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Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Mailbag: Cutler criticism pure hypocrisy?

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Tai from Seattle writes: Other than the Bears and Jets, it looks like player health was the big loser during championship weekend. Players claim to care about safety, yet some openly attacked an injured player for not playing hurt, like a bunch of junior high bullies.

Mike Sando: Interesting point, and well stated. In fairness to NFL players, the renewed emphasis on safety focuses largely on concussions, and at no point did it appear as though the Bears' Jay Cutler suffered a debilitating, life-altering injury.

Most of the attacks on Cutler, at least the ones that I saw, came via Twitter. I think it's pretty clear some players view Twitter as a venue for informal chatter without realizing the impact their words can have in a broader context. It's what you say, not where you say it.

Back to your point, though. Players' emphasis on safety does not do away with the culture of toughness. It's possible to question a player's toughness in a specific moment while supporting player safety overall. It does seem as though players should get the benefit of the doubt before the facts about an injury become known. That did not happen in this case.


Jason from Rochester, N.Y., writes: Hey Mike, with Seattle's attention turning toward the draft, I was wondering if you could fill in some gaps for me. Both lines need starters and depth. What combination of size and skills should we be looking for in zone-blocking guards? How about for the "Leo" position and for some depth behind Red Bryant? Thanks as always.

Mike Sando: There was irony in Ben Hamilton's contention that "personnel disputes and butting heads" precipitated Alex Gibbs' retirement as line coach right before the 2010 regular season. Hamilton and players in his mold would have been at the center of those disputes.

Gibbs always wanted smaller guards such as Hamilton. Other proponents of zone blocking schemes have come to favor larger ones. Gibbs valued mobility, but smaller guards have a harder time holding up in those moments when size and strength prevail.

We should expect the Seahawks to favor bigger offensive linemen than the ones Gibbs usually sought. We should expect them to favor the types of offensive linemen Tom Cable prefers.

The success Bryant enjoyed suggests the Seahawks could seek other top-heavy defensive tackles for the five-technique alignment.

The "Leo" requirements are pretty simple. Seattle will be looking for players with traits associated with 4-3 defensive ends and 3-4 outside linebackers. Coach Pete Carroll has described it as a "speed-oriented" position.


Tony from Bakersfield, Calif., writes: The Bears' Caleb Hanie played very well against the Packers for being a third-stringer and not getting much practice reps. He doesn't have much experience, but he is worth a look. Do you think the Niners might try to sign him or trade for him if Chicago re-signs him instead of trading for Matt Flynn or Kevin Kolb? They would give less for Hanie. He showed promise in a playoff game under all that pressure. None of the current 49ers quarterbacks would have played that well.

Mike Sando: Hanie did impress. The moment was not too big for him. On the other hand, he was the third-stringer behind Todd Collins, and there wasn't much pressure on him at all, in my view. Hanie was the third-stringer. The Bears were losing by double digits. No one expected Hanie to succeed in that situation.

Hanie did a good job, but it wasn't enough for another team to bet very much on him. The 49ers should consider all options. They should not act in desperation. They need at least one quarterback with some experience. They probably need to draft one. And if they are going to trade for one, they might need more to go on than one-plus quarters in a losing cause.


Mike writes via Facebook: I read Sando's column on my question and can see his point [regarding Carson Palmer and the Cardinals]. Of course, if a second-rounder gets him, then I'm find with that. But my point here is that if keeping Larry Fitzgerald hinges on getting a great quarterback, is there anyone better out there than Palmer? And while I think the questions on Palmer's health are valid, are you really going to debate that at the risk of losing Fitzgerald? I think not.

With what Palmer has gone through in Cincinnati, I think he'd love a move to Arizona to start for a couple of years while grooming John Skelton or another young guy and finishing out his career as respected and loved by Arizona fans as Warner is and always will be. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Mike Sando: It is a no-brainer if the price is right. Re-watching almost any Cardinals game from the 2010 season will make Palmer or any competent quarterback seem appealing.

It's important for the Cardinals to get the quarterback situation solved for many reasons, including creating an environment that helps keep Fitzgerald in Arizona for the long term.