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Volume 6, Issue 21 (Monday, May 9th)

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Hi Folks,

We're off to a good start this week. Thanks to our Mark Wimer for rounding up these stories tonight. Freddie Mitchell could be a Bronco, Mike Nolan likes his QBs and it's confirmed bad news on the Will Poole story we told you about last night. Let's jump to it.

Joe

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INSIDE THIS ISSUE

1. DEN - Ex-Eagle WR Freddie Mitchell Hoping for Mile-High Stint 2. NYG - Undrafted Hopefuls Have a Shot 3. CLE - Rookie QB Cribbs: Transitioning to NFL WR or Maybe Staying a QB? 4. PIT - Rookie TE Miller Moving Well at Minicamp 5. TEN - RB Jarrett Payton Shaking Off Rust in NFLEL 6. SD - Rookie WR Vincent Jackson Impresses in Minicamp 7. SF - Coach Nolan Pleased With QBs 8. NYG - Awarded QB Tim Hasselbeck Off Waiver Wire 9. IDP MIA - CB Will Poole; Blown ACL, Probably Lost for the Season 10. IDP NE - QB Brady Signs Relatively Modest Contract Extension - DE/DT Seymour Next? 11. IDP/DT CIN - Multiple Position Battles Loom 12. IDP PIT - CB Bryant McFadden Impresses in Minicamp 13. NFL - Coaches Can't Wear Suits on the Sidelines

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1. DEN - Ex-Eagle WR Freddie Mitchell Hoping for Mile-High Stint

Clipped from: Denver Post article by Patrick Saunders, 5/9/05

Former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Freddie Mitchell is known for speaking his mind.

He did that Saturday when asked if he would be interested in becoming a Bronco.

"That would be awesome," Mitchell said.

Friday, after months of speculation, the Eagles released Mitchell, a 2001 first-round draft choice from UCLA. Saturday, Mitchell said Denver, Washington, Tampa Bay and Tennessee are teams he would be interested in helping.

Mitchell said he thinks he could thrive in Denver's offense and said he would love to play with Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer.

"Man, Jake's a Pac-10 guy," said Mitchell, referring to Plummer's college career at Arizona State. "I have always been a big fan of Jake's. It's literally never over with him. I know he will give receivers second and third opportunities to make a great play."

Wherever he ends up, Mitchell said he will consider it a fresh start. The NFL veteran, known for his good hands and ability to go across the middle, never has blossomed into the receiver many, including himself, hoped he would become.

"I want an opportunity to catch the ball," he said. "Catching the ball is one of my biggest assets, and I wasn't given the opportunity to do that a lot in Philadelphia."

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

Regardless of his talents, Mitchell hasn't panned out yet, especially in fantasy terms. Sometimes, a fresh start will help a player, but not always. Players have to be willing to be coached, and need to learn to play within a system - whether Mitchell can buckle down and excel with a new team or not is an open question.

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2. NYG - Undrafted Hopefuls Have a Shot

Clipped from: New York Post article by Paul Schwartz, 5/9/05

Others who participated in this past weekend's rookie mini-camp also will find their way onto the roster, because every year, a handful of first-year players who were not drafted manage to stick.

That's why, at the start of the camp, Coughlin read aloud to the group the following statistic: 56 college free agents made NFL rosters last September.

"There is a great opportunity for these kids," Coughlin said. "They just have to realize it."

A year ago, Curtis Deloatch, James Maxwell, Curry Burns and T.J. Hollowell replaced the hurt of not getting drafted with the thrill of not getting cut by the Giants.

This time around, of all the undrafted hopefuls, safety James Butler from Georgia Tech might have the best chance to stick. If the Giants had owned a seventh-round pick, Butler would have been the choice.

Rangy at 6-3 and 210 pounds, Butler was a first-team All-ACC player the past two years. He said he thought he might get drafted as early as the third round and that getting bypassed did create doubt in his mind.

"I ain't coming in with chips and all that. I'm just coming in to make the team," Butler said. "I have tremendous respect for the other players in the NFL and what they have accomplished. I just want to get in here, learn the system, keep my mouth shut, just show 'em I'm a consistent player, I work hard. That's what coaches look for."

The Giants also are intrigued with Ryan Grant, a running back who was just the 13th Notre Dame player to rush for 2,000 yards. He is a local product from Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J. Grant hopes to excel on special teams and show he's worth keeping around, perhaps at the expense of either Derrick Ward or veteran Mike Cloud.

"Right now with the rookies the mental focus has to be hard for a lot of guys because they're installing a lot of stuff, a lot of people aren't used to that," Grant said, "so we need to stick together and work with each other."

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

Since the Giant's draft class was so lean (thanks to the Eli Manning trade, in part), the undrafted rookies that attended this mini-camp have a better shot than many of the counterparts who are trying to break in with other teams. Ryan Grant may deserve a spot on your "deep sleeper" list at RB. I don't know about you, but it seems kind of cool to read that 56 college free agents made NFL teams last year.

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3. CLE - Rookie QB Cribbs: Transitioning to NFL WR or Maybe Staying a QB?

Clipped from: Cleveland Plain Dealer article by Mary Kay Cabot, 5/9/05

Former Kent State quarterback Josh Cribbs was signed by the Browns as a receiver, but it was his tight spiral that turned heads in rookie camp.

"He is interesting," said coach Romeo Crennel. "I noticed him particularly when he was throwing the ball [last Saturday]. He has a nice arm and some nice tightness to his ball, so you never know. He told me he's going to work at being a receiver and we'll see what happens."

Crennel told Cribbs, signed as an undrafted rookie free agent, the story of Ray Lucas, who was a quarterback in college and then signed with the Jets as a receiver and defensive back.

"He finally ended up playing quarterback in the game some, so you never can tell," Crennel said. "But Josh is interesting. I think [the transition to receiver] is a little difficult, but I also think guys in that situation understand their predicament. He's going to give it all he has."

During practice, Crennel complimented Cribbs on one of his passes and Cribbs beamed.

"I tried to do it again," said Cribbs. "I was like, Did you like that one, too?' "

It gave Cribbs the confidence that he could make the team as an all-purpose player, not just a receiver.

"It lets me know that quarterback is not out of the picture, and if need be, I'll make the switch," Cribbs said. "I'm a team player and I'll do whatever they want me to."

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

Cribbs may never be a huge fantasy QB, but he'll have a better shot to make the team as a WR if the team thinks he could be an emergency QB in the case of a rash of injuries wiping out their starter and backups at the position. If there's one thing the Browns know, it's the fact you can never be too deep at quarterback.

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4. PIT - Rookie TE Miller Moving Well at Minicamp

Clipped from: Tribune-Review article by Joe Bendel, 5/9/05

First-round draft pick Heath Miller, who did not work out for NFL scouts prior to the draft due to a sports hernia, moved well during the Steelers' three-day minicamp, which concluded Sunday on the South Side.

The former Virginia star appeared lost at times (which is standard for a rookie), but should be on schedule to participate in training camp July 31, barring any setbacks.

"He looked OK to me," coach Bill Cowher said of his top pick. "I'm just glad he went through it. He is getting better. I know that he isn't 100 percent yet, but I think that he is getting there, and that's why I think it was still just good for him to get out there with everybody and kind of go through all the mental gymnastics that I'm sure he's going through. I know he did a couple good things (yesterday) that he picked up pretty quickly."

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

Pittsburgh doesn't throw a lot at their TEs, and Miller is a solid blocker who fits the team's mold. However, if he's healthy he could help even bigger holes for Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis during 2005, and catch the odd pass here and there.

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5. TEN - RB Jarrett Payton Shaking Off Rust in NFLEL

Clipped from: Nashville City Paper article by Terry McCormick, 5/9/05

.spending the spring in NFL Europe with the Amsterdam Admirals is giving the younger Payton the chance to make his own mark.

"There are people over here who recognize him and ask me about him a little bit, but I think I'm getting the chance at making my own name and getting it out there," Payton said. "They know who he is, but I'm showing some people that I can play, too."

Payton entered Sunday's game for the 3-2 Admirals with 313 yards rushing, good for fourth in the league. Joe Smith, the other running back allocated by the Titans to NFL Europe, was second with 359 yards for the Rhein Fire.

Payton has averaged 5.9 yards per carry, and says it feels good just to shake off some of the rust from having not played competitively since last preseason.

"It's been a pleasure to come over here and compete and get some game experience," said Payton, who spent all of 2004 on the Titans developmental squad. "I feel like that by not having played in games for a while, I was a little bit out of place. But I've gotten the chance to go back out there and get used to it again. I'm having some good games over here. I haven't had that breakout game yet, but I've been consistent. It's helped my confidence by coming over here and playing."

In Tennessee, Payton is part of a crowded backfield of players competing for a backup spot behind starter Chris Brown.

In addition to Payton and Smith, the Titans drafted Damien Nash and brought in undrafted free agents like Walter Reyes and Tennessee State's Charles Anthony to vie for the backup roles.

There is still a chance the Titans will add some veteran depth after June 1, if they are not satisfied with the current group after May mini-camps.

As for Payton, he hopes the Titans are watching him closely enough to bring him back for training camp in July.

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

Payton remains a long-shot to make a fantasy impact during 2005, but he's working to at least get a shot with the Titans. He's someone to keep on your RB "deep sleeper" list.

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6. SD - Rookie WR Vincent Jackson Impresses in Minicamp

Clipped from: North County Times article by Jay Paris, 5/8/05

Jackson, the Chargers' impressive-looking second-round pick, is eager to silence those who point to his pedigree. Although, he realizes the leap from a smaller school to the biggest pro football league is no puddle-jumper.

During the weekend minicamp at Chargers Park, Jackson didn't perform like a wide-eyed kid.

"I belong here,'' the 6-foot-4, 241-pound Jackson said. "There are some great players here, and I am honored to be on the field with them. But I belong here, too, and I'm just excited to work with them.''

Brees is the man he aspires to work with the most. And if the Pro Bowler recognizes the rookie more because he's a familiar face, so be it.

But being in close proximity to a veteran also means valet duties clog the horizon. Those are clubhouse dues that can't be paid with a check.

"Sooner or later, I'm sure he'll send me to the store to buy groceries or something,'' Jackson said. "I try to avoid him.''

Not quite. Unlike top pick Shawne Merriman, who skipped the merriment of three days of football in shorts, Jackson's at the ready.

"I'm being a sponge right now, learning as much as I can,'' Jackson said. "I believe I have a lot of tools, and if I can learn how to use them in better ways, I can really, really help this team.''

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

Jackson will need to fight his way past Kassim Osgood, Eric Parker and Reche Caldwell if he's to have a fantasy impact in 2005. It's a long-shot that he'll manage to crack the starting lineup as a rookie, but he could be a solid dynasty-league pick at WR. He's one of the young players to keep your eye on at WR. I absolutely love his attitude and think it sums up the confidence, yet respect that young players should have: "I belong here. There are some great players here, and I am honored to be on the field with them. But I belong here, too, and I'm just excited to work with them.'' We'll see.

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7. SF - Coach Nolan Pleased With QBs

Clipped from: San Francisco Chronicle article by Kevin Lynch, 5/9/05

The 49ers ended their minicamp Sunday with a possible vision of the future. No. 1 draft choice Alex Smith rolled out and fired a touchdown strike to a sliding Derrick Hamilton, a second-year wide receiver who spent all but two games last season on the sidelines.

Smith, in only his fifth 49ers practice, was running a two-minute drill. Granted, the drill was conducted with seven players on each side of the ball, so Smith didn't have to contend with blitzing linebackers or defensive linemen clogging passing lanes.

Nevertheless, Smith's three-day stint was impressive.

"It was good to see him take it down the field,'' coach Mike Nolan said of Smith's final drive of the day. "It was pretty clean."

Smith appeared remarkably poised throughout the three days. Rarely did he lean on coaches when calling plays or running the offense.

"I couldn't imagine (running the two-minute offense) two days ago,'' Smith said.

One thing he needs to get used to in the NFL is having offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy call out plays through the ear piece in his helmet.

"It's like the voice of God in your ear,'' Smith said.

Nolan also singled out Tim Rattay for doing a good job. In fact, Nolan was most impressed with the quarterbacks as a whole, right down to last year's seventh-round choice, Cody Pickett.

"I'm encouraged by the quarterback position, I really am,'' Nolan said. "Not just because of the rook, but all the guys.''

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

As other commentators have pointed out, the 49ers are fast-tracking Smith for the starting job. Expect him to have an up and down season as he adjusts to the speed of the pro game - we don't recommend Smith as a fantasy starter or backup (he is ranked 35th among all fantasy QBs in the first cut of the Footballguys.com expert rankings http://apps.footballguys.com/05qbrank1.cfm).

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8. NYG - Awarded QB Tim Hasselbeck Off Waiver Wire

Clipped from: Palm Beach Post AP article by Tom Canavan, 5/9/05

Former Washington Redskins quarterback Tim Hasselbeck will get a shot to back up Eli Manning with the New York Giants. The Giants were awarded the rights to Hasselbeck on Monday after he cleared waivers.

Veteran Jim Miller was expected to back up Manning this season, but his status is uncertain because of recent hip surgery.

Jesse Palmer, free agent Jared Lorenzen and Hasselbeck will compete for the No. 2 spot while Miller recuperates.

"We got very fortunate that this young quarterback became available just when we need one," Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi said in a statement. "We're fortunate especially since we had to wait out the waivers. We are pleased to have him."

Giants coach Tom Coughlin likes Hasselbeck, who played at Boston College.

"He is a team guy all the way," Coughlin said. "He is a vibrant, enthusiastic young man, and he has taken advantage of his opportunities when he has been called upon."

Hasselbeck spent the last two seasons with Washington, starting five games in 2003. He did not see any action last year.

One of his starts in 2003 was against the Giants on Dec. 7. He completed 13 of 19 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns in a 20-7 Washington victory.

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

This is a good move by the Giants, given the hip injury that Miller is recovering from. Hasselbeck has seen live NFL action and would be an adequate stand-in if Manning were to become unavailable for a game or two.

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9. IDP MIA - CB Will Poole; Blown ACL, Probably Lost for the Season

Clipped from: Miami Herald article by Jason Cole, 5/9/05

Second-year cornerback Will Poole, who was considered the leading candidate to replace traded Pro Bowler Patrick Surtain, is expected to miss the upcoming season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Poole was hurt during practice last week, although the team did not confirm the injury. Poole holds out some hope of playing this season if his recovery goes well, but that is unlikely.

Agent Drew Rosenhaus, who represents Poole, declined to comment. Poole was a fourth-round pick in 2004 after off-field issues dropped his stock. He played effectively with the Dolphins, starting once, playing in 15 games and missing one game with a groin injury.

Moreover, Poole was considered a reasonable facsimile to Surtain because of their ability to change direction and tie up receivers at the line of scrimmage with physical play. Like Surtain, Poole played much of his rookie season as a nickel or dime cornerback, which is considered difficult for a young cornerback.

Poole finished with 37 tackles, including one sack.

The injury leaves the Dolphins with three prominent contenders for Surtain's job as the left corner. Reggie Howard, who signed as a free agent last season, veteran Mario Edwards and rookie Travis Daniels, a fourth-round pick from LSU and a South Florida native.

The Dolphins also could look at the free-agent pool, with veterans such as Ty Law and Terrell Buckley still available. Law still is recovering from a foot injury that cost him the final nine games of last season and knocked him out of the playoffs.

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

Official confirmation of the situation that our Mike Brown discussed yesterday - Poole's almost certainly out for the season. This is obviously a blow to IDP owners of Poole, and it is also a problem for the Dolphins' D/ST. However, every problem is an opportunity in disguise for another player - if you need help at DB, there'll be a new starter in Miami who may be flying under most owner's radars. Keep an eye on who emerges to start at this key position.

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10. IDP NE - QB Brady Signs Relatively Modest Contract Extension - DE/DT Seymour Next?

Clipped from: Boston Herald article by Michael Felger, 5/9/05

First things first.

That at least partially explains why the Patriots broke from unofficial team policy last week and inked Tom Brady to a lucrative new contract extension two years before the quarterback's current deal was set to expire.

Typically, the Pats don't extend deals until a player is entering his free agent season, but Brady got one early because a) he deserved it and b) the Pats wanted to establish Brady's salary cap charges before facing the other difficult personnel decisions on the horizon. In other words, until you know what your highest paid player is making, you can't slot anyone else.

Unfortunately for Bill Belichick and the Krafts, the Brady extension also has the potential to open up a new can of worms. More specifically, no one can blame Richard Seymour if he's asking, ``Where's mine?'' right about now.

Like Brady, Seymour is considered to be one of the best players at his position in the league (defensive end or tackle, take your pick). At the tender age of 25, Seymour already has three Super Bowl rings and three Pro Bowl berths. And with two years left on his deal worth $2.8 million in 2005 and $1.2 million in '06 (plus escalators), Seymour is grossly underpaid.

Shouldn't Seymour be next in line? That's the $60 million question.

Certainly, if Seymour plays ball like Brady did, then the Pats would be happy to lock him up early.

Brady was willing to come in well below Peyton Manning and Michael Vick in terms of singing bonuses ($26.5 million, compared to $34.5 million for Manning and $37 million for Vick) and annual value ($10 million, compared to $14 million for Manning and $13 million for Vick). If Seymour is likewise willing to earn less than Philadelphia's Jevon Kearse, who signed an eight-year, $66 million contract ($16 million bonus) last year, then a deal with the Pats can happen. If Seymour wants ``Freak'' money, then his departure will probably be a matter of when, not if.

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

Teams routinely renegotiate contracts downward at the end of many players' careers, so it's only fair to expect young, excellent players to try and renegotiate their contracts upwards if they are significantly underpaid. Hopefully, Seymour and the Pats will find a mutually beneficial settlement.

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11. IDP/DT CIN - Multiple Position Battles Loom

Clipped from: Dayton Daily News article by Chick Ludwig, 5/9/05

The 2005 season holds one guarantee for the Bengals. Changes are in order on defense - in the secondary, at linebacker and especially on the line - because the status quo is unacceptable.

With the emphasis on shoring up the league's 26th-ranked run defense, new starters will surface in all three phases of the unit.

Free agent Bryan Robinson (Dolphins) is the new No. 1 at right defensive tackle next to John Thornton.

First-round draft pick David Pollack is earmarked for left outside linebacker now that Kevin Hardy has been released. And even though strong safety Kim Herring and left cornerback Deltha O'Neal are incumbents, both positions are under siege.

While Keiwan Ratliff looks to steal O'Neal's spot in two areas - the starting lineup and on special teams as the punt returner - the search for answers at strong safety continues. Siddeeq Shabazz, claimed off waivers from Atlanta, will compete with Anthony Mitchell and Herring to fill the void created by Rogers Beckett's release.

Shabazz is a powerful hitter capable of forcing fumbles, but lacks bulk and needs to improve his speed and range to win the job.

Left end Duane Clemons also finds himself under a very large microscope.

If he can't bounce back strong from a sprained knee that slowed him down late last year, the line faces a reshuffling.

Don't be surprised if right end Justin Smith switches to the left side, allowing Robert Geathers to claim the right end spot.

Smith, who led the team in sacks (8) last year, has improved dramatically as a run defender.

You heard the prediction here first: "Jumpy" Geathers will become the Bengals' first double-digit sack artist since Alfred Williams in 1992. He's lightning quick with great hands and has an explosive first step.

The player who lands at left end in the base defense - Clemons, Smith or underdog Carl Powell - will likely move inside on third down so the club can get its best pass rushers (Geathers, Smith and Pollack) on the line at the same time.

Head coach Marvin Lewis has big plans for the versatile, enthusiastic Pollack.

He'll line up over the tight end as the strongside 'backer, then put his hand on the ground as a pass-rushing left end in the nickel package. Lewis' response when asked if Pollack will be involved in zone blitzing: "Don't limit yourself."

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

It sounds like the Bengals are moving aggressively to reshape their defense - if the author is right about DE Geathers, IDP owners with a need at DE will want to keep an eye on Geathers' progress during training camp. Pollack is definitely someone else to keep your eye on, and consider carefully for your rookie draft (if your league has a "practice squad").

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12. IDP PIT - CB Bryant McFadden Impresses in Minicamp

Clipped from: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article by Ed Bouchette, 5/9/05

There were no pads and no hitting, although someone had to explain that to rookie cornerback Bryant McFadden, who looked as if he wanted to knock someone's head off over the weekend.

McFadden, a second-round draft pick from Florida State, had a bang-up minicamp in more ways than one. He took a few liberties on the field, including a full-body bump with wide receiver Cedrick Wilson on the final play.

"Bryant has been impressive in the three days that he has been here," coach Bill Cowher said as minicamp came to a close with one practice yesterday morning. "He is very bright and has picked it up quickly. I like the demeanor that he has exhibited on the field."

Bryant played on the left side, where Willie Williams is the starter. Deshea Townsend starts on the right side, but he did not practice during this minicamp because he's still recovering from hernia surgery. Ike Taylor filled in for Townsend and he, Bryant and Ricardo Colclough, a second-year cornerback, will all be pushing the starters in training camp.

Williams and Townsend will begin August as the starters but "that's not to say that things aren't going to change," Cowher said.

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

It sounds like the CB spots in Pittsburgh are up for grabs. If McFadden can be as impressive once the pads come on, there may be some new faces in the starting lineup by September. If you have a need at CB on your IDP squad, keep McFadden's name in mind during training camps/pre-season games.

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13. NFL - Coaches Can't Wear Suits on the Sidelines

Clipped from: San Francisco Chronicle article by Kevin Lynch, 5/8/05

Coach Mike Nolan recently petitioned the NFL to allow him to wear a suit on the sidelines during game days.

"To me, it's professional. I think it's respectful," Nolan said. "There was certainly no deal, no one came to me, there was nothing to gain. I wasn't trying to put the spotlight on me. But what I was trying to say, there's somebody in charge and this is what they look like."

The league turned Nolan down. Head coaches must wear the NFL-sanctioned team garb.

"There were marketing issues and sales issues, all that stuff," Nolan lamented. Beyond wanting to look the part of a man in charge, Nolan also viewed it as a tribute to his father, Dick, who was the coach of the 49ers from 1968-75.

"I must say looking at the pictures of my dad -- they are all around my office -- I thought, 'I'm going to do that.' But they are not going to let me."

[[[[[[[[[[ OUR VIEW ]]]]]]]]]]

The NFL is the best run business in all of sports but I think they're wrong here. Let the coach wear a suit if he wants. I've always thought it was funny that many of the coaches wear a suit and tie before the game on the bus where only a handful of fanatics will see them. And then when they stand on the sidelines before hundreds of thousands of eyes during the game, they go for a pullover. Are they really going to sell that many more golf shirts because Denny Green or Mike Martz is sporting one? I don't think so.

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That'll do it for today, Folks. Thanks for reading and have a great Tuesday. We'll see you with the update tomorrow.

J

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