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Friday, July 29, 2011

Simply put, Millen loves Iowa, Ferentz


By Marc Morehouse

July 28, 2011

CHICAGO — If Kirk Ferentz and his agent Neil Cornrich ever have a fallout, the Iowa coach might want to look into Matt Millen.

When asked about Ferentz-to-Penn State rumor mill, Millen, a PSU alumnus and ABC/ESPN analyst, said, “If he keeps going the way he’s going, he’ll have his name on the stadium. I think the world of that guy.”

Millen loves Ferentz.
He also loves quarterback James Vandenberg.

“[Ricky] Stanzi certainly deserved to play, he was a senior, he did nothing to deserve to play,” Millen said of a conversation he had with Ferentz before a game last year. “I just think Vandenberg will be better. He just needs reps and he’ll be fine.”

Millen, a former all-pro linebacker with the Oakland Raiders, loves Iowa middle linebacker James Morris.

“The Morris kid, he’ll be an all-American before he’s done,” Millen said. “I watched him practice and said something to Kirk, ‘Who is that kid?’ He said, ‘Oh yeah, we like him.’ And then he played him [Morris]. I came back a couple weeks later and said, ‘He’s not getting out of the lineup.’

“That kid’s a good player. He needs some size, but he’s got instinct, he’s got toughness. He reads things like a running back. Those guys are hard to find.”

Millen, former GM for the Detroit Lions, loves Iowa’s offensive tackles Riley Reiff and Markus Zusevics.

“They’ve got two kids on the offensive line I love,” Millen said. “I like Riley Reiff, a good, tough kid. And Zusevics, same thing. Both those guys, good, tough kids. They don’t know it yet. That’s the good part.”

Millen loves Iowa, period.

“I’ve recommended that place a few times, believe me,” he said. “I think that’s as good of a place as there is in the country. I think he [Ferentz] is as good as it gets.”


Millen called the 2009 Ohio State-Iowa game, the one substantial start in Vandenberg’s career. He loved Vandenberg during the telecast and loved him again Thursday.

Oh, and yes, he noticed the camera loved Vandenberg’s mom, Ann.

“I’ll tell you the most memorable thing about that game,” Millen said, “we got more calls about his mom than any other player. It was unbelievable.”

OK, but really, Vandenberg the quarterback stepped in for injured starter Ricky Stanzi with the Big Ten title and a trip to the Rose Bowl on the line and pushed the Buckeyes before falling, 27-24, in overtime.

“He handles pressure,” Millen said. “That’s something that’s really hard to find. . . . That’s what wins and that’s what loses, the ability to perform under pressure. That kid had it. You don’t walk into Ohio Stadium and not have poise, unless you’re completely oblivious. I don’t know the kid, but I’m guessing he’s not completely oblivious. He handled it well. That’s a trait that’s hard to find.”

Thursday, July 28, 2011

St. Michael's Spaeth Hands Hanover Food Shelf Huge Check


St. Michael-Albertville grad and NFL player Matt Spaeth presents a hefty check to Helen Skutley of the Hanover Food Shelf. The Pittsburgh Steelers tight end handed over a sizable sum to the local charity after raising more than $20,000 at his annual golf tournament.

By Mike Schoemer

July 26, 2011

Consider the 2011 Matt Spaeth Charity Golf Tournament a resounding success.

Monday, July 24, Spaeth himself stopped down to the Hanover Food Shelf to present director Helen Skutley with a check for $7,000.

That's about one-third of the more than $20,000 raised by this year's event, held last month.

Spaeth made the presentation the night before he returned to Pittsburgh to re-join the Steelers, said friend and co-host Keith Cornell.

"Matt and the STMA Football Boosters would like to thank everyone," Cornell said.

The tournament also raises money for the St. Michael-Albertville football program and for the high school's student fund.

More than 230 golfers participated in this year's tournament.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hartline signs with Colts


Kentucky quarterback Mike Hartline looks down field during an Oct. 2, 2010, game against Mississippi in Oxford, Miss. Hartline's quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at Kentucky thinks he has what it takes to make it in the NFL.

By Chris Beaven

July 26, 2011


It was just after 10 Tuesday morning when Mike Hartline started wondering about his NFL future.

The former GlenOak High School star quarterback started seeing other undrafted free agents signing with NFL teams a day after the lockout ended.

Within three hours — 12:31 p.m. to be exact — Hartline couldn’t believe his good fortune. He was going to sign with the Indianapolis Colts, meaning he has a chance to back up superstar Peyton Manning.

“At first it was pretty shocking,” said Hartline, a starter the past three years at the University of Kentucky. “... To get something like this to be offered to you is pretty crazy. It’s a guy you’ve looked up to most of your whole life.

“I’ve still got to work my tail off, but to have a chance to be mentored by him a little and be able to think how he thinks, it’s overwhelming at first. But right now, I’m trying to come back down to reality.”

For Hartline, the reality is “(today) is a work day.”

Hartline will get his playbook and equipment today at Colts’ training camp, he will go to film sessions and study in a classroom. The business of being a professional football player begins.

“I still have to put in a lot of hard work to get this. It’s not going to be given to me,” he said. “It’s been a hard road, but I don’t want to stop before making the team. I want to make the team.”

The Colts have two returning quarterbacks. Curtis Painter, a 2009 sixth-round pick out of Purdue is the other. They also signed former Ball State quarterback Nate Davis, who has spent two seasons in the NFL.

The 6-foot-6, 210-pound Hartline left Kentucky ranked fourth in career passing yards (5,680) and fifth in career touchdown passes (38). He threw for 3,178 yards last season with 23 TDs and just nine interceptions in 405 attempts.

Hartline hoped to get drafted, but when he didn’t, he kept working hard. He made two trips to Florida to work out with his older brother, Brian, a receiver with the Dolphins. Mike wanted to be ready once the lockout ended.

Late Tuesday morning was when Hartline started getting anxious. He was back in Lexington, Ky. after spending time back home. It was about noon when he finally texted his agent, Neil Cornrich, for news.

“He’d just got off the phone with the Colts and said he was talking to them about me and trying to get me there. He called me back in half an hour and by this time, the deal was done.

“... It was 12:31. I remember just looking down at my phone.”

Soon he was making the 3 1/2-hour trip to Indianapolis to begin his pro career.

“I’d packed from Ohio like I was going to be gone awhile,” he said, “like something like this would happen.”

Friday, July 22, 2011

WNBA: Focus on the Seattle Storm’s Katie Smith


Katie Smith is new to the Seattle Storm this year, as she was obtained in a trading deal involving the Washington Mystics just before the beginning of the 2011 season. Smith is a veteran player who is one of the WNBA's leading scorers, with almost 6,000 points scored in her career so far.

By K.C. Dermody

July 20, 2011

Here is a look at the highlights of Katie Smith's career.

Early life

Katie Smith grew up in southeast Ohio in the city of Logan. She was surrounded by a family of athletes, and her father John, Sr. played football for Ohio State University. Her brother John played on the Mount Union College national championship football team in 1993, and brother Tom ran track and also played football at Ohio State.

Katie got her start in basketball playing on the boys' team in fifth grade. As a young girl, she was also involved in ballet and tap dance. She was a very busy child, also competing in track and soccer, and was involved in 4H showing her sheep and steers at the local county fair.

In high school, she gave up most of her other activities to concentrate on basketball. During her senior year at Logan High School she won the Gatorade Player of the Year.

College years

In 1992, Katie began her college education at Ohio State University, majoring in Zoology. Her freshman year, she helped the Buckeyes get to the NCAA championship. That year, she was named to the All-American first team and was named Sports Illustrated's National Freshman of the Year, and received numerous other awards during her college career.

After her final season with Ohio State, she became the leading scorer in Big-Ten women's basketball history.
She is currently ranked second, after Jantel Lavender, who broke her scoring record earlier this year.

Professional career

Smith began her career with the ABL team, the Columbus Quest, shortly after college graduation. In 1999, she signed with the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx.

Smith has been named to the All-Star team seven times in her WNBA career, and in 2005, she became the first woman to score 5,000 points in professional basketball. She played with the Lynx through 2005, and then signed on with the Detroit Shock. She became the first woman in basketball to be named to both the Western and Eastern Conference All-Star teams.

In early 2010, Smith went to the Washington Mystics as a free agent, and it was the spring of 2011 when she joined Seattle Storm.

Personal
It sounds like Katie has made the beautiful Pacific Northwest her true home, as she says the movie "Goonies", filmed in Cannon Beach and Astoria, Oregon, is her favorite film.

When asked to choose from hiking and camping, the beach, or visiting a museum, Katie answered, "Hiking and camping out. I'm a little pale and don't tan very well. Sitting on a beach wouldn't go well. I'd have to put a lot of sunscreen on. Hiking and camping is something I enjoy because it's active."

I do think she must be a Seattle girl at heart.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Century complex bears Pleasant's name


Retired professional football player Anthony Pleasant, right, talks with one of the coaches from his childhood, Bobby Johnson and his wife, Sharon, as the Johnsons and dozens of other people came out Saturday evening in Century to honor Pleasant with a park named in his honor. Anthony grew up playing football in the Century area and went on to play professional ball with the Cleveland Brown, Atlanta Falcons, NY Jets, San Francisco 49ers and finished his career earning two Super Bowl rings with the New England Patriots.

Two-time Super Bowl champion returns to Northwest Florida to receive honor from hometown

July 18, 2011

By Jamie Secola

Amid the celebration, Anthony Pleasant took a moment Saturday night to gaze at the youth football field that had just been dedicated in his honor in his hometown of Century.

The football field at Century Park, which encompasses 22 acres, had just been renamed the Anthony Pleasant Sports Complex. About 75 coaches, city officials, family members and friends gathered at the small field to celebrate Pleasant, a Century High graduate and defensive line coach for the Kansas City Chiefs, who played in the NFL for 14 seasons and earned two Super Bowl rings.

Glancing at the field’s bright green manicured grass, Pleasant remembered what it was like to grow up playing sports in the tiny nook that is Century, which has a population of about 1,800.

“I never imagined that I would be playing for 14 seasons in the National Football League,” Pleasant said. “The average career is about three or four years. Those first three years, you can’t control what happens to you. So because of the hard work that I had instilled in me as a kid — that strong foundation — that helped carry me to the next level and to be able to play for 14 years.”

But there isn’t much left from the old days — the days when Pleasant was at the center of an athletic community and led the Century Blackcats to the 1986 North Florida championship. That’s just one of the many reasons Pleasant said he was grateful to have the park named after him, serving as a small reminder of his youth before Century High closed in the 1990s.

“I just wish that the high school and middle school and the grade school were still here because, you know, the kids are still here,” Pleasant said, holding back emotion. “But now, they’re scattered all over the place at different schools. I just wish we still had all of that going on, because of all that history and all the tradition of Blackcat pride, is gone.”

But Pleasant is an astounding reminder of those days.

Around him, some children were waiting to get his autograph. His old coaches also were waiting for the chance to reminisce.

“I think it’s a real tribute,” said Joe Cardwell, who was the head coach at Century during Pleasant’s high school career. “I think this is a real tribute to the city and the old days of Century High School. I think he represents that era extremely well.”

After playing college ball at Tennessee State, Pleasant was taken by the Cleveland Browns in the third round of the 1990 NFL Draft as the No. 73 overall pick. He played for the Browns for five years and went on to play for Baltimore (1996), Atlanta (1997), New York Jets (1998-99), San Francisco (2000) and New England (2001-03), where he won two Super Bowl championships in the 2001 and 2003 seasons.

“It was really exciting,” Tawana Barnett, Pleasant’s younger sister, remembered about her brother playing in the NFL. “It was really exciting because we come from such a small town with our mom (Betty Pleasant) raising us by herself, struggling without my dad. It makes me very proud that Anthony went on and made a success story out of his life.”

Betty Pleasant, who died in 1996, went to all of her son’s football, basketball and baseball games, Barnett said. Coaches remembered her as the driving force behind Anthony’s success.

“I think of his mama, Betty, because I got to know her pretty well when I was coaching Anthony in high school,” Cardwell said. “If there is one thing I regret, it’s that she wasn’t here. But somehow, I feel like she can see this from upstairs. She’s a great lady. She’s the one who gave him the character, and the Good Lord gave him the athletic skills. That combination worked out really well for him.”

Another combination that worked well for Pleasant was Century’s tight-knit community. That showed on Pleasant’s face after he was awarded a plaque from Century Mayor Freddie McCall.

“I really enjoyed just coming out here and looking around and seeing my name out there (on a banner at the park’s entrance) and that all these people came out to support me,” Pleasant said. “A lot of them I haven’t seen in years. When you come back here after being gone for so long, it still seems like you never lost communication (with the people). You come back and see your friends, and you just pick up right where you left off, like no time has passed at all.”

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Two Time Super Bowl Champ Anthony Pleasant To Attend Park Dedication



July 13, 2011

Two-time Super Bowl champion Anthony Pleasant will be in Century Saturday night as the town dedicates the sports facility that bears his name.

The Anthony Pleasant Sports Complex will be dedicated at 6 p.m. The celebration will include free hot dogs and soft drinks.

The 22 -acre park was named after Century native Pleasant (pictured), a former pro football player selected in the third round of the 1990 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. During his 14 year NFL career, Pleasant played for the Browns, the Baltimore Ravens, the Atlanta Falcons, the New York Jets, the San Francisco 49ers and the New England Patriots. He played a total of 202 NFL games and racked up 58 sacks and two interceptions and a defensive end.

The 1986 Century High School graduate earned two Super Bowl rings with the New England Patriots.

Pleasant is currently the defensive line coach for the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs.

Mike Vrabel was the very personification of a football player



By Jim Donaldson

July 12, 2011

Mike Vrabel was a football player.

“No kidding,” I can hear you saying now. “Like we didn’t know that.”

But what I’m saying is that Mike Vrabel was a Football Player.

In capital letters.

And in every way, in every game, on every play.

Back in the days when football players stayed on the field for just about all 60 minutes, Vrabel would have been a star on both offense and defense.


The “V” in his name should stand for “versatility.”

This was obvious on defense, where he not only played both inside and outside linebacker in the Patriots’ 3-4 alignment, but was equally effective stuffing the run, rushing the passer, or dropping back in pass coverage — whether starting from a “down” position, in a three-point stance, along the line of scrimmage or standing up.

He was an integral part of a New England defense that won three Super Bowls, four conference championships, and six division titles in a span of eight seasons, from 2001 through 2008.

But what set him apart, what brings beaming smiles to the faces of Patriots fans, is what he did as a tight end.


Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis loved to use him near the goal line, where Vrabel could use the 261, well-distributed pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame as a blocker, or, just as effectively — and much more enjoyably — display his soft hands and surprising quickness to work free in the end zone and catch touchdown passes from Tom Brady.
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He caught 10 passes for the Patriots, and every one of them was for a touchdown — including two in Super Bowls.

He had a 1-yard TD reception in the Pats’ 32-29 win over Carolina in Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, then caught another the following year — a 2-yarder in the 24-21 victory over the Eagles in Jacksonville.

“I can’t believe it,” Vrabel said after beating Philadelphia in Super Bowl XXXIX. “Two Super Bowls — two touchdowns catches.”

He made that catch against the Eagles even after drawing a holding penalty from defensive end Jevon Kearse.

“Jevon was really getting all over me,” Vrabel said. “I was lucky enough to tip it up and hang onto it when I hit the ground.

“Charlie Weis told me before the game that, if we were down on the goal line and first-and-goal, then we were going to put the play in. I tried to put a move on Kearse, and he locked me up, but Tom put a good ball on my fingertips and I was able to tip it back to myself.”

It was that kind of athleticism that made Vrabel so valuable to the Patriots.

In that Super Bowl against the Eagles, coach Bill Belichick tried to confuse Philly QB Donovan McNabb by using only two defensive linemen. When Belichick wanted more players on the line of scrimmage, he put linebackers Vrabel and Willie McGinest there.

Philadelphia ran for only 45 yards in the game — New England racked up 112 rushing yards — and, although McNabb threw for 357 yards and three touchdowns, he was pressured consistently and wound up throwing three interceptions and being sacked four times.

Vrabel had one of those sacks, dumping McNabb for a 16-yard loss.

Only Hall of Famer Andre Tippett has had more sacks in a season for the Patriots than the 12.5 Vrabel recorded in 2007, when the Pats won 18 straight before losing the Super Bowl in the final seconds to the New York Giants.

Vrabel also led the team in sacks in 2003, with 9.5, despite missing three games because of an injury.

Playing inside or outside, up or down, rushing or dropping in coverage — even catching passes as a tight end in goal-line situations — Vrabel was athletic enough, and smart enough, to be equally effective.

Few and far between are the players who have both the talent and the intelligence to do what he did for the Patriots.


Belichick recognized that potential when he signed Vrabel, who had been a third-round draft choice of the Steelers out of Ohio State in 1997, as a free agent prior to the 2001 season.

Although he never started a game for Pittsburgh, Vrabel stepped right into the lineup in New England and remained a fixture for the Patriots until he was traded to Kansas City in 2009.

In yet another example of his versatility, he intercepted 11 passes for the Pats, returning one 24 yards for a touchdown against Carolina in 2005. It was during that same season, in a game against the Jets, that Vrabel not only caught two TD passes, but also had a sack.

As I said, the guy was a Football Player.


Now, he’s going to be a football coach, handling the linebackers at his alma mater, Ohio State.

In a statement released by the university, Belichick was quoted as saying: “Mike Vrabel is as well-suited for coaching as any player I have ever coached. He has a tremendous feel for people, players, coaches and what his team needs regardless of the situation. He is outstanding in his knowledge of the game, which contributed to his excellence as a player.”

He was, indeed, an excellent player for the Patriots, unfailingly giving the team whatever it needed in a variety of situations, on both sides of the ball.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fry saw winners in Ferentz, Pelini



July 11, 2011

By Steven Sipple

Former Iowa football coach Hayden Fry saw something special in Bo Pelini when Pelini played free safety at Ohio State from 1987-90.

Fry saw the rugged tenacity. He noted the intelligence and savvy.


Maybe the Ohio kid would be a good head coach someday, Fry surmised.

"I was raised on a farm (near Odessa, Texas)," Fry said Monday. "My daddy told me when I was just a kid, he said, 'Son, I don't know what you're going to do or become when you grow up. But if you're going to be a winner, if you're going to be successful, you've got to surround yourself with winners.' That became my philosophy. I hired coaches who were just super folks."

In 1991, Fry gave Pelini his first coaching job, as a graduate assistant for the Hawkeyes. Plenty of Nebraska fans would tell you Bo went on to become a pretty good head coach.


The 82-year-old Fry, who retired in 1998 after two decades as Hawkeyes head coach, counts 21 of his former assistants who went on to become head coaches in college or the NFL.

The list also includes Barry Alvarez, Bret Bielema, Jim Leavitt, Dan McCarney, Bill Snyder, Bob Stoops and Mike Stoops.

Fry is rightfully proud of the list. Few head coaches could top that tree.

Upon retirement at Iowa, Fry recommended two coaches as possible replacements — Bob Stoops and Kirk Ferentz, who had been Fry's offensive line coach from 1981-89.

Stoops, of course, took over as head coach at Oklahoma.

Ferentz took the Iowa job and pushed the Hawkeyes to great heights — no surprise to Fry.

"I never hired an assistant coach in my life, regardless of which position he coached, unless I was completely convinced that he was motivated to become a great head coach," Fry said. "Then I knew that he had really studied the game, that he'd be ethical, that he'd see that his players graduated. He'd do the things a head coach would do.

"Kirk is truly an outstanding coach and outstanding gentleman. His players love him. When he tells them to do something, they do it."


Nebraska fans are going to get to know Ferentz well in coming years.

Fry, living on a ranch in Mesquite, Nev., is happy to help folks with the getting-to-know process.

"It's really interesting how I hired him at Iowa," Fry recalled. "I interviewed quite a few coaches for that (offensive line) job. Some of them had been in the NFL. A couple of them had been head coaches on the college level. But when I interviewed Coach Ferentz, he was by far the best communicator of the whole group.

"I had all of my candidates go to the blackboard and go through their technique of instruction. He had been a graduate assistant at the University of Pittsburgh. He was so organized and had such great ability to explain what he wanted done from an offensive lineman. I hired him right on the spot."


No wonder Iowa often has had excellent offensive lines since Ferentz has been in the fold. The Hawkeyes produced the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year in 1985 (Mike Haight) and 1986 (Dave Croston).

With Ferentz running the program, Iowa has seen linemen claim the honor in 2002 (Eric Steinbach), 2003 (Robert Gallery) and 2009 (Bryan Bulaga).

Entering 2011, Iowa's offensive line is arguably the strongest in the Big Ten, with starting experience at all five positions. Left tackle Riley Reiff is projected as an NFL first-round draft pick. James Ferentz, the coach's son, is one of the league's top centers.

Iowa, thanks in part to a friendly schedule, could challenge odds-on favorite Nebraska for the Big Ten Legends Division crown. Unlike NU and Michigan State, the Hawkeyes play neither Wisconsin nor Ohio State.

Is Ferentz loved by all Hawkeye followers? Probably not. Iowa hasn't won a Big Ten crown since 2004.

However, Iowa fans should count their blessings that they have a strong, nationally relevant football program at a time when Hawkeye hoops is foundering. If both major programs break down simultaneously, the entire athletic department might go into a tailspin.

So, Iowa fans, it never hurts to thank Fry. As the Hawkeyes' head coach, he breathed life back into a moribund program in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In doing so, he built a financial foundation that fuels the athletic department to this day.

"I always thought he did a really good job with people — he was very detailed and he treated folks the right way," Pelini said Monday.

Fry also listened to his father's advice. That was a huge part of it.

Monday, July 11, 2011

All-Pro Linebacker Mike Vrabel retires after 14 seasons



ESPN.com news services

July 11, 2011

Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Mike Vrabel announced his retirement from the NFL on Monday after 14 seasons. He said he has accepted the position of linebackers coach on Luke Fickell's Ohio State coaching staff and will be introduced at a news conference later Monday.

"I am extremely appreciative of the teammates, coaches, and great fans who surrounded me during my NFL career, and am honored to have been a part of three tremendous organizations in the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, and Kansas City Chiefs," he said in a statement.

"I am especially grateful to Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli, who not only gave me the opportunity to play for a team that won three Super Bowl championships and an NFL record 21 games in a row, but also taught me invaluable lessons on creating the ultimate team approach."


Vrabel, an Ohio State alum, played the past two seasons with the Chiefs after eight years with the Patriots. He has been part of the NFL's labor negotiations as a member of the players' association's executive committee.

Fickell, the Buckeyes' former defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, was promoted to head coach on May 30 after Jim Tressel resigned. Fickell and Vrabel were roommates during their time together at Ohio State.

"I am very excited to become a part of Luke Fickell's staff at Ohio State. I have great faith and trust in Luke leading the Buckeye football team as he represents all the core values integral for a program's success, and I am looking forward to working with our student-athletes as I begin the next phase of my career," Vrabel said in the statement.

Fickell, in turn, said he was excited to add Vrabel to his staff.

"Mike will bring passion and a competitive nature to everything we do, and I am really pleased to announce his addition to our coaching staff," Fickell said in a statement released by the university. "I am excited about what Mike brings to the program in terms of football knowledge and also in terms of what it means to be a Buckeye. He is what every one of our young men desire to be: a great student, player, husband and father!"


At Ohio State, the 35-year-old Vrabel was a two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Award recipient before being drafted in the third round of the 1997 draft by the Steelers. He signed with New England before the 2001 season and won three Super Bowls as a member of the Patriots.

He was acquired by the Chiefs with Matt Cassel for a second-round pick from New England on the first day former Patriots' executive Pioli could make a move as general manager of the Chiefs in 2009.

In 206 career NFL games, Vrabel has 742 tackles and 57 sacks. He was named to the AFC Pro Bowl squad in 2007.

He also had 10 receiving touchdowns and became known as a goal-line scoring threat during his career. That included the playoffs as he had two touchdown receptions in his postseason career with the Patriots, catching short scoring strikes from Tom Brady in Super Bowl victories against the Carolina Panthers and Philadelphia Eagles.

Belichick gave Vrabel high praise in the statement released by Ohio State.

"During his Patriots career, there was no player more respected for his football intellect and revered for his leadership by his teammates than Mike," Belichick said in the statement. "He was elected a team captain by his peers and is a player who I think everyone knew was destined to become a coach after his NFL playing career was over.

"Mike Vrabel is as well-suited for coaching as any player I have ever coached. He has a tremendous feel for people, players, coaches and what his team needs regardless of the situation. He is outstanding in his knowledge of the game, which contributed to his excellence as a player. I have no doubt Mike will develop tough, intelligent, fundamentally sound winners."

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Ravens' Yanda Might Be Most Important Free Agent


9 months ago: Baltimore Ravens wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, left, cuts around New England Patriots safety Pat Chung (25) with the help of a block from Ravens guard Marshal Yanda during the first quarter of a NFL football game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010.

By Bruce Raffel

July 1, 2011

With all the potential free agents on the Baltimore Ravens, there might be one guy who re-signing should be perhaps the biggest priority of all of them. Guard/tackle Marshal Yanda has played both positions on the right side of the offensive line, and has performed anywhere from good to excellent, depending where he has lined up.

Yanda was drafted to be a guard and would probably be considered one of the better right guards in the NFL if he had been permitted to stick at one position and excel there. However, due to the combination of his versatility and mounting injuries on the Ravens offensive lines, Yanda has been plugged in wherever and whenever he has been needed.

According to a story on Football News Now, that versatility combined with his solid performance, playing what is considered to be out of position, makes him perhaps the most valuable player that could hit the free agent market once the Collective Bargaining Agreement is signed by the NFL owners and players. If Yanda tests the open market, he will more than likely find a much more lucrative offer elsewhere than he would if he stays with his current team. Let's hope the Ravens never give him a chance to look around by re-signing him at the earliest possible moment.

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