AFC West: Junior Seau

When Manti Te'o's foot injury was first disclosed by the San Diego Chargers on Aug. 10, they said he’d be out a week.

Nine days later, the starting rookie inside linebacker is out of the walking boot, but he is not practicing. He is working on the side. That is a good sign, but it is unclear if Te'o will be ready to play Saturday in the team’s third preseason game. He was hurt in the preseason opener and he has not worked since. Because he is a rookie starter, Te’o needs all the preseason work he can get.

Standout defensive end Corey Liuget didn’t practice with a shoulder injury. Receiver Eddie Royal was at the team’s complex Monday. He suffered a bruised lung Saturday and spent the night in the hospital.

In other AFC West notes:
Thursday marks the one year anniversary of the death of San Diego legendary linebacker Junior Seau.

Seau committed suicide on May 2, 2012. He was 43.

Seau’s death shocked the NFL and particularly hit San Diego hard. Not only was Seau one of the greatest players in Chargers’ history, he was a native of the area. To mark the anniversary, U-T San Diego put together a tremendous remembrance of Seau complete with memories from NFL greats.

Also, ESPN analyst and former Seau teammate Tedy Bruschi remembers Seau in this video:

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ESPN’s enterprise team looks at the importance of the study of the brain of former San Diego linebacker Junior Seau.

Seau committed suicide last May 2 at the age of 43. "Outside the Lines" produced this video on the impact of the information from the study of Seau’s brain.
Manti T'eoMike Ehrmann/Getty Images"I like this pick 1,000 percent," new Chargers teammate Eric Weddle said of Manti Te'o.

Had the NFL draft been held the day after Manti Te'o and Notre Dame were handled in the national championship game by Alabama, the inside linebacker would have been considered a steal if he was a top-10 pick.

After all, this is a player who was considered the possible No. 1 overall pick last December -- one of the most decorated, praised players in the country during the 2012 season.

Fast-forward to the present, and the idea that Te’o lasted until the No. 38 pick is stunning. The Chargers sent the 45th and 110th choices to Arizona to move up and rock the draft with this selection.

“Great pick,” San Diego safety and leader Eric Weddle said by phone moments after the Chargers' move. “We got better. He is going to help us win games. I like this pick 1,000 percent.”

Te’o became a polarizing figure in January when the bizarre hoax involving a dead fake girlfriend became public. Te’o has said he had nothing to do with the Internet scheme, and the person behind the elaborate ploy has backed up Te’o’s claims.

Fair or not, the hoax has defined Te’o. His once-sterling character has come into question, and there is no doubt it hurt his draft status.

Of course, the title game and a slow 40-yard dash at the NFL combine didn’t help his cause. But let’s face it, if the hoax hadn't happened, Te’o would have gotten the benefit of the doubt on those issues -- particularly since he generated great tape throughout his college career, had great character and improved his speed at Notre Dame's pro day.

With Te’o, it’s all about the hoax.

That will stop, Weddle said. Indeed, Weddle brought up the issue himself.

"I could care less about that other stuff," Weddle said. “I’m sure everyone will think that way here.”

It has been said that Te’o, the butt of national jokes the past few months, will face his harshest critics in his NFL locker room. Weddle said that won’t be a problem in San Diego.

“If he wants to talk about it, we’ll listen,” Weddle said. “But it’s not going to be a problem here.”

I think Te’o is going to a perfect situation for him to achieve some normalcy. The Chargers have good leadership in Weddle, quarterback Philip Rivers, tight end Antonio Gates, center Nick Hardwick and linebacker Jarret Johnson. Indeed, Te'o told San Diego reporters Friday evening, Rivers had already called to welcome him to the team. This is a strong, business-oriented locker room. Te’o will be treated well.

Also, the team’s brass knows how to deal with off-field issues. New San Diego coach Mike McCoy was at the center of Tebow-mania while with Denver. Nothing can match that. New San Diego general manager Tom Telesco was in Indianapolis last season during coach Chuck Pagano’s public fight against cancer.

Distractions will not be a problem.

I also think Te’o will find friendly confines in the city. San Diego has a thriving Polynesian community, and one of the team’s greatest players, late linebacker Junior Seau, was Polynesian. Te’o will be welcomed with open arms. San Diego is not far, in relative terms, from Te’o’s native Hawaii, so that will raise his comfort level, too.

Plus, even though it is not so far from Hollywood, San Diego is laid back, and there isn’t a huge media presence around the team.

Sure, the team and Te’o will probably have to deal with the curiosity of it all early in camp, but that will go away pretty quickly.

Plus, in my opinion, the hoax is over. What else can come of it? Whether he was involved or not, Te’o faced public humiliation, he saw his NFL stock drop and now the recovery begins. He can become a linebacker again.

Te’o is being brought to San Diego to play football, and it’s a good fit.

San Diego is building a strong, young defense, and Te’o should be a nice piece in a linebacking corps that includes Johnson, Donald Butler and 2012 first-round pick Melvin Ingram. Add Te’o to a strong, young line and this is an intriguing group. Yes, Te’o has limitations in coverage, but San Diego will be versatile enough to highlight him on first and second downs, and he will be able to play to his strengths.

It’s been a trying three months for Te’o, but his NFL career is starting on the right track even though it’s from a draft slot several picks lower than expected.

Oakland’s expected visit with cornerback Mike Jenkins took place Tuesday. Earlier in the day, the team agreed to terms on a one-year deal with former Denver cornerback Tracy Porter.

The Raiders need another starting cornerback. Jenkins has some interest from Buffalo and Jacksonville, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he ended up in Oakland.

Meanwhile, now that the Carson Palmer issue has been resolved with his trade to Arizona, I wonder what will become of the Rolando McClain situation. The linebacker is not expected back. His agent has reportedly asked to seek a trade, but there has not been any reported interest. If he is not traded, he will in all likelihood be cut. There is no timeline, and Oakland is clearly not in a rush to do anything.

New Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn talked about his journey to Oakland in his introductory press conference.

Oakland could potentially look at safety Usama Young, who was cut by Cleveland. Raiders coach Dennis Allen was his position coach in New Orleans, and Oakland needs help at safety.

In other AFC West notes:

The family of the late Junior Seau offered ESPN The Magazine a special look at a photo album of his life. The legendary San Diego linebacker committed suicide last May at the age of 43.

The Chiefs cut lineman Rich Ranglin.

AFC West notes

January, 23, 2013
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The Junior Seau story took another turn as the family of the late San Diego legendary linebacker has sued the NFL. Seau killed himself last may. He was 43. Studies of his brain concluded that he suffered brain damage.

The family is suing the NFL because it is claiming he suffered the brain damage because of violent hits he suffered during his NFL career. ESPN legal analysts Lester Munson discusses the suit in this video.
  • In an Insider piece, Pro Football Focus Insider believes Kansas City receiver Dwayne Bowe is the highest priority in-house free agent in the NFL this year. I have a feeling the new Kansas City brass may agree. I think the chances of Bowe coming back, either with an extension or by being given the franchise tag again, is much higher than if the previous regime was retained.
  • New Oakland assistant coach/offensive line coach Tony Sparano will join the team next week after the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
  • Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie told CSNBayArea his thoughts on the NFL ’s Rooney Rule.

Junior Seau findings are important

January, 10, 2013
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The sad story of Junior Seau took another turn.

ESPN is reporting that the San Diego Chargers' legendary linebacker -- who committed suicide last May -- suffered from the type of chronic brain damage that also has been found in dozens of deceased former players, according to a study conducted by five brain specialists consulted by the National Institutes of Health.

Seau’s family told ABC News and ESPN they were informed last week that Seau's brain had tested positive for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease that can lead to dementia, memory loss and depression.

The family consented to allow for Seau’s brain to be studied in the weeks after his shocking death. His former wife, Gina Seau, said the development is important for people to realize what Seau was suffering from and to help players in the future.

"I think it's important for everyone to know that Junior did indeed suffer from CTE," Gina Seau said. "It's important that we take steps to help these players. We certainly don't want to see anything like this happen again to any of our athletes."

An incredible story by U-T San Diego last fall described Seau’s final years in which he struggled with alcohol and gambling issues and problems with his family. Seau, who would have turned 44 next week, was clearly suffering.

Wednesday’s development will further spur more talk about the NFL and concussions and the risks players take. For a player of Seau’s stature to have been afflicted like this will ensure the story will not go away.

Seau is expected to be a first-ballot entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in two years. His story will continue to be told and it will continue to keep pressure on this subject. At least some good will come out of this heartbreaking story.

The Raiders signed linebacker Vic So’oto and cut linebacker Carl Ihenacho.

So’oto played seven games with Green Bay last season as an undrafted free agent from BYU. Oakland general manger Reggie McKenzie was with the Packers last year. Last week, McKenzie signed cornerback Brandian Ross off the Packers’ practice squad.

McKenzie is clearly filling the bottom of his roster with players he has previously thought had a chance to develop. The Packers cut So’oto earlier this month.

So’oto will provide depth and cut vie for special teams play. He is the second cousin of late San Diego legendary linebacker Junior Seau.

The team also released defensive tackle Vaughn Meatoga from the practice squad.

Chargers retire Junior Seau's No. 55

September, 16, 2012
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SAN DIEGO -- I just saw perhaps the most emotional ceremony at a sporting event I’ve ever witnessed.

Shortly before the start of the Chargers’ home opener against Tennessee, the Chargers retired Junior Seau’s No. 55 jersey. Seau committed suicide in May at the age of 43.

Sunday, there was no mention of how Seau died. Sunday, it wasn’t important. It was a pure tribute to one of the greatest linebackers who ever played.

I have to be honest. The ceremony was tough to watch. Seau’s parents and children were on the field for the ceremony. Watching them watch the jumbo screen showing highlights and interviews of Seau was heart-wrenching.

Still, the presentation was done in great taste and was well done. I could tell the entire stadium was as touched and pained as I was watching the tribute. Seau’s death never made sense and it still doesn’t. All his family, friends and the organization can do is deal with it and Sunday was a nice part of the healing process.

Final Word: AFC West

September, 14, 2012
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 2:

Manning brings no-huddle show to Denver: It didn’t take new Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning long to enjoy success with his no-huddle magic. After a 19-month break, Manning still has the ability to shred a defense without huddling up his troops. The Broncos scored all 25 of their offensive points in a 31-19 victory over Pittsburgh when going without a huddle, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and the three drives during which they huddled yielded no points. Yes, expect more no-huddle from Manning on Monday night at Atlanta.

Will Seau’s memory charge San Diego’s defense? It will be an emotional day at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday. The Chargers will honor legendary former linebacker Junior Seau, who committed suicide at age 43 in May. The Chargers’ defense was outstanding at Oakland in Week 1. The unit could honor Seau with a swarming, relentless performance against visiting Tennessee.

[+] EnlargeShaun Phillips
AP Photo/Ben MargotShaun Phillips (95) and the Chargers defense kept Oakland out of the end zone until the final minute of their season-opening 22-14 victory.
Can the Chiefs start quickly? Nothing sets the tone for a successful game like an early touchdown drive ... or so the Chiefs have heard. Kansas City was unable to score a touchdown on its first drive of every game last season -- and the trend continued into the opener against Atlanta. A first-series touchdown Sunday would certainly boost the Chiefs' chances to win in Buffalo.

Wake up fast, Raiders: Excuse the Raiders if they are a little foggy Sunday morning. It's a challenging week: After ending their Week 1 home loss to San Diego late Monday night, the Raiders fly to Miami on Friday ahead of Sunday's game, scheduled for 10 a.m. PT (1 p.m. ET). It is the first of five games Oakland will play this season that start at 10 a.m. PT -- the first time in Raiders history that the team will visit the Eastern time zone that many times. For years, West Coast teams have said that playing at 10 a.m. PT is challenging because of the time adjustment. The Raiders better adjust quickly if they don’t want to adjust to being 0-2.

Broncos likely to see a lot of flying Falcons: The Broncos’ secondary looked improved last week, and it will get a stiff test Monday night in Atlanta. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan was 18-of-22 for 208 yards and three touchdowns when throwing out of three-receiver sets against Kansas City, according to ESPN Stats & Information. There is no way Atlanta is going to go away from that strategy after enjoying so much success.
The Broncos announced their six team captains. They were voted on by the team.

The 2012 Denver captain are quarterback Peyton Manning, guard Chris Kuper, running back Willis McGahee, cornerback Champ Bailey, defensive end Elvis Dumervil and special teams captain Wesley Woodyard.

It’s no surprise Manning was voted a captain. He is known as one of the great leaders in the game. This is Bailey’s sixth consecutive seasons as a captain, and it is Woodyard’s fourth straight year as a captain.

In other AFC West notes:

Our ESPN experts’ picks for Week 1 are here. Pretty interesting results on the “Monday Night Football” affair in Oakland.

The Chargers have announced they will permanently retire Junior Seau’s No. 55 jersey at their home opener Sept. 16 against Tennessee. Seau committed suicide May 2. The team also urges fans to wear all white to the game. The team will be wearing white jerseys and white pants in the game.

San Diego linebacker Takeo Spikes is closing in on an impressive milestone.

ESPN.com's Ashley Fox has some high hopes for the Chiefs.

San Diego pass-rusher Melvin Ingram is ranked high on Matt Williamsons’ Rookie Watch in an Insider piece.

Forbes’ annual list of the value of NFL franchises has been released. The Broncos are the highest ranked AFC West team on the list, while the Raiders are the lowest. Stadium status often plays a role, so if the Raiders can clear their stadium issues, they could move up the list.

Mike Sando ranks Manning 10th on his initial MVP Watch of the year.

San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers talks about the challenges of playing with an undrafted rookie at left tackle, which will be the case Monday at Oakland, in a radio interview.
Fans of each AFC West team has asked me if I think former San Diego star pass-rusher Shawne Merriman would be a fit for their team.

Sadly, I don’t he’d fit in the division. I’m not sure if Merriman, who was cut by Buffalo on Monday, will ever be a factor in the NFL again. Merriman was one of my favorite players to cover when he was in San Diego. Good guy, passionate man and he was once an impact player.

But Merriman, 28, hasn’t been a productive player in five years. Merriman has played a total of eight games in the past three seasons and a total of 23 in the past five. Injuries have overtaken him. His last good season was in 2007.

I’ve love to see Merriman revitalize his career. But the odds are against him.

In other AFC West news:

Denver safety Quinton Carter and running back Ronnie Hillman returned to practice. Hillman will remain a backup. Carter lost traction in his battle with Rahim Moore to start at safety. Moore will likely be a starter at the begging of the season, but if he falters, Carter will get a chance to play.

The autopsy report on Junior Seau was released. He committed suicide May 2.

Planning on being unruly at an NFL game? It may cost you.

AFC West links: Rivers to join fantasy elite?

July, 13, 2012
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Denver Broncos

With linebacker D.J. Williams facing a lengthy suspension for violating the league's policy on banned substances, the Broncos are hurting for depth at the position, writes Lindsay H. Jones of the Denver Post.

Kansas City Chiefs

New Kansas coach Charlie Weis reflects on his time with the Chiefs, writes Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star.

Oakland Raiders

Carson Palmer's reworked contract gives the Raiders cap relief, writes Brian McIntyre of NFL.com.

San Diego Chargers

The brain of former NFL great Junior Seau has been delivered to the National Institutes of Health, where scientists will study it for signs of permanent injury related to his 20-year pro career, writes Janet Lavelle of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Quarterback Philip Rivers could join the fantasy elite, writes Eddie Brown of the Union-Tribune.

Antwan Barnes and Malcom Floyd are bargains for the Chargers, writes McIntyre.
The LaDainian Tomlinson problem has been resolved.

Kudos to all involved for making it right.

[+] EnlargeLaDainian Tomlinson
AP Photo/Denis PoroyLaDainian Tomlinson will retire as a member of the San Diego Chargers.
There has been an ugly cloud hanging over this situation for more than two years. Sunday, the San Diego Chargers announced the perfect and only logical solution: Tomlinson will sign a contract with the Chargers on Monday and immediately retire. A news conference will be held at the team’s facility to celebrate his tremendous career.

In 2017, Tomlinson will shuffle into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the first ballot and he will be remembered solely as a San Diego Charger.

As it should be.

Tomlinson is going out as a Charger the right way. He is doing it as a formality and not in a uniform. Tomlinson, who will turn 33 next week, is done as an NFL running back. Truly, he was finished when the Chargers cut him in 2010. That was the right football move, although it created a miserable emotional problem.

Like all great competitors, Tomlinson admitted this offseason he would be interested in playing for the Chargers again. The Chargers were in the market for a backup to Ryan Mathews, drafted to be Tomlinson’s replacement. They settled on 30-year-old Ronnie Brown, who made little impact last year as an Eagle. It was clear the Chargers had no interest in having Tomlinson on the 53-man roster.

Again, that is the correct football move. But allowing Tomlinson to gracefully leave the game and do it as a Charger is a classy move by the team.

When the Chargers cut Tomlinson, it got ugly quickly. Tomlinson and San Diego general manager A.J. Smith exchanged some unfortunate words and Tomlinson was bitter about the divorce. Even after signing with the New York Jets, Tomlinson continued to take unnecessary shots at the Chargers.

He could never let his San Diego days go. It appeared the Tomlinson-Chargers relationship was forever spoiled.

Now, it has been fixed.

I know this is important to San Diego chairman Dean Spanos, who will speak at Tomlinson’s news conference Monday. He knows the impact Tomlinson made on the field and in the community in San Diego. He remains a fan favorite.

Perhaps the relationship began to improve last month when Tomlinson was one of the speakers at the team’s public tribute for Junior Seau at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers can’t bring back Seau, but they are bringing back Tomlinson.

He doesn’t belong anywhere else.

This is the guy who helped turn around a lost franchise when he was drafted in the first round in 2001. This is a guy who made the Chargers must-watch action, especially when he dominated the NFL in 2006, setting an NFL record with 28 rushing touchdowns.

Aside from his sublime running abilities, one of Tomlinson’s greatest assets is his fast smile. Expect plenty of grins Monday when a special reconciliation occurs in San Diego.
The Denver Broncos signed offensive lineman Philip Blake.

He is a fourth-round pick from Baylor. Blake, both a center and guard, could compete for a starting job as early as 2013. Denver has two remaining draft picks that are unsigned.

In other AFC West news:
  • The USA Today has a strong look at the days of linebacker Junior Seau’s life. It’s worth checking out. The former San Diego great committed suicide May 2. He was 43.
  • There is no timeline for when the Chargers are going to sign a veteran backup running back.

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