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Friday Out-Takes: Vick on a Short Leash(...or not)

Every Friday, John Cockrell will offer up his perspective on the latest NFL developments that catch his eye. His views are his own, not those of the Patriots.

Vick on a Short Leash (...or not)

On Wednesday, noted Friend of PETA - "friend" in the "made an increasingly controversial fringe group appear mainstream by comparison" sense - MICHAEL VICK completed his first post-hoosegow face-to-face with NFL Commissioner ROGER GOODELL. A day later, rumors were flying from ESPN (then clumsily, frantically denied by ESPN - nice work, Mort) that Vick will be conditionally reinstated and suspended for the first four games of 2009. If this ends up being the case, the formerly law-&-orderrific Commish will have chosen this moment to look into the soul of a wayward player and go all puppy dog on us. (Yeah, that's right, we said it.)

It's not so much the rumored four game-suspension, 'though that does seem a bit "is that all?" for our taste. (We're banking on closer to eight.) It's the timing. Setting the parameters of Vick's punishment so early would make teams far more likely - and able - to war-game the pros and cons of bringing in the ex-pro (and con). Plus, he'd be allowed to sign, participate in training camp...heck, he'd even get to play pre-season games and showcase his erratic accuracy while struggling to read defenses, just like he used to!

Granted, the man has served his sentence, and yes, as many of his supporters will tell you, "he didn't kill anybody" (put that on a resume!) but...considering the various laying downs of the law during the Goodell regime, and considering the multiple offenses bundled up in this particular horror show (not just abhorrent cruelty, but gambling, lying to league officials, including the White Shadow doppelgänger himself), a four-game suspension would constitute wildly good "newz" for the former Mr. Ron Mexico. It would also constitute, in our view, perplexing leniency, especially in light of Mr. Goodell's record. Who knows, maybe it's just a trial balloon, but if Mort and the gang in Bristol have this one right, the Commish sure picked a helluva time to roll over and play dead. (Yep. We said that, too.)

Keeping Pace with the Jets (...or not)

Recently, Jet-haters across the world (wide web) looked to embrace their inner schadenfreude upon hearing that 2008 free agent pick-up CALVIN PACE will miss the first four games of jersey-based Swaggerliciousness due to a failed drug test. In other words, VERNON GHOLSTON, we're ready for your close-up! Meanwhile, reports from ESPN's favorite new toy, ADAM SCHEFTER, suggest the massively disappointing second-year linebacker may be somewhat less than ready. As a rook, the ex-Buckeye totaled a whopping 5 solo tackles, which is only four more than that hobbit guy in Rudy. (And his was a sack!)

So despite the terrific, young, non-drug-taking LB DAVID HARRIS, Jet Nation finds itself understandably edgy. (Head Coach REX RYAN, on the other hand, doesn't have time for edgy, so stuffed to the gills is he with phrases like, "New England? How many people are intimidated by that defense?" and "I've walked over tougher guys going to a fight than Channing Crowder.") One thing to keep in mind, however, is that this is exactly the kind of underdog scenario that's spawned so many unlikely, Rudy-like heroes. Who knows, maybe Gholston's the next one. Then again...another thing to keep in mind is the team we're talking about. There's a reason "Same Old Jets" has become an entire fan-base's reverse rallying cry.

Postscript: It's worth noting that Pace took his suspension like a big boy. Sure, he played the traditional "just an innocent oversight at GNC" card, but he also went the "I am responsible for what I put into my body" route, which some see as a convenient cop-out (since, ya is). What it also is, however, is sadly rare and somewhat laudatory. So, points for owning the responsibility, Calvin. See you in October.

Blooper Reel

~ Recently, TJ HOUSHMANDZADEH, a receiver who, let's be honest, most of us already thought a Junior Varsity fool, opened his mouth and removed all doubt when he announced his intention to boycott the soon-to-be-released video game, MADDEN 2010. This, of course, would be all kinds of stupid, just on its own, but wait 'til you hear the reason why. According to COLIN COWHERD and MIKE SANDO, both of the Worldwide Leader, the Bengal-turned-Seahawk is upset about - wait for it... - his in-game ratings. Again, that's IN. GAME. RATINGS.

"I understand I averaged 10 yards a catch," Houshmandzadeh said, seconds before throwing his old team under the bus, "but it [was] the offense, not me." (Starting wideouts, apparently, no longer constitute "offense." Good to know.) "I'm not playing Madden no more until they get my rating right... Until they do me right, I'm not playing it any more."

Out-Takes isn't sure how to feel about this. On the one hand, add one more pro athlete to the teeming throngs hoping, apparently, to revive the McCarthy Era phrase, "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" On the other, upon five seconds of reflection, does Houshmandzadeh's reaction feel like anything more than the next big step in outrageous and silly pro athlete media relations? Of COURSE this happened. Meanwhile, "Playmakers," the defunct ESPN football drama, looks more innocent and less silly all the time.

~ Anyone else think the retirement of DERRICK MASON from the Ravens and the NFL sounds suspiciously Favre-ish? Within one sentence of his interview with ESPNEWS - "This is a decision that I've made" - Mason downshifted to "if I do change my mind..." Soon after, the sure-handed ex-Titan - who worked out at the Ravens facility just hours prior to his announcement and has filed zero paperwork with the league office - showed how he copped Summa Cum Laude honors at the Brad Childress School of Coy: "Financially, I don't think they can do anything to sway me." Got it. See you in camp, Derrick.

~ So...SEAN PAYTON, DREW BREES and others in the Saints organization have filed suit against Louisiana Film Studios, LLC, over a financial deal gone (allegedly) wrong. What has life come to when you can't even trust guys running a Big Easy-based movie company no one's ever heard of?

~ Earlier this summer, Out-Takes spotted a no-brainer favorite for PREPOSITION OF THE OFF-SEASON, and in the months that have passed, no other has even come close to the one in this mind-boggling headline: "Redskins' MIKE WILLIAMS Down to 380 Pounds."

Down * to 380? Seriously? The former Buffalo Bills #1 overall pick will compete with STEPHON HEYER for Washington's starting right tackle job or, if that doesn't work out, with countless other Cold Stone Creamery stalkers for a spot on *The Biggest Loser 2010.

Of the pending competition, Williams remarked, "We're just gonna get out there and push each other," adding, "I'm not a guy to get into politics." (We suspect he's also not a guy to get into a pair of what Mrs. Out-Takes calls "Audrey Hepburn skinny jeans," but that's purely guesswork.)

And finally...

~ Earlier this week, Out-Takes fave RICH BEHM - the Cowboys scout who was paralyzed during the accidental collapse of the team's practice bubble - proved himself once again to be a source of inspiration and perspective. Speaking to WFAA in Dallas, Behm stared down the theory that he'll be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life: "[I'm] still going to walk again. It's no big deal. That's a goal, and so I'm sticking to that."

This guy never fails to impress. We'll keep following his story, step by precious step. For now, 'though, we'll close it out with a salient point from WADE PHILLIPS. (Wait...did we just type that?)

"The players can't say they are tired and can't get back when a guy like Rich shows all the heart he's shown."

Good call, Wade. (Enjoy your final year in Dallas.)

John Cockrell is a screenwriter, whose other work has run the gamut from "Sesame Street Parents Magazine" to Playboy TV's "The Weekend Flash." (He figures everything else is pretty much in-between.)"

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