- Ashley Fox
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The NFL is heading into the final phase of a new, shorter offseason workout schedule, with mandatory minicamps this week and next. Players must show up. Most will. Some won't. And then the countdown will begin for the start of training camps, which are set to open late next month.
In the meantime, here are a few issues from around the league.
Andy Reid might -- might -- have more power inside the Eagles' organization now that president Joe Banner has been removed, but he remains on the hot seat. There has been much speculation in Philadelphia since the Eagles announced Banner, an 18-year veteran with the organization, was stepping down. Was Banner pushed? Did he lose a power struggle with Reid, who is entering his 14th season as the Eagles' head coach? Or had the task of running the Eagles simply become stale to the 59-year-old Banner?
Banner has insisted he was ready for a new challenge, even though despite building a new stadium and a new practice facility for the team, he never did achieve the biggest challenge of all: bringing the franchise's first Lombardi Trophy to Philadelphia. It seems plausible but, having known Banner for the better part of a decade, I don't buy it. He burned to win a championship, and the Eagles are stocked for this season. Why walk away from that now?
Reid, of course, remains. According to ESPN's Sal Paolantonio, the only head coach in the NFL with more power than Reid is New England's Bill Belichick, who has been to five Super Bowls with the Patriots and won three. With Banner's departure, the onus is now on Reid more than ever. If he doesn't succeed, this season or perhaps the next, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie can make a change and offer an extremely attractive job to a veteran head coach who needs ultimate control over personnel decisions.
Some think Reid now is the Eagles' head coach for life. I think with the exit of Banner, his seat has become even hotter.
New England's extension of Rob Gronkowski was a win-win for the team and player. Well in advance of the expiration of Gronkowski's rookie deal, the Patriots on Friday locked up the 23-year-old tight end through the 2019 season, in doing so making Gronkowski the highest paid tight end in NFL history.
It was a smart move. According to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, the six-year extension is worth $53 million, including $8 million up front with a $10 million option that would push the contract to 2019.
Last season, Gronkowski emerged as one of Tom Brady's most reliable targets, particularly in the red zone. A beast at 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, Gronkowski set league records for a tight end with 17 touchdown catches and 1,327 receiving yards.
If Gronkowski can stay healthy and continue his upward arc, the extension could prove to be a real deal for the Patriots and it could help the team avoid a messy contract dispute like the one it has endured with wide receiver Wes Welker, who signed his franchise tag tender last month but wasn't exactly thrilled about it. Gronkowski got financial security early in his career and the assurance that he is a valued member of a team that is loaded for another Super Bowl run.
The question now for the 11-year veteran becomes whether he will be able to find more work in the NFL, or whether he will find, like his former teammate Terrell Owens, that there is no market for a loquacious receiver on the backside of his career.
After years of being an outspoken distraction, Owens has found no takers for his services, even though he remains in phenomenal shape. Even though Ochocinco has a workout scheduled this week with the Miami Dolphins, he probably will find the same thing. Last season in New England, Ochocinco could not get separation running routes in a pass-heavy offensive scheme and it was no secret he had trouble mastering the Patriots' offense.
To find work at his age and with his diminished skills, Ochocinco would have to bring something else to the table. He would have to be a leader, a mentor, someone who could help usher in the next wave of talent at his position. He has never been that kind of player before, so why would anyone expect him to be that now? Update: Ochocinco agreed to a one-year deal with the Dolphins late Monday.
Darrelle Revis should not hold out of training camp. Revis is the best cornerback in the NFL, no question, and he reportedly wants to be a Jet for life. While he maintains that he is not unhappy with his contract, Revis has not guaranteed that he will show up on time for the Jets' training camp, which begins July 26 in Cortland, N.Y.
He should. The Jets have renegotiated his contract once already, in 2010, extending him through the 2013 season (unless he holds out, in which case the team will have Revis through 2017). They are committed to him. They want him to be happy. Revis needs to show up, be the team player he is and the contract should take care of itself, because the Jets would be foolish to let Revis be unhappy for long.
Note to all players: Twitter is a public forum. Be careful what you tweet, because everyone can see it.
Seems elementary, no? But apparently it is not, given that veteran Denver linebacker D.J. Williams thought it appropriate to post photos of six of the Broncos' defensive plays on Twitter. The team, understandably, was not amused and Williams took down the photos.
Twitter is good for a lot of things, and bad for others. Unlike ever before, fans have access to players, their thoughts and their moods. Some, like Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald, have adeptly used Twitter to further build their brand. Others, like Williams, have forgotten that Twitter is not the space to share team secrets.
15hEric D. Williams
2dSharon Katz & Hank Gargiulo