Commentary

Not much work in these workouts

Offseason has been toned down; plus, the Browns' quandary and VY's future

Originally Published: April 16, 2012
By Ashley Fox | ESPN.com

Lies, lies, lies. With the NFL draft inching closer, expect the trade chatter to get louder. Teams are jockeying for position, trying to inflate the value of their picks. It is about deception and creating a market, which means there will be a lot of misinformation exchanged in the days ahead.

Meanwhile, a new reality began for Sean Payton on Monday and most players returned to work, with a few notable exceptions -- including the one player the New Orleans Saints can't afford to be without.

These won't be your OTAs of old. Teams across the NFL opened their doors for the start of offseason workouts Monday, but thanks to the collective bargaining agreement, these "voluntary" workouts will be much different than in the past. The first of three phases of the offseason program consists essentially of lifting weights and working out. No coaches. No pads. No drills. Not yet.

Teams will slowly ramp up to a mandatory minicamp -- phase three of the offseason -- that will have no live hitting. Players will wear helmets, but no pads. There will be no first-team offense versus first-team defense.

Commissioner Roger Goodell consistently gets hammered for legislating the hard hits out of football and tilting the rules toward quarterbacks and receivers, all in the name of player safety. But the players deserve a little bit of that ire today. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, the offseason work has been toned down to essentially become glorified walk-throughs in shorts and shells. Safety is in. Hitting is out. But will the product suffer?

We are five months from the start of the season, but the assumption is yes. It is hard for coaches to teach and players to learn when they aren't practicing at full speed. This is how the players wanted it, to preserve their bodies and limit practice-related injuries. It is understandable. But while the rules will benefit veteran players with secure spots on the rosters, the younger fringe players will have a harder time making an impression, and a team, when they can't perform at full speed.

WWCD? What will Cleveland do in the draft? That has become the huge question as next week's NFL draft inches ever closer. Will the Browns trade the No. 4 pick? Will they use it to select Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill higher than he probably deserves to be drafted? Will they go with Alabama running back Trent Richardson or Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon?

[+] EnlargeJustin Blackmon
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesWide receiver Justin Blackmon would fill a big void in the Browns' offense.
The Browns are in control, but they should hang on to their pick and select a playmaker. They have an abundance of picks, but they need someone who can make an impact on offense right away. Richardson has great vision and versatility and can catch passes out of the backfield. Blackmon can step in and be a reliable target for Colt McCoy right away. Either would fill a void on the Browns' roster.

There is a lot of chatter that Cleveland wants to move down in the draft. The Browns should stay put and take a player who can help them right away.

The chaos in New Orleans continues. Maybe Tom Benson was consumed last week buying the Hornets, so he did the easiest thing with his football team. He promoted an assistant who will soon be suspended to replace his head coach, who begins his season-long suspension on Monday. Assistant head coach/linebackers Joe Vitt will run the Saints in Sean Payton's stead during the offseason workouts, training camp and the preseason, and then hand it off to someone else, presumably offensive line coach Aaron Kromer.

So there is an interim head coach in New Orleans, and then there will be an interim interim head coach.

This makes little sense. In promoting Vitt, Benson essentially rewarded a man who the NFL said was involved in the bounty scandal. He elevated Vitt's profile, even though Vitt was part of the problem. Benson also created more chaos for a team that needs less. The team won't have one steadying, singular voice. It will have many. Who is in charge? One day it is one person, the next it is someone else, and the next it is someone else, which means no one is in charge.

It is no wonder the Saints can't get it together to get a new deal worked out for Drew Brees.

Bobby Petrino might be a bad man, but he is an outstanding offensive coach. Yes, Petrino torched the Atlanta Falcons in 2007, when he tore out of town after leaving a four-sentence goodbye note to his players 13 games into his first season to take the Arkansas job. It was gutless and classless, and trust me, no one inside the Falcons organization shed a tear for Petrino after he wrecked his motorcycle and then his career earlier this month.

But the man will get another job, maybe even in the NFL.

Petrino was Tom Coughlin's quarterbacks coach and then his offensive coordinator in Jacksonville, and Coughlin once said Petrino was the greatest playcaller he had ever seen. Petrino knows what he is doing, and with offensive firepower being at a premium in the NFL, it would not be surprising to see Petrino return to the league while he tries to rehabilitate his image.

It probably won't happen this season, but someone will be willing to give Petrino another shot if he wants it.

Vince Young thinks he can still be a starter in this league. File this under "what-was-he-supposed-to-say," right along with Eli Manning saying he belongs in Tom Brady's class (he does) and Joe Flacco saying he's the best quarterback in the NFL (he's not): Young wants to be a starter again.

Young told the Nashville Tennessean last week that there are several teams interested in signing him, although he wouldn't name names.

"When I land somewhere, sure I'd like to [start]," Young said. "Everybody feels that way. But all I can do is come in and compete. It is like I am getting drafted all over again, you go in and compete and let the coaches and front-office people make the decision."

Young won't get a chance to start unless someone's starter goes down with an injury. He had a few opportunities in Philadelphia, but if the Eagles had been really impressed by Young, they would have re-signed him to return as Michael Vick's backup.