- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

TAMPERING VIOLATIONS HARD TO PROVE

Unless Dan Snyder arrived at Morton’s Steakhouse in Indianapolis last month with a contract proposal in hand, it’s going to be difficult for the NFL to determine whether Snyder and the Redskins are guilty of tampering with defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who was still under contract with the Tennessee Titans.

Snyder and agent Chad Speck were spotted having dinner during the NFL scouting combine, and less than a week later Haynesworth was at Redskin Park thanks to a contract that will pay him $32 million in the next 13 months.

The Titans have yet to file a grievance with the NFL office, and all parties have remained silent about the situation.

Speck also represents Redskins receiver Malcolm Kelly, so an easy out for Snyder and Speck is that the topic of the dinner was Kelly’s rehabilitation from offseason knee surgery and his role in the offense this year. According to the tampering rules, an agent reaching out to a team is allowed but not the other way around.

At the combine, Colts general manager Bill Polian essentially said it’s impossible to police negotiations before free agency starts. During the weeklong combine, the agents also hold their meeting in Indianapolis.

“I don’t know if there’s a remedy for it that’s enforceable,” he said. “It just might be human nature.”

Last year, the Chicago Bears filed tampering charges against the San Francisco 49ers for talking to Drew Rosenhaus, the agent for linebacker Lance Briggs. During the 2007 season, the Bears and 49ers discussed a trade for Briggs. The grievance claimed that the 49ers held contract talks with Rosenhaus during the season.

Commissioner Roger Goodell took away the 49ers’ fifth-round pick and switched their third-round pick with the Bears’.

The 49ers were talking to an agent of another team’s player during the season, a clear violation. Even if the Titans follow through on the charge against the Redskins, it would be stunning if the Redskins lost a draft pick.

AROUND THE NFC

• The Redskins’ James Thrash is on his way to Hawaii for the NFL Players Association’s annual meeting. This year’s gathering of the 32 player representatives will produce news: Sunday is the vote for the new executive director. Gene Upshaw held the job for 25 years until his death in August. The four finalists are former players Troy Vincent and Trace Armstrong and lawyers David Cornwell and DeMaurice Smith.

• The Redskins begin their voluntary offseason conditioning Monday, and newcomer Albert Haynesworth is expected to attend. Haynesworth, DeAngelo Hall and Derrick Dockery all have provisions in their contracts requiring them to attend a percentage of the sessions. The Redskins’ only minicamp is scheduled for the weekend after April’s draft.

• It has been a bizarre offseason in Philadelphia. Only five players remain from the 2004 NFC title team; already gone from last year’s team are Brian Dawkins, Tra Thomas, Lito Sheppard, Greg Lewis and Correll Buckhalter. The only notable addition is right tackle Stacy Andrews. Management insists the Eagles are retooling, not rebuilding. The Eagles have two first-round picks (Nos. 21 and 28) and a ton of salary cap space.

AROUND THE AFC

• The Terrell Owens-Shawn Springs competition has moved to the AFC East after stops in the NFC West and NFC East. “I texted him and told him to stop following me around,” said Springs, who signed with New England after Owens went to Buffalo. In 10 head-to-head meetings (five wins for each player), Owens has 47 catches for 592 yards and nine touchdowns; Springs has 40 tackles, 13 pass breakups and two interceptions.

• Much to the dismay of New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, LaDainian Tomlinson will remain in San Diego after he and the Chargers agreed to a reworked three-year contract. Brees wanted to be reunited with Tomlinson, and it could have happened if the contract wasn’t finalized. Tomlinson is due a roster bonus next March, so the Chargers will use 2009 to determine what he has left and whether Darren Sproles can be an every-down back.

• Jacksonville receiver Matt Jones earns Moron of the Week honors. He was arrested last summer on a cocaine charge and served a three-game suspension (he still led the Jaguars with 65 catches). Last month, he violated the conditions of his plea deal by drinking beer during a golf outing. He’s in jail until Sunday and faces more punishment from the league.

INSIDE THE DRAFT

• Alabama left tackle Andre Smith worked out for scouts this week for the first time since his combine debacle. Things didn’t go that well. Although he weighed in at a respectable 325 pounds (down from 332), Smith ran a 5.28 and 5.33 in the 40-yard dash, according to NFL.com, and bench-pressed 225 pounds only 19 times. All of Smith’s numbers would not have ranked among the top 10 at the combine.

• The stock of Maryland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey continues to rise. He ran a 4.30-second 40 at the combine (fastest among receivers), and though he didn’t run during the Terrapins’ pro day Wednesday, he impressed during position drills. On March 23, Heyward-Bey is slated to work out for the Baltimore Ravens; quarterback Joe Flacco will be the passer.

• A Redskins fan Web site — hailredskins.com — is keeping track of mock drafts. So far, the site has 172 links. “Experts” have the Redskins taking a left tackle (Andre Smith, Michael Oher), a linebacker (Clay Matthews, Brian Cushing), a defensive end (Tyson Jackson, Brian Orakpo) or a cornerback (Vontae Davis, Malcolm Jenkins).

FRIDAY’S FIVE “ Intriguing free agents

1. QB Jeff Garcia — How is this guy still on the market? Released by Tampa Bay, he is the only passer available who could start immediately. The Vikings will rue not bringing him in.

2. QB Byron Leftwich — He’s good enough to be a starter, but like Garcia, he has been unable to find a starting job. He is expected to re-sign with Pittsburgh.

3. S Darren Sharper — The Bears need safety help, so this would a perfect landing spot for the Richmond native to play the final few years of his career.

4. CB Ken Lucas — The Panthers released him Wednesday; although he struggled late last year, he would be more than serviceable as a No. 2 or 2a corner.

5. WR Marvin Harrison — In the right situation, he could be productive for at least one more season. Harrison is expected to latch on with a contender before training camp.

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