NFL Sends Inconsistent Signals with Recent Rule Change and Other Points of View

Bears

“One thing Phillips said on the issue [of the grass playing surface at Soldier Field], however, sounds like an utter crock: ‘The players know how to play on it, and frankly, it’s been part of our home-field advantage.’ The Bears players rip it as much or more than opponents do. They don’t like it and don’t sound confident on that kitty-litter. And I wouldn’t be talking home-field advantage if I just lost the NFC Championship Game at home.”

  • Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times points out the the NFL chose what head coach Lovie Smith considered to be the worst possible option for the kickoff rules:

“’The part that we’re not OK with is moving the ball up to the 35-yard line,’ Smith said. ‘The rest of it, we could live with.’

“Much to Smith’s chagrin, the NFL voted to move the kickoff yard line from the 30 to the 35 and opted to keep two-man wedges and touchbacks at the 20-yard line.”

“Other owners and their representatives crowed about McCaskey’s speech, which is what you do when you want to keep the sucker at the poker table — praise his play. But if McCaskey wasn’t so worried about his speech, then maybe he would’ve shown some clout to round up enough votes to block the new kickoff rule.

But no. The Bears were unable to prevent the NFL from minimizing the league’s most dangerous return game. The Steelers, meanwhile, with one of the hardest-hitting defense, made sure that proposals regarding hits on defenseless players didn’t pass. Some teams have clout, apparently. Some teams have Fredo McCaskey.”

  • Jensen also writes of Bears president Phillips’ confidence that the team is in good shape headed into a lockout:

“I think it’s huge,” Phillips said when asked about his team’s continuity, “and with the labor uncertainty we have now, that’s why we’ve preached, internally, to cover all bases and be ready because you never know when the deal is going to get done.

“We’re going to have a competitive edge.”

  • Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune quoting Smith on the criticism of the Bears for announcing quarterback Jay Cutler‘s return as “questionable” after his injury in the NFC Championship game:

“We can’t worry about the criticism.  We’re trying to win a football game. … What were we supposed to do? We’re behind, trying to win the biggest game in the history of our franchise. Let’s worry about what everybody is thinking about our quarterback? That’s the last thing.”

  • It also sounds like Pompei has a suspicion the Bears might be drafting interior offensive linemen rather than tackles as he answers questions from fans:

Are the Bears really considering Florida’s center Mike Pouncey with their first pick in the draft? I think it’s more than time to bring on Olin Kreutz successor, don’t you? And, would the Bears trade up to draft him? — Walter Brzeski, Chicago

If they aren’t, they should be. The Bears might need help on their interior offensive line more than they need help at the tackle position. Within two years, they might need three new starters at left guard, right guard and center. Pouncey could start out this year as the left guard, and then move inside to center when Kreutz moves on (assuming Kreutz is re-signed). The problem is Pouncey probably won’t be on the board when the Bears pick at No. 29. Trading up is a possibility, but it would come with drawbacks. The Bears have had a deficit of high draft picks over the last two years because of trades. Giving away two high draft picks for one good prospect in this scenario might not make good sense.

I agree 100% both because I think the guard and center positions are a need and because the draft probably will fall such that it will make the most sense for the Bears to go that way.  But what they do will probably depend mostly upon how they feel about the fourth or fifth tackle prospects as opposed to their second guard prospect, though.  And the defensive linemen available will factor in as well.

  • Smith’s comments about the backup situation at guard would seem to validate Pompei’s opinion.  Smith doesn’t sound happy about their play last year.  Via Michael C. Wright at ESPNChicago.com:

“If you just be a team player, eventually, you’re gonna really get a chance to prove whether you can play or not, and you need to take advantage of your opportunity.  Lance [Louis] hasn’t taken advantage of his opportunity. Edwin [Williams] did not take advantage of his opportunity, or hasn’t taken advantage of the opportunity yet. We still like those guys. They’re young players that are in the system.”

“Overall, Sherrod will eventually become a winning left tackle in the league. Some teams may start him off on the right side while he gains experience but he has the traits to play on the left side. The more tape I watched of this player the more I liked him. He has range and athleticism to go along with long arms…all traits needed to become an effective left tackle in the league.”

“There isn’t a prejudiced bone in our bodies or my dad’s body,” Ryan said, including twin brother and Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. “That’s why I know it’s crazy.”

“‘We didn’t come out and check the body or nothing like that, but he’s fine,’ Smith said. ‘I talked to Jay just before he went on his trip to Africa. His spirits are high, in a good mood, you know. [He's] excited about everything.”

Cutler’s had a rough month or two and its nice to know they were talking to him.

  • There aren’t many matchups Julius Peppers can’t win but this is one of them.
  • The Bears website is featuring a quick 4 minute feature on general manager Jerry Angelo and the NFL draft.  Most of the footage appears to be from last year but its still pretty good:

Elsewhere

  • To no one’s surprise, Bengals owner Mike Brown isn’t backing down on his refusal of quarterback Carson Palmer‘s request for a trade.  Palmer is threatening to retire. Via Joe Reedy at the Cincinnati Enquirer:

“I haven’t talked to any other team about him and I have no plans to trade him.”

Brown’s problem goes well beyond the quarterback.  If he gives in on Palmer there might be a line of players behind him.

  • Most Bear fans have one hope as regards the future prospects of the very young and talented Green Bay Packer team.    That is that they handle success in the same way that the Bears handled it after their Super Bowl run in 2006 – poorly.  However it seems that head coach Mike McCarthy is more aware of the problem that Lovie Smith apparently was.  Via Rob Demovsky at the Green Bay Press Gazzette:

“’We’ve achieved team success at the highest level, and I’m a big believer that every level you hit brings new devils,’ McCarthy said. ‘Definitely, there will be some new challenges that come with winning the Super Bowl. We’re anticipating it. It’s something we’ll talk about and keep in the forefront as a football team because to me, that’s where I’ve seen failure.’”

“I think our division is extremely competitive … It’s very competitive. We were 4-2 in our division games, and we strive to do better than that, and we’re going to need to do better than that. I think our division, we spend a lot of time on division games, I’d put our division up against anybody’s. It’s competitive as hell.”

  • NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert at ESPN quotes Lions head coach  Jim Schwartz on how they are monitoring the rehab of quarterback Matthew Stafford during the lockout.  There isn’t supposed to be any contact between the organization and the players during this time:

“Our trainers are in communication not with the players but the people who are doing their rehab… We can’t supervise, but we can communicate with the people who supervise. So you have an idea. And you know they’re at professional places.”

“It’s hard to say (it was a wasted year).  I think sometimes setbacks are set-ups for better things in the future. Sometimes your best lessons come from tough times. I think I’m a better coach today with that experience. Not the record, but I think it made me better as a coach.”

“From my vantage point I couldn’t quite see whether Pete Carroll wore a cat-ate-the-canary look on his face when he heard the question. But when a Philadelphia-based reporter inquired whether his Seahawks have had conversations with the Eagles regarding a trade for quarterback Kevin Kolb, you could almost hear Carroll’s brain whirling as he very carefully chose his words.

“‘There’s no conversations going on,’ said Carroll, perhaps notably dropping into present tense. ‘Not what you want. I talk to [Eagles head coach] Andy [Reid] a lot. I like Andy a lot.”’

Translation:  Carroll is determined to overpay for Kolb and make the Eagles an even better team for years to come by giving them multiple high round draft picks.

  • Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant ejected from mall in Dallas for the high crime of wearing droopy pants.  He didn’t take it well.

One Final Thought

Jensen again on the kickoff rule change:

“Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, chairman of the NFL’s competition committee, insisted player safety superseded any other points.”

Except that it didn’t.  All NFL plays are dangerous.  This one might or might not exceed the standard of what’s too risky and what isn’t.  But one thing is clear.  If – and its a big “if” – the play actually is too dangerous and if player safety really does supersede all other points, it should have been eliminated.

The truth of the matter is that this was a war between player safety and the money that comes from highlights of exciting kickoff returns.  So we are left with half measures as fans are sent a mixed message.  As a result the whole thing sounds more like an effort to make it look like the league is protecting the players than one to actually go all out and do it.

This was a poor decision all around.

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