Antonio Bryant: What a stupid signing.
One NFL medical person -- don't want to be too specific -- told me Sunday that the injury that is apparently plaguing fired Cincinnati wideout Antonio Bryant could be Chondral Defect of the knee. "If you're not looking for it, you won't find it,'' this official said. "It's a long-term knee problem that won't go away.'' The ailment refers to a complicated cartilage injury to the knee. Whether that's the exact injury plaguing Bryant or not, it's incredible that a team investigating a free-agent wide receiver who missed most of 2009 with a knee problem would have passed him on the physical this year, handed him a four-year, $28 million contract, and then watched as he practiced one time all summer in training camp before cutting him Sunday.
I'm stunned the Bengals passed Bryant on his physical, then handed him $7.85 million in guarantees. Stunned. Whether the Bengals have good players in reserve at wide receiver -- they do -- is not the point. Wasting millions on a player clearly not ready to play is.
In the past two years, the Bengals have signed two veteran receivers to deals averaging $7 million a year. Laveranues Coles gave them a year. Antonio Bryant didn't make it out of his first August with the team. Good thing they've got the draft, because Jermaine Gresham (first round) should be an impact tight end for them and Jordan Shipley (third round) is set to be a solid slot guy. And they got Terrell Owens cheap. He'll probably start alongside Chad Ochocinco. I just can't figure out why they blew it two years in a row on receivers no other teams were very interested in.
Adalius Thomas: "I'm definitely not done. I definitely want to play.''
So when I was in Jets camp earlier this month, I got the distinct impression from Rex Ryan that the Jets were interested in Adalius Thomas, and he had no interest in them. Or anyone. The Jets reached out and got no interest in return. So on Saturday, when a Twitter follower asked me about it, I responded that the Jets thought Thomas had no interest in playing.
Since I'd lost my phone in May, there went Thomas' number somewhere at the bottom of the Potomac (or somewhere in D.C.), and it wasn't 'til Saturday afternoon that I heard from him.
"That is ridiculous,'' he said. "If they called me, I'd definitely call them back. All I know is [GM] Mike Tannenbaum called my agent [Bus Cook] a couple of days ago and they're interested in maybe doing something with me -- but not until after the first game of the season.''
The prospect of that didn't thrill Thomas, for obvious reasons. If a veteran is on a team's roster in Week 1, he's guaranteed his salary for the season. If a player signs in Week 2, a team can cut him at any time and be obligated only for whatever the guaranteed portion of the contract there is.
Thomas told me he and Rex Ryan did speak this weekend, and though nothing was remotely imminent, he hoped to sign with the Jets. He had good success under Ryan, the former Baltimore defensive coordinator, as a utility kind of player -- he played all over the defense, covering the former Chad Johnson in 2005 in a Baltimore-Cincinnati game. But in New England, he never found a niche in three years and clashed with Bill Belichick. In his three seasons, he forced two fumbles and had 14.5 sacks. Not the impact New England wanted in return for its investment.
"I don't know if teams are scared off about me now or if I've been blackballed,'' Thomas said. "I do think there're teams out there I'd be a good fit for -- the Jets especially.''
Stafon Johnson: "God don't put nothin' on my plate I can't eat.''
"Don't feel sorry for me,'' Stafon Johnson said over the phone from the Titans trainers' room the other day. "My story's not a sob story.''
Sure seems it to me. Last September, the USC running back was lifting weights in the football program's weight room, and a bar with 275 pounds in the bench press came crashing down on his neck. His larynx was crushed. If not for the football strength in his neck, the bar might have broken it. But he survived, and the former mid-round prospect got a free-agent invitation to Titans camp this year. Coach Jeff Fisher, a Trojan himself, was so excited for the first preseason game this year, in Seattle, that he conferenced with the game officials before the game and told them he wanted to be sure that after the first carry of the game by Johnson, the officials took the ball out of play and sent it to the Tennessee sideline. "After all the kid has been through, I want him to have that ball,'' Fisher told the crew.
Johnson made a nifty move on his first carry midway through the second quarter, gaining six. The ball was tossed to the sideline, put in an equipment box by the Titans. Late in the third quarterback, he caught a pass and tried to get away from two Seahawks, and he was tackled, and his leg twisted awkwardly.
"I don't remember too much.'' Johnson said. "But I looked down and my knee was facing coach Fish, and my foot toward the pylon. I figured I was in trouble.''
He broke his leg and dislocated his ankle. His first thought, he said, was "Why? Why now?'' But he said that by the end of the night, "I was thanking God that I was here. I went from being almost deceased to being in the NFL, playing in an NFL game.''
When the team gathered in the locker room, Fisher spoke. "Life's not fair sometimes,'' he said, and he went on to tell the players about the ball he had for Johnson, and he told his players to go into the trainers room and be with Johnson.
"We're not getting rid of him,'' said Fisher, though Johnson was waived injured, then placed on injured-reserved for the season. "He had very successful surgery, and he'll be back with us next year in camp. I expect him to have a good shot.''
That he should. He'll only have all of America rooting for him.
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