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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Ex-Argo Theismann rips Ricky

Oh my gosh, Joe Theismann has just ripped Ricky Williams a new one on ESPN radio.

The former Washington Redskins and Toronto Argonauts quarterback and punt returner said Williams is a "good kid," but one that shouldn't be allowed to play on anyone's team anymore.

"Listen, we have rules in the National Football League," Theismann said. "It's real simple. Don't do drugs and you can play. It's a privilege to be able to play professional football. It's not a rite of passage. He's insulted the Miami Dolphins after they took him back and gave him a chance to play.

"Now he insults the intelligence of everybody that thinks that doing drugs is OK. To me, it's the wrong message to send to kids. It's the wrong thing to be doing, and the Toronto Argonauts have embarrassed themselves as an organization by signing him."

Theismann, who played for the Argonauts before all of you were born, said he no longer wants to be associated with the organization and doesn't take kindly to being mentioned in the same breath as Ricky.

"He's a disgrace to the game," Theismann said. "The man doesn't deserve to play football. He should go on with his life and treat his drug addictions or go do whatever he wants to do. He's been suspended from the NFL on multiple occasions. Doesn't anybody have any class anywhere? For gosh sakes, let the kid go do what he wants to do. He doesn't want to play football."

By the way, Joe Theismann will be appearing on your TV sets every Monday night this fall as one of the commentators for Monday Night Football. I'm sure all Ricky fans will welcome him into their homes.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Ricky: CFL, NFL talent 'comparable'

Add Mississauga, Ontario to the outposts Ricky Williams has visited the past three years. That is where the Toronto Argonauts are going through their training camp and it is where Williams on Monday said a really dumb thing.

"As far as talent ... the talent here is comparable to the NFL, it's just consistency," Williams said. "From what I saw out there, these guys can run, these guys can hit, these guys know what they're doing.

"Football is football. There are a couple of differences in the game but for the most part it's just terminology."

Now, I don't want to rehatch my old rip on the CFL. But even the biggest CFL fans -- whom I have grown to respect during my stewardship over this blog -- would admit that league simply doesn't have the caliber of talent the NFL has.

Right? Is there anyone up there who believes the talent is truly comparable?

Anyway, why would Ricky say stuff like that? Was he being nice? Did he have a blood rush to his head after practice? Or was he just saying it for the sake of saying something?


One last thing: Assuming the talent is comparable, Ricky shouldn't just go nuts with the stats. But the talent is NOT comparable so methinks Ricky will be in the 1,500-yard orbit by the time the season closes. Understand the Argos gained 1,494 yards rushing as a TEAM in 2005, so I think Ricky will surpass that by himself, assuming he avoids injuries.

What do you think he'll do stat-wise, assuming he avoids injury?

Yes, I know I repeated the injury phrase. I can't get it out of my mind because the possibility of it should very much worry Dolphins fans.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Ricky an Argo

It is done, Ricky Williams has joined the Toronto Argonauts for the 2006 season while he serves his NFL mandated minimum one year suspension.

Williams signed a one-year deal for approximately $240,000.

As I have reported in this blog previously, the Dolphins are not thrilled with the idea but deferred to Ricky's desires. Here is Nick Saban's written statement reacting to the signing Sunday:

“We expressed to Ricky our concerns about playing in Toronto in 2006. We are relying on assurances made by Ricky, his agent, the Toronto Argonauts, and the commissioner of the Canadian Football League that Ricky will return to the Dolphins in 2007.

“Based on these assurances and despite our concerns for Ricky playing in the CFL in 2006, we will leave it up to him to decide whether or not he will negotiate a contract to play for the Argonauts this year.”

Do you see how lukewarm the Saban is about this? He really doesn't want one of his better players playing in another league, risking injury. What would you suggest the Dolphins should have done to prevent Williams from going to the other league?

Or do you not really care, as Dolphins fans, that this has happened? Are you cool with rooting for Ricky in another team's uniform even if your team isn't enthusiastic about the idea?

Final question: What the heck is an Argonaut?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Some thoughts on Ricky's CFL negotiation

The Dolphins, the Toronto Argonauts and the representative for Ricky Williams continue their negotiations to eventually allow the running back to play in the CFL while he serves his NFL mandated minimum one-year suspension.

At this stage all the parties are waiting on some contract language to be reviewed and approved by the NFL. This will get done.

So here are some overall thoughts on the subject:

The only reason Williams is hoping to play in the CFL is he needs the money. Don't buy all that stuff about staying in shape and staying motivated during the suspension. Don't even entertain the notion Williams is excited about playing in Toronto because it's a new-age city and he's a new-age kinda guy. That is all bunk.

This is strictly about money and that is a sad statement on Williams. He needs the money to pay child support, with three kids on the payroll already and reportedly another on the way. But Williams doesn't have the money to keep up the payments of about $60,000 a year which leads me to wonder what ever happened to the over $8 million he made in his first NFL season alone? Is it all gone?

OK, what happened to the nearly $5 million he made in base salary alone in 2000-2003? And what about the proceeds from the sale of his multiple South Florida properties following their sale in 2004-2005? Wasn't the real estate market like really good for a person flipping a property then?

So how does an individual -- even one with three children -- blow approximately $14 million? That is absolutely amazing to me.

Next observation: If you are a Dolphins fan you should be quite happy this saga has dragged as long as it has because it means your home team is crossing every i and dotting every T (trying to be funny there) to protect its interests. In that regard, the Dolphins have THE best individual in the business in team president Bryan Wiedmeier.

You don't hear too much about Wiedmeier because he prefers to operate behind the scenes but he was among the league pioneers to introduce conduct and other protective clauses in contracts to insulate his club from strange happenstance -- such as a player going AWOL a week before training camp. Wiedmeier was insisting on such clauses as far back as the Sam Madison contract in the late 1990s. Such clauses are the norm in the NFL now.

One such clause is the reason Williams still owes the Fins $8.6 million and utimately made the decision to unretire in 2005.

So be very secure that the Dolphins are not going to get pushed aside in this affair.

Final thought: The last reason this process is headed in this direction has to do with Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga. Williams, I'm told, was hoping the Dolphins might remove the need for him to go make money in Canada by somehow guaranteeing a nice payday for the 2007 season.

Williams is scheduled to earn approximately $585,000 in 2007 if his suspension is lifted. He obviously isn't getting any money this season. He was hoping the Dolphins would mitigate the need to make money this year by bumping up his salary in 2007.

If they promised to redo his contract and give him, just a guess here, say $2 million in 2007, he could wait out this season's money drought knowing the big shower of bucks is coming in 2007.

The problem, however, is that Huizenga (who is not a huge fan of Ricky, by the way) apparently wouldn't approve the raise. The owner doesn't like bad publicity for his team and Ricky has brought plenty of that the last two years. Anyway, Huizenga could not bring himself to rewarding Williams with a raise -- especially after Williams just tested positive again.

After all, what kind of message would rewarding a drug suspension with a raise send?

So with no guarantee that he could make up the money lost this year in a big 2007 raise, Williams has been forced to try to make some money in the CFL this year.

Oh, by the way, his agent Leigh Steinberg, is also one of the best at his trade. And Steinberg has many CFL connections dating back to his days of representing Warren Moon. So watch Steinberg milk the Argos of every last Canadian penny for Williams.

Yep, as they used to say in the 'hood, it's all about the Benjamins.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Joey Harrington speaks to the media

Joey Harrington met the South Florida media today. What follows is the transcript of the exchange:

By the way, he had a great answer for the Tony Siragussa comments of a couple of years ago when Siragussa suggested Harrington isn't one of the boys and is soft and that's the reason he's failed, because his teammates don't see him as a leader.

Tell me what you think when you read Harrington's reponse.

On what he liked about the Dolphins organization to prefer to come here) – “First of all I like the coaching staff. More than anything, I wanted to come to a place that was going to be honest with me, that was going to be up front, look me in the eye and tell me where I stood and that’s what you get from Coach Saban and everybody on the staff. I respect that and I appreciate it. Obviously nobody knows what Daunte’s (Culpepper) situation is and it’s not like I had people beating down my door to come and be their starter, but I did have chances here, Cincinnati, Cleveland, to come in and either compete for a starting spot or take some snaps while somebody was injured and I just liked the coaching staff, everything I heard about the team, I liked the direction the team is going. I am in a situation where I need to be prepared to play if I need to, but I also need to be prepared to be there for the team if Daunte is healthy and ready to go. It’s just a chance to come in and be part of a great organization.”

(On what went wrong in Detroit) – “How much time do we got? I really believe that in order to change results you have to change your attitude. It’s funny, I was criticized when I came in because I was too positive, I was too upbeat, I was too optimistic. It always really confused me. Why would you criticize somebody for trying to change the way that things have been? In my time there, I don’t think that the attitude ever changed. I really do think that Coach Marinelli is going to be great for that team. I really do. He’s a very tough, hard-nosed kind of guy. He is somebody who is going to change those attitudes that need to be changed. I wish him nothing but the best.”

(On if he thought Matt Millen handled his situation oddly) – “No, Matt and I have always had a great relationship and he was honest with me through the whole process. He said he was trying to get something of value for me. He knew that come June, I would be free to go, but in the meantime he was going to try to get the most value for me that he could. While I wanted to get here as soon as I possibly could and get started and start learning the offense, I understood where he was coming from in taking his time. I wasn’t necessarily happy about it, but that’s how the league works. I’m here now and I am ready to take advantage of any opportunity.”

(On if Miami’s downfield-type offense attracted him) – “Offensively, the attraction for me was that they give the quarterback answers. We go over in the meetings, if this happens, then you go here, if this happens, then you go here as opposed to situations in the past where, ‘if it gets kind of cloudy then you might want to think about throwing here and letting him make the yards for the first down. As a quarterback, I always played better in systems and situations where they give you answers and that’s what I like, they’ll give you answers.”

(On how he knows that already) – “I could see from the first meeting. The way they prepare, the way they cover their bases. Coach (Jason) Garrett is very thorough in the meetings. There is no stone left unturned, and any time I have a question for him, he has an answer for me and if he doesn’t, he goes and gets it and comes back so we can solidify as opposed to leaving it up to chance.”

(On if he will be content being a backup if Daunte Culpepper is healthy) – “Am I going to be content? I don’t think any player is content when they are not on the field, but I have been in this situation before. I was in this situation with Jeff (Garcia) last year where I was forced to be a backup and be ready at any time. Our season last year showed that as a second quarterback on the team, you have to be prepared and you have to be ready to get in and play at any moment during the season. Of course I want to be out there on the field as a competitor, but as a teammate, I am going to do everything I can to be ready for this team and if that means sitting for a season or two, then I’m prepared to do that.”

(On what coming to Miami means to him) – “It’s a huge relief. It’s a huge – I don’t want to say burden off my shoulders – but it’s a rest to the uncertainty. The last four months have been very up in the air for me. My future has been resting in the balance of a couple general managers trying to work out a trade. It’s nice to have things ironed out. It’s nice to have a place where I can go get a driver’s license and register to vote and find a place to live. The biggest relief to me is now I have something that’s solid.”

(On if his confidence is shaken) – “No, why would it be? Why would my confidence be shaken. It’s a learning experience. I learned what kind of people and what kind of players I want to surround myself with. I learned how I want to attack certain situations. I learned what to do when things don’t always go well because, you know what, in college and in high school – in college, I lost three games when we were there. We didn’t have a whole lot of adverse situations. I’ve learned how to handle those because, especially in this league, those are going to happen. In such a long season, you are going to have bumps, you are going to stumble along the way and I’ve learned how to deal with those situations. I think I am a better player for it. ”

(On if he thought there was any truth to Dré Bly’s comments about him) – “Of course I don’t think there was any truth about it. If you have ever been part of a team, if you have ever been in a team situation, it was an incredibly selfish statement to make. Of course I was hurt because for four years all I’d done was work for those guys. All I’d done was sit in the film room, prepare and be ready for every situation. I’m not saying I played well every game because I didn’t. That’s not what I am trying to say at all, but nobody in that locker room did. There is nobody in that locker room who can stand up in front of the mirror and say, ‘I played great every single game that Coach Mariucci was there. We all felt terrible for him losing his job because he’s a person. I think what people forget is we’re not just dealing with puzzle pieces you can just toss in and out. Coach Mariucci was a person and a good person. You saw the emotion that he went through when he was fired.”

(On if he is more certain that the Dolphins have the pieces in place to be successful than they did in Detroit) – “We obviously had pieces in Detroit. That wasn’t an issue. I don’t necessarily think we had the direction. And that’s what I loved about this situation, is the control that Coach Saban has over this team. He has everybody in there focused on the same goal and looking in the same direction. That’s what I want to be a part of. I want to be a part of a team again.”

(On if he’s gotten any sense of the number of snaps he will be taking in practice with Daunte Culpepper’s status uncertain) – “I’m just ready to take them when I can get them. We’ve been going pretty much exactly even between all the quarterbacks right now and I’m ready to take snaps when they want to be in there.”

(On him saying that Miami is where he wanted to be and if that was his idea or his agent’s) – “It was all of our idea. This is where I wanted to be. This is where I felt comfortable. I felt like the coaches had confidence in me. I felt like it was a team that I wanted to be a part of. In my situation, I was lucky enough to be able to dictate in some sense where I’d be able to go. I thought it would be a good time to say that.”

(On how much his head is swimming with everything he has to learn) — “Quite a bit. I don’t want to say it’s uncomfortable, but it really is. I’ve picked up and moved from a place where I was comfortable, I was settled, I had a house that’s now on the market, I knew where the grocery store was, I knew where the DMV is – everything is just going in circles right now. On top of that, I’ve got to go play football. I’ve got to go do my job and learn a completely new offense. There are a lot of things going on right now that are making it a little confusing. But as far as football goes, I’m feeling good. I feel like I’m throwing it well.”

(On how much pressure there was on him as a high draft choice to turn around a team that hadn’t been successful in a while) – “One person is not going to turn around an organization, especially one rookie. I don’t care who you are. You could be the greatest quarterback in this world, but if you don’t have people working towards the same goal, you’re not going to win football games. I don’t know that I can think of a sport that depends more on complete and total team play, and complete and total trust in guys around you. There are ten other guys on that field that if one makes a mistake, everything may go downhill. To say that one person, especially one young player like that, is going to come in and change the face of an organization is an extremely unrealistic thing for the public to ask. That being said, people are drafted at the top of the draft for certain reasons. They’re obviously talented players, and surrounded by a good cast and surrounded by an organization that’s supportive and focused in the right direction, I think they can be tremendous players in this league.”

(On what part of his game he would like to improve on the most) – “I don’t know. It’s a different situation for me now. I’m learning everything new again. It is honestly a complete, fresh slate, and I love it. My drop, they’re coaching differently, which I love. I’m getting back to the things I used to do. All the things that they changed in Detroit we’re changing again. But we’re changing back to things that I was really comfortable with. To say there are certain things I want to work on, there are a lot of things I want to work on right now, first of all, learning the offense.”

(On if he looks back at Detroit and say he is going to approach things differently as far as the things he says, especially with the Tony Siragusa incident from a couple of years ago) – “I think more than anything, Siragusa was trying to call me soft. If you look at my career, how many games did I miss? How many hits did I take? How many times did I get up? I don’t think you have to look at whether a guy is going to go out and get drunk and have too many beers out at local bar to say he’s a tough guy. I think you look at him on the field. I think you look at how many times he gets up, and how many times he takes a shot in the jaw and gets up and gets back in the huddle for his teammates. I didn’t take the Siragusa comments too personally. I know who I am as a person and I know who I am as a player, too.”

Thanks to the Dolphins media relations department for transcribing the interview.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

New Mexico to South Florida

Let's start with the truth: I was wrong when I speculated in this blog that Marcus Vick wouldn't be signed by the Dolphins.

I trusted what I saw with my eyes in the tryout minicamp and I trusted things I was told privately. The Dolphins signed Vick Monday anyway.

But I still think it was a mistake. I'm on the record for the reasons why in previous posts on this blog if you care to check them out. Only time will evaluate who's opinion is right -- the Dolphins or mine.

I'm certain I'm alone in this corner and all the rest of you are trusting that this is the right decision. Only time will tell whether Vick becomes a productive member of the team, or his limited college experience and a history of trouble continue to haunt him.

I hope, for his sake, Marcus Vick is everything the Virginia Tech fans on this blog claim. I hope he can stay out of trouble. I know he's got a difficult uphill climb.

I hope he continues to prove me wrong.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Joey good, Daunte great

The Dolphins are pleased the Joey Harrington trade is complete. That's a good thing.

But they are REALLY pleased Daunte Culpepper's rehabilitation from knee surgery is ahead of schedule. That's great.

Until now the team and the player have been guarded in their comments about the rehab so as to not set high expectations and then disappoint fans if those expectations aren't met.

But privately, the team is absolutely thrilled with Culpepper's continuing return to health. When the OTA days start on Monday, Culpepper will be allowed to make limited rollouts in yet another sign of progress for the knee.

His most recent visit to Dr. James Andrews, who performed the surgery last November, showed that Culpepper is nearly at 100 percent extension on the knee.

Now that doesn't guarantee he will not suffer a setback. And players recovering from reconstructive surgery such as this typically aren't back to their old selves for up to 24 months after the surgery.

But the Dolphins are still pointing at seeing Culppeper in the season-opener. They will try to prevent any setback by not pushing Culpepper in practice early in training camp and probably not playing him much (if at all) in the preseason, especially the first two games.

But that Sept. 7 season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers?

Right now, it looks great.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Minicamp wrapup

First of all, it was only a minicamp, just a minicamp, a mere minicamp and that should be taken into account in everything you read from this point forward. NFL teams do not, should not, make major decisions on most positions based on minicamps because there is no blocking or tackling.

Blocking and tackling are kind of important in football.

There is no pressure on the quarterback to speak of so the only thing you can guage from them in a mini is their ability to learn quickly, their arm-strength and accuracy. How well they read defenses, how tough they are in the pocket, and how well they move in the pocket are pretty tough to measure.

Having said that, Justin Holland was easily Miami's best quarterback at the camp. He stands 6-2 but throws over the top so he finds passing lanes. I wouldn't say he has the strongest arm in the world, but it's at the very least Jay Fiedler good. And he is quite accurate, especially on deep passes, which was the most impressive thing about him.

The Dolphins drafted two interior linemen and one offensive linemen. Rodrique Wright missed Saturday's practice because of a death in the family. When he was present he moved around well enough. But here's the thing, this is a mini. No hitting, no blocking, no tackling.

So you can't really say anything definitive about Wright (other than the fact he probably won't play in 2006 because he had surgery Monday). I believe Wright will be stashed away on IR and allowed to mature. He could eventually be asked to play a 3-4 tackle, ala Vonnie Holliday. He certainly has the build and size for it.

As for Joe Toledo and Fred Evans -- the other two interior line draftees -- who knows. Toledo worked at OG and Evans at NT. But they weren't asked to block and weren't asked to tackle.

I heard reports that former Pro Bowl tackle Kyle Turley was looking great during the camp. Really? I thought he was OK as a 260-pound TE but the thing that will make or break his comeback is his ability to become a premier blocking TE.

He's not going to be Antonio Gates. Think more like Hunter Goodwin.

So it's really tough to judge Turley for his on-field abilities in a camp where, you guessed it, there was no blocking or tackling.

“I think that first off, you’re talking about a guy who was an offensive tackle who’s strength as a tight end is probably going to be his ability to block, if anything translates from the former player he was to the player that he might be now, even though it’s at a different position and a little different body type relative to the weight that he’s lost," Nick Saban said.

"So this kind of a camp would not enhance a guy like that, because we’re out there in shorts and tee-shirts or just jerseys or whatever, and most of the blocking is just kind of fit-up, everybody stay up, tag off the runner. The guys who are the explosive good tacklers, explosive good blockers can get moving guys; they don’t really show up in this."

Saban told me the things he's gauging most about Turley is his ability to grasp the concept of the passing game, but more importantly, what his attitude was in practices, meetings, in the locker room, and particularly how he responded to coaches.

From all accounts I've heard, Turley was professional.

Now onto the players one could make some judgements about: The offensive and defensive skill positions.

You can tell whether a receiver has separation and accelaration and hands regardless of whether you're talking about a game or in a minicamp. Sure, some guys get a little nervous when they know the defense is actually hitting, but I'm assuming none of these guys will be like Charles Jordan -- looked like Tarzan during minicamps, played like Jane during the season.

Frank Murphy was without a doubt the most impressive receiver in the camp. He was smooth, he seemed more polished than the others, and he found open spots in the defenses. Obviously, the guy is older (29) than most of the other receivers in camp, so perhaps this shouldn't surprise. But at least the guy showed no ill effects of an Achilles' injury he struggled with in 2004-2005.

I'm not saying Murphy is the answer as Miami seeks a No. 3 receiver in the fall. But he'll be a good training camp addition who will raise the level of competition at the position.

A position that should concern Dolphins fans is the running back spot. Sure, Ronnie Brown is the starter, but then what?

Kay-Jay Harris?

Gerald Riggs Jr.?

Sammy Morris is still better than either of those two and I don't think the Dolphins are totally comfortable with him as the backup. I think either Harris and Riggs will get a chance to make the team but, unless they turn it up a notch when the hitting starts, I don't think they're ready to challenge Morris.

Both will have to serve time on special teams first and show a toughness when they run the rock. This minicamp didn't allow them to show that toughness, if they indeed have it.

Regardless, don't be surprised if the Dolphins No. 2 back is not on the roster yet. There is still a round of cuts coming after June 1 and then there are guys who will get cut once camp begins. I guess Lamar Gordon is still out there but don't think he's the answer.

One last thing: Thought Ron Israel looked good as a tryout player at safety. He was always around the ball. And I think it's a virtual lock Jason Allen will be a starter at one safety spot. He adds a degree of speed to the deep secondary that wasn't there last season.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

New Mexico out at QB?

Marcus Vick did not take any snaps at quarterback in the team and seven-on-seven periods during today's final practice of the minicamp.

He spent all of his time during the session at receiver and, frankly, he looked better at receiver than he did the previous two days at QB. But that doesn't mean he was good.

He made one really nice diving sideline grab during the seven-on-seven but that only made up for an easy drop he had on a similar pattern several plays earlier.

As I have reported in The Herald, his chances of getting a contract offer strictly for his quarterback abilities are practically nothing. The guy is a tryout player during this camp, in case you weren't aware, and doesn't have a contract.

Coach Nick Saban said today that no decisions have been made on any players and that the coaches and personnel dept. people will meet either later today or by tomorrow and form their final opinions.

Unless they see a different player on tape than the one I saw on the field, Vick's Dolphins career is over.

The Dolphins will offer contracts to whichever tryout players they like in the coming week so they can take part in the Organized Team Activities (OTA) that starts the week of May 15.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Brock's European vacation (updated)

After struggling for six games and being benched in the seventh, Brock Berlin had a good week in NFL Europe over the weekend.

Berlin came off the bench to play in the second and fourth quarters against Berlin and completed 12 of 15 passes for 183 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a nearly perfect 157.1 passer rating.

Berlin was named NFL Europe League Offensive Player of the Week.

But Berlin has not exactly lit up the Europe League despite his epiphany of a performance over the weekend.

In his first six games Berlin completed 60 of 122 passes (that's less than 50 percent). He threw for for 563 yards with three touchdowns and SIX INTERCEPTIONS.

I must admit I called for Berlin to get himself back to the states and to the Dolphins offseason training program and camps when he was going badly. Having rethought the issue, I guess that would make him look like a quitter so I was wrong there.

Here's hoping Berlin can salvage the remainder of his summer with more good performances.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Free agents in the house

The Dolphins announced the signings of nine free agents a few moments ago. Remember these are undrafted guys who you probably won't be hearing much about after the first few weeks of camp.

But remember that some of these guys actually turn into treasures -- such as Adawale Ogunleye, who wasn't drafted out of Indiana because of his knee injury.

Anyway, here are the players' names and their backgrounds. Let me know who you think is the diamond in this rough and why.

LB-TRENT BRAY – Was a four-year letterman at Oregon State who started 34 of the 49 games in which he played during his career . . . Opened the final 34 contests of his collegiate career . . . Recorded 337 tackles, 29 stops for loss, 11 sacks, three interceptions, three fumble recoveries and five forced fumbles in those four seasons . . . Manned the middle linebacker spot for his final two seasons, when he surpassed the 100-tackle plateau both times with 122 as a junior and 116 as a senior, as both figures represented team-highs . . . Was a first-team All-Pac-10 Conference choice as a senior when he added 3.5 sacks, an interception, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble . . . Participated in the East-West Shrine Game following the season . . . Was a second-team all-conference pick as a junior when he also amassed three sacks, an interception and two forced fumbles . . . Redshirted as a freshman in 2001 . . . Majored in sociology with a minor in psychology . . . Attended Pullman (Wash.) High School where he played inside linebacker and tight end . . . Was a three-time team MVP . . . Also lettered in basketball and baseball in his prep career and was an all-league performer in both sports . . . Father, Craig, was Oregon State’s defensive coordinator from 2000-02 and now is the secondary coach at the University of Minnesota . . . Mother, Kaprice, played volleyball at Western Michigan and later went on to coach at Washington State . . . Born September 28, 1982 in Flagstaff, Ariz.

DT-STEVE FIFITA – Played in 47 games during his four-year career at Utah (2002-05), including 37 starts . . . Opened all 12 games each of his final three seasons . . . Totaled 136 tackles, 32.5 stops for loss and 13.5 sacks in his career . . . Was a first-team All-Mountain West Conference selection each of his final two years . . . Recorded 44 tackles, 14 stops for loss and a career-best six sacks as a senior . . . Played in the East-West Shrine Game following the season . . . Posted 45 tackles, nine stops for loss and 4.5 sacks as a junior . . . Also returned an interception six yards for a score against UNLV in his junior campaign . . . Was named Defensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl following his junior season when he accounted for five tackles, two stops for loss and a sack in 35-7 win over Pittsburgh . . . Redshirted as a true freshman in 2001 . . . Majored in sociology . . . Attended Fountain Valley (Calif.) High School . . . Born May 16, 1982 in Huntington Beach, Calif.

QB-JUSTIN HOLLAND – Was a four-year letterman at Colorado State (2002-05) who completed 426 of 681 passes for 5,668 yards with 36 touchdowns and 32 interceptions . . . Started the first six games of his junior year before sustaining a fractured left ankle against San Diego State, ending his season . . . Returned in 2005 to open all 12 contests and complete 235 of 369 passes for 3,185 yards with 23 touchdowns and 15 interceptions . . . Threw for a career-high 419 yards and four touchdowns on 20 of 37 passing in a 39-31 win over Wyoming . . . Redshirted in 2001 . . . Majored in liberal arts . . . Attended Bear Creek High School in Lakewood, Colo., where he broke the state prep records for passing yards (10,567) and touchdowns (108) . . . School reached the state finals his freshman and senior seasons . . . Was a Parade All-American and the Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior . . . Was a first-team all-state selection as a sophomore and senior and a second-team pick as a junior . . . Served as team captain as a junior and senior . . . Was a member of the National Honor Society in high school . . . Full name is Justin Lee Holland, born April 16, 1983 in Denver, Colo.

DE-BEN ISHOLA – Played in 33 games, including 11 starts in his three-year career at Indiana (2003-05) . . . Amassed 43 tackles, 9.5 stops for loss and five sacks . . . Opened all 11 contests as a senior when he tallied 27 tackles, 6.5 stops for loss, a pair of sacks and a fumble recovery . . . Also blocked a kick . . . Is a native of Berlin, Germany where he played for the Berlin Adler American Football Club in 2002 . . . As a child, spent time living in Nigeria, the birthplace of his father . . . Born June 8, 1980 in Berlin.

WR-ERIC KIMBLE –In 46 games during his four-year career (2002-05) at Eastern Washington, caught 253 passes for 4,140 yards 46 touchdowns . . . Also rushed for 339 yards and five TDs on 65 carries, returned 74 punts for a 13.4-yard average and three touchdowns and fielded 28 kickoff for a 16.6-yard average . . . Holds virtually every school career and single-season receiving record . . . Totaled 170 receptions for 2,872 yards and 31 touchdowns over his final two years . . . Was a second-team Division I-AA All-America pick and a first-team All-Big Sky Conference selection his senior year when he caught 87 passes for 1,419 yards and 12 touchdowns . . . Surpassed the 100-yard receiving mark seven times on the season, and had best game against Sacramento State when he caught 10 passes for 189 yards and a pair of scores . . . As a junior had 83 catches for 1,453 yards and 19 touchdowns, and brought back 26 punts for a 17.7-yard average and two scores . . . Was a second team I-AA All-America selection as a receiver and a first-team all-conference pick as both a receiver and return specialist . . . Totaled 100 or more receiving yards on seven occasions . . . Had 10 catches for 196 yards and three TDs in regular season finale against Montana State and 11 receptions for 195 yards and three scores two weeks later in a I-AA First-Round Playoff game against Southern Illinois . . . Returned a punt 76 yards for a TD against Central Washington and another 73 yards for a score against Weber State . . . Was a second-team all-conference pick as a wide receiver his freshman and sophomore seasons . . . As a freshman, brought back a punt 80 yards for a TD against Portland State . . . Also that year was named to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team . . . Redshirted as a true freshman in 2001 . . . Majored in general management . . . Attended Franklin Pierce High School in Tacoma, Wash . . . As a running back, rushed for 3,750 yards and totaled 5,429 total all-purpose yards in his four-year prep career . . . Also lettered in basketball and track . . . Was born in Korea, where he lived for six years before family moved to the United States . . . Father was stationed in the U.S. Army in Korea and his mother is from Korea . . . Born June 8, 1983 in Seoul, South Korea.

LB-SAM McGREW – Played middle linebacker during his four-year career at Florida State (2002-05) . . . Appeared in 52 games during that time and registered 125 tackles, five sacks, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception . . . Posted a career-best 54 tackles and 2.5 sacks as a senior . . . Had the best game of his career in Orange Bowl against Penn State when he tallied 11 tackles and 1.5 sacks . . . Majored in social science . . . Attended Wakulla High School in Crawfordville, Fla . . . Cousin, Reggie McGrew, played at the University of Florida and was with the San Francisco 49ers from 1999-2001 and Atlanta Falcons in 2002 . . . Born July 28, 1984 in Crawfordville, Fla.

C-CHRIS McNEIL –Played in 37 games, including 26 starts during his four-year career at Mississippi State (2002-05) . . . Opened all 11 games at center each of his final two seasons . . . Saw some action at guard as a redshirt freshman in 2002 when he started three of the four games in which he appeared . . . Majored in physical education . . . Prepped at Petal (Miss.) High School . . . Played in the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star Game following his senior season . . . Started all four years in high school and was a three-time all-district performer . . . Full name is Christopher David McNeil, born February 18, 1983 in Meridian, Miss.

P-THOMAS OLMSTED – Was a four-year letterman at Troy University (2002-05) . . . Compiled a career average of 41.5 on 288 punts with 89 inside the 20 and 26 touchbacks . . . Of his 288 career punts, 55 went 50 yards or longer . . . Was an honorable mention All-Sun Belt Conference pick as a senior when he compiled a 40.4-yard average on 62 punts with 22 inside the 20, three touchbacks and a long of 59 . . . Participated in the Senior Bowl . . . Was a second-team All-Sun Belt Conference choice as a junior when he put together a 43.1-yard average on 76 punts, 24 of which went 50 yards or longer . . . Also handled placekicking and kickoff duties at various points of his collegiate career . . . Connected on 17 of 29 field goals with a long of 43, which came against Southern Utah in his freshman season, when he was 11 of 15 on field goals . . . Missed on a 45-yard try as a junior, his only attempt that year . . . Did not have any attempts as a senior . . . Majored in social science education . . . Attended Columbia High School in Lake City, Fla., where he was a second-team all-state pick as a punter and placekicker each of his final two years . . . Also played quarterback as a senior when the school posted a record of 9-3 and advanced to the Class 4A state quarterfinals . . . Also lettered in baseball and soccer, where he earned all-state accolades as a goalkeeper his final three years . . . Born December 28, 1983 in Lake City, Fla.

RB-GERALD RIGGS, JR. – Was a four-year letterman (2002-05) at Tennessee who played in 37 games, including eight starts . . . Totaled 1,893 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns on 383 attempts (4.9 avg.), while also catching 20 passes for 123 yards . . . Had his most productive season as a junior when he started three of the 13 games in which he appeared and rushed for a team-high 1,107 yards and six TDs on 193 carries, a 5.7-yard average per attempt . . . Surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark six times, including three of the last four games . . . Ran for a career-high 182 yards and two touchdowns on just 11 attempts against Auburn . . . Rushed for 530 yards and three scores on 127 carries in six games as a senior before missing the final five contests with an ankle injury . . . Majored in sociology . . . Attended Red Bank High School in Chattanooga, Tenn., where he helped lead the school to the Class 5A state title as a junior . . . Set school career marks with 6,046 yards rushing, 724 attempts and 90 touchdowns . . . Also amassed 225 career tackles . . . As a senior, established school single-season standards by rushing for 2,437 yards and 39 TDs . . . Was the recipient of the 2001 Bobby Dodd National Back of the Year Award by the Atlanta Touchdown Club . . . Also lettered in track where he competed in the 100-meter dash and turned in a personal-best time of 10.6 . . . Son of Gerald Riggs, who played running back for ten years in the NFL with Atlanta (1982-88) and Washington (1989-91) . . . Full name is Gerald Antonio Riggs, Jr., born September 28, 1983 in Atlanta, Ga.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Do we call him New Mexico or Ron Mexico Jr.?

Maybe we shouldn't call him anything because, with all due respect to the Michael Vick experience, it's a waste of time to bring Marcus Vick to minicamp.

You've all heard about the report that the Dolphins are bringing Vick's less talented and much more trouble-prone little bro to this weekend's minicamp. Big mistake.

I challenge any of you to name one former trouble-maker or druggie who simply turned things around and became a star for the Miami Dolphins. Outside of Irving Fryar, who turned into a productive player around the time he got born again, I cannot recall even one player who chased away the demons effectively enough to be productive on Sunday.

On the other hand, I can recall off the top of my head a bunch of guys who were trouble when the Dolphins gambled on them, and continued to be trouble afterward.

Chuck Muncie in the 1980s? He was traded to Miami and when he took his urinalysis, white powder came out.

Tony Collins back in 1990 didn't work out. Clayton Holmes, he of three failed drug tests with the Cowboys, failed another drug test before he got out of training camp his only year in Miami.

Demetrius Underwood came with emotional baggage and when that luggage landed in Miami, it detonated as Underwood tried to commit suicide during a bye weekend.

Cecil Collins came to Miami with a prison record and rewarded Jimmy Johnson's confidence in him by sneaking into some lady's apartment -- while her husband was home. So, of course, he rectified the situation by jumping out the window -- never mind he had missed a game or practice or something because of a sprained ankle.

The Diesel, by the way, is still serving a 15-year sentence for that parole violation.

LaCurtis Jones came to Miami in the 1996 draft with a reputation for violence, which seem OK if he channeled it strictly to the field. But when he got cut, he showed up at training camp with a gun. True story.

Lawrence Phillips was a thug at Nebraska, was a thug in St. Louis and when the Dolphins signed him, guess what? He was a thug in Miami.

Gene Atkins once punched out a teammate in New Orleans then came to Miami and argued with Louis Oliver and grabbed Tom Olivadotti on the sidelines.

Ricky Williams came to Miami with a reputation for being unpredictable and eccentric and guess what ... he's been unpredictable and eccentric with the Dolphins.

I can go on and on: Larry Webster (drugs) got suspended; Shane Burton (alcohol) got arrested for DUI; Tim McKyer (bad reputation) lasted only one year; Bobby Humphry (drugs) got shot; Tyrone Wheatley (I don't even remember his major malfunction when he came to Miami) got cut.

Are you getting the drift that there is a reason these guys get traded or don't get drafted? Are you getting the drift that when the Dolphins add these guys to the roster, they are inheriting someone else's headache?

Vick, according to three sources, was completely off the draft board of at least 21 NFL teams from my count. They obviously knew something about the kid that overshadowed his good arm and 4.47 speed.

He got suspended in 2004 and was finally kicked off the Virginia Tech team after last season -- even after his older brother had taken him in and tried to set him on the right direction.

So now he comes to the Dolphins for a tryout and the team will say it hasn't invested anything in the guy and it doesn't hurt to give the guy a chance because, what the heck, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

But that's very shortsighted. Every snap he takes in this minicamp, is one less snap a more worthwhile player doesn't get. Every moment he spends with a coach, is one less moment that coach is investing on a player that isn't as likely to get into trouble down the road.

The sad thing is sometimes guys like Mexico Jr. look like they've gotten their act together, make you start trusting that everything is fine and then ... poof, the air goes out of the good-guy balloon.

They revert to their old ways and it always happens at the wrong time. Bobby Humphrey was great for the Dolphins for a while that 1992 season and then when Miami got to the AFC title game against Buffalo, he mysteriously shows up 30 minutes before the game and lays a huge egg that day.

Collins wasn't much of an investment and J.J. didn't expect much from him until he actually worked his way into the starting lineup and then when the team started to count on him ... he reverted to his old ways.

At the end of the day it simply is not worth it, people. These players come wrapped in much talent and potential but tear open the attractive exterior and you get a package full of unreliability.

Nick Saban should know that because he's been victimized by unreliable players as surely as Don Shula and J.J. and Dave Wannstedt were.

He might not agree, but the proof is right there on Miami's 2006 depth chart -- the one that doesn't include Ricky Williams at running back.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

More on Joe Toledo

I'm off today folks, but because I told you I don't know that much about Joe Toledo in my previous blog post, I figured I would let you read Joe Toledo's comments and let you get to know him a tiny bit better.

(On if he knew the Dolphins were interested in him) – “Yeah, I went down there a few weeks ago and had a really good meeting with Coach (Hudson) Houck and Coach Saban. I’m just extremely excited to get down there and get to work.”

(On whether he sees himself as a tackle or guard) – “I can play either. I played tight end in college my first three years and they moved me over to tackle last year. I can learn anything. I can learn offensive guard, I’m flexible either way.”

(On why he moved to tackle) – “We had a new coaching staff come in with Coach (Tyrone) Willingham coming in and we had a tackle my junior year Kalief Barnes, who is now with Jacksonville, played that tackle spot. Coach Willingham came in and said it would probably be best for me to pursue my NFL career and to help the team if I moved to tackle. So I made the switch.”

(On how difficult it was to play with a high ankle sprain last year) – “It wasn’t too bad. I think it limited my mobility, but I was able to play through the pain. I played all right with it. But I didn’t play up to my full potential at that time.”

(On how much upside potential does he think he has) – “With Coach Houck there and Coach Saban, I know Coach Houck is one of the best offensive line coaches in the business. You know with his tutelage, I’m definitely going to come in there and be receptive to whatever he has to say, so I think I have a tremendous amount of upside.”

(On what weight would the Dolphins like him to play at) – “I haven’t discussed that with them at this time, but I can do either. I played tight end at 285 and I balked up a little bit. I can lose weight, I can gain weight, and I can stay where I’m at. I’m receptive to whatever they want me to do. My mom is a dietician; I got in there with her. My bench press went up 100lbs. I worked really hard. I’m not carrying a lot of bad weight. I can tell you that much. At tight end I was watching what I ate all the time and not able to eat three square meals a day and get all that good nutrition. Last year I was able to do that and fill myself out. I was able to eat the way I wanted to.”

(On moving all the way from Washington) – “I think it will be positive. I’m with my family now in California and I’m originally from Nebraska. I’m open to it and I know Miami is a beautiful place and they had a great year last year and I’m excited to come in and contribute.”

(On whom his agent is) – “Bruce Tollner.”

(On what he brings to the table as a player) – “I’m an aggressive player; I like to get after it. I’m a smart guy. I made the transition from tight end to offensive tackle in spring ball and in fall camp. I think I will be able to come in and learn things right off the bat and play hard and work as hard as I can.”

Thanks to Michael Pehanich and the Dolphins media relations staff for transcribing the interview.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Insider draft review

You know that every single coach in the NFL spent the last two days saying how happy he was with the players he got. You shouldn't believe half of them.

You should believe Nick Saban.

When Saban drafted DB Jason Allen in the first round, there was no one on the board he would have loved to have more. The Dolphins had a conviction on Allen and no one else at that point. Given Saban's history last year, I like the idea of him picking a guy he has a conviction about.

Would he have loved to have nose tackle Haloti Ngata? No doubt.

Kamerion Wimbley or the Cromartie kid as has been suggested in some other news outlets? No way.

I spent some one-on-one time with Allen on Sunday morning and he said the things I love to hear from a rookie pick. "I need to get to work to do a lot of improving to become the player I can be in the NFL," he said. "I have a lot to learn. But I come in thinking I'm going to be a good player for this team and eventually start."

I hate to hear it when guys you're paying $10 million to understate themselves or their goals. They better reach for the stars if they hope to soar at all. So that was cool.

The rest of the picks? I love that Miami got, not one, but two WRs. Derek Hagan seemed very sharp on his conference call, enough to recognize his shortcomings of not showing good hands at the Senior Bowl.

I believe you must recognize your errors and shortcomings before you can correct them. You have no idea how many players I've dealt with that didn't have the ability to see themselves objectively so they couldn't fix what was wrong or lacking in their game. Jaime Nails comes to mind.

Anyway, I like that both Hagan and Devin Aromashodu have played top-tier competition in college and both played in a pro-style offense. I believe one of the reasons many rookie receivers struggle so much their first year is they haven't faced top-caliber competition in lower division leagues or haven't played in the pro set.

The reason UF receivers struggled so much in the NFL after being so great in college is they no longer where playing in the Fun and Gun thing Steve Spurrier used. The pro-style is simply a big adjustment.

And while the top-tier conferences -- the Big 10, the SEC, the Big 10-12 -- offered great comp., they were running leagues for so many years. Their receivers had to get used to playing in a pro-set instead of the wishbone while guys like Mike Irvin or Brett Perriman or Brian Blades could play right away.

It was, I believe, because they came from a pro set offense that played top-flight comp.

Anyway, that's my unscientific theory why some receivers take a while to find their NFL footing.

The two D-tackles? The Dolphins took a shot with both and the most important thing you should remember is both are projects. Both have obvious drawbacks, but both also have one or two traits that give them a chance to produce.

Fred Evans can dunk a basketball at 305 pounds. He just has incredible explosion and that's big for a nose tackle. Yeah he went to a tiny school but he originally signed with Illinois to play in the Big 10 and he killed Texas A&M in a game last year.

Rodrique Wright is an insurance guy who may not play this year. He's got a reputation of not playing with urgency, but maybe part of that is the shoulder injury he had that the Dolphins discovered. I think he'll be stashed on injured reserve and we'll see him again in 2007.

As for fourth-round pick Joe Toledo ... sorry don't know enough yet to form an opinion. Just being honest.

OK, tell me what you think and whether you agree or not. I wonder why I just wrote that. You guys tell me what you think whether I ask or not.