of the Houston Chronicle.

Looking back at Sam Montgomery’s media session at the scouting combine with John McClain of the Chronicle.

Indianapolis Colts

Jerry Hughes, traded to Buffalo, will cost the Colts $2.1 million in dead money in 2013, says Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

A sampling of draft grades for the Colts from around the country, from the Star.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Anyone who thinks the Jaguars should rethink their stance on Tim Tebow was in denial, says Gene Frenette of the Florida Times-Union.

“In front of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the (Florida) Senate on Monday killed any chance the Jacksonville Jaguars had of getting a sales tax rebate for stadium improvements,” says Matt Dixon of the Times-Union.

Tennessee Titans

Jake Locker welcomes the offseason emphasis on adding to the offense, per Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

In addition to Eric Winston and Israel Idonije, the Titans visited with cornerback Jason Allen, says Wyatt.

Khan, Reinfeldt appointed to new board

December, 12, 2012
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Jaguars owner Shahid Khan and Titans senior executive vice president/chief operating officer Mike Reinfeldt have been named by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to the board of NFL Foundation.

NFL Foundation and the board were created following the restructuring of NFL Charities and the NFL Youth Football.

It will award more than $23 million in grants in 2013 to support youth and high school football programs, health and safety efforts, as well as community health initiatives, including NFL PLAY 60, the league announced.

“I’m flattered to be asked by Commissioner Goodell to be among the first to serve the NFL Foundation, and naturally I’m proud to accept the invitation and get to work,” Khan said in a statement released by the Jaguars. “I’m certain we will accomplish many good things through the NFL Foundation.

"We have an opportunity and obligation to make a difference in three key areas that I am personally passionate about -- youth football, health and safety, and making a sincere investment in our communities -- and our time to make that difference is now."

Said Reinfeldt in a statement from the Titans: “I was honored that they asked me to serve on the NFL Foundation board. I am looking forward to working with this distinguished group of board members; and as a group, we are excited about making a difference through the Foundation’s work.”
Richie IncognitoBrett Davis/US PresswireThe NFL will surely take a look at Sunday's incident between Richie Incognito and Antonio Smith.

Wednesday night, I sat down to write about Richie Incognito and Antonio Smith.

I’d repeatedly watched the late second-quarter play of the Miami-Houston game. I’d read one careful review of it, and I’d decided it warranted a severe penalty.

I pounded out a post, "NFL can prove safety priority here," that went like this:
If the NFL is truly concerned with player safety, if it really wants players to think twice about injuring an opponent intentionally, if it really wants to make those messages resonate, then it should pause on the next stage of the Saints bounty story.

The two men who head the league’s football operations department, Ray Anderson and Merton Hanks, should be studying a play in the Houston-Miami game from opening weekend. And once they see Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito purposefully wrench Texans defensive lineman Antonio Smith’s ankle, the resulting discipline should serve as a loud example that a smaller play that intentionally injured -- presumably with no bounty involved -- also has no place in the sport.

Smith tried to lunge for a second-quarter fumble that was lost by running back Daniel Thomas and recovered by Houston safety Danieal Manning. Incognito held Smith back from getting near the ball, but did more than that. He latched onto and twisted Smith’s ankle. It lasted long enough and was serious enough that Smith needed to kick Incognito in the head to get free.

We’ve heard from Smith on this -- he said Incognito was “a dirty player being let to play dirty.” We’ve heard from Incognito on this -- he said he never apologized for his style of “physical, hard-nosed football from snap to whistle.”

The league shouldn’t allow Incognito to sell this play in that fashion.

Sure, some will say, it was dirty. But that’s football. There is stuff like that happening all over the field all the time.

The days of explaining things away like that would seem to be over, and certainly Goodell wants them over.

Hanks, the NFL’s VP of football operations, or Anderson, executive VP of football operations, mete out discipline for such in-game infractions, which don’t have to have drawn a flag. This play did not. (Commissioner Roger Goodell is not involved in such discipline.)

Smith didn’t practice Wednesday because of an ankle injury, presumably suffered on this play.

The league wants a safer game, and it’s created rules that protect players better. Smith wasn’t a defenseless receiver taking a hit over the middle. He was in a situation where he shouldn’t expect to be injured. It wasn’t an accident. He didn’t get rolled up on or take an awkward step or get bent awkwardly. He was on the ground, and a player trying to hold him back and intentionally hurt him.

It's absolutely obvious, and if the league is serious about player safety, its eyes should be open on this just like they are on a too-high or too-low hit on a quarterback, a shot to a defenseless receiver or a hit that may have been partially inspired by a pay-to-injure program.


A bit later, though, I came across this post from ProFootballTalk. It strung together direct message tweets Incognito wrote to the site in his defense.

“Once the ball was fumbled I grabbed his legs to stop him from recovering the fumble. It’s clear that I wrap my arms around both his legs. I was trying to keep him from scrambling to the ball.

“After the ball was recovered I felt him kicking me. I was trying to protect myself. Kind of like a turtle in a shell. At no time was I turning his ankle. My intent was to keep him from getting to the ball.”

“... Obviously in a case like this I have no ground to stand on [because] of my reputation. There is no evidence of me trying to injure him. The reason I’m seen holding onto one of his legs [because] he started kicking me in the arm and neck the the other. I had both legs in my grasp. The fact of the matter is I’m laying on his leg. There is no twisting motion whatsoever. He is clearly kicking me in the neck. Talk about dirty?”


I put my post aside, deciding to sort through it in the morning.

And here’s my conclusion after sleeping on it.

We’d like things to be cut and dried. The film of the play isn’t focused on Smith and Incognito. They are in the periphery on TV and they are a small piece of the "All-22" coaches film.

While it’s easy to dismiss Incognito’s claims as spin based on his history of what can fairly be called dirty play, we can’t automatically jump to conclusions on this play based on that. He says his reputation will affect how this is judged and it will to an extent, I am sure. But what he wrote doesn’t seem outrageous to me.

Assessing this one with what we have is not so simple. Hanks or Anderson have a lot to sort through to make an absolute determination of what happened. They can’t see or know for certain.

And so this one play from 16 games worth of plays can be representative of two things:

  • The sort of intent-to-injure play the league so anxiously wants to wash out of the game.
  • The complicated nature of sorting through a play that could be in that category.

It’s not easily done. And I feel certain that out of 16 Week 1 games, there are a lot of other plays of a similarly complex nature.

We should know the league’s stance on this one by Friday afternoon.

Sometimes a player is forthcoming about league discipline after he gets overnight mail with details earlier in the week.

But typically on a play like this where the media is asking about a fine, a decision comes to light late Friday afternoon.

In that original post, I wrote: “When the verdict comes down on this one, it should be a statement (in dollars) that comes with a statement (from the NFL about how it won’t tolerate such things).”

Now hearing from Incognito, even knowing his comments could be crafted to cover his behind, I’m not so sure.

Are you? Will the league be? Should it be?
The Titans are ready to ramp up Kenny Britt’s rehab, and it sounds like he could be part of practice within two weeks.

Britt
Britt
Whether his issues off the field land him on the shelf at the start of the season, we don’t know. But he’ll explain himself to the NFL today when he visits the league office, according to John Glennon of The Tennessean.

Britt recently had his eighth incident that required police attention, facing a DUI charge at the Army post at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.

“I don't know what to expect -- a lot of questions,” he said.

Britt is on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) as he recovers from knee issues. His rehab has been intense and I watched him run straight lines, figure eights and laterally late last week. He looked smooth and comfortable.

Mike Munchak said Saturday the team would get more aggressive with Britt and he’d start cutting. How he reacts to it over the next couple weeks would give the team a good gauge for his readiness.

If he’s suspended for violating the league’s personal conduct penalty, that penalty could coincide with time on PUP or time out injured, the league says.

But I’d say it’s unlikely he start the season on PUP, which would mean he’d be out for at least the first six weeks of the season.

I can’t see how he doesn’t get suspended. Commissioner Roger Goodell put him on notice a year ago, when his troubles during the lockout didn’t result in league discipline.
When it comes to suspensions under the league’s personal conduct policy, pace can be an issue.

I don’t know if Kenny Britt's knees will allow him to be available for the start of the season.

But Kendall Wright is signed and will soon be on the field. It’s early in camp, but the Titans need to start sorting through roles. And knowing as much as possible about Britt’s availability is a factor in that equation.

So while John Glennon tells us Britt will eventually be called to New York for a disciplinary hearing with Roger Goodell, it means it’s not yet scheduled.

I hope the league will move swiftly in the interest of fairness.

Mike Munchak has said the team moves forward with injured guys as if they will not be back. That’s how they are proceeding with Britt, who’s on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list right now.

But the receiver is a huge piece of their plan.

The longer it takes for the Titans to know about Britt’s discipline status, the less they can formulate and crystallize that plan.

Here’s hoping the league’s investigation into Britt’s incident is completed soon, if it’s not already finished. And that Goodell gets Britt up to his office to work through things sooner rather than later.
A few thoughts on developments that unfolded last week, when I was away:

Gregg Williams: I know Williams from early in his career, when he worked his way up to the defensive coordinator spot with the Titans.

As I tracked him after he left Tennessee, I thought he changed. Of course a coach who gets a head job, as he did in Buffalo, is going to continue to evolve. But in his time with the Bills and then back as a coordinator with the Redskins, Jaguars and Saints, his ego seemed to balloon. The recent audio tape gave us specific evidence of the sorts of things he instructed to do as part of the bounty program he ran in New Orleans. It illustrates what can happen to a good coach when he gets unchecked power and goes a long time without any interference.

The great disappointment to me is that not one player stood up to Williams or took a complaint up the ladder about the way he was talking, at least until the whistle-blower emerged. Or maybe someone did before then and was rebuffed, but I would think we’d be hearing from him now. If a guy listening to that Saturday night sermon couldn't or wouldn't object to specific talk of testing an opponent coming off a concussion or going after a player’s ACL, that culture is the big concern to me here. That’s the sort of thing Roger Goodell is surely looking to change with the significant punishments for those involved.

Exhibition games: I am a preseason hater, but the division’s schedule offers two games that will bring significant storylines.

Indianapolis is at Washington in Week 3, which will give us a matchup of the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the draft. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III should be starting for the Colts and Redskins, respectively. And the third week of the preseason is typically the most meaningful game where starters play beyond intermission.

It will be the AFC South preseason game I am most interested in.

Tennessee travels to Seattle in Week 1, which is a ridiculous trip to ask a team to make in the preseason. Such things are supposed to be minimized now. But Matt Hasselbeck playing against his old team and Jake Locker returning to the region where he’s from and played in college make for some intrigue.

Our first mock: I gave the Colts Luck, the Jaguars defensive end Melvin Ingram, the Titans defensive end Nick Perry and the Texans receiver Rueben Randle.

I think all four teams would be reasonably happy with a first round that panned out like that. But I offer the standard disclaimer: Beyond the first pick, it’s all guesswork.
Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

When Arian Foster met with Roger Goodell, this picture was part of the result, says Nick Mathews of the Houston Chronicle.

Nick Scurfield of the Texans' web site reviews Houston’s defensive line.

Indianapolis Colts

Comparing teams just before the rebuild: The 2011 Colts have a lot more chips carrying over than the 1997 Colts did, says Nate Dunlevy of Colts Authority.

The Colts will take Andrew Luck in part because they know he can take a hit and they can’t be scared of letting him do so, says Dunlevy, this time at Bleacher Report.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars have taken care of their own on defense, and that has coordinator Mel Tucker feeling optimistic, says Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union.

David Garrard has landed in a good situation, says Stellino.

John Oehser of the team’s website defends the team’s transparency.

Tennessee Titans

Mike Munchak likes what the Titans have done so far in free agency and says the team isn’t finished yet, according to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

The way Matt Hasselbeck reacted to the Peyton Manning chase showed class, says David Climer of The Tennessean.

AFC South links: Colts to keep Manning?

February, 17, 2012
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Houston Texans

Becoming the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history is not Mario Williams’ goal as he approaches unrestricted free agency, writes John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

Williams, 27, said he is completely healthy after a torn pectoral muscle ended his 2011 season in Week 5. He discussed how he feels about his impending free agency with Nick Scurfield of the team's website.

Indianapolis Colts

Colts owner Jim Irsay tells Dave Calabro of Eyewitness News that he is talking regularly with Peyton Manning about keeping the quarterback with the team. Irsay said not to expect the ugly divorce forecast in some reports.

The uncertainty swirling around the Colts apparently isn't being reflected in renewals by season ticket holders, writes Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

Colts.com is taking a look at the most memorable playoff games in the team’s Indianapolis era.

Jacksonville Jaguars

One of the Jaguars' unrestricted free agents is kicker Josh Scobee, who is a candidate to receive the franchise tag, writes Alfie Crow of Big Cat Country.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell named Jaguars owner Shahid Khan to the league’s investment committee this week, writes Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union.

Tennessee Titans

According to Titans sources, Randy Moss handled what was believed to be his NFL swan song with dignity, writes Albert Breer of the NFL Network.
Kenny BrittAP Photo/John RussellKenny Britt had 135 yards and a score as Tennessee put up 358 passing yards against Baltimore.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The search for ways to open things up for Chris Johnson is ongoing.

The Tennessee Titans are a team that is usually about the running back and the run blocking. They are a team that brought in Randy Moss a season ago, not so much because he might make big plays, but because he might move a safety out of the box. They are a team now coached by a Hall of Fame offensive lineman who’s spoken of being driven by the run.

They are a team that was something else entirely on Sunday.

In a surprising 26-13 win over the Baltimore Ravens Sunday at LP Field, the Titans were a precise, big-play passing team -- a description that qualifies as sweet music to fans who have long craved the dynamic in Music City.

As Johnson managed 2.2 yards a carry and got booed, Matt Hasselbeck showed great accuracy against one of the league’s toughest defenses. He said during the week there were plays to be made in the secondary. His line gave him the time to make them. He didn’t get sacked and he passed for 358 yards (30-for-42, 71 percent).

Seven times he hit on pass plays longer than 15 yards, with Kenny Britt as the centerpiece. Britt pulled in receptions of 37, 28 and 16 yards en route to a 135-yard game with a touchdown.

After a troubled offseason, Britt missed the bulk of training camp and the preseason with a hamstring issue. So he and Hasselbeck are still learning each other.

The receiver said the two were 75-80 percent in sync after the Baltimore game and projected it could jump to 95 percent this week. He said Hasselbeck told him during the course of the game, “Once I know what you’re doing all the time, we’ll be great at it.”

A week after he killed the Titans' chances at a late win with an awful interception, Hasselbeck’s accuracy keyed the team's first win of the season.

“I think they had really good coverage most of the day,” Hasselbeck said. “I played with a guy that always used to say there is no coverage for the perfect throw. It’s funny, but it’s true. When you’re playing a great defense, you’ve got to have great accuracy.

“And they weren’t easy catches. [Jared Cook's] catch was a diving catch, Kenny’s catch down the middle took a lot of courage, Nate Washington had some courageous catches, Lavelle Hawkins stepped up with some courageous catches. It was as much them as anything.”

So Hasselbeck wasn’t afraid of that tight coverage getting to his throws?

“Oh, I was afraid,” he said, laughing. “But what are you going to do? I had to throw it.”

On Britt's longest reception, he slowed and turned to face the pass as he caught it, then navigated the left sideline as he completed his spin. Cook also turned back to get a 33-yard catch, falling to the ground as he pulled it in. In each situation, if the Titans hadn't caught it, the ball would have fallen harmlessly incomplete.

“Matt was actually trying to put it in a perfect place where I could go get it,” Britt said, before talking specifically about turning to go get balls. “It’s by design. We’ve been working on that for at least two to three weeks now since I’ve been back from my hamstring injury.”

Britt was called to Roger Goodell’s office to discuss a trouble-filled offseason but avoided any suspension for transgressions during the lockout. The Titans want him to be a central figure in what they do -- one of three dynamic playmakers along with Johnson and Cook.

But it can be difficult to count on him because over the course of his first two seasons he often got dinged and could lose focus.

Now he’s got a new veteran quarterback, a new rookie quarterback (Jake Locker), a new head coach (Mike Munchak), a new offensive coordinator (Chris Palmer) and a new position coach (Dave Ragone).

All of them are relying on his continued emergence.

Britt’s wife and daughter are now in Nashville and he’s indicated he won’t be spending a lot of time in New Jersey, where most of his troubles arose. If healthy and consistent, with an accurate quarterback throwing to him, Britt may well jump to elite receiver status soon.

The Ravens praised Hasselbeck’s precision.

His 358 passing yards were the most the Titans have ever had in 20 matchups against the Ravens and the fourth most Baltimore has yielded over the past five seasons.

“Kenny’s covered and he makes a great throw,” Titans quarterback coach Dowell Loggains said. “Matt was deadly accurate today.”

Baltimore isn’t going to give up a lot of running yards. Other teams that are able to slow Johnson should pay for it if Hasselbeck can find Britt, Washington and Cook the way he did Sunday.

“We feel like we have enough weapons with No. 8 on offense that we can do some things that we haven’t been able to do in the past,” Loggains said. “This is what we should be able to do.”

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