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Anquan Boldin: Thanks For The Blood, Sweat, and Tears

Published: April 20, 2009

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This guy is as tough as a barbed-wire sandwich. What he lacks in speed, he makes up for with physical play and tenacity. He’s smart, well-liked in the locker room (chosen Offensive Captain in 2007,) and has been selected to the Pro Bowl three times.

He’s a big time player.

Whoever forks over the draft picks for Anquan Boldin over the next couple of days is going to be very satisfied with the product.

Arizona will certainly miss him.

Here’s what his new team is getting.

He was the only rookie in the NFL selected to go to the Pro Bowl in 2004. Of course, that same year he was also selected as the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Though Boldin has been injured throughout the years, he still often manages to pull in more grabs and rack up more yardage than other receivers who stay healthy all year long. His injuries are a testament. He’s willing to take a thumping for the team.

Witness Sept. 28, 2008, in a game against the New York Jets. Down 56-35 to the Jets, with a mere 27 ticks on the clock, Boldin went up after a Warner pass in the end-zone and got sandwiched between two Jets safeties (Kerry Rhodes and Eric Smith.)

Boldin suffered jaw and sinus fractures that required surgery. He refused to take pain killers while recovering.

He was back in action two games and a bye week later, and he caught nine passes and scored two touchdowns in that game.

Having Boldin on your team is like having a Brandon Marshall without all the off-field legal baggage. Or better yet, a Mike Alstott brought up as a receiver instead of a running back.

Though Fitzgerald managed to steal the spotlight from Boldin in 2008, it probably had a lot to do with defenses deciding to lock down on Anquan and take their chances with Fitzgerald.

Still, Boldin managed to keep pace for over 1,000 yards, even while out those two games with injuries (fractured face.)

Inside the 20 and at the goal line, Boldin was the go-to-guy for the Cardinals. The short and quick inside screen was something the opponents could see coming, but not stop, over and over again last year.

Or the roll to the outside, or the wait for the little dump pass. Whatever the situation, if the Cards were in the red zone, and the ball got in Anquan’s hands, good things were bound to happen. The fella just has a feel for the goal line.

He brings a little baggage, but much of it is overplayed.

He indeed has been seen arguing with his Offensive Coordinator at the most inappropriate of times. But both Todd Haley (who has since moved on) and Boldin, have both publicly stated that they’d team up again if it came down to it.

Though he stormed out of the locker room after the NFC Championship game (the only player not to stay and celebrate,) his teammates have forgiven him, and guys like Warner and Fitzgerald have recently stepped up to the plate and offered to renegotiate their own contracts so Anquan can get paid.

There have been injuries, but those were addressed above. He’s a physical player and phyisical players get hurt.

He recovers fast, and manages to put up all star numbers even when out several games a season. At 28, he’s got two or three potential Pro Bowl years still ahead of him. Those couple of years could propel those teams on the cusp of postseason greatness but for a great receiver over the top.

Arizona Cardinals fans owe Anquan Boldin a big “thank you” for his years of putting his body on the line each and every game. He’ll certainly be very missed in Arizona.

To the fans of whatever team manages to grab him up this week, get ready for the real deal. This player is going to leave his blood, sweat, and tears on the field for you every single down. I have no doubt that at the end of 2009 (and beyond,) you’ll be thanking Anquan also.


The Stupidity Of Drafting Mark Sanchez

Published: April 20, 2009

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With less than a week before the NFL Draft, there are some rumors that the Cleveland Browns are interested in taking Mark Sanchez with the fifth pick. That is such a bad idea that I don’t even know where to begin.

For starters, Brady Quinn can still be a really good quarterback. He really hasn’t been given enough of a chance to show what he has. He has, however, shown that there is something to work with.

Let’s look at the games in which he played last year. He really was only healthy for two so it really isn’t fair to hold the Houston game against him. Denver and Buffalo were the Browns highest offensive output all year over a two game span. After that, the offense literally produced nothing the rest of the year.

Quinn really earned the respect of his teammates with his leadership in those games. Do you remember what Kellen Winslow said?

There are so many intangibles that should make Quinn the easy choice. His work ethic is awesome. He has an incredible football IQ. I could go on and on.

Drafting another QB without even fully seeing what Quinn can be is crazy.

Now looking at Mark Sanchez, he certainly has the physical tools. Because of that I hear some people automatically assuming that Sanchez is better than Quinn. 

However, when it comes to quarterbacks having the physical tools, that does not always translate into success. It is the intangibles that make or break a quarterback. Therefore, claiming Sanchez is better is really an uneducated claim.

Since there isn’t enough to go on in the NFL, let’s compare Quinn and Sanchez in college. Quinn was the unquestioned leader of Notre Dame in which he carried them to two BCS bowls. They had no defense. After he graduated, the team went 3-9.

Sanchez only was the starter for one season. It was the defense that led the team. The great linebackers were the faces of the team, not Sanchez. I didn’t see much in the sense of leadership at all. In fact, if you take him off last year’s team they still make the Rose Bowl.

Also, remember that his coach Pete Carroll recommended that he come back for another year before going to the draft. Based on his record, Carroll is a pretty credible resource.

Many felt that the reason Sanchez came out is because he knows that he isn’t as good as the quarterbacks coming out next year. Therefore he will be a higher pick this year. What does that say about him?

The last point I will make is an emotional one. Brady Quinn loves the Cleveland Browns. He would rather play for the Browns than any other team in the league. Can anybody honestly say that Sanchez is even close to being as passionate about the Browns as Quinn?

Realizing that it is a business, let’s say you were running a company and you had two young promising applicants.

If you sensed that one was more passionate than the other about your company and the other was just looking for where he can make the most money, who would you choose?


The Biggest Loser: Colleges Losing The Best Draft Prospects

Published: April 20, 2009

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There are many great prospects in this year’s NFL Draft. First rounders in Mark Sanchez, Mathew Stafford, and Josh Freeman highlight the QBs, while Knoshown Moreno and Chris Wells lead the RB pack. But which college lost the best group of prospects to the draft this year? 

USC, as always, is a contender. Sanchez, QB, is USC’s draft highlight. With little experience, an exciting prospect with great potential is what a team will get in Sanchez. To go along with that, they have the three first-round LBs. Brian Cushing, Clay Mathews, and Rey Maualuga are three talented LBs, one of them playing on the inside and the other two outside. All four of these prospects are expected to go in the first round, and probably will. 

Another strong competitor is Georgia. Of course, they have a top ten QB in Stafford and the first rounder RB in Moreno. They don’t have another first rounder, but Stafford and Moreno are definitely the two best at their position in the draft, making them competitors.

Following Georgia is Texas Tech and Missouri. Texas Tech, of course, is highlighted by star WR Michael Crabtree, a top ten pick. Then they have a highly underrated Graham Harrell and a so-so TE in Rylan Reed. Missouri is highlighted, like Tech, by a WR and QB. Jeremy Maclin is expected to go in the top 10 or 15, and has extreme potential in the NFL. Then, an underrated Chase Daniel is their highlight QB that had a great college career, and could be just as great in the Pro’s. 

Who else is in the running, then? Ohio State is a front runner in the competition as well. Chris ‘Beanie’ Wells leads the pack, expected to go #20 or so, maybe to New Orleans. Then, Malcolm Jenkins shows great potential in the NFL, proving to be the best CB in the draft. James Laurinitus continues the first-rounders and the defensive strength in Ohio State’s draft class at LB, followed by Marcus Freeman, at LB as well. Brian Robiskie is a WR that has been considered underrated, but still is expected to go very early second round, or at least first day. There aren’t any more highlighters for State, but with a lot of quality players going for OSU, they could be the ‘biggest loser’. 

There aren’t many more competitors left. Michigan State has Ringer and Hoyer, two sleepers in offensive positions, but do not have enough to compete. Kansas State has QB Josh Freeman, but no other highlight players and only one other player overall. Alabama has Andre Smith, a controversial OT, and Glen Coffee, and underrated RB, but still not enough to compete. 

I Think it’s between two colleges, USC and Ohio State. USC has a QB, and OSU doesn’t. But, OSU has a RB, which USC doesn’t. Each of them have quality first round LBs, but USC has one more. Then, you look at OSU’s two quality CBs and WR. Ohio State seems superior in this competition, and they are the ‘biggest loser’. 


NFL Counseling: If It Ain’t One Thing, It’s Another!

Published: April 20, 2009

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NFL Counseling:  If it ain’t one thing, it’s another!

 

First, we realize the positive values in a sport. Second, we assess the condition of senior athletes after their careers are ended.  The good news is that the guys had a chance to play professional football or some other professional sport. 

 

The sad news is that when the game is over, for some of them, there are lives filled with personal challenges, addictions and depression. The intense excitement of a great game is gone, and the dull lull of everyday life sets in. 

 

If it ain’t one thing, it’s another!  For example, there has been a recent movement to provide more support and counseling to current professional football players and others. 

 

On February 2, 2007, an article mentions a desire to change the focus, or better, to broaden the focus to include “cracking down on player misconduct.”  Ideas were discussed regarding “an attempt to strengthen the personal conduct penalty  and begin holding teams accountable for players’ missteps.”

 

Well, don’t forget these are strong, grown men.  On-the-field behavior can be monitored and, maybe, controlled.  Off-the-field behavior—well…not so easy.

 

Consider this scenario:  Thousands of people swarm to the stadium for a big pro football game.  Some of them have their flasks filled with liquor.  In fact, there are flasks shaped like a cellphone.  (Sniff your phone now and make sure no vodka is in it). 

 

The pro players know the audience is “high” in some cases.  Nevertheless, they play their game, sober and clean, but after the defeat or victory, celebrations begin.  There are parties everywhere:  on the parking lot of the stadium, in the club nearby, in the hotel, motel, and van—Ooops.

 

Regulating off-field behavior is a big challenge.  For example, your favorite wide receiver made a touchdown.  A fan (a little tipsy and red-eyed) sees him in the club and the first thing offered to him is “a drink.”  He accepts one, two, three….Let’s stop at three!

 

Where should the line be drawn?  Who is to blame if things get out of hand.  All this B/R scribe has to say, “If it ain’t one thing, it’s another.”

 

It’s clear that whatever counseling that is going to take place should have started in the cradle, or even in the womb.  The life of a professional football player is complex. 

 

One thing is clear:  If we regulate off-field behavior, then it’s only fair to have tighter regulations on the fans who may be (to some extent) involved in a type of “complicity.”  This B/R scribe concludes:  If it ain’t one thing, it’s another!


Roster Change Effects on the NFC East and the Cowboys’ Competition.

Published: April 20, 2009

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The NFC East is arguably the most vicious division in the history of the National Football League. The same can be argued about the division right now.

In the past two years, every team in this division has been to the playoffs. The Giants won the Super Bowl against the Patriots, the Eagles went to the NFC Championship game last year, and the Giants were the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

However, some activity in free agency has led to the weakening of teams in that division.

The loss of Terrell Owens was the Dallas Cowboys’ largest loss. He was the big-play wide receiver who rarely dropped a pass downfield. He did drop some shorter passes that would gain ten or less yards, but he rarely dropped the deep bomb. If he got his hands on it, he caught it.

Other than the loss of defensive end Chris Canty and linebacker Kevin Burnett, the Cowboys have not lost any defensive firepower that it could do without. Safety Roy Williams and defensive tackle Tank Johnson were not the players the Cowboys hoped they would be.

Cornerback Anthony Henry was getting older and was going to cause a cap problem with his contract, so he was traded to Detroit for quarterback Jon Kitna, who will become the new backup since Brad Johnson and Brooks Bollinger have been cut.

Linebacker Zach Thomas was not doing well with his new role there, so his contract was not renewed.

The Cowboys have added defensive end Igor Olshansky, linebackers Keith Brooking and Matt Stewart, and safety Gerald Sensabaugh to fill in missing spots.

Luckily, the Cowboys competition has changed as well.

1. The Philadelphia Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles have lost free safety Brian Dawkins, a major leader on the defense, to the Denver Broncos along with backup running back Corell Buckhalter. Cornerback Lito Sheppard is now with the Jets and many of their players, particularly the offensive linemen, are getting older and may retire soon.

They did, however, trade for Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters from the Buffalo Bills in exchange for a first round draft selection (28th overall) and two late round selections (a fourth rounder for this draft and a sixth for the next draft).

To go along with Peters, the Eagles have signed on right tackle, Stacy Andrews (their guard Shaun’s brother), so these additions are moves to counter their aging offensive line.

2. The Washington Redskins

The Redskins are hard to evaluate because they have gained two controversial players but also have lost some good players and have been reckless with their finances.

Shawn Springs is no longer a starting cornerback with the Redskins anymore. Jason Taylor is also gone along with linebacker Marcus Washington.

They signed All-Pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth to a seven year contract that could pay up to $115 million with $41 million guaranteed in the first three years.

They also cashed in a pretty paycheck of $54 million to cornerback DeAngelo Hall. He will be spending the next six years with them and has $22 million in guaranteed funds.

Hall is a cornerback who is spotty at times and is hardly worth the deal he has received, especially since Al Davis released him.

If the Raiders are willing to release a guy like this, doesn’t that say something about the player?

Albert Haynesworth is another story. While playing for the Titans, Haynesworth lost his temper, his mind, whatever! He lost something and he took it out on Cowboys center Andre Gurode.  Gurode had lost his helmet, and Haynesworth sent a spiked cleat to the top of it.

This, of course, caused outrage, not only in the hearts of football fans, but in the entire league. Haynesworth was suspended for five games, the longest suspension ever for an on-field incident.

That was a scary thought when he played for the Titans, (a team Dallas faces once every four years), but now Haynesworth is going to be facing the Dallas Cowboys twice a year as a division rival.

Any fan that cares about his player should be very concerned if that behemoth of a man loses his temper. The harm that can be caused has only the sky for its limit.

As a player, Haynesworth is not even close to the money he has been offered. The Redskins were not only foolish for their own franchise, but now other defensive players will be demanding that kind of frivolous money.

The Redskins are trying to increase their defensive strength while running out the clock with star running back Clinton Portis. The strategy has proven to be effective for many teams, so it is not a surprise.

3. The New York Giants

The Giants are not the same team they were last year, and certainly not the same team they were when they won the Super Bowl.

Later this fall, the Giants are going to be a different team all together, ladies and gentlemen, so lets start with the biggest change of all.

Tom Coughlin was the head coach for the Super Bowl, but I sincerely believe that defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was the difference maker. His blitz schemes and coaching of the defensive line transformed Tom Brady into a piñata.

Steve Spagnuolo has become the head coach for the St. Louis Rams, so the defense, while talented, will not have the man who called the plays.

The Giants have neither of their two veteran receivers. Amani Toomer is 34-years-old and Plaxico Burress had become a problem in the locker room, especially when he shot himself in the leg by accident.

They are considering acquiring Braylon Edwards from the Browns or using Steve Smith as their No. 1 receiver. The addition of Braylon Edwards is undetermined because he drops as many passes as he catches, but when he catches, he is a nightmare.

Osi Umenyiora will be back from a injury that ended his season last year, and the combination of him and Pro Bowler Justin Tuck as pass rushers is a tandem that no offensive line wants to face.

Derrick Ward, the backup running back, is now in Tampa Bay and, although he was a very good runner to go along with bruiser Brandon Jacobs, Ahman Bradshaw can easily step up.

The one big addition was defensive end Chris Canty from the Dallas Cowboys. Canty was a good player for the Cowboys, but it is doubtful that he will turn into a great player with the Giants since they already have Tuck and Umenyiora at defensive end.

The Giants haven’t really added anyone else, though, which supports the idea that the Giants want to rebuilding through the draft instead of free agency.

Overall Summary

The Giants may or may not make moves, but I think even with Braylon Edwards, the Cowboys are a better team in terms of talent. It is discipline that makes the Giants strong.

Philadelphia is always a problem, but they are beatable. The hope is that the front office does not trade for a big receiver like Chad Ocho Cinco or Anquan Boldin. If they do that, they will become a menace in the NFC East.

The Redskins are in for a disappointment this season. They are decent, but I don’t think their defensive moves will bear a lot of fruit. Haynesworth has never played an entire season and Hall is very questionable.

So when it comes down to term of difficulty, we have:

The Good: Redskins

The Bad: Giants

And the Ugly: Eagles


Eagles in Familiar Situation: Sheldon Brown Wants New Contract or Trade

Published: April 20, 2009

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In a scenario that has become all too familiar for Philadelphia Eagles fans, yet another player is demanding a new contract. If he doesn’t get it, it is likely he will ask the organization for a trade. 

Sheldon Brown is the latest player to deliver the ultimatum of new terms or ticket out of town. Anyone else getting a feeling of deja vu?

It was only about one year ago that the Eagles were in a similar situation with another cornerback on their roster, Lito Sheppard. 

Brown is scheduled to make $3.25 million this year on a contract that was signed during the 2004 season. Last year, he started all 16 games for the Eagles, playing opposite Asante Samuel.

Last year, Sheppard let the contract situation affect his play on the field when the Eagles refused to renegotiate and couldn’t find a suitable trading partner.

Will the same happen with Brown? I certainly hope not. The Eagles have had a pretty productive offseason up until this point.

One interesting side note to this story: Last week, after the Eagles made the trade for Jason Peters, it seemed as though they would not want to give up their other first-round draft pick and try to make a trade for Anquan Boldin.

Now, with a disgruntled Brown and the Arizona Cardinals needing help on the defensive side of the ball, could a trade be in play again?

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Could Pittsburgh Have a Holmes Jr?: The Read Up On Joe Burnett

Published: April 20, 2009

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The 5’11”, 192-pound Burnett is an intriguing player. He could possibly take the Steelers special teams to a whole new level.
He started four seasons for UCF and excelled as a defensive back and return man.
In 2008, he had 44 tackles and four interceptions for 104 yards.
NFL Draft guru Mike Mayock said “Joe Burnett is a very good player.” and then handed  Burnett the Golden Corral “Best Value” among corner backs during the NFL Network’s coverage of the Combine.
I also feel Burnett can be a strong performer in nickel coverage and as a kick/punt returner. At the Combine, Burnett ranked among the top corner back performers in the bench press, 60-yard shuttle and cone drill.
He also excelled during the individual pass coverage drills.
Although smaller than most teams would like in a starter, Burnett could be a very good fit in the Steelers return game.
Burnett completed his UCF career as the school’s record holder in numerous major categories including 16 career interceptions and 1,304 punt return yards. Burnett is the Conference USA career record holder for most punt return yards and ranks 19th in NCAA history in that category.
He also ranks second in C-USA annals with his 16 career interceptions. He scored a total of five career special teams touchdowns including a UCF-record three on punt returns

He has very good breakaway speed and returned a few punts and kicks for touchdowns last season. He is not afraid of getting physical.

 


Let’s Make a Deal… Or Else! Why I Hate Player Demands

Published: April 20, 2009

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I want to conduct a little social experiment.

I want all the readers out there to walk into their bosses office and demand more money or else.

Done? Good. Now give me your job location and requirements so I can apply for your old job.

Ah, don’t you wish you lived in the same world NFL players do?

You know the one were you can make any demands you want, never suffer the consequences of your arrogance and get someone to give you exactly what you want?

Let me make it clear; I like Sheldon Brown. He’s a solid corner, hard-working, never missed a game and guess what? Before stories of his contract dispute broke, I wanted him to get a new deal. Not because he played particularly great last year, (only one interception for a starting corner just ain’t cutting it) but because he’s been dependable.

But in the nine to five world that doesn’t get you a raise. It’s get’s you an “Attaboy” and you keep your job. So why do we expect it to be differently in the NFL?

It’s true the contracts aren’t guaranteed, but as long as you’re consistent you can keep a job. How long has former Eagle, James Thrash been on an NFL roster?

As much as I loathe bringing stats into these kind of debates, Lito Shephard played in 19 fewer career games (93 to Brown’s 112) and still had more interceptions (18 vs 14). If Lito wasn’t given a new deal, what’s the basis for Sheldon’s supposed ultimatum? Sheldon’s not the only one—this offseason has been full of disgruntled employees.

Not only do players make demands when they feel they’re underpaid, but also when they don’t like the team they’re on. It’s like a guy is saying: “Hey I know you guys are the reason I’m a millionaire as it is and you’ve invested a lot of time and energy into helping me develop, but you guys suck so can you trade me to a winner?”

Now guys are even wanting off a team if they feel the management and or fans aren’t as in love with them as they are themselves. Braylon Edwards comes to mind: “Hey guys I know you drafted me to be a part of this organization’s future but the media and everybody is getting on me too much. I need to be traded where I’ll be showered with the affection I deserve.”

It’s these reasons that as a fan I don’t want my team to pick up a Boldin, or a Gonzalez or a whoever. The attitude of a lot of these NFL players is that they’re owed something by just showing up and if they aren’t compensated in the way they deem fair they make their demands. Even worse is that nine times out of 10 they get someone to meet those demands.

There’s a particularly funny exchange in a movie called Mr. Deeds that I always fall back on at times like this. It’s between the team’s starting quarterback and the new owner of the team. It goes something like this.

“I figured since I played good I could get a new contract and ya’ll could pay me more money.”

“If you didn’t play, could we pay you less money?”

“S#^! No! I mean no.”

That exchange encapsulates the lopsidedness of the typical player hold out. If you cut a guy you normally still owe them mone. If you trade them you rarely get back what they were worth to your team and if you pay them everyone else will have their hands out.

I know no one is shedding a tear for the poor billionaire who these things affect, but it affects the fans too. If it didn’t, T.O. might still be an Eagle…well I guess there is a good side to it but still…

I’d love it if at the end of a year NFL teams could say, “Well (insert name) in reviewing your game footage last season, your stats do not reflect your pay, so we’re gonna go ahead and reduce your salary by $700,000 next season.”

That wouldn’t be fair though, because a contract is a contract right?

 

 


The Pre-Draft Status of the New York Giants

Published: April 20, 2009

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The Giants are sitting pretty right now.

 

With less than a week to go before the 2009 NFL Draft commences, the defending NFC East champs hold three of the first 60 selections, five of the first 100, and 10 slots overall.

 

Loaded with talent from its youth and veterans alike, the Giants’ main quest over the last month has been an active pursuit of a legitimate replacement for the recently released Plaxico Burress. However, other than wide receiver, there is no clear, gaping hole within the current Giants roster.

 

Life changes fast in the NFL, so the Giants can’t afford to be content with their current group of guys. David Diehl has been prone to fast pass-rushers, as seen in front of a nationwide audience when the Giants lost to Dallas, 22-8.

 

Kareem McKenzie has sustained a considerable amount of injuries in the past couple of years, including a lingering back problem. Back problems typically don’t bode well for offensive linemen, and the Giants may be in a search to locate McKenzie’s heir before his skillset vanishes without any backup linemen waiting in the fold.

 

Therefore, an offensive lineman could get a buzz when the Giants are on the clock.

 

One rumor that has been mentioned frequently is replacing the Giants old No. 17 with one that boasts the same number in Cleveland. Braylon Edwards’s career has been turbulent and inconsistent, but his numbers in 2007 seemingly have appealed to the Giants, as general manager Jerry Reese has allegedly called the Browns twice inquiring about Edwards.

 

One option that has been seldom mentioned is the Giants taking a running back on the first day. With a stellar offensive line that has been clearing lanes for a variety of running backs that attained equal success, the Giants have had little need to select a running back in the early rounds.

 

In fact, their current roster is composed of a fourth-round pick (Brandon Jacobs), a seventh-round pick (Ahmad Bradshaw), and an undrafted free agent (Danny Ware).

 

Ware was a pleasant surprise this past preseason for the Giants, but he will be thrust into a larger role this year, especially given the likelihood of an injury to Brandon Jacobs. Is he ready to run against the league’s elite? And despite a memorable 2008 postseason, Bradshaw is not a given to sustain the same production Derrick Ward gave the Giants last season.

 

It is certainly feasible that the Giants would alleviate those potential issues with the selection of a top running back. The Giants offense has been predominantly mediocre when Jacobs has not been able to play, which could prompt the Giants to draft a running back they would be confident in to carry the load for a period of time.

 

Another position of need for the Giants is linebacker. Despite signing Michael Boley to a lucrative contract this offseason, there still remains the need for speed and depth in their corps.

 

The last time the Giants selected a linebacker in the first round was in 1984, when they picked up Carl Banks. Based on this trend, it is unlikely they will grab a linebacker in the first, but they likely will draft at least one as the draft progresses.

 

In what will likely be the most electric draft day weekend since the Eli Manning saga that dominated the 2004 draft, the Giants find themselves at a crossroads of sorts. If they pull the right deals and find a few gems that are dispersed throughout the draft, they could easily be hoisting their second Lombardi in the last three years.

 

 

 

 

 

 


In a Sports World Full of Egos, Aaron Curry Gets It

Published: April 20, 2009

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In this year’s NFL Draft, we have heard the stories of Percy Harvin’s positive drug test, alleged steroid use, Andre Smith’s questionable work habits, and countless other negative headlines.
Wake Forest’s Aaron Curry has sifted through it all and become my personal favorite player in this year’s draft, and I will cheer for him every Sunday as long as he is putting on a uniform.
Sure, the 6’2”, 254 pound body of solid linebacker muscle that can run 40 yards in 4.52 seconds helps my man-crush for Curry. His ability to play from anywhere at the linebacker position, regardless of scheme, is amazing, and his versatility makes him highly coveted and an almost-certain top five pick come Saturday.

He did nothing but produce like crazy for the Demon Deacons and has scouts raving about his potential. Think about it: Have you heard any negatives on Curry?

But that is hardly the reason why Curry has quickly become my favorite player in this year’s draft. In fact, it has nothing to do with what he has done on the field.

Today, I was sent an article on Aaron Curry and the special opportunity that he is giving a child who suffered from cancer. 12-year-old Bryce is currently a patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and he is in remission after defeating his eight-month battle with acute myeloid leukemia.

On April 13, Curry visited Bryce in the hospital and was given a special tour of the hospital where Bryce stayed. Bryce showed him around many parts of the hospital, including where he was given chemotherapy, and also introduced him to many of the nurses and doctors that had helped Bryce during his battle.

Curry described the tour as powerful and a movie experience.

Wait just a second. A 12-year-old giving you a tour of a hospital was moving, says the future NFL linebacker?

That’s right everyone, Aaron Curry gets what this is all about. After the tour was over, Curry asked Byrce if he would join him at his table at the NFL Draft, something Bryce was clearly not expecting.

When asked why Curry had been so gracious towards Bryce, he talked about how important family has been to him throughout his life and success and how, when he was given his tour from Bryce, the doctors and nurses all seemed like family to Bryce.

I can personally relate to exactly what Curry is talking about. My brother, currently 14 years young, is a two-time cancer survivor and is currently getting ready to start high school.

He was diagnosed with neuroblastoma when he was four and given a 30 percent chance of survival, and last summer was diagnosed with leukemia and given a 25 percent chance of living.

Luke defied the odds, had the doctors calling his situation a “miracle”, and has inspired thousands of people all over the country that know of Luke’s situation, from cousins in California, to family friends in Iowa, and to uncles in Florida.

I can tell you from my own personal experience that Luke’s success in the hospital would not have been possible without two things—family and sports.

Just as Curry explained, the most important thing in the hospital is an upbeat spirit and a solid foundation of family backing the patient and always being there for them.

Luke was NEVER by himself, and every time I think about what my own mother and father went through, I get the chills thinking about how strong of people they are.

Luke knew multiple doctors and nurses by name and vice versa, and everyone who met Luke was touched and inspired.

Doctors became brothers when myself and my two other brothers could not be there, and nurses became sisters that seemingly could always put a smile on Luke’s face. We are still close with a good amount of the medical staff at the hospital.

The second, sports, was just about equally important. Being a Milwaukee sports fan, the rivalries that ensue between myself and my Cubs fan brother are conversations I would not change for the world.

Over the summer, when Luke was battling his second cancer stint, the Cubs and Brewers were deadlocked in a race for the National League Central Division crown, and every time I would visit Luke in the hospital, he would be sporting his customized “Lukudome” jersey (a spin on Fukudome) and watching the Cubs game, going nuts every time his hero Alfonso Soriano would do something to help out his beloved Cubbies.

His little jabs of asking how the Packers did last year would irritate me if it were anyone else, but the fact that I am able to have these conversations with my brother is something I will never take for granted, because I know how lucky I am to have him still here with me.

Now that my official tangent is over, I will get back to Curry and what he is doing with 12-year-old Bryce, who is also a huge football fan.

Bryce has never been to New York, and seemed in absolute shock when Curry asked him to sit at his table on Saturday. Curry understands what it means to be a superstar and to give back to the community.

His stardom and future successes will most likely be used on defense and shutting down running backs, but the way he sees it is that his ability to give back “is more gratifying than any touchdown or sack,” Curry said. “Being here helps me realize the role I play in the community—how I can impact the community.”

Yeah, sounds like this guy was questionable on his drug test. I think not.

While Bryce will not get to sit at Curry’s table for very long once the draft starts, the experience that Curry is sharing with his new-found tour guide and buddy is unbelievable, and it hits home in such a good way that this Packers fan would cheer for him even if he went to the Vikings.

I am not going to sit here and say we need more of these players and that the game is being tarnished because of guys like Terrell Owens and Tank Johnson.

The list goes on and on, which is exactly why I will not preach that. The point is that you can not get more of the players like Aaron Curry, on or off the field.

 


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