NFL Nation: LeBron James

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks for New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. since his brilliant one-handed touchdown catch against the Cowboys, but it may have reached a new high point Wednesday night when he had dinner in New York City with LeBron James.

“Just my favorite athlete,” the Giants rookie said of the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar. “Just to be able to meet him, to talk to him, share some words with him, it was pretty great.”

Beckham said James’ marketing people reached out to him within the past week to set up the meeting. James was one of many high-profile athletes who had a strong reaction on Twitter to Beckham’s dazzling catch in Week 12, and he said he was eager to get a chance to talk with him. James posted this photo of the two on his Instagram page:

“It’s just casual,” James said of the meeting. “Give the kid (a chance to) let him pick my brain a little bit. I think more than anything it’s just about how he approaches being a professional on and off the field, and I think everything else will take care of itself. The talent is there, we all see that, but I think he’s a great kid. That’s just my first impression.”

Beckham said James asked him about the catch and to compare hand sizes. He said his were “about the same; I think his thumb may be bigger than mine.”

Asked whether he could make a catch like the one Beckham made, James said, “Yeah. I could. I mean, absolutely,” and Beckham agreed.

“He’s LeBron,” Beckham said. “He can do it all.”

Beckham called the experience “very surreal” and said he appreciated James taking the time to offer him advice on how to carry himself on and off the field.

“First and foremost, handle your business,” Beckham said when asked what he took from the meeting. “Because if you don’t, it’s just going to make everything else you do a lot harder.”

Beckham also was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month for November on Thursday after a month in which he led the NFL in receiving yards and was second in receptions. After missing the first four games of the season with a hamstring injury, he’s attained a remarkable amount of fame and success in a very short period of time.

“It’s just everything I ever dreamed of, really,” Beckham said. “All those days you put in that work, it’s for moments like this.” NBA writer Dave McMenamin contributed to this report.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- In Week 12 of a lost New York Giants season, rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. made the greatest catch I have ever seen.

It was the first play of the second quarter, a first-down play from the Dallas Cowboys' 43-yard line. Giants quarterback Eli Manning rolled out to his right and found Beckham sprinting down the right sideline, covered by Cowboys defensive backs. Manning fired the ball in Beckham's direction, possibly hoping for a pass-interference call, which was indeed made as Beckham was interfered with in his effort to make the leaping catch.

However, Beckham managed to catch the ball with only his right hand while twisting and falling to the ground on his back.

The catch sparked a remarkable Twitter reaction from players around the NFL and other sports leagues -- everyone from Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman to injured Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz to Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James:

The play was reviewed, as all touchdown catches are, by replay officials, who ostensibly wanted to see whether Beckham stepped out of bounds before making it but may have just wanted to watch it over and over again. Who could blame them?

The catch gave the Giants a 14-3 lead over the Cowboys in the second quarter, and MetLife Stadium was still buzzing about it minutes later as the Cowboys drove down the field for a touchdown that cut the lead to 14-10.

Personally, I just wanted to get this written before the Giants' next possession to see what the kid might do next.

Odell Beckham JrAl Bello/Getty ImagesBeckham's amazing grab put the Giants up 14-3 over the Cowboys.

Tweets capture LeBron's visit with Browns

August, 7, 2014
LeBron James' appearance at Cleveland Browns camp drew plenty of attention on Thursday.

Impressionist Frank Caliendo stopped by’s NFL Nation TV Thursday and offered hilarious takes in different voices on the current state of the NFL, joining host Paul Gutierrez (Oakland Raiders reporter), co-host Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and Kevin Seifert (NFL national reporter).

Caliendo broke out many of his impressions, including his staple of staples, John Madden, and advised life-of-the-party rookie Johnny Manziel to keep on partying, in Madden’s voice, like Madden’s Raiders of the 1970s did as one of the league’s dominant teams of the era, both on and off the field.

Earlier in the day on ESPN Radio’s "Mike and Mike" show, Caliendo read LeBron James’ letter to the fans, his reason for returning to Cleveland, in the voice of Morgan Freeman. Caliendo shared some of it on the Spreecast as well.

Other NFL personalities Caliendo did impressions of included what is now his newest staple, Jon Gruden, while briefly taking the show into a Gruden family reunion and reminiscing on Harry Potter’s school of Hogwarts. He also did Will Ferrell doing Harry Caray.

Caliendo, who has had his own television show in the past, said he stopped counting how many voices he has in his repertoire, though it’s been reported he has at least 120 impressions, from former president George W. Bush to Mike Ditka, which he said is all about chewing gum and putting his index finger above his lip as a mustache. He wants to add a Peyton Manning impression, saying there’s some “Elvis” in the five-time NFL MVP’s voice.

And yes, Caliendo did some Charles Barkley while discussing how he comes up with ideas for impressions. Caliendo was on the show for 20 minutes.

Other topics discussed by Gutierrez, Harvey and Seifert included Ray Rice getting a reported two-game suspension, Tony Dungy’s recent assertion that he would not draft the openly gay Michael Sam because he would be too big a distraction, and a new home for the Raiders.

The show can be watched here:

Johnny Manziel, LeBron JamesGetty ImagesLeBron James has never been part of the cellphone-photo circuit Johnny Manziel finds himself in.
LeBron James accomplished one thing last weekend for Johnny Manziel.

He drove Manziel off the World Wide Web.

For the first weekend since he was drafted, photos of Manziel doing something in some town far away did not appear. Even the many snarky websites that have made their living off Manziel photos were dark for one Monday.

What is the world coming to? James is back in Cleveland, and Manziel backs out of the limelight.

It might seem that James and Manziel would not affect each other. Different sports, different games, different ages, different friends.

Except that Manziel is represented for his marketing purposes by LRMR, the marketing agency founded and run by James and his friends.

Longtime James friend Maverick Carter does Manziel’s marketing. James is beyond loyal to his crew, and Manziel is a small part of the family, which puts him under James’ wing. It’s odd to think that James, a guy who four years ago was reviled in Cleveland, can now be looked at as someone who could help the Browns' young quarterback grow up.

James called himself an “old head” in his letter about coming home, and when an athlete reaches 30, he does achieve a sort of ceremonial position. He's no longer young, so he must be more careful and must take care of himself.

Age catches everyone, and while Manziel can talk about how guys such as Tom Brady and the Mannings are at different points in their lives than he is, Manziel will get there eventually. James is at a different point than Manziel, with two children and another on the way, but James has had plenty of fun in his life.

He never, though, was part of the cellphone-photo circuit the way Manziel is. Manziel certainly is entitled to enjoy his life, but when he complains about photos and then poses for them, it’s just a bit of a juxtaposition.

The one unshakable reality in Cleveland is that no matter what James does or where he does it, Manziel will always be a story as long as he’s a Brown. The Browns simply have that kind of pull in this city.

One of the most amazing things about this NFL team is that the fan loyalty and interest are more unshakable than Molly Brown was unsinkable.

In 2013, the Browns suffered double-digit losses for the sixth consecutive season yet averaged 71,242 tickets sold per game, 97 percent of capacity. In those six seasons, the Browns never dipped below 90 percent capacity, and in three seasons they were at 97, 94 and 99 percent.

Not even James’ wide reach can eclipse that reach. But James could dispense some fatherly advice to Manziel about how best to take care of himself and how best to enjoy himself without becoming a story.
A weekly examination of the Panthers' Power Ranking:

Preseason: 23 | Last Week: 26 | Power Ranking since 2002

Defensive end Greg Hardy says he can beat LeBron James in a game of one-on-one basketball, and the Carolina Panthers remain behind the 1-4 Atlanta Falcons in the ESPN Power Rankings.

Tell me: Which surprises you more?

OK, Hardy beating the NBA's four-time MVP is the easy choice.

That Carolina (2-3), which moved up two spots to 24th after Sunday's 35-10 victory at Minnesota, remains behind the Falcons in the rankings really isn't a surprise.

Until the Panthers win two games in a row, something they haven't done in their first six games since the 2009 season, they won't get the respect they seek.

If they win three in a row, they'll for sure pass Atlanta -- a team they beat once last season and should have beaten twice -- because the teams meet in two weeks.

Hardy likely won't ever get a chance to face James on the court, something he can be thankful for.
LeBron JamesNathaniel S. Butler/Getty ImagesLeBron James' passing skills could translate to the NFL, Joe Theismann believes. Warren Moon, on the other hand, disagrees.
Warren Moon, Pro Football Hall of Famer, has occasionally shared strong opinions on matters of social import. Turns out the nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback is no less formidable on a subject more suitable for you, me and the guy seated at the next barstool: how well LeBron James and other NBA stars would project to the NFL.

"First of all, the mentality, the psychological and mental makeup, is totally different," Moon said Tuesday.

Then came the fighting words.

"You can't come from basketball into a football environment and succeed," Moon said. "You can go from football to basketball and have a tough mindset that will help you succeed."

Moon's opinions on the matter became known to me last year when he joined in progress a debate between reporters in a hotel lobby the night before a game Moon was working as a radio analyst. Knowing Moon threw a tight spiral (mean fastball?) on the subject, I followed up with him this week after James' suitability for the NFL made its way into the late-May news cycle through another former quarterback. Joe Theismann suggested James, a four-time NBA MVP and an all-state receiver in high school, could succeed as a pro quarterback if James set his mind to it.

We pick up the conversation there.

Moon: Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler and I used to argue for hours about who the best athletes are. I thought football players were better overall. I love basketball players for what they do for their size -- so graceful. But what else can they do? They are not good golfers because they are too tall. There is too much room for error in there when you are 6-[foot-]10. They are not tough enough to be football players, and what position but probably tight end would they play? And if you get too tall, you can't play even tight end. Football players can be baseball players.

Sando: You'll get no argument from Barkley's golf swing. The greatest basketball player of them all, Michael Jordan, was not even mediocre at baseball by big league standards when he set his mind to it completely. A few NBA players dabbled in pro baseball, Danny Ainge and Dave DeBusschere among them. Tony Gonzalez famously played football and basketball at Cal before becoming a Hall of Fame-caliber tight end in the NFL.

Moon: Three significant football players made the transition to baseball. Bo Jackson was great at baseball as well as football. Deion Sanders made it to the majors and was a decent baseball player. The strong safety who played for the Atlanta Falcons, Brian Jordan, played in the majors for years. Michael Jordan was arguably the greatest athlete in the world and the greatest basketball player, and he could not even get to the majors. We had three NFL guys do it at a high level, and a number of other guys could have done it, including John Elway. You don’t see a lot of basketball players drafted in baseball. You see a handful get drafted in football like Tony Gonzalez, but he was a football player first.

Sando: I'm picturing Barkley and Drexler shaking their heads.

Moon: They just think football is easy compared to what they do, and they could go out there and be successful. That is just their egos. They didn’t have great arguments. My argument was naming players who had done it. Think of all the things Herschel Walker could do -- going out for the bobsled team, being an MMA fighter. Anything he could do, whatever he tried to do, he could do. Watch Terrell Owens play basketball. He could play the game. There are a lot of football players who are really good basketball players who decided to go the football route because they were not tall enough or whatever. Football players, the skill guys, they are more versatile because of their size.

Sando: Guys like Barkley, Karl Malone and Wes Unseld strike me as basketball players with football players' mentalities. Why couldn't guys like them fit in the NFL?

Moon: Basketball players want contact to get a foul called. Slaps on the wrist and bumps on the shoulder are big time to them, and they don't like that. In football, you get that all the time. The whole mental makeup is different. Maybe a Ron Artest would be different because he likes physical play. Barkley always talks about how he could have been a football player. I still don't see it with him even as big and physical as he was. He was also a complainer about fouls. He always wanted a foul called. Karl Malone definitely had a football body, but he is another guy always complaining about fouls, and he was bigger than the other guys. I liked guys that wanted to draw the contact and loved it. Maybe the guard from the Pistons who played next to Isaiah Thomas.

Sando: Vinnie Johnson? 'The Microwave' had those all-world thighs. I always thought Anthony Mason had an NFL-type body and a physical mindset. Let's get to LeBron James specifically. He's 6-foot-8, 250 pounds and about as gifted as an athlete can be.

Moon: Quarterback is not a position that you come in having not played it your whole life. LeBron was a wide receiver in high school. Not having played quarterback and having the instincts that a quarterback needs to have, the intangibles, you don't just pick those up overnight because someone teaches you how to throw. And we don't even know if he could throw. There has never been a successful quarterback in the NFL over 6-foot-6.

Sando: We obviously wouldn't compare Dan McGwire to LeBron James in terms of athleticism. Then again, height wasn't necessarily what doomed McGwire in the NFL.

Moon: Once you get over 6-6, you are not as fluid, you have a longer stride in the pocket -- all those things taller quarterbacks have to deal with. As great an athlete as LeBron is, he could never make the transition with just a year or two to get ready for it. You have to grow up with it, and even then you are still learning the position. Tom Brady is still learning things at the position, but there are also things he can draw back on that he did as a little kid. LeBron does not have that.

Sando: The first time I sat near the court at an NBA game, the players' height and length were what stood out. In football, it's the speed and violence that are absolutely captivating from field level, even for people who have watched the NFL for years from the stands or from their living rooms. I'll never forget the first time I stood on a sideline at a major college game. The speed was so much faster than what it appears on TV.

Moon: Basketball players, for their size, are so graceful for what they do on the court, but it just doesn't translate other places. They don't understand this game, how violent it is. Try to get a sideline pass and watch two series from a sideline in a game and tell me if you can stand it. I remember how amazed I was my first year out of the league when I was doing sideline reporting. I was like, 'What in the hell was I thinking all those years?' It was that quick. To see how fast and violent it was -- and I did it every Sunday for 23 years.

Sando: I have a feeling you're going to hear from Barkley and Drexler on this one.

Moon: Every time we have dinner together, this is all they talk about. Charles says we wore pads in football, but I tell him contact in basketball is not the same. Those guys run into each other and they call a charge. You'd foul out in the first series if they called an NFL game that way. I don't hear about basketball players having CTE or any of those types of problems. It's just a different game.

Sando: We're not going to settle this one to the satisfaction of all. Every sport has its own special requirements. I'm sure hockey fans would love to see NBA and NFL players settle their differences on the ice. We'll leave that one for another day.
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees is bigger than Aaron Rodgers and LeBron James.

That’s according to a new list of the 10 most influential athletes in America, according to Forbes.

Brees, who plays in one of the NFL’s smallest markets, came in at No. 6, just one spot behind Peyton Manning.

Although we in the NFC South often talk about being overshadowed by bigger markets, Brees is proof that’s not always the case. Brees has combined his on-field exploits and his effervescent personality to gain awareness.

Even those that don’t follow football closely know about how Brees helped the New Orleans area recover from Hurricane Katrina. Rodgers and James came in slightly behind Brees.

But the real shocker is that Tim Tebow, who currently doesn’t have a team, topped the list of America’s most influential athletes.
WeedenRick Osentoski/US PresswireBrandon Weeden is Cleveland's latest hope to solve the franchise's QB problem.
There are two significant records that can be set in the AFC North this week: the Browns are on the verge of establishing a new low for futility, and Ben Roethlisberger is close to becoming the Steelers' all-time leading passer.

This is more than coincidence. This is yet another reminder of how the Browns ended up at this point. If the Cleveland Browns lose at home Sunday to the Cincinnati Bengals, it will mark their 12th straight loss, a record for a franchise that began play in 1946.

While the date you'll see all week is Nov. 20, 2011 -- the last time the Browns won a game -- I suggest you go back to April 2004. That's when the Browns had the sixth overall pick in the draft and sent a large continent to visit Roethlisberger and other quarterback prospects. "You don't want to pass up a guy who goes on to win four Super Bowls," then-Browns coach Butch Davis said before the draft. The Browns eventually selected tight end Kellen Winslow, who is out of football after playing for four teams, and Roethlisberger has won two Super Bowls.

Quarterbacks are the lifeblood of any NFL team. The Browns only need to look at their own division to realize that. Joe Flacco has taken the Ravens to the playoffs in each of his first four seasons. Andy Dalton guided the Bengals to the postseason a season removed from being 4-12. And Roethlisberger has helped the Steelers get to three Super Bowls.

Quarterbacks have defined the Browns' instability. In 14 seasons since returning to the league, Cleveland has started 17 quarterbacks: Tim Couch, Ty Detmer, Doug Pederson, Spergon Wynn, Kelly Holcomb, Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown, Trent Dilfer, Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Ken Dorsey, Bruce Gradkowski, Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace, Colt McCoy and Brandon Weeden.

The Browns are hoping Weeden, a first-round pick in 2012, is a franchise quarterback. Five games into his rookie season, it's hard to tell if he's the quarterback who can turn this team around or if he's another version of Derek Anderson. Meanwhile, Robert Griffin III, who was pursued by the Browns prior to the draft, already has won two games for a Redskins team that only won five last season.

Determining who is the right quarterback going forward is the most important decision facing soon-to-be Browns owner Jimmy Haslam. It's bigger than team president, general manager or coach.

The Browns (0-5) are the NFL's only winless team and haven't celebrated a victory in 325 days. But Cleveland isn't as much of a lost cause as many think. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Browns have the smallest margin of defeat (7.3 points) during an 11-game losing streak in NFL history.

One or two plays could have Browns in a different position right now. But it's been one or two errors by Weeden that have cost the Browns this season. Weeden had an interception returned for a touchdown in a seven-point loss at Baltimore on Sept. 27. He threw two interceptions deep in Giants territory in a 14-point loss at New York last Sunday.

These mistakes are testing the patience of coach Pat Shurmur.

“I don’t care if you’re a rookie, I don’t care if you’ve been in the league a long time, you don’t do that," Shurmur said after the game. "You don’t do that. I think we’ve got to get off this rookie kick, we’ve got to play ball.”

Weeden is in a tough situation. He's one of eight players on offense who is in his first or second year of starting. Shurmur's play-calling is putting him in a situation to make plays that he clearly isn't ready to make. The reason the Browns are starting Weeden right away is because he turns 29 on Sunday.

He looks the part of a franchise quarterback. He's big, strong and has an arm that can stretch the field. His 1,288 yards passing is the second most in NFL history by a rookie in his team's first five games (Cam Newton had 1,610 yards).

But Weeden is tied for the league lead with nine interceptions. He's averaging nearly two per game and is on pace to finish the season with 29. That won't win games.

"I'm just ticked off," Weeden said. "I don't like being 0-5. We all had a part in it, but I feel like I had a big part in it. I've got to change something. I've got to do something to give this team a chance to win."

Weeden isn't the only one at fault for the losing. You can blame president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert for not overspending on free-agent wide receivers even though the Browns had plenty of cap room to do so. Outside of Josh Gordon's two touchdowns Sunday, Weeden hasn't had a consistent playmaker at receiver.

You can blame Joe Haden, the Browns' top cornerback who served a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. Cleveland's pass defense ranks 26th in the league and has given up 12 touchdowns (only the Redskins have allowed more).

You can blame it on injuries. The Browns have been without two starters on defense this season (defensive tackle Phil Taylor and outside linebacker Chris Gocong). On Sunday, middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson left in the second quarter with a concussion, and cornerback Dimitri Patterson suffered an ankle injury on the second-half kickoff. Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin also left the locker room in a walking boot.

Heck, you can even blame LeBron James. Since he took his talents to South Beach, the Browns are tied for the worst record in the NFL (9-28) with the Carolina Panthers.

In other words, there's a lot of factors in why the Browns have become an exception in a league built for parity. Will the Browns go winless this season? There are a handful of games left on the schedule that the Browns can win, and they have a shot at ending their streak Sunday against a Bengals team that was beaten by the Dolphins on Sunday.

The bigger question is this: What happens if the Browns finish with the worst record in the NFL? The Browns will once again be faced with a decision at quarterback. Does Haslam and his regime stick with Weeden, or do they draft someone like West Virginia's Geno Smith? The Browns can't afford to make the wrong choice like they did in 2004.
DAVIE, Fla. -- There is a growing debate in Miami. The topic: Is South Florida changing from a football town to a basketball town?

The perfect storm is taking place in Miami sports. Both the Dolphins and Miami Hurricanes' college football team cannot get their act together, while the Miami Heat just won an NBA championship. The Heat, led by LeBron James, had Miami abuzz in the spring and summer during their title run. Basketball dominated the airways in South Florida and captured fan interest in a way the Dolphins have not for a while.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross recently touched on the subject.

"The Heat winning, I don’t need to be motivated any more than I am, to be very honest with you," Ross said. "I think it’s great for Miami that the Heat does win. But, at the same time, South Florida is about football and I think fans will feel a lot better when the Dolphins are winning in the Super Bowl."

Is Ross correct? Is Miami still a football town?

The Dolphins have struggled to sell out Sun Life Stadium, while the Heat do not have that problem. At the very least, the Dolphins must step up their game sooner than later.

Every year after a team wins the Super Bowl, one of the storylines the next morning is about whether that team can win it again and whether it can become a "dynasty." They are quite rare, these sports dynasties, so regardless of how things look in the light of one championship, the answer in reality usually turns out to be no. But it's fair, after a team wins its first championship, to wonder how many more it might be able to win.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick has taken this one step further. According to, Vick is talking up the Eagles as a potential dynasty before they've won even a single title.
"When I look at our football team and what we have on paper, I think about when I was growing up and the great San Francisco 49er teams, the great Green Bay Packer teams, and the great Dallas Cowboy teams, how they just positioned themselves to compete and be one of the best teams out there," Vick said.

"I think we have a chance to be that. I think we have a chance to develop a dynasty."

Sure they do. The Eagles look great on paper. Talented. Deep. Young. If they were coming off a Super Bowl title and had this exact same roster, there'd be stories written and in-depth analyses done of their potential to become a dynasty. But they're not. They're coming off a very disappointing 8-8 season with basically the same group of players. And from 8-8, you don't need to be thinking dynasty. You need to be thinking about winning one championship first. Heck, if you're the Eagles right now, you need to be thinking about trying to make the playoffs.

So that's the problem here. This isn't about whether what Vick said was accurate. It's not about whether he should be confident in his team. His confidence in his team is earnest and, I believe, justified. I think the Eagles will be a very good team this year. But I, Vick and many others believed the same last year, and for all of their talent, they too often played like a bunch of underachieving losers in big spots. Coming off of 2011, I would have expected this group of Eagles to be humble, to eschew any grand talk and to be speaking mainly -- if not only -- of the difficulty of the 2012 task that lies ahead of them and the very hard work they need to do to complete it.

The Eagles, of all teams, should know better. After backup quarterback Vince Young's ill-considered "Dream Team" comment last August came to mockingly define the flop the 2011 Eagles became, one would think Vick and his bunch would go out of their way not to say things like Vick said Tuesday. Why give people another reason to mock you? Why risk feeding into the public perception that all you are is a team full of good-looking names on a roster sheet that thinks it's better than it is? Why invite the LeBron James/Miami Heat comparisons again so soon after that burned you?

But even if public perception doesn't matter -- even if the Eagles don't give a rat's hind parts what the rest of the world thinks of them -- this is still the wrong thing to be talking about. If it's even in the Eagles' minds that they might someday be a 49ers-level dynasty, then their eyes are on the horizon when they need to be on their feet. The most important thing for the Eagles right now is the hard, nitty-gritty work they need to do to make sure they're better than 8-8 this year -- that they make good on their paper promise and knock off the defending division and Super Bowl champion Giants. That's not going to be easy, and if a dynastic destiny does await them down the road, there are dozens of very challenging hurdles they have to clear before they should even be thinking that way.

At a different point in the CSNPhilly interview, Vick said this:
"I think just getting to the postseason right now is our focus," he said. "The Super Bowl is going to come if it's meant to happen. Some of the best teams have some of the best luck. Maybe we'll have some of that. I think our focus needs to be one game at a time, just getting into the postseason."

Which really dovetails with the dynasty talk and offers evidence for those who want to believe that Vick's focus is where it needs to be right now. And maybe it is. Maybe the talk of dynasties is just something that's occurred to him in his downtime and he's able to shove it right out of his head when it's time to get to work. Eagles fans certainly hope so, because all of them are painfully aware that their team has never won even one Super Bowl. Eagles fans would be happy to talk dynasty at the appropriate time, because the appropriate time is after you win your first one.

In the meantime, though, one summer after "Dream Team" and a few months after 8-8, the Eagles weren't supposed to be about talk anymore. We won't and can't know how good the Eagles really are until we see them on the field and find out whether they're going to fall apart in the fourth quarter, over and over again, the way they did last year. The 2012 Eagles are a prove-it team, not a talk-about-it team. And talk of dynasties shows they're still thinking about the wrong thing.
Monday night was the Home Run Derby.

[+] EnlargeGreg Jennings
Rich Arden/ESPN ImagesGreg Jennings was easy to spot on the golf course on Tuesday.
Tuesday night was the All-Star Game.

That makes Wednesday night ESPY time.

Yes, the annual awards show is set to air at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN. Based on Twitter, a number of NFC North players are planning to attend, including Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and Green Bay Packers receiver Greg Jennings. As you can see in the photograph, Jennings wore an awfully colorful outfit Tuesday to the ESPY Celebrity Golf Classic, which raised $1 Million for The V Foundation for Cancer Research.

To review from a division perspective:
  • Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is among four candidates for Best Male Athlete, along with Novak Djokovic (tennis), LeBron James (NBA) and Justin Verlander (baseball).
  • Rodgers and Lions receiver Calvin Johnson have been nominated as Best NFL Player.
  • Stafford is a candidate for Best Comeback Athlete. So are Sidney Crosby (NHL), Johan Santana (baseball) and Maria Sharapova (tennis).
I was quite frankly surprised at how many of you support the Chicago Bears' stance with tailback Matt Forte, and as a result are unconcerned about the potential connection between team morale and competitiveness. That issue was the crux of our Have at It debate this week, which asked you to consider whether the continued public complaints from Forte and his teammates will scuttle the Bears' playoff run.

[+] EnlargeMatt Forte
Kyle Terada/US PresswireSigns point to the Bears using their franchise tag on running back Matt Forte next season.
The public discussion continued even after our Wednesday morning post. Linebacker Brian Urlacher termed it "so disappointing" that the Bears haven't agreed to terms on a contract extension for Forte, who is having an MVP-type season. Forte told ESPN's Josina Anderson that it was "odd" the Bears didn't seem interested in rewarding him, and even NBA star LeBron James tweeted that the Bears should "pay the man, please."

I don't necessarily think your position is wrong. My experience is that most fans want to see well-liked incumbents remain happily with their team. But in the end, I suppose you're not worried about Forte leaving because of the franchise tag, and you're not willing to accept any drop in competitiveness created by off-field issues.

Forte has turned down an offer that included between $13 million and $14 million in guarantees -- less than half what the Tennessee Titans gave Chris Johnson and the Minnesota Vikings gave Adrian Peterson. If he plays under the franchise tag next season, Forte will have a one-year contract worth the average salary of the NFL's five highest-paid running backs, projected to be about $7.7 million.

Wrote severs28: "How is an average salary of the top 5 players at your position a second-rate contract?"

It isn't for 2012, of course. But it is over the long term, considering Forte would need to continue his current level to earn a franchise tag for 2013 and match the guaranteed money he has since turned down. Running back production often peters out as a player enters his late 20's, and bpalton007 wrote:

"The Bears are making the smart business call. I would never pay huge bucks for a running back in a league where 2,000 yards from Chris Johnson doesn't even get you into the playoffs, and excellence year in and year out from AP has translated to [nothing] for the Vikes (except in 2009, with Brett Favre)."

In a running back's worse nightmare, his team takes advantage of the franchise system to avoid ever committing money beyond the current season. It leaves the player at a higher level of risk and elevates the feeling of a one-sided relationship.

As harsh as it might be, many of you can see where the Bears are coming from. As Jwoude23 noted: "The Bears are planning on riding Forte for this year and next (under the franchise tag) and then letting some other team overpay for his nonproductive years after that. As much as it pains me to say it, it's the smart football move, as running backs break down very quickly and are always one injury away from losing their agility, and therefore their edge."

Jwoude23 acknowledged that while it makes sense from a football perspective, "it probably does negatively impact the players to see the lack of loyalty shown to a consistent performer who is also a class act."

So does that mean anything? You were split at best on that. Biggest Cheese wondered if "a distrust of upper management" could make future players harder to sign. But would it impact how the team plays for the rest of the 2011 season? At best, wrote youspellgodMARK, it could galvanize players moving forward:

"To me, it seems that it has united the players against a common enemy: Management. Many contracts are incentivized, so the best way to strike back at management is to make them pay out as many bonuses as possible. Since (to this point) no players have grumbled against the coaches or each other, I think this only helps to galvanize the team."

My take? I really do think it's rare to see this level of on-the-record public discussion about a contract issue during the season. That many of the Bears' team leaders have spoken out, as well as players on other teams and even in other sports, suggests it's being viewed as more than your basic contract stalemate.

Forte is in a rare spot: He has elevated his play to the point where he's out-priced himself for what appears to be the Bears' business model at his position. The first half of his season, at least, is on par with or better than what the very best running backs in the game have done. He turned down what would have been a below-market deal on those terms, but now he faces the real possibility of being guaranteed less to play in 2012 and then finding himself in the same situation after that season.

With that said, if the Bears don't make the playoffs in 2011, it won't be because of the way they handled Forte's contract situation. It will be because they couldn't protect quarterback Jay Cutler, or their defense got too old or Devin Hester didn't get any big returns. Players in Chicago might not be happy, but that state of mind doesn't necessarily correspond with competitiveness.

Video: LeBron James as an NFL player

October, 12, 2011

John Clayton and Todd McShay on LeBron James' chances as an NFL player.

NFL 32: Eagles, Megatron and LeBron

October, 11, 2011

Wendi Nix and Chris Mortensen talk about the Eagles bringing in defensive coaching help; Marcellus Wiley answers fan tweets about the dominance of Calvin Johnson; Kordell Stewart poses the question of the best receiver in the NFL, and Did You Hear That? LeBron has interest in playing in the NFL during the NBA lockout!