Ten camp storylines (cont.)
7) Analyze This III -- Vince Young
He has been enigmatic and bizarre. His work ethic, mental toughness and ability to command respect in an NFL locker room have been questioned. He has vaguely asked for a trade. And this summer, Vince Young lost a friend and surrogate father of sorts in Steve McNair.
Young, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2006 NFL draft, always has found respite and a safe place on the football field. The problem is, he won't see the field in 2009 -- perhaps not even if starter Kerry Collins gets hurt. The Titans have no plans to give the reins of a 13-3 team to a quarterback still lacking the pocket-passing and ball-protection skills necessary for Jeff Fisher's offense.
Young will play out his final season in a Tennessee Titans uniform holding a clipboard and wearing a ball cap. Given the salary and roster bonus escalations in 2010, the Titans would face a salary cap figure of $14 million after this season if they choose to keep Young. They won't.
How the one-time cover boy handles rejection could go a long way toward determining the kind of season the Titans have. We'll begin seeing signs during camp as pressure mounts and reporters hover. Young has not handled it well in the past, going MIA last season, causing Fisher and the Titans to worry about his health.
The Titans did not give Collins a two-year, $15 million contract to sit the bench. And backup Patrick Ramsey is perhaps the next-best option, should Collins have to miss action.
The last thing the Super Bowl-hungry Titans need is a distraction. Keep an eye on VY.
8) The "Bill Brian Shanagruden" Effect
There always are NFL head coaches on the hot seat during training camp. It is as much a training camp ritual as rookies singing their college fight songs in the chow hall. But this year it's especially likely that a great number of coaches already are looking over their shoulders as much as looking forward to the season. And for good reason.
Never have so many proven head coaches with thick Super Bowl resumes sat out a season: Bill Cowher. Brian Billick. Mike Holmgren. Mike Shanahan. Jon Gruden. Owners with itchy, you're-fired trigger fingers surely have taken note of the proven coaching commodities out there in 2009, if the urge strikes. And keep in mind, NFL owners haven't always been the most patient folks.
Add to the mix that up to 10 coaches, arguably, stand on shaky ground entering the season, and you've got yourself what promises to be a volatile year for NFL coaches. How long until the first rumor starts in Washington, Dallas, Buffalo, Minnesota, Cincinnati, Chicago, Green Bay or some other NFL locale that a Gruden or Cowher or Billick is on the owner's radar?
Some probably have started already.
9) Albert Haynesworth = fat and rich? Or Redskins will feast?
It happens all the time. A superstar talent gets superstar free-agent money and then it's all gravy from there. Usually, production and motivation plummets. In Albert Haynesworth's case, the concern is, perhaps it literally will be all gravy.
At 6-6, 320-pounds, Haynesworth was the league's biggest offseason ticket in so many ways. Ultimately, he earned a seven-year, $100 million contract from the Redskins, with $41 million of it guaranteed. Now comes the tricky part. Jim Zorn, whose job status is iffy anyway, must find a way to keep Haynesworth motivated and flying straight. If he can't, then the Redskins will falter and Zorn will be fired. Simple as that.
How Haynesworth looks coming into Redskins training camp and the motor with which he plays could be key to finding out what kind of impact he will have in 2009.
Making matters more complicated is Haynesworth's penchant for being less than a reliable character on the field or off of it. He has been fined and suspended for things like stepping on an opposing player's head and kicking a teammate in the chest. He's had a number of traffic offenses.
There are some in the Titans' organization who were not altogether distraught over losing the free-agent battle. Until his free-agent season, Haynesworth had earned a reputation for not always taking every snap seriously. With this guy, you get a mixed bag of greatness and frustration.
Phat Albert? Or Fat Albert? That's the question.
10) Honeymoon at Niagara Falls? Or T.O. falls off the cliff?
Terrell Owens will be 36 this season and already has proven that the first thing to go is the hands. Owens spent much of the offseason dropping the ball.
First, T.O. was punked on national television by a 125-pound runway model. "[He] calls himself an athlete?" Joanna Krupa said on the Superstars competition. "What does he get paid millions of do?"
Then, on something called The T.O. Show, he put on a performance that made Paul Blart: Mall Cop look Oscar-worthy.
If we know nothing else about the man, it is that a Terrell Owens reality show is the ultimate in oxymorons. But the fans keep showing up. Already, big crowds have attended Buffalo Bills training camp practices.
Owens will be a huge part of what the Bills accomplish in 2009, for better or worse. Dick Jauron's job could well rest in Owens' hands, and that is anything but a comforting thought.
Even surrounded by great talent with the Cowboys last season, Owens was a disruptive, underachieving force. He had exactly two games of more than 100 yards receiving. He had 10 games of less than 70 yards.
This Buffalo experiment has all the markings of a complete and utter failure. But it's still bound to be the best TV performance Owens will offer all year.
Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
NFL Truth & Rumors