Posted on: March 3, 2012 6:35 pm

Giants great Alex Webster dies at 80

Alex Webster, a NYG great, coached the team from 1969-73. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

Alex “Red” Webster, one of the top rushers in Giants history who also served as the team’s coach from 1969-73, died at the age of 80 on Saturday morning, according to

Webster, who was inducted into the Giants Ring of Honor this past year and who was a two-time Pro Bowler, played in New York from 1955-64, recording 4,638 yards and 39 touchdowns. He also caught 240 passes for 17 more scores.

Webster was fourth on the club’s all-time rushing list, but Brandon Jacobs passed him this season.

"He was a very gracious gentleman, a very honorable and proud man," John Miller, the general manager of the senior home in which Webster lived in Port St. Lucie, Fla., told the website. "I considered him a great friend. Considering his background and everything that he accomplished, he was very unassuming.”

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Posted on: March 3, 2012 3:46 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2012 6:11 pm

Loomis confirms Saints have tagged Drew Brees

Brees reportedly won't be happy if he gets tagged. (Getty Images)
By Josh Katzowitz

The Saints contract dispute with quarterback Drew Brees could continue on for a while now, as New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis confirmed, via's Larry Holder, that New Orleans has placed the franchise tag on its franchise player.

This news, originally reported by Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer, comes as a bit of a surprise, simply because the potential of the tag upsetting Brees is so high and because common sense told us that eventually the two sides would come to an agreement. But if the organization has tagged Brees, the two sides must have been far apart in their contract negotiations.

New Orleans' forgettable offseason
Like, I don’t know, $5 million a year apart, as’s Ryan Wilson told us the other day?

All is not lost, though, because the team and Brees have until July 16 to work out a long-term deal that would erase him having to play under the tag (if not, Brees will make about $15 million for 2012, because it's an exclusive tag, meaning he can't talk to other teams).

Otherwise, if they can’t come to an agreement, could this spell Brees’ potential departure from New Orleans after the 2012 seasno?

As’s Mike Freeman opined, "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?"

Of course, the Saints role as the bad guy was diminished a bit Friday (ahem, before the Saints role as the bad guy REALLY increased) by Larry Holder’s report that the Saints actually offered to make Brees the highest-paid player in the NFL but that Brees and his agent, Tom Condon, had turned down New Orleans.

Which didn't shock's Pete Prisco, who wrote, "Let's get off this Brees-is-the-savior of New Orleans talk while we're at it. If this negotiation has taught us anything, it's that all players -- no matter what image they portray -- are in it for themselves.
Never forget that."

While tagging Brees would be bad for the Saints and for Brees, guard Carl Nicks is likely ecstatic by this latest news.

And that's really the other tough part for the franchise. Having to use its tag on Brees means the Saints likely will lose top-notch guard Carl Nicks and very well could have to say goodbye to receiver Marques Colston. Two more reasons why nobody in New Orleans should be happy with this development.

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Posted on: March 3, 2012 2:21 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2012 2:22 pm

Report: NFL will investigate 'Skins for bounty

By Josh Katzowitz

Former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs says he didn’t know his defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, might have put together a bounty program in Washington before he did the same thing with the Saints, but it sounds like the NFL now will look into what transpired in Washington during Williams’ time there.

That’s what the Washington Post is reporting, citing an anonymous source who says it is standard for the league to investigate accusations that rules have been broken.

New Orleans' forgettable offseason

At this point, it seems fairly clear that there was a bounty program in Washington, especially if you read former Redskins player Matt Bowen’s piece today in the Chicago Tribune in which he writes:

“That's right. We got paid for big hits, clean hits by the rule book. … Money jumped in the playoffs. A bigger stage equaled more coin. Instead of a few hundred dollars, now you got a thousand, maybe more, depending on the player. That's the truth. I can't sugarcoat this. It was a system we all bought into.”

Gibbs told the Post on Friday, “In my life … I wouldn’t ever tell a player to hurt somebody.

“They may say, ‘Well, Joe would know, because everybody else knew.’ But I didn’t know. I’m shocked by this.”

With the NFL investigating, we should have a better idea of who know what and when they knew it.

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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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Posted on: March 3, 2012 11:23 am

Gibbs says he didn't know about 'Skins bounty

Joe Gibbs, right, claims not to know that Gregg Williams might have had a bounty program in Washington. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

We can discuss what Saints coach Sean Payton knew or didn’t know about the bounty brought about by his team and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams -- and the NFL says he knew about it at some point in the investigation process but did nothing to stop it. But former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs can tell you exactly what he knew when he employed Williams.

In three words: Gibbs knew nothing.

That’s what he told the Washington Post in the wake of what could be one of the nastiest scandals in NFL history.

“Just let me say this: I’m not aware of anything like this when I was coaching there,” Gibbs told the Post in a phone interview. “I would never ask a player to hurt another player. Never.”

Williams worked with Gibbs for three years as the Washington defensive coordinator from 2004-07 (that’s in the time frame Tony Dungy brought up Friday when the Redskins might have caused the beginning of Manning’s neck problems). For the record, Williams also took a defense that was ranked 31st in the league the year before he got there and turned it into a top-10 unit.

In his apology, Williams didn’t mention his time with the Redskins, but the team also apparently had a bounty program when Williams was there.

New Orleans' forgettable offseason
And though Gibbs claims not to have known about it, the reports say the program was widely known throughout the organization.

“But I didn’t,” Gibbs said. “In my life … I wouldn’t ever tell a player to hurt somebody.

“They may say, ‘Well, Joe would know, because everybody else knew.’ But I didn’t know. I’m shocked by this.”

While it is hard to believe, like Payton, Gibbs didn’t know anything about the bounty program, but unless there’s absolute proof that disputes his spoken word, I suppose there’s not much reason not to give him the benefit of the doubt.

In other Williams-bounty-in-Washington news, here’s an interesting piece by Matt Bowen in the Chicago Tribune talking about his time with the Redskins playing for Williams and how the bounty system worked.

“I wanted to be That Guy for him, playing the game with an attitude opposing players absolutely feared,” Bowen writes. “If that meant playing through the whistle or going low on a tackle, I did it.

“I don't regret any part of it. I can't. Williams is the best coach I ever played for in my years in the NFL, a true teacher who developed me as a player. I believed in him. I still do. That will never change.”

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Posted on: March 3, 2012 9:18 am
Edited on: March 3, 2012 10:20 am

Manning workout video may belie surgery reports

By Josh Katzowitz

Peyton Manning is apparently throwing, and if the below video is any indication, he looks pretty decent while doing so.

If you love discussing possible conspiracy theories and trying to break down Zapruder-like film, the video below apparently shows Manning working out at Duke University on Friday and throwing the ball all over the field.

While this isn't the first report we've had of Manning actually throwing to receivers -- he did so at the end of last season in post-practice sessions with nobody but team officials around -- this is the first time the outside world has actually seen.

It looks like it’s shot with a camera phone so the video is very vertical, and it’s way too far away to confirm that it’s actually Manning (if you like confirming something by looking at a person’s face). It also appears that the person shooting this is hiding behind some kind of structure while taping so he can’t be seen.*

Latest news at Peyton's place
*Of course, that only adds to the conspiracy theory? Was this unauthorized video? Or is this supposed to look like unauthorized video that the Manning camp wanted in the public domain? Also, why was Manning practicing at Duke? Well, it’s because his former offensive coordinator at Tennessee, David Cutcliffe, is now the Blue Devils head coach. See, aren’t conspiracies fun?

But the motion, the drop-back, the footwork? It looks like Manning.

And from this video, Manning, in shoulder pads and a helmet, looks pretty good, bad neck and all.

So, what are we thinking? Is it Manning? Does he look good? Is this enough to change your opinion that Manning actually can play in 2012? More importantly, is it enough to convince the rest of the NFL that he’s ready to play?

According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, the player in the video is indeed Manning and that Manning has been seen around the Durham, N.C., area. Colts receiver Austin Collie and tight end Dallas Clark also apparently are working with Manning at Duke.

This video would fly in the face of the recent report that stated Manning might need a fourth surgery on his neck, including another potential spinal fusion.

But all of this goes to show, like with most conspiracies, we just don’t know what is true and what isn’t. This video is just another piece in the puzzle nobody, at this point, can solve.

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 10:12 pm

Hillis refutes CIA story, wants to stay in CLE

Hillis called CIA report '100 percent false,' adding that it 'makes me sound insane.' (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Once the Browns signed linebacker D'Qwell Jackson to a long-term deal, there was speculation that they might use the franchise tag on running back Peyton Hillis. Didn't happen. Instead, the organization chose to tag 37-year-old kicker Phil Dawson, which should tell you just where Hillis figures in the Browns' future.

Also not helping: a recent story that Hillis was contemplating retirement and entertaining thoughts of joining the C.I.A. 

On Friday, Hillis set the record straight on his professional future. Speaking with the Cleveland Plain-Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot, the running back called the reports that had given thought to joining the C.I.A. "100 percent false," adding that "it makes me sound insane."

Yeah, it does. But no one thought much of it given all that happened during the 2011 season, starting with the Madden curse (it's real!), the reports that his impending contract situation affected his decision to play, and the Boys and Girls Club Halloween PR disaster.

Given all that, it's not inconceivable that Hillis might decide to give up on football altogether.

"That's ridiculous," he told the Plain-Dealer regarding retirement. "I never one time mentioned anything to any coach about retirement or joining the CIA or anything like that. That's pretty much ridiculous and 100 percent false. I don't know what's going on or who came up with a story like that, but they should've come up with a better one to make it sound more legit.''

And a life as an intelligence officer?

"It makes me sound insane," he said. "Why would you give up football to go to the CIA? It's ridiculous and it hurts what people think about you. And I think it's very unfair.''

(To be fair, Tiger Woods gave some consideration to becoming a Navy SEAL, which is infinitely more preposterous than Hillis joining the C.I.A.)

As for Hillis' NFL future, he says he wants to stay in Cleveland.

"I've always loved this city and I still do love it and I still want to play for the Cleveland Browns. I'm not sure who wants me there and who doesn't want me there. It's out of my hands at this point. They've said they might want to re-sign me.''

Hillis even indicated that he'd be willing to take a hometown discount.

"Yeah, of course, just because I want to be a Brown. It just depends on what they want to do. When free agency gets here, I'd love to hear them out.''

A year ago, Hillis was one of the league's best running backs. Now he's happily discussing hometown discounts. There's a reason the man believes in the Madden curse.

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 9:12 pm

Bears use franchise tag on RB Matt Forte

Follow all the latest news with our Franchise Tag Tracker (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Other than the Browns' decision to franchise 37-year-old kicker Phil Dawson, there weren't any real surprises Friday. That didn't change when the Bears tagged running back Matt Forte, who's now in line to make $7.7 million in 2012 under the designation.

The Bears' former second-round pick missed the final month of the season with a knee injury, but the organization had no plans to let him hit free agency. In February, team president Ted Phillips said, "We'd like to (work out a long-term deal). But as (new GM) Phil (Emery) pointed out we obviously will at least consider placing the franchise tag on him. We don't have any intention of letting Matt hit the open market. We'll sit down with him privately, Phil will, and discuss what the plans are prior to the Feb. 20 franchise tag date."

And that's exactly what happened.

Forte's response to Phillips' comments above? "It depends on the motive of (the franchise tag). If they are doing the franchise tag just to get more time in order to negotiate a long-term deal, then I would be OK with it. But if it's just to hold me another year and just, 'Let's throw some money at him right now to keep him quiet,' that's not going to solve anything."

So what happens now? Players can sign their tenders at any point between March 13 and July 16, the deadline for reaching a multi-year extension.

"Matt is an important part of our football team and we chose to utilize the franchise tag to ensure he remains a Bear," general manager Phil Emery said. "We believe in Matt as a player and a person. Our intention is to continue to work to find common ground and keep Matt as a member of the Chicago Bears in 2012 and beyond."

Despite the late-season injury, Forte became the first Bears running back to be named to a Pro Bowl since Neal Anderson in 1991. In four seasons, Forte has rushed for 4,233 yards on 1,014 carries (4.2 YPC) and scored 21 touchdowns. He's a important cog in Chicago's offense because of his versatility as a runner and a pass-catcher.

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