Denver Broncos News: Horse Tracks - 4/7/11

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Q&A: Broncos' Demaryius Thomas likely won't play until second half of 2011 season - The Denver Post
During the NFL lockout, the Broncos can't have direct contact with Thomas or any of their other players recovering from offseason surgery. Their medical staff and training staff can have contact with Thomas' doctors, so the Broncos have information about Thomas' recovery. The former first-round draft pick from Georgia Tech is rehabbing in Atlanta from surgery that repaired a torn Achilles tendon. Thomas suffered the injury Feb. 9 during a workout. The Broncos originally said they hoped Thomas would be ready by the start of training camp. But that timetable was too optimistic, according to several people we talked to, including Dr. Phillip Kwong, a foot and ankle specialist at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in Los Angeles.

Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph worthy of look from Broncos - The Denver Post
Rudolph could be available when the Broncos pick early in the second round. The 6-foot-6, 259-pounder is one of the biggest players at his position in this draft. That makes him more than functional at the line scrimmage for an offense like Denver's, which plans to strengthen its running game. Coach John Fox wants the Broncos to muscle up and run the ball whenever they want to and do it better than they have the last two seasons.

Bad deals come back to haunt Broncos in draft - The Denver Post
"We do have flexibility up and down this draft," Xanders said. "Remember, we had that last year. We received phone calls and compiled picks and we have that flexibility again this year. That second pick is a valuable pick. And then in the second round we could trade back five or six spots and also pick up a fourth-rounder and possibly rebuild picks that way." Xanders does know how to move his way around the draft board. Although it was the since-fired McDaniels who coveted Maroney and Quinn and rejected Hillis, it was Xanders' understanding of trade formulas that helped turn the Broncos into the Monte Hall of recent NFL drafts.

Broncos NFL draft focus is on offense this week | All Things Broncos — Denver Broncos news, stats, analysis — Denver Post
It’s not just their 32nd-ranked defense that the Broncos must address in the upcoming NFL Draft. There is also the Broncos’ offense that in their past five non-playoff seasons has ranked 19th (2010), 20th (2009), 16th (2008), 21st (2007) and 17th (2006) in scoring. "We’ll start our meetings at the end of the week with offense and then we’ll shift to defense,’’ said Brian Xanders, the Broncos’ general manager.

Jason Elam: Broncos kicker talks field goals, world travel and Tebowmania - The Denver Post
I have to say that the 51-yarder I made in the Super Bowl against the Packers was special to me because it was such a big game and it gave us some momentum (putting the Broncos ahead of the Packers 17-7 late in the second quarter). But to be honest with you, the one that sticks out — and one of my favorites because it was so dramatic and I got a shot at redemption — was in 2007, my last year in Denver. It was the season-opener at Buffalo and we were down 14-12 and we had no timeouts left. I had already missed a big kick (Elam failed on a 43-yard field-goal attempt with 3:32 left in the game).

Finding His Calling
Baylor tackle Danny Watkins thought his future was as a firefighter, but after just four years of football experience, he is set to be one of the first linemen taken in the draft.

NFL NEWS

Vikings stadium bill may avoid a public vote | ProFootballTalk
If the Minnesota politicians have little appetite for a publicly-funded stadium, the Minnesota electorate is downright nauseous. And so any effort to build a new stadium for the Vikings with public money will deftly avoid the direct input of the voters. According to Mike Kazsuba and Kevin Duchschere of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the current stadium bill will allow a local government to increase sales taxes without a public referendum. The Legislature employed a similar tactic in securing public funding for the Twins’ baseball stadium.

NFL asks: If figure skaters will submit blood tests, why won’t players? | ProFootballTalk
Are the teenage girls who participate in international figure skating and gymnastics competitions tougher than NFL players? The question sounds absurd, but it’s what Adolpho Birch, who runs the league’s drug-testing policies, wants to know.

Notices arrive in EA class action over exclusive video-game licenses | ProFootballTalk
Given that yours truly has purchased Madden every year throughout the past decade (some years on multiple platforms) and the NCAA game several times and even the AFL game, I’ll probably eventually get something like a coupon for $10 off my next purchase of an EA game, while the lawyers who filed the case get $10 million in fees.

Eisen says schedule will be released before the draft | ProFootballTalk
One topic about which many of you have asked recently relates to the release of the 2011 schedule. Though Eisen will host the league’s coverage of the schedule release, he says he has no inside information regarding the date on which it’s coming. But it will be coming before the draft. Even if the lockout remains in place.

Can the Moneyball concept work in the NFL? | National Football Post
One team that seems to never get enough credit for their formula is the Saints. Their GM, Mickey Loomis, has an accounting background and understands "value" when it comes to players. He outbid everyone for Drew Brees’ services but didn’t over pay. He works surgically but with frugality in singing free agents such as, Vilma, Shockey, Greer and Darren Sharper. They also seem to do well by developing undrafted free agents and late round picks.

2010 Bucs: What the Film Revealed - NYTimes.com
It’s remarkable this offense sustained as many long drives as it did. The Bucs’ top rusher and receiver were both rookies who showed athletic limitations. Running back LeGarrette Blount was not as good as his numbers suggest (see Myth Buster). Wide receiver Mike Williams’s elevation for jump balls revealed a lack of explosiveness. He was more of a really good No. 2 than a genuine No. 1. Tight end Kellen Winslow was Tampa Bay’s most dynamic target…when he was featured in the game plan, that is.

NFL.com news: QB or not QB? Bengals' Lewis mum despite praise for Newton
After watching Cam Newton's private workout in Alabama, Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis believes the Auburn star has what it takes to be a franchise quarterback, the team's official website reported Wednesday. And with Carson Palmer demanding a trade and the NFL's free-agency situation on hold during the lockout, the Bengals could use one of their eight draft picks -- including the fourth overall -- on a quarterback. But whomever the team picks in this month's NFL draft must be ready to play from the get-go, Lewis said.

Cold, Hard Football Facts.com: CHFF's Naughty Nurse: Dallas shows signs of life
We like to mull over the thought of alternate universes here at Cold, Hard Football Facts, usually after a couple shots of absinthe. For example, there must have been a few alternate takes on the present reality where the 2010 Cowboys fulfilled their owner’s dream and won the Super Bowl in the Jerry Dome itself. All in all, that was a more likely scenario than the one which actually unfolded. The Cowboys got out to a 1-5 start, mostly on the strength of strange bounces, then lost Tony Romo for the season, forgot how to play defense … and then, by season’s end, looked a lot like the team they were supposed to be in the first place.

NFL DRAFT

ESPN’s Mel Kiper questions Cam Newton’s work ethic | ProFootballTalk
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper held a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning, and echoed some of the same concerns about Auburn quarterback Cam Newton that were expressed in Pro Football Weekly draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki’s scathing scouting report. Specifically, Kiper has major questions about Newton’s work ethic and ability to handle adversity.

Odds and ends from Mel Kiper’s conference call | ProFootballTalk
Kiper believes Da’Quan Bowers would have been a top-two pick if healthy, but now has him dropping to No. 12 to Minnesota. Kiper still ranks Bowers as the fifth best player in the draft. The top four all are all defenders: Patrick Peterson, Von Miller, Marcell Dareus, and Nick Fairley.

Ken Whisenhunt talks draft strategy | ProFootballTalk
Florio also asked Whisenhunt about the success recent rookie quarterbacks have had and the issues that creates. "It creates pressure with the fan base … well, I shouldn’t say pressure. It creates expectations. My experience in this league it is difficult for young guys to come in and have success. . . . Obviously we did that with Ben (Roethlisberger) in Pittsburgh and had success. If you look at history at that position, that’s the most difficult position for young guys to come in and be successful.

Learning from my mistakes as a talent evaluator | National Football Post
One of the biggest fronts that is often put up by any talent evaluator at any level is the idea that since they are professionals, they’re never wrong — which couldn’t be further from the truth. I have been evaluating college prospects for the NFL Draft since 2002 and since then I’ve made numerous mistakes in evaluating prospects’ talents to the next level. However, instead of trying to hide them away, hoping no one will ever find them again, I like to embrace them, learn from them and try not to ever make the mistake again. In my view it’s the only way I can personally get better.

Breaking down Locker's TD pass in the Apple Cup | National Football Post
From my perspective, Jake Locker is a QB that has a second round grade. Played in a pro system at Washington, has athletic ability (4.52 40 time) and can make the necessary throws in an NFL playbook. Inconsistencies? Sure, you can see that on tape, and as I watched down in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, a QB that will struggle at times with ball placement plus his footwork in and out of the pocket.

Ranking the top five small school prospects | National Football Post
2. Kenrick Ellis: Hampton (6-5, 346) GRADE: 6.6 C All the talent and physical traits are there for Ellis to be as good as he wants in the NFL. He possesses great natural strength and is a gifted athlete with a good burst off the ball for his size. Now, he does come with some character concerns, which is the biggest reason why he would fall on draft day. But, he’s capable of playing all over a 34 front and is one of the draft’s few legit nose tackle prospects.

Mason Foster visits the Titans, Broncos up next | National Football Post
University of Washington linebacker Mason Foster continued his NFL tour by visiting the Tennessee Titans today and is on his way to visit the Denver Broncos, according to a league source with knowledge of the situation.

Why draft boards still are not set | National Football Post
"There are guys who through the combine and pro days who tend to separate themselves a little because of the numbers," the G.M. said. "That gives you a little better indication of what’s in that player’s body. Then you try to go back to look to see if those numbers, whether they are positive or negative, are more identifiable in the film. A lot of times, it goes back to what you originally thought. But sometimes as you look at more film, you can see some of those numbers in a positive light or a negative light. You end up learning more than you did the first time through."

ProFootballWeekly.com - Draft Dose: Overaged prospects who could leave their mark
Veterans are highly regarded in the NFL. With age comes experience, and most of the league's elite players have grown from year to year to reach such a high level. Many NFL players enter the league as 21-, 22- or 23-year-olds and, by the time they reach their mid-20s, are already at the top of their game. This year, there are a handful of draftable players who will come into the league at the age of 24 and older. In the 24th installment of the Draft Dose series, PFW takes a look at 10 of this year's most talented overaged prospects, ordered by PFW draft analysis Nolan Nawrocki's draft rankings:

ProFootballWeekly.com - Q&A with PFW draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki
Q: How much of a can't-miss project do you believe Patrick Peterson is? Nawrocki: The only major concern is the mental part of the game — the tendency to freelance. There are some issues there with his back to the ball. Everything else, that size — it's so rare to find a player with his size that can run the way he can and can also bring an electrifying element to the return game. I think he's definitely going to fit into the top 10. He just works so hard; I think teams are going to feel comfortable knowing what they're getting. I think he'll be able to overcome his limitations and really grow in an NFL system.

N.F.L. Draft: Virgil Green, Top-Ranked Tight End - NYTimes.com
But if you’re looking for the most dangerous TE in this draft, Green is the difference-maker. He still needs work as a blocker. Right now, he’s a lot more punch and pop without consistent technique and strength to sustain his blocks. In fact, Green may never have the frame to add enough muscle to become a great blocker at the position. Although he is a willing and aggressive blocker and should develop into a technically sound player, his lack of polish will initially limit his opportunities as an every-down player. That’s O.K. If a team drafted Green as a blocker, the general manager should be fired. Green is much closer to Shannon Sharpe than Alge Crumpler.

NFL.com news: Bowers gambles by visiting teams so soon after workout
Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers this week visited the Denver Broncos and Buffalo Bills -- they hold the second and third overall draft picks, respectively -- and he'll see the Tennessee Titans, who pick eighth, before traveling to Indianapolis for a medical follow-up on his surgically repaired right knee Saturday. At one point, Bowers was considered an option for the Carolina Panthers, who hold the No. 1 overall selection in this month's draft. But his stock seems to have weakened because of concerns about his knee and possible residual issues outside of the meniscus damage that was arthroscopically repaired. So, Bowers took a major leap of faith that could help or hamper his draft stock, and the move has been somewhat overlooked.

Only Seahawks show up for McElroy's Pro Day - CBSSports.com
The Seattle Seahawks were the only team represented at Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy's Pro Day workout yesterday. McElroy had been unable to throw at the Combine or the Tide's initial Pro Day after fracturing a bone in his throwing hand during the Senior Bowl. Though his production was impressive for Alabama , scouts worry that he doesn't have the arm strength to make throws outside of the hashes against NFL speed.

NFL LOCKOUT

NFLLabor.com Transcript of David Boies’ post-hearing media briefing "
I will keep this short, because it has been a long day I know for all of you. We had a long argument. The judge listened. The judge was very well prepared, asked a lot of good questions of both sides. Our basic position was, as it has been, that we believe that these kind of matters ought to be settled at the collective bargaining table and not in a Federal Court. We have asked the court to deny the injunction that the Players Association has asked for. The Judge said that she would take it under advisement; that it would take a couple of weeks, at least, to make a decision — which is pretty obvious with a case of this importance. So we will be awaiting that decision with the same anticipation that you will.

NFL lockout Day 26: What they're saying - NFL - Sporting News
"(Commissioner Roger Goodell) needs to stop crying about blood testing and HGH — he needs to get a deal done. He, to me, is just a joke. ... You want to do whatever you have to do to make sure there’s not a competitive edge in this sport. Blood tests? I don’t know. They’ve been crying about blood tests for the longest time. I think that’s too intrusive. There’s other ways and other methods, I think, to go about testing for it." -- Ravens WR Derrick Mason via WJZ-FM

NFL lockout: Judge sees ruling on injuction request in ‘a couple of weeks’ - The Washington Post
After a day-long hearing on the players’ request for a preliminary injunction, U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson told the two sides that "it seems to me both sides are at risk and this is a very good time for you to come back to the table." Talks between the two sides have been on hold since negotiations collapsed March 11, the day before the lockout began. It appears unlikely the league and players will meet again soon because they cannot agree to the terms by which the talks would resume.

Tom Brady, Peyton Manning no-show at court hurts NFL players - NFL News | FOX Sports on MSN
Think about that. The guy who lent his name to the class-action lawsuit didn't bother to personally provide support for a request that would give players a major boost in their legal fight against the league. If the lockout is ordered to end — which seems plausible considering Judge Susan Nelson's statements from the bench and Wednesday's lengthy grilling of high-profile defense attorney Davis Boies — the NFL must resume operations that include offseason programs, free agency and player trades.

At N.F.L. Hearing, Judge Urges, but Doesn’t Compel, a Return to Talks - NYTimes.com
At the end of the nearly five-hour hearing on the request, Nelson urged the two sides to resume negotiations under the auspices of the federal court while she considers the injunction request. But Nelson stopped short of ordering owners and players to negotiate, which would have compelled them to resume talks. "It seems to me both sides are at risk and this is a very good time for you to come back to the table," Nelson said.

Courtroom football begins: what will happen | National Football Post
However, it is five months from the start of the season. And as to the Players’ short careers, there is an argument that the lockout actually preserves the players, not subject to injury risk and wear and tear while being locked out. Further, the Players have asked for monetary damages in this lawsuit, lessening the need for other forms of relief (i.e, the injunction). The Owners, however, are unfortunately dealing with the same court that has dealt them blows in the past. And although Judge Doty is not handling the case, he may be lurking over the shoulder of the relatively new Judge Nelson. We can't discount the Doty factor.

Judge Nelson could be trying to soften up the league for settlement talks | ProFootballTalk
By most accounts, Judge Susan Nelson peppered NFL counsel David Boies with questions, while asking far fewer of his counterpart, Jim Quinn. (Curiously, the players opted to put Jeffrey Kessler on the sidelines. It possibly means that NFLPA* executive director DeMaurice Smith realizes that Kessler, when speaking in court, can be a tad abrasive.) In my own experience, the side that gets the bulk of the questions is the side that is teetering on the brink of defeat.

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