The top story this week was, again, the NFL lockout - or rather, the progress that was made towards ending the lockout with a new CBA. But I would like to point out that my "pessimism" - as some have called it - has proven to be warranted.
I wrote on Thursday morning (actually Wednesday night, but was published the next morning) that having some in-depth knowledge of all that goes into collective bargaining agreements in professional sports (I guess college was good for something) lent me to believe that this deal would not be coming as quickly as some might have been thinking. Lo and behold, it turns out that while the sides are closer than ever, a new CBA is not going to be struck in a matter of days. With that said, I will stand by my July 4th holiday weekend prediction.
And to all who lambasted me for criticizing Bill Burt's ridiculous claims that a deal was "almost complete" last Thursday evening and players and coaches were contacted about returning to work as soon as last weekend or early this past week, I only have one thing to say - bad journalism. That's what Burt's report was an example of. Unfortunately, people quickly forget when you get a huge story like that wrong (for some reason), meaning Burt will never be held accountable in any meaningful way for reporting something that was clearly inaccurate.
Anyway, let's get onto this week's "five."
1. The league's top left tackle plays in South Florida. As if we needed any confirmation, Miami Dolphins stud left tackle Jake Long has been voted the league's best and will be featured on Sunday night's Top 100 Players of 2011 on NFL Network. And unlike a poll of NFL writers on ESPN.com that placed Long second in the league among left tackles, the rankings that the NFL Network has put together actually has meaning. Why? Because it was voted on by NFL players. And his peers have ranked Long as the top offensive lineman in the sport.
Long will be ranked somewhere between 21 and 30 when the results are announced on Sunday. The next highest ranked offensive lineman, Saints tackle Jahri Evans, ranked 34th in the poll. Joe Thomas, the tackle that the ESPN writers ranked ahead of Long, was the third highest ranked offensive lineman - down at number 43 overall.
So while the media seems to not want to give Big Jake the respect he obviously deserves, take solace in the fact that those who actually play the game for a living feel Long - the former #1 overall pick - is the very best lineman in the sport right now. Not bad for a guy that some "draft experts" felt wouldn't be a successful left tackle in the league, huh?
2. Isn't your starting quarterback supposed to be a leader? So why is everyone making a big deal about Chad Henne suddenly becoming the leader he needs to be? That's what I wonder when I read stories like this one in the Palm Beach Post, which says Henne is "asserting himself as the alpha dog." I mean, it's great that Henne is finally doing what he's supposed to be doing and taking on a leadership role. But my question is this - what took so long? Why did it take a lockout for Chad to finally realize he needs to be more assertive with his teammates?
"He's definitely taken on that leadership role, cornerback Nolan Carroll told the Post. "That's what you expect from Chad, especially as a quarterback. You're the one who runs everything. You have to take command."
Notice Carroll's choice of words - "what you expect" and "have to." Again, this shouldn't be a big story right now. This should have been expected. And the fact that this is the story it is exemplifies just one of the problems that have plagued Henne over the past two years.
3. The Dolphins reportedly have some interest in two undrafted quarterbacks. One is Louisville's Adam Froman, whom the Dolphins called as the draft was winding down to express interest. At 6'4, 220, Froman has the prototypical size you look for and is a very bright kid. But he has limited experience, only playing in 15 games at the college level. When he did play, though, he produced - completing 60% of his passes, averaging 7.4 yards per attempt, and throwing for 17 touchdowns and just 9 interceptions.
The Dolphins also expressed interest in FAU quarterback Jeff Van Camp. He, too, has prototypical size (6'5, 218). But he also has more experience, playing in 29 games at FAU - including 22 over his final two seasons. During those final two seasons, Van Camp completed 58% of his passes, averaging 7.3 yards per attempt while throwing 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
Either quarterback could come in and compete for at least the third quarterback spot on the depth chart.
We'll of course have a longer discussion on possible undrafted free agents that the Dolphins could target over the next couple of weeks.
4. Look who is making a return to football. After failing in the NFL and then in the Kansas City Royals farm system, Pat White has signed with the UFL's Virginia Destroyers. Let's see if he can make it three leagues that he's failed out of.
5. Here's to wishing the Big Man gets well soon. I'm sure you have all heard that Clarence Clemons suffered a serious stroke this past week. So he'll need all the well wishes a man can get as he battles back. Therefore I leave you with his classic sax solo from Jungleland. The video below was from 2009. And even at 67 years old as he was in the video, the Big Man nailed the greatest saxophone solo ever written.