NFC West: Kevin Mawae
The 2011 version ran 113 pages and included information such as how a referee should rule if an NFL coach sends all his players, not just captains, to the middle of the field for the pregame coin toss (ruling: loss of coin-toss option for both halves and loss of 15 yards on the opening kickoff).
There's a lot to know, and good reason for concern as the NFL prepares to use replacement officials while the regular ones remain without contracts. But we should also remember what happened when the NFL used replacement officials to open the 2001 regular season. The games continued without incident.
"No major controversies in Week 1", an ESPN.com headline read afterward.
"I thought they did a great job," Eric Moulds, then a receiver for the Buffalo Bills, said in the story.
I was a beat reporter covering the Seattle Seahawks for those 2001 opening games. A check through the stories I filed from Seattle's 9-6 victory at Cleveland found only passing reference to the replacement officials. The sixth item in an eight-item notebook I filed spanned 61 words and featured then-coach Mike Holmgren, a man never afraid to criticize officials, saying the replacements "did a good job" that day.
Even future union leader Kevin Mawae, then a New York Jets center, gave the replacements a vote of approval: "I thought they did a good job. ... Even the regular guys miss a few calls from time to time, so for the most part they did a good job."
Critics of the current replacements have resorted to picking nits over errors made during exhibition games.
One current replacement ref had to issue a correction after messing up the coin-toss announcement at the Hall of Fame game. Big deal. Remember Phil Luckett?
Another replacement official signaled touchback for a punt downed at the 4-yard line, a call overturned on replay. That miscue was laughable, but just last season, regular officials missed a yard-line spot by five yards, as San Francisco 49ers fans should recall.
"The officiating crew incorrectly spotted the ball at the Detroit 35 instead of the 40, where Ted Ginn went out of bounds," the NFL said in a statement after the 49ers' victory at Detroit.
It's possible the current replacements aren't as good as the ones used in 2001. Perhaps they're even far worse. Those are difficult things to know. People sounding the alarms probably haven't studied the officials all that closely. They wouldn't know.
Most of the outrage stems, I suspect, from people unsympathetic to a wealthy league playing hardball against officials earning relatively small sums for their work. I'm sure they'll pounce if the replacements do make significant errors, but even the most established officials can make them.
Hall of Famer and current Seattle Seahawks radio analyst Warren Moon, who played for Seattle before the team's move back to the NFC West in 2002, is also on the guest list revealed Monday.
The NFLPA took criticism when news broke that it planned to discourage players from attending the draft itself, but these events have been scheduled to give players flexibility should they choose to attend both.
"The series of events is a celebration of legacy -- of past, present and future football players coming together to honor those making the journey from prospect to professional," the NFLPA said in a news release.
The NFLPA has scheduled a welcome meeting and dinner with families for 4 p.m. ET on Thursday, the first day of the draft, which begins at 8 p.m. ET. Draft prospects attending would then have time to appear at the draft, should they choose to do so, as both will be headquartered in New York.
The NFLPA has scheduled media access for Friday from 8 a.m. to noon, followed by a lunch and dinner with reception at 4:30 p.m. A fitness and skills clinic is set for Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon in Harlem, followed by lunch and a party beginning at 9 p.m.
NFL teams generally fly first-round choices to their facilities in the day or two following the first round. Rules will allow that to happen again, despite the lockout. Players heading to their new teams' facilities for news conferences could miss NFLPA-sponsored events for Friday and/or Saturday.
The initial guest list, subject to change, features the following current and former NFL players: Charlie Batch, Cornelius Bennett, Dwayne Bowe, Bradford, Ahmad Bradshaw, Craig, Zak DeOssie, Dickerson, Eddie George, Faulk, Felix Jones, Maurice Jones-Drew, Dustin Keller, Brandon Marshall, Kevin Mawae, Willie McGinest, Brian Mitchell, Moon, Morey, Shaun O'Hara, Ray Rice, Tony Richardson, Spikes and Mike Vrabel.
The list of draft prospects includes Prince Amukamara, Marvin Austin, Adrian Clayborn, Marcell Dareus, Nick Fairley, Blaine Gabbert, A.J. Green, Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, Cameron Jordan, Ryan Kerrigan, Corey Liuget, Von Miller, Rahim Moore, Cam Newton, Patrick Peterson, Robert Quinn, Aldon Smith, Daniel Thomas and J.J. Watt.
Mawae makes an understandable point when he looks at the Packers' recently released financial data showing shrinking profits and says, "It's 1/32nd of the financial information we've requested in response to their demand that we give back $1 billion and increase our risk of injury by playing two additional games."
But if the Packers' information showed profits rising by significant chunks each year, you can bet Mawae and the NFLPA would be far less interested in context. They would be holding up the information as evidence owners have gotten too greedy.
Some owners do face financial challenges. The St. Louis Rams' Chip Rosenbloom is selling the team primarily because he couldn't afford estate taxes following his mother's passing. If owning an NFL team ensured massive profits, Rosenbloom would presumably have the resources to stick it out.
Also: Former Packers executive Andrew Brandt offers thoughts on the latest report.
The centers, guards and tackles Seattle drafted from 1994 through 1998 -- the Randy Mueller and Dennis Erickson years -- have combined to start 818 regular-season games. Three of the five long-time starters from that era left Seattle relatively quickly, opening spots on the line for future Seahawks draft choices. But the 15 offensive linemen Seattle has drafted since 1999 have combined to start only 460 regular-season games, 132 by Steve Hutchinson.
What to make of this disparity? A few things:
- Quite a few of the players drafted more recently aren't finished. They'll rack up lots more starts. Hutchinson, Sean Locklear, Chris Spencer, Rob Sims, Max Unger and possibly Steve Vallos could combine for hundreds of starts over the next five seasons.
- Four of the five primary starters drafted from 1994 to 1998 -- Kevin Mawae, Pete Kendall, Walter Jones and Todd Weiner -- were selected among the top 47 overall choices (27.5 on average). The five most promising active linemen from the more recent group -- Hutchinson, Locklear, Spencer, Sims and Unger -- were drafted 61st overall on average.
- Chris McIntosh, the 22nd player chosen in 2000, suffered a debilitating neck stinger early in his career. His early retirement was a freak occurrence costing the 1999-present group quite a few starts. McIntosh wasn't necessarily impressive early in his career, but it's reasonable to think he would have started for years and improved.
- It's important for Seattle to find another long-term starting tackle in this draft. Seattle holds the sixth overall choice, a slot once used to find Walter Jones. It's unrealistic to think Seattle could find a tackle of Jones' caliber with the sixth pick this year, but it's reasonable to expect any tackle taken that early to start a lot of games.
The charts rank these two groups of Seattle draft choices by most games started.
Eight of the 15 current and former players on the stage spent all or part of their careers with the Rams, Seahawks, Cardinals or 49ers. Each is actively representing the NFLPA as the league and its players head toward an uncapped year and possible lockout.
"More than anything, what I feel my role can be is educating some of these younger players," former 49ers and Seahawks running back Ricky Watters said. "I was able to do a good job of keeping my money. I have a good life and a great family. When I talk to a lot of the younger guys, they look at me as kind of the tough guy, the rebel guy, but I want them to know I was always tough and all that, but at the same time, intelligence is the whole thing."
Watters thinks too many players are living beyond their means without knowing it. As the NFL and the NFLPA head toward a possible lockout, Watters said it's important for the union to make sure players are prepared for what awaits if the league shuts down.
A quick look at the eight players and the current NFC West teams for which they play or played:
- Walt Harris, CB (49ers). Rehabbing from knee surgery and hoping to re-sign with the 49ers or play for another team.
- Watters, RB (49ers, Seahawks). Retired and living in Orlando with his wife and their 8-year-old son.
- Kevin Carter, DE (Rams). Retired.
- Ernie Conwell, TE (Rams). Retired and living in Tennessee.
- Kevin Mawae, C (Seahawks). Titans starter.
- Pete Kendall, G (Seahawks, Cardinals). Retired unless a team calls and requests his services.
- Leonard Weaver, FB (Seahawks). Eagles starter.
- Dwayne White, OL (Rams). Retired.
Former players Barry Sanders, Nolan Harrison, Ki-Jana Carter, Mike McBath, Ben Utt and Mark Bruener joined current Texans guard Chester Pitts among the 15 players.
|Best of the best: Michael Strahan, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Randy Moss.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Ranking the 25 best NFL players of the decade seemed easy.
AFC West blogger Bill Williamson sent an initial list to me for review. The list appeared strong. I suggested a couple minor tweaks.
The hard part came when we considered those who fell just short of the list.
Guard Alan Faneca has gone to eight Pro Bowls this decade. John Lynch and Will Shields went to seven. Brian Dawkins, La'Roi Glover, Kevin Mawae, Olin Kreutz, Matt Birk, Larry Allen, Chris Samuels and Zach Thomas went to six. Ronde Barber, Keith Brooking, Al Wilson, Julian Peterson, Donovan McNabb, Antonio Gates, Jason Witten and Chad Ochocinco were among those with five.
None of them made the top 25 list. Had all of them made it, only six spots would have remained for the 25 players you see in the chart.
We settled on five quarterbacks, four receivers, four offensive linemen, three linebackers, three defensive ends, two running backs, two safeties, one cornerback, one tight end and zero defensive tackles (few dominated consistently for extended periods).
Seven of 10 league MVPs this decade made the top 25. Marshall Faulk, Rich Gannon and 2003 co-MVP Steve McNair were the exceptions.
Ben Roethlisberger made the list despite only one career Pro Bowl appearance. It's not his fault Manning and Brady play in the same conference.
A trick question to test your divisional knowledge on a May Saturday: Which veteran head coach has led teams in three of the four current NFC West cities?
Hint: He's a current head coach.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
To no surprise, NFLPA president and former Seahawks center Kevin Mawae isn't on board with extending the regular season to 18 games. Mawae, entering his 16th season and fourth with the Titans, put it this way in a Wednesday interview with Sirius NFL Radio:
"Well, obviously, the first thing that comes to mind is, 'What's in it for us?' If we're going to give you two more games, two more games of wear and tear on our bodies, two more games of potential career-ending injuries, two more games of concussions, blown out knees, elbows, whatever you want to call it, then what's the price you're willing to pay for us to give that to you? Anytime you add a game onto the regular season, it comes down to a collective bargaining issue as part of the CBA, and there's a give and take. Do I want to play 18 regular season games? No, not really but again I don't want to play four preseason games either. So we'll figure something out."
Asked if he could choose between 18 regular-season games or four exhibition games, Mawae wasn't interested in either:
"Well, you know, I would rather have 16 regular-season games and two preseason games. In a perfect world. You have the argument that, well, the coaches won't have enough time to evaluate players. Don't buy it. We have 14 OTA days. If you're a new coach, you have up to five minicamps and most coaches keep their players in town until the middle of July right up until the 10-day dead period before training camp.
"So, I think the biggest issue for players is compensation and potential injury and harm on the field. That's another 120 snaps for myself if you figure you average 60 plays a game and anything can happen. I'm certainly not a big fan of 18 games but, again, if it is something that we can get something significant out of the collective bargaining process, then it's something we'll take a look at."This issue is far from settled, despite our best efforts in the most recent Double Coverage debate.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Five former NFC West players earned Pro Bowl recognition with their current teams. A sixth, former Ram Kurt Warner, went with the Cardinals.
That nearly matches the current NFC West total -- seven -- for players headed to the Pro Bowl following this season.
Three former Seahawks earned spots. Kevin Mawae, now with the Titans, is the starting center for the AFC. The Vikings' Steve Hutchinson, chosen 17th overall by Seattle in 2001, is a starting guard for the NFC. Former Seahawks punter Jeff Feagles will wear a Giants helmet while representing the NFC. All three left Seattle over financial and/or contractual issues.
Jets running back Thomas Jones, chosen seventh overall by the Cardinals in 2000, will start for the AFC. Cowboys guard Leonard Davis, chosen second overall by the Cardinals in 2001, will represent the NFC as a backup.
Do we know of any other newly named Pro Bowl players with NFC West roots?