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NFL Quick Hits: Ray Rice, Troy Polamalu, Santonio Holmes & more

Every Sunday our NFL columnist Anthony Stalter provides his quick-hits from the week that was in the NFL.

+ The Ravens had no choice but to sign Ray Rice to a long-term contract, and the deal wound up being fair for both sides. Rice will receive $8 million per year, which is more than fair for his production level. The Bears were also wise to sign Matt Forte but had Chicago rolled the dice and Forte wound up holding out, at least the Bears still have Michael Bush to fall back on, as well as an improved passing game that features Brandon Marshall. Had the Ravens not signed Rice and he held out into the season, Baltimore would have relied on the backfield duo of Joe Flacco and Anthony Allen. Yikes.

+ Troy Polamalu gave the media and fans a very honest, very realistic look into the world of the NFL by telling Dan Patrick earlier this week that he’s lied to trainers about injuries so that he could stay in games. Nobody should be under any grand illusions that Polamalu is the only player that has lied about whether or not he was hurt so that he could re-enter a game and in some respects, he should be lauded for providing reality into the situation. The problem, of course, is that there’s a list of former players that filed a suit against the NFL trying to prove that the league is responsible for not telling them about the dangers of concussions. It’s going to be hard for these players to prove to a judge that the NFL has been negligent about anything when current players are lying about their injuries to get back into games. That said, the game has changed, especially when it comes to the treatment of concussions (which were once viewed as a joke by teams and players). Still, the players on these concussion suit can’t exactly be thrilled by Polamalu’s comments, no matter how honest he was being.

+ Who knew Santonio Holmes was such a comedian? During a recent podcast for NFL.com, Holmes essentially scolded the New York media for being too negative when it comes to reporting on the team and then told them that if they wanted to feel important, they should only report on the positive aspect of the Jets. First off, I didn’t realize that the New York Jets cut the paychecks for the staff at the New York Post. I also didn’t realize that the Post was supposed to be a group comprised of cheerleaders that provided unwavering support for the Jets. Holmes’ comments are laughable and he’s one to talk considering back in October of last year he called out his entire offensive line for not giving Mark Sanchez enough time to throw. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black – if Holmes wants the media to be positive he should start by being positive himself.

+ Another week, another slew of arrests for the NFL. Marshawn Lynch was booked for driving under the influence after weaving lane to lane with two near collisions. What’s interesting is that the mistake could wind up costing Lynch $17 million in guaranteed money because as an NFL exectuvie tells Sirius XM Radio’s Ross Tucker, a suspension for conduct detrimental or substance abuse defaults the guaranteed money in Lynch’s four-year, $31 million contract. Now, there’s a good chance that the Seahawks won’t touch Lynch’s money but if they did, not calling a cab will have cost the running back $17 million. Ouch.

+ Of course, Lynch wasn’t the only player arrested recently. Elvis Dumervil, Dez Bryant, Robert Quinn, Kenny Britt and Aaron Berry all ran afoul from the law from everything from driving drunk to assault with a firearm to smacking their mother around (in the case of Bryant). Granted, it’s not as if NFL players are the only ones committing crimes. We just hear about them because of their celebrity status. But it’s almost unfathomable that these players refuse to learn from their peers and in the specific case of Britt, how one player can be arrested so many times since coming into the league. This is a guy that has been booked four times in the last two offseasons; it’s unbelievable. These players are essentially co-workers that continue to ignore the endless supply of warning signs that are around them. Front offices must be praying nightly that they don’t receive phone calls at two in the morning from now until training camp opens.

+ If Norv Turner had one foot out the door last year then he’s got about three fingertips on the door frame heading into this season. It was surprising that the Chargers didn’t fire him last year considering the Chargers couldn’t take advantage of the hot mess that was the AFC West. Regardless, he absolutely has to win this season and not just one playoff game – he better be knocking on the door of the Super Bowl. That said, why should Turner get whacked and A.J. Smith be saved? When was the last time A.J. Smith hit a home run in the draft? And because he plays hardball with free agents his talent is evaporating on both sides of the ball. So if Turner gets axed then he and Smith should be sharing a cab out of San Diego.

+ It was pretty smart of the Jets to include a “poison pill” in Darrelle Revis contract. Rex Ryan and Mike Tannebaum were clearly annoyed with Revis’ holdout situation a couple of years ago and were hell-bent that a repeat wasn’t in the works. Revis announced earlier this week that he’ll report to camp on time this year, although it may not have been on his own accord. According to a report earlier this week by ESPN.com’s James Walker, if Revis skips camp his current deal would be automatically extended by three years. Considering Revis wants to get to free agency as quickly as possible, that would not have been a very favorable situation for him.

+ You have to appreciate Michael Vick’s confidence in the Eagles. Said Vick earlier this week, “When I look at our football team and what we have on paper, I think about when I was growing up and the great San Francisco 49er teams, the great Green Bay Packer teams, and the great Dallas Cowboy teams, how they just positioned themselves to compete and be one of the best teams out there I think we have a chance to be that. I think we have a chance to develop a dynasty.” Obvious Vick’s comments shouldn’t be overexposed because he was really just trying to convey his optimism in his current team. But dynasty? Try winning one Super Bowl before you claim you’re on the path of winning multiple Super Bowls.

+ How about Terrell Owens? Dude claimed he was broke a couple of months ago but faced with the prospect of going to prison, all of a sudden he had enough money to pay back the child support that he owed. Funny how that works.

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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Sunday Morning NFL Quick-Hits

Every Sunday morning our NFL columnist Anthony Stalter will provide his “quick-hits” from around the league. You can follow him on Twitter @AnthonyStalter.

+ The Miami Dolphins might be on the verge of making a mistake by signing Chad Ochocinco, who reportedly lacked football I.Q. to survive in New England. Said Boston Globe’s Greg Bedard: “The Patriots would literally tell him to run a route a certain way, and a minute later he would run it the other way. It happened all the time.” Ochocinco made six Pro Bowls, led the NFL in receiving yards once (2006), and led the AFC in receiving yards twice (2003, 2005) in Cincinnati because he was allowed to freelance, which is one of the many things that frustrated Carson Palmer. So why would the Dolphins want someone like Ochocinco on their roster when there’s a strong possibility that they’ll start a rookie at quarterback this season? Teams need to put young players in position to succeed, period. It makes no sense to start Ryan Tannehill and then throw Ochocinco into the mix when the idea is not to stunt the rookie’s development. If Tom Brady couldn’t work with Ochocinco, why would anyone believe that Tannehill could?

- Smart move by the Patriots to lock up tight end Rob Gronkowski to a six-year, $54 million extension through 2019. Only $13.17 million is guaranteed, which is quite the bargain for the most dominate tight end in the league. This move also indicates that the Patriots have zero concerns about Gronk’s offseason ankle surgery and neither should anyone else.

+ Jets receiver Santonio Holmes is being made out to look like a baby following his meltdown at the team’s OTAs on Thursday. But keep in mind he had missed voluntary workouts while in Germany on a USO trip, so receivers coach Sanjay Lal could have done a better job easing Holmes back into action. After all, it’s June – not August. There will come a time when Holmes needs to ratchet up his workouts so that he’s prepared for the season but it does the Jets no good for Lal to burn out his receivers or risk injury three months before the season. That said, Holmes could have also acted like a professional. There was no need for him to toss his helmet and make a scene. His unpredictable attitude is one of the reasons why the Steelers felt compelled to trade him despite the fact that he was their Super Bowl MVP in 2009.

- Brandon Weeden has better size, a bigger arm, and has reportedly outperformed Colt McCoy in OTAs this spring. But it still doesn’t benefit Pat Shurmur to name a starter before or during training camp. Teams should strive for competition at all positions, especially at quarterback. Players become awfully content when they’re making a ton of money and know that nobody is breathing down their necks for their starting job. Even if it’s a foregone conclusion that Weeden will be the starter, it behooves Shurmur and the Browns to make him work for it all summer.

+ It’s great to hear that Michael Vick has been the first player in and the last player out during Eagles’ practices this offseason. It also pisses me off thinking about how undedicated he was in Atlanta. Did he want to win? No doubt. But you never read reports about him being the first one to the practice facility in Flowery Branch when he was quarterbacking the Falcons. Part of the blame falls on owner Arthur Blank and former coach Jim Mora, whom allowed Vick to come and go as he pleased. But considering the Falcons paid him franchise money to be the leader of their team, one would think he would have taken more pride in his work instead of continuously trying to get by on his talent alone. It’s a shame when you read that Vick is now finally dedicated to his craft 11 years after he was drafted but then again, it’s better late than never.

- From a defensive standpoint, one team that might be significantly improved this season from 2011 is the Arizona Cardinals. The team looked lost throughout the first half last year trying to learn new defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s defense and as five-time Pro Bowler Adrian Wilson admitted, there were plenty of times where players didn’t even know if they were in the right position. The Cardinals also started a rookie at cornerback in Patrick Peterson, who suffered plenty of growing pains before coming into his own in the final six weeks of the season. One area the Cardinals must improve on is their interception total. They had just one pick in the final six weeks of the season and they went eight games in which they had zero interceptions. Assuming they’re more comfortable in Horton’s defense in year two and they can hang onto the ball when they have opportunities to make a play, Arizona should show marked improvements from 2011. Now only if they had a quarterback on the other side of the ball to lead them to the playoffs…

+ Asante Samuel is already paying dividends in Atlanta. After lining up opposite Matt Ryan four times throughout his career, the Pro Bowl cornerback has been giving instructions to his new teammate on how the quarterback can become more difficult to defend. Samuel has also reportedly brought a ton of energy to the practice field and fellow cornerback Dunta Robinson is thrilled that the presence of his new teammate will allow him to kick inside to the nickel position. Robinson is at his best when he can get his hands on a receiver and be physical at the line of scrimmage. The past two years he struggled in former defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder’s scheme because he was forced to play off the ball. But with Samuel and Mike Nolan now in Atlanta, Robinson will play inside where he thrived early in his career as a member of the Houston Texans.

- All signs point to Chris Johnson having a bounce back year in Tennessee. It’s public knowledge that he showed up to camp out of shape last year following his contract dispute and the lockout. But Dan Pompei of the National Football Post has been told by sources that Johnson has rededicated himself this offseason. Of course, it doesn’t matter how good a shape Johnson is in if his offensive line doesn’t open up holes for him in the running game. Eugene Amano, David Stewart and Leroy Harris all struggled in run blocking last season and Johnson often found himself bottled up. It’s great that he’s committed to offseason workouts but without a better effort from the Titans’ front five, he won’t be rushing for over 2,000 yards again anytime soon.

+ Despite a messy contract situation, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which Matt Forte doesn’t report to training camp. Forte wants a long-term deal from the Bears, who seemingly want to go year to year with their star running back. But at the end of the day Forte is a perfect fit for the Bears’ offense and he’s such a competitor that I don’t see him holding out all season. Plus, he has no leverage. He’s coming off a season-ending knee injury, he’s a running back in a passing league, and the Bears signed Michael Bush earlier this offseason as insurance. For Forte to hold out during one of his prime years doesn’t make sense. Plus, as long as he signs his franchise contract before the July 16 deadline he’ll make $7.7 in guaranteed money. Nobody is going to pass up that kind of cash, no matter how angry they are at their team.

- If the reports out of Seattle are any indication then the Seahawks might be in store for another rocky year at the quarterback position. Despite landing a three-year, $26 million contract, Matt Flynn has yet to distance himself from neither Russell Wilson nor Tarvaris Jackson. Everyone has been cautious when it comes to predicting Flynn’s success in his first year with the Seahawks, which is smart given his lack of experience. But it’s not like the Hawks gave him chump change – they paid him starter’s money. Thus, it’s a little surprising that Flynn has yet to emerge from a pack that also consists of a rookie third-round pick and one of the most underwhelming quarterbacks in the league.

Forte right to be angry but Bears had to protect themselves with Bush signing

Following the signing of Michael Bush on Thursday, Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte expressed frustration with his team by tweeting, “There’s only so many times a man that has done everything he’s been asked to do can be disrespected!” Forte went on to say, “Guess the good guys do finish last,” while his agent added, “To sign yet another running back, prior to completing a contract with Matt suggests disregard for Matt and his contribution to the Bears.”

Forte has every right to be angry with the Bears. He’s a perfect fit for that team and by signing Bush to a four-year, $14 million contract, the Bears have completely taken away Forte’s leverage in long-term contract talks.

You’d probably be upset with the Bears too if it were you. But Forte also needs to exercise a little patience here.

The Bears had to protect themselves for a couple of reasons. For starters, Forte suffered a season-ending injury last year and if he were to get hurt again in 2012, Chicago would be in major trouble if it had signed him to a long-term deal this offseason. Plus, this isn’t the first time that Forte has been upset with the front office so if he decides that he’s had enough of Chicago and moves on next year, at least the Bears have a pretty good back in Bush already on the roster.

For obvious reasons, no player wants to sign a franchise contract. Nothing is guaranteed beyond that one season so if the player were to get hurt he could lose out on a big pay day after already proving that he deserved a long-term deal. But at least next season is guaranteed for Forte, who will make much more than $14 million over four years if he can stay healthy in 2012.

Personally, I felt the Bears should have paid Forte last year. He’s one of the most versatile backs in the league and seeing as how there have been no signs of progress between him and the Bears on a long-term deal, it’s no wonder why he would be upset with the Bush signing.

But one way or another Forte will get paid. He just needs to stay healthy and be patient.

NFL Free Agency Update: Forte, Wallace and V-Jax

Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (R) is brought down by San Diego Chargers’ Steve Gregory (L) in the first half of their NFL football game in Chicago, Illinois, November 20, 2011. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Bears set to open contract talks with Forte
NFL Network’s Albert Breer reports that the Bears will open contract talks with free agent running back Matt Forte in Indianapolis this weekend. Head coach Lovie Smith believes that signing Forte is “only a matter of time” for the Bears, but the franchise tag remains very much in play.

Seahawks to tag Lynch if no long-term deal is reached
Seattle general manager John Schneider stated that running back Marshawn Lynch would receive the franchise tag if the two sides can’t reach a long-term deal before the March 5 franchise deadline. Schneider remains optimistic that a four-year deal can be reached, however.

V-Jax expected to stay with San Diego?
In somewhat surprising news, NFL Network’s Jason LaCanfora reports that “people close to” free agent receiver Vincent Jackson are convinced he’ll be franchised despite contrary reports. The two sides haven’t made much progress when it comes to a long-term deal but it seemed as if the Chargers were willing to let him test the market instead of tagging him. At the end of the day, the Bolts are, and should be worried about trying to replace Jackson’s production. Norv Turner’s vertical passing game would take a hit if the Chargers had to rely on an aging Antonio Gates to carry the load.

Franchise tag still a possibility for Wallace
Pittsburgh general manager Kevin Colbert said on Thursday that the Steelers will extend a first-round tender to restricted free agent receiver Mike Wallace and that the franchise tag remains a possibility. The Steelers clearly want their No. 1 receiver back but they have limited cap space and Wallace is due for a huge pay raise. His contract situation will be one of the more intriguing storylines this spring.

Falcons willing to let Abraham test the market
John Abraham was the Falcons’ lone pass rusher last season but he turns 34 in May and still wants to be paid like one of the best defensive ends in the game. With a slew of other free agents that also need contracts, the Falcons are apparently willing to allow Abraham to test the market. If that’s the case, then Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff has a huge task on his hands in trying to beef up the Falcons’ pass rushing situation for the 2012 season.

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