Denver Broncos News: Horse Tracks - 2/28/11

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Texas A&M linebacker Miller ascends NFL draft lists - The Denver Post
Expect the Broncos to cut a player or two around midweek. A few players have nonguaranteed roster bonuses due soon after the start of the new league year, which is supposed to be 10 p.m. MST on Thursday. Even if the new business season is pushed back because of the labor impasse, the Broncos are expected to do some roster cleaning.

Q&A: Broncos' Woodyard in position for more playing time, if he returns - The Denver Post
This is how Denver general manager Brian Xanders described the type of player the Broncos would look for to play in their 4-3 defense: "What's good is Fox, since 1997, is 10th or 11th in defense, and Dennis is from the Gregg Williams school and the Saints won the Super Bowl with big-time takeaways and disruption and negative plays. And what's happened is a blending of those philosophies in a 4-3 playbook, the Broncos' 2011 defensive playbook. Obviously, play speed is a big thing in the John Fox model of linebackers and (defensive backs). And the whole front seven is disruptive playmakers who can create negative plays in run and pass."

Putting Their Best Foot Forward
Nick Fairley hasn't let his success get to his head. Rather, his parents haven't let him. "My mom and dad, they stay on me, they make sure I’m a down to earth kid, very respectful and humble, always say yes sir and no sir to your elders," he said with a smile. As he goes through the rigors of the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine, Fairley has maintained that demeanor, wishing luck to his fellow top prospects -- even praising Marcell Dareus and Mark Ingram, who both went to arch-rival Alabama.

2011 Scouting Combine: Miller
Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller talks about what makes him one of this year's top draft prospects.

2011 Scouting Combine: Fairley
Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley talks about losing weight and preparing for the draft.

Video Gallery
LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson talks about why he thinks he's the best at his position in this year's draft.

NFL NEWS: GENERAL

Clay Matthews Led the NFL in Untouched Sacks -- NFL FanHouse
Clay Matthews is one of the best pass rushers in the league, so you would think that no matter where he is, offenses would want to make sure that he's always accounted for by their pass protection scheme. So it might surprise you to learn that Matthews led the league in unblocked sacks last year. There were four different sacks when Matthews was able to come through completely untouched to bring down the quarterback. Initially I believed that this was a credit to Dom Capers' scheme, which managed to confuse defenses enough to let the Packers' best pass rusher come free, but in checking back over my notes it's more of a credit to Matthews' ability to read a play on the fly.

NFL.com news: Colts' long-term deal for Manning not imminent, agent says
Most thought the Colts would try to wrap up a deal for the only four-time MVP in league history before the CBA expires at the end of Thursday. And if the lockout begins, as expected Friday, things will become increasingly more complicated.

Strange story emerges from Chiefs-Raiders game in November | ProFootballTalk
The fact that Tafur felt compelled to obtain a comment ruling out Raider involvement makes us wonder whether Tafur’s source specifically blamed the Raiders. It also makes us wonder whether someone from the Chiefs spoon-fed the story to Tafur, who reported the news from the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

The Bengals prepare for life without Carson Palmer | ProFootballTalk
Brown followed the exact same model after Boomer Esiason’s trade request in 1991. The Bengals just hope they pick a better rookie prospect than David Klingler this time around. Geoff Hobson ofBengals.com writes that the Bengals are "clearly shopping in the quarterback" aisle at the Combine. Coach Marvin Lewis is operating as if Palmer is already gone. It’s believed that Brown is sitting in on some of the 15-minute interviews with quarterback prospects.

Del Rio plans to ease up on young team | ProFootballTalk
"I think we pushed our young guys to a point where they didn’t have anything left," Del Rio said in Indianapolis this week. "I’ve got to do a better job getting my team ready to play their best in December."

Chicago Bears: Chicago Bears' Mike Martz latest to defend Jay Cutler - chicagotribune.com
"That last game, he didn't play as well as he can,'' Martz said. "That happens. Why does Brett Favre throw five interceptions in a playoff game? It happens. "We're all going to have to learn to let it go. He's a young player learning how to play. And he had never been in that environment before in his career, and he'll deal with it right next time.'' Martz also is annoyed with people who dissect Cutler's demeanor. Some still question why Cutler looked unenthused as he sat on the sideline nursing his sore knee.

Fisher to serve as Competition Committee consultant | Titans Insider
"I wanted to have an opportunity to stay involved," Fisher said Sunday. "I am very close with all the members on the committee and the support staff. You can imagine the time we’ve spent together over the years, it’s almost been like a second job. To be able to continue to participate, it is exciting to me."

Threat of an idle NFL season hangs over effort to improve Sun Life Stadium - Business - MiamiHerald.com
In asking for tax dollars to fund a $225 million stadium renovation, the Miami Dolphins are pitching their home field as an economic engine responsible for 10,000 jobs and some $400 million a year in spending. But as the team lobbies the public and lawmakers for the public dollars, the Dolphins and its partners in the National Football League appear ready this week to idle Sun Life Stadium and the country’s other 30 pro football venues in a standoff with players over a contract dispute.

NFL DRAFT: COMBINE

Evaluating quarterbacks at NFL Scouting Combine - NFL News | FOX Sports on MSN
What you’re looking for in this setting is release point, accuracy (to a certain degree), touch, follow through, arm strength and even footwork, which is still hard to judge because they rarely are asked to roll out or move around. Most of all, you want to see how the ball comes out of their hands. That gives you a pretty good idea of velocity. However, you can’t judge traits such as field vision, pocket presence, ability to read a defense, decision making, leadership skills and other intangibles in this setting.

Charley Walters: Look for Vikings to trade their first-round pick in April's NFL draft - TwinCities.com
The guess here is that the Vikings, who are without a third-round pick for the April 28-30 NFL draft and have several significant holes to fill, will trade down in the first round with their No. 12 overall pick for either a late second-round or an early third-round pick.

NFL.com Blogs " Blog Archive Doctors’ poking, prodding puts prospects on edge "
Seemingly, the moment a player arrives in town, he is shuttled to a hospital, where each NFL franchise literally has a team of physicians waiting to conduct a thorough examination on him. "It’s crazy," Michigan State LB Greg Jones told me during an interview on Sirius NFL Radio. "Right after we got off the plane, immediately you get a paper, a tag with your name on it, like a bar code (that is scanned through the examination process). I’ve done three MRIs." The main reason? Jones underwent shoulder surgery in 2009, and his potential NFL employers want to know the quality of the operation and how well he has healed.

NFL.com Blogs " Blog Archive Technology in a T-shirt? Only in pro sports "
Many teams want to know if the prospects at the NFL Scouting Combine have heart. Thanks to a newfangled Under Armour shirt — marked by a bright, yellow button just below the chest — they can find that out and much more. Kevin Haley, senior vice president of Under Armour, described the E39, which is making its debut at the combine, as a biometric shirt that measures heart and breathing rate, skin-surface temperature, as well as force and direction.

The volatile QB market, Fairley's big dip and more combine Snaps - Don Banks - SI.com
It's hard to make the case that Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley's combine enhanced his candidacy to go first overall in April. For starters, he showed up smaller than advertised, measuring 6-3 and 291, when it was thought he was in the range of 6-5, 300. The NFL likes those 300-pound defensive tackles, and Alabama's Marcell Dareus, the draft's other elite tackle, checked in at 6-3½, 319 by comparison.

ProFootballWeekly.com - Fairley out to prove that he's more Suh than Haynesworth
When it comes to his performance on the gridiron this past season, it's no surprise that Fairley is being linked to Suh. Following a simply dominant senior campaign at Nebraska, Suh was taken No. 2 overall by the Lions last year. The D-tackle proceeded to start all 16 games, notch 10 sacks and rack up 66 tackles on his way to a Pro Bowl berth. And his attitude and demeanor away from the game couldn't be classier.

ProFootballWeekly.com - Peterson gives all the right answers at Combine
"I'm an all-around cornerback," said Peterson, who indicated that his ball skills, toughness and run support set him apart from the CB pack. He also is a diplomat, as evidenced by his response to a question about who was tougher to defend between Jones and Green. "That's a tough question," he said. "I really don't want a tick either of them off."

ProFootballWeekly.com - Sunday Combine notebook
Paea, who was projected to be a late first-round pick by PFW draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki before injuring his knee at the Senior Bowl in late January, is not performing any on-field drills in Indianapolis because of the knee that underwent arthroscopic surgery a month ago. However, he certainly managed to make a strong impression.

NFP Sunday Blitz | National Football Post
Critical needs may be emphasized more than usual by some teams in the draft, because they can’t be sure of what will be available in free agency. It may be more difficult for some general managers to make the case to take the best available player if that player clearly does not fit a need—especially if they have a glaring hole and no concrete solution to fill it. "Teams always take need no matter what they say," a veteran personnel director said. "But the draft might be more need driven this year, not knowing if you can fill needs in free agency."

The unofficial time to beat: 4.35 seconds | National Football Post
Abilene Christian isn’t the most well known college football program in the country, but they’re starting to get a reputation for producing some of the fastest guys around. Just two years after former Abilene Christian and current Chicago Bears wideout Johnny Knox turned in an unofficial 4.29 in 40-yard dash at the 2009 NFL combine, Edmund Gates became the clubhouse leader at this year’s event after posting an unofficial 4.35.

Combine notes: breaking down QBs and WRs | National Football Post
Overall, I thought Washington QB Jake Locker threw the best of any quarterback in group one. He showcased good touch down the field, had a strong arm and spinned the football cleanly on all levels of the field. The only time he was a bit inconsistent with his accuracy was on the dig route where he not only had to take his five step drop from under center, but also get the ball out on time. Again, it seems like anytime Locker is asked to process any info into a route his accuracy runs cold.

Daughter of creator says NFL misuses Wonderlic test - KansasCity.com
Kolbe has her own test, and she says it fills the holes the Wonderlic test leaves behind. "The Kolbe," as it is casually known, measures what she refers to as an instinctive modus operandi, or conative skills, the traits each of us is born with. She says the NFL should use both tests for a more complete look into prospects’ minds. The Wonderlic for measuring cognitive ability and the Kolbe for conative skills. Sure, she admits she’d like to sell her test the same way the Wonderlic has sold its product, and if that makes her sound biased, then she says so be it.

On the Steelers: Drafting 31st not a concern
Kevin Colbert came to the Steelers in 2000 and has never missed with the first pick. Starting in 2000, they include Plaxico Burress, Casey Hampton, Kendall Simmons, Troy Polamalu, Ben Roethlisberger, Heath Miller, Santonio Holmes, Lawrence Timmons, Rashard Mendenhall, Ziggy Hood and Maurkice Pouncey. All except Holmes spent his entire career with the team or stayed through his rookie contract of five years. All became at least good starters, if you include Hood. Five made Pro Bowls and a sixth was a Super Bowl MVP. All but three remain with the team and, of those, Holmes was traded and Simmons was at the end of the line with injuries and diabetes.

Veteran scout: Cam Newton "looks terrible" during Combine workout | ProFootballTalk
The scout, who works for a team that has no short-term or long-term need at the quarterback position, said that Newton "looks terrible." Opinions may very well vary. The reality, however, is that teams that love a player will be inclined to say bad things about him, both to throw other teams off the scent and in the hopes that the player will be available when the team uses its first draft pick. Teams that hate a player will be inclined to say they love a player, in the hopes that someone else will burn a pick on the guy, pushing truly coveted players farther done the board.

"Frustrated" Cam Newton admits "I underestimated the timing" | ProFootballTalk
Hours after an NFL Scouting Combine performance that one scout said "looks terrible," Auburn quarterback Cam Newton acknowledged that he struggled. But Newton said his struggles were just a matter of not knowing the receivers he was working with — and he seemed to suggest that throwing to slower receivers from smaller schools was a problem.

Nick Fairley says he's not dirty or a one-year wonder - Mocking The Draft
But there are plenty of questions about Fairley. He's been knocked by fans for the perception that he's a dirty player. But NFL people have told him, Fairley said, that he plays the game the right way. When he gets on the field, Fairley said he "flips a light switch" and doesn't turn it off until the game is over. "I don't think I take plays off. I think I play the game as it should be played," Fairley said. "I play at a high motor."

Mallett, Locker impress in 1st throwing session - CBSSports.com
As the session continued, however, Locker got hot, nailing the deep ball and the post-corner -- generally considered the most difficult throw quarterbacks are asked to make here. These two routes require a combination of arm strength, touch and, of course, accuracy.

Ponder out-shines Newton in 2nd QB session - CBSSports.com
Cam Newton entered the second throwing session of the Combine with all of the hype, but it was Florida State's Christian Ponder who stole the show. Ponder showed surprising zip and very good accuracy throughout the throwing session, especially in the short to intermediate levels. His deep outs and post-corner routes were especially impressive.

NFL LOCKOUT

NFLPA creates fund to help offset potential lockout losses - NFL - CBSSports.com Football
To help offset the potential loss of money due to a lockout, the NFL Players Association will be paying players lump-sum checks, according to sources. The "strike fund" will pay players based on years of service in the league. For example, a player with three years or more experience will be given a check for $59,000. First- and second-year players will receive less than that.

Uninformed agents could hurt NFLPA - NFL - Yahoo! Sports
After seeing how so many of their brethren reacted during an NFL Players Association meeting for agents on Friday night, a number of player reps now fear that the weakest link to how the union handles the labor battle with owners is the agent community itself. "It was scary how little some of the agents knew about what’s going on and what’s about to happen," said an agent in town for the NFL scouting combine. That agent was among a half-dozen who estimated that perhaps as few as 5 percent of the almost 1,000 agents in attendance Friday appeared capable of explaining the complex issues to the players they represent.

Roger I. Abrams: Two-Minute Warning in NFL Negotiations
Those of you who regularly read this column know that I have been cautioning for months that it was too early to start to fret about the NFL negotiations with its Players Association. It is no longer too early. Let the "fretting" begin. This week the collective bargaining agreement between the parties expires, and the parties seem to agree that this should be treated as a deadline. Of course, collective bargaining agreements expire all the time in the private and public sector while negotiations continue and nothing much changes. Parties then may reach an agreement and make the terms retroactive to the expiration of the prior agreement.

If NFL lockout sidelines free agency, teams might draft players according to need | NJ.com
On the podium the past few days, they remained straight-faced, the image of calm under pressure and the look of men prepared for any situation that might arise. But in the hotel lobbies and the hallways of the Indiana Convention Center during the NFL Scouting Combine, many of the league's decision-makers chuckled and shrugged their shoulders when the questions were asked:

NFL lockout would send networks and advertisers scrambling - Crain's New York Business
Overall, by the time training camp is supposed to begin, television will face an economic shock wave. "You simply can't replicate what the NFL does," said Jeff Gagne, head of the sports-buying group at MPG North America. "You can restrategize a marketing effort, but as far as reaching the amount of viewers on any given Sunday the way the NFL does, there's simply no other option." Pro football owes its marketing strength to two trends: the NFL's ratings keep growing, while broadcast's viewership declines amid a fragmented media landscape.

Lockout issues include independent offseason work, injury rehab - NFL - CBSSports.com Football
But no one seems to know what the rules will be in the event of a lockout. Without a CBA, there really are no rules. San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who is busy putting together his team's playbook with new head coach Jim Harbaugh, recently acknowledged he won't be able to provide playbooks for his players. He also said during a lockout, "We're not going to have any contact with the players in a football sense. And, we really haven't up to this point. We're too busy dotting I's and crossing T's. You don't want to give players information that's not fully concrete, so we'll just have to take it as it goes. I don't believe we're allowed to give them any football materials."

Decertification: script playing out | National Football Post
In the event the NFLPA proceeds with it decertification strategy and then the NLRB agrees with the NFL, the union will have lost a big part of any leverage it had. However, at least for the near future, if the union takes the step, the Decertification offensive and the "Decertification is a Sham" defense will continue along parallel tracks. All of this, of course, is assuming there is no agreement between the two sides before Thursday night. Will that happen? I have been a voice in the wilderness holding out hope for an agreement this week, but my flame may be flickering.

Lockout Could Leave NFL Rookies With Big Challenge - NYTimes.com
They will not be able to negotiate deals until a new CBA is in place, and, perhaps more importantly, will not be allowed to get playbooks, go through the usual minicamps or the team's offseason workouts. Some analysts suggest it's enough to make this a lost draft class. NFL officials disagree.

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