The Lard

A comprehensive daily examination of NFL happenings and analysis

The Daily Lard 5-22-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Mike Freeman dropped something of a bombshell yesterday regarding the league's handling of the Saints' bounty system.

As told to Freeman by several Saints players, the NFL's suspension letters to Sean Payton, Gregg Williams, Joe Vitt, and Mickey Loomis essentially offers them a way back into the league in exchange for their silence.

These players believe the NFL has little or no evidence of a bounty system in New Orleans, and that much of the punishment was levied in response to the recording of Williams's notorious pregame speech from last season.

They also maintain that the league has overblown the supposed admissions of Williams and Anthony Hargrove, claiming the NFL wrote Williams's confession and that Hargrove did not acknowledge the existence of a bounty system, as the NFL has alleged.

Obviously this is just one side of the story, and it could be a coordinated PR stunt by a still-defiant team. Or, there could be some truth to it and the NFL is handling this all like a bunch of dirty cops trying to show they care about player safety. Hopefully we'll learn the truth one of these days.

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The Daily Lard 5-21-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Denver's first set of OTAs will run from today through Wednesday, with more to come next week, and the last a week after that. These are voluntary in nature, so it will be interesting to see who shows up for the Broncos. What of Matt Prater ($2.6M franchise tag, unsigned) and Ty Warren (asked to take a significant cut from $4M), who are reportedly unhappy with their contract situations?

Today will mark the next "first" time Denver's coaches get to see Peyton Manning working with his new teammates, and what will they see? Respected analyst Chris Brown isn't so sure - whether Manning will be able to play up to his old level, or whether the Denver coaching staff is up to snuff. Will Mike McCoy show enough trust in Manning to duplicate the simplicity of the Colts offense? Can the two meld their personalities quickly enough to reprise the successes Manning had with Tom Moore?

Of course, it will be several months before we know the answers to those questions.

In the meantime, Brown offers his breakdown of the Indy offense as constructed by Moore and run by PMFM, including 12 passing concepts. It's a perfect complement to Ted's series on the topic.

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The Daily Lard 5-20-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Mark Kiszla thinks Rod Smith falls a bit short of HOF worthiness (agreed), but he also believes the Broncos should retire his #80.

Yet, with offseason rosters expanded to 90 players these days, retiring numbers gets to be a matter of (im)practicality. Eventually, you start running out of numbers to use, even though you can always unretire a number whenever you bring in a GOAT like PMFM.

Were Smith's number to be retired, what about that of Shannon Sharpe? Smith's practice squad teammate Tom Nalen? They both meant as much to Denver's successes, and as seventh-round picks, the unlikelihood of their personal achievements is almost as impressive as what Smith overcame. And had Mike Shanahan kept his own hubris in check and not allowed Shannon to walk in 2000, all three would be exclusively Denver Broncos.

Denver's Ring of Fame is an exclusive enough club, with Smith set to become the team's 23rd inductee. Let's worry about honoring every deserving Bronco before we consider elevating them to John Elway's level.

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The Daily Lard 5-19-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Former CU Buffs and Patriots LB Ted Johnson, who retired in 2005 due to the after effects of the head injuries he suffered in his 10 years in the league, spoke at a conference on pediatric concussions at Boston Children's Hospital yesterday.

During his 30-minute speech, Johnson said he suffered 100-150 concussions during his career, and he told the conference he's certain that head injuries played a role in the suicide of Junior Seau:

It's corrode or explode. And it all exploded by killing (himself). You can't tell me the head trauma he had over his career didn't affect him. That was the tip of the tipping point for me. ... It makes you take inventory on your own mortality. If that can happen to him, I've got to be more diligent in how I live my life. 'Cause it's a road I don't want to go down.

The ex-LB hopes players will be more forthcoming about their own head injuries, admitting that he "felt compelled to play against doctors' orders" by coach Bill Belichick in 2002.

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The Daily Lard 5-18-12

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! Perhaps Matt Prater hasn't signed his franchise tag because he's been waiting for someone else to set the market.

Well, consider it set.

Tampa Bay inked their kicker Connor Barth to a four-year deal worth a total of $13.2M, including $4M in guarantees, which is a modest increase over the $2.6M franchise tag tendered to Barth (same amount as Prater).

Of the five kickers to be tagged this offseason, Barth is the only one with a long-term deal; Cincy's Mike Nugent and Cleveland's Phil Dawson ($3.81M) signed their one-year tenders, while Prater and Jacksonville's Josh Scobee have not. As for unrestricted free agent kickers, none of them got a whole lot of cash this offseason; John Kasay got an undisclosed one-year deal in New Orleans, Arizona gave Jay Feely $2.5M over two seasons, Washington signed Neil Rackers for $990K, and the Jets gave Nick Folk and Josh Brown one-year deals worth $765K and $855K, respectively.

Kicking statistics corrected 11am ET July 3, 2012

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The Daily Lard 5-17-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Let's all wish a Happy Birthday to HOFer Ace Parker, who turns 100 today and is the oldest living ex-NFL player; Andy Barall shares his story.

Mike Klis says the Broncos are working towards signing all of their draft picks, and are close to deals with top choices Derek Wolfe and Brock Osweiler. Of course, thanks to the rookie pay system as structured by the new CBA, this is all a formality.

Incredibly, there's talk the Ravens and Eagles could try to dock the pay of Terrell Suggs and Jason Peters for their recent injuries, on the grounds that they were suffered away from team facilities. Apparently, the CBA stipulates that injuries suffered during off-site training sessions are considered non-football injuries.

So between drafted rookies possessing zero negotiating power as to their salary or team, players potentially getting docked for injuries while working out, and restricted free agency resulting in zero offer sheets this year, what did the players really gain in the latest CBA? Lighter practices and earlier free agency? That's it? And to think, so many fans took ownership's side and decried the supposed greed and selfishness of the players after ownership locked them out...

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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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‘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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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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