With the official opening of training camps, the NFL’s brief hiatus is over and it’s back to football, full time. In honor of the unofficial start of NFL football, here’s our quick tour around some of the more interesting NFL news of the day.
Saints Come Marching In
Perhaps no team in the history of the NFL has had an offseason as difficult as the New Orleans Saints, and no team enters training camp with the level of uncertainty that the Saints do. They are without their suspended head coach for the season, general manager for half the season, assistant head coach for six games, defensive captain Jonathan Vilma for the season, pending the outcome of a few court rulings. (In fact, the only football program that has had a tougher year is Penn State, but that’s a whole different problem.)
But with Drew Brees freshly signed to a record-setting contract, the Saints’ offensive leader and face-of-the-franchise is ready to go. “I’m excited about the unknown because in a lot of ways, we don’t necessarily know what to expect,” Brees said.
“With all this stuff swirling around us, in the end, all we can worry about is what we can control. … I know the type of guys we have. I know the coaches we have. I’m excited to watch it all come together.”
Without head coach Sean Payton, all eyes will be turning to Brees to steer the ship, but there is no better leader in the NFL to bear the burden. Brees and Payton have had great chemistry throughout their six years together in New Orleans, and Brees knows the system as well as anyone. ”His voice is going to be in my head whether it’s actually coming out of his mouth or not,” Brees said. ”He’s present, even though he’s not present.”
And Brees has absolute faith in the men surrounding him to step up. ”It’s not like we’re walking into this with a bunch of rookies,” Brees said. ”We’ve been down some interesting roads before. Now, this is uncharted territory for us, but I know we’re equipped to handle whatever comes our way.”
Joe Vitt, who will be filling in for Sean Payton except for his six game suspension, has some big
“Sean’s departing remarks to us was: ‘Just do your job,’” said Vitt, who was part of Payton’s first staff in 2006.
“Sean would be proud of the body of work that we’ve done to this point, but now we’re on the clock,” Vitt added. “It’s for real now.”
Osi Starts the Trash Talking
Division rivalries mean a lot in the NFL, and no division has more heated rivalries than the NFC East. Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora gave a big welcome to the new quarterback of the Washington Redskins, Robert Griffin III. While he is known throughout the league as RGIII, Umenyiora won’t honor the nickname until it is earned.
“Who is this RG3 guy you guys keep talking about?’’ Umenyiora said. “You talking about Bob Griffin? You guys are giving him a cool nickname already and everything. When he does anything in the NFL we’re gonna call him RG3. Right now he’s Bob Griffin.”
This is the time of year for hazing your own rookies, but hazing the rookies for your division rival? I’m sure RGIII, aka Bob, just circled the two Giants games on his calendar for this season.
Ryan Kalil is the New Vince Young
Not to be outdone by Umenyiora, Carolina Panthers’ center Ryan Kalil wasn’t shy about starting the talking on day one. He actually started a little earlier, purchasing a full page ad in the Charlotte Observer on Wednesday announcing “Why the Carolina Panthers will win Super Bowl XLVII.”
That’s a bold prediction from a team that finished 6-10, but while he made the statement as a prediction, it was more of a rallying cry. The ad said, in part:
For eighteen years we’ve wanted, hoped, and tried…
But no more.
A moment is upon us, where dreams become beliefs and yearning becomes conviction.
How do I know?
Because I’ve seen it.
“Every team says it every year, whether it’s publicly or not,” Kalil told the newspaper. “They say they’re going to win the Super Bowl.
“We’ve said it in the past in meeting rooms and behind closed doors. This year’s different. There’s a sense of urgency, a winning attitude that I haven’t seen before. And it’s in the way we prepare. It’s in the way we approach each workday, and I think fans will see it in the way that we play.”
And Chad Johnson is the new Chad Ochocinco
While Chad Ochocinco announced this week that he is changing his name back to Johnson, to honor a promise he made to his new bride who didn’t want to become Mrs. Ochocinco, he also announced that Ochocinco was back, at least in spirit. Johnson felt that he turned his back on himself while he was trying to fit in during his brief tenure in New England, and that hurt his performance on the field.
“I’m going back to my normal ways,” Johnson said this week. “My normal ways, when I was at my best, when I got fined, look at the production those years. Usually things don’t go right when you try to change the way you do things. I’m back to normal.”
Actually, his best production was during his years as Chad Johnson, as he averaged almost twice as many yards per season as Johnson compared with what he did as Ochocinco.
“My personality was controlled last year. You didn’t hear me at all last year. Zero. Zilch. When my mouth is running, it forces me to perform. It’s never been vindictive. I never got anybody in trouble. … When I can be me, I am loose. Everything just flows for me, whether it’s the style of play, the way I learn.”