Don't downplay Suggs' injury
Ravens will miss playmaking linebacker; Dolphins taking steps to repair image
It is a huge week for the Minnesota Vikings and the Twin Cities. All that is at stake is the team's future in Minnesota, where it has resided for the past 51 years.
What likely will be the final push for a new stadium begins Monday in the Minnesota House of Representative. If the bill passes, it will go to the state Senate later this week. If it dies, well, that very well could mean the Vikings eventually move to Los Angeles, or Toronto, or somewhere else.
While the NFL would love to have a franchise in Los Angeles, it also would prefer the Vikings stay in Minnesota, an important and loyal market. It is probably going to be a long day and night on Monday, with the future of the Vikings franchise in the balance.
Here is my take on some other issues around the league.
The Baltimore Ravens are going to miss Terrell Suggs. Yes, football is a team game and when one player goes down another must step up, but Suggs is more than just another player. He is Baltimore's defensive personality, its leader, the team's tone-setter and its most effective playmaker.
Suggs is a lot like Brian Dawkins was in his prime. Opposing teams had to game plan for Dawkins. They had to know where he was on the field on every snap. It is the same with Suggs. He plays with such a high motor and is so effective getting into the backfield that you have to know where he is on every play.
On Thursday, Suggs told ESPN's Rachel Nichols that he recently suffered a partially torn Achilles tendon during a conditioning drill in Arizona. He said he will meet with a surgical specialist Tuesday and have surgery, and he expects to recover in four to six months.
That surely would be an optimistic timetable. Fortunately for the Ravens, they selected Alabama linebacker Courtney Upshaw in the second round of the draft -- before Suggs' injury occurred. Upshaw was likely going to compete with Paul Kruger for the Ravens' starting strongside linebacker position. Now, he will likely start immediately.
Baltimore is chasing a New England Patriots team that has gotten substantially better during the offseason. With Suggs sidelined, that chase got even tougher.
It is undoubtedly a brutally painful time for the family of Junior Seau, but hopefully it will decide to allow researchers to study his brain. As it deals with the loss of its loved one, the family is reconsidering its initial decision to donate Seau's brain, according to a report by Reuters.
"They have now stepped back from what they were thinking initially," Chargers team chaplain Shawn Mitchell told Reuters on Saturday. "Nothing is definite right now."
It is understandable. The family's world has been turned upside down since the 43-year-old linebacker committed suicide last week. The family's grief must be unbearable, and no one can tell it what to do.
But this is a critically important time in football as we continue to learn about the impact of concussions. It would be worthwhile to know whether Seau, who played 20 years in the league but was never listed on an official injury report with a concussion, suffered any brain damage playing the sport and whether that contributed to his decision to take his life.
Things are trending upward in Miami. It could not have gotten much worse than fans protesting outside the team's practice facility in March, so there really wasn't anywhere for the Miami Dolphins to go but up. Nevertheless, the outlook in Miami has improved over the past several weeks.
One factor was the team's decision to select quarterback Ryan Tannehill with the No. 8 pick in the NFL draft to be the future of the franchise. Nothing gives a fan base hope more than the selection of a quarterback in the first round of the draft. The Dolphins hadn't done that since 1983, when they picked Dan Marino at No. 27.
On Sunday, they took care of another important piece of business when they re-signed fourth-year linebacker Cameron Wake to what ESPN Insider Adam Schefter reported was a four-year, $49 million deal. Wake is a crucial piece of the Dolphins' defense, with 28 sacks in three seasons, including 14 in 2010. Re-signing Wake means the Dolphins will avoid what could have been a contentious holdout -- and a massive distraction.
However, the question my colleague James Walker posed was a valid one: Did Miami overpay for a player who is 30 years old and likely on the downhill slope of his career? Probably, but Wake is popular and a leader, and given that the franchise is trying to change public perception, it really didn't have a choice.
Mike Shanahan confirmed the obvious on Sunday: Robert Griffin III is his starting quarterback. Shanahan couldn't say it any plainer than this: "He's the starter, period." Last year's starter, Rex Grossman, fourth-round pick Kirk Cousins and Jonathan Crompton will battle it out for the No. 2 spot.
This was an obvious choice. The Washington Redskins didn't give up three first-round picks and a second-rounder for RG3 to hold a clipboard. He doesn't need to sit and watch. He needs the practice reps and the game experience. And he needs Shanahan to tailor the offense to his strengths.
Shanahan said that is indeed what he would do, which is the smart thing.
Meanwhile, the news for the other high-profile rookie QB was equally good. Indianapolis Colts coaches and players, not surprisingly, were effusive with their praise for Andrew Luck after the Colts concluded their first minicamp of the offseason. Luck reportedly was sharp with his throws, had an early command of the playbook and was loose, although admittedly a little nervous.
It was not surprising, given Luck's reputation at Stanford.
The tough thing now for Luck is that he is not allowed back at the Colts' practice facility until he finishes final exams at Stanford on June 7. Luck is finishing two classes toward his architectural degree and will miss Indianapolis' 10-day organized team activities later this month.
Eli Manning was actually really funny on "Saturday Night Live." Admittedly, I had low expectations. With the media at least, Manning is about as bland an interview as there is in the NFL. But like his brother in 2007, Manning killed it on SNL. After a shaky monologue, during which he was obviously and understandably nervous, Manning settled in.
He was glib. He Tebow-ed. He killed in a sketch that took an indirect hit at Brett Favre's texting habits. He even pulled off saying a word I didn't think you could say on network television.
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