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Tag:Ryan Wilson
Posted on: March 7, 2012 5:03 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2012 8:19 am
 

Manning flies to South Florida after exit in Indy

Don't worry, potential suitors, he has a condo in Florida. (CBS Miami's Facebook page)

By Ryan Wilson

It's been a busy day for Peyton Manning, formerly of the Indianapolis Colts. He and Colts owner Jim Irsay held a joint press conference at noon Wednesday to announce that, after 14 years, the team and its longtime franchise quarterback were parting ways. It was an emotional scene.

But time, as they say, waits for no man. So while Indianapolis continues to remake a franchise that was wildly successful during the Manning era, the franchise's former quarterback contemplates his future. (Even though he said during the press conference that “I haven’t thought about where I’ll play," we're guessing he has.) Which might explain this bit of news: according to CBS Miami, Manning arrived in South Florida via private jet Wednesday afternoon.

"FYI, Peyton Manning is on the ground, he landed at Opa-Locka Airport and just got off his plane just before 4:30 p.m.," CBS Miami posted on its Facebook page. "Not likely to sign today, he owns a condo down here."

The Cardinals organization is collectively having heart palpitations at the news, even if Manning signing with the Dolphins isn't imminent. If nothing else, it gives Manning negotiating leverage when the Cards, Fins, Redskins, Seahawks and other potential suitors queue up to bid for his services (and we still don't know if and when he'll be back to his pre-multiple-neck-surgeries form).

CBS 4 caught up with Manning in a parking lot where he had stopped to speak to reporters. "It was tough for me," he said of leaving the Colts and becoming a free agent. "It was really hard, but now I realize that process has to start. I haven't thought about teams ... It's all new to me."

Inevitably, Manning was asked about his interest in the Dolphins (he's in South Florida, after all).

"The Miami Dolphins have a great organization there," he said before reiterating that he has no idea which teams are interested in him or how this process works. "I truly missed just playing quarterback this year. ... I realize I'm not gonna play forever, and I think I'm gonna know the time to stop playing."

Yes, Wednesday was the end of an era in Indy, but we shouldn't feel sorry for Peyton just yet.


Peyton Manning's run as quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts ended Wednesday, when owner Jim Irsay announced the team would release its best player. Manning said his emotional goodbye to the team, the fans and the city of Indianapolis.

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Posted on: March 6, 2012 12:24 am
Edited on: March 6, 2012 2:14 am
 

Report: Randy Moss to work out for Saints

Is Moss headed back to the NFL? (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

It was exactly three weeks ago Monday that Randy Moss took to UStream to tell his fans that "I wanna play football." Of course, Moss also spoke authoritatively about professional wrestling and pulled out a brown paper bag filled with his hair. It wasn't clear if he was serious. Then he added, "Your boy is going to come back here and play some football, so I'm really excited. I had some things I had to adjust in my life."

The media ran with it, Moss made several more UStream appearances, and now, according to Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, Moss has his first scheduled workout with an NFL team on Tuesday.

JayGlazer
Randy Moss working out for Saints tomorrow. Former Packers QB Brian Brohm also coming in to throw to him
3/5/12 10:13 PM

The Saints have had a forgettable few days, starting with stalled contract negotiations with franchise quarterback Drew Brees (that led to the franchise tag and a reportedly "livid" Brees) and ending with charges that former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was behind a bounty scheme that rewarded players for injuring opponents

Now that the Saints have franchised instead of re-signed Brees, that means they can't use the tag on guard Carl Nicks or wide receiver Marques Colston -- two of the offense's best players. And if Colston leaves via free agency New Orleans will be looking for his replacement. We're not sure Moss is that guy (he's not interested in playing in the middle of the field and he's admitted as much) but the Saints still think he's worth taking a look at. 

Moss' career seemed to stall back in 2005 when the Vikings traded him to the Raiders. After a pedestrian 2006 season, the Patriots acquired him for a fourth-rounder in 2007 and he went on to have one of the most productive years in NFL history. Put differently: in the right system, with the right support system, and an elite future Hall of Famer at quarterback, Moss can be special.

At least that was the case with the old Moss. The Pats eventually shipped him back to the Vikings in 2010, and after a four-game stopover he ended the year with the Titans where he caught just six balls in eight games.

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves; the Saints appear to be kicking the tires on Moss, which may or may not have happened last September after the Week 1 loss to the Packers. Either way, this could be the first of many workouts for Moss. (The Jets and Eagles were reportedly interested last month -- while New England and Dallas probably won't be entering the Straight Cash Homey Sweepstakes.)

And if the NFL doesn't work out, there's always the IFL.

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 11:41 pm
 

2012 NFL Free Agency Preview: AFC East

New England has to be the early favorite, but could Buffalo or Miami supplant New York for No. 2 in the East? (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Buffalo Bills

The season got off to such a promising start in Buffalo -- five wins in the first seven games … and then the Bills suffered seven consecutive losses to finish tied for last in the division with the Dolphins. A lot went right over the first six weeks of the season, but a ton went wrong over the final two and a half months. Some of that can be blamed on injuries, but every team can say that. Bigger issues ill-timed mistakes (like, say, Stevie Johnson drops), poor decisions (Ryan Fitzpatrick interceptions come to mind), and a porous defense all conspired to sink the season. But for the first time in a long time, the Bills have hope. And we don't mean the "Hey, maybe we'll win eight games!" type hope, either. We mean a team that could have the offensive firepower to keep up with anybody. More generally, Buffalo's fate will come down to two things: offensive consistency and a much-improved defense.

Free agents of note
Wide receiver Stevie Johnson signed a five-year deal Friday, but the team is expected to let WR Roscoe Parrish and running back Tashard Chocie hit free agency. The same holds for tight end Scott Chandler. Meanwhile, left tackle Demetrius Bell and linebacker Kirk Morrison have been negotiating with the team for a possible return in 2012.

Needs
Buffalo was 5-2 to start the season and then the wheels fell off. The offense dried up about the time that quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick signed that huge extension (we later found out that he was suffering from a rib injury for the second half of the season), and the defense -- the run defense in particular -- was abysmal. Now Fitzpatrick's healthy, the Bills re-signed Johnson, and Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller give the team two explosive backs.

Dave Wannstedt is the new defensive coordinator and he'll reinstitute the 4-3 after the 3-4 experiment didn't work. This will allow defensive tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus to be on the field at the same time, which should immediately upgrade the run D. Buffalo lacks depth at most positions but especially at linebacker. Kelvin Sheppard will likely play in the middle and Nick Barnett will move to the weak side (the team doesn't expect defensive end Shawne Merriman to be anything more than a situational pass rusher), but expect this need to be addressed in free agency and the draft.

Targets
Former Falcons linebacker Curtis Lofton is headed for the open market and he makes sense. As CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco points out, Lofton is better against the run than the pass, and that was one of the Bills' biggest weaknesses a year ago. There's also a report that Buffalo could be interested in Vincent Jackson -- even after signing Johnson to a long-term contract.

Miami Dolphins

When Tony Sparano arrived in Miami in 2008, the Dolphins surprised everyone by going 11-5 and winning the conference. Unfortunately, once the shine was off the Wildcat offense, Miami faded too. They went 7-9 in back-to-back seasons before an 0-7 start doomed Sparano in 2011. The Dolphins finished strong -- a 6-3 record with backup QB Matt Moore -- but the team will look completely different heading into training camp, starting with new head coach Joe Philbin.

Free agents of note
Chad Henne is gone. He was open to returning but the Dolphins had seen enough. In the right system, Henne could be successful, just not in Miami… Paul Soliai was our top-rated free-agent defensive tackle and the organization is content to let him test the waters… Tackle Vernon Carey struggled as a pass blocker and isn't likely to be re-signed, and the same holds for defensive lineman Kendall Langford… Running back Steve Slaton, the former Texans' third-round pick, also isn't expected back, and neither is right tackle Marc Colombo.

Needs
Quarterback is the glaring need. We've mentioned it before but we might as well reiterate it here for effect -- the starters since Dan Marino retired following the 1999 season: Jay Fiedler, Damon Huard, A.J. Feeley, Gus Frerotte, Sage Rosenfels, Brian Griese, Joey Harrington, Daunte Culpepper, Cleo Lemon, Trent Green, John Beck, Chad Pennington, Chad Henne, Tyler Thigpen and Matt Moore.

Which is why owner Stephen Ross was reportedly "infatuated" with Peyton Manning and why Philbin might end up with Matt Flynn, who he coached in Green Bay. Whatever happens, as long as the Dolphins don't have a legit quarterback, they'll always be playing for draft position. Miami also needs to upgrade the offensive line, specifically right tackle. Colombo was among the worst tackles in the league according to ProFootballFocus.com's numbers, and Football Outsiders ranked the entire unit 30th in their sacks-allowed metric.

Targets
Manning seems like a long shot because of lingering health issues, potential cap-busting contract demands and the possibility that Manning will want to run the offense. Flynn makes much more sense because he's familiar with Philbin and Philbin's offense, and in the right system he can be effective. The QB free-agency drop-off after Flynn is precipitous. Jason Campbell and Kyle Orton would be fine as one-year stopgaps until the next franchise quarterback arrives in South Beach, but using that logic it makes just as much sense to keep Henne around.

The free-agent market for tackles is even thinner. Jared Gaither might be the best mix of athleticism, upside and affordability, but the Chargers are reportedly interested in keeping him.

New England Patriots

The Patriots returned to the Super Bowl in February for the first time since 2007 (which is also the last time they won a postseason game). But their loss to the Giants in Indianapolis means that New England's last Lombardi Trophy came following the 2005 season. There are worse fates, of course, and as long as Tom Brady is under center the Pats are a playoff team and likely favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Still, Brady needs help. Given New England's cache of draft picks, we expect they'll address each of them in the coming weeks and months.

Free agents of note
Wide receiver Wes Welker was franchised Monday but the hope is that the two sides can come to an agreement on a long-term deal… Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis carried much of the workload last season but the Pats used two high draft picks on RBs. If Green-Ellis leaves via free agency second-year player Stevan Ridley could be next in line… Left tackle Matt Light is rumored to be contemplating retirement and even if he comes back for another season New England might move on without him (they drafted tackle Nate Solder in the first round last April). The Patriots may also let free agent center Dan Koppen walk… Veterans WR Deion Branch and DE Andre Carter could be back in New England if they're willing to sign for cheap, while longtime Patriot Kevin Faulk has retired but hinted that he'd love to return to the sidelines as an assistant coach…

Needs
Defense and wide receiver top the offseason to-do list. As for the former, the Patriots desperately need depth in the secondary; the team cut former first-round pick safety Brandon Meriweather in preseason and then played much of 2011 with other teams' castoffs at cornerback. CB Devin McCourty regressed in Year 2 after a fantastic rookie campaign, but he could rebound with the right players around him. Second-rounder Ras-I Dowling missed his rookie season with injuries but will be available to begin 2012.

Concerning the latter: Chad Ochocinco was an unmitigated disaster. He had 15 catches in the regular season and a lone touchdown. He was supposed to provide Brady with a deep threat. Didn't happen. In fact, Ochocinco routinely found himself on the sidelines when the Pats went to the no-huddle offense because he was still learning the playbook. There's a chance he returns in 2012 but it will be at a reduced rate. With Welker back for at least another year and Branch also likely to return, New England has to find a legitimate down-the-field target to stretch defenses and open things up for tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Which brings us to...

Targets
The Patriots have the 31st pick in April's draft. The Steelers chose not to franchise Mike Wallace Monday. New England should be working up a contract offer for Wallace right now because if they're able to prying him away from Pittsburgh it'll be worth much more than a low first-round selection. New England could also look to free agency to fill their needs in the secondary and along the defensive line.

New York Jets

The Jets' offseason began with a Rex Ryan press conference explaining why team captain Santonio Holmes quit on his teammates during an embarrassing Week 17 loss to the Dolphins with the playoffs on the line. Ryan promised to fix his locker room, proclaimed that Mark Sanchez was his quarterback, and indicated that despite the whole quitting thing, Holmes was staying put. On the other side of the ball, New York struggled to generate a pass rush and wasn't nearly as effective against the run. And that, almost as much as Sanchez' inconsistency, was responsible for the 8-8 season.

Free agents of note
We listed Sione Pouha as one of the best free-agent defensive tackles and while the Jets didn't franchise him, they'll reportedly sign him to a long-term deal before he hits the open market… Plaxico Burress' one-year stint with Gang Green is over; he along with Holmes didn't always see eye to eye with Sanchez and he said recently he'd love to play for the Eagles… Safety Jim Leonhard came to the Jets from Baltimore but he along with Brodney Pool could be allowed to test free agency… Another former Raven, linebacker Bart Scott, has been given permission to seek a trade… Running back LaDainian Tomlinson is expected to retire… The Jets saved former Bills first-rounder Aaron Maybin from the scrap heap and the team will reportedly tender him at the highest level.

Needs
Sanchez took a beating -- both mentally and physically -- last year. With Holmes set to return, the former probably won't change no matter what Ryan says. But the team can certainly do a better job of protecting their franchise quarterback, particularly if that quarterback ends up being Peyton Manning. (We think that's a longshot at this point but still not entirely outside the realm of possibility. Either way, the fact remains: if New York doesn't protect any of their quarterbacks, they can expect another long season in 2012.) Unfortunately, the Jets have committed to Wayne Hunter as their right tackle, the very same Wayne Hunter who was summarily beaten time after time in 2011. According to ESPNNewYork.com, Hunter was charged with 8.5 sacks and 11 penalties last season.

New York also needs to bolster the secondary, especially if neither Leonhard or Pool is expected to re-sign. It also didn't help that Eric Smith struggled is passing situations (not to mention losing contain on the Thursday Night get-together against the Broncos that led to Tebow's game-winning touchdown run.)

Targets
Ryan, like most coaches, favors his own guys. It explains why he brought Leonhard and Scott with him from Baltimore where he was previously the defensive coordinator. It also explains why he may pursue Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson, who's headed for free agency. Also expect the Jets to address the position -- or safety -- early in April's draft.

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 9:34 pm
 

Bears, Bills interested in Vincent Jackson?

Despite their history, Vincent Jackson apparently would like to return to the Chargers. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

The Chargers may have stated repeatedly that they want wide receiver Vincent Jackson back in San Diego next season, but he's set to hit the open market. And when he does, there will almost certainly be a team (or three) willing to pay him more than what Chargers GM A.J. Smith deems fair.  Unsurprisingly, Smith understands this: "We would like to have him continue on with us, but other teams now will enter the picture."

The Chicago Tribune's Vaughn McClure writes that the Bears could be one of the teams interested in Jackson's services.

vxmcclure23
At least Bears can pursue Vincent Jackson, who didn't get tagged. Jackson and Cliff Avril appeared to be the top two free agent targets.
3/5/12 4:11 PM

Obviously, McClure sent the tweet before the Lions tagged Cliff Avril. Either way, Jackson's still available and ESPN's John Clayton echoes McClure, tweeting that he thinks "the Bears will make a big run at Vincent Jackson."

It's a perfectly reasonable assumption; running back Matt Forte was the team's leading receiver last season (52 catches, 490 yards, 1 TD), followed by Johnny Knox (37, 727, 2) and Roy Williams (37, 507, 2). But the NFL is a passing league and that means that the supply of franchise quarterbacks and big-play wideouts will always outstrip demand. So Chicago should expect competition for Jackson.

According to the Union-Tribune, the Bills could be one such team even though, you know, they just signed Stevie Johnson to a long-term deal. Details via Kevin Acee:

"It is believed the Buffalo Bills remain interested in Jackson despite signing Stevie Johnson to a five-year, $36.25 million deal on Monday. And, at least theoretically, Jackson was helped when Dwayne Bowe received the franchise tag from the Kansas City Chiefs.

Acee adds that despite Jackson's turbulent relationship with the Chargers' front office, Jackson's heart is in San Diego. "According to those familiar with his thinking, he has compartmentalized his feelings about the team and wants to remain a part of the offense led by Philip Rivers and devised by Norv Turner. He would, according to sources, take less from the Chargers than another team, though not a whole lot less."

Acee suspects that San Diego has a number in mind for Jackson, something less than $11 million a year. But if the two sides can't come to an agreement before March 13 at 4 p.m. ET, there's a good chance Jackson will have played his last game for the Chargers.

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 7:18 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 9:03 pm
 

Colts, Mathis come to terms on new contract

Indianapolis franchised Mathis but only as a formality while they hammered out the details of his new deal.  (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Last week, talks were reportedly heating up between the Colts and free-agent defensive end Robert Mathis but the two sides didn't come to an agreement until Monday afternoon, the team announced in a statement. As a formality, Indianapolis designated Mathis as their franchise player while finishing up the paperwork for the new contract.

Mathis' deal is reportedly worth $36 million over four years with a $15 million signing bonus, according to the Indianapolis Star's Mike Chappell.

As for what Mathis brings to the Colts' defense, we'll repeat what we wrote last week: New Colts head coach Chuck Pagano comes to Indy from the Ravens where he was the defensive coordinator. Historically, this is an organization that has eschewed defense and deferred to Peyton Manning -- and for good reason. Prior to the 2-14 egg the team laid in 2011, the Colts had won 10 games or more 11 times in Manning's 13 seasons, making the postseason 11 times and winning the whole thing in 2006. Prior to Manning's arrival -- and since the Colts came to Indy in 1984 -- they made three postseason appearances.

But the Manning era is just about done, and Pagano understands that a good defense can carry an average offense featuring a young quarterback a long way. Joe Flacco is the most obvious example, but Ben Roethlisberger was the beneficiary of a stout defense early in his career, and Mark Sanchez made two straight AFC Conference Championship game appearances in large part because of the Jets defense.  With Andrew Luck next in line in Indy, bolstering the defense only makes sense.

But Mathis is 31, not an ideal fit in the 3-4 defense Pagano will install, and will tie up valuable salary-cap dollars with a new deal. That said, he's played at a high level for all but one of his nine years in the league; he had 9.5 sacks in '11 and 11 the year before that. Not counting his rookie season, Mathis has averaged 10 sacks a season. It's reasonable to conclude that he's still a capable pass-rusher, a commodity defenses can never have enough of.

Plus, in his annual list of the top 50 free agents, CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco writes that Mathis "has improved against the run and could easily make the transition from 4-3 end to 3-4 rush 'backer."

Looking at the bigger picture, one of Pagano's goals was to keep Mathis and Dwight Freeney together on the Colts' defensive line.

"First and foremost, we're going to make sure that we put both of those guys in position to make plays," Pagano told reporters at last week's combine (via the Associated Press). "I don't think it would be very smart on my part or anybody else's part to make sure that doesn't happen."

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 6:27 pm
 

Report: Drew Brees is livid about tag, won't sign

This is Drew Brees' 'Wait, you really did franchise me?!' face. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

There were reports last week that the Saints and franchise quarterback Drew Brees were about $5 million per year apart on a new contract. General manager Mickey Loomis, who according to a Yahoo story thought of Brees as "very good" but not great, later told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that “I have always thought of Drew as a great player. Always."

New Orleans' forgettable offseason
Four days ago, this was easily the organization's biggest issue.

Then news broke that former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was involved in a "pay for performance" bounty program, head coach Sean Payton and Loomis knew about it, and the Brees situation suddenly seemed less important. But the franchise tag waits for no man; scandals or not, the Saints had until 4 p.m. ET Monday to work out a new deal with Brees, franchise him, or let him hit the open market. New Orleans opted for the franchise tag and Brees isn't happy about it.

Details via CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Larry Holder:

"Brees is 'livid' about being … tagged and not receiving a long-term contract, according to WIST-AM in New Orleans. The radio station cites sources in the Brees camp that he will not sign the franchise tag deal. Brees and the Saints have until July 15 to hammer out a long-term deal. If a deal isn't struck, Brees must sign the franchise tag deal or hold out. "

It's rare that holding out is in the player's best interests; in general, the team has all the power but this could be a case where Brees is in a position to get exactly what he wants (and maybe more). Exacerbating matters for the Saints: the possible league sanctions the organization could face in light of the bounty program. If players are suspended and draft picks forfeited, New Orleans will need Brees more than ever. (It gets worse: two of the Saints' best offensive players, Carl Nicks and Marques Colston, are headed for free agency.)

Under the franchise tag that Brees reportedly has no intentions of signing, he's scheduled to make $15 million. In theory, the two sides have until July 16 to bang out a long-term contract but if Brees really is "livid" he may be in no mood to negotiate. Never mind the impending sanctions Roger Goodell might have in store for New Orleans, if Brees isn't the quarterback, the 2012 Saints will look a lot like the 2011 Colts. (Upside: they'll be perfectly positioned for a run at Matt Barkley!)

In the meantime, we'll reiterate what CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman wrote last week: "What the hell are the Saints doing? I've said this before. There are certain players, only a handful, where you open the vault and roll out the cash. You give them a blank check. Brees is one of those players. Franchising Brees is going to anger him, no question. Players despise the tag because it limits their earning potential. So you've ticked off your best player. For what? Why?"

Why indeed.

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 5:30 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 5:38 pm
 

Players come to Gregg Williams' defense

Then-Jags defensive coordinator Gregg Williams signals a play during training camp in July 2006. It was a simpler time.  (AP)

By Ryan Wilson

Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was summoned to the NFL's Manhattan headquarters Monday to discuss further the league's findings that the Saints (where Williams was the defensive coordinator from 2009-2011) had a "pay for performance" bounty program that rewarded players for injuring opponents.

Williams issued an apology Friday, hours after the the news broke, and in the hours and days since everybody has weighed in on the matter. Oft-fined and once suspended Steelers linebacker James Harrison tweeted Sunday: “We’ll see how concerned the NFL is about player safety when they decide what the punishment for the saints is. I’ll just say this, if that was me I would have been kicked out of the NFL!”

New Orleans' forgettable offseason
Later that day, Harrison retweeted this from teammate Ryan Clark, who played for the Redskins when Williams was the coach there: "Never in my career has a defensive coach singled out a player and put $ on his head. I've never been offered $ to put a player out of a game."

During a Monday appearance on ESPN, Clark finished his thought (via PFT.com): ‘If you knock out this guy we will give you a certain amount of money for it.’ Whether it was my head coach Joe Gibbs, whether it was Gregg Williams, I was never, ever approached to take a guy out. …

“If these things are going on, you speak up while they’re happening,” Clark said. “If you’re in a meeting and a coach comes in and says, ‘Hey, No. 16, whoever he is, if you knock him out of the game we’re going to pay you x amount of dollars.’ Then you blow the whistle then and say, ‘Look, I’m not going to be a part of this. If we continue to do this, I will report it.’ To me, that’s making a statement, that’s making a stand and that’s being loyal to all the players in this league.”

Another former Redskins defensive back, Fred Smoot, also came to Williams' defense.

“First of all I want to correct everybody,” Smoot said Monday after calling into 106.7 The Fan (via the Sports Bog). “It was never a system. And let me tell you something: this was a thing that I think started in training camp with us as players. It started off with who could get the most interceptions, who could get the biggest hit or who could get the sacks, and we took it into games."

NFL rules prohibit monetary incentives for interceptions and sacks, too. Although Williams probably wouldn't have been sitting in commissioner Roger Goodell's office Monday if that's all he was accused of. Smoot continued:

“Gregg never said take out this player or take out this player," he said. "But I’m sorry, back when I played football, we used to actually hit people. It was legal to go out and hit people. And we wanted to be the most physical team, and we wanted to inflict pain, but in no way possible did we ever want to go out there and endanger anybody’s career or take somebody truly out of the game....

“It was more or less we would start a pot in the defensive backfield of who could get the most forced fumbles or who could get the most interceptions, who could do that. It was never a bounty; it was more or less a pot that all of us players put in. Gregg never put in a dime. Gregg never came in and said do this, do this, do that. We did that ourselves, as a way to kind of pump each other up to go make more plays.”

Smoot admitted that he understood why the league might frown upon bounty programs but reiterated that “I never saw anyone paid for knocking someone out of the game. Did we as players put in pots to make plays, what we called the Big Splash Plays Pot? Yeah, we did that. WE did that. Players. That started by the captains on the team…."

Smoots remarks runs counter to a Washington Post report from Friday. Mark Maske wrote that three former Redskins players "described a coach (in Williams) who doled out thousands of dollars to Redskins defenders who measured up to Williams’s scoring system for rugged play, including 'kill shots' that knocked opposing teams’stars out of a game. 'You got compensated more for a kill shot than you did other hits,' one former player said. Compensation ranged from 'hundreds to thousands of dollars' with the biggest payout thought to be $8,000."

Wherever the truth lies, things could end badly for Williams. And to a lesser extent, New Orleans head coach Sean Payton, who had knowledge of the reported bounty program, and the Saints' organization.

If it's any consolation to Williams (and we can't imagine it is but we're including it here for completeness), Weight Watchers spokesman Charles Barkley is appalled by former players anonymously ratting Williams out.

“You have to be a punk to snitch that out,” Barkley said during an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show. “That’s like giving a reporter an anonymous quote. That makes you a punk, if you do anonymous, but also, you don’t bring that out X amount of years later. I mean you don’t compete in it if you don’t want to be in it. But I’ve seen at least three or four well-known NFL players say all teams have bounties. So I’m glad they came to Gregg Williams’ defense. Because I’m pretty sure all teams have that.”

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Posted on: March 3, 2012 12:17 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2012 12:21 pm
 

Report: Williams to face fine but not suspension

Williams and Payton are in a heap of trouble. How much, exactly, will be up to Goodell. (Eye on Football Illustration/Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

It's been a busy few days for the New Orleans Saints and for all the wrong reasons. Barely two months removed from quarterback Drew Brees setting the NFL record for passing yards in season, now the organization is faced with trying to re-sign Brees and on Friday, and NFL investigation revealed that former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was complicit in creating a "pay for performance" bounty system that rewarded Saints players for injuring opponents.

Williams, now with the Rams, apologized Friday night saying, in part that, "It was a terrible mistake, and we knew it was wrong while we were doing it. Instead of getting caught up in it, I should have stopped it. I take full responsibility for my role. I am truly sorry. I have learned a hard lesson and I guarantee that I will never participate in or allow this kind of activity to happen again.”

New Orleans' forgettable offseason
Except that New Orleans wasn't an isolated incident. At least four former Redskins players said Williams had a similar system in Washington when he was the defensive coordinator under Joe Gibbs. (On Saturday, Gibbs said he had no knowledge of it.)

The NFL, meanwhile, concluded that while current Saints head coach Sean Payton wasn't a direct participant in Williams' bounty program, he "did not make any detailed inquiry or otherwise seek to learn the facts, and failed to stop the bounty program."

So now what?

In reading through the comments, many fans want Williams suspended, some going so far as to suggest a lifetime ban. That seems extreme, but then again, "pay for performance" rewarded players for injuries. That's among the worst charges you can level against a coach or a player -- that they intentionally tried to injure opponents.  Even Steelers linebacker James Harrison, Public Enemy No. 1 when it comes to NFL violence, said in October 2010 that "I don't want to injure anybody. There's a big difference between being hurt and being injured. You get hurt, you shake it off and come back the next series or the next game. I try to hurt people."

In that sense, Williams is worse than Harrison, right? Wherever he lies on the spectrum of dirty tactics, early indications are that Williams won't be forced to miss any games. Details via Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

"One league source said Williams might be in line for a large fine but didn't think a suspension would be forthcoming. Then again, the source said, 'This is two strikes against him,' referring to controversial comments Williams made before Super Bowl XLIV (at the end of the 2009 season) about knocking Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning out of the game."

Thomas added: "Another source said the expectations was that Williams' fine would be in six figures — perhaps as much as $250,000 — but that head coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis would be penalized more heavily."

Will the sanctions have any lasting effects on the Saints? Who knows. In the wake of Spygate in 2007, the Patriots were fined $250,000, head coach Bill Belichick was fined anther $500,000 and the team lost their 2008 first-round draft pick. They went undefeated during the 2007 regular season but didn't win a playoff game from 2008-2010, and haven't won a Super Bowl since 2005.

While we wait for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to drop the hammer, take a moment to enjoy the mock-up of the movie poster for the inevitable made-for-TV spectacle that's sure to follow. (Yes, it has to be science fiction. And, yes, in case it's not blindingly obvious: this is a joke.)

Early cast list includes Williams as Vader (the hands-on leader), Vilma a Boba Fett (the enforcer), Favre as Jar Jar Binks (because who didn't want to knock Jar Jar out?) and Payton as Jabba (in charge but less interested in details as results). Also, in case you missed it the first time: THIS IS A JOKE. (Eye on Football Illustration)

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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 CBSSports.com