Bengals Sign Tank Johnson … of Course

If you’re a badboy and have been cast off by the Dallas Cowboys (of all teams), where in the world would you go? Perhaps you’d turn to the Raiders, but even they haven’t been holding true to their reputation lately. So if arrests are your thing yet you have some talent, you know you’ll always have a home with the Cincinnati Bengals. They of course did the logical thing, signing defensive lineman Tank Johnson on Tuesday. Tank was suspended eight games in the ’07 season when he was caught with half the Iraqi military’s arsenal stashed in his home. It was that arrest that required him to have the court’s permission to play in the Super Bowl for the Bears. Tank was supposed to be let off his punishment after six games but his Man of the Year campaign didn’t quite go as planned, so the Bears released him.

Naturally Tank was picked up by the Cowboys despite his personal conduct violation issues and the eight-game suspension. After a few non-productive seasons in Dallas, the Tank was let go. The Bengals, feeling a need to recharge their bad-boy image, signed him. Just in case you thought the Bengals had lost their touch, they still have Fresno St. delinquent Jason Shirley on their squad. They also made sure to re-sign Cedric “the drunken boater” Benson. And of course they reinstated Chris Henry after his suspensions. Now I’m wondering when Odell Thurman will be brought back. Maybe Tanks can crack the Bengals’ top 10 arrests lists.

Jay Cutler Trade Was Win-Win for Broncos and Bears

My favorite kind of trade in sports is the win-win deal. I love trades in general because they make things exciting, and the more teams get ripped off, the less inclined they are to deal. One of the best for instance, was the Red Sox/Marlins Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell for Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez trade. Boston got a World Series, Florida got potentially the best position player in the game. Win-win. I think the Jay Cutler to the Bears deal could be one of those win-win deals. The Broncos got the problem that is the whining baby of Jay Cutler off their hands. In return, they got back Kyle Orton who can be a serviceable starter for two years until they find someone they think will be the long-term solution. To try and find that long-term answer, they’ll have four first-round picks over the next two drafts, plus an extra third rounder this year. Think about all the damage the Broncos can do with that. With two first-round picks in this year’s draft alone, they can shore up their crappy defense with a top-notch lineman and maybe another cover guy.

While the Bears are giving up a lot, enough to allow the Broncos to conceivably rebuild nicely, they are getting a valuable commodity — a franchise quarterback. Jay Cutler’s talent is undeniable — the guy has a cannon arm. I don’t think he has the goods mentally to be a consistent winner and he threw too many questionable picks for my taste last year, but at least he has proven he can play at this level. The Bears are finally getting a quarterback they can be excited about, one they know can throw for 300-yards in a game. It’s about time Chicago had a passing threat under center. I’m not saying that Cutler’s the greatest, I’m just saying he’s enough to get the city psyched up, much more so than Orton or Sex Grossman ever could.

While I do call the trade win-win, I could very easily see it being lose-lose. The Broncos could easily strike out with their four first-rounders over the next two years (only a GM like A.J. Smith would hit a grand slam). Cutler for all we know could have a mental meltdown, continue throwing interceptions, and demand to be traded after a year or two. That all remains to be seen. But for now, I think both teams came out ahead in the trade.

A few extra points on the trade: how bad does Jerry Jones now look for giving up a first, third, and fifth-round pick just for Roy Williams when almost the same package netted Cutler? Will Jason Campbell react to his name being thrown around in trade rumors the way Cutler did? (No, he’s not that immature). And lastly, it bothers me that everyone keeps referring to Cutler as a Pro Bowl quarterback. Cutler was only there because the team starting off 3-0 with him setting the world on fire. Philip Rivers was the guy who should have been voted in to begin with, no doubt about it.

Ryan Moats Police Officer Also Power-Tripped on Zach Thomas’ Wife

I didn’t get to touch on the Ryan Moats incident with the police officer from Dallas. By now many people already know what happened. In brief, Moats was on the way to the hospital where his mother-in-law was dying. Moats apparently committed traffic violations on his way to the hospital, running a red light at the least. When Officer Robert Powell finally caught up with Moats at the hospital, he power-tripped on Moats so long that the mother-in-law died while Ryan was dealing with the officer. I understand where the officer would be trained to think the worst and handle the situation carefully. But once he was told that Moats’ problem was legit (which he was on the radio), he should have eased up. Instead, the officer made comments such as “I can screw you over,” and even went so far as to pull a gun. Moats, who up until that point was the victim of all other people who commit crimes and try to lie their way out of tickets (leading officers to be conditioned think the worst), then became the victim of an a-hole with a badge. How do we know that’s the case? Zach Thomas’ wife, Maritza Thomas, had a similar experience with the exact same officer!

On July 27, 2008, while her husband was at training camp with the Cowboys in Oxnard, Calif., Maritza Thomas was pulled over by Powell for an illegal U-turn near NorthPark Center.

Maritza Thomas was issued five tickets by Powell, four of which were later dismissed. Thomas was handcuffed, placed in the back of a police cruiser, spent about three hours in the Dallas County Jail and was threatened with the possibility of spending the night behind bars.

Apparently all officers have the right to make an arrest when stopping someone for a traffic violation, it’s usually just too much of a hassle for them. Unless you’re just a maniac like this guy who seems like he’s just out there to make people’s lives worse. Usually I’m all about enforcing and following rules, but I will be the first to say that punishments should always fit the crime. This guy is killing mosquitoes with cannon balls. At least Powell’s been put on leave; there’s no place for someone like him in law enforcement.

Football’s a Contact Sport, Except When the Quarterback’s Involved

So I think we can all agree that the NFL is a violent game that produces tons of injuries each week. Players wear pads as a necessity to protect themselves but most of the time that’s not even enough. A large part of the appeal of the game is the hard-hitting. Heck, that produces half of my material during football season. And even though I understand why the NFL is putting in more rules to protect its star players, it comes across as nothing other than undermining the nature of the game. Witness the Tom Brady Rule which came into effect after he suffered a season-long knee injury:

The fifth provision of Rule 12, Section 2, Article 12 (roughing the passer) says that: “A rushing defender is prohibited from forcibly hitting in the knee area or below a passer who has one or both feet on the ground, even if the initial contact is above the knee. It is not a foul if the defender is blocked (or fouled) into the passer and has no opportunity to avoid him.”

Patriots owner Robert Kraft offered up his explanation considering he lost his star quarterback last year: “It’s not good for the league. What makes it special is special players. It’s like going to see a great movie and the star isn’t in the movie. It’s the same principle.” OK, so basically the league’s admitting that it’s more important to make football into a good movie or TV show than to let the sport play out naturally, the way it’s supposed to be played. Contact and hitting is part of the game. Brady’s injury was part of the game. You can’t hide and run away from it — it happens. Players already get fined and flagged for dirty hits. That’s the stuff I’m OK with them eliminating (the wedge, too). But to flag a player for doing something like what Bernard Pollard did means you’re trying to change the nature of the game. Why even bother sending a defense out there if you’re not going to allow them to hit the quarterback?

Matthew Stafford Dominates Wonderlic Test, Hakeem Nicks Bombs

Although I’m not much of a fan of the NFL combine, I have to say I enjoy when the Wonderlic scores come out. In case you’re unfamiliar with the Wonderlic, it’s a test that’s administered to judge mental swiftness of players. The test asks 50 problem solving questions in 12 minutes and one point is awarded for every correct answer. Vince Young notoriously bombed the test, getting an embarrassingly low 5. Based on the way his career has gone, a low score like that would definitely signal a red flag to me. Luckily for this year’s crop nobody scored that poorly. Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford stood out ringing up a 38 according to Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune. Mark Sanchez of USC scored a respectable 28. As far as positions go, the wide receiver crop certainly disappointed. Like 100% Injury Rate wrote, let’s just hope they can read these headlines:

Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech scored a 15, Darrius Heyward-Bey of Maryland scored a 14, and Percy Harvin of Florida scored a 12. Hakeem Nicks of UNC wowed everyone with an 11 … Jeremy Maclin of Missouri scored a 25, so he’s like the Einstein of this year’s receiving corps.

While it’s an excellent sign for a guy like Stafford where learning a playbook, thinking on the spot, and adjusting to defenses is absolutely critical, the Wonderlic is far less important for a receiver. Honestly, does it really matter how poorly Nicks scored when he can do this on the field? Brains certainly help in football, but that sort of thing is just about natural, athletic ability, excellent hands, and superior concentration. Let’s see if the Lions bite on Stafford based on the Wonderlic considering they might already be in contract negotiations with the first overall pick.

Terence Newman: Jessica Simpson Distracts Romo from Being Great QB

T.O. says it (half-jokingly) and it becomes a firestorm. Terence Newman says it (a week ago) and not much attention is paid. Newman had an interview with WFAA in which he talked all things Cowboys. I thought he had a great take on team captains, saying that it should be the guys who played the best the week before because they’ve earned the right to speak. After that, maybe a few guys are needed to step up and say something when it’s appropriate, but in general, leadership is earned. He was also asked about everyone’s favorite Cowboys subject (now that The Player is gone), Tony Romo. Here were Newman’s thoughts on whether or not Romo’s grasped what being the Cowboys quarterback is all about:

“I think that with the situation Tony was in, I think that kind of maybe hurt him a little bit, being a first-year starter. Then you have the limelight with his girlfriend and situations of that nature — it’s going to take away from him being a quarterback, being a successful quarterback. He won 13 games and everything was perfect, but now, after this past season, it was, ‘Is he doing enough for the team? Is he working hard enough? You know, he’s got this girlfriend, so …’ I think that once he inherited the starting quarterback job and his relationship got into the national media attention, I think that that was something that definitely hurt and took away from Tony Romo being a great quarterback.”

I’ve defended Tony Romo in the past saying people are too quick to criticize him, forgetting how young he is in his NFL career and how good he’s already been. I’ve said it before and I truly believe that winning cures all. Because the team lost and didn’t make the playoffs, people look for reasons to explain what went wrong. I don’t condone going to Mexico the week before a playoff game, but I don’t think anyone would be saying this stuff had they won a few more games last season. And losing was more a factor of a bad secondary, a brutal schedule, and an unfortunate pinkie injury to Romo, rather than his flakiness because of a girlfriend. It’s too bad that Newman fell into the trap along with so many others.

UPDATE: Newman has since tried to “clarify” his comments

Video of the entire interview below in case you want to check it out (Romo comments at the 6:45 mark or so):

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Should the New UFL Compete with the NFL or Complement it?

From what I understand (and it seems pretty obvious) the backers of the United Football League think there’s enough demand in this country for professional football that a second league could be successful. I know NFL Europe was canceled for being a bust and that the USFL didn’t make it, but maybe there’s room for the UFL. From what I understand based on brief research, the USFL posed a strong threat to the NFL but their ultimate goal was to merge the leagues in order to profit on the increase in franchise values. Their lawsuit didn’t work out and the league disbanded. So here’s my question to you: would you care for a second professional football league in this country? (and I don’t consider the Arena League competition). Should they compete using a fall schedule (and play on Thursdays and Fridays like they’re scheduled to do), go up against baseball during the summer, or play during the fall and serve as a minor league-type operation for the NFL?

I think bringing in coaches like Dennis Green, Jim Haslett, and Jim Fassel for three of the four UFL franchises (Ted Cottrell is the other), provides instantaneous credibility to the league. That’s enough to get my attention and make me think the league is for real. Imagine if they land someone like Michael Vick, too, how could we not pay attention? I don’t know if it would work, but I believe a pro football league like the UFL could work during the summertime, competing with baseball and ending before the NFL season starts. Is there enough of a market out there for another league in addition to the NFL? Should they try to compete with the NFL’s popularity or supplement them as a minor league system? Oh yeah, and if you haven’t already, please locate Versus on your cable network because that will be your home for all UFL action.