You may or may not know who I am, but I can guarantee you something – you are going to love me (I know, I've always struggled with self confidence since I was a child). Can I back up the bravado? I'd like to think that the answer to that is a resounding yes, but I'll let you be the judge of that.
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TUBS OF LARD
Marcus Harrison isn't being allowed to practice with the Bears because he is overweight.
Mario Henderson had a deal in place for $1.7 million with the Raiders. He won't get a penny of that after the Raiders severed ties with him for showing up out of shape and overweight.
Hell, even Albert Haynesworth passed his conditioning test.
However, the biggest name to deal with issues when it comes to physical preparedness is the situation with the Chargers' Ryan Mathews. The running back didn't show up looking like he had spent the last three months eating a baker's dozen of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, but there are still plenty of concerns with the young man who is supposed to be the top back for the Chargers when Mathews failed his first conditioning test. How is that possible when you are a 24 year old running back? “My cardio is real good; I don’t get tired,” Mathews said. “It’s the speed work. I haven’t been doing much speed work like that.” Huh? According to reports he pulled himself out of what was described as a “fairly easy” conditioning drill.
Once he was cleared for action he was unable to practice do to general “soreness” with his toe. He did return to practice rather quickly, but he had ankle issues last year, had wrist surgery in January, and is now dealing with a toe situation. Despite all of that, ADP info is still showing that Mathews is being drafted right in the middle of the RB 2's while Mike Tolbert is slipping into the 8th and 9th rounds in some drafts. Lest you forget, let me point out that Tolbert ran for 57 more yards last season and scored four more times on the ground than the more hyped Mathews. The Chargers still seem intent to let Tolbert be the goaline back this season, and there is a growing belief that he will be used extensively as the third down back if for no other reason than he is a vastly superior blocker compared to Mathews, something that obviously would help if it was a passing down.
Keep all of that in mind before you start buying into the same hype that led to Mathews being one of the biggest busts of the top-20 selections last year.
Steven Jackson is a beast. If you saw him coming at you in an alley chances are pretty good that you would run in the opposite direction crying like a newborn child in search of his mommy. The Lurtz lookalike, and if you don't know what I'm talking about click on this link, carries an enormous load for the Rams (he's carried the rock 324 and 330 times the past two years – he is the only back in football with at least 324 carries each year).
More than just a big guy sent to run into the center of a defense, Jackson is also a fine pass catching weapon out of the backfield who caught a career-high 90 passes in 2006 (he's also gone over 45 catches each of the past two years). Given that the Rams added OC Josh McDaniels to the mix, and we all know how he likes to run a wide open offense, the assumption is that S-Jax is about to have a boatload of passes headed his way. However, it should be pointed out that McDaniels teams don't normally have a back who racks up a massive catch total. In fact, the only time any back in a McDaniels led offense has caught more than 37 passes was Kevin Faulk's effort of 58 receptions. Morever, only twice since his career started in 2001 has a McDaniels' back rushed for more than 1,000 yards.
Does that mean doom and gloom for S-Jax? Of course not. The truth of the matter is that McD has never had a back as talented as Steven to work with, so I'm pretty sure he'll find a way to get the ball in the hands of his best offensive player plenty in 2011. "I'm looking forward to having that challenge, proving to the rest of the league that I’m more than just a downhill, first- and second-down kind of running back,” Jackson said.
Tony Gonzalez told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that he could play another three years. Newsflash Gonzo, that seems like a major stretch.
First off he is already 35 years old. Second, he's in the final year of his contract and will likely have to take a substantial pay cut to continue playing. Would he be willing to do so? Third, the addition of Julio Jones out wide will likely eat into Tony's targets this year. Fourth, while he caught 70 passes last year, that was his lowest total since 2002. Fifth, his 9.4 YPC mark last season was a career-low. Sixth, after 11-straight years of a YAC of at least 3.2, he's failed to reach 3.0 in any of the last three seasons.
Gonzalez can still be a solid possession receiver, a guy who can help to move the chains, but his burst is gone making him much more likely to see his numbers continue to regress than to rebound to anything resembling his previous levels.
While it's not official as of this writing, multiple reports suggest that if Derrick Mason passes his physical he will be signed by the Jets. The 37 year old no longer is a go-to option in a winning offense but he still caught 61 passes last season, the 11th straight season he has caught that many balls (he's also gone for at least 750 yards in each of those years). What would this signing mean to the Jets' receiving corps?
(1) It would allow the club a backup to Plaxico “Jail Bird” Burress. This is vital because no one really knows how Burress will hold up under the rigors of NFL football after spending the last couple of years making sure that he didn't drop the soap. To that point, Burress has already come up lame with an injured ankle, a situation that will likely keep him off the practice field for a couple of days.
(2) The addition of Mason would almost assuredly mean the end of Jerricho Cotchery's time with the Jets. Coming off his least productive season since he became a starter (41 grabs, 433 yards, two touchdowns), Cotchery was already facing long odds to be an impact player this season given that he had offseason back surgery. It seems like the Jets were about as comfortable with him being the 3rd option in the passing attack as I would be in shower at San Quentin.
Rocky McIntosh has re-signed with the Redskins though the team is still being linked to Lofa Tatupu in some circles. The club also re-signed Reed Doughty. I know, we're pumped too.
Bernard Pollard was signed by the Ravens in case Tom Zbikowski's skin condition continues to be an issue. Pollard had 112 tackles last year in Houston.
Brandon Pool has re-signed with the Jets. He will look to reclaim his starting spot from Eric Smith who Rex Ryan proclaimed the starter earlier this week.
Laurent Robinson was signed by the Chargers to replace Malcolm Floyd on the roster (?). Yippee.
BACK TO HEALTH
Darrius Heyward-Bay (undisclosed) returned to practice Thursday. There is no word on why he missed the first week of practice. Perhaps he was getting a hand transplant so that he could catch the ball. Maybe the Raiders should see if Peter Lorre's experiment in Mad Love can be duplicated.
Antonio Gates (foot) says that he would be able to play if there was a game, but the fact that he's still being bothered by plantar fasciitis after the offseason should cause you some pause if you are considering making Gates the first tight end off the board in your draft.
Stephen Gostkowski (quad) is back to making kicks of 50 yards as his leg looks strong. You may not know how to spell his name, but make sure you know how to pronounce it on draft day when adding the Patriots' kicker will be a no brainer.
Peyton Manning (neck) was throwing passes at “decent velocity” at practice on Wednesday. In a related note I was seen at Starbuck's this morning typing at a decent pace until the caffeine kicked in. What the hell does “decent velocity” mean?
Terence Newman (groin) is likely to miss 4-6 weeks. At this point that means his availability for Week 1 is in serious question.
Charles Woodson (broken collarbone) is back at practice and doing everything the team wants to see out of him. He appears to be 100 percent healthy after suffering the injury during the Super Bowl last year. Expectations are that he will once again play at an elite level in 2011.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.