NFL Nation: Jerramy Stevens
As three division teams were winning 10 or more games last season, we often discussed the possibility that the NFC South is the best division in the NFL. That topic is always going to be open for debate.
But here’s one thing I think we can say with certainty. The NFC South had a more exciting and interesting 2011 draft than any other division. From the Carolina Panthers' decision to take Cam “Mr. Love Him or Hate Him" Newton to the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints making big trades to get Julio Jones and Mark Ingram to Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers tumbling to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second round, this draft was filled with huge storylines and intrigue all around the division.
Let’s take a look at the highlights of the NFC South draft:
The Saints played it safe with their first-round pick and took defensive end Cameron Jordan. That filled a big need that could become bigger if Will Smith eventually has to serve the four-game suspension that has been hung up in the legal system for a couple of years. But what the Saints did next was the real key to their draft.
They traded back into the first round to take Ingram. The cost was steep. The Saints gave up their second-round pick this year and their first-round choice in 2012. But next year’s first-round pick could be deep in the 20s or 30s if things work out the way the Saints envision.
They already had a trio of role-playing running backs in Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory. Each of those players has certain things he can do well, but none of them is really a complete back. There also are durability concerns because all three were hurt at different parts of the past season, and the Saints ran out of running backs in their playoff loss to Seattle.
Ingram is a do-it-all back and history has shown that, unlike rookie quarterbacks and wide receivers, first-year running backs usually can step right in and make an impact from the start. Ingram already is drawing comparisons to former New Orleans running back Deuce McAllister, and I don’t disagree at all.
Although I knew for about a month that the Panthers were pretty much set on Newton, I had my doubts that general manager Marty Hurney actually would pull the trigger when it came right down to it. Hurney and the Panthers have a long history of playing it safe and have taken the conservative approach for the past decade.
There’s nothing conservative about choosing Newton. He’s the classic boom-or-bust prospect. There were character and background questions, but the Panthers looked into that and didn’t see anything that made them back off Newton. There also are questions about Newton being able to adapt to an NFL offense after playing only one year at Auburn in an offense that’s nothing close to a pro-style scheme.
Even the Panthers aren’t sure how Newton will adjust to the pro game. But they’re so sold on the athletic ability and Newton’s upside that they were willing to step totally out of character and take a leap. If Newton is what the Panthers hope, they’ll be able to compete again in the NFC South. If not, this is the kind of move that can get a general manager, who survived a 2-14 season, fired a few years down the road.
MOST SURPRISING MOVE
The cost was incredibly high, but the Falcons did it because they wanted an explosive receiver like Jones. They gave up their first-round pick this year, along with their second- and fourth-round picks. They also had to include their first- and fourth-round picks in 2012. That got them to No. 6, where they gladly took Jones.
The stunner here was the cost. But it appears the Falcons are going for broke, which isn’t a bad move when you’re coming off a 13-3 season. Atlanta added Jones to a passing attack with Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Matt Ryan, and Michael Jenkins and Harry Douglas as role players. By the way, the Falcons also traded up in the fifth round for Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers. He’s the kind of speed back the Falcons need to pair with Michael Turner and Jason Snelling. I don’t see how this offense can add much more to get better.
Go out and get a pass-rushing defensive end in free agency, and the Falcons truly could be a Super Bowl contender.
FILE IT AWAY
Of all the later-round picks, I think Tampa Bay’s selection of Tennessee tight end Luke Stocker (the Bucs traded up to get him in the fourth round) is the one that could have the most impact. On the surface, the Bucs have a very good tight end in Kellen Winslow. He’s got knee issues, and the Bucs do a nice job of resting him most of the week and getting him on the field on Sundays. But there’s not a lot of depth behind him.
Jerramy Stevens was released last season after his latest off-field incident, and role player John Gilmore probably will depart as a free agent. That means Stocker has a chance to get some playing time pretty quickly. He’s not the receiving threat Winslow is, but Stocker can catch some passes. More important, he’s a strong blocker.
His presence should allow the Bucs to pick and choose their spots for putting Winslow on the field. Stocker can handle some of the obvious running downs and could even prompt the Bucs to use more two-tight end sets, which could add another dimension to the passing game for Josh Freeman.
More than anything, Stocker provides a nice insurance policy in case Winslow’s knees really flare up. He’s a guy who can do a little bit of everything that a tight end should. Yes, the early part of this draft was about defense and that was the correct move for the Bucs. But this franchise is built around Freeman, and this is another example of the Bucs doing everything they can to make sure their young quarterback has a strong supporting cast.
Sure, the Panthers have gotten plenty of benefits from the way they've handled Smith for the last decade or so. Smith has been one of the league's best receivers for much of that time and he also has behaved well -- most of the time -- and makes a genuine effort to compensate for his shortcomings.
But Smith also has been far from a model citizen on multiple occasions. He has beaten up teammates, had altercations with opponents that have resulted in costly penalties and his sometimes-boorish behavior often has left team staff around Bank of America Stadium rolling their eyes.
If Smith were just another player, he would have been gone long ago. But he's an exceptional talent, so rules get bent and he has received second, third and fourth chances. It's now becoming apparent the Bucs are treating Talib the same way.
He had a postgame altercation with an official Sunday in Baltimore. Eyewitnesses say Talib got into a shouting match with an official and had to be restrained.
Yet, coach Raheem Morris on Monday defended Talib, saying the cornerback did nothing wrong. Maybe the pass interference call that started this whole thing was horribly wrong. Morris also was visibly upset at the time of the call.
But you have to let things go. People around the NFL always talk about how cornerbacks have to have short memories. But people who employ cornerbacks can't have short memories.
They have to remember that Talib already has had several incidents where his anger has gotten him in trouble. He served a one-game suspension at the start of this season for an incident with a cab driver. He also has had past altercations with teammates.
That means every move Talib makes is being watched closely by the league office. With one suspension already under his belt, even slight flareups could lead to another. Talib should be watched even more closely by the people within One Buccaneer Place. He should be held to a higher standard than any other player on the roster. If the Bucs let Talib's temper go or enable it, they're asking for more trouble down the road.
The Bucs have tried to talk this year about how character is important. When reserve tight end Jerramy Stevens, who had been in previous trouble, was arrested in October, the Bucs let him go. That made a statement and that was good.
But if they keep letting Talib run wild, they run the risk of getting into the same situation Carolina has with Smith. When the receiver has one of his flareups, teammates roll their eyes and wonder why Smith gets special treatment from a franchise that goes out of its way to talk about the importance of character.
That has led to a running joke when Carolina scouts show up at pro days and college workouts. Frequently, they'll tell scouts from other teams that they can't even scout a player because he has had character issues. That always leads to a laugh and a sarcastic reply ("What about Steve Smith?'') from scouts from other teams. The Carolina scouts are always left speechless in those situations because they know a double standard has been exposed.
Tampa Bay can't allow a double standard for Talib. The Bucs have to take a tougher approach with this talented young player and get his temper under control. If they don't, it's eventually going to come back and bite the franchise.
Well, that’s exactly what they did a few hours ago. The Bucs released the tight end, who was charged with narcotics violations on Saturday night. Stevens had past problems with the law and off the field. Surely the fact that he was nothing more than a role player made it easy to kick him to the curb.
The Bucs probably don’t do that with Josh Freeman or Gerald McCoy. But Freeman and McCoy have shown no propensity to get into any sort of trouble, and that’s important to note. Freeman and McCoy were the first-round picks in each of the drafts run by coach Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik.
Those guys got bashed a lot last year, but let’s give Morris and Dominik some credit for trying to do things the right way. They care about character. The previous regime of coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen really didn’t, and they were the ones who brought in Stevens as well as Aqib Talib and Tanard Jackson, some other guys who ran into recent problems.
Morris and Dominik might not have a room full of choirboys like the Bucs did in the Tony Dungy years. But they realize good character can help a team succeed, and we’re not talking just about guys with legal problems.
Morris and Dominik ran Antonio Bryant and Derrick Ward out of town because they didn’t have great attitudes and were viewed as bad influences in the locker room.
The backup tight end reportedly was arrested on drug charges Saturday night and didn’t play in Sunday’s game. This isn’t the first time Stevens has run into off-field problems, and the latest arrest means he likely will face a suspension by the NFL.
As we know from Aqib Talib’s legal situation in the 2009 preseason, it sometimes can take a long time for the legal system to play out and the league to issue suspensions. The Bucs could step in and just suspend Stevens or they could even release him.
Not waiting for the legal system potentially could cause problems from the NFL Players Association. But this is a chance for the Buccaneers, who have been a little more stern with character issues than they were in the Jon Gruden/Bruce Allen regime, to stand up and make a statement.
Talib was a first-round draft pick with tremendous upside. Stevens is nothing but a role player. The Bucs could survive quite nicely without him, and I don’t think they’d have to point to his arrest as the official reason for releasing him. They could point to his three catches and call that a lack of production.
There are a lot of other guys out there who can back up Kellen Winslow, catch a few passes and throw some blocks, who don’t come with the headaches that Stevens does. Might be time to show the rest of the roster that the Bucs are trying to do things the right way.
Stevens will not play in today’s game against St. Louis and his future with the Buccaneers could be in jeopardy. Stevens has had several off-field issues in the past and the Buccaneers have been showing less patience with character issues lately. Stevens could face a suspsension from the league, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Bucs step in and suspend him or just release him.
Coach Pete Carroll described the situation as "clear-cut" when speaking with reporters after practice.
"It goes by years and years of format," Carroll said. "It’s a clear-cut situation. We are very open and very strong about getting this thing done."
Translation: Hey, it's basically all the agent's fault.
The agent, Peter Schaffer, was not available after Seahawks practice Tuesday, and he won't be available when Carroll says similar things following future practices. That's the advantage NFL teams have in shaping public perceptions. They can send out the head coach, who isn't directly involved in the negotiations, and he can say things that resonate with fans and prey on the player's emotions. Former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren was especially good at this (he had quite a bit of practice, as the chart demonstrates).
"Every day that goes by, Russell falls farther behind and it's hurting him immensely," Carroll said. "So, hopefully we'll be able to get something done here, but it’s very clear-cut and it does not need to be a difficult situation right here because there’s so much history and pattern to this."
A disciplined organization can wait out players until the players either capitulate, change agents or both. As much as the Seahawks need Okung at left tackle, Okung will reach a point where he needs the team even more. Teams are bigger than players the vast majority of times, and that is the case here.
But everyone loses when a talented player doesn't report in time.
The issues standing between the Seahawks and a deal with Okung are best understood in the context of deals negotiated by other players in the first round.
The Washington Redskins gave $36.7 million in guarantees to Trent Williams, a tackle chosen fourth overall, as part of a six-year deal that could be worth $60 million. The Kansas City Chiefs gave Eric Berry, a safety chosen fifth, $34 million in guarantees as part of a deal that could also be worth $50 million to $60 million over six years. The Cleveland Browns gave Joe Haden, a cornerback chosen seventh, $26 million in guarantees as part of a five-year, $40 million deal.
For Okung, the issues are twofold: Should his deal run five years or six, and how much should that sixth year cost? Okung, as a left tackle, stands to gain more in free agency once his deal ends than Berry is likely to command as a safety. He'll naturally want a five-year deal and if he's going to take a sixth year, he'll want to be paid at a premium offsetting the extra year he'll spend before reaching free agency. But if you're the Seahawks, it's difficult to pay more for the sixth overall choice than the Chiefs paid for the fifth pick.
And so the waiting game continues.
Chart note: There's an asterisk next to the figure for Marcus Tubbs because the team wasn't as concerned about signing him in time for camp. Tubbs' was tending to his ill mother in Texas during the first week of practices.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Larry Fitzgerald also seemed worthy after posting three 1,400-yard seasons and staking the Cardinals into a late lead with a dramatic 64-yard touchdown reception in Super Bowl XLIII.
"I'm hard pressed to come up with [a tight end] better than Vernon Davis," wrote regular blog contributor Mind of no mind. "But if there is nobody better, then maybe we should drop the TE from the team and go with 3 WR with Bruce."
Such was the give and take as I sifted through nominations left on the blog and on my Facebook page. One request I couldn't quite accommodate: finding a spot for the legendary Kim Il Zong, a ka The Zonger.
A position-by position look at my NFC West all-decade team follows. Thanks to Adam from Mesa, Ariz., for getting the conversation started (download his suggested team here).
No big surprise here, but the Bucs have traded tight end Alex Smith to New England for an undisclosed draft pick in 2010. Don't get your hopes up -- it's going to be a late-round choice, but at least it's something.
Smith became expendable after the Bucs traded for Kellen Winslow in February. Winslow's clearly the starter and the Bucs also have Jerramy Stevens and John Gilmore. Smith was as good or better than those two, but he was the only one of the backups that had any trade value.
|Paul Spinelli/Getty Images|
|After being traded to Tampa Bay and signing a new, hefty contract, Kellen Winslow will be one of the most prominent faces of the Buccaneers' new regime.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas and James Walker
When head coach Eric Mangini and general manager George Kokinis took over in Cleveland and head coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik were hired in Tampa Bay, the four men instantly began re-shaping their franchises.
No move was bigger for either team than the deal the Browns and Buccaneers made for tight end Kellen Winslow at the start of free agency. In exchange for a second-round pick this year and a fifth-round choice in 2010, the Bucs got Winslow and the Browns got rid of him.
There are two ways to look at this deal. Cleveland got rid of a potential headache because Winslow was looking for a new contract and might not have fit with the new regime. On the flip side, he might be a perfect fit in Tampa and the Bucs already have turned around and given Winslow a new six-year contract worth $36.1 million.
The trade comes with potential positives and negatives for both teams. James Walker and Pat Yasinskas take a look at who might be the winner in the Winslow trade.
Why didn't Winslow fit with Cleveland? How does he fit in Tampa?
James Walker: When the Browns changed regimes, the writing was pretty much on the wall for Winslow. Mangini and Kokinis wanted to start over -- completely. Cleveland quickly went on a purge where it traded or released veterans such as Winslow, receiver Joe Jurevicius and offensive tackle Kevin Shaffer. The Browns also didn't retain in-house free agents such as safety Sean Jones and veteran linebackers Andra Davis and Willie McGinest. To put it bluntly, there aren't many players on Cleveland's current roster that Mangini is enamored with, because he wants to win or lose with his players. Winslow had trade value so the Browns didn't pass up the opportunity. He was also in his sixth year and wanted a new contract, so that played a factor as well. Winslow's skill sets could have fit with the Browns on the field, so I doubt this particular move had much to do with talent. But in terms of personalities, Winslow is not shy about speaking his mind, while Mangini often likes his team shrouded in secrecy. This oil-and-water combination probably would not have worked anyway. So this was a good separation for both sides.
Pat Yasinskas: Tampa Bay is starting over, too, and one team's trash is another's treasure. The new contract should make Winslow happy and he's landing in an offense that's going to be built largely around his skills. Offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski will build a downfield passing game around Winslow and wide receiver Antonio Bryant. While Winslow's outspoken nature caused him some problems in Cleveland, that shouldn't be an issue with the Bucs. Morris is only 32 and excels at relating to players. Morris also isn't one of those coaches who tries to control his players' actions and words at all times. He lets them be individuals and Winslow will be allowed to be himself. The change of surroundings also give Winslow a fresh start and that could help more than anything. Although there will be lofty expectations because of the contract, he won't be under the microscope as much as he was in Cleveland. Tampa Bay fans are intense, but this isn't a situation like Cleveland, where Winslow's high draft position meant anything less than perfection was failure.
How will the Browns replace him and how will the Bucs use him?
|Jerome Davis/Icon SMI|
|The Browns will attempt to replace Winslow with a committee of tight ends, including free-agent signee Robert Royal.|
James Walker: The Browns no longer have a tight end with 80-catch potential on their roster. So they are hoping to replace Winslow's production by committee. Cleveland signed former Buffalo Bills tight end Robert Royal, who could be a serviceable starter but never had more than 33 catches in a season. The Browns also have veteran Steve Heiden returning from a serious knee injury and second-year player Martin Rucker, who is still learning but has some potential. If the three tight ends can contribute a combined total of 50-60 receptions next season, I think Cleveland's coaching staff would be happy with that type of production. The tricky thing is Winslow's ability to create mismatches in the middle of the field would have made life much easier for Cleveland's quarterbacks, particularly Brady Quinn, who often likes to check down to his short and intermediate options. If Quinn is the starter, I think he is going to miss Winslow's presence the most. Winslow has tremendous hands and was one of the few consistent weapons in Cleveland's offense the past few seasons who showed up ready to play every week. So how will Winslow be utilized in Tampa's offense, Pat?
Pat Yasinskas: James, while Cleveland is going away from having a pass-catching tight end as a big part of the offense, the Bucs are going in the exact opposite direction. Tight end wasn't a big part of the offense in former coach Jon Gruden's system, but it will be with Morris and Jagodzinski. They've scrapped Gruden's West Coast offense and will go with a system that is supposed to balance the run and the pass. The Bucs don't yet know if Luke McCown or Byron Leftwich will be their quarterback. But they do know they want the quarterback throwing often to Winslow and Bryant. The Bucs have plenty of depth at tight end with Alex Smith, John Gilmore and Jerramy Stevens on the roster. Those other three tight ends will get some playing time and they'll be asked to take on some blocking duties in the running game. But Winslow wasn't brought in here to be a blocker. He'll line up at tight end, but he'll also get some snaps in the slot and out wide. It's a pretty safe guess that the Bucs will be looking to get somewhere around 80 catches out of Winslow.
Did the Bucs overpay with the $36.1 million contract extension?
Pat Yasinskas: There's no doubt Tampa Bay went overboard in giving Winslow a new six-year deal that makes him the highest-paid tight end in history. In theory, that kind of contract should go to the league's best tight end. Winslow hasn't qualified as that -- yet. But the Bucs based this deal on his enormous potential. Yes, it's true he hasn't ever fully reached his potential.
The Bucs are banking Winslow can stay healthy and be the best tight end in the league. They're going to make him a focal point of the offense and his acquisition was the first big move by Dominik and Morris. The contract is a further statement about how huge a role the Bucs want Winslow to play.
James Walker: After watching Winslow the past three seasons, I think he's going to do well in Tampa, and the change of divisions will help his production to the point where fans could forget the extension.
Nothing against your NFC South, Pat. But Winslow had to face the top-flight defenses of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens four games a year and still put up very good numbers. He had tremendous battles with Steelers safety Troy Polamalu and Ravens safety Ed Reed, and those two players often said Winslow was one of their toughest matchups annually. I would guess Winslow is licking his chops looking at some of the safeties and linebackers in the NFC South, compared to the personnel he had to face earlier in his career. As you mentioned, Pat, health is the only question.
As far as your contract theory, contracts are relative to the current market. Two years ago Daniel Graham of the Denver Broncos was the highest-paid tight end. Last season it was Dallas Clark of the Indianapolis Colts. And those are not the league's two best tight ends. A year from now someone else likely will become the highest paid at the position, because that's how the market works.
How will this trade work out?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2008 STATS REC YDS TD AVG LNG 43 428 3 10.0 30
Pat Yasinskas: After firing Gruden and releasing Derrick Brooks, the Bucs were lacking star power. The Glazer family, which owns the team, likes star power and they got some flash in Winslow. He instantly gives the team a big name and his personality should help liven up a locker room that didn't have a true spirit last season. Yes, the price tag was steep and there are plenty of other needs the Bucs could have filled if they kept their second-round pick. But they would not have gotten an instant star in the second round. They get that in Winslow and, for better or worse, he'll be one of the front men for this new regime.
James Walker: For the Browns, they will probably use the additional second-round pick (No. 50 overall) on either a receiver or a running back. Cleveland's offense was abysmal and ranked No. 31 out of 32 teams in the NFL in 2008. The Browns used four different quarterbacks and couldn't get anything established on the ground or through the air. So help at running back or receiver makes the most sense. This is particularly the case if the Browns trade No. 1 receiver Braylon Edwards. There have been talks involving at least one team in the New York Giants. The Philadelphia Eagles also are a possibility. In addition, Donte Stallworth's legal situation makes the receiver position a priority. The Browns need all the help they can get. So there is some pressure on Cleveland to select the right player with this pick, particularly since the team gave up one of its best players.
|Kellen Winslow speaks to the media after being traded from Cleveland to Tampa Bay.|
Pat Yasinskas: Things could change in the long term if the Brown
s hit big with their draft picks. But there's no question the Bucs are the winner in the short term. They got a very good player, who still has the potential to become great. If he does, the price tag won't be that big a deal. I've always thought NFL general managers treat draft picks too preciously and are too hesitant to part with them. I'm glad Dominik broke that tradition because I believe that any pick beyond the first round is just a guess anyway. There's no guessing with Winslow. We already know the guy is good. Yes, he had some injury problems and has been a little controversial at times. But there's no question he's one of the most talented tight ends in the league. Now, he'll get his chance to produce.
James Walker: Although I have no problem with Cleveland starting from scratch, I do also believe Tampa got the most of this trade. It will pay immediate dividends for the Buccaneers, because they get a proven commodity. No tight end Tampa would have drafted this year comes with the game-breaking ability of Winslow, particularly if they chose to draft a tight end in the second round or lower. The Browns now have two second-rounders (No. 36 overall and No. 50) to plug an additional hole. But as I mentioned, they have to nail the pick first to get value in return for this trade. With a first-year general manager leading his first draft, there certainly are no guarantees. A fifth-rounder in 2010 is pretty much a non factor. It won't help Cleveland next season, and statistically there is a little probability a fifth-round pick could ever significantly help unless the Browns found a gem. This is a "win-now” league and Tampa helped itself the most to win in 2009. The Browns might be able to help themselves with this trade down the road. Maybe.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
The re-signing of Phillips is by far the biggest move of those three. He's been a starting safety and there was concern the Bucs would lose him on the heels of cornerback Phillip Buchanon signing with Detroit.
Phillips had drawn interest from San Diego and Seattle, but elected to stay in Tampa Bay where he and Tanard Jackson will remain as the starting safety duo. The Bucs expect second-year pro Aqib Talib to take over at one starting cornerback position next season. Veteran Ronde Barber remains on the roster, but the Bucs also have been looking at some free-agent cornerbacks.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Kind of an interesting move since the Bucs just traded for Kellen Winslow and already have Alex Smith and John Gilmore under contract. That gives Tampa Bay four tight ends that are at least solid and they probably will use a lot of two-tight-end sets.
But the return of Stevens makes you wonder if Smith or Gilmore could be available through a trade.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Time for a quick trip through the NFC South headlines.
The Saints don't have a lot of salary cap room and have yet to sign anyone from the outside. But that's not stopping them from looking. Cornerback Jabari Greer and fullback Heath Evans are the latest on the free-agent parade.
While news of most of these signings had trickled out previously, the Falcons officially made a bunch of minor roster moves (with their own players) Tuesday. Here's a complete recap.
The Panthers extended the contract of linebacker Na'il Diggs through 2014. Let's be honest. Diggs probably will never make it to the end of that contract, but this move freed up some salary-cap room in the short term.
If you thought the trade for tight end Kellen Winslow meant the end for Jerramy Stevens in Tampa Bay, think again. The Bucs are talking to Stevens about a new contract.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
With Roddy White (back) missing his second-straight day of practice, you have to be a little concerned if the injury could keep him out Sunday. But coach Mike Smith said White probably will practice Friday.
So it now turns out the "sprained'' foot that sidelined Joey Galloway for much of the season was actually a broken foot -- at least according to Galloway. Kind of interesting the wide receiver, who has lost his starting job to Antonio Bryant, waited until now to reveal that fact. Also interesting that there were some earlier implications from inside the organization that Galloway might have been milking the injury.
Also, tight end Alex Smith sat out another practice, so expect to continue seeing a lot of Jerramy Stevens and John Gilmore.
The team sent out its injury report this afternoon. It was blank (everyone practiced), which is about the best news you can have this time of year.
Deuce McAllister (knee) didn't practice, but Reggie Bush (knee) did on a limited basis. But it still is anyone's guess who we'll see in the New Orleans backfield Monday night.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Graham has been bothered by a knee injury and there was uncertainty if he'd be able to play against the Minnesota Vikings today. But Graham wasn't placed on the inactive list. Cadillac Williams, who was just added to the regular roster, will be inactive as the Bucs bring him a long slowly.
Also, Tampa Bay's offense is taking a hit with tight end Alex Smith (ankle) on the inactive list. John Gilmore, a blocking specialist, will start in Smith's place. Look for Jerramy Stevens to replace Gilmore in passing situations.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee explains why he thinks 49ers coach Mike Nolan is safe from losing his job, at least for now. He says the 49ers aren't convinced a midseason change would make a big difference, and the team knew the schedule would be difficult early.
Also from Barrows: Manny Lawson lauds Giants tight end Kevin Boss as a very good blocker.
John Ryan of the San Jose Mercury News says 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Martz sounds more like a head coach than Nolan. Martz took responsibility for failing to run the ball on second down against the Eagles. He explained why he threw on first down, blaming execution for that aspect of the failures.
Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers have had recurring problems with their headsets during games, suggesting this is a leaguewide problem. For more on the hardware involved, check out my story from last season.
Chrissy Mauck of 49ers.com quotes Martz as saying the Browns beat the Giants because they were aggressive on offense.
Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle says Lawson needs some good luck for a change.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat breaks down key matchups in the 49ers-Giants game.
Darren Sabedra of the San Jose Mercury News says Lawson has "no questions" about his hamstring holding up.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com offers part one of an interview with Cardinals general manager Rod Graves, who says the team wasn't serious about any trades this season.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer paints a grim picture of the Seahawks heading into their game against the Bucs.
Also from Farnsworth: Seneca Wallace gets the start at quarterback.
Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Wallace is much improved from two seasons ago, according to coach Mike Holmgren.
Charlie Campbell of Pewter Report checks in with former Seahawks tight end Jerramy Stevens, who laments the "unfortunate timing" of a Seattle Times investigative report that included previously unpublished information about an alleged rape victim.
Danny O'Neil and Jose Romero of the Seattle Times say Holmgren is relieved to have two healthy quarterbacks this week.
Jim Thomas and Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch fill their Rams notebook with items on Pisa Tinoisamoa, Richie Incognito, Orlando Pace and Tony Romo.
Also from Coats: Torry Holt admits to getting frustrated with his lack of production. The Rams' receiver also says he should have been more aggressive going after the football against Washington. Holt made some key catches for short gains, but his overall production lagged.