NFL Alphabet Preview

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NFL Alphabet Preview

With another weekend of football on tap, it's time for the latest edition the Alphabet NFL Preview.

This week we're sponsored by Smoking Jay Cutler, unwritten rules and Jim Harbaugh's famous special guests.

A is for AWOL

It was reported this week that offensive lineman Brian Waters actually turned down a significant raise from the Patriots, in favor of the indent on his couch. On one hand, this has quieted those who especially in light of the Welker mess had resorted back on the old Belichick is cheap! mantra. And thats always nice.

But the other hand, it makes one thing very clear: Bill Belichick really wanted Waters back in the mix. After all, Belichick is cheap. By nature, hes a very frugal dude. That doesnt mean that hes unwilling to dish out the big bucks when he has to. But its only when he absolutely has to.

In this case, it's obvious that Belichick thought that he had to which probably says something about his feelings on this offensive line.

B is for Blood Alcohol Level

Theres something twisted about drunken Michael Turner getting pulled over for going 97 in a 65 MPH zone. Michael Turner? Speeding? Shouldnt he have been busted for something that's a little more his pace? You know, like driving an army tank through the corn fields of rural Georgia? Or for getting drunk and violently somersaulting into a group of people at the a crowded bar?

NFL Alphabet Quiz: With his pre-DUI touchdown on Monday, Turner has now scored at least one rushing TD in eight straight seasons. Can you name the five other active RBs who, coming into this year, have at least one rushing TD in every season since 2005.

Answer: Willis McGahee and Frank Gore. Steven Jackson, Ronnie Brown and Brandon Jacobs
C is for Consecutive

Peyton Manning never won consecutive games as a rookie. He didn't win consecutive games until Week 6 of his second season. Of course, as soon has he won two in a row, he rattled off 11 straight, but that's not my point. He never won consecutive games as a rookie! And since we have to compare everything he did as a rookie to what Andrew Luck is doing now, I'll point out that on Sunday against Jacksonville, Luck has a chance to do something that his predecessor never did.

And he'll take the field as a three-point favorite.

D is for Durability

Not a word you'd typically associate with Reggie Bush. In fact, when Tony Sparano named Reggie his featured back last season in Miami, the joke was that Bush wouldn't last 16 carries never mind 16 games. (It wasn't a very funny joke). Well, he played 15 games, and put up his first 200 carry and 1,000 yard season. Through two games this season, he's on pace for 300 carries and nearly 2,000 yards, and while only a heavy helping of bath salts would make you believe that he'll maintain those numbers, the days of questioning Bush's ability to carry a full load are more distant than the Dolphins playoff chances.

Honestly, though. It's amazing what you can accomplish after dropping a Kardashian from your roster. I'm already excited for Kanye first post-breakup album.

NFL Alphabet Quiz: Name the only active running back with more career receptions than Reggie Bush (346)?

Answer: Stephen Jackson (373)
E is for Empty

There are only two match-ups this week between undefeated teams. The first will be in Arizona, where the Cardinals host the Eagles. The second is in San Diego, where no one gives a crap.

If you haven't heard, Sunday's game between the 2-0 Chargers and the 2-0 Falcons will be blacked out in the San Diego area. This after ticket sales were so low that the NFL didn't even grant the Chargers the customary 24-hour extension.

The good news for San Diego? Since 2010, the Chargers are 5-0 in home blackout games.

The Bad news? Right here.

F is for Flop

You imagine the atmosphere was pretty somber in Oakland this week in the aftermath of last Sunday's embarrassment against Miami. Starting center Stefen Wisniewski spoke with the Oakland media about one particular practice session:

"It's not a fun meeting," Wisniewski said. "You don't want to have too many meetings like that, with the whole team sitting, watching, watching an ugly film."

Man, so uncool of Dennis Allen to make his players sit through The Dictator.

G is for Gloom

Bills vs. Browns, does any other word (that won't get me fired) come to mind?

Actually, no wait. CJ Spiller vs. Trent Richardson? This might be fun now. This might be the only time in NFL history that someone outside of Buffalo and Cleveland is excited to watch a BuffaloCleveland game.

Just cover your eyes on passing plays. Like your grandma always said: Too much Weeden and Fitzpatricking can make you go blind.

H is for Hail Mary

There's been a lot of speculation this season about Peyton Manning's arm strength, and that speculation got a swift kick in the ass this week when it was revealed that, had the Broncos needed a Hail Mary pass at the end of Monday's loss in Atlanta, back up QB Brock Osweilier would have gotten the call.

"I was going in for the Hail Mary," Osweilier told the Denver Post. "I'm not sure what the dividing line was as far as me going in, but I was getting ready to go in."

Osweilier continued . . .

But the reporters had already left to go find Manning.

NFL Alphabet Quiz: Can you name the only three players in NFL history to throw a touchdown pass for Peyton Manning's team in a game started by Peyton Manning?

Hint: If you get this one, you either cheated or your Peyton Manning.

Answer: Jim Sorgi, Joseph Addai and Ken Dilger.

I is for Innovator

RIP Steve Sabol

J is for Junior

Has everyone noticed the new name on the back of Titus Young's jersey this year?

If not, here it is: Young Sr.

Forget the sheer awesomeness of a 23-year-old have "Sr." on the back of his jersey. Senior needs to stop playing like Junior if the Lions and Matt Staffford are going to break out of this early season funk. They aren't the old Lions anymore. No one's cutting them any slack or willing to wait for next year. And two receptions over two games has Young on the hot seat, and Detroit and on fantasy rosters world wide.

He and the entire Lions offense have a great match-up this Sunday against the Titans, which leads to an important NFL Alphabet Prop bet. What will be the greatest total: Titus Young receptions or Chris Johnson rushing yards?

K is for Kneel Down

I don't see the big deal about the move Tampa Bay pulled at the end of last week's loss to the Giants. So, they're down by one touchdown, on the road, in game that could change the course of their entire season, and they're just supposed to roll over and let Eli run out the clock? They're supposed to give up?

I mean, I get why Tom Coughlin was pissed, but it's not because the Bucs broke some unwritten rule. It's because his team looked careless and unprepared. It's because, had that play worked, Coughlin would have been utterly embarrassed. And there's nothing in the world he hates more than being embarrassed.

Except for when the neighborhood kids run across his lawn.

L is for Locker Room Crashers

Did you see that Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson made a surprise appearance in the 49ers locker room this week? If not, read the play-by-play in this post from the San Jose Mercury News and bask in the ridiculousness of Jim Harbaugh.

Also, wouldn't Harbaugh be a great fit for the "Sack" character if they ever make Wedding Crashers 2?

M is for Mustache

You have to love Jeff Fisher. Here was his response when asked if Steven Jackson's lack of practice time he's nursing a sore groin (but aren't we all?) will affect his status for Sunday's game:

"I don't have a policy where you have to practice to play," Fisher said, as his 'stache blew gently in the breeze. "Be realistic. He's been in the league how many years? He knows his body, he knows this offense, I'm not concerned about that."

That's a pro right there.

Speaking of which, how about Sam Bradford? Through two games, he's completing 71 percent of his passes (up from 53 last year), plus has four touchdowns only one interception and is averaging more than 250 yards a game. Sure, he hasn't faced the greatest competition, but if he can keep it going this Sunday against a Bears D that made Arron Rodgers look human, we might have to start paying attention.

N is for nine.

How many times have the Eagles turned the ball over this season? Yes, you got it. Nine times. Or to put it another way, only one fewer than the Patriots had over the entire 2010 season. Yet somehow, the Eagles are 2-0.

Some of that is no doubt due to a fortunate draw against the Browns and some help from the refs against the Ravens, but the fact remains: You have to be pretty lucky andor pretty good to win two games in which you commit nine turnovers. And after this trip to Arizona, I think we'll have a better idea of which one better describes the Eagles.

NFL Alphabet Quiz: What's the highest number turnovers that Belichick's Pats have ever committed in consecutive games?

Answer: Eight, in Week 12 and Week 13 of 2006. Worth noting the Pats won both games.
O is for officials.

No one wants to read another lambasting of the replacement refs, so Ill just say this: I feel really bad for these guys. It's not their fault that they're completely and literally out of their league.

Did you see the lead official last night in Carolina? Could he have been anymore scared, confused andor nervous any time he had to explain a call to the crowd? He sounded like a sheepish eight year laboring through his second grade play. You could see the relief the second he finished. You could tell all really wanted was a hug.

At this point, I think we're all reserved to the fact that it's going to take an over-the-top, monumental, game-deciding screw up before the old refs come back to work. Let's just hope it happens soon.

P is for Porous

Is it possible that the Saints defense is this bad? I know they've had two tough match-ups against RG3 and CN1, but come on. Through two weeks, they've now given up 75 points the most they've allowed in any first two weeks since 1985. If they get burned Sunday against Matt Cassel, that will be the true test.

And as bad as their defense has been, the offense hasn't been much better namely Drew Brees. No. 9 completed only 46 percent of his passes in Week 1, which was the third worst performance of his career. Last week against the Panthers, he completed only 63 percent, which would have been his second-worst outing all of last season.

It's really scary to see how quickly things unraveled down there this season, even under their already trying circumstances. If there was only some kind of incentive of program that Joe Vitt could incorporate into the team's weekly preparation?

NFL Alphabet Quiz: Of all the quarterback to have taken an NFL snap since 2000, only five have more career passing yards than Drew Brees. Name them.

Answer: Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Warren Moon, Vinny Testaverde and Drew Bledsoe

Q is for Quick

Quick: Who's thrown for more yards this season: Tim Tebow or Bill Belichick?

R is for Recovery

Adrian Peterson's has been absurd. While Jamaal Charles is 11 months off of his ACL surgery and still struggling . . . While Rashard Mendenhall is eight months removed (the same as AP) and still hasn't seen the field . . . Peterson has been slowed, but has pretty much erased any doubt that he's still one of the game's most dominant backs.

But what's more difficult: Recovering from a torn ACL in less than eight months, or playing one NFL game against the 49ers D?

AP's about to find out.

S is for Smoking Jay Cutler

Presented with no additional commentary.

T is for Terrell Davis

Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said this week that the Skins coaching staff has seen "some of Terrell Davis" in rookie RB Alfred Morris.

Wow. Hefty comparison, but I'm not buying it. Like father, like son and this is classic Shanahan. You talk a guy up, you make every one believe and then with a snap of the fingers, you pull in another running back that no one's ever heard of and turn him into the next next Terrell Davis.

With the way the Shanahan's work, in a few months, the only thing Morris will have in common with Davis is that they'll both be out of football.

NFL Alphabet Quiz: Can you name the six running backs who have run for 1,000 yards under Mike Shanahan?

Answer: Terrell Davis (x4), Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson (x2), Clinton Portis (x2), Reuben Droughns (bet you forgot that one) and Tatum Bell
(Note: Morris is on pace for 1,480 yards this season. RGIII is on pace for 992.)

U is for Underwood

The Bucs re-signed Tiquan Underwood this week.

The high top fade had been released by the Bucs at final cuts, Tampa needed his services after an injury to Sammie Stroughter.

Said coach Greg Schiano, who coached Underwood at Rutgers: We plan to utilize Tiquan any way that we can . . . and then most likely cut him the night before the playoffs.

V is for Validation

Not that anyone's accusing the 2012 Texans of being a flash in the NFL pan, but it would be nice to see them handle a legitimate NFL team before being crowned as AFC favorites. Sunday in Denver, Houston has a chance to silence the doubters.

W is for Wally Pipp

Bills coach Chan Gailey is surprised by how quickly running back Fred Jackson's recovering from his sprained knee.

"He must be a fast healer," Gailey said about Jackson, who's already working out on the knee and has vowed to make it back for Buffalo's Week 5 game with the Niners.

Some call it "fast healing," others call it "watching CJ Spiller rip it up every Sunday and knowing that every week you're out of the starting line-up brings you another week closer to never being there again." Or something like that.

X is for XXX

I actually don't mind that Bibi Jones released new photos of her and Rob Gronkowski. First of all, even though it's a headache, it's not like Gronk can get in any more trouble. He's already spoken with Belichick and the Krafts and apologized for what happened last year. He didn't screw up again. However, at the same time, the latest incident serves as a reminder of how much one careless action can screw with all that Gronk has and all that he's worked for. If there was ever a chance that he'd fall back into a trap like that, I'd say that Jones posting that new photo erased it.

Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if Belichick paid her to do it.

Y is for Youth

For most of the offseason, and really the first few weeks of this season, Patriots fans have taken pride in the fact that this year's team is one of the youngest that Bill Belichick has ever coached. It's so exciting in what it means for the future, and the tools that Tom Brady will be surrounded by over the twilight of his career.

Then you think about a game like Sunday, and you're like: Oh, right. There are times when being young has its disadvantages. When going out on the road for one of the biggest games of the year might psyche an important player or two out. How can it not? They're only human.

But at the very least, this will be one of the lingering advantages of last year's Super Bowl loss. That despite the youth that makes up most of the Pats roster, a lot of those guys have already seen it all. They've already played in the biggest game of their. And after that, it's hard for a regular game to have that much of an affect.

Z for Zoltan

Last week was the first time in more than 115 NFL punts that Zoltan Mesko had a kick blocked.

But on the bright side, it gave me something for Z.

Enjoy the games.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski is a model citizen in the NFL. In fact, the NFL Players Association is advising rookies to be more like Gronk, according to The Boston Globe

The New England Patriots tight end has developed a name for himself on and off the football field. With that attention comes branding. And at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere from May 18 to 20, the NFLPA encouraged rookies to develop their own brand -- much like Gronkowski.

“Some people think he’s just this extension of a frat boy, and that it’s sort of accidental,” Ahmad Nassar said, via The Globe. Nassar is the president of NFL Players Inc., the for-profit subsidiary of the NFLPA. “And that’s wrong. It’s not accidental, it’s very purposeful. So the message there is, really good branding is where you don’t even feel it. You think, ‘Oh, that’s just Gronk being Gronk.’ Actually, that’s his brand, but it’s so good and so ingrained and so authentic, you don’t even know it’s a brand or think it.”

Gronkowski's "Summer of Gronk" has indirectly become one of his streams of income. The tight end makes appearances for magazines and sponsors. Because of his earnings from branding and endorsements, he didn't touch his NFL salary during the early years of his career.

Gronk was one of three players who were the topics of discussion during the symposium. Dak Prescott and Odell Beckham were also used as examples of players who have been able to generate additional income from endorsements. Beckham, in particular, has been in the spotlight off the football field. He's appeared on the cover of Madden, and just signed a deal with NIke which is reportedly worth $25 million over five years with upwards of $48 million over eight years. His deal, which is a record for an NFL player, will pay him more than his contract with the Giants.

“A lot of people talk to the players about, ‘You should be careful with your money and you should treat your family this way and you should treat your girlfriend or your wife.’ Which is fine. I think that’s valuable,” Nassar said, via The Globe. “But we don’t often give them a chance to answer the question: How do you see yourself as a brand? Because Gronk, Odell, none of those guys accidentally ended up where they are from a branding and marketing standpoint.”

Tom Brady delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL

Tom Brady delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL


Tom Brady delivered a video message last week at the funeral of Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken, a Maine native and former UConn track athlete killed in Somalia on May 5.

Bill Speros of The Boston Herald, in a column this Memorial Day weekend, wrote about Milliken and Brady's message.   

Milliken ran track at Cheverus High School in Falmouth, Maine, and at UConn, where he graduated in 2001. Milliken lived in Virginia Beach, Va., with his wife, Erin, and two children.  He other Navy SEALs participated in a training exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011 where he met and posed for pictures with Brady.

Speros wrote that at Milliken’s funeral in Virginia Beach, Va., Brady's video offered condolences and thanked Milliken’s family for its sacrifice and spoke of how Milliken was considered a “glue guy” by UConn track coach Greg Roy.

Milliken had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning four Bronze Star Medals and was based in Virginia since 2004.  He was killed in a nighttime firefight with Al-Shabaab militants near Barij, about 40 miles from the Somali capital of Mogadishu. He was 38.

The Pentagon said Milliken was the first American serviceman killed in combat in Somalia since the "Black Hawk Down" battle that killed 18 Americans in 1993. 

In a statement to the Herald, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said: “It was an honor to host Kyle and his team for an exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011. It gave new meaning to the stadium being known as home of the Patriots. We were deeply saddened to hear of Kyle’s death earlier this month.

“As Memorial Day weekend approaches, we are reminded of the sacrifices made by patriots like Kyle and so many others who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend and protect our rights as Americans. Our thoughts, prayers and heartfelt appreciation are extended to the Milliken family and the many families who will be remembering lives lost this Memorial Day weekend.”