NFL Nation: Pro Bowl 2010

MIAMI -- The Pro Bowl experience might have been bittersweet for a couple of elite defensive linemen.

The Patriots' Vince Wilfork and the Cardinals' Darnell Dockett both want new deals. Wilfork has been outspoken recently. Dockett has spoken out in the past, but he generally kept a lower profile on the matter during the 2009 season.

I caught up with Dockett after the Pro Bowl and came away convinced he'll set his sights on leaving in free agency if the Cardinals let him reach the final year of his deal -- 2011 -- without an extension.

"They have to be fair to me," Dockett said.

Pro Bowls feature some of the NFL's highest-paid stars. While Wilfork and Dockett are earning millions, they're not making close to what many of their Pro Bowl peers are commanding, and that frustrates them.

Another Cardinals player, Antrel Rolle, should know his fate after March 1. The Cardinals owe him a $4 million bonus if Rolle is on the roster past that date.

If Arizona were to pay the bonus, Rolle would remain under contract with an $8.1 million salary and nearly $13.7 million salary-cap figure (if there is a salary cap, which seems unlikely). If the Cardinals were to pass on the bonus, they would in effect be terminating Rolle's contract. Rolle would then be subject to waivers, which he would likely clear. At that point, Rolle would be free to sign with any team -- circumventing restrictions on unrestricted free agency affecting other members of the 2005 draft class.

While unrestricted free agents with fewer than six years of experience revert to restricted free agents in an uncapped year, players clearing waivers become free to sign with any team because they do not qualify as UFAs. Rolle would fall into that second camp if the Cardinals decided against paying the bonus.

"Something has to be done by March 1 or else I become a free agent," Rolle said Sunday night. "Everything is going to take care of itself. It has to."

Rolle says he's not feeling IRS heat

February, 1, 2010
2/01/10
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MIAMI -- The Pro Bowl marked a homecoming for Cardinals safety Antrel Rolle, who grew up in South Florida and played at the University of Miami.

Rolle presumably enjoyed the experience, minus a Forbes report suggesting he might owe millions in back taxes and penalties.

"I know who brought that up and why they brought it up, just trying to slander my name and throw it out there," Rolle said following the Pro Bowl game Sunday night. "But I am a professional and I'm not going to stoop to anyone's level. I am going to let it be. I'm done answering questions about that one, boss."

Rolle declined to say who he thought was behind the story. He said his tax situation isn't nearly as bad as the source or sources made it seem.

"I'm not even worried about that," Rolle said. "That is not accurate at all. That was over two years ago. It was just a misunderstanding within the taxes. My taxes, obviously I state all my taxes. The Cardinals have to state it. Whoever said that is an idiot. It was something I had to take care of. I was taking less percentage out of my taxes, so at that point I had to pay more back. But everything is under control right now. Everything is being taken care of."

Pro Bowl brings out the kid in Meriweather

February, 1, 2010
2/01/10
10:33
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MIAMI -- One of my favorite parts of covering an all-star game is the scene in the locker room afterward.

You get a good sense for what a player is about by how he reacts at such a time. Some are aloof and act like superstars, too cool to be impressed with the occasion. Others run around like kids, collecting autographs or other mementos from their teammates.

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback David Garrard was radiant. He couldn't stop smiling and looked utterly thrilled to have his son, Justin, with him. The toddler scampered around the room, slaloming through the legs of Pro Bowlers and reporters.

Garrard, an eight-year veteran, seemed to be soaking it in. As a deep alternate, he needed a lot of other quarterbacks to pull out for him to make it to the Pro Bowl. There's a healthy chance he might not make another one.

New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather also played in his first Pro Bowl, but he should be back many times before he's through.

Meriweather was among the players going from stall to stall, requesting autographs on a helmet.

"Anytime you get a chance to play with some of the best in the game, you have to embrace it," Meriweather said. "It's a dream come true for me. Ever since I was little, I've been watching this game, hoping that one day I would get a chance to play with some of these guys and actually play in [the Pro Bowl].

"Now that I've got my chance, I'm just trying to embrace it and stay humble."

Revis not done ragging on Moss

February, 1, 2010
2/01/10
9:48
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MIAMI -- One night after New York Jets coach Rex Ryan upheld his rivalry with the Miami Dolphins, one of his players maintained an ongoing feud with a divisional foe.

Moss
Revis
After the AFC defeated the NFC 41-34 in the Pro Bowl on Sunday night, Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis rehashed what has turned into a delectable grudge match with New England Patriots receiver Randy Moss.

"Will he fight through tough coverage? Everybody knows Randy Moss," Revis said. "Sometimes he takes plays off. Sometimes he don't. That's his game now. He's still a great player, and he still manages to make plays."

Revis also said Patriots slot receiver Wes Welker is tougher to cover than Moss.

"He's a scrapper," Revis said of Welker. "He can do all the option routes you can draw up, and he gets open all the time."

Two weeks ago, Revis called Moss a "slouch" during an interview with NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders. During the season, Revis and Moss went back and forth over perceived lack of respect.

Moss had four receptions for 24 yards against Revis in Week 2 but claimed Revis had significant help from safety Kerry Rhodes.

"Just trying to cover it up because Randy Moss didn't have a great game," Revis said Sunday night. "You always see Randy Moss catching 160 yards, 180 yards, two, three touchdowns. That day wasn't his day. That happens sometimes in football.

"My thing is, just give respect to where it's due and next time try to game plan better to make plays."

In their Week 11 rematch, Moss had five receptions for 34 yards and a point-blank touchdown Revis couldn't be blamed for allowing.

As for Ryan giving Dolfans the finger Saturday night in South Florida, Revis said: "We're still human. People got feelings. People do things. It's not the right thing to do, but he did it. He did the right thing by apologizing. Now you just move forward."

AFC Pro Bowl observations

February, 1, 2010
2/01/10
1:08
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Nnamdi AsomughaKirby Lee/US PresswireNnamdi Asomugha (21) says he and Darrelle Revis have talked about playing in the same secondary.
MIAMI -- A few AFC thoughts and observations from its 41-34 victory in Sunday night's Pro Bowl at Sun Life Stadium.

I just heard one of the scariest ideas anybody has mentioned to me in a long time.

The AFC's starting cornerbacks, Darrelle Revis and Nnamdi Asomugha, want to play on the same team. As fantastical as that notion might be, it's frightening to consider.

Oakland Raiders star Asomugha was smiling when he brought up the dream scenario, but insisted he was "dead serious" and has spoken to New York Jets coach Rex Ryan about it.

"Me and Revis have been talking to Rex to try to do something," Asomugha said. "You may see us in the future. There's a little bit of talk going on. Either he's coming to Oakland or something else will happen."

Said Revis: "Me and him have talked about it, but I can't really control that situation. I don't know if he can either."

As much of a nightmare as it would be for opposing quarterbacks, it would be just as daunting for a team's capologist to figure out a way to pay them both. Asomugha has two years left on a three-year, $45.3 million contract that made him the highest-paid defensive back in NFL history.

Revis, considered by most to be the NFL's top cover cornerback, might make more than that soon.

"That's a lot of money they're going to be pushing around," Revis said, "but that'll be tough for quarterbacks. I'll tell you that."

Revis and Asomugha on the field together would elicit memories of Mike Haynes and Lester Hayes for the Oakland Raiders in the 1980s.

"In a league where the art of man-to-man has kind of gone out of style, that could bring it back," Asomugha said.

"You always want that as a player, to have that guy on the other side of you that's equally as talented and can make plays. It fuels you a little bit. We'd been joking around with [AFC coach] Norv Turner throughout practices all week, and with [NFL commissioner] Roger Goodell. He said they probably wouldn't allow us on the same team."

Denver Broncos outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil wasn't thrilled to see defensive coordinator Mike Nolan leave for the Miami Dolphins.

Dolfans would love for them to reunite in South Florida.

"It's a possibility," Dumervil said, "but we'll see what happens in Denver."

Dumervil would be an unrestricted free agent if the owners and players hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement by March 5. But an uncapped season seems inevitable, and in that case, Dumervil would be a restricted free agent because he wouldn’t have the required number of accrued seasons.

Dumervil led the NFL with 17 sacks in his lone season under Nolan.

"It was great playing with him," Dumervil said. "I only got to play with him one year, but I had fun, I probably had one of my best years. I felt I was productive throughout my career before Nolan, but being able to move to linebacker enhanced my durability and allowed me to be more effective down the stretch."

I asked if other Pro Bowlers have been in his ear, lobbying to get him interested in joining their teams.

"That would be tampering," Dumervil said. "I can't snitch on nobody."

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback David Garrard went to the Pro Bowl with a chip on his shoulder.

Garrard made the Pro Bowl roster as a bazillionth alternate. But he made it because of a series of injuries and Peyton Manning reaching the Super Bowl.

Garrard completed eight of 14 passes for 183 yards and one touchdown for a 125.6 passer rating.

"It's so awesome," Garrard said. "One of my goals coming into the game was to just be relevant and show all of the people who said 'What is he doing in there? The Pro Bowl had dropped off a few pegs,' that I do belong."

Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco badly wanted to reprise his preseason kicking exhibition against the New England Patriots and kick a field goal or an extra point in the Pro Bowl.

Miami Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter had given his blessing on a final field goal in the waning moments, but the AFC ran out the clock.

"The game was too close for me to go out there and have fun," Ochocinco said. "Usually, if we were up by a little bit, it would've been fun to go do it, but it was too close to even attempt it."

NFC Pro Bowl observations

February, 1, 2010
2/01/10
12:43
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Aaron RodgersKirby Lee/US PresswirePackers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 197 yards and two touchdowns Sunday night.
MIAMI -- Some thoughts on the NFC’s 41-34 loss to the AFC in the Pro Bowl at Sun Life Stadium:

  • Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers completed 15 of 19 passes for 197 yards and two scores as the NFC’s starting quarterback. He said he spent part of the week battling an illness, but added: “Overall, it was a great experience for me.” It was interesting to see Rodgers throw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Philadelphia receiver DeSean Jackson in the second quarter. They would have been teammates for one year at Cal if Rodgers hadn’t entered the draft after his junior season. “I was teasing him after I threw that quick screen for the touchdown,” Rodgers said. “What could have been if I had stayed in my senior year?”
  • Jackson caught two touchdowns, including a 58-yarder from Donovan McNabb in which he ran away from the defense on a short screen. “It’s been a dream all year to come out here and put on a show,” Jackson said. The play spurred a discussion on our Pro Bowl live chat: Who was the fastest player on the field Sunday night? Jackson or Tennessee tailback Chris Johnson? On Sunday, it was Jackson.
  • Coach Wade Phillips called it a “no-defense game.” The teams combined for 987 yards of offense. “They decided the defense was going to put their hands behind their backs, so you are going to have a lot of scoring. But that is what we wanted to see.” If by putting “their hands behind their backs,” Phillips meant “pass-rushers taking two steps and stopping,” then I understand what he was talking about. Defensive linemen on both teams made almost no effort to get to the quarterback. That always happens in the Pro Bowl, but the level of disinterest was so high that it prompted Green Bay linebacker Nick Barnett to make the following observation via Twitter: “I promise this!! If I ever get in I don't care what is going on I will play like I always do!! One speed!!! Hard!!!"
  • Facing no pass rush, Phillips’ team threw on 48 of 59 plays. That's a lot.
  • Let’s make one exception to the defensive observation: Washington linebacker London Fletcher recorded the tackle on three of the NFC defense’s first four plays, clearly excited to be making his first-ever Pro Bowl appearance. “Guys were saying this should have happened a long time ago,” Fletcher said. “But it was a lot of fun and I’m blessed to have been here.” Unofficially, Fletcher finished second among NFC defenders with five tackles.
  • There was a brief downpour prior to the game and misty conditions prevailed for much of the night. But the Super Bowl-ready field held up well and suffered minimal damage, according to players. “The field was great,” Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen said. “It was great. It was wet out tonight, but no one was slopping and sliding.”
  • The NFL sold and/or distributed 70,697 tickets, making for the second-largest Pro Bowl crowd ever. There were also 34 players originally named to one of the teams who didn’t participate. In other words, more people watched more backups than at any point in history.
  • The Saturday dismissal of Minnesota left tackle Bryant McKinnie had its expected result: Philadelphia’s Jason Peters played the whole game at left tackle and the New York Giants’ David Diehl went the whole way on the right side. McKinnie’s Vikings teammates didn’t have much to say on the matter. “That’s a personal issue for him,” Allen said. “You have to check with him.” Like Allen, tailback Adrian Peterson said he hadn’t spoken with McKinnie. “You guys probably know more than me about the whole thing,” Peterson said.
MIAMI -- Jason Witten couldn't quite handle Tony Romo's pass in the end zone during the NFC's 41-34 loss in the Pro Bowl.


Matthew Emmons/US PresswireCowboys quarterback Tony Romo says he's ready to take the next step.
Oh, well. No big deal.

This experience was all about having fun, not worrying about anything that happened on the field.

"I love hanging out with the coaches and players, and getting a chance to enjoy some good times together," Romo said.

Romo completed 13 of 18 passes for 154 yards, with one interception. Teammate Miles Austin caught six passes for 49 yards.

The Cowboys had nine players in the Pro Bowl, plus their coaching staff. They'll use the coming weeks to recharge and try to build on a good but ultimately unsatisfying season.

"We took a step this year and we have to keep trying to get better every day," Romo said. "The team understands what it means to take another step, and we'll do that this offseason."

That was the focus for Austin as well.

"I've got my family here with me -- it's obviously a very important thing to me," he said. "That being said, I've got a lot more work to do to get ready for next year. So, I can enjoy this now, but the goal is really to be playing in the Super Bowl."

What I think Manning really said

January, 31, 2010
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Suzy Kolber’s questions, Peyton Manning’s answers and Paul Kuharsky’s translations –paraphrased where outside of quotation marks -- from ESPN’s pre-Pro Bowl interview:

Kolber: Your tenth Pro Bowl, exciting huh?

Manning: “This is a fun evening. They had six of us fly down here this evening after practice tonight after our practice today in Indianapolis. Getting to see all these guys, these great players, guys that I’ve gotten to know over the years playing in the Pro Bowl, I’ve formed some special friendships with these guys. It’s fun to be here…”

Kuharsky: Can you believe they separated us from our team to come down and wave to the crowd and talk to you? I mean let’s keep this in context. I’ve got a Super Bowl to prepare for and superstitions about actually flying to a big game with the rest of my team.


Kolber: Jim Caldwell promised a normal week, would you be ready for the Saints tonight?

Manning: “I feel good about our start. I still feel you have to use the entire time to get prepared. It’s important not to peak too early. But because of the schedule down here in Miami once you get down here, it’s important to get your core preparation done during that first week, which we have done. This is a tough team to get to know…”

Kuharsky: Sure we could take them today, but you give us two weeks, we’re not going to be wasting many of the available minutes. We’re pretty studious that way. But I do wish I had a few hours to work on my tan.


Kolber: Reports aren’t good on Dwight Freeney’s ankle. How much would it hurt to be without him?

Manning: “It’s hard to speculate at this point. Dwight’s one of our best players, we know that. But all season long coach [Jim] Caldwell has talked about picking up the bayonet and if someone is hurt, someone’s got to step up. If Dwight were not to be able to go, that would be tough, but somebody else will step up and we’ll be confident in whoever that is.”

Kuharsky: Raheem Brock, if you’re listening, I’m talking to you. And I know you’ll be ready if Dwight’s not.
MIAMI -- Colts fans are longing for the day not long ago when we debated the necessity of the Colts’ Pro Bowlers making an appearance at Sunday night’s game.

Instead, the week-long debate is on as to whether Dwight Freeney will be able to play, and if so how effectively, in Super Bowl XLIV a week from tonight.

John Clayton reported Freeney’s ankle injury was serious and he came to South Florida Friday to ramp up his intensive rehab. Adam Schefter followed that report with one saying that Freeney has torn ligaments. The latest is here.

The team classified him as questionable on Friday. Clayton is viewing him as doubtful.

The Colts would certainly miss Freeney’s threat off the edge. He’s got seven tackles and two pressures in Indianapolis’ two postseason games, but not a sack. Even without putting the quarterback on the ground, he influences what an offense can try to do. He was just named as a defensive end on the NFL’s All-Decade Team and is regarded by many as the best pass rusher in the league right now or even of his generation.

Raheem Brock, the Colts’ versatile third defensive end would be in line to start against the Saints if Freeney can’t go or get the additional snaps if Freeney is limited.

We’ll hit on this more soon, we promise.

You can't wait to chat about the Pro Bowl

January, 31, 2010
1/31/10
7:05
PM ET
MIAMI -- Looks like a slick track for Sunday night's Pro Bowl.

A steady mist is falling on Sun Life Stadium. That could make footing difficult and the crowd even smaller than it was going to be.

A couple dozen NFL coaches are groaning over the possibility of a star player potentially tearing a groin muscle.

Conditions in Honolulu as of this posting? It's 81 degrees with zero percent chance of precipitation.

But in the comfy confines of the press box, you can join us for the Pro Bowl edition NFL Nation Live at 7 p.m.

Drop by to chat with ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton, NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert, NFC West blogger Mike Sando and I from the game. AFC South potentate Paul Kuharsky will provide his thoughts from his bunker in an undisclosed location, and moderator Emily Schaible will try keep all of us clowns in line.
MIAMI -- Seeking snarky commentary during the Pro Bowl?

Sorry, but I’m not a part of ESPN.com’s NFL Nation Live tonight. Perhaps Tim Graham, Kevin Seifert and Mike Sando will be able to give you what you yearn for.

Perhaps Pat Yasinskas and I, granted clemency by our bosses, will join you as questioners, grilling them.

Simply head here shortly before kick.

Ready for a soggy Pro Bowl

January, 31, 2010
1/31/10
6:54
PM ET
MIAMI – I’m getting ready to watch the Pro Bowl and will be checking in with any developments involving the NFC South.

Our writers who are covering the Pro Bowl will be chatting on NFL Nation Live during the game. Weather could be a real issue in the Pro Bowl. I’m looking out my window and it’s pouring rain right now.

Looking ahead to tomorrow, the Saints are scheduled to arrive in Miami Monday at approximately 11:45 a.m. Coach Sean Payton and six players will meet the media at about 3:45 p.m. I’ll be out there and will bring you all the latest.

NFL Nation Live

January, 31, 2010
1/31/10
6:41
PM ET
MIAMI -- I know what you’re thinking: What to do on the sleepy Sunday night between the Championship Games and the Super Bowl?

I have it: Come join some of the funniest, most knowledgeable people that write NFL blogs at ESPN.com for a live conversation over on NFL Nation Live. You’ll have me, Tim Graham, Mike Sando, John Clayton and maybe some surprise guests all checking in with insightful observations and witty banter.

It all starts right here at 7 p.m. ET. We’ll have a good time. I promise you.

Daily Mailbag: Martz and Capers

January, 31, 2010
1/31/10
5:59
PM ET
MIAMI -- As we await word on the conclusion of Chicago’s search for an offensive coordinator -- Mike Martz? Kevin Rogers? -- Brandon of Huntington Beach, Calif., brings up an interesting point.

[+] EnlargeSun Life Stadium
Kevin Seifert/ESPN.comNFC North blogger Kevin Seifert's view from the baseball press box at Sun Life Stadium.
Would you compare the Bears’ potential hiring of Mike Martz to the Packers search last year that lead to the hiring of Dom Capers? Both seem to be/have been controversial, big-name hires. If the Bears pull the trigger on Martz, do you think he can have similar, immediate results?

My short answer, Brandon, is that I think Martz is the best candidate the Bears have interviewed to produce immediate results. And there are some similarities between the way the Packers decided on Capers and the way the Bears have meandered to Martz.

The Packers interviewed at least three other candidates -- Mike Nolan, Gregg Williams and Jim Haslett -- before hiring Capers. The Bears interviewed Rogers, Ken Zampese and Rob Chudzinski before giving Martz his interview.

Capers’ defense is based on being unpredictable and coming at the quarterback from all angles, making big plays through forced turnovers and lost yardage. It was flexible enough to cover for some personnel mismatches in his 3-4 scheme.

The same is true for Martz’s offense. Martz is by no means perfect, and there is a reason his services are available. But of all the candidates the Bears have interviewed, I think Martz has the best chance to effect a quick turnaround.

That’s my take from the baseball press box here at Sun Life Stadium. Don’t believe I’m actually at the Pro Bowl? Take a look at the byline on the picture above.

Checking in from the Pro Bowl

January, 31, 2010
1/31/10
5:49
PM ET
MIAMI -- The photo I provided from Sun Life Stadium, the newly renamed site of the Pro Bowl, showed empty stands.

Just to clear up any confusion: The fans did not withdraw from the game. It's just early.

Kickoff is at 7:20 p.m. ET.

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