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Jun 27

Tragic Friday: AFC North Roundup Edition

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Although it may sound cliched, Cleveland Reboot would like to offer its condolences to all of the people around the country and world who suffered a great loss yesterday…It’s so devastating when such talent and inspiration is lost. Yes, we are all equally saddened by the sudden demise…of NFL minicamps across the country. But, if we may add a note of optimism, just remember – training camp is only a little more than a month away.

In the meantime, enjoy some Friday links…

Jurevicius Files Civil Suit

Looks like someone’s not happy.

The suit claims that the Browns and their team physicians failed to warn Jurevicius that sterile techniques were not at all times used at the Browns training facility in Berea; that therapy devices passed among multiple individuals, including Browns players, were not properly maintained and/or cleaned, if at all; and that community equipment and frequently used surfaces were not properly cleaned, if at all.

Jurevicius, a former star at Lake Catholic High School, maintains that he contracted staph in his knee because he was not warned and because Browns staff members did not tell the truth about maintenance and cleaning of the Browns facility.

Obviously, there have been some major issues regarding the Browns and staph infections over the past several years. It seems a player is literally putting their life at risk when undergoing a routine procedure. But the language involved in Jurevicius’ suit makes the Clinic look like a third-world makeshift refugee hospital. I kept reading waiting to see if the doctors were accused of chain-smoking in the cardiac unit.

Although the suit appears a little extreme, it is probably not too far from the truth, based on several other Browns who have received dangerous infections, as well as considering Jurevicius’ character and local ties.

“I wanted to play out my career for my hometown team. I hate that it all came down to this, especially over something preventable. But this problem goes beyond me — it touches every player who trusts what they are told about the care they are being offered. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all the support I’ve received from the fans over the past few years. It’s really helped me through a difficult time in my life.”

It remains to be seen what type of financial settlement Jurevicius may receive in the case. Also, it’s difficult to determine whether Jurevicius could have contributed for another couple seasons if he did not suffer a serious infection after the 2007 season. Regardless of the result of the civil suit, hopefully the situation at the Clinic in relation to the Browns will be resolved, before more players suffer the same fate as Jurevicius.

And while wishing the Steelers would send some of their players to the Clinic…

Lombardi on Steelers’ O-Line

Former G.M. Mike Lombardi weighs in on the Steelers re-signing of Max Starks and the overall depth of the Pittsburgh O-line. First, the Starks’ re-signing either proves the Steelers are among the league’s elite in terms of financial responsibility, or Starks has proven himself to be one of the dumbest players in the game. Although Starks just signed a long-term deal, he could have made more guaranteed money by accepting a franchise tag. Now, the Steelers will have the leverage to release Starks in the next couple seasons, freeing up immediate cap room in the process.

Lombardi goes on to echo something that I have said for months…the Steelers traditionally strong offensive line is now among the worst in the league…yet it really doesn’t matter.

Now, I don’t have anything against Max Starks or any of the Steelers’ offensive linemen, but their little group last year destroyed a theory I had believed for most of my NFL career. I have tremendous respect for their team, their coaching staff and their whole organization. They were the best team in the NFL in 2008 and deserved to win the Super Bowl. I say that as a backdrop to this column. It’s just that I have questions about their offensive line in terms of talent level.

The theory or principles are very simple: Offensive and defensive lines matter the most. Teams that make the final four in the NFL, in essence the conference championship games, must have at least seven of the 10 offensive and defensive linemen (I count a fifth defensive lineman as a starter, most likely a nickel rusher) graded in the top 15 at their positions. The Steelers had no offensive lineman make that mark, yet they won the whole thing. Does this kill my theory? Does this make me head back to the drawing board? Alternatively, does this mean all my evaluations of the Steelers linemen are wrong?


For all of the hard-hat wearing, Jerome Bettis worshipping Steeler fans out there, first of all…yes, you won a championship last year. However, the sole basis of the Steelers’ title was a result of the gradual transformation of the NFL into a flag football league. Consider that the Steelers’ rushing attack in 2008 was incredibly average and Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked an unhealthy 139 times in the past three seasons combined, and it is remarkable that the Steelers even made the playoffs, let alone won a Super Bowl last year.

The hands-off policy that has been forced onto pass defenders has helped elevate the Steelers’ passing attack to a level higher than its actual talent would suggest. Add in the fact that the Steelers play a defensive style that is far more aggressive than most offenses face, and the team has identified the blueprint for acheiving success in the post-modern version of the NFL. After all, the Steelers’ play-caller is none other than fancy free, former Browns offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.

Not exactly blue collar…but in times like these…

And if we could only go back in time…Terrell Suggs could be a Brown…

Suggs Close to Long-Term Deal

Ravens defensive end/linebacker Terrell Suggs is spending his second year under the franchise tag. Next March, he’ll either be an unrestricted free agent or he’ll receive a franchise tender worth the average of the five highest-paid players in the entire league.

Long before it comes to that, however, Suggs could be getting a long-term deal.

“I feel like we’re getting close,” Suggs tells the web site operated by the entity that could soon be paying him huge money. “Negotiations are going on with the Ravens. Fans can be optimistic that I’ll be [at training camp].”

Although I’m slightly encouraged by the direction the Browns seem to be taking under Eric Mangini, I can’t help but think what could have been in Cleveland. Thinking back to the 2006 free-agent bonanza in Cleveland, which included the likes of LeCharles Bentley, Dave Zastudil, Joe Jurevicius and Kevin Shaffer, another name who was close to being added to the list was former Raven and current Jet, Bart Scott.

Based on his ties with Baltimore’s coaching staff, former G.M. Phil Savage almost landed Scott, who could have provided the Browns with the toughness, athleticism and leadership desired in a middle linebacker. The face of the defense would have immediately changed, as well as the direction the team took in the 2006 draft. Although I appreciate D’Quell Jackson’s play, the arrival of Scott could have sent the Browns down another path in Round 2 of the draft, netting a player such as Maurice Jones-Drew, Marcus McNeill or Bernard Pollard.

Adding to the intrigue could have been the possible arrival of Terrell Suggs at the outside rush linebacker spot, again considering Savage’s Baltimore ties, along with some recruiting from Scott. Regardless of Kamerion Wimbley’s presence on the roster, adding a true pass rusher like Suggs could have created a dynamic on the defense not seen since the days of Chip Banks and Clay Mathews. And in a further attempt at revisionist history, it would not be a stretch to imagine Phil Savage hanging on long enough to bring in a new coach, such as Rex Ryan, to run the team.

However, what’s done is done…

And speaking of the future…

Facebook for Football Players

The Hudl [Pro] has been around for a while now but it is beginning to become part of the latest trend in Pro Football and it’s quickly gaining steam. In addition to Gang Green using the new technology, the Browns have also begun to use this innovative concept that will change the way players communicate and learn the playbook. It must be good, Favre was quoted on it.

“Hudl is really quick, easy to access, and really easy to use. Things that you could only do here at the facility you can do just as quickly from home.” – Brett Favre, QB.

What exactly is the Hudl? Well it is simply the designated team’s playbook without the overwhelming laminated papers and bags of film. Back in 2006, three students from Nebraska developed Hudl which encompasses the teams entire playbook and film into an online library [which includes IM and a calendar] to which players can access within the comfort of their own home. With the teams being able to ‘hand out’ the material to incoming rookies, the rooks show up with the knowledge of all things [insert team name here].

This sounds so simple, yet for a league that has grown into an almost year-round cycle of activity, the Hudl makes perfect sense, especially when considering the instant impact most rookies are now expected to provide. For an obsessive, type A head coach and quarterback, which the Browns now possess (not you, DA…go back to sleep), the Hudl could be the gift that keeps on giving.

Keep an eye out for more news regarding the Hudl. In the 24/7 culture of the NFL, I think this could really catch on. Also, I cannot wait for the stories that will come out the first time Mangini and Belichick try to illegally download another team’s playbook, or when Santonio Holmes decides to show the entire world his manhood…again. Plus, imagine the hilarity when Shuan Smith accidentally swallows his Hudl.

What a tragedy…training camp can’t get here soon enough.

Cleveland Reboot is an SJ contributor, be sure and check out his site

clevelandreboot.com

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