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NFL off-season is a frenzy of activity, says Simon Veness

View from America Posted 6th March 2013 view comments

New York is often termed 'The City That Never Sleeps' and it is an apt home for the headquarters of The League That Never Stops, also known as the NFL. Because, if you thought the season had ended with last month's Super Bowl, you were very seriously mistaken.

In fact, it's possible to see the next few weeks as the REAL core of the season, the period when teams lay the groundwork for success (or otherwise) next January, with all manner of salary cap issues, free agency and, of course, the Draft.

Wes Welker: can New England offer him the terms he wants?

Wes Welker: can New England offer him the terms he wants?

While most of the players may be taking it easy (with the possible exception of Baltimore's Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco, who probably has writer's cramp from signing that massive new $120million contract to stay with the Ravens through 2017), their front offices are in an almost permanent state of frenzy at this time of year.

It is non-stop and breathless; fascinating and laughable at the same time, a relentless cavalcade of gridiron minutiae that keeps the talking heads chattering and the scribes scribbling.

Simon Veness
Quotes of the week

Consider this little snap-shot of the supposed "off-season":

New England are currently trying to offer key wideout Wes Welker a new contract without breaking their Belichickian rules on maintaining the kind of tight grip on the purse-strings that would make Scrooge's eyes water.

Kansas City have reportedly hitched their wagon to the Alex Smith train by making San Francisco's surplus-to-requirements quarterback their new savior, in the type of move that will see head coach Andy Reid crowned as a genius or the village idiot, in the win-or-else nature of today's league.

Atlanta have made some bold pre-free agency cuts by axing Michael Turner, John Abraham and Dunta Robinson - three of their most senior men - in a bid to give themselves some cap room and address their play-off failings.

And the New York Jets are supposedly ready to sell real estate on Revis Island by offering shut-down cornerback Darrelle Revis to the highest bidder in an effort to rebuild - a rather forlorn hope on the evidence of the wreckage in the green corner of the fancy MetLife Stadium at the end of last season.

As an additional thought on the MetLife - which will host Super Bowl XLVIII next February - the league are having to look urgently at Plans B and C (and possibly D to Z as well) after the recent snowstorms that have blanketed the north-east, bringing even the most snow-ready cities to a standstill. And who, exactly, thought staging the world's biggest annual sporting event in an open-air stadium, in the north-east, in winter, was a good idea? Answers on a postcard, please...

Barrage

But back in the current frenzy of off-season activity, even the likes of 24-hour ESPN are struggling to keep up with the barrage of NFL news that continues to bestride the media horizon.

If it's not Baltimore, it is Dallas considering putting Anthony Spencer on the market; or Buffalo's Shawne Merriman announcing his retirement; or the NFL Combine producing a player who just shattered the world 40-yard dash record (witness North Iowa receiver Terrell Sinkfield apparently clocking 4.19sec); or the latest gossip about Notre Dame comedy punchbag Manti Te'o.

It is non-stop and breathless; fascinating and laughable at the same time, a relentless cavalcade of gridiron minutiae that keeps the talking heads chattering and the scribes scribbling. Consider - do we REALLY need to know that Tim Tebow might, just possibly, still have a future with the Jets? Of course not, because it is absolutely clear to all concerned that the Jets' Tebow 'experiment' is the kind of failure that would make even Dr Frankenstein blush.But there it is, in all its media glory; the latest, the greatest and the possibly-might-happen-est tidbits from the League That Never Sleeps.

Happily, there are still plenty of genuine stories to keep us meaningfully employed on the NFL trail. The Combine was mainly notably for the Te'o Pantomime, the absurdist focus on the Fighting Irish linebacker who is desperate to shake off the shadow of The Girl Who Never Existed, but it did also throw up some serious news in the shape of Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel, who virtually locked up the Chiefs' No. 1 pick, while the wonderfully-named LSU defensive lineman Barkevious Mingo also showed extremely well, making him an ultra-tempting target for star-power-challenged Jacksonville.

With the Jaguars also "London's team" for the next four years, I hope to have a lot more insight into their immediate future in the weeks leading up to the Draft in April.

And, having highlighted the NFL's annual Radio City pick-and-mix, it is fair to say the legions of 'Draftniks' who solemnly work on multiple variations of Who Goes Where are all now in overdrive as they try to predict who Arizona will select at No. 7 (and yes, it could be any one of 32 different players!) and if Kansas City might actually trade out of the top selection in an effort to stockpile picks to address their multiple issues (see also: the Cardinals, Jets, Raiders and Browns).

Talent

The one thing most people are sure of for this April's multi-day TV-fest, is that the 2013 Draft will most certainly not be an offensive showcase. In fact, some analysts figure that as few EIGHT players from the offensive side of the ball will be first-round fodder this year, such is the dearth of standout impact talent.

Yes, there is a preponderance of solid defensive talent to choose from, but the fact only ONE quarterback - West Virginia's Geno Smith - figures in most Draft first-round breakdowns is indicative of the relative slim pickings on offer for the various offensive coordinators.

Of course, that is reckoning without the Draft's regular Upset Factor, such as Dallas trading up to grab Morris Claiborne last year (a distinct first-round failure) and Cleveland staking their all on Brandon Weeden, a quarterback who struggled mightily to convince anyone he was NFL-worthy for much of 2012.

There are sure to be more players going up and down on the old Draftometer between now and April 25 - and even more stories of comings and goings once Free Agency officially opens on March 12. It all serves to underline the essential truth that there is NO off-season in the NFL any more.

There may be no actual, you know, games to report on, but the News Goes On (and on, and on...!).

As a final thought on the nature of the NFL, isn't it hysterical that Alex Ferguson and the whole Manchester United team decided they were "too distraught" to speak to the media following their Champions League defeat by Real Madrid?

Can you imagine any NFL team playing the sulking, dodge-the-media game after losing in controversial circumstances? Even 'Surly Bill' Belichick, for all his dour demeanour, would never be so classless as to refuse to show his face in the wake of a game, never mind coming up with the ultimate cop-out of being "too distraught" to speak.

It just goes to show that football of the European kind (and especially the Premier League) still has a lot of growing up to do. Or am I wrong? Discuss...!

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