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FEBRUARY MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: FINAL WORD FROM THE END ZONE: Where you find the unknowns in Cuts and Keeps...the players that make up the TEAM....Football is a team game and IT depends on the players listed herein. There also over 1,000 Cuts...the players that opted to play the pro game but NEVER made it.
****INDOOR MINOR LEAGUE QB GOES VIRAL...Jared Lorenzon gets a lot of attention from the media because he's the most obese QB in pro football at....320 pounds!. He plays for North Kentucky of the Continental Indoor Football League and even the team nick-name truly reflects his presence...The Monsters. A lot of people watch his videos because it's fun. A QB wearing a tight fitting jersey with its abdomen bulging out, avoiding tacklers, running for his life from the pass rush...Something out of the ordinary. But he is nothing but ordinary. The 33-year old QB was once a backup for the New York Giants and he even has a Super Bowl ring that he earned in 2007. Back then, he was a svelte 260 which earned him the nickname Hefty Lefty. Prior to that, he was a star at Kentucky where he was known as the Doughboy. Despite this ridicule, Lorenzon has remained cool. He embraces the attention and the jest and takes everything in stride. Just because he's the ultimate pro...all his life!
****FEBRUARY IS THE MONTH OF THE NFL COMBINE...335 players have been invited to be tested, which also includes a record number of 85 underclassmen players (out of a record number of 98 who declared to leave college football). They will be showcased during Feb. 22-25 on NFL Networks. The biggest reaction now is WHO is NOT there, instead of Who's there.
****BLOCKBUSTER NEWS OF THE OFF-SEASON: With Super Bowl done, pro football news waned about players until a forth-coming draft choice, LB Michael Sam of Missouri, shocked the football world. He declared publicly that he was homosexual and suddenly the social media went ballistics. Our take- he was honest to declare what his teammates knew during the past season (did not disrupt the Missouri Tigers- had a terrific 11-3 season in the SEC) and it is no big deal. He just happens to be one football player (to be included in Cuts and Keeps) who is gay that joins other gays prominent in music, movies, literature, finance, law, education, medicine, arts, news media, other sports and even politics. Of course, the social media is going to make a run to provide a season long drama of the first openly gay NFL player and that's their cue. Too bad a single aspect of sexual orientation overplays one's talent and ability, which seems more important in life, than why you don't date girls.
****AND ON THE OTHER END OF THE SPECTRUM: A female joins and plays for a minor league indoor football team as a contact player, a running back, other than a kicker, like previous others. The Texas Revolution of the Indoor Football League hired the 36-year old Welter on a Friday, after weeks of practice with the team, and played Saturday in an exhibition game against a semi-pro team. The 5-2, 130 pounder rushed three times for a loss of one yard as her team bested North Texas Crunch 64-30. Although she is not expected to make the final roster, she had some positive comments, like "The players all treated me as their equal."
By the way...the General Manager of the Revolution is Tim Brown, a former Notre Dame All-American and Oakland Raiders wide receiver.
****COMBINE FOOTNOTES: The most prominent event here is the 40-yard dash and the times recorded turned some heads. A little 5-8, 177 pound running back Dre Archer from Kent State took 19 strides and blazed to a 4.26 timing. Wow! (because it was electronically timed). Then, two 5-10 speedsters came in second and third. Oregon State's Brandin Cooks was timed at 4.33 and Pittsburg State, Kansas receiver ran for 4.33. These spectacular results may not be so relevant to some pro evaluators. For example, critics question is this relevant? It is just straight ahead speed- with NO football in their hands and NO uniform. I agree but let's just say: It's a time honored tradition that was started by legendary coach Paul Brown of the Cleveland Browns way back when...and wasn't he a winner? Also, I remember Coach Brown for another reason: He always wore a suit on the sideline on game days. Now, only basketball coaches do it.
Then there's another complaint, mostly from fans who watch the combine on NFL Network. The top quarterbacks make their appearance in person only. They refuse to throw. I'll do it on my Pro Day on campus where the fan population won't see me and I throw to my friends that played with me. With the intent of the combine is to showcase talent, figure that one out.
One of the biggest focus on a player was not on ability but on his sexual orientation. I imagine it might serve as good publicity for acceptance by pro football. It seems overplayed because we didn't have a heterosexual player who would answer to questions to why he bragged that he had consensual sex with 1,000 co-eds during his five year career (oh, he redshirted his frosh year).
Another news event that went overboard. Running back Adam Muema from San Diego Sate checked and then abruptly left the Combine, citing religious reasons. The social media quickly announced the reason for his leaving as "God told him to". Does it border on the lunatic fringe? A few days later, I am told, he is missing and no one knows his whereabouts. The outcome becomes more interesting, days after the conclusion of the Combine.
JANUARY MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: FINAL WORD FROM THE END ZONE: The official organ of Cuts and Keeps, the most irrelevant website on pro football players.
****REDSKINS NEW COACH'S UNUSUAL BACKGROUND: Jay Gruden, the offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals since 2011, was named the new head coach at Washington. But how many of you know his Arena Football League background? This was his training ground to prepare him for this BIG job in the NFL. Gruden quarterbacked Tampa Bay Storm for eight seasons, guiding them to four Arena League championships. Then, he became a head coach with the Orlando Predators and guided them to a 93-63 overall record. In addition, he added on two more Arena League championships. Another splendid contributions by AFL which needs greater appreciation.
****WHAT OTHER PRESENT NFL HEAD COACH CAME UP FROM AFL? Yes, he was also an Arena League QB.
****STRANGE ODYSSEY OF ARENA PLAYER: Since AFL will be the first significant league to play in March, there's a lot of player activity. The signing of 27 year old lineman Ayo Ademiluyi by Jacksonville is not great news. He did get some NFL attention with tryouts this past season at the Super Regional Combine and the Chicago Bears mini-camp and that's it. Ayo's experience is very limited as he played one year of football UK's Royal Holloway University and two years at little Emporia State in Kansas. Now, here's the strangest part of his football history. In 2007, he ventured to Tampa, Florida as a member of the Cologne Centurions of NFL Europe and took part in the league training camp. He was among the final cuts. Does this mean he was ineligible to play collegiate ball? Hmmm....
****FOLLOW-UP: DO SOME PLAYERS CHEAT? Sometimes....Some years ago, a coach from a small mid western college called me and said he had a player from the South who wanted to enroll and play football. The coach was suspicious of his playing career because of his age and references of whom he played against. A look in the files of Cuts and Keeps found his name and he played one game as a pro.
****THE WINNER IS....EDDIE LACY: Pro Football Writers Association (PFWA) selected the Green Bay Packers running back as the 2013 NFL Rookie of the Year. In addition, Linebacker Kiko Alonso of the Buffalo Bills was selected as the Defensive Rookie of the Year and Wide Receiver Keenan Allen of the San Diego Chargers was chosen as the Offensive Rookie of the Year. This is the first year that the PFWA selected an overall rookie of the year. On Feb. 1, the Associated Press will announce the offensive and defensive rookies of the year.
****LAST ROOKIE TRANSACTION OF SEASON: It's unusual to have a team sign an undrafted rookie so late in the season but the Denver Broncos signed WR Gregory Wilson out of Fordham University to the practice squad. The Broncos are in the midst of playing in the national championship so they are in a position to sign players for this current season. Wilson came in with a group of players in December to work out as possible future contract players. He did enough for the coaches to sign him immediately for the current season.
****98 UNDERCLASSMEN ELIGIBLE FOR 2014 DRAFT: It's another record number of players who opted for pro ball this year. The 98 surpasses last year's record number of 73 early entrants. Actually, the list increases to 102 underclassmen when you count four seniors that already have graduated. They have still one year of college eligibility left due to a redshirt year but decided to forego their 5th season. They now will compete with the draft eligible seniors for the 256 slots available in the 2014 Draft. Here is a the negative thought for leaving early: Not everyone gets drafted. Last year, 17 of the 73 went undrafted. This year, there will be more. There's already some lists of players who should have stayed in school. However, these lists lack an interview with each individual player as to why he is leaving. Maybe they hate school or money is more important than a college degree. Just askin'.
****LSU AGAIN LEADS EARLY ENTRANTS: Like last year, LSU again had the most number of players declare for the NFL. Six Tigers made the move this year compared to last year's eleven. Southern California had five underclassmen leave early as did Florida, and Alabama. The biggest surprise was University of California at Berkeley. They had five early entrants from a team that is coming off a horrible 1-11 season.
****WHAT'S IN A NAME...A familiar name appears on the list of eligible underclassmen for the 2014 Draft. He is Mike FLACCO, TE from University of New Haven. He's Joe's brother (Baltimore Ravens QB) and is 26 years old, which might justify his departure from college ball.
DECEMBER MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: FINAL WORD FROM THE END ZONE: Featuring players who are the usual eight inactives of NFL teams, the practice squad players, the 32nd to 53rd players of any given roster, the imports of the CFL and the talented but unknowns of the Arena League....These are listed in the Cuts and Keeps football register. Sounds irrelevant, doesn't it.
****CFL's NEWEST ENTRY, OTTAWA, IS NOW IN BUSINESS: The RedBlacks made their first official player transaction by sign-ing three American imports. They are WR Fred Rouse, DB Nick Turnbull and DE DiMetrio Tyson. You can get a glimpse of their back-ground by logging into www.cutsandkeeps.com. That answers your obvious question: Who are these guys? Not impressed? Send manage-ment a list that you think is better by spending a half a day looking at our player register.
****TIM TEBOW IN THE NEWS AGAIN: Of course, it's about an offer to play again and not an actual signing with a professional team. This time around the Milano Seaman of the Italian Football League offered Tebow a four month contract reportedly worth $200,000. The league starts play in March and ends with their own Super Bowl in July. Eight teams comprise the IFL. Do you know of any player that made the jump to the NFL from the Italian Football League?
The Parma Panthers won the league title in 2013 that featured QB Taylor Tharp from Boise State and WR Kevin Grayson from University of Richmond. What is interesting about their roster is that two large defensive tackles, Paul Vellano (Rhode Island) and Matt Perdoni (New Hampshire) are Americans of Italian ancestry. Is there an exempt provision if they are Italian-Americans? Most foreign teams have a rigid import limit. Just askin'.
****MINNESOTA WORKS OUT FIVE. Like all NFL teams, Vikings bring in players for tryouts during the season. Recently, they called in five but these players are different. They all played in the Canadian Football League last season, a mark contrast. Best of the lot was Alex Hall, a pass rusher with Winnipeg. The others were WR's Dontrelle Inman, Chris Matthews (CFL Rookie of Year in 2012) and Nick Moore and DT Ted Laurent. All are American imports that have some NFL backgrounds.
The Vikings have a strong tie-in tradition with the CFL. One of Minnesota's all-time great coach was Bud Grant, a standout receiver in the CFL who honed his coaching skills north of the border. And you cannot forget QB Joe Kapp who led the Vikings to the Super Bowl. He also came from the CFL. If you knew this, then you will know where Wally Moon and Joe Thiesmann got their professional start. By the way, can you name a current NFL star who came up from the ranks of the Canadian Football League?
****ANOTHER DRAFTEE LOST FOR SEASON: Green Bay's RB Jonathan Franklin, a 4th round draft pick, was placed on injured reserve, thus ending his 2013 season after 11 games. He suffered a concussion and also had a neck injury. Most recently, Oakland's first round pick, CB D. J. Hayden, also was shelved for the year with a groin injury. He's an example of true grit since he overcame a delicate heart surgery during his college career and then overcame an abdominal injury during preseason.
When rookies are asked what's the difference between pro and college ball, they most frequently reply: The speed of the game and the physicality. It's the physical aspect of the game that sends so many players onto the reserve list. At the halfway mark, over 150 NFL players were on injured reserve. For all rookies in pro football, you must learn to play hurt. After all, you are getting paid to play.
****FINAL WORD: CHRISTMAS WISH LIST: Dear Mr. Santa Claus-
1. Send us a writer who can cover the NFL rookies and first-year players with a superb technique of analyzing their play, their inner thoughts of facing seasoned pros each week, and incidents, both humorous and sad, about life in the NFL. There must be someone out there that needs an opportunity to write stories about football players...If you had this dream, then go for it.
2. Yes, need a writer for the Canadian Football League that has a lot of American imports. It's a fascinating sports up there, 12 men on the large field that stretches out to 110 yards, and man in motion before the snap, and only three downs to make a first. Some Americans can adapt to this new game but most aspiring players, especially second tier ones, can't make it. Lots of storylines on the players up North.
3. What about a dynamic writer to exploit the players in the Arena Football League. A lot of so called pure football fans ignore the ability of the indoor players, but they need to be exposed by some writer that there is a lot of good talent here. And they can play in the NFL. The presence of the AFL gave opportunities to a lot of players to move up. For example, Marcus Harris, a receiver with Iowa, has been with the New York Giants practice squad all year. Then, recently, Lineman Richard Clebert of the Tampa Bay Storm, signed with the Buccaneers in the same city, and WR Fred Williams, out of San Jose, hooked up with Kansas City practice squad.
4. What about giving us a football guru that can change this site into a more fan friendly, more informative and more accessible site. We need to recognize and appreciate more fully more than two thousand players that appear on Cuts and Keeps. They all contributed to the legacy of pro football for this season.
Have a Happy Holiday Season.....And look forward to another fun-filled season next year!
NOVEMBER MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: FINAL WORD FROM THE END ZONE: All About Rookies
****HAZING IN THE NFL: The recent Martin-Incognito incident was first reported as hazing but later reports, ugly in nature, classified it as bullying. Bullying in any form is unacceptable everywhere but let us tolerate hazing in NFL as part of its culture. Hazing rookies in NFL training camps are a long established tradition, which is done in fun without malice or persecution. Some popular events include dancing and singing on tables. Imagine the fun seeing a clumsy rookie stepping to music. Emmit Smith and Jerry Rice did it as rookies. Years later, they starred in Dancing with the Stars. Hmm...that's a stretch. And no one football player has made it on the Idol. Singing your alma mater standing on the dinner table just isn't the right training ground. But, I know of only one player who sang the National Anthem before the game, all decked out in his game uniform.
Carrying equipment, including pads, is also a custom. Vets require rookies to do it in camp. A rookie orientation course to reinforce their lowly status. Few knew this until a player named Dez Bryant blew the whistle and refused to do it in his first Cowboys camp. It was handled internally.
One of the funniest rookie hazing pranks occurred some years ago in Cleveland in late November. The vets summoned a half dozen rookies on the Browns and told them it was a team tradition for them to pick up Turkeys at a meat plant. Then, they were supposed to distribute the frozen birds to the poor and needy families. Rookies responded enthusiastically and hurried to the pickup point. When they got there, they were met by a puzzled manager who did not know anything about free Turkey distribution by professional football players. Undaunted, the rookies called the team office. They too were surprised by the turkey order and free give-away. Nobody knew anything about it. Suddenly, it dawned on the rookies- they were innocent victims of rookie hazing. Let's hear more of these stories instead of the never ending saga of the Martin-Incognito incident emanating from Miami.
KUDOS TO THE PRACTICE SQUAD ROOKIES: Every team has eight guys who they pay $6,000 a week to do what they are named for- that is practice with the active roster squad. Most of the time they emulate the scout team. But most importantly, they develop during the course of the season to be combat ready. Around this time of the year, injuries takes its toll on the veterans and soon as the injured are placed on reserve, the club activates a practice squadder. And they don't miss a beat.
Most team's practice squad resembles a train station. Players come and go. Each week, a player is cut and another rookie takes his place. Seattle resembles a train station. The Seahawks lead everybody in player movements. Denver is an exception. Since the opening game, Broncos had only one move- activating a wide receiver in October.
There are some interesting players on the practice squad. Indianapolis is trying to develop a rugby player into a football one. Kansas City has a basketball player trying to be a tight end. The Dallas Cowboys have two from different football backgrounds- Casear Rayford comes from the Arena Football, an eight-man indoor league whereas Jason Vega comes from the Canadian League, a 12-man team with a 110 yard field. At one time, the practice squad was known as the developmental squad and somewhere along that time, it was also known as the Taxi Squad. And the coaches would call the players "cabbies". Oh, times have changed. Have we become more sophisticated in football lingo?
Finally, the practice squads offer teams an instant replacement- for another team. That's right. Any NFL club can sign a player off another team's squad. Basically, a practice squad player is a free agent and can be signed as such by an opposing team. The only difference between a street free agent and practice player is that the latter has a signed contract which can be broken. If a practice player is signed by another club, he must go on their active roster. He cannot join another practice squad, as if in stockpiling talent. Got it?
Now, back to the pay scale of $6,000 a week. In some instances, a club will pay a practice player more than that, just to have him around. This scenario is few, but recently, it was rumored that when Green Bay had its current QB Scott Tolzien on the practice squad, they upped his salary to somewhere near $30,000 when Packers found out some other team was interested in signing him. Good move, because later, QB Aaron Rodgers was injured. Tolzien is now the interim starter.
****UNDRAFTED ROOKIE STARTS FOR OAKLAND: It is hard to imagine an undrafted rookie QB starting in an NFL game. That's usually reserved for some drafted player with outstanding credentials. But the Oakland Raiders started Matt McGloin on the road versus Houston, and Matt responded by throwing 3 TD passes to lead his team over Houston 28-23. If this was an accomplishment, go back to training camp to see how this unfolded. The Raiders signed him after the draft, no doubt as a camp passer, as they had firmly entrenched a trio of talented QBs...Flynn, Pryor and Wilson, the latter a draftee out of Arkansas. First, he had to beat out another rookie free agent named Padron who once played at SMU after starring at Drew Brees high school alma mater in Texas. Then, he outplayed the Big Three in training camp which unseated No. 3 Wilson, and sent him to the practice squad. And so he sat as the token reserve as Matt Flynn got shipped out, and Tyrelle Pryor took over. When Pryor got hurt, there was nothing left but McGloin. But, what a surprise to see McGloin, the unheralded, undrafted rookie show up everyone to win, of all places, on the road- in Houston. Is this a classic Underdog story or what?
****WHAT'S IN A NICKNAME? Portland newest entry in the Arena League has announced the winning nickname for the team recently. It will be henceforth known as the Thunder. This is not original. I believe Berlin in the NFL Europe League had the same nickname years back. I made fun of Portland's nickname in the previous AFL try. They were called the Forest Dragons, which reminded me of a character out of Children's literature. I was praying that no one would suggest Magic Dragon, like Puff. Then, you know they were too buzzed to play.
The most controversial nickname comes from the Canadian Football League where the new entry Ontario chose RedBlack as it's moniker. What kind of name is that? exclaimed a number of fans. Well, it's different but colors have always found its way into team nicknames. Just think of the Browns- a wonderful color, isn't it? Brown? Don't you think Red and Black are a good combination- both in logo and uniform? By the way, this is not original. Watertown, NY, had a semi-pro football team for years known as Watertown Red and Black.
More lines to this story about Team Ontario. The CFL told the club that it cannot use the nickname Rough Riders which was the nickname of the club in its previous existence in the CFL for years. The catch here is that at one time CFL had two teams with that nickname. Saskatche-wan and Ontario. The former was spelled Roughriders, like Teddy Roosevelt's charges, and Ontario was Rough Riders, with entirely a different connotation. The O's disjointed name came from the guys with the long hooks that rode logs in the river to be transported to mills. Those men were called Rough Riders, which doesn't require much cerebral thought to know why. Now you know.
OCTOBER MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: FINAL WORD FROM THE END ZONE: Trying every month to get you acquainted with the rookies and first year players of the NFL, CFL and Arena Football Leagues plus any high caliber leagues on the horizon (oh! like the UFL, XFL and NFL Europe) on Cuts and Keeps (www.cutsandkeeps.com). It's FREE to view.
****INJURIES KNOCK OUT DRAFTED ROOKIES: It's not even at the halfway mark of the season, but injuries are slowly taking away some of the stellar players from the 2013 Draft. T Luke Joeckel of Jacksonville, the second player chosen in this year's draft, suffered a broken ankle against St. Louis and is out for the year. Earlier, St. Louis starting safety, T. J. McDonald, a third round pick, sustained a lower leg injury that put him on injured reserve but he's been designated to return. K Dustin Hopkins of Buffalo, a sixth round choice of the Bills, has ended his season with a groin injury. One can only say, "It's unfortunate". That's the nature of the Game.
****SEASON COMES TO AN END FOR MORE DRAFTED ROOKIES: TE Travis Kelcie, a third round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs is through for the season with a knee injury. Buffalo's fifth round choice, S Jonathan Meeks is out with an ankle injury but he was placed on injured reserve with a return designation, which means he may be activated around Week 15 if he's physically able to play.
****MEMORABLE TRANSACTION: The 49ers recently cut their third string QB, B. J. Daniels, a promising dual threat player. He was claimed by Seattle, the bitter rivals in the West Division. Consider it a smart move by the Seahawks who will meet San Francisco in Dec. Will they grill Daniels extensively- CIA style- to get that advantage that their advance scouts cannot get? Hmm...check the final score in Dec.
****AFL WELCOMES A NEW TEAM: Portland became the second team to become affiliated with the Arena League. It joins the newly organized Los Angeles KISS to make up for the loss of the Chicago Rush and the Utah Blaze. Arena fans may recall that Portland was once an entry in the AFL with a nickname that sounded weird- the Forest Dragons. A name that seemed like it was derived from children's literature. Hope they come up with a mature name like KISS, maybe even more sensual. Got any ideas?
The coach of the unnamed Portland entry is Matt Sauk, a former AFL QB. A very good choice, as Arena fans will recall he was twice named Assistant Coach of the Year. But, what is more imposing is the fact that he coached the last three MVP's of the league, all QB's: Nick Davila, Tommy Grady and Erik Meyer. Don't know anybody in any pro league that can claim that.
****UNDRAFTED LIONS ROOKIE IS A TOUCHDOWN MAKER: Detroit TE Joseph Fauria caught three passes for 34 yards against Cleveland this month and all three receptions were Touchdowns! Prior to this game, he had 7 catches for 66 yards but five of those receptions went for TD's. Not only does he lead his team in TD's but he is also the NFL rookie leader with 8. Not bad for a rookie that was passed over in the draft because he couldn't block. But he sure can catch. The Lions were smart to project him as a "Red Zone Specialist" at 6'7" tall, a certain mismatch.
****HOUSTON CUTS THREE ROOKIES FOR RULES VIOLATION: The Texans released three rookie players, LB Sam Mont- gomery, DE Willie Jefferson and RB Cierre Wood after their loss to Kansas City for violation of team rules. Although the club did not specify the exact violation, a rumor surfaced that it was due to smoking marijuana. Montgomery and Jefferson denied this, saying it was cigars. Whatever it was, certain hotels have rigid rules for guests to follow: NO SMOKING.
****FINAL WORD: The Oakland Raiders held a tryout for thirteen players. Teams are always searching to improve their teams, and the Raiders are anxious to improve their unexpected 2-3 record. This is a rather large group to bring in at one time. Most NFL fans will recog-nize the QB's: David Carr and Trent Edwards and maybe TE Evan Moore and the widely publicized QB Pat White of West Virginia who was acclaimed the future star of the "wildcat formation" with Miami Dolphins. He was a "bust" but opportunity knocks twice- the read option and the spread opens up a need for his talent.
Then, there are the other nine: RB's Montario Hardesty, Keiland Williams and Jonathan Grimes. Receivers Ramses Barden and LaQuan Williams DB's Marcus Burley, Myron Lewis, Curtis Marsh and Markelle Martin. If you ask, "Who are they?" you are in the majority. To find out, just log onto www.cutsandkeeps.com and you will find out WHO they are.
SEPTEMBER MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: FINAL WORD FROM THE END ZONE: Dedicated to the hundreds of college players who adorn the pages of our Cuts and Keeps rookie register- who trained for months and practiced for weeks- until Cut Day. The results are in. Take a look at www.cutsandkeeps.com.
****THE UNDRAFTED ROOKIE: Fifty-nine (59) undrafted rookies made the NFL rosters for Week 1. That's an amazing accomplish-ment as the odds on making the 53-man roster is overwhelming. Most of the teams bring in undrafted rooks as "camp bodies", nothing else. Only a few, like two or three, actually make the active squad, to augment the draft class which usually stays intact. The New England Patriots had the largest number of undrafted rookies- seven (7) and with their seven draft choices, led all NFL teams with 14 rookies. The Pats have an undrafted rookie as a starter at TE, Zack Sudfeld, all 6-7 of him, which might magnify Hernandez' absence. Actually, Sudfeld is holding down the position until Rob Gronkowski recovers from injury.
****TWO ROOKIE STARTERS AT QB: This year finds rookies Geno Smith of the Jets and E. J. Manuel of the Bills making their debut as starters. This is amazing when you consider that it was not a draft year that was blessed with can't miss QB's. Both Smith and Manuel may have been helped by injuries to the expected starters, Sanchez of the Jets and the Bills' Kolb. One thing is certain- it's difficult to match last year's pair- RGIII and Russ Wilson.
****THE MOST IMPROBABLE ROOKIE TO MAKE THE TEAM: Cuts and Keeps nominates FS Chris Banjo of the Green Bay Packers as the most unlikely candidate to make the roster. Banjo is not a class of 2013 prospect. He's a holdover from last year. Just take a look at his pro journey in www.cutsandkeeps.com. He went to two mini-camps in 2012 and was not signed. Then he went to this year's Super Regional Combine in Dallas. Jacksonville saw some potential and signed him. In camp, the Jags cut him. Green Bay picked him up to fill out their camp roster. The rest is history. What do you call his character: Determination? Perseverance? Courage? Luck?
****THE BEST PRACTICE SQUAD STORY: After the final cuts, each club is allowed to sign eight players to their Practice Squad. Once a player is signed to the squad, he actually becomes a free agent, meaning that another team can sign him, as long as that player goes on their active roster. So, here's the story: Seattle released WR Chris Harper (surprising cut as he was a draftee) and inked him to the squad. As soon as he was officially noted, the hated rival San Francisco 49ers signed him. If you know the Carroll-Harbaugh volatile relationship, you would quickly think it was a transactions for the 49ers to get an edge. Harper was secured to get valuable information on the Seahawks' scheme. Really? Sounds like de-briefing is now in progress. Most coaches will minimize such tactics and refer it to as an overblown situation. Some day, Chris Harper will let us know- after the Seahawks lose their series with the Niners.
****ANOTHER LOOK FOR ARENA FOOTBALL LEAGUE: They lose two more teams this year. Chicago Rush and Utah Blaze. Both teams could not honor the AFL mandate that they must sign a two-year commitment to play. Chicago and Utah showed early signs of folding when they could not obtain new leases for their home arenas. The Milwaukee Mustangs, who went dark in 2013, were supposed to return next year but nothing has come forward as of yet. The only bright light is the emergence of a new team in Los Angeles, the KISS. They should bring a new kind of entertainment to the indoor game because of their affiliation with the real rock group KISS. While ownership has its ups and downs, the players are getting more respect as "football players". The so- called football purists debunk their ability on the half-sized field. Take a look at their contributions to the NFL. Center Brian Folkerts of Carolina and DE Caesar Rayford of Dallas played last season in the AFL with San Jose and Utah respectively. Now they are on the NFL 53-man active roster. Some are on the practice squads. True, many of them are signed as "camp bodies" but a few are NFL caliber players.
****NFL REJECT TIM TEBOW STILL GET OFFERS: Tim's insistence on playing QB has minimized his chances to return to the NFL at another position. However, Tebow still receives a lot of attention. Recently, a small group in Jacksonville set up a demonstration to seek his services for the Jaguars. If I were a Jaguar fan, I would feel desperate, too.
A phenomenal offer came by the way of Russia. The owner of the Moscow based American football team, the Black Storm, reportedly offered Tebow one million dollars to play two games. It was refused. Then, Los Angeles' new Arena team entry, the L.A. KISS tendered a three-year contract with "an opportunity to make millions". The team is tied to the rock band KISS, so it's a solid promotional venture. But, there seems to be little interest from the athlete.
His future may lie in as a faith-based motivational speaker. He's good at that. People listen because he's sincere, passionate and a real down-to-earth guy. It must run in the family because his mom, Pamela Tebow, is also a featured speaker. Received a flyer of her presence in California but unable to attend although it was nearby. This family is the real deal.
****ROOKIE NFL QB UPDATE: The two starting QB's E. J. Manuel (Bills) and Geno Smith (Jets) met head-to-head. Manuel got sacked eight times while Smith threw for 331 yards and 2 TD's, one of them, a 69-yarder. Smith looks like a star in the making in Week 3. In Week 4, another rookie QB would make his first start. Mike Glennon of Tampa Bay gets the starting assignment in favor of a benched Josh Freeman. Is it an understatement to say "there's seem to be trouble at Tampa Bay"?
****INJURY REPORT: At the end of Week 3, there are some 150 players on the reserve list that counts those who are injured, physically unable to perform, and those with non-football injuries ( a misnomer because it means injury did not occur in NFL game but may have a football injury from other than). Two players made the list last week to become the first rookies to end their season prematurely. First was undrafted rookie Zack Line of Minnesota. The fullback played in three games and is shelved with a knee injury. LB Alex Okafor (AZ) became the first drafted rookie to be injured in a game and declared out for the season with a torn biceps. Okafor played one game.
The physical nature of the game will send hundreds more to the injured reserve list in the ensuing weeks. Near the end of the season, the rosters will have many rookie (R) and first-year players (1) as replacements for injured vets. Here's a good reason to look up the new guys in www.cutsandkeeps.com. We have these players covered.
AUGUST MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: FINAL WORD FROM THE END ZONE: If you ever wondered- "Whatever happened to that football player from my alma mater" you might look up www.cutsandkeeps.com. He might be doing well in professional football or seeking new endeavors.
****WISE DECISION AND A GRATEFUL ONE: WR Ryan Swope was drafted in the sixth round by the Arizona Cardinals, and no doubt, with some reservations. The swift receiver with good hands from Texas A&M had a history of concussions from his college playing days. The management, and the coaching staff, too, expressed their concerns about this and Ryan himself pondered long about this situation. Recently, the Cardinals announced Ryan Swope has taken a medical retirement. That's good news. We wish Ryan a most successful life after football.
****SPEAKING OF CONCUSSIONS: During the first week of practice, the New York Giants first round draft choice, tackle Justin Pugh sustained a concussion. His coach said he took a blow to the head and afterwards, experienced headaches. Pugh, who is projected as a starter at RT, will be monitored by the newest technology and watched closely. We must all realize this: Concussions are part of this GAME.
****SOMETHING FUNNY FROM EAGLES CAMP: Let's forget about that Cooper incident for a while, and focus on a humorous name-calling incident in the early days of training camp. As it was reported in the Philadelphia Enquirer, one of the Eagles veteran players kept calling rookie QB Matt Barkley's first name as "Mark". This was not a case of deliberate rookie hazing. The vet didn't know. When corrected, he remarked: I don't follow college football. He's right. And knowing he is from USC, he probably got confused since there's QB's Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez- which led him to pick the wrong first name.
****PATRIOTS AND THE RUTGERS CONNECTION: At the beginning of this month, New England had 9 players from Rutgers on its 90-man training camp roster. Six of them are rookies. Three were drafted by the Pats this year which led one writer to comment that the make-up of the team resembles a Tampa Bay Bucs roster, which is headed by Greg Schiano, a former Rutgers coach. That writer should check the Tampa Bay roster. They have 9 players from Rutgers, too, in which five are rookies. The last Rutgers player signed by the Bucs recently came off the practice roster of the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League- LB Marv Booker. That's an interesting signing. Coach Schiano is very loyal to his former players and his gives them every opportunity to get a tryout with his team. By the way, so is Coach Belichick. In previous years, he would bring in former Navy players to camp because he grew up in Annapolis where his father coached at the Naval Academy. Both coaches have compassion.
****INTERESTING HIRE: The Indianapolis Colts signed an unusual prospect from South Africa. Daniel Adongo is his name and he stands 6-5 and weighs 257 who is best known as an international rugby player. The Colts think they he has the physical tools to become an outside linebacker. But, first, he must learn the nuances of American football because he has none. The first time he put on pads and helmet was at the opening practice. The whole rugby nation around the world will be watching Daniel Adongo this year. Watch out, if he makes it. NFL may have a Pacific Rim combine in Australia!
****WHAT'S IN A NAME: Recently, the former NFL superstar, O. J. Simpson made news when he was granted parole....but, not his freedom. He was granted parole on some of the charges but he still has four more years behind the bars. The 66-year old has been commended by prison officials for his good behavior. Meanwhile, there is another O. J. Simpson who is free and running wild on the football field. This O. J. Simpson is a 28-year old receiver from Missouri Western who plays for the minor league Kansas City Renegades of the Champions Professional Indoor Football League. A seven year veteran of the minor leagues, he plays receiver for KC but his forte is kick returning. We don't know, with a name like O. J., whether he is a crowd favorite but the players and coaches like his ability. O. J. recently made All- League as a kick returner.
****ANOTHER INTERESTING HIRE STORY: This does not happen often, and maybe it will never happen again, but after Week One of the preseason, three teams signed Long Snappers. Chicago (Hartson), Dallas (Mangieri) and Philadelphia (Winchester) were the teams that picked up the players. P. J. Mangieri and kicker Brett Maher, both of Nebraska, came in as a tandem to the Cowboys camp. The idea is good, as both played to together for four years and that's an advantage. Squash that idea. Mangieri was cut the next day. The moral of the story is that the teams depend on a good LS, and their importance is overlooked because you seldom see a bad snap on punts and field goals. Only when they make an errant snap, do we notice. Last year, Oakland gave us a first hand experience of their value. The Raiders regular LS was lost through injury, so they had to rely on a backup- a linebacker who was designated as a backup LS. Was in form? Guess not. He made two bad snaps that added to a horrible Raiders loss. I often ask myself: Why not pick a Long Snapper on the All-League team in the Special Teams section. Don't you think they deserve recognition? AND...who do you think is the best long snapper in pro football?
****ROOKIE QB'S IMPRESSIVE WK 1 PRESEASON: Two unheralded rookie QB's, Jeff Tuel (Buffalo) and Matt McGloin (Oakland) made an impressive debut in the first week of the preseason. What makes them extra special is that both are undrafted free agents trying to make the 53-man roster. Their expectations are not as great as the drafted QB's who are assured of a roster spot.
Tuel completed 19 of 23 passes for 212 yards and 2 TD's in a win over Indianapolis. At one point, he completed ten straight passes, an uncommon rookie stat. Another surprising performance came from McGloin, a former Penn State walk-on. He produced Oakland's only TD in the 19-17 win over Dallas. McGloin was 4 for 7 for 78 yards, which included a 30 yard TD pass. His coach, Dennis Allen, praised him thusly: "I think the thing that you see in Matt is he is composed. He does have poise in the pocket and he doesn't get rattled. For a guy who is an undrafted free agent, to handle himself the way he's handled himself in pressure situations has been a nice surprise".
Now the reality is this: It's only an exhibition game. They are playing against 3's and 4's. Wait they see real competition.
****LOS ANGELES ENTERS ARENA LEAGUE (Again)...During the week of the Arena Bowl XXVI, in which Arizona Rattlers repeated as champs by defeating the Philadelphia Soul, 48-39, the league had an interesting press conference. AFL introduced the co-founders of the legendary rock goup, KISS, as the owners of the new LA franchise which will aptly be named KISS. This brings a new innovation in team nicknames which always favored masculine, aggressive and violent words. Now, we have a feminine, sensual one. With this type of radical departure, why not continue the trend by outfitting the team in PINK uniforms. Don't laugh. This is an advantage. Psychologists have demonstrated with prisoners placed in pink colored cells that subsequent results showed the felons became less belligerent and anger subsided. So, KISS team, make your opponents see PINK!!
****ARENA LEAGUE MAKES IMPACT ON NFL: During training camp this month, there are 42 former Arena League players trying to make the final 53-man rosters. It's quite a jump from 8-man indoor football to the physical outdoor game but AFL'ers are good football players and some will make it. Oddly, the Arena's MVP on offense, QB Erik Meyer of Spokane and on defense, DB Clevan Thomas of San Jose, are conspicuously missing on NFL rosters. Also, Rookie of Year WR Mario Urrutia of Utah, who stands 6-5, is unsigned.
JULY MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: FINAL WORD FROM THE END ZONE: A column dedicated to the Rooks of professional football who try to live out a dream as noted in our website: www.cutsandkeeps.com.
****2013 NFL ROOKIE SYMPOSIUM was held in the last week of June for this year's Draft Class in Aurora, OH. Sure, personal conduct off the field was stressed but the most somber message was this: Most of you won't be here (in NFL) after THREE years! This must be the most insecure job in America!
****2013 NFL SUPPLEMENTAL DRAFT was held (?) on July 11 but NO one was picked by the 32 clubs. Only six players were declared eligible for this draft, which is mainly for college players who became eligible after the main draft in April due to special circumstances that prevented their play for this upcoming season. None of the six had playing resumes that predicted NFL success. Of the six, three were declared academically ineligible and the other three were dismissed for violation of team rules. Nuff said.
****NOT HEADLINE NEWS BECAUSE HE IS ONLY A ROOKIE...In the wake of Patriots Aaron Hernandez murder charge, a rookie with the Cleveland Browns, LB Ausor Walcott was arrested last month on charges of first degree attempted murder in New Jersey. He reportedly beat a man, causing injuries that required hospitalization. When the police report surfaced, the Browns immediately released him. Hopefully, the Browns, NFL, and Ausor's alma mater, Rutgers, will not dismiss him into the underworld, and do something to rehabilitate him so he can find a rightful place in our society as a productive citizen. Football owes him a favor.
****TITAN ROOKIE DESERVES A HEADLINE AS OFF-FIELD HERO: Jonathan Willard is an undrafted rookie with Tennessee. He was driving to training camp from South Carolina when he noticed a car with billowing black smoke coming out of it. Alarmed that the occupants were unaware of the situation, Willard drove next the car and signaled and honked to make them stop. With the assistance of another motorist, the player removed all the occupants from the burning car, which at end was a red inferno of flames. The final rescue count was a woman, her three children and a dog. After the incident, the modest Willard said he did what any other person would do under the circumstances, BUT he did notice that many motorists just drove by as he was preparing for the rescue attempt. What a nice, refreshing story that makes up for the rash of bad stories of player misconduct this offseason.
****WHO ARE THESE GUYS?...With Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo recovering from back surgery (removal of cyst), the club worked out three QB's recently (July 16)- Kyle Pardon, Chase Clement and Alex Tanney. The reason is obvious- they need "camp arms" so bringing in some competent throwers is the right thing to do. Do you recognize the names? One is a raw rookie, next was a star QB in the UFL, and the other was a You Tube sensation with his trick passing. Want to know more about their backgrounds? Google www.cutsandkeeps.com.
****THE UNKIND TURK...Some 50 years ago, during training camp, the man who came to pick up the playbook and inform you that you were cut was known as the mythical "Turk". I also recall seeing a terminated player for a few days, and ask him, "Did the Chargers cut you?" "It will be announced in a few days", was his response. Nowadays, technology gives you instant waiver wire. And the term Turk may be politically incorrect now. So...we now know two players from famous families are no longer employed in pro football. QB Jordan Rodgers, younger brother of Packer QB Aaron Rodgers, was cut by Jacksonville and DB Cannon Smith, son of FedEx president Fred Smith, was released by the St. Louis Rams, all during the first days of training camp.
****HOT AND COLD FOR CANADIAN FOOTBALL ROOKIE: Lindsey Lamar is a kick returner from South Florida, only 5-9 and 180 pounds, but quick and lightning fast. Kick returners are always in demand but the NFL calling did not come due to a collarbone injury in his senior year. So, he took his game up North to Canada, specifically to Hamilton. In two pre-season games, he scored TD's in each with runs of more than 80 yards on punt returns. Then, in his first league game, he took the opening kickoff 104 yards for a TD. Lindsay Lamar was an rookie sensation for the TigerCats. Would he continue his amazing feats in the second league game? This is what happened: He fumbled four times on four return opportunities, and lost one. The latter hurt because Edmonton scored on that miscue to win the game. That's the unpredictable nature of the game. Hero one week and Goat the next. For those in complete sympathy with Lindsey, also consider this: It was raining throughout the game.
****AN AMAZING ROOKIE STORY: Robert Gill is a rookie wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals. In March, he recorded running 25 miles per hour on a treadmill during a workout prior to reporting to the Cards mini-camp. Now, that's pretty fast, even for professional athletes. One day, on June 25, Gill decided to put it on You Tube. Suddenly, he attracted viewers from all over the world. At last count (July 22), he was viewed by 2.9 million people. Robert Gill became a You Tube sensation! So much so that he appeared on NBC's Today Show besides getting hype on ESPN and NFL Network. Who is Robert Gill? A good answer would be he ran track for Texas State. But, he's a 29 year old rookie in pro football, you ask. What's his football background? It's indoor football. Take a look at www.cutsandkeeps.com and you will see his journey to the Big Show.
****FINAL WORD: Five former players of the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the defunct United Football League have filed a suit against former owner Paul Pelosi to recover $250,000 in lost wages due to them. As usual, the UFL has failed again (as in their previous seasons) to pay off debts. This is really bad publicity for Mr. Pelosi, because his wife is Nancy, a powerful Democratic politician in Congress from California The players must think Mr. Pelosi is wealthy because of this domestic link. Why do we keep bringing up the UFL in this column? Well, one of our contributing writers is owed thousands of dollars by the UFL. Never got a cent. I told him, "You can't beat up on a Dead Horse! well, I really meant a Dead Donkey."
JUNE MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: FINAL WORD FROM THE END ZONE: *RANDOM NOTES ON ROOKIES, FIRST-YEAR PLAYERS, LIMITED VETS AND OUR FAVS.
****FINALLY, TEBOW IS WANTED! QB Tim Tebow is back on the playing field with New England. This will stop those annoying over-tures from teams like Orlando :Predators, Philadelphia Soul and Omaha Beef ( yes, of the Champions Professional Indoor Football League) who gained some publicity by a sincere desire to sign him...Now, we will get more annoying analysis on why Tebow is NOT an NFL quarterback.... Wasn't it some years ago, I recall, that "experts" said the same thing about high profile college QB who was big and strong? What was his name? Oh, it was Paul Hornung....And I think Bill Belichick is an astute football coach.
****SAD ENDING: We are indeed saddened by the demise of Pro Football Weekly publication. From the onset, they were our best source, both live and in hard copy, of the information needed for our site, wwwcutsandkeeps.com. We felt a close bond to Publisher Hub Arkush's dad, the founder of PFW, because we were involved in minor league football. He owned a team in El Paso, TX....The folding of PFW indicates newspapers will soon be extinct. Too bad, I guess it's only the elderly that sits down and leisurely read the papers. And, they too are dying.
****WHAT'S IN A NAME? I wonder how many knuckle sandwiches RB Christine Michael of the Seattle Seahawks delivered to the mouths of people that addressed his first name with a high-pitched, falsetto voice? If you saw him in person, you would think twice after noticing his muscular 220 pound frame, chiseled like the Man of Steel. Carolina's DT Star Lotulelei given name is Starlite, which might give you the immediate impression it's better to keep his name short and honorable. By the way, my father's first name is June.
****TALL AND SHORT OF IT: Of nearly 800 rookies that will convene in training camps this fall, the tallest player is 6 ft 10 inches Terrell Brown (Mississippi), a 384 pound tackle for the St. Louis Rams. The shortest is 5 feet 5 inches Matt Brown (Temple) who signed with Tampa Bay, primarily as a punt returner. Now you know.
****OTA's (Organized Team Activities): Most readers know OTA's are off-season training sessions held in May and June so that teams can understand the plans for the upcoming season. There is always a misunderstanding about the intent- is it voluntary or mandatory? Mini-camps are mandatory; if absent, you are fined. OTA's must be voluntary, as some players skip it. Yet, if absent, their names and comments are aired out by coaches, teammates and the media as if the absent player is a detriment to the whole organization. That's what makes me wonder...The Jets ended their OTA with a paint ball war. Results were not given...Another team had a Dodge Ball Tournament. Sounds fun....Dallas had a most noteworthy ending to their OTA. The Cowboys hosted a camp for 60 disadvantaged high school players that included a tournament. The players participated as coaches. The team that won the tournament was coached by Tony Romo. Good PR. At least, Tony won something.
****FATHER'S DAY STORY: If you happen to have a father who's a NFL Hall of Famer and you happen to play football, attention is sure to come. Take the case of Joe Montana and Cris Carter's sons. Naturally, Nate Montana is a quarterback and Duron Carter is a receiver. Both of these young men lack the talent of their fathers and their ability at best might be described as average. Nate and Duron both tried hard to live up to the image of Dad in their football journey. They hold this similarity. Both went to four different schools in an effort to show some good numbers. Nate's list includes Pasadena City College, Notre Dame, Montana and finally Division II West Virginia Wesleyan. Duron tried his dad's alma mater first, Ohio State, then Coffeyville Community College, Alabama and finally Florida Atlantic. The Draft ignored them for seven rounds, to show sentimentality doesn't exist. And they weren't even signed as free agents but sentiments do exist in this area. The 49ers and Vikings invited Nate and Duron to their rookie mini-camps. After three days, they were not signed by their respective clubs. Nate has been fortunate of the two because the 49ers invited him to the OTA's as a non-roster player. But, Duron can boast he is a bona fide professional football player. He signed on with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League and is in training camp now. Will Nate sign with the 49ers as the 90th man of the training camp roster?
****FINAL WORD: What happened to the United Football League, who shut down at midseason last year, but promised to play the second half of their schedule in the spring of this year? The Championship Game would be held this month, if everything went according to plan. The plan was to find investors who were willing to put up 10 million dollars or more to pay off the accumulated debts. That plan just didn't work so we missed the UFL title game between Las Vegas Locomotives and Virginia Destroyers. Who cares?
MAY MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: SOME IRRELEVANT COMMENTS ON THE ROOKIE MINI-CAMPS...
The mini-camps are over and teams will start the OTA's in earnest before training camp kicks in early August. During the first and second weeks after the draft, all 32 clubs had a good look at their draftees, undrafted free agents and tryout players. The training camp roster is 90, so many teams added some tryout players to complement the maximum quota. And at the same time, some 100 players who signed contracts were subsequently cut, making their dream of signing a NFL contract quickly disappear. That's pro football...the business side of it.
During mini-camps, some teams bring in as many as 50
players in for tryouts, while others, like the 49ers and Patriots bring in like
4-7 players at certain positions. I don't think we'll ever see over 100
signed free agent players converge to camp like the Dallas Cowboys did in their
heyday. I think it was Gil Brandt's idea of finding that one diamond in
the rough, which happened in the '60's in Thousand Oaks, CA, then, the
It always interesting to hear some familiar names that come in for a tryout. For example, Nate Montana was a tryout candidate for the 49ers, and most know him as the son of Joe, and yes, he's also a quarterback. But, there's not much to get excited about his ability when you realize he played for West Virginia Wesleyan, and not Notre Dame. Receiver Duron Carter was invited unsigned to the Minnesota mini-camp, probably because he was Vikings all-time great receiver Chris' son.. The younger Carter followed his dad to Ohio State but did not play much. After that, he ended up at Florida Atlantic where his playing time was limited. Stuff like this make mini-camps interesting, more so if players come from places like New Haven, Saint Xavier, Mary Hardin-Baylor...unless your dad was All-Pro.
First year player Thomas Mayo of the Jets signed on as a wide receiver earlier in the year. He was cut after the draft so his slot can be filled by new players. Undaunted by the cut, Mayo had the Jets invite him to their rookie mini-camp on a conditional tryout. Lo and behold. He was re-signed by the New York Jets. For me, this is the best success story from the mini-camps. Think Perseverance. Any other stories?
From the recent Canadian Football League draft, two first round picks, DT Linden Gaydosh (Calgary) and OT Matt Sewell (McMaster) jumped to the NFL as free agents. Gaydosh signed with Carolina and Sewell chose Tennessee. Sewell's NFL life was short; he was released after mini-camp. He will go back to the Toronto Argonauts. Gaydosh, the number one pick in the draft by Hamilton might have a chance to stick. There are few others but Canadians don't do well in American football whereas Americans do well in Canadian football. After the final NFL cut in September, a horde of those who aren't re-signed to the practice squad will take their talents North of the border.
The last comment brings me a reminder: What happened to the UFL? This was the best feeder league that NFL ever had. As you might know the UFL was supposed to have completed their second half of the schedule in the spring. This would give players the opportunity to sign with other leagues, which is in sync with their mission- a developmental league. Let's not fret about this. There's a talk about a new USFL that will be on board as soon as next year. Football fans make not go crazy over this, but those who got cut in mini-camp and those who get released in the fall, will be happy. Another opportunity!
APRIL MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: IT'S APRIL AND TIME FOR THE BIGGEST SHOW- NFL DRAFT; NOT SO OUTSTANDING THIS YEAR
In the past, there was one or two players that were a cinch to be selected No. 1. Usually a quarterback or some offensive weapon in the form of a receiver or running back. This year, many are looking at a offensive or defensive lineman, which are many compared to previous drafts.
One clue to who's going in the first round is to see the names of 23 players who were invited by the NFL for the draft ceremony. There are seven offensive linemen and 6 defensive linemen heading the select group. Draftniks could probably name all of them. Then, there's five defensive backs. And only TWO quarterbacks, Geno Smith (West Virginia) and E. J. Manuel (Florida State). Draftniks and bloggers haven't shown much appreciation to the duo, despite their outstanding collegiate performance. They may be right- this is pro, not college. Of course, last year, I thought for sure Matt Barkley (USC) would be here to add the All-American poster boy touch. He's also articulate and says the right things without a script. After all, the Draft on national TV is prime time stuff. It's Showtime at its best.
A weak draft might be indicated by the fact that only ONE running back was invited and he's Ed Lacy (Alabama), a junior who skipped his final year. Then again, a great representative on stage would be one of my favorites, Jonathan Franklin (UCLA). But, alas, he's pegged as a fourth rounder but if you want to see an outstanding young man who represents America's future as a productive, people and community oriented leader, this is your MAN. He's also articulate, personable with all the great values in religion, education, and politics. Viewers can see a real All-American. And remember his name...after his NFL career.
I am assuming NFL is footing the bill for their stay in New York City, but I often wondered who paid for their entourage. A booster? It's also a fashion show as each player comes forward dressed in a custom tailored suit in the latest style. It's beats the latest edition of GQ or Esquire. If only once, if some player could appear in jeans and his letterman jacket, it would bring comedic relief. Or, poor guy, doesn't have an agent, yet.
TOPIC: SOME MORE IRRELEVANT NEWS ABOUT FUTURE ROOKIES AND FIRST YEAR ROOKIES
To replace their kicker Jason Hanson, who retired after 21 seasons, the Detroit Lions signed an European kicker Havard Rugland. as a possible replacement. The Norwegian kicking prospect gained world-wide fame with his trick-shot video titled "Kickalocious" in which he kicks and punts footballs through the uprights from incredible angles from far as 60 yards...and splits the uprights. About 2.7 million viewers were entertained by his feats, in which some called it "Fake". According to Rugland, a soccer player, he became interested in American football after watching Super Bowl 2011. He has refined his kicking motion after personal tutoring by Mike Husted (ex-pro kicker) in San Diego. This came about after a tryout with the New York Jets. The Lions signed him after a workout. They might have seen his potential or they might be thinking that years ago a Norwegian kicker Jan Stenerud had a very successful career in the NFL and Rugland might be the second coming from Norway.
Speaking of Europeans, the British record holder of the discus, Lawrence Okoye, has emigrated to the United States for a crash course in how to play American football. At 6-5 and 304 pounds, he has the physique besides strength and speed which draws interest from teams. He's currently shopping himself around the league. Lawrence has a familiar namesake who made a name for himself in the NFL as a running back- Christian Okoye. Remember him?
And still more European football players: Two transplants from Europe have declared for the NFL Draft as juniors. It's difficult to believe that two juniors will forego their senior seasons and enter the draft, especially with their limited experience in college football. They must really believe in their ability or they must dislike the academic regimen of college. DE Bjoern Werner (Germany) of Florida State and T Melenik Watson (Great Britain) of also Florida State are the draft prospects in question. However, Werner is a stud who played two years of stateside HS ball and has the ability to take a roster spot. Too bad NFL Europa was disbanded some years ago because it would serve the purpose of a developmental league for Europeans. How many Europeans are currently on the rosters of NFL teams. I can only think of two.
AN AMERICAN MINOR LEAGUER IS SIGNED TO NFL CONTRACT: If a player wants a chance to play in the NFL, most likely, he would pass up the opportunity to play indoor football in some unknown league called the Ultimate Indoor Football League. Sounds more like fantasy than real football. TE Dallas Walker, former Western Michigan player, decided he would turn pro by signing with a Rome, GA, team known as the Georgia Rampage. After two games, Walker was contacted by the San Diego Chargers who flew him in for a physical, and then signed a contract to the 2013 training camp. An impossible dream came true and without a video on You Tube!
2013 DRAFT IS IN THE BOOKS-
The recent draft was not outstanding, that is, it was without the usual franchise savior in the form of a quarterback that could be penciled in as a starter in the first year. It was also lacking a dominant runner. So, the first pick was tackle Eric Fisher by the Kansas City Chiefs. Most fans never heard of him but the draftniks knew all about the Central Michigan lineman. He was a top ten pick. Mock draft experts generally lined up with tackle Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M as the first pick, but the Chiefs demonstrated a class act when they informed him that their first pick will be Fisher. Jacksonville, with the second pick, then selected Joeckel, so all ends well and everyone is happy. In this draft, 18 linemen, both offensive and defensive, were selected in the first round. Then, there were 14 underclassmen selected from 32 slots of the first round. These 14 owe a debt of gratitude for the NFL evaluation committee for projecting their future in pro football. I think those that skipped the draft and returned for their senior year will find it to their advantage.
The 254th pick, TE Justice Cunningham of South Carolina, was named Mr. Irrelevant, an honor bestowed to the last player picked in the draft. He now earns the Lowsman Trophy, an award created by ex-NFL player Paul Salata back in 1976. I met him one year after he announced the last draft pick at Madison Square Garden and I told him he was the ideal person to originate this award because he was the "Ultimate Underdog". Before he landed with the 49ers years ago, he performed in the Canadian League and get this, he played minor league football with the Los Angeles Bulldogs of the Pacific Coast League and prior to that sandlot football in Burbank on Sundays. I know this because I saw him play in obscurity, always competing with his passion for football. A lowly football player that made it to the highest level. So aptly created as a symbol of his own professional football career.
Cunningham's unusual first name is not because his
parents idolized Choo Choo Justice, the legendry tailback from North
MARCH MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: TIDBITS AND JOTTINGS RELATED TO THE CUTS AND KEEPS REGISTER
Arena Football League Kicks Off: March 1 saw 14 AFL teams start training camp. All teams started with a 35 man preseason roster that was finalized March 16 to a 24 man squad. www.cutsandkeeps.com maintains nearly all of the AFL players so if you are looking for a certain player, he'll be here. With the large turnover in personnel, not only during the season, but from week to week, it's a handy reference to seek out who's who in the AFL.
To field the eight-man team on the field, offensively and defensively, is a real thought process for each organization with only 24 available. Most teams go with 2 quarterbacks and five receivers. The offensive and defensive lines usually add to eight, and it's a big plus if you have lineman that can go both ways. Same is true for the 4 to 6 defensive backs who can double as wide receivers. Those who play dual positions are known as Ironmen and that's fitting. To go both ways in the Arena game, one must not only be physical but you have to have stamina. There's usually a reliable middle linebacker who is aided by a DB or WR who doubles as the other required LB (often referred as the Jack LB). There's always a fullback on the team whose primary job is to block. He seldom carries the ball. Running is not a big part of the indoor game.
Some of the terminology used in Arena transactions can be confusing. You will often see the notation Refused-to-Report. The first inclination to the term is that the player was held up by work or personal issues. Not necessarily so. Kickers are commonly placed in this category. If he is on the refused-to-report list, he may be merely held out from the active roster while a position player tries to compete with another. Hence, it's a convenient way to add another player to the roster. When the season starts, the kicker is conveniently activated. Another term that has a different meaning- injured reserve. In the NFL, being placed on injured reserve automatically means he's through for the year. Not in the AFL. After he misses four games, he can be activated and returned to action. Then there's reassignment. That's like what most pro teams do when they cut a player, it's an outright release. When they say recallable reassignment, it means the cut player can be recalled to the active roster within 48 hours. Take a look when you see a good, veteran AFLer get cut via recallable reassignment. It may surprise you if he played 18 games last year and started 14. But, two days later he's activated from recallable reassignment. Teams often do this to take a longer look at another player.
So, there you have some of the workings of the fast paced indoor game. Rosters look better than ever as the Kansas City Command, Georgia Force and Milwaukee Mustangs are not with AFL this year and their players have fortified the remaining fourteen. Who's going to be the Champions. Your guess is good as mine. Every team looks better than last season. This makes it Fun!
The Antonio Gates Syndrome: Another team has followed the long standing NFL tradition of signing a basketball player to a contract. And the basketball player is tall enough and weighs enough to try out for Tight End. Exactly like College basketball player Antonio Gates did as a rookie with the San Diego Chargers years ago. This year, the Seattle Seahawks signed former University of California at Irvine and European basketball star, Darron Fells, to a contract, in the hopes he will be a good tight end. Familiar last name. Look him up in www.cutsandkeeps.com.
FEBRUARY MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: ROOKIE NOTES
2012 NFL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: OFFENSE- QB Robert Griffin, III The Associated Press selected Griffin as the top offensive player, based much on his early heroics since he was disabled in the last two weeks. Griffin won over two other quarterbacks, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson, getting 29 of 50 votes.
The Defensive Rookie of the Year went to LB Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers who led the NFL with 165 tackles. Kuechly started on the outside early on, then switched to inside backer to show his versatility. After the season, he returned to Boston College to complete his degree, a promise he made to his parents. A class act.
2012 NFL ALL- ROOKIE TEAM (selected by Pro Football Weekly and Pro Football Writers Association)
QB- Robert Griffin, III (WA) RB- Alfred Morris (WA) and Doug Martin (TBY) WR- T. Y. Hilton (IND) and Justin Blackmon (JAX) TE- Dwayne Allen (IND) C- None G- Kevin Zeitler (CINN) and Amini Silatolu (CAR) T- Matt Kalil (MINN) and Mitchell Schwartz (CLE)
DL- Fletcher Cox (PHIL) Charles Jones (NENG) Bruce Irvin (SEA) Michael Brockers (STL) LB- Bobby Wagner (SEA) Luke Kuechly (CARO) Lavante David (TBY) CB- Casey Hayward (GRBY) and Janorris Jenkins (STL) S- Harrison Smith (MINN) and Mark Barron (TBY).
JANUARY MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: NEWS ABOUT ROOKIES...
Record Number of Players Opt for Draft: Seventy-three underclassmen renounced their NCAA eligibility and declared for the Draft this year. That's more than last year's record setting number of 65, which topped the previous record from the year before, which was 56. A definite trend toward leaving early has escalated. Furthermore, Louisiana State had eleven underclassmen leave the team, a high number which prompted many to describe the mass exodus as "leaving a sinking ship". Among the 11 Tigers is former Heisman Trophy finalist, CB Tyrann Mathieu, who was a second team All-American in 2011. He was dismissed by LSU before last season and is now eligible to turn pro.
The stark reality of those leaving early is that many of them will NOT be drafted. You can check back in late April (the draft is scheduled for Apr. 25-27) and scroll www.cutsandkeeps.com see their status.
Among the 73 players who declared, six are All-Americans who earned the honors as juniors. They include tackle Luke Joeckel (Texas Tech), DE Bjoern Werner (Florida State), Jarvis Jones, LB (Georgia), Zack Ertz, TE (Stanford), Dee Milliner, CB (Alabama) and Matt Elam, S (Florida).
Two juniors who elected to declare for the draft are not counted above because of a special ruling by the NFL. Tackle D. J. Fluker of Ala-bama and DT Justin Pugh of Alabama were given special permission to play in the Senior Bowl. This is a first and by their participation, a number of junior players may qualify next year if they leave school. The criteria set forth by the NFL is this: If a player was in school for four years, and graduated, and received the recommendation of the head coach, that player could be added to the Senior Bowl rosters. It's stringent but it certainly eliminates those who leave school early (incomplete grades) just to turn pro and earn monies.
Don't Degrade Those low level minor leaguers of the indoor game: There's hundreds of players below the Arena League level trying their hardest to make it to the Big Show. Obscure players on obscure teams playing in obscure leagues, that is, if you just follow NFL. There's a defensive end on the Tri-Cities Fever of the Indoor Football League that got a tryout with the Indianapolis Colts. After an impressive workout, Jake Kileen was offered a contract. An unbelievable feat. Of course, many will say he's just a "camp body". It may be true; it may not. Recall last season? FB Jorvorskie Lane out of the defunct Odessa, TX, indoor team made the 53-man roster of the Miami Dolphins.. Look him up in www.cutsandkeeps.com to find out who he is. Is he from an equally unknown school? NO, same school as the Dolphin QB Ryan Tannehill- Texas A&M. That's our real purpose here- to give every pro football ROOKIE exposure to the fanatical fans.
DECEMBER MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: ROOKIE JOTTINGS....
The harshest cut of them all: This has to be the cuts of players on Christmas Day. It happened twice this year. The 49ers cut LB Alex Hoffman-Ellis and the Seahawks axed DE Monte Taylor. Both are practice squad players. Normally, all is quiet on Xmas Day but it did happen this season. We wish that both have a Happy New Year- sign with another club to a future contract next month.
Canada's Grey Cup MVP gets NFL tryout: Running back Chad Kackert found his niche playing for the Toronto Argonauts. He got an opportunity to play when the Argos released their top RB Corey Boyd, who just happened to be leading the league in rushing, at mid-season. The stocky runner plowed through Calgary for 133 yards and caught eight passes for 82 yards. You may have to look him up in www.cutsandkeeps.com because he's an unknown. He attended University of New Hampshire after playing high school ball in California. The New York Jets saw his performance and gave him a tryout on December 27.
Eagles QB of Future ends on injured reserve: Nick Foles, who replaced Michael Vick and started six games, broke his hand vs. Washington in Week 16. Foles became the 5th rookie QB from last year's draft to become a full-time starter. Since Vick is most likely to be released at the end of the season, Foles is the heir apparent to a very shaky team with a new coach coming in.
TOPIC: COWBOYS PLAYER JERRY BROWN LOSES LIFE IN SINGLE CAR ACCIDENT
Linebacker Jerry Brown was a practice squad player with the Dallas Cowboys. He was killed when a car driven by his college and pro teammate, Josh Brent, lost control of his car and flipped after hitting a curb. This happened early Saturday morning, Jan. 15 in a Dallas suburb. The loss of a young player who had so much to live for is tragic, more so when it was a needless death, if only the driver of the car had abstained from alcohol. It may have not happened. Jerry Brown's death brings us to the realization that many people are killed each day in accidents related to alcohol abuse. His death brings a stronger message only because he was an NFL player, a former University of Illinois player, and a well known player in his hometown high school in St. Louis. Alcohol and driving should become an agenda for all athletes. Although fatalities from drinking alcohol are not commonplace among athletes, DUI's are. Something has to be done to curtail this national problem. Since pro athletes are role models, whether like it or not, it has to start with them.
When Jerry Brown adorned the pages of Cuts and Keeps, he was the like the Poster Kid because he played his pro game in obscurity in the Arena League and Canadian Football League. Jerry was not discouraged that he labored without much fanfare but he had a belief that he could make it to the NFL. That dream became a reality when the Indianapolis Colts picked him up for training camp. He was cut, but Dallas signed him to the practice squad as a developmental player. If you want to know more about this 25-year old, look him up in www.cutsandkeeps.com. Our rookie register is an attempt for you to learn more about the young men like Jerry Brown that had a dream of playing pro football at the highest level.
NOVEMBER MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: MORE ROOKIE JOTTINGS: ROOKIE DB NAMED NFL DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF WEEK 12
St. Louis Rams DB Janoris Jenkins earned the honor of being named Defensive Player of the Week by running back two interceptions for TD's in the Rams 31-17 win over the hapless Arizona Cardinals. Jenkins' interception returns were for 36 and 39 yards He became the first Rams rookie to ever run back two interceptions for TD in one game and the first rookie to do so in the NFL since 1960. It's quite an achievement for a player that was hindered by character issues, which dropped him from first round draft status and his stay with the Rams including a sit down for one game for "violation of team rules". His ability to play was never questioned; only his character.
Meanwhile, rookie RB Bryce Brown of Philadelphia, a 7th round draft choice, set an Eagles rookie rushing record with 178 yards rushing that netted two TD runs of 65 and 5 yards against Carolina. Despite this superlative effort, the Eagles lost to the Panthers, 30-22 and Brown had a role in that too. He fumbled twice.
The worst position switch of the week goes to Arizona Cardinals rookie QB Earl Lindley, who made his debut against the Rams (see above). He was intercepted four times. Speaking of Cardinals rookies, both tackles are now manned by first year players. Nate Potter is the LT and RT is Bobbie Massie. Massie was a 4th round pick and Potter, a 7th round selection.
The biggest surprise (to me) of an undrafted rookie becoming a starter is LT Mike Harris of the San Diego Chargers. I watched him for four years while playing for UCLA and during his college career, he was a fixture at Right Tackle. Harris signs with San Diego and he displayed enough skills in training camp to claim a difficult pro line position, Left Tackle. Simply amazing (to me).
TOPIC: WINNIPEG RECEIVER NAMED CFL'S OUTSTANDING ROOKIE AS FIRST YEAR IMPORT
Winnipeg Blue Bombers wide receiver Chris Matthews was named the Canadian Football League's Rookie of the Year. Matthews caught 81 passes for 1,192 yards and 7 touchdowns during the 2012 season. He was the first Bomber rookie to reach the 1,000 yard plateau. The 23 year old native of Long Beach, CA played at the University of Kentucky and had trials in the NFL . Look him up in Cuts and Keeps for further information.
Matthews, representing the CFL's East Division, clearly outdistanced the West Division's winner, DE Jabar Westerman of the British Columbia Lions, 57-53 in the vote count. Home grown non-import Westerman, a first round draft choice of the Lions, had 4 sacks and 14 tackles in a platoon role. Canadian Westerman played college ball at Eastern Michigan.
TOPIC: ARENA FOOTBALL LEAGUE BEGINS FREE AGENT SIGNING PERIOD FOR 2013
In October, the Arena Football League teams were able to sign players they wanted for 2013 season from their previous rosters. The rest of the unsigned players became free agents and were welcome to sign with any team. Hence, the AFL is a league composed of many recycled players, which may be good that most teams will have veteran players with indoor experience. Also consider this: It does take a certain type of player that can adapt to the indoor game. Not everyone can. As one player told me, jokingly, "This ain't a game for a claustrophobic". Maybe he wasn't jesting. It's a matter of adjusting to a limited area.
If you notice the transactions of AFL in November, many NFL cuts are now signing with Arena teams. A nice crop of rookies, from the Big Ten, ACC, SEC, PAC-12, coming into league and perhaps elevating the performance. This could be misleading. Next year, many of these rookie will be signed to future contracts by NFL teams to fill out their training camp rosters. The AFL team will place these players on exempt status, noting that they signed with the "other league". Then, the hope that player gets cut and returns within a couple of years.
Arena Football League fans should take notice of this signing: Orlando signed a QB named Chris Dixon who is 31 years old and has 9 years of minor league indoor football experience. In five seasons with the Billings Outlaws, he led them to three championships (2006, 2009, 2010). After they folded, he joined the Sioux Falls Storm of the Indoor Football League, and proceeded to lead them to two successive championships (2011, 2012). He's a proven winner, attested by his numerous MVP awards, in addition to his throwing 500 touchdown passes and running for over 100 TD's. No doubt, he's a minor league phenom. If you are a football buff, his accomplishments nearly parallel QB Jim (the King) Corcoran of the outdoor minor league football fame, who set numerous passing records. When Jim the King went up to the NFL, he failed numerous times. It all remains to be seen if Chris Dixon can succeed in the AFL or become a bust like Corcoran at the highest level.
TOPIC: ROOKIE JOTTINGS
Rookie CB Ron Brooks of the Buffalo Bills might be the first player this season to return to the roster after being placed on injured reserve. Normally, when a player is placed on injured reserve during the regular season, he automatically is through for the year. This year, there's a new rule in effect. Players can be designated to return after being placed on IR. Brooks went on the shelf in September with a foot injury and was activated on November 2. This is a good rule in that it gives players time to heal and then, gives them an opportunity to rejoin the team and contribute.
About this time of the year, the number of players placed on injured reserve increases. The wear and tear sustained in September and October begins to take its toll. Detroit recently lost its starting rookie CB Dwight Bentley with a shoulder injury. The 3rd round pick started in 3 of the 4 games he played in. Undrafted rookies like SS Matt Daniels of St. Louis and TE Danny Noble of Tampa Bay also saw their careers put on hold by injuries. Daniels tore his ACL and Noble went out with a hamstring injury. Hopefully, they can come back next year and do the unexpected again, that is, an undrafted free agent making the roster.
OCTOBER MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: UFL FOLDS AGAIN BUT SOME PLAYERS BENEFIT BY ITS EXISTENCE
Enough has been said about the folly of the United Football League's dismal effort to compete in its fourth season of play. Again, the league folded in mid-season amid the same old pattern of financial instability. To this day, we don't know if the players have been fully paid for their services of the shortened 4-game season. Let us know, please.
The one bright shining light from this league, and it will always be a plus for their existence, is it provides young players to showcase their ability to the next level. The NFL benefits from the UFL because there's a whole lot of players who are game-ready.
In the last few weeks, four UFL players were signed by NFL teams. DT Lamar Divens of the Las Vegas Locos was signed by the Houston Texans. CB Teddy Williams of the Sacramento Mountain Lions was picked up by the Minnesota Vikings. Williams is a return specialist and he took a kickoff all the way for a score recently.
The Sacramento franchise did not have the best record in the UFL but they contributed two more lineman to the NFL. G Justin Cheadle was signed to Green Bay's practice squad and G Jason Foster inked with Oakland's scout team. Both Cheadle and Foster were backups in the Mountain Lions depth chart. Watch for other UFL'ers to be signed.
Here comes the good part for the players. Those on the practice squad will now earn the minimum salary of $5,700 a week. When you consider UFL was supposed to pay $10,000 for a 8 game season, the signed players can make that and more with a two week stay.
Good news for the players: UFL will continue the second half portion of their 2012 schedule in the spring of 2013, so these big time financiers say. Players will now have the opportunity to join the NFL training camp rosters later in the year. What better venue is there to play at the highest level of pro football? If you don't make that, there's always the CFL and AFL waiting for their talent.
TOPIC: ARENA FOOTBALL LEAGUE WILL LOSE THREE TEAMS FOR 2013
Instability of the sports franchise continues in this period of steady unemployment and sparse consumer spending. The Arena Football League will be minus three teams for the upcoming 2013 season. The latest to fold was the Georgia Force which officially shut down this month, mainly for the lack of new ownership from the local community. Poor attendance and a poor record were given as the main reasons for shutting down the football operation, but an inflow of new monies was essential to keep the franchise afloat. If you are a AFL fan, you will recall that the defunct Nashville Kats moved to Atlanta to become the Georgia Force.
The first team to cease operations was the Kansas City Command. Here was another team with low attendance figures and a so-so record on the playing field. Again, no one from the community stepped up to take over the club so the Command was disbanded. It was reported that a new Kansas City team will play indoor football but at a much lower level, which might mean the Champions Professional Indoor Football League (CPIFL), an upstart Midwest league that will cut down travel costs because they are relatively close to each other as compared to the AFL, located in larger cities.
The Milwaukee Mustangs is the third team that will not participate next year, but they will resume play in 2014. The dormancy was approved by the Commissioner so there will be some continuity to one of the older franchises in AFL history.
There has been no word from AFL about adding new franchises to the current set of teams for the coming year or future. In these economic times, it's a tremendous financial risk. Just ask the owners of the United Football League teams.
Meanwhile, the active teams have started re-signing players they want to keep from their 2012 rosters, beginning Oct. 15. This exclusive signing period will end on Oct. 29. All the remaining unsigned players on their rosters become unrestricted free agents with the ability to sign with any AFL team. The majority of the Arena Football League players are listed in our register, www.cutsandkeeps.com. Follow the players from your favorite teams.
TOPIC: SOME MORE ROOKIE JOTTINGS....
Unless you are a diehard Miami Dolphins fan, you would probably never heard of fullback Javorskie Lane. I remember him because of his unusual first name when he was a sometime starter as a 250 pound tailback at Texas A&M. That was back in 2007-08. After completing college, he was overlooked by the NFL. No one signed him. Since he wanted to prove himself as a "pro", he signed up with a minor league indoor football team in Texas. That was in 2010. Thirteen games later, he moved up to the next level- the Arena League team in Orlando. He never played there. In June, 2012, he signed a free agent contract with Miami. That's a good reason you did not know his existence because he's not on preseason rosters that were filled up in April and May.
So far, with the Dolphins, he has become their bulldozing fullback in short yardage situations. Lane has scored twice in critical goal line situations and will continue to do so, if and when. Imagine his delight. Here was a player a few years back that was making $200 a game in an indoor game oblivious to everyone. Guess what he is making now? If you want to know more about Miami's secret weapon look him up in www.cutsandkeeps.com. There's a lot of players in the lower leagues trying to make the Big Show. Only Javorskie made that dream come true.
A Positive UFL report: Amid the constant negative publicity, the latest being agents telling their clients not to play until you get paid, comes good news. Sacramento Mountain Lions cornerback Lionel Smith signed with the NFL Detroit Lions practice squad after only one game with the UFL team. This validates an existence of UFL as a developmental league but unfortunately there is hardly any marketing or media relations in place this season....so, no one knows.
TOPIC: RAMS ROOKIE KICKER SETS FIELD GOAL RECORD IN WEEK FOUR VICTORY
Last month, I mentioned that the St. Louis Rams had the most rookies on its opening day roster- seventeen-which can be easily interpreted as a "bad team". One of those rookies is kicker Greg Zuerlein from a Division II school-Missouri Western. Their scouting department knew he had a strong leg, because they drafted him in the sixth round.
In Week Four against Seattle, Zuerlein kicked four field goals to lead the Rams to an improbable 19-13 victory. The first one was a 58-yarder which broke the existing team FG distance record. Two quarters later, he booted a 60-yarder to break his own record. He became the first kicker in NFL history to kick two field goals longer than 58 yards in one game. So far, he hasn't missed a field goal, as he is 12 for 12. Because of his accuracy, Coach Jeff Fisher will not hesitate to send in Zuerlein when he thinks he has the range. Forget labels like Mr. Clutch or Golden Toe...if Greg keeps it up, he's destined to be Team MVP.
Now, here's the kicker. Did you know how they scored their touchdown? The Rams lined up in a field goal formation (What else is new in Rams offensive scheme this afternoon?) The rookie, of course, punter and placement holder, Johnny Hekker took the snap and passed it to receiver Danny Amendola for a touchdown. The play caught the Seahawks off guard because Amendola cleverly feigned as if he was getting off the field. Danny is not a rookie; he's a veteran actor (smile).
SEPTEMBER MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: ROOKIE JOTTINGS
UNDRAFTED ROOKIES: 63 undrafted rookies made the opening day rosters of the 32 NFL clubs. That's an unusual high num-ber because only a few make it, and in some cases, none. In most cases, drafted players are assured a roster spot, and that might be a controversial decision to enhance their scouting department. Their undrafted free agents are waived and then re-signed to the practice squad. By midseason, some free agents are activated and become valuable reserves. The St. Louis Rams led the league with 8 undrafted rookies on their roster. A few have been released since. The Rams also lead the league with 17 rookies among its 53-man active squad. That may be the reason they are currently 1-2 and last in the NFL West Division.
ROOKIE SUSPENDED: Seldom does a rookie get suspended for violating league policy. NFL has an excellent orientation program that enforces rooks to walk a straight line. But here comes WR Gerrell Robinson of Arizona Cards with a four game suspension for taking performance enhancing drugs.. Oddly, he's not even on the active roster. He's nestled on the practice squad. That means, once he is activated, he would sit out four games. With the good start by the Cardinals, I doubt they would want Robinson to make the active roster and become an instant liability- minus one active player. Gerrell for 2013?
ROOKIE FINED: Rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins of the St. Louis Rams was fined $15,570 for unnecessary roughness in their game against the Washington Redskins. The fine, one of three levied against Rams players, drew criticism from the Redskins for Dirty Play. Jenkins leveled TE Fred Davis who was identified as being defenseless. WHAT? Jenkins was not penalized for the HIT? Oh, I forgot. We had REPLACEMENT officials working the game!
ANOTHER DRAFTEE OUT FOR SEASON: Rookie backup LG Rokevious (Com' on, Berman, give him a name we could re-member) Watkins suffered an ankle injury in Week One and was placed on injured reserve. Watkins was a 5th round pick of the St. Louis Rams.
BALTIMORE ROOKIE WINS GAME WITH LAST PLAY FIELD GOAL: Justin Tucker kicked a 27-yard field goal that gave his Ravens a 31-30 victory over the New England Patriots. What is most remarkable about Tucker is that he came to the Ravens after the draft as an unsigned tryout candidate. At the mini-camp, he amazed the staff with his strong leg, making 50-yarders consistently Still, he was considered a longshot. This unpredictability is what drives scouts and coaches toward neurotic behavior (crazy?)
FINAL NOTE: If you need more info about ROOKIES, why not become one the FEW that looks at www.cutsandkeeps.com.
TOPIC: FIVE ROOKIE QUARTERBACKS START IN NFL WEEK ONE
This may be the first time in modern NFL history that five rookies made their debut in Week One as starting quarterbacks. Two were easily predicted because Andrew Luck of Indianapolis and Robert Griffin of Washington were picked 1-2 in the draft to fill in a dire need. Brandon Weeden of Cleveland, the oldest at 28, was favored early on because of his maturity which evolved from his minor league baseball experience. Ryan Tannehill of Miami would be the biggest surprise because he had little experience in college with only 19 starts after converting from wide receiver. But, in his favor, his college coach Mike Sherman (Texas A&M) is the Dolphins offensive coordinator. Then, the least expected would be Russell Wilson of Seattle who was a third round pick (75th overall) and had the impossible task of beating out Matt Flynn, whom the Seahawks acquired from Green Bay. An outstanding preseason cemented Wilson as the starter.
The best start of five was turned in by Griffin III, who was named the Offensive Player of the Week for leading the Redskins to a 40-32 upset of the New Orleans Saints. Not only a win, but he set a NFL Rookie Record by becoming the only player to pass for at least 300 yards and two TD's with no interceptions in his first start. The other four fared badly. Their teams lost.
The poorest performance was turned in by Weeden. He threw four interceptions and passed for only 118 yards (12 out of 35 att). The Browns are committed to him so things might look bleak if he continues to struggle. Meanwhile, Colt McCoy is waiting in the wings.
TOPIC: UFL TO DELAY SEASON BY ONE WEEK- SO WHAT ELSE IS NEW?
It's becoming a trademark for this group, the United Football League, to come out with press releases announcing a re-make of their 2013 season schedule. One can only predict that the schedule will be tampered with again, and trim it's 8-game stint to maybe half, like last year. Players are not the issue. Take a look at www.cutsandkeeps.com and you will see over 1200 street free agents available to stock the four teams. Guess what they need to get the season rolling?
One reliable source, a former employee, told me that the UFL will not get off the ground this year. Really?
TOPIC: SOME MORE 2012 DRAFT PICKS THAT WILL MISS THE 2012 SEASON
In April, when 253 players were drafted into the NFL, their dreams came true. But for some, it became a nightmare because injuries suffered in preseason games knocked them out of the upcoming season. The most serious injury was sustained by 3rd round pick of the Chicago Bears, safety Brandon Hardin. He sustained a neck injury in one of those games and had to be carted off the field in a stretcher amid a stunned silence of the crowd. It remains to be seen if he will recover sufficiently to become a key player in 2013.
Knee injuries claimed a lost season for 3rd round selection of Pittsburgh, LB Sean Spence and CB Shawn Prater of Cincinnati, a 5th round pick along with 7th rounder T Marcel Jones of New Orleans. WR Nick Toon, 4th rounder of New Orleans, is out for the season with a foot injury.
A first rounder, G David DeCastro of Pittsburgh was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury but under the "new rule" known as "designated to return" to active roster sometime this season, he is certain to see some limited action. CB-KR Ron Brooks of Buffalo also was tagged with that label when he was shelved with a foot injury. This procedure is not original. The Canadian Football League and Arena Football League will place players on injured reserve throughout season and can activate them whenever they see fit. Both leagues play an eighteen game schedule. With that in mind, if you recall, the NFL made overtures to the Players Association about an 18 game schedule and along with it, the in-season activation of injured players. It's necessary procedure because the frequency of injuries calls for more active players and ultimately, they need to re-stock from the reserves, that is the injured pool.
There will be more draftees who will be injured during the season, which is a testament to the physical nature of the game. But did you notice that pro head coaches seldom blame their losing season to injuries as their counterpart at the collegiate level? That's pretty professional, don't you think?
AUGUST MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: ROOKIE JOTTINGS
The last rookie from the Draft to sign was WR Justin Blackmon of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He inked his contract on August 7th. Most football people said he used bad judgment. For one thing, he is physically behind in conditioning since nothing replaces training camp. Secondly, he is mentally behind because he missed all the team meetings. Hopefully, he has athleticism to compensate for over two weeks of missed practices.
Before the opening kickoff of the new season, three draft picks will never see the playing field. WR Greg Childs of the Vikings injured both knees again in camp so he is through. Childs was a 4th round draft pick from Arkansas. Atlanta suffered a blow when full-back Bradie Ewing suffered a knee injury and was placed on injured reserve. The 243 pound Wisconsin alumni was the Falcons 5th round choice. Guard Andrew Tiller of the New Orleans Saints, a 6th rounder, sustained a triceps injury and he's also finished for 2012 The most publicized injury belongs to Cleveland's first round pick, RB Trent Richardson who underwent knee surgery August 10th and is currently rehabbing. However, he's slated to recover in time for the season opener and there is no mention he will miss this year.
We always lauded the spirit and grit of Arena Football players who played the game to move up to the highest level- NFL. Those dreams came true for a number of them. Center Paul Fenaroli (Kansas City) has signed with New Orleans. DE Xavier Brown (New Orleans) committed to Philadelphia, G Andre Ramsey (Kansas City) went to Carolina and DT Marlon Favorite (New Orleans) returns to the NFL with Washington. The most intriguing signing belongs to T Tye Nsekle of the San Antonio Talons. Who's he? A big 6-8, 325 tackle from Texas State who signed with Indianapolis. Nsekle has been around a few years in Arena football so he's not one of those "unproven guys with great potential". Nearly all the AFL players are listed in www.cutsandkeeps.com.
TOPIC: THE MIRACLE OF THE NEW SEASON- UNITED FOOTBALL LEAGUE REVIVED
Blink once, twice and once again. You read it right. From the depths of an reported ten million dollar loss, the United Football League is back in operation with the return of four teams that finished last season prematurely. Never mind that the league faces another round of bad publicity as former Sacramento coach, Dennis Green, is already in the process of litigation for back wages on the eve of UFL's announcement of a 9-week schedule. This time around, all those lawsuits and demeaning comments by former employees, will be drowned out by the weekly television broadcasts that will show some exciting football. Finally, the UFL has television to showcase it's mission through CBS Sports. Fans will finally get to see the positive side of the UFL. That's for sure. No mention of past financial losses but plenty of talk about how this league helps the NFL. There's a lot of players on NFL rosters now that owe this league some credit. Without the UFL, there would be no second chance. As usual, www.cutsandkeeps.com will track all the UFL players although there may be some difficulty in getting player information and transactions, now that they downsized operations (wise!).
The CBS contract is a blessing. UFL has more interactive presentation among coaches and players during the game. It also means that Sacramento RB John David Washington's father, Denzel, will add some sideline banter that was restricted to only local TV last year. But keep your eye on Mrs. Denzel Washington. I've seen her run along the sideline when her "baby" carries the ball, almost step for step.
JULY MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: ROOKIE FEEL GOOD STORY SO FAR...in the preseason
Football fans are well aware of Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand. In October 10, 2010, against Army, he suffered a spinal injury when he collided with Cadet running back on a kickoff. A fracture of the 3rd and 4th cervicle of the vertebrae resulted in paralysis from the neck down. Year later, after extensive therapy, Eric was able to move parts of shoulders and arms. Once in a while, he could stand. His relentless spirit encourages his body to another level of movement. Everyone who comes in contact with him are impressed with his attitude. This spring, the paralyzed football player had the distinction (never heard this before) of signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Of course, it was a symbolic signing with no monetary value, but this rare feat was accomplished because the Bucs head coach happens to be Greg Schiano, Eric's former college coach. On July 26th, Eric requested that he be placed on the retired list. He did this so that his spot on the roster would open up for a another rookie to given the opportunity to make the team. For Eric, it was a great honor to be listed on the active preseason roster and www.cutsandkeeps.com includes him as a full fledged pro rookie. If you like Eric's enthusiasm for wellness and life, you can help his cause by buying his book, Believe, which will be coming out in September. And if you really want his spirit to rub on you, look for his number "52" jersey on sale. Someday, you will hear from Eric again as a sportscaster and even though he won't dwell on his gridiron misfortune, you will certainly recall this story.
The other Feel Good rookie story concerns linebacker Brian Banks, who was exonerated from rape charges that occurred in high school. He served time in prison until the accuser relented on her story years later. Five years of incarceration took away Brian's dream of college football. Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll remembered him because he actively recruited him and after his release, he offered him a tryout during spring mini-camp. He participated but was not signed. San Diego and Kansas City were other teams that gave him tryouts but also did not sign him. Sympathetic fans blogged for some team to sign him, since the camp rosters were upped to 90 from 80. But, you must understand, Brian has no college playing experience and had no stints in organized tackle football like semi-pro or recreation leagues. The astute staff knew this, and it did show. Seattle called him back again, but on his last visit, the Seahawks settled for LB Kyle Knox from Fresno State. I watched Knox in person and he's a good fit. For Brian, perhaps it was a symbolic gesture by the teams but sadly, the results deflated this Feel Good story at the end.
The saddest story of the rookie pre-season: WR O. J. Murdock of the Titans committed suicide. He was only 25. Our heartfelt sympathy to his family and friends.
TOPICS: ROOKIE JOTTINGS FROM HERE AND THERE
UFL TO TRY AGAIN? An uninformed source recently stated that the United Football League will start up again this year, that's the 2012 season, which will mean that leftover clubs in Sacramento, Omaha, Las Vegas and Virginia might be revived. Far fetched? Not in the least. They have veteran UFL people in place and all it takes is the easiest part- assembling players. If you view www.cutsandkeeps.com there are thousands of street free agents available for some 200 playing spots. Preparation can be like a post-season college all-star game. The usual modus operendi is bring players in for a week of practice and then have a game. And if the season is like last year, 3 league games and a championship game, there's not much logistics to contend with. If they can control finances, especially player salaries, it's viable. If Arena football players can play for $400 a game in a 18-game season, a salary slightly more than that can attract a lot of quality players for outdoor football.
WORTH MENTIONING: Player personnel Director of the Omaha Nighthawks, Gregory Mohns, passed away, according to news reports on Wednesday, July 24. He was still active with Omaha this year. I had the pleasure to commend Greg for his outstanding job in assembling the San Francisco Demons in the XFL. As humble as he is, he appreciated that compliment. Years later, he was scouting players for the CFL and then continued his expertise with the Toronto Argonauts. Yes, Greg knew about www.cutsandkeeps.com and followed us. We extend our sincere condolences to his family and his close friends.
HOW TO FIND PROSPECTS...Here's an unusual rookie signing. The Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League announced the signing of 6-8, 325 lineman Akeel Lendor from Trindad. If that's unusual, try this add-on: Lendor has never played a down of organized football. Toronto spokesman said he was signed to the practice roster because of his size, strength and raw athletic ability. The latter meant that he played semi-pro rugby and basketball back home. Another positive is that he is classified as a non-import, meaning that he does not hinder the quota system which limits signing of American players. It's a remote possibility that he would be promoted to the active roster this year, but as the spokesman said: "He cost us only a plane ticket from Trindad".
OUTSTANDING CFL ROOKIE: Running back Chevon Walker of Hamilton Tiger-Cats has amazed CFL onlookers with his speed. The 5-10, 210 pounder ranks third among rushers with 315 yards after four games, in which he had bursts of over 80 yards several times. Walker is easily overlooked earlier this year in training camp because he comes from a small college named University of Sioux Falls. Take a peek at www.cutsandkeeps.com to find out how he ended up in such an obscure football environment. The scout that followed him knew his background while the rest of us did not.
DON'T KNOCK ARENA FOOTBALL- NFL SIGNS THESE PLAYERS: There's a lot of football purists who insist that indoor football is NOT football, period. And there's a lot of football players who will try the indoor game to prove that they have the ability to move up to the outdoor football of the NFL and CFL. They insist it's a stepping stone to the next level. Every year there is proof to it. This year, Receiver Tiger Jones of the Philadelphia Soul Arena team, signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. Jones opted out of his contract to jump to the NFL despite the Soul being in the playoffs for the Championship.
You don't have to play indoors in the Arena League, either. Javorskie (who can forget that name) Lane toiled for the minor league West Texas Roughnecks of the Indoor Football League for several years as a 5-11, 270 pound running back. The Miami Dolphins signed him this spring.
TOPICS: NFL SUPPLEMENTAL DRAFT WILL TAKE PLACE THIS MONTH
This year's supplemental draft will be held on Thursday, July 12, without the stage setting of the regular April draft. This draft is more akin to a conference call as the 32 teams will conduct a round by round selection of only eight eligible players who, for various reasons, missed the main show. The eight players in the draft pool includes: Quaylon Evans, DB, Boise State; Josh Gordon, WR, Baylor; Adam Harris, RB, Syracuse, Adrian Haughton, T, Iowa State; Larry Lumpkin, LB, Georgia; Montez Robinson, DE, Georgia; Huston Tuminelli, WR, McMurray and Ed Wesley, RB, TCU.
Most of these players are eligible for the supplemental draft because they will not play during the 2012 college football season. Some were declared ineligible, others dropped out of school or gave up their final year of eligibility. Of the eight, WR Josh Gordon has drawn the most interest because he offers a pro club: size (6-3) and speed (4.5). Also, he was on the receiving end of first round pick QB Robert Griffin III of Baylor, a great playing experience. However, his record might be marred somewhat by the fact he was dismissed from Baylor for violation of rules, and then, transferred to Utah to play for Utes in 2012. A change of mind led to Gordon opting for the draft, which experts say he fits in the 3rd or 4th round. The team that selects him will forfeit that round in next year's draft.
Here's an interesting note: Tackle Adrian Haughton is already playing professional football for the Orlando Predators of the Arena Foot ball League. Currently, he is on the injured reserve list. Check him out in www.cutsandkeeps.com to find out more about him. Another prospect, DE Montez Robinson tried out for the AFL's Pittsburgh Power but was cut at end of training camp.
UPDATE: Wide Receiver Josh Gordon was selected in the second round by the Cleveland Browns, which was a surprise to some because he was projected as a later rounds pick. Gordon himself echoed these sentiments when he said, "I was shocked!" He signed with the Browns on July 16. He was the only one selected in the supplemental draft.
Linebacker Larry Lumpkin, who was bypassed, signed as an undrafted free agent by Indianapolis. Perhaps his fame as a prospect came from a former coach who made negative comments about his attitude and behavior as a football player prior to the draft. Usually you don't hear such statements in public about a low profile player but it did happen this time. But, it does give a clue as to why some players opt to leave college for the pros.
JUNE MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPICS: MORE ROOKIE JOTTINGS AROUND THE CIRCUITS
The Status of being an NFL player is best demonstrated by this story: On a nice Sunday afternoon in the Bay Area (Oakland), drafted Oakland Raider drafted rookie Christo Bilukidi drove thru a red light. A cop stopped him. Curiously, the officer asked Bilukidi what he did for a living. Christo proudly replied: "I'm a Raider". Impressed, the cop let him go without issuing a ticket. Lucky, that he wasn't a 49er fan. Bilukidi then texted his unexpected achievement: "Dodged 428$ ticket." Is Christo dyslexic? No, he's Canadian and maybe they all write like that. Didn't know? Then, you should look up Christo and all other rookies in www.cutsandkeeps.com.
Kansas City Chiefs recently signed QB Alex Tanney from little Monmouth College in Illinois. His claim to fame is NOT because he set an NCAA record of throwing 147 career TD's nor he's the younger brother of Mitch, who was a good pro QB in the Arena and other indoor leagues. He's the amazing trick shot artist on YouTube where he connects with receivers driving by in the back of pick up trucks or connects on three point baskets from almost full basketball court. An instant entertainer with a world wide viewing of over two million onlookers. Although it's clever and sensational, one soon realizes that this was accomplished with lot of takes and tremendous amount of time and effort, besides wasted footage. We all know trick shots are hard to come by. I remember watching Harlem Globetrotter Goose Tatum shoot from half court with his back facing the basket...many times. He never made one although he rimmed a couple. I think if he made one, he would have faked passing out. BTW, take a look at Alex Tanney. It's a fun video!
One of the many lists created by experts that draws my interest is THE BEST TEN UNDRAFTED 2012 ROOKIES. As you know, undrafted rookies have a difficult time making the opening day 53-man roster. Maybe only one or two make the squad, and it's unusual to have four or more undrafted rookies on a team- but it has happened. It is more commonplace to have NO undrafted rookies on the squad. Most end up on the practice squad, if they show potential. Here are some lists as a preview of those who were not drafted for many reasons- but the experts think they are good enough to make the opening day roster and even challenge for a starting position.
Gil Brandt, NFL.com (He's the FA guru from his old Dallas Cowboys days-Remember?). 1. Chris Polk, RB (Phila) 2. Jim Brown, T (Chic) 3. Lucas Nix, G (Oak) 4. Kellen Moore, QB (Det) 5. Brandon Bolden, RB (N. Eng) 6. Quentin Saulsberry, C (Minn) 7.Mike Brewster, C (Jax) 8. Vontaze Burfict, LB (Cinn) 9 Jermaine Kearse, WR (Sea) 10. Leonard Johnson, CB (T.Bay)
TSN 1. Marquis Maze, WR (Pitt) 2 Polk, RB (Phil) 3. Patrick Edwards, WR (Det) 4. K. Moore, QB (Det) 5. Chase Minnifield, CB (Wash) 6. Burfict, LB (Cinn) 7. John Brantley, QB (Denv) 8. Tydreke Powell, DL (Miami) 9 Donnie Fletcher, CB (NY Jets) 10. J. Brown, T (Chic)
FOX Sports 1. L. Johnson, CB (T. Bay) 2. Tauren Poole, RB (Caro) 3. C. Minnifield, CB (Wash) 4. K Moore, QB (Det) 5. Dwight Jones, WR (Hou) 6. C. Polk, RB (Phil) 7. Burfict, LB (Cinn) 8. Deangelo Peterson, TE (St. L) 9. M. Brewster, C (Jax) 10. J. Brown, T T (Chic).
CBS Sports 1. C. Polk, RB (Phil) 2. J. Brown, T (Chic) 3 L. Johnson, CB (T. Bay) 4. L. Nix, G (Oak) 5. Hebron Fangupu, DT (Hou) 6. C. Minnifield, CB (Wash) 7. Aaron Henry,S (Oak) 8. Tyler Nielsen, OLB (Minn) 9. Marcus Forston, DT (N. Eng) 10. T. Poole, RB (Caro).
BleacherReport 1. C. Polk, RB (Phil) 2. T. Poole, RB (Caro) 3. M. Brewster, C (Jax) 4. Desmond Wynn, G (T. Bay) 5. Deangelo Peterson, TE (St. L) 6. Gerell Robinson, WR (Denv) 7 C. Minnifield, CB (Wash) 8. L. Johnson, CB (T. Bay) 9. Nick Jean-Baptiste, DT (Balt) 10. Brandon Lindsey, OLB (Pitt).
There was one list that had Micah Pellerin, CB, of the Indianapolis Colts as a top ten "can't miss" prospect. In a month, he was waived by the Colts, However, he was picked up the Green Bay Packers. Look for him after final cuts on www.cutsandkeeps.com.
TOPICS: ROOKIE JOTTINGS: HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE
Since this is a Rookie Register, and only for rookies and first-year players, we will continue to emphasize stories that these ambitious young players create in their quest for pro football fame.
Wow! Jacksonville's first round pick, Receiver Justin Blackmon, was arrested on an aggravated DUI charge. And he hasn't even signed a contract, so what was he celebrating about? He was pulled over by Stillwater, OK, policeman when Blackmon was going 60 MPH in a 35 mile zone and driving left of center shortly after 3 AM. Blackmon agreed to take a breathalyzer and did a best reading of .24, which is three times the legal limit of .08. Since it was over .15, Oklahoma law states he can be charged with aggravated DUI. The interesting question now is how Jacksonville will deal with his forthcoming contract. Then, how is the NFL going to deal with its substance abuse policy in regards to Blackmon. OK, he's not signed yet, but the NFL states once he's drafted, he's under their jurisdiction.
Speaking about jurisprudence, undrafted free agent LB Brandon Joiner of the Cincinnati Bengals was recently sentenced to a three-year prison term. The sentence stems from a 2007 incident, while a student/athlete at Texas A&M, in which he and another were charged with two counts of aggravated robbery and one count of felony drug possession. After the incident, he was dismissed from A&M, then sought refuge at Arkansas State. There, he became an outstanding DE, worthy of being signed by the Bengals. Also, during this period, he demonstrated exemplary behavior. The Bengals took a note of this because they will welcome him back once he completes his jail time. But, the Law is the Law. Joiner will obey the Law.
More bad news: Teams are now in the OTA (Organized Team Activities) mode. It's pre-training camp practice, organized to get everyone on the same page. Since this is football, a violent sport by nature, injuries happen and there are some serious ones sustained by the rookies. For example, 7th round Buffalo pick, WR Jordan White, suffered a break of the fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot and will miss the OTA's. Bills hope he is ready for training camp. The 49ers lost another until preseason camp when LB Cam Johnson had a surgical procedure for his ailing knee. Johnson suffered this knee injury in his senior year at Virginia and he's having it cleaned out for the upcoming season. There are others but teams are reluctant to identify injuries until some nosey reporter questions the inactivity of certain players.
The Antonio Gates Experiment still continues. Now, the Gates story is getting old and the results are not too good. Recall last month, the Raiders signed Cal State-Fullerton basketball player Andre Hardy to play tight end. Experiment failed. Oakland cut him in mini-camp. But, it's not the end of this experimental story. Recently, Miami Dolphins signed basketball player Les Brown from little Westminster College in Utah. He's 6-6 and 238 which means he has the size for a tight end. But that's not all- he's quite fast, something like 4.4 in the 40. When an unknown basketball player shows up to a Pro Day workout at another school and puts up numbers like this, scouts will take notice. On the flip side of this, a 6-6, 237 power forward from St. Mary's (California) named Jones declined an invitation from the Minnesota Vikings for a tryout. Remember this, though. Tony Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham also played college basketball but they also doubled up as college football players. Antonio Gates did not play college football; hence, the Gates Experiment tab.
Illegal Immigrant? You need a Green Card, buddy! That's not a political commentary. We are still talking about football. And a football player who must get a work visa to participate in OTA's. That's correct. Giants rookie DT Markus Kuhn must get a work visa because he is officially a citizen of Germany. Kuhn came to United States to play at North Carolina State after starring on an amateur team in Germany. The Law is the Law.
MAY MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPICS: THE AFTERMATH OF THE DRAFT- ROOKIE MINI-CAMPS
A week after the draft, the teams began their rookie mini-camps, an affair that brings in all the drafted players, undrafted free agents, and a select group of tryout players. Most mini-camp rosters will have last year's rookies who were injured, on the practice squad or were inactive on the 53-man roster. Since the NFL instituted a 90-man training camp roster (instead of usual 80), there were more bodies. Mini-camps operate with no pads or other shells- just helmets and uniforms.
Here's some gossip to spread, if already didn't know: The No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the draft, QB's Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin, III, are already penciled in as starters for their respective teams, the Colts and Redskins. It brings some semblance of the value of a first and second round pick. Meanwhile, there's speculation that a mature Brandon Weeden, Cleveland's 22nd pick, might also start at QB. And rumors swirl in Seattle that Russ Wilson has a shot as a starter. Irrational thought because Wilson is not a first-rounder (only 3rd).
The Seahawks, some officials with the team, also say their No. 1 pick, DE Bruce Irvin, will start, because he's the best rusher in draft. A lot of experts disagree, observing that he was picked too high. Then, their 2nd pick, LB Bobby Wagner will be the first unit MLB. This is probable because of injury issues to the veterans. But, to place Wilson, Irvin and Wagner, all rookies, on the first unit, make Seattle look like non-contenders.
Sad note among the draftees: 49ers 5th pick, LB Darius Fleming tore ligaments in his knee during the 2nd day of mini-camp and is feared lost for the season. Another 5th rounder, San Diego's guard Johnnie Troutman arrived with his arm in a sling and just watched. He has had several surgeries of late, and he may be through for this season, too. Don't taunt the scouting department for an oversight. The Chargers knew he was injured last season and needed surgeries. Think forward.
You have to credit the Tampa Bay Bucs for their overzealous scouting department. The Bucs brought in some 44 tryout candidates for another look in camp. Of this group, after three days, the coaching staff signed 11 of them, then cut 13 of the signed undrafted rookies and other dead weight. If only one tryout player makes the final cut, the Bucs will be happy. Some team bring in only a dozen or so. But, one coach is very sentimental. That's Jim Harbaugh of the Niners, that's because he does what no other coach does- bring in his former players to camp. That means players from the University of San Diego and Stanford. After the camp, he signs them, too. Just think how his former players think of Harbaugh.
The Great Antonio Gates Experiment continues. The signing of basketball player Antonio Gates by the Chargers and making him an All-Pro tight end has not been forgotten. Each year, teams sign ex-basketball players like Oakland did with Andre Hardy. He lasted a few days of mini-camp, though. But there's one still around- Hayden Smith of the Jets. He was a basketball player for Metropolitan State of Denver, CO. Hayden is an interesting fellow. A native of Australia, he played four years of professional rugby in England. Came to America and took up basketball. Did he do this to get attention for a tryout? He has no experience in football so the Jet coaches have been working with him since April. The studious athlete with his ever present playbook in had and constantly asking questions in a British accent is Hayden Smith.
The dream of most college players is to make the Big Show. Ohio State LB Andrew Sweat is one of those who quickly signed with the Browns as an undrafted free agent. But unlike others, he had a change of heart. He suddenly retired. The reason- going to law school. His fellow teammate at Ohio State, Nate Ebner, is one of the luckiest players in the draft. New England drafted him in the 6th round despite that fact that he played only three or four downs last year for the Buckeyes. Coach Belichick thinks he is a great special teams player.
TOPICS: DRAFT IS OVER, NOW MINI-CAMPS AND OTA'S IN PROGRESS AS SEASON GETS UNDER WAY
You knew the draft was over when the vernal old man, Paul Salata, traditionally announced the final pick, the 253rd overall selection. That's when the lucky draftee becomes known as Mr. Irrelevant and is treated like a hero in Salata's hometown of Newport Beach, CA for one week. The winner of the Lowsman Trophy (get it?) was some QB from Northern Illinois named Harnish (?) but name recognition doesn't matter because most Mr. Irrelevant actually become irrelevant when the teams finalize their roster in September.
Some words for Paul Salata, who puts some fun into the final rounds of the draft (Did you watch it til the final rounds?). I remember him playing for the wartime Trojans of old USC as an end, but what made me take notice of him was that he took every opportunity to play football past college. But, that I mean, on Sundays, he toiled for a sandlot team known as the Burbank Bandits (full gear tackle) and then semi-pro with the Los Angeles Bulldogs of the Pacific Coast League. If that's not enough, he took his game up north to Canada where he played in Edmonton (I believe) and finally saw action in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers. The Ultimate Underdog is the nickname I bestowed upon him- a reference to his determination to play anywhere, anytime, and anyone for the Love of the Game. I haven't seen Paul personally since the 2000 NFL Draft....but when I seen him on TV, I am happy he is still in the GAME.
While hundreds of rookies are now going to mini-camps this month, let us review some relevant points for you to ponder: (1) Did you notice the heightened activity of recent draftees signing this month? Some teams are nearly finished inking their complete draft picks and it's only May. Before the new Collective Bargaining Agreement went into effect, you can recall that it was unusual to see a early and mid-rounder signing in May. (2) The recent tragic death of Junior Seau has added more volatile discussion on the effect of concussions on the mental and emotional life of football players. Safety for players becomes our paramount concern in a violent game. The easy way out is to ban any player who sustains a concussion in a game. That might not happen because football is a way of life for many and they tell me it's all part of the game. I still recall the comment by the former L.A. Ram coach and executive who said years ago: Football will become obsolete because too many youngsters are playing soccer now. (3) The NFL upped its training camp roster to 90 from previous 80 and that means you may lose track of who's playing for whom. That brighten our lives because www.cutsandkeeps.com will keep you informed of what happened to your favorite college player. The surge of more players can be confusing. Take this for example: this year, we have a drafted Chris Givens and an undrafted rookie also named Chris Givens. And they both play wide receiver. Confusion goes on when you discover there is also an Adrian Robinson as a drafted player and UDFA Adrian Robinson. If you want to know for sure, the quickest way is to look at www.cutsandkeeps.com under the letter tracker "G" and "R". Thanks for reading!
APRIL MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPICS: ACTION-REACTION TO THIS MONTH'S ROOKIE RELATED HAPPENINGS
Action: Oakland signs college basketball player Andre Hardy after tryout After tryouts with several teams, including the 49ers, Andre Hardy was signed by the Oakland Raiders as a potential tight end starter. Hardy played only basketball at Oral Roberts University and then Cal State Fullerton. He's 6-5 and 250 in size and has some speed. Check him out in www.cutsandkeeps.com.
Reaction: It's the never ending pursuit of pro clubs to find the next All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates, who like Hardy, played only basketball in college. Since the San Diego Chargers reaped tremendous benefits from a unknown hoops player, every pro club has joined in the search. Can you name at least two basketball players who tried out and failed in the last couple of years? This year, former Cincinnati basketball player Eric Hicks, All-Big East first team in 2006, will put on a football uniform for the indoor Cincinnati Commandos for one game. The 6-6 250 pound Hicks has the size for pro football and his audition will be against Marion Racers in a United Indoor Football League match. Like others, he played high school football but concentrated on basketball in college. He has played mostly in overseas pro league in 8 countries. I wonder if the Bengals will send out a scout to just check him out or dismiss his antics as another minor league "gimmick" to draw fans.
Action: UNITED FOOTBALL LEAGUE owners vow they will return for another season of play Several owners, still smarting from the loss of any where from 100 to 200 million in two years are thinking positively. Of course, the super-rich can be stubborn and not admit defeat to a most risky financial business but with "good franchises" in Sacramento, Omaha, Norfolk (Virginia) and Las Vegas, they are looking to add two more franchises- possibly San Antonio, Salt Lake City, Portland, OR and even Jackson, MS. Jackson???
Reaction: Let's face the truth. UFL does serve a good purpose as a developmental league for the NFL. In this recession with high unemployment, there's a lot of football players that need jobs. UFL is the answer. The second positive is that pro football is a violent, injury-prone game and replacements are needed constantly. There may be a point in the game where a concussion will be ruled as instant retirement and other serious injuries will deny further play. And don't forget, all the UFL players are listed in www.cutsandkeeps.com.
Action: NFL APPROVES TRAINING CAMP ROSTERS TO 90 PLAYERS FROM PREVIOUS 80 LIMIT. During last year's strike season, which eliminated mini-camps and OTA's (organized team activites) during the late spring and summer months, the NFL allowed teams to bring in ten more players on their training camp rosters. Now, they will continue with this practice for 2012 training camps.
Reaction: How many are you old enough to remember when the Dallas Cowboys used to bring in as much as 110 to 120 players to their training camp in Thousand Oaks, CA? It was like a train station (old time analogy used here). Somewhere along the line, someone must have suggested that teams quit doing this since some teams did just fine with about 65-75 players in camp. Again, the one factor in this decision is injuries to players. So, there is 320 extra players. After the camp, ship them to the UFL on assignment. That's what UFL needs-NFL partnership. And it is GOOD for us, www.cutsandkeeps.com. You can look up these "unknowns" or your college favorites- "Whatever happened to so-and-so?"
MARCH MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPICS: NFL CLUBS SIGN UNUSUAL "PROSPECTS" FOR UPCOMING SEASON.
The Minnesota Vikings recently signed Nicholas Taylor of Florida International University as a wide receiver and return specialist. What is unusual with this rookie signing is that Taylor did not play college football for FIU. As Nick Taylor, he was the regular point guard on the basketball team for four years and not once did he take to the gridiron while in college. The Vikings signed him after a tryout when he flashed 40 times in the neighborhood of 4.3 and 4.4. Most likely, like other unknown non-football prospects, he might just be a camp player but you never know what could happen until it happens.
In a similar move, the Detroit Lions signed fullback James Bryant, who has college football experience and did play some pro football. It was not the standard outdoor play. He tried out with the British Columbia Lions in the twelve man Canadian style football and did a stint in the indoor football circuit with Orlando. Then, he gave it up and went into professional boxing as a heavyweight. He gave that up after a few bouts and now is back into pro football. Again, the odds are against him in making the roster, but he has a colorful background, don't you think?
Both of these players are listed in www.cutsandkeeps.com. Take a look.
TOPICS: EMINENT PLAYER STRIKE MARS 25TH ANNIVERSARY ARENA FOOTBALL GAME OPENER
The Arena Football League celebrated its 25th anniversary by staging the opening game between Pittsburgh Power and Orlando Predators in Orlando, FL. The pre-game festivities included the AFL Hall of Fame induction, which included two Arena legends, Ironman Barry Wagner who set the standards for indoor play, and ex-NFL QB Kurt Warner who went from a Green Bay Packer training camp, to stocking grocery shelves to the Iowa Barnstormers, before landing with the St. Louis Rams as a Super Bowl QB.
Then, came the kickoff between Pittsburgh and Orlando. Unknown to most of us, the game was the aftermath of a battle between the owners and player's union and the union leader, Ivan Soto, ordered a work stoppage after failing to reach an agreement with the owners. That meant that the players on the preseason rosters were on strike and would not play the opener. In retrospect, the union and the owners have been bickering for eight months, mainly on salary issues and other benefits and it came to an end just hours before kickoff. So, what happened before the kickoff. The owners had replacement players ready, just in case, and in this case, the owners released all its active roster players who were not 100% committed to play and signed replacement players. It's almost like the 1987 NFL season!
So, the makeshift Power and Predators took the field in a game that was featured on NFL Network. Forget about the game programs. Only five active roster players suited up for Orlando; Pittsburgh had nine among its 25 man-roster. Pity the announcers, the fans, the media, and every one who wanted to know who was who. There were so many scabs on the field that team had a dress rehearsal in the first quarter that ended in a 0-0 score, a rarity. Pittsburgh finally won 40-26, mainly on the strength that they had more regular players than Orlando. It was fortunate that both teams had Arena QB's- Orlando with Colin Drafts and Pitt with backup Andrico Hines. Despite the presence of replacement players, the Orlando management did not discount tickets or refunds, which infuriated many of the 13,000 fans present. One bright spot for the fans could be that they attended the first AFL game in history that used replacement players. Autographs are invaluable.
Even the replacement players may have stories for Memory Lane. James Lovett, a Florida native who plays minor league indoor with Lakeland ended up with Pittsburgh and was voted defensive player of the game. Kyle Israel, a QB from Central Florida, was signed to play for his hometown, went to the Orlando locker room to dress and then was told that he was "traded" to Pitt, so he had the strange experience of being both a Predator and Power in one evening by just walking down the hallway. Now, we at cutsandkeeps.com must find someone that could give us the background of the 36 replacement players so we can enter them as "official Arena League players".
And a final footnote: A few hours after the game, Mr. Soto called off the strike so that the remainder of the teams could play with regular active roster players. Also, for the curious: The players union asked that the $400 per game salary be raised to somewhere in the vicinity of $875 (QB's receive about $1600 a game). The owners refused on their premise that players earn about $3,000 a month when salary, housing, meals and workmen's compensation is figured into the total pay.
FEBRUARY MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPICS: UNITED FOOTBALL LEAGUE COMMISSIONER RESIGNS; OWNERS OPTIMISTIC FOR 2012
Michael Huyghue resigned as the Commissioner of the United Football League effective January 31, leaving a huge leadership void in the three year "developmental league". It is obvious that his high salary could not be tolerated in a league that exists in limbo for the upcoming season, especially since the league has lost anywhere between 100 to 150 million bucks since its inception.
His terse statement read: "The UFL has experienced funding issues and at this juncture it seems most prudent that I step aside while the owners work to raise the necessary funds to conduct a fourth season."
Huyghue did an outstanding job, in our opinion, and his knowledge and experience produced a league with competitive teams and out-standing entertainment with top caliber players. Few realize that the rookie players assembled during the pre-season of 2011, while NFL was on strike, were outstanding as many left when the UFL set back their start, and the rookies joined the NFL teams when the strike ended. Some made the active NFL rosters and many were on the practice squads for the entire season. If you know the names of the player, you can look up this fact in our www.cutsandkeeps.com.
The owners remain optimistic with the four that ended their 2011 season still supposedly active. That includes Omaha, Sacramento, Virginia and Las Vegas. However rumor remains rampant. Virginia is mired in debt, as even players have not been paid for all of their games. The owner predicted another 3 million in the red if they operated in 2012. It seems foolish to continue. Las Vegas' president and coach Jim Fassel is active in predicting a return to Sin City but Vegas was never a pro football town. Just ask the Arena people and some of the minor and semi-pro league people. A rumor floats that Las Vegas may be relocated to Salt Lake City.
The future of the league is envisioned to include six teams and there's a few cities mentioned as future UFL teams. Among them is San Antionio, Jackson, MS and even Chattanooga, TN. The former coach of Hartford, that jettisoned at the last moment in 2011, Jerry Glanville is supposedly working to place a franchise in San Antonio, the most viable city available. Any spokesman can mention Birmingham, AL and Memphis, TN and even Portland, OR but the reality is, can an expansion of two more teams fit into their loss ledger?
What's going to happen? Requests for information from the league personnel have not been answered so Who Knows? Let us know if you are in the know, because over 1,000 players listed in www.cutsandkeeps.com as street free agents also wants to know.
JANUARY MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: 2011 ALL-NFL ROOKIE TEAM NAMED BY SEVERAL SOURCES
This year's All-NFL Rookie squad was announced by Pro Football Weekly/Pro Football Writers of America, a joint venture that establishes creditability. Most of the choices were well known by the fans because these players performed at a high level throughout the season. Fourteen of the 26 players named were first round choices, which bodes for the team's player personnel staff that drafted them. Here is the Team:
Quarterback: Cam Newton (Carolina); Running Backs: DeMarco Murray (Dallas) and Roy Helu (Washington)
Wide Receivers: A. J. Green (Cincinnati) and Julio Jones (Atlanta)
Tight End: Kyle Rudolph (Minnesota)
Center: Mike Pouncey (Miami)
Guards: Stefen Wisniewski (Oakland) and Danny Watkins (Philadelphia)
Tackles: Tyron Smith (Dallas) and Nate Solder (New England)
Defensive Ends: J. J. Watt (Houston) and Jabaal Sheard (Cleveland)
Defensive Tackles: Marcell Dareus (Buffalo) and Phil Taylor (Cleveland)
Linebackers: Aldon Smith (San Francisco), Von Miller (Denver) and Ryan Kerrigan (Washington)
Cornerbacks: Patrick Peterson (Arizona) and Richard Sherman (Seattle)
Safeties: Chris Conte (Chicago) and Chris Harris (Denver)
Placekicker: Dan Bailey (Dallas)
Punter: Matt Bosher (Atlanta)
Punt Returner: Patrick Peterson (Arizona)
Kickoff Returner: Randall Cobb (Green Bay)
Special Teams: Akeem Dent (Atlanta)
Cuts and Keeps is a rookie register, so each player is found with bio and career transactions will be found in www.cutsandkeeps.com. Take a look. It's FREE!
DECEMBER MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: SOME ROOKIE AND FIRST YEAR SURPRISES DURING THIS SEASON (DEC. 28)
First, QB Tim Tebow of the Broncos. Who would have thought he would lead the team to six straight victories and a chance to win the AFC West? Knowledgeable football brains said he does not have a NFL arm. True, he threw 4 interceptions last week vs. Buffalo. Beyond that he has subpar stats for passing, below 50% with a measly 48% completion rate. Yet, with some "miracles", he has a team on a winning note. That's surprising to us because throughout his pro career, negative comments were in the forefront.
Second, the superb play of QB CAM NEWTON of the Panthers. Although much heralded as a first pick of the Draft, there were concerns everywhere, from his inexperience (played only one year of D1 football) to character (unfounded allegations of payoffs). When play for keeps started, he went on to break Peyton Manning's record for most passing yards with 3,893 (and still one game to go) and also set a rushing TD record for NFL QB's with 14 TD's and still counting. And despite setting glorious records, his only concern throughout the season was "we need to win our games" as the Panthers were going into Week 17 at 6-9.
Third, the most surprising TD play of the year was performed by two Panther rookies on the new version of the Fumblerooski play. QB Cam Newton and FB Rich Brockel participated in the gimmick vs. Houston on the Texans 7 yard line. Newton took the snap, as he faded back, he stuck the ball into the back of Brockel's leg and swung out to his right like a run. Brockel timed it perfectly, as he broke to his left and scored while defenders were chasing Newton. Betcha no one thought two rookies would pull off something like this.
Fourth, the most surprising rookie starter was RCB KEVIN RUTLAND of the Jaguars. Rutland is an undrafted free agent as 32 teams passed up on him during the two day draft. He is the only free agent, other than special teams, to be a regular this season.
Lastly, there is no one more surprised than QB T. J. YATES of the Texans, the starter. As a bench quarterback, he saw with alarming coincidence that Matt, although a popular NFL QB name, is bad luck if there are two on one team. Both starter and backup, Schaub and Leinart, made the injured reserve list and that made Yates a starter. He's still hanging there while having difficulty passing to the right color. Although a veteran could be the rational choice for Houston, Yates is still in front of two re-cycled quarterbacks, Jake Delhomme and aging Jeff Garcia. That answers the question why T. J. Yates is the rookie starter for the Texans.
TOPIC: INJURIES KNOCK OUT MANY 2011 DRAFTEES FOR THE SEASON (DEC. 5)
Think of the demise of the Seattle Seahawks. The right side of the offensive line was decimated by injuries. If the offense starts to falter, it may because first round pick, RT James Carpenter went down with a torn ACL and previously, RG John Moffitt, a third round pick, also suffered a knee injury, ending his season. For Moffitt, the injury is not his only concern. He was suspended for four games by the league for violating NFL drug policy because he was tested positive of a banned substance, a medical drug. What does this mean for a player on the injured reserve list? While on suspension, Moffitt will not be able to use team facilities for rehabilitation for his surgically repaired knee. This alone is a serious matter and Moffitt will appeal citing medical reasons.
Here are others who ended their season on injured reserve. In October, CB Rod Isaac, fifth rounder for Jacksonville and starting guard Bill Nagy, 7th round pick of Dallas, made the unfortunate list. CB Ras-I Dowling, New England's second round pick, also was knocked out with a leg injury in October. Biggest name in November was Chicago's starting LT and lst rounder, Gabe Carimi who was felled by a knee injury. A trio of wide receivers, Greg Salas, 4th round-St. Louis, Kris Durham, 4th round- Seattle and Leonard Hankersons, 3rd round- Washington, were shelved. Also, add to the November list: CB Chimidi Chekwa, Oakland's 4th rounder, and Buffalo's LB Christ White, 6th round selection. That's eleven guys in just two months.
More detailed information can be obtained by looking them up in www.cutsandkeeps.com. If we missed anyone let us know. Finally, it is the nature of the game to lose so many players but, did you notice that the majority of the NFL coaches seldom use the "injuries" to valuable rookies as an excuse for losing. And notice, too, that those draftees that disappeared onto the practice squads are moving up in the last two months of the season.
BREAKING NEWS: Just before December is a week old, starting defensive tackle Terrell McClain of Carolina, the Panthers' third round draft choice, sustained a knee injury, thus ending his season. And on the same day, Dec. 6, Carolina teammate, starting nose tackle Sione Fua was placed on injured reserve, too, with a hamstring injury. Somewhat unbelievable that two starting defensive linemen going out together during the final stretch of the season. A third drafted rookie, Indianapolis backup NT Drake Nevis, a third rounder, is through with a back injury. The Colts injury nightmare continues.
NOVEMBER MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: 2011 CANADIAN FOOTBALL ROOKIE OF YEAR: CHRIS WILLIAMS
Import wide receiver Chris Williams of the Hamilton TigerCats was awarded this year's Rookie of the Year honors. The little guy who stands 5 feet 8 inches with blazing speed had two trials with NFL clubs after playing for New Mexico State. Last year, he tried out for Hartford of the United Football League and was cut. Finally, he used his last option by going North to Canada and signed with the TigerCats practice roster until the end of the season.
Williams had 70 receptions for 1,064 yards and six touchdowns. This enabled him to be named on the Eastern Division All-Star team.
Edmonton Eskimos linebacker J. C. Sherritt was the runner-up. He had 72 tackles and three sacks despite missing the final two games of the regular season.
More details on both players can be found in www.cutsandkeeps.com.
TOPIC: CAROLINA DRAFTEE CUT AFTER POLICE FINDS DRUG DURING TRAFFIC STOP.
The Carolina Panthers released LB Lawrence Wilson, a 6th round draft choice from Connecticut, a week after he was stopped by police and they found him in possession of marijuana. This sends a strong message to young players that NFL clubs will not tolerate personal conduct deemed criminal or illegal by law. This may be harsh in the fact that it was a small amount, and he was not driving under influence and he did not injure or endanger anyone while driving. Nonetheless, he was cut, probably because he was on the practice squad instead of the active roster. The image certainly tarnishes the club and the league. Hence, an example to the rest. The police report indicated he was remorse and cried, which validates Wilson's knowledge of its serious consequences.
Rookies must understand they walk a fine line when it comes to "professional conduct", once you sign a pro contract. Earlier this year, rookie RB Conte Cuttino of the Hamilton TigerCats of the Canadian Football League was cut for failing to act accordingly. Cuttino took a picture of a fellow player's injury and transmitted it. When club officials found out this confidential information, he was gone. Even if Cuttino did not know it was a fatal mistake, a rookie must not do anything that is out of the ordinary. This two examples speak for itself.
OCTOBER MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: UFL ABRUPTLY ENDS SEASON AND WILL STAGE "CHAMPIONSHIP" GAME OCT. 21
The naysayers were right; most predicted the demise of the third-year United Football League when the league announced postponing the August beginning due to problems, thus eliminating the fifth team Hartford Colonials to retain four manageable teams. Then, after four weeks of play, UFL cancelled the remaining two regular season games and announced a championship game to end the season. That means that the leaders, Virginia Destroyers (3-1) and Las Vegas Locos (3-1) will play for the league championship in Virginia, Friday, Oct. 21st. Sacramento (1-3) and Omaha (1-3) will also be active for the last time in a game at Omaha. It's a sad parting for the players and fans who demonstrated the spirit of the game. For the players, it means that the monies they counted on for a regular season will be missing. That's a good amount since players are paid $5,000 a game. Fifty-one active players and those on reserve status will be cut off and hopefully, the players will be paid. And for the fans, they will be denied rooting for teams that they become attached to and the enjoyment of pro football at affordable prices for the entire family. The enthusiastic crowds at Sacramento and Omaha gave proof that this type of AAA minor league football has a place in the sporting scene. Instead of following a developmental game plan, the UFL failed to capitalize the use of rookies and first-year players, and went for the pseudo-major league brand of ball by hiring aging NFL veterans as a lure to fans. It didn't work. All it did was lose monies, mainly paying salaries to ex-NFL types and creating a enormous debt. This type of spending is familiar to all of us. At the end, a league failed with loss of over 150 million dollars. With the death of a league will come the bad news. Companies will be seeking monies owed to them; front office personnel will sound off that they didn't get paid, and even some players will add their grievances to writers who are seeking stories of struggling livelihood of UFL players. In all, it's not a good story about an upstart league, in the midst of recession, to begin play in 2009, defying the odds of previous failed leagues and having millions of dollars from investors who must have thought the UFL will be the highlight story of the century. Finally, don't ridicule or laugh at the UFL; there were a lot of positives, too.
There is still optimism among owners, investors and even coaches who will tell you that this level- a second tier pro league- is needed and can succeed in selected minor cities throughout USA. This could be true. Indoor football, with its rigid business model, including low budgets and low player salaries, has succeeded all across America. So, why not for outdoor football with smaller rosters and new rules for this game, particularly the time length of games. There is an abundance of players, in the thousands (just look at the rookie register on www.cutsandkeeps.com) and there are thousands of fans who love football. We just need a new beginning with a half dozen billionaires who will set up the next league with a little more judicious approach. What about 2016? Can we count on it?
TOPIC: ARENA FOOTBALL LEAGUE PREPARES FOR 25TH SEASON OF PLAY IN 2012
The AFL will field seventeen teams in 2012 with two significant changes. Tulsa Talons will relocate to San Antonio, Texas and will retain their Talons signature. In the other move, the Dallas Vigilantes are no more. The team disbanded after this season. Meanwhile, there has been talk of placing a team again in Nashville, TN, once the home of the Arena's Kats. There has been serious talks about reviving Arena Football in that city. A Nashville entry will round out the team to a balanced 18.
During this off-season, teams are rebuilding up their rosters with free agents. In the AFL, there is almost a complete turnover in rosters because the players become basically free agents after the season. In September, there is a period of time in which clubs can sign only the players that were on the rosters at the end of the season. This, then, becomes the nucleus for the next season. Usually, a team will bring back anywhere from eight to ten players, but never a full roster complement of 20. From here, the previous season's players are in the free agent pool and it's a competitive race to garner the good players, including their own former players. So far, AFL teams have signed nearly 300 players. And many of them are NFL rookie castoffs as well as 2010 college seniors that were not picked by the NFL, CFL or UFL this past year. As you look at recent rookie signers in www.cutsandkeeps.com, you will be surprised at the quality of players that are stockpiled on the 17 rosters. But, here is the catch. Many of them, while on the rosters of AFL teams, will re-sign with NFL clubs or CFL clubs in late December and onwards. Aren't the contracts binding? No, because the AFL affords the players the opportunity to advance to the next level. AFL gives them blessings and puts them on the other league exempt list. And some of these players do make the 53 man NFL rosters but little mention is given, especially by writers, that they once belonged to an Arena football team.
Finally, a hearty congratulations to Gene Nudo, who was inducted to the Arena League Hall of Fame this year. Gene has been with Arena since it's inception by Jim Foster. He and his Illinois semi-pro players staged the test games in an old Chicago arena years ago. Gene has been involved in the league office, then with the Arizona Rattlers in both administration as VP and GM as well as Head Coach where he helped build the World Champions and, currently the GM of the Chicago Rush. This adds up to over 25 years. We make special mention of Gene for this one reason- He was the PERSON who encouraged us the continuation of Cuts and Keeps years ago. We are still here, thanks to his motivational talk.
SEPTEMBER MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: SMALL TALK ABOUT NFL PRACTICE SQUADS-WEEK 4
Most fans know that each NFL team carries an 8-man "practice squad" that is comprised mostly of borderline rookies who did not make the 53 player main active roster. A few years ago, it was a six man squad until the league increased it by two. With talks about expanding the schedule to 18 games, there may be another increase in the numbers. The practice squad serves primarily two functions. First, it may be thought of as a developmental squad- to give rookies the hands on experience to develop their skills in a professional environment. Secondly, it can also be a replacement squad- to be a ready reserve in case some active player gets hurt. It's an advantage to have a replacement who is familiar with the playbook and is in top physical condition. Never is it a situation where the club has to call a former camp player who is sitting by the phone waiting for this chance. That's probably a tale from the past...long, long ago.
Another interesting tale regarding the practice player is one in which a club that signs a former player of a team that will meet in the future. The idea here is that they will get first-hand information of a player that learned the playbook, ran the plays and listened in all the meetings on game strategies. Take for example, the Seahawks signing a defensive back who spent one full season with the 49ers and then was cut this year in training camp. Will the Seahawks staff gain valuable information from this player? No. The coaching staff probably knows more than the player. A few years ago, the Redskins signed a Giants QB for the practice squad. The talk was that Redskins will grill the QB about the Giants offense. Here was the laugher. The Giants cut him because he had difficulty learning the playbook. And the Redskins wanted another arm in practice. So, these stories are only to dramatize routine and mundane transactions.
There are some stipulations regarding who can be on the squad. First, the player must not have played in 9 games in an accrued season and can only be the squad for a maximum of three years. Most serve two years. If you don't make an impression for two years, plus OTA's and a third training camp, he's gone.
One positive aspect of being a "taxi squad" member (a term first used in the 60's) is the pay. Each player makes $5,700 a week. If a player remains on the squad for 17 weeks, the sum total would be something like $100,000. Not bad for a player whose name does not appear on the game day program. A few players can be paid more during the formation of the squad (day after final cuts) when the club fears he may go to another team. Remember, if the player is signed to the active roster, his pay jumps enormously to the first year minimum.
So far, Atlanta, Carolina, Chicago, and Tennessee still has the original eight-man practice squad that they formed a day after final cuts. The others have a lot of movements, some activating their rookies to game rosters and some cutting the original player in favor of others. Green Bay would also be intact but they lost one player, WR Chastin West, to Jacksonville. The Jaguars did not "steal" West from the Packers. They signed him like a free agent, which to say, all squad members are essentially "free agents" who can be signed by any other team, as long as they are promoted to the 53-man active roster. Teams cannot take away a player from another team's practice squad to add to their own eight-man squad.
The most active team with movements in the practice squad is New Orleans. In the beginning of Week Five, they have 13 transactions. They also have "Mr. Practice Squad", a player that is signed and cut every week, a coming and going that is unusual to say the least. He is QB Sean Canfield who has been signed five times and cut four times this early in the season. You know he dares not to go home to California because he's on call. Last year, he was similarly yo-yoing on the practice squad. You can see this for yourself on www.cutsandkeeps.com.
Final note: The Canadian Football League also has a seven man inactive squad called the Practice Roster. They have different rules. Two of the seven must be Canadians or non-imports. The remainder is made of rookies like the U.S. However, there is no restriction on game experience. In other words, you can play a full season of 18 games in the CFL for the first year and return to the practice squad the next year. Recently, Winnipeg signed a 35 year old import QB with over five years of Canadian experience to the practice roster. That's OK up North. They also have a rule around late September and early October of expanding the practice squad to upwards of ten U. S. imports. The reasoning behind this is to give teams an opportunity to look at recent NFL cuts. Hopefully, you saw some interesting information about a little talked about subject- the life line of the pro teams- the practice squad.
TOPIC: QUICK GLANCE AT NFL ROOKIE QUARTERBACKS- WEEK 3.
The No. 1 pick in the draft, QB Cam Newton made a splashing debut with the Carolina Panthers, that is, statistically speaking. He set a NFL rookie record in the first game by throwing for 422 yards against Arizona. Then, he broke that record by amassing 432 yards against Green Bay. It's great but not so great, too, because his Carolina team lost both games. That's what counts- winning football games. But, it also proves that a rookie starter can assure a team of a losing record because statistics alone does not assure a great QB. In the next game, he threw for only 158 yards and won- a 16-10 victory over Jacksonville, who also had a rookie to start his first game. Blaine Gabbert threw for only 139 yards and only thing fans can be excited about is that when these two talented QB's get more experience, maybe three years from now, their team will be a winner. However, it's not a sure thing.
If we are looking for playing time, another top rookie, Andy Dalton, like Newton, has started all three games for the Bengals, who stand at 1-2 like the Panthers. As expected, a slow start. Dalton impressed with a 332 yard performance against Denver, but yes, he lost. So, good stats don't reflect the rookie QB problems. These young men are learning through on-the-job experience how to read defenses, how to manage the game and how to make the best decisions. It's going to take a full season.
By the way, here are some other stats. Newton has already thrown 4 interceptions, and taken 8 sacks. Dalton has 2 interceptions and has been sacked 6 times. Gabbert, one intercept and 3 sacks in a little more than one game. Just think for a minute. They have 13 games to go.
The other two top rookies, Christian Ponder of Minnesota, and Jake Locker of Tennessee, have not played a game because their teams brought in a veteran QB to start. Their job now is to learn by watching and prepare for the 2012 season. If an injury occurs, then both Ponder and Locker may get a chance this year. We all know these two are eager to get on the playing field, but I doubt they are waiting for an injury to happen. In most cases like this, the team will bring in a veteran free agent, which means minimal PT.
If you look at the depth charts, only three other rookies are listed as backups. Colin Kaepernick of 49ers, Ricky Stanzi of Chiefs, and Tyrod Taylor of the Ravens.. If the starters get hurt, watch out. A journeyman veteran will soon be signed and the rookies will still be backups. For teams that can afford the luxury of three QB's, New England has Ryan Mallett as a reserve as well as Josh Portis of Seattle and Nate Enderle of Chicago. There are NO rookie QB's on the other teams. Oh, what happened to Tyrelle Pryor who entered the supplemental draft after he quit Ohio State and selected by Oakland. If you didn't know, he is on a 5-game suspension imposed by the NFL. Oakland, still smarting from the DeMarcus Russell debacle may try him at tight end. They don't want another embarrassment.
In summary, the moral of the story is this: (1) Rookies who are starters will give their team a mediocre season. It's all about the future. (2) The debate about throwing the rookie into the fire as a starter versus having him observe from the sideline in his first year will never be settled.(3) Should junior QB's enter the draft, like Newton, Gabbert and Mallett, or should they have waited another year? I don't know- ask Andrew Luck.
TOPIC: UNITED FOOTBALL LEAGUE STARTS THIRD SEASON- THIS IS GOOD FOOTBALL!
The UFL Week One found Virginia beating Omaha 23-13 before 15, 856 fans at the losers new venue, the Ameritrade Park and the defending champions, the Las Vegas Locos edging Sacramento 23-17 before a near capacity crowd of 19,938 in Sacramento. A great beginning- the scores indicates parity which keeps fans glued to their seat and there were exciting moments in each game to demonstrate the professional quality of play. Also great was the attendance. This was not a paltry few thousand, it was in the tens of thousands, with a near sellout in Sacramento. It is certainly consistent with UFL's goal- to provide good pro football at affordable prices. In these hard economic times, this is a big bonus.
Fortunately, I was able to watch the LV-Sacto game on local Comcast TV and what I saw pleased me very much. Some of things I saw which I never see on NFL telecasts were: A player's mother singing the National Anthem. In this case, it was RB John David Washington's mother, Pauletta, doing the honors. Incidentally, she is the wife of the Academy Award actor, Denzel Washington. The pair are very supportive of their son and can be seen at every game, adding some glitz and celebrity status to the game, along with the family values bit. Then, they were shots of kids, lots of them, enjoying the game. Again, the theme of it's a family's affair- you can afford to bring the whole family. And finally, the owner was shown as the Pitchman talking about the team and trying to hype up business to the viewers who want to see some young players who might make it to the NFL. The owner's name is Paul Pelosi, and that surname is familiar because he is Nancy's husband. The telecast crew was also impressive. The analyst was Mike Pawlawski, former NFL and Arena QB, who is well known in these parts, exchanging witty and wise commentary with ex-NFL coach, Jerry Glanville, whose colorful background, was promoted to the max. Yes, he left two tickets to the King, otherwise known as Elvis Presley. Jerry's weird habit goes all the way back to his Atlanta Falcons day.
Yes, Virginia, there is a place for UFL in the pro football world. It's real, it serves a mission of developing players for NFL and it provides good football in the smaller cities. If your Virginia Destroyers can promote this type of football (like AAA baseball), we have five good franchises and possibly the league can find some more cities in its expansion for the future. BUT, the league has lost over 10 million dollars so far, and to come up with more teams and a profitable fan base may be difficult. That could be the end, unless someone steps up to help their mission- and the group that has quietly profited from this operation is the NFL. Over 60 players from the past seasons have dotted the NFL rosters, both the 53-man squads and practice squads. If the NFL is willing to subsidize the league like Major League Baseball, we can have another year of re-runs like last week's UFL Week One.
Note: Most of the UFL players are listed in www.cutsandkeeps.com. I doubt if you can find this kind of information anywhere else.
TOPIC: 58 2011 UNDRAFTED FREE AGENTS MAKE WEEK ONE ROSTERS
The chance of a undrafted free agent to make the 53-man roster is probably slim to none. Most of them are called "camp bodies" which means to field a position for drills and scrimmages and most of them disappear after the first two cuts. This year was projected to be a bad year for these guys simply because of the 4 1/2 month lockout, which prevented early signing (April-May) and workouts and training sessions during mini-camps and OTA's. Despite this gloomy outlook, 58 undrafted players made the opening day rosters of the 32 teams. This is the third most in recent history, following the 63 in 2003 and 60 in 2002. This year's number suggests that only a few make each club but some teams like Oakland, Tennessee and Arizona have none. Chicago leads the league with five undrafted players: WR Dane Sanzenbacher, TE Kyle Adams, LB Dom DiCicco, and LB Winston Venable. Most draft experts projected these players as priority free agents. Other leaders with four such players were Dallas, Indianapolis and Seattle.
Probably the most illustrious free agent was LB Mark Herzlich, the Boston College player who missed all of 2009 season with bone cancer, came back to play last season as a senior and declared he was ready to play at the next level. There were a lot of doubters who felt illness has taken its toll on his body. His determination and courage to prove he is NFL ready is the feel good story for this year's class.
And the great determination factor might be the reason why so many free agents made it. The greatly increased odds of not making it due to the strike gave some extra motivation to prove coaches, scouts and player personnel wrong. Recall, too, that competition increased when the league increased the training camp rosters by ten to 90 total. Another barrier to overcome. The intensity, competitiveness, and effort can be well demonstrated by Jets rookie LB Nick Bellore of Central Michigan. If you watched the Jets preseason games, Bellore was flying all over the field. It's probably a name you are not familiar with, but watching him, you know he had "IT".
Just in one week, the number 58 has changed somewhat, because four were dropped after the first game and two were moved up from the practice squad. This figure will keep changing as many undrafted free agents were signed to the developmental unit and will soon be activated to the 53-man roster due to injuries. If you know the name of an undrafted free agent, look him up in www.cutsanndkeeps.com. Become familiar with him....He might one day make the Pro Bowl!
TOPIC: FOURTEEN 2011 DRAFTEES WILL MISS UPCOMING SEASON
You never know when an injury will strike a football player. It's devastating to both the player and his club. For him, it delays a much awaited career and for the club, it is a loss of investment. But it happened to fourteen drafted players during training camp this year, denying them the opportunity to show their team worth.
Foremost among the injured were four second round draft choices. Mikel Leshoure, running back from Illinois who was drafted by Detroit, tore ligaments in his LT knee on August 8. He was placed on injured reserve on August 13, thus ending his season. Running back Ryan Williams of Virginia Tech, who like Leshoure, entered the draft early by foregoing their senior year, tore the patella tendon of his right knee. He was the 2nd pick by the Arizona Cardinals. Two big 300 pound defensive tackles make up the quartet struck by misfortune. They are Jarvis Jenkins (Clemson) of the Washington Redskins and Marvin Austin (North Carolina) of the New York Giants. Jenkins tore his ACL of the right knee and Austin suffered a torn pectoral muscle.
The remaining players are second day draft picks that include one fifth round pick and two sixth rounders. Linebacker Gabe Miller (Oregon State) was placed on injured reserve by the Kansas City Chiefs. The sixth round selections were Guard Zack Williams (Washington State) of Carolina who tore his ACL during the first week of camp and Linebacker J. T. Thomas (West Virginia) who suffered a back injury in the Detroit Lions camp.
Then comes a group of seventh round pick who might have made the 53-man roster if they had been healthy. Most prominent is Greg McElroy, he of the Alabama quarterback fame, who injured his right thumb while playing for the Jets. Running back Baron Batch (Texas Tech) tore his ACL of left knee in practice in which no one had contact with him. As he was finishing his run, the knee popped. Prior to this mishap, he looked like a possible backup. We will never know.
The others are DB Mikail Baker (Baylor) of St. Louis Rams with a hamstring injury, D-lineman Cheta Ozougwu (Rice) of Houston with a foot injury, Tackle Johnny Culbreath (South Carolina State) of Detroit with a undisclosed medical condition and DT Lawrence Guy (Arizona State) of the Green Bay Packers with a concussion. Lastly, CB Curtis Holcomb (Florida A&M) of the San Francisco 49ers holds the distinction of being the first player to make the injured reserve. He sustained his injury without even seeing the field. On July 28, while he was performing some conditioning tests, he tore his Achilles tendon. Such is the tragedy in the life of a pro football player.
Finally, here's two first- round picks who were injured during the first week of practice but were NOT placed on injured reserve. This means that they are expected to come back this season. It was big news in Detroit when the Lions DT Nick Fairly, the Lombardi Trophy winner from Auburn, injured his left foot. Two days later, he underwent surgery. The prognosis is that he will miss 3-4 weeks of the season. Then, the New York Giants first pick, and probably the last player to sign his contract among the 2011 class, CB Prince Amukamara sustained a broken foot a few days into practice. He, too, is expected to return to play sometime in October.
More information on all these players are listed in our rookie register, www.cutsandkeeps.com. Take a free look and enjoy the season!
AUGUST MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: FORMER ARENA QUARTERBACK PASSES AWAY AT AGE 27
Former Arena and af2 quarterback Andy Collins died of an apparent attack while doing conditioning work in a Florida gym. He was only 27 years old and was just recently married. The former University of Oregon transfer played at Occidental College, the school that produced Jack Kemp, the former Chargers and Bills QB. Oxy never lost a game when Andy Collins started at QB. His exploits earned him a tryout with the New York Giants. Unsigned by the Giants, he joined the Los Angeles Avengers of the Arena League, then moved onto Colorado Crush of the same league.
I have a personal recollection of Andy Collins. Off his Giants tryout, I suggested to Coach Freddy Biletnikoff, Jr., then the head coach of the Central Valley Coyotes (af2) to take a look at Collins. Meanwhile, Collins signed with Stockton of the same league, and was injured. He continued the next season with Tri-Cities Fever of the Indoor League, which was closer to his home. Biletnikoff never had a chance to sign him. After the demise of the af2, Biletnikoff was hired on by the Spokane Shock as an offensive coordinator. Shortly thereafter, Andy Collins signed with the Shock, joining a coach who followed him closely. Collins was subsequently cut, and a few months later, Biletnikoff was also cut, he, being the scapegoat of a poor start for the defending champions of AFL.
It is a tragedy that a young man should die so young and only good memories remain now.
Note: www.cutsandkeeps has a obituary section in "X" for players who passed away while they were active players. Please note. Thanks.
TOPIC: 2011 NFL ROOKIES ARE AT A DISADVANTAGE
Unlike previous years, due to the Lockout, the NFL rookies, both drafted and undrafted, face a tremendous uphill battle during this train-ing camp season with the short time to get acclimated to professional play. First of all, all the rookies missed mini-camps and OTA (organized team activities) during the crucial April to early July period. Granted, the drafted rookies got their playbooks in late April, but they had no contact with coaches (presumably) to ask questions. Most had to rely on veterans who were willing to help during player organized workouts. Undrafted rookies were left in the dark because they were unable to sign and none knew which team would offer (presumably). So, when everything came to order on July 26, it was a bang-bang period of signings and the free agents were finally able to picked up by a team. Suddenly, it became a cram course over a thick playbook. It could be overwhelming because you have such a short time to digest the intricacies of your position.
Then, there is the adjustment period to two things: the speed of the game and the physical nature of professional football. Almost all rookies will tell you that they find a big difference between college and pro football- speed. This acclimation again had to addressed as soon as they hit the practice field because it was the first time ever speed was everywhere. The awareness of physicality also became evident when rookies took part in drills, without pads. Even in helmets and shorts, and almost walk-through drills, the tone is set in physical punishment. Vets can give you a shove that feels like a sledgehammer, or a push that can make you go reeling four yards back. When the pads come on, it's bruises and bleeding. And all of this comes too suddenly. The coaches want it this way because they have only a month to get ready. In previous years, you had weeks to prepare for this.
Added to the above is more competition than in the past. After the lockout, NFL decided to increase the training camp roster from 80 to 90. Ten additional players increased the competition level and maybe, a quicker judgment on a player's ability. Weekly, players were cut and new rookies were quickly signed. Within two weeks, experienced first-year players showed up from the UFL. If there is one significant good about the UFL-NFL relationship (if there was one) is that the former was always quick to supply the NFL with quality players. This year, they obliged in the preseason. Last year, the had more than 50 go directly to the practice squads and a few were activated to the 53-man active roster during the season. If anyone wants to take pot shots at the UFL, you just don't know the nature of the pro business and how valuable a developmental league (the UFL) is.
The next disadvantage for the undrafted rookies come in the form of a mandatory three-year contract for all players in this category, which came about in the new labor contract. Now, the case of the undrafted rookie making the opening day roster is almost nil. Ninety-nine percent of the rookies are cut. But the few that make it will not be able to adjust their salary to a significantly higher pay if they had a break-out year. The owners have an advantage here, in that, it would be difficult to negotiate a high pay raise until after three years. But, then, it is rare for a rookie free agent to even make the team, let alone the practice squad, a 8-man squad reserved primarily for draft choices that need more seasoning.
With the short NFL training period this year, expect very little contribution from the undrafted rookies and also have patience with the drafted rookies. They all have a disadvantage unlike all the past seasons before the lockout.
www.cutsandkeeps.com has all the NFL rookies listed for the 2011 season. If you have a favorite player or want to look at more details of a rookie with your favorite team, welcome to our site. We know the pro football magazines won't carry the information that we have. And it is FREE.
JULY MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: NFL IN, UFL OUT?
We predicted that the Lockout would be over in July. It was a no-brainer. NFL is Big Business. It's run by intelligent people and played by intelligent men (OK, a few might not qualify at both ends). By rational and logical reasoning, both parties came to an agreement to save the 2011 NFL season that involves too much monies and too many people. That aside, the whole lockout created a lot of emotions, and that was the off-season entertainment. Hopefully, no one took it seriously, especially the name-calling, and ridicule and insults hurled at good people. The only "losers" I see in this new CBA are the undrafted rookies, who will lose money on bonuses, since the agreement puts a cap on this for each team. Not only that, but they also lost of lot valuable learning time with the cancelled mini-camps and Organized Team Activities. Thus, they start at Point Zero. With a mass of rookie signings and a very limited evaluation time, the rookies of this year are at a tremendous disadvantage. At one time last year, undrafted rookies cut in July or early August had an option-going over to the UFL. This year, that opportunity seems non-existent.
Now, the UFL situation. It looks pretty bad- like it's a one big mess. First off, their season was suppose to start in August in a pre-determined move to take advantage of a late starting NFL season. This was suddenly called off to expose a somewhat realistic situation- UFL was financially drained and the schedule change was necessary to find new investors. If you don't have capital, it is impossible to play. Furthermore, some teams had problems. Hartford had to come up millions to pay for Workmen's Compensation, without which, they can't go on the field. Virginia, supposedly, didn't have enough helmets and pads to accommodate a 70-men training camp roster. That is embarrassing when you consider some semi-pro teams don't have that problem. There also a bunch of big past debts which are not resolved and small ones that occasionally pop up when some employee or service provider write blogs telling the whole world UFL owes them money. There was some discussion in the administration to cancel the season. The owners and investors balked. You have to sympathize with both sides...it's a very stressful situation.
And what about the players? Some of the good undrafted rookies have been released so they can take a chance of being signed by NFL and there was a bunch of Arena players who asked to be cut so they can finish out the season with a guaranteed paycheck with their former team. For the rest of the 300 players, they will have to sit and wait, a situation similar to the undrafted rookies of the NFL. They can only hope that there is some eccentric billionaire that is willing to invest money into an organization that is bound to lose monies for the third straight year.
It is a sad scene because the UFL have excellent head coaches, and the players perform in a very exciting professional level of play. Each team has its core of rabid fans whose spirit brings life into the whole league. The only obstacle- Finances.
TOPIC: 2011 ALL-INDOOR FOOTBALL LEAGUE: WILL THEY REACH THE NEXT LEVEL?
Here is the first and second team official All-Indoor Football League (The IFL, not the entire indoor football leagues) players. It's a mixture of players with varied professional football experience, including the NFL, and young, relatively unknown players who are not found in the database of www.cutsandkeeps.com. Some will forever be mired in the lower level indoor competition, whereas others will make it to the Arena Football League, or better yet, the Canadian or the United Football League. But, the odds are rather slim on that jump, as you will see more players on this level have already had their cup of coffee at the next level. We had added comments for you to access the abilities of the below mentioned players.
Quarterbacks: lst team: Chris Dixon, Sioux Falls. 2nd team: Houston Lillard, Tri-Cities. Reaction: Dixon is a winner; he led his former team, the Billings Outlaws (now defunct) to two straight championships, and is now on a roll with the Storm for another championship, all within the last three years. Don't know why he is never picked up for a tryout at the upper level. Lillard has made tremendous improvement from last year. By the way, Dixon played at Humboldt State and Lillard at Southeast Missouri State, not exactly household names.
Running backs: 1st team: Romandre Gibbs, Fairbanks. 2nd team: James Jones, Sioux Falls. Reaction: Typical unkowns. Gibbs went to Western Illinois and J. J. Jones is a Northern Colorado product. Doesn't seem to fit the Arena League system where the ball carrier is more like a bull rusher.
Wide receivers: lst team: Joey Hew-Len, Tri-Cities, James Terry, Sioux Falls; Andre Piper-Jordan, Seattle 2nd team: Timothy Simmons, Wenatachee; Clinton Solomon, Wichita; Maurice Avery, Omaha. Reaction: Both Solomon and Avery of the 2nd team were signed by NFL out of college as was Terry. This trio have been very productive at this level and seems to be in their comfort zone. They are NCAA Division I players. Hew-Len failed his trial with Spokane due to outstanding competition. His competitors have gone on to NFL, UFL and CFL.
Offensive Line: lst team: Myniya Smith, Sioux Falls; Jeff Baksas, Chicago; 2nd team: Vaughn Lesuma, Seattle; Chris Nunn, Reading. Reaction: Smith was with the NY Giants, Lesuma with BC Lions of CFL and Baksas played in the Arena so they had their chance; Nunn is the awaiting his opportunity.
Centers: lst team: Charlie Sanders, Sioux Falls; Collin Cordell, Colorado. Reaction: Typical unknowns and like the RB's, better offers are slim.
Defensive Line: lst team: Antonio Ficklin, Bloomington; Xzavie Jackson, LaCrosse; Sean Kelly, Bloomington. 2nd team: Jeramie Richardson, West Texas; James McClinton, Green Bay; Tommy Chavis, Sioux Falls. Reaction: Of this group, the best is Ficklin, who was once a 49er, and his ability earned him a hurry up call to Cleveland Gladiators of the AFL few weeks ago. Jackson and McClinton saw NFL training camps while Kelly played in AFL. Most lack size for NFL, speed for CFL which makes AFL a possibility.
Linebacker: lst team: James Lancaster, Allen, Lenny Radtke, Chicago 2nd team: Matt Hewitt, Omaha; Walner Leandre, Nebraska. Reaction: Hewitt impressed in past CFL and AFL workouts, but at end, was beaten out by others. No one jumps out like a good prospect.
Defensive Backs: lst team: Travonti Johnson, Omaha; Arkeith Brown, Green Bay; James Romain, Fairbanks; 2nd team: Idly Etienne, Colorado; Dennis Rogan, Tri-Cities; Joey Longoria, Allen. Johnson had NFL ability as he saw game action for NY Giants and is a surprise to find him at this level. Rogan declared for NFL Draft in 2009, signed with Tampa Bay, then cut. Another surprise because he has ability. Others, especially Arkeith Brown with 12 interceptions this year, deserve an opportunity on the next level. This is a good group; remember their names.
Kick returner: lst team: B. J. Hill, Green Bay; Theo Hill, Lehigh Valley. Have not seen much of the duo to say they are good prospects. Rogan ran back three for TD's in one game, and that was impressive, but he's not listed here.
Kicker: lst team: Travis Atter, Wyoming. 2nd team: Josh Shene, Green Bay. Indoor kicking is the toughest job in football. It's a narrow space to kick through. You learn accuracy here. Tryout opportunities are excellent if you have leg strength. Consider this: Iowa Barnstormers went through five kickers this season. Any comers?
Ironmen: (plays both offense and defense- like old Eagles Chuck Bednarik): lst team: Eryk Anders, Colorado; 2nd team: Stewart Franks, Sioux Falls. Do you remember Anders on the great Texas Longhorns team a few years ago? Colorado Ice is one of the most improved teams in all of indoor football and much of the credit goes to this young man. He deserves a shot with a NFL team, especially on special teams. Franks came back from the CFL.
If you read this article on "Nobodies", at least you got exposure to names of players who give it their best to become the best at their craft. It's their dream to move up through this sacrifice. Sacrifice? Yes, if you love to play this game at $250 a game, it must be more than that. It must be motivation, determination, courage and heart. In reality, maybe be one will be a success at the next level.
JUNE MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: CFL OPENS JUNE 30 WITH NEW ROOKIE CROP
The Canadian Football League opens their season, beginning on June 30th when the British Columbia Lions travel to Montreal to meet the defending champions, the Alouettes. This year, NFL Network will continue to televise two games per week, giving the fans another unique glimpse of the Canadian football that features 12 men on each side, a three down motion offense and field that is 110 yards long. Here is the list of U.S. rookies (or Canadian who attended U.S. schools) who currently are on the roster at the beginning of the season. * = indicates that the player is a non-import (native) who was drafted by the CFL team.
British Columbia Lions: #35-Tim Brown, RB-KR, Temple; #76-Rajon Henley, DE, Texas Tech, #80-Dobson Collins, WR, Gardner-Webb #87-Marco Iannuzzi*, WR, Harvard, #50-Adam Bighill, LB, Central Washington (Bighill was just added from the practice roster which is limited to seven players and also has many rookies; Timmy Brown is the kick returner who comes from the indoor leagues so it will be fun to see how he adapts to the long, long outdoor field).
Edmonton Eskimos: #6-Ray Fisher, WR, Indiana; #7-Brandon James, KR, Florida; #13, Eric Ward, QB, Richmond; #67, Scott Mitchell*, OL, Rice; #71, Marcus Henry, WR, Kansas, #92 Almondo Sewell, DL, Akron; #90, Ted Laurent*, DL, Mississippi. (Marcus Henry was with several NFL clubs and his current number is not a typo. Fisher and James once wore Indianapolis Colts uniform).
Calgary Stampeders: #31-Demetrice Morley, DB, Tennessee; #8-Daren Stone, DB, Maine;#64-J'Michael Deane, T, Michigan State; #60-Tony Washington, OL, Abilene Christian; #91, Kevin Dixon, DL, Troy; #3, Greg Fassitt, DB, Grambling State.. (Morley had a sensational training camp but is currently injured. Stone is a NFL vet but Washington came from Arena Football.)
Saskatchewan Roughriders: #85-Ernie Wheelwright, WR, Minnesota; #88 Terrence Nunn, WR, Nebraska (Two receivers made it but Nunn could be a valuable addition with his nifty pass catching abilities).
Winnipeg Blue Bombers: #1, Perry Floyd, WR, Wingate; #36, Leslie Majors, LB, Purdue; #27 Kito Poblah*, Central Michigan; #89- Clarence Denmark, WR, Arkansas-Monticello. (Floyd and Denmark are speed burners and Poblah, a non-import, was selected as a first round pick in the recent a Canadian supplemental draft.- No, Terrelle Pryor was NOT eligible!)
Hamilton TigerCats: #37-Marcell Young, DB, Jackson State; #59- Brian Simmons, OL, Oklahoma; #80-Chris Williams, WR, New Mexico State. (Chris Williams adds speed to a otherwise veteran Hamilton twelve).
Toronto Argonauts: #6-B. J. Hall, QB, Webber International; #44-Chad Kackert, RB, New Hampshire; #45-Anthony Cannon, LB, Tulane; D. J. Boldin, WR, Wake Forest; Claude Wroten, DT, LSU. (Some may remember Cannon with the Detroit Lions and Wroten with St. Louis. Boldin is the brother of Anquan Boldin, NFL star with Cardinals and Ravens. B. J. Hall???. Look him up under "H".)
Montreal Alouetes- #88, Dallas Baker, WR, Florida. (Only one rookie listed on a veteran team. Don't let numbers fool you. GM Jim Popp brings in 45 or more rookies into training camp and every newcomer is given ample opportunity to make the team. Some of the gems found by the excellent scouting staff are stashed away on the practice roster so more will be heard from later.)
If you watch CFL games, you won't need a gameday program to know more about these rookies (and additionally first-year players like Jason Vega of Winnipeg) because they are all found in www.cutsandkeeps.com.
TOPIC: TEN UFL ROOKIES TO WATCH AS TRAINING CAMP OPENS IN EARLY JULY
This list of ten came across the desk from somewhere, probably an UFL insider, but it warrants a look because the ten are good football players deserving of recognition. Earlier in spring, UFL did draft some outstanding NFL type prospects in linebacker Mark Herzlich of Boston College, RB Derrick Locke of Kentucky and WR Jeff Maehl of Oregon but they were removed from the reserve/ unsigned draft pick recently. Here's the rundown:
DE Alex Albright- Omaha- Was bothered by an assortment of injuries during his Boston College career but has lots of potential with his strength and athleticism. UFL provides him an opportunity to work past his injuries into the All-Big East caliber he displayed in past.
RB Matt Asiata- Omaha- Hard running back with a pro-type body who can drive his legs through the pile. Also a good blocker with good hands. Has injury history at Utah that may scare teams away in NFL but if sound, UFL is stepping stone to the next level.
C Howard Barbieri- Hartford- Valuable player as he has played all line positions at Rutgers. Also brings leadership qualities that inspire teammates. Was rated in top 15 centers in one pro draft guide so his reputation is valid.
LB Neal Howley- Virginia- An unknown from Eastern Michigan who led the team in tackles last year. What is in his favor is his last name because oldtimers still remember Chuck Howley of West Virginia who played 15 years in the NFL as the great Dallas Cowboys linebacker.
QB Jerrod Johnson- Hartford- Was once heralded as Texas A&M's star of the future at QB. Went into a funk, had shoulder surgery and regressed thereafter. Selected by Colonials in first round, for his character, work ethic and passion. Hopefully, his passing will come back.
TE Dominique Jones- Sacramento- He made only 2nd team All-League at Division II Shepherd in West Virginia, so how did the Mount-ain Lions think he was all that great? They "discovered" him at a tryout camp in San Diego and think he has a great future in UFL.
WR Cameron Kenney- Omaha- Played only two years at Oklahoma as JC transfer but has tremendous upside with his natural abilities which includes speed, hands and intellect of getting open. Needs more experience and the UFL is a good fit.
DE Craig Marshall- Hartford- One of the top rushers for Central Florida said he just couldn't wait for the NFL lockout to end, so he went to UFL tryout camp in Georgia. He signed immediately when Colonials offered contract. Must be a smart football player on field, too.
OL Jarrod Shaw- Hartford- Most of his fellow linemen from Tennessee during his four-year career with Vols signed with NFL but he's different. Comes from a established football program which means he is well prepared for the next level. Wants to join teammates in NFL.
DE Chris Walker- Hartford- Another Tennesee Vol ranked in the 30's as DE in draft guides but his problem in the NFL is that fact he's a tweener- between DE and OLB. Glanville will determine his best position in training camp to best suit his speed, strength and athleticism.
If you need to know more about these players, check out www.cutsandkeeps.com, the register for all pro football rookies of NFL, CFL, UFL and Arena Football. Thousands of players listed so that you can appreciate the young men who are playing out their dreams.
Incidentally, if the lockout continues past the month of July, you may find more good players signing up with the UFL. The reason being that NFL training camps will be cut short and time for evaluating rookies will be curtailed. This limited time frame will free up another 250 players.
TOPIC: UNDRAFTED ROOKIES AWAIT END OF NFL LOCKOUT BUT OTHERS OPT TO PLAY ELSEWHERE
There remains some optimism that the NFL lockout will end by early July, which means that the 400 some undrafted rookies may find a home with one of the 32 teams. Other undrafted rookies can't wait. They have signed contracts with the "other leagues". Here is a list of some of the top undrafted free agents who have signed contracts. The players are from a comprehensive list provided by Colin Lindsay of the Great Blue North Draft Report, which identifies some 350 rookies.
Quarterbacks: Jerrod Johnson, TX A&M (Hartford-UFL); Mitch Mustain, USC (Hamilton-CFL, subsequently released).
Running Backs: John Griffin, UMass (Omaha-UFL); Philip Tanner, Middle Tenn St (Hartford-UFL); Matt Asiata, Utah (Omaha-UFL)
Offensive Tackles: Cory Brandon, Oklahoma (Toronto-CFL, subsequently released); J'Michael Deane, Michigan State (Calgary CFL)
Offensive Guards: John Bender, Nevada (Calgary-CFL)
Defensive Ends: Craig Marshall, South Florida (Hartford-UFL); Christian Anthony, Grambling State (Omaha-UFL); Alex Albright, Boston College (Omaha-UFL); Jabari Fletcher, Appalachian State (Montreal-CFL); Roberto Davis, NW Missouri St (Sacramento-UFL).
Defensive Tackles: Martin Parker, Richmond (Cleveland-AFL); Ted Laurent, Mississippi (Edmonton-CFL);
Safeties: Jeremy Kellem, Middle Tenn St. (Omaha-UFL).
There are more than two dozen other 2011 draft eligible players who have inked contracts with teams in the AFL, CFL and UFL who are not on Colin's list. Which brings up a point in the current NFL situation: There are more undrafted free agents signing with the "other leagues" than in previous years. If you can think of some players, check them out in www.cutsandkeeps.com, which registers rookies who are in pro football this season.
TOPIC: HO HUM- NO NFL FOOTBALL ACTIVITY AS LOCKOUT CONTINUES....BUT THERE IS FOOTBALL.
Throughout the season, Cuts and Keeps follows the indoor football leagues to keep tabs on players that might move to the next level. The minor leagues have some interesting stories to pass onto you during the lull of the NFL stalemate. Hope you will be informed a little bit more.
The Kent Predators of the Indoor Football League made an unusual move in the fourth game of the season. They changed their name to the Seattle Timberwolves. The owners re-invented the team and with it, I am told, the uniforms and the coaching staff. The players remained to wear the new uni's. I guess this can only happen in the low minors. But, wait for laughter. The management felt that this move was in the best interest in marketing the team in a broader fan base, extending into a metropolitan area, thus creating a bigger area image. Think back to the major league baseball team Angels. Didn't the owner Arte Moreno re-name the California Angels to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (city of residence) of California? The Angels really improved their attendance.
In glancing at the Indoor Football League scores, I came across the following: the lowly Arizona Adrenaline smashed the Bricktown Brawlers of Oklahoma City 50-something to a lowly 20 something (May 21st). This was a stunning upset, I thought, until I found out that the Adrenaline played a local semi-pro team, no doubt an outdoor one. Their league opponent closed shop earlier that week and released all its players. Last year, Oklahoma City had a good team known as the Yard Dawgs in the revamped Arena Football League. They moved up from the minor af2, and featured former Oklahoma and Utah quarterback Tommy Grady.. The Yard Dawgs dropped out of the AFL and a new group brought in the Brawlers. Most of the old players went elsewhere, like Grady to the Utah Blaze. The Brawlers struggled and the bricks came falling down. Apparently few knew of the demise of the Oklahoma City team. I didn't but I knew they were better than the Adrenaline. Saw the score, couldn't believe it, because the news reported AZ defeated OKC, but in reality, a hastily arranged game with a local team. The sudden and quiet dissolution of a team happens often in the lower minors. This is one example. Blame it on the economy!
Speaking of scores, the Erie team of the Southern Indoor Football League lived up to the name Explosion when the erupted for 138 points against the hapless Fayetteville Guard's zero. This is believed to be the all-time scoring record for an indoor team and also the largest differential (until someone tells me otherwise). According to Erie's team report, the defense controlled the game from the start to finish. They scored 9 defensive touchdowns, had 8 sacks, held them to a minus 27 total offense with forcing 14 turnovers, including 9 inter-ceptions and 5 fumble recoveries. Defensive back Lenny Wicks had five interceptions to lead the defense. On offense, quarterback Adam DiMichele tossed six touchdown passes. If these two names are not familiar, take a look into www.cutsandkeeps.com and find out who they are. You might conclude they are just too good to be playing in this league. If you are thinking about sportsmanship and running up the score, Erie found out some previous high score and decided they would best that by a wide margin. Even the kicker, Carlos Ojeda, got into the act. He made a seldom-used and rarely seen drop kick for one his conversions. That's worth 2 points in the indoor game. (Carlos, if you read this, send us your bio and career transactions, so that we could place your name in www.cutsandkeeps.com with Lenny and Adam)
Last note: From the grapevine, we understand the Fayetteville Guard folded a few games after this debacle.
MAY MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: SOME UNDRAFTED FREE AGENTS SIGN WITH OTHER TEAMS DURING LOCKOUT (May 25)
There's a period of uncertainty for most undrafted free agents during the present NFL lockout. Most are just waiting and hoping the lock-out will end soon. But, there are a few that are looking forward to playing now, instead of waiting. Such is the case of DT Martin Parker of Richmond who signed with the Chicago Rush of the Arena Football League. The Defensive MVP of the East-West Shrine Game was bypassed in the draft but was labeled a priority free agent. Instead of waiting and negotiating with one of the 32 NFL teams, he took the immediate job offer of the Arena League team.
Another player, DE Craig Marshall of South Florida, a 2011 draft eligible who wasn't drafted, decided to go a Hartford UFL tryout in Georgia. A week later, he was signed by the Colonials. Now, he can do what others cannot do- go the team headquarters and work out without the fear of injury since he is signed to a contract. And while others attempt safe conditioning regimen, Marshall will be in rigorous training to prepare for the July training camp.
The CFL, like Arena and United, are also signing players who finished their college eligibility last season. In fact, there are more signings of 2011 undrafted free agents than in previous years. DE Courtney Harris, formerly of Miami U and then North Alabama, inked a contract with Saskatchewan and will report June 1 to training camp. He is among the dozen or more than signed within the last two weeks.
Meanwhile, there are about 175 priority free agents and another 300 "camp bodies" awaiting for the lockout to be ended. If there is an agreement in June or early July, then, it will be good. A little bit rushed, but the rookies will be able to get a fair shake for the entire length of the training camp. If not, that is, extended into August, the outlook is bad. Teams won't have the luxury to bring in 15-20 free agent rookies for a thorough look-see.
Look at our site: www.cutsandkeeps.com. Priority free agents are listed. Follow the list to see who signs where.
TOPIC: UFL DRAFT TAKES PLACE AFTER NFL DRAFT- GOOD PICKS.
The UFL Draft, conducted a few days after the NFL, was a combination of available "street" free agents and undrafted free agents. The league did a good job in selecting players who would most likely join and thereby elevating the playing level. However, there were some reach in selecting some name players who did not seem interested in UFL ball. Boston College LB Mark Herzlich is one of them. The famed Cancer survivor came right out and said he was only interested in the NFL. Another, Derrick Locke, Kentucky running back, also stated that he did not want to play in the UFL, and did infer in his comments that it was inferior football. So far, only one 2011 draft eligible player signed with the UFL. RB Phil Tanner of Middle Tennessee State will join the Hartford Colonials.
If the NFL strike goes into July or early August, there might be a high influx of undrafted free agents joining the UFL, not only for a paycheck, but the opportunity to join the NFL practice squad in October or November. This has been the case in the past two years. And this has been one of the real positives for the new UFL- it produces ready-made professional players for the next, higher level.
Follow all the rookies and first-year players of the UFL on www.cutsandkeeps.com. Their backgrounds and pro career transactions are presented weekly.
TOPIC: AFTER NFL DRAFT, REINSTATED LOCKOUT STOPS EVERYTHING
During and after the NFL Draft, signing of future players came to a standstill. Unlike previous years, none of the first rounders signed a contract which was negotiated in the days before or after the draft. With all this waiting mode, it blends in with the whole lockout mess that is still unsettled and somewhat getting to the nerves of many people. Particularly, those involved with signing of players, which includes the pro personnel and agents.
And what about the undrafted free agents? They are in limbo. Although much has been made of some "secret contact and negotiating" between teams and players, that topic is strictly rumor. The current undrafted free agents had plenty of contact with the clubs during March and April, as well as the Combine for some. The clubs know who they want and the players know who want them, just from the pre-draft interviews and workouts. Some clubs brought in many "local" players for workouts before the draft, a symbolic gesture of community relations. For example, the 49ers new coach, Jim Harbaugh, formerly of Stanford, brought in 13 of his former players into the 49ers compound plus others from Cal and San Jose State. This was before the draft.
Once the lockout is over, there would be a mad scramble to assemble the rookie group for training camp. Some 500 players will be signed, which means Cuts and Keeps will quickly post the transaction. In view of this dead period, we have already placed undrafted players most likely to be signed into our register. It will give you the idea who was signed by whom in a minute. And it makes our work easier, because the player are already there in www.cutsandkeeps.com. By the way, there will be a NFL season. Too many intelligent people out there on both sides that will make this happen.
APRIL MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: TWO MORE NFL PLAYERS JOIN ARENA FOOTBALL TEAMS
The NFL lockout has prevented the players to workout during the off-season. The opportunity for a real conditioning program comes with real game condition presented by the Arena League, now in progress. Tackle Cliff Louis, an Arizona Cardinals signee, and kicker Fabrizio Scaccia, San Francisco 49ers, have signed on with the Cleveland Gladiators and the Arizona Rattlers respectively. The duo makes the number of NFL players jumping to the AFL during the strike to four. It's a great alternative for the four, the other two being WR Troy Bergeron and WR Rod Windsor, to earn a salary while the NFL and NFLPA are at a stalemate. At least, they can pay their bills.
All four players are listed in Cuts and Keeps with their complete pro football profile. Look them up-www.cutsandkeeps.com.
TOPIC: FORMER ARENA FOOTBALL PLAYER KILLED IN ACCIDENT
Eric Houle, former Arena Football League kicker for Las Vegas, New Orleans, Grand Rapids and Arizona, died in a car accident on Sunday, March 29th. He was 29 years old.
Mr. Houle is survived by wife Nicole and children Ava (3) and Lucie (10 months)
A memorial fund has been set up to help support his children's education. It can be found on a web page called the Eric Houle Memorial Fund. Thank you to Mark Radlinski, quarterback and teammate at Saginaw Valley State, for setting this up.
MARCH MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: NFL WILL NOT USE 'REPLACEMENT PLAYERS' FOR 2011 PLAY
Darn...There's goes the sequel to the movie Replacements which depicted the 1987 street free agents that were recruited to form the "scab" teams during the NFL strike. Commissioner Roger Goodell made it plain and clear that the NFL will not field team with free agents to play out this season.
If the NFL did use replacement players, most of them were certainly come from the rookie and first year players listed on our website: cutsandkeeps.com. Darn...There goes another miss. Our previous 1987 register contains nearly all of the Replacement Players who by the chance of the strike were able to play in the NFL.
If there's a third Darn...it's the street free agents who were skipping UFL tryouts and Arena auditions in order to concentrate on reporting to one of the makeshift NFL training camps for the Strike-bound NFL season. Now, that's out of the question. Darn, Darn, Darn.
TOPIC: ARENA FOOTBALL LEAGUE LOOKS MAJOR THIS SEASON.
The image of the AFL has improved tremendously this season. No longer do we have the Bossier City/ Shreveport BattleWings or the Alabama Vipers of Huntsville, Alabama. Instead, we now have the Georgia Force in Atlanta, which is the transplanted Vipers, and the New Orleans VooDoo returns after Bossier/ Shreveport gave up the franchise to the Queen City. Coming back from a two-year hiatus are the San Jose SaberCats, Philadelphia Soul and Kansas City Command. While the other new teams retained their old Arena League names, KC gave up Brigade in favor of Command. The newest major city is Pittsburgh with their nickname Power. Pitt is no stranger to Arena football. How many of you remember the Maulers? By the way, San Jose is being talked as the best team in the league. In the first week, the clobbered Spokane Shock, 76-48. That's a shocker because Spokane happened to be the defending champions.
The season is already in the second week. Remember, AFL is going to a 18 game schedule this year. Does 18 games sound familiar? That's one of the agendas in the NFL-NFLPA negotiations. It would be interesting to see how AFL teams will fare with 18 games, instead of 16, in regards to injuries. The focus of attention will be how depleted the teams will be heading into the playoffs.
There will be a lot of new faces on the teams this year- a lot of young rookies, most of whom saw action in the other lower level indoor football leagues. This is a favorable situation that AFL teams have. They have a farm system of minor leagues that provide training in indoor arenas. Nearly all the Arena players are listed in www.cutsandkeeps.com so when you want to know more about a player, take a look. You will note where some of these rookie Arena players came from- like the Indoor Football League, the American Indoor Football Association, the Southern Indoor Football League and lastly, the Continental Indoor Football League.
Final Note: With the NFL season at a standstill, you have seen or heard NFL players talking about jobs outside of football. Only one, safety Tom Zbikowski of the Ravens has actually entered a new field- boxing. He won his second pro bout. Meanwhile, others have gone on record by stating they would go into boxing, wrestling, martial arts, et. al. Now, here is the second player to draw a paycheck. Receiver Rod Windsor, who signed a free agent contract with the Cleveland Browns in January, has decided to go back to his AFL club, the Arizona Rattlers on March 16. Is this legal? If a player is locked out, doesn't he have the right to work elsewhere?
TOPIC: WILL THERE BE A 2011 UNITED FOOTBALL LEAGUE SEASON????
If the NFL postpones this season, the UFL will play for sure with its five-team league to culminate a "dream come true" wish. That wishful thinking emanated a few years ago, that the UFL will survive because it will be the only football in town in the event the NFL gave up the season. All that insurmountable debt to to a big time investor, to medical facilities, to service companies, to office personnel and to players, will be put aside for now, and new investors will be brought in to promote the UFL. It's an optimistic dream, but it's plausible.
The only drawback is: Will the fans buy into a league that is considered a high class minor. Despite the ridicule the UFL receives from some media writers, the teams are well-coached and the players are of professional quality. Together, they put on a decent showing, often providing the exciting plays seen in the NFL. Other good aspects of the UFL are parity among teams, and reasonable prices for the fans. But, the most positive presence is that the UFL has been a boon to the NFL. Late last year, count the number of players who signed to the active roster or the practice squad. It was many. And it did not cost a cent for the NFL to procure these ready-made players.
This year, NFL training camp rosters have many former UFL players. If there's a NFL lockout, many unsigned NFL players may opt to play in the UFL.
Most of the UFL players of last season will be kept active on Cuts and Keeps for your view. Just look at the UFL site, pick a name you wish to know about and click on our site to see the playing career of a particular player.
If you enjoy this site or want to contribute a positive, feel-good story about any player, not necessarily, NFL or UFL, drop us a line.
TOPIC: THERE WILL BE A 2011 NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE SEASON...COUNT ON IT!
Don't worry. There will be a NFL season this year. Allow the Players Union and the Owners to air out their differences. Let them tell each other what they want. From these intense meetings, the media will create stories that will have you on edge. Everyone who's involved in the NFL know this is Big Business and it will NOT fail. There are too many people dependent on this sport for a livelihood. They know it, we know it...so, at the very end, there will be an agreement from both parties to continue on. Economically, everyone NEEDS the NFL, whether it be for monies or entertainment or whatever...To shutdown is only a threatening word, only meant to add more excitement and anxieties to the populace. Therefore, continue to read how each group is playing hardball and try to understand a little about negotiations. There are a lot of intelligent people out there- and they happen to be millionaire owners and millionaire players- who sometimes won't sound that way but in the final analysis, they will ALL make the rational move- Let's kickoff the 2011 NFL season together.
By the way, they all know they need to provide information to the 2011 Pro Football Cuts and Keeps! That's important, too. If you wonder why, look us up- www.cutsandkeeps.com.
JANUARY MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: WELCOME NEW YEAR AND NEW SEASON TO PRO FOOTBALL'S CUTS AND KEEPS...
We lost count how many years we have been tracking rookie and first year players from the prominent professional football leagues, but it's certainly been more than 25 years. We have seen leagues come and go while the NFL and CFL remained the dominant game for the new players, the rookies fresh out of college, and the first year players, who had prior training camp experience but never made the active rosters. Then, we follow the players with limited playing experience and veterans who technically become rookies when they jump to another league or join a new league.
Our purpose is to track these players so fans and people in the trade can look them up and see how they are progressing in their career. For many, it may be to look up the "whatever-happened-to-guy" that you followed in college or some lower level pro football.
DECEMBER MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: ADD TWO MORE DRAFTEES TO THE LIST OF ON FIELD CASUALTIES (Dec. 28).
Two 2010 draft choices did not make it to the finish as injuries put an end to their first pro season. Foremost in the departure was Arrelious Benn, the starting WR with the Tampa Bay Bucs. The second round draft choice suffered a knee injury. Benn ended up with 25 catches for 395 yards and two TD's. He averaged 15.8 yards per catch while he logged 9 starts in 15 games.
Defensive back Shann Schillinger was a 6th round draft pick of Atlanta this season and appeared in fifteen games. An ankle injury put him on the injured reserve. He recorded eight tackles, six unassisted while he was on the field.
TOPIC: FORMER NFL AND UFL PLAYER FATALLY SHOT NEAR ST. LOUIS (Dec. 28).
Twenty-six year old Brandon Joyce, who was on the off-season St. Louis Rams roster and formerly played for the Las Vegas Loco-motives in the UFL has died after being shot outside a Bass Pro Shop in the St. Louis suburb of St. Charles.
Joyce died Tuesday morning after he had been hospitalized since being shot in the head on Friday, Dec. 24.
Three men, all 21, were charged Tuesday with second degree murder, attempted robbery and armed criminal action. All three were jailed on $1 million bond. A fourth suspect is still at large.
He was the son of former St. Louis Cardinals (before they moved to Phoenix, AZ) punter Terry Joyce. Please go to www.cutsandkeeps to view his football history.
T0PIC: ROOKIE REDSKIN DEFENSIVE LINEMAN ARRESTED FOR DUI (Dec. 27).
A rookie defensive lineman of the Washington Redskins was activated from the practice squad on Friday and then saw action against the victory over Jacksonville on Sunday. On Monday morning, at about 3 AM, Joe Joseph was arrested for driving under the influence. It was not determined whether he was celebrating to excess following his baptism into the NFL . If he is cut in the days following, you can be sure that the front office doesn't want him for next season. That comes under character issues and it's a tough reminder that clubs don't want players to tarnish their image with immature social behavior. On the other hand, if he is retained on the roster, the Redskins sees his vast potential next season. A career composite of Joe Joseph is posted on www.cutsandkeeps.com.
TOPIC: UFL PLAYERS CONTINUE TO AUGMENT NFL ROSTERS (Dec. 24).
When Hartford Colonials' Gerard Lawson signed on with the Philadelphia Eagles active roster, he became the 40th UFL player to move into the ranks of the NFL since their season ended in late November. The cornerback joins eleven other teammates on NFL rosters, making Hartford the largest player contributor with 12 players.
On the day before Christmas, there are 19 UFL players on the 53-men NFL active rosters and 21 more UFL players on the practice squads. With only two more weeks left in the season, there still is a possibility of further signings. Part of this could come from season long NFL practice squad members moving up to be protected from other clubs and at the same time, relegating veterans to injured reserve.
The player movement is much more active this season than last, and it becomes apparent how valuable UFL is, in terms of , being a developmental league. Lawson said that this gave him an opportunity for live game action at top speed with players of ability and talent. The game conditions is the one item that is lacking while being on the practice squad.
TOPIC: ANOTHER PHILADELPHIA DRAFTEE GOES DOWN FOR SEASON (Dec. 23).
The Eagles' Jorrick Calvin, a defensive back, was placed on injured reserve with a back injury. Calvin was drafted in the 6th round by the Arizona Cardinals in this year's draft, then was traded to Philadelphia in the preseason. He played in twelve games for Philadelphia, which bode well for the winning Eagles because the player sent to the Cardinals, fullback Charles Scott, was eventually cut.
If you are keeping score, Calvin became the 9th Eagles player to be on injured reserve and the third rookie out for the year.
TOPIC: PHILADELPHIA LOSES TWO TOP DRAFT PICKS TO INJURIES (Dec. 21)
The Eagles two top draft picks, first rounder DE Brandon Graham and second rounder FS Nate Allen, both had surgeries this week and will be lost for the remainder of the season. Graham blew out his knee with a torn ACL and Allen suffered a torn patella tendon on his right knee. This is a major blow for the Philadelphia squad in their championship quest as Allen was a stalwart at safety with 13 starts and Graham played an important backup role in 13 games, with an occasional start.
TOPIC: HEISMAN WINNER AND ALL-AMERICAN QB BECOMES TEAM OWNER (Dec. 20).
Former Oklahoma Sooner quarterback Jason White, the 2003 Heisman Trophy winner, was announced by the Oklahoma City IFL in-door team as a co-owner of the fledgling Bricktown Brawlers. White was a phenomenal college quarterback while playing for the Sooners from 1999 to 2004. In his banner year, 2003, he also won the Associated Press Player of the Year Award as well as the Davey O'Brien Award for top QB and the Big 12 Player of the Year award. And yet, despite all these honors, he was bypassed by the NFL Draft and had a brief free agent training camp.
For now, he returns to the pro game, this time, in the capacity of a co-owner along with friend Dale Morris. It was a smart move by Morris, because he is really a Texan and also owns a minor league football team in Texas. But, he states he is a life-long fan of Oklahoma and to prove it, he brought in White, who is Oklahoma all the way.
This Oklahoma City team replaces the Arena Football League's Yard Dawgs who failed to come back for the 2011 season. The Brawlers will play in the minor Indoor Football League. Whereas the ownership is well defined, this writer is completely unaware of the origin of the nickname of this team-Bricktown Brawlers?
TOPIC: FINALLY ALL-AMERICAN QB GRAHAM HARRELL MAKES NFL ROSTER (Dec. 18).
Remember Graham Harrell, the gunslinger from Texas Tech? He set records in passing but come draft time, he was unwanted. He tried out for a few NFL teams in 2009 but again turned down. So, he took his game to Canada, signing with Saskatchewan Roughriders. Harrell barely played and was cut loose this April. In May, he was picked up by the Green Bay Packers who cut him on the final cut. But, the Packers may have seen his potential when they signed him to the practice squad the following day.
Graham Harrell lingered on the practice squad for most of the season. Then, starter Aaron Rodgers suffered a concussion against the Detroit Lions. As a precaution, Rodgers was declared out for the next game. Enter Harrell as he was activated to the active roster. Many thought he was he would never grace an NFL roster. Nearly everyone did, except Graham.
TOPIC: UFL'S CONTROVERSIAL 'TRANSFER RULE' IS REVISED FOR BENEFIT OF PLAYERS (Dec. 15).
It seemed like a good business judgment by the UFL Commissioner to impose a $150,000 transfer fee to any player signing on to the active roster of any NFL club. The players balked because they carried the burden of paying that fee. The NFL remained silent, made no comments for or against the Rule. It only pertained to players with NFL experience that were ineligible to be signed to the practice squad. The first player to sign with an NFL club was Omaha receiver Mike Clayton with the New York Giants. Clayton was exempt from the rule because he did not play enough in the UFL. There were no qualms from Sacramento DB Andy Sedenjo and Hartford tackle Colin Brown because they signed practice squad contracts. Ironically, both are now on the Dallas and Buffalo active rosters because they were promoted after a few weeks on the scrub squad. The most outspoken player was RB Lorenzo Booker of Hartford. He challenged the team and the UFL on the $150,000. For his uproar, he was suspended for the final Colonials game.
Then, a noble thing happened. The UFL Commissioner imposed a new figure. Now, it was only $25,000. The stampede of signings began with Booker taking the lead, and inking with the Minnesota Vikings. Sacramento's QB Richard Bartel signed with Arizona. Omaha contributed two: C Donovan Raiola (Tampa Bay) and T Erick Pears (Buffalo). Las Vegas also added two: K Steve Hauschka (Denver) and CB Coye Francies (Cleveland). Besides Booker, Hartford sent S Emmanuel Cook (NY Jets) and S Quentin Demps (Houston). The largest contingent came from Florida: RB Dominic Rhodes back to Indy, DE Eric Moore (New England), Receiver Brian Clark (Detroit) and CB Keiwan Ratliff (Cincinnati).
Meanwhile, a whole slew of players were inked to the NFL practice squads. It's a godsend for the NFL to have available game condi-tioned players to replace players who were activated primarily for one reason- to take a roster spot of an injured player. All the NFL clubs have injury problems late into the season. The UFL provides this replacement service- for only $25,000.
TOPIC: ANOTHER FIRST ROUND DRAFTEE OUT FOR SEASON (Dec. 12).
First round pick Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay's starting defensive tackle, is out for the season with a torn right biceps injury. He was injured in the lst quarter of the Bucs 17-16 win over the Washington Redskins. McCoy underwent biceps surgery and should be back in time for the spring OTA's (Organized Team Activities).
McCoy started slowly this season but picked up play in the second half and he is destined to become a future defensive force. He becomes the second rookie defensive tackle to go on injured reserve. Previously, teammate Brian Price was declared out.
More information on both these players can be found in www.cutsandkeeps.com.
TOPIC: COWBOYS LOSE BIG PLAY FIRST ROUND PICK IN DEZ BRYANT (Dec. 6).
The Dallas Cowboys suffered a huge void in their offense when first found pick Dez Bryant fractured his right fibula in a game versus the Colts. He underwent surgery the following day and it is estimated that it will take 3-4 months of rehab after the operation. Doctors inserted a plate into his leg to stabilize it.
The big receiver started the season with a high ankle sprain that limited his practices to only one week of training camp. He ended his season with an injury, thus dashing hopes of winning the Rookie of the Year Award. He was competing against QB Sam Bradford of the Rams and receiver Mike Williams of the Bucs.
Bryant finished the season with 45 catches for 561 yards with six touchdowns. He also returned two punts for touchdowns.
TOPIC: TWO MORE DRAFTEES END ON INJURED RESERVE (Dec. 3)
Reserve defensive end Sean Lissemore of the Dallas Cowboys and reserve quarterback Tony Pike of Carolina are the latest 2010 drafted players to end their season with injury. Lissemore, a 7th round pick from William and Mary, hurt his ankle. Pike, a 6th rounder from Cincinnati, suffered a shoulder injury. For Pike, this is the second season in a row that injuries cut into his playing time. In his final year in college, he sustained an arm injury. To find out more about these players, take a look at www.cutsandkeeps.com and be updated.
NOVEMBER MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: UFL PLAYERS CONTINUE TO SIGN NFL CONTRACTS (Nov. 30).
The just ended UFL season has been a pipeline to the NFL practice rosters as more players were signed this week. Backup fullback James Develin of the Florida Tuskers was signed to the Cincinnati practice squad on Tuesday. If you look him up in www.cutsandkeeps, you will note that he is a former Brown University defensive tackle at 260 pounds.
A rookie sensation in the Arena League, receiver Rod Windsor tried out the outdoor game with the Sacramento Mountain Lions and made the team as a backup. Now, he's on the Cleveland Browns practice squad.
TOPIC: TAMPA BAY LOSES ROOKIE STARTER GRIMM FOR THE SEASON (Nov. 30).
One of the surprises of the season was the emergence a Buccaneer 7th round draft pick Cody Grimm as a starter at Free Safety. Grimm was a linebacker at Virginia Tech but was converted into a defensive back during training camp. On Sunday (11/28), he suffered a fractured LT fibula against Baltimore when an opponent rolled over his leg. Grimm started nine of 11 games and was also a special teams standout. This corner did not expect him to be a starter in lieu of his competition with two veterans but he surprisingly made it. Then, consider this. It may not be so surprising because he comes from a football family. His father is Russ Grimm, the great Washington Red-skins guard.
TOPIC: BRITISH COLUMBIA LIONS PLAYER IS CFL ROOKIE OF YEAR (Nov. 25).
First year linebacker Solomon Elimimian of the B.C. Lions was named the Outstanding Rookie of the Year. At the beginning of the sea-son, he saw limited duty but once given the starting job, he gained a reputation as being a punishing tackler. Elimimian led the team with 77 total tackles, and was second in sacks with 5. He also recorded three tackles for losses. This is his second season in the pros. Last year, he went to training camp with the Buffalo Bills after a stellar performance with the University of Hawaii.
The runner-up was Eastern Division nominee, running back Marcus Thigpen of Hamilton.
Incidentally, the Outstanding Special Teams Player went to another Hawaii alumnus, return specialist Chad Owens, known as the Flyin' Hawaiian. Owens is a limited veteran with the Toronto Argonauts and scored four touchdowns on returns this year. He led the CFL with 2,701 return yards.
For further insight into Elimimian, Thigpen and Owens, look at www.cutsandkeeps.com for their career history.
TOPIC: UFL SEASON ENDS; PLAYERS SIGN WITH NFL-NO TRANSFER FEE CONTROVERSY? (Nov. 24).
There was some heated discussions among players and coaches of the United Football League when Commissioner Mike Hyughue announced that there would be an enforcement of the transfer fee of $150,000 when a UFL player signed with NFL teams. No such fees would be asked if players were signed to practice squad contracts.
So, on Nov. 23, Hartford guard Colin Brown signed with the Baltimore Ravens practice squad, the first of a quartet signing such a pact. He was followed by teammates, Colonials lineman Jacob Bender with the Washington Redskins and DE Derek Walker with Seattle. Safety Andrew Sedenjo of Sacramento was signed by Dallas and placed on the Cowboys practice squad. These are good moves for both leagues. Former UFL players moving up serves the important developmental concept of the league and the NFL doesn't have to rely on players they cut back in summer with a phone call to get ready to return.
Now, back to the transfer fee. Omaha's receiver Mike Clayton signed with the New York Giants active 53-man roster. Clayton is NOT eligible for the practice squad because he is a NFL veteran. What now? Will the transfer rule be enforced? It's good business if it is but if none, it is for "goodwill only" and comes under the familiar transaction phrase that you see peppered in www.cutsandkeeps.com- "For Future Considerations".
TOPIC: INTERESTING IRONMAN FEAT STORY OF ALL-YEAR FOOTBALL SEASON (Nov. 21).
In 2011, the Arena Football League will play an 18-game schedule, a sum total that is being debated by the NFL. The big question among players is the pay structure for an elongated season but the other question is: can the players perform adequately in games that go beyond the current 16 game set-up?
A press release by the AFL came up with an interesting note to the latter question. AFL noted that one of their veteran players named Kelvin Kinney, a lineman, played 38 professional football games in the 2001 season. Kinney played 10 games with the Las Vegas Outlaws of the XFL, then saw action in 14 games with the Detroit Fury of the Arena League and then performed in 16 games with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. That adds up to 38 games in one season! Did anyone play more than that?
Over a three-year span (2001-03), Kinney played in 90 games: seven football seasons in 3 different leagues and won two champion-ships in 2003 ( Tampa Bay Storm in Arena Bowl XVII, Edmonton Eskimos in Grey Cup). Kinney jumped from one league to another, joining teams when the season already started.
It was obvious Kelvin Kinney was in top physical shape from his non-stop playing career, which he sums it up succinctly: "You have to take care of your body".
TOPIC: FORMER REDSKIN QB COLT BRENNAN SERIOUSLY INJURED IN CAR CRASH (Nov. 20).
Colt Brennan, who spent a season with the Washington Redskins as a drafted rookie, was seriously injured in a two-car collision on a highway in Hawaii on Nov. 19. He suffered injuries to the ribs, head and collarbone and was hospitalized. Further account can be seen in Cuts and Keeps. Brennan spent this season in the training camp of the Oakland Raiders where he participated until the final cut/.
TOPIC: UFL CLOSES STELLAR SEASON WITH "TRANSFER FEE" CONTROVERSY (Nov. 20).
There's no doubt in my mind that everyone, that includes fans, media, agents, players, coaches of every level of pro ball, know that the United Football League is a developmental league in which players can gain pro experience and move up to the next level. UFL players are expertly coached and trained in live game experience to further develop their skills and hone their talents to be capable of NFL caliber play. When the season ends in the next week, UFL players can sign with any team that offers them a contract, whether it is NFL or Arena Foot-ball. This week, during the final league play and prior to the championship game next week, players and coaches were forewarned by the UFL Commissioner that there will be a $150,000 transfer fee for any NFL team signing a UFL player to their active roster. Read carefully. It states a player being signed directly to the active 53-man NFL roster. According to UFL Commissioner Michael Huyghue, he further clarifies the Transfer Fee Rule by stating that those who join NFL practice squads or signed to NFL Futures contract (which begins in very late December) will be allowed to do so and their fee will be waived. Huyghue adds emphatically: This is NOT a change in policy.
Now, let's go back to last season. Nearly all the UFL players signed to NFL contracts at the conclusion of their season were signed to practice squad contracts-mainly to be on the "scout team" and to replenish the original eight NFL squad members who were activated to fill in for injured players. So, why the big fuss among the players and coaches about this fee. It seems like every UFL player can jump right into a backup role and that ain't going to happen. Last season, a few like T Pettiti and LB Culberson made the active roster but as reserves but their NFL careers were short lived. They are not in the NFL this season.
Next, the $150,000 transfer fee is not unusual to have because this is a business. The UFL is spending monies- lots of it- to give players a good professional experience. They spend millions of dollars to maintain a team of potential NFL players. It's a stupid business if they spend millions on player development and then give the product for FREE to some team that gives the players money but not to the parent organization. American capitalism and free enterprise isn't built on this kind of business model. Everyone should take a look at professional baseball. The Majors buy their players from the minors if that team is not affliated with them. It's a fact that if a Japanese player is signed by a Major League Baseball team, they pay the player's club this transfer fee, and sometimes it's millions of dollars. In the sports business, nothing should be free. I recall in the 30"s, a major league baseball club bought a player from a lower minor team. The minor club didn't want cash- they settled for a year's supply of bats and balls. The NFL is wisely keeping quiet about this situation. And I am also thinking, the NFL scouts are saying to themselves: There is no one out there that can help our team win games right now.
Although I tried to make a rational point of the presence of the Transfer Fee Rule of the UFL, there are some who will say this is "full of crap". One such person who is incensed by it is Hartford Sentinel running back Lorenzo Booker. He refused to play in the final game versus Florida Tuskers. He's entitled to his opinion and stance. That's because America believes in FREE speech.
TOPIC: AFL WILL EXPAND ROSTER LIMITS IN 2011 (Nov. 19).
Next season, the Arena Football League will expand its schedule to 18 games for each team instead of the usual 14. The addition of two extra games will be compensated by the increase of players to 24 players from the previous 23 per roster. This also means that each team can activate 21 players for each game and 3 will be named inactive. Last season, 20 players were eligible for the game roster and three were listed as inactive.
Arena League teams are signing players at a record pace to stock up their 35-man training camp roster. Look at their site and note any player; then look up the player history on www.cutsandkeeps.com. Rookies and limited AFL veterans are listed herein. You may know more about them then their current coaches.
While on the subject of AFL rosters, the Milwaukee Iron has only three players signed while others average 20 or more at this date. What gives? Is there an ownership problem? However, don't worry about player signings. There are thousands of street free agents still available. Our concern is the stability of the franchise and its marketing plan.
TOPIC: DALLAS ROOKIE MAKES DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK (Nov. 16).
For rookie Bryan McCann, an undrafted free agent, his second career game's accomplishment was good enough to be named Defensive Player of the Week. The Cowboys cornerback didn't start the game against the New York Giants, but he returned an interception for 101 yards for a touchdown and contributed five tackles, including one for a one yard loss). He also broke up a pass.
If you look up McCann in www.cutsandkeeps.com, you will see his typical rookie odyssey. He was originally signed by Dallas and was waived on the final cut. He was assigned on waivers to Baltimore where he was on the active roster but did not play. The Ravens subsequently cut him. McCann was re-signed by Dallas to the practice squad, then was promoted to the active 53-man squad. The rest is history. He became the second rookie in the Super Bowl era to have an interception return of 100 yards or longer. (the other was Louis Delmas of Detroit in 2009).
TOPIC: ANOTHER DRAFT PICK IS THROUGH FOR THE YEAR (Nov. 16)
Tight end Fendi Onobun, (6-6, 252) was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the sixth round as a "project". He played football for the University of Houston as a graduate student for the first time in his college athletic career. His previous four years, as an undergraduate, was spent on the hardwood courts of the University of Arizona. Prior to becoming a Cougar, he was a Wildcat basketball player. He returned to his hometown and enrolled at Houston to compete in football. When the Rams drafted him, they saw his potential in pro foot-ball while noting his athleticism that developed in a top-ranked basketball program. It's a unique player history.
His development came to an end when Onobun was placed on injured reserve with a back injury. He played sparingly in three games.
TOPIC: WHO'S GOING TO BE THE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR? (Nov. 7).
The consensus, among the media, is none other than the first pick of the Draft, QB Sam Bradford of the St. Louis Rams. As a first-year starter, he has demonstrated that he has the skill and mentality to lead his team. In the first eight games, he has done a good job on the field, such as his outstanding three down situations and going with 96 straight attempts with no interceptions. When speaking of the "intangibles", he shows poise, confidence and patience. Another characteristic found among the elite QB's is his mental preparation for a game. Teammates describe him as a likeable friend who hangs out comfortably with the defensive guys, too. He also brings a strong locker room presence. That's a lot a praise for a rookie. He seems to be a lock for the rookie honors.
Mention should be made for another stalwart, DT Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions. The Lions strength is the defensive line and Suh made it such. He lines up at tackle or end in the three-point stance and then stands up as well on different schemes from a talented line. At mid-point, he has been credited with 6 1/2 sacks.
Then, there's the up and coming Dallas receiver Dez Bryant, who's been impressive on a woefully uncharacteristic Cowboys team. Des-pite missing most of training camp with a high ankle sprain, Bryant has become a receiving threat with good routes and catches. He looks like he's destined for stardom. And unlike the other two, you'll be hearing that from him.
TOPIC: BUCS LOSE THEIR SECOND ROUND PICK FOR THE SEASON (Nov. 2)
Tampa Bay's DT Brian Price's rookie season came to a disappointing end when his injury was disclosed as a fractured pelvis. For this, he will undergo surgery to repair the fracture so that he may compete next year. The Bucs hope of Price, a 2nd round pick, teaming up with first rounder Gerald McCoy, to form a fearsome DT tandem, will have to wait till next year. There is a question when the injury occurred since he was inactive during Weeks 7 and 8, and competed in only five games to that point.
The loss of Price is felt even stronger at his alma mater, UCLA, where he left early to enter the draft after his junior year. The Bruins defensive line is so weak that opponents' running backs are averaging over 100 yards a game with ease. In some cases, two backs on the same team have hit the century mark. Brian Price was a difference maker. His toughness is missed; so will the Bucs.
OCTOBER MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: PACKERS LOSE 2ND ROUND DEFENSIVE LINEMAN FOR YEAR (Oct. 26).
Defensive lineman Mike Neal of Green Bay became the latest victim of injuries for the Packers. He will be shelved for the duration of the season with a shoulder injury. Neal was selected in the 2nd round, 56th overall, in the draft . He was buried as the reserve DRE on the three man front, so he only played two games before he went down.
TOPIC: UFL INJURED RESERVE RULE SHOULD BE ADOPTED BY NFL IN 2011 (Oct. 25).
If the NFL is going to a 18 game schedule, the occurrence of injuries will increase. When a player is placed on injured reserve in the NFL, the season ends for the player. He remains on reserve until he is activated the following year in February. With that in mind, con-sider the UFL rule in regard to injured reserve. For example, Hartford Colonials linebacker Colin McPeek was placed on injured reserve on September 18. Because the injury was not major, he was activated four weeks later. The UFL rule states that a person can be activated after four weeks after he is medically cleared to play again. This saves lots of monies in the long run. NFL teams won't have to reload their practice squads week after week because of injuries.
Incidentally, the UFL Rule is not new. The CFL and AFL have always had the re-activation procedure in regards to injuries. If you look at the detailed transactions in www.cutsandkeeps.com, you will see the rule invoked.
TOPIC: ARENA GOES MAJOR WITH NEW TEAMS FROM PREVIOUS AFL (Oct. 25).
The 2011 Arena Football League's line-up will return some familiar names to the new league alignment, which is upped to 19 teams from the previous 15. Included in the league expansion are familiar names like San Jose SaberCats, Philadelphia Soul, Georgia Force, and New Orleans VooDoo. They are all former arena teams which took time off after disbanding after the 2008 season. Kansas City is also back but the Brigade name has been changed to Command. Meanwhile, some teams in the smaller markets are out. Bossier/ Shreveport closed shop and became the VooDoo. The Alabama Vipers relocated to the Atlanta area and will now be known as the Force. Oklahoma City Yard Dawgs will not operate in 2011 after a failed attempt to move the franchise to Seattle. The newest big city franchise will be located in Pittsburgh where the team will be known as the Power. Pittsburgh is familiar with arena football since it was one of the early members of the then new AFL.
All of the new-look "Major" Arena Football signings for the 2011 season are recorded in www.cutsandkeeps.com. Pick a roster name from your favorite team and look him up.
TOPIC: DOLPHINS TOP DRAFT PICK IS LOST FOR THE SEASON (Oct. 22).
Defensive end Jared Odrick, Miami's first round pick as the overall 28th selection in the 2010 Draft, was placed on injured reserve, thus ending his season. Odrick suffered a fractured fibula in the season opener with Buffalo and was held out of action from subsequent games. Then, during a Wednesday practice, he sustained a broken leg. He has appeared in only one game as a starter and will now be-come a full-time sideline spectator. Look at www.cutsandkeeps to see how much he gets paid for the latter job.
TOPIC: CANADIAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE TEAMS "RAID" ARENA FOOTBALL ROSTERS (Oct. 18).
The above caption seems like war between the CFL and AFL for the services of young professional football players. There's a explanation to this. The British Columbia Lions signed three rookies to their practice roster. They are WR Eddie Britton, DT Anthony Hoke and DE Nick Hennessey. Nothing unusual from the CFL standpoint because they are in a signing mode for their practice rosters, which can be expanded from the usual seven to ten until November lst. BUT, these three players belong to Arena Football teams. Britton was assigned to Arizona Rattlers on Sept. 23, Hoke was placed with Georgia Force on Sept. 27, and Hennessey, who was let go by the Buffalo Bills on the final cut, was recently assigned to the new Pittsburgh Power franchise on Oct. 18. WHAT gives? Well, it is obvious that the CFL does not honor AFL contracts. There is no case of legal action that we know of, but then, their seasons don't coincide either.
Also take note on this practice. Arena Football League teams will sign players from the vast team rosters of the "minor indoor teams" such as the Indoor Football League and American Indoor Football Associations and none of the minors seem to complain. In fact, they seem to be proud of the fact that their players move up to the next level. Truth is, most of them will be cut when the season starts.
TOPIC: TWO MORE DRAFTED ROOKIES DECLARED OUT FOR SEASON (Oct. 7).
Football is very physical and as the season progresses, injuries add up. Two high draft choices fell victim to injuries this week and were officially declared out for the season. First round pick Derrick Morgan, a defensive end, suffered a knee injury with the Tennessee Titans and went on injured reserve Oct. 6. Morgan (6-3, 266), a 16th overall pick, was a reserve DE who appeared in four games.
Third round pick Morgan Burnett (6-1, 209) of the Green Bay Packers also suffered a knee injury and placed on reserve injured a day later, ending his 2010 season. The rookie Burnett stood out in training camp and won the starting strong safety spot. He started all four games prior to the injury.
SEPTEMBER MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: OMAHA NIGHTHAWKS SELLS OUT SECOND GAME, TOO. (Sep. 28)
The old Rosenblatt Stadium, home of the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL, will fill every seat of its 24,000 capacity number in its second game versus Sacramento. Pro football, UFL style, is catching on in Omaha, which makes us think that there is a place for this brand of football in the smaller markets of the USA. Next city earmarked for success in 2011 is Norfolk, Virginia.
Fans come back because the first game, the initial sellout, was won by Omaha in the final seconds 27-26 over Hartford. NFL vet Jeff Garcia threw a pass to another NFL vet, Robert Ferguson in the final six seconds for the winning touchdown. You can't beat this kind of thrill and excitement from two former established football stars. This week's sellout brings two great QB's, Jeff Garcia and Sacramento's Daunte Culpepper in a head-to-head competition. I say "great QB's" because UFL fans think they are. And that matters the most.
This year's UFL rosters are much improved. One thing that they are doing right is that they are not afraid to sign recent NFL cuts way into the second week of the season. Teams will make a roster change if they can pick up a NFL rookie castoff who can show improvement and potential in their season and then they can move up to the next level at the end of UFL play.
TOPIC: DENVER BRONCOS WR KENNY McKINLEY DEAD AT AGE 23 (Sep. 21).
In the violent game of pro football, it's a wonder no one is killed during the height of a smash mouth game. But injuries abound and Kenny McKinley was a victim of a knee injury. He was placed on injured reserve and underwent surgery. In the ensuing days, Kenny felt depressed over his plight, often pondering his future now that he is no longer playing. What would he do, for football was the only thing he knew that he did well as a job. Those thoughts magnified and tortured his mind. Finally, he took a gun and shot himself in the head. Upon finding his body with a self-inflicted wound, the authorities ruled his death a suicide. As an outsider, we could think that Kenny had a lot to live for, including a one-year old son, but the thoughts of his career being finished became foremost and he made the worst decision.
The football career of Kenny McKinley will be memorialized in www.cutsandkeeps.com under Section "X". He will join two other Broncos who preceded him in death- Damien Nash and Darrent Williams.
TOPIC: UFL BEGINS SECOND SEASON WITH RENEWED OPTIMISM (Sep. 20).
The United Football League opened its second season with five teams, the newest addition, Omaha Nighthawks, drawing a bye in this first week. Florida avenged its championship loss to Las Vegas last year with a 27-20 win over the Locos. Hartford, which replaced New York, defeated Sacramento, which replaced San Francisco, 27-10. The most important outcome of this league was the attendance.
Hartford drew 14,384 fans to Rentschler Field, which broke the previous attendance record of 14,292 in Las Vegas last year in the Championship Game. Las Vegas drew 9,103 fans to Sam Boyd Stadium. The key to success for the UFL is attendance. If the crowd dwindles in midst of college and NFL games, the demise of the UFL is certain. One key move of the league was to place franchises in non NFL cities like Hartford, Sacramento and Omaha. Norfolk, VA, was awarded the sixth franchise during the summer. Two more teams are scheduled to be named in the future.
As for player personnel, UFL has done a fabulous job of placing well-known ex-NFL quarterbacks in each city. Jeff Garcia, Daunte Culpepper, Josh McCown, Brooks Bollinger, and Tim Rattay are well-known and they can still play. However, in the greed to win games, teams must stop picking up re-cycled thirty-something NFL castoffs for other positions. Instead, be true to the goal of developing players for the NFL . This year, UFL has done a much better job in picking up young players from the NFL final cuts. That's progress!
TOPIC: RAMS LOSE ROOKIE LINEBACKER FOR THE SEASON (Sep. 15)
The Rams seventh round draft pick, Joshua Hull, tore his anterior cruciate ligament during special teams practice on this day, and will be lost for the remainder of the season. Hull (6-3, 237) played in the opener with the special teams unit, so he leaves with a one game stat.
Meanwhile, Kansas City placed 5th round pick, LB Cameron Sheffield was placed on injured reserve today with a neck injury. He sustained the injury on a helmet-to-helmet tackle during the exhibition game with the Philadelphia Eagles on August 27. He lay motionless for a long time on the field. He was placed on a stretcher, immobilized, and taken to the hospital.
Sheffield was released the following afternoon from the hospital. It was noted that he had full use of his extremities. The Chiefs had no further comment on the injury, that is, whether this is career threatening or not.
TOPIC: KC ROOKIE IS AFC SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF WEEK (Sep. 15).
Rookie Dexter McCluster, Kansas City reserve RB, returned 100 punt yards, including a 94 yard return for a touchdown in the Chiefs 21-14 upset over the San Diego Chargers in Week One. The 5-8, 170 pound McCluster had three returns in his century mark, averaging 33.3 yards per punt return. Ironically, he is only a backup on PR's on the depth chart. Another rookie, Javier Arenas is listed as the regular returner and he combined with McCluster to add sixty yards, so the pair had 160 total yards of punt returns in the game. The total represents a new team record.
TOPIC: PRACTICE SQUADS TAKE SHAPE AFTER FINAL CUTS (Sep. 6).
Most fans know that each team can sign up to eight players on the Practice Squad. These players practice with the team while a member and are paid $5,200 a week, which comes to $88,000 per season, if they stay on the squad the whole season.
Practice squad players are essentially free agents, so another team can sign any squad member of other teams to fill in roster gaps due to injuries. It is often speculated that a rival team will sign a practice squad player of its opponent in the weeks prior to their meeting. The thinking here is that the practice squad player will provide inside information on his former team. Most coaches will say that this practice does very little to gain insight into their opponent. So, if the Giants sign a Redskins practice squad player, it is most likely the ideal candi-date for an empty roster slot and not to have an advantage on the other team's strategy and tendencies.
A player cannot perform more than three years on a practice squad and he is ineligible to join the squad if he has played more than six or more games on the active roster in a given season. Cuts and Keeps will provide information on what players served their apprenticeship on the practice squad.
TOPIC: HOW MANY 2010 NFL DRAFT PICKS MADE THE 53-MAN ROSTER? (Sep. 5).
The final tally in the number of drafted players making the 53-man roster among the league's 32 teams numbers 204 players.
The highest number of draft picks on a team was 12 who made it with the Philadelphia Eagles. They selected thirteen players and only one failed to make the team. Teams that kept all the draft picks include Atlanta (7), Baltimore (7), Dallas (6-includes one supplemental pick), San Francisco (8), Seattle (9) and Tampa Bay (8). That's batting a perfect 1.000 on their selections. Many of the cut drafted players will land on the practice squads, at least tempering the failure in the scouting system.
The number of undrafted (free agent) rookies who made the clubs numbered only 34. The Buffalo Bills led the NFL in keeping 5 un-drafted free agents while Dallas have four free agents that made the squad. Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Minnesota, Oakland and Pittsburgh has NO free agents on their 53-man roster. You will have to wait around mid-season when free agents on the practice squad will make their way to the roster. The numbers will go up significantly.
TOPIC: TWO MORE 2010 DRAFT PICKS WILL MISS THE SEASON (Sep. 4).
During final cuts week, two more 2010 draft picks will miss the upcoming season. Ramon Harewood, Baltimore's sixth round pick is out with a knee injury. He's a 6-6, 340 pound tackle with a definite upside.
Cleveland's Mario Hardesty, RB (6-0, 225) suffered a knee injury in training camp and was placed on injured reserve, too. Hardesty was considered a strong addition, but alas, his talent is wasted by injury.
There's a total of 12 drafted players who will miss the entire season plus one picked in the supplemental draft. The Buffalo Bills and Houston Texans have two each on the injured list. More information on these players can be found in www.cutsandkeeps.com
AUGUST MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: MORE DRAFT PICKS STASHED AWAY ON INJURED RESERVE (Aug. 31).
There is a great deal of optimism on a club that drafts an elite college player. They fill a need on the team for many years to come, so they think. But there is always a fear that during training camp, a prized rookie may get hurt and never see action for the remainder of the season. Now, on the first prominent cut down date, teams have put their prize rookies on injured reserve, some of whom were hurt in the early weeks of training camp.
San Diego's 3rd round pick, LB Don Butler (6-2, 245), went down in the third day of camp with an Achilles tear. DT D'Anthony Smith of Jacksonville (6-2, 304), another third rounder, also suffered the same injury during the first week of camp. DB Kevin Thomas (6-0, 192) of Indianapolis suffered a knee injury during the OTA's and like the other two, is a third round pick. These are highly prized picks who will not play this year. It remains to be seen if they will regain their elite playing form next season.
Add to this list a 6th round pick of the New York Giants. LB Adrian Tracy (6-3, 248) will miss the season with an elbow injury. Sadly there will be more drafted rookies that will make the reserve list come this weekend. The undrafted injured players are usually placed on reserve for a few days and then subsequently cut with an injury settlement. We don't cover them because they are too numerous. Here today and gone tomorrow. They may be one of your favorites. Look them up in www.cutsandkeeps.com.
TOPIC: FORMER OHIO STATE STAR MAURICE CLARETT RETURNS TO FOOTBALL (Aug. 30).
The troubled life of Maurice Clarett, once the All-American running back at Ohio State, will get a fresh start on the practice field of the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL. After serving 3 1/2 years in prison for armed robbery, Clarett was living in a halfway house and working out at Ohio State in preparation for life after prison. He was given court permission to leave the state and tryout with Omaha.
Clarett has a lot of ground to cover. Most importantly, he must prove to his skeptics that he is a pro football player. In 2005, he failed to make the team in Denver when the Broncos cut him with no preseason game action. He was hurt much of training camp. The Nighthawks have stated that they will bring him along slowly. Will fans see a new Clarett? Omaha and UFL are banking on him with a second chance. Look at more information on Maurice on www.cutsandkeeps.com.
TOPIC: QUARTET OF DRAFT PICKS WILL MISS SEASON DUE TO INJURIES (Aug. 25).
The smallest player in this year's draft, return specialist Trindon Holiday (5-5, 159) was placed on injured reserve with torn ligaments in his thumb. Houston's sixth round pick underwent surgery for the injury, which resulted in two drop balls in a preseason game when he played with the damaged thumb.
Buffalo lost two draft picks for the season when 4th round pick, WR Marcus Easley (6-2, 207), and 6th round pick, LB Danny Batten (6-4, 250) were placed on injured reserve, Aug. 23. Easley suffered a knee injury and Batten went out with an injured shoulder.
Seventh round pick, DT Kade Weston (6-5, 315) of New England also ended his season on injured reserve.
TOPIC: DON'T KNOCK INDOOR FOOTBALL PLAYERS; UFL INKS TWO AFL STARS (Aug. 24).
The United Football League, now in midst of Week 2 of training camp, is not only looking at NFL cuts but also players from the Arena League that just concluded its season.
The Hartford Sentinels signed wide receiver Markee White (6-7, 215) from the Arena Champions, Spokane Shock. White, the Offensive Player of the Game of the Arena Bowl, played only eight games for the Shock so he should do well in the UFL eight-game schedule, stamina wise.
Gabe Nyenhuis, defensive tackle for the Tulsa Talons, was signed by the Florida Tuskers. He was recently name first team, All-AFL Defensive Line. For more information on these players, go to www.cutsandkeeps.com.
Earlier in the month, Orlando Predators 2nd team, All-AFL kicker, Carlos Martinez, signed with the Florida Tuskers.
TOPIC: SPOKANE SHOCK WIN ARENA BOWL 23 CHAMPIONSHIP (Aug. 22).
The Spokane Shock continued to dominate indoor football play by downing the Tampa Bay Storm, 69-57, before a sellout crowd of over 10,000 in Spokane in the Arena Bowl Championship Game. The victory gave Shock an unprecedented second championship in a row. Last year, playing at a lower level, the Shock won the Arena Cup, the championship game of the now defunct af2.
Shock QB Kyle Rowley was the game's MVP and the Offensive Player of the Game was 6'7" receiver Markee White, who caught 9 passes for 99 yards and 4 TD's. Spokane's other receiver, 6-5 Huey Whittaker also had four scores. With these unusually tall pass catchers, Rowley was able to complete 75% of his passes.
All the AFL players are listed in www.cutsandkeeps.com for further review.
TOPIC: 5TH ROUND DRAFT CHOICE FOR ATLANTA IS THROUGH FOR SEASON (Aug. 21)
Receiver Kerry Meier (6-2, 224) was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury, ending his 2010 season. The 5th round draft choice was supposedly add depth to the receiving corps, but his injury seems like a jinx to the Falcons. Right now, Michael Jenkins is out for an extended time with a shoulder injury. Harry Douglas is back from a blown knee last year and Brian Finneran has two knee surgeries from the past, and both are trying to make it back. Someone has to step up now since Meier was having a good camp.
TOPIC: UFL QUARTERBACKS JOIN NFL TEAMS DURING TRAINING CAMP (Aug. 18)
It's halfway through training camp and injuries to quarterbacks have necessitated NFL clubs to dig into their UFL neighbors to find replacements. In Kansas City, the Chiefs signed Bill Stull, the Pittsburgh QB, who was recently released by Hartford. Stull is no stranger to the Chiefs. He went to their mini-camp in early May. Already on the KC roster is Tyler Palko, who had an UFL tryout last year. Both QB's are getting more reps due to absence of Brodie Croyle.
The Chicago Bears picked up QB Matt Gutierrez off the Omaha Nighthawks roster. This move occurred when four NFL journeymen quarterbacks refused the Bears offer to join them in camp. Gutierrez is needed because Caleb Hanie has a shoulder injury.
On the UFL side, the quarterback situation looks brighter despite losing the rookies. Veteran NFL quarterbacks Daunte Culpepper and Jeff Garcia signed with Sacramento and Omaha respectively. They join Josh McCown of Hartford, Brooks Bollinger of Las Vegas, and Tim Rattay of Las Vegas- all NFL veterans-to bring together an imposing list of name recognition.
TOPIC: ANOTHER HIGH DRAFT CHOICE GOES DOWN AND LOSES SEASON (Aug. 16).
The Houston Texans drafted RB Ben Tate (5-11, 211) out of Auburn in the 2nd round in this year's draft to strengthen the running game. Tate suffered a season ending ankle injury in the preseason game against Arizona. Up to the time of the injury in the third quarter, he had 2 carries for seven yards. Tate will undergo surgery for that injury.
TOPIC: 49ERS SIGN SACRAMENTO UFL DRAFT PICK (Aug. 12).
There's no working agreement between the NFL and UFL, but the latter is none too happy to send their boys to the Big Show. That frame of mind was exhibited when the San Francisco 49ers signed Mountain Lions draft pick, WR-KR Bobby Guillory (5-10, 180) from Central Missouri. This validates the intent of the UFL-to develop players for the NFL. This case is unique. Guillory has not played a game or practiced with the Lions this season. It just happened that the local kid from nearby Vallejo, CA, was available to add depth to the 49er camp roster.
If you notice the number of bodies going down in the second week of NFL training camps, it's nice to have an reserve roster nearby in the way of an UFL team.
TOPIC: THIS TIME, SUPPLEMENTAL DRAFT CHOICE IS KNOCKED OUT FOR SEASON (Aug. 12).
Running back Harvey Unga (6-1, 244) of the Chicago Bears was selected in the 7th round of the Supplemental Draft in July. He qualified because he withdrew from BYU in violation of their Honor Code. In training camp, he had a hamstring injury that was severe enough to end his 2010 season.
TOPIC: DON'T KNOCK INDOOR FOOTBALL PLAYERS; TWO SIGN NFL CONTRACTS (Aug. 12).
There's a long standing myth that indoor football players are not football players and their worth in the outdoor game is very limited. That notion will come to a test when two players signed pacts with NFL teams recently.
Huge tackle Adam Tadisch (6-7, 335) of the Arena League's Cleveland Gladiators signed with the New York Jets recently. Look him up at www.cutsandkeeps.com and you will see that he went to a NFL mini-camp for a tryout after college. But, that's all. He's been in the indoor game since.
Linebacker Maurice Simpkins of the Green Bay Blizzard of the Indoor Football League stayed in-town and signed with the Packers. He is the first Green Bay minor leaguer to sign with the local NFL team. Simpkins (6-0, 236) was voted the Most Improved Player and lst team, All IFL Defense.
TOPIC: REDSKINS, 49ERS UNVEIL DEPTH CHARTS WITH ROOKIE STARTERS (Aug. 11)
After a week of practice, San Francisco announced two rookie starters in their offensive line. Young Anthony Davis, still shy of being 21 but big at 6-5, 323, will start at right tackle. Another first-rounder, Mike Iupati, 6-5 and 331, was named to start at left guard. The 49ers drafted these players to rebuild their line, and it has been a quick fix going into their first preseason game.
The Washington Redskins' new depth chart shows first-round draft pick Trent Williams as a starter at left tackle.
TOPIC: NFL SIGNS UFL PLAYERS EVEN BEFORE 2ND SEASON BEGINS FOR LATTER (Aug. 9)
It might be disturbing to some new fans of the United Football League that teams don't announce player movements during the off-season. There might be some reason why transactions are muted. It comes to simply this. Why announce player signings when a few weeks later, NFL clubs pick them off their rosters. Take a look:
Tight end Nate Lawrie of the Sacramento Mountain Lions recently signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. Lawrie saw action with San Francisco's entry, the California Redwoods last season, and was expected to start for Sacramento. If he makes the Eagles' 53-man roster it will be a big UFL loss. But, then, the UFL existence is predicated on developing players for the NFL .
Florida's Darnell Stapleton, a guard, signed with New England and another guard, Cameron Stephenson, property of Hartford, inked a contract with San Diego.
Hartford lost three more players prior to the above movements when Patrick Carter, a wide receiver, signed with Denver and corner-back Trevor Ford did likewise with Arizona. The Colonials seventh round draft pick Tim Mattran, a center, signed with the Rams of St. Louis. UFL will start their training camps in mid-August. Their only consolation will be that they all might be back by the beginning of the NFL season.
TOPIC: SOME ROOKIES WILL NEVER SEE THE FIELD THIS SEASON DUE TO INJURIES (Aug. 4).
With training camp in full swing, there is one thing you can count on. Injuries. In the Miami camp, the Dolphins lost 4th round pick, Linebacker A. J. Edds to a knee injury that will sideline him for the entire 2010 season. He was placed on injured reserve Aug. 4.
Edds was being groomed to strengthen the linebacking corps and was slated to see plenty of action. Not anymore.
There are several other draft choices who were severely injured but they names have not been placed on the reserve list, as of yet. Within this month, you can expect the number of injuries may equal the starting line-ups of offense and defense. That includes draftees and free agent rookies only.
The first draft pick to be placed on injured reserve was Seattle's Jameson Konz, a WR-TE tweener. The 7th round pick suffered a hip injury that finished his 2010 season on Aug. 2.
JULY MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: DEZ BRYANT NOW SAYS HE DID NOT KNOW ROOKIE TRADITION (Jul. 27).
Dez Bryant is not the usual rookie coming into the NFL. He even said so, a few days ago. "I was drafted by Dallas to play football, not to carry someone else's pads". When he refused to carry veteran Cowboy receiver Roy Williams' pads, he violated the long standing tradition of nearly all sports teams, that newcomers must serve the veterans. But Dez is Dez, and he's different. And he wants everyone to know he is different. It's his way or none of that other crap. In a game that's built on unity and camaraderie, Bryant will have to fit in. His going to find out the hard way.
The veteran leadership will now treat him as "special". We will never know what will happen. It's internal stuff only privy to the team members. It should be unique, unusual antics that might be cruel, or it might be funny. We will never know because Dez will remain silent.
TOPIC: RAVENS ROOKIE TERRENCE CODY FAILS CONDITIONING TEST (Jul. 27).
Nose tackle Terrence Cody will not participate in training camp practices because he failed the "conditioning test". Cody is huge in size, weighing somewhere in the 360's. That's mainly the reason is he is coveted. He's a human wall. But, in football, size only does not matter. You must be in good physical condition. And that's the challenge for Cody who once hit the scales at 400 pounds.
The terms "overweight" and "not in condition" are scary words for high draft picks. It reminds me of JaMarcus Russell. The next word is scarier yet: "Bust".
TOPIC: BALTIMORE ROOKIE SERGIO KINDLE WILL MISS TRAINING CAMP (Jul. 26).
The Ravens second round draft choice, LB Sergio Kindle will definitely miss training camp. NO, it's not a holdout! Kindle had a freak accident at a friend's house on July 22. He reportedly fell down two flights of stairs and injured his head. It required hospitalization in Austin, TX. Now, the diagnosis is a fractured skull. Kindle will probably be placed on the physically unable to play list, which means sitting out for six weeks. It's a tough break for a young man who was highly touted but, the good news, is that he will make full recovery.
TOPIC: RAMS ROOKIE JEROME MURPHY ARRESTED FOR MINOR TRAFFIC VIOLATION (Jul. 25).
Jerome Murphy attended a 7 on 7 football game at University of South Florida. Afterwards, he was stopped by Tampa police and was found to be without a valid driver's license. For this, he was arrested and was released upon payment of $250 bail. This is unusual, for I know instances like this, and they were never arrested.
What prompted police to take this action is unknown. Maybe the future Rams cornerback said something harshly to the officer, or didn't cooperate because he was in a bad mood. I don't blame him, if that were the reasons. Two days earlier, his contract and seven other Ram rookies was disapproved by the NFL office. Now, he must be re-signed. Wouldn't that make you mad?
TOPIC: UNKNOWN, UNHERALDED ROOKIE FROM MINORS GETS A NFL CHANCE...AGAIN (Jul. 19).
There are hundreds of players toiling in the low minors (mostly indoor football) and semi-pro outdoor teams hoping to fulfill a dream of being in the Big Show. Joel Gamble, a fullback and tight end, is one of them. He last played for a small program, Shippenburg State, some six years ago. Driven by his dream, he caught on with the defunct af2 for indoor play with stops at Tennessee Valley, Oklahoma City and Bossier-Shreveport. Then, he was drafted by the Louisiana Beasts of the United National Gridiron League, an outdoor minor league, that never got off the ground. Last year, he played for the semi-pro DC Armor of Washington in the American Indoor Football Associ-ation. Somehow, the Philadelphia Eagles found him and signed him to the practice squad in December. That was it. Squad members are terminated at the end of the season. Yet, it was a miraculous journey from the minors to the NFL.
Wait! It's not over for Joel Gamble yet. On July 19, the Cleveland Browns signed him to a free agent contract. The journey continues Look him up on www.cutsandkeeps.com.
TOPIC: CFL ROOKIE WINS GAME FOR CALGARY (Jul. 10).
Rookie kicker Rob Maver of the Calgary Stampeders kicked a 23 yard field goal with 10 seconds remaining to give his team a 23-22 victory over Hamilton. With his cool demeanor and before family and friends, Maver demonstrated the focus of a veteran. He finished the game with a perfect 3 for 3 in FG's and was credited for 11 points to lead his team to victory.
This could be the beginning of stardom for the talented kicker and punter from University of Guelph. He was the only kicker invited to the CFL pre-draft evaluation camp this year. But his ability was known elsewhere. The Atlanta Falcons brought him for a tryout during their mini-camp in May. He was not offered a contract, but upon his return to Canada, he signed with Calgary who held his draft rights.
TOPIC: TRIVIA QUESTION: WHAT 2009 COLLEGE PLAYER PLAYED IN 4 POST SEASON ALL-STAR GAMES?
That's a tough question. Most All-Star games are played in January 2010 like the Senior Bowl, East-West Shrine and then the Texas vs. Nation game. In order to play FOUR all-star games, this player had to play some after the season in 2009 because College Bowl games take one week away and then there's only three for all-star games in January. And to play four games is very unusual. So, who is he?
TOPIC: FIRST DRAFTEE TO SIGN IN JULY WAS LAST PICK OF 2010 DRAFT (Jul. 1)
This is the month you would expect the signing of the Big Names of this year's draft, the prominent first rounders. But on the first day of the month, the first player to sign was the 255th and last pick of the 2010 Draft. He's wide receiver Timothy Lee Toone of Weber State who signed with the Detroit Lions. Well, he's a Big Name, sort of. He was honored as the Lowsman Trophy winner in June and a banquet was held in his honor in Newport Beach, CA.
Moreover, the speedy Toone, with a 4.49 40-time, was accorded with gifts, meeting celebrity guests and making an appearance at the Angels Stadium. It was typically a Lowsman honor. Instead of the ceremonial pitch, he dragged the infield with the stadium crew. Now, he can tell his grandkids he worked on the same field that held the Major League Baseball All-Star game in July. And don't laugh at this tough task. There's a ground crew at Triple A Fresno Grizzlies ballpark known as the Drag Kings and these guys even have a pre-game dance routine, which demonstrates that you need talent to work on baseball fields.
And the final note may be a bash at Weber State. Does such a small school afford to have someone drafted into the NFL? Do they have top caliber players? From personal experience I can tell you, I remember one tough guard named Al Lolotai perform for the Los Angeles Dons of the All-American Football Conference. As I kid, he left a lasting impression because he was also a good pro wrestler. And I remember to this day, he came from Weber State.
JUNE MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: ANOTHER ROOKIE GOES DOWN IN OTA'S (June 30).
Another Pittsburgh offensive lineman suffered a serious injury. Rookie Chris Scott, a fifth rounder, broke his foot and is not expected to recover for at least three months. This means he will start the season on reserve/ physically-unable-to-perform, which also means that he can be activated after six weeks into the season.
This came in the aftermath of starter Willie Colon's Achilles injury, which could possibly shelve him for the season.
The seriousness of these injuries comes at a time when the officials on the top demanded that the Steelers run more effectively. It be-comes their top priority for the line to do a better job in opening lanes for the backs. The demand for upgrading the line play is not only for rushing. The Steelers QB was sacked a league high fifty times last season.
TOPIC: NEW YORK GIANTS 3RD ROUND PICK CRITICALLY INJURED IN CAR ACCIDENT (June 26).
Defensive back Chad Jones, the Giants' third round pick from LSU, fractured his left leg and ankle in New Orleans when his SUV slammed into a pole. He was rushed to the hospital where he underwent extensive surgery.
According to reports, Jones abruptly turned his car on a street with streetcar tracks and the grooves in the track caused his car to veer. (Been to New Orleans this year, so I know that westside track). A hospital spokesperson said alcohol was not involved.
Chad Jones was a player that was being counted on by the Giants to stabilize the secondary. With the uncertainty of Kenny Phillips chronic knee problems, as described in cutsandkeeps.com, Jones might have been a quick cure for the possible ailing position. Now, this accident, and the Giants' woes have multiplied with the anxiety of the outcome of Jones' leg.
"Rehab is going to take a while." said Jones' father Al.
TOPIC: NFL JUNE ROOKIE REPORT (June 19)
Most of the June rookie activity revolves around signing of draft picks. In this case, it's all about the second day selections (4th to 7th) inking pacts with July being the month for the first day picks to join the club.
There is one rookie injury report which was sustained during preseason workouts. Indianapolis' DB, Kevin Thomas, tore his anterior cruciate ligament and will undergo surgery. It is believed he is unsigned. According to cutsandkeeps.com, the third round pick is still listed as reserve/ unsigned draft pick.
Confusion may result in the same name category. There are two C. J. Wilson this year. The rookie, C. J. Wilson, DE from East Caro-lina was drafted by the Green Bay Packers. C. J. actually stands for his given name, Clifford James. The other C. J. Wilson is a third year backup CB with Seattle. His real name is Gerald Dewayne so you wonder how he got the "C. J." moniker.
The most intriguing rookie is an undrafted free agent, Kwaku Danso. As a reserve defensive lineman last year with East Carolina, he reportedly played only three downs and here he is with the Cleveland Browns! Danso, who is rather old for a rookie, being 28 years old, signed with the Browns after a three-day mini-camp in May. The Browns liked his size, 6-5 and 335, and with it, the potential. If he makes the practice squad, give the Browns' scouting staff a compliment.
With this period of June draftee signing comes the polar opposite- the cutting of large group of free agents that were signed after the draft. It's close to a hundred. Look it up in cutsandkeeps.com.
TOPIC: UNITED FOOTBALL LEAGUE ADDS SIXTH TEAM TO PLAY NEXT SEASON (June 18)
This year, UFL was to add two additional teams to the present four. It didn't happen. Only Omaha got the bid, forming a rather awkward alignment of only five teams. At the beginning, the plan was to include San Antonio, which was an excellent choice. But, the UFL ran into political opposition. San Antonio was introducing a new college team, a hybrid version of the University of Texas at San Antonio. Well, Texas is a college dominated state so when you get powerful figures that go politicking for football- the attempt to place a pro team there failed. Then, there was talk of Salt Lake City. Somehow, this city is much like Portland, OR. Nice place but not pro football sports place.
So, the sixth team will be in Norfolk, Virginia. Excellent choice because it is a not conflicting with a NFL team ( like New York and San Francisco last year). But, there is already skepticism- from the powerful words of columnist David Teel of the city's Daily Press. "Sorry guys," he tells the UFL, "but in these parts, fall Friday nights and Saturdays are reserved for high school and college football" Excellent logic. In pro sports, attendance is most essential and Teel's argument cannot be denied. Finally, David adds the clincher, "It's difficult to imagine crowd here reaching that level", which is the 10,000 average attendance figure last year.
Pro football is not new here. Back in the '40's, the city had a team known as the Shamrocks that played in the American Football League. Some of the teams were "farm clubs" of the NFL. Then, in the '60's, the Norfolk Neptunes were in the Continental Football League and did well. I remember them well, including some players, because I worked in that league. As in most cases in lower level pro football, teams come and go.
However, if the new team is looking for a nickname, why not the Neptunes? It's historical and somehow appropriate, don/t you think?
TOPIC: THREE MAJOR TEAMS RETURN TO ARENA FOOTBALL IN 2011 (June 15)
The new Arena Football League is shaping up to be the old Arena Football League again. The San Jose SaberCats, Philadelphia Soul and Kansas City Brigade will re-join the league next year after a one year hiatus. This brings a major market on the national scene which was somewhat lacking this year with the presence of such teams as Alabama (Huntsville) and Bossier/ Shreveport.
What's more important is the fact that the caliber of play will improve as both San Jose and Philadelphia have won the Championships and know how to put together a team that will annually fight for the crown. But the question remains, will the budget minded AFL allow some teams to surpass the "salary scale" that borders close to $400 a game? Previously, the pay was astronomical to the established stars of the game. For example, will the current pay scale bring back San Jose QB Mark Grieb, one of the premiere players of the old league. And Kansas City and Philadelphia have owners and staff that are experienced in recruiting. Soul owner Ron Jaworski, the NFL's Polish Rifle, is an example of the connections that few current teams have. The excitement is ready to happen.
TOPIC: UFL DRAFT FEATURES UNFAMILIAR NO NAMES AND LOTS OF X-NFL (June 3)
On June 2nd, the UFL had their second annual draft of twelve rounds by five teams, selecting sixty players. There were no Big Name quarterbacks like JaMarcus Russell or Jeff Garcia. That might come in the future. For the present, Hartford made the best pick in selecting rookie halfback Andre Dixon, a product of UCONN and a hometown favorite. Dixon represents the type of player UFL should take as a developmental league. And he has local recognition. However, Omaha did not select 2001 Heisman winner, quarterback Eric Crouch of Nebraska, a NFL bust as a QB. Although a legendary hero in Nebraska, Crouch himself said a few years ago, he was through with pro football. Omaha went the route that Florida took last year- picking one ex-NFL veteran round after round, starting with DE Dwayne White and ending up with S Nick Ferguson. I doubt if these old NFL vets would make it back to the NFL at the end of the season. Somehow, it does not seem right when Sacramento picks an untested quarterback in Justin Goltz from little Occidental in the first round. Don't scoff. Long time NFL QB Jack Kemp came from Oxy, too.
The strangest first round selection was Las Vegas' pick, a linebacker by the name of Dominic Payne. He's another small schooler from Western State, which is in Colorado. He played for them in the early 2000's. Up to this time, he has been playing the minor league indoor circuit that includes stops at Peoria, Bloomington, and Sioux City. I never heard of him so I asked a former United Indoor player and he said he vaguely remembers him- about 29 years old, and a tough, physical linebacker. He echoed the words of Payne's coach, Jim Fassel, who describes the rookie as a good candidate from the tryout camp. Fassel should know. He's seen a thousand during his career, and to praise one individual that survived tryouts is a compliment.
Take a look at www.cutsandkeeps.com and find out more about UFL players for their second season.
MAY MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: CHICAGO BEARS SIGN ALL THEIR DRAFT CHOICES (May 28).
It's still May but the Chicago Bears became the first club to sign all their draft picks, months before the opening of training camp. Some teams have not signed one.
On Friday, the Bears signed S Major Wright, their "first draft choice" since the Bears traded away their first and second round picks last year. Wright was picked in the third round.
The Bears already locked up DE Cory Wooton (4th), CB Josh Moore (5th), QB Dan LeFevour (6th) and T J'Marcus Webb (7th).
TOPIC: THE NFL IS LOOKING AT MORE CANADIAN COLLEGIATE PLAYERS (May 18)
In the past, only a few Canadians were ever signed to a NFL contract. This year, six North of the Border collegians were signed to NFL contracts. They were defensive end Chima Ihekwoaba (Wilfred Laurier) with Detroit, tackle Joel Reinders (Univ of Waterloo) with Cleveland, linebacker Cory Greenwood (Concordia) with Kansas City, guard Kristian Matte (Concordia) with Houston, receiver Jordan Sisco (Regina) with Indianapolis and receiver Shawn Gore (Bishop's) with Green Bay. You can look them up in cutsandkeeps.com.
In addition, punter Rob Maver (Guelph) earned a tryout with Atlanta and receiver Steven Turner, a return specialist, spent three days at the Chicago Bears mini-camp. Both were not signed.
Is there an upcoming parity among Canadians to U.S. players? If the above six do well and make the 53-men roster, it should raise some eyebrows. Otherwise, it's another one of those extra look-see years to find a "sleeper" in an expanded territory, just like the search for punters in the Australian Rules Football League. On the latter note, there's three on the NFL rosters currently. Look it up.
TOPIC: FIRST DRAFTED PLAYER TO SIGN IS SMALLEST PLAYER IN 2010 DRAFT (May 17).
The first player from the 2010 NFL Draft inked his contract on Friday, May 14. He is Trindon Holliday, a kick returner from LSU, who stands between 5-5 and 5-6, depending on whether it's morning or evening. The smallest player in the NFL weighs a mere 166 pounds, too. What are his redeemable qualities, you ask? He is fast...and probably the fastest football player in the history of the sport. That's saying a lot for the three-time All-American collegiate sprinter. The 6th rounder will be returning kicks for the Houston Texans. Time will tell.
The second player to sign, on the following Sunday, was tackle J'Marcus Webb. who might be the biggest rookie in the draft at 6 ft 8 inches tall and weighing 328 pounds. Was this orchestrated by the NFL publicity department? Doubt it. But, it is an interesting coincidence. Webb, a 7th round draft choice of the Chicago Bears, is considered a "project". If he doesn't show promise in August, he may be long gone.
APRIL MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: ARENA FOOTBALL LEAGUE HAS OUTSTANDING PROMOTIONS FOR FANS (Apr. 1).
The re-organized Arena Football League has taken the best steps to win back the fans after an one-year hiatus. They have some of best contrived promotions in winning over the fans. For one, the Arizona Rattlers are letting in spectators for the first game for nothing. Yes, Free. That's for the first 17,000 fans to get a glimpse of the Rattlers in their first home game. It's bound to be a stimulating success with the fan noise and a diverse crowd. It's an opportunity for people who are not familiar with the indoor game to be Arizona's guests.
Then, Utah Blaze has a promo called "Pack the House". They will be selling $10 tickets for any available seat in the Arena after the regular season ticket holders are accommodated on game days. There is an emphasis of a "bargain" here, and will attract fans who may not be die-hard Arena Ball customers.
And the Milwaukee Iron has the most unique and daring ticket promotion. Known as the "Iron Clad" promise, the team is guaranteeing their season ticket holders that if Milwaukee doesn't make the playoffs, the season ticket holder will get a refund. This promise might make you take a another look. It's correct. No playoffs, a refund. Although the "refund" can be defined as a free season tickets for next season, it's still technically a free season if the Iron fails to go into the playoffs. No matter the fine wording, it's still a good promotional gimmick to win over fans.
MARCH MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: DOWN IN THE MINORS WITH INDOOR FOOTBALL (Mar. 31).
The minor indoor football teams are in full swing now, as their play starts this month. Cuts and Keeps (www.cutsandkeeps.com) does not place too much emphasis on the lower tier players unless they had prior experience in the "majors". However, there is one player of note on the roster of the Fort Wayne FireHawks of the Continental Indoor Football League. The placekicker is a female. She's 28 year old Katie Hnida, who decided to try kicking again since her last stint, which was at the University of New Mexico. The walk-on for the Lobos became the first woman to score in an NCAA Division IA football game. She may be looked upon as a promotional gimmick but she is experienced. She is currently employed in a non-profit organization in Chicago so she was able to contact the Fort Wayne people for a tryout. Prior to this , she played briefly for a semi-pro team in Colorado.
However, she is not the first woman to kick in the pros. In the early 70's, the Orlando Panthers of the minor Continental Football League introduced a female kicker. The outcome was disgraceful. An opponent ran into her and permanently put her out of the game. We hope the game has changed for the better.
Here's an unusual happening. In the Southern Indoor Football game Saturday (3/27), the Columbus Lions defeated the Louisiana Swash-bucklers, 88-32. A colossal thrashing, for sure, against the defending league champions. The score is not the highlight; it was the fact that the Lions held the Bucks scoreless in the second half. That's rare in indoor football, which typically a racehorse type of offensive scoring game for two halves. In that stellar moment, the Lions had two safeties. Winning Coach James Gibson made the understatement of the week: "You don't often see a scoreless half that often."
The "Glamour Team" of the minors is the Chicago Slaughter, who were the only team to go undefeated in pro football last year with a 14-0 record in the Continental Indoor Football League. Their coach is the former Chicago Bear Steve McMichael. This year, the Slaughter added another owner, which happens to be another famous Chicago Bear, ex-quarterback Jim McMahon. Then, they signed Jarrett Payton as their running back, but more famous as the son of Walter Payton, the Bear Hall of Famer. Jarrett played for the University of Miami and is coming off several seasons with both the NFL and Canadian Football Leagues.
This year, the Slaughter moved over from the 7 on 7 league to the eight-man Indoor Football League game. The move, despite all the hoopla, was devastating. They lost their first three games. A 0-3 start. They finally won their next game, so they stand at 1-3 at this writing.
TOPIC: ARENA FOOTBALL LEAGUE PLAYER LIMIT (Mar. 30).
The reorganized Arena Football League returns to its indoor turf in April with an unusual alignment of major cities and mid-major cities composed of fifteen teams. Arena League has teams in NFL cities like Arizona (Phoenix), Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Jacksonville and Tampa, which would help in attendance, but will they dominate in play against the smaller city clubs? It does provide interesting matchups, for example, a game between Dallas and Bossier/ Shreveport or Iowa (Des Moines) vs. Chicago.
The roster limit for each team is 20 players. Then, three more form the practice squad for each team, making 23 available active players for the eight man football game. All clubs will carry two quarterbacks and four receivers. To counteract the passing game, the heart of the arena game, there will be four defensive backs. Now, some receivers and DB's will perform dual roles, that is go both ways. The best clubs will be the ones that have the best passers and receivers plus defensive backs who can create turnovers. We can all anticipate for an exciting season. NFL network will carry the Game of the Week. According to our charts, the best team could be the Arizona Rattlers.
And the most interesting question is: Exactly how much are these players getting paid? When Tulsa and Oklahoma City played in the defunct af2, each player got $200 a game. In the previous Arena Football League, guys at Arizona and Tampa were making thousands of dollars per game. So, is the pay doubled for the minors and reduced to a thousand for the majors? Let us know.
TOPIC: FORMER NFL PLAYER WHO QUIT IN HIS PRIME JOINS NEW ARENA LEAGUE (Mar. 15).
It was a day before the opening of training camp in 2007 when New York Jets running back Cedric Houston announced he was quitting the team. Just like that, he walked away. It was not about a salary squabble or injury problems. It was more philosophical like: " I want to go on with the rest of my life". His coach, Eric Mangini, stunned at first, retorted with his own philosophy: "Some guys just make that decision".
The Jets subsequently placed Houston on reserve/ left squad. The backup running back appeared in 20 games in two seasons and started five, so he wasn't a slouch. More was expected of him. The following year, the Jets cut him from reserve (March 11).
Last week, he's back in the football news again. He signed with the new Arena League Dallas Vigilantes as a fullback/linebacker in the indoor eight-man football. That's a shot in the arm for the fledging league who needs some Big Time players for publicity. On the same day, another NFL vet, Samie Parker signed on with the AFL Chicago Rush, but Samie was released by his long time employer, the KC Chiefs. Cedric gave up an NFL career. True to his personal philosophical convictions, he's being eclectic in his life's journey. He's trying another kind of football.
Comment: Cedric Houston was cut by the Dallas Vigilantes on Mar. 29.
TOPIC: UNITED FOOTBALL LEAGUE RELOCATE TO BETTER SITES FOR 2011 (Mar. 5).
The brain trust of the second-year United Football League made wise choices in moving two teams out of high-profile NFL locations. The former New York Sentinels found a home in Hartford, CT. There is a public relations move right now to name that team. Some suggestions include the Connecticut Yankees and the Hartford Knights, Travelers or Guardians. Our choice is Hartford Charter Oaks, a reverent name from years past when the team was known by that moniker during its Continental League days. I worked in that league eons ago so it is a sentimental choice.
And the California Redwoods, a team that played in San Francisco, has made a move to Sacramento, CA. It brings a first class caliber of professional football to the city, but it is considered a risky move. Why? Most professional football teams have not fared well here in terms of attendance. About a dozen teams have played in the Capital City but fans probably can name only a few. Part of that problem was they didn't stay there long enough, and if they played three seasons, each season had a different nickname for the team, that went along with a new set of owners. At least, the leaders of the UFL recognize that they must play outside the NFL, and keep its image as a high level minor league, like Triple A baseball. Nothing wrong with that concept- if you remember the Sacramento Solons of the old Pacific Coast League.
FEBRUARY MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC: ARENA FOOTBALL LEAGUE RE-EMERGES AS ARENA FOOTBALL LEAGUE FOR 2010 (Feb. 22)
The Arena Football League name and logos of teams re-appear for the 2010 season because AF1 bought the assets of the defunct league.
Consequently, we now have the Chicago Rush, Arizona Rattlers, Orlando Predators, Tampa Bay Storm, Utah Blaze and Cleveland Gladiators return from the original league. Dallas is also back, but as the Vigilantes instead of Desperados, which qualifies them as a new entity. The remaining teams are from the former developmental league for Arena, the af2. These teams are Bossier- Shreveport, Alabama (last year known as Tennessee Valley), Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Iowa (Barnstormers were once in AFL during Kurt Warner's presence), Milwaukee (another old AFL original known as Mustangs then), and the 2009 af2 champs, Spokane. Jacksonville Sharks are a new entry, their only exposure prior to that was when the Jacksonville Tomcats played in af2.
When the AFL start league play in April, fans will see a lot of young players, many of whom played at the af2 level. It's a far cry when these players played for $200 a game since the AFL promises to at least double that figure. No official pay scale has been announced, though. If you know the player, look him up at www.cutsandkeeps.com, as we again feature the Arena Football League rookies since its inception.
Two outdoor leagues need mention here, as their players are found in Cuts and Keeps. The All-American Football League has announced through their website that they will postpone their inaugural season for the third consecutive year. Since their tryouts and draft in 2008, the AAFL has done nothing to show any progress in playing games. While skepticism abounds, their site promises the season will open in the Spring of 2011. Let's hope so because the concept is more in tune with the college type game but more on the mature level- all the players have graduated with a degree. So, it's hyped to be an emotional clash between in-state athletes vs. other states. All the drafted players are profiled in www.cutsandkeeps.com. They are there waiting, just like us.
And another outdoor football league, the United National Gridiron League, was postponed last year and billed to open this spring. However, there were no announcements of training camps, squad makeup or coaches in January. Their original 2009 draft is probably obsolete but many on that draft list has found employment in other leagues. The intent of the league was to develop professional football players for the higher level competition, so it was truly dedicated as a minor league. The UNGL draft list made available a lot of players to the minor indoor leagues that might have been overlooked otherwise. It's all recorded in Cuts and Keeps. So, as it stands now, UNGL is non-operative for 2010 and thus, the vision of minor outdoor football featuring the traditional eleven man team is gone.
DECEMBER MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC NINE- IT'S A NO BRAINER- TOP ROOKIE DRAFT PICK- STAFFORD GOES ON IR (26).
The Detroit Lions placed QB Matthew Stafford on injured reserve so that he can have surgery on his knee now. He's scheduled to have the knee cleaned up on Dec. 30. The first round pick has been banged up a lot this season in which he missed two games due to a shoulder injury. Playing for an underachieving team (lost 35 of their last 38 games), Stafford was sacked 24 times in twelve games. Additionally, he was intercepted 20 times as compared to throwing 13 touchdown passes.
The familiar battle cry " Wait til next year" might not sound as optimistic going into the next year. Only because it's the Lions.
TOPIC EIGHT- THE 'BLIND SIDE' - A FOOTBALL MOVIE YOU MUST SEE TO BELIEVE (DEC. 24).
It's unusual to make a football movie about a professional lineman, because usually they don't hog the headlines. It's even more so when he's a rookie, and his name appears in www.cutsandkeeps.com. This is a real life story about a wealthy Southern white family that adopts a talented but improverished African American football player from the ghettos of Memphis, TN. If Hollywood scripted this compelling story line about the young man who is given the opportunity to hone his skills, both physically and mentally, in an affluent environment and then go on to college to become an All-American, it would probably be classified as an interesting movie. Interesting, because it is different It's not commonplace for the wealthy to adopt a Black youth. When the story proceeds where the young man is so outstanding that he becomes a lst round draft NFL draft pick, and makes millions in the process, the story might be labeled as "fantasy". Too good to be true. But, hold that block! This is a true story.
This is the story of Michael Oher, the Ole Miss All-American and current Baltimore right tackle. To verify this story, cutsandkeeps turned to the 2005 Mississippi media guide and there it was: Michael's birth mother was listed alongside his adopted parents, Sean and Leigh Anne Touhy of Memphis.
This movie is more than a football pic. It's about relationships, within the family and with others that are "different" than you are. There are scenes that are predictable, where racial tensions abound- against each other and within their own groups. Without dialogue, the film depicts the culture of the poor and rich. You can see for yourself the struggles that the impoverished face and the future that is so often lacking. At some point, you may think: only if there were a million Touhys that can provide some neglected child a better future and this country would be that much better.
As for football, there is realism in the script. A former pro QB, Mike Fisher of the Denver Gold (huh? don't remember USFL?) did an excellent job to bring credibility to the football scenes on the field. The big bonus was the cameo appearances of Big Time Coaches that came to recruit Michael Oher. Tennessee's Phil Fulmer did not get Michael but he made a good showing, wearing all that Orange Vol gear. Lou Holtz added professionalism but then Lou is an old trooper before the camera so he just was himself. Bama's Lou Saban didn't say much. He probably didn't think he had a chance with Ed Lou Orgeron of Ole Miss in the picture. Where Michael goes to college becomes a "surprise" when it is revealed that both his adopted parents are Ole Miss grads. "I'm going to the school where my family went to", he said proudly. Just so that sounds legitimate, both Touhy's real son and daughter followed Michael to Mississippi. No NCAA violations here.
The movie ends with the footage of the real Oher and Touhys at the NFL Draft. Then, you suddenly realize that Michael Oher is better looking than the "actor" that played him and his White mother is just as attractive as the star of the movie Sandra Bullock.
In the final analysis, it was the great acting ability of Sandra Bullock that keeps this movie alive and moving, bringing laughter, smiles, sadness and happiness into reality. It's a wonderful "Feel Good" story. If you missed the long holiday run in your local theaters, wait for the DVD. You won't regret it.
TOPIC SEVEN- "ROOKIE OF YEAR" CANDIDATE IS FINISHED FOR YEAR WITH INJURY (DEC 23).
Buffalo's surprising defensive play of rookie Jairus Byrd was abruptly ended when he was placed on injured reserve with a groin injury. The young free safety led the NFL with nine interceptions, a feat that made him a contender for Rookie of the Year honors. Byrd ended the season with two games to go, after starting 11 of 14 games. He was a second round draft choice out of Oregon.
TOPIC SIX- JACKSONVILLE ROOKIE SETS PLAYING RECORD (DEC. 22).
No one on the www.cutsandkeeps.com staff thought that Jacksonville's 3rd round pick from Temple University, Terrence Knighton, would be a starter on the defensive line. At best, a backup by the middle of the season, but more likely a reserve, since he did not have the notoriety of a big-time program and his college team was only so-so. But, when the season started, Knighton earned the starting DLT spot. He made his 14th start of the season, the most of any rookie defensive lineman in Jaguar team history. He surpassed the record set by John Henderson with 13 starts in 2002.
TOPIC FIVE- FIVE MORE ROOKIES END THEIR SEASON ON INJURED RESERVE (DEC. 22).
Injuries claimed five more rookies, four of them draft choices, as the long season begins to take its toll in a very physical sport that wears the body down. FS Darcel McBath of the Broncos hurt his arm after 13 games. He was a second round pick. Baltimore's starting CB Lardarius Webb, tore ligaments in his right knee in his unlucky 13th game. Webb was drafted by the Ravens in the third round. TE Anthony Hill of the Houston Texans became another casualty of the knee injury, as the 4th round draftee was shelved for the season after playing sparingly in five games. FB Marcus Mailei signed a free agent contract with Philadelphia, cut and placed on the practice squad, then New Orleans picked him off the Eagles eight-man squad. As the Saints backup FB, he played two games, and suffered a hamstring injury that placed him on injured reserve. Add to this trio, another draftee, Sammie Stroughter of Tampa Bay, who was drafted in the seventh round. He injured his foot, you know, in the 13th game. He was the Buccaneers primary kick and punt returner, succeeding Clifton Smith, a 2nd year man, who was knocked out of the season with a concussion a few games prior.
More are forthcoming, that's a guarantee. When all the injured reserve personnel are counted, including vets, there is enough bodies to form an active 53-man roster of a pretty talented team. Check that. There's enough players to go beyond two-deep. How about a 80 man training camp roster?
TOPIC FOUR- TWO MORE ROOKIES DOWN, AS CLUBS PILE ONTO INJURED RESERVE LIST (DEC. 10).
It's that time of the season, the last quarter of the 16 game schedule, in which teams began to sort out the walking wounded, place them on injured reserve and pull up rookies from the eight-man practice squads. Football is an intense, physical sport and the injury list a proof of that. Most teams have more players on injured reserve than on the practice squad. And you will notice that coaches do not moan about their losses to the injury numbers because they are all in the same boat. It's the nature of the game.
Two more rookies, Tight end Chase Coffman of Cincinnati and Tackle Lydon Murtha of Miami were placed on injured reserve. Coffman was drafted third by the Bengals while Murtha was selected in the 7th round by Detroit. Miami signed him off the Lions practice squad in Oc-tober. Both players sustained ankle injuries to end their season and both players did not appear in any league games. Hence, the injuries must have occurred in practice.
TOPIC THREE- WHO'S NUMBER 34 FOR THE CLEVELAND BROWNS? JENNINGS (DEC. 10)
Cleveland upset Pittsburgh 13-6, and the Browns touchdown came from running back Chris Jennings' tightrope act along the ten-yard sideline. It was the first TD of his brief NFL career. The media noted that he was brought up from the practice squad when Jamal Lewis was placed on injured reserve with a neck injury. But, where did Jennings come from, prior to Cleveland? Jennings spent one month with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League in 2008 before he was cut. He signed again for the 2009 season, but was placed on the injury list for seven weeks. Then, he was cut. Two days later, he signed with the Browns. Everything about Chris is found in Cuts and Keeps.
TOPIC TWO- 'DREAMS COME TRUE' FOR TWO ROOKIES THAT MADE NFL ROSTER (DEC. 1)
Unless you were a Big East fan, you probably would not known much about QB Tyler Palko of the University of Pittsburgh. A few years back, he signed with the New Orleans Saints, played in a few exhibition games, and then was cut. He then took his game to the Arizona Cardinals who kept him until the beginning of this season. Upon his release from the Cards, he hooked up with the start-up United Football League. Palko worked out with the California Redwoods in the preseason but was not offered a contract. In October, he signed a contract with Montreal of the Canadian Football League, then was released and offered a future contract for the 2010 season. That's how things stood two days before Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, things were happening in the hometown of his alma mater, Pittsburgh. The local Steelers had the starting QB and the backup both hurting. Ben Roethlis-berger had a concussion and Charley Batch had a wrist injury, so reserve Dennis Dixon moved into the starting position. That sounded the alarm for a reserve quarterback, so the Steelers signed Palko to the practice squad on November 25th. A day after Thanksgiving, Palko was activated to the main roster to serve as a backup to Dixon. It's a season long journey from one place to another, but if you keep alive your dreams of making it to the top, something good might happen. Just look at Tyler Palko.
Now, here's the story of another obscure rookie, center and guard Kyle DeVan from Oregon State University. After finishing up his college eligibility, DeVan signed with the Washington Redskins last year and was a final cut. He then signed with the Jets and was assigned to the practice squad until the end of the 2008 season. Thus, he became a jobless street free agent.
DeVan was determined to play professional football so he signed with Boise Burn of the arena football 2, which is spelled in lower case and that pretty much tells you that it's the bottom of everything "pro". Not many former NFL camp players sign at that level, but DeVan did in March. He immediately started at center and played in one game. DeVan played only one game because the Indianapolis Colts came calling for his services in April and he gladly obliged to go to another NFL training camp.
His signing only amounted to the reaction that he was cannon fodder for the veterans. "Camp players come and go" and most Colt fans expected him to be let go. Much to their surprise, he stuck around. Week after week, his name did not appear on the waiver wire. On September 5, he was on the active roster as a backup RG to Mike Pollak, a second round draft pick in 2008. During the course of season, Pollak seemed to struggle and had bouts of inconsistency. The coaching staff entrusted DeVan to take over right guard and his performance elevated him to a starting role (of this date). Can you believe this? A free agent from the most incospicuous team, a minor league indoor squad at that, makes it to the NFL and starts. It's like a Dream Come True.
You may say, "Who are these guys?" or, if you are a college fan, "Whatever happened to so-and-so?" Thousands of rookie pros and first-year players are listed in Cuts and Keeps with their bios and history of their pro careers.
TOPIC ONE- FIRST ROUND PICK BRANDON PETTIGREW THROUGH WITH INJURY (DEC 1)
Detroit's starting tight end Brandon Pettigrew was lost for the season with a knee injury, and was placed on injured reserve. The 6-5, 263 pound rookie started all eleven games for the Lions before the mishap. He was the 20th overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft. Pettigrew joins an ever increasing number of players making the injured list in the second half of the season.
Another rookie, the 49ers reserve FS, Curtis Taylor, was also placed on injured reserve on the same day with a hip injury. He was a 7th round pick in this year's draft. Taylor saw action in seven games as a reserve this season.
Cuts and Keeps maintains the rookie and first-year player register for the NFL and other football leagues, such as CFL plus Arena Football and the new United Football League.
NOVEMBER MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC EIGHT- ANOTHER ROOKIE DOWN FOR SEASON AS JARMON GOES ON IR (NOV. 30).
Washington Redskin reserve defensive end, Jeremy Jarmon, who was selected in July as a supplemental draft choice, tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his left leg last week, thus ending his season. Listed as a reserve DLE, Jarmon appeared in eleven games this year. His place was taken by Robert Jackson off the practice squad.
Jarmon becomes the sixth Redskins player to be placed on the injured reserve in the month of November. Others were S Chris Horton (toe), RB Ladell Betts (knee), RG Chad Rinehart (leg), FB Eddie Williams (leg) and TE Chris Cooley (ankle). In addition, starting LT Chris Samuels went on the list with a chronic spinal condition a month earlier. This is a good indication why the team is struggling and will continue to do so in the final stretch.
TOPIC SEVEN- ARENA LEAGUE ONE SHAPING UP TO BECOME MAJOR INDOOR PLAYER (NOV. 30).
There's little coming out of Commissioner Jerry Kurz' Arena Football One office out of Tulsa but bits of news here and there suggests that the split tiers of major and minor teams is finished. There is no minor team left to form the developmental team portion of the league. When Arkansas Twisters and Tri-Cities Fever left the group to join the established Indoor Football League, they let the football world know that they were dissatisfied with the new format and procedures, particularly the latter. This left some former af2 teams in the dark. Oklahoma City and Bossier- Shreveport can certainly claim "major status" as they have had teams in the past in football, basketball and baseball in higher classification. So, our take is that Arena Football One is to be a league that is at a higher level than the rest, which includes IFL, American Indoor Football Association, Continental Indoor Football League and the Southern Indoor Football League. The AF1 pay scale will be greater per game, and the players will have more old AFL experience plus the best from af2. This, presumably, will set AF1 apart.
As of this date, many AF1 teams are signing good players at a fast pace, notably Iowa Barnstormers (Kurt Warner's old team) Spokane Shock, the former reigning af2 champs, Arizona Rattlers, the former AFL champs, and Milwaukee Iron who once played in the old Arena League as the Mustangs. Most of these teams have surpassed 20 players on their 2010 roster. There is no need to panic for the other AF1 teams. There are hundreds of players out there on the free agent market. Look at Cuts and Keeps to see thousands of players listed, and you can figure out who's a "street free agent". Also, you can keep track of the backgrounds of those players already signed.
As soon as Commissioner Kurz sets up his daily reports on player movement, it will appear in our database for the 2010 year.
TOPIC SIX- MONTREAL WINS CFL CHAMPIONSHIP WITH HELP FROM 13TH MAN (NOV. 29).
Canadian Football is played with twelve players on each side. Therefore, the 13th Man will be comparable to our 12th Man, which is associated with the spirited fans in the stands who become a factor in games won or lost. In Montreal's Grey Cup victory over Saskatchewan 28-27, it was NOT the 13th Man in the stands, but the opponents 13th Man who was illegally on the field in a crucial play with seconds to play in the game. That resulted in a penalty that won the game for Montreal in the most improbable play in a Championship Game in which the Alouettes were certain to lose.
Here's what happened. Montreal was ready to kick a 43-yard field goal, in the closing seconds, trailing the Roughriders by 27-25 score. Kicker Damon Duvall's effort was wide right, and the Riders burst out in celebration, with the thoughts of a two-point victory. But wait. A penalty flag was thrown. Saskatchewan had one too many players on the field. Duval was given another chance when the Riders were assessed the 10-yard penalty for having 13 players on the field.
Duval, given a second chance, kicked a 33-yard field goal with no time left, to give Montreal a 28-27 victory.
After the game, the mysterious 13th Man became the center of post-game chatter instead of Montreal's comeback victory. Who was the culprit? The Riders coaches and players would not identify that player. "It's a team loss", they said. Assistant Coach Kavis Reed stepped up to try to end the controversy: "It was my fault. I take sole responsibility what happened." Then, he added the understatement of this shocking loss: "I will remember this for the rest of my life. I will always think of this."
Meanwhile, the media is still trying to figure out who that 13th Man is, that player that cost a certain victory in one of the year's most important game: The Grey Cup Championship- which is like our Super Bowl.
TOPIC FIVE- LAS VEGAS UPSETS FLORIDA FOR UFL CHAMPIONSHIP 20-17 (NOV. 27).
The Las Vegas Locomotives (4-2) won the first championship of the United Football League with a 20-17 overtime defeat of the previously undefeated Florida Tuskers (6-0) before 14,801 fans in Las Vegas.
Locos running back DeDe Dorsey, who scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime, was named the game's MVP. As noted by Cuts and Keeps earlier in season, Dorsey can step into a NFL roster that's depleted by injuries and provide experienced and conditioned legs.
Locos kicker Graham Gano made a 33-yard field goal in overtime to win the game. Also noted earlier, Gano deserves another shot at the NFL. The opportunity is there as of the last month, there has been some movements of kickers between NFL teams.
Locos DB Isaiah Trufant's interception in the overtime was the "key play". If Trufant isn't picked up by the NFL, he can always go back to arena football, his "roots" as an outstanding player, in the spring and then come back to the UFL in the fall. That's full-time employment in an economy still mired in recession in 2010.
Although the league lacked attendance (woeful), the Brain Trust did an excellent job in fielding teams with outstanding coaches, good players and team support personnel. Next year, wisely, they will add only two teams, find better locations in non-NFL markets, and the most important strategy, keep the costs down. The latter was most remarkable. No one was bragging about their million dollar salary- they worked or played for the "love of the game". And that provided the opportunity for fans and families to go to the games at affordable prices. Dad and kids (and Mom, too) can go to UFL games which they might not do otherwise with NFL ticket prices. It's a family gathering. Now, if the UFL can overcome their biggest weakness, marketing and public relations, it'll be a much better UFL in 2010.
TOPIC FOUR- TWO UFL ROOKIES SIGNED BY NFL CLUBS AND END OF THEIR SEASON (NOV. 25).
One of the goals of the new United Football League was to give young players the opportunity to showcase their talent so that can have the opportunity to play at the next level. This became a reality for two New York Sentinels rookies at the conclusion of their season. Tackle Jason Watkins and cornerback Paul Pratt were signed to the Buffalo and Detroit practice squads respectively. By virtue of playing a six-game season, both players are "football ready" as contrasted with the player sitting on the couch waiting for a phone call. That's the importance of having a "feeder" league like the UFL.
Watkins, a Florida Gator, was in camp earlier this year with the Houston Texans. Pratt is a raw rookie who was not signed by a NFL team after his career at Nevada-Reno. Further information on both players are listed in Cuts and Keeps.
TOPIC THREE- FIRST ROUNDER FOR BILLS IS FINISHED FOR SEASON (NOV. 25)
Eric Wood, Buffalo's first round pick and 28th overall, suffered a broken left leg and was placed on injured reserve, thus end-ing his season. The 6-4, 310 pound college center was inserted at right guard for the Bills revamped offensive line and started ten games. The team's problems on the line becomes critical because the next day, his backup, veteran Seth McKinney was also placed on injured reserve with a knee injury.
Injuries are taking its toll for many teams after midseason and it bears watching who's out. Cuts and Keeps provides all this information on rookies and first-year players that can affect the team's performance down the final stretch.
TOPIC TWO- ANOTHER ROOKIE IS THROUGH FOR THE SEASON (NOV. 23).
Washington Redskins' reserve FB, Eddie Williams, a 7th round draft choice, was placed on the injured reserve and will miss the remainder of the season. The 6-1, 239 pounder has not played in any games this season so the leg injury he sustained must have occurred in practice. To take his place on the roster, the Redskins re-signed RB Marcus Mason, who was cut earlier in the season after appearing in three games.
Cuts and Keeps keeps tabs on rookie and first-year players like Williams and Mason, to keep you informed of the possible future stars.
TOPIC ONE- MIDSEASON REPORT ON 1ST ROUND DRAFT PICKS- HOW ARE WE DOING? (NOV. 8)
1. Detroit- Matthew Stafford, starting QB- Tough, but executing poorly. Threw five interceptions in WK 9. Still hanging in there. 2- St. Louis- Jason Smith, starting RT- Set back by knee injury early, but back into lineup. 3- Kansas City- Tyson Jackson, starting DLE- No sacks; had only six tackles in first six games, then had 7 in Game 7. 4. Seattle- Aaron Curry, starting OLB- Is making strides to be a superstar with workmanlike effort. 5- Mark Sanchez- starting QB- Experiencing ups and downs of a rookie, throwing five interceptions in WK 6, which makes it ten total so far compared to 8 TDs. 6- Cincinnati- Andre Smith, set back by holdout and then, foot injury. 7. Oakland- Darius Heyward-Bay, starting WR- Major disappointment with only 5 receptions in first eight games. 8- Jacksonville- Eugene Monroe, starting LT- Stepped into lineup after holdout to power running game. 9. Green Bay- B. J. Raji, backup DLE and NT- Another holdout who just can't seem to crack the starting lineup, whether inside or outside. 10. San Francisco- Michael Crabtree, backup WR- Longest holdout, last to sign but made his debut with eight catches against Texans. Potential is there. 11. Buffalo- Aaron Maybin, backup DLE- Another holdout who missed work to be a contender. 12. Denver- Knowshon Moreno, starting RB- Started out great, leads team in rushing but must step it up in second half for winning edge. 13. Washington- Brian Orapko, starting strongside LB- and occasional rush end. Has met the expectation of good player and getting better. 14. New Orleans- Malcolm Jenkins, backup LCB- struggled in camp but now playing up to expectations with undefeated team. 15. Houston- Brian Cushing, starting OLB- Outstanding performer, twice named to AFC Defensive Player of Week with possible future date in Pro Bowl and strong consideration for Rookie of Year honors. 16. San Diego- Larry English, backup ROLB- Playing behind Merriman who is not having a productive year but stuck behind a "star" name. 17. Tampa Bay- Josh Freeman, reserve, then starting QB- Sat on bench, watching Leftwich and Josh Johnson perform, then thrust in as starter in WK 9 and upset Green Bay. He is the "future of the franchise". Watch how he fares in 2nd half. 18. Denver- Robert Ayers, backup ROLB- college DE is switched to OLB and is still learning the position. 19. Philadelphia - Jeremy Maclin, starting WR- Worked himself up to starting rotation to become a key performer with his ability to get open. He could make a difference in the passing game by opening up the coverage of Jackson and Celek. 20. Detroit- Brandon Pettigrew, starting TE- The key to Stafford's success is to throw more often to the big TE, who ranks third on Lions' receiving. His involvement should help his QB. 21- Cleveland- Alex Mack- Penciled in as starter from draft day, but hardly stands out on a team that plays poorly. 22- Minnesota- Percy Harvin, WR-RS- Came into league with bad rap on maturity and character and size and durability, and all that junk and none of that shows in his outstanding play. Amazing performance as kick returner, tops in league and can catch and run, too. He's so explosive he can run the "Wildcat" if the Vikings wanted to. Did you expect this? 23-Baltimore- Michael Oher, starting RT- All-American college player steps right into pro to become the best known hulk in NFL, because he is portrayed in the All-American movie The Blind Side, his life story in Memphis, TN. Actress Sandra Bullock stars, not Coach Jack Harbaugh. 24- Atlanta- Peria Jerry, was starting DRT and then suffered a season-ending injury that's causing the Falcons to suffer too, defensively. 25. Miami- Vontae Davis, starter LCB- Became a starter only because Will Allen was placed on injured reserve in WK 7. Now, Dolphins have two rookies at the corners, and they will surely be picked on. Davis must step it up. 26. Green Bay- Clay Matthews, starter ROLB- He was elevated to starter in WK 4 versus Minnesota and he quickly made a highlight reel by ripping the ball out of Adrian Peterson's hands and rambling 42 yards for a score with a fumble recovery. What a success story, and this is only the beginning. He's improving each game. And what can you say about those Southern California Trojans' linebackers of 2008? 27. Indianapolis- Donald Brown, backup RB- Team's offensive weakness is the running game and the rookie needs to step it up, especially since Addai could be banged up, and there's not much behind those two. Brown averages over 4 yards a carry so there's hope for the undefeated Colts. 28- Buffalo- Eric Wood, starting RG- Both Bills' guards are rookies and team is struggling with a poor line. The erstwhile college center has potential, though, but it is a matter of time. 29. New York Giants- Hakeem Nicks, backup WR- Rookie has excelled with four touchdown catches in four consecutive games so Manning will be looking for him. As of now, he ranks third in the receiving department with less than 20, but 2nd half should be the guy to watch. 30. Tennessee- Ken Britt, backup WR- Not a starter, but he leads the team in receiving yards. His speed is an asset, as he can stretch the passing game. Will the switch in QB's affect his play? Second half will tell. 31. Arizona- Beanie Wells, backup RB- Was hampered by early training camp foot injury that impeded his role, but now, fully recovered, he alternates with starter Hightower for carries. Their production is pretty even. 32- Pittsburgh- Evander "Ziggy" Hood, backup DLE- Originally, a reserve behind Smith and Kirschke but in October, Aaron Smith went on injured reserve, ending his season. Hood moved in as backup, but even though he has seen action in all eight games, he has only one tackle. "He's not advanced enough for full-time duty", said Coach Tomlin. Hood agrees.
OCTOBER MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC SEVEN- LINEBACKER DARRELL ROBERTSON PERFORMS "HAT TRICK" (OCT. 30).
Even though Darrell Robertson is a relatively unknown in pro football circles, the much traveled linebacker has made a name for himself for being at the right place. He stands alone for being with three prominent football clubs in three different leagues, all within the current 2009 season. His first stop was the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs. He signed on in March and was released in June. Then, when the upstart UFL opened camp in mid-September, he was there with the Las Vegas Locomotives. Eventually, he was cut in October. Finally, the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League signed him to the practice roster at the end of this month. When the CFL season is over, Robertson has the opportunity to possibly set a "record" of some sorts by sign- ing on with the new Arena 1 indoor football league to make it four different leagues in one season. Although he hasn't taken one snap in a league game, it is an "unusual accomplishment".
TOPIC SIX- TWO MORE NFL ROOKIES DONE FOR YEAR (OCT. 27).
Injuries have ended the season for two rookies as Atlanta's backup SS William Moore and St. Louis' starting RCB Bradley Fletcher were placed on injured reserve. Moore, who appeared in two games, had a hamstring injury. Fletcher suffered a knee injury in the game against the Colts. He appeared in seven games and started the last three.
Cuts and Keeps tracks all NFL rookies during the season and serves as a registry also for rookies in the CFL and UFL as well as first year players (players who had previous training camp experience).
TOPIC FIVE- UNITED FOOTBALL LEAGUE'S BIGGEST PROBLEM: ATTENDANCE (OCT. 17).
It's not the caliber of play that confounds the new UFL. The level of play is good. It is a well played professional football at bargain prices. It's enjoyable, especially if you know a player from his previous NFL or college play. But, who is watching it? Empty seats. That's how it turned out in San Francisco when the "local" Redwoods beat the New York Sentinels, 24-7.
There were supposedly 6, 341 fans at AT&T park. It was the lowest attendance figure to watch a pro or college game at AT&T in its 10-year history. Compare this with another pro football team, the San Francisco Demons of the ill-fated XFL several years ago. The Demons averaged 35,000 fans a game. With a crowd like this, there was excitement. The noise was loud and strong. Some fans even came dressed in their own version of a Demon. I know, I was there- with an overview from the press box. Obviously, there is a lack of promotion for UFL games. News about the Redwoods is almost nil in the San Francisco papers. Names like Coach Dennis Green or Owner Paul Pelosi, Speaker of House Nancy's husband, doesn't mean much to the Bay Area media and fans. The California team deserves some intense advertising and marketing, mainly because the price is affordable. I still the best advertising is watching their games on TV. The talent level is good!
TOPIC FOUR- IMPROBABLE JOURNEY TO NFL ENDS FOR SAINTS ROD HARPER (OCT. 16)
Wide receiver Rod Harper made the Saints 53-man active roster is September in what would be considered the ultimate "long-shot" of any rookie candidate. He made the jump to the NFL after starring for the Arkansas Twisters, a minor league indoor football team in the now defunct af2. After eight games at Arkansas, where he was the leading pass catcher, Harper was signed by the New Orleans Saints in June before his season was over.
Harper had a fine training camp which assured him of a roster spot. But, last week, he suffered a fractured left foot and was placed on the injured reserve. He survived the final cut but he didn't make it through the season. The injury cost him the opportunity that none of his af2 cohorts had accomplished this year, that of playing in the NFL. Next season, who knows? There's always a stigma attached to someone that comes out of nowhere, namely the obscure minor leagues.
TOPIC THREE- UFL'S FIRST GAME- LAS VEGAS 30 CALIFORNIA 17- COMMENTS: (OCT. 8).
It was a "no-brainer" to predict the winner of this game. Las Vegas had the offensive weapons from the NFL. Namely, the starting QB, J. P. Losman, former Buffalo Bills starter. He completed 21 of 31 passes for 226 yards and 2 TD's. On the other side, California QB Shane Boyd, who had only a brief NFL career, completed only 9 of 22 attempts for no TD's. Both Las Vegas running backs, Marcel Shipp (Arizona) and DeDe Dorsey (Cincinnati) have NFL experience. They combined, almost equally, for 132 yards while California ended up with a measly 57 yards between Cory Ross and John David Washington, two NFL camp players. California's roster most resemble what the United Football League is all about- developing players for the next level, whereas, Las Vegas resembles a group of exiles from the NFL. The next step for UFL is to establish some kind of parity and a common mission goal. Maybe, it will come next year, despite a disappointing small crowd.
The caliber of play was good. In fact, some of the plays were outstanding. Among the "rookie" highlights were Las Vegas kicker Graham Gano, who kicked a 53-yard field goal with ease. He has an NFL leg. Then, Locomotive special teamer Brandon Sumrall put a hit on kickoff returner B. J. Sams that's akin to a missle hitting its target.
The teams were well coached, looked well-organized and the players exerted themselves to the end. California played alert football in the first half but fell to the more experienced NFL ers. Using baseball terminology, UFL is all about AAA pro football, and given time, many of them will get an NFL tryout when the season ends in November.
Comment: Don't even ask. Any UFL team can trounce the Top Ten College team. If in doubt, there should be a revival of the champ vs. College All-Star team for charity of many years ago. Remember?
TOPIC TWO- MICHAEL CRABTREE FINALLY ENDS HOLDOUT AND SIGNS WITH 49ERS (OCT 7)
Wide receiver Michael Crabtree, the last of the 2009 draft picks to sign, ended a 71-day holdout and signed with the 49ers. It just puts down the rumors that he will sit out the entire season and re-enter the draft. He has already missed four games. How much he will contribute to the 49ers at this conjecture will be the next media fixation on the 10th overall pick of the first round.
TOPIC ONE- ANOTHER ROOKIE IS THROUGH FOR THE SEASON (OCT. 3)
Cleveland Browns rookie running back James Davis, a 6th round pick from Clemson, was placed on injured reserve, thus ending his 2009 season. A reserve running back, Davis suffered a shoulder injury. He's had shoulder problems before, the last being in 2008 spring practice. For that, he underwent arthroscopic surgery. This season, he appeared in two games in which he rushed for 15 yards on 9 attempts and caught 4 passes for 5 yards total.
Cuts and Keeps is a pro football rookie and first-year player register of NFL, CFL, UFL, and Arena Football.
SEPTEMBER MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC NINE- UFL TEAMS CUT HERALDED QUARTERBACKS (SEP. 29).
When Florida opened camp, they had Darrell Hackney at quarterback working with the first team. The strong armed vet with a wide body had NFL experience as the 3rd QB with the Denver Broncos in 2008. Today, he was cut. A few weeks back, the Tuskers cut seven-year journeyman QB Craig Nall, the long time back up for Brett Favre in Green Bay. Nall also saw service at Buffalo and Houston. This is a strong indication that Florida might have a better quarterback than these two when game action begins in early October.
Meanwhile, at the New York camp, highly regarded college quarterback from Utah, Brian Johnson, was also notified that he had been cut. Johnson had a tryout with the Green Bay Packers during their May mini-camp but was unsigned. The Sentinels drafted him in June and became one of the first to sign. His signing gave evidence that league sought top college players who did not make NFL clubs. His release gives brighter hope that the competition in the United Football League is at a high level of play. In Johnson's place, New York signed NFL veteran, Ingle Martin, who saw service with Kansas City last year and inked with the Denver Broncos in the preseason this year as an emergency quarterback when injuries depleted the positon.
As expected, UFL teams are coming around to picking up the final cuts of the NFL. Suddenly, the "unknown" players are disappearing and familiar names are popping up on the rosters. At the beginning, we expected the caliber of play to be similar to NFL Europe League. Now, it's looking better than that.
TOPIC EIGHT- TSN's I REMEMBER COLUMN FEATURES PETER WARRICK (SEP. 25).
I received the Sporting News today and glanced at the last page to see Peter Warrick featured in the I Remember column. To emulate athletic celebrities, I subscribe to TSN, and it's a bargain for $14.97 a year (special offer).
The nostalgic story features Peter Warrick's outstanding performance against Virginia Tech where he scored three TD's- two on receptions and one on a punt return, and also made a two-point conversion allowing his Florida State Seminoles to win, 46-29
His story is carried here because he was a Rookie after six NFL seasons, when he signed to play indoor football with the minor league Bloomington Extreme of the Indoor Football League. It's unusual for a former NFL star to continue playing at the lowest level available. The local paper praised him for "his love of the game". And he proved he still could play by appearing in 14 games and topped the team in receiving.
At the end of the season, he signed with the California Redwoods of the fledging United Football League. Another triumph for the two-time All-American? No, yesterday he was cut.
TOPIC SEVEN- CLEVELAND ROOKIE GOES ON A RAMPAGE IN LOCKER ROOM (SEP. 24).
Browns rookie CB Corey Francies, dripping wet from a water dousing prank after practice, came into the locker room armed with a bucketful of ice. The angry Francies hurled the ice cubes at CB Brandon McDonald, then picked up cubes and threw it at S Mike Adams and then started throwing punches at S Abram Elam. Finally, 6-4, 250 NT Shaun Rogers grabbed Francies from the back with an armlock, and told him to cool down. (very appropriate remark with ice all around). When released, he went to his locker, sat down and sulked. As you all know, the rooks are subject to pranks during their entire first year, prodded by the vets. And the vets, not to encite him to further humiliation, just crossed it off with the remark: He's young.
Meanwhile, Coach Mangini made sure there was no malice against him by his teammates and a subdued Francies apologetically admitted to overreacting. The team, hopefully, wish this incident gives the team a bonding needed for the next game, the Baltimore Ravens.
As in the past, all rookies are treated as lackeys by the vets and they all need to accept that fact. Carrying their equipment, or running errands is par for the course. Come November, Francies could face another famous Browns prank. The vets will tell their rookies to pick up turkeys at a certain market for distribution to needy families and organizations. The group will go to a designated place, only to find out that the manager doesn't know anything about "free turkeys". Even a call to the Browns office will bring a firm denial. Then, rookie Francies should step up and open his wallet. That will teach the veterans. Also, he will be the Rookie Hero of Cleveland!
TOPIC SIX- DRAMA OF CRABTREE'S HOLDOUT CONTINUES IN MEDIA (SEP. 23).
It's the beginning of the third NFL week. Some teams are surprisingly undefeated, like the 49ers. Some teams are downright lousy at this point. But, much of the discussion still centers on the strange, lengthy holdout of one Michael Crabtree, the receiver drafted by the 49ers in the 10th round. He's still the highlight of discussion since the beginning of training camp. All this hype for a rookie that has not taken one snap in any practice or game.
Just this week, the holdout celebrity was back in the national spotlight when the New York Daily News mentioned that there was a tampering charge against the New York Jets. The accusation supposedly came from the 49ers. They know this game be-cause a few years back, the same 49ers were fined by the Commish for tampering. Both teams say it's in the hands of the NFL. Meanwhile, nothing has changed with Mr. Crabtree.
On Tuesday, Sep. 22, the Bay Area press highlighted Crabtree's holdout again. Both sportswriters Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News and John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle devoted a whole column to the holdout. They both laid out the issue on the table. The 49ers are offering Crabtree a 5-year contract for $20 million with $16 million of that guaranteed. Sounds reasonable. But Crabtree and his agent who has the same surname as Colonel Parker of Elvis Presley fame wants to be paid commensurate with the highest paid receiver, the Oakland Raiders' Darrius Heyward-Bey, the 7th overall pick who commanded a 5-year pact with $23.5 million in guaranteed money. That demand, says many, is out of line with the current modus operandi. Now, the big question is: When are the two parties going to sit at the table and come to an agreement of terms?
Where is Michael Crabtree during this impasse? Jim Corbett of USA Today Sports Weekly joins the other two writers to address his whereabouts on Wednesday Sep. 23. (Do these writers get together to pick the topic of the week?). Corbett pin points Crabtree's workouts in the Bay Area. You would be surprised to know that Trent Dilfer, a former 49er quarterback, is the one doing the passing. According to Corbett, Dilfer said, "He is an electric as an athlete as I've been around. I was very impress-ed with his conditioning and strength. He is very, very skilled." That's ample proof that Crabtree is able, well and willing (to play)
These writers are also forewarning us to the future outcome. Come November, he better sign or he will not be able to play during the 2009 season. Then, there's another date. March 2010. That's when the time's up for the 49ers. Sign him, trade him or they will lose his rights.
The LA Times Sam Farmer, the NFL writer, goes a step further and gives us an interesting fact from one of his reliable sources. Has anyone sat out the entire season and re-entered the draft the following year? Five players have done that since 1970. The last one was Craig Erickson who spurned the Philadelphia Eagles in 1991 and was drafted by Tampa Bay in 1992. The most notable, which most of you would recognize, is Running Back Bo Jackson. He was drafted by Tampa Bay in 1986, sat out the entire season, and was re-drafted by Oakland in 1987.
So, there you have all the latest in the media on Michael Crabtree who has yet to strap on NFL gear. Odd that he should continue to draw such media interest when there is so much happening on the playing front. Nobody cares to write about the 5th rounder who is a complete bust and is struggling to stay on the practice squad. (If there is such story, it's probably us).
TOPIC FIVE- END OF NFL WEEK TWO, TWO MORE ROOKIES END THEIR SEASON (SEP. 21)
The objective of Cuts and Keeps is to track rookie players. Here's a somber note at the conclusion of Week Two. Two more rookies ended their season by being placed on injured reserve. Foremost is Atlanta's starting DRT, Peria Jerry, a first round draft pick from Mississippi, who injured his knee in the Falcons win over Miami. His backup is third year pro Thomas Johnson, who is listed in Cuts and Keeps because of his limited play.
The other rookie on injured reserve is Tampa Bay's reserve LCB E. J. Biggers, an undrafted rookie from Western Michigan. He sustained a shoulder injury, thus ending his 2009 season.
TOPIC FOUR- CAR ACCIDENT CLAIMS THE LIFE OF EX-TENNESSE TITAN DEF. TACKLE (SEP. 6).
Former Tennessee Titan defensive tackle Jesse Mahelona was killed in a single car accident near his home in Hawaii in the early morning hour of September 5. He apparently crashed into a construction barrier, which demolished his car and threw him out on the road. Mr. Mahelona played for the Titans in 2006 and 2007 and subsequently saw action for Miami and Atlanta in the the latter part of 2007 season. He had trials with Montreal and Jacksonville in 2008 and has been out of football since then.
Our heartfelt sympathies are extended to his wife, who is expecting with the couple's second child.
Note: Mr. Mahelona's career transactions can be viewed under the alphabetical listing X. Cuts and Keeps maintains a necrology for the recent deceased players that once graced our pages. It is our tribute to the rookies and first year players who died too young but left an everlasting memory in professional football.
TOPIC THREE- INJURIES WILL DENY THESE 2009 DRAFTEES OF FIRST NFL SEASON (SEP. 9).
Of the 256 players drafted in this year's NFL draft, the following players will not see the field this year due to injuries that forced them to miss the entire season. The players are listed in draft order, and fortunately for the Draftniks and fanatical fans, and to the teams, NONE were first round picks. Of course, we all know WR Michael Crabtree, drafted 10th overall, will be missing from the 49ers roster, but that's by his choice- a holdout. All this talk about his foot problem is overblown, as he is working out in the Bay Area and seems to be in good shape.
Cody Brown, LB, Arizona, D2- 63,Wrist; Robert Brewster, T, Dallas, D3-75, Pectoral; Brandon Tate, WR, New England, D3-83, Knee; Corey Irvin, DT, Carolina, D3-93, Knee; Tyrone McKenzie, LB, New England, D3-97, Knee; Henry Melton, DT, Chicago, D4-105, Knee; Chip Vaughn, S, New Orleans, D4-116, Knee; Stanley Arnoux, LB, New Orleans, D4-118, Achilles; Brandon Williams, LB, Dallas, D4-120, Shoulder; Andre Brown, RB, New York Giants, D4-129, Achilles; Jason Phillips, LB, Baltimore, D5-137, Knee; Colin Brown, T, Kansas City, D5-139,Undisclosed; Brandon Hughes, CB, San Diego, D5-148, Knee; Cornelius Ingram, TE, Philadelphia, D5-153, Knee; Xaiver Fulton, DT, Tampa Bay, D5-155, Knee; Fenuki Tupou, T, Philadelphia, D5-159, Undisclosed; Brooks Foster, WR, St.Louis, D5-160, Ankle; George Bussey, DT, New England, D5-170, Knee; Don Carey, CB, Jacksonville, D6-177 by Cleveland, Shoulder; Stephen Hodge, LB, Dallas, D6-197, Knee; Trey Nolan, S, Houston, D7-223, Knee; Stoney Woodson, CB, New York Giants, D7-238, Ankle.
Comment: Someone pointed out that WR Demeritius Byrd of San Diego Chargers, a 7th rounder on injured reserve, is not on this list. Yes, he is omitted because his injury was sustained in an auto accident prior to the draft. The Chargers took a chance to draft him for his potential. See details on Cuts and Keeps.
TOPIC TWO: FLORIDA TUSKERS ADD ELEVEN MORE PLAYERS TO ROSTER (SEP. 3).
In their third player announcement, Florida gave the UFL Nation notice that they will be the team to be reckoned with. Coach Jim Haslett added more players with significant NFL experience, which includes WR Koren Robinson, RB Tatum Bell, DE Josh Savage, LB Anthony Schlegel, NT Rein Long and DB Willie Andrews. Others all have NFL camp and practice squad experi-ence. They are: C Enoka Lucas, G Fred Matua, CB DeMario Minter, and DE Eric Powell. WR Frank Murphy is in his tenth year of pro ball, and he brings NFL and CFL experience. This experience factor might favor Florida when play starts Oct. 10.
The UFL teams, all four of them, will begin practice next week. Las Vegas and California squads will report to Phoenix, AZ, on Sep. 9. Florida and New York players will assemble in Jacksonville, FL for their training camp grind. Camp will last two and half weeks. Then, California and Las Vegas will clash on Oct. 8, followed by an Oct. 10 matchup between New York and Florida.
TOPIC ONE: UFL'S CALIFORNIA REDWOODS SIGN ELEVEN MORE PLAYERS (SEP. 2).
The San Francisco based Redwoods signed only eleven players to their active roster, smallest number in the recent UFL sign-ings. In three more days, the NFL will cut some 700 players in the final cut and the pickings will be good for the Redwoods, a team predominantly built on rookie and first-year players. Orlando, especially, have been signing former NFL veterans in con-trast to Redwoods developmental philosphy.
Punter Derrick Frost is a 6-year veteran with the NFL with stops at Washington, Cleveland and Green Bay, and he highlights the latest signing. QB Shane Boyd has limited experience with the Arizona Cardinals, but this year, he gained some status among the fans who know him. He was the first player selected in the defunct minor league United National Gridiron League Draft. The outdoor football circuit folded before their first game in March. Besides Boyd, California drafted WR Larry Brackins, WR Marcus Fitzgerald, T Steve Edwards, T Brian Rimpf, T Brian Stamper among the signees. Free agents picked up are CB Josh Lay, DT Jeffrey (Not Josh) Littlejohn, T Todd Williams, and DB Marviel Underwood, a native of Oakland.
The suspended Arena League contributed Edwards, Rimpf, Brackins, Williams and Littlejohn. The latter two were at one time with the nearby San Jose SaberCats. Marcus Fitzgerald is the brother of the famous Larry of the Arizona Cardinals and Marcus had attended mini-camp in his hometown with the Minnesota Vikings this May. That's where Larry worked his first job as a ballboy at age 14.
There's not much coverage in the local papers about the fledgling team so the best source to know these players is Cuts and Keeps, a rookie and first-year player register. It's a quick way to find out Who's Who.
AUGUST MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC FIFTEEN: UFL'S LAS VEGAS LOCOMOTIVES LOAD UP WITH 18 ADDITIONS (AUG. 31).
Eighteen more players were added to the UFL's Las Vegas entry, which includes five draft picks that were selected in June. They are P Dan Baugher, CB Wale Dada, DT George Gause, K Andrew Jacas and TE Scott Kuhn. Former Arena Football players include QB Russ Michna, G Martin Bibla, NT Lauvale Sape and WR Brian Hernandez (who played in minor af2). Notable NFL performers are S Tony Parrish, KR Tab Perry and DB B. J. Ward.
The others include CFL castoff DB Trey Young, C Jesse Boone, DB Jamal Lewis, and T Pedro Sosa. Bona fide rookies who include RB Tyrell Fenroy, who went to mini-camp with Chicago Bears in spring, and LS Rigo Morales.
You can find out their complete pro career history of all of these players on the Cuts and Keeps website.
Here's some interesting gossip: Jesse Boone joins his brother Jason, an offensive lineman, on the roster, thus forming the first brother combination. QB Michna continued his indoor football career by joining the Chicago Slaughter and leading them to the Continental Indoor Football League title this year. Unlike other indoor teams that use eight on a side, this was 7 on 7.
Kicker Jacas, a native of Kingston, Jamaica, made NFL Europa history by becoming the first kicker to convert two 4-point field goals in the same game. He kicked field goals of 53 and 50 yards. How do you like that rule of awarding four points for field goals of 50 yards or more? In Europe, a soccer world, kicking skill is appreciated. Will this rule be accepted by fans here?
This week, about 800 players will be cut by NFL teams. Exactly 256 players will be signed to the eight-man practice squad for each team. The remainder will be available to the UFL teams, the present and for the future franchises. So, how would these rookies compare to the above players? There is no doubt that the Locos current signees are much better. They have pro experi-ence and that counts. UFL wants you to see a pro game; not a college all-star game. By the way, what happened to the All-American Football League?
TOPIC FOURTEEN: UFL'S NEW YORK SENTINELS ADD 17 MORE TO ROSTER (AUG. 27).
The Big Name addition to New York's roster is 35-year old DE Simeon Rice, who played 12 seasons starting with the Arizona Cardinals in 1996, then Tampa Bay, and finally with both Denver and Indianapolis in 2007. He's a three time Pro Bowler so he adds a name attraction to the team.
RB Brandon Toefield is also a NFL veteran. Arena League fans will recall DE Michale Spicer, DT Bryan Save and DE Maurice Fountain when they played against the suspended New York Dragons.
The remaining add-on's are the unknowns who are listed in Cuts and Keeps in case you have committed yourself to be a die-hard fan of the Sentinels. They are CB Trey Brown, DT Dan Davis, TE Ronnie Ghent, DT Brigham Harwell S David Lofton, T Ramiro Pruneda, G Erik Robertson and DB Fletcher Terrell. All have some pro experience. Those first time rookies are WR Preston Brown, DB Dre'Mail Hardin, P Ryan Horvath and DB Lionel Mitchell.
Interesting names are Dave Lofton, son of former NFL receiver and assistant coach Jim Lofton, Lionel Mitchell, son of RB Stump Mitchell of the St. Louis, then Phoenix Cardinals and Trey Brown, whose father, Theotis II, was with Kansas City and Seattle as RB. Pruneda played college ball in Mexico and gained fame with NFL Europe.
Small college standouts Hardin (Stillman) and Mitchell ( East Stroudsburg) can be misleading. Hardin played HS football at the doorsteps of Alabama, but had the misfortunate of an off-field injury. He could only get a half-scholarship from Mississippi St so he left for little Stillman. Mitchell did indeed letter three years at Alabama, but suffered a back injury in 2007 which held him back from spring practice. Then, in June 2008, Coach Lou Saban declared his career was over and could be possibly redshirted What happened next is unbelievable. Mitchell shows up at East Stroudsburg in the fall of 2008, proceeds to start at cornerback and makes the All-Conference team.
Now, here's Fletcher Terrell's story. He's making the jump from the minor indoor league, af2. This season, he played eight games for the Quad City Steamwheelers as a DB. Prior to that, he played Division II ball at Washburn, the team that has the funny nickname Ichabods. Don't knock these little teams. Terrell's teammate was DT Trey Lewis, a 6th round draft choice of the Atlanta Falcons in 2007. Lewis is still with the Falcons.
These are unfamiliar names and they may be gone when the team loads up on all the NFL rookies that are cut on September 1. .Consider this the life of a professional football player. Here today, gone tomorrow.
TOPIC THIRTEEN: SAD SAGA: TENNESSEE TITAN WR CUT AFTER DUI ARREST (AUG. 26).
Wide receiver and kick returner Chris C. Davis was cut by the Titans, the aftermath of a drunk driving arrest on Saturday, August 22. The zero tolerance rule imposed by the Commissioner for those who embarrass the NFL went quickly into effect. But, consider the events leading to Chris Davis' life. Days prior to his DUI, Davis was waived with an injury notation- a hamstring injury. His 2009 season disappeared with that injury as he would have been placed on injured reserve, which would make him miss the entire season. Consider what went through his mind: Anger, Despair, Sorrow, Depression. His dreams shattered.
Chris Davis worked hard in the off-season, getting in shape for the new season. He gained six pounds and worked harder in the weight room. He seemed to gaining more confidence. Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean noted this, saying he left a good impression on his teammates. In fact, QB Kerry Collins offered profuse praise: "Chris Davis is having a good off-season so far. He is a smart receiver, and he understands routes and gets in and out of breaks real well. I sense his maturity too and his under-standing of the situation, and I think he has come well-prepared this off-season as anybody else has."
Then, the roof caved in. The injury. The dedicated hard work. His career. All of this decimated. Like many others, he opted to drown his sorrows in alcohol. And he was driving. His blood/ alcohol level was 0.03 percent more than permitted by state law. The NFL rule is a good rule. But I know college presidents, head coaches, judges and even some clergymen arrested for DUI; they were not fired.
Chris C. Davis is a good player. He's also a good person. He deserves a Second Chance. I pray that some team from the UFL or CFL will pick him up.
TOPIC TWELVE: FLORIDA UFL TUSKERS SIGN TWO FROM MASSIVE TURNOUT (AUG. 25).
All right. Most of you saw the UFL release that stated Florida signed 12 players today. Is that the big story? NO! The BIG Story is that the Tuskers signed TWO players out of the 1,100 (that's the new figure offered) prospective players that displayed their skills to the Florida staff and UFL scouts. That's absolutely amazing that two players stood out in the maze of one thousand players, who at times stood in lines stretching 200-300 yards to await their turn.
The lucky players were DL Patrick Chukwurah and DB Michael Waddell. Chukwurah is a 7-yr NFL vet and Waddell played five NFL seasons. That will get you noticed, besides slapping skins with nearly all the staff and scouts. They may have also worn NFL paraphernalia. Compare that to QB Shane Ingram (Who's he?) in that faded Methodist University (not SMU) T-shirt.
The UFL news also did the right thing in announcing that three players indeed signed contracts with the NFL and were released outright. If you saw our previous topics, we wondered aloud the legal status of Greg Fassitt, Charles Davis, Jr. and Steve Sanders who signed with New Orleans, San Diego and Arizona respectively. The fourth, WR Bobby Sippio was recently cut by Detroit so he can return to California Redwoods. Look at Sippio's career transactions in Cuts and Keeps. He's been everywhere.
The remaining players signed include QB Craig Nall, who appears for his 9th straight year in Cuts and Keeps, because of his limited playing time (at one time playing behind Brett Favre), and Mkristo Bruce, Grant Mason and Gene Mruczkowski. Those who are NFL vets, and not in our database, are LB Cody Bockwoldt, CB Curtis DeLoatch, WR Doug Gabriel, QB Chris Greisen, LB Terrence Melton and T Rob Pettiti.
Update: Who is Shane Ingram? In his senior season at Chiefland, FL, High School, he led his team to the Florida state championship. He still holds the record for the most touchdowns and points in a championship game with a QB who played for Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, Nease HS named Tim Tebow. Tim Who?
TOPIC ELEVEN: COACH BILL BELICHICK'S SENTIMENTAL GESTURE (AUG. 25).
During this year's rookie mini-camp in May, the New England Patriots brought in three Naval Academy seniors for tryouts. They were RB Eric Kettani, WR Tyree Barnes and WR Shun White. The U. S. Naval Academy is not a hotbed for pro football prospects but there is no doubt that Coach Belichick had a hand in this. Bill's father, Steve Belichick, served 33 years as an assistant coach at the Academy. Bill grew up on attending Navy football practices and games while going through grammar school and nearby Annapolis High School. His attachment to Navy gives reason for him to give the opportunity to some Midshipmen to experience pro football.
Although the Pats don't release their non-roster tryouts, we did note that the three were signed to NFL contracts on May 4. Then, on July 28, they placed Kettani and Barnes on the reserve/ military list. Last week, on the 18th, White made the reserve list. Off to War they went (Yes, folks, we do have a war going on in Afghanistan). I am sure the trio had the experience of the lifetime in attending a pro camp. They can be thankful to Steve Belichick's son, Bill, for making this possible.
TOPIC TEN: IS THIS A RECORD TURNOUT FOR A PRO FOOTBALL TEAM TRYOUT? (AUG. 23).
According to Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel, an estimated 1,200 hopefuls showed up at the UFL's Florida Tuskers open tryout camp Saturday. Spokesperson Rachel Gary of the UFL estimated that nearly 1,000 candidates showed up for a job. Whatever the numbers, it was huge and it might magnify the seriousness of this recession where the national unemployment rate is 9.6. Moreover, each wannabe paid $60 for this opportunity with a T-shirt momento. The Florida staff brought out 300 T-shirts, discovered that it was not enough, brought in 300 more. That left 600 more without a souvenir. Backorder?
Who would have thought that a thousand players would show up for this audition when there was very little advertising? The UFL site had a small announcement, mentioning Orlando as the site and the local Sentinel newspaper had a blurb. That's it. Coach Jim Haslett of the Tuskers made his first understatement of the season: "We thought there would be about 200 people who attended."
Despite the large numbers, the Florida staff valiantly tried their best to give everyone a legitimate tryout. It was reported that the group was divided into two groups for the 40-yard dash and some agility drills. And then into positions. Whatever they did, the staff was seen scurrying around and making effort to jot down notes on certain players. In this mayhem, it becomes apparent that it would difficult to pinpoint someone who has UFL qualifications. As one agent said: "I sent some players down here and they were all disappointed".
It is always an interesting story line for writers to tell who was here. A semi-pro player from a fly-by-night team, a Junior College player who hadn't played in five years, or former professional baseball player who was all-everything in high school foot-ball. But Coach Haslett, who coached the New Orleans Saints, has one better. He had a wide receiver named Michael Lewis who became the all-time punt and kick returner on the team. Prior to the NFL, Lewis was a beer truck driver. So, dreams can become a reality. However, there is one player that should be mentioned so you don't go away thinking that quality wasn't there. He is former Florida State quarterback Drew Weatheford who had a up-and-down career for the Seminoles. He had earlier NFL mini-camp tryouts with Chicago and New Orleans but was not signed. Like many, he played college football.
Could this be the biggest open free agent turnout in pro football history? "I've never seen anything like this in all my time in football", said UFL vice-president and general manager Rick Mueller, a long-time NFL executive.
T0PIC NINE: CONGRATULATIONS TO SPOKANE SHOCK-af2 ARENACUP CHAMPIONS (AUG. 23).
The Spokane Shock defeated the Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton Pioneers 74-27 for the ArenaCup Championship Saturday night in Las Vegas' Orleans Bowl before 5,4846 fans. It was the largest margin of victory in an ArenaCup game and also the most points scored by a team in league history.
The Shock finished the season with a 15-1 record, the only defeat coming in a road game at Iowa Barnstormers and then proceeded to win all the way to the finals. This was the Shock's third ArenaCup appearance in four years, with their only loss coming last year to the Tennessee Valley Vipers.
Spokane's quarterback Nick Davila was named Offensive Player of the Game and linebacker Kevin McCullough was named Defensive Player.
To football fans that follow rookie and first-year players, here is an interesting fact. Of the 23 players and 3 inactive players listed on the Spokane roster for this game, 18 of the 26 are listed in 2009 Cuts and Keeps. Since this football register contains over 2,500 players who had experience in the higher leagues, this is a good indication that the more players you have from Cuts and Keeps, the stronger the team will be. Spokane seems to have a knack in signing good players and coincidentally, we have those players in our database. Here's the list: Ryan Belcher, John Booker, Patrick Bugg, Nick Davila, Charles Dillon, Stanley Franks, Sergio Gilliam, Virgil Gray, Casey Hansen, Brian Jackson, Montrell Jones, Ben McCombs, Harrison Nikolao, Andy Olson, Caesar Rayford, Jeff Van Orsow, Markus White, and Kyle Young.
Keep your eyes on these players. Next year, they may be playing in a higher level.
TOPIC EIGHT: SAN FRANCISCO'S UFL CALIFORNIA REDWOODS SIGN 31 PLAYERS (AUG. 18).
The United Football League announced the largest group of players so far, thirty-one, to be assigned to the upstart California Redwoods. Coach Dennis Green said: "There is a tremendous amount of raw talent on this California squad that just needs to be finessing and the opportunity to show their abilities." At least Green's players are younger, unknown and untested in keeping with the spirit of UFL as a developmental league rather than rely on a lot of retired NFL players like Florida Tuskers. The only NFL vet of note on the Redwoods squad is FB Obafemi Ayanbadejo and he's an asset because he grew up in this area and is known.
Here's the list of the rest of the thirty and there's some interesting names here. Of course, you can find out about all of these young players in Cuts and Keeps, the only football register that tracks rookies and first-year players. They are: TE Michael Allan, LS Kai Brown, DE Paul Carrington, LB Maurice Crum, LB Nick Hannah, RB Derrell Hutsona, LB Prince Kwateng, TE Branden Ledbetter, DB Norman LeJeune, T Tyler Luellen, C Mike Mabry, CB Eddie Moten, QB Liam O'Hagan, LB Nick Osborn, DE Jason Parker, DB Ronnie Prude, WR Brandon Rice, RB Cory Ross, G Isaiah Ross, WR B. J. Sams, DE A. J. Schable, WR Sonny Shackelford, NT Jason Stewart, DE Damon Suggs, DB Ahmad Treaudo, DB Jerry Unertl, RB John David Washington, WR Joe West and LB Worrell Williams.
Now, the interesting part. John David Washington's father is award winning actor Denzel Washington. Dad went to Fordham and did not play sports; J.D. went to predominantly black Morehouse, known more for academics, and starred in football. Worrell Williams is the younger brother of D. J. Williams, linebacker with the Denver Broncos.
Washington, Crum, Ledbetter, and Williams had NFL tryouts this spring. Dietz, LeJeune, Mabry, Moten and Stewart are former Arena Football stalwarts who are fortunate to continue their careers and check out Hannah's strange football odyssey. Nick has been everywhere, including the NFL, and not only has he played in obscure leagues, he's also from seldom heard college.
Very few know of RB Derrell Hutsona yet he might be best remembered as the running mate of Reggie Bush in high school. They formed arguably the best RB combo in the state ever. Unfortunately, playing for three different colleges took away any potential for fame.
By the way, Coach Dennis Green may have used Cuts and Keeps when he was with the Minnesota Vikings. You can do the same.
TOPIC SEVEN: BURL TOLER III'S GRANDFATHER DIES AT AGE 91 (AUG. 17).
Burl Toler III, a wide receiver from University of California, appears in Cuts and Keeps for three seasons (2006-8). In part, that's the reason the death of his grandfather is memorialized here. But, more important, Burl Toler, Senior, is honored here because he was an extraordinary person in the history of football. The elder Toler was the first African-American game official in pro sports when joined the NFL in 1965. He spent 25 years as a field judge and head linesman in the NFL and participated in the 1980 Super Bowl between the Rams and Steelers.
What's more remarkable is that he was a star player of the famous University of San Francisco football team of 1951. That team gained the notoriety of "Undefeated, Untied and Uninvited". Despite a 9-0 record, they were snubbed for a bowl bid. Today, we would assume it's a BCS decision. Back then, it was because of racial discrimination. The Dons were not invited because they had two black players- Toler and Ollie Matson and the team refused to leave their teammates behind. Looking back at that time period, not many sportswriters or sportscasters were enraged at this civil injustice. There were no outcries of racism or bigotry, and they defended the actions as part of American tradition and support of Jim Crowism.
I'm sure Burl Toler, Sr., felt the bitterness and anger. Although he suffered a career-ending knee injury in the 1952 College All-Star game, he forsook the bad break and worked in the game he loved by becoming an official. With great resolve, he worked himself to be hired by the NFL. He gave us a legacy that Blacks can be just as good as Whites in a sport that was segregated by color in the 40's and 50's. We thank Mr. Toler, SR., for his dauntless courage and spirit in breaking the Color Line.
Update: As of today (8/20), Burl Toler III remains a street free agent because his team, the San Jose SaberCats, has suspended operations indefinitely.
TOPIC SIX: UFL'S FLORIDA TUSKERS NAMES INITIAL ROSTER (AUG. 17)
The Orlando UFL franchise, now known as the Florida Tuskers, announced their first waves of more unfamiliar than familiar names on their roster. On the very day the roster was released, CB Greg Fassitt, one of the 21 names, signed a contract with the New Orleans Saints. Now, I know what you are thinking. He's just a camp player and he'll be soon cut. I'm not so sure. Take a look at Cuts and Keeps and you'll find Fassitt has some skills beyond training camp fodder. He might make the PRSQ if he doesn't land on the 53-man active. That will be lots more money than what he would make in a 6-game UFL schedule.
There are some good players for Florida such as G P. J. Alexander, TE Keith Heinrich, LB Tim McGargle, CB Darius Vinnett, DE Bo Schobel, FB Ron Cruz, DE Josh Cooper, DT McKinley Boykin, WR Dominique Thompson and RB Quincy Wilson. Others include DT Fred Bledsoe, FB Steve Korte, CB T. J. Wright, and K Kevin Lovell. Bona fide rookies include P Patrick Fisher from LSU and LS Joey Madrid of Colorado State. All of these players are listed in Cuts and Keeps so you can know who they are before the first UFL kickoff. NFL vets like TE Jermaine Wiggins, G Zack Piller and DT Claude Wroten are NOT listed in our rookie and first-year player register but take a peek at NFL.com.
TOPIC FIVE: SAN FRANCISCO COLUMNIST FED UP WITH HOLDOUTS-HAS SOLUTION (AUG. 13).
Sports Columnist Bruce Jenkins of the Chronicle remarks about the sorry state of professional sports when it comes to rookie contracts. He should be miffed. His own 49ers has a rookie named Crabtree who missed 21 days of camp. We all wonder if this standoff will ever be compromised. In the meantime, Michael Crabtree has taken to heart those infamous movie line: "Show me the money!". He's acting this out in real life, with his director, the agent, in full control with a supporting cast of his family in the backdrop.
Jenkins suggests a better line to this ongoing saga: "You haven't done anything yet, so here's all the money in Switzerland." If that sounds stupid, Jenkins retorts with you have to marvel at the stupidity of the system. He adds, "Because the player's union adamantly backs such nonsense, there's no hope for a fast-and-hard slotting system or anything that makes sense. Teams will continue to get punished for their malaise, and NFL prospects such as Crabtree will stage their pathetic holdouts before having played ONE DOWN in the league.
Here's Bruce Jenkins solution: I would put a ceiling on rookie contracts in all professional leagues: $500,000.
That's it. Live with a half-million dollars or go flip pancakes somewhere.
To us, this makes sense. What do you think?
TOPIC FOUR: LAS VEGAS LOCOMOTIVES OF UFL ADD NINETEEN PLAYERS (AUG. 6)
It might have been a misnomer when we announced that New York signed 19 players. It probably should have read like this current signings: The UFL signed and assigned 19 players to Las Vegas. They are: G Jason Boone, LB Ezra Butler, G Frank Davis, T Brandon Joyce, WR David Kircus, DT Gabe Long, LB Ronnie Palmer, RB Tyson Thompson, WR Andrae Thurman, DB Nick Turnbull, LB Brian Toal, RB Terrance Whitehead and CB Chaz Williams.
These are thirteen unfamiliar players with little or no pro experience. But Cuts and Keeps have their profiles and complete playing data for your curiosity. Now what about the other six? TE Adam Bergen, NT Ross Kolodziej, LB Teddy Lehman,LB Brandon Moore and QB Tim Rattay are seasoned veterans of the NFL. Here's a tip. Information on NFL vets can be found in NFL.com. Look under players and click onto historical players, then write in the player's name. Eureka!
If you are a up and coming UFL fan, you will be more informed than the future beat writers of your favorite team.
TOPIC THREE: NEW ORLEANS SIGN UNDRAFTED ROOKIE IN 2ND WEEK OF CAMP (AUG.6)
It's rather uncommon to see undrafted rookies getting a call from a club in the midst of training camp and be signed to a contract. That's what happened to guard Don McMahon, a dropout from Central Michigan, who was bypassed in the recent July supplemental draft. The two-time Golden Gloves champion from the Chicago area must have good footwork and quick hands to warrant this tryout. The much traveled lineman went to three colleges, all of this can be seen inside Cuts and Keeps.
Update: Was cut 5 days later
TOPIC TWO: UFL'S NEW YORK FRANCHISE SIGNS 19 PLAYERS TO ROSTER (AUG. 5)
The New York UFL team added nineteen players to their roster. They are: RB Rich Alexis, QB C. J. Bacher, K AaronBacher, K Aaron Barrett, DB Brian Bonner, TE T. J. Cottrell, DT Richard Clebert, TE Charles Davis, QB Quinn Gray, RB Tyronne Gross, WR Ryan Hoag, QB Brian Johnson, LB Marc Magro, CB Terrelle Maze, OL Ray Norell, RB Joe Rubin, WR Steve Sanders, RB Cecil Sapp, LB Nathan Williams and WR Shannon Woods.
Now, you wonder who are these guys? EVERY PLAYER listed above is included in CUTS and KEEPS with a comprehensive profile, featuring their past pro career, if any. It's better than a NY game program, and you don't have to wait for their media guide. First hand information now. If you are an UFL fan, give yourself the opportunity to know their players.
Now, a few corrections from UFL release: Alexis is NOT from Lehigh, he played football at University of Washington. Aaron Barrett has only one t in his last name like Barret. Look where he started playing pro ball. And there's confusion about TE Charles Davis of Purdue. It seems like he recently signed with the San Diego Chargers. Is this the beginning of a Signing War like the bygone days of the AFL/NFL? Mr. Davis, let us know of your decision.
Update: Steve Sanders signed with the Arizona Cardinals on August 18. Huh?
TOPIC ONE: ARENA LEAGUE FINALLY FOLDS AFTER 22 YEARS OF PLAY
First, it was the New Orleans VooDoo that quit the league, then the Los Angeles Avengers pulled out, and last week, both Tampa Bay Storm and Georgia Force announced they were shutting down. It becomes obvious that the Arena Football League will not play in 2010 or thereafter. After 22 years of existence, Arena Football is dead.
I will always remember its inception because most of the people involved in creating the 50-yard indoor football game came from the minor league or semi-pro football ranks, which was my roots. The originator, Jim Foster, was the owner, general manager, public relations director and player with the Newton, IA, Nite Hawks. I recall most of his operating expenses came from selling ads for his game day program, which was thick as the local telephone directory. In the "test game" to refine play, they used players from Coach Gene Nudo's semi-pro River Grove, IL, Cowboys to form the eight on eight competition inside an empty Chicago arena. Gene later became the General Manager and Coach of the Arizona Rattlers. It was through Gene's friendship that Cuts and Keeps recognized Arena Players as Professional Football Players and included them in the register of rookies and first-year players. Of course, many critical fans spoke against indoor players being classified as football players. But, we figured that if they blocked, tackled, passed and kicked, and wore helmets and pads, they qualify.
The game itself was initially was not accepted by many sports writers. I remember reading the Atlanta Constitution after the first game of the Georgia Force and the writer criticized every aspect of the action, making sure that he was not fond of this weird indoor football. Fortunately, the fans thought otherwise. Today, the country is filled with loyal arena football fans.
Next year, Arena Football, in a different management style in a different league, will return, as teams like Tampa Bay Storm and San Jose SaberCats continue their winning traditions. Like always, from the beginning, Cuts and Keeps will keep track of Arena Football League players as well as many of the minor indoor players for your football pleasure.
JUNE MONTHLY TOPICS
TOPIC ONE: UNITED FOOTBALL LEAGUE DRAFT (JUNE 18TH)
UFL has added creditability to their "premiere" season by conducting an evening draft Thursday night from 6:30-8:30 PM. Each of the four teams selected twenty-four players in that short span of time, which involved 96 players. Only twelve 2008 college seniors were selected, and two from the 2007 season plus one senior who played only basketball this past season. Eig
ht attended NFL mini-camps but only one was signed to a contract and he was cut few weeks later. San Francisco selected the most rookies, seven, followed by New York with five. Orlando did not select any past college seniors, instead choosing seven NFL veterans.
The new league did not release a round-by-round selections and overall picks so it is confusing to us as to who was picked first and who were selected in the later rounds. Then, there is supposedly an "allocated list" or a "protected" list (like NFL Europe) of twenty players, which includes big name quarterbacks for all four teams, but that is unavailable. Who can send us one?
More selections will be forthcoming in July when they will sign "street free agents" who coaches have identified and are reserved to fill the rosters. Team rosters for training camp will be 60 players and that should be finalized when the four teams pick up NFL cuts in late August. They will be lots of player movements in this league because of the plentiful supply of good professional football players. You can pick it up in Cuts and Keeps! Know your players. It makes the GAME more fun.
TOPIC TWO: UFL DRAFTEE JUMPS TO THE NFL
Five days after being drafted by San Francisco, Tackle Cory Lekkerkerker signed a free agent contract with the Tennessee Titans. No doubt, the opportunity and pay had a lot to do with his decision. SF's choice is excellent since he is local, from nearby University of California- Davis, and UFL is trying to assign players on a regional basis.
Although Lekkerkerker's "defection" is not major newsworthy, it must be noted that the San Francisco Chronicle did not have any news or the draft roster of their new hometown team in their famed Sporting Green pages. Consider this: Northern California's political bigwig, Nancy Pelosi's husband, is a major investor in the UFL. That alone should give the UFL team some ink. Chronicle supports Nancy but not her husband??
Look up Cory's bio and professional career in Cuts and Keeps.
TOPIC THREE: WHAT? A 100-PLAYER NFL TRYOUT CAMP IN THE MIDDLE OF JUNE.
This is not one of those "tryout camps for prospects" you see advertised on the Net or football magazines. This is a genuine NFL camp put on by the Buffalo Bills with nearly a hundred invitees in attendance. They should be commended for taking out the time, between the hectic mini-camp and the OTA's (organized team activity), to give college players the opportunity to fulfill a "Dream". Of course, like all teams, the Bills do bring in a few players for individual workouts, like they did a few weeks prior and signed two linemen.
We knew the Bills had this camp for several years because some of the small colleges and minor teams released notice that their players are headed to Buffalo. For example, Guard Polo Gutierrez, 6-3 290 from New Mexico State who plays for El Paso Generals of the Indoor Football League was one invitee. Three from the Rochester, NY, Raiders were also there, the best prospect being tackle Raphael Nguti, 6-6 335, from Albany NY University.
The Buffalo Bills have long ago established themselves as looking for and signing the "unknowns". For the current Bills, think of Fred Jackson, who was picked up from an obscure indoor football team in Iowa. Years ago, I remember when we were having a minor league meeting for the California Football League and a Bills scout shows up. I nicknamed him the "Bush Hunter". He probably still has the print copy of Cuts and Keeps from 1970.
For your comments or further information on the above topics send to firstname.lastname@example.org.