NFL notes: Saints and sinners

Carolina Panthers' quarterback Cam Newton (R) is hit by New Orleans Saints' middle linebacker...

Carolina Panthers' quarterback Cam Newton (R) is hit by New Orleans Saints' middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma during an NFL football game in Charlotte, North Carolina October 9, 2011. (REUTERS)

Bill Lankhof, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 7:57 PM ET

There will be no pardon for players who participated in the Saints’ pay-for-pain bounty system but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is providing a temporary reprieve.

Punishment won’t be handed down this week, Goodell told reporters at the NFL draft. But when it does come, likely next week, Goodell said he won’t accept any defence from players that they were merely following orders.

“The evidence is quite clear that the players embraced this,” Goodell said in a podcast with NFL Network. “They enthusiastically embraced it. They put the vast majority of the money into the program and they actually are the ones playing the game. They are on the field so I don’t think they are absolved from any responsibility because of that.”

One of the players expected to be suspended is linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who Monday agreed to a new contract with the Saints that substantially reduced his salary.

But the new deal does include a $1 million bonus that Vilma receives regardless of whether he is suspended. Vilma’s salary drops to $2.6 million from $5.4 million. But only $1.6 million of the new deal — or $94,000 per game — is open to sacrifice if Goodell drops the guillotine on his season.

UP IN SMOKE

Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict and Virginia Tech cornerback Jayron Hosley failed drug tests at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

Once upon a time this would’ve scuttled any chance of being drafted.

Today? Not so much.

Six players tested positive at the Combine, although all have not yet been identified.

Burfict might be hurt most by the revelation but only because it continues a trend of undisciplined behaviour. Players know before the Combine that they’ll be tested so a positive reading indicates that either they aren’t very smart, or they cared more about getting a buzz than about football.

“The league has really changed over the years,” Lions’ GM Martin Mayhew told MLive.com. “If you go back 10, 15 years ago, and a guy had a positive test, that was a big deal. That was something to be very concerned about. It still is, but not at the level it was years ago.”

Burfict and Hosley have actually hurt themselves more by their play on the field, then their play off it.

Burfict was considered a potential first-round pick entering the 2011 season. But his tackles dropped to 69 from 90 at Arizona State last year, he had weight issues and his own coach pulled him from a Bowl game after he was penalized, the culmination of a college career that included 16 personal fouls. In other words he is strong like bull — and just as smart.

Hosley sent a letter to NFL teams apologizing for his failed test. But with him, too, it is his on-field performance rather than what he’s been smoking that likely will see him drop on the draft boards. Hosley had an NCAA-high nine interceptions in 2010 but a hamstring injury and concussion marred his 2011 season.

TOUGH CUT

The Green Bay Packers have released safety Nick Collins but they aren’t happy about it.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson said letting the seven-year veteran go was difficult. But it would’ve been even more difficult for the Packers to put him back on the field after the safety suffered a severe neck injury making a tackle Sept. 18.

“Nick is a part of our core, and this is a very difficult day for all Packers,” Thompson said. “Making this kind of decision is never easy, especially when it involves someone like Nick Collins. He has meant so much to the community, his teammates and the organization. He is a good man and will always be part of the Packers family.”

He returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown in the Packers’ victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2011 Super Bowl. A second-round pick in the 2005 draft, Collins was a three-time Pro Bowl selection, starting 95 regular-season games, missing only three over the first six years of his career. He had 21 career interceptions, returning four for touchdowns.

“In the end, we were not comfortable clearing him to play again,” said Thompson.

Collins, who is awaiting opinions from several doctors on the advisability of continuing his career, thanked Packers fans on his Twitter account.

McGINEST SLAMS WELKER

Wes Welker has been called a lot of things.

Team player. Consistent. Reliable. All-Pro.

Prima donna hasn’t been one of them. Until now.

The Patriots’ receiver is trying to leverage a long-term contract, saying he doesn’t plan to attend the club’s mini-camp in June unless the club signs him. That, according to former Patriots’ star linebacker Willie McGinest, is just selfish.

“I just don’t like the diva attitude,” McGinest told the NFL Network. Welker has been designated the Patriots franchise player but has refused to sign his one-year, $9 million tender. Welker wants the security of a long-term deal and isn’t required under league rules to attend club workouts if he doesn’t sign the tender.

”I just feel that this was the best, really the only, leverage I had is to take this route,” he told ESPN Boston Radio. “It’s not a route I thought I’d ever take, just because that’s not me. It’s just kind of the spot I’ve been put in.”

McGinest isn’t buying any of it, saying Welker should be thankful to the Patriots for putting him in a position to become a star. “Let’s keep it real: Prior to the Patriots, this is a guy who played three years, had 96 receptions, never had a 1,000-yard season. So due to, in big part, the Patriots’ offensive system, and Tom Brady, he’s had five years with over 100 catches,” McGinest said. “A big part of that is due to the Patriots ... So look, Wes, it’s time to take off the leopard-printed cowboy boots, get off the party tour and get back to work.”

Reality is, Welker has given the Patriots as much as the Patriots have given Welker. He’s 31. His seasons in the sun are running out. So, he’s worth whatever he can get. McGinest, having been there, should understand that. It’s not about being a diva. It’s about respect and responsibility — and that runs both ways, not just from a player to the team.

 TEBOW’S ARMED AND DANGEROUS

Remember all that talk about Tim Tebow and his arm?

You know, how he throws like a whuz. Well, never mind.

Having caught passes from both Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow, Jets receiver Jeremy Kerley says there’s a big difference: Tebow throws a lot harder.

“Different than Mark, different than Mark,” Kerley told the Newark Star-Ledger. “(Tebow’s) ball comes out a little bit stronger, but he’s accurate, he’s more accurate than what I thought he was going to be.”

That doesn’t necessarily make Tebow a better quarterback but it does counter the notion he doesn’t have the arm to play in the NFL. Asked how much more velocity Tebow has than Sanchez, Kerley said, “A LOT, a lot more velocity. No dis to Mark, he brings it, man.”

 

 

 


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