NFC East: DeMaurice Smith
Meriweather missed Sunday's 45-21 loss to the Denver Broncos while serving a one-game suspension. Meriweather returned with a bang Monday, about how he'll tackle in the future and with pointed comments regarding Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall. Meriweather confirmed that he apologized to NFL Players' Association executive director DeMaurice Smith for his comments on Monday.
"I guess I just got to take people's knees out. That's the only way," Meriweather said Monday. "I would hate to end a guy's career over a rule, but I guess it's better other people than me getting suspended for longer. You just have to go low now, man. You've got to end people's careers. You got to tear people's ACLs and mess up people's knees. You can't hit them high anymore."
But Haslett was ready to defend his starting safety.
"Brandon's a good guy," he said. "He's a good person. I don't think he'll do anything that harms the team. He said something out of emotion, the way he felt. But just knowing Brandon and the way he practiced [Wednesday]... he'll stay within the rules and do what's best. He's not going to try and hurt our football team."
In this very good GQ story on Michael Vick by Will Leitch, one paragraph in particular is raising NFL eyebrows this morning, and it is this one:
"I think I can say this now, because it's not going to hurt anybody's feelings, and it's the truth," Vick tells me a few weeks after the commencement ceremony. "I didn't want to come to Philadelphia. Being the third-team quarterback is nothing to smile about. Cincinnati and Buffalo were better options." Those two teams wanted him and would've allowed him to start, but after meeting with commissioner Roger Goodell and other reps from the NFL, Vick was convinced -- and granted league approval -- to sign with Philly. "And I commend and thank them, because they put me in the right situation."
The immediate question is whether Goodell had any business influencing where Vick signed once he got out of prison, and some have raised the issue of whether the Bengals or Bills will or should be upset about this. I see the point but have some issues with that interpretation.
First, I don't buy that the Bengals would have started Vick ahead of Carson Palmer in 2009, fresh out of prison. I may buy that the Bills would have done it, since they were going with Trent Edwards and eventually Ryan Fitzpatrick, but to say he was a starting option even for a team as quarterback-desperate as Buffalo is revisionist history.
Vick had just gone two full seasons without playing football. No one knew what kind of shape he was in, physically or mentally. If a team -- even the Bills -- was going to sign him, it's impossible to believe they were going to anoint him their starting quarterback right out of the gate. It's easy to look back over the way Vick played last year and say sure, of course he'd have been worlds better than those other options. But in August 2009, nobody knew he'd come back and be what he's become. Not the Bengals, not the Bills, not the Eagles, not Vick and not Goodell.
Goodell's mission at that time was not to return Vick to on-field football glory but simply to return him to NFL society and allow him to resume his career in the situation that would best enable him to be a productive member of that society on and off the field. Goodell had a lot of help in this effort, from agent Joel Segal to NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith to former Colts coach Tony Dungy, who served as a mentor to Vick during and after Vick's prison stay.
Now, to Goodell and all of those other people, the Eagles looked like the best spot for a number of reasons. They all believed coach Andy Reid, in part because of his own personal experience with his sons and their legal trouble, would be a compassionate mentor. They believed that Reid and his coaches could nurture and coach Vick while Vick served as backup to Donovan McNabb. They believed McNabb would be a good mentor for Vick.
Goodell said more than once, at that time, that he was looking for "a success story." And he didn't mean success in terms of yards or touchdown passes. And he certainly didn't mean success for any one particular NFL team. He meant success for Michael Vick -- and that meant putting Vick in the most beneficial situation for Michael Vick. The idea that the commissioner might have been playing favorites, or that other teams should be upset that he may have steered this remarkable athletic talent to a training camp other than theirs, is fueled by nothing other than hindsight. At the time, no one knew if Vick had it in him to ever complete another NFL pass. Even the Eagles didn't know. They just took a chance -- a chance for which they were ridiculed and criticized by many at the time -- and coached him into a better quarterback than he'd ever been before without ever thinking he'd start for them. Remember, a year ago, Vick was Kevin Kolb's backup.
To think that Vick would have become what he's become while riding the bench behind Palmer or even while starting games for Buffalo is to underestimate the work the Eagles did with him once they got their hands on him. If this is going to be a controversy, people had better come at it with all of the facts. Sure, it's possible Goodell wanted Vick in Philadelphia. But if he did, it had nothing to do with wanting to help the Eagles. They did that on their own.
"Even in 1990, when we won the second Super Bowl, there was the constant feeling that we might lose, we might lose," Bavaro said. "In 1986, it was always we were going to win, just by how much. Somebody pointed out that most of those games were very close. In my memory, I don't remember them being close because I never thought we were going to lose any of those games."
That Giants team and defense won the Super Bowl one year after the Chicago Bears nearly went undefeated and won theirs. They didn't get to knock off the champs themselves, as the Redskins defeated Chicago in the divisional round, but Bavaro's memory is better than that of whoever told him the games were close. The Giants beat the 49ers 49-3 in the divisional playoff round, whipped the Redskins 17-0 in the NFC Championship Game and then rolled the Broncos 39-20 in the Super Bowl. That's a combined 105-23 over three playoff teams. You can see why they might not have thought it was possible to lose.
George Martin wasn't the happiest guy at the reunion. He's pouting because NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith won't give him a meeting to discuss the role of retired players in the current labor dispute. Martin is the head of NFL Alumni, which is a retired player organization that is funded and supported by the NFL. Because of that association, Smith and the NFLPA, who hosted quite a few retired players at their annual meetings each of the past two years, do not trust or particularly like Martin's group. Martin made an appearance at the NFLPA meetings this year, but it wasn't a face-to-face meeting with Smith. It was an address to the group of retired players affiliated with the NFLPA, and word is they all gave him an earful about his connections to Roger Goodell and the league. It sounds like, if Martin's looking for a supportive ear, he's looking on the wrong side of the labor fight.
Rainer Sabin looks at the Cowboys' internal options at cornerback in case they get rid of one of their starters and don't sign Nnamdi Asomugha. Not a pretty picture, though Sabin agrees with the prevailing opinion that the team should and will address the safety position first.
The heart attack Godfrey Miles had last Wednesday took his life. He played six years with the Cowboys and was a starter during their run to the Super Bowl XXX title. RIP.
The life of a free agent is a weird one during this lockout. At a charity softball game in Camden, N.J., Eagles safety Quintin Mikell mused on his future thusly to the Philadelphia Daily News: "We're so deep in the lockout I don't even care. I'm just worried about staying in shape and making sure I'm ready to go. Obviously, I would like to be back here with the Eagles, but at this point I'm not sure what their thinking is. I am fairly sure that there's going to be a lot of people interested in me if I hit the market so either way I'll be fine." Mikell isn't super-likely to be back in Philly, but his name has come up as an option for the Cowboys in their hunt for a safety.
Michael Vick gave the commencement speech at a school for at-risk kids and handed out a couple of $5,000 college scholarships. Again, think what you want, but...
Redskins.com looks at the recent success of rookie wide receivers in the league and what that might mean for draft picks Leonard Hankerson, Niles Paul and Aldrick Robinson. It's an interesting point, with guys like Dez Bryant, Mike Williams, Percy Harvin, Austin Collie and Jeremy Maclin as strong examples from the past two years. And given the Redskins' current situation at WR, the rookies are likely to get an opportunity to show what they can do. It's just...well, I don't want to be accused of being negative or anything, but ... isn't it tough for a receiver, rookie or otherwise, to do much without a quarterback?
And Vonnie Holliday joined the piling-on-Albert-Haynesworth party during a recent radio appearance. Question: Do you think it's possible that the piling on of Haynesworth will ever get to the point where he's a remotely sympathetic figure? I kind of thought it might last summer during the conditioning-drill fiasco, but the way the guy carried himself throughout the season prevented that. I doubt he's at all redeemable in the eyes of Washington fans, but you tell me.
All right. The kids need to eat before they go to school. You know I'll be back later, though. You can count on me.
Because of this, one of our most popular questions here on the blog is how different Castillo's defense will be than that of his predecessor, Sean McDermott. I have no idea, since I was not consulted on the move. But the Philadelphia Inquirer's Jeff McLane sat down with Castillo recently to try to get some idea for himself.
McLane's biggest conclusion seems to be that Castillo plans to blitz less than "mad scientist" (Jeff's words, not mine) McDermott did. It seems as if Castillo and Reid will be counting on new defensive line coach Jim Washburn, who was known as the best in the business while in Tennessee, to generate a pass rush with the front four. That makes you wonder if the new defense will be as focused on forcing turnovers as McDermott was, or if it'll be more focused on ... you know ... stopping other teams from gaining yards. I personally think it would do well to try the stopping thing, but we'll see. At least I think we will. Right now, Castillo has no players to work with. Fortunately, we're doing better than that, because we have ... links!
David Akers tells CSN Philly that he thinks it's time to get a labor deal done. Akers said he's called NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and told him as much. I can't imagine Smith is enjoying Akers' public rhetoric, since it conflicts with the current litigation strategy that has yet to play out. And the fact that Akers' comments seem clearly rooted in a selfish desire to figure out where he's going to play next year bodes ill for the players' side. If they're going to start demanding a shift in strategy before the court cases are all heard, then they're setting up to give the owners what they want -- a cracked, broken group of players that will take any deal just to get back on the field.
Speaking of De Smith, he apparently ducked out of his D.C. office Tuesday and went to watch 41 Redskins players work out together at a Virginia high school. London Fletcher worked out the defensive players. John Beck and Rex Grossman worked out the offensive players. There's a story in here about how Beck called Roy Helu after Helu was drafted. I marvel at the idea that either guy knew who the other was.
While there, the Washington Times reports, Smith updated players on the state of the lockout and the significance of the pending court cases.
New York Giants
Big Blue View talked to Brian Witherspoon, who's trying to hang on to the back end of the Giants' roster as a return specialist. Interesting look at the case of a guy just trying to scrape out a living in pro football without anybody really paying much attention.
Former running back Mickey Kobrosky, who played for the Giants in 1937 and scored a touchdown playing against them in an exhibition game while at Trinity College, is being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. In other news, for some reason it's been especially tough to find Giants links over the past couple of weeks. I'm taking suggestions.
Jean-Jacques Taylor offers a "hand clap" for Jerry Jones for his refusal to cut pay of coaches and other employees during the lockout, and rightfully takes other owners to task for doing so at a time when no team has yet lost any money. We've hit this angle a few times here, and the Cowboys aren't the only team doing this. They're just, sadly, part of the minority.
Blogging the Boys is trying to delve into the "Right Kind of Guys" concept Jason Garrett used to explain the team's draft philosophy last month. Having watched last year's Cowboys, I'm thinking "Guys Who Can Tackle" would have been a good way to go, too, but whatever works.
All right, that should get you started. I'm going to go see if I can remember where I put my sunglasses two weeks ago. Be back later, of course.
Gerry Fraley says he'd prefer to have TCU's Andy Dalton over Auburn quarterback Cam Newton.
Terence Newman's future in Dallas may hinge on next month's draft and the cornerback's ability to stay healthy.
New York Giants
Former Giants defensive end George Martin, who is the director of the NFL Alumni Association, has been unable to get in touch with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith.
Quarterback Michael Vick has secured an endorsement deal with a wristband maker.
Former Eagles receiver Mike Quick is taking a leading role in the continuing education about concussions.
Larry Weisman says the draft is still the best way to build a winner in the NFL.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
New York Giants co-owner John Mara didn't care for an arbitrator's ruling in Plaxico Burress' grievance against the club. In fact, he described the ruling, which awarded Burress $1 million of his signing bonus that had been withheld after his November gun incident, as "illogical."
Now the new executive director of the NFL Players Association, DeMaurice Smith, has responded to the ruling on the organization's Web site:
"This decision is a real win for the players," Smith said. "It means that clubs can't impose additional discipline by claiming back signing or roster bonus monies after a suspension, either by a club or the league. The CBA clause they argued from in this case was not intended to apply to suspensions, but instead to cases where a player is holding out from training camp or otherwise refusing to perform. We are very pleased that Mr. Burbank agreed with our position."
From a self-congratulatory standpoint, Smith seems to be on his game. This is the first semi-significant victory on his watch, and I'm sure he's hoping players will rally around the decision. And when you think about it, is there anything like a self-inflicted gun shot wound to help build consensus in a union?
Seems like poor form on Smith's part from this vantage point, but it's obvious he's trying to quickly establish a reputation for being a strong advocate on behalf of the players.
More on this when my flight from Detroit lands.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
If you'd never heard the name DeMaurice F. Smith before today, you have plenty of company. Smith is the Washington-based attorney who was voted the executive director of the NFL Players Association on Sunday.
And as Mark Maske notes in The Washington Post, Smith is an unabashed Redskins fan. Now he'll represent one of the most powerful unions in sports (An AP story said it was the most powerful, but maybe the writer hasn't heard of Marvin Miller).
Troy Vincent, David Cornwell and Trace Armstrong finished second, third and fourth in the voting. And now there's apparently a push to make Vincent part of Smith's new team. Smith didn't play professional football, but maybe that's not all bad. He'll bring fresh ideas at a time when the union is gearing up for another contract negotiation with the owners.
There has been talk about a potential lockout in 2011, but maybe Smith can heal some of the personality conflicts that hounded the previous regime. That said, it's remarkable that players would vote for a man who's had so little exposure to the league. That tells you how desperate they were to have a new voice representing them.
Smith takes over at a turbulent time -- and that's not to mention our nation's current economic climate. Hopefully the Beast will be able to track Smith down for an interview soon. He's reportedly a big fan of Beastlines.