Monthly Archives: July 2014

Gilberry: Doubt ‘Dark Knight’ at your risk

CINCINNATI — Batman, the mythical superhero of DC comic book lore, lurks in the shadows, silently protecting the citizens from the bad guys of Gotham.

Wallace Gilberry, one of the Cincinnati Bengals defensive ends who will help fill Michael Johnson’s shoes, thinks of himself much the same way.

He doesn’t get the fanfare his colleagues Carlos Dunlap and Margus Hunt receive. He doesn’t really seek it, either. He just goes about his job, quietly helping clean up the messes the rest of his defensive line teammates cause with their havoc-wreaking play. His clean up last season included sacks — and a lot of them. In limited action, he tied Dunlap for the team lead with 7.5 sacks.

Since Gilberry isn’t a primary starter like Johnson was and Dunlap is, and since he doesn’t have the sexy, foreign-born-track-and-field-thrower-turned-NFL-prodigy story that Hunt has, it has been hard to remember during his three seasons in Cincinnati that he’s been part of an ends group that has recently been regarded among the league’s best. For that alone, it has been easy to doubt him. It has been easy for some to assume he shouldn’t be part of said group.

Gilberry has a message for those critics: doubt away.

“I’m used to it, man,” Gilberry said, smiling. “The ‘Dark Knight’ is what they call me. So I’m cool with that. I’m going to come in, I’m going to do my job, I’m going to make the plays I’m supposed to make. If you get recognition for that, you get it. If not, well, you know, that doesn’t pay my bills.”

A former undrafted free agent, Gilberry has felt his entire career that others didn’t think he belonged.

“I’ve always been the darkhorse, so to speak, so I just took the darkhorse and turned it into the ‘Dark Knight’ because I’m a Batman fan,” Gilberry said.

Like he pointed out, even his cars are black. They are but an example of the dark and humbling yet still foreboding persona the lineman is going for.

Gilberry has never been a regular starter, but he has been a contributor throughout his time in the league playing in various sub-packages and situations. He saw the most action of his career last season, receiving 12 snaps more than he had any other season. It’s still not like he hadn’t been used at all. Through his six previous seasons, he averaged 325 plays. That’s just less than half the defensive snaps in a game.

Either way, it’s evident he has made the most of those chances.

Along with his 7.5 sacks on 493 snaps last season, Gilberry had 6.0 sacks on 300 plays in 2012. Two seasons prior, while playing in Kansas City, he had 7.0 sacks on 481 snaps.

He hopes his sack numbers go even higher this season, but he’ll have a unique set of challenges that might hinder him getting on the field. In addition to rotating with Hunt and trying to stave off other ends, his opportunities could also be limited with Geno Atkins’ return. When the Pro Bowl defensive tackle went down in the middle of last season with an ACL injury, Gilberry shifted to the line’s interior to provide a more adequate pass rush in Nickel and third-down situations. The extra experience paid off and should help in the event he’s forced into backing up again this season.

“All it did was it gave me more opportunities to make plays,” Gilberry said about his 2013 fill-in role. “Geno takes up a lot of those opportunities. He is Geno, he’s proven. He’s the lead dog in this defense. With that being said, I played my role. With him being out, it was a free-for-all and guys got in where they fit in and that’s what you saw. Everybody wanted to make plays and everybody’s capable of doing that.”

Gilberry contends he’s also capable of continuing to play at a high level whether he gets the attention Dunlap and Hunt receive or not.

“I don’t expect to get no more or no less,” he said to reporters. “The chip on my shoulder ain’t going no where if you guys pat me on my back or not. It is what it is.”

If you choose to continue doubting Gilberry, he wants you to know that you do so at your own risk.

“You can forget [the Dark Knight],” he said, smiling. “That’s fine.”

So far, the doubt him has paid off for him.

‘Gumby’ Patterson bends into starting role

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It’s hard to imagine a less visually appropriate nickname for a defensive tackle than “Gumby,” and when the New York Giants’ Mike Patterson heard that it had been applied to him, he gave a deep chuckle that sounded nothing like anything that little green stretchy character had ever uttered. But he’s heard it before and he takes pride in it.

It was Giants offensive line coach Pat Flaherty who said it last week, describing Patterson as “Gumby” for his ability to bend and twist his way through blocks. It is clear from talking to teammates that the nickname has been used before, and that they think it’s a good one.

“I’ve seen him recover from positions that you wouldn’t think would be possible,” fellow defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. “I’ve seen him lose a step and go down to almost a knee and a hand and then be able to fight back out of it and make a play. He’s a great athlete.”

Patterson doesn’t resemble a great athlete any more than he resembles Gumby. He’s 6-foot-1 and, by his own count Tuesday morning, 316 pounds. But he was, back in 2005, a first-round draft pick. And even if you’re a defensive tackle, you need to be more than just a big, chubby guy to get picked in the first round.

“I’m able to pretty much have a good bend in my hips,” the genial Patterson said after he got done chuckling. “A lot of guys are still and not able to get down low and stay low and take on double teams and move around like that. It’s most definitely a technique learned over time and something I didn’t get right off the bat. But I kept working on it and it became natural.”

Frankly, Patterson’s just thrilled about where he is right now, in life and in football. Three years ago, Patterson collapsed on a practice field at Lehigh University during training camp with the Philadelphia Eagles. He played the entire 2011 season once he recovered, but the following offseason he was diagnosed with a rare brain condition called arteriovenous malformation (AVM). That required an extensive surgery that involved removing a part of his skull.

Patterson played only five games in 2012 while recovering from the surgery and then signed with the Giants prior to 2013. He performed well enough in a reserve role last year that the Giants re-signed him when they decided to let Linval Joseph leave as a free agent. And when the first depth chart of training camp hit last week, you’d better believe Patterson enjoyed seeing himself listed as a starting defensive tackle next to Jenkins.

“I’m very excited and very thankful that this opportunity wasn’t cut down or cut short for me,” Patterson said before Giants practice Tuesday. “Since I’ve been able to get back to that starting role, I’m taking it very serious and very personal to keep it. I want to go out there and do my best to show them I’m still a good player.”

The Giants rotate their defensive tackles routinely, and Patterson knows that he and Jenkins will share playing time with Markus Kuhn and 2013 second-round pick Johnathan Hankins. He knows that Hankins may ultimately be ticketed to replace him as a starter, maybe even by the end of this camp if Hankins shows enough. But in the meantime, Patterson’s pride in having re-established himself as an NFL starter is evident — and justified.

“The AVM stuff, I’m just happy to finally put that behind me and just move on,” Patterson said. “I’ve had a lot of questions. People were wondering if I was going to be able to play, things like that. But all that’s behind me. Now I’m here, a fresh new year and I’m just excited to be out there with nothing to worry about.”

Meyer: QB Miller ‘close’ to positioning himself as top prospect

CHICAGO — Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer knows Buckeyes star quarterback Braxton Miller has work to do if he’s going to be counted among the top QB prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft. Meyer doesn’t seem to think Miller is far off from joining that club, though.

“He’s close. He’s real close,” Meyer said Monday at Big Ten Media Days. “I used to make a comment, ‘You can’t see the ceiling.’ You can see the ceiling with him now.”

As for how Miller moves closer to the top of draft boards, Meyer said the plan includes allowing Miller to show he’s a complete quarterback, not just one with great running ability. Miller has proven he’s a dynamic rusher, but he’s yet to establish himself as a consistent passer.

“We have to be very balanced. We’ve been very one-dimensional with him,” Meyer said. “He’s certainly got the skill set and he’s got the arm strength and now I believe he’s got the knowledge. And I believe his personnel around him is better. Those are the areas and he’s got to utilize that.”

Miller threw for 2,094 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed for 1,068 yards and 12 TDs last season, when he missed two games and almost all of another. He gave serious consideration to entering the 2014 NFL Draft, but opted to return for his senior season and underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason. After missing all of spring practice as he recovered from surgery, Miller returns as a leading contender for the Heisman Trophy and in the best shape of his life, according to Meyer.

The signal-caller said the emphasis during the spring and summer was improving his football knowledge, which included intense whiteboard sessions with Meyer and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Tom Herman where Miller was tested on the whole offense.

“Knowledge-wise, learning the game more,” Miller said of his offseason focus. “Learning how to talk in front of a big group. I talked in front of the whole defensive staff and that was kind of weird. I know them and see them everyday, but everybody in the same room, I’m talking and teaching them. That was kind of weird. I’m like, ‘Dang. I see how you all feel when you’re teaching us.’”

With that knowledge could come increased freedom for Miller to operate in the Buckeyes’ offense this season. Meyer said he hoped to give Miller the flexibility to change plays at the line of scrimmage more this year after not entrusting him with that option much in the past.

Rudolph’s contract a shrewd show of faith

MANKATO, Minn. — After the Minnesota Vikings named Norv Turner their offensive coordinator in January, it quickly became apparent that tight end Kyle Rudolph stood to become one of the biggest beneficiaries of the move. Rudolph had put together a solid start to his career in Minnesota, winning Pro Bowl MVP honors after his second season and catching 30 passes before breaking his foot in the Vikings’ eighth game of last year, but Turner’s offense — and his history of featuring tight ends in it — stood to take Rudolph to a new level.

And that came at a good time for the tight end, too. He’d talked at the end of the 2013 season about wanting a contract extension in Minnesota, and said it several more times throughout the winter. But as recently as the beginning of this month, when Rudolph was working out with Larry Fitzgerald at the University of Minnesota, he gave some credence to the theory that it might be in his best interests to wait, put up a big year in 2014 and cash in before free agency next March.

The Vikings clearly saw that possibility, too. Think of the five-year contract extension they gave Rudolph on Sunday night, then, as both a good-faith deposit and a mechanism to ensure some cost certainty.

Rudolph’s production (109 catches, 1,055 yards and 15 touchdowns) as well as his reputation as a model citizen, had put him in line for contract extension talks. But if the Vikings had waited, and Rudolph had posted a 65- or 70-catch season, they might have been paying a higher premium to keep Rudolph off the free-agent market next spring. Instead, they got a deal done that could pay Rudolph up to $40.5 million, but presently carries a practical guarantee of just $7.46 million. He’ll receive a $960,000 base salary in 2014, according to a league source, as well as a $6.5 million signing bonus.

There’s another $12 million of guaranteed money, but that’s currently slated to come to Rudolph in case of injury only, until it becomes fully realized at some point in the future if Rudolph is still on the roster on the third day of a given league year (or years, if the remaining guaranteed money is spread over several different seasons). That’s the same mechanism the New Orleans Saints used in Jimmy Graham’s deal — and Rudolph’s guaranteed money is only $1.5 million less than Graham’s — but unlike Rudolph, Graham got $13 million guaranteed at the time of signing the deal.

The Vikings’ deal with Rudolph (which was first reported by Fox Sports) means the tight end must still produce to unlock much of its worth. There’s little reason to think he won’t work to earn the money — he’s worked to get himself in better shape this offseason — but the Vikings structured the deal in such a way that Rudolph won’t get paid like one of the league’s top tight ends unless he is playing like one.

Rudolph isn’t as fast as Antonio Gates or Jordan Cameron, two other tight ends who have excelled in Turner’s offense, but he’s a 6-foot-6 target who’s caught 11 of his 15 career touchdowns in the red zone. Playing at 258 pounds instead of 273, he could work the middle of the field more effectively and produce big chunks of yardage. That the Vikings gave him an extension now, before he’s played a down for Turner, shows they think it’s distinct possibility Rudolph will take the next step. They won’t be fully committed to the deal, though, unless he does. It’s a show of faith, but with mechanisms to limit the Vikings’ exposure. In the NFL, that’s as fervent as faith gets.

Jared Allen a catalyst on Day 1

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — While Jared Allen’s physical skill set made him an alluring offseason acquisition for Bears, it’s the intangibles that stood out in Day 1 of training camp, according to Bears coach Marc Trestman.

“I thought Jared set the tone defensively with Lamarr [Houston] and the guys up front, Jeremiah [Ratliff] up front, just in the start of practice,” Trestman said. “That was clear through his performance today that he not only started fast and finished strong.”

Chicago’s defense netted a Kyle Fuller interception early on in full team work Friday at Olivet Nazarene University, and the momentum from that play seemed to carry the unit through the duration of practice. Walking off the field just minutes after the workout, cornerback Tim Jennings felt “the defense came out with a lot of energy.”

Combined with veterans such as Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs, Jennings and Houston, perhaps Allen served as the catalyst. Of course, Allen won’t take credit. He knows his worth is proven by what’s done on the field, not rah-rah motivational speeches.

“You’re a leader by what you do. I’ve had success in this league, so for me, it’s nothing I want to say to a guy,” Allen said. “I’m going to encourage a guy. I’m going to help young guys out if they want it. But the way I’m going to lead is I’m going to show up to work and I’m going to put my best on the field, and I’m going to expect the guy next to me to be his best.”

Tillman, Briggs, and Jennings have taken a similar approach, making Allen seemingly a natural fit in Chicago’s revamped group chock-full of a mixture of young, ascending players combined with established veterans.

“There’s so much change,” Allen said. “Guys get to know each other from playing against each other and you have a mutual respect. So it’s not like I was totally new. I know Lance. I know Peanut. I know these guys, and as they get to see how I work, the young guys see that, and they see how the vets who have had success in this league collaborate and work together. So there’s not much that has to be said. You show up and go about your business, and you expect guys to do the same.”

Allen joined the Bears with Hall of Fame credentials as a five-time Pro Bowler, and member of the 100-sacks club, but Trestman believes the defensive end’s infectious personality could play into him positively affecting other players on Chicago’s defense, which hit historic lows last season, ranking last in the NFL against the run.

Obviously, the addition of Allen doesn’t automatically fix things. But his combination of skill and intangibles certainly helps.

“He’s a very likable guy in the locker room. He’s a fun guy to have a conversation with,” Trestman said. “We’re excited to have him with us. He’s been a tremendous addition in our locker room and we’re hopeful it’ll translate to the field and the games as well.”

The Bears worked a few packages during Friday’s workout which feature Allen, Willie Young, Ratliff and Houston all on the field at the same time. When the team runs its base defense, Allen and Houston are the starters at defensive end. But in some packages, Houston kicks inside to defensive tackle next to Ratliff, which should allow Young and Allen to better attack the edges.

As an 11-year veteran Allen knows to temper his excitement, because once the season kicks off, anything can happen. But having been a part of successful defenses in the past in Kansas City and Minnesota, Allen believes the Bears have the ingredients to put together something special.

“We’ve got quality vets, we’ve got Pro Bowl guys,” Allen said. “We’ve got guys who are right on that precipice of exploding. I’m excited to work with Willie and Jay Ratliff being healthy again, and Lamarr. We worked on some different packages and stuff today to get all four of us on the field. It’s exciting to see the talent level we’ve got with Briggs behind us and Bostic. You can keep going. I’m excited to play with the DBs, honestly, to have some lockdown corners — the young guy running there flying around and picking balls off today. So that’s what’s exciting about it. The fans and the media want to talk about what happened last year. I wasn’t here. To me that doesn’t matter. I know how things can change in one year. I honestly believe — I’ve been a part of really good defenses — we have those components. As long as guys continue to grow and develop and understand how each other work and the coaches continue to let us work within our scheme, I think we’ll be fine.”

Jimmy Clausen: Jay Cutler ‘helped me a lot’

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — The body-language cops and critics knock Jay Cutler enough that new signees aren’t sure what to expect from the quarterback upon joining the Chicago Bears.

That’s partly why backup quarterback Jimmy Clausen expressed surprise Thursday about Cutler’s willingness to take on the role of mentor. After signing with the Bears on June 5, Clausen spent his first weekend as a Chicago Bear with Cutler learning the offense.

“Just hearing different things around the league, ‘Jay’s this, Jay’s that, different guys are this or different guys are that,’” Clausen said. “But you’ve just got to get to know a person, a man on the team. He’s just like all the rest of the guys, just hungry to get out there each and every day, work hard, and win on Sundays.”

With Cutler’s help, Clausen put on enough of a show during veteran minicamp in June to convince the team’s brass to extend the audition to training camp. Now, Clausen finds himself in prime position to overtake Jordan Palmer to become the primary backup to Cutler.

“He helped me out a lot,” Clausen said of Cutler. “Obviously, you get a whole entire playbook, but a lot of the plays in the playbook aren’t necessarily the ones you run. So he kind of went through pretty much the whole entire playbook and said, ‘Hey, you need to know this, this, and this. He really helped me a lot.”

That assistance perhaps plays a role in intensifying the competition between Clausen and Palmer for the No. 2 job. Palmer originally signed with the Bears last August, was cut after training camp, and returned two months later to finish out the season with the team.

Early in the offseason, Bears coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery expressed confidence in going into the 2014 season with Palmer as the No. 2 quarterback. But the Bears drafted David Fales in the sixth round, and signed Clausen in June following a strong workout and personal interview session with the brass at Halas Hall.

“Right now, Jordan Palmer has the first shot at being No. 2,” Trestman said. “There’s three guys there up for the No. 2, but it’s going to start with Jordan, and we feel really good about Jimmy. We felt really good about David’s performance as well. We’re just going to work at it like that. We’re going to give Jordan the first shot. He’s been here the longest. Jimmy Clausen has the most experience, so we’re going to work to get him in there.”

Does Cutler have a preference? The quarterback certainly didn’t indicate as much Wednesday when he arrived at camp.

“Jordan, he’s been around a long time, his older brother, he’s been able to watch him a lot,” Cutler said. “Jimmy, he’s played in big games at Notre Dame and kind of [has] the pedigree. He’s a high-round pick, was in a tough position in Carolina. They’re both very hungry. They’ve both worked extremely hard this offseason putting in the time mentally.”

Clausen spent the past month going into camp, studying and training in Westlake Village, California, alongside players such as Clay Matthews, Aaron Rodgers and Colin Kaepernick.

“I think I’ve got a good grasp of it right now,” Clausen said. “It’s just taking what I’ve been studying onto the field and having it translate into practice each and every play. It’ll be interesting to get on the field and get going. I’m excited. Day 1 is tomorrow.”

Like Cutler, Clausen has dealt with scrutiny over the years regarding his attitude, and perceptions about his ego. He encourages those hurling the criticisms to do what he did in establishing a relationship with Cutler.

“Everybody has their own opinion, but until you get to know somebody, you can’t really make a judgment on the person,” Clausen said. “A lot of people say different things about me, or different guys on the team, or Jay, or whoever it may be. I think it’s unfair if you just make a judgment without knowing somebody, but that’s just how this world is today.”

Party time now over for Johnny Manziel

It’s time for quarterback Johnny Manziel to channel himself some Don Meredith.

The party’s over; turn out the lights.

The offseason of Vegas-Austin-Mexico-Los Angeles clubs and beverages/bottles has concluded. The social media photos with rolled bills are complete. Wednesday, Manziel reported for duty for his first NFL training camp in Cleveland to try to become the Cleveland Browns’ starting quarterback. It’s not exactly a brave new world for the Browns’ first-round draft pick — he did manage himself quite well in college during the season while having a good time in the offseason, thank you very much — but it is a more challenging situation than anything he has dealt with in his life. The young wunderkind who was simply always better than those around him finds himself at a whole new level, having to earn his place in the world of professionals.But while attention will be homed on his every move, his coach has made no secret he’d prefer Manziel not be the team’s immediate starter. Coach Mike Pettine told SI.com that in his “ideal world,” Manziel would not start on opening day.

Go figure.

The Browns, a team in need of a new image, excite the area and the football world by drafting the most exciting player eligible, and they want him to wait.

But there’s sound logic and strong precedent behind Pettine’s thinking.

He talks about success stories for people who wait to start — Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Carson Palmer — and compares them to guys he has seen rushed into the starting lineup too soon — Kyle Boller — for a team not good enough to support them.

That’s a scenario Cleveland fans know all too well, as they have seen quarterback after quarterback forced into the lineup, only to struggle with a bad team and fail: Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, Charlie Frye and Brandon Weeden among them.

The other cycle that has been repeated in Cleveland is that a quarterback ballyhooed as a savior watches as the team drafts another. The public and media — and eventually the team — grow weary of the first “savior” struggling because the team is not equipped to help him. This starts the clamor for the next guy. He then is rushed in and struggles for the same reasons the first guy did.

Savior after savior has flamed out, quickly. Heck, a year ago in Cleveland, Jason Campbell was briefly considered a savior. He finished 1-7 as a starter.

“It’s a bad cycle,” Pettine said, “until you get the team around him.”

Pettine has to balance a lot, starting with hype and expectation (multiplied exponentially because it’s Manziel) that comes with any quarterback drafted in the first round. But he also has to balance what he has seen — that a quarterback will struggle if the team around him struggles.

“There’s no doubt [the quarterback is] the most important guy on the field,” Pettine said. “But he’s so much the product of his supporting cast.”

In many past years, the Browns built the team from the inside out. Start with the quarterback and hope to add pieces. It can work, but the danger in that process showed constantly as a lack of a supporting cast left each young quarterback battered, shell-shocked and fragile.

Pettine wants to build from the outside in while still working with the best quarterback he can find.

That’s why in the offseason the Browns rebuilt the running game with personnel and system. It is why they bolstered the offensive line, and why they’ve implemented a defensive scheme that has been successful everywhere it has been used. It’s also why they brought in prominent defensive veterans Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby, guys used to winning who might change the vibe in a locker room accustomed to losing.

The final piece was a quarterback to compete with Brian Hoyer. In Manziel, the Browns got a guy who threw for 7,800 yards and 63 touchdowns at Texas A&M, a guy who for whatever reason has become a social media phenomenon.

“I don’t think even he can get a handle on the why,” Pettine said

At this point in his NFL career, Manziel has done nothing but be successful in college. As any Browns fan can attest, college success and/or a college resume does not automatically translate to wins in the NFL.

Pettine said Manziel was a great teammate in the previous time he was in Cleveland, calling him “very humble.” The typical litany of positives followed: good in the weight room, attentive in meetings, smart.

Pettine then added this tidbit: “I think he’s ahead of the learning curve.”

In the world of hype, parsing and interpreting what has formed around Manziel, that comment would translate on the conversion chart to: “Holy smokes this guy is good.”

But there are many factors at play, not the least of which are the beliefs and principles of the head coach. In organized team activities and minicamps, Manziel had his moments but never consistently looked like a no-brainer to be the starter. He never played like a guy who immediately had to be put in the lineup. Manziel himself admitted the Browns’ offense is a lot more complex than the one he ran in college, where he didn’t even have a playbook. There’s the reality that the Browns open in Pittsburgh and then play at home against the New Orleans Saints and the Baltimore Ravens. Those are three very tough, physical and aggressive defenses that might make a team hesitate to start a rookie.

Two things are steadfastly true, though. First is that if Manziel doesn’t turn out the lights, his on-field party will be over. Because he won’t be able to succeed on the field if he’s living the extreme high life off it. Pettine said he expects the off-field to be a “non-story” soon.

The second is that Pettine is determined to not give Manziel the job simply because of who he is.

“It’s very simple for us,” Pettine said. “Who gives us the best chance to win?”

David Tyree hire a bad move for Giants

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — I wrote about the Tony Dungy-Michael Sam controversy on Tuesday, so you know where I come down on the gay rights issue. I think these are issues of human decency, not of religion or culture or the sanctity of the NFL locker room.

But if Dungy merely put his toe over the line and onto the wrong side of this issue, former New York Giants wide receiver David Tyree is the mayor of the wrong side of this issue. In 2011, Tyree said he’d trade his miracle “helmet catch,” which led to the Giants winning Super Bowl XLII, in exchange for a law outlawing gay marriage. And he’s publicly professed his belief that “there is no scientific data to support the claim of being born gay.” Tyree has explained his views by citing his religious beliefs, which is an excuse a lot of people use and is, in my opinion, a crummy reason for treating fellow human beings poorly. You believe what you want to believe, but once you start using it as a weapon with which to mistreat other people, you have lost me.

Anyway, this comes up because the Giants hired Tyree on Tuesday as their new director of player development. And while I don’t think wrongheaded views should necessarily prevent a person from seeking and holding a job in his chosen field, I’m surprised that the Giants would make such a tone-deaf move in the current NFL and social climate. The move was ripped by the Human Rights Campaign, and Tyree declined to comment about the criticism when contacted by ESPNNewYork.com.

Obviously, given the sensitive nature of the Michael Sam story, we’re at an important social time in NFL history. One of the points of Sam’s decision to live his life as an openly gay man trying to play in the NFL is that gay football players in the future will be less afraid to live their lives openly. Sam’s story should lead us all to a deeper understanding of each other as people and to treat each other with more kindness and decency regardless of where we disagree or where we’re different. People like Tyree stand in the way of that, which is why I don’t think this is the right time for Tyree to hold a job like this in the NFL.

Imagine, if you will, there was a hypothetical closeted gay player on the Giants who was thinking about coming out. Maybe he was inspired by Sam, maybe not, but as of, say, Monday, he was thinking about telling the world he’s gay. He was nervous but excited about finally not having to feel as though he had to hide who he is — a great, positive thing for the player and the world in general.

And then on Tuesday, the Giants go and hire a guy to work in a position of authority in the organization, and this guy loudly and publicly believes what Tyree believes.

What does that player think now? What does that player do now? What message has his organization sent to players in that position?

Tyree might well be qualified to hold the job of director of player development. Heck, he might be great at it. And maybe his medieval views on this issue won’t affect his ability to do the job or relate to players in any way. But given what’s going on in the NFL and the world right now, I have to think the Giants could have made a less tone-deaf hire.

Snee’s quiet, gritty, brilliant Giants legacy

Chris SneeJason O. Watson/Getty Images

Chris Snee retires after 10 seasons and two Super Bowl titles with the Giants.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Offensive linemen don’t get stats. They don’t gain yards or score touchdowns or sack quarterbacks. Check out Chris Snee’s page on ESPN.com right here and, well, you don’t see a whole lot of information. But Snee makes a strong case as the best offensive lineman in New York Giants history. And on the occasion of his retirement Monday after 10 seasons, four Pro Bowl appearances and two Super Bowl titles with the Giants, it was clear that his legacy would live large in the memories of those who watched him up close.

“Strength, power, mental toughness, work ethic, the way he approached the game … he had everything you want,” former Giants offensive lineman David Diehl said in a phone interview Monday. “Sincerely, one of the best guards I’ve ever seen.”

You have to play guard at a pretty high level — and for a pretty long time — in the NFL to make the kind of imprint Snee made on the game. Monday afternoon, Giants owner John Mara said Snee was the first player he’d ever told, on the occasion of his retirement, that he would definitely be in the team’s Ring of Honor.

“We just have to figure out a date,” Mara said shortly before Snee came out to formally announce his retirement.

Mara recalled that 2004 draft, in which the Giants were making the big blockbuster deal to trade up for quarterback Eli Manning. He said there was a debate about whether to include that year’s second-round pick (No. 34 overall) or the 2005 first-rounder in the deal, and they ultimately decided to hold onto the 2004 second-rounder, “because we felt like it was going to be a real good player, and was it ever.”

Snee was that player, though at the time he was picked the bigger headline was about his relationship with Kate Coughlin, the daughter of Giants coach Tom Coughlin. Snee would end up marrying Kate and fathering three of Coughlin’s grandsons — creating a professional arrangement that could have been awkward but which both son-in-law and father-in-law discussed emotionally and lovingly Monday at its end.

“People say, ‘You’re not very objective about this.’ Well, I’m not pleading my case for objectivity right now,” Coughlin said. “I’m just telling you the quality of the man is greater than the quality and the ability of the football player, and that’s as good as it gets. People asked about coaching your son-in-law, ‘Is it hard?’ I’ll take 100 of them. If there’s 53, I’ll take 53 of him.”

Manning smiled Monday as he recalled coming into the league at the same time as Snee. Two quiet guys who didn’t say much, even to each other as they roomed together in camp and on the road that year, Manning and Snee ended up as part of the backbone of a team that won two Super Bowls. Manning said Snee took some grief early in his career for being the coach’s son-in-law, but that he handled it the best way anyone could.

“He became a dominant player,” Manning said. “And that helped him really take it in stride.”

Dominant. The best player on an offensive line that became a Giants calling card from 2006-10. Snee, Diehl, Shaun O’Hara, Rich Seubert and Kareem McKenzie quite famously started 38 games in a row at one point. They helped knock off the undefeated New England Patriots and win Super Bowl XLII. Diehl says he still has the copy of the January 12, 2009 ESPN the Magazine cover that pictured the five of them in a circle, looking down at the camera, under the headline “Are These Guys the NFL’s Real MVPs?”

“We wanted to be the leaders of our football team,” Diehl said. “We had a mentality that we were going to push for each other, work for each other and turn things around for the New York Giants. Chris embodied everything about that mentality. He did it quietly, but he lived it.”

Snee lists at 6-foot-3, 310 pounds, which makes him a large human being but not an especially large NFL guard. He fought the perception that he was undersized and did it by emphasizing strength and power in his game. Coughlin said Monday that Snee and former defensive tackle Linval Joseph regularly competed in the weight room for the title of strongest player on the team.

“People knocked him for his size, said he was short,” Diehl said. “But he had incredible strength, an ability to get under people on double teams, use his legs to move people off a spot and dictate the action. Just a tough, hard-nosed, hard-working football player.”

The incredibly physical way Snee played is likely the reason it’s over for him at 32. Both hips and his right elbow are shot to the point where he doesn’t feel he can play anymore, and after an offseason of trying to get himself in shape to do that, he figured out within the past couple of weeks that he could not.

“I have to admit that I can no longer play,” Snee said. “It’s a sad day, but once I leave here, I’ll be at peace with it.”

Snee is a guard, and as such he’s a guy who doesn’t get or seek a lot of attention. So Monday wasn’t easy. He broke down at the start of his retirement news conference Monday, and when it ended he gathered two of his sons in his arms as they cried. He said he’d have to “disappear” for a couple of weeks, but that he expected to return at some point this season to catch a practice and some games because his sons love it so much.

“This is home,” Snee said. “My kids love the games. They’re going to want to come. I’m going to want to go. It’s going to be tough at first, but that’s the way life goes.”

Snee said “everybody wants the Strahan ending,” referring to the fact that former Giant Michael Strahan’s final game was the Super Bowl XLII victory over the Patriots, but he’s OK with not getting that ending. He’ll wish his final game had been something better than the seven-sack mess the Giants delivered in Week 3 of 2013 in Carolina, but that’s not in his control. And if he listened to those who spoke around him Monday, he knows he doesn’t have to worry about that being a part of his legacy.

“As an offensive lineman, you don’t want the glory, you don’t want the fame,” Diehl said. “All you want is that ‘W’ for your team.”

The New York Giants won 89 games when Snee on the field from 2004 to 2012. Two of those 89 were Super Bowls. Offensive linemen don’t get stats, but they’ll take those. And if you’re wondering about Chris Snee’s legacy, it doesn’t need numbers. All you had to do Monday for proof of that was ask. Anybody.

Dunbar’s arrest could create opportunity

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For the second consecutive season, St. Louis Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar has made headlines for the wrong reasons near the start of training camp.

Reports from The Associated Press indicate that Dunbar was involved in a fight outside a Miami nightclub early Sunday morning. Dunbar got into an altercation with NBA free-agent forward Donte Greene outside Dream Nightclub, according to Miami Beach Police Detective Vivian Thayer, who said both men were arrested and will face charges of battery and disorderly conduct.

With further details unavailable at this time, this could be nothing deeper than a fight between a couple of athletes. But in Dunbar’s case, it’s not this incident that is alarming so much as the unsightly pattern that has begun to form when it comes to him and off-field incidents near the start of training camp.

The Rams have seemingly made it through the scariest part of the offseason without any serious issues, and while a fight doesn’t really qualify, it does add another negative mark on Dunbar’s record as the team opens camp this week.

Last year, Dunbar entered camp as a presumptive starter at outside linebacker, but those plans took a U-turn when the NFL suspended him four games for violation of its policy against performance-enhancing substances. A clearly irritated coach Jeff Fisher made it clear he was unhappy with Dunbar, and instead of keeping him on the roster during the suspension, the Rams released him and signed veteran linebacker Will Witherspoon.

Dunbar re-signed for the rest of the 2013 season after serving the suspension but came back to reduced snaps with Alec Ogletree handling three-down duty alongside James Laurinaitis. Dunbar finished with 39 tackles in 12 games and 10 starts.

Despite the underwhelming season, in March the Rams brought Dunbar back on a two-year deal worth up to $3.5 million with hopes that reuniting him with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who coached Dunbar in New Orleans, could get him back on track.

While more information needs to be gathered and the legal process still has to play out, Dunbar is obviously not doing himself any favors as he attempts to hold down the starting job opposite Ogletree. As it stands, Dunbar is projected to remain the starter, but second-year linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong has impressed coaches enough to get more opportunities to contribute and was already poised to push for an expanded role in 2014.

Whether or not Dunbar faces any further punishment from the team or the league, it’s fair to wonder if Armstrong could now get an even closer look when camp opens.