NFC East: Jon Kitna

IRVING, Texas – Most of the time when Kyle Orton’s absence was discussed in the offseason, Brandon Weeden was mentioned as the biggest beneficiary.

Hanie
While true, Caleb Hanie also benefited.

With Orton staying away, the Dallas Cowboys had to sign Hanie, a Forney, Texas, native. With Orton skipping all of the organized team activities and mandatory June minicamp and Tony Romo staying out of competitive drills, Hanie took most of the backup snaps behind Weeden.

“He knows how to play,” coach Jason Garrett said. “That’s one of the things we were attracted to when we signed him in the spring. Get a guy in here who can handle the huddle and handle situations at the line of scrimmage. He’s seen defenses in this league. He’s started games. He’s been in playoff games.”

He has a 0-4 record as a starter he completed 59 of 116 passes for 679 yards with three touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He has not thrown a pass in a regular-season game since 2011 and spent parts of the past two seasons with the Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns.

The Cowboys struck out on their first attempt to sign Hanie. In 2008, he chose to sign with the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent, despite a full-court press from the Cowboys.

“I felt it was a better opportunity for me in Chicago with the guys they had up there,” Hanie said. “At the time Tony was planted as the starter and I think Brad Johnson was on the roster then. It would’ve been a little uphill battle for me to get on the roster. It was tough turning them down, I can tell you that much, being the hometown team.”

Last December Hanie was among a handful of quarterbacks the Cowboys worked out after Romo got hurt. They eventually signed Jon Kitna for the final week of the season.

In April, Hanie and the Cowboys finally got together.

“It’s kind of come full circle now,” he said.

The Cowboys expect Orton to show up at training camp, but they also expected him to show up for the minicamp. The fines for skipping training camp practices are much more severe ($30,000 per day).

“If he’s here, I’ll notice,” Hanie said. “If he’s not, I don’t worry about that. I just worry about what I can do and control and see how it goes from here.”

Hanie had some solid moments in the offseason. He connected on a touchdown with Cole Beasley in the slot, splitting the cornerback and linebacker on a throw to the slot. Hanie pumped his fist as he went to the sideline.

“I think it’s gone well,” Hanie said. “Obviously you want to be perfect in everything you do, every check and throw and with 100 percent accuracy, but it’s just not realistic sometimes. You’ve just got to let things go and try to improve every way you can and take as much coaching as you can while you have the opportunity.”
IRVING, Texas -- Because Tony Romo is 34 and because he is coming off his second back surgery in less than a year, just about everybody believes it is time for the Dallas Cowboys to find his replacement.

ESPN NFL draft Insider Todd McShay said it. Mike Mayock of the NFL Network said it. A lot of fans have said it. A lot of others have said it.

If the Cowboys draft a quarterback, then it must be early in the draft. At least, that’s the general philosophy of Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery when it comes to taking quarterbacks.

"I just did a little study. It's very interesting," Emery said in this ESPNChicago story. "That developmental theory doesn't hold a whole lot of water. There's entire classes of quarterbacks, since '06, I went back and looked at from Jay [Cutler's] on -- when people say developmental quarterbacks, OK, so who has gotten developed? There isn't a single quarterback after the third round since 2006 that has been a long-term starter. So you're either developing thirds, and most of them have been wiped out of the league. So to get a quality quarterback, you've got to draft them high. That 2012 class is a blip on the radar that's unusual, highly unusual.

"Most of the starters in this league come from the first and second round. So that's where you need to take a quarterback. So when you talk about quarterback every year, they have to be somebody that you truly believe will beat out the second and third quarterback that you perceive on your roster. And if not, history shows that you shouldn't make that pick."

From 2006 to 2013, there were 59 quarterbacks drafted in Rounds 3-7. Only two are top-end starters: Russell Wilson (third round, 2012, Seattle Seahawks) and Nick Foles(third round, 2012, Philadelphia Eagles). And Foles might have more to prove, but he was Pro Bowl-worthy in 2013.

The best of the rest: Bruce Gradkowski (sixth round, 2006); Matt Flynn (seventh round, 2008); Curtis Painter (sixth round, 2009); Ryan Mallett (third round, 2011); Kirk Cousins (fourth round, 2012). Other considerations: Colt McCoy (third round, 2010); T.J. Yates (fifth round, 2011); Tyrod Taylor (sixth round, 2011).

The odds are stacked against a team looking to develop a quarterback. Teams are not a lock to carry a third quarterback on the 53-man roster these days. The Cowboys have not done it since 2011, when they had Stephen McGee (fourth round, 2009). There just aren’t enough snaps to go around in a season for a quarterback to develop. The pressure on coaches to win means they want guys who can help carry games if a starter goes down, part of the reason why the Cowboys have gone with Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna and Kyle Orton as Romo's backups.

Maybe the Cowboys will draft a quarterback in the middle to late rounds this week. The odds of him turning into Wilson, Foles or Tom Brady (sixth round, 2000) are remote. He’s more likely to be Andre Woodson (sixth round, 2008), Mike Teel (sixth round, 2009), Jonathan Crompton (fifth round, 2010) or Nate Enderle (fifth round, 2011).
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have expressed an interest in quarterback Brandon Weeden, according to sources.

Weeden
The Cleveland Browns released their 2012 first-round pick on Wednesday after he threw 23 touchdown passes and 26 interceptions with a 5-15 record as a starter in two seasons. Weeden, who turns 31 in October, threw for 5,116 yards, completing 438-of-784 passes.

The Cowboys have Kyle Orton as their backup to Tony Romo, and the Cowboys believe he will continue to play rather than retire with a $3.25 million base salary in 2014. If he retires, he would owe the Cowboys $3 million of the $5 million base salary he received in 2012. If he is cut, the Cowboys would save roughly $900,000 in cap space.

Orton turns 32 in November and is in the final year of his contract. After Romo went down in Week 16 with a back injury, Orton came off the bench for the 2013 season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles to throw for 358 yards and two touchdowns in the loss.

Weeden signed a four-year deal worth $8.1 million as the No. 22 pick in the first round two years ago. He is still owed more than $2 million in guaranteed money, but the Browns would only have to make up the difference if Weeden makes less from his new team.

It is possible the Cowboys could carry Romo, Orton and Weeden on the 53-man roster if they were to sign him.

The Cowboys have not carried a third quarterback on the roster since 2011 when they had Stephen McGee behind Romo and Jon Kitna. They had Alex Tanney on the practice squad for much of last season before losing him to the Browns, and re-signed Kitna for the final week of the season after Romo got hurt.

The Cowboys liked Weeden coming out of Oklahoma State. He set school records in yards and touchdowns in 2011 for the Cowboys after a short-lived career in professional baseball.

2014 Cowboys free agents: Jon Kitna

February, 27, 2014
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Jon Kitna
Position: Quarterback
Type: Unrestricted
2013 salary: $940,000

Summary: He joined the Cowboys for the final week of the season after Tony Romo suffered a back injury. He was Kyle Orton’s backup in the season finale mostly because he knew the Cowboys’ offense and was in decent enough shape.

Why keep him: He is a great guy to have in the locker room. Younger players tend to flock to him because of his wisdom and personality.

Why let him go: He is 41 years old. He’s been out of football for most of the last two seasons. It was a neat story for a week, but there’s not a future here.

Best guess: Kitna will return to his life as a high school math teacher and football coach in Tacoma, Wash. If the Cowboys need him again at the end of the 2014 season for a week, he will offer up his services again.
IRVING, Texas -- With the Dallas Cowboys missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season, they obviously have a ton of needs.

Every offseason is the same story. Fans get their hopes up that the Cowboys will spend a ton of money in free agency -- even if they don't have a ton to spend -- and go get insert-name-here because that guy has to be better than whatever the Cowboys have on the roster.

The needs are obvious: defensive line, secondary, linebacker and defensive line again. You could always add offensive line help and possibly wide receiver. On an 8-8 team, every position needs help.

But the price matters when it comes to free agency. The Cowboys will be able to get under the salary cap without an issue. They could even get far enough under the cap to be big spenders if they choose.

Here's a word to the wise: don't choose.

The last big-money player the Cowboys signed was cornerback Brandon Carr, who received $50 million over five years in 2012. Is there a smidge of buyer's remorse on that one?

Teams have to overpay in free agency. The Cowboys gave Carr what was the going rate for a cornerback in unrestricted free agency. He has been better than the other big-money corner that year, Cortland Finnegan, but he has not changed the fortunes of the defense. In 2005 the Cowboys gave Anthony Henry the going rate for a cornerback at $5 million a year. He played fairly well with 12 interceptions in four seasons before he was traded for Jon Kitna in 2009.

The Cowboys laid out a huge-free agent contract for Leonard Davis ($7 million a year) and Davis had some solid seasons but not enough of them. He was cut after the 2010 season.

The best way to attack free agency is with moderate priced players. One of the best free-agent signings the Cowboys ever had was La'Roi Glover and in part because of what they paid to get him.

Prime free agents have little chance to earn what their given. Carr slumped in 2013, especially at the end of the season. He will have to be Superman in some eyes to justify the $10 million a year price tag in 2014.

So when you go through the lists of available free-agent defensive ends, defensive tackles, outside linebackers, safeties, running backs, wide receivers and offensive linemen, do not get seduced by the names.

The Cowboys have paid names in the past and it has not worked. They have gambled on up-and-coming players as well, like Carr. It's not too late for him to turn things around. An offseason can be a great refresher.

The best bet for the Cowboys and Jones is to lie low when the market opens.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The chance to be a hero was there for Kyle Orton.

He could put his name next to Clint Longley, Jason Garrett, Steve Beuerlein and Bernie Kosar as backup quarterbacks who saved a game -- or, in Sunday’s case, a season -- for the Dallas Cowboys.

With 1:49 to play, the Cowboys had the ball at their 32-yard line. All they needed was a field goal and the NFC East was theirs. All they needed was 40 yards on a night in which they put up 417 yards, and a playoff spot was theirs for the first time since 2009.

Playing only because Tony Romo had back surgery two days prior, Orton entered the game against the Philadelphia Eagles with just five pass attempts on the season and 15 in the past two. He was so close to being that guy for the Cowboys.

[+] EnlargeKyle Orton
AP Photo/James D. SmithKyle Orton threw for 358 yards and two TDs, but a late interception ended the Cowboys' comeback try.
“I wish I had the throw back,” Orton said.

On first down, Orton looked to the slot to Miles Austin. The Eagles showed pressure before the snap. Austin won on his route, but Orton’s pass was behind, giving Brandon Boykin the chance to end the Cowboys' season and Orton's heroics with an interception.

Eagles 24, Cowboys 22.

Just like that, the Cowboys’ season was over. For the third straight year they finished 8-8. For the third straight year they failed to win an NFC East decider in Week 17. For the second straight year they were done in by a fourth-quarter interception. Last year it was a Romo interception with three minutes to play against the Washington Redskins with the Cowboys trailing by three points.

“Everybody puts in a lot through a season, and this is my chance to contribute,” Orton said. “Had a chance down two with two minutes to go and expected to make the plays. Miles ran a good route, and I just have to make that throw.”

But blaming Orton for the loss would be beyond wrong.

Starting for the first time since the 2011 season finale with the Kansas City Chiefs, he finished with 358 yards on 30-of-46 passing. It was the second-most passing yards by a quarterback in his first start for the Cowboys since Jon Kitna (who was Orton's backup Sunday) in 2010. He threw touchdown passes to Gavin Escobar and Dez Bryant. He was not sacked.

It wasn't perfect. His first interception came on a late throw to Jason Witten. He overthrew Bryant on a deep ball in the fourth quarter. He was late on the throw to Austin.

“Obviously there were a couple of plays in that game that he would love to have back, but I think if you look at the whole body of work, I think he did a heckuva job,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He had a great week of practice. He was prepared. He was confident. I thought the guys responded to him. [He] made a ton of big plays in this game over and over and over again.”

None was bigger than the 32-yard touchdown to Bryant. On fourth-and-9, he hit Bryant in stride and saw the receiver break free from safety Patrick Chung for the touchdown with 3:50 to play that made it 24-22. On the two-point conversion try, he went back to Bryant. Eagles cornerback Cary Williams was able to deflect the low pass to maintain the Eagles’ advantage.

“It was tight coverage,” Orton said. “I probably could’ve gave him a better ball, but one-on-one to Dez, we’ve taken our chances there all year.”

Orton had one chance. The one he dreamed about before the game but didn’t think about when he walked on the field.

“It was such a back-and-forth game the whole game, you’re just kind of focusing on that drive and not trying to get too far ahead of yourself,” Orton said.

Dan Bailey would not get a chance to attempt a game-winning field goal. There would be no celebration inside AT&T Stadium. The NFC East championship hats and T-shirts with the Cowboys logo never got out of the box.

“It’s frustrating when your season is done, no matter when it is,” Orton said. “You put a lot into it and it’s just a disheartening way for us to go out.”
IRVING, Texas – Jon Kitna will make 1/17th of $940,000 to be the Dallas Cowboys' backup quarterback Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. And the game check – worth $55,294 before taxes – will go to the Lincoln High School Football Booster Club in Tacoma, Wash., where he is the head coach.

Kitna
“My wife runs our booster program and spends roughly $25,000 a year feeding these young men and things like that,” said Kitna, who also teaches math. “So one thing we committed to for our booster program was our first $25,000 we raised we were [going] to use it on protein for these young men. We had a company, AdvoCare, who had given us about six months’ worth of protein and we let the young men get a little bit of protein every day after workouts. And it was amazing to see their bodies grow, but when after we ran out their bodies have just shrunk because they don’t have the right supplements to their diet. That’s what we’re planning on doing with that.”

No word on what Kitna would do with any playoff money he might earn if the Cowboys beat the Eagles. Players get a set rate in the playoffs, not their typical weekly salary.

Dez Bryant praises Jon Kitna

December, 26, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- In Dez Bryant's rookie season with the Dallas Cowboys he received snaps with the second-team offense because he was behind Miles Austin and Roy Williams in the depth chart.

[+] EnlargeDez Bryant and Jon Kitna
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsDez Bryant is grateful to Jon Kitna for showing him the ropes early in his career.
The second-team quarterback was Jon Kitna.

Bryant praised Kitna for helping develp him during that 2010 season. In 12 games, Bryant finished with 45 catches for 561 yards and six touchdowns. He also returned two punts for scores.

"Man, just keep in a person's ear, I know for me individually, I'm excited," Bryant said of Kitna, who re-joined the Cowboys on Wednesday. "Kit is a big reason why my career started the way that it did and I can't thank him enough. Just to see him here, I feel good."

Kitna become an on-the-field mentor to Bryant, helping him master the offense and understand how defenses play different coverages.

"It's nice for him," Kitna said when told about Bryant's comments. "Chad Johnson was very similar to that. ... You come in with a certain perception of what you think the league is going to be like and you figure out it's going to take more work than you probably thought it was going to, and then the light goes on and you feel like you can be special player in this league. I'm excited for him and what it means for his career and for his future after football."

This isn't the first time a wide receiver has heaped praise on Kitna. Williams talked about the close relationship he forged with Kitna when the two played for the Detroit Lions and continued when they became Cowboys.'

Coach Jason Garrett is big on having the right type of player in his locker room. Garrett looks for leaders who show it on and off the field. In Kitna's case, the quarterback demonstrated it with Bryant away from the field.

"I'm going to be always be thankful and always appreciate that from him," Bryant said. "I can't thank him enough. I give a lot of credit and success go to Kit. My career started because of Kit. He always talked to me every day. I will never forget. He always stayed in my ear. He always stayed on me. He always told me I had the potential to be something."

Cowboys' Dwayne Harris ready to return?

December, 24, 2013
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IRVING, Texas – Lost amid the talk of Jon Kitna’s return to the Dallas Cowboys is apparently a much more important return for Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles: Dwayne Harris.

To make room for Kitna, the Cowboys released wide receiver/return specialist Micheal Spurlock, which must mean Harris will be able to return after missing the past two games with a hamstring strain.

Harris is averaging 30.5 yards per kick return and 14 yards per punt return on the season. He had an 86-yard punt return for a touchdown on Oct, 13 against the Washington Redskins and also had a 90-yard kick return. He returned from a one-game absence with a hamstring injury on Dec. 9 against the Chicago Bears, but aggravated the injury on a 43-yard return.

While Spurlock had a 62-yard punt return last week against the Redskins that set up the Cowboys’ first touchdown, the return game has struggled without Harris. Spurlock averaged just 17 yards per kickoff return versus the Redskins. Terrance Williams averaged 23.7 yards per kick return but had a fumble against the Oakland Raiders that was returned for a touchdown. Cole Beasley averaged just 6.8 yards per punt return.
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have had to deal with life without Tony Romo before.

It happened in 2010 when Romo broke his collarbone in the first half of a 41-35 loss to the New York Giants. The Cowboys fell to 1-5 at that point and were effectively done for the season.

Romo
Jon Kitna started the next nine games and had a 4-5 record. Stephen McGee started the regular-season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cowboys won 14-13.

The offense did not suffer in Romo's absence, especially after Jason Garrett was elevated to interim head coach after Jerry Jones fired Wade Phillips following a 1-7 start to the season.

Kitna, who was 38, finished the season with 2,365 yards on 209-of-318 passing with 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. In his seven games with Garrett as head coach the Cowboys went 4-3. In the six games he started and finished, the Cowboys averaged 32.2 points per game.

Two of the losses came by three points. One came on a final-second field goal after the Cowboys missed a point after attempt. Kitna had two three-touchdown games and two two-touchdown games.

The Cowboys ran the ball more and better down the stretch that season. They had three games with 400 yards of offense and had at least 100 yards rushing as a team in every game.

The system prevailed then with Kitna. Garrett needs his system to prevail Sunday against the Eagles with Kyle Orton as the starter.

"Kit played the last half of that season and played very well," Garrett said. "He and Kyle were probably at similar points in their career with similar number of starts, and they understand what we are trying to do offensively and they do a good job of playing within the system, getting guys involved and just playing quarterback the right way. So, that's what we have to do if Tony is not available to us, and we are excited to have that opportunity. If Tony can't play, just stick Kyle in there and go forward."

Cowboys look to add a quarterback

December, 23, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- Without Tony Romo, the Dallas Cowboys need another quarterback.

While the Cowboys are not ready to rule Romo out for Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles, coach Jason Garrett acknowledged the team has to find a third quarterback not only in case Romo is unable to play but to get through practice.

Finding one ready to play could be problematic.

“Well, you just look at who's available and you go out and sign them,” Garrett said. “It's a position that I'm sure a lot of people would like to have. You can't sign people off of other team's rosters, but there are quarterbacks out there. Hopefully we can find one that can help us. I think that's one of the best things we've done as a team is we've handled injuries and we've gotten guys who can come in and play at a moment's notice.”

David Carr and John Skelton are scheduled to visit with the Cowboys on Tuesday. Carr was cut by the New York Giants on Aug. 31 and has thrown three passes since 2010. Skelton went 8-9 with the Arizona Cardinals from 2010-12. He was cut by the Cincinnati Bengals in training camp and spent time with the San Francisco 49ers and Tennessee Titans. He was released by the Titans on Dec. 17.

Finding a quarterback is different than finding a defensive lineman. The Cowboys have dressed 19 different defensive linemen this season. They have had only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster all season and lost Alex Tanney off the practice squad to the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 26.
Preferably the Cowboys would like a quarterback either familiar with Garrett's offense or one who has run a variation of it elsewhere.

In 2010 the Cowboys signed Chris Greisen the final week of the season when Jon Kitna suffered an oblique strain. Unable to start, Kitna served as the backup to Stephen McGee in the 14-13 win against the Eagles and Greisen was inactive.

The Cowboys could sign a player from another team's practice squad. Nick Stephens went to training camp with the Cowboys and was cut on Aug. 27. He has been on the Baltimore Ravens practice squad. Stephens completed 11 of 19 passes for 102 yards and an interception in the preseason before he was cut.
IRVING, Texas -- Fixing the red zone offense was a big offseason focus for the Dallas Cowboys.

Witten
For years Jason Witten has been a weapon from everywhere on the field but the red zone. Last year Witten set a record for catches in a season by a tight end with 110 but he scored only three touchdowns.

This year Witten's catches are down, but his touchdowns are up. He has six in the first 11 games after recording eight in the last two seasons.

With another touchdown catch from Tony Romo, he will equal the most he has ever caught in a season from Romo. In 2010 all but one of his career-high nine touchdowns came from Jon Kitna.

“We worked hard on some different things, to put some different stuff in and it's nice to see it come together the way we had hoped,” Romo said. “Jason's a great player. He should get a lot of opportunities and he takes advantage of them obviously. We're lucky to have someone like him do some of the stuff he does.”

Witten had two touchdown receptions against the New York Giants on Sunday, giving him four against the NFC East rival on the season and 50 for his career. The Cowboys have 21 touchdowns in 31 red zone possessions, which is third-best percentage in the league. Last year the Cowboys were 20th in red zone touchdown percentage.

All but one of Witten's touchdown has come from the red zone.

“It all about executing down there and finding ways to make plays and just that was an emphasis for me and for our football team being better in the red zone,” Witten said. “I think we did a good job.”

Cowboys: Backup QB plan

June, 5, 2012
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NFC Backup QBs: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Assessing the Dallas Cowboys' backup quarterback situation if Tony Romo is injured and misses time.

The Cowboys don't mess around when it comes to their backup quarterback situation. The way Jon Kitna continued to run the offense in the second half of 2010 after Romo was injured proved to them the worth of a capable veteran backup. So when Kitna retired at the end of the 2011 season, one of the Cowboys' first free-agent priorities was signing Kyle Orton to a three-year, $10.5 million contract. An expensive insurance policy to say the least, but Orton has started 69 NFL games over the past seven years and is 35-34 in them. He averaged 3,476 yards, 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions from 2008-10 and is as accomplished as any backup quarterback in the league. The Cowboys feel it would be no problem for him to find a way to get the ball to Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten if he had to.

Confidence rating (out of 100) if Romo goes out for an extended period: 85.
Some teams ignore backup quarterback, often to their detriment. (See: 2011 Colts, Bears, et al) Other teams really, really really don't. The Dallas Cowboys fall into the latter group. They do not feel comfortable if they don't have a veteran backup who can step in and start an NFL game if Tony Romo goes down with an injury. That's why they put in a claim for Kyle Orton when he was waived by Denver during the 2011 season and that's why they have agreed to terms with Orton on a new three-year contract.

When Romo got hurt two years ago, the Cowboys were able to plug in Jon Kitna, a former NFL starter who retired this offseason, and operate their offense basically just as well as it operated under Romo. Kitna wasn't as good as Romo is, and neither is Orton, but given the number of weapons the Cowboys have on offense, they want their worst-case scenario to be a quarterback who won't get rattled by NFL pressure and can get the ball to the right people. Orton, who began each of the past two seasons as the Broncos' starting quarterback and lost his job in 2011 to the Tim Tebow phenomenon, fits the description. If he has to start a lot of games for the Cowboys, they're probably in trouble. But if he has to start one or two -- or finish a game in which Romo gets injured -- they won't have to worry whether he can handle the responsibility.

The other quarterback on the Cowboys' roster is Stephen McGee, who was their fourth-round draft pick three years ago and hasn't seen enough action to be counted on in the event that they need a starter.

Orton was also on the radar for the Washington Redskins, who are in the market for a backup to the rookie quarterback they plan to draft with the No. 2 overall pick in next month's draft. But the Cowboys got him instead. Now, they need to sign a defensive back. More on that later, I believe, as we continue to track what's going on with Brandon Carr.

Breakfast links: Super Bowl Monday

January, 30, 2012
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Yeah, that's right. Breakfast links coming to you live from the host city of Super Bowl XLVI. The AFC champion New England Patriots hit town Sunday night, but the NFC champion New York Giants don't arrive until Monday afternoon, so I really don't have much Giants-related Super Bowl stuff for you until later today.

I am here for you, however, and knowing how much you guys would like to be here, I want to give you some sense of what it's like. There's a lot of walking that goes on when you cover the Super Bowl, and I've brought a pedometer with me to track how much walking I'm doing. On Sunday, after checking into my downtown Indianapolis hotel, I walked 9,979 steps, which roughly equates to 4.6 miles. And that doesn't even count the 4 miles I ran on the treadmill on what wasn't even a real work day! We'll check this number every day I'm here and keep track of how much I've walked, if only to help me explain to myself the way my calves feel.

Meantime, the links don't get a week off just because it's the Super Bowl. The links, like The Dude, abide.

New York Giants

ESPNNewYork.com wants to know if you think Tom Brady was overconfident when he told the crowd that showed up at Gillette Stadium to see the Patriots off that he'd be back for a victory party next week. Thoughts?

Of all the long shots on this long-shot Giants team that barely made the playoffs and finds itself one game away from a championship, Chase Blackburn may be the longest. Johnette Howard has this story.

Philadelphia Eagles

So if you've been sitting around wondering what Andy Reid thinks of the Cleveland Browns' decision to hire Brad Childress as their offensive coordinator, check this out. If you've been sitting around wondering what Andy Reid thinks of the Eagles and who should be their coaches and players next year ... well, you're going to have to keep waiting like the rest of us.

Bleeding Green Nation, for example, would like to know what the Eagles plan to do about DeSean Jackson and his contract situation. It's a mystery, in large part because Reid doesn't seem to feel the need to answer for an 8-8 season.

Dallas Cowboys

You may still be wondering what the Cowboys will do in 2012 for a backup quarterback, but Jon Kitna cares not for your concerns. He has moved on, and will be a high school football coach in Washington.

Oh, and DeMarcus Ware asks for your perspective and patience, as he believes that things will "all pan out" with another year with Rob Ryan as Cowboys defensive coordinator. Ware apparently doesn't understand the era in which he plays, which requires a team to have instantaneous success each and every week.

Washington Redskins

The opportunity to coach the South team in the Senior Bowl this past week was a big one for Mike Shanahan and the Redskins' coaching staff, and Shanahan said he believes the Redskins got a lot of good work in with the senior-class prospects in this year's draft. Keep an eye out and see if anyone from this year's South team gets picked by the Redskins.

The Washington Post offers a nice profile of new Redskins secondary coach Raheem Morris, who was an NFL Coach of the Year candidate last year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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