Prime Cuts

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Homophobic NFL Fans? You don’t say

Some believe atmosphere is safe for gay NFL player to come out

And there are serious indications that day may come sooner than later. While I’ve long believed I would not see an openly gay NFL player for decades, that might be wrong. Based on interviews over the past several weeks with current and former players, I’m told that a current gay NFL player is strongly considering coming out publicly within the next few months—and after doing so, the player would attempt to continue his career.

I’m told this player feels the time is now for someone to take this step—despite homophobic remarks from San Francisco 49ers defensive back Chris Culliver and the controversy arising recently at the Indianapolis Scouting combine, when prospects were asked questions about their sexuality.  This player’s true concern, I’m told, is not the reaction inside an NFL locker room but outside of it. The player fears he will suffer serious harm from homophobic fans, and that is the only thing preventing him from coming out. My sources will not say who this alleged player is.

Another generation from now, stories like this will be--well, they won't be stories at all.

Until that time, however, the culture war rages.

In case you missed it, Bailey and Adams are sticking around

Champ Bailey, Mike Adams receive $1.5 million worth of roster bonuses

Some Bronco players did better on the fifth day of the league year than others.

Lost in the Elvis Dumervil fax fiasco was the Broncos did pay out roster bonuses of $1.25 million to cornerback Champ Bailey and $250,000 to safety Mike Adams. The roster bonuses clicked in for Bailey and Adams on the fifth day of the league year (which started at 2 p.m. March 15) — or the exact same moment the Broncos terminated Dumervil’s contract to avoid the guarantee on his $12 million salary.

Good catch by Klis on Mike Adams.  While $250,000 is a monetary flesh wound to the Broncos, money talks--or at least in this case, it whispers.

Bill Will gives Denver a “P”: Broncos perhaps perfectly potent in pairing Welker with Peyton

AFC West checkpoint

Where are they strong? Denver doesn’t have many holes, and its offense got more potent with the addition of slot receiver Wes Welker. His signing was one of the stories of the offseason. He is a perfect addition and a new toy for quarterback Peyton Manning. Pair Welker with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, and Denver has arguably the best group of receivers in the NFL. Denver added cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton and middle linebacker Stewart Bradley to a defense that finished 2012 rated No. 2 overall in the NFL.

Where are they weak? The Broncos could use a safety, some clarity at middle linebacker, perhaps another pass-rusher and a running back.

Biggest remaining question: Where is Denver going to go with the No. 28 pick in the draft? The John Elway regime is known for taking the best available player. If there is a safety such as Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro or a running back like Alabama’s Eddie Lacy available, I can see Elway pouncing. Either could come in and play a major role.

Perhaps the Broncos pounce and pick the best pass-rushing player.

We just don't know.

The Urlacher to Denver speculation began before you had time to finish dinner

Where should Brian Urlacher play next? Eight possibilities

Denver Broncos: They also appear to be on the verge of a title and offer a natural surface for Urlacher’s creaky knee. Denver just signed Stewart Bradley to compete for a job inside, but Urlacher is a better option. He could also lend a new voice of experience now that fellow old-timer Keith Brooking, who started 14 games for the Broncos in 2012, is gone.

Expect this hype to grow for another day before Urlacher signs with someone else. Urlacher had sought $11.5 million over two years. He felt the Bears' offer of a one-year deal worth $2 million was a slap in the face.

And herein lies the problem. Even if we assume the Broncos did have interest in Urlacher, whatever they offered would be perceived as a kick to the groin, which hurts way worse than any facial smack.

D.J. Williams follows legend Urlacher

Chicago Bears find a replacement for Urlacher

The Bears have their potential successor to Brian Urlacher.

A league source said the Bears have signed former Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams to a one-year deal two days after cutting off talks with Urlacher.  Williams, 30, was cut by the Broncos after a season in which he faced two suspensions, a six game suspension for violating the league’s performance enhancing policy, and a three game suspension for his second arrest for driving under the influence.

He is a productive player with speed who had the second most tackles in the NFL in 2007.  Scouts considered him one of the best linebacker talents on the market.  He was a first round pick in 2004.  The contract Williams signed gives the Bears protection should Williams not stay on track. His base salary is $900,000, and none of his contract is guaranteed.  He can earn a maximum of $1.75 million if he hits a workout bonus and a series of roster bonuses spread out over time.

Following a legend is difficult, even when that legend has struggled for several years with injuries.

Here's the question, though: is Urlacher a Bears legend in the eyes of fans? Before you answer this, remember what Urlacher had to say to the Bears fan base last year after a tough loss and chorus of boo birds:

"Two of the people I don't care about are fans and media...I don't care what they say.  They don't know that they're talking about."

Something tells me Williams is going to be more welcome than we probably think--especially if he lays off the sauce.

Ravens want Dumervil, who’s said to have better offer from Broncos

Elvis Dumervil mulls Ravens' offer; Freeney, Abraham visit Broncos

The Ravens have delivered a contract offer to Dumervil, according to two NFL sources. However, the sources say the Broncos have offered slightly more money in the early portion of the deal.

The Broncos’ money has tightened because of a $4.89 million dead-money, salary-cap hit they absorbed while releasing Dumervil last week, so re-signing Dumervil likely would mean releasing a player or two off their roster.

This has to be a tough call for Elvis, whose recent Denver experience has been just brutal. First came the stunning home playoff loss to the very team that's now pursuing him, followed by a public demand from the Broncos and John Elway that he accept a pay reduction. Next, his now former agent bungles his reworked contract, and the Broncos have now reportedly offered him less than the two sides had agreed to last Friday.

Will he take what Mike Klis reports is a somewhat better offer to stick around, or has the taste grown so bitter that he just wants a fresh start? Impossible to know what Elvis is thinking, but our hope is he remains in orange and blue.

Maurice Clarett, U.S. Olympian?

Maurice Clarett Joins Tiger Rugby

Maurice Clarett has joined the Tiger Rugby Olympic Development Program in Columbus, Ohio. “He’s committed to try to make Rio 2016,” said Tiger Rugby director Paul Holmes. “That’s Maurice’s plan.”...

“I think the big thing with Maurice is the maturity that’s beyond a lot of other guys, just because of the life experience he’s gone through, and I think he’s learned to look at the bigger picture in life,” added Holmes…

“He’s a very interesting story of redemption. He’s a guy who had the world at his feet and he chose the wrong path as a young man, and he’s now basically finding himself, and over the course of the past few years, trying to correct as many mistakes as possible, and that kind of led him to rugby. He says that money is the last thing on his mind. I truly believe him.”

Obviously, he's got a long way to go, but this would be an incredible story. We're pulling for you, Mo. (via LBS)

Congress takes up issue of offensive NFL team name

Bill in Congress challenges Redskins trademark

Faleomavaega is joined in his effort by nine lawmakers as original co-sponsors of the bill. They include Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., and Betty McCollum, D-Minn., the co-chairpersons of the Congressional Native American Caucus, and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a civil rights icon.

Cole, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, is one of two Native Americans in the U.S. House. In January, he told Roll Call that redskin is “not a term of respect” and “needlessly offensive to a large part of our population.”

I'm usually not a fan of Congress getting involved in sports (especially with PEDs), but when it comes to removing a blatant racial slur from everyday life? That's worthwhile.

Monson: Welker to Denver a perfect fit

Five Great Free Agent Moves

I always assumed that Wes Welker would return to New England, figuring his value there was always likely to be higher than it would be outside of Foxboro, but a little part of me always wondered what Welker could do in Denver given the success of Brandon Stokley last season.

...Wes Welker for all his faults might be completely uncoverable running a certain route tree of underneath routes, and my mouth is watering at the prospect of the potential upgrade for Denver. Given the cost of the deal, this has the potential to take that offense to a different level, giving Manning a target he can guarantee will be open when he needs to pick up a short pass. Great move for both sides.

It's been suggested in some circles that Welker isn't that big an upgrade over Stokley, but that's likely only true relative to per-target efficiency. But Welker is five years younger, does not have the extensive concussion history Stokley does, and has been the league's most prolific slot receiver of all time. As Monson suggests, bringing in Welker is a perfect fit for Denver, and a no-brainer - especially given the price.

NFL owners approve six rule changes for 2013 season

NFL owners eliminate ‘Tuck Rule’, approve all proposed rules changes

NFL owners approved all six of the rule changes proposed by the Competition Committee, votes that eliminated the “Tuck Rule” and the implementation of a rule making it illegal for ball-carriers and tacklers to lead with the crown of their helmets when both players are outside of the tackle box.

Other changes include a ban on peel-back blocks within the tackle box,  an elimination of the replay rule that cost the Lions on Thanksgiving last year, and a way to make FG and XP tries safer.

Also, tight ends and H-backs may now wear uniforms numbered 40-49, although it's unclear whether there's an exception for the number 15.