NFL GridIron Gab Daily Digest

NFL GridIron Gab Daily Digest

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Troy Smith Preps For His NFL Return, Joins UFL’s Omaha Nighthawks

Posted: 02 Sep 2011 09:33 PM PDT

The UFL has become a place for players who’ve struggled, been passed on and been cut. Daunte Culpepper, Maurice Clarrett, Lorenzo Booker, and many others have spent time in this upstart league as they hope to (and Booker did so successfully) get back in an NFL game.

It looked earlier in the UFL off-season that Colt Brennan was going to have a chance to finally play in a real game again for the first time in almost four years before the team he was signed to, the Hartford Colonials, ceased operations.

Now another famous college quarterback, Troy Smith, has joined the UFL. He’ll play for the Omaha Nighthawks with old Buckeyes Roy Hall and Maurice Clarrett as he pushes former Heisman-winner Eric Crouch and Heisman hopeful Jeremiah Masoli for the starting QB job.

Smith – drafted to the Ravens in 2007 – was 3-3 last year with the 49ers despite no run game, some of the most predictable play-calling in the NFL (Jimmy Raye) and a lack of time working with the first team (he also didn’t get to finish one of his starts). Earlier that year, the Ravens players voted him the best athlete on the team.

The Omaha Nighthawks open their season at home against the Virginia Destroyers on September 15th and have consistently massive crowds. This will only persist if Troy Smith, an electric playmaker and likable leader, is the starter. Troy recently was the runner-up in a tryout for the Dolphins alongside Kevin O’Connell on August 6th.

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Tampa Bay HOF DE Lee Roy Selmon is Critical Condition After Stroke

Posted: 02 Sep 2011 09:23 PM PDT

Hall of Fame Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Lee Roy Selmon is in critical condition after suffering a stroke on Friday. According to his brother, Selmon is fighting for his life, and his partners in Lee Roy Selmon’s Restaurants issued a statement regarding his “passing,” which was incorrect.

“It is with the deepest and most profound sorrow that we learned of our dear friend Lee Roy Selmon’s passing this afternoon,” Selmon’s restaurant partners Bob Basham, Chris Sullivan, Greg Lynn and Nancy Schneid, said. “Lee Roy Selmon was a man of honor, integrity, strength and family values. He was our dear friend and business partner for many years. The loss for the Selmon family and the entire community, including friends, former teammates, University of South Florida, and the many loyal employees and customers at Lee Roy Selmon’s restaurants is equally devastating.”

The PR staffer came back later, issuing a statement saying “it appears that original statement about Lee Roy Selmon’s passing was prematurely released.”

The 56-year-old Selmon was the first overall pick of the 1976 NFL Draft and first ever draft pick of the Buccaneers, where he spent his entire nine-year career. Selmon was a six-time Pro Bowler, five-time All-Pro, and earned 1979 NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors during his career.

Selmon was enshrined as part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 1995 and his No. 63 was retired by the Buccaneers.

Colts Already Looking to Get QB Kerry Collins Ready for the Texans in Week One?

Posted: 02 Sep 2011 09:04 PM PDT

ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter predicted on SportsCenter Friday that Kerry Collins would be the Colts’ Week 1 starting quarterback. “They’re going as if Kerry Collins is going to be the starter,” said Schefter.

“That’s the feeling in the organization.” Schefter appears to be referring the early season only; the Colts wouldn’t have removed Peyton Manning from the PUP list if they expected him to sit out the entire year. We’ll know more when the Colts begin Week 1 preparations next week, but for now it looks like Collins is in the driver’s seat to start against the Texans. It would be a major early-season blow to all of Indianapolis’ pass catchers.

2011 NFL Playoffs: Seed 6

Posted: 02 Sep 2011 04:42 PM PDT

New York Jets 10-6, AFC Wild Card Seed #6
(last year: 11-5, AFC Wild Card Seed #6)
The Jets have attempted to parlay their swagger into alpha dog status in the AFC East but it’s so hard when Bill Belichick is such a draft day god. Last year, injuries are the only thing that kept the Jets from overtaking the Pats in terms of overall roster talent. Their biggest injury was Jim Leonhard right before they were blown out by the Patriots, sparking the most ridiculous media drooling parade of the season (edging out the Vick resurrection mania). I predicted the Jets would beat the Pats in the second round with all the weaknesses New England had. They did, but now New England has brought in a really strong group of new players.

Ultimately, with both offensive supporting casts being about equal, the Pats being a little greener (no pun intended), and Belichick being the slightly better coach, the division will rest on the defenses and quarterbacks. I’ll go with the mix of known quantities and new beasts – Albert Haynesworth Shaun Ellis, Ras-I Dowling – in New England with a slight edge over the “returning 10 starters” Jets defense and Tom Brady – while presumably at the waning portion of his prime – over Mark Sanchez. Gang Green shall earn a Wild Card spot as a consolation prize and a shot at the Super Bowl.

It was curious to see a head coach so intent on attacking the quarterback do very little by way of adding pass rushers in the off-season. I love the back end of the defense, which will help them beat a lot of good aerial attacks (Philadelphia, Dallas, New York Giants, an improved Miami passing attack once, New England once). In San Diego, New England and Washington shootouts, I fear the tight ends will get them a bit and that their offenses in general will score enough to force Mark Sanchez to try to play catch-up and be the one to make the mistake. The Jets face all the playoff teams from last year on their schedule except the Steelers and all of my playoff teams for this season except the Steelers and Colts (who they faced in last year’s postseason).

Schedule/Predictions (toughest stretch): vs. DAL W, vs. JAX W, @ OAK W, @ BAL L, @ NE L, vs. MIA W, vs. SD L, BYE, @ BUF W, vs. NE W, @ DEN L, vs. BUF W, @ WAS L, vs. KC W, @ PHI W, vs. NYG W, @ MIA L.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10-6, NFC Wild Card Seed #6
(last year: 10-6, no playoffs)
Three Factors:

1. Continuity. The Buccaneers lost just two starters from last season and – due to injuries – have multiple starter-level players at some positions. When you add to that the fact that almost no player peaks in his first few years – and that Kellen Winslow is the healthiest he's been in a long time, this team could be scary good.

2. Play-calling. I have Raheem Morris listed as the 3rd-best defensive playcaller. I have Greg Olson as the 9th-best offensive playcaller, as he was able to call a conservative offense for a unit full of rookies and still be able to maximize what they all did best.

3. Lack of elite offensive opponents. For the second straight season, the Buccaneers have very few elite offenses on the schedule. The Buccaneers play four games total against the Saints, Packers and Texans (I predict them to be 1-3 in those games) but generally play teams that either pass the ball well (Cowboys, Colts), run the ball well (Jacksonville, Minnesota) or are just bad. It helps that this already stout defense (9th with 318 points allowed; only one of their last 8 opponents scored more than 20 in regulation) of Tampa Bay gets Tanard Jackson back from suspension week 4. They also added two of my top 7 pass-rushers in this past draft – Da'Quan Bowers and the electric Adrian Clayborn – , which is proven to be a role that rookies can fill right away (Orakpo, Matthews, Hali) with the right coaching.
Schedule/Predictions (toughest stretch): vs. DET W, @ MIN L, vs. ATL W, vs. IND L, @SF W, vs. NO W, vs. CHI @ London W, BYE, @ NO L, vs. HOU L, @ GB L, @ TEN W, vs. CAR W, @ JAX W, vs. DAL L, @ CAR W, @ ATL W.

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Vikings DT Williams Suspended First Two Weeks

Posted: 02 Sep 2011 12:34 PM PDT

Big Loss In The Middle For Minnesota

Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams has been suspended without pay for the team's opening pair of contests in the 2011 regular season and fined an additional two games checks for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances, according to a statement released Friday by the NFL.

Williams' suspension begins on Saturday, September 3. The Oklahoma State product will be able to return to the Vikings' active roster on Monday, September 19 following the club's Week two September 18 meeting with Tampa Bay, the statement said.

Five Bold Predictions for the Cleveland Browns Entering the 2011 Season

Posted: 02 Sep 2011 11:54 AM PDT

By Browns Gab Editor Derek McQuaid

Expectations were high for the Cleveland Browns entering the 1995 season, extremely high.

Prior to the start of the '95 season, some football experts had the Browns in Super Bowl XXIX. Sports Illustrated had the Browns facing the San Francisco '49ers in the '95 Super Bowl, with the Browns losing the game.

We all know how that season ended for the Browns, but the so-called experts had every reason to believe the team would – at a minimum – be a playoff contender. The Browns went 11-5 during the '94 season and made an appearance in the playoffs for the first time in four years. After beating the New England Patriots 20-13 in the AFC Wild Card, their season was promptly ended the following week in the Divisional Round by the Pittsburgh Steelers, 29-9. (It marked the Browns third loss of the season to the Steelers).

Despite the disappointing end of to the '94 season, expectations that the Browns would be contenders for the AFC's spot in Super Bowl XXIX were within reason.

The Browns have had limited success since their return in 1999. They made the playoffs in 2002 with a 9-7 record where they once again lost to the Steelers, this time in the AFC Wild Card game. In 2007, the team went 10-6 and just missed the playoffs.

However, any reasonable Browns fan will tell you that there wasn't much reason to believe we'd see a repeat performance from the team after either of those years. Kelly Holcomb started the '02 playoff game against the Steelers, and performed so well that he sparked a quarterback controversy with…Tim Couch.

The 2008 season had legitimate expectations with Derek Anderson as the Browns QB. Fans experienced a 10-6 record the year before, and could claim a Pro-Bowl QB – albeit as an alternate. However, the Browns drafted hometown hero, Brady Quinn, in the '07 NFL Draft which sparked a huge QB controversy throughout the season. In short, the '08 season was a disaster.

Finally, after years of searching, the Cleveland Browns have a competent front office calling the shots. In 2009 the team hired former Green Bay and Seattle head coach, Mike Holmgren as Team President. Holmgren then announced that the team would be bringing in Tom Heckert from the Philadelphia Eagles to be the team's new General Manager.

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2011 NFL Regular Season Week 1 Announcing Schedule

Posted: 02 Sep 2011 11:39 AM PDT

Marvelous Marv: Bills-Chiefs

NOTE: The great Gus Johnson moves from CBS to FOX, and will not call NFL games (college football) until Week four.

Thursday, September 8:

New Orleans Saints @ Green Bay Packers, 8:30 p.m. NBC – Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michelle Tafoya

Sunday, September 11:

Early Games:

Detroit Lions @ Tampa Bay Bucs, 1 p.m. FOX — Chris Myers, Tim Ryan

Atlanta Falcons @ Chicago Bears, 1 p.m. FOX – Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa

Philadelphia Eagles @ St. Louis Rams, 1 p.m. FOX – Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick, Laura Okmin

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m. CBS — Jim Nantz, Phil Simms

Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs, 1 p.m. CBS — Marv Albert, Rich Gannon

Tennessee Titans @ Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m. CBS — Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts

Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans, 1 p.m. CBS — Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorff

Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. CBS — Kevin Harlan, Soloman Wilcots

Late Games:

New York Giants @ Washington Redskins, 4:15 p.m. FOX — Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver

Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers, 4:15 p.m. FOX  — Dick Stockton, John Lynch

Minnesota Vikings @ San Diego Chargers, 4:15 p.m. FOX  — Ron Pitts, Jim Mora Jr

Carolina Panthers @ Arizona Cardinals, 4:15 p.m. FOX – Sam Rosen, Chad Pennington

Dallas Cowboys @ New York Jets, 8:20 p.m. NBC — Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michelle Tafoya

Monday, September 12:

New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins, 7 p.m. ESPN — Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Ron Jaworski, Suzy Kolber

Oakland Raiders @ Denver Broncos, 10 p.m. ESPN — Brad Nessler, Trent Dilfer

Jaguars First-Round Pick QB Blaine Gabbert to Be Teams Thrid-String QB

Posted: 02 Sep 2011 11:38 AM PDT

Jaguars first round draft pick Blaine Gabbert will start the season as the team’s third quarterback, behind starter David Garrard as well as backup Luke McCown. Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio announced that the veteran McCown will initially be Garrard’s primary backup under center.

“It’s a bigger deal to the people on the outside,” said Gabbert, the 10th pick of the 2011 draft, on Thursday.

“We look at it as we’re quarterbacks, and if Dave goes down for some horrible reason, that we have to be ready to play. We haven’t gone over who’s ranked on the depth chart. We just know Dave’s the starter.”

Sources: Bengals Sign CB Hall To $39M Extension

Posted: 02 Sep 2011 09:48 AM PDT

Pro Bowl Caliber Corner

The Bengals have inked cornerback Leon Hall to a four-year, $39 million extension that includes $14.1 million this season and will lock him in the Jungle through the 2015 season, according to sources.

Hall had his base salary this season upgraded to $5.1 million from $3 million. He also has earned a $9 million signing bonus.

The former Wolverine is scheduled to see another $5 million roster bonus March 1.

Michigan’s own becomes the second player in the Queen City to sign the dotted line this week, joining offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth.

Evidently, the Bengals did not want to face another offseason of losing an integral piece as they did with cornerback Johnathan Joseph, who left Cincinnati for Houston.

Last season, the 5-foot-11, 195-pound defensive back registered 44 tackles, four picks, and 11 pass deflections.

Agent: Bears LB Briggs Targeting Trade

Posted: 02 Sep 2011 06:44 AM PDT

Briggs Baffling Bears?

NFL Network's 92nd ranked player of the Top 100 in the NFL for 2011.

An impressive resume: three All-Pro selections, six consecutive Pro Bowl trips.

Meet Lance Briggs.  A disgruntled linebacker.

Re-visit the Greg Olsen situation, it's the same route Briggs is going through, when you consider who’s his agent.

With a demand for a new deal, Lance's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, has issued a formal request to explore a trade for the Bears Pro Bowl linebacker.

"The Bears made their decision, now I have to make mine," Briggs told Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune. "It's just how the business works. It's not going to take away from what I do on the field. I'm 100 percent.

Briggs recently approached the Bears about a pay raise, but higher ups have not changed their stance. Rosenhaus made the trade request through an email to contract negotiator Cliff Stein.

The Bears had no response on the matter Thursday, and their view on the trade request remains unclear. They are about $19.3 million below this season's salary cap.

To find out if Briggs holds any leverage and what the Monsters of the Midway should do next, visit Bears Gab

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