The Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams are scheduled to start the 2011 NFL preseason.
But will the teams even need to bother making the trip to Canton?
Hall of Fame game is one month away...or is it?
NFL labor negotiations resumed today in Manhattan, this time with commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith present.Â ESPN reports itâ€™s â€œclose to impossibleâ€ a deal is finalized today, but both sides remain focused on reaching an agreement soon.
How soon?Â Perhaps within the next week.Â July 15 â€“ next Friday â€“ is the unofficial deadline.Â Beyond that, and itâ€™s increasingly likely at least some preseason games will get the axe, including the Hall of Fame game.
Training camps for the Bears and Rams are set to start July 22.Â The remaining teams are scheduled to begin camps about a week later.
Sources tell ESPNâ€™s Chris Mortensen talks are expected to continue next week.Â U.S. District Judge Arthur Boylan, whoâ€™s mediating the negotiations, will reportedly not be there because of vacation.
Ten players listed in the antitrust lawsuit against the NFL have been contacted about a conference call tonight, according to ESPN.
Broncos rookie Von Miller is among those plaintiff in the case of Brady vs. NFL.Â Miller is the lone rookie who joined the suit, which was filed six weeks before the NFL draft.
More Legal Wrangling
The state of New York is the latest to get involved in the NFL lockout.Â NFL.com reports New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has launched an antitrust investigation.Â Schneiderman wants the league and NFLPA to release information about the lockoutâ€™s economic impact.
The AGâ€™s office is requesting revenue records, employment and contract information, along with multiple lockout-related documents dating back to 2008.
While legal negotiations and maneuvers are being kept hush-hush in this joy-vacuum of an NFL lockout, at least players and coaches are still talking â€“ albeit not to each other.
Thatâ€™s giving me something to write about, and today â€“ a rarity â€“ Iâ€™m avoiding the NFL lockout.
Yes, I know.Â The first sentence of this story contains the words â€˜NFL lockout,â€™ and Iâ€™ve now used that phrase three times.
My aforementioned avoidance plan goes into effectâ€¦startingâ€¦now.
Want to be the next Antonio Gates?Â Get in lineâ€¦
Broncos tight ends coach Clancy Barone has seen this before: college basketball player turned NFL tight end.
A former coach for San Diegoâ€™s Antonio Gates, Barone knows the transition isnâ€™t usually successful.Â Barone told ESPN AFC West blogger Bill Williamson:
â€œAntonio Gates made it look easy, but itâ€™s not.Â Itâ€™s not the case.Â Itâ€™s not for everybody. Thereâ€™s just a select few that can make it work.â€
The harsh assessment â€“ err, reality – hasnâ€™t stopped many basketball-turned-football players from trying.Â If anything, the trend has continued to gain steam:
â€œGates is a future Hall of Famer and now, all of sudden, everybody wants to do it. You look at guys because of the athleticism and the body build. But they must have toughness to be a football player and the willingness to learn football. Antonio Gates is a student of the game. Thatâ€™s part of the reason why it worked for him.â€
Still, the Broncos are confident theyâ€™ve found the exception â€“ a raw football talent with a basketball-heavy background.
Enter Julius Thomas, a 4th round selection for Denver in the recent NFL Draft.Â Suffice it to say, Barone and Broncos fans hope Thomasâ€™ NFL fate mirrors Gatesâ€™ career.
For Thomas, thereâ€™s no way he can avoid the comparisons â€“ or expectations.Â Barone sees similarities beyond the obvious:
â€œWhen I sat down with Julius, I saw some things that were very similar to Antonio.Â He gets the game. He understands it very well and he had great body control like Antonio.â€
Thomas impressed scouts at the NFL combine.Â At 6-5 and 245 pounds, he ran a 4.6 in the 40-yard dash.
According to Williams, Thomas doesnâ€™t mind the Gatesâ€™ comparison; he just hopes to not disappoint Broncos fans:
â€œHe is a guy that you can study and really start to model some of the things you do after.Â I take it as an honor to be included in the same sentence as a lot of guys who have played basketball and transitioned to football and done well. Thatâ€™s a standard that I want to hold for myself, being successful in making that transition. Being compared to Antonio Gates is a great start for me. Iâ€™m going to go ahead and work as hard as I can to make that comparison as similar as possible.â€
Offensive Coordinator talks 2011 season
Broncos OC Mike McCoy doesnâ€™t know â€“ or isnâ€™t saying â€“ which quarterback will start for Denver in 2011, but regardless of Orton, Tebow, or someone else at the helm, heâ€™s moving forward with bolstering the offense.Â McCoy spoke with Broncos TV about the teamâ€™s new offensive coaching additions and whatâ€™s on the agenda for players once you-know-what is over.
Here’s your assortment of Thursday morning headlines to jumpstart your day, courtesy Denver Horse Force.
Mike Klis of The Denver Post recaps yesterday’s conference call with 7,000+ Broncos season-ticket holders. **If you were one of those involved, please contact me. Â I would love to speak with you.** Â For those of us NOT involved, read what you missed here.
USA Today marks the one-year passing of Rockies Keli McGregor, a Colorado native who was drafted by the Denver Broncos. Â Side note: If you visit Coors Field, you’ll notice the ‘KSM’ tributes.
The Star of Cleveland County, North Carolina profiles former Broncos wide receiver Scottie Montgomery, who’s now a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staff. Â Montgomery played for Denver for three seasons and will inducted into the Cleveland County Sports Hall of Fame next week.
Now that we’ve seen the 2011 NFL schedule, it seems there’s a lot of interest about a certain December game with a certain former Broncos quarterback. Â CBSSports and Yahoo! Sports each place the Broncos vs. Bears as one of the “can’t-miss” games of 2011.
For the first time since 2004, the Denver Broncos will open the season at home against divisional rival Oakland. Â Even better, it’s on Monday night, extending Denver’s MNF streak to 20 straight years, longest in the league.
Oh, and Jay Cutler will be here December 11.
Without further ado, here is the complete 2011 Denver Broncos schedule:
September 12: Broncos vs. Raiders 8:15 p.m.Â (Monday Night Football)
September 18: Broncos vs. Bengals 2:15 p.m.
September 25: Broncos at Titans 11 a.m.
October 2: Broncos at Packers 2:15 p.m.
October 9: Broncos vs. Chargers 2:15 p.m.
October 16: BYE
October 23: Broncos at Dolphins 11 a.m.
October 30: Broncos vs. Lions 2:05 p.m.
November 6: Broncos at Raiders 11:05 a.m.
November 13: Broncos at Chiefs 11 a.m.
November 17: Broncos vs.Â Jets 6:20 p.m.Â (Thursday night)
Jay Cutler has at least one supporter in Denver. (Courtesy: kansascity.com)
Per capita, Denver may be home to the smallest Jay Cutler fanbase, but the somewhat embattled Chicago Bears quarterback still has the support of at least someone in Denver – former teammate Ryan Harris.
In an article on chicagobreakingsports.com, the Broncos right tackle said of Cutler, “He’s a tough guy, and anyone who has ever played with him knows that and wouldn’t criticize him.”
Cutler sat out the second half of the NFC title game against Green Bay with a knee injury, but his sideline mannerisms and apparently disenchanted demeanor generated a firestorm of criticism. Â Fans and even some fellow NFL players accused Cutler of quitting or giving up on his team.
A day after Chicago’s loss, it was revealed Cutler suffered a left knee Grade 2 sprain of the MCL, but that diagnosis has done little to quell the vilification.
“The majority of people talking have never had an MCL injury, so they have no cognizance of what it is or what it does to your performance on the field,” Harris said. Â “Yes, I was surprised about the reaction. Again, that’s because I played with Jay. I know he wouldn’t do something like that. But people are entitled to opinions, I guess.”
Harris and Cutler were Denver teammates in 2008. Â Harris is a soon-to-be free agent.