Monday, February 28, 2011

Combine all about Cam

Last week the NFL’s 2011 Combine began in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Over 300 NFL hopefuls went to Lucas Oil Stadium to showcase their talents and interview for NFL personnel.  Most of the attention centered on Cameron “Cam” Newton.  The Heisman Trophy winner who led Auburn to a National Championship is expected to be one of the top quarterbacks selected in the upcoming draft.

Before Cam arrived at the Combine, the media was gushing over him.  This enthusiasm elevated when he entered to address the media on Saturday.  Unlike other players, he began with a prepared statement prior to taking questions from members of the media.  In anticipation of questions about his focus and arrogance, his remarks addressed a comment that he made a few weeks ago about his endorsement with Under Armour in which he asserted that he was an “entertainer-slash-icon.”  Cam explained that football is a priority for him, but since he is representing more than just football gear he wants to be the best ambassador for Under Armour. 

The other point that had the media salivating was his announcement that he would participate in all of the quarterback workouts including throwing.  This was a big deal because a lot of top quarterbacks do not throw at the Combine.  Many agents recommend that they save that for their school’s pro day, so they can throw to receivers that they are very familiar with.  This year all of the top quarterbacks threw except Blaine Gabbert from Missouri.

Yesterday Cam, completed his workout.  It was a lackluster performance.  He didn’t perform poorly, but like any high-profile athlete the expectations are lofty.  So, great from them just comes across as mediocre.  I was not surprised to see him complete just over 50% of passes (11 out of 21).  I was not expecting to see accuracy from a quarterback who barely threw in his college offense, but it was disappointing to see a guy who is known for jetting out of the pocket tie for third in the 40-yard dash.  Now a 4.58 in the 40 is really fast.  To put it in perspective, last year’s #1 pick was quarterback Sam Bradford who ran a 4.79 in the 40.  However, Cam is a runner, so I thought that he would be a little closer to Vince Young’s 4.48 time in the 40.

In my opinion, Cam exited the Combine the same way he entered.  He is full of talent, strength, and potential and has the gushing eye of the media.  I don’t think that this weekend diminished his draft stock or strengthened it.  He’ll have another opportunity to show off his arm next week at Auburn’s pro day.

Heels & Helmets®

Monday, February 21, 2011

Combine is here, but no one knows if the NFL season will happen this fall

The NFL combine is starting this week.  College players lucky enough to receive an invitation will be in Indianapolis for a four-day intense interview starting on Wednesday.  Usually, at this time, all of the talk is about how the players will perform at the Combine.   This year things are a little different because the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the NFL and NFLPA (NFL Players Association) is expiring next week at the end of the day on March 3.  As a result, the negotiation on a new deal is overshadowing the Combine and leaving a lot of fans wondering if the NFL season will actually happen this fall.

The NFL led by its Commissioner, Roger Goodell and the NFLPA headed by Executive Director, DeMaurice Smith spent the entire weekend in federally mediated negotiations.  Since Friday, representatives from both sides were in a room for at least six hours negotiating in front of George Cohen, Director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in Washington, DC.  Surprisingly, everyone has adhered to Cohen’s request that no one comment publicly on the negotiations.  So, we do not have any information on the outcome of the negotiations. 

Here are some important points on the negotiation as I see it.
1. Perception that players get a bigger piece of the profit than owners is inaccurate.  60% of revenue is after owners get their money for operating expenses ($1B); so players are not getting more money than the owners now.  Both sides get about 50%.
2. Owners want to increase their expense credit to $2B and give the players less money.
3. NFL and its owners claim a decrease in profits, but won't share evidence to support this.  However, we know sponsorship is up and they were able to secure higher media deals.  With higher prices, Super Bowls ads for this year's game were completely sold out last October.  That’s three months prior to the game!  Plus, there is more ad time.  Ads during the Super Bowl have increased from 40 minutes to over 48 minutes.  The NFL is making money.
4. Players contracts are not guaranteed.  They make money only when they play.  Amount of pay during an injury depends on several factors including how many games were played prior to the injury.
5. Owners want to add two more games to the regular season while the players take a decrease in pay and increase their chances of injury.

The element that confuses me the most is that the NFL will not show financial information to validate their claim that profits are down.  In a special letter to, Greg Aiello, the NFL's Senior Vice President of Public Relations, wrote: “NFL players have an extremely favorable revenue-sharing deal and full access to all information on revenue and a great deal of information on costs, including the largest cost, which is for players.”

A “great deal”?  I think that this is very telling.  Why not share the entire story?

Let me explain it this way.  If I told my mortgage company that I needed to modify my loan because of financial hardship, they would require ALL of my financial information and expenses to make a decision.  A “great deal” would not be enough to even get my request considered.

This leads me to a deeper issue that I don’t think a lot of people observe and discuss.  The NFL and its club owners do not regard the players as equal business partners.  Their actions toward them illustrate a superior attitude.  They feel as if they don’t have to prove anything.  Players should just believe what they say simply because they said it.  In any other business negotiation, the partner would show the evidence of their claims and move forward with the negotiations.  No one makes a good business decision without ALL of the facts. 

Smith is law man, not a football man like his predecessor Gene Upshaw.  He does not know football, but he does know the law and how to negotiate.  With a background in litigation, he wants the best for his members and that is not just money.  With less than two years on the job, he is still new to sports; but he is not going to be bullied.  It’s a good thing for players that he isn’t afraid to stand up to “the shield” and demand facts to make a sound decision.

In short, it appears to me that the NFL is asking the players to work more for less money.  So, I propose this question that I feel is at the crux of this negotiation: 
Would you be willing to work more hours for less money while your partner reports record sales?

Heels & Helmets®

Monday, February 14, 2011

Super Bowl is over, but football is just getting started

Yes, we have our Super Bowl champs, but the conversation about professional football is not over; It is just getting started.   This is the time of the year when NFL teams start planning for the upcoming season.  The office chatter turns from what their teams did on Sunday to what their teams need to do to improve for next season.  A big part of this is who they think their teams should select in the NFL Draft. 

Before we get to the draft, we have to talk about the NFL Scouting Combine, referred to simply as “The Combine.”  It is the annual job fair for prospective NFL players.  This year it takes place from February 24 – March 1.  I describe the week-long process as an intense, invitation-only interview for the best college football players to get a job in the NFL.  Over 600 NFL personnel will analyze prospective NFL players as they participate in physical and psychological exams, interviews, tests and drills.  The athletes work hard to show all of the coaches, general managers and scouts from all 32 NFL teams that they are tough enough mentally and physically to handle a job in the NFL. 

I am sure that you have exciting plans this evening, so I will not go into the details of the top players today.  I am just going to explain the drills that are conducted at the combine. 

1. 40-yard Dash – Known as “the 40,” this is the most popular event at the Combine.  Players are timed running 40 yards.  Like track sprinting events, this drill is all about speed. 
2. Bench Press – This test is for strength and endurance.  Players bench 225 pounds as many reps as they can.  This will show who really spent time in the weight room in college.
3. Vertical Jump – Players stand straight up and stretch their hand to the sky.  The measurement of this point is the reach.  The player then jumps to hit a flag.  He must jump without running or rocking.  The difference between the reach and the flag is the measurement for “the vertical.”  This will show scouts the strength of the lower body.
4. Broad Jump – This is like a long jump without running.  Players stand and jump frontward as far as they can.  This is not only about the distance. The key is landing and not falling.  Scouts are looking for good balance.
5. 3 Cone Drill – Players run around 3 cones in an L shape and back.  This is to test an athlete's ability to change directions at a high speed.
6. 5-10-5 – The actual name is the Shuttle Run.  Basically the player has to run 5 yards to his right and touch the yard line, run 10 yards to his left and touch the yard line, then run a final 5 yards to the right to finish.

If anyone brings up a college player entering the draft, you can ask them how they think that player will do in “the 40.”  Otherwise, you can start the conversation by asking, “Who do you think will have the fastest 40 this year?”  For comparisons, review the highlights from the 2010 NFL Combine.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Heels & Helmets®


Monday, February 7, 2011

Vince Lombardi is back at home!

The Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV and are taking the trophy named after their legendary coach, Vince Lombardi, back to Green Bay.  Congratulations to the Packers organization and the game’s MVP Aaron Rodgers!

This game held true to the saying that defense wins championships and offense sells tickets.  In my opinion, the Packers’ underrated defense fueled the team’s victory.  They dominated the first half of the game.  They kept Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ offense off the field and limited them to just a field goal.  As a result, the Packers were up 21 – 3 at half-time.

During the second half of the game, the Steelers fought hard to come back.  By the fourth quarter, they were within a field goal.  With the score, 28 - 25, the Packers offense could not get a touchdown, so they settled for a field goal.  The Steelers had a little over 2 minutes to get a touchdown and extra point to win the game.  The Packers defense stopped them and the game was over.

Green Bay’s defense rocked!  Yet, the MVP honors went to an offensive player.

I am not taking anything away from the brilliant game that Aaron Rodgers had.  He threw for over 300 yards and had 3 touchdown passes.  However, two of those touchdowns were the result of a turnover.  Jarrett Bush’s interception and Clay Matthew’s forced fumble that was recovered by Desmond Bishop led to touchdowns.  This does not include the interception that Nick Collins returned for a touchdown. 

In addition to this, their leader and veteran cornerback, Charles Woodson, was on the sideline for the second half of the game.  Woodson broke his left collarbone in the 2nd quarter.  Green Bay’s Defensive Coordinator, Dom Capers, had to make adjustments and use a couple of backup players to fill this huge vacancy.  Jarrett Bush and Pat Lee stepped up and covered the position usually handled by a 7-time Pro Bowl player.  Despite the challenges, this defense got it done.  Therefore, because of their tenacity and big stops, the 2nd Heels Helmets® Super Bowl REAL GAME CHANGER AWARD goes to the Packers Defense.  Congratulations!

Heels & Helmets®

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Super Bowl XLV Champs are…

Well it’s almost game time.  After looking at the teams during the week, I think that that both teams are pretty equal.  Here is why:
1.     Strong traditions – Green Bay has the most NFL Championships, Pittsburgh has the most Super Bowls. 
2.     Coach Mikes - Both coaches overcame major obstacles this season.  Steelers Head Coach, Mike Tomlin got through the first quarter of the season without his starting quarterback.  Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy loss several players to injuries, he is on his fourth starting right outside linebacker of the season.
3.     Quarterbacks – Both Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger can throw and have a few options.
4.     Solid defenses – The top three players in the 2010 Defensive Player of the Year contest is on one of the teams playing in the Super Bowl.

So who am I giving the edge to?  

The Green Bay Packers.

I am giving the Packers the edge because of defense, primarily the secondary.  The Steelers’ defense has Safety, Troy Polamalu, in its secondary, but he is it.  This is the reason that the Jets took over the second half of the AFC title game and almost tied the game.  They could not stop Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes.  They will have difficulty against Greg Jennings.  Meanwhile, the Packers’ secondary has Charles Woodson, Sam Shields and Tramon WilliamsHines Ward is a skilled, veteran receiver, but he and his teammates will not get past the Packers trio of defensive backs.  Plus, now with Maurkice Pouncey out of the Super Bowl, the Packers should be able to run better. and

I am predicting that the Green Bay Packers will take the trophy named in honor of its legendary coach Vince Lombardi to Green Bay for the first time since 1997.

Enjoy the game!

Heels & Helmets®

Friday, February 4, 2011

Super Bowl XLV: Special Teams

Now that we know the key players on offense and defense of both teams, we have to take a look at the men on Special Teams.  The Packers and Steelers have similar defenses, so the game could easily come down to something that this unit does. 

Here are the crucial players for both the Packers and Steelers on Special Teams.  Go back to “special men will make or break you” to review why they are so special.

Green Bay Packers
Mason Crosby (#2, Kicker) – Made 22 of 28 field goals this season.  Has only missed 1 extra point in his four-year career.

Tim Masthay (#8, Punter) – Ranked 25 among punters and averaged 43.9 yards.

Sam Shields (#37, Kick Returner) – Backs up Charles Woodson and is the third defensive back on blitzes.  Catches and maintains the ball well. 

Tramon Williams (#38, Punt Returner) – Great speed and catching.  Starts at the cornerback position.

Greg Jennings, the Packers #1 receiver could return some punts.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Shaun Suisham (#6, Kicker) – Only missed one field goal this season.  Longest field goal was 48 yards.

Jeremy Kapinos (#13, Punter) – Just joined the team at the end of the regular season.

Antonio Brown (#84, Kick Returner) – Explosive player who is ready to run.

Antwaan Randle El (#82, Punt Returner) – Talented receiver on his second stint with the Steelers.

Emmanuel Sanders will most likely return some kicks.  He is a receiver who averaged about 25 yards per return this season.

Heels & Helmets®

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Super Bowl XLV: Packers on Defense

The Green Bay Packers defense may not have the hype that Pittsburgh has, but it is good; Especially, it’s secondary (cornerbacks and safeties).  This is key because the Steelers are going to pass and the Packers have some veterans in the backfield who are talented and savvy.  Pittsburgh’s defense may have the current Defensive Player of the Year, but the NFC Champs’ defense includes the runner-up, Clay Matthews, and last year’s winner, Charles Woodson.     

Here are all of the players that will most likely start when the Packers' Defense comes out on Sunday. (Go back to the article Defense Wins Championships! to review the roles.)

Tackles and Ends - These guys are going after Ben Roethlisberger and Rashard Mendenhall
Ryan Pickett (#79, Left End) – Big blocker.  At 340 pounds, he is one of the heaviest guys in the NFL

B.J. Raji (#90, Nose Tackle) – Had over 6 sacks this season.  Scored on an interception in the NFC title game against Chicago.  (It was hilarious watching the big guy run.)

Cullen Jenkins (#77, Right End) – Had 7 sacks in just 11 games. 

Clay Matthews (#52, Left Outside Linebacker) – Pro-Bowl linebacker. Runner up in the 2010 Defensive Player of the Year Award.  Long lineage in professional football, grandad, dad and uncle all played in the NFL.  Fourth in the league in sacks at 13.5

A.J. Hawk (#50, Left Inside Linebacker) – Tough guy who hits hard.  Had 111 tackles this season. 

Desmond Bishop (#55, Right Inside Linebacker) – Forced to step up after the team suffered so many injuries.  Ended the regular season with 103 tackles and scored from an interception.

Erik Walden (#93, Right Outside Linebacker) – Joined Packers late in the season to fill a void created by several injuries.  Made a big contribution of 11 tackles and 2 sacks in Chicago regular season game to clinch a playoff berth.

Charles Woodson (#21) – 7 time Pro-Bowl cornerback.  2009 Defensive player of the year.  Leader of Packers’ defense.  Does not have a lot of interceptions this season because teams avoid throwing to his side.  Well-rounded defensive back who will shut down a receiver, tackle on the run and attack on a blitz. 

Tramon Williams (#38) – Went from practice squad to becoming a starter.  Did extremely well in the playoffs.  Teams go to his side to avoid Woodson, but playoff performance shows that he should not be taken for granted.  Good punt returner.   

Charles Peprah (#26) – Injuries gave him the opportunity to start 11 games this season.  He got 63 tackles.

Nick Collins (#36) – Ended the regular season with 70 tackles and four interceptions.

Tomorrow we will review the special men on each of our Super Bowl teams - Special Teams.


Heels & Helmets®

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Super Bowl XLV: Steelers on Offense

The Pittsburgh Steelers offense is not touted as much as its defense.  However, they have one the best quarterbacks in the league and several veteran players who have played in and won a Super Bowl.  This unit will need to establish a running game to slow the game down and exhaust time on the clock.  Quick drives filled with passes give the Packers more time to get back on the field and score.  Maurkice Pouncey will be key to the Steelers accomplishing this.  If he cannot play, his backup, Doug Legursky, and the other linemen will have to step up and block.

Here are the players that will most likely start or play a major role in the game.  You can go back to Offense Controls the Game to review the responsibilities of the players on offense.   
Ben Roethlisberger (#7) – Led Steelers to 2006 and 2009 Super Bowl Championships.  Missed four games because of suspension and still threw over 3,200 yards.  Not extremely fast, but big and strong so it is tough to sack him.

Maurkice Pouncey (#53) - Rookie. Status is uncertain because he suffered a left ankle sprain in AFC title game.

Guards and Tackles – Need to block and create space for Mendenhall to run.
Chris Kemoeatu (#68, Left Guard) – Strong blocker.  Signed five-year contract last year despite missing almost half of the 2009 season with an injury. 

Ramon Foster (#73, Right Guard) – Replaced Chris Kemoeatu last season and got a starting job this year.

Jonathan Scott (#72, Left Tackle) – Became a starter after Max Starks was injured.

Flozell Adams (#71, Right Tackle) – Former left tackle.  Veteran who is starting because of injuries.

Wide Receivers
Hines Ward (#86) – Veteran receiver who does not mind blocking.  He and Ben know each other well and can adjust when plays break down.

Mike Wallace (#17) – Very fast.  Had over 1,250 yards this season.  Steelers’ deep threat option.

Running Backs
Rashard Mendenhall (#34) – 2nd year starting. Was a rookie when the Steelers won the Super Bowl in 2009.  Had 121 yards against Jets in AFC title game.

David Johnson (#85) – Truly a tight end.  As a full back he can block and catch short passes.  3rd on the depth chart for the tight end position.

Tight End
Heath Miller (#83) - Strong blocker who catches well.  Pro Bowl in 2009.

Tomorrow we will review the men looking to take down Ben and stop this unit from scoring, the Packers’ Defense.


Heels & Helmets®

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Super Bowl XLV: Steelers on Defense

The Pittsburgh Steelers are known for their defense.  They are gladiators who hit hard and stop offenses with big tackles.  Out of the 32 teams in the NFL, they ranked #2 in total defense.  During the playoffs they led the league in defense.  They are particularly good at stopping offenses that run.  On average, teams got less than 63 rushing yards against them this season.

Pittsburgh’s defense is filled with superstars.  Many of them would go to other teams and be the leader on defense.  The #1 (Troy Polamalu) and #3 (James Harrison) players in the 2010 Defensive Player of the Year contest are on this unit. 

Here are all of the players that will potentially start when the Steelers' Defense comes out on Sunday. (Go back to the article Defense Wins Championships! to review the roles.)

Tackles and Ends - These guys are going after Aaron Rodgers and his Running Backs.
Ziggy Hood (#96, Left End) - Became a starter in the middle of the season.  Last season as a rookie, he mainly played on special teams.

Casey Hampton (#98, Nose Tackle) – Powerful guy in the middle.  He is the reason teams have difficulty running against the Steelers.

Brett Keisel (#99, Right End) – Really improved this year.  Ended the season with 3 sacks, 2 fumbles and an interception.

LaMarr Woodley (#56, Left Outside Linebacker) – Owns NFL record with a sack in six straight playoff games.  Good at defending passes.

James Farrior (#51, Left Inside Linebacker) – In his 14th season and still had 109 tackles and six sacks. 

Lawrence Timmons (#94, Right Inside Linebacker) – Had his best season this year with 135 tackles.

James Harrison (#92, Right Outside Linebacker) – Pro-Bowl linebacker.  Fearless and aggressive.  Led the NFL in fines for illegal hits.  Had 10.5 sacks this season.  Third in 2010 Defensive Player of the Year voting.

Ike Taylor (#24) – Forced a huge fumble in the AFC Championship Game.  Does not have a lot of interceptions, but does stay with receivers.  He will have to defend Greg Jennings.

Bryant McFadden (#20) - Fighting abdomen problem, but should be fine.

Troy Polamalu (#43) - Pro-Bowl safety.  2010 Defensive Player of the Year.  Considered the best safety in the league.  Fast, strong and observant, so he takes down receivers and runners.

Ryan Clark (#25) - Hits and tackles well.

This group is going to use speed and strength to handle the Packers’ offense and keep Aaron Rodgers off the field.  Then it will be Big Ben’s turn to lead.  Tomorrow we will take a look at him and the rest of the Steelers' Offense.


Heels & Helmets®