I just got back from the Kentucky Derby and after the fans asked me what horse I liked in the next race, the very next question was always, “Are we going to have football this year?”
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I didn’t know what to say other than I sure hope so. But what I really hope is that both sides have some plan ready once one of them loses in court. It seems like both the players and the owners are waiting for that appeals court to rule in June on the league’s insistence on a lockout. They are going to start mediation again in a couple of weeks and that’s good, too.
You never like it when judges and lawyers are making decisions for you. It’s better for the players and the owners to make their own deal than have one forced on them. Plus, I hope that these negotiations haven’t gotten personal. That will make it a lot harder to settle this thing. I don’t believe they are really that far apart on the money and, with so much at stake for everyone, especially the fans, we all hope smarter minds prevail and get a deal done.
I got to believe that some of the players are getting jittery that the lockout has lasted this long. Players want to be together, working out, getting better. They love that locker-room routine. After awhile, guys tend to miss all that stuff. It isn’t quite the same working out on your own or with just a couple of your friends. The young guys need some coaching, too.
As for football, I really believe this lockout is hurting first-time head coaches the most. Even an experienced coach like John Fox in Denver needs to be checking out his new players. Personnel people have been telling Fox the good and bad habits of his new players, I’m sure. But like everyone, the Broncos need to pass his eye test. Fox needs to make his own opinion on what he’s dealing with. He and his staff can be told a million times what to expect from this receiver or that lineman, but until Fox sees for himself none of that matters.
It’s probably worse for Ron Rivera in Carolina because not only is he new to the team, but so is Cam Newton, the Panthers’ new quarterback. I was kind of surprised with that pick because Newton has a lot of work ahead of him to be a quality NFL quarterback. His throwing style is so much different from Sam Bradford’s.
I also bet that Browns coach Pat Shurmur wishes he was spending these past weeks with his quarterback, Colt McCoy. Those two need a lot of time together. Still, it’s going to be awfully hard for the Browns to win next season in that division with the Steelers and the Ravens.
Shurmur does have a good deal in Cleveland with Mike Holmgren in the building. I don’t see Mike hovering over Shurmur. But Mike will be a perfect sounding board for a young offensive head coach.
For the life of me, I still don’t know what Rashard Mendenhall was thinking when he tweeted that crazy stuff about his 9/11 beliefs. He’s already lost one endorsement and really hurt himself. All I can say is that I’m glad I’m not part of the Twitter generation.
It’s too early for me to make any judgments on the quarterbacks that were drafted. The one draft story that really got to me was Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich and his comeback from cancer. I was really hoping that some team would take him in the seventh round. I’d like to see him get his chance in the NFL.
I will say this about one rookie quarterback. Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick must be pretty good for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh to draft him in the second round. I think Harbaugh really knows how to coach quarterbacks, and he must see something in Kaepernick that will help the San Francisco offense. Harbaugh also is talking about being able to fix Alex Smith with the 49ers.
And after all these years of watching Alex, that’s really saying something!
I’m really looking forward to the season to see how much Harbaugh can improve the 49ers. He did a great job at Stanford, where it is almost impossible to recruit a roster full of NFL-type players.
Harbaugh can make the NFC West really interesting once again because I like what I’ve seen already from Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo. I believe Spags can turn that franchise around. I was shocked that Pete Carroll got Seattle back into the playoffs last season. But that only proves how good he is. I even think Arizona will be okay if they get a veteran quarterback. Marc Bulger can help them if they can get him and also protect him. I hope they are not thinking about Donovan McNabb.
The big question in Dallas is all about protecting Tony Romo. Owner Jerry Jones is hoping that first-round pick Tyron Smith will start and be a Pro Bowler right away. That’s how badly the Cowboys needed Smith for their offensive line.
The NFC East is going to be a tough division again, although Washington still needs a quarterback and a lot of other pieces.
Right now, based on everything that is not happening in the NFL, the Packers could repeat as champions. They have Aaron Rodgers and, folks, how great was he in the playoffs and the Super Bowl? Rodgers put the ball in spots that I didn’t think were possible for such a young starter. He has all those young receivers back, plus tight end Jermichael Finley’s return should make Green Bay’s offense even tougher to defend. I really like what coach Mike McCarthy does up there.
The Packers went for more offensive line depth in the draft and have so many good young players anyway. The Lions could be the team chasing the Packers if Matt Stafford can play a full season. Of course, I’m still hoping there will be a full season.