Vince Lombardi, Zane Beadles, and building a football team through the power of love

I love the history of football. In its beginnings a brutal sport nearly banned at many colleges, it took over 30 years to reach a level of maturity and acceptance by the American public in the 1950s and 1960s. The growth in the sport since then has in many ways reflected the positives in the evolution of American culture.

Football has increasingly outgrown its often brutal and unquestionably racist roots, beginning with the entry of players of color in the 1940s. It has seen the iron fist of Vince Lombardi, demanding in Green Bay that he not have a single member of his teams that bore racist, cultural or religious prejudice. Lombardi was an icon in many ways that most casual fans of the sport will never hear or read of.

Bill Walsh once had a player’s locker packed in the box delivered to his front door for simply implying that the details of his contract were based in racial discrimination by Walsh. Walsh was right - the player was playing a race card that in this case did not exist.

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The Daily Lard 5-16-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Peyton Manning has his first bit of AFC West bulletin board material thanks to Chiefs CB Brandon Flowers, who says:

We’ve got the mindset we’re going to win the AFC West. Peyton Manning, he’s a quarterback that everyone wants to have. He’s not going to turn the ball over, he’s not going to make critical mistakes.

But I’m going out there saying if my man can’t get open, he won’t have no one to throw the ball to. So as long as I do my part, we’re not too worried about Peyton Manning.

Okay, so it's the mildest of trash talk, but it's May. And, it's really more likely directed at Demaryius Thomas than at PMFM, who is 5-1 in his career against the Chiefs (albeit with a sub-Manning QB rating of 88.1). Thomas, meanwhile, has only six catches (three in 2010, three in 2011) in three career games against KC, for just 85 yards and zero touchdowns.

Then again, Denver's 2011 quarterback managed just eight completions in 30 attempts last year against the Chiefs, so it's easy to understand why Flowers is so confident. Won't be so easy in 2012, though, Brandon.

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Prater still unsigned, skipping offseason workouts

Matt Prater absent from Broncos workouts
blogs.denverpost.com

Broncos kicker Matt Prater, a free agent until he was slapped with a $2.6 million franchise tender for the 2012 season, has not been participating in the team’s offseason workout program.

“”There’s no message, it’s voluntary,” said Frank Bauer, Prater’s agent.

Prater made some huge kicks last year, and he was a bigger part of Denver's winning streak than a kicker would typically be. But he's still a kicker, and one who's made just 80.4% of his attempts with the Broncos, including an atrocious 20 of 33 from 40-49 yards (60.6%).

If you're wondering, Ryan Longwell is available and has made 83.2% of his career kicks, including 73.5% from 40-49 yards.

Steven Hauschka, who stepped in for an injured Prater in 2010 and became Seattle's kicker last season after Denver cut him in the preseason, was good 83.3% of the time in 2011, including 7 of 8 (87.5%) from 40-49. He's also a free agent - perhaps Denver should consider bringing him back.

Besides, PMFM doesn't appreciate drunk/idiot kickers.

Statistics corrected 11am ET July 3, 2012

Demaryius Thomas, ITBSOHL

Thomas Preparing for 'Best Year Yet'
www.denverbroncos.com

“I’m excited, man,” Thomas said, smiling from ear to ear. “I’m just excited to get healed and work with the team and not sit here and look around – to actually be on the field doing stuff. This is my first year in the NFL being healthy. I’m feeling good, I’m in the right shape, good size. It’s just exciting and I’m looking forward to it.”

...Thomas took advantage of the opportunity to learn from an All-Pro receiver in Johnson, who along with Thomas is one of the bigger receivers in the NFL. “It was basically just coming off a press and how breaking down the end of your routes will help you because as big receivers, it’s different for us,” Thomas said of the advice he received from Johnson. “Just small little things and just basically to work hard—something good is going to happen if you keep working hard.”

We'll soon be reading that Peyton Manning feels like a 27-year-old after a year off, that J.D. Walton and Zane Beadles have made incomparable strength gains after their first full offseason conditioning program, that Brock Osweiler's mechanics are PMFM-like, and Omar Bolden is running faster than he did pre-knee injury.

What's that you say? We've already heard those last two? Okay, then next it'll be that Nate Irving and Rahim Moore will be ready to make major contributions after the lockout stunted their professional development, and Knowshon Moreno is ready to thrive without the weight of lofty expectations.

Keep that PR machine churning, Sacco.

* ITBSOHL (In The Best Shape Of His Life) has been popularized by the peerless Mets blog Amazin' Avenue, referring to the sunny optimism that is an annual rite of spring training media coverage.

‘08 was awesome, Bro* Lard 5-15-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! The bro-fest continues with the reunion of J-Cutty and Jeremy Bates in Chicago. These two guys are so smitten with themselves and each other that they're actually starting to look alike.

Dan Pompei wrote a big fluff piece on the two for the Sun-Times on Sunday, replete with plenty of bro-love and mythicizing of Cutler's 2008 season. You all remember that grand year, yeah?

'Twas the greatest season in the history of offensive football. (Finishing 2nd in yards and 16th in points that year qualifies, right?)

You know, the one where they scored 114 in their first three games before averaging under 20 points for the next 13, and blew a three-game lead in the AFC West with three games left to play. You know, when Jay threw 18 picks including several in the end zone, and had the lowest TD% of his career?

Well, apparently it was a magical season for these two bros, and they're all giddy about reproducing that greatness this year in Chicago. At least John Mullin knows the truth, and isn't perpetuating the 2008 myth or participating in the fluffery.

In other news, Jay took Kristin home to Nashville last weekend for a giant bro convention, and he accepts that concussions are a part of the game.

* Not really

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Nunnely retires; Jay Rodgers takes over defensive line

Broncos defensive line coach Wayne Nunnely announced his retirement today after 36 years of coaching. Jay Rodgers, who served as a defensive quality control coach last season, has been promoted to replace Nunnely.

Nunnely worked at the college level for 18 years before coaching the D-lines of the Saints for two years (1995-96), the Chargers for twelve years (1997-2008), and the Broncos for the past three (photos).

The 35-year-old Rodgers is entering his fourth year with the Broncos and is the younger brother of special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers, who begins his second year in that position for Denver.

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Scouting the Broncos: Duke Ihenacho

Duke Ihenacho has gotten plenty of pre-camp media attention, more than most college free agents that I can recall offhand. Rob RangPat Kirwan and Doug Farrar all named the ex-San Jose State Spartan among their top undrafted rookies. The safety, who will wear #38 #39 for the Broncos, played 47 games for SJSU and finished with 268 tackles (15 for loss), seven interceptions, three forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, and three defensive scores.

Head coach John Fox and new DC Jack Del Rio both talk about aggression; they both prefer to dictate to the offense, rather than utilize a read-and-react style. I’m glad about that.  Del Rio was well known for that quality as a linebacker, and he’s also sincere to the point of a religious belief about it as a coach - Elvis Dumervil describes him as having a “fiery side.” That’s a well-crafted understatement from Doom, who knows a thing or two about focused aggression. I expect, from the draft and from the form of the team right now, to see a lot of very aggressive, attacking play from their front 7. Ihenacho seems like the kind of player who might find a niche with Del Rio fairly quickly.

One reason is that while Duke’s not a man cover burner, he’s a player with a lot of different uses. He’s not the kind of guy you leave out by himself on an island, but he is the type who likes to blow up defenses and defenders, to cause and jump on fumbles, grab interceptions, and even blitz the quarterback. He’s fearless when hitting and tackling, is solid in run support, and with the Broncos’ emphasis on getting to the QB as part of protecting the defensive backfield, Ihenacho has the size, power, and aggressive nature that could become a successful part of that.

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The Daily Lard 5-14-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! John Fox (video) spoke after the third and final day (photos) of Denver's rookie minicamp. Echoing the words of Jack Del Rio from a day earlier, Fox says the signing of CB Drayton Florence is a matter of never having enough cornerbacks.

For anyone who doesn't believe that one, drudge up some memories of Jonathan Wilhite, Nate Jones, and Josh Bell, why don't you?

Florence's fellow corner Omar Bolden made it through the weekend with no knee issues, and without a brace. As Fox and Andrew Mason remind us, the elite QBs on Denver's 2012 docket will likely test Denver's newfound depth in the backfield.

Bolden is one of three recent Sun Devils on the team (along with QB Brock Osweiler and undrafted WR Gerell Robinson) and says the familiar faces are aiding his transition to the pros, as is the presence of veteran corners Champ Bailey, Drayton Florence, and Tracy Porter. He says the knee injury which cost him his fifth and final year of college eligibility did not keep him from attending every meeting, practice, and road game. 

Osweiler, meanwhile, says he and Robinson have been working out together in Phoenix ever since last month's draft.

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Warren mulling pay cut Lard 5-13-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Coordinators Mike McCoy and Jack Del Rio (videos) spoke after the second day (Broncos TV, photos via Andrew Mason) of Denver's three-day rookie minicamp yesterday.

McCoy continues to say the Broncos' offensive playbook will be an amalgam of strategies he's grown fond of and what Peyton Manning thrived with in Indy, and not simply a carbon copy of the Colts' playbook. The third-year OC acknowledges that (of course) tight ends will play a much larger role a season after the group tallied just 30 catches (47 targets), and he says Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas are giddy at the chance to play with PMFM. Oh, and the zone-read is thankfully gone.

Del Rio has plenty of praise for Mike backer Joe Mays and says he intends for his defense to help Mays improve by shrinking the gaps he's responsible for covering.

The new DC says he hasn't seen Ty Warren of late, and there's apparently good reason: the defensive tackle is apparently struggling with accepting a significant pay cut the Broncos have demanded. But frankly, Warren had best get used to the idea, because no NFL team is going to pay millions to a 31-year-old 300-pounder who has missed the past two seasons with injury. It's just not happening.

His fellow DT Kevin Vickerson has accepted a pay slice from $2.25M to $1.2M, and eventually Warren will have to do the same.

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How to impersonate an NFL football player and drive him absolutely nuts

The real Phillip Thomas signed with the Eagles; his sly imposter wanted to be on the Redskins
sports.yahoo.com

Somebody has been pretending to be the safety from Syracuse, spinning a story so convincing that the fake Phillip Thomas has appeared on blog posts, conducted radio interviews and tweeted a bogus signing with the Washington Redskins. The fake Phillip Thomas created a Facebook page loaded with pictures of the real Phillip Thomas along with photos from inside Redskins Park. The fake Phillip Thomas even posted a picture of a Redskins playbook that appears to have been taken in a hotel room.

On Friday, the real Phillip Thomas laughed nervously as he scrolled through the fake Phillip Thomas’s Facebook page on a laptop. He was shocked by the fake Phillip Thomas’s misspellings, pointing out that the fake Phillip Thomas had used the word “week” when he should have used “weak.” All of it unsettled him, he said. For instance, what was the page’s main photo, which appears to show someone talking to a group of children in a classroom? The implication was he was speaking to a class, but he had never seen the children or the room or even the photo. The person talking to the class is conveniently looking down, his face hidden from view.

“I have no idea who this is,” the real Phillip Thomas said. “He’s got to be watching my every move.”

One of the strangest stories you'll ever read, to be sure.

The key to recognizing a fake, of course, lies in the details.  One that struck me was when the fake Thomas talked about the significant time he spent with Mike Shanahan

We all know Shanny doesn't waste his time on you unless your name is John Elway, Robert Griffin, or Dale Carter.  

He's got better things to do, like work on his base tan. 

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