NFL fans have been waiting for this time of year to scrutinize what players are doing in camp and make bold predictions about the upcoming season based on performances in shorts and helmets.
Up and at 'em. Ready to go. Each day is pivotal.
For some NFL players, eh, not so much.
While OTAs and minicamps are crucial for rookies and unproven players, they're just another link in the chain for veterans. As a result, some players opt to skip offseason activities for various reasons.
And yes, most of the time, those reasons have to do with money.
Here are 10 NFL players that have made waves by sitting out of minicamp thus far in 2012.
The star running back for the Bears continues his contract saga by not participating in offseason activities. Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports reports that “the process has left some ‘scars’” for the all-around back.
However, despite Forte’s (and, let’s face it, the Bears’) frustration with the matter, the fourth-year veteran acknowledges that talks are improving, per Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.
It’s an unfortunate situation all around. Forte had an unbelievable 12-game season in 2011, and his role in Chicago’s offense is clearly important. He’s totaled over 4,000 yards rushing and just under 2,000 yards receiving in just his first four years with the Bears. Tack on 29 total touchdowns, and that’s quite a resume.
On the other hand, he is a (gulp) running back, which means his team may be wary of handing him big money at a position that has a short shelf life. It also doesn’t help that Titans running back Chris Johnson hasn’t been himself since he received a big contract from Tennessee after holding out.
The Bears finally have something going on offense, as Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery should make the passing game more consistent. Chicago also added former Oakland Raider Michael Bush to back up Forte. Some will argue this all diminishes Forte’s role, while others will say it only makes him more effective.
More champagne, Mr. Forte? He’s still waiting for a glass.
Much like Matt Forte, Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew is seeking a contract extension. In the meantime, he’s skipping camp, according to ESPN.com.
The 5’7” boulder on wheels basically comprises the Jags offense, so his case for a payday is legit. For his career, he’s recorded 6,854 rushing yards, 2,473 receiving yards and 72 total touchdowns in six seasons. And considering he carried the ball fewer than 200 times in each of his first three campaigns, those are eye-popping numbers.
However, Jones-Drew is 27 years old, has two years left on his current deal and has carried the ball more over the last three seasons (312, 299, 343 from 2009 to 2012). So Jacksonville has been slow to give in.
That hesitance, though, is foolish.
Jones-Drew is a leader, a quality representative of an NFL organization and an undeniable producer on Sundays. He’s done everything right since arriving in Jacksonville and is easily the face of the franchise.
Per NFL.com, Jones-Drew recently said he wants to, and believes he can, surpass Emmitt Smith for the all-time NFL rushing record. The question is, will he be making that quest with the Jags or another NFL team?
Things ain’t so Breesy in New Orleans right now.
The Saints have trudged through a tumultuous offseason so far. To make matters worse, their franchise player is an unhappy camper and has been sitting out offseason activities after being slapped with the franchise tag.
Frankly, it’s pretty shocking the Saints haven’t taken care of this situation yet. They had (and still have) an opportunity to quell the effects of all the bad news that has haunted them this offseason. Brees deserves a long-term deal and should be paid commensurate with the league’s best passers because, well, that’s what he is.
The concern here isn’t whether Brees will play or not in 2012. Ryan Jones of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported the following:
In an interview with ESPN's "Outside the Lines," Drew Brees said that regardless of the circumstances surrounding his contract negotiations with the New Orleans Saints, he would not sit out the entire 2012 season.
Brees could sit out some games should he choose to, but he’s just not one of those players. He’d put his hard hat on and go to work as usual, leading the Saints through a weird season.
What’s at stake here, however, is Brees’ attitude and relationship with the organization. Considering what he’s done to help New Orleans become relevant and competitive again, the Saints owe it to him give him the security and money he’s seeking.
In Arizona, Beanie Wells has been absent from offseason activities for different reasons: He hasn't been healthy enough to participate.
According to the Cardinals’ official website, head coach Ken Whisenhunt said the following about his starting tailback:
We’ve done the right thing with Beanie as far as the offseason and making sure he is healthy. He’s got to bust his tail the next few weeks to be ready for training camp because some guys have looked good there.
Wells’ absence has made waves because the Cardinals are desperately trying to establish some consistency on offense. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is the only sure thing as far as playmakers go, but it’s unclear who will even be throwing him passes come September.
Whoever that is (Kevin Kolb or John Skelton), that quarterback would like to have Wells in the backfield.
On the other hand, this situation creates an opportunity for the other ball-carriers on the roster, as Whisenhunt suggests. Ryan Williams, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Alfonso Smith, William Powell and Javarris James are all scrapping for snaps.
Wells hasn’t exactly been spectacular in his first three seasons, but he’s been solid and is the only proven back currently on the roster. He’s also coming off a strong 2011 campaign.
He should be ready to go for the regular season, but he has some work to do to get back up to speed.
The Detroit Lions placed the franchise tag on star defensive end Cliff Avril. Avril subsequently peaced out from offseason activities.
Avril has increased his sack totals in each season since he’s entered the NFL (5.0, 5.5, 8.5, 11.0 from 2008 to 2011). He’s coming off a career year on an up-and-coming Lions squad that could certainly use his talents as a building block on defense.
According to Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press, Avril had this to say regarding progress on contract talks:
Yeah we’re talking. We’re still trying to get things figured out before camp. I want to be there long term. I want to get a deal done. I don’t want to play under the franchise tag. I’ve been with the team for four, going on five years; started off a little shaky, 0-16. I want to be with the team when we make the Super Bowl run.
Making a Super Bowl run isn’t out of the question, as the Lions have several key pieces in place to be successful for many years.
Avril is one of those pieces.
Elite pass-rushers are hard to come by. And due to the pass-heavy style that offenses are playing, they’re also becoming more important.
It sounds like things will be resolved in enough time to avoid any missed games, but this has been a situation Lions fans have been closely monitoring nonetheless.
Mike Wallace’s situation has been a head-scratcher this offseason.
Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com previously believed that another team, such as the division rival Ravens or Bengals, would make a play for the speedy wideout. And ESPN’s AFC East blogger, James Walker, felt Wallace would be a great fit for the Patriots.
However, for some reason, none of the rumors ever gained any traction, and thus Wallace remains in Pittsburgh on a one-year restricted free-agent deal that will pay him $2.7 million, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com.
Wallace isn’t happy about that.
The dynamic deep threat has been lobbying for a long-term contract, opting to skip all offseason activities to make his point. And according to Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “He might not show up to training camp on time, either.”
Wallace is a game-changer. He’s gone over 1,150 yards in each of the last two seasons and has a career average of 18.7 yards per catch. His playmaking ability complements quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and his presence on offense would certainly be missed.
Ultimately, Wallace will play in 2012 and put up big numbers. Depending on how big those numbers are, Pittsburgh may be wise to lock him up now before he gets even more expensive.
The outlook on Ray Rice’s contract negations seems to be positive.
Per 1560thegame.com, Jason La Canfora believes the process will work itself out. Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk reported that Ravens head coach John Harbaugh is “not concerned” with the situation.
Even Rice himself is taking everything in stride, per an interview with Mayhem in the AM on 790 The Zone in Atlanta (via sportsradiointerviews.com).
Out in Baltimore, Rice is becoming one of the best backs in the NFL. He’s extremely durable, versatile and explosive as an all-around halfback. Over the last three seasons, he’s totaled 3,923 rushing yards, 1,962 receiving yards and 29 total touchdowns.
Right now, it seems like a matter of when, not if, Rice will get his long-term deal.
At just 25 years old, he’s the heart of the offense. Baltimore also has a young quarterback in place and is developing a dependable wide receiver corps. If the defense continues to be as effective as it has been for so long, the Ravens won’t be fading anytime soon.
The hard-hitting safety out in San Francisco is seeking a payday and a long-term contract extension.
Mindi Bach of CSNBayArea.com reported in May that Goldson was “not close to signing his tender.” Since then, not a whole lot has changed.
Goldson sat out all offseason activities, but he’ll be sure to sign his franchise tender by the July 16 deadline.
The question is whether he’ll be able to work out a long-term deal with San Francisco before then. If not, he may get his desired payday from another team after this season.
CSN Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco recently pointed out a logical stepping stone in the process, highlighting Tennessee Titans safety Michael Griffin’s contract situation. Maiocco details how Griffin’s deal could spark talks with Goldson and the 49ers.
The soon-to-be 28-year-old safety turned down a five-year, $25 million deal with the 49ers just last offseason, according to Bach’s article above.
Time will tell if that was a smart decision or not.
In a somewhat under-the-radar situation, wide receiver Dwayne Bowe has been absent from minicamp in an attempt to receive a contract extension from the Kansas City Chiefs. According to The Kansas City Star, “Bowe is believed to be seeking the moon in long-term talks.”
The 27-year-old wideout is an integral piece to the Chiefs offense, and he’s gradually becoming one of the top receivers in the league. Despite inconsistency on offense, he’s managed to put up very strong numbers thus far in his career.
Head coach Romeo Crennel said (also via The Kansas City Star) that he’s prepared to win with whoever is there. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, they don’t have a whole heck of a lot of other capable wide receivers.
Jonathan Baldwin is unproven, Steve Breaston is not a primary weapon and rookies Devon Wylie and Junior Hemingway will have to adapt to the NFL game.
Bowe may be expensive, but he’s a player the Chiefs should continue to build around. There isn’t a player currently on the roster capable of filling his role. Finding a replacement down the road could be more difficult than they’d like to admit.
Rotoworld.com notes that Reed “often chooses to focus on family and non-football pursuits in the offseason,” so this isn’t really groundbreaking news.
As head coach John Harbaugh opined, Reed’s absence isn’t necessarily a concern in terms of his performance and his ability to prepare for 2012. Via John Eisenberg of CSN Baltimore, Harbaugh said, “‘Ed is a mature guy, he’s a superstar, he’s a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. He’s a leader, and Ed will be here. We’re counting on Ed being here.’”
What is a concern, though, is that there has been speculation that Reed is not 100 percent dedicated to football at this time, per Adam Schein via Twitter. While his absence itself may not have a huge impact on the Ravens, Reed or their success together in 2012, it highlights the fact that Reed is getting older and may not be around in Baltimore much longer.
Reed will be ready for training camp and continue to make plays on defense for the Ravens next season. However, next offseason, the news may not be so optimistic.
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