Prime Cuts

Slices of great NFL content from around the web

Brandt: Montee Ball should play major role in Denver’s 2013 success

Tyrann Mathieu, Montee Ball among top rookies beyond Round 1

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning will love Ball because of his ability as a runner and a pass-catcher. He’s a good blocking back who is a tough runner with good hands—and he does not fumble. Ball is smart, has a good work ethic and is a very good person. Denver is known for using the play-action pass; I don’t think Ball will see eight men in the box very often. I think if Ball had been with the Broncos last season, they might not have lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs—they missed out on about seven first downs, and Ball’s the kind of guy who will get you a first down when you need one.

We've linked previously to praise from Dan Schneier and Mike Tanier for the selection of Ball. Here's another good read, which we had shared in December - a scouting report from Bucky Brooks, who sees in Ball an impactful NFL runner.

Breer: Lacy’s pec injury also fueled draft fall

Draft notes: EJ Manuel over Geno Smith not that surprising

Clubs were nervous about Lacy’s medicals, specifically a torn pectoral and a toe injury—an observation that was supported by the Packers’ decision to backstop the Tide star by adding UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin in the fourth round.

We already knew about the toe injury; the pec problem contributed to Lacy's not having performed at the combine. But it goes beyond that, as Lacy has an extensive injury history, detailed here by the Journal-Sentinel.

This laundry list of maladies leads us to think John Elway was referencing more than just the toe when he said it was the medical reports that caused Denver to choose Montee Ball over Lacy.

Leroy Butler was a great player, but he’s an incredible person

Leroy Butler opens up about church flap, reiterates support for Jason Collins

“So basically you’re asking me to … some 16-year-old kid is somewhere in a closet with his father’s gun that he found and he’s thinking about putting it to his head because he’s been tormented in school every single day because they may have found out he is gay, or they suspected he’s gay. He doesn’t have a voice right now. You’re asking me to take all that back so he doesn’t have a voice. I won’t do that.

“That’s taking my dignity, my respect away. I want that young man to come out of the closet, put the gun down, and you’re a part of society. When did we get to this, starting to judge who gets to be a part of what society? It just bothers me. And I told the pastor to blame it on my mom, because my mom brought me up to love everybody.”

Their times in Green Bay were separated by 23 years, but we're guessing that Vince Lombardi would have been proud to have coached Leroy Butler, and that the feeling would have been mutual.

McShay: Broncos had great draft relative to order

Ravens and Chargers impress; From Buffalo to Tennessee, the best and the questionable

No one is talking much about Denver, but you could argue that they had one of the best five or six drafts considering where they were picking. There are degrees of difficulty when picking at No. 28, and Williams fell into their laps at that spot. He adds depth to a group that wasn’t as bad as everyone thought in 2012 (the team was No. 3 against the run). Williams should be an upgrade over Kevin Vickerson, and fellow 2013 pick Quanterus Smith is a close second on this list. Smith was a risk because of his durability, but Smith had three sacks against Alabama and its highly touted offensive line, so we know he can bend the edge.

Like Bucky Brooks, Todd McShay is a big fan of what Denver accomplished last weekend; the harshest thing he comes up with is that Vinston Painter is a talented player.

In Lombardi’s NFL, it’s the homophobes who were marginalized

Lombardi: A champion of gay rights

In 1969, the year before his death, the only year he coached the Redskins, Lombardi worked with at least five gay men—three players and two front-office executives, including David Slattery, who would come out in 1993. In his defining biography, “When Pride Still Mattered,” author David Maraniss described the scene of Lombardi charging an assistant to work with one of the gay players, a struggling back named Ray McDonald. “And if I hear one of you people make reference to his manhood,” Lombardi is quoted as saying, “you’ll be out of here before your ass hits the ground.”

“My father was way ahead of his time,” Susan Lombardi said. “He was discriminated against as a dark-skinned Italian American when he was younger, when he felt he was passed up for coaching jobs that he deserved. He felt the pain of discrimination, and so he raised his family to accept everybody, no matter what color they were or whatever their sexual orientation was. I think it’s great what Jason Collins did, because it’s going to open a lot of doors for people. Without a doubt my father would’ve embraced him, and would’ve been very proud of him for coming out.”

This news about Lombardi isn't new, but given the current state of affairs in professional athletics, it was bound to "come out" again.

It's quite evident from the reaction to the news of Jason Collins that we're going to see more than one NFL player out before too long--I give six months, at a maximum.  

Brooks: Sly Williams could turn Broncos defense “from good to great quickly”

AFC West draft grades: Gap closing on division champ Broncos

The Broncos add a blue-collar worker to the lineup with the selection of Williams. The former Tar Heel comes from comes a humble background (Williams worked at a factory for a while after high school before walking on at Coffeyville Community College), but developed into one of the most dominant defenders in college football by outworking the competition. Based on his previous drive and determination, Williams could become an unstoppable force in the middle for the Broncos. If so, Denver’s defense could go from good to great quickly in 2013.

Brooks is also a fan of the Montee Ball and Quanterus Smith picks, for what that's worth.

One scout’s assessment of Lerentee McCray and Lucas Reed

Ranking the AFC West UFAs

McCray doesn’t show great top-end speed on tape and his lengthy injury history raises a red flag. His durability is the bigger issue because he has the skill set to contribute as a role player if he can stay healthy. He is an effective hand fighter whether he’s rushing the passer or defending the run, and he has an above-average motor.

Reed, the younger brother of Houston OLB Brooks Reed, isn’t a physical player. He needs to develop an edge as a run-blocker and improve his ability to make plays in traffic over the middle. On the other hand, he’s fast enough to work the seam and has a big catching radius. He has 10.5-inch hands, 35.5-inch arms and a 37-inch vertical.

Sounds like a pair of developmental guys, but given the reported bidding war for McCray, it may be tough to sneak him through to the practice squad. Of course, there are four months between now and that decision, and a lot can happen in the interim.

A brilliant article about Jason Collins and gay athletes

The Decision

Backlash politics do not disappear by themselves, not as long as there remains an audience for them. They hide. They camouflage themselves. And the audience doesn’t disperse. It takes refuge in euphemism and deceit. Backlash politics must be crushed, and the audience must be rendered politically inert. Self-congratulation is the worst possible context in which this can happen. Watch how quickly “Jason Collins” becomes a conjuring spell on the political right. Watch them invent a “Jason Collins” that they can use to their own purposes. Watch it happen. It will look like magic.

Charlie Pierce is one of the most outstanding social commentators of this era, and it's a credit to Grantland that they feature his writing.  His overarching point here is that we, as a society, shouldn't be as self-congratulatory as many of us would like to be, just because Jason Collins's announcement has been met with mostly positive public reactions.  For most of the non-bigots among us, it's easy to have respect and understanding for Collins, and we assume that everybody else is just like us.

Pierce believes that the announcement is being received less well in quieter quarters, and he's almost certainly correct that a backlash will follow.  Society still has a ways to go, even if many of us have evolved.

NBA free agent Jason Collins is first openly gay athlete in a major American team sport

Why NBA center Jason Collins is coming out now

No one wants to live in fear. I’ve always been scared of saying the wrong thing. I don’t sleep well. I never have. But each time I tell another person, I feel stronger and sleep a little more soundly. It takes an enormous amount of energy to guard such a big secret. I’ve endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie. I was certain that my world would fall apart if anyone knew. And yet when I acknowledged my sexuality I felt whole for the first time. I still had the same sense of humor, I still had the same mannerisms and my friends still had my back…

...Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it’s a good place to start. It all comes down to education. I’ll sit down with any player who’s uneasy about my coming out. Being gay is not a choice. This is the tough road and at times the lonely road…

...The most you can do is stand up for what you believe in. I’m much happier since coming out to my friends and family. Being genuine and honest makes me happy.

It is our hope that the positive reception given Collins's news continues, and is extended to the fellow openly gay athletes who are to follow.

Jason Cole also counts the Broncos’ cook as a source, apparently

Jets' release of Tim Tebow could be blessing in disguise if QB is willing to take stock

Coaches and players who were with him in Denver say that Tebow would get to the line and immediately lose track of the play call from the huddle in the jumble of what he was told and what he saw across the line.

John Fox famously claimed two years ago that Mike Silver must have been speaking to the cook when he said Tebow was the Broncos' fourth best quarterback, behind Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn, and Adam Weber.

As always...Thank You, John Elway.