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Plaxico's free, but he'll be expensive
Work stoppage? What work stoppage?
This is the NFL. There are 10 stories a day, even when there is seemingly nothing going on. Best helmets in the NFL? Come on. Who does that? What is this, amateur hour?
Every Thursday this offseason, I will take the temperature in the NFL. There are always winners and losers, regardless of whether or not there are games. I talk to the biggest names, the most important players and the executives who matter, every week in the NFL.
I always say we give you opinions that have sizzle. It’s time for our weekly SIZZLE and FIZZLE in the NFL.
Plaxico Burress: He started the week in jail. Now Burress finds himself a coveted free agent when the lockout ends.
While there are legit questions about where he is physically and mentally after being incarcerated for nearly two years, Burress has rare skills with his height and hands. Conventional wisdom in league circles is that jail humbled the one-time star receiver and he won’t be the seemingly always tardy knucklehead and troublemaker he was with the Giants and Steelers. Mike Vick’s success story and Vick’s commitment to hard work will help Burress land in a good situation.
Five to 10 teams will legitimately have interest in Burress. He brings more to the table than either Randy Moss or Terrell Owens. NFL players are coming out of hiding to beg their clubs to bring him back.
Burress played with Fred Robbins in New York. Now the defensive tackle is clogging the middle and serving as a locker room leader in St. Louis, a team coached by former Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Robbins joined us on the SiriusXM Blitz and begged the Rams to sign Plax when the lockout ends. Robbins says Spagnuolo knows what kind of player Burress is and swears by him as a teammate, which goes noted coming from a cat like Robbins. St. Louis is an ideal fit for Plaxico.
Giants running back Brandon Jacobs came on the show to make his pitch for Burress to come back to the Giants. Jacobs actually said that he thinks Tom Coughlin, who suspended Burress with regularity when the receiver was in New York, would welcome his return to the Giants.
“No question about it. I do think so," Jacobs said. "Coach Coughlin wants to win, so he knew what we had was very special before this whole incident happened. The Giants want to win, coach Coughlin wants to win. We want to win as a team and as an organization, so it would be smart to make at least an attempt.”
A return to the Giants is out of the question. But it goes noted how his former teammates want him around.
This is why Burress is sizzling.
Kellen Winslow: Because of the motorcycle accident, the rants playing at the “U” and his rips on everything pertaining to Cleveland, you don’t necessarily think of Winslow as a leader. It’s time he gets proper credit.
In our talk with Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, he described a tight end who wanted nothing more than to be present and active in getting teammates involved for offseason work. Winslow has two homes, one in Tampa and one in California. Freeman says that Winslow rearranged schedules to be involved with Freeman’s workouts. I love it. That’s the perfect attitude.
Bucs general manager Mark Dominik, while he couldn’t comment specifically on Winslow's participation in the workouts, said, "I’m not surprised to hear it" and had great things to say on the radio this week about Winslow.
“He’s even more competitive than I thought he was when we made the trade," Dominik said. "He brings energy and a mind-set to the offense. Historically, we’ve had that on defense. We needed that guy to come out on the practice field and on game day and say, 'Hey, it is our turn!' ”
And now it is Winslow’s turn to be recognized for the right reasons.
Jake Locker: Locker is going to be the leader of the Tennessee Titans. But he was deferential to his teammates when he joined us on our radio show after workouts. This tone went noted and appreciated by the Titans’ veterans.
Cortland Finnegan joined us on SiriusXM NFL Radio and gushed about Locker’s ability and savvy. Finnegan thinks that even with rookie quarterbacks not getting the usual training during the lockout, Locker can start for the Titans in Week 1 — and lead a “shock the world” charge in Tennessee this season.
Locker also “completely disagreed” with the assessment that his play fell off last season at Washington and said, “I judge success by wins.” I love the moxie.
James Laurinaitis: The Rams linebacker is a classic leader. He, along with Ron Bartell and Sam Bradford, organized detailed workouts for St. Louis. Laurinaitis described how the players not only worked out together but also gathered at homes to study and break down film. And he’s getting his teammates together again in Arizona this weekend.
Laurinaitis is a football junkie who lives for practice, team bonding, the quest to get better — and winning. Rams fans should be thrilled to have him as the pulse of the locker room.
And Laurinaitis got emotional talking about what he saw in tornado-ravaged Joplin, Mo. He has been very active helping the relief efforts.
During the lockout, it is easy to think of the Bengals as a rudderless ship. Carson Palmer wants nothing to do with the program. Chad Ochocinco would rather ride bulls than catch footballs. But Leon Hall joined us on the radio Wednesday to give credit to two unsung heroes for the Bengals in the trenches: Whitworth and Peko.
The offensive lineman and defensive tackle don’t get enough credit for being impact players. And, according to Hall, they were the ones who stepped up to lead Cincy’s cause last season. Don’t be shocked when the Bengals defense has a bounce-back season.
Michael Crabtree: This diva needs a clue. First, the young wideout doesn’t show up to the workouts Alex Smith puts together. At one point, the 49ers had more quarterbacks than receivers doing drills. Crabtree claimed he preferred to train by himself. That’s absurd. You get better working with your quarterback.
Once Crabtree finally graces his teammates with his presence, he questions whether Smith is the answer at quarterback. Why would you pick a fight with the guy who is supposed to be feeding you the ball? To top it all off, Crabtree then disrespects Smith again by not working out on Tuesday after a “classroom” session because he has sore feet, the result of breaking in new shoes.
That is an absolute disgrace. Would Crabtree have been on the practice field if the coaches were around?
Smith hasn’t played well in San Francisco. But he’s going to be under center for Jim Harbaugh. You need to support him. And it isn’t like Smith doesn’t work hard. His play has been poor due, in part, to a new offensive coordinator each season.
Crabtree’s selfish, clueless ways have bothered Smith and caused eyes around the league to roll. Crabtree told me at the NFL Draft Combine two years ago that he was the next Larry Fitzgerald. Right now he couldn’t carry Fitzgerald’s bags. Grow up, Michael. Commit to winning.
Vince Young: He just doesn’t get it. I’m not convinced he ever will. Young’s inner circle has begged him to improve his work ethic and reach out to current and retired quarterbacks for advice. But his ego is too massive. He has resisted. League executives have taken notice. Young is not a leader.
Finnegan, a former teammate in Tennessee, told me, “It’s not leadership. It’s maturity. Some guys are given the role. Some guys are born leaders. He was the quarterback, so more was on him, ready or not. There are things as a leader you can and can’t do.”
Barring a total attitude adjustment, I don’t think Young can start again in the NFL.
Carolina Panthers: The NFL fans are angry and frustrated with watching the billionaires fight the millionaires. So whenever you have an opportunity to give something positive to your fans, you should do it. Instead, the Panthers players seemingly flipped the bird to the Carolina fan base by hiring cops to make sure the media couldn’t get into their workouts.
This is moronic, asinine and totally backward. Fans and media celebrate (see the sizzle above) the players who gather their teammates for work. The die-hard, passionate fans of this league are thirsty for any kind of football nugget the media can dig up. By shutting out the media, who serve as the liaison to the public, you neglect the fan. That’s pathetic and a flat-out embarrassment.
The Panthers finally allowed the media to take a glimpse at their workouts Wednesday, on the final day. Forget it. The damage was done. To quote the great Derrick Coleman, “Whoop-de-damn-do."
Kyle Orton: Nobody loves Orton quite like Brandon Lloyd. The Broncos quarterback resurrected Lloyd’s career last season. But even the receiver had to acknowledge he was impressed with Tim Tebow’s development and leadership when Tebow gathered the troops in Jacksonville, Fla.
Lloyd, who stressed his appreciation for Orton, painted a realistic picture when he told us that his Broncos teammates anticipate Orton being shipped elsewhere after the lockout.
Mike Kafka: The Eagles' backup quarterback was on our show and frankly sounded a bit apathetic and reserved. That surprised me. Kevin Kolb will be in Arizona. Vick’s style makes him susceptible to injury. If the Eagles don’t replace Kolb, Kafka will play at some point this season for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
Vick missed the workouts the Eagles players organized. I wanted to hear more moxie, more leadership and command from Kafka. I heard none. I was underwhelmed and totally disappointed.
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