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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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Troy Polamalu statements undermine concussion lawsuit

We’ve heard all sorts of wild speculation about the concussion lawsuits and how they might “bring down” the NFL. I guess anything is possible, but as usual we have a bunch of sportswriters playing lawyer and speculating about the most extreme possible results.

I have no idea what is going to happen. I haven’t studied the briefs and I certainly haven’t seen any of the discovery materials that may or may not be produced. I’m a lawyer, and I know that it’s impossible to predict the outcome of a case like this because so little information is available. Maybe there’s a “smoking gun” memo in the NFL files that proves the owners intentionally withheld medical information about concussions from the players. Maybe such a thing doesn’t exist. We’ll all have to wait and see.

But I do know that the assumption of risk by the players will be a major element in these lawsuits, and NFL attorneys will have plenty of examples to draw upon. The latest statements from Troy Polamalu helps the owners’ case, not that of the players:

Polamalu said on the Dan Patrick Show that he has lied about symptoms of concussions so that he’d be cleared to stay on the field.

“Yes, I have, for sure,” Polamalu said.

But he distinguishes between major injuries and minor ones where he’s just banged up. But he also applies that to getting his bell rung.

“I’ve had, I believe, eight or nine recorded concussions. We’ll have another conversation after I’m done playing football,” Polamalu said. “When you get your bell rung they consider that a concussion — I wouldn’t. . . . If that is considered a concussion, I’d say any football player at least records 50 to 100 concussions a year.”

So why is Polamalu willing to lie? He says it’s all about being there for his team.

Polamalu has the drive of a great player and intense competitor. This is the culture of the NFL, and players like him are rewarded in many ways by his team, his teammates, the media etc.

The question in the lawsuits will be how can players hold ownership liable when most players would avoid coming off the field? Are the owners liable as a result of this culture, or is it something that’s just a part of football, meaning that all the players assumed this risk?

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.

I’m Just Saying…the Black Eyed Peas are best left in the studio.

Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas performs during half-time at the NFL’s Super Bowl XLV football game in Arlington, Texas, February 6, 2011. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL ENTERTAINMENT)

I’m just saying…

- Christina Aguilera had at least two weeks to prepare for the National Anthem and she still managed to change a word and skip an entire verse. Did someone forget to rub her the right way before she went out to midfield? Because you know you have to do that with her, right?

- What a game by Jordy Nelson: Nine catches, 140 yards receiving and one touchdown. Now imagine how good his numbers would have been had he not dropped two first down passes right in his hands.

- Speaking of drops…James Jones is lucky the Packers held on to the win because his drop in the third quarter was setting up to be the turning point in the game. Nobody can make a potential touchdown disappear faster than James Deandre Jones.

- I want to commend Bruce Arians for his decision to be aggressive when the Steelers were backed up to their own 7-yard line late in the first quarter. Rashard Mendenhall had just ripped the Packers for 24 yards on two carries in the previous series, so naturally Arians wanted to prove how smart he was by taking a shot downfield. Nick Collins and the Packers want to thank you for the gift, Bruce.

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How do you spell POLAMALU?

At last year’s Super Bowl, Yardbarker asked athletes and celebrities to spell “Roethlisberger” and many failed miserably. Believe it or not, many athletes and celebs struggled more this year with the name “Polamalu.”

Yikes. Check out the video below.

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