- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 9, 2007

For the last 10 days, I’ve been all about horse racing, covering the Kentucky Derby for a week in lovely Louisville (where I resisted the urge to have the chicken rings at the nearby White Castle) and then spending the last two days cranking out a horse racing-related story to appear in the Times over the weekend while also looking ahead to the Preakness.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not following the NFL (or anything else). Here are a few mid-week thoughts:

1. The Donovan McNabb-Philadelphia Eagles marriage will not end well

The Eagles passed up a chance to potentially draft Brady Quinn to trade out of the first round and draft Houston quarterback Kevin Kolb, presumably to be groomed as McNabb’s replacement down the road. The Eagles already have A.J. Feeley and Kelly Holcombe on the roster.

Earlier this week, the Eagles’ fine PR department sent out a media schedule for this weekend’s minicamp. It included open locker room sessions, press conferences with Andy Reid and both coordinators and players Brian Dawkins and Takeo Spikes. Interestingly, McNabb was not on the list.

To the surprise of the Eagles, McNabb coordinated his own interview blitz on Tuesday, talking to several Philadelphia-area media outlets. The blitz was coordinated by a recently-fired PR assistant who has been hired by McNabb. Rich Burg was reportedly fired for setting up a McNabb presser after the season — it was cancelled by Reid. Having dealt with Burg a few times over the years, I’ve found him to be very helpful, along with the entire Eagles’ PR staff — in fact, I voted for them this year as the NFL’s best PR department in a survey conducted by the Pro Football Writers Association of America. (Burg was McNabb’s liaison for several years with the Eagles, just like the Redskins will likely have one person handle all of Jason Campbell’s interview requests this season).

Anyway, McNabb told the Philadelphia Inquirer: “Every situation I felt could have been handled the right way, and I don’t think it has [been]. From what has been put out there when I don’t speak to when I do speak, what comes after that, there shouldn’t be a battle of the words I said. … Once I say something, they can take it however they want. That’s the main thing. No matter what I say or how it comes out or how people may perceive it, I can’t control that.”

Reading between the lines: McNabb is ticked that Burg was fired, ticked that they cancelled his press conference after the playoffs, ticked that they drafted Kolb, ticked that they don’t have confidence in his ability to stay healthy.

For once, I agree with the player. McNabb revitalized a putrid franchise and now they’ve drafted a young guy in the second round?

Here’s what I hope happens: As a Vikings fan who is not a fan of Brad Childress, I hope McNabb and Reid have a falling out and McNabb is traded to Minnesota after the upcoming season.

2. Kris Jenkins weighs 384 pounds

The Web site profootbaltalk.com reported today that Carolina defensive tackle Kris Jenkins is now 384 pounds — the team’s website lists him at 335.

If Jenkins is in fact this heavy, his trade value is somewhere between Adam Archuleta and a bag of kicking tees.

A run-stuffing defensive tackle, Jenkins was reportedly on the trade block before the draft. One team in need of defensive tackle help — especially since they didn’t address it during the draft — is the Redskins.

But now any team would be stupid to trade for Jenkins given his weight.

3. Gregg Williams now differentiates between ‘free’ and ‘strong’ safety

The Redskins’ defensive boss said at last weekend’s rookie minicamp that rookie LaRon Landry is the “strong” safety and Sean Taylor is the “free” safety.

The good: Landry is supposed to be a better run stopper than coverage guy and because YouTube is full of him blitzing and crushing the quarterback and blowing up running plays, this is a good thing.

The bad: This will supposedly allow Taylor to make plays on the football and excel in coverage. But during his three NFL seasons, The Grim Reaper has a grand total of seven interceptions in 46 games. Taylor thinks ‘kill shot’ rather than ‘turnover’ and that’s a problem.

The bottom line: Landry will have to be a better player than Taylor for the Redskins to excel in 2007.

4. Sean Taylor/Shawn Springs no-shows at start of Redskins’ OTAs

I stopped trying to figure Taylor out a long time ago. My most amusing Taylor story comes from the 2005 season, after he missed the 36-35 loss at Tampa Bay. The next day, exhausted from working late in Tampa the night before, getting up early the next morning, flying two-and-a-half hours to Dulles and hustling to Redskin Park, I asked Taylor about his ankle.

The conversation went as follows:

Me: “How’s the wheel?”

Taylor: “(Silence but a stare).”

Me: “Was it tough to watch that game?”

Taylor “(Silence but a stare)”

Me: “I’ll take that as a yes.”

Taylor: “What do you think?”

Me: “I think it would be.”

Taylor: (Long pause, stare, long pause stare): “Why don’t people ever ask how I’m doing?”

Me: (Long pause, wondering if I should just walk away): “How ya doing?”

Taylor: “Not bad. What’s up with you?”

Me: “Tired from the flight.”

Taylor: “Oh yeah.”

Me: “Here’s a deal — every time I see you, I’ll ask how you’re doing. Deal?”

Taylor: “Deal”

Throughout the rest of the season, I would say hello and Taylor would say hello back and give me the “pound” greeting. (A few days after the Arizona game later that season, I told him how much my dad — who attended the game in Tempe — liked watching Taylor cover kickoffs and knock somebody’s head off. Taylor laughed and asked about the old man and told him that he said hello.)

That naturally ended last year when he didn’t talk except for after the opening game of the season.

The moral of this story: Who knows why Taylor is a no-show for OTAs. The Redskins have apparently accepted his behavior.

As for Springs, who cares? We know if No. 24 is healthy and on the team, he’ll show up at camp in shape and ready to go.

5. Redskins draft grade is a C

Of the players chosen, I expect only safety Landry to make an impact in his rookie season. I still think they should have taken a defensive tackle but that’s neither here nor there at this point.

Dallas Sartz may turn out to be a serviceable linebacker and Tyler Ecker a blocking tight end and Jordan Palmer a good backup quarterback. But the 2007 Redskins draft hinges entirely on Landry.

6. I’m told the NFL Network’s draft coverage was superior to that of ESPN

I was in New York City for the first round and didn’t hear the sound of either telecast and on Sunday, I was at Redskin Park and heard only a snippet of the commentary provided.

The opinion that the NFL Network was better comes from several friends and family members who watched on Saturday.

The consensus: Mel Kiper Jr., is solid on ESPN but he was overshadowed by Berman, Mortensen, Young and Keyshawn. On the NFL Network, Mike Mayock is allowed to talk.

If this is true, shame on ESPN. These two days are about the draft, not about what will happen during the season. Kiper should get the floor more often than the other pundits.

What the NFL Network should do is make a play for Kiper, team him with Mayock and totally dominate the draft coverage.

7. Guard Joe Andruzzi is on the market

Andruzzi was recently released after two seasons with Cleveland.

Andruzzi, according to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, was set to make $1.5 million in 2007, part of a four-year, $9 million deal he signed before the 2005 season. The left guard is a multi-Super Bowl winner with New England but had knee troubles last year and was released after the Browns signed Eric Steinbach and Seth McKinney.

Andruzzi has said he will wait until he’s healthy to begin taking visits. Although it’s unlikely he would be interested in a reserve position, it’s worth it for the Redskins to call his agent. Todd Wade, a tackle by trade, is the current left guard and it’s uncertain whether he can make the transition.

8. The NHL is 100 times more exciting than the NBA

The Ottawa-Buffalo and Anaheim-Detroit series should be great battles. All four teams are evenly matched. My hotel in Louisville was without Versus so I went a week without watching a game until catching the taut Sabres-Rangers game on Sunday. I’ll take the Sabres and Red Wings in 6.

On the other hand, there is the NBA playoffs. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. And the games that are good — the Western Conference contests — don’t start until 10:45 p.m., and even this night owl rarely makes it to the finish.

9. American Idol winds down

The Final Four — Jordin, LaKisha, Melinda and Blake — each performed two songs Tuesday night. My personal fave is Jordin and yes, I do phone in to vote for her.

The problem that has developed is the mentors invited to participate. Last night it was Barry Gibb of the “Bee Gees.” Stupid. It’s fine making him a mentor but don’t make the contestants perform songs by the “Bee Gees.” Jordin is 17 and wasn’t even alive when they released “Stayin’ Alive.”

That said, my rankings: 1. Jordin; 2. Melinda; 3. LaKisha; 4. Blake. But Blake could survive tonight if he picks up the votes of the departed Chris and edges out LaKisha.

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