Tag:Mike Tomlin
Posted on: October 21, 2011 3:15 pm
Edited on: October 21, 2011 3:32 pm

Players think NFL should fine Harbaugh, Schwartz

In the eyes of the NFL, close-talking is not a crime. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

The NFL seems uninterested in dispelling the perception that there are two sets of rules -- one for the players and one for everyone else associated with the league. The latest instance came after Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz reenacted the "Wait, what did he just do to me?!" scene that has played out at every pro wrestling match ever staged.

On merit alone the incident isn't worth a fine (and none was levied); the sheer embarrassment of being a part of such a spectacle is punishment enough. But this is the NFL, where no transgression is deemed too small (see, for example) … except when it doesn't involve players.

Remember when the Colts announced before the season that they had hired former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel as a game-day consultant? Instead of meting out the punishment, the league seemed happy to let Indianapolis handle it, but only after the story went public. That would've never happened had Tressel been a player (like, say, Terrelle Pryor).

Understandably, these inconsistencies irk players, and two of them spoke out about it Thursday during an appearance on NFL Network's Total Access. Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey and Texans wideout Derrick Mason, who have 28 years of NFL experience between them, were amazed Harbaugh and Schwartz escaped punishment.

(For what it's worth -- and we imagine not much -- NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said this on Monday: "Fortunately, there was no fighting and thus no basis for a fine. … However, both coaches told [VP of football operations] Ray Anderson today that their post-game conduct was wrong and will not happen again. ... We believe their response is the correct one and that their post-game conduct going forward will be more appropriate.")

“What if that was a player? How would (the NFL) react to that?,” Bailey asked. “These are supposed to be the leaders of our team(s), and you let them get away with it, so to speak, and now how do you think the players will start acting? I like it personally, but I just know how the NFL operates today, it’s amazing to me they let this slide.”

Mason agreed.

“I think they should have (been fined), because these are the leaders of your team,” he said. “I think the NFL should have slapped them with some type of fine, $5,000 or $10,000 here or there, to at least show them they have to be responsible for what they do on the field.”

We love that Mason has no idea how much the coaches should've been fined, no doubt because the league has a history of arbitrarily handing out punishments.

It's one thing to be strict -- we get that. There's a plan, and even if most people don't agree with it, they know the rules going in. But when the judge, jury and executioner is a paranoid schizophrenic you're going to have issues like this crop up several times a season.

(By the way, Yahoo.com's Doug Farrar notes that "it could certainly be argued that both [Schwartz and Harbaugh] stepped on the wrong side of this one," and then points to the NFL's fine schedule which plainly states that "Sportsmanship: Excessive Profanity; other Unsportsmanlike Conduct (e.g., toward opponent(s), game personnel, fans, etc.): $10,000 / $20,000.")

In a web-exclusive, the analysts answer your questions for the 7th week of the season. Get the latest from JB, Phil, Cris, and Warren.

This seems like a good place to include what some other NFL coaches had to say about The Handshake when it invariably came up at their respective weekly press conferences.

Bill Belichick: "[The post-game handshake] is so heavily scrutinized by the media that it’s an event bigger than the game itself, which is so absurd. Like a lot of things, it takes any personalization out of the game and makes it a public topic of discussion. I think it’s pretty ridiculous that the media focuses on it the way it does.

“I’d like to think that the reason that the people are there is to see the game and to see the competition. But they seem to want to talk about everything but the game. That’s not uncommon. That’s the media’s job, so that’s what they do. It certainly takes away from, as a coach, the things that you would say, so you find other times to do it outside of that. Maybe before the game, or a phone call to the coach after the game, that kind of thing.”

Mike Tomlin: "I really have no thoughts [on the handshake]. I think it is the same sometimes, when we pay attention to things that are meaningless, insignificant. The story of the NFL should be on the game itself. That was a hard-fought game played by two really good football teams, two exciting teams on the rise. I think that should be the story, not some unfortunate incident that happened after the game. I think that is silly."

When asked what does into a handshake, Tomlin was frank.

"I don't practice it. I don't think about it. I am just going to be cordial, be respectful and wish them well moving forward. I don't know about the norms, OK. I don't get into that. If I spend too much time thinking about the handshake, then I am not doing my job."

John Harbaugh: "I can just tell you this: I think I know who was right. But whoever was right or wrong, I know whose side I’m on. I’m definitely taking sides. [It’s] the same side I’ve always taken. … You know what? Everybody’s got a lot to learn. So I guess right now, [Jim's] 5-1. If the biggest lesson he has right now is how to shake hands postgame, after a victory, he’s doing OK.”

Fair point. But as one NFL coach told CBSSports.com's Clark Judge, Harbaugh and Scwhartz "are going to regret it in the morning. They just bought a film clip for life."

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Posted on: October 18, 2011 9:01 pm

Tomlin: NFL shouldn't fine Polamalu for cell use

Will Polamalu face punishment for using cell phone? (AP)
Posted by Ryan Wilson

Other than beating the Jaguars Sunday, the big news for the Steelers was that Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu had to leave the game with concussion-like symptoms following a Maurice Jones-Drew tackle. The good news is that Polamalu is fine and should play against the Cardinals this week.

“[Troy] appears to be good to go,” Mike Tomlin said Tuesday at his news conference. “He did a concussion test, and he passed it. He met with our neurosurgeon [Dr. Joseph Maroon], and he’s very comfortable where he is.”

The bad news is that Polamalu may face a fine from the league for … using a cell phone from the Steelers' bench. The NFL prohibits players and coaches from using cell phones on the sidelines during games, presumably because Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez would order takeout (and, obviously, Rex Ryan would have the requisite snack requests -- naughty language alert).

But Polamalu wasn't on the horn for anything untoward -- he was calling his wife, Theodora, to let her know he was okay. Tomlin was asked if he thought the league might fine the Steelers safety anyway.

"He's had a history of concussion-like symptoms and so forth in the past. She was concerned. In this era of player safety, you would think that common sense would prevail in regards to some of those things," Tomlin said. "It wasn't a personal call. He wasn't checking on his bank account. He was talking to his wife to let her know that he was fine, and that was it."

As PFT.com points out, the NFL has a history of meting out heavy fines to players and coaches who break this particular rule. During the 2005 season, then-Falcons head coach Jim Mora was fined $25,000 for using a cell phone during the team's overtime loss to the Bucs.

Then there's the guy probably most responsible for the current no-phone sideline situation: former Saints wideout Joe Horn. Back in 2003, he got the bright idea to hide a cell phone in the goal post padding, which led to this spectacle.

As for Polamalu, we'd like to think that Tomlin's right -- common sense will prevail. But if the league's haphazard policy for punishing players is any guide, Polamalu can expect anything from no fine to a four-game suspension.

Because if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is anything, he's unpredictable.

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Posted on: October 12, 2011 8:01 pm

Tomlin hangs up on Jacksonville scribes

TomlinPosted by Josh Katzowitz

Man, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin really doesn’t like to talk about his team’s 2008 playoff loss to the Jaguars, does he? And if we didn’t know that before, the scribes who cover Jacksonville certainly are aware now of his distaste for those kinds of queries.

As recounted by Florida Times-Union beat writer Tania Ganguli, Tomlin hung up on the Jaguars beat hacks Wednesday during a teleconference when they asked one too many questions about Pittsburgh’s 31-29 defeat to the Jaguars after the 2007 regular season.

According to Ganguli, AP reporter Mike Long asked Tomlin if he had any memories from that game.

"Not really," Tomlin said. "I remember David Garrard, of course, on the draw on fourth down. That's one of those plays you'll never forget. It was a big play."

Tomlin might be bitter about that play because it was determined afterward that officials had missed a holding call. Tomlin was asked if he had sent a complaint to the league about that play, and after he said no, he was asked why.

"Guys, come on man,” Tomlin said. “I'm not going to cry over four-year-old spilled milk. Anybody got any legitimate questions? Goll-lly.”

The reason he asked the question, Long explained to Tomlin, was because, from a Jacksonville perspective, that was a huge game and a huge play, and it led to big-time contract extensions for coach Jack Del Rio and for Garrard.

"Guys, that was four years ago," Tomlin said. "I understand that might have been a big game in Jacksonville but that's old news. Many of those guys are no longer here and definitely many of the guys that were in Jacksonville are no longer there. Anybody got any questions relative to this week?"

After another reporter began a question, presumably not related to the previous Jaguars-Steelers clash, Tomlin interrupted, said goodbye, wished everybody a nice day and hung up the phone.

So, fair warning. If you ask Tomlin about the Jaguars, you’d better keep it current. Otherwise, he’s going to end the conversation as quickly as possible.

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Posted on: September 6, 2011 4:26 pm

Tomlin on PIT-BAL matchup '2 trains on a track'

The Ravens and Steelers meet in Week 1. Apparently, they do not like each other.  (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

There are eight division matchups in Week 1 but the biggest could be Sunday's Steelers-Ravens get-together. Both teams went 12-4 last season, made the playoffs, and the Steelers got to the Super Bowl before losing to the Packers.

Seven months later, Pittsburgh and Baltimore remain two of the AFC's best teams. And by Sunday night, we should should know the early favorite to win the AFC North (apologies to whoever wins the Bengals-Browns tilt).

But both teams enter the season with issues; the Ravens lack depth at wide receiver, quarterback and the offensive line, and the Steelers are one of the oldest clubs in the league. Over the weekend, we documented the Ravens' potential problems in great detail, but in the days since, head coach John Harbaugh announced that Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams will be the starting cornerbacks. Smith was the team's first-round pick in April; Williams has just one start in his four-year career. And they'll be facing possibly the best group of pass-catchers in the league. As a unit, the Ravens secondary will be tasked with stopping Mike Wallace, who had 10 touchdowns and averaged 21 yards per catch last season, Hines Ward, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown.

"I think we are younger, more athletic and faster than we've been the last two years," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, according to the Baltimore Sun. "I think this team will be a better team in October and November than they will be in September. Then you may go, 'What are you saying?' I'm saying we've got some young guys that are going to get better…"

The Rivalry

Baltimore also has plenty of veterans, although some are new faces around the locker room. The team signed center Andre Gurode over the weekend in case Matt Birk isn't fully recovered from back spasms, left tackle Bryant McKinnie was inked last month after Oniel Cousins flopped at right tackle (Michael Oher has since been moved to RT and McKinnie is penciled to play LT), and the Ravens traded for Lee Evans after it was clear rookie wideout Torrey Smith wasn't yet ready for the No. 2 job.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked repeatedly about the age of his team during his Tuesday press conference and, slightly agitated, he finally said “You’re making my job easy,” presumably because it would motivate aforementioned old-timers to play harder. That includes linebacker James Harrison, 33, who admits to being less than 100 percent after two offseason back surgeries.

Tomlin, however, remains unconcerned about the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year. “I expect James to be James.” We suspect Joe Flacco feels similarly; in the past eight meetings between the two teams, Harrison and LaMarr Woodley have sacked the Ravens quarterback 12 times.

Pittsburgh nose tackle Casey Hampton put the rivalry in perspective: "They talk a whole lot," Hampton said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "They don't like us. I think they don't like us a lot more than we don't like them. I think they have to talk themselves into it, kind of, know what I mean? Since I've been here, we've beat them a lot more than they beat us. They have to talk about it a whole lot."

For the record, since Hampton's arrival in 2001, the Steelers are 14-9 against the Ravens (including the playoffs).

Tomlin says the pregame gum-flapping doesn't mean much. “Who’s angry, who’s not, what’s said, what’s not said ... that’s going to be irrelevant. We have two ... teams with the same intentions: to put themselves in position to chase the Lombardi. That’s why we will always have issues with those guys. Two trains on a track. See you Sunday."

We'll be there.

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Posted on: August 31, 2011 11:02 pm
Edited on: August 31, 2011 11:03 pm

James Harrison still not at full strength

Posted by Ryan Wilson

The Steelers have an amazing knack for stocking their roster with quality players and not just the first-round picks. Late-round selections, undrafted free agents and cast-offs from other organizations all seem to find their niche in Pittsburgh. It helps explain how they've made three Super Bowl appearances in the last six years.

Despite all the successes, there are weaknesses. Most cited: the offensive line and the secondary, specifically depth at cornerback. Never, ever mentioned: the linebackers, particularly the outside linebackers.

But that's changing, even if temporarily. For now, we can add one of the Steelers' best players -- and one of the best linebackers in the league -- as a weakness, both figuratively and literally.

James Harrison, the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, had two back surgeries this the offseason. That, coupled with a lockout that prevented players from participating in OTAs and minicamps, means he's not yet in football shape -- and worse -- not yet at full strength, which is sort of important given his job description.

This was painfully evident during the Steelers' Week 3 preseason game against the Falcons. After flushing Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan from the pocket, Harrison appeared to run out of gas mid-sprint, slowed to a jog and eventually a brisk walk before the play was over. In the scheme of things it barely merited a mention … until you remember that this is James Harrison. His motor is always running.

Well, even a player as tenacious as Harrison is no match for dual back surgeries.

"He's not where he wants to be, he'll tell you that," linebackers coach Keith Butler told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It's not where he usually is before a season. He's usually in better shape than anybody, but the back surgery slowed him down a little."

Head coach Mike Tomlin has limited Harrison's practice reps, which has also affected his conditioning. "It fatigues you a lot faster, especially when you're trying to deal with an injury, and it really fatigued me out there, I'm not going to lie," Harrison said. "That's something that comes with the territory."

More Steelers News

Harrison, who was cut by the Steelers and Ravens before finally sticking in Pittsburgh, is 33 and entering his eighth season. Given his intensity, it's also no surprise that he's frustrated by his current situation.

"It's more trying to get into game shape, trying to get your back to hold up the same as it did on the first play as it will the last play," he said. "That's something that will come with time. The longer I'm out there, the more I get reps in games, the better it will get.

"We got a lot more plays this week than we did last week, and I feel about the same as I did last week. I'm not saying that's a good thing, but it was a lot more plays this week than last week and I feel about the same, so it's headed in the right direction."

Harrison, like most Steelers starters, isn't expected to play against the Panthers Thursday. That means that 2010 second-rounder Jason Worilds will get another opportunity to prove that he can fill in if needed, although he doesn't yet appear to be nearly the player LaMarr Woodley (a '07 second-rounder) was entering his second season.

The good news is that Harrison will be back to his normal menacing self. "I anticipate playing and eventually, yeah, I'll get to full strength," he said. "But, when that will be, I don't know."

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Posted on: August 28, 2011 5:39 pm

Big Ben, Steelers' O more dangerous than ever

Posted by Ryan Wilson

The Steelers may have annual issues along its offensive line, but the passing game has been among the NFL's best during the Ben Roethlisberger era. Since drafting him 11th overall in 2004, Pittsburgh has ranked no worse than ninth in passing efficiency in six of seven seasons (as determined by the friendly eggheads at FootballOusiders.com).

But the outfit historically known for the three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust approach to matriculating the ball down the field has been a mediocre running team over that time (their average rushing efficiency rank since '04: 14th in the NFL). If the first three weeks of the preseason is any indication, there's a great chance both units will improve in 2011, which is scary news for the rest of the AFC.

Roethlisberger has been near-flawless in three games that have no bearing on the standings but provide a glimpse of what's to come once the final scores count. He's 21 of 31 (67.7%) for 361 yards and four touchdowns, hasn't come close to throwing an interception, and his passer rating is an otherworldly 146.6. And while Ben's accustomed to showing well in the preseason, and having it carry over to the regular season (notable exceptions: offseasons involving near-death motorcycle accidents and league-sanctioned four-game suspensions), 2011 could be the year he unanimously joins the conversation as one of the NFL's best quarterbacks.

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 27: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates his touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons during a pre-season game on August 27, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Part of it will be because he's healthier than he was a year ago when the Steelers went 12-4 and lost to the Packers in the Super Bowl. But he also seems to be making better reads, throwing more accurately and playing with more poise. Oh, and not only is this the best group of pass-catchers Roethlisberger's ever seen in Pittsburgh, but arguably the most complete wide receivers corps in the league. (In regards to the former, the bar isn't particularly high -- this is a man whose three best wideouts during the 2005 Super Bowl season included Hines Ward, Cedrick Wilson and Antwaan Randle El. The latter claim requires some justification, however, and that's what we aim to do.)

Roethlisberger still has Ward, but there's also the most explosive deep threat in the game, Mike Wallace; two young players who came out of nowhere to add depth as rookies last season in Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown; and recently signed Jerricho Cotchery.

A year ago, Wallace had 60 catches for 1,275 yards (a mind-blowing 21.0-yards-per-catch average) and 10 touchdowns. And while defenses would love to double- and triple-team him this season, they'll do so at their own risk because Brown has emerged as Wallace 2.0, but possibly more dynamic. He showed glimpses of talent during the second half of 2010, no play more memorable than his catch during the AFC Divisional Game against the Ravens, a 58-yarder on third and forever that sealed Baltimore's fate and Pittsburgh's place in the conference finals.

Heading into last offseason, Sanders was ahead of Brown on the depth chart. For the season, Sanders had 28 catches for 376 yards and two touchdowns, and played well enough to take the No. 3 WR job from Randle El. But a broken foot suffered during the Super Bowl, and a stress fracture in his other foot that required surgery earlier this month, has kept Sanders on the sidelines while Brown has played like a Pro Bowler -- he has nine receptions for 230 yards (a 25.6 YPC average) and three touchdowns in the preseason, and he also ripped off a 51-yard kickoff return to start Saturday's game against the Falcons. Brown finished the evening with four catches for 137 yards, including a pair of touchdown grabs, one for 77 yards, the other for 44 yards.

More Steelers News

Three years ago, shortly after the Steelers used their first two draft picks on running back Rashard Mendenhall and wide receiver Limas Sweed, head coach Mike Tomlin was asked why the team chose not to bolster the offensive line to protect Roethlisberger. At the time, his response might've sounded flippant, but in retrospect, the man knew what he was talking about.

“There are two schools of thought to protect a quarterback,” Tomlin said at the time. ”You can get linemen or you can get him weapons — people that people have to account for. Obviously with [the Mendenhall] pick, we’ve gotten a weapon. So what he is able to do on a football field will help our quarterback and our football team.”

The Steelers have drafted offensive linemen in early rounds since -- center Maurkice Pouncey made the Pro Bowl as a rookie last year, and because of injuries, rookie tackle Marcus Gilbert has seen time with the first team this preseason.

But Tomlin's larger point remains: defenses can choose to blitz Roethlisberger silly because of Pittsburgh's unexceptional offensive line, but it'll come at a cost in the form of big plays. On the other hand, defenses can choose to crowd the line of scrimmage in the hopes that the Steelers run, something they did with alarming frequency on first downs during the first half of 2010 (some of that can be attributed to a Roethlisberger-less offense during the first month of the season). But the Steelers now have the weapons to do something other than run Mendenhall into an eight-man wall.

But the running game, which has lagged behind the passing game in recent years, could also be effective this season. Part of the reason is that Mendenhall and Isaac Redman continue to get better. But it's also because defenses can't just load up the box to stop the run, and double-team Wallace because Ward and Randle El couldn't beat a linebacker in a foot race.

The emergence of Brown and Sanders, to go along with zone-busters Ward and Cotchery, create the sort of mismatches that lead to a lot of big plays and a ton of points. It will also open up running lanes for Mendenhall and Redman.

Teams will continue to blitz Roethlisberger, at least early in the season, just because he welcomes contact and the line continues to be the offense's weakest link. But at some point in the coming months, defenses might have to rethink that strategy. Eight-man fronts and constant pressure could be a thing of the past, which is what happens when, as Tomlin pointed out back in 2008, you surround your quarterback with a bunch of weapons.

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Posted on: August 28, 2011 11:19 am
Edited on: August 28, 2011 11:28 am

Leftwich out for year, Pouncey good for Week 1?

Posted by Will Brinson

The Pittsburgh Steelers, despite rolling past Atlanta 34-16 on Saturday, suffered some pretty big injuries in their third preseason game. Byron Leftwich, Pittsburgh's backup quarterback, suffered a broken arm against the Falcons and more importantly, Maurkice Pouncey, the team's starting center, injured his left ankle against Atlanta.

Pouncey's injury is obviously more of an immediate concern because he's, you know, starting. But the good news is that it's just a sprained ankle, even if it's the same injury he dealt with at the Super Bowl last year.

"Yes," Tomlin said about it being the same, much-talked-about injury from 2010. "Sometimes you break up scar tissue on an existing injury. It’s very painful with a lot of discomfort, but nothing long term."

Pouncey's reportedly good to go for Week 1 and given that he's got nearly two weeks until the September 11 opener, that doesn't really seem like a stretch. But for anyone who forgot all the attention that Pouncey's ankle got for two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, you may get a quick reminder if this injury keeps cropping up throughout the season.

Not so much for Leftwich -- he's likely only to be the focal point for a few days, given that he's likely going to miss the entire season with the broken arm suffered Saturday night.

"We've gone through this several times over the last few years," said Mike Tomlin about Leftwich's injury. “It’s going to be a factor here moving forward."

Moving forward will heavily involve Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon should the nightmare scenario of Ben Roethlisberger suffering an injury occur. You'll recall that Dixon previously requested a trade and then rescinded such a request.

The two backups were scheduled to fight it out for the third-string quarterback gig, but now both should be locked onto the roster.

Of course, last season with Roethlsberger suspended and Leftwich hurt, Batch stepped right in and helped keep the Steelers afloat til Ben returned.

But that doesn't mean the Steelers want that to happen. And the biggest fear of these two injuries combined is that with Pouncey's ankle busted up, Pittsburgh's that much closer to seeing Roethlisberger take a hit that'll bring Batch into the game.

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Posted on: August 23, 2011 9:40 am

Lawrence Timmons deal a perfect Steelers signing

Posted by Will Brinson

The first first-rounder that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin ever drafted -- Lawrence Timmons -- is going to end up staying with the team for a long time, as the team announced the linebacker signed a six-year, $50 million extension on Tuesday morning.

That's a hefty contract, but it's also a deal that has the Steelers fingerprints all over it, in three specific ways.

One, Timmons is a stud, but he's not a "known stud," if that makes sense.

Lacking the household-name cache of a James Harrison or the awards and public recognition of other members of the defense, Timmons comes at a pretty solid value for under $10 million a year through his prime. It's pretty standard practice for the Steelers

It's also standard practice for the Steelers to sign "their guys." As we detailed before last year's Super Bowl, the Steelers aren't exactly fond of constructing a roster made of expensive free agents. They draft well and develop those players even better -- Timmons and LaMarr Woodley (their second-round pick in 2007) both signed big deals this offseason and are now locked in for the foreseeable future at linebacker.

Additionally, the Steelers signed Timmons in for the remainder of his prime -- he was set to become a free agent right around the time he turned 26. Now Pittsburgh has the rights to Timmons and Woodley until they turn 32.

If this sounds familiar, it should. Both James Harrison and James Farrior signed deals that brought them to their early 30s. The Steelers then signed those two linebackers to an additional deal, taking them to the likely end of their respective careers.

Timmons will get one more good contract when he hits his 30s. Depending on how he's producing at that point, it might come from the Steelers.

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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