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Michael Lombardi on D&C: ‘There’s a sense of arrogance on the part of the Saints’

03.06.12 at 12:22 pm ET
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NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi made an appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Tuesday morning to discuss the Saints defense bounty scandal that is rocking the NFL as well as the possible punishments and repercussions that could result from it. In a story on Sunday, Lombardi likened the bounty scandal to that of the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon and the White House in the early 1970s. Lombardi elaborated on that idea on air, saying the source of the money for the bounty pools could extend farther than originally thought.

“The bigger issue here is the Bounty-gate stuff, really, it shouldn’t be in place, but the reality is, it’s a cap circumvention as well,” Lombardi said. “Where’s the money coming from? You’ve got Mike Ornstein who is in the building, who’s really not an employee. He’s part of a marketing branch. Are they helping give money to put into the pool? I think it is like Watergate in the sense that if you follow the money, I think you’re going to lead to a trail that’s really not what the commissioner thought initially when he investigated it.”

One of the sticking points of the scandal is that although the team was warned about the practice, it did not stop it. Once Saints owner Tom Benson was reportedly made aware of the bounties, he allegedly told general manager Mickey Loomis to put an end to it, but the team continued to run the bounty system against the wishes of its owner and the league. In the wake of the allegations, many have wondered whether Loomis will be able to remain the general manager job in New Orleans. Lombardi said he doubts Loomis will remain employed by the Saints.

“I was told reliably by somebody intimate in the league office is the only way he keeps his job is if Benson fights for him,” Lombardi said. “And it seems to be, yesterday there was a report coming out of New Orleans that Benson was going to support both Loomis and [coach Sean] Payton.

“I find that hard to believe because if Benson is going to support Loomis, then basically, he’s supporting insubordination. Now he’s saying to everybody in the organization, ‘Don’t listen to what I say. Just do whatever the heck you want to do, because I’m going to keep Loomis in place.’ So I think it’s going to be hard for Mickey to keep his job. I know it’s going to be difficult for him to be able to weather this storm.”

Lombardi also noted that the controversy could be an example for players of how the NFL will punish management wrong-doings in addition to punishing players. The punishments meted out in this scandal will be all the more pertinent because of the recent labor dispute between the players and management that almost led to a lockout this past season.

“This is one of the situations where every player in the league is looking at [Roger] Goodell to see exactly what standard he’s going to utilize in terms of he’s been tough on the players,” Lombardi said. “Let’s see if he’ll be tough on management of the teams. And most players take the attitude of, ‘Well, the owner and the commissioner are in bed together. Therefore they won’t go as hard.’ I think that’s the one thing that’s going to hurt the Saints in this case. Goodell is going to be above and beyond that.”

Following are more highlights of the conversation. To listen to the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Mike Lombardi, roger goodell, sean payton, Tom Benson

Brian Billick on D&C: ‘Have to get some definitions’ on bounty

03.06.12 at 11:37 am ET
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Fox Sports and NFL analyst Brian Billick made an appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Tuesday morning to share his opinions about the Saints bounty scandal and the state of the Patriots following their Super Bowl loss last month.

The NFL accused the Saints defense, led by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, of conducting a lucrative bounty system that paid players for injuring opponents over the course of the last few seasons. According to the NFL, the system reached its height during the 2009 playoffs which culminated in a Super Bowl championship for New Orleans. The league claims general manager Mickey Loomis and head coach Sean Payton were aware of the program, but did not stop it.

Billick, who was the head coach of the Ravens from 1999-2007, said the punishment for this practice should be severe considering commissioner Roger Goodell‘s stance on player safety and his handling of the Patriots’ Spygate scandal.

“We’re now talking about player safety,” Billick said. “We’re talking about the bell cow for this commissioner in terms of the helmet-to-helmet, the protecting the players, it’s a long list of what we’re going to do to protect our players. I can’t believe that the sanctions aren’t going to be well north of [the Spygate] line in the sand that the commissioner has already drawn.”

Despite his expectation for severe punishment, Billick said it will be difficult for the league to determine the exact nature of the bounty system in terms of where it ranks against a typical objective for teams to try to play as physically as possible.

“Understand this, every defensive coordinator on Wednesday morning when he puts in the defensive game plan, at some point that morning will say, ‘Guys, we have to take the quarterback out’ meaning we’ve got to get to him, we’ve got to get hits on him, we have to take him out of his game, we have to move him off his spot,” Billick said. “So again, we’re talking semantics here ‘€¦ we have to get some definitions here. We have to be very careful to separate the rhetoric of what we’re talking about and what the actual intent was.”

Billick also commented on the Patriots Super Bowl disappointment, noting that New England should be pleased by how close the game since a few plays easily could have changed the course of the game. One of the plays Billick highlighted was Wes Welker‘s inability to catch a ball with 4:06 left in the game and the Patriots clinging to a two-point lead. According to Billick, the play will be “the cross [Welker’s] going to bear for the entire offseason”, but Welker’s behavior in the aftermath of the game was more satisfying to Billick than that of Rob Gronkowski, who was photographed partying shirtless at a team party after the Super Bowl.

“No one takes it more personal [than Welker], as opposed to Gronkowski, who didn’t much care and just decided to go party all night,” Billick said unprompted. “I can’t imagine Wes Welker was out partying all night after that game. You know he was devastated.

“It just shows a lack of an appreciation, and it’s typical of young people, of how hard it is to get there. And although it’s a likely scene, particularly when you have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, hey son, you may never be back there again. You don’t know how hard it is to get there and be that close to it.”

Following are more highlights of the conversation. To listen to the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Brian Billick, Gregg Williams, Mickey Loomis, new orleans saints

NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus

03.06.12 at 10:49 am ET
By   |   Comments will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2012 NFL draft. Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’€™s time for the Patriots to make a selection.


Position: Defensive end

School: Illinois

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 265 pounds

Achievements: Consensus All-America, All-Big Ten, Ted Hendricks Award (nation’s top defensive end), Bill Willis Award (nation’s top defensive lineman), CFPA National Defensive Performer of the Year

What he brings: Mercilus is a most effective player when he can work the inside off speed from the outside. For a player with little experience as a starter, he has shown a lot of refinement in his pass rush repertoire. He has a quick first step and has enough speed to threaten the edge. He can sometimes lose leverage on contact and struggles to move laterally but his natural strength gives him an advantage to hold up at the point of attack.

Where the Patriots could get him: Round 1

Notes: Mercilus only started one season at Illinois, but he made the most of it. His nine forced fumbles this past season set the Big Ten single-season record and tied the NCAA mark. He also led the nation in sacks (16). … He ran a 4.68 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, fourth among defensive ends. … Mercilus grew up in Akron, Ohio, the son of Haitian immigrants.

Recent articles:

Mercilus after weightlifting injury

Whitney Mercilus NFL Draft Diary

Video: Here are some highlights of Mercilus from a 38-35 victory over Northwestern on Oct. 1.

Read More: 2012 NFL Draft, 2012 Potential Patriots, Whitney Mercilus,

Complete list of NFL players who were franchised

03.05.12 at 4:30 pm ET
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With the 4 p.m. deadline come and gone, here are the players who have been franchised:

Arizona: Defensive end Calais Campbell
Atlanta: Cornerback Brent Grimes
Baltimore: Running back Ray Rice
Chicago: Running back Matt Forte
Cincinnati: Kicker Mike Nugent
Cleveland: Kicker Phil Dawson
Dallas: Linebacker Anthony Spencer
Denver: Kicker Matt Prater
Detroit: Defensive end Cliff Avril
Indianapolis: Defensive end Robert Mathis
Jacksonville: Kicker Josh Scobee
Kansas City: Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe
New England: Wide receiver Wes Welker
New Orleans: Quarterback Drew Brees
New York Giants: Punter Steve Weatherford
Oakland: Safety Tyvon Branch
Philadelphia: Wide receiver DeSean Jackson
San Francisco: Safety Dashon Goldson
Tampa Bay: Kicker Connor Barth
Tennessee: Safety Michael Griffin
Washington: Tight end Fred Davis

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Official statement from Patriots on the decision to franchise Wes Welker

03.05.12 at 3:42 pm ET
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Here’s the official press release from the Patriots on the decision to place the franchise tag on Wes Welker:

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. ‘€“ The New England Patriots announced that they are utilizing the franchise designation on wide receiver Wes Welker. In the last two years, the Patriots used the franchise designation to retain the rights to Vince Wilfork (2010) and Logan Mankins (2011). The designations were later removed when the two sides agreed to contract extensions.

Today, the Patriots confirmed the use of the franchise designation and issued the following statement: ‘€œWes Welker is a remarkable football player for our team and has been a vital component to our offense and special teams since we traded for him in 2007. Utilizing the franchise designation allows both sides more time to try to reach an agreement, which is the goal. Wes remains a contractual priority and we are hopeful that he will remain a Patriot for years to come.’€
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Read More: franchise tag, Wes Welker,

National media sounds off on Saints’ bounty system

03.05.12 at 3:35 pm ET
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Never without controversy lately regarding issues of rough play and player safety, the NFL has another scandal on its hands as a league investigation found that the Saints were guilty of a wide-reaching system of payments to defensive players from former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for knocking out star offensive players on opposing teams.

The system of bounties reportedly involved between 22 and 27 players and spanned from 2009 to 2011. With the information now at the heart of discussion surrounding the NFL, many have begun to opine on what should happen to the Saints and how player-conscious NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will punish Williams and the Saints franchise for their transgressions.

Sports Illustrated NFL writer Don Banks wrote that because of this bounty system, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton face the most trouble of anyone in this saga.

Wrote Banks: This one stinks, NFL fans, and the stench goes top to bottom in the Saints organization. New Orleans can’t realistically make everyone pay with their jobs. There will be league fines and likely suspensions. But for Loomis and Payton, the accountability should be at a level commensurate with their responsibility. They were in charge of this show, and they know what comes with being the men at the top.

You get the credit and the blame. And this time, there’s nothing but blame to go around.

While Banks wrote that Loomis and Payton will undoubtedly be in trouble and could face the threat of losing their jobs, ESPN NFL writer Ashley Fox takes it a step further — she feels that the two men should be fired for their involvement and lack of action in helping prevent Williams’ payment system.

Wrote Fox: According to the NFL’s report, when [Saints owner Tom] Benson directed Loomis earlier this season to ensure that any bounty program be discontinued immediately, Loomis did not follow Benson’s directions. “Similarly, when the initial allegations were discussed with Mr. Loomis in 2010,” the report continued, “he denied any knowledge of a bounty program and pledged he would ensure that no such program was in place. There is no evidence that Mr. Loomis took any effective action to stop these practices.”

If the NFL’s report is true, Loomis defied a direct order from his owner. That is grounds for dismissal. And Payton was no better.

For others, though, the issue of the Saints’ bounty system extends far beyond a single team. Greg Couch of Fox Sports believes that those behind the bounty system in New Orleans should undoubtedly be punished, but that the culture of the NFL is also to blame in all of this.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Brett Favre, Charles Barkley, Damien Woody, Dave Duerson

Analysis: What it means for Wes Welker to get the franchise tag

03.05.12 at 3:26 pm ET
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A decade or so ago, when the Patriots hit a guy with the franchise tag, it was usually the first step in the eventual dissolution of the relationship — like one person telling the other: “We have to talk.” Tebucky Jones, Adam Vinatieri (the second time around), Asante Samuel and Matt Cassel all weren’t around Foxboro soon after they were hit with the franchise tag. In the case of Vinatieri and Samuel, they eventual left via free agency, or as a trade chip like Jones and Cassel.

But when the last two players — Vince Wilfork (in 2010) and Logan Mankins (in 2011) — were hit with the franchise tag, it was seen as part of the negotiation process. Neither individual was particularly happy about it, but it was done as a way of extending the negotiating window between the player and the team. And in both cases, despite some early acrimony, both players ended up signing big new deals with the Patriots.

When it comes to Welker, early indications are that his situation is a lot closer to the latter than the former. The wide receiver, who is expected to receive a roughly $9.4 million contract as the result of the tag (the league has yet to officially announce the tag numbers), has a very good working relationship with the franchise since he signed a five-year, $18 million deal prior to the start of the 2007 season. That was reflected in the overall optimistic tone of the statement issued by the franchise shortly after the news became official: “Wes Welker is a remarkable football player for our team and has been a vital component to our offense and special teams since we traded for him in 2007. Utilizing the franchise designation allows both sides more time to try to reach an agreement, which is the goal. Wes remains a contractual priority and we are hopeful that he will remain a Patriot for years to come.”

When it comes to Welker, despite the fact that he’s been wildly underpaid when compared to his output against other receivers (no one has caught more passes over the last five seasons), he has never publicly feuded with management. In addition, his representation (Athletes First) has had a very good working relationship with the Patriots: This was the agency that helped make Drew Bledsoe the richest player in the history of the league with a 2001 contract. They also represent several current members of the roster, including tight end Aaron Hernandez, running back Shane Vereen, offensive lineman Nate Solder and punter Zoltan Mesko.

So if/when Welker and the team can reach a long-term deal, what sort of numbers are we talking about? Reports indicate that the two sides have been working together to find some common ground for some time — a Boston Globe report says the Patriots offered Welker a two-year, fully-guaranteed contract for $16 million during the 2011 season, which was declined. Now, if the team did decide to franchise him for back-to-back seasons, he would get the equivalent of a two-year deal worth roughly $20 million.

Ultimately, early indications certainly appear that a four-year deal worth $8 million to $9.5 million annually would be about right, especially when you consider the market and Welker’s production. One analyst offered this as a model, which seems to make a lot of sense.

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Adam Vinatieri, Asante Samuel, Drew Bledsoe
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