Posted on: June 17, 2010 6:42 pm

Whitworth speaks about expanded schedule

OK, I’ve had a chance to read the entire Mark Murphy transcript from Wednesday. Murphy, as you know, is the Packers president, and he’s the one who got the NFL universe buzzing about the expanded schedule, where the NFL would erase two preseason games and give you two extra regular-season games in return. He’s also an eight-year NFL veteran who made a Pro Bowl as a DB.

“I think the real roots of it are that as you look across the NFL and everything that we offer, we really try to provide top-quality value to our fans, whether it’s the regular season, postseason, the draft or the combine,” Murphy said in the conference call. “To me, the one that stands out as being different is the preseason. There just isn’t the same value there. I know from my position with the Packers, I get a lot of complaints (about the preseason). We actually just had focus groups with a number of our season-ticket holders and club-seat holders and had a lot of complaints about the preseason games. It just isn’t the same value there that you have in the regular season. I think there is a real issue there that we need to address.”

OK, but don’t you have to give the players more money if they’re going to play two more real games?

“Under the relationship that we have with the players, they get close to 60 percent of the revenue. If we grow the revenue, they are going to get more. They are currently playing 20 games, and we’re not increasing that. That would be the way that we would approach it. This is an opportunity for us to work together to grow revenue and improve the game.”

Sounds great for the fans who don’t have to pay regular-season prices to watch exhibition games, right? Yes. Sounds great for the scribes who don’t have to report on exhibition games, right? A double yes. But what about the players? Does it sound great for them?

Um, not quite as much. After the Bengals finished their final workout of the offseason today, I spoke to OT Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati’s NFLPA player rep.

The transcript from my interview: Lots of talk today and yesterday about the 18-game schedule. What are your thoughts?

Andrew Whitworth:
We want to do anything to make the game better for the fans. If an 18-game schedule will do that, that would be great. But there’s also some things player-wise and health-wise that might be an issue. We feel like if we’re going to have to do that, there has to be some things that change as far as the offseason and training camp.

Are you talking about just the offseason stuff, or are you also talking about increased health care?

AW: You have to do one of two things; you have to improve the situation now with improving the OTAs or during the season where there’s less contact or you’ve got to attack the health-care issue and give the guys better health care when they’re done. Right now, with most players, even if they play 15 years, they only have – at the most – five year of health care. That’s kind of ridiculous what guys go through.

Do you think the 18-game schedule will happen?

I think the owners definitely want it. I know they’ve prepared for it in their future schedules from what I’ve seen. It’s something they’ll go forward with. But there has to be other things that improve for that to happen.

--Josh Katzowitz

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter.

Posted on: June 17, 2010 6:04 pm
Edited on: June 17, 2010 6:11 pm

Harris turns down Ravens deal

We’ve already talked about the Ravens DB corps today, about how the team added S Ken Hamlin today and about how they’re likely to continue adding to a unit that’s rather unhealthy and rather mediocre.

Bad news for Baltimore.

According to the Baltimore Sun , 35-year-old Walt Harris surprisingly turned down the Ravens’ one-year contract offer today after trying out for the squad the past few days.

The Sun speculates that Harris doesn’t want to play for the veteran minimum, and considering he suffered through a torn ACL that cost him last season with the 49ers, Baltimore prudently might not want to offer a lengthier deal.

--Josh Katzowitz

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter.

Category: NFL
Posted on: June 17, 2010 5:18 pm

Toomer feels better about the NYG

Do you remember when former New York Giants receiver Amani Toomer ripped into his old team after the 2008 season? Do you remember him taking great offense when the coaching staff began to decrease the then-34-year-old’s role to make way for younger receivers? Do you remember when he said the Giants had an agenda to phase him out of the picture?

This, after a long career in which he recorded nearly 10,000 receiving yards while catching 54 touchdown passes for the New York squad. True, it wasn’t the nastiest divorce in history, but it wasn’t pleasant either. Remember?

Well, everything seems to be cool now.

“I had been with the team for 13 years,” Toomer told the New York Daily News . “If you have a 13-year relationship with anyone, the breakup is going to be bad. But cooler heads prevailed.”

Still, Toomer couldn’t help himself from ripping somebody … anybody. So, he focused on the last team for which he tried to play – the Kansas City Chiefs who cut him before the regular season began last year.

“Going from an organization like the Giants to the Chiefs, it’s a big difference,” Toomer said. “It’s like going from the varsity to the junior varsity. “

Now, for the really cool part. Toomer – who’s never participated in a race longer than 3.1 miles – will run the New York City marathon in November and start the race in last place. For every runner he passes, he will donate $1 to the New York Road Runner’s youth programs.

--Josh Katzowitz

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter.

Category: NFL
Posted on: June 17, 2010 3:34 pm

Super Agent Eugene Parker Loses Big Money

Imagine being fired just months before you’re set to receive a six-figure commission. According to Comcast SportsNet’s Kelli Johnson, that’s the position Eugene Parker finds himself in. The renowned agent (client include Deion Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Michael Crabtree and others) was fired by Redskins left tackle and No. 4 overall pick Trent Williams Thursday. 

The NFLPA requires that Williams wait four days before hiring a new agent. Whoever he hires will have to immediately get started on the rookie’s contract negotiations.

--Andy Benoit

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @CBSSportsNFL on Twitter

Posted on: June 17, 2010 3:06 pm

The Unique Case of Gerard Warren

Gerard Warren is running with the first unit in New England. He’s operating as a 3-4 defensive end for the first time in his career. The 325-pound Warren is a fascinating player. He was drafted third overall by the Browns in 2001. He was shipped to Denver in ’05 (around the time when every Browns defensive lineman was showing up in Denver). After two ho-hum seasons, he became a Raider. Now, he’s in New England.

So what’s fascinating? Warren has always shown tantalizing talent (mainly rare burst for a player with his resounding strength), but lazy habits and iffy stamina have put a cap on his output. In short, for a third overall pick, he’s been an underachiever – perhaps even a bust.

Most journeymen underachievers become backups. You might think of Warren as a backup, but he’s actually started all but seven games in his career. Have we ever seen a third overall pick disappoint but still start for an entire decade?

At 31, Warren is still in his prime. He has the right tools to occupy blockers in New England’s power-based 3-4 scheme. Don’t be surprised if we see another 16 starts added to his name in 2010.

--Andy Benoit

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @CBSSportsNFL on Twitter

Posted on: June 17, 2010 2:32 pm

Rams Linebacker Fighting Two Battles Right Now

There's an interesting article from Bill Coats on about Rams linebacker David Vobora today. The third-year pro – who entered the league as Mr. Irrelevant out of Idaho – has two storylines this offseason: clearing his name after last year’s four-game suspension for a positive performance-enhancing drug test, and regaining his starting position.

For clearing his name, Vobora is suing the company that provided what he says was a tainted workout supplement. Vobora asserts that he called the NFL substance hotline and got approval for every ingredient listed in the supplement. For damages, he is seeking the $90,588 he lost in compensation during the suspension.

Regarding his starting job, Vobora has an uphill battle. He played strongside linebacker in the Rams’ depleted front seven last season. But in spring, St. Louis signed veteran Na’il Diggs, who grew close to defensive coordinator Ken Flajole when Flajole was the linebackers coach in Carolina. Diggs is a stout run-stopper and, frankly, a better option at this point. Vobora, while a quick-closing, fundamentally-sound tackler, doesn’t always thrive in high-traffic areas (he has trouble locating assignments). Vobora could challenge new weakside linebacker Bobby Carpenter except he lacks the speed to play in space.

The Rams currently have Vobora working behind middle linebacker James Laurinaitis. If he stays there, he’ll only see special teams action in 2010. But at least Vobora has gotten an opportunity to learn multiple positions. Considering he lacks the athletic tools to start, becoming a utility backup gives him the best chance at getting on the field.

--Andy Benoit

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Category: NFL
Posted on: June 17, 2010 1:46 pm

Examining Chicago's Offensive Line

Brad Biggs of pointed out that right guard Roberto Garza is the only Bears offensive lineman currently lining up in the same starting spot as a year ago. The rest of the front five has been shuffled….for the time being.

Center Olin Kreutz is still rehabbing his way back from Achilles surgery. Josh Beekman has been filling in for Kreutz. The Bears have been trying to replace Beekman at left guard for years; ’09 undrafted free agent Johan Asiata is the latest to get a shot.

Right tackle Chris Williams has moved to the left tackle spot that Orlando Pace occupied (fruitlessly) last season. Tackle-turned-guard Frank Omiyale is apparently now a guard-turned-tackle, as he’s playing in Williams’s old spot on the right side. If Williams and Omiyale are the starters, the Bears may have the least physical offensive tackle tandem in the NFL this season.

It’s surprising that ex-Falcon/Brown Kevin Shaffer isn’t getting more of a look at right tackle. Shaffer’s slow feet can be a major problem in pass protection, but unlike Omiyale, he at least has substantial starting experience at the pro level.

Remember, the Bears are working from the Mike Martz playbook now. Martz’s scheme frequently features four-receiver sets, with all four receivers running slow-developing routes. No team will put a greater demand on pass protection in 2010 than the Chicago Bears.

--Andy Benoit

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Posted on: June 17, 2010 1:11 pm

Raging Debate Over 18-Game Schedule

The NFL Players Union isn’t thrilled with the PR campaign the NFL has put forth for extending to an 18-game season. After the two sides discussed the issue Wednesday, NFL executives (namely Packers president Mark Murphy) rushed to the media and spoke glowingly about what the league is calling an “enhanced season”.

Murphy said, “Part of it is really providing more value to our fans.”

The NFLPA responded by releasing comments from Ray Lewis and Tom Brady.

“I know our fans may not like preseason games and I don’t like all of them,” said Lewis, “but swapping two preseason games for two end-of-season games — when players already play hurt — comes at a huge cost for the player and the team.”

“I’ve taken part in several postseason runs where we have played 20 games,” said Brady. “The long-term impact this game has on our bodies is well documented. Look no further than the players that came before we did. Each player today has to play three years in order to earn five years of post-career health care.”

Because the preseason is a time for young fringe players to gain experience, Murphy said the NFL may consider establishing a developmental league to make up for the lost opportunities. (The NFL’s current D-League is known as the NCAA.)

The 18-game season will be a sizzling debate in the coming months. Under the CBA, the league has the right to expand to a 22-game season (18 regular season games; four preseason games). But because Roger Goodell and owners want to shorten the low-quality preseason, the league is pushing for an 18-regular, 2-pre season game format.

Expanding the NFL regular season by two games is the equivalent of expanding the Major League Baseball season by 20 games. The financial repercussions are significant and, as Lewis and Brady iterated, so are the physical ones.

--Andy Benoit

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or