Denver Broncos News: Horse Tracks - 3/8/11

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Vickerson gets contract extension from Broncos - The Denver Post
While the Broncos released tight end Daniel Graham, Bannan and Williams last week instead of paying them roster bonuses, it's worth noting that Orton was not released even though he has a $1.5 million roster bonus due on the fifth day of the league year. Orton, the Broncos' starting quarterback the past two seasons, won't collect that $1.5 million until after the league year opens, which won't be until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached. But at least he wasn't released in advance. . . . It doesn't figure that NFL owners and players are close to reaching a new CBA, because Broncos owner Pat Bowlen has not been attending the bargaining sessions in Washington even though he is co-chairman of the league's labor committee.

Denver Broncos give DL Kevin Vickerson a $1 million signing bonus | All Things Broncos — Denver Broncos news, stats, analysis — Denver Post
The deal is worth $4.75 million. The unique aspect to the contract: Vickerson gets a $1 million signing bonus. While there are two payout dates, Vickerson will get the $1 million by mid-summer regardless of a league lockout. The signing bonus is unique because the Broncos have not been giving them out. The team’s four most recent multiyear signings — Elvis Dumervil, Chris Kuper and Kyle Orton, who got their deals last year, and Champ Bailey, who got his four-year, $43 million extensions last month — did not receive signing bonuses.

Q&A: NFL lockout would damage Broncos' preparations for 2011 season - The Denver Post
Some players have been at the Broncos' Dove Valley headquarters working out or rehabbing from postseason surgery. But there haven't been formal meetings between players and position coaches about specific things in the playbooks. The new coaching staff and the personnel department have been trying to prepare for the April 28-30 draft and free agency. This usually is the time the Broncos and other NFL teams are approaching offseason conditioning work. But that is on hold while the league and the NFL Players Association negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. If a lockout occurs, most players won't work out much on their own in football-related drills because of the risk of injury and because they won't have health insurance provided by their team. Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has said he wants to throw to receivers during a lockout, but most players won't be willing to risk getting hurt.

Broncos Mailbag: Replacement players again to cameo? - The Denver Post
The middle linebacker spot is an underrated void for the Broncos as they switch to the 4-3. As they line up now, either Joe Mays or Mario Haggan would be the "Mike." Mays may be middle linebacker prototype but he is unproven. Haggan is a terrific player but throughout his career he's been told that at 267 pounds he's not quite quick enough to be an every-down middle linebacker in the 4-3. He had his most success last season playing the "Sam" (or strongside) outside linebacker in the 3-4.

 

CU's Bill McCartney, AFA's Fisher DeBerry on football Hall of Fame ballot - The Denver Post
Among the players listed were former Broncos running backs Otis Armstrong (Purdue), Bobby Humphrey (Alabama) and Rob Lytle (Michigan) and Denver safety Paul Martha (Pittsburgh) as well as former Buffaloes Eric Bieniemy and Joe Garten and former Falcons safety Scott Thomas.

Cornerback from Georgia Tech familiar with Broncos' two first-round picks in 2010 draft - The Denver Post
"I got a chance to see some of the (Denver) games last year," said Butler, who is awaiting the April 28-30 draft. "You've been around them, you want them to do well. I knew what (Thomas) would bring to the table. I spent plenty of time working against him in practice. When he gets healthy, I think people will see his whole game. He just needs to heal up." Butler said he had particular interest in the Broncos' season opener against the Jaguars in Jacksonville. Tebow, the focal point of most fans at that game, didn't attempt a pass in his first hometown appearance as an NFL player. He ran the ball twice against the Jaguars, each time for 1 yard, and lined up once at wide receiver.

Revamping The Roster " DenverBroncos.com
Anyone who has followed the Broncos in recent years knows the defense needs work. A lot of work. Re-signing cornerback Champ Bailey was a big first step to building a quality defense. The Broncos’ defensive struggles are hardly the fault of Justin Bannan and Jamal Williams. Actually, I thought Bannan played pretty well this past season. When a defense, though, is ranked at or near the bottom in most major statistical categories and that team has a bad won-loss record, the organization makes changes. It should make changes.

2011 NFL Draft Preview: Defensive Backs
Second in the nine-part series: defensive backs. Below you will find six of the top prospects at the position. Later in the week, we will profile another prospect to keep an eye on -- Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith.

NFL NEWS

NFL.com Blogs " Blog Archive Suh not exactly surprised by rookie season "
During a visit to NFL Network studios on Monday, Suh told Fran Charles he wasn’t necessarily surprised by what he was able to accomplish. "It was more of a surprise of how quickly it all came," Suh said. "I knew what was in my body, I knew I could do it, it was a matter of putting in the work and getting it done. One thing that I kind of prided myself (on) was making the quick transition and not making to be so difficult and not making it so that I had to take a year or two to get adjusted to the NFL. … That was my goal. If it was seen as quick turnaround, that’s where I wanted it to be."

NFL Video - NFL - FOX Sports on MSN
Schein: Don't let Cam fool you

Hearing Is Sought on Helmet Safety - NYTimes.com
As minority members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and its commerce subcommittee, respectively, Waxman, Democrat of California, and Butterfield, Democrat of Michigan, do not have the power to call a hearing with Republicans controlling the House. But the request is the first concrete suggestion that Congress investigate the issue of football head protection since The New York Times published several articles late last year regarding what many experts considered misleading and improper practices in the helmet industry.

ProFootballWeekly.com - Colts' Freeney says he'd join union lawsuit
"Yeah, sure, why not?" Freeney told PFW. "If they are not going to keep us from playing, then I would absolutely get involved (with the suit)." Freeney and several other NFL players are in Baltimore for the Ed Block Courage Awards dinner tomorrow night. Each team's players vote for one teammate each season "who exemplif(ies) commitments to the principles of sportsmanship and courage," usually overcoming some long odds to get back to the football field.

The 10 best undrafted players of all time | National Football Post
7. Rod Smith, WR, Missouri Southern The first reception of Smith’s stellar 13-year career was a last-minute, game-winning 43-yard touchdown catch from Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway in 1995. With three trips to the Pro Bowl and two Super Bowl wins under his belt, the two-time All-Pro racked up more receiving yards (11,389) in NFL history than any other undrafted wideout.

Bob Sanders deal still in holding pattern | National Football Post
The San Diego Chargers' one-year deal with veteran strong safety Bob Sanders isn't official yet. It needs to be ratified by the league as a contract language issue is being worked out. "Sanders signing not official yet, but hopefully soon," Chargers spokesman Bill Johnston wrote on his official Twitter account. "Stay tuned."

Brian Westbrook talks to Andy Reid regularly, wants to play for Eagles | ProFootballTalk
"I talk to coach Reid every week or so," Westbrook told Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia. "We always talk, and I would love to be back in Philly. So we’ll see how things go. I think I can help out. I think they have a very good group of young guys on this team at every position, but I still think I can help this team win." There are a few odd things about those comments. The first is that Westbrook has apparently been talking to Reid regularly while under contract to the 49ers. It wouldn’t be surprising if the 49ers, who were busted for tampering with Lance Briggs in 2008, ask the league office what Reid is doing talking to one of their players.

"At least" three teams believed to be discussing Kevin Kolb | ProFootballTalk
There are a ridiculous amount of teams looking for QBs this offseason, and not much supply. That fact should only help push Philadelphia’s asking price for Kevin Kolb higher, if there is a new CBA worked out before the NFL Draft. (If the CBA doesn’t get settled until after the draft, we’d bet Kolb stays put.) Adam Schefter of ESPN reported Monday that at least three teams are debating making a deal for Kolb. Schefter won’t reveal which teams, but says that "every NFC West team except St. Louis has to consider him and deal with Eagles."

In Pro Athletes’ Finances, a Defensive Line Pays - NYTimes.com
While he has a four-year, $1.8 million contract, he still has to make the team each season because his contract is not guaranteed. That is why he, his wife and their baby are living with his parents while he waits to see what will happen next year. It may seem absurd for a person who made $390,000 last year, as Mr. Slauson did, to move back home. But it reflects a sense that the good times may not go on forever. He said his primary financial goal was to be able to buy a house, and this would help him save for it.

Chargers owner meets with San Diego mayor | ProFootballTalk
"The meeting focused on the future of redevelopment and the proposed changes out of Sacramento, the future of the NFL’s G3 stadium loan program after the League’s Collective Bargaining negotiations are resolved, and financing alternatives in the event that the City and the Chargers do not ultimately have access to redevelopment funding and/or G3 funding. "The Chargers and the Mayor’s Office will continue to work together as these important issues are resolved."

NFL.com news: NFL Films' Steve Sabol stable, alert after suffering seizure
NFL Films president Steve Sabol is in stable condition in a Kansas City hospital after suffering a seizure Saturday night. Sabol, 68, was in Kansas City attending the 101 Awards, where he was to accept the Lamar Hunt Award for Professional Football on behalf of NFL Films, when he became ill.

Supreme Court won't hear New England Patriots-New York Jets 'Spygate' suit appeal - ESPN
The Supreme Court said Monday it won't review a decision throwing out a lawsuit stemming from the New England Patriots' 2007 "Spygate" scandal. The high court refused to revive a New York Jets fan's class-action lawsuit against their football archrivals and coach, Bill Belichick.

FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS: Innovative Statistics, Intelligent Analysis | Wisdom of Crowds Review: Running Backs
We've found in the past that quarterbacks with a propensity for running increase the efficiency of their halfbacks, and that was certainly the case in Tennessee. With Young in the lineup, Johnson averaged 4.7 yards per carry, but when he was forced to work with Kerry Collins and Rusty Smith, Johnson produced just 3.7 yards a pop.

NFL DRAFT

NFL.com Blogs " Blog Archive A look at draft stocks on the rise "
J.J. Watt, DL, Wisconsin — "This is a guy who is going to bring an attitude and a work ethic. He’s got a (good) frame and I think this is a can’t-miss, very clean kid. I have him climbing on my board."

ProFootballWeekly.com - Draft Dose: Where OLB-DE tweeners fit best
Ryan Kerrigan The Purdue star plays with a ferocious motor, but the problem is his weight. Weighing in at just 255 pounds, Kerrigan is a little too light to play as a 4-3 defensive end. However, his stiffness and average athleticism preclude him from moving to an outside linebacker spot, so for now it appears Kerrigan's living will be made with his hand on the ground.

ProFootballWeekly.com - Prince Amukamara's draft diary, Part 3
On the interview process: I wasn't shocked by all of the media attention, but I think what surprised me most was the team interviews. Some interviews with the teams were laid back and some of them were pretty intense, but I was prepared well for it. The weirdest question was they asked me if I had a girlfriend, and I told them I had never had a girlfriend before, and they said, 'So do you have a boyfriend?' That was pretty funny. I said, 'No, I love women.'

NFP prospect rankings updated | National Football Post
Defensive line I still have major questions about the guy’s character. However, anyway you look at it North Carolina’s Marvin Austin has been impressive all postseason long. He carries his weight well, possesses good strength and looks like an intriguing boom or bust type top-100 pick. Speaking of North Carolina standouts, DE Robert Quinn displayed an explosive initial burst, was fluid and clean when changing directions and is in a tight race for the top defensive end in the class. Quinn gets the nod in my book.

NFL.com news: Need at QB so dire, expect a 'reach' and several 'runs' in draft
Most NFL decision-makers are starting to get a good feel for the quality of depth at every position in the draft, and with some analysis by their pro personnel departments, they also should be clearing up the probable needs for their teams and where they might go in the draft to fill those holes. Quarterback is the first position to observe from the perspective of "reach" and "run". Will teams have to reach for a quarterback to insure they get one? Should teams reach for the few prospects that grade similarly but aren't quite there yet? Will the first reach set off a run on the position?

Phil Taylor NFL Draft Scouting Report - Mocking The Draft
Taylor is flying up my draft board. The more I watch the more impressed I am of Taylor's potential. He is the ideal candidate to fill the nose tackle role in a 3-4 defense. However, his quickness and athletic ability makes him versatile and increases his overall value. Taylor has the ability to hold strong against the run and also rush the passer. If he can improve his stamina he could develop into a 3 down defensive lineman. Right now, I would have no problem taking Taylor in the middle of the 1st round.

When to pick a QB? - CBSSports.com
History tells us, however, that it's unlikely you'll find an elite starter, or even a reliable one, once you've passed the top two quarterbacks in any draft. Over the past twenty drafts, the top two quarterbacks have started 10 or more games an average of four years during their career. That might seem like a low number, but for every elite passer like Peyton Manning and likely long-term starters with a chance to be elite in Matt Ryan and Sam Bradford, there are the less successful stories of Tim Couch, JaMarcus Russell and Alex Smith.

Rivera, Elway among those going to Auburn Pro Day - CBSSports.com
The Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos, owners of the top two picks of the 2011 draft, will be well represented at Auburn's Pro Day tomorrow. Darin Gantt of the Rock Jill Herald reports that Carolina will send head coach Ron Rivera to the workout. Broncos' Vice President of Football Operations John Elway announced via his Twitter account that he, too, will be making the trip. Don't be surprised if every team in the league is represented at Auburn's Pro Day.

NFL LOCKOUT

Tell Us Again - Why Is There an NFL Labor Dispute? - NYTimes.com
Not when checks are smaller and health insurance costs more for so many Americans. Not when "Bank Owned" signs are still a common sight in front of foreclosed homes. Not when Wisconsin, home of the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, is paralyzed by a dispute between a state government that says it's broke and workers resisting a major whack to their benefits and union rights. Haves vs. Have-mores. Give us a break. The owners, especially, should remember the people who are hurting also happen to be their meal ticket. Without them paying hefty prices to attend in person or, more importantly, plopping down in front of the television on every given Sunday to produce exorbitant ratings for the networks, those checks adorned with a minimum of nine zeros would dry right up.

Openness of Owners on Financials Could Be Key in Talks - NYTimes.com
The threat of decertification by the union and a lockout by owners remains. Last Thursday, with the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement looming, the union threatened to decertify within minutes if owners did not agree to an extension. They did extend the deadline, but people on both sides said Monday that some owners and players were losing patience with the long, sometimes contentious negotiations and that unless the sides were close to a deal, it might be difficult to convince them that another extension was worthwhile.

NFL labor negotiations were minutes away from blowing up - Peter King - SI.com
I think at some point this week you might see the owners give the players something they've wanted for a long time -- more financial transparency. That's a maybe, and I can't tell you if the transparency is going to be enough for the NFL Players Association. But I believe the only way the owners can truly make progress with the players is to give them at least some of what they've been saying for two years they had to have to make this deal work. They've got to see some real evidence that the owners are making significantly less money than the players believe they are. I would be surprised if this week goes by without the owners showing the players their books -- or at least more financial information than is required by the CBA.

Can the players physically survive a lockout? | National Football Post
1. Build your core strength: Not every player treats the offseason like a pro (saw it many times during my career), and without someone pushing them in workouts, it could get ugly. If I am an active player, I head back to campus in Iowa City to start training with Hawkeyes strength coach Chris Doyle. No question there, because I know I will get top-tier instruction in the weight room and on the field. For other players that don't head back to campus, you can head down to one of the Athletes Performance Institutes (training that many prospects use before the combine) or any other facility that specializes in training pro athletes. The offseason is important to building your core strength and muscle endurance for the long NFL season — which is hell on your body. Even with the front door locked at the team facility, find a place to train — because your production in the regular season depends on it.

Chiefs' Player Suggests That Wealthy NFL Players Could Funnel Money To Those That Would Be Most Affected By A Lockout
Kansas City Chiefs guard Brian Waters revealed that he's looked into creating a fund in which the league's high-earning players can funnel money to the marginal guys that would be most affected by a lockout.

NFL and players don't need Congress's help on labor relations
However, I don't believe that congressional involvement in this issue is appropriate or helpful. I am concerned that comment on either side of this dispute may hinder the chances of the parties reaching a deal.

Kraft: NFL labor deal 'is possible'
Patriots owner Robert Kraft says he "personally [believes] it's possible" for the NFL owners and players to reach agreement on a new labor agreement before Friday's deadline, and that he's prepared to leave Israel -- where he's on a trade mission in a group with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick -- if an agreement is close. "If necessary, I might have to leave early," Kraft told a group of reporters, which included New England Cable News' Alison King, on Monday. A new labor deal, he said, is "a high priority."

Our take: Jeffrey Kessler currently has a conflict of interest | ProFootballTalk
As the negotiations between the NFL and the players’ union approach critical mass, we believe that the union’s chief outside counsel, Jeffrey Kessler, has a conflict of interest. Getting a deal done diminishes Kessler’s influence and revenue, since it would short-circuit the carefully-crafted (and for Kessler’s firm highly lucrative) litigation strategy over which Kessler would be presiding. It also could set the stage for NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith to hire a new firm to handle grievances and other legal issues arising under the new CBA. (Indeed, it’s widely believed that Smith has kept Kessler around because of his institutional knowledge, and because of the fact that the owners don’t care for him.)

CBA hinges on one word: Risk | National Football Post
The owners want the players to share their risk of operating their professional football franchises. The players want the owners to reduce the health and safety risk associated with playing a violent game. Simply, they both want the other side to reduce the risk.

NFL News Feed: Sources: NFL, players $800 million apart on revenue split - Leonard Bernstein
That gap was narrowed a bit last week but remains sizable, according to sources. Another major stumbling block this week, the sources said, is that the union continues to seek more information from the league about the teams' finances, while the NFL's negotiators remain reluctant to provide the players with the extensive financial data they seek. Several sources said that the two sides probably cannot reach a compromise on the division-of-revenue issue unless they couple it with another bargaining issue. That issue, the sources said, could be the continued oversight of the sport's labor situation by U.S. District Judge David S. Doty.

Tony Walter column: Too early to worry about NFL lockout | Green Bay Press Gazette | greenbaypressgazette.com
It's probably part denial. With the first real football game still half a year away, fans can't get stirred up about what they see as the remote prospect of the labor strife messing up autumn Sundays. The realistic fan just can't fathom the idea of football's golden goose being led to slaughter rather than being allowed to continue spreading its riches. Lockout apathy also might be caused by the fact that most fans haven't aligned with either side in this labor dispute. Players are generously compensated, team owners have deep pockets and TV networks continue to increase the ante in this country's most popular sport.

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