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Sunday Morning NFL Quick-Hits: Adrian Peterson, Steelers defense, Saints defense

Every Sunday morning our NFL columnist Anthony Stalter will provide his “quick-hits” from around the league.

+ Let’s hold judgment on Adrian Peterson before all of the details have been released following his arrest. This is a player with no history of off-field issues and it’s extremely bizarre that he was only charged with resisting arrest. The current details of the situation are that Peterson and some family members were out at a Houston nightclub when police entered the building at closing time. When they instructed people to leave, Peterson apparently wanted some water but an officer told him no and AP headed for the exit. At some point an officer was pushed, causing him to stumble and then three policemen had to “detain” Peterson. What’s unclear is how a push led to three officers attempting to detain the running back and then escalating to an actual arrest. Again, we should hold judgment until the full details have been released because something doesn’t sound right here. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that the Houston police overreacted and didn’t handle the situation properly.

+ Many have argued that the Saints players involved in the New Orleans bounty scandal were simply following the orders of Gregg Williams and thus, they had little to no choice but to follow their coach’s orders. I get that. If you’re a fringe player looking to stick with a team because your career and livelihood is on the line, then you may be more apt to get along and go along then to cause waves. But what everyone seems to overlook is that Roger Goodell was lied to, and that’s why he came down hard on these participants. When Goodell went to Williams, Sean Payton and Anthony Hargrove asking if a bounty program was in place, they all told him no. Then, instead of stopping the program right then and there, they continued their pay-for-performance system. And while players like Hargrove, Jonathan Vilma and Scott Fuijta insist that Goodell has no prove that a bounty program was in place, has everyone forgotten that Williams has already apologized and thrown himself at the mercy of the court? He already admitted that he was putting bounties on opposing players. So yes, maybe the players were simply following orders. But at one point Goodell asked the participants to tell the truth and nobody spoke up, so they remain in a hell of their own making.

+ Dick LeBeau remains one of the best defensive minds in the NFL, so don’t think for a moment that the Steelers’ defense is going to fall apart. That said, there’s no question that Pittsburgh is old on that side of the ball. Troy Polamalu, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley will continue to be the focal point of the defense but younger players like Cam Heyward, Steve McLendon and Alameda Ta’amu to make an impact (especially with Casey Hampton recovering from ACL surgery).

+ It’ll be interesting to see how the Chargers’ offense develops throughout the 2012 season. The run blocking wasn’t very good last season and the pass protection was below average as well, which led to Philip Rivers make a fair amount of mistakes. Ryan Mathews is an emerging star and if the blocking improves, then obviously the running game on a whole will be better than it was a year ago. But the question is how effective will Norv Turner’s coveted vertical offense be. Can Robert Meachem finally have that breakout year that many have expected since he entered the league as a first-rounder? What will the absence of Vincent Jackson have on the passing game? Can an aging Antonio Gates stay healthy? Will Malcolm Floyd be as effective this season without Jackson on the other side? Rivers made the passing game flourish without V-Jax two years ago but he needs help, mostly from his offensive line. Again, it’ll be interesting to see if Turner, who is undoubtedly on the hot seat once again, can blend the new elements together to make the passing game thrive.

+ It’s easy to make the argument that the Texans’ window to win a championship in the next three years is wide open. Even with the loss of Mario Williams their defense has a ton of talent and is coached by one of the best in the game in Wade Phillips. But Matt Schaub has still yet to play in a postseason game and Andre Johnson, now 31, will have to remain healthy or Houston will fail to take the next step after making the playoffs last year. Losing Joel Dreessen to the Broncos in free agency hurt. Not only was Dreessen a solid blocker last year for Houston, but he also averaged 12.6 yards per play in the Texans’ big-play offense. That said, if Schaub and Johnson can stay healthy then Houston will make the postseason again this year. Thanks to the offensive line and the explosiveness of Arian Foster and Ben Tate, the running game will be enough to win games on its own. It’s just a matter of whether or not the Texans can stay healthy long enough to make a deep run.

+ The reports out of San Francisco this offseason have not be positive for first-rounder A.J. Jenkins. He reportedly has made some difficult plays but he’s also had a hard time staying on his feet during workouts and is viewed as a major project. But let’s keep in mind that if Jenkins struggles this year it won’t be the end of the world. It used to be that players could take their time developing but nowadays teams need their first round picks to make an immediate impact. That said, considering the 49ers have veterans Mario Manningham and Randy Moss manning the outsides, they don’t necessarily need Jenkins to be on the fast track to NFL stardom. Is it good that the kid can’t stay on his feet and is viewed as a major project? No, but it wouldn’t be life or death if he needed a year. Besides, the 49ers will make sure that Jenkins contributes one way or another, including getting him involved in sub packages. Just don’t expect him to be a No. 1 as a rookie.

+ Good for Joe Philbin and the Dolphins coaching staff for taking it slow with rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Reports out of Miami are that the starting job is between David Garrard and Matt Moore because Tannehill is currently struggling with the speed of the game. Last year in Jacksonville, the thought was that Blaine Gabbert would be allowed to take his time while observe ring Garrard in his first year. But Garrard was released before the season and Gabbert was rushed into action way too soon. The results were disastrous and now observers are already questioning whether or not Gabbert can develop. Tannehill shouldn’t have been a top 10 selection but the Dolphins needed a quarterback and they went with offensive coordinator Mike Sherman’s guy. Fine. Now let the kid learn the game for a year before the weight of the franchise is thrust onto his shoulders. It’s not like the Dolphins are expected to compete this year so there should be no qualms about Garrard or Moore starting while Tannehill observes in his first year.

+ It looks like it’s going to be all or nothing this year for Montario Hardesty. Says ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi: “If Hardesty gets injured again, it’s easy – he will be gone, in my opinion. But if Hardesty stays healthy and is the productive player [Browns GM Tom] Heckert saw at Tennessee, I think he checks in at No. 2.” So essentially Hardesty will either be the first running back off the bench when Trent Richardson needs a blow or else he’ll be in another city at some point this year. Hopefully Hardesty isn’t another talented prospect that never developed because he was held back by injuries. He has all the talent to be a productive player in a two-back system but because of various injuries he hasn’t shown the same explosion he had coming out of college. Maybe this is the year he’ll finally stick.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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Mike Holmgren addresses Colt McCoy concussion controversy

Mike Holmgren addressed a restless Cleveland media today in a press conference about the controversy surrounding the Colt McCoy concussion from last Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, basically calling the criticisms “unfair.” McCoy had suffered a brutal hit from linebacker James Harrison that led to a one-game suspension for Harrison by the NFL.

The Browns did an internal review of the events following the hit on McCoy with NFL officials and representatives of the NFLPA yesterday. Holmgren disclosed that the Browns did not give McCoy a concussion test on the sidelines before he was put back into the game by head coach Pat Shurmer. The Browns did give McCoy the test after the game and McCoy passed that test, though he did complain about bright lights which obviously raised some red flags. It was only later that he experiences serious symptoms.

Holmgren said the review covered what happened on the field after the Harrison hit. The training staff was already swamped with several other Browns players who were hurt, so they didn’t see the hit on McCoy. When they went out onto the field, McCoy immediately complained about his hand, so they focused on that. He was not knocked out and he was responsive as he discussed his hand, so they didn’t see anything that would make them concerned about a possible concussion. This was also the case on the sidelines as McCoy continued to communicate with them about his hand.

The problem is that they didn’t see the hit, so they didn’t realize that this situation warranted a closer look and a possible concussion test. Many Browns on the sideline did not see the hit as well according to Holmgren, and nobody thought to go to the trainers and explain that they might want to take a closer look. This was the communication breakdown that led to McCoy going back into the game. The trainers told head coach Pat Shurmer that McCoy was good to go, so Shurmer sent McCoy back in. Perhaps Shurmer made a mistake here by not stopping and asking if they were sure considering the severity of the hit, but everyone needs to remember that the game was on the line, the Browns were on the 5-yard line with a chance to take the lead against the Steelers. Shurmer had other things on his mind, and McCoy looked fine to him as well.

Holmgren has taken a lot of heat from the Cleveland media on this one, which I think was an overreaction. Holmgren made a good point that even the NFL observer at the game didn’t intervene. Perhaps the protocol going forward needs someone from the NFL or the teams whose responsibility includes making sure that players subject to these kind of hits to the head get the concussion test. That would have solved the problem here, and I think this might be a step considered by the NFL in lieu of an independent neurologist.

Meanwhile, Holmgren’s relationship with parts of the Cleveland media is deteriorating rapidly. The writers at The Plain Dealer continue to treat him pretty well, but talk radio (as usual) is dominated by angry hosts who blow every controversy out of proportion. The antics of Peyton Hillis and comments by Josh Cribbs get endless airplay and hosts dwell on the last 11 years of misery in Cleveland. The pathetic state of the Browns offense and the 4-9 record hasn’t helped Holmgren’s case, but the facts are clear – the Browns have focused on defense in the past two drafts and have gotten some very good players. There was no offseason yet the Browns installed a new offense with a rookie head coach. Colt McCoy is young, and the offense has been suffered important injuries in the backfield and on the line.

We all know that Mike Holmgren knows offense, so most rational fans are willing to give him time to build something. But the talk radio crowd is ginning up resentment, and Holmgren’s combative news conference will only fan the flames in Cleveland. He chastised the media for arguing this was the “same old Browns” with their problems in the front office, as Holmgren took serious offense to that statement.

Holmgren made some very good points, but I think the Browns can use some common sense help in the PR area. Holmgren explained that he waited to talk to the media until the Browns had all the facts and met with the NFL and NFLPA, but they could have easily sent out a press release earlier in the week explaining this approach, and they would have avoided much of the unnecessary drama.

Five months of frustration about to vanish with NFL lockout coming to an end

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) looks up at the scoreboard while playing the Carolina Panthers during their NFL football game in Charlotte, North Carolina on November 7, 2010. REUTERS/Chris Keane (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

If you were one of the many NFL fans that said you were done watching football because of all the greed that has taken place over the last five months between the players and owners, you can officially stop lying to yourself right now. Because once the new Collective Bargaining Agreement has been signed, you know damn well that the first thing you’re going to do is check the rumor mill to see what your favorite team has in store in terms of free agency.

And hey, I’m not judging you. There have been many times over the last couple of months that I wanted to say that I too was done with football. That I wasn’t going to dump a couple of hundred dollars on NFL Sunday Ticket and only further line the pockets of the super-rich. But I would have been lying to myself as well.

According to NFL Network’s Albert Breer, the “economics” of the labor agreement are done and there have been several reports over the last couple of days that state the CBA will be signed anytime between now and Tuesday. Once that happens and the free agent winds start blowing, what happened over these last five months will quickly fade until nobody even remembers how nasty this entire process has been for everyone involved. People may say differently. They may say that they will never forget what has transpired and won’t return. But the truth of the matter is that the NFL is still king. As long as gambling and fantasy football (which might as well be gambling) never ceases to exist, people will continue to watch. It’s the most popular sport in America.

For those few and far between that really won’t come back, I commend you. Instead of spending countless hours this fall watching players and a game that you have zero impact on, you’ll turn a blind eye and do something else. Don’t line anyone’s pockets but your own. I wish I could do the same thing but I’m not as strong as you are. I love the NFL and no matter how much frustration it has caused fans over these last couple of months, I’m going to welcome it back with open arms once the games count in September.

Sure, like a scorned lover I won’t dive back in with two feet. I’ll proceed with caution as if the water is infested with piranha. But over time, I’ll be fully invested again. It’s football after all.

Friday Quick-Hitters:

- Brandon Marshall told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that his wife did not stab him and that he truly did slip on a vase. This is also the same Brandon Marshall who once said he slipped on a McDonald’s wrapper and wound up putting his forearm through a television set. So this is either the unluckiest, goofiest human being on the face of the planet or my man is doing some lying.

- The new salary cap in the NFL will reportedly be $120 million and will also come with a salary floor. Thus, some teams will be forced to spend money on free agents just to qualify for the salary floor. That means you, Malcolm Glazer…

- James Harrison has released a lengthy statement apologizing for his harsh comments on commissioner Roger Goodell and teammates Ben Roethlisberger and Rashard Mendenhall. Of course, the only thing he apologized for in reference to Goodell was his “careless use of a slang word.” Nothing like apologizing without really apologizing, eh James?

- Tom Watson hit a hole-in-one in the second round of the British Open today to give him his 15th ace of his career. I think I speak for all weekend golfers who have never hit one hole-in-one in their lifetime (not to mention 15) when I say: Congrats, Tom…you douche bag.

Just Sayin’: Criticize Bruce Bochy all you want but the man comes up big again

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy paces the dugout during a loss to the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field in Denver on May 17, 2011. UPI/Gary C. Caskey

Kleenex sales went through the roof the week that the 2011 MLB All-Star Game rosters were announced. That’s because from coast to coast, everyone from media pundits to MLB managers were crying about some of Bruce Bochy’s choices for the NL squad. Two skippers in particular, the Marlins’ Jack McKeon and the Pirates’ Clint Hurdle, were publicly vocal about Bochy’s perceived favoritism to some of his own players.

I wonder what McKeon and Hurdle have to say now after the National League downed their AL counterparts 5-1 on Tuesday night. Granted, the victory was largely thanks to Prince Fielder’s three-run dinger, some solid pitching performances by the NL staff, as well as the unavailability of some of the AL’s best pitchers. But just like in the 2010 postseason, Bochy managed yet another perfect game. He was aggressive on the base paths (particularly in the fifth inning when Angels reliever Jordan Walden took the hill), he made all the right moves with his pitching staff and he played the matchups incredibly well. He also didn’t even use Tim Lincecum or Ryan Volgelsong (two pitchers in which Bochy was accused of showing favoritism), and wouldn’t have used closer Brian Wilson in the ninth had Starlin Castro and Joel Harahan not allowed two runners to reach base.

If the Marlins or Pirates somehow manage to make the World Series this year, they’ll be the host team thanks in part to Bochy. Any chance that McKeon or Hurdle pick up the phone in that instance and show their appreciation for Bochy’s hard work over the last week with the NL All-Star team?

More Quick-Hits for Wednesday:

- James Harrison shared, uh, some interesting takes on Roger Goodell in the August issue of Men’s Journal. James used the words, “crook,” “devil,” “stupid,” “puppet,” and “dictator,” while describing Goodell, then threw in an anti-gay slur for good measure. “If that man was on fire and I had to piss to put him out, I wouldn’t do it,” Harrison told the magazine. “I hate him and will never respect him.” Tell us how you really feel Eminem James.

- I wish FOX had mic’d the head groundskeeper for Tuesday night’s All-Star Game because I would have loved to have heard what he said after watching Padres closer Heath Bell tear a big divot out of the infield when he slid into the mound. “Thanks a**hole, you know someone has to repair that right? Couldn’t have ran onto the field like a normal human being, huh?”

- Don’t expect the Mets to trade Carlos Beltran as fast as they did K-Rod. Not with Jose Reyes, David Wright and Ike Davis all injured. And I don’t think Beltran is a sure-bet to land in ‘Frisco either. If I’m Scott Boras, I’m telling my client to choose an American League team to waive his no-trade clause for, so that he can show his stuff as a DH for next year.

- Apparently Mike Shanahan is set on John Beck as his starter in 2011. That makes sense considering that when he benched Donovan McNabb last year, he immediately inserted Beck as the starter to get him ready for this season. Wait…what?

- I can’t wait for the NFL lockout to end so I can see how quickly teams sign free agents. Because I refuse to believe that these teams haven’t somehow been in contact with these players throughout the last couple of months. I know league rules prohibit teams from trying to contact players, but come on – this is the NFL. You know these teams have been sneaking around for months now. It’ll be interesting to see how much time elapses from when the lockout officially ends until when a team signs that first new free agent. If it’s more than 12 hours, I’ll be shocked.

NFL Week 6 MVP, COY and ROY Power Rankings

Every week we have different candidates here, because the 2010 NFL season has been wacky. And that’s okay, as it makes ranking MVP, Coach of the Year and Rookie of the Year candidates more fun. Anyway, here we go….

MVP Power Rankings

1. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts—Okay, so Philip Rivers and Kyle Orton have more yards per game, but they play for 2-4 teams. Manning’s Colts are 4-2, and check out these numbers through six games—1916 yards, 67.3 completion percentage, 319.3 yards per game, 13 touchdowns (leads NFL) and just 2 interceptions, for a QB rating of 103.4. As usual, Manning sort of defines what the term MVP is all about.

2. Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers—I heard someone on NFL Network the other day call Matthews the “best defensive player in the NFL.” Not bad for a linebacker in his second year, who was selected after 25 other players in the 2009 draft. Anyway, Matthews has 9 sacks to lead the NFL, and 21 tackles through five games…and the Packers sorely missed him last Sunday in a loss to Miami when Matthews sat out with a hamstring injury.

3. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers—We’re leaving Antonio on here this week because he left the game against the Rams last Sunday with an ankle injury, leaving Philip Rivers without his favorite target. And then the Chargers lost the game. To the Rams. Gates only had 2 catches for 12 yards in that one, but on the season he still has 31 receptions for 490 yards and 7 TDs (which leads all tight ends and receivers).

Honorable mention: Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles (thanks to Kevin Kolb’s performance last Sunday, Vick got bumped off the list); LaDainian Tomlinson, New York Jets; Brandon Lloyd, Denver Broncos; Kyle Orton, Denver Broncos; Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers; Osi Umenyiora, New York Giants; Arian Foster, Houston Texans

Coach of the Year Power Rankings

1. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers—If you start the season without your star quarterback for four games, and have the likes of Charlie Batch, Dennis Dixon, and Byron Leftwich at the helm, coming out of that 2-2 would be a huge moral victory. Well, Tomlin came out of that stretch 3-1 and it could have been 4-0 if not for that last-gasp drive by Joe Flacco and the Ravens a few weeks ago. Of course, the D led by a healthy Troy Polamalu and hard-hitting-to-a-fault James Harrison, has helped, but let’s give Tomlin some huge and well-deserved props here.

2. Steve Spagnuolo, St. Louis Rams—Has anyone noticed that the Rams are 3-3, having already equaled their win total from 2008 and 2009 combined. And they’re giving up less than 19 points per game after allowing 27 per game last year—something that has much to do with the Rams’ defensive whiz of a coach.

3. Tom Coughlin, New York Giants—How do you go from the scorching hot hot seat to a coach of the year nomination? Ask Tom Coughlin, who the New York media had being replaced by Bill Cowher a few weeks ago when they lost badly to the Colts, and then beat themselves badly in a loss the Titans at home. The Giants rallied around Coughlin and squashed the previously unbeaten Bears, then crushed the upstart Texans in Houston 34-10, before not allowing the dreaded trap game against Detroit ruin his team’s winning streak. So from 1-2 to 4-2, and tied with the Eagles for the division lead. That’s why Tom Coughlin is on here.

Honorable mention: Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks; Raheem Morris, Tampa Bay Bucs; Todd Haley, Kansas City Chiefs; Rex Ryan, New York Jets; Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles

Rookie of the Year Power Rankings

1. Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions—Suh leads all NFL defensive tackles with 5 sacks, and he also has 21 tackles through six games, plus an interception—a pretty rare feat for a DT. Is there any doubt that this young big man is the real deal?

2. Jahvid Best, Detroit Lions—Injury may have slowed Best down, but how about the fact that to go along with 249 rushing yards, Best has 31 catches for a league-high 285 receiving yards among running backs. That’s 534 all-purpose yards through six games.

3. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams—He’s way down the list of quarterbacks stat-wise, but Bradford is averaging 226 yards per game and has 7 TD passes. We’ll let the 8 picks slide for now, because let’s face it—the kid is helping to lead the Rams to respectability.

Honorable mention: Max Hall, Arizona Cardinals; Rolando McClain, Oakland Raiders; Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys; Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati Bengals

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