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2-28-11: Arizona Cardinals Bird Droppings - Combine, Possible Draft Picks, and Fitz's Contract

A bunch of links from a busy weekend in the NFL

Graves Gets Younger
GM earns award from Fritz Pollard Alliance

On Fitz and Porter
General manager Rod Graves and coach Ken Whisenhunt met with the media at the combine today. Nothing earthshattering came out of it, but I will have a story in a bit on the homepage and there were a couple of other notes of interest.

Arizona Cardinals may pass on quarterback with No. 5 pick
The Cardinals need a quarterback and, with the fifth overall pick in the NFL draft, they have the means to acquire one. The question they have is if there is one worthy of selecting that high. Finding the answer isn't easy, but they are hoping to begin to gather clues this week at the NFL combine.

Interesting day for QBs on the podium
Two quarterbacks with big questions hovering around them met with the media today. Both had sessions that left a lot of those questions.

Considering That First QB
Cardinals must decide whether first pick makes sense for signal-caller

Texas A&M's Von Miller a premier pass rusher
Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller doesn't care how his new employer's defense might be described. Roll the dice and come up with any combination - 4-3, 3-4, 5-2 - and chances are Miller will be playing in the same spot in any of them: lined up outside the offensive formation, ready to rush the passer. "My God-given ability is speed off the edge, just rushing," Miller said Saturday at the NFL combine. "I can drop back into coverage and do all that other stuff, too, but what God has blessed me with is pass rushing off the edge." The Cardinals need such a blessing, and that's why they could take Miller with the fifth overall pick in the draft.

The Franchise Behind Center
Process to find right quarterback anything but simple

Finding A Pass Rusher
Most of the time, players who can pressure the QB easy to see

Contract talks between Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals 'ongoing'
Negotiations with the agent for Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald are "ongoing," General Manager Rod Graves said, but it's doubtful a deal will be reached before Thursday, when the NFL's collective-bargaining agreement expires.

Video Gallery
A few combine minutes with Whisenhunt and Graves

Video Gallery
Whisenhunt Meets Media at Combine

Video Gallery
John Lott Gets Combine Minds Right

Video Gallery
Whisenhunt Busy At The Combine

Phoenix Suns start fast, hold off Toronto Raptors
Steve Nash is deified here. Vince Carter is vilified here. To each his own. The Suns will take whatever drives their players. Nearly everything the Suns tried seemed to work Friday night, when they started a six-game road trip with a dominant 110-92 victory over the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre.

Phoenix Coyotes fail to hold early lead, lose 5-3 to Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets bounced back from an early two-goal deficit to beat the Phoenix Coyotes 5-3 on Friday night.

Phoenix Suns edge Indiana Pacers in overtime
The Sunday noon tip time in another time zone could have unsettled a lot of players' games. But for a man with more NBA experience than the Indiana Pacers' starting lineup combined, Suns forward Grant Hill was at his Sunday best.

Chicago Blackhawks end Phoenix Coyotes rally in overtime
The Phoenix Coyotes rallied but couldn't score in the shootout, losing 4-3 to the Chicago Blackhawks to end their road trip.

2011 NFL Mock Draft 2.0 |
5. Arizona Cardinals – Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU Previous Mock Selection: Robert Quinn Many will expect the Cardinals to take their choice of quarterbacks at this spot and no one would fault them for doing so. There is a sense though that the team will sign a free agent or acquire through trade (Donovan McNabb or Kevin Kolb) and continue to try and groom one of their young picks from last year. Should that be the case the team needs a pass rusher at OLB (Joey Porter was not the answer) or they could go with the best player available on the board and upgrade their secondary with Patrick Peterson. blogs - Kent Somers - Evaluating the QBs
Former Cardinals coach Dennis Green used to remind reporters of the various ways a team could acquire players: draft, trade, free agency, etc. The Cardinals are going to explore all those avenues this off-season in search of a starter. The team's brain trust has been formulating a plan, which it hasn't divulged, but it's not hard to guess.

Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt defends Joey Porter's performance
There are a handful of reasons outside linebacker Joey Porter might not return to the Cardinals this season. He's coming off an unproductive season in which he produced five sacks. He turns 34 in March, and he's due to receive $5.75 million in salary, $4.5 million more than last season. Coach Ken Whisenhunt defended Porter on Friday at the NFL scouting combine, saying Porter was put in an unfair situation because of injuries to other outside linebackers.

Arizona Cardinals: What Offseason Needs Do The Cardinals Have? | Bleacher Report
The Arizona Cardinals finished in last place in the NFC West with a 5-11 record after winning the NFC Championship just two years ago. Now, the Cardinals run the risk of falling back into obscurity. What positions do the Cardinals need to upgrade to prevent that from happening? Read on to find out. blogs - Kent Somers - Keeping Fitz in AZ
Negotiations with the agent for receiver Larry Fitzgerald are "ongoing," GM Rod Graves said from the NFL Combine. And I get the feeling that's going to be the case for some time. The Cardinals have until March 4 to re-sign Fitzgerald under the current collective bargaining agreement. If a new CBA isn't reached by then, the owners are likely to lock out the players, and no one can sign a contract until the matter is resolved.

Haley wary of Fitz’s tackling skills
Had a chance to talk to Chiefs coach (and former Cardinals offensive coordinator) Todd Haley yesterday when he opened the conversation about the long-past pickup basketball games we both used to take part in. Haley (who was wearing his NFC championship ring) isn’t playing hoops right now after tearing his quad muscle in his right leg — he’s rehabbing now — and that led to discussion about when he hurt it. blogs - Kent Somers - Leaving Indy
A few final thoughts as I prepare to leave Indianapolis for home:

Cardinals working to get a deal done with Larry Fitzgerald | National Football Post
The Arizona Cardinals have been working to sign wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald to his third contract with the club, but whether or not they can get a deal done remains to be seen.

Indy doesn’t provide all the answers
As the combine wraps up – at least my portion of it – I think about watching Cam Newton’s workouts today. Not live. I was there but not there, watching it on TV screens just like you did, if, you know, you watch such things. Then, after Newton ran and he threw, everyone tried to say it was really disappointing or really not. At the airport this evening, I was talking to an assistant coach (not from the Cardinals) and a fellow writer about Cam-mania and taking a risk on him — or any quarterback.

Espo: Phoenix is America's largest small market sports city -
If you've ever driven through the heartland of America you've probably seen signs promoting tourist traps like "The World's Largest Spool of Thread", "The Biggest Bowling Pin on Earth" and "World's Largest Collection of World's Smallest Versions of World's Largest Things". (That last one wasn't made up. It really exists in a little place called Cawker, Kansas.) They're scattered throughout the more rural parts of the country the same way bad bars, high priced retail shops and silicone are scattered across downtown Scottsdale. Although the Metro Phoenix area has seen a fast transformation from corn fields into a concrete jungle over the last two decades, it's starting to feel like there should be similar signs out front of every professional sports arena and stadium in the Valley.

Veteran scout: Cam Newton "looks terrible" during Combine workout | ProFootballTalk
Former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton impressed NFL observers by running the 40-yard dash in fewer than 4.6 seconds at the Scouting Combine. At least one veteran scout was far less impressed by his workout.

Cam’s coach says Newton "didn’t ace" his Combine test | ProFootballTalk
A veteran scout candidly told us earlier today that Cam Newton looked "terrible" during his Scouting Combine workout. The man who is working with Newton in advance of the draft provided a more tactful assessment.

Jake Locker also impresses in Sunday’s first quarterback group | ProFootballTalk
Washington’s Jake Locker reportedly showed improved accuracy compared to his week in Mobile at the Senior Bowl. Tony Pauline of and thought Locker changed his delivery slightly with good results. "Teams are looking for a reason to take Locker in the first round. He helped give them one Sunday," Pauline said.

Ryan Mallett gets rave reviews for Combine effort | ProFootballTalk
Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett bounced back from a rough Saturday afternoon by doing what he does best: Spinning the football.

Jake Locker runs a blazing 4.52 in the 40 | ProFootballTalk
If Jake Locker can’t improve his passing accuracy, maybe he should move to another position. He’s fast enough to play wide receiver.

NFL combine report: Quarterbacks/Running Backs - NFL -
One of the most anticipated days of the combine is complete, as the highly touted quarterbacks took the field, hoping to answer the many questions scouts had about their skills. Then, a swift group of running backs impressed NFL decision-makers with better-than-expected 40 times. Here's a look at the risers and sliders:

A.J. Green, Julio Jones stand out amongst receivers at Sunday combine - NFL -
More than 40 receivers worked out for NFL decision-makers Sunday on the turf at Lucas Oil Stadium. In the end, most lived up to, or exceeded, expectations as scouts walked away happy. It wasn't an especially fast group of wideouts, yet a steady and consistent class. Here are the receivers risers and sliders:

NFL scouting combine gets under way with OL and TE workouts - NFL -
Mike Pouncey erased any doubt that he's the draft's premier lineman Ray Dominguez improved his draft stock and drew praise after his workout One of the top OL prospects, Derek Sherrod hurt his status with a poor workout

The volatile QB market, Fairley's big dip and more combine Snaps - Don Banks -
Musings, observations and the occasional insight from Day 4 of the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis ...

NFL lockout nearly inevitable; NFL combine thoughts - Peter King -
NFL, union won't be pressed to make a deal until games are threatened Teams that adjust to very weird year best will have the advantage Why Jimmy Clausen's probably mad, a Vikings surprise, plus more

Sam Bradford, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan show rookies can thrive at QB - Don Banks -
First-round QBs have excelled since 2008, in stark contrast to 2005-07 Ron Rivera's comments make it seem Panthers are considering Cam Newton Possibility of rookie wage scale could lessen monetary risk for teams wanting a QB

NFL combine: Cam Newton in good shape, despite uneven passing performance - ESPN
In anticipation of Cam Newton's workout Sunday, reporters were calling the 2011 scouting combine "Cam-bine 2011." Newton completed only 11 of his 21 throws Sunday, but with Newton you have to go behind the numbers to determine where he fits in the draft. Blogs " Blog Archive Mallett, Locker receive high marks from analysts "
Much time has been spent discussing the merits of the top quarterbacks at the NFL Scouting Combine, and on Sunday they finally took the field. So when all was said and done, who stood out? Three of our analysts who had firsthand looks at the QBs detailed who impressed them most:

Oregon State’s Paea breaks Combine bench press record | ProFootballTalk
Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea is unable to run or perform on-field drills due to arthroscopic knee surgery underwent in January. So he had one, solitary focus entering the 2011 Scouting Combine: Bench press 225 pounds as many times as possible.

Method Men: How NFL Players Memorize Dizzying Playbooks -- NFL FanHouse
NFL players are often cited as impressive physical specimens, but it's not their tree trunk-like legs or bulging biceps that are most impressive. It's their brains. That much is made clear by learning about the most mundane of tasks required of every NFL player: memorizing the playbook. It's an act which often goes unrecognized because it is so fundamental. Players are given plays, they memorize them and they execute them on the field. Yet as a variety of current and former NFL players explained to FanHouse, it's not as easy as it sounds.

NFLPA's DeMaurice Smith meets with agents at combine - ESPN
Four prominent agents stood side-by-side Friday in a show of solidarity with the NFL Players Association at the league's annual scouting combine.

Rams scout arrested in Indy for public intoxication, public nudity | ProFootballTalk
When I signed off from PFT last night to attend Florio Jr.’s basketball game, I said to Rosenthal regarding his upcoming night out in Indianapolis, "Don’t get arrested." If only someone had given Rams scout Luke Driscoll the same admonition.

McNabb’s agents said trade or release coming after the draft | ProFootballTalk
On Friday, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said that a decision as to the future of quarterback Donovan McNabb will be made after the 2011 draft. According to McNabb’s agent (via Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News), Fletcher Smith, the Redskins will either trade or release McNabb at that time.

When It Comes to Holding the Ball, Joe Flacco Tops Ben Roethlisberger -- NFL FanHouse
Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger has deservedly developed a reputation as the quarterback who creates his own sacks. The Steelers' quarterback believes that he can dodge or shrug off pass rushers. And because of that he extends plays, buying time. Sometimes it leads to a big play, sometimes it leads to a sack.

(This link shows that the Cardinals led the NFL in sacks taken under three seconds after the snap...)