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Judge rules in favor of players in lockout ruling

04.25.11 at 5:58 pm ET
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In the labor battle between the NFL owners and players, Federal Judge Susan Richard Nelson ruled for players Monday afternoon, lifting the lockout. The work stoppage, the first in the NFL since 1987, has been in effect since last month.

In an 89-page ruling, Nelson wrote that the plaintiffs “have made a strong showing that allowing the League to continue their ‘lockout’ is presently inflicting, and will continue to inflict, irreparable harm upon them, particularly when weighed against the lack of any real injury that would be imposed on the NFL by issuing the preliminary injunction.”

“(T)he public ramifications of this dispute exceed the abstract principles of the antitrust laws, as professional football involves many layers of tangible economic impact, ranging from broadcast revenues down to concessions sales,” Nelson wrote. “And, of course, the public interest represented by the fans of professional football ‘€” who have a strong investment in the 2011 season ‘€” is an intangible interest that weighs against the lockout. In short, this particular employment dispute is far from a purely private argument over compensation.”

‘€œI’€™m happy for our guys and for our fans,’€ said NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith. ‘€œToday, those who love football are the winners.’€

“Today’s ruling is a win for the players and for the fans that want to see a full NFL season in 2011,’€ said New York Giants defensive lineman Osi Umemyiora. ‘€œThe lockout is bad for everyone, and players will continue to fight it. We hope that this will bring us one step closer to playing the game we love.”

The owners are now expected to appeal the decision to Nelson, and then the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. If the owners are unable to win an appeal ‘€” and a ruling is reportedly expected to come down relatively quickly ‘€” then the players could return to work immediately.

“We will promptly seek a stay from Judge Nelson pending an expedited appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals,” the league said in a statement issued shortly after the ruling was made public. “We believe that federal law bars injunctions in labor disputes. We are confident that the Eighth Circuit will agree. But we also believe that this dispute will inevitably end with a collective bargaining agreement, which would be in the best interests of players, clubs and fans. We can reach a fair agreement only if we continue negotiations toward that goal.”

Read More: lockout, Susan Richard Nelson,

Peter King on M&M: Bill Belichick ‘charmed’ by Chad Ochocinco

04.25.11 at 1:57 pm ET
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Sports Illustrated NFL reporter Peter King made an appearance on the Mut & Merloni show Monday to talk about the upcoming draft and other league news. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

The Patriots hold two first-round slots for Thursday ‘€” 17 and 28 ‘€” but fans shouldn’t get too excited about the team’s draft position, not with Bill Belichick‘s history of trading picks to acquire additional selections in following years’ drafts. “I would be very, very surprised if the Patriots did not make a trade that involved [acquiring a] 2012 pick,” King said, adding: “[Belichick] wants to get I believe at least two picks in next year’s draft out of this year’s deal.”

The lockout’s effect on the draft is “gigantic,” King said, mainly because teams can’t be sure of who they’ll be able to acquire in free agency before making their selections. “It’s a huge factor, because teams usually have free agency before the draft,” he said. “But, obviously, not this year.”

Looking at which player the Patriots might choose with their first pick, King said he does not expect it will be Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt, who many have speculated will end up in New England. “I just happen to think that [California defensive end] Cam Jordan is going to be a better NFL pass rusher out of the 3-4 than Watt will be,” King said. “If you’re the Patriots at 17, I look at [Florida offensive lineman] Mike Pouncey, I look at Cam Jordan, or I look at a trade. But again, I totally understand why everybody puts Watt there. He’s going to have a long NFL career and be a good player. I just don’t know if the spark, the burst is there, to get rush from a 3-4 end out of him.”

King said the Patriots also should focus on running backs this week. Said King: “I think the other guy, if you’re talking about a guy who they look at with some longing, would be [Alabama’s] Mark Ingram. ‘€¦ The Patriots are going to have to make a decision. They’re going to have to come out of this draft with one or two running backs. I bet it will be two. And they’ll come out of here with a couple of running backs, both of whom are going to play in their regular offense next year, and obviously in their nickel offense. [Oregon State’s] Jacquizz Rogers would be so tempting because he might be the best receiver ‘€” even though he’s 5-7 1/2, whatever he is ‘€” of all the backs in this draft. He was a huge part of the Oregon State passing offense. But I think Mark Ingram would be a guy down at 28 who would really interest the Patriots. I know he interests the Patriots.”

The last time the Patriots drafted a running back in the first round, it was Laurence Maroney. His disappointing tenure with the Patriots ended in 2010 with a trade to the Broncos. “My feeling is, I think they got bad advice on Laurence Maroney,” King said. “Guys on the coaching staff at Minnesota overinflated Maroney, and the Patriots blew that pick. He’s not a blood-and-guts football player. He never was. And the Patriots made a mistake.

“I think they’re going to be a little cautious about backs. That’s one of the reasons why a Nick Saban back, and Nick Saban giving him the Nick Saban stamp of approval ‘€” which I’m positive he’s done about Ingram, because he loves Ingram ‘€” will carry a lot of weight with Belichick.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Cam Jordan, Chad Ochocinco, j.j. watt

A look into mock drafts around the web: Part one

04.25.11 at 1:36 pm ET
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With the NFL Draft rapidly approaching, we’€™re now less than four days away from the pinnacle of the football offseason. And what we’€™ve learned and know for sure about the selections so far is this: it is an absolute toss-up among the first 10 players and where they will land come Thursday night.

So what we’€™ve done is take a list of some mock draft sites on the web and compare and dissect them, and try to best understand what might happen at 8 p.m. when Rodger Goodell takes the Radio City Music Hall stage.

The first player that needs to be mentioned is Cam Newton. Mock draft elitists have Newton in a range of different places, from first overall to mid-to-late first round. The most recent draft issued by WalterFootball.com has Newton going to the Panthers at the top spot, perhaps as a way to best market the franchise and make an impact at one of the skill positions. Carolina took two rookie quarterbacks in the 2010 draft ‘€“ one of them with the team’€™s first picks in Jimmy Clausen. The former Notre Dame standout had a rough start to his career, to say the least. Tony Pike, the Cincinnati senior, didn’€™t see much game action.

It’€™s fair to say that, by drafting Newton, the Panthers would be issuing a statement noting that last year’€™s draft was a flop, and that mistakes were made, unless they were to move Newton to a position other than quarterback. But that’€™s a completely different conversation.

At pick 17, Walter Football has the Patriots taking Cal defensive end Cam Jordan ‘€“ a not very surprising choice. But what stands out beyond that point is this: the site has the Chargers selecting Wisconsin’€™s J.J. Watt at pick No. 18, directly following New England’€™s pick. If Watt was still available at that time in the draft, it would make sense for the Patriots to go with the versatile defensive end/outside linebacker over Jordan. Watt has potentially the best explosiveness off of the line, which is something the Patriots need. Whether Watt would play outside linebacker or on the defensive line would be dictated by his camp; but if a player of Watt’€™s caliber and value is still available at No. 17, then the Patriots should be eager to snatch him away from San Diego.

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Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Cam Newton, j.j. watt, New England Patriots

Wes Welker: Lockout is ‘awesome because I’m on my own schedule’

04.23.11 at 7:17 pm ET
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Speaking to the Associated Press in Oklahoma City at his free football camp for kids, Patriots Wes Welker talked about how much he is enjoying the freedom the current NFL lockout has afforded him this offseason.

“It’s awesome because I’m on my own schedule,” Welker said. “I don’t have to talk to anybody; I don’t have to see anybody. You see some of the same faces all the time. It’s kind of nice not to have to look at them anymore and see them. I’m kind of enjoying it.

“I like being able to train on my own and be able to do some of my things. It’s good to be with the team, but it’s kind of nice.”

Welker, who said he hasn’t been part of any organized workouts with Patriots teammates, added, “I think once people start losing paychecks, it’ll probably be a little bit different. But I’m not too concerned right now. Hopefully at some point we get a deal done.

“I just know as players ‘€” I can speak for myself ‘€” I just want to play ball. Hopefully come fall, that’s what we’re doing.”

Douglass (OK) High, the host of Welker’s camp of 180 kids, has recently received a pair of grants from Welker’s foundation, which also recently raised more than $300,000 to help at-risk children.

Read More: lockout, Wes Welker,

Report: Patriots work out a pair of Bearcats in Kelce, Hazelton

04.22.11 at 5:30 pm ET
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The Patriots worked out wide receiver Vidal Hazelton and offensive lineman Jason Kelce out of Cincinnati on Friday, according to Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Hazelton is a 6-foot-2, 200-pounder who was at Souther Cal before transferring to Cincinnati. In his collegiate career, he had 63 catches for 649 yards and four touchdowns. Kelce is an interior offensive linemen who was at both guard and center over the course of his college career, and was named All-BIG EAST second team as a senior. Both are considered late-round draft possibilities.

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Jason Kelce, Vidal Hazelton,

The Rule of 26-27-60, and trying to apply it to this year’s quarterback class

04.21.11 at 10:32 pm ET
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In the wake of this story we did earlier this week about the Patriots kicking the tires on some collegiate quarterbacks, we were reminded about the Rule of 26-27-60, which remains one of the most dependable formulas for judging how successful a college quarterback will do in the NFL.

As far as we know, it was first presented by Football Outsiders in the Pro Football Prospectus 2006, and John Lopez of SI.com expanded upon the idea in a 2010 story, explaining that, ‘€œIf an NFL prospect scores at least a 26 on the Wonderlic test, starts at least 27 games in his college career and completes at least 60 percent of his passes, there’€™s a good chance he will succeed at the NFL level.’€

To bolster his point, Lopez has the following quarterbacks since 1998 passing the 26-27-60 test: Drew Brees, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kevin Kolb, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Kyle Orton, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub and Matthew Stafford. In the same span, here’€™s his list of those who have fallen short in at least one of the three categories: David Carr, Tim Couch, Daunte Culpepper, Joey Harrington, Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell, Akili Smith and Vince Young.

Over the last 15 or so years, there are five notable exceptions to the rule, including Tom Brady, who passed the Wonderlic and completion percentage, but his 25 college starts leave him just shy of a passing grade. Then, there’€™s two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who had two of the three, falling short when he posted a 25 on the Wonderlic. In addition, both Donovan McNabb and Brett Favre fell short in the Wonderlic, but have gone on to successful careers in the NFL. And Matt Leinart played over 30 games, scored a 35 on his Wonderlic, completed over 63 percent of his passes … and has been nothing short of a miserable failure in the NFL.

When it comes to this year’€™s group, while much of it depends on where a quarterback will be drafted, the Rule of 26-27-60 tells us that this could be a very good draft class for signal callers, with five of the top nine quarterback prospects making the grade: Alabama’€™s Greg McElroy (43-27-66 percent), Florida State’€™s Christian Ponder (35-35-62 percent), Missouri’€™s Blaine Gabbert (42-29-61 percent), Iowa’€™s Ricky Stanzi (30-32-60 percent, although we’€™re rounding up from 59.8 on his completion percentage) and TCU’€™s Andy Dalton (29-50-61 percent) all pass the test.

There are several candidates who just miss the cut in one of the categories: Ryan Mallett (26-29-58 percent) has the requisite Wonderlic score and college starts, but falls short when it comes to completion percentage. Nevada’€™s Colin Kapernick (40-51-58 percent) just misses when it comes to accuracy as well. Meanwhile, both Cam Newton (21-14-66 percent) and Jake Locker (20-39-54) only reach one of the three areas.

In the end, there are several other aspects of a quarterback’s game that must be evaluated before the draft, and the Rule of 26-27-60 isn’t the ultimate statistic in determining his success or failure in the NFL. But in a world where the success rate of picking quarterbacks is surprisingly slim, it’s a stat worth keeping in mind when signal callers start coming off the board next week.

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft,

Andre Tippett will announce Patriots’ second-round pick at draft

04.21.11 at 3:38 pm ET
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The NFL announced Thursday afternoon that a collection of legends will be present to announce their respective teams’ second-round picks during the NFL draft next week. Handling the duties for the Patriots will be Pro Football Hall of Famer Andre Tippett. (New England two second-round selections, Nos. 33 and 60 overall.) Others who are slated to participate include Buffalo’s Andre Reed, Chicago’s Richard Dent, Detroit’s Barry Sanders, Pittsburgh’s Franco Harris and Washington’s Doug Williams.

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Andre Tippett,
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