Can't blame this one on T.O.

(also an excuse to post pictures of Eagles cheerleaders)

Eagles Cheerleader

William T. Devlin, an evangelical Christian activist, is irate over the recently released Eagles cheerleader lingerie calendar. He is actively lobbying Eagles head coach Andy Reid to get the calendar recalled. Additionally, Devlin claims he has the support of several retired Eagles players including Irving Fryar and Herb Lusk.

But when contacted about the calendar both players said they had not heard from Devlin. Fryar and Lusk did not want to "do battle with Eagles over the calendar."

It looks like Devlin is the one caught with his pants down.

But, Devlin is not the only person upset with the Eagles calendar, he has been joined in his crusade by Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Phil Sheridan. Sheridan writes that a father's number one responsibility is to keep "your daughter off the (stripper's) pole. The acid test is whether I would want to see one of my daughters in this calendar or on the Eagles' Web site, and the answer is no."

And I agree with Sheridan, kind of. His primary job as a father is to keep his daughter off the stripper pole, and by extension the Eagles lingerie calendar. But there are worse things out there than the Eagles calendar and Sheridan would be better served to warn his daughters about them. Apparently, Sheridan has never heard of the internet, which is 95% porn.

To be fair we should see what the cheerleaders themselves had to say about the calendar. Consider the reaction of Adrienne Hartman, whose photo adorns the cover, on first seeing her picture:

"Wow, I was like, 'Whoa, nakedness,' " she said after the fashion show. "I was like, 'Whoa.'

"But I was like, they actually did a really good job picking it, so I'm really happy with it. I'm pretty pleased because it's classy and professional, but sexy at the same time."

Oddly enough, that's the same line I keep using to try and convince my girlfriend to let me "immortalize" her.

My first reaction is a rant against the rightous right for trying to impose its Puritanical moral values on the rest of society, but I don't really think a quackpot activist and a second tier local journalist are going to convince the Eagles organization to get rid of the calendar.


(hat tip to Hoodie)

Quote of the Day

"I'm giving him my parking space at One Buc for as long as he's here. I mean it. I'm going to let him have my space every day that he is out there on that field."

- Head coach John Gruden offering an incentive for defensive tackle Anthony "Booger" McFarland to stay healthy.

A plethora of backs

What a difference from a year ago, when the Bucs had little runningback depth. Last season the Bucs had eight different backs play in least three games. None of those backs played in all sixteen games. Now the Bucs have one of the deeper runningback corps in the league headlined by Carnell Williams and Michael Pittman.

"That's something we're really excited about," Gruden said. "With Charlie Garner standing over here running the way he is, those are three halfbacks that we think a lot of. I think Earnest Graham's a lot better player than people know about because he hasn't had the opportunities. But he's paid his dues here and he's a playmaker. Ian Smart's as quick as hell; he's a guy who can play a little bit, too. And this Derek Watson, he's one good-looking stallion. He's a big, physical load. And ( Mike) Alstott can still run and catch and Jameel Cook's an all-purpose back."

The runningback depth chart was released yesterday and Williams is at the top, followed by Michael Pittman. Derek Watson is third. Expect the depth chart to change dramatically as training camp progresses and Charlie Garner returns from injury rehab.

Williams must prove he can pick up blitzing linebackers before the Bucs hand over starting duties completely to the rookie. Fortunately, Pittman (who is one of the better blocking backs in the NFL), has proven willing to tutor Williams. "Michael's a great blocker, so I'm definitely going to be in his ear about how should I get better and how should I do this and do that," comments Williams, "I'm definitely going to lean on him for support."

Pittman is 29 but in two weeks he hits the unlucky number for a runningback, 30. Popular opinion goes that when runningbacks turn 30 their production starts to go downhill. Sports Illustrated has an interesting article on this, which examines how the excess of runningbacks in the NFL has lowered the demand for backs. This may be part of the reason Pittman has been willing to accept a reduced role in the Bucs offense.

ESPN gives some love to Ronde

Ronde Barber

Len Pasquarelli gives Ronde Barber some well deserved national props, while describing the many roles Barber plays in the Monte Kiffin's defense.

He slices, he dices, he lines up at cornerback and, on third down, in the slot. Barber runs upfield with a wide receiver on one play, blitzes the quarterback on another, moves up to support against the run on a sweep. One of the biggest bargains in the league, even at a 2005 price tag of $3.75 million, Barber wears a lot of hats for the Bucs, which is why his teammates are typically quick to tip theirs to him.

Barber is the key to a Bucs defense that was number against the pass last season. He is also a guy that deserves to be rewarded in the future by management. While I would be surprised if he was to get too much more money, I would love to see Barber coach the Bucs secondary in the future.


Quote of the Day

"I still call him Williams. He's got to earn the "Cadillac' title."

- Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks on rookie Carnell "Cadillac" Williams.


"I was going to change his name to Dodge Ram if he didn't get in here on time."

- Head coach Jon Gruden on rookie Carnell Williams

Carnell's Contract

Carnell Williams

Carnell Williams five year contract is worth slightly less than $31 million, with a guaranteed payout of $13.1 million.

And oh yeah, there is backstory to Williams contract which Cummings does an superb job describing Williams's dedication to showing up to camp on time.

"He got in about 3 o'clock," said roommate Michael Clayton. "And at 6:30 he jumped right out of bed because I had the alarm set and he said, 'Let's go to work Mike.' He's hungry. Guys like that always show up on time."

I like this guy already.

EDIT: The St Pete Times is reporting that Williams contract has $15.1 million in guaranteed money, which is different from the guaranteed $13.1 million reported by the Tampa Tribune. Both papers report that it is a five year contract worth a max of $31 million.


More holdouts

Antonio Gates

With the start of training camp comes the list of prominent players holding out for a bigger contract. One of those guys is Chargers tightend Antonio Gates, who took the league by storm last season.

Gates, an undrafted rookie in 2003, set the league record for touchdowns by a tightend in a season, and helped guide the Chargers to a first place finish in the AFC West last season. Two years ago Gates signed a contract for $7,000, but this year he would like a contract in line with some of the best tightends. Todd Heap signed an $11 million deal earlier this year with another $11 million in signing and roster bonuses.

I think Gates is a guy like Javon Walker or Preist Holmes two years ago, somebody who deserves to get paid the big time money. Gates proved he's the best tightend in the league last year, and the Charger should pony up the dineros to keep Gates around and happy.

Besides Gates here is a list of the more prominent (non-rookie) players who are holding out:
  1. Hines Ward, receiver, Steelers
  2. John Abraham, defensive tackle, Jets
  3. Richard Seymour, defensive end, Patriots

Caddy signs deal

Buccaneers.com is reporting that Carnell Williams has signed a deal and has reported to training camp practices today. The deal was signed several hours after midnight last night and means that Williams will not miss any training camp practices.


The Roundup: Farewell to Steussie

What a difference between this week and last. Last week the biggest football story was T.O. Now with training camps starting up, and preseason games just around the corner fans actually have something to get excited about.

1. Edgerrin James, upset with his current contract situation and, now having to travel to Japan to play in the American Bowl, said the closest he will come to Japan is Benihanas. Peyton Manning, misunderstanding Edge's statement, is waiting for his runningback at the Japanese restaurant.

2. So both Javon Walker and T.O. report to camp but Hines Ward looks like he will hold out?!? Hines Ward believes he should be paid the same amount of money as Marvin Harrison or Randy Moss. Ward said, "I am not Marvin Harrison, or T.O., but I also don't think those guys are Hines Ward." Ward turned down a contract that would have made him the highest paid Steelers player ever, but he turned down the contract.

3. Saints runningback Deuce McAllister signed a new eight year contract for $50.1 million with $12.5 million in a signing bonus and incentives. The deal makes McAllister the highest paid Saint ever, and approaches the largest deal for a runningback, LaDainian Tomlinson's eight year, $60 million contract. Notably, McAllister and his agent where able to negotiate the deal without threatening to hold out.

"I wanted to be out here with the guys and I wanted to continue to prepare," said McAllister, who did hold out his rookie season. "I didn't want to dampen anything by being a hold out or being disruptive and basically just messing up the whole flow of what they've been working on."

4. Todd "Steroid" Steussie has finally been cut by the Bucs. Hopefully, (fingers crossed) this will free up the money to sign Carnell Williams and Alex Smith. The Bucs will take a cap hit of only $667,000 in 2005, but in 2006 Steussie will count $2.67 million against the Buc's cap.

We can rebuild him . . .

"We have the technology, but I don't want to spend a lot of money." (cue music)

Bionic Peter

After the Redskins signed fullback Manuel White to a $1.8 million, four year contract, White's agent, Leigh Steinberg described White's role with the team as a "robo-back, multi-dimensional running back for the new millennium."

I'll be honest here, I don't have the slightest idea what Steinburgh is talking about. Sure I've heard of a H-back, a third down back, or a short yardage back, but a robo-back? Does he run on a catalytic converter or require a tune-up every 3,000 miles?

(hat tip to GusSchultz)

Caddy still not under contract

With Bucs reporting to training camp in Orlando, Bruce Allen has still not been able to make a deal with Carnell Williams and his agent. There are three reasons for this.

1. Neither of the runningbacks selected ahead of Williams have signed deals either. Negotiations between 4th overall pick Cedric Benson and Chicago have been rough, and it's more likely you will see Ronnie Brown as the first of the group to sign a contract. Both Benson and Brown are demanding a signing bonus in the area of $20 million.

2. Williams has demanded a signing bonus in the $15-$18 million range, but the Bucs do not currently have the cap room to pay Williams that kind of money. Allen needs to make some cuts before he can give Williams that big of a signing bonus.

3. The current Collective Baragining Agreement (CBA) for the NFL runs out in two years, and the owners are looking to renegotiate a new CBA after this season. With the influx of money from the new television contracts it is expected that the salary cap will be raised under the new CBA. But since agents have no idea how much the cap will be raised they are left asking for as much money as possible now, and trying to leave open the option to renegotiate deals in the future. Imagine a group of highly payed lawyers looking at tea leaves, and you have some understanding of what NFL agents are going through right now.

Oh yeah, rookie tightend Alex Smith needs to sign a contract too.

The rich get richer

News this morning is that wide receiver Rod Gardner has been traded to the Panthers in exchange for a conditional sixth round pick. This is a steal for the Panthers and pretty much guarantees they make the playoffs.

Everyone knew the Redskins had to trade Gardner after he refused to play for the 'Skins this season. And the fact that the Panthers only had to give up a sixth round pick for the 15th overall pick who is 27, just sweetens the deal for Carolina.

Gardner is an underrated receiver who has suffered from the quarterback/coaching carousel in Washington. The final straw came last season when 'Skins owner Dan Snyder resurrected Joe Gibbs. Gibbs is enchanted with the running game, even when his team is down by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

Despite losing Muhsin Muhammed, the Panthers should have a better receiving corp this year. They get Steve Smith back from his freak injury last season (the same injury that T.O. suffered, which caused the owners to ban the tackle that caused the two injuries). Smith is far more talented than Muhammed, and is a more emotional leader on the offense.

Gardner will fit in nicely as the second receiver, a guy Jake Delhomme can count on to catch balls on third down. And you can expect Keary Colbert, who showed flashes of brilliance last year, to get better in his second season. Plus they have Buc killer, Ricky Proehl on their team (on a side note, I will never forgive Proehl for catching that touchdown pass in the '99 NFC Championship game. How the hell did the Bucs defense let the Rams 4th receiver beat them deep?!?).

I will have more to say about the Panthers, as well as the Saints and Falcons, once the preseason games start up.


Cumming's Weekly Dose

Trib columnist and Bucs beat writer Roy Cummings offers up a training camp preview, which includes position battles.

Everyone knows that Carnell Williams will eventually surpass Michael Pittman so thankfully, Cummings spends little time breaking that position battle down. Instead, he recommends focusing on the battles between returning starters and incoming rookies at left tackle and left guard.

Two of the position battles I will be paying attention to is the one for fullback and the one for strong safety. Alstott is a fan favorite but his production has slipped due to injury, while rookie Razzano has impressed coaches and has decent hands out of the backfield. At safety, Super Bowl MVP Dexter Jackson will have to compete with second year player, Will Allen.

Bruce Allen, The Negotiator

Two rookies have signed contracts or agreed to sign contracts, but first let me touch on the news involving GM Bruce Allen.

The St. Pete Times reports that Paris Warren's agent, Derrick Fox, has been unhappy with the way Allen negotiates deals. Allen has only offered two or five year deals to Warren and his agent.

"There is no such thing as a two-year deal," Fox said. "After two years, they own his exclusive rights. My guy wants a chance at free agency, like any other player in the league. But they treat everyone the same. It's two years or five years, take it or leave it. That's not negotiating in good faith."

Apparently, this is something that Allen does fairly frequently, since other agents have also complained quietly about it. I have no idea why Allen would do other than to make his own job easier, by making contracts less complicated.

Anyway, on to the Buc's rookies.

Receiver J.R. Russell from Louisville, the Bucs last pick in the seventh round signed a two year deal, reportedly with a $18,000 signing bonus.

The Bucs have also come to agreement with tackle Chris Colmer, a third round pick from NC State. Colmer's contract is expected to be for five years.

That leaves four players who are not signed or have agreements to sign: first round pick Carnell Williams, and three seventh rounders, fullback Rick Razzano, receiver Paris Warren, and safety Hamza Abdullah. Carnell Williams' agent, Ben Dogra has said he expects his client to be under contract by the time training camp starts. Considering that players start reporting to camp this afternoon and the first day of practices is tomorrow, the contract better be worked out fairly quickly.

Shaun Alexander signs contract

Shaun Alexander signed an unusual one year contract with Seattle for $6.32 million, which is the amount Alexander would have recieved if he had accepted the franchise tag contract. But that's not what is unusual.

The odd thing is that one of the stipulations of Alexander's contract is that Seattle can not use the franchise tag on him next year. This means that Alexander will be an unrestricted free agent next off-season. Additionally, Alexander has a no trade clause.

This is definitely a deal that favors Alexander, despite his insistence on not reporting to training camp unless he was given a long term deal. Now Alexander has the opportunity to make a good chunk of change this year and then find a long term contract some place else. It is hard to see Alexander returning to Seattle after the break down in his relationship with Mike Holmgren. Also, the market will most likely be better for runningbacks next off season, if for no other reason than the fact that this has been the worst off-season market for runningbacks in years.


Madden's Bucs rankings

Madden 92

I'm a Madden junkie, so I will be salivating until the game comes out (aug. 9). In the interim, here are the stats for the Bucs players this year.

As usual, Alstott is over-rated with a 90 overall, but on the plus side he is the perfect guy for the new feature, the truck stick. This is kinda like the hit stick for an offensive player. I would also say Shelton Quarles is over-rated at 87 overall.

Larry Brackins, the rookie receiver from Pearl River Community College, speed should be higher (it is 88, it should be in the low 90's), and his awareness should be lower (it is 42). But then again I'm just nick-picking at this point.

Rookie Signings

There is absolutely no rhyme or reason for the timing of the first round rookie signings each year. There are a good three weeks between minicamp and training camp when teams have literally nothing to do except sign their draft picks (or cut players), yet the teams/rookies wait until two days before training camp to sign a contract.

There are only two thoughts that go through rookies heads when they should be signing a contract. The first is "how much is the other guy making?" and the second is "how pissed will my new coach be when I show up to training camp late?" The NFL could index the first round picks max salary to inflation based on the last year's first round pick's salary (try saying that three times fast), then the rookies could be signed a week after the draft.

Anyway, it is looking like the Bucs first round pick Carnell Williams is waiting to see what the two runningbacks ahead of him make before he signs a contract. Since Cedric Benson and the Bears appear to be having problems negotiating, it looks like we're waiting for Ronnie Brown to make a deal with the Dolphins. My guess is Williams' agent will argue for almost the same amount that Brown gets (but then again that is pure speculation).

Bucs come to agreement with Ruud

Linebacker Barrett Ruud (who's name is Germanic), the second round pick from Nebraska, has agreed to a five year deal expected to pay an average of $950,000 a year with a bonus of more than $2 million.

Ruud was originally slated to play strongside linebacker, but he impressed the Bucs coaches enough to warrant a middle linebacker position. The middle backer position carries more responsibility since it would require Ruud to call plays in the huddle. You can expect Shelton Quarles to start the year at middle backer, but I would expect Ruud to get plenty of playing time and eventually some starts sometime around week 10.

Alex Smith signs contract

No not our Alex Smith, the 49ers' Alex Smith.

Smith signed a six-year contract for $50 million with $24 million in bonus money. This is a bigger contract than the one signed last year by Eli Manning and is the most guaranteed money a rookie had ever received.

You can now expect a flurry of signings, since the market has been set (and it's a fairly expensive market at that).


The Grumpy Old Man goes after the The Eyebrows

Tony Kornheiser does not like Jay Mariotti, in fact, he would not mind if Mariotti got hit by a bus. Kornheiser was on Sports Talk 980's (which plays in the DC market) Sports Reporters talking about Mariotti this afternoon.

Kornheiser was asked if he would would mind if Mariotti and a bus occupied the same space at the same point in time. Kornheiser responded that it would be fine by him if Mariotti was scraped off the front of that bus.

Kornheiser also believes that Mariotti is trying to steal his job at PTI. The feud between the two sports reporters goes back to a couple of years ago when Mariotti bashed Kornheiser through his (Mariotti's) radio show. Kornheiser called Mariotti to find out a reason for the bashing, but Mariotti said the accusations where untrue. But Kornheiser says he heard about the accusations from the producer of Mariotti's radio show.

Mariotti stole a radio show job from Kornheiser a couple years ago. I've been trying to find out more details on how that went down, but I have been able to find out anything (although I think it was a Chicago show).

I enjoy Kornheiser's radio show and PTI stuff. He can come across as an asshole, but that is more of a public persona that he uses to make him a more compelling personality. It is refreshing to hear somebody who speaks their mind by making logical points instead of shouting louder than the guy next to him. Steven A. Smith could learn a thing or two from Kornheiser.

You gotta pick one

If you were a NFL team GM and you HAD to choose between Terrell Owens and Ricky Williams, who would you pick? Both players are among the best at their position, but both are royal pains in the ass. Here are the rules.

Let's assume you're going to sign both players to a long-term deal (six or seven years) and that you get either player in the condition they are now. That means you get a Ricky Williams who is a good 20 pounds underweight, but you don't know if T.O. has recovered from his leg injury last season.

Additionally, your team is a blank slate, so you don't have to worry about either guy stealing touches from any other players at the same position. The salary cap is a factor, but let's assume you have plenty of salary cap room to sign either player.

And of course, there is the potential that both players could quit on you half way through a losing season, and decide to sit out of training camp (or the rest of the season). In reality, you wouldn't know what to expect from either of the players. One is a complete flake and the other is a whining crybaby. Who do you go with?

It would seem like T.O. is the clear cut choice, only Randy Moss is arguably better than him and in T.O.'s last game he caught over a hundred yards in the Super Bowl. But Ricky is three years younger (28) than T.O. (31), plus Ricky is fresher since he did not have guys like Ray Lewis trying to kill him last season.

Except for his rookie year Ricky has had over a thousand yards rushing every season he has played, and led the league with 1,853 yards in 2002. T.O. has had over a thousand yards in six of his nine seasons in the league, but has never led the league in receiving yards (the closest he has come is third in 2001 with 1412 yards).

Additionally, the runningback position is more important than the receiver position in the NFL. Power runningbacks such as Jamal Lewis and Terrell Davis have been able to win Super Bowls for their team. Last year, Corey Dillon was the key to the Patriot's title run. Randy Moss hasn't made it to the Super Bowl, and Tim Brown and Chris Carter don't own any Super Bowl rings. Jerry Rice is the exception here, but he was fortunate to have played with two great quarterbacks. The last Hall of Fame caliber receivers to win a Super Bowl where Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt in 1999 (but they also had another Hall of Famer, Marshall Faulk, on their team).

If I was forced to pick one I would have to go with T.O., but just barely. If Ricky could be whipped back into shape, he could dominate the league for another three or four years (a lot of ifs). Ricky has more upside than T.O., simply because when he was at his best opposing defenses focused on him. Ricky made his teammates better by taking pressure off of the quarterback and recievers.

T.O. has somewhat the same effect, but not to a similar degree. Only the secondary on his side of the field needs to focus on T.O. (whereas the entire defense was focused on Ricky). T.O. makes his quarterback and other receivers better but I don't think he makes the game easier for his runningback.

The reason I would pick T.O. is that it seems like he has more of a competitive fire than Ricky. When your team is down by six with two minutes left, T.O. is the guy you want in the huddle. T.O. plays his best when the pressure is on him, whereas Ricky shrinks under the spotlight.

But that's just my opinion, what do you think?


Don't forget about the Orlando Sentinel

Everybody turns to the St Pete Times and Tampa Tribune for Bucs coverage, but the Orlando Sentinel puts out some of the better opinion pieces on the Bucs.

Today they offer two articles, both by Chris Harry reflecting on the days Hugh Culverhouse owned the Bucs and the other examining all the Bucs current owners have been able to accomplish.

Three sentences help to explain the difference between Culverhouse's and Glazer's ownership better than I can.

Bucs Executive Vice President Joel Glazer remembers players approaching him his first year with the team to ask if a video game station could be put in the players' lounge. They had one the next day. "The cost, obviously, was minimal," Glazer said. "But the excitement was beyond belief."

Any Bucs fan appreciates the work and, more importantly money, the Glazers have put into the team since they took it over. I would only hope that Manchester United fans would take the time to read these articles to see what kind of owners they are getting.

FANTASY FOOTBALL (Tightends): Where I offer my own rankings, criticize Peter King and give you a sleeper pick

I just picked up the latest Sports Illustrated (the one with Peyton Manning on the cover) and I am several disappointed that they put Peter King in charge of the fantasy football preview. King may be an expert on the NFL but he knows very little about fantasy football. I have been consistently reading King's SI columns over the past year and he demonstrated very little knowledge of fantasy sports.

For example, King has previously put too much emphasis on drafting quarterbacks with the first pick. He has questioned why many fantasy experts advise taking a running back with your first pick, instead King believes Peyton Manning should be the first overall pick.

Which makes sense, kind of.

Peyton broke all kinds of passing records last season, and scored more points than any other player in fantasy football. But, unless you think Peyton will have another record breaking year it would be unwise to take him with the first pick. Otherwise, you should take a runningback with the first pick (and I would go so far as to recommend taking a running back with the second pick also). And if you read any of Eric Karabell (at least the stuff that is not exclusively Insider material) you find that he feels the same way. Quite simply, in a league where you can start two runningbacks (and up to a third if you have a flex position) and one quarterback, runningbacks will almost always be more valuable.

After runningback, I would argue that tightend is the most important position. What's that you say? I'm an idiot, tightends average half the points of quarterback and recievers? True, but there are a lot more good quarterback and receivers than there are dependable tightends in the league.

There are roughly 40 receivers you can depend on to score at least 7 points a game and about 20 quarterbacks who will give you at least 10 points a game. But there are only five tightends who you can depend on to score more than five points a game (when healthy), just about every game. They are: Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, Todd Heap, Jeremy Shockey and Alge Crumpler. But if you read SI's tightend preview, you would think I'm an idiot (alright, I am an idiot, but not when it comes to fantasy football). Here is their ranking of tightends:

  1. Antonio Gates (Chargers)
  2. Tony Gonzalez (Chiefs)
  3. Alge Crumpler (Falcons)
  4. Jason Witten (Cowboys)
  5. Dallas Clark (Colts)
  6. Ben Watson (Patriots)
  7. Chris Cooley (Redskins)
  8. Bubba Franks (Packers)
  9. Jermaine Wiggins (Vikings)
  10. Jeremy Shockey (Giants)
  11. L.J. Smith (Eagles)
  12. Randy McMichael (Dolphins)
  13. Ben Troupe (Titans)
  14. Todd Heap (Ravens)
  15. Jeb Putzier (Broncos)

I've got a lot of problems with this list, but let me first show you my own list:

  1. Antonio Gates
  2. Todd Heap
  3. Tony Gonzalez
  4. Jeremy Shockey
  5. Alge Crumpler
  6. Jason Whitten
  7. Dallas Clark
  8. L.J. Smith
  9. Jermaine Wiggins
  10. Bubba Smith
  11. Ben Troupe

Obviously, my list has several key differences from SI's list. First, I think far more highly of Todd Heap and Jeremy Shockey than they do. Second, I'm not sold on Ben Watson.

Heap and Shockey are two of the most talented tightends in the league, only Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates are better. I can understand, dropping Shockey in the rankings since he has never played a full season, but ranking Heap at #14 is just plain dumb.

In 2003, Heap caught the ball 68 times for 836 yards and 6 touchdowns. In 2004, he had 57 receptions for 693 yards and 3 touchdowns. Both years he made the Pro Bowl.

Last season Heap missed 10 games because of an injury, and had only 27 receptions for 303 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Heap is one of the hardest working players in the league. He's a no nonsense guy, who stands in stark contrast to many of the more flamboyant personalities on the Ravens (*cough*, Deion Sanders). As a result, Heap is one of the more over-looked players in the NFL because he is not a me-first guy. Additionally, he has become Kyle Boller's primary target when the Ravens reach the endzone (as evidenced by his 3 touchdowns in 6 games last season). With the additions of Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason, and the return of Jamal Lewis, expect the Ravens to make it into the red zone far more frequently than they have in the last couple of years.

Peter King once again displays his bias for the Patriots by declaring Ben Watson to be a top three tightend. This undoubtedly influnced SI editors to rank Watson #6 in their rankings. Watson wasn't even the best tightend on his team last year (that honor belonged to Daniel Graham who is still on the Pats). If I was going to draft a second year tightend I would go with Ben Troupe out of Florida. I saw him play when he was senior and the guy looked impressive, plus he plays in a tightend friendly offense.

Tightends are the most important position in fantasy football other than runningbacks, for much the same reason that runningbacks are so valuable. There only five or six elite tightends in the league. An elite tightend will get you about seven points a game, while a second tier will only get you two or three points. This may not seem like a big difference but I have seen many fantasy footballs teams lose championships because of their tightend. When the championship game is decided by five or six points an elite tightend can make all the difference between first and second place.

Finally, my sleeper pick: Heath Miller (Steelers). I saw Miller play last year for UVA and he was clearly the best offensive option on an offensively starved team. The guy came up with big third catches to move the chains and you could tell he was his quarterback's first option.

Miller comes into a situation in Pittsburgh where he can make an immediate impact. He will be the third receiving option behind Hines Ward and Antwaan Randle El, and the still developing Ben Roethlisberger will depend on Miller to move the chains for the Steelers. In fact, I would draft Miller ahead of Ben Watson.

Avoiding the dreaded "R" word (rebuilding)

Interesting read by Martin Fennelly in today's Times. Fennelly rightly takes Gruden and Bruce Allen to task for attempting to right the ship with quick fixes the last two years instead of rebuilding the team with young talent. Of course, more people might take Fennelly serious if we could write a full paragraph, intead of bad poetry.

The best course for the Bucs is to take their lumps and grow.

But Gruden's competitive juice might say different.

And therein lies madness.

His poor prose aside, I would agree with Fennelly. The Bucs most likely will not have a winning season this year, and fans would be misled to believe otherwise. Gruden needs to play the young guys and allow them to develop.

This means Carnell Williams needs to take a majority of the carries, that by the end of the season the young guys on the offensive line, Dan Buenning, Chris Colmer and Anthony Davis should be given at least a couple starts.

Hail to the Champ

Lance Armstrong

Seven times a winner of the Tour de France for seven straight years, nobody has dominated one sporting event like Lance Armstrong has done. There is no need for me to recap the struggles Lance has gone through to win the yellow jersey so many times.

The odd thing about the Tour de France is that everybody talks about it yet nobody watches it. Cycling isn't thought of as a spectator sport, which is understandable for those who don't follow the sport closely. Cycling is similar to an event like the Boston Marathon, you may respect the people who win it but you don't really feel compelled to watch them run.

In addition, the Tour de France suffers from the five or six hour time difference between France and the east coast of the U.S. (and eight hours if you live on the west coast). Many people are waking up just as the riders are crossing the finish line.

That being I said I recomend you catch the replay of the 21 st and final stage of the Tour tonight on OLN at 8. With the Arch de Triumph, Eiffel Tower and other Parisian landmarks in the background there is no more picturesque ride than the final lap around the Champs-Elysees. It is the last stage Lance Armstrong will ever ride, and if nothing else watch it to see the American flag raised over Paris with our national anthem playing in the background.


In T.O.'s defense . . .

If you read my post on T.O. yesterday you know that I don't agree with the way T.O. has handled his contract negotiations with the Eagles. T.O. has taken every opportunity to make a fool of himself, further alienating himself from sports fans.

The thing is that after his amazing performance in the Super Bowl, T.O. had the chance to change America's perception of him (in much the same way Allen Iverson did after he made it to the NBA Finals). Because when it comes playing the game few are as good or as confident in their abilities as T.O.

That's why it is worth mentioning that T.O. signed an injury waiver before playing in the Super Bowl. Michael Silver at SI.com points out that T.O. was asked by the Eagles to sign the injury waiver, which meant that if T.O. had re-injured himself in the game the Eagles would have not owed him any money.

To review: Owens broke his right leg and suffered severe ligament damage to his ankle in the team's third-to-last regular season game and, after undergoing surgery, was told by doctors he'd need at least two months to heal. The Eagles won a pair of playoff games without him to reach the Super Bowl, at which point T.O. pronounced himself fit to return more than a week-and-a-half ahead of schedule.

Sure, the Eagles said. Go ahead. As long as you sign this injury waiver indemnifying us in case you reinjure the ankle.

T.O. wanted to play in the game so bad he was willing to risk his entire career to do so. And the Eagles knew this, in fact they took advantage of it by getting him to sign the injury waiver.

I'm starting to sound like a broken record but if T.O. would just shut up and let his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, speak for him then Rosenhaus would be the one taking all the criticism. After all that's what T.O. pays him for. I'm willing to bet dollars to donuts that the reason you see Rosenhaus on the SportsCenter every other week is that he is trying to do just that.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see how T.O. acts when training camps starts next week for the Eagles.


"Hello, is this Ryan Leaf?"

The best explanation I've seen so far for the Broncos off-season

Sorry 49ers fans

Brandon Lloyd

Apparently, nobody told Brandon Lloyd he is supposed to catch the ball.

Makes you glad we have Michael Clayton (and receivers in general who are not afraid of the ball).

The Symptoms of Foot-in-Mouth

Terrell Owens

I had a full length column written on the selfish ego that is Terrell Owens before blogger.com decided to randomly crap out on me, thus erasing my column. Of course, the column was pure gold and had it been published I would have surely won some kind of award.

Anyway, T.O. has further alienated himself from Philly fans and most people have run out of fresh ways to criticize T.O. Not that these same people are not trying, but they simply ran out of material after T.O. attacked Donvan McNabb, cried on t.v., said he was just doing this for his family, and compared himself to Jesus.

Eagles team president Joe Banner was asked to comment on T.O.'s threat to holdout of training camp, and Banner has this to say about T.O. and his "Super Agent" Drew Rosenhaus:

If we were dealing with somebody who was looking at this logically and was going to come to a commonsense conclusion, you'd say (he would report)," Banners said. "But you're dealing with two people here who, frankly, don't think in commonsense terms. Anything can happen. They're not going to necessarily do what makes sense

Now if T.O. was mature or he had an agent smart enough to tell him to shut up, he would not have fallen for Banner's bait. Instead T.O. responded with this:

"If he feels that way, then get rid of me," Owens said Thursday. "He wants to talk about Drew and I. If we're problems, then... trade me, release me. And we can just part ways like adults.

"What it all boils down to is I'm going to do what's best for my family. I don't even have to play for the Eagles, to be honest. I can go play with any other team and still be productive."

T.O. is like the kid every wanted on their middle school pick-up basketball team, until he threw a temper tantrum because you didn't pass him the ball when he was open.

I would hope that Philly fans will boo T.O. in all their home games this years, but I doubt that would happen. Instead, everthing will be forgotten after T.O. catches his first touchdown. But T.O. has no idea what the definition of "loyalty" is, and the Philly fans should not feel obligated to show T.O. any.


Talk to the hand Shula, 'cuz the lips ain't moving

Former Dolphins head coach Don Shula had this barb about his successor Jimmy Johnson, when asked how Dan Marino benefitted from playing 17 seasons under only two head coaches:

"You mean he had one coach. Look at the numbers. They speak for themselves."

Johnson is rumored to have replied, "Oh yeah? Shula's mom is so stupid that she thinks a quarterback is a tax refund."

Marino won 61.9 percent of the games he played will Shula, includong one Super Bowl appearance. Marino won 54.1 percent of his games under Johnson.

Additionally, Marino averaged 263.5 passing yards, 1.9 touchdown passes and 1.1 interceptions in 199 games under Shula compared to 220.2 passing yards, 1.2 touchdowns and 1.0 interceptions in 61 games under Johnson.

(hat tip to Bengal)

Rookie Signings

The Bucs have signed two of their draft picks but before I get into the details of the signings, I'm going to take a look at the broad rookie signing trends this year.

One of the more unusual trends this off-season has been the few number of first-round picks who have been signed. At least three first round picks had been signed by this point last season, but so far not a single first round pick has been signed.

The most likely reason for the delay is that none of the top 5 draft picks have been signed yet and the rest of the first round is waiting to see what the top five picks will be paid. The top five picks, and especially the number one pick Alex Smith, set the market in terms of what rookies will be paid this season. The last thing any agent or rookie wants is to be paid less than the guy picked after them.

The problem is that Alex Smith wants to be paid more than the 49ers would like to part with and there is the chance that Smith could miss the first few days of training camp (which starts July 28th). This goes back to the concerns expressed before the draft that none of the picks was a clear cut number one, yet Smith would like to be paid at least as much as the six year, $45 million contract Eli Manning signed last year.

Smith and Manning are represented by the same agent, Tom Condon, who has been known to recommend that his players hold out the first few days of training camp in order to recieve a bigger contract. The 49ers have argued that the Giants overpaid for Manning and would like to sign Smith for less than what the Giants paid for Manning.

If Smith holds out the first few days of training camp most of the first round rookies would not be signed until August, whereas only 13 of the 32 first round rookies signed in August last year (the majority, 18, signed in July last year).

Anyway, the Bucs have signed 6th-round pick defensive tackle Anthony Bryant from Alabama and have agreed in principle on a deal with 4th-round pick guard Dan Buenning from Wisconsin.

Bryant has been signed to a 5 year deal with a $120,000 signing bonus and a first-year salary of $230,000. According to Bryant's agent, Archie Lamb, Bryant's deal has several salary escalator's tied to playing time, but none of those escalators are effective this year.

Buenning has agreed to a five year deal with a $600,000 singing bonus, and also has several escalators that increase his salary based on how much he plays. Buenning is expected to compete with Matt Stinchcomb for the left guard spot.

The Bucs have begun talks with their other rookies, including first round pick Carnell Williams. General manager Bruce Allen said on Wednesday that he remains optimisitic that a contract will be completed for Williams by the time training camp starts July 29th.


Two Bucs Retire

Tim Brown

Donnie Abraham

Did the Raiders make Tim Brown clear a physical or lift weights when they signed him to a one day contract? Did Al Davis at least get him to run a lap around the practice field?

Prob not, but that doesn't prevent Tim Brown from retiring as a Raider even though in his last season Oakland wanted nothing to do with him. But I guess when a guy plays 16 straight seasons (including 9 with over a 1,000 yards) with a team you are allowed to overlook little things like that.

Both Tim Brown and Donnie Abraham have announced their retirements from the game. Brown has announced that he is going into NASCAR, depite the fact that he has no background in the sport.
"It's going to be a big deal to try and get accomplished, but I think it's going to be great to try," said Brown, who said he was approached by Roush Racing for the job. "Obviously there's a diversity issue that needs to be addressed [in NASCAR]. They thought I was a good guy to do it."

Can you say token black guy?

Brown would have been known as a much better wide receiver if he did not have the misfortune of playing at the same time as the G.O.A.T. (or Jerry Rice for those who did not get the memo). As it is I imagine he'll still get into the Hall of Fame.

Donnie Abraham had a successful career in Tampa Bay with a Pro Bowl appearance in 2000, before the emergence of Brian Kelly. Eventually, the Bucs had to cut Donnie for salary cap reasons, but he was picked up by his buddy, former Bucs linebacker coach and current Jets head coach Herm Edwards.

Donnie's retirement is fairly odd since he is only 31, and if you moved him to safety he had plenty of good years ahead to look forward. But apparently he has some kind of pressing business deals that can't wait, so he decided to retire now. Best of luck to both former Bucs with their future careers.

More Tiger Talk

Yeah, I know another column about golf on what's supposed to be a football blog, but we have another week to go before training camps start and, fresh off my trip to the birthplace of the sport I feel like talking golf.

Michael Wilbon has a good follow-up column to the piece by John Feinstein yesterday that criticized Tiger Woods for not being the gentleman that Jack Nickluas has been. I still believe that Tiger should not be excused from using the language he does, or that his occasional childish behavior should be ignored, but Wilbon's piece does provide a good counter-argument to the work by Feinstein yesterday.

Feinstein criticizes Woods for not trying to curb his language, which can get pretty foul when he misses a putt or hits a bad shot, just like most of us. And because Feinstein is a golf historian, I know he knows that Nicklaus, whom he justifiably praises to the high heavens, could have cursed up a storm if he wanted in 1962 or thereabouts without it reaching the television because he wasn't followed everywhere with sound men holding frighteningly high-tech boom microphones so close they can pick up the sound of his stomach churning.

Wilbon makes a solid point, Nicklaus did not have to deal with the same media which Tiger now faces from the moment he steps out of his house. And I think its completely possible that Tiger will mellow with age, and become less prone to emotional outbursts.

But on the other hand, many non-traditional golf fans love Tiger for his emotional outbursts, the dramatic fist pumps after he sinks a long birdie putt. Tiger has already established an identity for himself, albeit an identity defined by Nike and American Express.

Wilbon also raises the race issue in the article, bringing up a story I was not aware of that has undoubtedly shaped Tiger.

On his first day of kindergarten at a school where he was the only child of color, Tiger was confronted by a group of sixth-graders who tied him to a tree and spray painted "Nigger" on him and threw rocks at him.

Why did Wilbon bring this up? My guess would be to point out that Tiger is a different athlete than Nicklaus, that besides playing in a different era, Tiger has far different life experiences from Nicklaus.


More Golf Talk

Superb article by John Feinstein today in the Washington Post (name bestbucsblog, password bestbucsblog) on Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. Feinstein believes that in addition to being a great player, Nicklaus was a great man, a champion who showed grace under pressure. Tiger, on the other hand, is a great athlete but not yet a great champion.

Woods seems to think that Nicklaus's legacy is only about numbers, that winning golf tournaments is the only thing that measures a champion. Nothing could be further from the truth, especially in golf.

Woods already holds many records. One of them, which is unofficial, is that he has been fined for using profanity publicly more than any player in history. While using profanity in the crucible of competition is hardly a great crime, it is indicative of Woods's attitude that, rather than try to curb his use of language, he has complained that he is being treated unfairly since there are always microphones following him when he plays.

Last month, during the U.S. Open, Woods missed a putt and childishly dragged his putter across the green, damaging it as he did so. When he was asked about the incident later, he shrugged and said, "I was frustrated," (no apology) as if he was the only player among 156 dealing with frustration. In recent years he has allowed his caddie, Steve Williams, to frequently treat spectators and members of the media rudely, not only defending him but also appearing to sanction his misbehavior.

It's funny but I was actually going to write a very similar column about exactly the same subject. Everyone knows the Tiger from the Nike commercials, smiling and having a good time, but at the same time constantly working to get better.

Which is true, Tiger has worked to hard to become a better player, recently reworking his swing which is almost akin to rebuilding a franchise in the NFL. And now Tiger has won two majors and finished second in another in one year. Except for possibly Roger Federer, no other athlete is as dominant in their sport as Tiger is right now. But Tiger is no Jack Nicklaus.

When Jack lost the 1982 U.S. Open to Tom Watson on a chip in on the second-to-last-hole Nicklaus went over to Watson after the 18th and said, "You did it to me again you little SOB," before adding, "I'm proud of you."

Of course, Nicklaus did not have to face the same kind of media scrutiny that Tiger does now, with cameras and people following him everywhere he goes. Tiger got into trouble a couple of years ago for making an off-color joke about lesbians to a miked-up limo driver. Ever since then he has not shown the same kind of character and personality that could allow him to bridge the divide between great athlete and great man.

Tiger still has many years to go and he will undoubtedly mellow with age, after all he is only 29. But until he does the mantle of golf's greatest player will forever rest on Jack Nicklaus's weathered shoulders.

NFL Team Previews

Both SI.com and FoxSports.com have previews of the Bucs. Both offer a quick synopsis of where the Bucs stand going into the 2005 season.

I would have to agree with both previews, the Bucs do not look like they can compete for the playoffs this year. While nobody in the Bay area seems willing to admit it, the Bucs are in rebuilding mode this year, and have been abysmal the last two seasons because they refused to rebuild.

So just two seasons removed from winning the Super Bowl, Chucky is trying to rebuild the Bucs in his vision. And Jon Gruden is the opposite of what Tony Dungy was in Tampa ... Chucky's all about the O, as in offense. Gruden initially made his reputation as a creative offensive coordinator in Philly when all they had was Ricky Watters and Irving Fryar.

The theory was that the Bucs relied too heavily upon its dominant D under former coach Tony Dungy, and that Gruden would eventually turn Tampa into StarBucs — a highly-caffeinated offense that combined with the stellar defense would take over the NFL.

And if the fans have enough patience to wait a year or two they will be rewarded with a very good team. Gruden has been building his offense the last few years, replacing the aging veterans with young blood. And Monte Kiffin remains the defensive mastermind that launched the Bucs defense to stardom. The NFL is a coach's league and the Bucs have two of the best around in Gruden and Kiffin, now they just need to get the right players to surround these two football masterminds.

The Rundown

The Rundown

Since I have a lot of sports news to cover and I'm feeling lazy, I have decided to introduce a BRAND NEW FREE feature to the blog, called the Rundown, which will cover many different topics in one entry. Sadly, I will not feature any Brazilian midgets kicking the Rocks' ass.

First, ESPN has hired an ombudsman to check the network for accuracy. In the words of the new ESPN ombudsman, George Solomon, himself, "[o]mbudsmen not only represent the readers, they also point out errors they believe the newspaper has made, as well as stories missed, slights, blunders, examples of bias and poor taste." I was surprised as hell to find out that ESPN had the balls to go ahead and make this move, but kudos to them for owning up to the fact that there coverage has been going down hill for the last couple of years.

Some of Solomon's first critiques? Too much Kenny Rogers coverage. "I counted seven replays of the incident within the first five minutes of that night's "SportsCenter. Rogers' actions clearly deserved to be the lead of the show, but you have to wonder if there might have been a measure of overkill that night . . ."

. . . and Venus's win at Wimbledon should have led over the Pepsi 400. "Another decision I questioned was leading 'SportsCenter' July 3 with the NASCAR Pepsi 400 over Venus Williams' surprising victory over Lindsay Davenport for the Wimbledon ladies championship."

As I have already written, I agree that the media has made way too big deal of the Kenny Rogers incident, even today making Rogers sound like the next O. J. Simpson after Rogers turned himself over to police. And on a side note, I have absolutely no sympathy for the cameraman Rogers attacked. The guy has appeared on dozens of talk shows and has clearly demonstrated the severe physical and emotional damage he suffered from Rogers' attack.

Additionally, I remember wondering why, "why the hell is reddneck racing the lead story over women's tennis?" when I was watching SportsCenter two Sundays ago. Here's hoping that ESPN continues to give Solomon a voice and that the producers actually listen to his advice.

Second, Dolphins tightend Randy McMichael allegedly abused his wife. McMichael was arrested by police in Georgia after giving his wife a bloody nose outside a Waffle House.

Shortly after the argument started in the restaurant, Cawanna McMichael got up to leave. Randy McMichael threw his cell phone at her as she walked away, according to The Augusta Chronicle. He then went outside with her and started to throw some of her belongings out of the their 1984 Cadillac Coupe de Ville.

I don't know much about McMichael but apparently this is his second arrest in 13 months. The Phins can't be too happy considering they had been riding high, what with bringing in head coach Nick Saban and a bunch of young blood in the draft. Even Ricky William's cross country road trip couldn't have dampened spirits in Miami until McMichael's arrest.

Adam Jones

As long as I'm talking about the latest arrests now seems like a good time to bring up Tennessee Titans rookie cornerback Adam "Pacman"Jones. Jones was arrested after allegedly assaulting another man at a club known as 615 in Nashville. Somehow, this news doesn't surprise me considering Jones ignorantly exclaimed it would take him only a few days to learn how to play bump-and-run after he was drafted, when it takes most players at least year to learn.

If anything, this incident gives you a better idea about the kind of players coming out of West Virginia schools. Jones played for West Virginia, Randy Moss played for Marshall after being kicked out if FSU. Many football players try to transfer to Marshall after they are kicked out of college. As much as people complain about the permissive atmospheres at schools like Miami and FSU, West Virginia and Marshall are ten times worse. Afterall, West Virginia is the same school that saw it streets set on fire after the football team beat Miami a few years ago, even though the police had removed all trash and furniture from the streets and back alleys.

And finally, in other Titans news, the rumor is that Travis Henry will return to Tennessee. The Bill are willing to trade Henry to the Titans in exchange for a third round pick, which is a great deal for a runningback as good as Henry. The only problem is that the Titans already have a young talented runner in Chris Brown, who was supposed to be the runningback for the future. I guess Brown's injuries scared the Titans into making a deal for Henry. If Henry was not happy sharing a backfield with McGahee how will he feel doing the same with Brown?

It's like Canada, only better!

Got back from Scotland yesterday and I'm still a little travel weary. I had to beg, borrow and deal to get from Dulles Airport to Edinburgh but my time spent there was worth it. Scotland is a beautiful country with some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. Or as my dad said, "It's like Canada, only better!" (in fact the Scotland should make that its official tourism slogan)

Dulles Airport has to be one of the worst airports in the country, with some of the least helpful employees ever. They make the people at the DMV look like models of efficiency. I got to the airport at 2:30 even though my flight didn't leave until 5:30, figuring if I showed up early I could avoid some of the hassle. Wishful thinking.

Instead my flight to Newark, New Jersey was cancelled and I had to take a bus to Newark in the middle of Washington D.C. rush hour traffic. So a trip that should have taken 45 minutes by plane took 6 hours by bus. Needless to say I missed my connecting flight to Edinburgh, and had to spend the night in Jersey where my room had a beautiful view of a tin can factory (reason # 241 why I hate Jersey).

Once I got to Scotland the weather was perfect, clear skies and temperatures in the low 90's, and when I asked around most Scots said it was the warmest three days they had seen in years. The mountain biking trails where some of the best I had ever ridden, and I highly recommend the 7 Stanes trails if you're into mountain biking.

I spent the first three nights in the village of New Abbey, where the biggest building is the ruins of Sweet Heart Abbey. The next three nights I spent in the slightly bigger town of Peebles, that was voted the second most beautiful town in the UK three years in a row. And of course, I stayed in Edinburgh the last night and my only regret is that I didn't have enough time to explore the city.

Anyway, getting back to sports news it appears as though I haven't missed much with the Bucs. No cuts, no signings, no police blotter reports, no big news of any kind to report. Hell, both the St. Pete Times and Tampa Tribune only have one new story between them, a Trib story on the Buc's preseason games being on high-def (talk about your slow news day).

Other than the British Open, and the occasional Tour de France update, I have no idea what has transpired in the sports world over the last seven days. But being able to watch the Open live on the BBC more than made up for not being able to watch SportsCenter on ESPN.

The BBC had live coverage all fours days from the Old Course at St. Andrews, and the commentators did an excellent job of describing the action on the course, offering nuggets like, "It's been a difficult day for Luke Donald, everywhere he goes people applaud for Jack," on Donald being paired with Jack Nicklaus the second day. And wathching Jack Nicklaus's last three holes at the Old Course was one of the highlights from my trip, the way Jack handled the moment with the kind of humility and grace that has become so rare in the sports world today.

I'm sure I will have more posts throughout the next few days on sporting news from the last week, as I catch up with what has transpired. In the interim I will leave you with one last reminder of Jack's goodbye to the Open.

Jack Nicklaus


Round up

For the next week I'm gonna be in Scotland enjoying the rolling countryside while mountain biking on one of the best trails in the world. I've got a Braveheart joke I could make here but I'll spare you from having to read it.

Anyway, since I'm gonna be gone I figured I would try and cover (i.e. predict) some of the sports headlines for the next week.

  • The NHL finally has a collective bargaining agreement, with the player's union kow-towing before the owners. Rumors have already begun to fly that both sides have come to an agremeent with a hard cap in place (which the players had said they would never accept). If this is true teams with high salaries, like the Red Wings, will be forced into rebuilding mode since they will have to cut too many players too be competitive. It is still to early to predict what kind of an effect this will have on the Lightning, but if you head on over to Bolts Mag to get in-depth analysis of what the new CBA means for the Lightning.

  • Matt Stinchcomb and Todd Steussie are cut, but Charlie Garner stays on to help tutor Carnell Williams. Walker restructure his contract so the Bucs can finally sign all their rookies.

  • Lance Armstrong slips out of the lead for a few days before recapturing the yellow jersey. The team in the lead at the beginning has to work significantly harder than any other team since the riders are so close together. Lance and Team Discovery Channel decide to rest up a few days before beginning the assault on the mountains. Once in the mountains it becomes a two man race between Lance and Ullrich, with Lance eventually dropping the hammer on the German.

  • ESPN overhypes the World Series of Poker, continuing to help develop a generation of compulsive gamblers.

  • Michelle Wie takes the sporting world by storm when she makes the cut after day one. The sports world ignore her poor finish at the John Deere "Classic", and instead compares her to a young, female version of Tiger Woods.

  • The All-Star game begins with Roger Clemens being the big story before MLB does its best to spin the event by promoting all the fresh faces in the game. By the time the Home Run Derby begins sports reporters will have forgotten about Clemens, and will turn their attention to attacking Barry Bonds. (And just for kicks, I predict the AL wins the All-Star game.)

  • For the next few weeks we are going to be bombarded with Red Sox updates on the hour. It will eventually get to the point that ESPN will report on Manny's trip to the DMV on an off-day for the Sox. Red Sox nation will still wonder why everybody hates their team.

  • And my final, bold prediction . . . the D-Rays will be in last place in the AL East when I get back next Sunday.


London Bombings

I imagine I felt the same sense of dread most people did when they heard about the subway and bus bombings this morning in London. My first thoughts where for the people that could have been injured of worse in the attacks.

But since it is far too early to tell how many people could have been injured, my thoughts turned to the terrorists attacks four years ago on 9/11. Much like my parents will always remember the day they heard JFK was shot, and my grandparents can remember when they heard about the attacks on Pearl Harbor, my generation will always remember where they where when the news first came in about the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

While that day in September will always be a day to remember, undoubtedly I experienced it differently than previous generations. The birth of the 24 hour news cycle and the internet gave my friends and I a much different perspective of the events unfolding before our eyes. Whereas only a few grainy, black-and-white videos exist of the JFK assination, dozens of camera caught the attacks on New York and Washington D.C., documenting the panic and horror as the Twin Towers collapsed.

There is no possible way that I could provide useful commentary on the attacks in London, but I can provide links to London bloggers:

Europhobia does an excellant job of detailing the latest news as it is released in London.

Tony Rickey is a Columbia law student live blogging from London.

The Guardian has newsblog, but I wouldn't be surprised if the heavy internet crashes the site.

Josh Trevino was in the Edinburgh airport in Scotland en route to London when the attacks began.

Finally, here is a list of London bloggers if you would like to find more information and first hand accounts.

It may be pointless to say, but my thoughts and prayers go out to the friends and family of the victims of these attacks.


BC must stand for Basketball Criminals

Good thing for Boston College that its too late for the ACC to cancel its invitation.

Fascinating story in the Boston Globe by Bob Hohler about the state of BC's basketball program, which rivals Bob Huggins' Cincy program in terms of criminals produced.

The events followed a tumultuous three-year turn at BC by Andrew Bryant, a scholarship player who became embroiled in a bloody barroom brawl, threatened to ''beat the [expletive] out" of a female student, violated a restraining order the woman secured against him, and was pistol-whipped by a convicted drug felon in a college dormitory in 2003 before the school cut its ties with him and a star teammate, Ryan Sidney, who was present at the pistol-whipping.

Bryant's experience served as a case study in how Skinner and the school have responded to the team's off-court troubles. A 6-foot-7-inch high school star from Denison, Texas, Bryant was disciplined in January 2001 for entering Mary Ann's, a bar near BC where the brawl occurred, while underage at 18. Teammate Kenny Harley, 22, also was involved in the incident.

Assault charges against Bryant were dropped after his lawyer cited plans to challenge the process police used for witnesses to identify him. And [head coach Al] Skinner has steadfastly defended Bryant, asserting in a recent interview that young, high-profile athletes need time and experience to learn to walk away from potential confrontations.

If Bryant learned anything from the incident, however, it betrayed him 10 months later. Five days before he was scheduled to make his basketball debut for BC, he clashed in the campus library with a female student who demanded her ''very expensive" sunglasses back from him, according to a Suffolk County prosecutor's affidavit in Brighton District Court.
Bryant's response?

''The defendant looked at one of his friends, laughed, took [the glasses] off his face, and refused to give them back," the affidavit stated. ''[The woman] attempted to grab the glasses from Mr. Bryant and he pushed her out of the way and started walking toward the entrance of the library. [The woman] continued to try to grab the glasses from the defendant. Finally the defendant said, 'Fine, you want your glasses back?' and proceeded to break them in half and throw them on the ground."

The next day, Bryant left a phone message for the woman, which she gave to the police.
''I'm going to beat the [expletive] out of you . . . I swear to God . . . I'm going to slap the [expletive] out of you . . . And that's not a threat, it's a promise," Bryant said on the message, according to court records.

Additionally, Bryant became acquainted with a convicted drug dealer, Adamu Tallen, who was found wearing a bloody t-shirt July 26, 2003 when BC police responded to a report of a fight at Rubenstein Hall. When Tallen saw the officer he ran inside his dorm room and attempted to hide a 9-millimeter automatic. A scuffle ensued between Tallen and the police officer, with Tallen spending the night in the local jail.

Apparently, the blood on Tallen's t-shirt was Bryant's. The two had gotten into a fight, with Tallen pistol-whipping Bryant before threatening to kill him. A friend of the BC basketball player and the convicted drug dealer was forced to step in and play the role of peace-maker to prevent the BC basketball player from ending up in the obiturary page the nest day.

The articles goes on to describe other shady going-ons including BC star player, Jermaine Watson, jumping from a second story window to avoid armed assailants, a player using counterfeit money and his friend hiding the counterfeit money in his rectum.

The one subplot that connects all these stories is BC head coach Al Skinner's complete inability to discipline his players. Only after they have commited multiple offenses are the players even suspended one game.

This will not be the first time the ACC has had to deal with a troublesome athletic program. Bobby Dowden's FSU team has frequently made its way into the police blotter. At least with Miami and Virginia Tech the ACC knows what it is getting its self into. Both programs have made headlines for the trouble their football players have gotten into. But the problems at BC are fairly recent, and beyond the Watson story, none have made it into the national news.

(hat tip to MMJD for the interesting read)


Lance update

Lance and Team Discovery took the overall lead after a time trial in the 4th stage. Lance passed fellow American David Zabriskie of CSC, who fell less than a mile before the finish line.

"It was a very tight matchup as we expected. We kept a good rhythm," Discovery team director Johan Bruyneel said. "We stayed together. It was a beautiful machine operating."

Lance's teammate, George Hincapie, is second and trails Lance by 55 seconds.

Show me the Money! (Part II)

Shaun Alexander

Seahawks runningback Shaun Alexander has declared that he will holdout unless he receives a new long term contract from Seattle. Alexander has been offered a one year $6.25 million deal.

Alexander is only 27 and is one of the top five backs in the NFL. Last season he was one yard from leading the league in rushing, but was held back by Mike Holmgren from gaining that last yard. Jets runningback Curtis Martin gained 1,697 yards last season, while Alexander rushed for 1,696 yards.

The ball is now in Seattle's court, and I do not envy their position. They have a talented backup in Maurice Morris who could assume the role of starter. Additionally, the league has an excess of young, talented runningbacks, which has lowered Alexander's market value. For example, the Bills attempted to trade runningback Travis Henry, a Pro Bowler who is also 27, for nothing lower than a first day pick. But there where simply too many runningbacks available in the draft and free agency.

Seattle has put the franchise tag on Alexander, which means he has to be paid $6.26 million if he plays this season. No other team is willing to pay that kind of money, in addition to giving up players or picks, for Alexander.

Of course, this may be a blessing in disguise for the Seahawks. Follow me on this one.

Let's assume Alexander holds out for 3 or 4 games. I think Morris is talented enough to fill in for Alexander for at least a couple of weeks. Additionally, the seesaw have enough talent to win three of their first five games, and could potentially go five for five.

If the Seahawks start winning without Alexander, he will quickly see the writing on the wall and sign Seattle's contract offer or risk being replaced by Morris, i.e. the way Henry was replaced by Willis McGahee last season. I don't believe Morris is as good as McGahee, but I don't believe Alexander is as important to the Seahawks as he believes.


A Few Thoughts on the Gambler

By now you must have heard of the controversy surrounding Kenny Rogers and his abuse of a cameraman. The pitcher for the Texas Rangers has been suspended 20 games (4 starts) and fined $50,ooo by the MLB for shoving a member of the media to the ground.

As you could expect everyone in the media has been quick to criticize Rogers, some (Dan Patrick) have called for Rogers to be suspended the rest of season, comparing what Rogers did to the Ron Artest melee last year.

Now, the media is in an uproar because Rogers has been named to the All-Star team, earning him a $50,000 bonus. Many people have called for Rogers to skip the game, infering that he does not deserve to play with the best players in baseball.

Rogers deserved to be suspended. He deserved to be fined. But he also deserved to play in the All-Star game. He's 9-4 with a 2.45 ERA (2nd best in the AL). The All-Star game honors the league's best players and nobody can argue that Rogers is not having a great season.

Additionally, I don't believe Rogers should demonized to the extent that he has been. The media has become considerably more hostile towards professional athletes, making the assumption that since the players are being payed millions the media has a right to 24 hour access. This is hogwash.

Players have been able to make more money because more people follow the 3 big sports than ever before. With the birth of ESPN and franchise expansion sports have become more ubiquitous and popular in the U.S. Each young baseball and basketball player is no longer an amatuer athlete, but instead is considered the Next Big Thing, with million dollar endorsement deals to follow.

This has led to an increase in the number of paparazzi masquerading as sports reporters, people who enjoy following sports but don't have the talent to actually report a story. Instead they provoke players (i.e. Jim Rome) looking to create the story. Can you imagine having someone with a camera follow you around everywhere you went, constantly asking you questions, frequently looking for a way to make you look like a fool?

Well, that's what happened to Rogers. Somebody crossed the boundry of what he found acceptable and he forced that person to stop. He should have found a different way to do that, and he will undoubtedly suffer because of one mistake for the rest of his career.


Tour de Lance

Lance Armstrong

Unless you have been living under a rock you know that the Tour de France started yesterday and that the biggest plot going into cycling's premier event in Lance Armstrong's attempt to win a six straight Tour.

This will be Lance's last year in the Tour, but it will also be his most difficult. The Tour has fewer time trials and fewer uphill finishes this year. Lance has typically distanced himself from his competition in the mountains and in the time trials. Fewer opportunities to put time between himself and his competitors will force Lance and Team Discovery to concentrate and focus on preventing the little mistakes that add precious time to a rider's total.

The element of teamwork is vastly underappreciated in the Tour. Lance depends on his Discovery teammates to protect him from other riders who would try to pass Lance. If you have ever seen some of the massive bunches that the 200 or so riders are forced into towards the beginning of the Tour then you understand the importance of having other riders to protect you.

Lance also drafts behind his teammates which helps Lance to conserve his energy for the uphill battles and time trials. Being the first rider with his face in the wind drains a considerable amount of energy from the lead rider, while allowing the riders behind him to conserve their energy. In the marathon that is the Tour de France having a good lead rider can be the difference between finishing first and second place.

I touched on the importance of teamwork on the Tour because many people have mentioned that this is one of the weaker teams Lance has had in a few years. While Team Discovery in not nearly as weak as the U.S. Postal Team from 1999 when Lance won the Tour, it is not the best team Lance has been on. Lance will to work harder this year than any of the few previous years to win the Tour.

At the same time I think this will be one of the most dominant Tours for Lance. Much like Jordan and Tiger, Lance has excelled when the pressure is on. Cycling requires more mental concentration than any other major sport. One little slip up or spill can cost a rider a race.

The other rider to watch in the Tour is Jan Ullrich, the Frazier to Lance's Ali. Ullrich is the strongest rider in cycling besides Lance, and dominates the other cycling competitions. He has finished second to Lance multiple times in the Tour but last year he finished closer to Lance than he ever had before.

As of today, Lance is two seconds behind the leader, Dave Zabriskie, after the second stage.

Barrett Ruud is white?

Barrett Ruud
photo courtesy of the St Pete Times, the newspaper responsible for renaming the Ice Palace.

Bucs rookie linebacker and former Nebraska player Barrett Ruud comes from a long line of Nebraska linebackers. His father, two uncles and great-grandfather all played linebacker at Nebraska.

Additionally, he thought the first version of Longest Yard was funnier than the Adam Sandler version.

And, oh yeah, he's white. To be honest, first time I saw his name I assumed he was black. Maybe I'm the only person who assumed that, but I don't imagine I'm alone. But then again, I am an idiot.


Sports Authorit-ay to pay for Ray Jay

Ray Jay Damage

I apologize for the title but I had to get that out of my system.

So Raymond James Stadium has become somewhat of an embarrasement to the Bucs and their fans. The seats that where originally red have faded to pink. And now the stadium is literally falling apart.

A 28 foot chunk of panel fell from an overhang in the stadium following heavy rain and leaking. The Tampa Sports Authority estimates it will ahve to pay up to $600,000 to repair the damage. The Sports Authority estimates that the work will be done by August 15. The Bucs first home game is a preseason game August 20 against Jacksonville.

Well, at least we have the best turf in the NFL.