Around The NFL: News, Notes & Rumors
Michael Vick (Getty)
Michael Vick (Getty)
Posted Aug 30, 2011
Brad Wilbricht

Michael Vick received a hefty new contract extension, rookie Cam Newton will get his second straight start against Pittsburgh, Cedric Benson was sentenced to jail time in Texas, Peyton Manning’s injury status is heading in the right direction and much more inside.

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Eagles reward Vick with $100M deal

Michael Vick’s redemption story just got even sweeter.

The once banned quarterback has agreed to a six-year, $100 million contract. The Associated Press and ESPN are reporting the deal includes $40 million in guaranteed money.

Despite his checkered past, Vick must be commended on his return to prominence after being set back by an 18-month prison term for his involvement in an illegal dog-fighting operation.

Eagles coach Andy Reid was a primary supporter after news of the contract extension was released, praising Vick for the hard work he’s put in since returning to football last season.

"I'm very happy we were able to reach an agreement with Michael on this long-term contract," said Reid. "I'm very proud that he has been able to achieve success again in this league, but he'll be the first one to tell you that there is a lot of work yet to be done by him and this team as a whole.”

With Vick’s contract behind him, the Pro Bowl quarterback can now focus on leading his team in what appears to be a Super Bowl or bust season in Philadelphia.

Analysis: Despite his past, Vick’s approval rating has to be at an all-time high. The Eagles traded Kevin Kolb to Arizona earlier this offseason and have now invested in Vick to be the cornerstone of the franchise for years to come. Of course, things could come crashing down in a hurry if the Eagles falter after making a flurry of high-profile acquisitions this offseason.

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Newton to get second straight start against Steelers

QB Cam Newton will start the preseason finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but coach Ron Rivera held off again on naming him the starter for the Sept. 11 regular-season opener at Arizona.

However, Newton is expected to start against the Cardinals barring an injury.

"The big thing I think is to continue to see how he handles everything," Rivera said when asked what might keep Newton from starting. "We have to really study him and watch him and make sure he's progressing in the right direction. This is a very sincere thing for us. We just don't want to say, 'You're the guy,' and walk away from it and go from there. At the same we want him to understand that he is working toward being our guy."

Analysis: As expected, Newton has struggled throwing the ball in the preseason but has shown flashes of his ability. Despite those struggles, Newton has managed to make plays with his legs and is expected to be Carolina’s starting quarterback in the regular-season opener.

Bengals’ Benson to serve 20 days in jail

RB Cedric Benson was excused from practices this week as received his sentence for 20 days in jail for assault in a May 2010 incident.

The trial was originally supposed to take place in June but was delayed at the request of Benson's lawyers when they received new evidence from prosecutors. Benson is accused of punching an employee at an Austin bar and could have been sentenced to up to a year in jail.

Despite having to go to Austin to do time, Benson will only miss a handful of practices and isn’t expected to miss any games. This would require good behavior, which of course is no guarantee given Benson’s past.

Analysis: Benson’s 20-day jail sentence has been a long time coming as the troubled running back had multiple run-ins with the law. As long as Benson displays good behavior his sentence is expected to be reduced to just one week – meaning he would miss minimal practice time and no games.

Manning hoping to play in season opener

QB Peyton Manning is continuing to work his way through rehab and is still hoping to be available for the Colts' Sept. 11 season opener at Houston. "I'm right in the middle of (rehabbing). I'm working very hard every single day. I have some more (work) left to do. I still have some time (before the Sept. 11 season opener)," Manning said. "At the appropriate time, I think I'll know what the right decision is with the help of coach (Jim) Caldwell and the doctors."

Analysis: Much has been made about Manning’s neck injury throughout the entire offseason but it finally appears the iron-man quarterback is ready to get back in action. There’s still a chance that Manning will miss the regular-season opener but things are certainly headed in the right direction.

Wayne supports Colts’ backup QB

WR Reggie Wayne continues to be an outspoken supporter of backup QB Curtis Painter. "I'll tell you one thing. I'm letting it all hang out for Painter. Like I said before training camp, I'm a Painter fan. I'm going to do what I've got to do to make Painter look good," Wayne said. "Nothing against Kerry (Collins). I know him very well, I know he's a good guy. As a matter of fact, I think he's a great guy. That's fine. But I still know Curtis Painter and I'm all about getting better."

Analysis: Given the Colts’ hefty invested in veteran QB Kerry Collins, it’s unlikely that Painter sees much playing time if Manning ends up missing time. It’s good to see, however, that the team’s top receiver has confidence in Painter, just in case.

Revis not buying Dolphins’ CB duo

CB Darrelle Revis was asked about Miami CB Vontae Davis proclaiming himself and teammate Sean Smith as the best cornerback tandem in the NFL.

"Check the film," Revis said, according to Newsday. "He's gotta play a couple more years before he be saying all of that."

Revis, of course, considers himself and Antonio Cromartie to be the best cornerback duo in the league.

"They're a good tandem. But they've got a lot of work to do," said Revis, who is friends with both Dolphins' CBs. who was in contact with both Miami defensive backs during the lockout. "The film don't lie. You can say what you want to say. You can say the sky's red. But it ain't red. That's just what it is. We know how we play and we know what we do on the field."

Analysis: Revis shouldn’t even waste his breath responding to Davis’ remarks. Everyone across the NFL knows the Jets’ duo of Revis and Cromartie is tops in the league by a substantial margin.

Packers’ Rodgers top-rated QB in preseason

QB Aaron Rodgers went into the final week of the preseason as the top-rated passer in the NFL with a rating of 126.3. His numbers of 34-of-43 passing for 375 yards and three touchdowns without an interception in three games may not change since there's a possibility head coach Mike McCarthy will hold Rodgers out of the final exhibition game, Thursday against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Analysis: No surprise here as Rodgers continues to be one of the top signal callers in the league. The Packers continue to supply Rodgers with weapons on the offensive side of the ball and the 2011 campaign could end up being his best year to date.

Starks pushing Grant for starting job in Green Bay

RB James Starks returned after missing the Aug. 19 game because of an ankle sprain. Starks worked in a rotation with veteran Ryan Grant as the lead back with the starting group for the entire first half of Friday's game. Starks had just one carry for two yards, but he tied Jordy Nelson for the team lead with five receptions that went for 38 yards as the young back played a prominent role in the Packers' no-huddle and as their third-down back.

Analysis: Green Bay is committed to getting Starks involved in the offensive gameplan this year and there have even been reports that Starks could overtake Grant as the team’s featured back.

Raiders’ McFadden back in practice

RB Darren McFadden returned to practice, recovered from a fractured left eye socket and immediately energized practice.

"He can do everything," backup running back Rock Cartwright said. "He pass protects, he runs over guys, he makes people miss. You can put him at wide receiver."

Playing in 13 games last season, McFadden rushed for 1,157 yards, averaged 5.2 yards per carry, caught 47 passes for 507 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. Veteran running back Michael Bennett compares McFadden to recent Hall of Fame inductee Marshall Faulk.

"He hasn't had the numbers that a Marshall Faulk has had because he's still young and his career is in its early stages, but you can line this guy up anywhere and it's a mismatch and a home run," Bennett said. "His skills are unbelievable."

McFadden has no plans on saying "I told you so" after his first two seasons were slowed by injury and there were whispers of being a draft bust.

"I kind of let that roll of my shoulder because I know what I can do," McFadden said.

Analysis: There’s no question McFadden is one of the most explosive running backs in the NFL. There are questions, however, about his durability and his ability to stay on the field for an entire season. Health permitting, 2011 could be a true breakout year for McFadden.

Bills sign Williams to extension

DT Kyle Williams, the Bills lone Pro Bowl player a year ago, was rewarded with a six-year contract extension worth a reported $17 million in guaranteed money.

How did Williams, 28, pay the Bills back? By going out a day later and recording a sack, three tackles and a batted pass in Buffalo's preseason game against Jacksonville.

A fifth-round pick out of LSU in 2006, Williams is one of the few bright spots in Buffalo's embarrassing record in the college draft over the past decade. Williams had two years left on a deal averaging $3.6 million but Buffalo's front office wanted to tie him up longer term while rewarding him for his play.

"This guy was a fifth rounder that is all about production, and that's why it's a huge event for us," GM Buddy Nix said. "He exemplifies what we're looking for in a player."

Williams could've played out his contract and entered the free agent market but made it clear he wanted to remain a Bill for the long haul.

"I said that this is where I wanted to be, that I wanted to see it through, what we had started here and I meant that," he said. Williams thanked his wife, Jill. "I can't do a lot of things I get to do if it wasn't for her," he said.

Analysis: The Bills haven’t had many bright spots of late, but Williams is unquestionably near the top of the list. After Williams outplayed his original deal as a fifth-round draft pick, Buffalo took the initiative and restructured his contract.

Leftwich out for year with broken arm

QB Byron Leftwich was having a good preseason when his upper left arm was broken in his first series of the third preseason game Saturday night against the Atlanta Falcons. He will go on injured reserve and Charlie Batch will make the team and could leap over Dennis Dixon to become the top backup to Ben Roethlisberger.

It's been a long, sad history of injuries for Leftwich, once the franchise quarterback in Jacksonville. He was plagued with ankle injuries in Jacksonville, where he last played in 2006, a season that ended on injured reserve. He had another ankle injury in 2007 with the Falcons.

He was set to open the 2010 season as the Steelers' starter during Ben Roethlisberger's four-game suspension, but a knee injury prompted them to turn to Dixon and then Batch through those four games.

Analysis: One way or another, the Steelers seem to be always dealing with quarterback issues. As long as Big Ben stays healthy, Pittsburgh’s offense will be just fine and Dixon provides some sort of insurance off the bench.

Panthers’ Beason has surgery, might miss Week 1

LB Jon Beason had foot surgery this past Monday to alleviate inflammation in the bone. Although doctors said there is a three-four-week recovery process with the surgery, Beason has his sights set on returning to practice next week so he'll be ready for the Arizona Cardinals.

"I feel pretty good and I want to be moving pretty fast mid next week and hopefully I will be ready for the Cardinals," said Beason, who has started 64 straight games since joining the Panthers as a first-round draft pick in 2007.

Beason faces a tough road ahead in many ways.

"The biggest thing I'm worried about now is conditioning," Beason said. "But I have to take on that challenge and do mental reps as I've been doing (to learn the defense) and hopefully it sticks in my mind."

The Panthers medical staff originally thought Beason had Achilles tendinitis and they treated it as such.

When he didn't respond to treatment, he underwent a second MRI, which revealed the problem wasn't tissue-related but rather inflammation in the bone. It was determined the best course of action was surgery, which meant draining the fluid and inserting three screws to help strengthen the bone. If this were the offseason Beason said the screws would have been removed, but they will stay in with the season so close.

"I'm excited because it's a means to an end," Beason said. "We found the problem and thus far it looks like there's a solution."

Beason said two months is the longest he's ever gone without running. "Being active, I think that's the game," Beason said. "Being in great shape allows you to make plays."

Benson was also arrested last month for assault after an early morning incident in Austin involving an ex-roommate. That could put him under possible disciplinary action from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, but Benson said last week that he had not received a letter from Goodell about meeting him in New York.

Analysis: In the loaded NFC South division, the Panthers cannot afford the setback of losing Beason. It appears, however, that Beason will miss at least a portion of the season either due to injury of his recent arrest on assault charges.

Bucs’ Talib avoids suspension

CB Aqib Talib was informed Saturday by the NFL he won't face a suspension "at this time." Talib, who is to stand trial in March on charges of assault with a deadly weapon in Texas, said he was relieved not to start a second straight season on the bench. He was suspended for a conduct policy violation in 2010. "I'm happy it's over with," said Talib, who received word of the decision before Saturday's 17-13 preseason victory against the Dolphins, adding that it was a "big burden off my shoulders."

Talib said he gave Goodell the "rundown on what really happened" and his lawyer presented information "he really didn't know about."

General manager Mark Dominik said while he supported Goodell's decision, he isn't pleased with Talib's situation.

"I don't want have to deal with these kinds of things," Dominik said. "And again, I think Aqib and our football team knows that's not the kind of team we want to be here and build here. We want to be a team our community sits around and is really proud of. So I'm not relieved because I don't want to be in these situations anymore. But the truth is, this is America and he's getting his opportunity."

Analysis: Stress the NFL’s reply that Talib won’t be suspended “at this time.” Pending his trial next March things could look a whole lot different and a whole lot worse.

Titans’ Britt also avoids punishment

WR Kenny Britt found out this week that the NFL won't suspend or fine him for his three off-field incidents that took place during the lockout.

That means Britt is free to play without fear of missing time. Now, the question that lingers is how soon will Britt be healthy enough to do just that?

"I'm happy it's resolved. It's behind me now, and I've got 100 percent of my mind on football and opening the season," Britt said. "I hope I don't get any letters or calls or anything from (commissioner Roger Goodell) ever again, unless it's, 'Good job on the field.'"

Coach Mike Munchak said the news should give the wide receiver some sort of sense of relief now that the matter is completely behind him.

"I think that gives him some relief to know that if he is healthy that nothing else will stand in the way of him playing," Munchak said.

Now the question for the Titans becomes how to get Britt healthy. Britt missed a good part of training camp and has also missed all three preseason games thus far with a nagging hamstring injury that about a week ago appeared to beget a quadriceps injury.

The hamstring has been problematic for Britt since last year when he suffered a tear that sidelined him for five weeks. He reinjured it just before the lockout ended when he was running at a local field in his native New Jersey to stay in shape.

Britt has been slowly improving and has returned to practice. But the plan is for Britt to finally see action for a little bit in the preseason finale against the New Orleans Saints and then hope that the talented wide receiver is well enough to be close to full strength by the time the season opener arrives on Sept. 11 in Jacksonville.

"Hopefully, if things go well with Kenny, we'll see how he is for playing. And even if he does play, it's going to be limited. It's not like we're going to get a lot of work with him and the quarterback in this game," Munchak said.

Analysis: Britt dodged a bullet here and must prove he’s capable of keeping his nose clean off the field. On the field, Britt has a chance to be a breakout performer.

Jenkins expects to bounce back from season-ending injury

DE Jarvis Jenkins will spend his rookie year on injured reserve after tearing the ACL in his right knee while trying to tackle Baltimore running back Ray Rice on a cutback run.

"(Jarvis) is everything you look in a person and everything you look for as a football player," coach Mike Shanahan said. "It always hurts to lose a potential great player like that. ... It's always hard to replace one of those big guys because it's hard to find them on the street."

Jenkins, who had started the past two games at left end in place of veteran Adam Carriker, who returned on Aug. 27 after missing the past two games with blisters on his heels, was in line to be Washington's top reserve end. Former starter Kedric Golston now assumes that role with fringe performer Darrion Scott the fourth end, at least until other teams make their cuts.

"I'm gonna work harder than I've ever worked to get back I love this game too much," Jeknins tweeted.

Analysis: A tough break for Jenkins, who was in line to make an impact for the Redskins as a rookie. It’s good to see Jenkins morale is still up and his desire to come back as an even better player next season.

Hightower to be lead back in Washington?

RB Tim Hightower scored on a 37-yard touchdown at Baltimore. Hightower, who had a 59-yard touchdown the week before at Indianapolis, is averaging a team-high 6.8 yards per carry and is three yards behind rookie Roy Helu (173-170) for the team lead on 10 fewer carries. Ryan Torain, last year's starter, practiced on Aug. 26 for the first time since breaking his left hand on Aug. 3, and will play Thursday against Tampa Bay.

Analysis: Hightower has taken the reigns to be the Redskins’ feature back this season but won’t be able to get comfortable with the options behind him. When healthy, Torain is a serviceable back and Washington sees a lot of upside in Helu.

Information from the Sports Xchange was used in this report

Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at

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