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Munchak: ‘It’s an exciting time’

Offensive line coach Mike Munchak shares his draft day story.

Leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft, Steelers players and coaches will be sharing their Draft Day Memories, from the time they went to the NFL Scouting Combine, through the moment they were drafted. And in some cases players will share what it was like when neither of those things happened. In this installment, Mike Munchak shares his story.

2014 Steelers Training CampMike Munchak – First Round – 1982 – Penn State

“I remember being very nervous, but excited at the same time for the combine. I was not sure what was about to happen. Back then there were three of them, three different locations where you did the same thing. That made it more interesting. We didn’t know what the tests were going to be until you got there, other than the physicals and stuff. It made you more nervous, but it gave you three chances to do a good job.

“You get a chance as a player to see who the other players are in the country that everyone is excited about. I was able to see the guys I heard about. There wasn’t as much information on television, didn’t have the internet, so that information wasn’t available. It was interesting to meet the other players who were going through the same thing and they felt the same way you did. It was a great experience and I felt a lot more confident after going through the whole process.

“The three combines were shorter. One day was in and out, one day in Detroit. Eight of us from Penn State went to that one and were in and out quickly. The longest was two days. Everything happened real fast and you had to learn on the spot what they were going to ask of you.

“The contact with the teams was a lot more limited then. We didn’t make visits, we didn’t go out to other teams like they have the visits now. At the combine you didn’t have the meetings you have now with the coaching staffs. There was a lot less information available then.

“There were different magazines and publications that would come out with their predictions of where people would go in the first and second rounds. I got numerous phone calls from friends, my sisters, different things people heard about it. But until the draft happened you didn’t know what was going to happen. Teams would call you and you would think they were interested, but you weren’t sure. I kept hearing where I could possibly go, this part of the first or second round. You can’t control any of it. Your resume is your college highlight film.

“I was in State College at the time of the draft, still taking classes at Penn State. The draft was on a Tuesday, only the third or fourth year on ESPN. My girlfriend Marci, now my wife, was with me and the two of us watched it. It started early in the morning. We were just thrilled it was on television and we could watch it. We watched it to see what happened.

“The interesting part was I knew the first five or six picks, I wasn’t going to any of those teams. Once it got to the seventh pick in the first round I started hearing teams that were interested and might take an offensive lineman. You start paying attention more then. I figured I could go anywhere from there to the second round. I remember when Houston was picking, they said the Houston Oilers are on the clock. I know they had some needs, they had mentioned an offensive lineman but I thought chances are they won’t pick me. I was sitting there and our phone was ringing. We looked at each other and thought no way. I picked up the phone and it was the head coach of the Houston Oilers. As he was talking to me, Pete Rozelle was on television announcing the pick so I could listen to it. It was within seconds of each other. A lot was happening in that moment. It’s an exciting time.

“At first when you hear your name, you wonder did he say my name, did he really say that. You have been waiting this whole offseason for that moment and you have no control over what is going to happen and who is going to take you. The first thing I thought about was Earl Campbell and I am going to block for him. Then the phone starts ringing nonstop. You didn’t have a cell phone so you only had one line and it was hard for everyone to get through.

“As far as the call from the Oilers, they told me they were happy to have me and thought I could be with the organization for a long time. They said they expectations were high I could come in and help them, especially run the football. It was more or less getting the details.

“After all of that you can finally relax a little bit. You take a deep breath and now I am on to the next level, the next opportunity, and fulfilling the dream of playing in the NFL. I was enjoying what I was able to accomplish with all of my teammates and coaches. I stayed in town and a lot of my teammates were drafted that day. We were able to all get together and relive what we have been through. We all went to dinner that night and the next day headed out to the teams we got drafted by.”

Draft Primer 2015: Defensive Line

Free agent additions lower need for draft picks, but depth is always important

The NFL draft will be held from April 30 through May 2 in Chicago. The Cardinals addressed several needs in free agency and are now zeroing in on their draft targets. We’ll take a look at each position over the next few weeks.

DPDLMainMore draft analysis: LB I RB I CB I TE

Draft primer: Defensive line

Cardinals under contract: DE Calais Campbell, DE Frostee Rucker; DT Corey Peters; DE Ed Stinson; DE Cory Redding; DE Josh Mauro; DT Alameda Ta’amu
Analysis: The Cardinals beefed up their line in free agency by adding defensive tackle Corey Peters and defensive end Cory Redding, but also lost defensive tackles Darnell Dockett, Dan Williams and Tommy Kelly. General Manager Steve Keim puts a premium on depth at this spot, so the team could add a player in the draft.Defensive tackle seems like the more pressing need. Peters can play nose tackle, but he’s also versatile enough to move around
and adding a player there would give the Cards more flexibility. Alameda Ta’amu is a wild card, as he excelled two seasons ago rotating with Williams at nose tackle but was a non-factor in 2014 as he made his way back from a torn ACL. USC’s Leonard Williams and Washington’s Danny Shelton are projected to be picked before the Cardinals choose at No. 24, but options may include Texas’ Malcom Brown or Florida State’s Eddie Goldman.Calais Campbell will see the majority of time at one defensive end spot, while Frostee Rucker, Ed Stinson, Redding and Josh Mauro should prove capable in a rotation (andKareem Martincould move back if he proves ineffective at outside linebacker). Rucker and Redding are in the back half of their careers, so if the Cardinals want to get younger at the spot, players like Oregon’s Arik Armstead, UCLA’s Owamagbe Odighizuwa or Mississippi State’s Preston Smith could be early options.The Cardinals had many players who shifted between the edge and the interior of the defensive line in 2014, and the current personnel could probably make it work again if needed. Keim won’t need to reach to add a defensive lineman, but also won’t hesitate to pull the trigger if there is one he is excited about.

ESPN Analyst Mel Kiper Sticking with Leonard Williams as Second Overall Pick

ESPN Draft Analyst Mel Kiper believes the Titans should select Leonard Williams with the second overall pick, saying the USC defensive lineman is the best player in the 2015 draft class.

USC Pro Day Football NASHVILLE, Tenn. –ESPN Draft Analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. still believes the Titans should select USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams with the second overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. He went as far as to say Williams is the best player in this draft class.
“He’s a disruptive force,” Kiper said of Williams. “People talk about sacks, well he’s not going to be a great pass rusher off the edge. There are ways to be a good and effective pass rusher to get sacks … It’s how disruptive you are on a play-by-play basis. This kid hustles, he’s tremendously impactful against the run, he’s a disruptive force as a pass rusher because he’s so long and so athletic and he anticipates throws so well. He gets into throwing lanes, bats passes down and affects the way a quarterback delivers the football in terms of accuracy.“I think Leonard Williams would be the missing link and be the finishing entity on a 3-4 defense that’s already brought back those two guys on the outside (Morgan and Orakpo) … I think he’s the best player in the draft.”
Kiper has had the Titans selecting Williams in the latest two versions of his mock draft and will likely stick with the prediction when version 4.0 comes out in the coming weeks. Being true to his word, Williams also sits atop Kiper’s big board ahead of Jameis Winston, Amari Cooper, Kevin White and Dante Fowler Jr.ESPN’s draft expert also touched on multiple right tackles that could be options for the Titans. Tennessee is in the market at that position now that Michael Oher is in Carolina.Byron Stingilyand Jamea Thomas are currently on the roster and have starting experience at right tackle, but it’s likely the team will look to add a potential starter or depth at the position in the draft.
Kiper tabbed a few prospects that could be instant contributors if the Titans decided to spend their second-round pick (33rdoverall) on a right tackle.“At that point, it would be T.J. Clemmings from Pittsburgh,” Kiper said. “If he were there as a right tackle he could be an immediate starter. He played well at that spot. He’s a defensive lineman-turned offensive lineman. He didn’t play high school football until late and is a late developing player overall.“Ereck Flowers from Miami is another guy who would play at right tackle at a high level right away. He’ll probably be gone, but he’s a great pick if he’s there.”
One interesting name to keep an eye on is Cedric Ogbuehi of Texas A&M. Ogbuehi had a first round grade until he tore his ACL in the Liberty Bowl against West Virginia. His upside might lead a team to roll the dice and take the talented lineman in the second round or early third round.Here are a few more names Kiper threw out as possible options at right tackle.“Jeremiah Poutasi out of Utah is another one,” he continued through his rolodex of names. “If you’re looking down the line a little bit, you’re looking at Daryl Williams maybe in the third round out of Oklahoma who can be a real good player at that spot. If you want an offensive lineman who’s moved up, Jake Fisher out of Oregon is in the late first, early second-round category at left tackle. I’ve always been a little higher on Sean Donnelly from Tulane than people in the league seem to be. I think he can be a late rounder or priority undrafted free agent.”

Titans to Hire CEO/President

The team has installed Steve Underwood to serve as the team’s interim President, until the team identifies a permanent replacement who will be based in Nashville.

150320titans-lp-field-600NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans will begin the search process for a new team CEO/President after Tommy Smith retired earlier today. Smith served as the team’s CEO/President over the last year and a half, roles he assumed after the passing of K.S. “Bud” Adams, Jr. in October of 2013.

Additionally, the team has installed Steve Underwood to serve as the team’s interim President, until the team identifies a permanent replacement who will be based in Nashville. Underwood, who retired from the organization in 2011, will relocate to Nashville next week to begin his duties. He has decades of experience in a number of roles with the franchise, including Senior Executive Vice President/General Counsel at the time of his retirement.
Statement from the Titans Organization:
“We want to thank Tommy for his dedication to the club and his efforts to improve the organization. Now looking forward, we are motivated to add a top-flight executive to lead the franchise. We believe that adding someone to the structure in Nashville will be beneficial. Lastly, we want to thank Steve Underwood for rejoining us during this interim period and know that he will integrate smoothly until we find the right person permanently for the job.”

Statement from Steve Underwood:

“I am honored to return to Nashville to help the organization during this search period. I have a great deal of respect for the family and look forward to aiding the team during this time.”

Wilson Brings Swagger, Toughness to Secondary

Jimmy Wilson grew up in America’s Finest City starring at Point Loma High School, so it’s understandable why he was on Cloud 9 touring Chargers Park moments after inking a two-year contract.“To have my name on the back of that Chargers’ jersey is a dream for every San Diego kid,” the new defensive back said with a smile. “This is a dream come true. I’m so happy to be back here playing for my type of people and my type of fans. I know what type of town this is. Qualcomm was a home to me. I went and watched motocross and everything you can do at a stadium.”That now includes taking the field with the Bolt on his helmet.
031315jimmywilson2heroPlaying both safety and corner for four years with the Miami Dolphins, Wilson appeared in 60 games, recording 153 tackles, 16 passes defensed, four interceptions and two sacks. Coaches and teammates praised his work ethic, as the former seventh round pick’s responsibilities and role steadily increased each season. That included a banner year in 2014 in which he notched career-highs in tackles (58) and starts (13).Confidence is crucial in order to be successful in the NFL. The 5-11, 205-pounder certainly believes in himself, boasting tremendous swagger that has been instrumental to his success.“Fans here are going to get a football player,” he proudly said. “I can do a lot of different things on the football field, and you’re going to get maximum effort from me. I don’t like to let anyone down. I come from this city, so it’s my duty to give some of my attitude and toughness to this locker room and help the team win.”Wilson believes he is an ideal fit for what the Chargers need. The 5-11, 205-pounder was also blown away by the staff and front office executives he met with, so it didn’t take long to realize this was the perfect homecoming.
“The good thing about coming to an organization like this is it has good coaches and a great ownership,” he said. “I’m sure they will put me in the best position to succeed and have team success. That is all I want.”The newest Charger was also drawn to the Bolts because of their playmakers in the secondary, most notably All-ProEric Weddleand recently re-signedBrandon Flowers.“Oh man, just over the years watchingEric Weddle, he’s (unique),” he said. “Some of the things he does on special teams too, you can see the coaches have the ultimate trust in that guy. He’s a real professional, and I can’t wait to start learning from him. The same withBrandon Flowers. He’s been balling for a long time. I’m happy he got a new deal, and I hope I can learn from him too.”

Doug Free, Cowboys closing in on multi-year contract

 Dallas’ impressive offensive line will be intact for the 2015 season.

0ap3000000477173Doug Free — the only impending free agent on the unit — is closing in on a multi-year contract with the Cowboys, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Friday, per a source informed of the situation.

The longtime starting right tackle — at just 31 — is the elder-statesman of one of the best position groups in the NFL.

Along with Ronald Leary and Pro Bowlers Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin, the line paved the way for DeMarco Murray’s league-leading 1,845 yards.

Since the Cowboys drafted Free in the fourth round of the 2007 draft, he’s been the model of durability. He missed his sophomore season with a back injury, but then went on to play all 16 games for the ‘Boys from 2009 through 2013. Free did, however, miss several games in 2014 along with the playoffs after suffering an ankle injury (he recently underwent surgery to correct the problem).

Jermey Parnell filled in admirably for Free, but he too is a free agent and likely will look for a starting job on the open market.

Free checks in at No. 49 on Around The NFL’s list of the top 101 free agents, and in a shallow market for starting-caliber tackles, teams in need can cross another option off the list.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast breaks down the Brandon Marshall trade and plays another game of “Go Get My Lunch.” Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

Peyton Manning tells Broncos brass he wants to return

Peyton Manning tells Broncos brass he wants to return

0ap3000000470489Peyton Manning isn’t ready to call it a career. What does this mean for his future with the Broncos?

NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport and Albert Breer reported Friday that Manning communicated to Broncos officials that he’d like to return for a fourth season with the team, according to a team source. The communication came during a face-to-face, one-on-one meeting with general manager John Elway in Denver on Thursday.

Broncos president/CEO Joe Ellis flew down to New Orleans on owner Pat Bowlen’s plane to pick up Manning in a gesture of respect to the quarterback, Breer added.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen had the first report on Manning’s message.

Manning wants back in, but intrigue remains. Rapoport said on Friday’s edition of NFL Total Access that multiple NFL general managers wonder if — following a series of significant changes — the Broncos really want Manning to return. New coach Gary Kubiak runs a defined offense that’s much different than the offenses Manning has run during his time with the Colts as well as the Broncos under John Fox and Adam Gase.

There’s also the financial side of things. Manning is due to make $19 million this season, more than double what Tom Brady is scheduled to make in base salary next season. It remains to be seen if the Broncos are willing to be tied to that salary, or will seek a contract restructuring or reduction.

Manning’s $19 million salary becomes guaranteed if he is still on the Broncos’ roster on March 9, one day before the start of the new league year. Manning must also pass a physical before that date, which is serving as a de facto deadline, per Breer.

It should still be considered a surprise if Manning isn’t back in Denver. But nothing is decided as we get closer to final decision time.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast welcomes Malcolm Butler to the show and plays a free agency edition of “Who Do You Trust?” Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

Raiders Name Ken Norton, Jr. Defensive Coordinator

Ken Norton, Jr. has been named the defensive coordinator of the Oakland Raiders, the club announced Friday.
ALAMEDA, Calif. – Ken Norton, Jr. has been named the defensive coordinator of the Oakland Raiders, the club announced Friday. Norton, Jr. is entering his sixth season as an NFL coach, having spent the previous five seasons with the Seattle Seahawks. He will be entering his 19th season overall in the NFL, 13 as an All-Pro linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers.

020615-norton-releaseAn 18-year NFL veteran (1988-2000 as a player; 2010-14 as a coach), Norton, Jr. has been a part of four Super Bowl-winning teams (three as a player and one as a coach). He and Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio played alongside one another in the linebacking corps of the Cowboys from 1989-91.

From 2010-14, Norton, Jr. served as Seattle’s linebackers coach, helping the team to three NFC West Division titles, two NFC Championships and a Super Bowl XLVIII title. Over that period, Norton, Jr. helped the Seahawks’ defense rank second in total defense (309.5 yards per game) and the unit finished in the top 10 four times (2011-14), including leading the league in total defense the past two seasons.

Helping the Seahawks capture Super Bowl XLVIII after the 2013 campaign, Norton, Jr. tutored LB Malcolm Smith, who was named Super Bowl MVP after posting nine tackles (five solo), a 69-yard interception return for a touchdown and a fumble recovery.

With Seattle emerging as a dominant defense in 2012, Norton, Jr. was instrumental in the development of 2012 second-round draft pick LB Bobby Wagner, who secured his role as the team’s starting middle linebacker and finished second in the Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year voting. Wagner led the team with 140 tackles (86 solo) as a rookie.

In his first two seasons in Seattle, Norton, Jr. helped LB David Hawthorne to back-to-back 100-tackle seasons. He also oversaw the development of LB K.J. Wright as he emerged as a starter in the linebacking corps as a rookie in 2011.

Prior to joining the NFL coaching ranks, Norton, Jr. spent six seasons coaching on the defensive side of the ball at USC. He joined USC in 2004 as the school’s defensive assistant/linebackers, before being promoted to the linebackers coach from 2005-08. He was elevated to assistant head coach of the defense/linebackers in 2009.

During his career at USC, Norton, Jr. tutored an impressive group of linebackers who have gone on to have success at the NFL level. Among those players are: Houston Texans LB Brian Cushing, Green Bay Packers LB Clay Matthews, Buffalo Bills LB Keith Rivers, Cincinnati Bengals LB Rey Maualuga and former Seahawks LB Lofa Tatupu. Cushing, Matthews and Rivers were all NFL first-round draft picks.

In 2008, Rey Maualuga was named first-team All-American, Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, made his third consecutive All-Pac-10 first team and was USC’s first-ever winner of the Bednarik Award.

In 2007, Keith Rivers was named an All-American first-teamer, and was a first-round pick following the season. In 2006 and 2007, Maualuga and Rivers made the All-Pac-10 first team.

Norton, Jr.’s own 13-year NFL playing career began when he was a 1988 second-round draft pick after earning All-American honors at UCLA in 1987. He was a four-year letter winner for the Bruins from 1984-87 and was a finalist for the Butkus Award as a senior.

He spent his first six seasons with the Cowboys from 1988-93 and then his final seven with the 49ers from 1994-2000. An Associated Press All-Pro in 1995, Norton, Jr. is the only player in NFL history to play on three consecutive Super Bowl-winning teams (Dallas in 1992 and 1993 and San Francisco in 1994).

After retiring from the NFL in 2000, he was a radio and television commentator and analyst, including appearances on the NFL Network. He also served as the defensive coordinator at Hamilton High School in Los Angeles, Calif., in 2003.

Packers release special teams coach Shawn Slocum

The first hammer has fallen in the aftermath of the crazy finish to the NFC Championship Game.

Shawn SlocumThe Green Bay Packers have released special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum, head coach Mike McCarthy announced in a short statement Friday.

“I would like to thank Shawn for all of his contributions over the past nine years,” McCarthy said. “He was a positive contributor to our success, including helping us win Super Bowl XLV. We wish Shawn, Michelle and their family the best moving forward.”

Special teams played a short, but massive role in the outcome of the matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. Tight end Brandon Bostick, part of the hands team trotted out by Green Bay to defend Seattle’s last-ditch onside kick attempt, dropped the live ball, which bounced directly into the hands of Seattle’s Chris Matthews.

It looked like an example of poor hand-eye coordination and terrible luck at the worst possible time, but it was later revealed Bostick blew his assignment, which was to block oncoming members of Seattle’s kick coverage team and allow Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson to catch the kick.

While Bostick admitted blame after the loss, that apparently wasn’t enough for Green Bay, which showed Slocum the door after nearly a decade with the team.

Slocum joined the team in 2006 as a special teams assistant before being promoted in 2009. As of Friday afternoon, only former Illinois and Florida head coach Ron Zook was listed as an assistant on the special teams staff, though it is not known if he will be elevated to fill the position.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast reacts to Super Bowl Media Day and breaks down the storylines nobody is talking about. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

Share Link Print Email RSS DeSean Jackson Impresses In First Redskins Season

Whether it’s catching a ball deep down the field after disconnecting from coverage or hauling in short pass and then sprinting past the defense to go the distance, Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson takes pride in being one of the top vertical threats in the NFL today.

DeSean Jackson, Tyrann Mathieu, Patrick Peterson“I take pride in big plays and being that guy, say one of the biggest deep people of the year, biggest player of the year, things like that, regardless of my stretch or my height,” Jackson said in December. “When that ball is in the air, I’m going to track it down.”
Jackson certainly didn’t disappoint in his first season with the Redskins, as he recorded 56 receptions for a team-high 1,169 yards and six touchdowns.

His 20.9 yards per reception was also tops in the NFL.

While the California product makes some of his lengthy plays look relatively easy thanks in large part to his elite speed, his playmaking ability was honed through hours of hard work.

“I’ve practiced a long time, a lot of hours, many weeks, many days doing that,” he said. “I just credit my trainers when I was younger. They just said, ‘We’re going to get up, we’re going to go early in the morning and just go work out.’ It paid off. …As a little kid, I challenge everybody to just go out there and if you want to do something, just work at it. That’s all I can say. I worked at it. I wanted to be great, so with the opportunities I’ve been given, I make the most out of them.”

When the Philadelphia Eagles ultimately decided to release Jackson last March fresh off his third Pro Bowl appearance, there was a lot of speculation behind the decision.

Regardless of the Eagles’ reasoning for letting go of Jackson, his first – and last – free agent trip was to the Redskins.

Signed April 1, Jackson quickly made Washington home and remains “happy to be here.”

“Things didn’t go the way we wanted it go this year, but at the end of the day, we’ve got a job to do,” Jackson said after the Redskins’ 27-24 victory over the Eagles in Week 16. “Any given moment everybody can tuck their tails in, quit and give up, but as you’ve seen tonight, we fought.”

Taking On A Different Form Of Leadership
Jackson admits he’s a pretty low-key guy, often taking more of a quiet approach in the locker room and with the media, instead opting to let his play do the talking.

But midway through the 2014 season, Jackson sensed an opportunity to speak up and let his teammates know that while the season wasn’t going as anticipated, they still needed to band together and not let the tough times take their toll.

“I felt, me being new to this team, I understand where I’ve been in the past and things I’ve been through in my career that I just felt it was needed,” he said. “Silence is sometimes a good thing, but if you have a vocal opinion on a certain topic or certain situation, that needs to be spoke on.”

While Jackson was tightlipped on what he said to the team behind closed doors, he did admit he wasn’t sure how his message was going to be received but was glad he let his voice be heard.

“We’re in this locker room together, we work so hard, we compete, we do all them great things together, but if everybody’s not on one page, it’s really hard to go out there and get the benefit of the doubt that we’re trying to get across, winning games,” he said. “And just having everybody believing in each other.”

Gruden Enjoys What Jackson Brings To The Table
While head coach Jay Gruden has had success in the NFL in the past with players half Jackson’s speed and capabilities, he knows he landed quite the weapon that meshes well with his scheme in the Cal product.

Jackson thrived from the get-go, as he recorded five 100-yard games in the first nine games.

As he battled through injuries and continued to spread out defenses, Gruden said he “gained a lot of respect for DeSean” throughout the 2014 season.

“Whatever happened in the past in Philadelphia I don’t know, but I know since that he’s been a Washington Redskin, he’s been solid to be around,” Gruden said in December. “He’s been a good worker and obviously he’s a big-time threat all the time. …He’s a huge play waiting to happen and luckily we were able to use him and get [large] gains because of his speed.”