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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Daunte Culpepper has a new suitor

Because you guys love to hear about this ... and generally because you guys have been kind of lame on this blog lately... (as in no serious insults in like three days) ... I am coming with a Daunte Culpepper update to wake you up.

A source tells me that Daunte Culpepper is in negotiations with the Oakland Raiders and could settle on a deal with them before the end of the week.

This comes after Peter King reported in that Culpepper turned down a three-year contract from the Jacksonville Jaguars last week.

So why is this significant? Couple of reasons.

First, as I told you in a previous post, Culpepper actually wants a chance to compete for a starting job this year. That is what he told Bucs officials when he visited with them in Tampa.

In that respect Oakland is a pretty logical place because first round pick JaMarcus Russell is not signed yet and, frankly, may not be signed for a while because the Raiders don't seem too anxious to pay Russell the $43 jillion in guaranteed money the first overall pick is supposed to be getting these days.

Enter Culpepper into the picture with thoughts he might actually sign a one-year deal, learn the system and entrench himself so well that Russell will have to play behind him at least early in the season.

The fact Culpepper is set on getting a one-year deal is the reason he apparently turned down the three-year deal with the Jags. He believes he can rehabilitate his reputation in that one year and collect a big payday next year based on this year's performance.

Give the guy credit for brimming with confidence.

Of course, this is not meant to inspire the tired debate about whether or not the Dolphins should have cut ties with Culpepper. I've already gone on record that they needed to get rid of the guy and simply start over -- it's just how they went about it cutting those ties that wasn't exactly surgical in manner, shall we say.

What I do want to hear from you is whether you think the Raiders are A. Making a big mistake by signing an immobile QB. B. Making a mistake by playing hardball with Russell, their star of tomorrow, and not letting him have the starting job right away. C. Doing the right thing by adding as many talented throwers to their bullpen as they can. D. Just using Culpepper to motivate Russell to sign.

Your thoughts?

Monday, July 30, 2007

The heat is on Ronnie Brown

Ronnie Brown ripped off his pads immediately after practice today and doused his head with water, seeking relief on a morning in which he got all but one of the carries with the first team offense.

Brown, despite being in good shape at a trim 230 pounds, looked spent and was clearly not prepared for so much action.

But he better get used to it.

Brown, you see, is going to be asked to carry the load for the running game this year. I know you've heard that before, but this year the training camp talk about this talented player doesn't seem to be merely lipservice.

"I know my workload is going to be turned up," Brown said following today's practice.

Cam Cameron expects Brown to be a workhorse in the mold of LaDanian Tomlinson, Priest Holmes, Marshall Faulk, Eric Dickerson and any number of the other quality backs that previously have made themselves stars in the system Cameron runs.

And unlike the past coaching regime, Cameron seems to realize if Brown is going to carry the load in games, he's first going to have to do it in practice successfully -- at least early in training camp.

So Brown is not only getting plenty of repetitions in practice, he's getting work (as in carries or catches) during those repetitions.

It makes sense if you believe the adage that one plays as he practices. In the past Brown didn't seem to get an inordinate amount of work in practices. I guess you can argue that saved him for the games, but it also set him up for a certain amount of failure.

How, after all, can you expect the guy to carry the load in games if he's never done it practice?

It was never surprising when Brown would fail get more than 15 or so carries a game when he wouldn't be prepared for more work than that during the week. (By they way, am I the only one who would be frustrated watching Brown break off a couple of 6- or 7-yard runs during a game then either ask out or get replaced by Sammy Morris?)

That isn't likely to happen as much this year. First, there is no veteran backup behind Brown, and there is practically no chance Ricky Williams will ride to save him as happened in 2005. Yeah, Williams' days with Miami are over.

Lorenzo Booker will be a change-of-pace guy, but he's not destined for 180 carries. So it'll be Brown. It must be Brown.

The good thing about this is that Brown seems to welcome the increased practice workload.

"Whatever I got to do as far as running myself into the ground in practice and having to fight through it," he said today. "Come in the game situation, it'll be a little bit easier for me."

Friday, July 27, 2007

Dolphins need Pete Kendall at LG

In my moonlighting gig as the Dolphins conscience I say to myself my left guard situation stinks. So I better keep a focused, envious eye on the Pete Kendall situation in New York.

You guys know that Kendall asked to have his contract redone by the Jets this offseason. Despite the fact the guy's a stud, the Jets declined, and that made Kendall quite mad enough that he asked for his release.

The Jets didn't release him but they will unless they are able to trade him. Why do I know this? Because that divorce train has left the station and it is turbocharged.

Kendall reported to New York only because he didn't want to give the team approximately $14,000 per day in fines. He said this. But the team is screwing with Kendall and that is apparent in that they housed him in the rookie dorm and today when practices began, Kendall was running with the second team.

Second team!

You think Kendall feels bitterness against Gang Green?

"Yeah, I sure do," he told NY reporters today. "I've asked for my release again. I don't understand why I'm still here. I've clearly expressed that I don't want to be here. I'm running with the second team. It's seemingly evolved into something personal. I show up and I'm assigned to the rookie dorm. I don't get that.''

Kendall met with coach Eric Mangini and told him in no uncertain terms that he wants out. "The last time we spoke," Kendall said, "it ended with me saying, 'I don't know what else to tell you, Eric. I don't want to be here anymore.''

And that leads me to YOUR Dolphins.

The Dolphins solution to their starting left guard position is nine-year veteran Chris Liwienski and rookie Drew Mormino.

Liwienski was sacked (pardon the pun) from the Arizona Cardinals offensive line this off-season. You remember the Cards offensive line, don't you? It's the line that turned Edgerrin James from a Pro Bowl player into a below average running back.

Anyway Liwienski is projected as the starter when camp practices start Saturday. And Mormino, bless his heart, may some day be a fine player. But today is not that day. He's a sixth-round pick who played mostly center in college. So given his lack of NFL experience, lack of experience at the position, and lack of experience in Miami's offensive system, you understand how he's going to need some time to grow.

The answer then? Kendall, people!!!

I grant you Kendall is 34 years old and that doesn't exactly mean the guy will be in his prime. But the Dolphins went out and got a quarterback who is three years older. And yes, Kendall wants to make around $2.8 million. I'm sure the Dolphins could work that number down somewhat and, bottom line, quality players cost money.

Kendall is just the guy to bring some nastiness to Miami's OL. He has a history with GM Randy Mueller dating back to their Seattle days, and it would be great to deliver a fresh one across the face of the Jets by getting one of their starting-caliber linemen.

Of course this isn't going to happen if Kendall is traded because the Jets probably won't send a player to a division rival. But who knows? Maybe they would. And who knows? Maybe the salary cap hit of a trade forces NY to cut Kendall outright.

And if he's in any way available, the Dolphins need to get him.

Your thoughts?

Ted Ginn is in the house and ready to sign

(Just updated)

Ted Ginn Jr met Wayne Huizenga's deadline.

The Dolphins first round pick has agreed to a six-year deal that can void to five years. Further financial terms are not yet available. Ginn is expected to sign the deal within the next couple of hours.

This means Ginn will be on the field for Miami's first training camp practice Saturday. It also means the Dolphins won't have to play hardball while living up to owner Huizenga's threat that any rookie that didn't sign by the start of camp would be sitting out the entire season.

It has been an interesting few days for the negotiators on both sides. I'm told the sides pretty much had a deal in place by Tuesday but when the Dolphins pressed Ginn's agent to pull the trigger, he backed away.

This is speculation on my part, but I'm thinking agent Neil Cornrich didn't want to step out and do a deal before the picks around Ginn did their contracts. The Dolphins apparently reacted quite strongly to this, stressing to Cornrich that they were absolutely NOT BLUFFING about sitting Ginn for the season.

Ultimately, Huizenga's policy on threatening to sit players works for the Dolphins this year. But I still don't think it's a wise policy to have.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Teams unable to head off problem players

I was talking to an NFL security official today and the conversation about Michael Vick came up.

First of all the security guy told me he is very interested in this mess Vick has gotten himself in because it will pose a classic legal match. You should know that federal authorities have brought this indictment against the Falcons QB and, facts are, federal prosecutors don't usually do this unless they're practically certain they're going to win in court.

The conviction rate, apparently, in federal courts is something like 85 percent or higher. That spells bad news for Vick.

Beyond that, there isn't much wiggle room in sentencing. Federal sentencing guidelines are strict and demand the convicted serve at least 85 percent of the sentence -- so forget about judicial leniency.

On Vick's side is the fact he does have a great amount of money to mount a vigorous, expert defense. That will help him. It will also be hard for prosecutors to rehabilitate witnesses testifying against Vick in exchange for amnesty or lessened jail time of their own.

So how does this affect YOUR Miami Dolphins?

Well, I asked the security chief why it is the Atlanta Falcons didn't have a good idea this was going on with their star QB. I asked him why a team like the Dolphins would do nearly 400 background checks in preparing for the draft, but wouldn't have some players investigated, indeed, even followed to protect their own best interest.

Here's the very simple answer: Most team hire one security investigator and that guy cannot follow 60 guys around every day. Most teams, including the Dolphins, seem woefully undermanned in their investigation department. They are living in another era when stuff like this either didn't happen as much or simply didn't come to the light of public scrutiny as much.

Most teams have one guy -- one -- manning their security investigation department. That guy is a resource after the fact of an arrest or indictment, but isn't really equipped to prevent anything.

Now the NFL does have a security department that apparently deals in pre-emptive investigations based on information from sources or law enforcement. But even that department can't keep tabs on nearly 2,000 players.

So in the future, if you think your team can head off something as embarrassing -- not to mention sickening -- as the allegations against Vick with a little gumshoe work, you are mistaken.

In the future, when you ask yourself, how is it the Dolphins could be fooled not once, but twice on Ricky Williams, well, now you know.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The education of John Beck begins

The latest news on Daunte Culpepper is ...

OK, just kidding.

Actually I was at Dolphins camp today and it was interesting to see the exchange between Trent Green and John Beck today as they came off the field.

Green, grinning ear-to-ear, asked Beck about a throw that resulted in an interception during the team period of the practice.

"You thought that was a cover two?" Green said with his knowing smile.

"That's what I thought it was," Beck said shaking his head.

Green put his arm around Beck as they went past me and into the locker room, still talking about the play that fooled the rookie.

"His eyes see things differently than mine because he has those veteran eyes," Beck said later. "He has a lot more experience."

The good news is Green is apparently mentoring Beck despite past concerns that wouldn't be happening. It's also good that that Beck is smart enough to shut up and listen.

Meanwhile, it is clear Beck has a very good arm. It's not so much about velocity with him, it's more about his quickness of release and his accuracy. His accuracy is about as good as I've seen around Dolphins camp in a loooong time.

Your thoughts?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Culpepper still looking to be a starter

I know, I know, Daunte Culpepper isn't a Dolphins player anymore.

But some situations are just too interesting and beg the light of publication. This is one of those, far as I am concerned.

Seems in that brief meeting the former Miami quarterback had with Tampa Bay brass last week, he said he wanted to go to a team that would give him an opportunity to be the starter this year.

Chew on that for a second ...

The man hasn't played well since 2004 and teams aren't exactly beating his door down to sign him. Furthermore he REALLY wants to stay in Florida because it's home for him. And he meets with the Bucs who already have named Jeff Garcia the starter.

And he tells them he wants to come but only if they give him a chance to start.

It is one reason the meeting didn't exactly result in a medical exam, much less a contract offer, I am told by a Bucs source. Seems like the only way Culpepper signs with The Bay is if he swallows some reality and accepts a backup job.

He may have a chance to work the I-want-to-compete-to-be-the-starter request with Jacksonville, where the QB situation isn't exactly stable. But it says here Culpepper will be on the market for a while unless he changes his tune.

Meanwhile, Miami's rookies get on the field at 10:30 am Tuesday. I'll be there and will be blogging early in the afternoon, so check back often.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

John Beck agrees to three year-deal

John Beck has reached agreement with the Dolphins on a three year contract today so he'll be on the field tomorrow. The contract may be extended a fourth season as an option and pays nearly $2.3 million in guaranteed money.

Ted Ginn Jr's contract isn't done yet, but I'm told "progress is being made."

That notwithstanding, you have to wonder about this deadline owner Wayne Huizenga imposed on his front office. No doubt it will be the policy of the team from here on out. And this is why it's a bad idea, or was this year:

The Dolphins rookies and scattered free agents start training camp Tuesday and the rest of the team joins them on the field Saturday and suddenly one feels like High Noon is approaching because of Wayne Huizenga's stance on signing rookies.

The Dolphins owner, who is otherwise a man of great business acumen, has taken the questionable negotiating stance that if rookies are not signed by the start of camp, they might as well sit out the entire season because he's not going to deal with them past that date.

Huizenga makes the case that when rookies are late to camp they don't contribute very much their first year and he uses Ronnie Brown and Jason Allen as the examples for that.

It's a noble stand on principle but it's just not good business.

With only a couple of days before rookies go on the field, the team is still optimistic top two picks Ted Ginn Jr and John Beck will be in uniform although they remain unsigned as of this writing. Beck's agent has been working to get his client in camp while Ginn's agent, Neil Cornrich, has been a little harder to move from his negotiating position.

And that creates these issues: The Dolphins owner has painted himself into a negotiating corner that sets the team up for failure or weakness in negotiations or both. Can you just see how red-faced Huizenga will be if his deadline is not met but the rookies sign late anyway.

That happened last year and Huizenga was embarrassed about it. Can you also how weakened the team is if the deadline approaches and negotiators are giving in so that their boss's deadline is met and he's not upset? Not any part of this strategy makes Miami's position stronger because, for the most part, agents aren't going to believe the team will walk completely away from negotiations for the year -- until the team actually does it once.

The owner also has set a rule that applies to everyone but leaves no wiggle room for individual circumstances.

And this year offers circumstances that beg revue of the policy.

Beck, we understand, is unlikely to be called upon at any time early this season so it is unwise to say if he's not there the first day he might as well start thinking about next year. Beck can easily miss several days, indeed weeks, of camp and still be in the same spot he'll be in come September -- riding the bench as the No. 3 QB with no chance of getting in the game unless something goes terribly wrong.

Would he miss some snaps? Yes. Would that greatly diminish Miami's chances of winning this year? Not likely.

The point is why would Huizenga put such undue pressure on his front office to get the deal done for a player that is valuable for the future but not really a vital cog for success today? Now take the worst case scenario and suppose Beck isn't signed. If that really means he's on the shelf for a year that is a catastrophic blow to a team that needs a young quarterback to start making his mark by the 2008 season.

Looking at Ginn's situation, the argument can again be made that he can miss some time and still be valuable to the team. Like this year. Because the Dolphins plan is to get the most out of Ginn as a returner at first and bring him along slowly as a receiver, I would argue that imposing a deadline on the negotiations is unwise because you threaten to lose your first round pick for the entire season based on him missing a deadline that won't really affect how much he'll contribute.

Huizenga could argue that if he misses that deadline, he won't be as valuable to the team. I would counter that it doesn't take eight weeks to learn the return schemes and the guy isn't going to be pressed at receiver right away anyway.

It would be different if the Dolphins intended to plug their two top picks into the lineup immediately and needed them to be a starting receiver and the quarterback. But that's not the case and that's why this artificial rule that apparently makes no room for fluid scenarios is not good business.

Finally, this contract edict from Huizenga says the rookies must be signed by the start of camp ... Does that mean Tuesday or Saturday for them? I would imagine if a rookie isn't in by Tuesday but gets a deal done by Saturday the owner isn't going to turn his back on that and nix the whole thing.

I would hope this so-called hardline negotiating stance would leave some room for some pragmatism.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Daunte Culpepper meets with Bucs

FORMER Dolphins quarterback Daunte Culpepper met with the Tampa Bay Bucs today, but don't make too much out of this little nugget just yet.

Culpepper, now a free agent, is shopping his wares around the NFL and because his preference is to stay in his home state of Florida, he has reached out to both the Bucs and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Culpepper met with Bucs coach Jon Gruden today despite the fact the Bucs have four other QBs on the roster. Gruden, as you might guess, will talk to anybody that has ever played quarterback in the NFL.

But I believe this is a preliminary meeting because Daunte didn't work out and didn't visit team doctors. Unless you've been living under a rock lately, you know Daunte's knee is still an issue so any team with legitimate interest in the guy will get him to its team doctor almost immediately.

Time is important here because the Bucs first training camp practice is next Friday. It seems likely Culpepper will also try to meet with the Jaguars.

So here's the question: Do any of you think Culpepper will regain his form and be the guy the Dolphins hoped they could get when they gave up a second round pick for him last year? Or do you think the guy's career is over and he's hanging on by a thread to be a backup?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Still unanswered questions after Culpepper drama

Daunte Culpepper's departure from Miami Tuesday was as misbegotten as his arrival.

Remember his arrival some 15 months ago? The Dolphins signed him and then, amid all the excitement of the signature acquisition, refused to introduce him to the fans in a press conference because Nick Saban didn't like celebrating the arrival of new talent?

That press conference finally came several weeks later, after Culpepper had circumvented the team policy by doing a one-on-one interview with Andrea Kremer, but the chance for a strong start to what promised to be a defining relationship was missed.

Well, on Tuesday the Dolphins ended that relationship and the break was as frayed and flawed as that initial union. It came in a one sentence announcement from the team. Fact is the NFL Players Association put out more information on the cutting of Culpepper than the Dolphins did.

Which leads me to this: Remember the back and forth jousting new coach Cam Cameron had with the media about Culpepper during several of the summer minicamps? Cameron was asked, I would estimate, three dozen questions about Culpepper during those camps and dodged just about every one of them.

A sample from June 9:

(On Daunte Culpepper saying that the Dolphins prohibited him from working in team drills yesterday) - “When this thing is resolved, ask me that question and I’ll tell you the truth of what the truth is. Now is not the time to tell you why and what took place. It will make perfect sense at that time. That’s a good question, but I can’t answer the question right now just because the negotiations are going on.”

(On Culpepper saying that he was told in front of the team that he couldn’t partake in team drills) – “Mark these down, because I want to be able to answer them both. I can elaborate on that, but cannot elaborate on that until this thing is done, and I’ll tell you exactly what took place.”

(On if it is a distraction) – “If you let it, it would be. To me, it’s not. It is if you let it be one. It depends on the kind of team you are and what kind of leadership you have in your locker room.”

(On if it is ironic that he says it is not a distraction, but that every question has been about Daunte Culpepper) – “That’s ok. That’s your job and that’s my job. It’s your job to ask those questions and it’s my job to answer them. Then it’s my job to go right out that door, where it’s about getting better, it’s focusing on what we’re trying to do and, at the same time, be respectful. You just deal with it.”

(On if has any reaction to people who think the Dolphins should free Daunte Culpepper) – “It just doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t work that way. We are working with him. You just can’t do that. It’s not quite that easy. “

(On how the team balances getting what it wants and keeping order) – “I understand why it doesn’t make sense to you and it will make sense to you when I can give you the real part of it. Okay?”

(On why there could not be a competition between Trent Green and Daunte Culpepper) – “We’ll address that at the same time.”

(On Culpepper saying he won't agree to a trade) "It's just a process you go through. I understand all the questions. I understand them all. There is not one I don’t understand, but I know the whole story and I am going to be very respectful of the player. I will tell you what I said I would tell you, but I can’t do that at this point.”

Well, Cameron now can explain why he didn't want Culpepper to compete with Trent Green. He can tell you why the team let Culpepper go on the field that fateful day in June only to keep him out of drills. He can set the record straight on whether Culpepper is 100 percent or not (of course he's not) and if not, how did the team get away with cutting an injured player without a settlement.

As Ricky would tell Lucy, "You got a lot of splainin' to do."

But when the team made this decision Monday night and Tuesday morning, it decided you, its fans, deserved even though Cameron promised one way back when.

Now here's the question to you, the fans of YOUR Miami Dolphins: Are you still curious about what really happened? Do you want to know why Cameron wouldn't allow a competition between Culpepper and Trent Green? Do you care why Cameron told Culpepper he would not be with the Dolphins much longer in front of the entire team -- a move Culpepper has told me embarrassed him?

If you still care about these issues, let me know, and I will pursue them when Cameron next makes himself available to the press. If you don't care, if you just rather turn the page, ugly as it was, and hope the new day is a better, say so.

It will be interesting to me how the majority of you guys feel.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

No excuses for stars to drive impaired

Of all the stupid, thoughtless, idiotic things a star athlete can do, drinking and driving is near the very top of the list, right there with ... let's see, being one of a handful of men in the same room with one woman, or taking a puff from that funny looking cigarette the night before a scheduled drug test.

It simply makes no sense why today's star athletes continue to get busted for driving while impaired -- and in so doing, endanger their lives, the lives of others, and to a lesser degree, their careers and reputations.

Dolphins receiver Chris Chambers is the latest athlete to be caught doing this very dumb thing. He was somewhere in North Carolina last week when he was stopped for speeding and driving while impaired.

I have no clue whether Chambers is guilty or innocent. But barring a total fabrication of the facts by the arresting officer, one has to believe Chambers must have had something in his system that shouldn't have been there when he got behind the wheel.

So why the no-tolerance policy on this blog for the most stupid crime any star athlete can be accused of? Because it NEVER has to happen.

Note to athletes: Ever heard of limos? Ever heard of cabs? Ever heard of getting a friend to drive you home?

Chambers, like it not, guilty or not, now joins a Goggle search of athletes busted while driving impaired. This dumb incident has put his good name in the same company with folks such as hockey's Sergie Federov and Peter Worrell, baseball's Carlos Guillen, football's Koren Robinson, the Heat's James Posey, Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski, hockey's Dany Heatley, and St. Louis Cards' manager Tony LaRussa.

All of them have been busted doing this really moronic thing.

Thank God Chambers isn't on the same list with Rams defender Leonard Little and Cards pitcher Josh Hancock -- the sad list that includes people who have died or killed someone while driving impaired.

And the sadder thing is it can be prevented. Just ask Dan Marino.

Marino, you see, has been known to tip a few back every once and I have zero problem with him doing that. But knowing himself. Marino actually went out and bought himself a limousine during his playing days. The guy would drink on nights he would tape his TV show in Coconut Grove but at the end of the night he'd get in his limo and his driver would take him home.

No incident. No problem.

(Little known fact: Marino's driver at the time was the father of former UM linebacker Dan Morgan.)

When Danny would decide to go out for dinner on the road, he would hire a limo for himself and his buddies or he'd make sure he had a trusted friend that would drive a rental car.

The point is Marino NEVER would put himself in a situation that would compromise his or anyone else's life, his career, or his reputation.

Fast forward to today's athletes. Many of these guys are making more money than Marino did during his heyday. They have the money to buy security from a drunk driving incident.

It's just too bad many don't have the brains to prevent it.