Sunday football notes

Cannon remains fired up during treatments

Despite being treated for cancer, Marcus Cannon works out several times a week and is back up to 354 pounds. Despite being treated for cancer, Marcus Cannon works out several times a week and is back up to 354 pounds. (File/Brandon Wade/For The Globe)
By Greg A. Bedard
Globe Staff / July 10, 2011

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When last we checked in with Marcus Cannon, the Patriots’ fifth-round pick out of Texas Christian, he opened up about his diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which had caused him to slide from a borderline first-rounder.

“You know, this happened for a reason,’’ the offensive lineman said in early May. “We’ll see in the days to come why it happened and then we’ll look back and say good thing I didn’t care about when I went, but I’m not going to look back.’’

Cannon started the first of four chemotherapy treatments April 28, the first day of the draft. The final treatment was originally scheduled for June 29.

A story in his hometown Fort Worth Star-Telegram pegged last week as his final go-around. That has been pushed back to this week.

On Friday, Cannon didn’t want to discuss his timeframe, but the important thing for the Patriots is he continues to be in high spirits and optimistic about his future.

“I don’t know when my last chemo treatment is, but everything’s going pretty well,’’ Cannon said. “Everything’s going good.’’

If he’s suffering any side effects, Cannon is hiding it well.

After initially dropping about 15 pounds, the 6-foot-5-inch Cannon is back up to his playing weight of 354. He’s working out several times a week, both near his home in Odessa, Texas, and at TCU, and has maintained his strength.

“I’m still pretty good, I still feel the same,’’ Cannon said.

He said no decisions have been made about when he will be able to return to the field.

“We really don’t know anything yet,’’ Cannon said. “We’re just kind of waiting for the lockout to end and then we’ll talk to the doctors and see where everything goes after that.’’

Just like Cannon views his cancer diagnosis as part of God’s plan for him, the lockout could be a good thing in the long term.

Because of the lockout, this year’s crop of rookies has missed offseason practices, minicamps, and team workout programs. When the lockout ends and training camp starts, they’ll be so far behind that not many rookies will have an impact this season. Some will effectively be redshirted, especially if the expected roster expansions come to pass.

Cannon would be a perfect candidate to take things slow. He could take his time learning the playbook and making sure his body is healthy before taking on professional football. That would do nothing but increase the odds of Cannon having a long and effective NFL career.

But Cannon isn’t even thinking about that yet. He just wants to get healthy, see the lockout end, and return to playing football.

“I can’t wait to get back,’’ he said.

Not on same page with list During the lockout, it has been the policy of this space not to fill the news void with nonsense. If it’s important, we’ll bring it to you. Anything else would be insulting to the reader and otherwise a waste of time since no one knows what the post-lockout landscape will look like. Thus, we avoided any talk about the NFL Network’s Top 100 Players of 2011 - the epitome of filler material - until now.

Overall, the list is laughable - Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings at 74, two spots behind Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo? - but we’ll deal with just the top 10 once we address what went largely unaddressed by the NFL Network. Namely, how was the list put together?

Several questions about the process were submitted to the network, but had not been answered by press time. The network did tell Yahoo! Sports previously that 413 players (less than 25 percent) were polled, although they didn’t identify if they were rookies, veterans, or a mix.

Those players were asked to list their top 20 current players, and then point values were assigned. That’s it.

If the NFL Network wanted a list that actually meant something, it should have polled each front office, with no one being able to vote for their own player.

But they went another, disappointing direction.

The NFL Network knew it needed some buzz during the lockout, and what better way than to compile a list with no basis in reality?

In any event, here is one man’s top 10 (with NFL Network player ranking in parentheses):

1. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots (1) - Well, at least they got the most important one right. There’s no disputing, though others have tried, that Brady was the best player in the league last season. By far. Just consider that his main weapons were two rookies (Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez), a receiver coming off ACL surgery (Wes Welker), a receiver traded for in October (Deion Branch), and two undrafted running backs (BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead). Oh, and his best offensive lineman, Logan Mankins, didn’t sign until Week 9.

2. Peyton Manning, QB, Colts (2) - Threw for a career-best 4,700 yards despite playing behind a shaky line, having many of his top targets lost to injury, and playing with a neck injury that needed postseason surgery.

3. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers (11) - Amazing that more players don’t appreciate the talents of the 27-year-old Super Bowl MVP. Playing in the league’s smallest market with not many marquee national games (he missed the showdown with the Patriots because of a concussion) doesn’t help. But he’s the perfect player to run coach Mike McCarthy’s high-powered offense, and he kills as much with his legs as his arm.

4. Darrelle Revis, CB, Jets (8) - When he’s healthy, there is no better defensive player. He erases an opponent’s best receiver. In today’s pass-happy NFL, that’s invaluable.

5. Chris Johnson, RB, Titans (13) - Even on a terrible team with no passing offense, arguably the game’s best offensive weapon still rushed for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns. Defensive coordinators are terrified of his speed.

6. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers (41) - His personal life aside, Roethlisberger has won two Super Bowls and been to another in seven seasons. That doesn’t happen by accident, even with that defense. He’s really good.

7. Andre Johnson, WR, Texans (7) - Have to give the players credit on this one. Johnson missed three games last season and still had 1,216 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. The game’s best receiver.

8. Drew Brees, QB, Saints (9) - Some probably give coach Sean Payton’s offense most of the credit, but you have to have a top trigger man to run it. Brees’s mind and terrific accuracy are what make him dangerous.

9. Patrick Willis, LB, 49ers (23) - The most complete linebacker in the game. He’s extraordinary at taking on blockers and shedding them. First-team All-Pro the last two seasons.

10. James Harrison, LB, Steelers (21) - Right there with Willis as far as production, Harrison is nearly as good against the run and in coverage as he is rushing the passer.

Players in the players’ top 10, but not in mine:

3. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings - Tremendous runner, but his terrible pass blocking and questionable receiving skills make him far from complete.

4. Ray Lewis, LB, Ravens - Still a top-notch leader, but at 36 his best days are behind him.

5. Ed Reed, S, Ravens - You can’t be elite if you’ve played a total of 22 games the last two seasons, sorry.

6. Troy Polamalu, S, Steelers - Still highly productive, but injury woes the last two seasons have diminished his value. When healthy, he’s a top-10 player.

10. Julius Peppers, DE, Bears - On pure athletic talent, he could be the top player. But he’s too inconsistent. Last season, though, was a step in the right direction.

He’s a real people person When Mike McCarthy was hired as coach in Green Bay in 2006, he coined the phrase “Packer people’’ in his mission statement for the type of players he wanted. That was code for finding players who embodied the values of the blue-collar people in Northeast Wisconsin.

McCarthy, along with general manager Ted Thompson, were looking for leaders of high character with tireless work ethics and a passion for their jobs. Those ideals kept them away from certain players in the draft and free agency.

For the most part, the organization has stayed true to that, and it helped pave the way to a Super Bowl title. There have been two black marks on their personnel philosophy, however, in defensive lineman Johnny Jolly and cornerback Brandon Underwood.

Jolly was suspended indefinitely by the NFL in 2010 for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy after his arrest for codeine possession. It was disappointing, given McCarthy’s policy, that the team indicated Jolly would be welcomed back once he was reinstated. But before he could return to the team, Jolly was arrested again for codeine possession in March. The Packers can’t release Jolly during the lockout or while he’s in the substance-abuse program, but he is undoubtedly finished with the Packers.

Underwood should also be in his final days as a Packer. Last June, during a charity event connected to teammate Clay Matthews, Underwood was involved in an incident that led to him pleading no contest to soliciting prostitution. The Packers kept Underwood around last season, and he repaid the team’s faith by being charged last week with disorderly conduct for a domestic disturbance.

Underwood’s wife, and mother to their three children, called police to the couple’s home following the team’s Super Bowl ring ceremony after he allegedly ripped a necklace off her neck and threw her to the ground. Brandie Underwood, who filed for divorce in May but said they are attempting to reconcile, didn’t want her husband arrested and isn’t in fear of him. Regardless of what happens in the case, Underwood, like Jolly, should never play for the Packers again. Or the phrase “Packer people’’ is worth about as much as the paper it was printed on.

Right man for the job? While free agent quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has maintained he would like to re-sign with the Seahawks, a path away from Seattle has opened up for the Norfolk native and former Boston College star.

The Titans will be looking for a veteran quarterback after Kerry Collins announced his retirement last week. And moving to the Titans would be an easy transition for Hasselbeck. Three of the Titans’ executives, general manager Mike Reinfeldt, vice president of player personnel Ruston Webster, and director of pro scouting Lake Dawson, were with Hasselbeck in Seattle.

The Titans drafted their quarterback of the future, Jake Locker, in the first round, but it would be better if he didn’t have to play right away.

“He’s a great kid, just a wonderful, wonderful guy,’’ Hasselbeck said of Locker in April. “I feel like he’s the kind of guy who would be a great leader on a football team. Just really, really gifted and talented.

“I understand it could be a reality with me this year, whether it’s with the Seahawks or wherever, that I’m with a guy like that, a young guy.’’

Hasselbeck said he would relish mentoring a player like Locker. “I’m kind of excited for that kind of an opportunity to maybe be on a team with a really talented young guy and just get the opportunity to pay that forward just a little bit, things that I’ve learned along the way,’’ Hasselbeck said. “If I can share that with a really talented guy that’s willing to work and listen, that could be a really fun thing. And at the same time, hopefully, be on a really good team.’’

While the Titans might not be “really good’’ - they were 6-10 and have a new coach during a lockout - it seems like a perfect marriage.

Short yardage The NFL lost one of its most impactful players - on and off the field - last week when Colts Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey died from frontal temporal dementia. Not only did he revolutionize his position, he won the first and most significant battles with the NFL as the first Players Association president after the merger in 1970. Six years ago, Mackey and his wife, Sylvia, helped usher in much-needed changes with how the league treated former players. His battle with dementia was the catalyst for the NFL to adopt the “88 Plan’’ in his honor. It provides up to $88,000 per year for ex-players dealing with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Hard, though, not to see the irony that Mackey’s death - caused by playing football - came the same week that owners and players were haggling over, among other things, health care for retired players. They should do right by them and Mackey . . . We have our first real victims of the lockout: the people and businesses in Albany and Cortland, N.Y., and Westminster, Md., where the Giants, Jets, and Ravens, respectively, were forced to cancel their out-of-town training camps. All three will train at their in-season facilities. A real shame . . . Chiefs tight end Leonard Pope saved a 6-year-old boy from drowning June 11 in Georgia, and has since used his C.H.A.M.P. Foundation to emphasize water safety for children.

Greg A. Bedard can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @greg_a_bedard. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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