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High School Rivals to Play Out Rest of 1993 Game that Ended in Tie

My buddy Robert DoBucki shared this story with me and I was just stunned when I read it. This is just like the worst thing that could ever happen to someone who’s still trying to live out their high school dreams. Take me for example — you can’t give a dude like me a baseball again, we gotta let go at some point. That apparently isn’t the case for Phillipsburg High of New Jersey and Easton Area High of Pennsylvania. The schools have played against each other on Thanksgiving Day every year since 1906 with the winner receiving “The Fork of the Delaware” trophy (the towns are separated by the Delaware River). So in 1993 the game apparently ended in a 7-7 tie since there was no overtime. I guess someone had the brilliant idea of settling the score from the ’93 game:

The gridiron grudge match will be played this weekend. There will be no ties this time around. They’re even breaking a century-old Turkey Day tradition, all in the name of who gets the bragging rights from that night so many years ago.

“Typically, you don’t get second chances in life. And to get this kind of second chance means the world to both sides of the river,” {Phillipsburg coach Bruce] Smith said.

We can thank Gatorade for organizing the replay of the game, and arranging for Peyton and Eli Manning to serve as honorary coaches. As hard as it may be to believe, ten thousand tickets for the dinosaur show sold in 90 minutes. I think they should invite Uncle Rico to do the honorary coin toss.

The Falcons Are Going to Have a Scary-Good Offense This Season

When the Saints acquired Jeremy Shockey last offseason I didn’t like the move. Many people felt it was a great addition to their team and that it would give Drew Brees another weapon. Instead, I saw a guy who was coming off a broken leg and nowhere near worth the second and fifth-round picks they gave up for him. Furthermore, I felt that Brees already had tons of receiving weapons and that the TE really wasn’t part of their offense. I was right on pretty much every account. Oh yeah, and the Saints would kill to have that second-rounder back on Saturday, believe me. Anyway, I bring this up because the Chiefs and Falcons had a very similar swap — a second-round pick for a Pro Bowl tight end. The difference is Tony Gonzalez is the fine wine of tight ends, improving with age. He’s not coming off a major injury, and he’s a billion times more reliable than Shockey (in every positive respect possible). Simply put, he’s the perfect addition to the Falcons’ offense.

The Falcons already had something special brewing last season — a rookie quarterback, Matt Ryan, playing with excellent poise and forming a good combo with emerging wide receiver, Roddy White. The line did a great job of run-blocking and made Michael Turner an MVP candidate. Now add a reliable and veteran tight end like Tony Gonzalez to the mix, a guy who works hard and just wants to win? It’s over. While Atlanta could use some serious defensive help (a LB or two, a DT would be nice), there’s no doubt in my mind that their offense will be scary-good next year. If I’m playing fantasy football I’m loading up on my Falcons.

Going back to Gonzo, if Buffalo had made the deal for him at the deadline last year (Tony killed the trade, ostensibly because he didn’t feel Buffalo was a real contender), they would have just been wasting a draft pick on a guy that wouldn’t have put them over the top. With Atlanta, this might very well make their offense good enough to win the NFC. Perfect trade by the Falcons. As for KC, that second might as well be a third given how well the Falcons will finish next season. I wonder how pissed Matt Cassel is right about now. So much for that 8-8 turnaround-season I was predicting.

Looks Like Jason Campbell Has Finally Had Enough of the Redskins Bull****

A few weeks ago on my radio show (which I probably don’t mention enough here, yes, it’s every Friday overnight 11pm-4am PT available at sportingnews.com or 1090am for the So Cal crowd), I made a point of comparing Jason Campbell’s reaction to trade rumors with Jay Cutler’s reaction to the same rumors. While Cutler used the Cassel to the Broncos rumors as leverage to demand a trade, Campbell reacted to the Cutler/Redskins rumors in a mature way. Campbell publicly showed he knows it’s a business, saying that any team that didn’t win the Super Bowl the previous year will be looking to improve the following season.

While Campbell was justifying the Skins’ interest in Cutler, there’s no doubt he was hurt. The guy was the team’s first round pick a few years ago, waited his time, finally got his shot, and felt like they had committed to him as their starter. Now he’s hearing nothing but rumors that they’re trying to upgrade at the position? That they view their quarterback as a weakness? Of course he couldn’t have felt good about everything. The final straw may have been the rumors that Washington’s interested in drafting Mark Sanchez (quick plug, I’m hosting the SNR post-draft show Sat. night 7-10pm PT too if you can listen). That’s not sitting well with Campbell, apparently:

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The Real Winner in the ’09 Draft: Tom Condon and Ben Dogra of CAA

Much like the Dolphins did last year with top pick Jake Long, the Lions supposedly want to have their first pick in the draft already signed before making a selection. This makes a lot of sense because teams want to avoid contract holdouts during training camp, especially bad teams that need their top players on the field. Well it came out last week that the Lions had already begun negotiations with the agents of three players — Matthew Stafford, Jason Smith, and Aaron Curry. Here’s the catch: both Stafford of Georgia and Baylor OT Jason Smith are represented by the same agents — Tom Condon and Ben Dogra of CAA.

If the Lions were trying to decide between the top three guys on their board, price and ease of negotiations could be a critical factor. Unfortunately for Detroit, the luxury of bargaining is lost since CAA is holding two of the top three cards. Now one can argue that the pay scale for draftees is already set by the slotting system (the higher you’re picked the more you make), but contracts vary by position. Knowing what the Lions are willing to pay for Stafford (or Smith) will help the negotiations for the other player, and vice versa. Detroit won’t be able to play any hard ball. Their only leverage for now is Aaron Curry, and from the sounds of things, going with him would be the best option of all.

Incidentally, the Dogra/Condon combination also represented the first and third overall pick in last year’s draft, Jake Long and Matt Ryan. The only difference is the Dolphins weren’t too interested in Ryan whereas the Lions could go in any direction for all we know.

Josh McDaniels’ Newest Project: Fixing the Broncos’ Cafeteria

If you were wondering what Josh McDaniels’ next big step was as the first-year head coach of the Broncos, we now have the answer. You follow up chasing your franchise quarterback out of town by changing up the team cafeteria! The Denver Post has the details:

Among [McDaniels'] discoveries were that Broncos players collectively lost approximately 450 pounds from the beginning of training camp last year until season’s end.

The Broncos have altered the daily menu at Dove Valley and have plans to expand the kitchen.

“We addressed the nutrition end of it,” McDaniels said after the team’s mini-camp workout Sunday. “We want to make sure our players are as healthy and fed as well as we can feed them. We don’t want to end up with a different team in December as what we put together in September.”

Somewhere Mike Shanahan is reading this and laughing his ass off. I wonder what the league average is for weight loss from beginning to end of a season. Between daily practices and Sunday wars, I can’t imagine anyone’s gaining weight nor maintaining it. The notable exception of course is the coaching staffs — seems like those guys are putting on pounds by the hour. Call me skeptical, but I’m guessing the Broncos have bigger fish to fry such as fixing that defense and finding a healthy running back.

Is There a Cover-Up for Positive Drug Tests at NFL Combine?

I can’t remember the last time members of the media got stories of great magnitude flat-out wrong like they did with this one. Maybe it was when a TV station erroneously reported that Albert Pujols was on the Mitchell Report and later got reprimanded. It’s been reported over the past month that there were 25 or so failed drug tests at the NFL Combine, be it for steroids, weed, you name it. One of the players said to have failed a test was Boston College DT B.J. Raji. Raji’s agent vehemently denied the failed test but what else would you expect from his agent when both of them stand to lose tons of money because of the report? To further complicate matters, the report was released by Sports Illustrated — a very reputable source — and it was later removed from their website. In a more sketchy situation, a website called NFL Draft Bible reported that the likes of Percy Harvin, Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews, as well as Raji had positive drug tests.

Now weeks after reports surfaced that all these players had positive drug tests at the combine, Pro Football Talk has league sources telling them none of the players listed above tested positive. I’m really beginning to wonder whether or not there’s a cover-up going on. Which side do you trust? I often believe that “where there’s smoke there’s fire,” but now I’m having my doubts. Is it possible that SI and Draft Bible just ran with tips from poor sources and that it was easier for them to do because Raji failed a test while in college and Cushing has long been suspected of using steroids? I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that websites need to be 100% certain they have correct information before publishing stories, considering what’s at stake. These players could lose millions of dollars if they slip in the draft because of speculation they had positive tests. It’s hard to know which side to believe. For now, I’m giving the players the benefit of the doubt, thinking that they’re owed a huge apology.

Donovan McNabb Can Kiss His Request for a Top WR Goodbye with Peters Trade

Donovan McNabb’s made it pretty well-known that his future with the Eagles (he’s entering the final year of his contract) depends on what they do over the offseason. McNabb’s really only played with one top notch receiver in his entire career and that was Terrell Owens. Interestingly enough, not only did McNabb enjoy his best statistical season and a half ever with T.O., but Owens was also having his best season ever in ’05 before Philly shut operation T.O. down. Last year the Eagles took a step in the right direction using their second-round pick on DeSean Jackson who’s a pretty good playmaker. This year it seems as if two pretty high quality receivers (Braylon Edwards and Anquan Boldin) are available on the trade market, not to mention guys like Housmazilli and Coles who were available as free agents prior to signing deals.

The trade between Philly and Buffalo where the Eagles gave up three picks (their first, fourth, and one next year) for Bills left tackle Jason Peters, seems to have ended any chance of the Eagles picking up a big receiving option. The negotiations between the teams went so smoothly because Philly was willing to open up the vault for Peters and pay him top dollar — $60 million over five years with 25 guaranteed, if I’m not mistaken. I don’t know how they’ll have much left over for a receiving threat. Thing is, McNabb might be happier with some extra protection for his blind side than anything else. Remember that eight or nine sack game Winston Justice gave up to the Giants a few years ago? I’m sure McNabb does.

Problem for Philly here is that a $60 million investment in Peters is unwise. The guy got named to the Pro Bowl last year based on reputation, not performance. He gave up 11.5 sacks and even had to benched at the beginning of the year because his performance lagged from holding out during training camp. Peters said he wasn’t happy with his contract last year and admitted it may have adversely impacted his performance. The Eagles better make sure it was a lack of desire, not talent, that caused Peters to have the bad year. Either way they’re screwed because I wouldn’t want that much money tied up in a guy who’s performance is related to contract satisfaction.