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Denver Broncos News: Horse Tracks - 2/20/11

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Broncos' Fox drafting a big move - The Denver Post
In all, the team figures to fill its allotment of 60 one-on-one interviews with draft prospects at the combine. "I'll be in on every interview," Fox said. "It's the longest week of the year. You're going from early in the morning to, shoot, the last interview is scheduled for 11:15 at night."

Kroenke could still be calling the shots in Denver | ProFootballTalk
Of course, the league brought this thorny enforcement challenge on itself by allowing a would-be NFL owner to skirt the cross-ownership rules merely by transferring the basketball and hockey teams to family members. The better course of action would be to simply dump the cross-ownership rule, if the league is going to allow it to be applied under circumstances where its letter or spirit can easily be violated. Given that the issue is arising at a time when the league is desperately trying to maintain a united front among its owners for labor purposes, look for the reaction to be nothing more than a courtesy call to Kroenke reminding him that he can’t be doing anything that would suggest he’s still running the Nuggets or the Avalanche, regardless of whether he actually is.

Broncos' Orton teeters on fine line of awkward - The Denver Post
The twist: The day there's a labor settlement is the day Orton's days with the Broncos may be numbered. If the Broncos' new management team of John Elway, John Fox and Brian Xanders decide to go forward with second-year quarterback Tim Tebow, Orton may become trade bait. Orton is more comfortable talking about the labor uncertainty, perhaps because he's well-informed on the issues, than he is discussing his situation with the Broncos.

Fox makes it official, Denver switching to 4-3 -
Fox is fortunate in his timing. Not only are the Broncos in prime position to add a defensive star with the No. 2 overall pick of the draft, they'll also be getting former NFL sacks champion Elvis Dumervil back this season. He missed all of last year with a torn pectoral muscle. I currently project the Broncos to select defensive tackle Nick Fairley in the first round. My fellow senior analyst Chad Reuter also has them taking the Auburn star.

NFL Draft - -
Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn: The Broncos haven't invested a first-round pick on a true defensive lineman since 1997 (Jarvis Moss and Robert Ayers, defensive ends in college, were moved to OLB). The hiring of John Fox means that the Broncos will be switching back to a 4-3 defense. Considering they finished dead last in the NFL with a measly 23 sacks, this pick will almost certainly be a defensive lineman. Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers is a consideration here but with 2009 NFL sacks leader Elvis Dumervil returning from injury and the Broncos hopeful that Ayers will give them something, the team may instead look inside. Fox was able to get Julius Peppers, another talented, but enigmatic defensive lineman to play at a high level. Fairley is the most talented player in this draft and fills a clear area of need.


Donald Rumsfield calls the Raiders | National Football Post
Commenting to the Financial Times and told by an interviewer that he was picking the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl, "because of the epic games against the Oakland Raiders in the 1970s," Rumsfield replied: "Nobody could support the Raiders. They're evil."

Terrell Owens on Bengals’ problems: We didn’t have the coaching | ProFootballTalk
But Owens wasn’t done with head coach Marvin Lewis and his staff. Responding to NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp naming Bengals owner Mike Brown, Owens said Brown also deserves a heaping help of blame. "I’ve made a comment about if you’re trying to win some championships, it starts from the top down," Owens said. "[Sapp] mentioned Mike Brown; I think even before I got there, they said the owner was a little different. Obviously, I saw that."

Packers increase ticket prices, still a bargain | ProFootballTalk
Season ticket holders have been informed that the best seats will increase from $83 to $87 a game, while seats in other price ranges will increase from $73 to $76, or from $67 to $69.

Rams are raising ticket prices
The timing seems odd with a lockout and a work stoppage looming in the NFL, but the Rams have decided to raise ticket prices for the 2011 season on most seats in the Edward Jones Dome. According to Kevin Demoff, the team's executive vice president for football operations, most ticket prices will increase from $4 to $7 a game for PSL holders (which doesn't include club seats or luxury suites). Demoff said the price of the cheapest tickets, in the upper-reaches of the dome, is not going up. "The cheapest tickets will remain at $25," he said. "So you can still buy a season ticket for $250. There's varied increases throughout the building. Most fans will have their numbers returned to slightly above what they were in 2009."

Le'Ron McClain: 'I'm wondering where I'm going to land' | National Football Post
"It's a great fit blocking in this offense, if that's all you want to do every week," McClain told the National Football Post in a telephone interview. "When you feel like you can give a lot more and have proven you can do a lot more and all you're doing is blocking, it's a little frustrating at times when they're telling you, 'All you got to do is go block this guy.' But I never let it get to me. I take pride in my game.

NFP Sunday Blitz | National Football Post
Teams that should be the biggest doves in the labor war, based strictly on the 2011 season, are the Broncos, Titans, Vikings, 49ers, Panthers, Browns and Cardinals. Here is a look at why each of those teams needs a quick labor resolution.

After Accident, Giants’ Chad Jones Still Aims for N.F.L. -
Eight months later, Jones, 22, can recall that morning with clarity. He remembers his friends asking if he was all right. He remembers looking down at his blood-soaked pants and wondering how his football career would be affected. "I thought I had a broken leg," he said in a phone interview from New Orleans, where he is rehabilitating. "I thought I was going to miss training camp, but I would be back three games into the season. I’d still have a full season to play. That’s what I was thinking at the time of the wreck."

Before Shooting Himself, Duerson Asked That His Brain Be Studied -
Doctors, N.F.L. officials and even many players denied or discredited the links between football and such brain damage for months or even years. The roughly 20 cases of C.T.E. that have been identified by groups at Boston University and West Virginia University were almost always men who had died — most with significant emotional or cognitive problems — with no knowledge of the disease. Now, for the first time he knows of, Stern said, a former player has killed himself with the specific request that his brain be examined.

Vikings would be team hit hardest by lockout |
I can't help but think the NFL owners' impending lockout of the players is just an extension of the black cloud that's hovered over the Vikings every step of the way since a 12th man was discovered in the huddle in the NFC Championship Game 12 months ago ... Yes, a lockout hurts everybody. The players, the fans, the vendors and all 32 teams. But when it comes to the damage inflicted on the teams, I can't find a team that's set up in a worse situation than your Minnesota Vikings.

Don’t tell Mike Munchak the Titans are rebuilding | ProFootballTalk
"Our team, it is not rebuilding," Munchak said Saturday. "We were 5-3 last year at the halfway point. We are not happy how it ended up, but we were as good as anybody the first part of the season."

Talking Sports Beats Watching It -
"The networks have these shows right around trade deadlines, and they make it sound like a presidential election," says Blake Rhodes, a vice president of communications for Xenophon Strategies and the former San Francisco Giants media-relations director. "There's so much money invested in hype, it can overwhelm the mundane reality that is often sports." The truth is, offseasons are 8,000 times as engrossing as seasons. Transaction listings trump box scores. Status updates kill service points. Ken Griffey Jr.'s return to Seattle? Riveting! Ken Griffey Jr., overweight and 40, regularly popping up to shortstop in his return to Seattle? Not so great.

Atogwe hopes to be back after release from Rams
"My agent and myself have established a really good negotiating relationship with them, so were we to do something again (with the Rams), I don't believe it'd be a difficult task," Atogwe told the Post-Dispatch. "Because there's no bad blood there. We should be able to get something done." The only problem — for several years — has been agreeing on Atogwe's value in terms of a multi-year deal. Rather than pay an $8 million roster bonus that was due Atogwe on Monday, the Rams released the six-year veteran.

Brees again downplays Richardson comments | ProFootballTalk
"I think there was a lot of rumors probably coming out of that CBA negotiating session that Saturday at the Super Bowl," Brees told our friends at XX 1090 in San Diego, via "To be honest, I haven’t even seen the comment that was made, but I heard it was from Jay Feely who kicks for the Jets. And he wasn’t there at the meeting. I’m not sure of how that got out or why. But no, I mean, it was my first bargaining session to be at and obviously there was a lot talked about. And emotions run high at times, but there was nothing that was derogatory or demeaning, so I’m not sure how that got blown out of proportion."

Andrew Whitworth says Carson Palmer serious about trade request | National Football Post
"It’s one of those things where I have my own selfish motives and I’d love to have him back but that’s one of those decisions where Carson wouldn’t speak out unless it was something he was serious about," Whitworth told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "He’s not the kind of guy to bring this up and just throw it out there as a bargaining tool. He’s serious. It’s one of those deals where I’ll let him have his feelings and I’ve told him that if he ever wants to talk to me about it I’d love to but you have to let him make his own decisions about what is best for him and his family. That’s what you want.


The old gorilla in the woods prank scares NFL prospects | ProFootballTalk
One of the most popular camps is run by Tom Shaw out of Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando. Anthony Amey of WSBTV was there to file a report on the athletes, and happened to witness a prank that ranks behind the "Banana in the tailpipe" routine, but is still pretty damn funny.

Sports media: NFL Network corners Combine coverage - Sports Buzz -
To appreciate the seemingly limitless fan appetite for NFL Draft information, consider this: Last year, 5.2 million people watched the NFL Combine, over four days, on NFL Network. As Allen Iverson might say, we’re talking about practice! Or in this case, the Combine, where players do repetitive position drills, vertical jumps and the 40-yard dash in auditions for NFL teams. Here’s some perspective: A week’s worth of MLB telecasts on ESPN (three games) drew a combined four million viewers last season. And keep in mind that ESPN is in 100 million homes, compared with 57 million for NFL Network.

2011 NFL Combine workout warriors | National Football Post
LB Martez Wilson: Illinois For a linebacker of his size, forget the straight-line speed — which he has plenty of. The one aspect of his game I think he’s really going to impress scouts in is the overall fluidity he possesses. Wilson is going to run fast and jump high. But it’s rare to find a tall, high-cut guy like him change directions as cleanly/fluidly as he does. Blogs " Blog Archive Getting to know … Florida S Black "
Black’s an undersized safety prospect who should be able to contribute immediately in sub-packages and as a special teams cover guy even if he never becomes a starter. Has excellent instincts. Plays tough and is durable despite lack of size. Very capable in deep cover-2 or lining up over slots but doesn’t have the size or length against physical receivers. Flies to the ball, is a sure tackler when coming up to support the run, and will make plays in the backfield when asked to blitz. Black overcame his lack of size in college and may get the chance to do so again as a mid-round pick.


Assistant coaches may go the union route, too - The Boston Globe
Since the NFL allowed teams to opt out of the previously mandated pension plans two years ago, the NFL Coaches’ Association has talked about becoming a union. It took a step in that direction five months ago when its executive committee formally voted to explore the union route.

Work stoppage could force pay cuts, layoffs fo NFL assistant coaches - NFL News | FOX Sports on MSN
"I don't think there's any question," Kennan told me and co-host Jim Miller on Sirius NFL Radio. "The day after the lockout, I'm guessing there will be a significant number of coaches terminated." Even those assistants who aren't laid off face significant pay cuts in the event of a lockout. Kennan said most assistants will be forced to take a salary reduction of 25 to 50 percent but are still expected to work inside team headquarters on a full-time basis.

Lions DE Kyle Vanden Bosch talks NFL labor issues | Detroit Free Press |
Q: Do you think football will be played in 2011? A: I think so. Everybody stands to lose too much, and not just financially. It's by far the most popular sport in America. Players love playing. Obviously, the fans love watching it. It's too good of a thing. Again, a lot of things need to happen and a lot of things need to be resolved, but I think that can be done.

Sam Pizzigati: A Game-Day 'Program' for the NFL Lockout
With publicly funded stadium subsidies, luxury box licenses, sweetheart cable deals, and globalized merchandising, today’s owners no longer have any need to cater to a local working family fan base. So they don’t. They price tickets out of the average fan’s price range. They charge $8 for beers. The games we love, says Zirin, no longer love us back.

Politics taking over football | National Football Post
Yes, we’re a long way from the football field now. Men dressed in suits with backgrounds in politics — NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith has ties to President Obama and worked under Attorney General Eric Holder — are trying to piece together an agreement that will define the NFL for years to come. Indeed, Washington rules are in effect.

Marvin Miller Says NFL's `Company Union' Needs to Play Offense in Talks - Bloomberg
Miller said his union didn’t get powerful by considering itself partners with owners. He said that when the NFL union agreed to a salary cap in exchange for free agency, for example, it betrayed its members. Miller called that concession the most significant in a series marking the NFL Players Association as a "company union." "There’s never been a bona fide union in football," Miller said. "It’s a new leadership. They should explain very carefully that no union can carry out its job by agreeing to a salary cap. A union is there to improve the wages, hours and working conditions of employees."

Klis: Owners must make first move - The Denver Post
NFL owners have long counted on eventual union discord since the day they realized television, of all things, is where the money is, and football, of all sports, plays well on a rectangular box. But here's something the current 32 ownership groups may not realize: The only way there will not be a prolonged work stoppage in 2011 is if they, as the league guardians, are the first to back off. The owners must either lower their demand of taking $2 billion in revenues off the top before the players get their cut to $1.5 billion, or reduce their expanded regular-season proposal from 18 games to 17 games, or offer to buy their offensive linemen lunch every Tuesday, or do something, anything, to let the players know they are partners and not enemies.