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It Is What It Is: Focus on the NFL lockout with sports law expert Ron Washburn

03.18.11 at 1:42 pm ET
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On the latest edition of the It Is What It Is Cast, WEEI.com football writer Christopher Price welcomes Ron Washburn, a professor of legal studies at Bryant University who teaches a class in sports law to talk about the NFL lockout. Washburn explains how the two sides got to this point, the legal ramifications of what’s next, why the players decided to decertify and why the owners should be worried.

Read More: It Is What It Is Cast, lockout,

Drafting running backs remains an inexact science

03.17.11 at 9:42 pm ET
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Some positions in the NFL draft require more attention early on than others. For example, if your team is in need of a quarterback, history shows that while there can be risk in spending a Top 10 pick on a signal-caller, you’re far more likely to go wrong by choosing one in the second or third round.

While quarterback is a position best addressed in the first round (or, if you’re lucky, the 199th overall pick), not every position necessarily screams “high pick.” Of course, punters go untouched in the early part of the draft, but other positions — even the occasional kicker — have been fair game in the first two rounds over time. Still, for an event that is defined by finding value, trends over the years have shown that certain positions may not represent the utmost value high in the draft.

It could be argued that one such position is running back. Despite being a position that plays such a crucial role in the average NFL offense, running backs that get big attention on draft day don’t necessarily provide a big payoff for their teams. Here’s a look at every running back selected in the top two rounds of the last five drafts:

2010

16th overall — Ryan Mathews
30th overall — Jahvid Best

36th overall — Dexter McCluster
51st overall — Toby Gerhart
58th overall — Ben Tate

2009

12th overall — Knowshon Moreno
27th overall — Donald Brown
31st overall — Beanie Wells

53rd overall — LeSean McCoy

2008

4th overall — Darren McFadden
13th overall — Jonathan Stewart
22nd overall — Felix Jones
23rd overall — Rashard Mendenhall
24th overall — Chris Johnson

44th overall — Matt Forte
55th overall — Ray Rice

2007

7th overall — Adrian Peterson
12th overall — Marshawn Lynch

49th overall — Kenny Irons
50th overall — Chris Henry
52nd overall — Brian Leonard
63rd overall — Brandon Jackson

2006

2nd overall — Reggie Bush
21st overall — Laurence Maroney
27th overall — DeAngelo Williams
30th overall — Joseph Addai

45th overall — LenDale White
60th overall — Maurice Jones-Drew

Of those 28 players, eight finished Top 20 in the league in rushing yards last season. Of course, simply looking at last season doesn’t tell the whole story.

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Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Adrian Peterson, Ahmad Bradshaw, Arian Foster

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sends letter to players outlining league proposal

03.17.11 at 9:16 pm ET
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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell bypassed the players’€™ association and took his case right to the players on Thursday with a letter sent directly to players and agents outlining the league’€™s proposal to players last week. Some of the highlights include:

‘€¢Salary and benefits for the 2011 season would be set at $141 million per club, and projected cash spending would have been as high or higher than in either 2009 or 2010. By 2014, salary and benefits would have been set at $161 million per club. (Goodell points out that, ‘€œIn other words, player compensation would increase by as much as $20 million per club by 2014.’€ However, as Mac’€™s Football Blog points out, ‘€œRegarding the $141 million ‘€œsalary and benefit’€ figure, that is a reduction from 2009, which had a ‘€œsalary and benefit’€ cap number of $149.3 million.’€)

‘€¢Commit to retain the current 16-game regular season format for at least the next two seasons, and further commit not to change to an 18- game regular season without the union’€™s agreement.

‘€¢Free agency for players with four or more accrued seasons and reduced draft choice compensation for restricted free agents.

‘€¢Goodell detailed what he called ‘€œextensive changes in off-season work requirements that would promote player health and safety.’€ Among those changes would include reducing the off-season program by five weeks, OTAs would be reduced from 14, to helmets would be prohibited for the first five weeks of workouts, and rules prohibiting ‘€œlive’€ on-field contact would be strictly enforced. In addition, there would be changes in preseason and regular season practices and schedules that would reduce the number of padded practices, reduce the amount of contact, and increase the number of days off for players.

Below is the full letter, as obtained by WEEI.com:
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Read More: lockout, roger goodell,

Update on Patriots pre-draft workouts

03.17.11 at 4:20 pm ET
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Here’s a list of players who have had or will have private workouts or meetings with the Patriots. This is by no means a complete list ‘€” simply a rundown of those we have independently verified:

Offense
Hillsdale wide receiver Andre Holmes
Florida offensive lineman Mike Pouncey
Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith
Kentucky wide receiver Chris Matthews
Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams
Nevada tight end Virgil Green
TCU quarterback Andy Dalton
TCU wide receiver Jeremy Kerley

Defense
Citadel defensive back Cortez Allen
Miami defensive lineman Allen Bailey
Northwestern defensive lineman Corbin Bryant

In addition, Patriots coaches and scouts have been confirmed as being in attendance at the following Pro Days: Florida, Miami, Michigan State, Alabama, Auburn, Cal, Fresno State, Kentucky, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Colorado, Arkansas, FIU and Oklahoma State.

Here’s a look at the Pro Day schedule for this week:
March 17: Appalachian State, Lehigh, Marshall, Michigan, Missouri, Slippery Rock, Stanford, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia.
March 18: Arkansas State, Missouri State, New Mexico State, Richmond, Temple.
March 21: Abilene Christian, Iowa.
March 22: Georgia, Iowa State, Mississippi, Nevada.
March 23: Arizona State, Boston College, Central Florida, Connecticut, East Carolina, North Carolina State, Syracuse, Tennessee-Chattanooga.
March 24: Boise State, Fort Hays State, San Diego State, South Florida.

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, allen bailey, Andre Holmes, Andy Dalton

Report: Tom Brady disciple Greg McElroy tops list of QB Wonderlic scores

03.17.11 at 10:12 am ET
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Alabama’€™s Greg McElroy finished with the highest Wonderlic score of any quarterback in this year’€™s draft class, according to ESPN’€™s Chris Mortensen.

McElroy finished with a 43 out of 50. Missouri’€™s Blaine Gabbert had a 42, and Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder rounded out the top 3 with a 35. As for the rest of the group, Iowa’€™s Ricky Stanzi (30), TCU’€™s Andy Dalton (29) finished fourth and fifth, respectively. The rest of the field looked like this: Arkansas’€™ Ryan Mallett had a 26, while Auburn’€™s Cam Newton scored a 21 and Washington’€™s Jake Locker ended up with a 20.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound McElroy talked last month about wanting to get the chance to back up Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, saying the New England signal-caller was someone he wanted to emulate at the next level.

‘€œHe’€™s the most fun guy to watch in the league right now,’€ McElroy said of Brady. ‘€œThere’€™s a lot of efficient quarterbacks, but as far as his control, his balance, the way he sets up in the pocket, the way he is so mechanically sound, it really is such a joy to watch. It really is such a joy to watch. He’€™s so fluid. He never gets flustered. Just his subtle movements, all of his subtleties, every little detail is addressed.

‘€œCoach [Nick] Saban would never let me watch another quarterback play. He thinks that’€™s soft or something, but yeah, I obviously have spent time watching Tom Brady. He’€™s a hero of mine and a guy who I would love nothing more than to try to pattern my game off of.’€

For what it’€™s worth, Brady’€™s Wonderlic score was a 33. Among current NFL quarterbacks, Buffalo’€™s Ryan Fitzpatrick ‘€” a Harvard product ‘€” is tops with a 48. Alex Smith (40), Eli Manning (39) Matt Stafford (38) and Tony Romo (37) round out the Top 5.

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Alex Smith, Andy Dalton, Blaine Gabbert

NFL Lockout, Day 5: Giants say season-ticket holders won’t pay until CBA is resolved

03.16.11 at 9:15 pm ET
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A roundup of lockout news at the end of Day 5 of the NFL work stoppage:

‘€¢While many owners have done plenty to alienate fans since the lockout began, Giants president and CEO John Mara scored a clear victory in the court of public opinion with his statement Wednesday that the Giants won’€™t require their season-ticket holders to pay anything until there is a resolution to the current labor dispute between the owners and the players.

In an interview with WFAN radio in New York, Mara said season-ticket invoices will be mailed out next week with a letter from ownership saying season-ticket holder will be given the choice of paying by May 1 (the usual day full payment is due) or exercising the option to wait until a new CBA is agreed upon between the owners and players.

According to a Wednesday evening Tweet from Jim Trotter of SI.com, the Giants are the only team to require full or partial payment for season tickets during the lockout. Locally, the Patriots are requiring season-ticket holders pay by the end of the month ‘€” however, tickets will be refunded with one percent interest if individual games or the 2011 season is canceled.

‘€¢Former Patriots fullback Heath Evans made an appearance on WEEI’€™s ‘€œDennis & Callahan’€ show Wednesday morning to talk about the NFL lockout.

Evans, who now plays for the Saints, said he’€™s in good shape financially as a 10-year veteran, and he’€™s tried to prepare the younger players for what he hopes will be a short work stoppage. ‘€œI do feel really bad for some of the young guys,’€ he said. ‘€œAre we going to miss a season? No. I’€™ve told guys all along: ‘€˜You know what? Plan on missing one or two games, so plan on missing a couple of paychecks.’€™ But I’€™ve told the fans everywhere I’€™ve been for the last couple of weeks since this thing has started to build seriously: ‘€˜Listen, relax, we’€™ll get this done in a timely fashion and you’€™ll have your football on Sundays and Mondays and Thursdays.’€™’€

Evans said the players are more sympathetic to the fans than the owners. ‘€œThe players do know that we can hurt or damage this game,’€ he said. ‘€œWe do know that we will lose a strong fan base. The owners do not grasp that principle. The arrogance, the egotistical nature of these men that we’€™re battling is such that they think this game is indestructible. And I completely disagree.’€

The players got some bad press when reports came out that the union asked top college prospects to boycott the April draft. Evans defended the move. ‘€œYes, we love our fans and we owe them tremendous respect, but ultimately we’€™ve got to try to swing as much power in our direction as possible,’€ he said.
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Read More: Drew Brees, Heath Evans, Jim Trotter, John Mara

Report: Patriots will hold private workout with WR Andre Holmes on Thursday

03.16.11 at 5:58 pm ET
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Hillsdale wide receiver Andre Holmes has a private workout scheduled with the Patriots on Thursday, according to the Detroit Free Press. Holmes, who will reportedly work out for New England at Hillsdale, measured at 6-foot-4, 208 pounds at Michigan State Pro Day on Wednesday. He ran two 40s in roughly 4.5, with one scout clocking him at 4.45. (According to reports, Patriots area scout DuJuan Daniels was on hand to see Holmes’ workout.)

Holmes is a small-school star who had the most productive season of any wide receiver in the 119-year history of Hillsdale College football, setting single-season school records for receptions (104), and receiving yards (1,368) and catching caught 11 touchdown passes. At the combine, he showed great speed and agility, finishing with a 6.69 in the 3-cone drill, a stat that should get the attention of the Patriots for reasons we outlined here.

Holmes sees himself as a big-play threat, which should also intrigue a team that struggled to stretch the field in the wake of the October trade of Randy Moss to the Vikings.

‘€œI feel like I can be a big-play type receiver. I’€™ve got the speed to do that, and also a possession receiver,’€ he said. ‘€œI have the tools to be able to be successful.

‘€œIf there’€™s one thing ‘€” and I’€™ve said this many times in different interviews with different teams ‘€” I feel like I need to work on my hands. In practice, what I would do, I wouldn’€™t wear gloves in practice at all and then once I’€™d get to the game I would have my gloves and I wouldn’€™t drop any passe. I had everything,’€ he added. ‘€œSometimes you just get lackadaisical during practice and I just want to crisp up, get more crisp on that, because it’€™s going to be important in training camp that I’€™m making every play that I can. That’€™s going to be my game day until I can step foot on the field.’€

Here’s video of him running his 40 last month at the combine:

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Andre Holmes, DuJuan Daniels, Randy Moss
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