|ROSEVELT COLVIN Great experience|
Unlike the unsuspecting quarterbacks he often blitzed from the blind side and devoured for Sunday lunch, Rosevelt Colvin had an inkling of what was coming after the 2007 season.
He knew his days with the Patriots were possibly numbered. He had a high salary for 2008 ($5.5 million), and an even higher salary cap charge ($7.6 million). He also had a broken bone in the middle of his foot. All told, it wasn't a good combination when you're 30 years old and entering the final year of a contract.
So no, Colvin wasn't caught off guard when Bill Belichick summoned him for a chat at Gillette Stadium on the eve of free agency in late February, and told him the words players often dread hearing: "We're going in a different direction."
The parting left Colvin to consider in which direction his career was headed. With a wife and four children, what he didn't want was to become a one-year rent-a-player, bouncing from team to team late in his career. Essentially, if a team was willing to step up with a multiyear commitment that included some guaranteed money, Colvin would jump. Otherwise, he actually considered hanging up his helmet for good.
Such an approach explains why Colvin ended up with the Texans over other suitors, a group that included his hometown Colts.
Houston stepped up with a three-year pact that averages $2.84 million per season. The contract includes roster bonuses of $343,750 in each year. Colvin's base salary is $1 million for 2008 ($500,000 of which is guaranteed), $3 million for 2009 ($500,000 of which is guaranteed), and $3.5 million for 2010.
With the Texans, Colvin returns to a 4-3 scheme similar to what he played at Purdue. He will most likely play defensive end and be used as a rusher in passing situations, but could also see time at linebacker.
Colvin, who owns two UPS stores and has a keen business sense, compared the free agent process to the home he is currently trying to sell in Foxborough.
"It was humbling there for a while, when you listen to how teams try to devalue you, and that's why I came up with the analogy that it's like buying a house," he said. "You look at the year that the home was built, the fixtures, the upgrades, the landscaping. I feel like my landscaping looks pretty good. There are a couple cracks there in the foundation, but you're going to get a good home."
When the Patriots finalized their purchase-and-sale agreement with Colvin in 2003, bringing him to New England with what was then the most lucrative free agent deal in the Belichick/Scott Pioli regime, it was considered a coup. Colvin had posted back-to-back seasons with 10 1/2 sacks in Chicago and was entering his prime years.
Yet then came the scary hip injury that threatened his career, and similar to the way his tenure started, Colvin ended his Patriots days on injured reserve, the result of hearing a pop in his foot on a pass rush in a late November game (the broken bone did not require surgery, just rest).
Both injuries came against the Eagles, so one can excuse Colvin if he double-checked the Texans' schedule before signing on the dotted line earlier this month. Exhale. No Eagles.
Outside of the hip and foot ailments, he looks back on his five years in New England fondly.
"I got to experience and soak up knowledge and go through situations that are going to help me, not just as a football player, but in my personal life, and as a businessman, a father, and a husband," he said. "I could go on and on about how you look at Mr. [Robert] Kraft, Scott, and Bill, and how they run the team as a business. I can look at my experience and being able to play under who I believe will probably go down in history as one of the greatest football coaches ever. The opportunity I had to play alongside future Hall of Famers, guys that have put a tremendous amount of work into their careers, on the football field.
"Then there is my personal life. When we got to Massachusetts, we only had two kids. Since then, we had two more, so there are the experiences I've had being a father and a husband, and how the neighborhood we chose to live in was great, the people so nice. My wife and I sent them e-mails, letting them know how much we appreciated their friendship."
Colvin, who has relocated his family to Indianapolis, also acknowledged that being part of a golden era in Boston sports was special.
"My whole life, I've told people all the time that I'm just a regular kid from the northeast side of Indianapolis, and for me to be able to experience those things and do some of those things, and meet some of those people, it has been great for me," he said. "Being on the cover of Sports Illustrated, it's crazy to me."
Colvin had always wondered what it would feel like to be released, and often considered what thoughts were racing through the minds of players as they were summoned to turn in their playbooks.
Having now experienced that feeling for the first time, he believes it will shape the way he approaches the final stretch of his career.
"I think what I am going to try to take out of that is these last 3-4 years of my career, I'm going to enjoy it the best I can," he said. "I'm going to enjoy my teammates, I'm going to enjoy who I am as a player. I'm going to soak it all in because you never know when that situation might change."
Things shaping up well for Law
Cornerback Ty Law could have done what has come naturally over 13 NFL seasons. Much like he's jumped a pass pattern to corral an interception, Law could have made a quick move earlier this offseason.
Instead, he's dropped back and assessed the action in front of him.
"I have contract offers on the table and could have signed a deal early in free agency," said Law, who after requesting his release from the Chiefs following his second season in Kansas City remains an unrestricted free agent. "There is no rush for me at this point. I'm just going to wait for the right situation and the best fit for both me and the team."
Law visited the Jets, and has had phone discussions with Bill Belichick in New England and Romeo Crennel in Cleveland.
At 34, he knows that some might think his best days are behind him. Not that he needs the motivation, but such talk is indeed fueling him to get into tip-top shape as he's once again working out with noted strength and speed coach Bob Kersee.
"I'm approaching the season as anxious and as hungry as ever," said Law, who has spent parts of his offseason in New England. "My goal is to be in the best shape of my life, both physically and mentally. I'm almost there."
The Browns would seemingly be the perfect landing spot. Cleveland was thin at cornerback after trading starter Leigh Bodden to Detroit in the Shaun Rogers deal, and then lost Daven Holly - who was set to compete for a starting job - to a season-ending knee injury in offseason work.
But general manager Phil Savage has said the Browns don't have much room in their budget. Of course, that could always change if the team gets to training camp and realizes a cornerback of Law's ilk might indeed be the final piece to make a legitimate run at the AFC championship.
So, for now, Law waits and works out.
One gets the sense he's comfortable doing so, realizing that things can change come training camp, and that his résumé (52 career regular-season interceptions) and desire to play a few more seasons should ultimately land him in a promising situation.
Kendall feels comfortable with his own 'Skins
Former Archbishop Williams and Boston College offensive lineman Pete Kendall has been part of three head coaching changes in the past, so what he's experiencing with the Redskins is nothing new.
After attending the club's mandatory minicamp and all 11 sessions of organized team activities this offseason, what are Kendall's first impressions of the transition from Joe Gibbs to Jim Zorn?
"I was struck by how much of it seems the same," he said. "There will be some variations in our pass protection, but they've already said the running game stays the same. It's probably going to be as seamless a transition as I've been part of."
Early in his career, Kendall was in Seattle when Dennis Erickson handed the reins to Mike Holmgren in 1999. In 2004, Kendall was with the Cardinals until the start of training camp before he was abruptly cut in Dennis Green's first season after taking over for Dave McGinnis. And after the 2005 season with the Jets, he watched as Herm Edwards was replaced by Eric Mangini.
Kendall feels fortunate that things with the Redskins appear to be much the same, right down to the retaining of offensive line coach Joe Bugel.
"Oftentimes when you have a new coach with a new system, the run game can be different, the passing game can be different, the terminology can be different, so there is quite a transition," Kendall said. "This year, the terminology in the passing game is different, but otherwise, the terminology in the running game is the same, and the players around are the same, so it's nice."
As for Zorn, Kendall said his "initial impression is that he's going to be a teacher."
"The offense is his thing, and quarterback play is his expertise," Kendall added. "He spent most of his time working directly with the quarterback and overseeing the offense, which gave [defensive coordinator] Greg Blache free rein over the defense."
Etc.Top to bottom
Factoring in offseason moves, here is one man's ranking of the NFL's divisions, from strongest to weakest:
1. AFC South - Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Houston
2. NFC East - N.Y. Giants, Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington
3. AFC North - Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Baltimore
4. AFC East - New England, Buffalo, N.Y. Jets, Miami
5. NFC North - Green Bay, Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit
6. NFC South - Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Carolina, Atlanta
7. NFC West - Seattle, Arizona, San Francisco, St. Louis
8. AFC West - San Diego, Denver, Kansas City, Oakland
Nothing to sneeze at
Offensive guard traditionally has been one of the more anonymous positions in football, sandwiched between the more visible tackle, and the center snapping the ball. But Giants right guard Chris Snee is the latest example of how guards are not only being noticed, but they're also being showered with riches. Last week, the former Boston College blocker signed an extension through 2013 that will pay him an average of almost $8 million per season over the next three years. It's a nice haul for Snee (59 career regular-season starts), and also partially explains how a rising left tackle like Buffalo's Jason Peters - who still has three years left on his contract - can rationalize staying away from the Bills' facility despite being scheduled to make $3.25 million this season.
The NFL will be a bit quieter now that longtime Buccaneers and Raiders defensive lineman Warren Sapp has retired following 13 seasons. Sapp was never shy about speaking his mind, and in an interview with the St. Petersburg Times last week, he took a powerful swipe at longtime Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. While Kiffin is widely respected in NFL circles, Sapp fingered him as leading the charge for him being released after nine seasons in Tampa Bay. "It was always his defense, and he barked people out of the building," Sapp said. "It was too much about him." And Sapp's thoughts on the Raiders? "Stuff went on in that organization that shouldn't go on in sports," he said. "I don't think there's one person who knows who is making the call."
One of the more encouraging offseason developments in New Orleans has been the work of second-year receiver Robert Meachem. The Saints naturally had big plans for Meachem after selecting him in the first round of the 2007 draft (27th overall), but the former Tennessee star was inactive for his entire rookie season, mainly because of ankle and knee injuries. The Saints are hoping that Meachem seizes the No. 3 receiver spot behind Marques Colston and David Patten, and they like what they've seen in offseason work.
If some New England high school football fans are cheering a bit louder for the Packers this year, it's probably because of offensive tackle Breno Giacomini. The Packers selected Giacomini, who played at Malden High and went on to Louisville, in the fifth round of April's draft. Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin is taking a long-range view with the 6-foot-7-inch, 311-pound Giacomini, saying confidently that "it may take a year or two, but he's going to be a player in this league." . . . He's not ready to officially hang 'em up just yet, so linebacker Chad Brown continues to keep himself fit in case an NFL team calls either in an emergency or in search of a veteran presence down the homestretch. Helping matters is that Brown's wife is a workout fanatic. But let's say a team called right now and offered Brown a roster spot? Uh-uh. Brown, one of the classier veterans to walk through the New England locker room in recent years, says it's highly unlikely he'd take it, because what he doesn't need at this time is to go through the mental and physical grind of another training camp . . . Calling all history buffs, this is the last week Patriots fans can vote for one of the three finalists to the team's Hall of Fame. This year's finalists are tight end Ben Coates, offensive lineman Jon Morris, and late running back Jim Nance, with voting taking place on the team's official website, Patriots.com.
Did you know?
The Jaguars raised $90,000 for tornado relief efforts in Iowa, with the money generated through donations from partners, coaches, players, and staff. Center Brad Meester hails from Parkersburg, Iowa.
Mike Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.