TAMPA, Fla. -â Sideline reporters almost always accumulate more information than they dispense. Now, change that. With this outlet, thereâs no reason to hold back on any information uncovered during a weekend in Tampa for Sunday nightâs Buccaneers-Patriots preseason game.
Brady misses Tampa trip
Tom Brady has a sore foot. Which foot, the Patriots arenât saying. It might be the same right foot that bothered him before the Super Bowl, it might not. But with this being the preseason, the Patriots are not obligated to disclose anything more than the fact that Brady has a “sore foot” and he did not make the trip to Tampa for Sunday night’s preseason game.
Yet what was obvious throughout last yearâs playoffs was that Brady was not the same quarterback he was earlier in the year, when he obliterated the NFL record book. He did not move in the pocket with the same deftness and agility, and it seemed to affect his performance. He could not buy himself the extra time he routinely did during the regular season.
Now a foot injury has prevented him from playing New England’s first two preseason games. With most any other player the injury would not be considered a big deal. But this is Brady. With him, everything is a big deal.
What you don’t know can’t hurt you
Had the Jets not completed the trade for quarterback Brett Favre on Aug. 6, beating the deadline the Packers imposed for that night, Green Bay was preparing to trade Favre to Tampa. Buccaneers quarterback Jeff Garcia tracked Favre’s saga, and recognized its potential implications on him. But even after Favre wound up in New York, Garcia spent 20 minutes meeting with Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden to discuss the situation. Gruden told Garcia that if he wanted the truth, he should talk with Buccaneers general manager Bruce Allen. To this day, that talk has not happened, nor is it expected to.
Garcia doesn’t need or want to hear from Allen about how close Tampa did or did not come to trading for Favre. Garcia is more interested in moving forward, being professional, and trying to have the best season he can. And why not? Garcia has one year remaining on his contract and unless Tampa Bay slaps its franchise tag on him, at a time when he will be 39 years old, Garcia could be content to simply move on.
But for now it will come in baby steps. After missing the past two weeks with a calf strain, Garcia plans to practice Tuesday, beginning hard-core preparations for the season ahead.
Seau waiting by the phone
Junior Seau wants to play. He wants to play for the Patriots. About 10 days ago, after playing phone tag with each other, Seau finally spoke with Patriots coach Bill Belichick. The two men shared their feelings about where they are. Seau left Belichick with the message, ‘call if you are interested.’ For now, the Patriots are not.
They would like to see some of their young linebackers such as Jerod Mayo, Shawn Crable, Eric Alexander and Bo Ruud in action. But if the youngsters stumble in the final preseason games and Belichick feels he needs a veteran reinforcement, his first call is expected to go to Seau. But the call belongs to Belichick. If and when he sees fit, he will make it. Until then, another team could continue to try to sway Seau out of retirement. But the Patriots stand the best chance of doing it.
Don’t hold the Mayo
And by the way, the Patriots could not be any more pleased with first-round pick Jerod Mayo. The Patriots think he’s good against the run, good against the pass and, just as important to Belichick, a student of the game who considers football very important to him. Mayo has reported early for work, stayed late and already made his mark. He started Sunday night against Tampa and it would be a surprise if he weren’t starting in New England’s regular-season opener against Kansas City. Mayo infuses this defense with some much-needed youth.
Simms in limbo
Once again, Tampa Bay is preparing to carry four quarterbacks: Garcia, Brian Griese, Luke McCown and rookie Josh Johnson, who has really impressed the Buccaneers with his skills and attitude. Chris Simms is cheap jerseys the odd man out, and Tampa would love to get a draft pick in return for his services, but the interest around the league has not been there. Any team interested in Simms believes it can get him once he is released. But Tampa is hoping its phone lights up with trade inquiries and it can get a draft pick instead.
Cassel on the outs?
New England has some interesting quarterback decisions of its own to make. The Patriots have seen too much good out of backup quarterback Matt Gutierrez to release him. They invested a third-round pick in April on former San Diego State quarterback Kevin OâConnell, so he has to be a keeper. The odd man out could turn out to be Matt Cassel, who has one year left on his contract and could leave New England after this season anyway.
The former seventh-round pick who has spent the past three seasons in New England could be dangled in a trade with the hope of recouping a late-round pick. Problem is, most teams no longer are in the market for a backup quarterback. Two teams to watch there are the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, but they might be more interested in Simms or Dolphins backup quarterback John Beck. The Cowboys have closely monitored Beck and offered a late-round pick for the second-year QB. They still could make another run at him. But Cassel’s short-term future will be sifted out in New England’s final two preseason games.
Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin could have some sleepless nights this season. There might not be a team in the league that faces a nastier lineup of running backs than the Buccaneers. Aside from the regular in-division threats â- Deuce McAlister, Reggie Bush (Saints), Jonathan Stewart (Panthers), Michael Turner (Falcons) -â Tampa Bay is scheduled to face the game’s top costom jerseys running backs: Green Bay’s Ryan Grant, Dallas’ Marion Barber, Kansas City’s Larry Johnson, Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson, San Diego’s LaDainian Tomlinson and Oakland’s Darren McFadden. If nothing else, Tampa Bay’s run defense must be stout this season for the Buccaneers to have a chance to repeat as NFC South champions.
Work ethic second to none
One question to Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker revealed why New England is one of the top organizations not just in football, but sports. Welker was asked Saturday night why he thinks the Patriots are so good. He didn’t say Belichick, one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. He didn’t say Brady, one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the game. He didn’t say Randy Moss, one of the greatest wide receivers in the history of the game. All Welker said was: “How hard everybody works. They take their jobs very seriously.” And right there is one of the main reasons why New England is as good as it is.
Cadillac still on the mend
Despite last season’s catastrophic knee injury, Cadillac Williams is back to cutting at full speed. But it still could be a little while before he is back in the Buccaneers’ lineup. Tampa Bay believes that if Williams cannot return soon â- and despite his dramatic improvements, chances are he can’t -â he will open the season on the same physically-unable-to-perform-list he has been on this summer. A decision could be days away, but with Tampa Bay’s depth at running back, Williams will likely start the season on the PUP list.
From worst to first
Take hope, Atlanta. In each of the five years since the league realigned, the team that finished last in the NFC South went on to win the division the next season. In 2002, Carolina finished last in the NFC South before winning the division in 2003; in 2003, Atlanta finished last and won the division in 2004; in 2004, Tampa Bay finished last and won the division in 2005; in 2005 the Saints finished last and won the division in 2006; in 2006, the Buccaneers finished last and won the division in 2007. Last year, Atlanta finished last. Hard to imagine the Falcons winning the division, but the NFC South has a historical pattern of the unexpected.
Carter paying it forward
File this one in the what-comes-around-goes-around category. Back when Kevin Carter was in his early years in St. Louis, then Rams defensive end Leslie OâNeal mentored him, taught him how to become a pro and the most effective pass rusher he could be. Now, at the age of 34, Carter is doing the same for former Buccaneers first-round draft pick Gaines Adams.
Throughout last year, Carter continually challenged Adams, asking him, Why are you here? Why do you play this game? Adams struggled to answer early on, but now he has the idea. He plays this game to help and earn the respect of his teammates. He plays cheap jerseys from china this game because he has been blessed with special talents. He plays to be a pro. Sometime in the middle of last season, the light went on for Adams. If he is fortunate, it will shine as long and as bright as it has for Carter, now in his 14th NFL season.
News and notes
No one is as young as he or she used to be, but it’s hard to imagine that Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden turned 45 on Sunday. It wasn’t that long ago when he was coaching Sterling Sharpe and the rest of the Packers wide receivers in Green Bay. … In two straight years, New England has picked off one of Oakland’s top offensive talents. Last year it was Moss, this year it was running back LaMont Jordan. But the Patriots still haven’t forgotten that a few years ago, they traded a fifth-round pick for wide receiver Doug Gabriel, who turned out to be a bust in New England before returning to Oakland. The Raiders got the Patriots there.
For all the graybeards Tampa has in its “Milkhouse Gang,” it still has the league’s youngest offensive line. … New England has the best interior offensive line of any team in the league; its offensive tackles are the area other teams will try to attack, just as the Giants did in the Super Bowl. … An encouraging sign for the Patriots: Mayo has the measurables of Seau. … As dominant as the Patriots have been the past two years, they have faded down the stretch in both of their losses in the past two postseasons. Indianapolis wiped out an 18-point deficit in the January 2007 AFC Championship Game, and the Giants mounted an improbable touchdown drive to win Super Bowl XLII. If New England had stayed stronger just a bit longer, the Patriots could be basking in the glow of five Super Bowl championships.