**The Wild, Wild
Halfway through an eventful NFL off-season there has been no hotter hot-spot than the division New England calls home. And while there's been a boiling over as of late, it's no secret that the stew of über-nonsense has been simmering for months. Out-Takes' four-part tale of off-season goings-on (and goings-off) in the AFC East practically writes itself, kicking off with...
The Buffalo Bills
T.O. TV. Terrell Owens signing with Buffalo was an odd pairing, but it sure added salt to the "getcha popcorn ready" vibe. As if this weren't news enough, VH1 announced its latest foray into Trainwreck Television, "The Terrell Owens Project." According to the network - the V, the H and the 1 are code for "dedicated to the end of civilization as we know it" - the program features T.O. and his team of P.R. gurus who, I think we can all agree, have always done a bang-up job. ("Sit-ups on your front lawn" and "it was an allergic reaction" leap to mind.)
A network press release touted "these outspoken, vibrant women" as "more like sisters than people that work for him" and "matchmakers and therapists" who will "make [his] life off the field as successful as his life on it!" We'd spend more time dissecting this claptrap, but we're too busy tripping over our own feet to get to the TiVo while simultaneously kicking ourselves for not coming up with this pitch first. Talk about writing itself.
MARSHAWN LYNCH - suspended three games for a gun-charge. Yawn. Next up...
T.O., take two. Last week the Buffalo receiver "tweeted" his fans, saying that he was "tripping about residents" in Orchard Park, NY, who won't rent him a home because they're worried about "drama n their neighborhood!! LOL!!! Wow!!" (LOL and Wow, indeed, T.O.) Amazingly, despite gun charges and VH1, not to mention its latest star's willingness to make a Twit of himself, the Bills' off-season pales in comparison to that of...
The New "York" Jets
REX RYAN, master-purveyor of brash, has been talking non-stop since the day he became - to borrow a phrase - "HC of the NYJ." Even his opening press conference included a none too subtle side-swipe: "We're not going to read-and-react, that's for somebody else." (Guess who! We'll give you a hint: the "Hartford" Browns are the current front-runners in Tom Jackson's semi-annual "They Hate Their Coach" sweepstakes.) But back to Rex's first press avail for a second...
"We're going to be attacking from the whistle. We're going to turn the heat up. We're going to let the fur fly and see what happens." Say this - the guy ain't shy about mixing his metaphors, and we here at Out-Takes have to hand it to him. If you're swimming upstream and dogs are barking at your heels, shouting from the mountaintops and aiming high can be a real shot in the arm.
BART S(waggerlicious)COTT - Out-Takes has spent plenty of time ("Cutler"/"Favre"-level time) on Bart and his made-up S-word, so let's stick a pin in it and push on to...
KERRY RHODES, the Jets' Pro Bowl safety who recently worked in this bit of staggering genius: "We will be the best defense in the league this year. I feel for the offenses we're gonna face."
Ryan's D will no doubt be aggressive and improved - the addition of Scott and his fellow ex-Raven, the Wes Welker-ish DB JIM LEONHARD, can only help. And top-notch youngsters DAVID HARRIS, DARRELLE REVIS and Rhodes himself signal a bright future for gang green's back seven. But, Kerry, why say this stuff? What's gained? A slight uptick in swagger that a young, down-on-its-luck team could use to help clear the psychological bar of yet another new direction? We guess. And, okay, the notion that the Jets will have "the best defense in the league" isn't completely outlandish. It's wildly optimistic, but Out-Takes has no issue with that.
It's the "I feel for the offenses we're gonna face" part that raises an eyebrow. Honestly, will those empty words do anything more than provide bulletin board material for Jet opponents? And what happens if/when Jersey finds itself on the wrong end of a 42-17 drubbing and disillusion sets in? Doesn't the locker room then turn its lonely eyes to vets like Rhodes and CALVIN "I don't think you'll find a better team on paper" PACE, and say, "Oh wait. They're wrong. Is it possible we're not at all that good?" Odds are, the youngsters would then look to their coach, but...
Late last week, in a radio appearance with WFAN's Chubster Soloist MIKE FRANCESCA, Ryan had this to say: "I never came here to kiss Bill Belichick's rings." And this: "I think we already have sent a message to them. So they can read between the lines." Ominous? We suppose. Challenging? Sounds like it. Hilariously nonsensical? Clearly. But, hey, at least the man's made it official: The Jets organization, from head-to-toe, has become their fan-base. Up next...
The Miami Dolphins
MIAMI - home to Dolphins, Land Sharks, Kangaroos & Tunas, and proof that not all goings-off are created equal. It is in this context that we present...JOEY PORTER, everyone's favorite hot-headed, trash-talking, aqua-and-blue-tinted, quasi-lunatic guy who hit us with this trifecta:
"I feel that we've put ourselves in position to be a championship team." And "The AFC East comes through Miami." And "We're the champions until proven otherwise." These comments tried to fashion themselves into a media-driven whirlwind last week. Our take on Porter's statements? What's to argue? We totally agree with them. Just like we agree with...
CHANNING CROWDER, Porter's fellow linebacker - along with re-acquired LB JASON TAYLOR, yet another bubbling over in the off-season of the Wild, Wild East - who responded to Rex Ryan's bluster with some of his own: "Oh, he's going crazy. He's going absolutely nuts. I know it's his first chance to be a head coach, and I know he's excited about life. But...I've never played a football game in June in my whole life. So congratulations to him. He's the OTA Super Bowl winner."
Allow us to quote the venerated star of "The Terrell Owens Project" in saying, simply, "LOL!!! Wow!!" before moving on to the division's fourth team, whose personnel once again seem to be falling down on the job of faithfully stirring the pot...
The New England Patriots
We'll leave it to newly acquired linebacker PARIS LENON, a member of the team for all of 10 seconds, to sum up (and spout) the company line: "There is not a lot of talking here. They're all about business." 'Nuff said.
~ On Thursday, RYAN LEAF - the "Don't Tase Me, Bro!" Patron Saint of NFL busts - veered ever closer to what veteran football fans might refer to as "Schlichter Country." Which is not to say Leaf has gotten himself caught up in some sordid gambling scandal. No, the ex-QB and top 2 pick, the guy responsible for the phrase, "Polian was torn between Peyton and Who?!", has gotten himself caught up in a sordid drug and burglary *scandal, wanted on charges stemming from an incident in Texas the day before Halloween. This would be pretty damn funny if it weren't so damn sad. Seriously. *Pac Man Jones thinks this guy's out of control.
~ Anyone listening to last week's press conference introducing RODNEY HARRISON and TONY DUNGY as the freshest faces in NBC's stable of talent sat up and took notice. From jump street, these dynamic, diametrically opposed personalities peppered their answers with insightful and, at times, faintly scathing commentary on a number of subjects, a couple near and dear to our heart:
Dungy on JAY CUTLER: "We'll see about his maturity level. That's what I would question... Some of the things that happened leading to him leaving Denver...would concern me as a head coach."
Harrison "on" BRETT FAVRE: "I don't want guys on my team or guys I've played with to have to answer questions about Rodney Harrison's return. When I made my decision to retire, I made my decision to retire...I respect people in the National Football League enough not to put them on this joy ride - the back and forth, the ups and downs of am I coming back and will I not?"
Wow. First CRIS COLLINSWORTH and JON GRUDEN, now Harrison and Dungy? (And ADAM SCHEFTER to ESPN!) Geeked-out message boarders all over the web can start threads ranking the NFL's top off-seasons, but from our POV the winner of off-season 2009 has to be the football-viewing public. Attaboys all around.
Because we can't get enough of the Rex Ryan-Channing Crowder bout (and because they kept mouthing off as deadline approached)...
RYAN: "I don't know this Channing Crowder. All I know is that he's all tatted up, so I guess I ought to be nervous about him. If I was younger, I'd probably handle him myself." (TRANSLATION: Woody Johnson sweats a gallon every time I step to a microphone.)
CROWDER: "He says he'd take care of me if he was younger? I'd have beat the hell out of that big old joker." (TRANSLATION: I own Rex Ryan.)
RYAN: "It's fun to ruffle feathers. I have no problem doing that... I'm confident in myself... I make no apologies for those statements I say." (TRANSLATION: I am twelve. You can tell by my schoolyard bombast and - oh yeah - phrases like, "those statements I say.")
CROWDER: "Oh Lord, have mercy, what's wrong with him? Now he's talking about preparation? We play them twice this year. If he wants to be prepared, shouldn't he know the starting middle linebackers of his division rival?" (TRANSLATION: I am renting out Rex Ryan for kids' parties and pony rides.)
Goodbye, Farewell and Amen
Former Patriot and Brown PIO SAGAPOLUTELE died this week from an aneurysm. He was 39 years old, which sounds like the biggest oxymoron in the history of language.
Bill Belichick, who coached the defensive lineman in both Cleveland and New England, described the San Diego State alum as "tough, hard-working [and] dependable," adding that Sagapolutele was "a quiet leader and a significant contributor to the record-setting '94 Browns defense [and] with the Patriots '96 AFC Championship season."
Tough. Hard-working. Dependable. Quiet. Contributor. Sounds like the Belichick prototype.
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.)"