Posts by Michael Lombardi

Sunday at the Post

<p> QUOTE/STORY OF THE WEEK...

“The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.” -- Thucydides (Greek historian and author, 460-404 B.C.)

From the White House:

As Memorial Day approaches, it’s time

<p> QUOTE/STORY OF THE WEEK…

“The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.” — Thucydides (Greek historian and author, 460-404 B.C.)

From the White House:

As Memorial Day approaches, it’s time to pause and consider the true meaning of this holiday. Memorial Day represents one day of national awareness and reverence, honoring those Americans who died while defending our nation and its values. While we should honor these heroes every day for the profound contributions they made to secure our nation’s freedom, we should honor them especially on Memorial Day.

In this time of unprecedented success and prosperity throughout our land, I ask that all Americans come together to recognize how fortunate we are to live in freedom and to observe a universal “National Moment
of Remembrance” on each Memorial Day. This memorial observance represents a simple and unifying way to commemorate our history and honor the struggle to protect our freedoms.

Accordingly, I hereby direct all executive departments and agencies, in consultation with the White House Program for the National Moment of Remembrance, to promote a “National Moment of Remembrance” to occur at 3 p.m. (local time) on each Memorial Day.

Therefore at 3 tomorrow, please raise a glass and toast all of those who fought for our rights, for our honor and most of all for our freedom.

THANK YOU TO ALL…

“I would hope you would support who we are, not who we are not. These six individuals have made a choice to work, a choice to sacrifice, to put themselves on the line 23 nights for the next four months, to represent you, this high school. That kind of commitment and effort deserves and demands your respect. This is your team.” — Coach Norman Dale, from the movie “Hoosiers,” in honor of Dennis Hopper, who died Saturday

Thank yous never appear in print as strongly as they come from the heart, and today there are many people I want to strongly thank.

Thank yous are in order to:

Andrew and Jack for their great partnership and shared vision. I have broken up the team, but we will always continue forward with teamwork.

Matt Bowen for the dedication and, of course, the first-class seat to Amsterdam when the Boss returns. You’re a true pro, on and off the field. Good luck with your book.

Joe “The Tipper” Fortenbaugh for your hard work, your passion and most of all your spirit, which served as the foundation for the site.

Wes Bunting for a great passion, a great eye and a great work ethic. And a great person.

Michael Martinez, who saw too many of my grammar and spelling mistakes way too early in the morning. Never complained, never missed a day and made the rhythm of the words work.

Ray Gustini, who worked hard to help us launch the site and now has found a new platform to spew his words. Fake Al Davis might end up with his own website.

To Bob Boland, who is one of the most talented people I’ve ever met and whom I look forward to spending time with in the near future working on many project together.

To Samantha, who kept the Post focused on the task at hand, always reminding us to keep the dream alive and doing all the little things to ensure the dream could run.

To Diana, who is filled with many great ideas and the work ethic to make them all come true.

To Chad C., who helped us in our early stages as we found our collective voice.

To Hollie, who made one appearance. We kept hoping for more.

To Dave and Scott, who helped with great ideas and writing to keep the Post moving forward. Both are talented writers, and I look forward to reading more.

To Josh for helping with our first fantasy guide. I wish you well.

To Lex, our first editor and friend. The book is going to happen!

To the boys at Fordham for reading the site every day and proudly wearing the T-shirts.

To Ms. Jenny. Her words on the death of Steve McNair were heartfelt and moving. May her Titans rise again this year!

To Ken, who started as a reader and now has become a great friend. I appreciate all your help.

To Michael “One Vick Comment a Month” D., who has been a fan, friend and voice of reason. Thanks for all your help.

To my two boys Mick and Matt, who are the pride of my life.

And the biggest and loudest thank you to my loving wife, who deserves all the credit, the pats on the back and the shout outs for being a great mother, great person and great wife. Love you.

A HOLE IN ONE

“We on this continent should never forget that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their ploughs but to secure liberty for their souls.” — Robert J. McCracken

Congratulations to my youngest son Matthew, who got his first hole-in-one on Friday at Great Bay Country Club in Somers Point, N.J. I’m proud of his efforts and honored that he signed the free drinks to my tab at the club. But what makes me proudest is that both my sons enjoyed the accomplishment equally. Life without envy among family members is what makes families strong. Congratulations to Matt, and thanks to Mick.

FIVE BEST QUOTES, ACCORDING TO ME (in no order)

“There are those, I know, who will say that the liberation of humanity, the freedom of man and mind, is nothing but a dream. They are right. It is the American dream.” — Archibald MacLeish

• “Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change.” –– Ted Kennedy, in his eulogy to his brother, Robert

• “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”— Elie Wiesel

• “If you don’t have enemies, you don’t have character.” — Paul Newman

• “Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid, one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.” – Gen. Douglas MacArthur

I am cheating here – Lincoln’s letter to his son’s school teacher. I count it as one quote:

• He will have to learn, I know, that all men are not just, all men are not true. But teach him also that for every scoundrel there is a hero; that for every selfish Politician, there is a dedicated leader…Teach him for every enemy there is a friend,

• Steer him away from envy, if you can, teach him the secret of quiet laughter.

• Let him learn early that the bullies are the easiest to lick…Teach him, if you can, the wonder of books…But also give him quiet time to ponder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun, and the flowers on a green hillside.

• In the school teach him it is far honourable to fail than to cheat…Teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if everyone tells him they are wrong…Teach him to be gentle with gentle people, and tough with the tough.

• Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when everyone is getting on the band wagon…Teach him to listen to all men…but teach him also to filter all he hears on a screen of truth, and take only the good that comes through.

• Teach him if you can, how to laugh when he is sad…Teach him there is no shame in tears, Teach him to scoff at cynics and to beware of too much sweetness…Teach him to sell his brawn and brain to the highest bidders but never to put a price-tag on his heart and soul.

• Teach him to close his ears to a howling mob and to stand and fight if he thinks he’s right. Treat him gently, but do not cuddle him, because only the test of fire makes fine steel.

• Let him have the courage to be impatient…let him have the patience to be brave. Teach him always to have sublime faith in himself, because then he will have sublime faith in mankind.

• This is a big order, but see what you can do… He is such a fine little fellow, my son!

THINGS I HEARD AROUND THE NFL…

“I have never been able to think of the day as one of mourning; I have never quite been able to feel that half-masted flags were appropriate on Decoration Day. I have rather felt that the flag should be at the peak, because those whose dying we commemorate rejoiced in seeing it where their valor placed it. We honor them in a joyous, thankful, triumphant commemoration of what they did.” — Benjamin Harrison

1. The Raiders’ grievance with JaMarcus Russell is one that many in the league who write contracts feel they have no chance of winning. They tried to get Russell to give money back before they cut him — on the grounds he was a bust. Russell was not good, but a guaranteed contract is a guaranteed contract, even in Raiders land.

2. LenDale White’s termination by the Seahawks was not a surprise. White has never been a hard worker, and he thought he had the job won in Seattle on reputation, never having to earn it. He’ll struggle to find work.

3. Cowboys wide receiver Patrick Crayton will have to wait until a team is willing to trade for him because the Cowboys keep saying they won’t waive him, that he’s too valuable right now. We shall see.

4. It sounds like Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is fully aware of his responsibility to the community and the team. This week will be vital to Big Ben as he restores and repairs his relationship with his teammates.

5. Expect the Redskins to hire a pro personnel director in the near future. They’ve talked to several NFL people, from former Saints GM Bill Kuharich to former Titans and Raiders personnel man Rich Snead and former Bronco Chris Trulove.

LEADERSHIP IDEA…

“And they who for their country die shall fill an honored grave, for glory lights the soldier’s tomb, and beauty weeps the brave.” — Joseph Drake

Memorial Day means summer vacation, and summer vacation means using your free time wisely — and productively. Here is Leo Babauta’s advice on using free time. I’m going to follow it this summer.

(From Leo: My name is Leo Babauta, and I’m the creator and writer here at Zenhabits.net. I’m married with six kids(!), I live on Guam (but moving to S.F. in June 2010), I’m a writer and a runner and a vegan. I like long walks on the beach (at least, the one time I tried it, except for the sandfleas) and read trashy novels (also some good ones). I also created mnmlist.com (on minimalism) and Write To Done (for writers and bloggers). I’m the author of a new best-selling book, “The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential, in Business and in Life.”)

If you’ve got a big block of free time, the best way to put that to use is to relax, have fun, decompress from a stressful day or spend time with a loved one. But if you’ve just got a little chunk — say five or 10 minutes — there’s no time to do any of the fun stuff. Put those little chunks of time to their most productive use.
Everyone works differently, so the best use of your free time really depends on you, your working style and what’s on your to-do list. But it’s handy to have a list like this in order to quickly find a way to put that little spare time to work instantly, without any thought.

Use the following list as a way to spark ideas for what you can do in a short amount of time.

• Reading file. Clip magazine articles or print out good articles or reports for reading later, and keep them in a folder marked “Reading File.” Take this wherever you go, and any time you have a little chunk of time, you can knock off items in your Reading File. Keep a reading file on your computer (or in your bookmarks) for quick reading while at your desk (or on the road if you’ve got a laptop).

• Clear out inbox. Got a meeting in five minutes? Use it to get your physical or email inbox to empty. If you’ve got a lot in your inbox, you’ll have to work quickly, and you may not get everything done, but reducing your pile can be a big help. And having an empty inbox is a wonderful feeling.

• Phone calls. Keep a list of phone calls you need to make, with phone numbers, and carry it everywhere. Whether you’re at your desk or on the road, you can knock a few calls off your list in a short amount of time.

• Make money. This is my favorite productive use of free time. I have a list of articles I need to write, and when I get some spare minutes, I’ll knock off half an article real quick. If you get 5-10 chunks of free time a day, you can make a decent side income. Figure out how you can freelance your skills, and have work lined up that you can knock out quickly — break it up into little chunks, so those chunks can be done in short bursts.

• File. No one likes to do this. If you’re on top of your game, you’re filing stuff immediately so it doesn’t pile up. But if you’ve just come off a really busy spurt, you may have a bunch of documents or files laying around. Or maybe you have a big stack of stuff to file. Cut into that stack with every little bit of spare time you get, and soon you’ll be in filing Nirvana.

• Network. Only have two minutes? Shoot off a quick email to a colleague. Even just a “touching bases” or follow-up email can do wonders for your working relationship. Or shoot off a quick question, and put it on your follow-up list for later.

• Clear out feeds. If my email inbox is empty, and I have some spare time, I like to go to my Google Reader and clear out my feed inbox.

• Goal time. Take 10 minutes to think about your goals, personal and professional. If you don’t have a list of goals, start on one. If you’ve got a list of goals, review them. Write down a list of action steps you can take over the next couple of weeks to make these goals a reality. What action step can you do today? The more you focus on these goals, and review them, the more likely they will come true.

• Update finances. Many people fall behind with their finances, either in paying bills (they don’t have time), or entering transactions in their financial software, or clearing their checkbook, or reviewing their budget. Take a few minutes to update these things. It just takes 10-15 minutes every now and then.

• Brainstorm ideas. Another favorite of mine if I just have five minutes — I’ll break out my pocket notebook, and start a brainstorming list for a project or article. Whatever you’ve got coming up in your work or personal life, it can benefit from a brainstorm. And that doesn’t take long.

• Clear off desk. Similar to the filing tip above, but this applies to whatever junk you’ve got cluttering up your desk. Or on the floor around your desk. Trash stuff, file stuff, put it in its place. A clear desk makes for a more productive you. And it’s oddly satisfying.

• Exercise. Never have time to exercise? Ten minutes is enough to get off some pushups and crunches. Do that 2-3 times a day and you’ve got a fit new you.

• Take a walk. This is another form of exercise that doesn’t take long, and you can do it anywhere — but even more important, it’s a good way to stretch your legs from sitting at your desk too long, and it gets your creative juices flowing. If you’re ever stuck for ideas, taking a walk is a good way to get unstuck.

• Follow up. Keep a follow-up list for everything you’re waiting on. Return calls, emails, memos — anything that someone owes you, put on the list. When you’ve got a spare 10 minutes, do some follow-up calls or emails.

• Meditate. You don’t need a yoga mat to do this. Just do it at your desk. Focus on your breathing. A quick 5-10 minutes of meditation (or even a nap) can be tremendously refreshing.

• Research. This is a daunting task for me. So I do it in little spurts. If I’ve only got a few minutes, I’ll do some quick research and take some notes. Do this a few times, and I’m done!

• Outline. Similar to brainstorming, but more formal. I like to do an outline of a complicated article, report or project, and it helps speed things along when I get to the actual writing. And it only takes a few minutes.

• Get prepped. Outlining is one way to prep for longer work, but there’s a lot of other ways you can prep for the next task on your list. You may not have time to actually start on the task right now, but when you come back from your meeting or lunch, you’ll be all prepped and ready to go.

• Be early. Got some spare time before a meeting? Show up for the meeting early. Sure, you might feel like a chump sitting there alone, but actually people respect those who show up early. It’s better than being late (unless you’re trying to play a power trip or something, but that’s not appreciated in many circles).

• Log. If you keep a log of anything, a few spare minutes is the perfect time to update the log. Actually, the perfect time to update the log is right after you do the activity (exercise, eat, crank a widget), but if you didn’t have time to do it before, your five-minute break is as good a time as any.

FIVE BOOKS I WANT TO READ THIS SUMMER….

“The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example.” — Benjamin Disraeli

1. “Little Big Things” by Tom Peters

2 “The Last Stand: Sitting Bull and the Battle of Little Big Horn” by Nathanial Philbrick

3. “The Other Wes Moore” by Wes Moore (a fellow alum of Valley Forge Military Academy)

4. “Drive” by Daniel H. Pink

5. “The War Lovers” by Evan Thomas

ARTICLES YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED THAT AREN’T WORTH MISSING…

“Well tollin’ for the searching ones on this speechless secret trail, For the lonesome haunted lovers with too personal a tale, And for each young heart for each channeled soul misplaced inside a jail, Yeah we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashin’.” — Bob Dylan

A Dying Father’s Lessons on Life for His Teenaged Daughter

How (and Why) to Stop Multi-tasking

STORIES TO SHARE….

“It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time.” — Winston Churchill

Diary Of A Last and Final Flight Home

February 17, 2007

0350

I was at curbside at 24th and M, Washington D.C. 16 Degrees with a light breeze. Going home after my second week of freezing temps to my warm home in SoCal. Take a walk on the beach, ride a horse, climb a mountain and get back to living. I’m tired of the cold.

0425

Paying the taxi fare at Dulles in front of the United Airlines counter, still cold.

0450

Engaged the self-serve ticker machine and it delivers my ticket, baggage tag and boarding pass. Hmmm, that Marine over there is all dressed up in his dress blues a bit early this morning…”Good Morning, Captain, you’re looking sharp.” He says, “Thank you, sir.”

Pass Security and to my gate for a decaf coffee and 5 hours sleep. A quick check of the flight status monitor and UA Flt 211 is on time. I’m up front, so how bad can that be? Hmmm, there’s that same Marine. He must be heading to Pendleton to see his lady at LAX for the long weekend, all dressed up like that. Or maybe not. I dunno.

The speaker system announces, “Attention in the boarding area, we’ll begin boarding in 10 minutes, we have some additional duties to attend to this morning, but we’ll have you out of here on time.”

The Marine Captain has now been joined by five others. BINGO, I get it, he’s not visiting his lady, he’s an official escort. I remember doing that once, CACO duty. I still remember the names of the victim and family, the Bruno Family in Mojave — all of them, wows, that was 24 years ago.

On board, 0600

“Good morning, folks, this is the captain. This morning, we’ve been attending to some additional duties, and I apologize for being 10 minutes late for push back, but I believe we’ll be early into LAX. This morning it is my sad pleasure to announce that 1st LT Jared Landaker, USMC, will be flying with us to his Big Bear home in Southern California. Jared lost his life over the skies of Iraq earlier this month, and today we have the honor of returning him home along with his mother, father and brother. Please join me in making the journey comfortable for the Landaker family and their uniformed escort. Now sit back and enjoy your ride. We’re not expecting any turbulence until we reach the Rocky Mountain area, but we’ll do what we can to ensure a smooth ride. For those interested, you can listen in to our progress on Channel 9.”

Click Channel 9: “Good morning UA 211. You are cleared to taxi, takeoff and cleared to LAX as filed.”

4 hours and 35 minutes later over Big Bear MT, the AB320 makes a left roll, a steep bank and then one to the right. Nice touch. Nice tribute. Five minutes out from landing, the Captain comes on the speaker: “Ladies and Gents, after landing I’m leaving the fasten seatbelt sign on, and I ask everyone to please yield to the Landaker family. Please remain seated until all members of the family have departed the aircraft. Thank you for your patience. We are 20 minutes early.”

On roll out, I notice red lights, emergency vehicles approaching. We’re being escorted directly to our gate, no waiting, not even a pause. Out the left window, a dozen Marines in full dress blues. A true class act by everyone, down to a person. Way to go United Airlines for doing things RIGHT, Air Traffic Control for getting the message, and to all security personnel for your display of brotherhood.

When the family departed the aircraft, everyone sat silent, then I heard a lady say,”God Bless you and your family, and thank you.” Then a somber round of applause. The Captain read a prepared note from Mrs. Landaker to the effect, “Thank you all for your patience and heartfelt concern for us and our son. We sincerely appreciate the sentiment. It’s good to have Jared home.”

After departing the a/c I found myself along with 30 others from our flight looking out the lobby window back at the plane. Not a dry eye. It was one of the most emotional moments I’ve ever experienced. We all stood there silently, and watched as Jared was taken by his honor guard to an awaiting hearse. Then the motorcade slowly made its way off the ramp.

I realized I had finally seen the silent majority. It is deep within us all. Black, Brown, White, Yellow, Red, Purple, we’re all children, parents, brothers, sisters, etc. — we are an American family.

Official Report: February 7, 2007, Anbar Province, Iraq. 1st LT Jared Landaker, United States Marine Corps, from Big Bear, California, gave his live in service to his country. Fatally wounded when his CH-46 helicopter was shot down by enemy fire. Jared and his crew all perished. His life was the ultimate sacrifice of a grateful military family and nation.

His death occurred at the same time as Anna Nicole Smith, a drug-using person with a 7th grade education of no pedigree who dominated our news for two weeks while Jared became a number on CNN. And most unfortunately, Jared’s death underscores a fact that we are a military at war, not a nation at war. It has been said that Marines are at war. America is at the mall.

1st LT Landaker, a man I came to know in the sky’s over America on 17 February 2007, from me to you, aviator to aviator, I am unbelievably humbled. It was my high honor to share your last flight. God bless you.

Semper Fi.

And one final thank you for reading my work. It has been an honor.

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Diner morning news: A difficult goodbye

QUOTE: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” -- Carol Sobieski and Thomas Meehan, “Annie”

A tearful goodbye

It’s with great sadness that this Sunday will be my last column here at the National Football Post, as I’m leaving to continue my TV career with NFL

QUOTE: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” — Carol Sobieski and Thomas Meehan, “Annie”

A tearful goodbye

It’s with great sadness that this Sunday will be my last column here at the National Football Post, as I’m leaving to continue my TV career with NFL Network and writing for NFL.com. This was an extremely hard career decision for me, as the Post is — and always will be — my baby. But to continue to work for NFL Network, I had to make a difficult choice. And a very difficult choice it was.

At the Post, I leave behind some incredible partners, dedicated to serving our audience and making a difference in covering the NFL. This will not change as I step away because the foundation of the Post will always remain the same: a unique analysis and perspective of the news in the NFL. I learned long ago that we are all replaceable, and certainly the Post will continue to grow at record pace — without me.

The NFP has provided me an opportunity to express my views, share my thoughts, meet wonderful people, read disconcerting comments, be called an idiot on a daily basis, be corrected on my spelling and grammar mistakes, meet fans like Yahoo Dave, Mr. Murder, Patrick and many more who love their teams, and come in contact with some whose emails I just delete before reading. I’ve loved being able to be in contact with so many. Yet all of you have made me laugh, pissed me off, made me think and made me want to write again. Most of all, you have helped me improve as a writer, a football man and a human being. Thank you all very much.

Look for Sunday at the Post…

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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Diner morning news: Can 49ers reach playoffs?

QUOTE: “I am confirmed in my division of human energies. Ambitious people climb, but faithful people build.” -- Julia Ward Howe

Is this the 49ers year?

Wednesday, on NFL Network’s “Total Access,” we had Mike Singletary on the show to discuss his team and the outlook for the 2010

QUOTE: “I am confirmed in my division of human energies. Ambitious people climb, but faithful people build.” — Julia Ward Howe

Is this the 49ers year?

Wednesday, on NFL Network’s “Total Access,” we had Mike Singletary on the show to discuss his team and the outlook for the 2010 season. The 49ers finished strong last year, winning their final two games against the Lions and Rams to get to the .500 mark. As a result, many experts suspect this year will be their breakout year — the year they finally become the kind of team Singletary wants and the year they return to the playoffs.

Singletary wanted the 49ers to be a physical team that could run the ball well to control the game. His vision is for them to be the type of physical team that can control the line of scrimmage with the running game and blend in the play action pass for the big play. But last year, the 49ers could not run the ball on first down — or any down for that matter — and once they got behind in the down-and-distance count, they struggled to be productive on offense. The Niners struggled to overcome any negative plays during a drive — they ranked second in the NFL in allowing sacks on first down, surrendering 18, and led the league in three-and-outs. So when an opposing defense was able to get the 49ers in second or long, or any third and long, a punt was the next play. Third down — especially third and long — was the 49ers’ offensive nemesis: They were below 30 percent converting all third downs but 17 percent on third and 10 or more, ranking slightly ahead of the Bills for 31st in the NFL. Ouch. Before you think the 49ers can win the West, you better hope they can become more effective making plays in the passing game.

The disconnect for me when talking about the 49ers centers on the philosophy. Can you really be a great running team in the NFL and make a deep run in the playoffs? Yes, I know the Jets did it last year, but they were helped down the stretch (remember Indy lying down?), and even the Jets know they must throw the ball effectively to improve. The Chargers and 49ers were the two worst running teams on first down in the league, but because the Chargers could throw the ball — down the field — they finished fourth in points scored.

Even if Singletary is able to get the 49ers to become a better running team, will this make them a playoff team? The 49ers must become a better passing team, they must be able to handle the blitz better and they must make plays down the field if they’re going to make a playoff appearance. For all the talk about the 49ers becoming more of a Mike Singletary type of team this year, they might want to spend more time working on a third down package, on their passing game and on their ability to overcome negative plays.

The 49ers are tough, they are physical, they are a Mike Singletary type of team — but Mike must modify his philosophy to fit into today’s game and pass the torch to his quarterback. I have been very critical of 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, but with a better team around him and another year in the same system, this can be his year — at least a make-or-break year. By the end of next season, the 49ers will know if they have their franchise quarterback or if they regret not making the move for former Eagle Donovan McNabb.

If the 49ers make the playoffs, it will be because they have become Alex Smith’s team — not Singletary’s team. Smith must make the difference. He must make the key plays, and he must be the stimulus in the offense. Had they traded for McNabb, they would be a viable Super Bowl contender, but without him, they are hoping to be a viable playoff team — and that viability lies with Smith.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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Diner morning news: Is Fisher a voice of reason?

QUOTE: “Apathy can be overcome by enthusiasm, and enthusiasm can only be aroused by two things: first, an ideal, with takes the imagination by storm, and second, a definite intelligible plan for carrying that ideal into practice.” – Arnold J. Toynbee

Jeff Fisher and Chris Johnson

Titans head coach Jeff Fisher

QUOTE: “Apathy can be overcome by enthusiasm, and enthusiasm can only be aroused by two things: first, an ideal, with takes the imagination by storm, and second, a definite intelligible plan for carrying that ideal into practice.” – Arnold J. Toynbee

Jeff Fisher and Chris Johnson

Titans head coach Jeff Fisher wants to sit down with star running back Chris Johnson in an effort to bring Johnson into camp. Little known to many people, Johnson’s agent, Joel Segal, was in Nashville last week discussing multiple proposals with general manager Mike Reinfeldt in an effort to reward Johnson for out-playing his rookie contract. Segal knows he’s fighting an uphill battle, but he has Johnson’s two-year production on his side. Segal is attempting to be proactive in his effort to get the team to reward Johnson, and the Titans want players to honor their contracts — at least for the first three years. Both sides have strong positions, and working behind the scenes is best for both.

Since Johnson and his agent have met with the Titans, what will a meeting between Fisher and Johnson produce? It will open the lines of communication between them, and since Fisher has been involved with the organization since 1994, he knows how owner Bud Adams will behave in these kinds of situations. Fisher doesn’t do contracts in Tennessee, but he can be the voice of reason with Johnson. So the more the two sides talk, the better the chances of finding a resolution to their differences.

New York/New Jersey

The Sopranos and the New York family shared the Esplanade project based in Newark, N.J., and now in real life the NFL has a Super Bowl in the Meadowlands shared by New York and New Jersey. How come NY/NJ always shares, whether it’s on TV or in real life? Tuesday, NFL owners voted to give the New York/New Jersey area the Super Bowl in 2014 for our first very outdoor cold-weather Super Bowl.

February is not a warm month, and despite all these predictions about the average temperatures in February in the Garden State hovering around 40 degrees, the game will be cold for the players and cold for the fans. Will it be a good Super Bowl? Who can ever really say, but NY/NJ is a great setting for this event. It will be a fun week, but it will also be a security nightmare — especially for anyone who has to enter New York every day for work.

I know it will be cold, and both teams will have to be ready to handle the elements — wind being the primary concern. In the old Meadowlands, wind was a problem. Giants QB Eli Manning actually has a higher quarterback rating on the road than at home and a higher percentage of pass completions, albeit a very small difference, largely because of the wind. Before this game is played in 2014, we’ll know the wind factor in the new stadium, which will help the teams that get to play in the game handle the elements. Cold is not a big problem for the players — but wind does affect the game. So instead of discussing the average temp in February, we need to determine how the wind might alter the game.

My only other suggestion would be to make sure Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi and all NY/NJ acts handle the pregame and halftime entertainment and that the crew from “The Sopranos” welcomes the fans to the Garden State.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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DMN: Will the real Kyle Orton please stand up?

QUOTE: “The progress of the intellect is to the clearer vision of causes, which neglects surface differences. To the poet, to the philosopher, to the saint, all things are friendly and sacred, all events profitable, all days holy, all men divine.” -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Denver trading Kyle Orton?

I’ve spent

QUOTE: “The progress of the intellect is to the clearer vision of causes, which neglects surface differences. To the poet, to the philosopher, to the saint, all things are friendly and sacred, all events profitable, all days holy, all men divine.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Denver trading Kyle Orton?

I’ve spent as much time in Denver the past few months as I’ve spent at my home on the Jersey Shore. With each visit, I’ve been able to watch practice, talk football with the coaches and discuss their players, their schemes and the changes they have planned for the coming season. The common theme — and perhaps the only theme — in Denver has always been, “We’re trying to build a competitive team that will be tough in tough times.” They’ve always been firmly behind quarterback Kyle Orton but have been very careful to make sure no one has a free pass on being competitive and earning the job.

The trade talk surrounding Orton before the draft was not real — nor would have been realistic. Think about it. The Broncos had no idea they would be able to draft Florida quarterback Tim Tebow in March or April, so how could they trade Orton without a viable proven solution on the roster? I realize Brady Quinn was on the roster, but very few believed he was a proven solution. (By the way, I love discussing, or even just mentioning, the former Browns quarterback because I always receive a rude, and I mean extremely rude, email from one of his supporters. I get such pleasure in deleting his email — before reading — so keep sending.) So why would the Broncos even consider trading Orton this spring? It just doesn’t make sense.

However, what does make sense is to keep the competitive pressure on Orton, make him fight for his job and let his true colors come to the fore. Players often tell you who they really are in terms of competitiveness, yet executives or coaches never want to believe them. We see this more often in the NBA, when some great players disappear at crunch time (insert Vince Carter here), but coaches keep believing they’ll find the magic and break out of their supposed slump. In reality, there is no slump that is just the player. In scouting, you must learn the difference between a player who works hard and a player who competes. Some can work hard in their preparation during the week, but when the lights go on, they disappear. Others won’t work very hard in their preparation, but on Sunday, they compete like no other — they’ll do whatever it takes to win. Some might have both qualities, but the key in scouting is to make sure you can clearly differentiate.

Who is the real Kyle Orton? Is he able to handle the competitive challenges he faces, or is he going to back down? If he can handle the challenge, the Broncos can believe in him — if he can’t, the Broncos must believe still in him, but at least they’ll have options. Orton must prove to his coaches, his teammates and most of all himself that he wasn’t satisfied with his play last season. He must re-establish himself with a competitive nature that won’t be satisfied until he has led the team deep into the playoffs. He must show that he can work hard and be competitive on game day. Many might view Orton as an overachiever, but in reality, the reason he has never reached the level of contract he greatly desires is more because he’s an underachiever. At times, he falls short in the competitive arena — but now he has the pressure on his back to make sure he keeps competing. By all their moves this offseason, the Broncos are in position to see who’s “the real” Kyle Orton.

I’m giddy

To borrow a phrase from the Sports Guy, Bill Simmons, I’m giddy. Giddy because my beloved 76ers have hired the right man to coach the team. If you’re a young coach, or want to be a coach, you must watch the Doug Collins press conference as he breaks down the team and talks about the coaching profession. He was humble, prepared, knowledgeable and ready to achieve.

Collins has learned from his past mistakes, and he has used the time off preparing for his next job — not complaining about lost opportunities. It was so refreshing to hear him talk, and whether you’re a 76ers fan or not, a basketball fan or not, you should listen to Collins as he talks about being a coach.

I am giddy squared.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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Sunday at the Post

QUOTE/STORY OF THE WEEK...

"My daughter, Lauren Hammond, age 21, has been involved with Best Buddies for about eight years. She has Asperger's Syndrome. As parents of this special girl, we are most grateful to all of the young men and women who are buddies to people like our daughter. You may

QUOTE/STORY OF THE WEEK…

“My daughter, Lauren Hammond, age 21, has been involved with Best Buddies for about eight years. She has Asperger’s Syndrome. As parents of this special girl, we are most grateful to all of the young men and women who are buddies to people like our daughter. You may never know the true value of the time that you have so generously given to these kids…but we know. The lives of all involved in this program are enriched, including ours.” — Lori Hammond

On June 5, celebrities, athletes, individuals with intellectual disabilities and people just like you will take the challenge and come together on bike and on foot to make a difference and change lives. It’s much more than a ride, a run or a walk. With VIP treatment along the way and a private concert by KC and the Sunshine Band, lobster bake and party at the finish, the Audi Best Buddies Challenge is an experience of a lifetime.

Even though Best Buddies has advanced tremendously in our short existence, many areas of the country and many regions of the world still lack programs to help people with IDDs become part of mainstream society. Our goal is to continue expanding nationwide and at the local community level, while more broadly engaging the global community through our programs.

“Special Olympics athletes are spokespersons for freedom itself — they ask for the freedom to live, the freedom to belong, the freedom to contribute, the freedom to have a chance. And of all the values that unite and inspire us to seek a better world, no value holds a higher place than the value of freedom.” — Eunice Kennedy Shriver

THINGS I HEARD AROUND THE NFL…

“The greater you become, the more you must practice humility.” — Ben Sira

1. I know Bill Romanowski well, and he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to performance enhancing drugs. “The only way you can get that substance that he took, hCG, in your body is to inject it, OK?” Romanowski said. “So let’s get that clear. So his sob story on TV was, I’m just going to say, was a total lie, OK — from his own admission of usage.” That comment is not meant to be vindictive toward Cushing but rather an honest explanation.

2. The Titans are not going to change their position with regard to redoing Chris Johnson’s deal, but I’m sure his agent, Joel Segal, will keep sending them new ideas and proposals to get them to see his point of view. Johnson has to be proactive in his approach because even though he has outplayed his contract, the Collective Bargaining Agreement does not favor his holdout.

3. Typically, the owners’ meeting in May is very low key in terms of rule changes, but there seems to be strong sentiment to move the overtime rules to the regular season. Coaches I’ve talked to seem more willing now to accept the change in the regular season than when it was first passed. This will be a very interesting vote, and I expect it to be very close, especially if there are not many football people in the room.

4. Speaking of no football people in the room, when the owners vote on which city will host the 2014 Super Bowl, it will be done by secret ballot, and owners or their representatives are the only ones to vote. Can the Super Bowl be played in a cold weather city in 2014? From what I’m hearing, it seems more likely now than it did six months ago.

5. It makes no sense for quarterback Jay Cutler or new offensive coordinator Mike Martz to watch any 2009 Bears offensive game tape. The Bears will run a new style of offense, and Martz will be able to teach Cutler what he needs from his old Rams tape, then watching him run the offense.

6. I’m not predicting Brett Favre’s eventual return to the Vikings now, but from all indications there has never been a sign from either party that Favre is not coming back. The Vikings didn’t draft a quarterback, they’ve never seemed worried about the future at the position, and Favre has done the necessary medical procedures to come back. I’m told that the ankle procedure he had recently would not be necessary for a career playing golf, but it is necessary for an NFL QB.

LEADERSHIP IMPROVEMENT IDEA…

“Taking charge of your own learning is taking charge of your life.” — Warren Bennis

Joe Girardi: The Life’s Work Interview by Katherine Bell, Harvard Business Review

Joe Girardi wrote in a third-grade essay that he wanted to play for the Chicago Cubs. He grew up to do exactly that. After retiring from catching, he coached for the New York Yankees and managed the Florida Marlins for one year, at the end of which he was both fired and named National League Manager of the Year. He then replaced his former boss, Joe Torre, as manager of the Yankees. In 2009, he took the team to its 27th World Series championship.

You’re famous for being information-driven and analytical in your approach to managing.

I love numbers. You can never give me too many numbers. I believe they tell a story, if you have a large enough sample. I have an industrial engineering degree — a degree in problem solving, basically. But my whole family is math-oriented, and that’s always been how I see things.

How do you coach players to know when to abandon the plan and listen to their guts?

If you think too much, you fail, because the game happens too quickly. The key is preparation. You tell the player, “Here’s the information — now go play.” The data has to become instinctual. You can’t think about it in the middle of a pitch. Some players have a hard time using information to improve their instincts, and they usually weed themselves out.

When you went from the Marlins to the Yankees, how did you change your approach from managing a team of rookies to managing one full of stars?

To me the principles are the same. You have to show faith in your players and lead by example. You ask your players to be prepared mentally and physically, and so you have to be prepared. Beyond that, you’ve got to adapt to the type of players you have. If you’ve got a home-run-hitting team, you can’t make them all base stealers and vice versa. When I had young players, we taught them a little bit more about the big-league life. But that only took about 30 or 40 days, once the season started. People think superstars are unapproachable. Most stars I’ve met want to just be normal people. I try to treat them like they’re men — just normal guys. They have an exciting job, they’re on TV, and they’re talked about. But they have normal problems. They hurt just like everybody.

When you were catching and saw a pitcher losing focus, how did you get him back on track?

I would walk out there and talk to him and just say, “Try to change the rhythm a bit. Try to keep it simple.” Usually there’s one pitch that gets a pitcher back to his mechanics and you’ve got to know what it is. When a guy gets traded to the team, you’ve got to figure out that pitch as quickly as you can. You can’t figure it out in spring training because the emotions aren’t quite the same.

When a player — or the whole team — is in a slump, how do you manage that?

Number one, you can’t panic. You can’t have a bad week and start throwing things. Your character has to be the same whether you are winning or losing. If it’s not, then you care about the winning and losing more than you do about the people. What they’re doing is hard. I tell myself every day, it’s not easy to hit, it’s not easy to pitch, they don’t have Nintendo controllers in their hands to help them guide the ball.

I also believe that you can’t say, “I understand what you’re going through.” Because you can’t — you don’t have the same personality. I lost my mom when I was 19. But I would never tell someone who’s losing a parent in their teenage years, “I understand what you’re going through.” I would say, “I lost my mom when I was 19, and it was very difficult. If you want to talk to me about it, I’m here.”

You mentored Jorge Posada, knowing he was going to replace you as catcher for the Yankees. How did you make that relationship work?

I’ve always been taught that it’s team first, and if you want to win as a team, you have to help each other and share your information. It’s also my faith. I believe that God’s going to put me where he wants me no matter what I do. Eventually Jorge was going to take over that spot, whether I helped him or not. So why wouldn’t I try to make our club better?

Jorge made me a better player too. Competing against each other and communicating made us all better.

Now that he’s the senior catcher and there are other people coming up, what have you told him about how to mentor them?

The interesting thing is that when someone mentors you, it comes naturally for you to do it to someone else. I’ve seen it in Andy Pettitte, I’ve seen it in Jorge, I’ve seen it in Mo. All these guys were mentored when they were younger. Everything comes full circle. I don’t really have to say anything. I’ll see Jorge talking to a young catcher just sharing his knowledge and it comes naturally for him.

When you replaced Joe Torre, how did you go about setting your own direction for the Yankees?

Most people, including Joe, advised me, “Be yourself. Don’t try to be somebody else.” I had to earn the players’ trust. I knew it would take time and I’d have to work very hard at it, because they had been with Joe a long time. I would flat out ask players, “Do you trust me?” One was a little hesitant. I said, “You know what? I’m going to prove you can trust me.” And so I had to go out and prove it to him.

One of the lessons I learned when I was a young boy was from Dave Rogers, my Little League coach on the 11- and 12-year-old all-star team. I was 10, and he put me on the team over a 12-year-old. A lot of parents were outraged. He stuck his neck out for me because he believed in me. At times you really have to stick your neck out for a player. And you have to be thick-skinned enough to take the heat that you might get because of it.

You haven’t talked much about the circumstances in which you left the Marlins. What do you recommend about when and how to confront a boss?

Where and when are the most important things. There’s a respectful way to do it. I tell my players to confront me. If you don’t think I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, tell me. I think it’s healthy when a player can come in and say, “I don’t think I’m getting this,” or, “We need that.” That means they trust you. If I ever get to the point where I don’t want to hear from my players, then I’m not doing my job.

What challenges come with being the most successful sports franchise in American history?

The expectation that it’s going to be done every year is the biggest challenge. I like that expectation, because it pushes people to a higher level. But it can be hard on players. Everything we do is under a microscope. Every player who goes out there this year is going to have a bad day or a bad week or even a bad month. But it’s the overall picture that matters, and that’s why the togetherness we have as a team is so important. You can’t get caught up in what you hear and what you read. Your value can’t come from others. It can’t, or you’ll be torn up.

Demands on your time are also a challenge. When you’re bigger, there’s more attention on you, and you have to manage your time better. People are going to want to talk to you more hours of the day. Sometimes in our business, it seems like we’re always at the ballpark, but family time is instrumental. It’s important that you keep your priorities straight.

During the steroid scandals, the public lost some faith in baseball. There’s a parallel now in business; many leaders are trying to figure out how to regain the public’s trust. How have you handled that?

Everyone says perception is reality. That really bothers me because perception is not reality; reality is reality. Have there been illegal things done in our country? Yes. Have there been illegal drugs used? Yes. That doesn’t mean everyone used them, right? There are people who have done it the right way. My job is not to judge people. My job is to get the best out of people.

I have a responsibility to fans. I understand that and I take that very seriously. But I have a huge responsibility to the team that I need to take care of first. Just like any human being, we’re all going to make mistakes. But we’re trying to make the game better.

Do you ever get bored?

Do games get long? Does the job sometimes become a grind from a physical standpoint? Yeah. But I don’t get bored. I love what I do. I love competition and strategy. I love seeing people succeed — you can be losing a game 19-2 and you can still see that.

27 Ways To Make Yourself Miserable

By Don Meyer, men’s basketball coach at Northern State University

• Think about yourself
• Talk about yourself
• Listen greedily to what people say about you
• Expect to be appreciated
• Be sensitive to slights
• Never forgive any criticism
• Trust nobody but yourself
• Demand agreement with your own views on everything
• Sulk if people are not grateful to you for favors shown them
• Be on the lookout for a good time for yourself
• Shirk your duties if possible
• Do as little as possible for others
• Let anger and resentment build up inside of you
• Seek only pleasure
• Do what ever is convenient
• Don’t do your best
• Don’t do what you know is right
• Let your body get fat and out of shape
• Don’t take time to rest and relax to enjoy life
• Take everything seriously
• Be cheap with your money
• Spend your money foolishly
• Don’t ask God for help
• Try to do everything yourself
• Live in the past
• Live in the future
• Try to control the uncontrollable

ARTICLES YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED THAT AREN’T WORTH MISSING…

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” — Harvey Mackey

Twelve wins away: Don Meyer’s hard road back from the brink

Winning, loyalty or immortality?

STORIES TO SHARE….

“The more we progress the more we tend to progress. We advance not in arithmetical but in geometrical progression. We draw compound interest on the whole capital of knowledge and virtue which has been accumulated since the dawning of time.” — Conan Doyle

The Little Boy Who Wanted to Buy a Doll For His Sister in Heaven

On the last day before Christmas, I hurried to go to the supermarket to buy the remaining of the gifts I didn’t manage to buy earlier. When I saw all the people there, I started to complain to myself: “It is going to take forever here and I still have so many other places to go…Christmas really is getting more and more annoying every year. How I wish I could just lie down, go to sleep and only wake up after it…”

Nonetheless, I made my way to the toy section, and there I started to curse the prices, wondering if all kids really play with such expensive toys. While looking in the toy section, I noticed a small boy of about 5 years old, pressing a doll against his chest. He kept on touching the hair of the doll and looked so sad. I wondered who was this doll for.

Then the little boy turned to the old woman next to him: “Granny, are you sure I don’t have enough money?” The old lady replied: “You know that you don’t have enough money to buy this doll, my dear.” Then she asked him to stay there for five minutes while she went to look around. She left quickly. The little boy was still holding the doll in his hand.

Finally, I started to walk toward him and I asked him who did he want to give this doll to.

“It is the doll that my sister loved most and wanted so much for this Christmas. She was so sure that Santa Claus would bring it to her.”

I replied to him that maybe Santa Claus will bring it to her after all, and not to worry. But he replied to me sadly, “No, Santa Claus cannot bring it to her where she is now. I have to give the doll to my mother so that she can give it to her when she goes there.”

His eyes were so sad while saying this. “My sister has gone to be with God. Daddy says that Mommy will also go to see God very soon, so I thought that she could bring the doll with her to give it to my sister.”

My heart nearly stopped. The little boy looked up at me and said: “I told Daddy to tell Mommy not to go yet. I asked him to wait until I came back from the store.”

Then he showed me a very nice photo of himself, where he was laughing. He then told me: “I also want Mommy to take this photo with her so that she will not forget me. I love my mommy and I wish she didn’t have to leave me, but Daddy says that she has to go to be with my little sister.”

Then he looked again at the doll with sad eyes, very quietly. I quickly reached for my wallet and took a few notes and said to the boy, “What if we checked again, just in case you have enough money?”

“OK,” he said. “I hope that I have enough.” I added some of my money to his without him seeing and we started to count it. There was enough for the doll, and even some spare money.

The little boy said: “Thank you, God, for giving me enough money.” Then he looked at me and added: “I asked yesterday before I slept for God to make sure I have enough money to buy this doll so that Mommy can give it to my sister. He heard me. I also wanted to have enough money to buy a white rose for my mommy, but I didn’t dare to ask God for too much. But He gave me enough to buy the doll and the white rose. ‘You know, my mommy loves white roses.”

A few minutes later, the old lady came again and I left. I finished my shopping in a totally different state from when I started. I couldn’t get the little boy out of my mind. Then I remembered a local newspaper article two days ago that mentioned a drunk man in a truck who hit a car where there was one young lady and a little girl. The little girl died right away, and the mother was left in a critical state. The family had to decide whether to pull the plug on the life-assisting machine because the young lady would not be able to come out of the coma that she was in.

Was this the family of the little boy? Two days after this encounter with the little boy, I read in the newspaper that the young lady had passed away. I couldn’t stop myself and went to buy a bunch of white roses and I went to the mortuary where the body of the young woman was exposed for people to see and make a last wish before burial. She was there, in her coffin, holding a beautiful white rose in her hand with the photo of the little boy and the doll placed over her chest.

I left the place crying, feeling that my life had been changed forever. The love that this little boy had for his mother and his sister is still, to this day, hard to imagine. And in a fraction of a second, a drunk man had taken all this away from him.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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Diner morning news: A short path for Bradford

QUOTE: “Life — a culmination of the past, an awareness of the present, an indication of a future beyond knowledge, the quality that gives a touch of divinity to matter.” – Charles Lindbergh

Rams putting a plan in place

The challenge that awaits the Rams, and most specifically as it applies to

QUOTE: “Life — a culmination of the past, an awareness of the present, an indication of a future beyond knowledge, the quality that gives a touch of divinity to matter.” – Charles Lindbergh

Rams putting a plan in place

The challenge that awaits the Rams, and most specifically as it applies to first-rounder Sam Bradford, is when to name him the starter. But much like buying your first home, there is never a right time. It just all comes together. You think you can’t afford the house, but you get approved for a mortgage (not the subprime kind) and life goes on. And that’s exactly what awaits the Rams. There is never a right time; it will just happen. However, before all this gets started, the Rams must first get Bradford under contract in the next eight weeks.

I like that head coach Steve Spagnuolo named A.J. Feeley the starter “for right now,” making no short- or long-term commitment. Once Spagnuolo knows he has Bradford under contract, his tune will change. Essentially, the Rams will not have two different types of offenses for each player, in large part because to have any success on the field they must get their young players to execute, which means keeping their offense very basic — which helps Bradford’s development. It won’t take Bradford long to know the offense, but what will take time is getting used to the speed of the game, along with being able to control and call the proper protections. Bradford will give the Rams the best chance to win now and in the future, so once he signs, his path to the starting lineup will be very short.

Overtime rules

Next week is another NFL owners meeting, which doesn’t include the head coaches – just owners and lawyers. This means there will not be any objection to moving the overtime rules from the playoffs only into the regular season — which makes sense. This new rule should be tried and tested in the regular season before being introduced in the postseason. The head coaches — especially the ones who are overseeing playoff teams — should now vote for the rules to be moved into the regular season, allowing them to at least learn the practicality of the rules before the playoffs.

The May meetings are usually reserved for the business of football along with the selections of Super Bowl sites, and this meeting will, in fact, have a Super Bowl vote for 2014. New York/New Jersey will be up for vote, and based on the brand new state-of-the-art Giants/Jets stadium sitting off exit 16W of the New Jersey Turnpike, we will have our very first cold-weather Super Bowl in 2014. I’m not sure how that’s going to work, in part because I need to determine the wind element of the new stadium and how it will affect passing games, especially as the gales of winter enter the east.

But I do hope the owners vote to bring the overtime rules to the regular season — which might not come into play next year, but at least we might be able to examine the practicalities of the rules.

Have a great weekend, and come back for the Sunday Post.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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DMN: The Bears must reinvent themselves

QUOTE: “All experience is an arch, to build upon.” – Henry Brooks Adams

Urlacher speaks up. Why?

Wednesday, Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher reacted to recent criticism from former Bears great Gale Sayers, telling the Chicago Tribune, “Does it bother me? There are enough people throwing daggers at

QUOTE: “All experience is an arch, to build upon.” – Henry Brooks Adams

Urlacher speaks up. Why?

Wednesday, Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher reacted to recent criticism from former Bears great Gale Sayers, telling the Chicago Tribune, “Does it bother me? There are enough people throwing daggers at us right now, why does one of our ex-players have to jump in? There are enough experts talking (crap) about us, so why does a Bear, an all-time great, have to jump in? I just do not like that.”

Well, of course, Mr Urlacher doesn’t like the criticism, but watching the Bears play last year was not pretty — in any phase — and they were fully deserving of the criticism. It comes with the game. (This is where I’m reminded of the scene in “The Godfather II,” where Hyman Roth tells Michael Corleone that, as upset as he was about the death of Moe Greene, he accepted his fate because “this is the business we chose, we didn’t ask for it.” Urlacher needs to understand this is the business he chose, and criticism comes with the business.) Even Urlacher criticized his team last year, believing it needed to get back to the run game, which led to my reaction: What games was he watching? Last season, the Bears couldn’t run the ball on Purdue, let alone the Vikings or Packers.

It has not been difficult to talk badly about the Bears based on their play last year, and yet not all of their problems were related to quarterback Jay Cutler’s tendency to turn the ball over. Does anyone remember the Bengals game? The Bears defense couldn’t even get properly aligned and spent most of the game out-flanked, out-coached and out-played. It doesn’t take an expert to know the Bears were not good in any element of their team — players, coaching and scheme. They tried to address some of their problems this offseason, firing their offensive staff, revamping their personnel department and spending huge sums of money in free agency. Will all these changes work? On the surface, I’m not sold, but then I’m not buying into the belief that motivates everyone at Halas Hall, which is, “In Tampa we trust.”

From general manager Jerry Angelo to head coach Lovie Smith, the Bears as an organization are woven with people who experienced success in Tampa and seem to believe that everything they did while working for the Bucs will work for the Bears. Yes, the Bucs won a Super Bowl, but they never dominated the NFL in the way other successful teams have. They were more of a one-hit wonder than a dominating team, but many people have been able to enjoy the success of the team, gaining head coaching and executive positions. (That’s how the NFL works. One team has a little success and everyone wants to copy them without really understanding the actual reasons for the success). However, that was then and this is now, and no one in the NFL who tries to run a steady diet of the Tampa 2 schemes will survive. Nor will building the team in the style and manner of the old Bucs — that was one-time success story.

In fact, the Bears don’t run Tampa 2 as much as they have in the past, but they lack complexity with their defense. So once teams handle their three or four pressure packages, it’s not hard to make big plays. The Bears must reinvent themselves this year. They must play a defense that can be complex, can be attacking and is capable of lining up correctly when it faces an unbalanced look. The Bears need to focus on playing in the red zone because when studying them on tape, once a team moved the ball into the red zone, it eventually scored. But most of all, the Bears have to stop believing that Tommie Harris is Warren Sapp, that Julius Peppers will be Simeon Rice, that Lance Briggs is Derrick Brooks. And they need to find John Lynch.

For the Bears to make Gale Sayers eat his words, it will take a huge effort — a redefined effort that’s rooted in a new identity and a new way of winning games. Change has happen all over Halas Hall, and for the Bears to win next season, they have to stop thinking they’re playing with the players from the Tampa era.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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DMN: How coaches use team rankings

QUOTE: “Study as if you were to live forever. Live as if you were to die tomorrow.” – Isidore of Seville

Team rankings

Because there’s very little NFL news to discuss at this time of year (unless you want to write about players not being at OTA days because

QUOTE: “Study as if you were to live forever. Live as if you were to die tomorrow.” – Isidore of Seville

Team rankings

Because there’s very little NFL news to discuss at this time of year (unless you want to write about players not being at OTA days because of their unhappiness over their contracts), ranking NFL teams seems to be a viable topic. But can any writer (including me) correctly rank the teams? It’s hard enough to rank them after regular-season games, let alone in the offseason. So even though it appears to be an easy piece to write, it’s really a difficult subject — but a huge bonanza for NFL head coaches.

For example, did anyone have the Bengals in the top 10 last year? Yet they made the playoffs. Everyone (including me) had the Giants in the top five, but they didn’t make the playoffs. To a man, NFL head coaches will claim they don’t pay attention to what writers write or to preseason polls, but they use them to motivate their teams and capture their players’ attention in the offseason.

One of the major challenges for every head coach at this time of year is to not over-talk to his team. Coaches have to choose their words wisely and, more importantly, the timing of their message. If they talk to the team every day, by the middle of October, the players will hear their words but won’t listen. They need to use other tools of the trade to deliver their message, and having preseason rankings — as high schoolish as that seems — helps the coach (as well as the writers) when he’s in search of talking points. For the fans, when your team is getting very little respect at this time, it actually helps them and the coach. So embracing a ranking in the 20s will be more beneficial to your team’s season than a top-10 appearance in May. Nothing matters in May anyway.

JaMarcus Russell won’t consider the CFL or AFL

NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora reported Tuesday that former Raiders first-round pick JaMarcus Russell is not considering going to the Canadian Football League or Arena Football League because he feels he has enough NFL options to keep working hard and waiting for his eventual chance. In theory, this appears to be a good course of action, but in reality, where is this opportunity to return to the NFL coming from? Why would teams wait to add a quarterback to their roster when now is the time that rosters are flexible and there’s time to develop players?

Russell claims he’s going to keep working out hard to get into shape for his next chance, but I thought he was in great shape when he reported to the Raiders’ minicamp. For me, Russell needs to be involved in football. He needs to build equity with a coach who can help him resurrect his career, not working out by himself in Mobile, Ala.

Does anyone really believe Russell is working hard? When he was employed by the Raiders, he never worked hard on his own. I always believe that past performance predicts future achievement, and Russell working hard on his own has never been productive. He desperately needs to add supporters, not be alone with family and friends in Mobile. He has to build a coalition of supporters to get back in the NFL, and being alone is not the smart play. He must now be proactive, and he has to have a plan for getting back into the NFL, not hoping he gets back.

Russell needs a complete makeover — from his advisers to his actions.

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DMN: A new deal for Andre Johnson?

QUOTE: “The biggest human temptation is … to settle for too little.” -- Thomas Merton

Andre Johnson wants a new deal, with five years left on his deal

The first rule in all contract negotiations is that time equal’s money. The larger the amount of guaranteed money, the longer the length of

QUOTE: “The biggest human temptation is … to settle for too little.” — Thomas Merton

Andre Johnson wants a new deal, with five years left on his deal

The first rule in all contract negotiations is that time equal’s money. The larger the amount of guaranteed money, the longer the length of the contract; the smaller the guarantee, the shorter the deal. In any negotiation, this simple concept starts every deal, whether the contract involves business or an NFL player. Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson signed an eight-year extension for $60 million in March 2007 in which he received $15 million in guaranteed money. In 2007, Johnson was great, and in 2010, Johnson is still great, but he wants to redo his deal — with five years left. And here’s the kicker: Texans GM Rick Smith is not upset with Johnson. This is what Smith told the Houston Chronicle:

“I’m not real worried because we re-did him with two years left on his original deal, and that was three years ago. Over the first three years of that deal, I think if you even ask him, he’s been well-compensated. He’s got five years left on his deal now (and) we’re willing to sit down and talk with him, and he knows that.”

That last comment will come and bite Smith on the butt for years to come (trust me, every team in the NFL is reading it this morning in disbelief). I hope owner Bob McNair is on board with it because once Smith starts talking to Johnson about a new deal with five years left, his locker room will be holding a champagne party. Smith seems to be fine with the concept of sitting down and talking about a new deal with five years left on the current one – but it must be foreign to McNair in any other business he owns. It’s a good thing Smith sits next to the owner at every game.

Each move a team makes with regard to contracts has significance to the entire team. One move is never independent or stands alone – it has a ripple effect, regardless of the talent level of the player. Once Smith sits down with Johnson to talk a new deal, Owen Daniels, the Pro Bowl tight end, will wonder why he’s not going first. Quarterback Matt Schaub will also want a new deal, and before too long, our Matt Bowen will expect a new deal for being first to write that the Texans are a good team.

In addition, just being good is the most significant point here. The Texans have not won anything — ever. They have been mediocre — nothing more, nothing less, and now are acting as if they won the Super Bowl. We all can see (and understand) that the Jets have the “disease of me” (see the Sunday Post), which was expected since they actually went to the playoffs last season. But the Texans having the same problem is laughable — which I’ll be doing all the way to Amsterdam when Bowen pays off his bet.

Andre Johnson is a great player, and the only person he should hold out from is himself for signing an eight-year deal. He had to know when he signed it that it would be the last deal he’d ever sign – so it had to be a great one. He has no one to blame for the deal other than his agent, who also happens to be his uncle, Andre Melton. So why go public with his displeasure? Put winning first and the team first. Reminder, the Texans have never made the playoffs.

Smith’s rationale for conducting talks centers on his policy that if the players are not in camp, he won’t talk new deal — but if they’re there, he’s open to chatting. Yet is this policy still in place even if players still have five years left on their deals? With the Brian Cushing saga last week and the Andre Johnson talks this week, the Texans have some issues in their locker room. This might be the perfect time to double down with Bowen on a new bet this year.

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Sunday at the Post

QUOTE/STORY OF THE WEEK...

“Our beloved Norman was brought to the hospital earlier today. He was unresponsive and resuscitation not successful. He passed away early this afternoon surrounded by his family. Respect for our family will be greatly appreciated as we mourn this incomprehensible loss. We ask that you focus on Norman's

QUOTE/STORY OF THE WEEK…

“Our beloved Norman was brought to the hospital earlier today. He was unresponsive and resuscitation not successful. He passed away early this afternoon surrounded by his family. Respect for our family will be greatly appreciated as we mourn this incomprehensible loss. We ask that you focus on Norman’s life and the contributions he made rather than on his untimely death.” — Norman Hand family

“He was one of the good guys in the business and a fun-loving person who enjoyed life. He was the centerpiece in the New Orleans Saints 2000 defense. Norman, along with La’Roi (Glover), Joe Johnson and Darren Howard, made up one of the better defensive lines to play the game. Norman has touched a lot of lives and will be missed.” — Former Saints coach Jim Haslett

“He was always just a fun guy, fun to be around. He always loved life. No matter where you were with him, in the locker room or what. To me, he always had that smile. I always enjoyed being around him.” — Saints defensive coordinator Rick Venturi

Sadly, former Saint, Charger, Seahawk and New York Giant defensive tackle Norman Hand passed away on Friday at the age of 37. Hand collapsed and was taken to a hospital before he was pronounced dead. His family was with him at the time of his death, and all of us at the National Football Post extend our sincere condolences to his family.

Hand was a big man who could dominate a game when he wanted to be dominating. He was a great run stuffer who could also push the pocket and deny the quarterback room to step up and throw. He was well liked by his teammates, and his death reminds us again how fragile life here on earth can be at times. RIP, Mr. Hand.

Child who survived Libyan air crash is stable

And please take a moment today to think of 9-year-old Ruben van Assouw, from the city of Tilburg, who was returning to the Netherlands from a South African safari with his 11-year-old brother and their parents before the plane crashed. He was the only survivor, losing his entire family.

The grandmother, An van de Sande, spoke to Brabants Dagblad, and a photograph on the paper’s website showed the boy in a hospital bed in Tripoli, the Libyan capital. She said Ruben would be taken back to the Netherlands as soon as he was able to travel.

THINGS I HEARD AROUND THE NFL LAST WEEK…

“Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.” — John Wooden

1. The Jets and cornerback Darrelle Revis are set to begin contract talks, and the word I’m hearing is that Revis and his agent, Neil Schwartz, are looking for an average that exceeds $20 million per year — which will make the contract rather hard to do. Schwartz and Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum don’t have the smoothest of relationships (that’s putting it mildly) as evidenced by the negotiation over Revis’ rookie contract. This will not be an easy contract to get done, especially anytime soon.

The Jets have several players waiting on new deals, from center Nick Mangold to offensive tackle D’Brickawshaw Ferguson. It will be a huge challenge for the Jets to get deals done for all their players, and don’t forget that quarterback Mark Sanchez signed a five-year deal last year. If he plays well, they’ll have to deal with a new deal for him in the next two years.

Winning makes doing contracts tougher. The “Disease of Me” is in play in New York. In case you forgot the meaning:

THE DISEASE OF ME

THE DISEASE OF ME = THE DEFEAT OF US

SIX DANGER SIGNALS OF THE DISEASE OF ME:

1. CHRONIC FEELINGS OF UNDER APPRECIATION – FOCUS ON ONESELF.
2. PARANOIA OVER BEING CHEATED OUT OF ONE’S RIGHTFUL SHARE.
3. LEADERSHIP VACUUM RESULTING FROM FORMATION OF CLIQUES AND RIVALRIES.
4. FEELINGS OF FRUSTRATION EVEN WHEN THE TEAM PERFORMS SUCCESSFULLY.
5. PERSONAL EFFORT MUSTERED SOLELY TO OUTSHINE ONE’S TEAMMATE.
6. RESENTMENT OF THE COMPETENCE OF ANOTHER – REFUSE TO ADMIT HIS CONTRIBUTION.

“The most difficult thing for individuals to do when they become part of a team is to sacrifice; it is much easier to be selfish.”

Coach Pat Riley
L.A. Lakers – N.Y. Knicks – Miami Heat

2. According to sources I’ve talked to in the NFL, former Raiders first-round pick JaMarcus Russell apparently is running out of options. Cincinnati isn’t interested, and several teams are exploring the possibility of Russell playing another position. Russell needs to be more proactive to get back in the NFL, and if that means turning to the CFL, he must explore that option. Waiting for his phone to ring from an NFL team is not going to happen.

3. Chargers pass rusher Shawne Merriman is going to have a tough time finding a new team if he doesn’t come down from his contract demands. Merriman is a player teams have some interest in, but making him the highest-paid pass rusher in the NFL is not going to happen. Merriman getting a new contract similar to DeMarcus Ware of the Cowboys, or Terrell Suggs of the Ravens, doesn’t appear to be available right now. The Chargers aren’t going to trade him unless they receive real value in the deal, because if he has a great season, they can franchise him or let him walk and take the compensatory pick.

4. Another contract that won’t be easy to get extended will be Vernon Davis of the 49ers — not because the 49ers aren’t willing to pay but because Davis wants to be paid above and beyond the tight end market. Tight ends are on the low side of the pay scale, so to get an extension, a player is going to want to create a new market, not work off the old one. This one will take some time.

5. I know Titans running back Chris Johnson is serious about his holdout, and I know Johnson deserves to get paid for what he has accomplished, but I also know that owner Bud Adams never seems fazed by holdouts. Johnson might want to rethink his strategy. Adams is strong in his beliefs, and there have been many players who have tried to test his resolve. All have come up short.

6. The market for former Cowboys left tackle Flozell Adams is very soft, as is the market for linebacker Adalius Thomas, formerly of the Patriots. Both are going to have to wait on an injury to get a deal that’s attractive because they’re not the same players they once were.

LEADERSHIP IMPROVEMENT IDEA…

“I never learn anything talking. I only learn things when I ask questions.” — Lou Holtz

From Penelope Trunk’s Blog:

About Penelope Trunk:

Penelope is the founder of three startups — most recently Brazen Careerist, a social network to help young people manage their careers. Her career advice appears in more than 200 newspapers. In a review of this blog, Business Week called Penelope’s writing “poetic.”

Now that I am committed to living on a farm which is sort of the anti-New York City, visiting New York City no longer brings up flashbacks to a really, really difficult lifestyle. Instead, New York fills my head with ideas.
The first one is a billboard I saw as soon as I got off the plane: “A good question is the new answer.”

That rings true to me. I have been writing about asking questions for a long time. It’s the best way to have a meaningful conversation and it’s the best way to rope in a mentor or look like a star performer. People spend more time thinking about answers than questions, but it’s the questions that make you look smart.

1. Good questions require creative thinking.

This has always been true, I think. Good questions are fundamentally creative. But today, when all facts are available to all people, it’s the questions that have become most important. To get to the answer, you have to ask the right question in a search bar. But also, to differentiate yourself in the workplace, you need to focus on questions, since answers are a commodity.

2. When you’re lost, look for questions, not answers.

As my career shifts, I find that the key to keeping the shift moving in a productive way is to ask good questions. It’s ironic, because one of the most frequent questions I get from people is “what’s the best way to make a career change?”

And the answer is to ask much more insightful questions than that one. For example, I know I want to write about the farm, but I’m not sure how to do it. So I’ve been asking questions about how photos fit into blogs and what is the intersection of farming, family and business?

3. Think of your career path as a question path.

I am also spending time redecorating the farm house. Actually, to call it redecorating is a stretch, since the farmer moved in 20 years ago when the couple living there died, and did not do one single thing to redecorate. So the house is a time capsule from the 1940s when it was designed.

Anyway, I wouldn’t say redecorating is a career change, but maybe just a vocation vacation. Do you know that term? You try out a career for a few weeks? That’s what I’ve been doing.

And I realized that I’d only want to be an interior designer for my own house. But I like learning about interior design. And I am realizing that any career shift is about learning and exploring until you land in the right spot.

4. Asking good questions takes work – that you have to do yourself.

This struck me during my New York trip as well, because one of my best friends is Lisa Nielsen, who leads New York City Public School technology initiatives and writes a blog about education reform. She is a big advocate of me homeschooling my kids. She says that kids don’t need to learn subjects. Kids need to learn how to ask questions about things they are passionate about. And that’s no small task: First, you have to learn how to find your passions. Then you have to learn how to ask questions. Most adults can’t do either thing well, which is a good argument for taking kids out of school, I have to admit.

5. Field other peoples’ questions to get better at asking questions.

Finally, the last thing I did in New York is visit Seth Godin’s office, to interview him. You can watch the video here. But before you look, let me tell you that the biggest criticism of the interview is that my commentary about peoples’ questions was obnoxious.

ARTICLES YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED THAT AREN’T WORTH MISSING…

“I have learned to regard fame as a will-o-the-wisp which, when caught, is not worth the possession; but to please a child is a sweet and lovely thing that warms one’s heart and brings its own reward.” — L. Frank Baum

John Sikorra is living the dream at last

Jockey Calvin Borel is the star of the show at the Preakness

Diet and Exercise to the Extremes

STORIES TO SHARE….

“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.” — Marie Curie

A young Marine restores my faith

Ann Baker, a real-estate agent who lives in Huntington Beach

It was our normal Thursday morning business meeting at our real-estate office. No big deal. Before the meeting, we hung around the bagel table, as usual, with our coffee. He stood aside, looking a little shy and awkward and very young, a new face in a room full of extroverted salespeople. An average looking guy, maybe 5 feet 8 inches. A clean-cut, sweet-faced kid. I went over to chat with him. Maybe he was a new salesman?

He said he was just back from Kabul, Afghanistan. A Marine. Our office (and a local school) had been supportive by sending letters to him and other troops, which he had posted on the American Embassy door in Kabul. He stood guard there for four months and was shot at daily.

He had come to our office to thank us for our support, for all the letters during those scary times. I couldn’t believe my ears. He wanted to thank us? We should be thanking him. But how? How can I ever show him my appreciation?

At the end of the sales meeting, he stepped quietly forward, no incredible hulk. As a matter of fact, he looked for all the world 15 years old to me. (The older I get, the younger they look.)

This young Marine, this clean-faced boy, had no qualms stepping up to the plate and dodging bullets so that I might enjoy the freedom to live my peaceful life in the land of the free. No matter the risk. Suddenly the most stressful concerns of my life seemed as nothing, my complacency flew right out the window with his every word. Somewhere, somehow, he had taken the words honor, courage and commitment into his very soul and laid his life on the line daily for me and us. A man of principle. He wants to do it. Relishes it. And he came to thank us? For a few letters? I fought back the tears as he spoke so briefly and softly.

He walked forward to our manager and placed a properly folded American flag in his hands. It had flown over the Embassy. He said thanks again. You could hear a pin drop. As I looked around I saw red faces everywhere fighting back the tears.

In a heartbeat, my disillusionment with young people today quickly vanished. In ordinary homes, in ordinary towns, kids like him are growing up proud to be an American and willing to die for it. Wow. We’ll frame the flag and put it in the lobby. He only came to my office once, for just a few minutes. But I realize I rubbed shoulders with greatness in the flesh, and in the twinkling of an eye my life is forever changed. His name is Michael Mendez, a corporal in the USMC. We are a great nation. We know because the makings of it walked into my office that day.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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DMN: Time for Cushing to stop talking

QUOTE: “Middle management means that you got just enough responsibility to listen when people talk, but not so much you can't tell anybody to go ‘F’ themselves.” -- Howard "Bunny" Colvin, “The Wire”

The 100 best quotes from “The Wire”

Friday Three Dots

...Brian Cushing needs to be

QUOTE: “Middle management means that you got just enough responsibility to listen when people talk, but not so much you can’t tell anybody to go ‘F’ themselves.” — Howard “Bunny” Colvin, “The Wire”

The 100 best quotes from “The Wire”

Friday Three Dots

…Brian Cushing needs to be quiet and just accept his penalty. The more he denies that he took hCG, the more he starts to sound like Mark McGwire.

…Speaking of being quiet, Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson might need to focus more on playing than talking since he always says something he regrets.

…Unless Terrell Owens is willing to take a modest contract right now, he will not find work in the NFL. Either that or he’ll have to wait until an injury happens in camp to get back into the league.

…I think Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has the right plan for deciding his starting quarterback. He’ll use all of the minicamps to collect data, then make a firm decision the first week of camp.

…The Bears should sign quarterback Marc Bulger as a backup to give them a veteran behind Jay Cutler. More important, it will give them someone other than Mike Martz who can help Cutler understand the offensive system.

…The Jets and Pro Bowl corner Darrelle Revis are talking contract extension, which will take some time to finalize. Revis is looking for a huge deal, as is Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold. The Jets will be busy in the coming months.

…The 49ers are smart to keep extending their talented young players, first Patrick Willis and now working on tight end Vernon Davis.

…Chris Johnson won’t be the first Tennessee Titan/Houston Oiler to hold out trying to get owner Bud Adams to pay — but it won’t work. Adams was strong even when the rules were not in his favor as they are with this Collective Bargaining Agreement. Johnson deserves a new deal, but holding out is not his best option.

…I’ll be extremely surprised if Cowboys first rounder Dez Bryant doesn’t beat out Roy Williams as a starter in Dallas. Bryant is nifty, explosive and powerful as an athlete, and he can run all the routes that quarterback Tony Romo favors.

…I get the sense that no matter who represents Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman, the message is going to be the same from teams — he is not the same player he once was and hasn’t come back to the same level since his knee injury in 2008.

…I love the fact that Denver rookie Tim Tebow is focusing on playing and not signing endorsements. This sends the right message to his teammates.

…I hope LeBron James stays in Cleveland, and I really hope the Cavs get him some more help. Shaq needs to retire.

Look for the Sunday Post this weekend.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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DMN: Browns must focus on winning, not deals

QUOTE: “Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do.” – Thomas Aquinas

Browns’ restricted free agents expected to sit out OTAs

The Cleveland Browns' restricted free

QUOTE: “Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do.” – Thomas Aquinas

Browns’ restricted free agents expected to sit out OTAs

The Cleveland Browns‘ restricted free agents — including starters Jerome Harrison, Abe Elam, D’Qwell Jackson, Matt Roth and Lawrence Vickers — are likely to skip the team’s voluntary organized team activities, which begin Monday, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. This makes no sense to me, especially since the restricted market is over. For these players to earn the contracts they ultimately want, they’ll need to play well next season. In addition, playing well starts with being productive in the offseason. The Browns finished at the bottom of the league in many defensive categories and won only five games last year — with these players in the starting lineup. If any of them are not with the team next season, will it cause the Browns to win only four games or not be ranked 31st in yards allowed?

The larger issue here for the Browns is why these younger players feel entitled to new deals — regardless of what may have been promised to them in the past. The reason for their feelings centers on head coach Eric Mangini, who was in charge of the entire operation at the time. Some players (according to the agents) were promised (allegedly) that they would get long-term deals in the offseason. But since Mike Holmgren took over, old promises are not being kept.

This is similar to when Uncle Junior took over for Jackie Aprile in season one of “The Sopranos.” Junior decided to change the rules of the game but first sent in Mikey Palmice to let people know there was a new sheriff in town. Palmice, one of the best characters of season one, was the muscle to let everyone know Junior was not happy with the status quo. Since February, the Browns have let everyone know there’s a new sheriff (Holmgren) in charge and the team needs to focus on winning (novel concept) before anyone is rewarded with a new deal. I understand a player’s timetable for making money is very short, but when a player is restricted, he has very little market or leverage unless the team is willing to make an exception.

The best thing these players can do is start worrying about winning and playing well before they worry about new deals. If Mangini was not in the building, Holmgren would not have to deal with these issues, but since he’s still there, the players feel they have a compelling argument.

Holmgren, much like Uncle Junior, is going to have to flex his muscle and break up the card game. He will need to send a message to his team that none of these players is essential to winning — particularly since all of them are more interested in their own deals than in helping the Browns get out of the basement of the AFC North. The easiest thing for any executive in the NFL is to deal with unhappy players who want long-term deals after the team has not won anything the year before. Holmgren needs to call Mikey Palmice.

Whisenhunt impressed with the Cards on offense

Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt has been impressed with what he’s seen from the Cards so far in minicamp — which is a very good sign for quarterback Matt Leinart. The way Leinart plays will determine the team’s success in 2010, and Leinart seems to understand the level of expectations. Wednesday, he said, “People can say what they want about me, but I still haven’t really proved anything yet. I haven’t been out there, so I don’t think you can make a fair judgment.”

Leinart is right, and he seems to be in the right mindset to embark on the challenges that await him. His view implies he does not feel the entitlement of being a first-round pick, which means he’s receptive to the coaching he is receiving. I am not sure if Leinart can be successful, but I do know he was never going to achieve any success until he changed his work habits, his feeling of entitlement and his commitment.

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Diner morning news: No excuses for Cushing

QUOTE: “There are two things to aim at in life: First, to get what you want; and, after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieve the second.” -- Logan Pearsall Smith

More Brian Cushing

The Brian Cushing saga continues with news from AP that he tested positive

QUOTE: “There are two things to aim at in life: First, to get what you want; and, after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieve the second.” — Logan Pearsall Smith

More Brian Cushing

The Brian Cushing saga continues with news from AP that he tested positive once for the drug HCG last September then subsequently tested negative several times later. So even though Cushing has taken a lie-detector test and proclaimed his innocence, the facts don’t support him. You cannot debate the test, you cannot debate the levels that caused him to test positive for having HCG in his system — more than once — and most of all, you cannot question the appeals process.

All these facts should result in the Texans linebacker losing his AP Rookie of the Year honors, and his Pro Bowl achievement should carry an asterisk. Cushing knows the rules, knows what the testing process was and knew the outcome if he was caught.

Any old, unemployed backs might want to call the ‘Skins

Brian Westbrook had a visit with the Redskins on Tuesday, and you have to wonder how many older backs they might want to collect. Westbrook was once a great player, but now, with his concussion problem to go along with his knee and ankle injuries, his durability is a risk. The ‘Skins already have Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson and Willie Parker in their backfield. If they did sign Westbrook, he would be a limited role player — which he might be able to handle. Injuries limit him from practicing full time, so no team can count on him to be the player he once was.

It appears this year the ‘Skins favor older running backs — backs who understand how to pass protect and will clearly use a committee mentality this season. Will this strategy work? Durability is critical for running backs, but more than that, the ‘Skins will need to define the roles of each player and make sure they have depth for each role. Portis and Johnson will be the runners to go along with Parker and potentially Westbrook if he signs as the third-down back. None of these runners will strike fear in their opponents, and the greatest concern for all ‘Skins fans will be what their depth chart at running back will look like in late November.

Pacman signing still doesn’t make sense

I still don’t understand why the Bengals keep taking on reclamation projects. What is the benefit in signing Pacman Jones? He’s not a good cover man, although some might say he can be a slot cover man. My reaction: Are you kidding me? Being in the slot requires a corner to have the ability to tackle, to want to tackle and to be a sure tackler — all things that Jones is not consistent performing.

The Bengals have two excellent starting cover men in Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall, so Jones only needs to fit into a role. Yet for me, understanding what role he can actually play is the hardest part. My problem all along with Jones has been his talent level. Add in his off-the-field behavior, and it baffles me that any team would think he could provide a winning performance.

However, as is often the case, the Bengals love to take on these types of problems. I’m looking forward to watching Pacman this summer. My sense is that he will not make the team, but it will be worth watching.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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Diner morning news: A new course for Brady

QUOTE: “Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.” -- Anonymous

“We’ve got to start listening to coach (Bill) Belichick.We’ve got young kids who

QUOTE: “Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.” — Anonymous

“We’ve got to start listening to coach (Bill) Belichick.We’ve got young kids who are good players. We’ve got the best football coach of all time. He’s got the answers. We as a team have to take the coaching we’re being given.’’ — Tom Brady

Tom Brady spoke yesterday to Peter King of SI.com, offering a unique perspective on what’s going on inside the Patriots locker room. Brady believes the problem with the team lies not in its talent base but in its ability to handle coaching. This is not an unusual problem — especially with young teams. Most often, young players take coaching as criticism, so they listen but don’t hear the words of wisdom. Some players will just listen, but they fail to implement the details in the words. Watching some of the younger players on tape, it’s clear they make mistakes that would not normally be made had they heard the words. Belichick is the master at making sure players understand his message, but as is often the case, each team is unique in terms of its willingness to take to coaching. The mistakes made by the Patriots last season, especially at critical times in the game, cost them wins. But last year was last year, and I have a feeling those mistakes will not be repeated.

Because the Patriots have been in constant change in recent years, there has been a perception that they traded or released the right leadership from their locker room. However, with Brady as the main man there, you would think he could control how the young players process coaching. But these recent comments suggest that Brady has lost some of his swagger in the room, which is normal for a player who has missed one whole year and is trying to get his own career back on track. Typically, real leadership comes from making things happen on the field.

Teams can go away to camp to bond, but the real bonding occurs when a team comes from behind to win a game on the final drive. Yet last year, Brady was not Brady-like in his come-from-behind ability. Remember the second half of the first Jets game? Or the Broncos game? Or the second Miami game? In each of these games, Brady had a chance to make a play to lead his team back, but there was a breakdown in some area that prevented him from being the Brady of old. Also, coming back from a knee injury, the first year is always a year of trepidation in terms of playing the game with confidence. So Brady, in dealing with football-related issues, was unable to control the locker room.

Brady doesn’t talk to just talk, so he made these comments before coming came back to Boston to set the tone for the offseason. He wants to start the season off on the right foot, and he can remind the players of his comments when they start to stray from the coaching. Brady is smart and tactical, and he knows much is expected from him this year. He will need to show everyone that his decision to spend more time in California will not hurt his preparation for the season.

Much is at stake for Brady and the Patriots this year. They need to get back to their dominance of the AFC (winning a home playoff game might be a start), and Brady is due a new contract. He’ll need to prove he’s the Brady of old, and the Patriots need to know the rules of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement before making a long-term deal. From my viewpoint, much can be gained by waiting until the end of the season before negotiating a new contract with Brady; patience is a virtue, especially in unsettling times. Brady understands the expectations of the fans for him and the team, so if he can get the team to understand that its best chance to win is to listen and hear the words of the coach, it will benefit everyone going forward.

Brady knows that winning takes care of everything in the NFL (including new contracts). Getting the team to listen and hear will be the best course toward winning.

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How ‘Skins can handle their Albert problem

QUOTE: “True originality consists not in a new manner but in a new vision.” -- Edith Wharton

Albert Haynesworth and the ‘Skins

There’s clearly a showdown happening in the nation’s capitol, but it has nothing to do with the new Supreme Court justice appointment being announced today. This showdown is between the

QUOTE: “True originality consists not in a new manner but in a new vision.” — Edith Wharton

Albert Haynesworth and the ‘Skins

There’s clearly a showdown happening in the nation’s capitol, but it has nothing to do with the new Supreme Court justice appointment being announced today. This showdown is between the Redskins’ 100-million-dollar man and the team that’s paying him all that money. Albert Haynesworth was signed a year ago in March by owner Daniel Snyder and his general manager, Vinny Cerrato, to be a dominating inside defensive tackle, but now the ‘Skins are under new management. Mike Shanahan takes over, and the new staff wants Haynesworth to be a nose tackle — a two-gap nose tackle who frees the linebackers to flow freely to the football. Haynesworth hates the idea of being a nose tackle, and he hates the idea of being double-teamed, with little freedom to move while absorbing all the punishment to benefit the overall framework of the defense.

Money is the reason this showdown continues. Can you imagine how the ‘Skins would feel if they traded Haynesworth for a mid-level draft pick after paying him $21 million last month? That’s a ton of cash for a modest pick. The ‘Skins want some (any) return on their investment, and Haynesworth wants the freedom to play football the way he was told before he signed the big contract. He has some trade value, but his lackluster effort on and off the field makes teams (including the new management of the ‘Skins) nervous. Haynesworth is talented, but he’s also lazy. Watching him on tape, he appears to be lackluster in his effort at times, in his love of the game and in his willingness to fight through injuries. He was all these things before he arrived in Washington, which is the reason the Titans were unwilling to commit to a long-term deal. When the ‘Skins signed Haynesworth, they had to be worried about how he would handle the big contract. Now they have their answer.

So what happens next? Haynesworth’s failure to be involved in the offseason is a blessing to the ‘Skins. His salty attitude isn’t needed around younger players right now, so by being away he’s actually helping the ‘Skins. If he wants to be traded, he should show up. He can cause more harm being in the building. Being away illuminates the notion that he doesn’t love football and that the money has spoiled him. But being there and working hard stops all the idle chatter and might help him achieve his ultimate goal — which is to be traded to a team that plays a four-man line.

Haynesworth thinks his work stoppage is hurting the ‘Skins when it actually makes their life much easier. Clearly, when he’s given a chance to solve any problem, he always will take the path of least resistance or the one that requires the least amount of work.

Trust me on this, Haynesworth playing nose tackle won’t work — not because he can’t play nose but because he doesn’t want to be a nose. Playing nose requires a selfless attitude that helps teammates play better. Haynesworth wants to rush the passer, not keep the linebackers free to flow. But as all of us know, in the NFL, most downs are nickel downs (when facing Philadelphia’s offense, the defense might be in its nickel front 80 percent of the game), and the solution to the Haynesworth problem lies in how they design their nickel defense. If Haynesworth stays with the ‘Skins, their best course of action would be to have him rush from defensive tackle and keep him fresh, allowing him to impact the most critical downs of the game. Why waste him on running downs when the NFL is all about the pass?

The ‘Skins need to make the best of the situation, and allowing Haynesworth to rush from the tackle position is not giving in to him but rather helping the team. He’s never going to be happy — whether he’s playing on a four- or three-man line. His happiness lies in being unhappy, so the ‘Skins need to make the most of this year, ignore him, play him in their nickel front and count their blessings that he’s staying away from camp.

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Sunday at the Post

QUOTE/STORY OF THE WEEK...

“A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials, heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine, desert us when troubles thicken around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavour by

QUOTE/STORY OF THE WEEK…

“A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials, heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine, desert us when troubles thicken around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavour by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.” — Washington Irving

Tribute to Mother

From Mother’s Day.com

Mothers are everything for us when we are small…our lives revolve around her. For everything that we need we call mother. To protect us from all perceivable dangers we want her around us. To take us out we hold her arms. To kiss away our wounds we run to her. And for a warm hug and love we look for her. She is the focal point of our lives, the greatest human being in the world or should we say divinity on earth. On the special occasion of Mothers Day pay tribute to your mother — the greatest blessing of God on you.

On Mother’s Day, thank your Mother

There is simply no way we can ever really thank mother for all she has done for us. She is the one who will be awake all night when we are sick. Praying to God to make us well and be ever ready to bear the pain that we may be experiencing. She is the one to wake up early in the morning to make the nicest tiffin and endure all our tantrums. Mothers are the ones who would forever complain that we are not eating enough or not eating right. They would cook all sorts of things so that we be strong and healthy. Mothers, in fact, worry more for our examinations than we must. They would take pains to complete our school projects leaving all other works behind while we play around with friends or just while away time watching movies.

On Mother’s Day, apologize to your Mother

Mothers are the one on whom we put all the blame for our failures. We would not hesitate once to point her single faux pas though she would not miss even a slightest opportunity to praise us. Isn’t it tough to imagine how she must have borne our temper tantrums when we were teenagers. And how hard we must have made her life by behaving so rude and difficult. And yet she was so astonishingly cool. It it easy for the kids to be so demanding from parents, especially mothers as we take her affection and care so much for granted. Most often to the extent of selfishness. Mother’s Day is the right time to apologize for all the troubles that we gave to our moms, without even realizing at most times how troublesome we must have been to her.

Celebrate Mother’s Day with your Dear Mother

Mother’s Day is the perfect day to celebrate the joys of having a mother. It is the time to make amends for not being able to spend quality time with her. So turn your wrongs right by making all efforts to give a perfect Mother’s Day to your mother. Think about her likes and dislikes about gifts and idea on celebration and act accordingly. Strive to make Mother’s Day absolutely hassle free for your mother and take the responsibilities on yourself for a day. Pamper her a little on this special day of hers just as she pampers you all the year round. Give her a warm hug and a big kiss as you wish her a…

Happy Mother’s Day to all

THINGS I HEARD AROUND THE NFL…

“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.” — Oscar Wilde

1. The first week in May, the expectations for news was low. Yet the week was extremely busy, starting with the release of JaMarcus Russell to the suspension of Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing. The Cushing news was not a surprise at all. Everyone, although maybe not the Texans, knew Cushing had a reputation for dabbling in performance-enhancing drugs. In fact, back here in the great Garden State, Cushing’s home, the rumors started in high school. Now with the suspension, the past allegations — whether true are or not — now seem to have much more merit. In the draft last year, I was not a fan of Cushing for many reasons, starting with his body build and my lack of understanding his role on third down.

Even when the Texans drafted him in the first round, I was not impressed and said so in my columns or whenever I did radio in Houston. Nonetheless, after the season he had, I had to eat crow each time I was on the radio. But I kept reminding everyone that injuries and other problems might prevent Cushing from being a consistent Pro Bowl player. I think he will now have to prove he can play well without stimulants that might enhance his overall skill set. One more positive test will result in a one-year suspension, and it will be fascinating to see his body development from this point forward. The Texans have to be concerned about the suspension considering Cushing will miss the first four games of the season, but also the impact this positive test will have on his future development. If I’m wrong about Cushing, I will have no problem admitting my mistake since the best way to grow as a personnel man is to learn from your mistakes. But I’m not ready to say I was wrong — yet.

2. I like the trade that will be finalized tomorrow in which the Cowboys will send linebacker Bobby Carpenter to the Rams for tackle Alex Baron. To me, Baron me is never going to be a player. He has the same problems that have drove JaMarcus Russell out the league — lack work habits, lack of preparation and an indifference toward being a good player. He will not solve the Cowboys’ problems at left tackle next year.

3. Speaking of Russell, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League own his rights, and if I were in their position, I would go to Mobile, Ala., where Russell makes his home, and start recruiting him to resurrect his career in the CFL. My sources tell me Russell will have a tough time finding a gig in the NFL — maybe next offseason, but right now teams are moving forward with their players and seem unwilling to overlook the lack of dedication Russell displays. He’ll have to do something, anything, to win fans back, and going to the CFL is a way to begin the process.

4. Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey announced last week at minicamp that he will have an open tryout for all three quarterbacks, with no preconceived notion about who will win the job. This thought process supports the John Madden belief that “when you have a lot of something you have nothing.” The Bills might have three names on the roster, but they don’t have three starters.

5. The Bills have to be serious about their intention to acquire Baltimore left tackle (but soon to be right tackle) Jared Gaither. Gaither will not be with the Ravens in 2011, so they’re moving Michael Oher to left tackle. Then, if they don’t trade Gaither, they’ll have him for their right tackle spot, albeit for just one year. The move makes sense for the Ravens, but what doesn’t make sense is to give away Gaither at a reduced price. The Bills received a first rounder for Jason Peters, so they know the market for a starting left tackle. The other issue with finalizing the trade is the fact that the Bills, or whichever team Gaither is traded to, must first agree to a new contract, and I hear Gaither is asking for a huge deal, which turns off a few teams. And how can I talk about Buffalo without mentioning that last Friday would have been Tim Russert’s 60th birthday?

LEADERSHIP IMPROVEMENT IDEA…

“Few misfortunes can befall a boy which brings worse consequences than to have a really affectionate mother.” — W. Somerset Maugham

The 50 Great Leadership Videos (Links can be found here, or at Mr. Bacharach’s website following the link below):

Samuel B. Bacharach on Nov 3, 2009

Leadership Skills

1. The importance of believing in your employees. Don’t second guess staff…constantly.

2. Emotional intelligence is vital for leaders. Here’s what to remember.

3. Employee engagement…can be compared to a dance party (scroll down).

4. Knute Rockne, one of Football’s greatest coaches, motivates his players (rare footage).

5. Motivating people can be hard. Sometimes you have to demand great work.

6. How NOT to motivate employees (Funny).

7. The challenge of being a proactive AND senior leader. Admiral Mike Mullen Explains.

8. When is madness visible in leadership? Or, what can Bogart teach us about leading?

9. The role of Ego in leadership. A fine line between helpful and hurtful.

10. Desmond Tutu discusses servant leadership.

11. Richard Feynman tells us to never make assumptions and to always doubt norms.

12. Feynman, in a different interview, tells us that there is nothing in a name and new methods are always needed.

13. Some ideas on how to communicate your vision and agenda by American Chef John Besh.

14. Passion plays a vital role in leadership. This is why it’s important.

15. Leading positively can lead to proactive change in your business.

16. Leadership and social media. How can leaders use social media?

17. Social media’s power and force explained. Leaders have to familiarize themselves with social media before it’s too late.

18. Cloud computing is the future. Leaders need to stay ahead of the curve.

19. Here’s a light look on social media’s ability to bring people together…and create.

20. Not on Twitter yet? Learn about it and think about ways it can help you connect with employees.

21. A quick, fun, explanation of Google Wave.

22. The advantages of digital text–with explanation. Great for bloggers.

23. What’s the status of your 2.0 identity?

Execution

24. Getting things done while minimizing stress. (Download link)

25. Passing the buck. Watch John Adams get Jefferson to write the Declaration of independence.

26. The dangers of micro-managing. Inept employees are bad hires.

27. Charisma can turn into madness. Look at Shakespeare’s Henry V.

28. Majora Carter tells her story of how she initiated change in the South Bronx with little help and little money.

29. Chef Gordan Ramsey explains the importance of turning something negative into something positive.

30. How NOT to negotiate. Hat tip to Monty Python.

31. Get them on your side by showing your staffers you will go the distance.

32. Woody Allen reminds us not to forget our negotiation priorities.

33. By studying our tribal tendencies we can figure out how we get things done.

34. The challenges women face in the business world. Great interview with Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi.

35. Standing up for your ideas in the face of criticisms. It involves commitment and desire.

Agenda Development

36. Rory Sutherland talks about adding subjective value to products, ideas, and things. Use these ideas the next time you want to add value to your agenda.

37. Just because you have failed before doesn’t mean you are bad. Just ask Michael Jordan.

38. J.B. Jeyaretnam discusses the Worker’s Party and his contrary agenda.

39. Developing an agenda that will transform the system can be a challenge (with some laughs along the way). A interview with Michelle Rhee.

Inspiration

40. Colin Powell leadership advice–in 13 easy points.

41. What’s the value of your work? Looking for integrity in work.

42. The 4 hour work week can leave you a lot of time for the things you love. Think it can work? (Download video).

43. Are you a leader that feels problems out? Jackson Pollock does as well.

44. Here are 10 laws of simplicity to help you organize your workload and life.

45. Tips on storytelling from NPR’s Scott Simon. Great for learning how to connect with employees and clients.

46. 5 Strategies to handle criticisms.

47. Paul Rand discusses the aesthetics of work and design. Great lessons to be learned.

48. The importance of creating meaning in your business.

49. Use your fear to help you inspire change.

50. Great video about life, learning, and growing directed by Baz Luhrmann.

In Memoriam

Robert Boland, our colleague here at the National Football Post, lost his father Tom yesterday. All of us here at the Post extend our deepest sympathies to Bob’s entire family. Our heart and prayer are with you.

ARTICLES YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED THAT AREN’T WORTH MISSING…

“I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” — Abraham Lincoln

Rick Gosselin has a great NFL column on Tim Tebow and the rest of the NFL…

Local boy with cancer turns into a superhero for a day

New Frontier as a Lacrosse Coach Goes West

STORIES TO SHARE….

“A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary.” — Dorothy Canfield Fisher

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Mother’s Day – an inspiring story about mother

A man stopped at a flower shop to order some flowers to be wired to his mother who lived 200 miles away.

As he got out of his car, he noticed a young girl sitting on the curb sobbing.?He asked her what was wrong and she replied, “I wanted to buy a red rose for my mother. But I only have 75 cents and a rose costs $2.”

The man smiled and said, “Come on in with me. I’ll buy you a rose.”

He bought the little girl her rose and ordered his own mother flowers. As they were leaving, he offered the girl a ride home. She said, “Yes, please! You can take me to my mother.”

She directed him to a cemetery, where she placed the rose on a freshly dug grave.

The man returned to the flower shop, canceled the wire order, picked up a bouquet and drove the 200 miles to his mother’s house.

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Diner morning news: A new day for JaMarcus

QUOTE: “For one who is indifferent, life itself is a prison. Any sense of community is external or, even worse, nonexistent. Thus, indifference means solitude. Those who are indifferent do not see others. They feel nothing for others and are unconcerned with what might happen to them. They are surrounded by a great emptiness.

QUOTE: “For one who is indifferent, life itself is a prison. Any sense of community is external or, even worse, nonexistent. Thus, indifference means solitude. Those who are indifferent do not see others. They feel nothing for others and are unconcerned with what might happen to them. They are surrounded by a great emptiness. Filled by it, in fact. They are devoid of all hope as well as imagination. In other words, devoid of any future.” — Elie Wiesel

When I think of the meaning of the word indifference, I think about Oakland Raiders first overall pick JaMarcus Russell — in all of his actions, his behavior and his mannerisms. He projects an image of someone who doesn’t care, someone who is unwilling to change or accept responsibility for anything. The Raiders were willing to protect their investment, willing to do whatever it took to help Russell, even if they had to lie about his weight, his work habits and his commitment to football. They felt they could control his behavior and make him see the light — but he was indifferent to their help just as he was indifferent to his career.

Even with the Raiders meeting him more than halfway, Russell was unwilling to extend the slightest effort. The past few years, there are many reasons to take shots at the Raiders, but when it comes to Russell, their mistake lies in the selection, not in the attempt to make him a player. Right from the start with his prolonged holdout, the Raiders learned that Russell did not like football. From sleeping in meetings to his off-the-field behavior, they realized he played football for the perks, not for the love of the game. All these things should have been worked out before the pick, but the Raiders believed they could change Russell. It’s just hard to change someone who’s indifferent to change.

I find it laughable that some will say he needs to be backup quarterback as he settles into his career. Backup quarterbacks have to prepare, they have to study, they have to be ready to play at a moment’s notice without getting many reps. They have to be willing to sacrifice, and most of all, they have to be committed to improving. All those things Russell seems unwilling to do now, so why would he do them for a new team? Who could trust him to be prepared, to be willing to work, to be diligent — and to not be indifferent? What message do you send to your team if you sign him? Being a third-string quarterback is the job he wants. He can sleep in the meetings, never has to play unless there’s an emergency and still make NFL money. Why would anyone give Russell a job that belongs to the willing, the dedicated, the committed?

The Raiders learned last year that no matter who played quarterback, they had a chance to win as long as their name was not Russell. I’m sure it had to be painful for the owner to watch the team rally around the backups, but there was no ignoring the powerful message it sent to entire Raider nation. Clearly, Russell lost the fans, the team, the coaches and now finally the owner. His waiver Thursday was the fastest since the combined draft started in 1967 that the first overall pick was gone from the team. Normally, it’s the Raiders picking up former No. 1 overall picks, but now they’ve sent one of their own packing. Times have changed in the NFL.

My advice for JaMarcus Russell would be to hold a press conference to let the world know you deserved to be cut, that you have not taken football seriously, but now you’ve learned a powerful lesson. He needs to tell anyone who will listen that he’s headed to the gym to train; he’s going to do whatever it takes to get in shape and prepare for his future, because today he has accepted responsibility for his actions. He must train every day, must be willing to make sacrifices — and most of all must stop being indifferent. His return to the NFL may not come quickly, but he can’t control what others want to do with him. He can only control himself.

Alone with all his thoughts, Russell must ask himself one fundamental question: Am I willing to no longer be indifferent? And the answer will lie in his behavior starting this morning. Let’s hope he reads the quote above before he starts his new day.

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DMN: LenDale White has it wrong about the Titans

QUOTE: “One might compare the relation of the ego to the id with that between a rider and his horse. The horse provides the locomotor energy, and the rider has the prerogative of determining the goal and of guiding the movements of his powerful mount towards it. But all too often in the relations

QUOTE: “One might compare the relation of the ego to the id with that between a rider and his horse. The horse provides the locomotor energy, and the rider has the prerogative of determining the goal and of guiding the movements of his powerful mount towards it. But all too often in the relations between the ego and the id we find a picture of the less ideal situation in which the rider is obliged to guide his horse in the direction in which it itself wants to go.” — Sigmund Freud

LenDale White said what?

“I think what happened was in Tennessee they probably got a little too carried away with the Chris Johnson thing. The year before, we were 13-3 when I had 200 carries and we split the rock. Chris went to the Pro Bowl and we had the first-round bye. They did things different the next year and we struggled to make the playoffs. It is what it is. It’s the same offense down here in Seattle. I’m very familiar. I know how to pick up pass protection and stuff like that. The playbook is not what I’m worried about. I’m just worried about the opportunity, and I think that Pete is going to give me a chance.” — LenDale White

I love LenDale, but he has a short memory about what happened in Tennessee last season. The fact he feels they phased him out of the offense might have more to do with them always playing from behind in the first six games than his overall play. Early in the season, the Titans struggled to run the ball, with the exception of the second game against the Texans. In three of their first five games, they ran for fewer than 100 yards. But their major problems centered on falling behind early as a result of turnovers, which then forced them to throw their way back into the game. The Titans finished 31st in the NFL in point differential in the first half last year with a minus-66 point difference. When they did not turn over the ball, they could keep the running game alive and help Vince Young establish himself as a passer and not be one dimensional.

LenDale must not have attended all the games. The Titans’ problem last year was not with their play calling but rather their defense and their inability to protect the ball.

Adalius Thomas?

When you watch Patriots defensive tape from last season, it’s clear that Adalius Thomas was not the same player — in any aspect of his game. Although I have never formally worked with former head coach Bill Parcells, I’ve talked to him on the phone enough to learn many things. One of the lessons I learned from Parcells had to do with linebackers and their age. Parcells believes that when a linebacker reaches the 31-year-old mark he’s almost done and has little hope of regaining his old form — no matter how talented he might have been. Age for linebackers is critical, and according to Parcells, taking a player from another team at that age is risky and often not rewarding (he violated that rule with Jason Taylor last year, and I’m sure he regrets that mistake).

Parcells has many codes on personnel that he rarely violates. His linebacker rule is not based on some whim but on years of practical and statistical study. And each time I watched tape of the Patriots last year, I thought Thomas looked like he lost the power in his legs, much like watching Shaq play for the Cavs. Neither has juice in his body, which makes them vulnerable. If Thomas gets a job, it won’t be a high-priced one, nor will the team signing him be expecting much.

Jimmy Clausen

Whichever team hit with its quarterback selection — either Denver or Carolina — will have a great draft and leave other teams wondering what happened. The recent excitement expressed by both clubs since minicamp is a clear signal that they’re confident they hit a home run with the picks.

Tim Tebow is on a mission to prove all his doubters wrong, and so is Jimmy Clausen. Based on their lack of production this offseason, there’s not much optimism in Carolina, but if Clausen is as good as many suspect, then the Panthers might have had the best offseason of any team. To draft a quality starting quarterback in the second round is a huge advantage for the Panthers. Wednesday, we learned that Clausen will get a chance to compete for a starting job, and if he’s able to wrestle the position from Matt Moore, the Panthers’ rebuilding project might not take as long.

I realize there hasn’t been a game yet, but normally when this much optimism comes from teams, there’s a good chance they’ll be proven right. I’m anxious to see Clausen because I thought he worked out well, played well and looked like he has the talent to be a starter. Now we’ll see.

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Diner morning news: An offseason of change

QUOTE: “I’ve got a great attitude. I just look forward to a new adventure. God gives us so many adventures, and I've had some great ones. It's been a terrific life.” -- Ernie Harwell

From the Detroit Free Press: “The man who will forever be the voice of the Tigers

QUOTE: “I’ve got a great attitude. I just look forward to a new adventure. God gives us so many adventures, and I’ve had some great ones. It’s been a terrific life.” — Ernie Harwell

From the Detroit Free Press: “The man who will forever be the voice of the Tigers is gone, and the baseball community is left silent in remembrance. Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell passed away Tuesday at age 92. Harwell succumbed to cancer of the bile duct. Doctors diagnosed the condition as an aggressive form in August, and Harwell and his family decided against surgery at his age. He explained his situation with an extraordinary sense of peace, both to his friends in the community and to fans at Comerica Park when he made one last visit in September. Mr. Harwell will be missed.”

A look at the Jags

The Jacksonville Jaguars seem to be interested in still making moves after the draft to improve the talent level of their team. Tuesday, there was a report they were interested in a backup quarterback and were possibly willing to trade safety Reggie Nelson, their former first-round pick. The Jags are willing to make the move because, in large part, they’ve been extremely disappointed in Nelson on the third level of the defense. He misses too many tackles, jumps on anything that crosses his face and appears to be a liability in the secondary (the Jags allowed 28 touchdown passes last year, which is almost two per game, and 7.6 yards per pass attempt). As a rookie, I thought Nelson was going to be a star in the league, but he hasn’t played well the past two seasons, and the Jags know they can’t tolerate his mistakes in coverage and his missed tackles.

The last half of the season was a disaster for the Jags. Gene Smith, their general manager, talked about how the impact of losing to Cleveland drove all their offseason decisions. In that game, the Browns ran the ball 49 times for more than 200 yards, but for most of the second half of the season, teams had their way with the Jaguars defense. The last three games, they allowed 93 points, and when they need to score to beat the Colts on the final drive of the game, they turned the ball over.

The Jaguars last season were a defense without an identity. They went to a 3-4 to get more pass rush, but that never worked, so all their preparation during the offseason as a 4-3 team was wasted. They never really challenged anyone with their scheme, opting to keep it simple and rely on their own execution. So when they couldn’t dominate in terms of talent, they couldn’t win games.

When the Jags beat Houston (much to the dismay of our own Matt “I love me some Texans” Bowen) to go 7-5 and take control of their playoff destiny, they looked like they had turned the corner on their season. But then they lost four in a row with breakdowns in all facets of the game, and their head coach, Jack Del Rio, ended up on a very hot seat. Now, this year they want to change their defensive style, become more of an attacking 4-3 with quicker, faster players in their front seven. Will it work? Yes, because they’re totally committed to one scheme. Their commitment extends to their player personnel procurement all offseason.

Does this mean the Jags are a better team? As Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend.” The rebuilding is going to take more than one year to make the transformation from a good team to a legitimate playoff team. Each coach, each player must perform 10 percent better than they have at any time in their careers. It will take the players playing well, the coaches coaching well, the personnel department adding the right players, their kicker not going 7 of 16 outside of 40 yards and some good fortune.

The Jags need to keep making moves. They need a backup quarterback in case starter David Garrard breaks down or gets off to a bad start – someone the team can still rally around and believes can win. There’s too much at stake for the Jags to hope that Luke McCown can deliver. Last offseason, the Bucs signed McCown to a big contract, but after a few minicamps, they realized they made a mistake, forcing them to then sign Byron Leftwich, which then proved to be another mistake. (In 2009, the Bucs, had one of the worse offseasons of any team. They signed two quarterbacks who are not there, they franchised Antonio Bryant and re-signed Michael Clayton to a huge deal. All but Clayton are gone, and now they’re trying to make him go away.)

For the Jags to have any chance, they need to keep adding players, and they must find a viable veteran as their backup quarterback or run the risk their season might fall apart.

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DMN: A win/win for Sharper, Saints

QUOTE: “If any man seeks for greatness, let him forget greatness and ask for truth, and he will find both.” -- Horace Mann

Darren Sharper returns

Often in the NFL, when a system of offense or defense is introduced by a new coordinator, the real benefit becomes increasingly evident in the second

QUOTE: “If any man seeks for greatness, let him forget greatness and ask for truth, and he will find both.” — Horace Mann

Darren Sharper returns

Often in the NFL, when a system of offense or defense is introduced by a new coordinator, the real benefit becomes increasingly evident in the second year. As former great 49ers coach Bill Walsh always reminded his assistant coaches about coaching rookies, “The first year, we teach the player the system. The second year, we develop the skills in the system.” With this in mind, the Saints should be better on defense with the return of Darren Sharper. The players will know the system, they will know the calls, and now they can concentrate on improving their skills.

Keeping Sharper allows continuity within the defense – and as an added bonus, it also allows Malcolm Jenkins, their first-round pick in 2009, more time to learn to play the game from the free safety position. Playing safety requires a player to see the game out of both eyes, while playing corner only requires you to see it out of your inside eye — which is much different. In theory, it seems easy to move a corner to safety, but in reality, it’s difficult. If a corner is not used to seeing the whole game or lacks the instincts to react to the game, he will appear hesitant in all his movements, looking like a bust. Moving from corner to safety is not as easy as moving from shortstop to second base; it takes an investment in playing time. Sharper’s return allows this transition to be much easier.

Now the Saints will have nine of their 11 starters returning to a defense that was far from perfect last year but was very opportunistic. Sharper might not have the same speed or the same athletic skills he had years ago, but he’s quick-minded and he gets the players around him to play smarter, thus playing better.

What makes this a win/win for the Saints and Sharper is that he was allowed to test the market, so he determined his real value. He might have wanted a long-term deal, but with his injury and his age, he was never going to generate the kind of dream deal his success last season warranted.

Limas Sweed is down and out

The Steelers’ Limas Sweed suffered a torn or ruptured left Achilles tendon and will miss the 2010 season. Based on his production the past two years, Sweed will have given the Steelers only seven career catches. The upcoming season was going to be his breakout year as he was more committed to investing time in his profession. The frustration of his first two years made Sweed realize that he needed to change his approach — which, according to all reports, he had done. So having to undergo surgery on his Achilles has to be a huge disappointment for him.

For the Steelers, they needed Sweed to emerge after they traded Santonio Holmes to the Jets and now have a huge void at speed wide receiver. With Arnaz Battle, Antwaan Randle El and Hines Ward, the Steelers might have the slowest group of wideouts in the NFL. They need Mike Wallace to be a bigger factor, and they must find another wideout who can escape press and stretch the defense down the field. Losing Sweed hurts because he was ready to become a player, and the Steelers needed a player with young legs.

Eagles return to Kelly Green

I don’t think I could be happier that the Birds were at Franklin Field yesterday, posing in their old uniforms — the same uniforms in which they won their only world championship. If I were the commissioner, I would make it a rule that any franchise that won a world title had to wear that uniform at least twice every year. I hate the constant changing of uniforms – great franchises never have to change. I love that the Birds will be back in their real uniforms. I can picture Eagles great Chuck Bednarik tackling Packers running back Jimmy Taylor as the clock runs out — in a Kelly green uniform.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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Diner morning news: My memories of Karm

QUOTE: “Man's feelings are always purest and most glowing in the hour of meeting and of farewell.” -- Jean Paul Richter

Farewell to Karm

I get asked almost every day for advice on how to get into the NFL or the scouting profession. My answer is always the same -- start young,

QUOTE: “Man’s feelings are always purest and most glowing in the hour of meeting and of farewell.” — Jean Paul Richter

Farewell to Karm

I get asked almost every day for advice on how to get into the NFL or the scouting profession. My answer is always the same — start young, work for free and hope you find good people who are willing to teach you about the game. My first job in football was working at UNLV, obviously for free. However, I got to share an office with Bob Karmelowicz, the newly hired defensive line coach. Karm had come in from UTEP and had always been an offensive line coach, an expert in the trap option game, but decided he needed the work and moved over to the defensive line. He figured, how hard could it be to coach defensive line since he knew all about teaching the offensive line. That logic was the first I learned from Karm and is something I try and teach my own two boys. If you want to coach offense, learn defense first, and this will help you understand how to attack.

Karm was kind enough let me carve out a corner of his office for a small desk, but he was even kinder to let me listen to him talk to potential recruits, to other coaches and, in his spare time, to teach me all the football I wished I’d known before coming to UNLV. He also was kind enough to assure my father that his 21-year-old son, who was driving his car across the county to an unfamiliar place, was going to be taken care of. And he was kind enough to let me borrow a spare bedroom when I needed one, buy me a meal and introduce me to people who are still friends today. He was a kind and gentle man who was willing to share in a profession that’s not always known for sharing.

Karm only stayed one year at UNLV before moving to the Big Ten. (One of my favorite memories of Karm was when he was talking about going to the University of Illinois. I was staying at his house, and when the phone rang, he made me put on stereo headphones so I wouldn’t hear his conversation. He was too nice to kick me out of the house but wanted to make sure I was never in position to hear something that was not my business.) From Illinois, Karm moved to Miami, winning a championship at the U and coaching some great players like Cortez Kennedy and Russell Maryland. Whenever Warren Sapp and I talk Miami football, Sapp is always quick to praise Karm for moving him to defensive line. Karm’s stellar work got him noticed by other pro coaches, and he entered the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals, starting an 18-year NFL career.

Karm made friends everywhere he coached because that’s what made him tick. He liked being a friend to people, and he loved football. His unique personality was always entertaining, and he had a very big heart — which to me was his most endearing quality. Karm understood what friendship meant, and when he called you a friend, he was a great friend.

For the last few years, Karm fought off an illness that prevented him from coaching full time. He died Saturday at age 60, but being involved in football was the best medicine. He will be missed.

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Sunday at the Post

QUOTE/STORY OF THE WEEK...

“I'd like to give you a little advice today. I'll try not to give you too much, just a little bit. One thing you cannot afford to do -- that's to feel sorry for yourself. That's what leads to drugs, to alcohol, to those things that tear you

QUOTE/STORY OF THE WEEK…

“I’d like to give you a little advice today. I’ll try not to give you too much, just a little bit. One thing you cannot afford to do — that’s to feel sorry for yourself. That’s what leads to drugs, to alcohol, to those things that tear you apart. In football, we always said that the other team couldn’t beat us. We had to be sure that we didn’t beat ourselves. And that’s what people have to do, too — make sure they don’t beat themselves.” — Woody Hayes, commencement speech, Ohio State University, March 14, 1986

May is the month for college graduation commencement speeches all over the country. On Saturday, President Obama gave one at the University of Michigan, which I’m sure would have angered former Buckeyes head coach Woody Hayes had he been alive.

Hayes gave his speech almost one year before his death in March 1987. Sadly, Hayes will be remembered for throwing a punch during a game that cost him his career at his beloved Ohio State. Despite the unhappy ending, Hayes, because of his knowledge of military history and continuing popularity, hosted the broadcast of six World War II films for WBNS-TV in Columbus in the early 1980s. Among the movies shown were “Patton,” “Midway,” “The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel” and “Tora! Tora! Tora!”

Hayes was well read and loved talking politics, and former President Richard Nixon gave the eulogy at his funeral. Nixon would always say he wanted to talk football with Hayes, but Hayes wanted to talk politics, so they talked politics. Hayes was unique, passionate and loved his Buckeyes.

“Nobody despises to lose more than I do. That’s got me into trouble over the years, but it also made a man of mediocre ability into a pretty good coach.” — Woody Hayes

THINGS I HEARD AROUND THE NFL…

“It doesn’t matter that your dream came true if you spent your whole life sleeping.” — Jerry Zucker

1. I watched Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow work in practice on Friday in Denver, and he appeared very confident. His delivery is more compact, and his knowledge of the offense is impressive. Now, if the Broncos can get his lower body in rhythm, he’ll be ready to compete at the highest level.

2. Speaking of Broncos quarterbacks, everyone in the organization has been impressed with the work of former Brown Brady Quinn. Quinn has slowed down his movements and, according to the team’s coaches, has improved his accuracy. They’re excited to watch him work, and Denver will have a legitimate .

3. The other first-round wide receiver, Demaryius Thomas, did not work, nor did third rounder Eric Decker. But Thomas looks the part. He’s a hard worker and competitive player who I suspect will have a very good year as a rookie.

4. Many people have asked me why the 49ers moved up with Denver in the draft to pick offensive tackle Anthony Davis. They were concerned about Green Bay moving ahead of them for Davis and wanted to make sure they got the guy they wanted. Peace of mind is sometimes worth a fourth-round pick.

5. Once Denver picked Demaryius Thomas ahead of Baltimore, it allowed the Ravens to trade out of the first round. The Ravens would not have picked Dez Bryant had he been there, but with Thomas gone, they moved. So essentially, Denver picking Thomas allowed them to get back into the first round. Green Bay did move up to draft Morgan Burnett, who both the Bears and Cowboys would have loved to draft.

6. Why have the Raiders brought back JaMarcus Russell? One man makes decisions in that building, and he’s not ready to do what everyone thinks he should do.

7. I know much has been made of the Colt McCoy pick by Cleveland, but in reality, this pick will not stop the Browns from drafting a quarterback next year. McCoy is viewed more as backup than a potential starter by team brass. Expect the Browns to get involved in scouting the top QBs in the draft next year.

8. Dallas had linebacker Sean Lee rated as first rounder, so according to their board, they got two players of first-round talent. Cowboys coach Wade Phillips loves Lee.

9. Houston will work seventh-round pick Dorin Dickerson at wide receiver first to determine if he’s quick enough to handle press coverage on the outside. He can be a mismatch receiver if he has the right kind of quickness.

10. I keep hearing there might be more trades in the coming weeks, especially involving former restricted players. If a team doesn’t want to sign a player to a long-term deal, it might be beneficial to trade him now. Giants DT Barry Cofield and Saints tackle Jammal Brown are the hot candidates to be moved if they can agree to long-term deals.

11. Teams are reluctant to do long-term deals with players mostly because they don’t know the landscape in terms of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. It’s hard to extend a player without some understanding of possible new rules. This might prevent Colts QB Peyton Manning and Saints QB Drew Brees from getting done any time soon. Same for Cowboys wideout Miles Austin.

LEADERSHIP IMPROVEMENT IDEA…

“Our lifetime is a flash of lightning in the sky, like a dance, like a torrent rushing by a steep mountain – impermanent. Make it precious.” — Deepak Chopra

You’ve Made A Mistake. Now What?

By Amy Gallo

Anyone who has worked in an office for more than a day has made a mistake. While most people accept that slip-ups are unavoidable, no one likes to be responsible for them. The good news is that mistakes, even big ones, don’t have to leave a permanent mark on your career. In fact, most contribute to organizational and personal learning; they are an essential part of experimentation and a prerequisite for innovation. So don’t worry: if you’ve made a mistake at work — and, again, who hasn’t? — you can recover gracefully and use the experience to learn and grow.

What the Experts Say

According to Paul Schoemaker, the research director for the Mack Center for Technological Innovation at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and co-author of the forthcoming “Brilliant Mistakes,” most people tend to overreact to their slip-ups. They “make asymmetric evaluation of gains and losses so that losses loom much larger than gains,” he explains. As a result, they may be tempted to hide their mistakes, or even worse, continue down paths that have proven unproductive. This “sunk cost fallacy” can be dangerous and expensive.

It is much better to accept mistakes, learn from them and move on. “Look forward and base decisions on the future, not the past,” Schoemaker says. Christopher Gergen, the director of the Entrepreneurial Leadership Initiative at Duke University and co-author of Life Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives, agrees. The most useful thing you can do is “translate a mistake into a valuable moment of leadership,” he says

Here are a few guiding principles to help you turn your gaffes into gold:

Fess up and acknowledge your mistake

First and foremost, it’s critical to be transparent, candid and own up to the error. Don’t try to blame others. Even if it was a group mistake, acknowledge your role in it. In cases where someone was hurt, issue an apology. However, don’t apologize too much or be defensive. The key is to be action-oriented and focus on the future. How will your misstep be remedied? What will you do differently going forward?

Once you’ve admitted your blunder, it may be appropriate to reframe it. Reframing is not making an excuse, but a genuine effort to help people see the mistake in a different light. Poor decisions or flawed processes can sometimes lead to mistakes, but that doesn’t mean that every bad outcome is a mistake. Gergen says it’s important to understand what was external and internal, what was in your control and what wasn’t. Explaining in a non-defensive way what led to the mistake can help people better understand why it happened and how to avoid it in the future.

Change your ways

Mistakes play a critical role in leadership development. “The best kind of mistake is where the costs are low but the learning is high,” Schoemaker says. If the error was a result of a poor decision, explain to your boss and other interested parties how you will avoid making the same or a similar misstep in the future. You have to respond quickly before people make judgments about your competence or expertise. “You need to get on top of it, get ahead of it, and deal with it,” Gergen says.

By demonstrating that you’ve changed as a result of your mistake, you reassure your superiors, peers and direct reports that you can be trusted with equally important tasks or decisions in the future. “If you are going to pay the price for making the mistake, you need to get the learning,” Schoemaker says. This is far easier in a learning culture than in a performance-focused culture, in which mistakes are often viewed more harshly. But regardless of the office environment, you need to figure out “how you can translate the mistake from a liability into an asset,” Gergen says.

Rely on your support network

A strong support network can help you. “Our research shows that a healthy support network has three components: authentic trusting relationships, a diverse range of perspectives and is reciprocal,” Gergen says. Ask current or former colleagues or people outside the organization for their perspective on the mistake and what they believe you can do to recover. They are likely to have some useful advice about how to frame the error and restore your reputation.

Get back out there

It can be hard to rebuild confidence after slipping up. The key is to not let your errors make you afraid of experimentation. Once the mistake is behind you, focus on the future. If it made people question your expertise, put more data points out there to rebuild their trust. Remember that mistakes are not signs of weakness or ineptitude; recovering from them demonstrates resilience and perseverance. Both Gergen and Schoemaker emphasize that many employers look for people who made mistakes and came out ahead.

Not all mistakes are created equal

Mistakes vary in degree and type, and some can be tougher to recover from than others. Schoemaker notes that group mistakes are often easier to get over because there is a diffusion of responsibility. Mistakes that involve breaking someone’s trust can have lasting consequences and contrition is critical. If your mistake has caused someone to lose trust in you, approach the person and offer a sincere apology. Ask what you can do to restore his trust. But be patient — forgiveness may take a long time.

Principles to Remember

Do:

Accept responsibility for your role in the mistake

Show that you’ve learned and will behave differently going forward

Demonstrate that you can be trusted with equally important decisions in the future

Don’t:

Be defensive or blame others

Make mistakes that violate people’s trust — these are the toughest to recover from

Stop experimenting or hold back because of a misstep

Case Study No. 1: A supportive boss and colleagues speed up recovery

As the associate director of the Science & Environmental Health Network (SEHN), one of Katie Silberman’s responsibilities is to manage the nonprofit organization’s grant applications. Last August, Katie created a calendar to track important funding dates; it included due dates for current grant reports as well as deadlines to reapply for future funding. In late January, Katie emailed the foundation officer at one of the organization’s primary funders to check in about their re-application for 2010, thinking she was ahead of schedule.

But the foundation officer replied that the 2010 deadline had just passed. Katie was shocked. She had a March deadline on her calendar — that was when the report for the 2009 grant was due, and Katie expected they would talk about reapplying then. SEHN needed the foundation grant to make it through the year. “To lose a funder in this environment isn’t just bad, it’s catastrophic,” Katie says. It turns out that each January someone at SEHN calls the foundation officer to discuss that year’s cycle. Katie wasn’t aware of this informal meeting, but it was her responsibility to know each funder relationship in and out and to ensure that the organization was on top of each funding opportunity.

Katie immediately called her boss, explained the mistake and offered ideas about how they could secure new funding sources to keep the organization afloat. Because she was forthright, she and the rest of the SEHN team were extremely supportive, offering to join a team call and do whatever they could to help. The foundation officer had let Katie know that there was a deadline in May for a separate round of funding and so SEHN has decided to submit an idea for a new project conceived at a recent retreat. Katie is optimistic they’ll get it funded.

While Katie felt like she had made an enormous mistake, she learned from it. Her calendar of deadlines now also includes “unwritten” ones and meetings in addition to the hard dates issued by funders.

Case Study No. 2: Don’t blame the economy, change your ways

In the late 1990s, Christopher Gergen, one of our experts from above, co-founded Smarthinking.com, an online tutoring service for high school and college students. Christopher and his partner raised their first round of financing in the spring of 1999. The company grew quickly: by the beginning of 2000, it had 30 employees and was ready to launch. Then the dot-com bubble burst. In a matter of weeks, the company’s financing fell through. With six weeks of cash in the bank, Christopher and his co-founder were facing one of the biggest mistakes of their lives. Like many, they failed to foresee the bubble bursting and left the company and themselves exposed.

Christopher had prior experience with companies facing hard times and had seen leaders hide behind closed doors. He and his co-founder took a different approach. They brought their whole staff together and explained exactly what needed to happen to save the company. Emphasizing that they couldn’t pull it off alone, they were clear about what each person and function needed to do.

They “limped” through that spring and summer, but were able to raise a $5-million round of funding in the fall and winter. While Christopher could easily blame the economy for what happened, he takes full responsibility for putting the company in an over-extended position. “While outside circumstances were not in our control, the ability to manage through it was,” he says. Most importantly, he learned from the mistake and began to take a much more disciplined approach to cash flow. As a result of how he and his co-founder handled the aftermath, the company indeed survived and now has cohesive culture with practically no turnover. It just celebrated its 11th anniversary and made it through the recent downturn with very few hiccups.

ARTICLES YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED THAT AREN’T WORTH MISSING…

“The ideals that lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully have been kindness, beauty and truth.” — Albert Einstein

Mario Batali: The Life’s Work Interview

We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint

STORIES TO SHARE….

“Risk more than others think is safe. Care more than others think is wise. Dream more than others think is practical. Expect more than others think is possible.” — Claude T. Bissell

The Puppet

By Johnny Welch

This is the work of an obscure Mexican ventriloquist who had written it for his puppet sidekick “Mofles.” But somehow his name had been replaced by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize for literature. Welch admitted that he was not a great writer but felt the disappointment of not getting credit.?During the summer of 1999, Garcia Marquez, author of “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” was treated for lymphatic cancer. In the wake of that, this poetic verse has been circulated online as his farewell letter to friends. While, in fact, it was written about how a puppet would feel if given a chance, by God, at real life. — ENJOY!

If, for a moment, God would forget that I am a rag doll and give me a scrap of life…

I would not say everything that I think, but I would definitely think everything that I say.

I would value things not for how much they are worth but rather for what they mean.

I would sleep little, dream more. I know that for each minute that we close our eyes we lose sixty seconds of light.

I would walk when the others loiter; I would awaken when the others sleep.

I would listen when the others speak, and how I would enjoy a good chocolate ice cream.

If God would bestow on me a scrap of life, I would dress simply, I would throw myself flat under the sun, exposing not only my body but also my soul.

My God, if I had a heart, I would write my hatred on ice and wait for the sun to come out. With a dream of Van Gogh I would paint on the stars a poem by Benedetti, and a song by Serrat would be my serenade to the moon.

With my tears I would water the roses, to feel the pain of their thorns and the incarnated kiss of their petals.

My God, if I only had a scrap of life…

I wouldn’t let a single day go by without saying to people I love, that I love them.

I would convince each woman or man that they are my favourites and I would live in love with love.

I would prove to the men how mistaken they are in thinking that they no longer fall in love when they grow old — not knowing that they grow old when they stop falling in love.

To a child I would give wings, but I would let him learn how to fly by himself. To the old I would teach that death comes not with old age but with forgetting.

I have learned so much from you men…

I have learned that everybody wants to live at the top of the mountain without realizing that true happiness lies in the way we climb the slope.

I have learned that when a newborn first squeezes his father’s finger in his tiny fist, he has caught him forever.

I have learned that a man only has the right to look down on another man when it is to help him to stand up.

I have learned so many things from you, but in the end most of it will be no use because when they put me inside that suitcase, unfortunately, I will be dying.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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Diner morning news: It’s trust that counts

QUOTE: “The future is of our own making — and (for me) the most striking characteristic of the century is just that development, that maturing of our consciousness which should open our eyes to that truth.” -- Joseph Conrad

Jets chemistry

In an interview with WFAN radio on Wednesday, Leon Washington had this

QUOTE: “The future is of our own making — and (for me) the most striking characteristic of the century is just that development, that maturing of our consciousness which should open our eyes to that truth.” — Joseph Conrad

Jets chemistry

In an interview with WFAN radio on Wednesday, Leon Washington had this to say about the Jets’ offseason moves: “I’ve got a bunch of friends I talk to…and they’re excited about the new players they have coming in. But they do have questions about how well they will gel with the new people in the locker room….Those guys are professionals, and I’m sure they’ll handle it, but at the same time, it takes continuity and it takes time to build relationships.”

It will take some time for the Jets to build chemistry, but the essential element to any team is being able to overcome adversity. The Jets will only be tested next year if they get into a slump or an extended losing streak. At this point in the season, their chemistry will be tested, but the one thing they have working in their favor is that their defense is built on trust and chemistry, so if they’re playing well, their locker room will function. The way the Jets install their defense, call their defense and play their defense forces them to work as a team. Each player knows his assignment and those of his teammates, so they build trust in one another. Trust is the common trait in all good locker rooms, and the Jets defense is based on trust.

Ryan Clady is down and out…for three months

Today we learned that Broncos offensive tackle Ryan Clady suffered a torn PCL playing basketball and underwent surgery to repair the tendon. Clady is a fantastic player, but the Broncos should sign Flozell Adams right now since he would protect them for the early part of the season while Clady heals. The one thing the Broncos don’t want to do is panic and rush Clady back just because they desperately need him. Yes, they need him, but they need him healthy for the second half of the season, not the first half. It would be wonderful to have Clady to start the year, but it’s essential to have him ready as the season moves into November and December. As we learned last season with the Broncos, fast starts don’t mean much. It’s fast finishes that count, and having a healthy Clady will allow them to finish strong.

Is Kevin Mawae being blackballed?

I read Kevin Mawae’s claim that he’s being blackballed by teams, but I really don’t think that’s the case. Mawae claims that because he’s president of the NFL Players Association and labor talks with the owners have been strenuous that he’s not getting the work he deserves. What really bothers Mawae is that Alan Faneca signed two days after being released and Faneca is 34 years old. Mawae is 39 and coming off a Pro Bowl season, but like Faneca, he got to the Pro Bowl more on reputation that what he did on the field. (By the way, Faneca did not play well last year, but when you mention this to anyone outside of the NFL, they look at you in disbelief like you have some type of disease.) Because Faneca plays guard, there were more teams looking to add a guard than a one position player in Mawae. Mawae could certainly help a team, but with the center position it’s all based on need. Most teams are willing to go with an unproven younger player for now since they have time to determine the level of play. When the preseason rolls around, teams will be more honest with their evaluation and Mawae should get a call. If he doesn’t, then he might be right to complain.

I’m heading to Denver today to spend time watching the Broncos’ rookie minicamp for NFL Network, so there won’t be a Diner on Friday morning. But Sunday at the Post will return this weekend, so join me then.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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DMN: 10-step program can help teams contend

QUOTE: “The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous.” -- Margot Fonteyn

The draft is over. Many NFL teams now feel they’re in position to win the Super

QUOTE: “The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one’s work seriously and taking one’s self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous.” — Margot Fonteyn

The draft is over. Many NFL teams now feel they’re in position to win the Super Bowl, which we all know is far from the truth. The teams that remain objective and diligent in filling their remaining needs, or creating a more competitive team, will ultimately be in contention in late December. I call this time of year the “10-step program,” which means teams must make at least 10 player personnel moves between now and the middle of the 2010 season that can greatly benefit them this year and, most important, next year. This is the time to keep working on the team, being objective and not getting complacent.

At this time of year, many teams will sit back and pat themselves on the back, believing they have the perfect team. In fact, they’ll look at the depth chart and feel they have more than enough players and will be able to gain trade value for their backups during the summer. The good teams will look at their rosters and keep thinking of ways to make camp competitive and hedge their bets by adding more players.

There are still some players on the market who can help teams along with players trapped in bad situations who are available, even though their current clubs claim they won’t be traded. Here are some who might be available:

WR Patrick Crayton, Dallas

I know Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has said Crayton is not available, but I have a hunch if any team calls and offers a modest price, he’ll be sent packing. With the drafting of Dez Bryant, the Cowboys have no place for Crayton. They are not a four-wide-receiver team, and for good reason. One of their best players, tight end Jason Witten, needs to be on the field, so they would only be carrying Crayton for depth. It’s very likely that if Crayton stays, he might not even dress on game day. He’s not a special teams coverage demon, so as the fourth wideout, if he is not going to play on regular downs, he must play in the kicking game. In spite of Jerry’s proclamation, Crayton is expendable.

OT Jammal Brown, New Orleans

This year, the Saints drafted offensive tackle Charles Brown of USC in the second round, and last year they won the Super Bowl without Jammal Brown playing. So it looks like one Brown will be replacing another. But even though the Saints won without Jammal, they still tendered him a first- and third-round pick in the restricted market. Now, they know they’ll never get those picks for him, but with the addition of Charles Brown, the price has gone down even more. If a team needs a tackle, a call to New Orleans might be worthwhile, assuming that Jammal will sign his tender.

DT Barry Cofield, New York Giants

Cofield was almost traded on draft day, but a long-term deal could not be worked out with the Saints. So he’s still available, especially if the Giants are able to sign veteran defensive tackle John Henderson, whom Tom Coughlin drafted while in Jacksonville. Cofield is a very good player, but the Giants aren’t prepared to offer him a long-term deal, making him expendable.

The restricted market may be over, but those players are still available as teams that don’t want to sign them to long-term deals will be willing to part with them for a modest price. Remember when the Packers traded cornerback Fred Vinson to the Seahawks for Ahman Green? The concept of the deal was trading one restricted player for another. It worked out well for the Packers and not so well for the Seahawks, but the concept still works, and more teams should explore this.

Teams can use that model to make deals now as they work on their 10-step program.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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Diner morning news: A new draft philosophy

QUOTE: “Wisdom is not communicable. The wisdom which a wise man tries to communicate always sounds foolish....Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom.” -- Hermann Hesse

I love this item:

Two signs hung in the Dolphins’ draft room last week. The first:

“For the next three days, we are going to draft prototypical

QUOTE: “Wisdom is not communicable. The wisdom which a wise man tries to communicate always sounds foolish….Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom.” — Hermann Hesse

I love this item:

Two signs hung in the Dolphins’ draft room last week. The first:

“For the next three days, we are going to draft prototypical players that play football well in their pads on the football field.”

My translation: The Dolphins were not going to fall in love with combine players or anyone who had a great workout. They wanted to focus on football players and not let a 40 time or individual workout alter their thought process. They made it a point to have their draft board completely graded before they went to the Indy combine. They weren’t going to be swayed by workout warriors, and they were going to make sure they stayed true to their philosophical beliefs. Those beliefs are centered on size and speed football players — but the speed is functional football speed.

What was the motivation for this sign? It certainly had to do with the Dolphins’ process last year, but more specifically, it had to do with the players they drafted. From quarterback Pat White to wide receiver Patrick Turner, Bill Parcells could not have been happy spending such high picks on players who don’t play as fast as their reported 40 times. Football speed and 40 speed are always different. For example, Rolando McClain of Alabama ran a 4.7, while Brandon Spikes of Florida ran a 5.0. Yet when watching tape, both players play the same, both are similar in their speed on the field and both will be challenged to play on third down in the NFL next season. Both will make an impact in short-yardage, goal-line and red-zone defense with their respected teams. The 40 times of both players can be manipulated in a workout, but on tape, both play football well.

The second sign:

“Mascot players, fat cats and other favorites will wait until late on Saturday.”

My translation: “Mascot players” are the size/speed guys who don’t play well with their pads on. They’re going to be on our free-agent board but not on our draft board. The Dolphins, according to this sign, are not willing to take players strictly on their measurables. They’re also not going to take players who have little production when playing the game. They might sign these players as free agents but won’t invest a draft choice in them. “Fat cat” players are players with weight problems who will have to be managed — something the Dolphins aren’t willing to do. “Other favorites” refers to players who come with media hype but don’t have the production on tape — someone with a huge profile but with little value for the Fins.

I love that the Fins were proactive and reminded everyone in their organization that last year’s draft was part of the reason the 2009 season was disappointing. This year, with the addition of wide receiver Brandon Marshall and a very good draft that centered on finding more speed for their defense, the Dolphins will have a chance to get back to the playoffs. My only hesitation about their return is their tough schedule, particularly in the early part of the season with road games against the Bills, Vikings, Packers, Bengals and Ravens. They have the kind of team that can handle the tough schedule and clearly are a very hungry and determined team.

Big Ben issues statement

Ben Roethlisberger issued a statement saying he accepts full responsibility for his actions and promises to never again place the organization in a bad light. Now, with a six-game suspension a possibility, the Steelers must develop a quarterback to handle the starting job for at least the first four weeks. My guess is that it will be Dennis Dixon, who surprised many people last season with his play in the Baltimore game.

Dixon is athletic, but he’s not a run-around player. He views himself as a quarterback who can make all the throws. I love his potential, and if he gets the work in this summer, he might be able to hold down the fort. How coach Mike Tomlin handles quarterback repetitions at camp this summer will be vital to their start. Right now, Tomlin will use the OTA days and mini-camps to collect information on each quarterback, then make a decision on how to handle training camp reps.

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Diner morning news: Fins make the right move

QUOTE: “You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end each of us must work for his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.” -- Marie

QUOTE: “You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end each of us must work for his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.” — Marie Curie

Here’s more of my 2010 NFL Draft review:

…I really think the Dolphins built their draft around acquiring linebacker Koa Misi of Utah. He can have an impact, and when the Fins did not have a second-round pick after the Brandon Marshall trade, they knew they had to move down to get Misi. So they moved down, prepared to take any defensive lineman who fell to them — knowing they had to have a top second-round pick to get Misi. The trade they made with San Diego was the right deal — giving them the 40th pick overall — a pick they used to get their man.

Ben Tate (second round) is the right back for the Texans’ system. He has an ability to hit the hole with a burst and is a one-cut runner. In their offense, he might be rookie of the year.

…I was not a fan of DE Derrick Morgan but feel he went to the right team. Titans defensive line coach Jim Washburn will be able to get the most out of him. I also love cornerback Alterraun Verner of UCLA, a very good playmaker.

…I really think wide receiver Arrelious Benn of Illinois is going to struggle to play the game fast. He moves better in a workout than when he’s playing the game, and he might struggle to get on the field quickly for the Bucs. He’s a workout player, not a natural player.

…The Rams added some interesting players later in the draft, especially Houston tight end Fendi Onobun, who is very athletic and will help their offense if he develops.

…Speaking of the Rams, they need to move Jason Smith to left OT, then slide second-round pick Rodger Saffold into the right tackle spot. The sooner the Rams get their players in the right places, the quicker they’ll improve.

…In the sixth round, I thought the 49ers got a good back in Anthony Dixon, who can run the power play effectively. The Niners need a back who can run the power and has the ability to break tackles, which Dixon can do.

…The Chargers got their “new Charlie Whitehurst” in Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton. Crompton went to the right team, where he’ll learn to play the pro game from a great quarterback coach in Norv Turner. Speaking of Turner, now that he has a big back in Ryan Mathews, the Chargers will get more balanced in their offense. Matthews will have a big rookie season.

…The Steelers took a running back in the fifth round in 1987, Barry Foster, who went to Arkansas. Teams never had a chance to see his ability to run. Jonathan Dwyer might be the next Barry Foster.

…If I were the Steelers, I’d move defensive end Doug Worthington, their seventh-round pick, to offensive line. He has all the traits to be a good offensive lineman in time.

…I was surprised Florida wide receiver Riley Cooper didn’t go earlier in the draft, but he might have gone to the right team. The Eagles do a good job developing receivers.

…Cincinnati is always looking to fill needs in the draft and picked Jermaine Gresham to fill the void at tight end. But drafting DE Carlos Dunlap of Florida is much like what the Bengals did last year selecting Michael Johnson of Georgia Tech. Like Johnson, Dunlap doesn’t always play hard, but also like Johnson, he has a ton of talent.

…The Giants are always looking for defensive linemen, and I love that they drafted two more. I love Jason Pierre-Paul and feel he’ll be a very good player in time. Then, in the second, they came back and drafted defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who is square and powerful.

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Sunday at the Post

QUOTE: “If you know others and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know others but know yourself, you win one and lose one; if you do not know others and do not know yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.” -- Sun Tzu

With

QUOTE: “If you know others and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know others but know yourself, you win one and lose one; if you do not know others and do not know yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.” — Sun Tzu

With the NFL Draft coverage extending three days, my time was cut short, so no full Sunday Post today. Nonetheless, we still have part one of our draft review.

Looks good on paper…

Seattle

I know they had two picks, and teams with two first-round picks should do well — but I liked the Seahawks, especially what they did Saturday adding Leon Washington and LenDale White. White has finally gotten his chance to prove he’ll be a good player. TE Anthony McCoy of USC is the key second day pick. He has starting talent, and if he reaches his potential, he’ll help Seattle next season.

Baltimore

Moving down, the Ravens ended up filling two huge needs in the second round, then found a few tight ends to give their offense versatility. DT Art Jones (fifth round) was injured in his senior season, but if healthy, he can be a very good player. The Ravens’ draft was not spectacular but solid. Now they need to find a corner.

Oakland

The key to this draft for the Raiders will be quarterback Jason Campbell. If he can adapt to the offense and the Raiders can adapt to his skill set, he’ll be able to help them get out of their doldrums. Expect JaMarcus Russell to be gone soon. There’s no way the Raiders pay him $9 million this year, so his departure alone will make this draft successful.

New Orleans

Love the Jimmy Graham pick in the third. There is no team in the NFL that will be able to utilize his skill set better than the Saints. I can see Graham developing into a dynamic tight end in their offense. Charles Brown, their second round pick, slipped not because of talent but because of a medical grade. He might be the third most talented left tackle prospect in the draft, and the Saints got a steal.

We have to wait and see…

Buffalo

I like running back C.J. Spiller, but I’m not sure how the Bills can make big plays when they can’t block anyone. They feel Levi Brown (seventh round) can compete for a starting job at quarterback, but I strongly doubt his arm can handle the elements in Buffalo. His arm is weak, and he never seems to throw a tight spiral, so this will be interesting.

Jacksonville

Regardless of their draft management issues, the key to the Jags’ draft is for their first four picks to be significant upgrades to the defensive line. No one will question the picks if the Jags prove to be correct on the talent level and they hit on their one (DE Tyson Alualu), their three (DT D’Anthony Smith) and their two fives (DE Larry Hart, DE Austen Lane).

Things what were talked about but never happened…

Tampa Bay was looking to move wide receiver Michael Clayton during the draft. I wonder now if they’ll move him off the roster this week.

Seattle was willing to move running back Julius Jones during the draft, but since that proved unsuccessful, the Seahawks might bring him back. If a team wants a back, however, Jones is available.

What’s next…

Baltimore will be looking for a corner in the coming weeks. I’m sure it will check with every team that drafted a corner to gauge who might be available. Green Bay might be joining the Ravens in that search.

The Cowboys must find some depth for their offensive line. They were unable to find any suitable players when they picked.

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Diner morning news: A good first draft day

QUOTE: “The success of most things depends upon knowing how long it will take to succeed.” -- Charles de Montesquieu

Round one thoughts:

1. I thought the Chiefs did the right thing picking safety Eric Berry, who gives them a playmaker. Today, they can address their line and tight end needs.

2. Seattle

QUOTE: “The success of most things depends upon knowing how long it will take to succeed.” — Charles de Montesquieu

Round one thoughts:

1. I thought the Chiefs did the right thing picking safety Eric Berry, who gives them a playmaker. Today, they can address their line and tight end needs.

2. Seattle has to feel very lucky to have gotten Russell Okung, a left tackle they needed. There was a moment when Seattle was thinking it would need to take Berry, which it would have if either tackle was not there.

3. I had heard from inside the Cleveland building and from other teams that the Browns loved cornerback Kyle Wilson — but they also liked Joe Haden, the player they drafted. Haden will need to prove he can handle the speed of the wideouts, which is the only concern. Also, the Browns were attempting to get into the first round last night but couldn’t pull off a trade. Were they going for Jimmy Clausen or Tim Tebow? Not sure, but they were trying.

4. The Raiders made a good pick in Rolando McClain. Clearly, they’re going to utilize some form of a 3-4 defense with all the linebackers they’ve collected this offseason.

5. I’m sure Jacksonville had its reason for not moving back, especially in light of the fact that both Denver and Miami did, but picking California defensive end Tyson Alualu was surprising. Many teams had him going in the 20s, but for Jacksonville, what matters most is that he’s a good player.

6. Buffalo getting running back C.J. Spiller is a good move, but he’ll struggle to find daylight. The Bills really wanted Tim Tebow and wanted to get into the first round to get him, but Denver beat them to it.

7. The key for the Chargers is not that they took Ryan Mathews too early, but that he plays well. Next year, if he’s a player, no one is going to say they took him too early.

8. I like defensive end Brandon Graham for the Eagles, although I thought they would pick Jason Pierre-Paul, whom I really liked.

9. Speaking of really liking someone, I thought the Jets got great value picking Kyle Wilson at the bottom of the first. His hands and cover skills fit the Jets perfectly.

10. I think Detroit had a very good day, especially getting Jahvid Best at the bottom of the first. If he’s healthy, Best can be one of the most explosive players in the draft.

11. I don’t think the Cowboys will be moving WR Roy Williams, but if a team called and asked about Patrick Crayton, they might have to listen. I’m not saying Crayton is available, but he’s now the fourth wide receiver and makes too much money in that role.

12. Bryan Bulaga slipped because many teams thought he was a right tackle only and maybe a guard. The Packers could use either, so they should be fine with the pick.

13. I like the Jerry Hughes pick by the Colts. He’s explosive and athletic and will fit into their scheme perfectly.

14. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is a big-time player, and Denver got a great deal with him at 22. I also like the Tebow pick by Denver because the man who picked him is the man who will coach him — Josh McDaniels. He’ll get Tebow to play and lead the Broncos, plus this will make Kyle Orton a better player.

15. San Francisco fixed the right side of their line with both picks and should be able to get movement off the ball. Mike Iupati is the right guard for their power run scheme.

Looking forward to tonight…

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Diner morning news: The party starts at No. 4

QUOTE: “We have lived by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives, so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption that what is good for the world will be good for us. ... We must

QUOTE: “We have lived by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives, so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption that what is good for the world will be good for us. … We must recover the sense of the majesty of the creation and the ability to be worshipful in its presence. For it is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it.” — Wendell Berry

>

Draft night is almost here. What will happen is always a mystery, but here are some of my final thoughts on tonight’s draft, plus things I know and hear:

1. I know Miami wants to move down and Dallas might want to move up — if it can include Marcus Spears or Bobby Carpenter in a deal. Maybe not both, but a combination of players and picks. The Dolphins would like to pick DT Dan Williams if he’s available when they move down.

2. Many people in the NFL believe the draft will start with Washington at the No. 4 pick. No one really has a feel for what the ‘Skins will do, and they can head in a number of different directions. But I keep hearing offensive tackle is not one of the positions they’ll pick — no smoke screen. I have a hunch, and it’s only a hunch, that it might be safety Eric Berry.

3. I know Cleveland likes corner Kyle Wilson more than Florida corner Joe Haden.

4. I hear OT Bryan Bulaga will not be a top-10 pick, but he’s loved in San Francisco at No. 13, and the Packers might be moving up to get him.

5. I know the Giants love running back C.J. Spiller, Joe Haden and ILB Rolando McClain and seem willing to wait if one falls to them at 15.

6. Someone high ranking in the NFL told me Buffalo will have a quarterback before the first round is over tomorrow. Not sure who it will be but, the Bills will have one.

7. I know that South Florida DE Jason Pierre-Paul is in high demand, and a team picking in the 20s might be moving up to get him.

8. I know that any team willing to trade for Ben Roethlisberger will need to get its owner to sign off on the deal, which limits the trade partners for the Steelers. I would think it would be tough for any team to trade for Big Ben after reading the behavioral report.

More to come during the day.

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DMN: The Steelers have a tough stretch

QUOTE: “Many people feel they are powerless to do anything effective with their lives. It takes courage to break out of the settled mold, but most find conformity more comfortable. This is why the opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it's conformity.” -- Rollo May

The NFL schedule show revealed

QUOTE: “Many people feel they are powerless to do anything effective with their lives. It takes courage to break out of the settled mold, but most find conformity more comfortable. This is why the opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it’s conformity.” — Rollo May

The NFL schedule show revealed some interesting little nuggets that may or may not have an effect on the outcome of the 2010 season. Here are a few:

1. Minnesota has to be very happy to have only one outdoor game in a potentially bad weather city — playing at Philadelphia on Dec. 26. If I’m the Packers, I would be upset that the Vikings don’t have to travel to Lambeau in late November or December.

2. Pittsburgh without Ben Roethlisberger will have a tough opener and then has to deal with heat and humidity playing on the road in Tennessee and Tampa before returning home for its arch-rival, the Baltimore Ravens. Then, two weeks later, the Steelers play three consecutive road games, against Miami, New Orleans and Cincinnati. They need to find a way to steal a game or two while Roethlisberger is out.

3. I know my man Matt “Love Me Some Texans” Bowen is thinking playoffs this year for sure, but do you think he’s checked their schedule? First three games: home against Indy, at Washington then back home against Dallas. They must start fast and win those home games.

4. The 49ers got off to a fast start last season and faded, and this year they’ll need to fast start again as they play three of their first four on the road — at Seattle, K.C. and Atlanta, with a home game against the Super Bowl champs in Week 2. Not impossible, but they need a fast start.

5. If Matt Leinart wins the starting job in Arizona this summer, he will have to prove his qualifications on the road with an opener in St. Louis, then Atlanta and, in Week 4, San Diego. Leinart might win the job, but this schedule is going to require him to play very well to keep the job.

Back to the 2010 NFL Draft with more news and notes…

1. I keep hearing that many teams have Boise State corner Kyle Wilson as the second best defensive back in the draft, even ahead of Joe Haden. Wilson is going to be off the board in the teens.

2. Some people in the league whom I spoke to Tuesday believe if the Redskins take a tackle at No. 4, it will be Trent Williams, not Russell Okung.

3. Every team I talk to wants to move down, and few want to move up. Green Bay, Philadelphia and New England might want to move up for the right player.

4. Most teams I talk with always ask me where I hear defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is going to be drafted — which tells me they have interest in him. My guess is Jacksonville. He’s a hot guy right now.

5. I never know how these stories grow, but the one about Donovan McNabb wanting Terrell Owens in Washington was never really a story. McNabb never wanted anything to do with Owens, and how this story ran out of control is beyond me. Mike Shanahan finally put an end to it yesterday, but the next question is, where will Owens land? Right now, there’s no interest.

6. I like the Byron Leftwich trade to the Steelers. He was well liked in Pittsburgh’s locker room when he was there in 2008 and didn’t want to leave — but he wanted to be a starter. Now, he can settle into a good role as a backup and help the Steelers fix their locker room.

7. Every time I hear Rams GM Billy Devaney talk, he’s gushing over some prospect he has just seen — which is understandable after watching his team. Sam Bradford will be the pick, but Devaney has made sure he’s given everyone a chance to be the No. 1 pick.

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DMN: Our first look at the NFL schedule

QUOTE: “Riches do not consist in the possession of treasures but in the use made of them.” — Napolean Bonaparte

NFL schedule

Today is NFL schedule day, and NFL Network will have its preview show revealing every team’s weekly schedule along with the nationally televised games. When I was in the league, I

QUOTE: “Riches do not consist in the possession of treasures but in the use made of them.” — Napolean Bonaparte

NFL schedule

Today is NFL schedule day, and NFL Network will have its preview show revealing every team’s weekly schedule along with the nationally televised games. When I was in the league, I always loved this day so I could check out the schedule of the teams in the division and pay close attention our opponents’ schedule the last half of the season.

Getting off to a great start is a nice concept, but in reality, it’s not very important. Finishing strong is what counts most; winning games in November and December is when playoff teams are made. So opening day is nice, but it doesn’t have significant implications. Tonight, when watching the schedule show, examine your favorite team’s last eight games to figure out how many tough road games await them.

What else to look for today:

1. With Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger almost certainly going to be suspended, it will be interesting to see how the league dealt with the team’s early season schedule.

2. We know Vikings QB Brett Favre will be back next year, so it will be interesting to see how many games in cold weather he’s forced to play in.

3. When will Donovan McNabb make his return to Philadelphia?

It’s a great week for the NFL, the schedule and the draft — and how many more days until camp?

News and notes around the league

1. The Jets recently reworked Santonio Holmes’ contract to lower his base salary, so the amount of money that’s deducted for his upcoming suspension will be less. When Holmes was traded, most of his money due in 2010 was in the form of his base salary, but since he became a Jet, the team shifted the money into roster bonus, reporting bonus and signing bonus so Holmes would pay as little as possible for his fine. This clearly cannot make the NFL league office happy and goes against the spirit of the suspension.

2. Speaking of the Jets, they are actively shopping guard Alan Faneca, defensive end Shaun Ellis and linebacker Bryan Thomas and will probably waive these players after the draft. You might be surprised to read Faneca’s name, but he’s the first to go after the draft.

3. The Cowboys would part with defensive end Marcus Spears, linebacker Bobby Carpenter, wide receiver Sam Hurd, safety Pat Watkins and lineman Cory Procter for the right price. All of them are being shopped around the league.

4. I’ve been asked several times if the Raiders would take Idaho guard Mike Iupati in the first round. My answer is that it doesn’t make sense, but who knows? The Raiders have done a ton of work in recent weeks on linebacker Rolando McClain of Alabama, and although he doesn’t have “Raider speed,” he would be a good pick for them.

5. I’m still hearing the Raiders would be willing to trade any corner on their team, Nnamdi Asomugha, Chris Johnson and Stanford Routt are all available.

More tomorrow. And make sure to watch NFL Network tomorrow.

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Diner morning news: Is Tebow on Denver’s radar?

QUOTE: “Let us let our own children know that we will stand against the forces of fear. When there is talk of hatred, let us stand up and talk against it. When there is talk of violence, let us stand up and talk against it. In the face of death, let us honor life. As

QUOTE: “Let us let our own children know that we will stand against the forces of fear. When there is talk of hatred, let us stand up and talk against it. When there is talk of violence, let us stand up and talk against it. In the face of death, let us honor life. As St. Paul admonished us, let us ‘not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’” — President Bill Clinton, April 23, 1995, following the Oklahoma City bombing

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the tragic Oklahoma City bombing. We should all take a moment to remember those who lost their lives on this tragic day.

Draft week is always exciting, and although teams are not allowed to bring in players to their facility, they can still travel and work out players on their college campuses. Today, Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels is spending time working out Tim Tebow. Does this mean he’s going to pick him at No. 11? Doubtful, but Denver might be one of the teams that will trade up to the bottom of the first round to acquire Tebow if his workout goes well. The first round will be on Tebow alert somewhere in the 20s. Teams picking there that want to move will be hoping their phones will be ringing.

As I wrote Sunday, Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen and Oklahoma State wide out Dez Bryant are the other players that teams looking to acquire more picks are hoping will be available when they’re on the clock. To be able to move, there has to be a player that teams are willing to move up to acquire. As happened with the Chiefs last year, there are times in every draft that teams are not willing to move to acquire any player. Once again this year, the Chiefs want to move down, but will they be able to? This year, they’re willing to move down a significant number of picks (maybe as low as eight spots), feeling they can get the same quality player but add more picks. Ideally, the Chiefs are hoping that a team needing a quarterback will want to move up to acquire Jimmy Clausen, but that’s not something I’m hearing right now. So the Chiefs might be stuck picking at five or take a reduced deal to move down. The chart is meaningless at times, as the value of each pick is much like our economic system — tied to supply and demand. When the demand is low, the cost goes down; when the demand is high, the cost increases.

As former 49ers coach Bill Walsh used to remind me before the draft, “We can’t pass, we have to pick someone.” Teams planning to move down must still plan on making the pick — because they might actually have to make it.

Here are some thoughts of the day. Every day this week until the draft, I’ll try to provide a few:

1. I cannot figure out where Taylor Mays of USC is going to get drafted. I have more teams telling me that they’re worried he’s going to make it to their pick and they don’t want to take him.

2. The ‘Skins are planning on keeping Jason Campbell through the draft, then they will attempt to trade him. If that fails, they plan on bringing him back to compete for the second string job — but what happens if they draft a QB? At that point, he might get released. If the Skins draft a QB, they’ll need two because with their offensive line, it would be hard for any QB to stay healthy.

3. One of the reasons the Chiefs want to move is because they feel they can get value in the second round at the offensive tackle position.

4. The Raiders have made many phone calls on Jimmy Clausen and Tim Tebow, but it’s doubtful they’ll pick either one.

5. I keep hearing California running back Jahvid Best is moving up in the draft. Many teams value his big-play ability, and he’s the perfect back in a spread attack. His concussions might be a concern, but his talent is not.

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Sunday at the Post

QUOTE/STORY OF THE WEEK...

“Bert Bell talked out of the side of his mouth, like a guy spitting out a silver spoon. Had a raspy, buzz-saw voice that could peel the paper off the Vesper Club dining room walls. Back in the day, when the National Football League needed a hands-on commissioner, Bert Bell

QUOTE/STORY OF THE WEEK…

“Bert Bell talked out of the side of his mouth, like a guy spitting out a silver spoon. Had a raspy, buzz-saw voice that could peel the paper off the Vesper Club dining room walls. Back in the day, when the National Football League needed a hands-on commissioner, Bert Bell had his fingerprints on everything, including the broadcasters’ throats.” — Stan Hochman, Philadelphia Daily News

As we enter the week of the draft, it’s only fitting that on its 75th anniversary, we honor the man who invented it. Stan Hochman’s quote above was from an article he wrote reviewing the book written by Bob Lyons about the life and times of Bert Bell. Lyons’ book, “Any Given Sunday,” details Bell’s life, which centered on making the NFL the great game it is today. Working tirelessly, Bell’s vision was based on the league being only as strong as its weakest link. He promoted a culture among the owners in which they worked together in the best interests of the future of the league.

More from Hochman’s review: “Lyons puts instituting the annual college player draft at the top of a crowded list of Bell’s achievements. Back in the day, the Bears, Giants, Packers and Redskins dominated the league. The other franchises were gurgling in red ink. Bell owned the Eagles in 1935 when they finished 2-9. Named himself head coach to slash payroll. Told the other owners the league was only as strong as its weakest link. Said he knew first hand the agonies of a weak link. Proposed creating a list of college seniors and drafting in inverse order, worst team first, best team last. Had to convince Chicago’s George Halas, a fierce spokesman for the “haves.”

The first NFL draft was held on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 8 and 9, 1936, in Bell’s room at the Ritz-Carlton. Total weekend coverage in the three Philly newspapers: zero, zilch, nada, not a word. Holy Mel Kiper!

Sudden death was rejected three times before the rules committee caved in. Then came Colts-Giants for the championship in 1958. Baltimore’s Steve Myhra kicked a field goal to tie the game at 17-17 with seven seconds left. When the gun sounded, referee Ron Gibbs walked over to the weary Giants and told them that sudden death would commence in three minutes. Legendary linebacker Sam Huff screeched, ‘Wait a minute, the game’s over.’

“It wasn’t. Johnny Unitas took the Colts 80 yards, and Alan Ameche scored the game-winning touchdown and tears zigzagged down Bell’s cheek.”

With the draft moving to prime time, Bell needs to be mentioned and thanked for all his work helping to make the NFL what it is today. He’s a member of the pro football Hall of Fame for his work as an owner and commissioner. He would be so proud Thursday night.

“I often said that his heart was shaped like a football.” — Baltimore sportswriter John Steadman, on Bert Bell.

THINGS I HEARD AROUND THE NFL…

“I tell you everything that is really nothing, and nothing of what is everything, do not be fooled by what I am saying. Please listen carefully and try to hear what I am not saying.” — Charles C. Finn

It’s four days before the draft, so let’s try to sort out some of the things I’m hearing about the first seven teams:

1. St Louis: Worked out Sam Bradford one more time, and unless the Browns make a huge offer, which I’m hearing they won’t, the Rams appear to be locked on the Oklahoma quarterback. With the Rams, though, anything can happen down to the last minute; you never know what happens at Rams Park once the doors close. However, I’d be shocked if they don’t try to make some headway in the coming days to get Bradford signed.

2. Detroit : Do you get the feeling every time GM Martin Mayhew speaks, he says something different from what the organization might be feeling? From Dante Culpepper to Pacman Jones to his running back comments, Mayhew might be best served saying nothing. But unless the Lions feel they can acquire Albert Haynesworth from the Redskins (I would put the odds at 20 percent), they’ll take Russell Okung. Without Haynesworth, the pick will be Ndamukong Suh.

3. Tampa Bay: The Bucs will take the defensive tackle who makes it to their pick. Not a complicated decision for what the Bucs need, and the trade element does not seem to be real.

4. Washington: The Redskins have tried to sign a left tackle</strong> in free agency, making an offer to Chad Clifton of the Packers, so they know they have to fix this area. Without a second-round pick, they have one chance to fix the problem. Even Bradford and Jimmy Clausen were confused when GM Bruce Allen, head coach Mike Shanahan and Kyle Shanahan showed up Thursday to hold a private workout.

5. Kansas City: The Chiefs are trying, and I mean really trying, to move down. My sources tell me they’ll be willing to go down as far as 15 for the right deal because they feel they can find a player in that range. They want to move badly and might be able to if they can convince a team to move up and get ahead of Cleveland to acquire Clausen. The reality for the Chiefs and the rest of the NFL is that Cleveland won’t pick Clausen. More on the Browns later.

6. Seattle: They need a left tackle, they need a running back and they need to fix their defense, so they can go many directions. But the key point for the Seahawks is how they manage their draft. If they go OT, they might not get C.J. Spiller, so they must look at combinations. Would they want Spiller and a lesser tackle, or Trent Williams and another back? The right combination of players is the decision facing the Seahawks right now.

7. Cleveland: I’m told the Browns are not going to pick a quarterback, that they’re going to draft defense with their first pick. In spite of Jon Gruden’s relationship with Mike Holmgren and his love of Clausen, the Browns are not going quarterback early.

8. Two players, Clausen and Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant, are potential trade-target players. Teams that want to move down are hoping that Clausen or Bryant make it to them, and they’ll get calls to move. Miami would love to go down to recoup its second-round pick. If Bryant makes it to them, they might have to take that chance. Bryant has not worked his way back into the top 10 yet, but he’s getting closer.

9. The draft will have two sections — the first will be sorting out the top seven picks and the second will be which team picking at the top of the second round jumps into the first round. From picks 22-32, I expect some trades to be made, and there will be a sense of urgency for teams to not have to wait an entire day to get their guy in the second.

10. Jason Taylor is still on vacation and will not make a decision on his future until after the draft when he’s supposed to sit down with the Dolphins. If the Fins draft backers, expect Taylor to leave. If they don’t, expect Miami to have to make a decision.

11. I’m told Buffalo will go offensive tackle with its first pick and has interest in Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. The Bills might have to move to the bottom of the first to be in position to get him.

12. USC offensive tackle Charles Brown is a hot commodity right now and is moving up. He might make it into the top 15.

13. If the Giants draft DE Jason Pierre-Paul of South Florida, which is possible, they’ll get calls on Osi Umenyiora — and I hear if the deal is right, they’ll make a deal. Umenyiora can be had for the right price.

LEADERSHIP IMPROVEMENT IDEA…

Teamwork has been a common theme recently in NFL circles, trying to find the right blend of players that allows everyone to work as one. The Steelers’ recent problems involving Ben Roethlisberger have affected their locker room, and watching them play last year, they appeared to be a team that was not always functioning together. This reminded me of my good friend Eric Musselman’s blog concerning the “one bad apple” concept. Here is the post below:

The researcher set out to determine if “one person in the workplace could ruin a workplace. Not just disrupt the way people get along… but could one person actually lower productivity. Does one bad apple spoil the bunch?”

In his research on “bad apple behaviors,” Will Felps, a management professor, identified “three personality types, three types of behavior that seem to hurt group dynamics and group performance.”

According to Felps, they are:

1. “Someone who is a real jerk, who attacks or insults others.”

2. “Someone who’s a slacker, who does less than they can.”

3. “Someone who’s a depressive pessimist.”

If your team or group includes one of these types, “there’s a good chance that they might spoil the barrel.”

Over the years, research has found that groups dominate individuals. “There’s tons of research going back decades demonstrating that people conform to group values and norms.”

But in his research, Felps found just the opposite.

Invariably, groups that had [the bad apple] would perform worse. And this despite the fact that there were people in some groups that were very talented, very smart, very likeable.”

In his studies, Phelps found that the bad apple’s behavior “had a profound effect,” with the bad apple’s group “performing 30 to 40 percent worse than groups without a bad apple.”

On teams with the bad apple, “people would argue and fight, and they would not share their relevant information, they would communicate less.”

Even worse, team members would begin to take on the bad apple’s characteristics. When the bad apple was a jerk, other team members would begin acting like a jerk. When he was a slacker, they began to slack, too, and so forth.

And they wouldn’t act this way just in response to the bad apple. They’d act this way to each other in “sort of a spillover effect.”

If you’re a veteran coach or manager, you’ve likely seen this in teams or groups you’ve worked with. Based on my experience, it’s absolutely true. A bad apple really can spoil the bunch.

This is a great article that provides each team food for thought before it makes a selection in the upcoming draft.

ARTICLES YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED THAT AREN’T WORTH MISSING…

“Do you know the difference between education and experience? Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don’t.” — Pete Seeger

Business coaches for advisers: Do they work?

Behind Kevin Durant, Thunder rumbling into NBA postseason

Weighing the Evidence on Exercise

STORIES TO SHARE…

“We find comfort among those who agree with us — growth among those who don’t.” — Frank A. Clark

Beyond Hitler’s Grasp
Author:
Unknown

A great many Jews know the story of how the Danes rescued 8,000 Jews from the Nazis by smuggling them to Sweden in fishing boats. Very few Jews know the story of how all 50,000 Bulgarian Jews were saved. Not a single Bulgarian?Jew was deported to the death camps due to the heroism of many Bulgarians of every walk of life, up to and including the King and the patriarch of the? Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

In 1999, Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, flew with a delegation to Sophia to meet the Bulgarian prime minister. He gave?the prime minister the first Bulgarian language copy of a remarkable book, “Beyond Hitler’s Grasp,” written in 1998, by Michael Bar Oar, a professor at?Emory University (a Bulgarian Jew who had migrated to Israel and then to the U.S.).

This book documents the rescue effort in detail. The ADL paid for and shipped 30,000 copies to Bulgaria so that the population could partake in the joy of?learning about this heroic facet of their history. This story is clearly the last great secret of the Holocaust era. The story was buried by the Bulgarian?communists until their downfall in 1991. All records were sealed since they didn’t wish to glorify the King or the Church or the non-communist parliamentarians, who at great personal risk stood up to the Germans. And the Bulgarian Jewish community, 45,000 of whom went to Israel after the war, was busy building new lives, and somehow the story remained untold. Bulgaria is a small country, and at the outset of the war it had 8 million people. They aligned themselves with the Nazis in hopes of recapturing Macedonia from Yugoslavia and Thrace from Greece. Both provinces were stripped from them after WWI.

In late 1942, the Jews of Selonica were shipped north through Bulgaria, on the way to the death camps, in sealed box cars. The news of this inhumanity was a?hot topic of conversation. Then, at the beginning of 1943, the pro-Nazi Bulgarian government was informed that all 50,000 Bulgarian Jews would be deported in?March. The Jews had been made to wear yellow stars and were highly visible.

As the date for the deportation got closer, the agitation got greater. Forty-three ruling party members of Parliament walked out in protest. Newspapers denounced what was about to happen. In addition, the patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Krill, threatened to lie down on the railroad tracks.

Finally, King Boris III forbade the deportation. Since Bulgaria was an ally of Germany, and the Germans were stretched militarily, they had to wrestle with the problem of how much pressure they could afford to apply. They decided to pass.

Several points are noteworthy. The Bulgarian Jews were relatively unreligious and did not stand apart from the local populace by virtue of garb or rites.?They were relatively poor by comparison to Jews in other countries, and they lived in integrated neighborhoods. Additionally, the Bulgarians had many?minorities, Armenians, Turks, Greeks and gypsies, in addition to Jews.

There was no concept of racism in that culture. The bottom line here is that Bulgarians saw Bulgarian-Jews as Bulgarians, not as Jews.

And being a small country, like Denmark, where there was a closeness of community, that is often missing in larger countries. So here was a bright spot that we can point to as example of what should have been. The most famous of those saved was a young graduate of the Bulgarian military academy. When he arrived in Israel, he changed his name to Moshe Dayan.

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Diner morning news: Is Big Ben on the market?

QUOTE: “It is our responsibilities, not ourselves, that we should take seriously.” – Peter Ustinov

What is Ben worth?

On Thursday, Steelers owner Art Rooney Jr. held a press conference to announce that he’s seen enough of Ben Roethlisberger’s behavior off the field. Rooney was clear about his desire to suspend Big Ben

QUOTE: “It is our responsibilities, not ourselves, that we should take seriously.” – Peter Ustinov

What is Ben worth?

On Thursday, Steelers owner Art Rooney Jr. held a press conference to announce that he’s seen enough of Ben Roethlisberger’s behavior off the field. Rooney was clear about his desire to suspend Big Ben but will wait for Commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision after the draft. He also voiced his strong disapproval of Ben’s behavior and did not entirely rule out the possibility of trading his star quarterback.

I’m sure Rooney wishes Roethlisberger would follow Peter Ustinov’s advice in our quote of the day. What made this press conference strange was that teams usually wait for the commissioner to make a decision so that they don’t alienate the player against the team. When a suspension comes from the league, the team helps the player handle the appeal, working in concert with him. However, that’s not the case for the Steelers, who let it be known they’re not happy and want to make sure their unhappiness is reflected in some form of a suspension. The Steelers know they’re at a crossroads with Roethlisberger, they know they must clean up their locker room (create a better team environment), and they know they have a responsibility to their fan base. Most of all, they know this cleansing starts with how they handle Roethlisberger.

Rooney did not rule out trading Roethlisberger, but how could he avoid it? How could he say in one breathe, “We’re mad at Ben for his behavior,” and still call him untouchable? That won’t work, and Rooney is smart enough not to engage in inconsistent behavior. He understands he has a responsibility to the franchise, and that includes a willingness to listen to any trade offers.

How many more dumb things in the offseason are the Steelers going to put up with from Roethlisberger before saying enough is enough? Fame and fortune have not been easy for him to handle, but instead of working harder and preparing intently for each game, he takes the “I got it without the work” attitude bordering on arrogance. As a result, he makes mistakes in games that cause his teammates and coaches to pull their hair out. His lack of responsibility on and off the field might be a result of his inability to handle success, or it might be Roethlisberger’s true personality.

So what is Big Ben worth in the open market? Clearly, this would be a short sale since any team wanting to take on Roethlisberger and his problems would not be willing to pay the “Cutler” rate (roughly two No. 1s) for a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Would the Steelers take the recent Donovan McNabb/Redskins deal for Roethlisberger? I doubt it; the Steelers are angry, but they’re not stupid. Roethlisberger is hard to trade right now, but that doesn’t mean the Steelers shouldn’t listen to any offers. Would the Bills call and offer the ninth pick overall? Would the Raiders offer eight? It seems to me that if a team in need a quarterback wants to deal with Big Ben’s problems, it should put an offer on the table just enticing enough to gauge the Steelers’ level of interest. Based on Mr. Rooney’s body language, I wouldn’t rule out a trade. My sense is that some teams will be calling.

More Marshall, more Broncos

After spending time with Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels yesterday, I’m further convinced he’ll produce an eventual Super Bowl winner for the city of Denver. As I wrote the other day, this decision to trade Marshall was an organizational decision because the Broncos were never going to spend the money needed to keep Marshall, given all his off-the-field problems.

Miami paid dearly — both in the contract for Marshall (most NFL executives think the Dolphins significantly overpaid — $13.25 million per for two additional years is QB money, which is going to make it tough for the Chargers to re-sign Vincent Jackson) and two No. 2s. McDaniels played this one perfectly, getting value for Marshall. Now he must cash in with his selections.

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Diner morning news: A good deal for both teams

QUOTE: “You are educated when you have the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or self-confidence.” -- Robert Frost

Marshall traded to Miami

The Dolphins have been very quiet this offseason, but that ended this morning when they officially acquired Denver wide receiver Brandon Marshall for what is believed

QUOTE: “You are educated when you have the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or self-confidence.” — Robert Frost

Marshall traded to Miami

The Dolphins have been very quiet this offseason, but that ended this morning when they officially acquired Denver wide receiver Brandon Marshall for what is believed to be two second-round picks, one this year and one next year. I love the deal for both teams, especially for the Broncos, who never were going to sign Marshall to a long-term deal after this season. They cashed out one year early and received a nice payout. I love the deal for Miami, which desperately needs a playmaker on the outside whom opponents fear.

This move makes sense for both, and now we know why Miami is trying to move down in the first round, which I reported Sunday — to recoup the picks it sent for Marshall.

Miami and Marshall

The Fins are a well-coached team. When you watch them on tape, they execute extremely well and get the most out of every single play. But they often fall short on their production because they just don’t have the skill players to take a play from a four-yard gain to a 40-yard gain. Their design is very good, but clearly they lack the talent to enhance the design. That will change with this trade. Marshall will give them a big-play receiver who can make plays with the ball in his hands. His size creates matchup problems for opponents — not from a coverage standpoint but from a tackling standpoint. Facing Marshall, the first question that must be addressed in game-plan meetings is not who’s going to cover him, but who’s going to tackle him.

Miami offensive coordinator Dan Henning does a very good job creating the right matchups for the players he’s given, and now with Marshall in fold, this will help the Dolphins’ running game and prevent teams from always loading up the box. Henning knows how to feature a great skill player without having to run a play for him, as he understands this is not the NBA, where teams run plays for players.

In the NFL, you must run your offense, and Henning can design the offense to feature the skills of Marshall. And those skills center on his ability to make plays with his size, not his route running. He’s not a polished route runner, or a crafty one, but he has power and size that enable him to make plays. Marshall is a great jump-ball wideout who seems to always be in balance to attack the ball in the air. Henning will highlight Marshall’s strength, and this will help the Fins make explosive plays in the passing game.

Last season, the Fins finished 31st in the NFL in passing plays over 20 yards, so they knew they needed a big-play player to go along with the big arm of Chad Henne. In spite of the lack of big-play talent on offense last year, they had the Colts and Saints beaten but were unable to close the deal. With this move, and perhaps by adding speed to their defense in the draft, they can finish the job. One thing is clear to me: The more talent Miami has, the harder it’s going to be to beat because it does one of the best jobs of coaching in the NFL.

Denver without Marshall

So where does this leave the Broncos? From my perspective, in a very good place because this deal’s key component was the fact they were never going to sign Marshall to an extension. This was an organizational decision, not a “he couldn’t play for coach Josh McDaniels” decision. The Broncos’ past and present regime did not trust Marshall enough to place significant dollars on the table — they have been burned too many times in the past thinking a player would change. That lack of trust in Marshall stems from his history of behavior his entire life and most specifically in his time in Denver.

Marshall needed a new team, a new city and, most important, a change of social environment. Once the Broncos decided an extension was too risky, they needed to cash out. With additional second round picks the next two years, which are like gold assets in building a team, they’ll be able to find the right players to help them build the kind of team they want.

There will be no Diner tomorrow since I’m heading to Denver to visit with McDaniels for a one-on-one interview for NFL Network. After our talk, I’ll have more insight into the Broncos’ thinking on this trade and what they can expect from the draft.

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DMN: Should Pack take a chance on Westbrook?

QUOTE: “No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” -- Confucius

Pack and Westbrook?

There’s a report that the Packers are looking into the possibility of signing former Eagles running back Brian Westbrook. On paper, this looks like a smart

QUOTE: “No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” — Confucius

Pack and Westbrook?

There’s a report that the Packers are looking into the possibility of signing former Eagles running back Brian Westbrook. On paper, this looks like a smart move for the Pack, adding a veteran third-down back who can pass protect and make plays in the passing game. But that’s just on paper. The uncertainty of Westbrook’s health may make this potential signing unrealistic. The concerns are not just due to Westbrook’s bouts with concussions last season but also his history of knee and ankle injuries that limit his practice time during the week. In fact, sources have told me that concerns about passing a physical have forced Westbrook to look into possibly entering the broadcasting field next season.

If the Packers really want Westbrook, they’re going to have to waive some injury concerns and accept the fact he won’t be able to practice weekly. They’re also going to have to make sure he’s fresh for the end of the season when the playoffs roll around. If Westbrook can stay healthy, or even get healthy (two huge if’s), this move would give the Packers an effective third-down back and make their offense more explosive. But I strongly doubt his health will allow him to return to his glory days.

Steelers and Big Ben

I received many emails saying that since the Steelers traded one problem, maybe they should trade their other problem, Big Ben. Not so fast. The Steelers are willing to work with Ben Roethlisberger to deal with his problems, but they’re not willing to send him down the road. The problems facing Santonio Holmes, along with the Steelers not having an extension of his contract, made him the easy one to ship out of town for a significantly cheap price.

The Steelers can always find another wide receiver, but they have time and substantial money invested in Big Ben. They need to be strongly proactive in dealing with Roethlisberger, which includes some form of suspension — my recommendation would be at least one game and a hefty fine. At some point, Roethlisberger is going to have to grow up and not be the party animal who feels his status entitles him to special privileges in social circles. When Roethlisberger signed his new deal with the Steelers, he became a wealthy man, but with the wealth comes responsibility in the work place and in his daily life. He’s no longer a frat boy on the campus of Miami of Ohio; he’s part of the Steelers brand and must uphold that brand.

It’s no secret in NFL circles that Roethlisberger is not detailed in his work habits or his weekly game preparations. He makes mistakes on the field because of his lack of preparation, but his talent often overcomes the problems. As a result, he has never faced the cold reality that he needs to act like a true professional. Success is a great deodorant for hiding flaws or problems, and Roethlisberger’s recent success has made it tough for the Steelers coaches and staff to reason with his lack of dedication and preparation.

As I’ve written before, my belief is that fear often does the work of reason, and Roethlisberger’s second brush with the law should make him fearful — understanding that he has never been formally charged, but as my father always told me growing up, “You are who you hang around with.” And in the last two incidents, Roethlisberger has been in the wrong circles.

First time being in the wrong place is not your fault, but the second time, the blame lies within. So Roethlisberger must use this recent mishap as a defining moment that forces him to make changes in his life. He has too much to lose if he does not face the reality of the problems he has created. He must admit his mistakes, find a humble moment in his life and rededicate himself to changing. Changing will win over his teammates, win over his fan base and, most of all, win over the Steelers.

Now is the turning point in Roethlisberger’s career. He must learn to respect his career, respect the team, respect his teammates and respect people.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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DMN: Jets take on another problem

QUOTE: “To live in the presence of great truths and eternal laws, to be led by permanent ideals -- that is what keeps a man patient when the world ignores him, and calm and unspoiled when the world praises him.” -- Honore De Balzac, French novelist

The Jets make more news

“In Rex we trust”

QUOTE: “To live in the presence of great truths and eternal laws, to be led by permanent ideals — that is what keeps a man patient when the world ignores him, and calm and unspoiled when the world praises him.” — Honore De Balzac, French novelist

The Jets make more news

“In Rex we trust” must be the new motto of the Jets. Since the offseason began, the Jets, a final eight team, have used trades to improve their team — which is very creative, but each time, they’ve taken another team’s problem and made it their own. On Sunday, in their second trade of the offseason, they acquired Pittsburgh wide receiver Santonio Holmes for only a fifth-round pick in this draft. The Steelers clearly want to get away from all the off-the-field problems facing Holmes, and as a four-game suspension looms, the Jets felt the player’s talent far outweighed the risks. As they did earlier in trading for Antonio Cromartie, formerly of the Chargers, the Jets ignored Holmes’ issues, believing that their head coach, Rex Ryan, can handle any player.

In the case of both Holmes and Cromartie, these issues off the field at times have affected their on-the-field performance. And with both, their former teams felt uncomfortable with their work ethic, their behavior and their ability to be solid teammates, as these concerns were reasons both teams were unwilling to extend their contracts after their final years. So the Jets shopped in the discount racks and with each trade filled two of their most pressing needs entering the offseason. They have made their team better on paper, but have they made their team better in the locker room?

Holmes is coming off his best season, having caught 79 passes as the “go-to” wide receiver for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Holmes clearly has the talent to combine with Braylon Edwards and give the Jets another playmaker in their passing game, which will be improved in quarterback Mark Sanchez’ second season. And Cromartie is coming off a below-average season but has the skills and talent to play in the Jets’ defensive system. But are they going to be reliable teammates, reliable people, reliable workers? Along with talent, reliability is the key component of championship teams — just read the words of Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, or watch Butler play the game, or examine the changes of the New Orleans Saints from 2008 to 2009.

The Jets under Ryan are not concerned with off-the-field issues or work habits, feeling they can create a culture in the locker room that will promote work habits, chemistry and teamwork. That’s bold thinking, but I wonder, would they have been thinking this boldly had the Colts kept playing their starters in their first game? My sense is yes — win or lose, Rex Ryan never has seen a talented player he can’t convert or a team he can’t control.

The Steelers were tired of dealing with Holmes, who had issues that run deeper than just a four-game suspension. The Jets appeared to be the only team willing to take the risk, and they now must manage Holmes. They’ll ask, what’s the risk? For just a fifth, this is a no-brainer kind of deal. But in reality, this deal lets the league, and every Jets player, know that Ryan is not worried about any peripheral issues. The risk for the Jets runs deeper than just a fifth round pick — but in Ryan, the Jets trust he can handle any problem.

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Sunday at the Post

QUOTE/STORY OF THE WEEK...

“We meet this evening, not in sorrow, but in gladness of heart. The evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond, and the surrender of the principal insurgent army, give hope of a righteous and speedy peace whose joyous expression cannot be restrained. In the midst of this, however, He from whom all

QUOTE/STORY OF THE WEEK…

“We meet this evening, not in sorrow, but in gladness of heart. The evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond, and the surrender of the principal insurgent army, give hope of a righteous and speedy peace whose joyous expression cannot be restrained. In the midst of this, however, He from whom all blessings flow must not be forgotten.” — Abraham Lincoln, final speech as president, April 11, 1865

From Lincoln Online: “Two days after the surrender of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army, a jubilant crowd gathered outside the White House, calling for President Lincoln. Reporter Noah Brooks wrote, ‘Outside was a vast sea of faces, illuminated by the lights that burned in the festal array of the White House, and stretching far out into the misty darkness. It was a silent, intent, and perhaps surprised, multitude.

“’Within stood the tall, gaunt figure of the President, deeply thoughtful, intent upon the elucidation of the generous policy which should be pursued toward the South. That this was not the sort of speech which the multitude had expected is tolerably certain.’

“Lincoln stood at the window over the building’s main door, a place where presidents customarily gave speeches. Brooks held a light so Lincoln could read his speech, while young Tad Lincoln grasped the pages as they fluttered to his feet. The speech tackled the complex topic of reconstruction, especially as it related to the state of Louisiana. For the first time in a public setting, Lincoln expressed his support for black suffrage. This statement incensed John Wilkes Booth, a member of the audience, who vowed, ‘That is the last speech he will make.’ A white supremacist and Confederate activist, Booth made good on his threat three days later.”

“And having thus chosen our course, without guile, and with pure purpose, let us renew our trust in God, and go forward without fear, and with manly hearts.” — Abraham Lincoln, message to Congress, July 4, 1861

THINGS I HEARD AROUND THE NFL…

“There is neither happiness nor unhappiness in this world; there is only the comparison of one state with another. Only a man who has felt ultimate despair is capable of feeling ultimate bliss. It is necessary to have wished for death in order to know how good it is to live….The sum of all human wisdom will be contained in these two words: wait and hope.” — Alexandre Dumas, “The Count of Monte Cristo”

1. I hear that the Tampa Bay Bucs prefer Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh over Oklahoma tackle Gerald McCoy but will be happy with either.

2. The Lions are pondering between Suh and Oklahoma State offensive tackle Russell Okung. Okung can play left tackle, so moving Jeff Backus to guard would fill two needs for the Lions.

3. I know I had the Seahawks taking Clemson running back C.J. Spiller in my 10-player mock on Friday, but I hear they want an offensive tackle at No. 6 — maybe Trent Williams from Oklahoma.

4. From talking to teams around the league, I hear the Dolphins are looking to move down from the 12th pick in the draft to acquire more picks.

5. My sources tell me that Browns president Mike Holmgren talked to Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen and told him that he has not ruled him out as the seventh overall pick, despite what he’s told the media. It was Holmgren who said he “wished he liked Jimmy Clausen more,” but after Clausen’s workout Friday, he does.

6. Speaking of Clausen, the Seahawks spent a long time with him after his workout, even though Pete Carroll was not in South Bend. The Seahawks have spent considerable time with Clausen and Florida’s Tim Tebow.

7. I keep hearing from teams that Buffalo will not pick Clausen in the first, preferring a more athletic player at quarterback. In fact, someone told me that Chan Gailey, while he was offensive coordinator in Miami, was not in favor of Drew Brees as a potential pick because he had Ray Lucas on the roster. Keep in mind, Gailey has always loved athletic players as evidenced by his style of recruiting while head coach at Georgia Tech.

LEADERSHIP IMPROVEMENT IDEA…

“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” — Isaac Asimov

The Six Disciplines Blog

This blog (formerly the “Be Excellent” blog) has over 1,500 blog posts about strategy execution, business coaching, leadership development and business process improvement. Look around and you’ll soon find out why this blog previously won prestigious blogging awards, has been syndicated by major media distribution and has thousands of visitors every month. Is there a topic you’re interested in, but can’t find? Let me know! (Skip Reardon)

Communicating the Need for Change, by Skip Reardon

If there’s one thing that’s constant, it’s change.

But the one thing that our employees need is a clear explanation of:

• Why are we changing? (What’s wrong with what we’re doing now?)
• What are the benefits of changing? (How will things be better if we do?)
• What are the consequences of not changing? (What will happen if we don’t?)

It’s no wonder then, that:

• 70 percent of all change initiatives fail — primarily due to human nature (people) issues.

The reasons? Sometimes it’s because of senior leadership’s inability to lead or explain the reasons that changes are needed. Other times, it’s a lack of understanding, or engagement, or unwillingness to deal with change, and so forth.

Bottom Line: Keep in mind the following eight-steps of change, by John P. Kotter:

1. Establish a Sense of Urgency — Examine market and competitive realities — Identify and discuss crises, potential crises or major opportunities.

2. Form a Powerful Guiding Coalition — Assemble a group with enough power to lead the change effort — Encourage the group to work as a team.

3. Create a Vision — Create a vision to help direct the change effort — Develop strategies for achieving that vision.

4. Communicate the Vision — Use every vehicle possible to communicate the new vision and strategies — Teach new behaviors by the example of the guiding coalition.

5. Empower Others to Act on the Vision — Get rid of obstacles to change — Change systems or structures that seriously undermine the vision — Encourage risk taking and nontraditional ideas, activities and actions.

6. Plan for and Create Short-Term Wins — Plan for visible performance improvements — Creating those improvements — Recognize and reward employees involved in the improvements.

7. Consolidate Improvements and Produce Still More Change — Use increased credibility to change systems, structures and policies that don’t fit the vision — Hire, promote, and develop employees who can implement the vision — Reinvigorate the process with new projects, themes and change agents.

8. Institutionalize New Approaches — Articulate the connections between the new behaviors and organizational success — Develop the means to ensure leadership development and succession.

ARTICLES YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED THAT AREN’T WORTH MISSING…

“Somehow I can’t believe that there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secrets of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C s. They are curiosity, confidence, courage and constancy, and the greatest of all is confidence. When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.” — Walt Disney

Bill Reynolds: Craig Robinson’s story is one you just can’t make up

From Vanity Fair: The Professor of War

10 Simple Google Search Tricks

STORIES TO SHARE…

“It is necessary to keep one’s compass in one’s eyes and not in the hand, for the hands execute, but the eye judges.” — Michelangelo

The Brilliant Lessons of Michelangelo
By Tom Russell

The artist Michelangelo often stirred up the opposition of the contemporary artists of his day. Many of them envied his magnificent abilities. One example was the architect Bramante.

Pope Julius retained Michelangelo to build him a splendid tomb. Michelangelo gladly accepted the project and spent eight months in a marble pit personally cutting and selecting the most perfect stones. When he returned, he found the pope had second thoughts. Bramante had turned Pope Julius against the project. The Pope cancelled it.

Later, the idea for another special project entered the Pope’s mind. Bramante saw the project as a time-consuming trap for which there would be little public recognition. Bramante recommended Michelangelo for the job.

The great artist saw the trap. He knew what Bramante was up to. He wished to turn the project down but did not want to refuse the Pope’s request. So Michelangelo went to work. He spent many years doing the slow and tedious labor the project required. It was the Sistine Chapel.

The inspiration that flowed through Michelangelo can likewise flow through any human being. That is what the inspiration wants to do. It cannot be stopped. It is a living, powerful river that easily circumvents all obstacles.

Michelangelo collected his inner forces for a complete victory. Likewise, we must not fear to face the trickery of some people and expose it for what it is. This is not negative, but intelligent protection and spiritual perception.

In his many books on inner development, author Vernon Howard refers to Michelangelo several times. He quotes him as saying, “The more the marble wastes, the more the statue grows.” And, “I released the statue from the stone.” He chiseled away all that was unnecessary, and David emerged.

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Diner morning news: My 10-deep mock draft

QUOTE: “The day may dawn when fair play, love for one's fellow men, respect for justice and freedom, will enable tormented generations to march forth triumphant from the hideous epoch in which we have to dwell. Meanwhile, never flinch, never weary, never despair.” -- Winston Churchill

Happy Friday to everyone.

Today, on NFL Network’s “Path

QUOTE: “The day may dawn when fair play, love for one’s fellow men, respect for justice and freedom, will enable tormented generations to march forth triumphant from the hideous epoch in which we have to dwell. Meanwhile, never flinch, never weary, never despair.” — Winston Churchill

Happy Friday to everyone.

Today, on NFL Network’s “Path to the Draft” (6 p.m. eastern), I’ll be doing a mock draft. I’ll only do a top 10 now, but the Wednesday before the draft, I join the National Football Post’s Wes Bunting for a full mock.

Today is a big day in South Bend, Ind., as Jimmy Clausen is working out at Notre Dame. His performance might shed more light on where he’ll be going. Here are my thoughts:

1. St Louis – QB Sam Bradford – I know the Rams loved Colt McCoy’s workout with them, but everyone in the league I’ve talked to says Bradford is their guy.

2. Detroit – DT Ndamukong Suh – A strong and powerful inside player to help rebuild a very poor defense.

3. Tampa Bay – DT Gerald McCoy – Loves Warren Sapp, would love to wear his number, and I suspect he will be able to do the same.

4. Washington – OT Russell Okung – Ideally, the ‘Skins would love to trade down but might be forced to stay in this spot. Okung is the best left tackle in the draft. I could also see them draft Eric Berry here.

5. Kansas City – FS Eric Berry – GM Scott Pioli said he does not want to draft a safety, but Berry is more than a safety; he’s a playmaker. Berry has high character, a high level of production and comes with the Monte Kiffin stamp of approval, which is very important.

6. Seattle – RB C.J. Spiller – Yes, the Seahawks need a left tackle, but they need a playmaker as well. Spiller might give them the “Chris Johnson” element to their spread attack — which is what they need. Remember, the back makes the spread effective, not the wideouts.

7. Cleveland – FS Earl Thomas – The Browns could go in any direction, but they need a playmaker in their secondary. They could also go offensive line or corner, but Thomas is a need as well.

8. Oakland – OT Trent Williams – The second-fastest tackle in the draft, and still below the 5.00 threshold required. Campbell is too risky here, but Williams fits perfectly for the Raiders at left tackle.

9. Buffalo – DT Dan Williams – The Bills need to get bigger and stronger in their defensive front, and they need a nose to convert to the 3-4.

10. Jacksonville – DE Jason Pierre-Paul – The Jags have been in search of a pass rusher, and Pierre Paul is going to be a very good one.

I feel this draft has five blue-chip players and then a cluster of some very good ones who might fit a position of need for several teams. Let me know what you think.

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Diner morning news: Is Taylor a fit in New York?

QUOTE: “We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.” -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Kavanagh”

Even Fireman Ed is confused

With the Jets going all out in their recruitment of former (and current?) Jets hater Jason Taylor, I wonder what their objective

QUOTE: “We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Kavanagh”

Even Fireman Ed is confused

With the Jets going all out in their recruitment of former (and current?) Jets hater Jason Taylor, I wonder what their objective is this offseason. Are they trying to get older and wiser, with veteran backups at critical positions? I understand that Vernon Gholston stinks, and in spite of GM Mike Tannenbaum’s proclamation that Gholston is still in the plans, anyone who watches Jets game tapes knows Tannenbaum’s words are hollow, that he’s just protecting his pick. (By the way, a pick that no one — and I mean no one — in the Jets personnel department remembers making. I believe the day after we find out the truth on the JFK assassination we’ll discover who actually picked Gholston.)

But back to Taylor. As many Jets fans know, Taylor has been very vocal about his dislike for the team. He’s never backed down at a chance to rip them, but Wednesday he was in a helicopter with his wife, flying over the new stadium and dining in New York City at Del Posto with Jets brass. This is a giant step for Taylor, something I’m sure he never thought would happen — but then again, he never thought Rex Ryan would be so persistent in recruiting him. Ryan is the driving force behind this because he wants to add Taylor as a down lineman, not a linebacker.

In Ryan’s scheme, Taylor would be able to move all over the field and give the Jets another potential rusher to go along with Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas. But based on the last two years, Taylor has not been the Taylor that Jets fans have learned to hate. He doesn’t have the same quickness or burst that made him a onetime dynamic rusher. The Dolphins tried to play Taylor at outside backer, but he’s not suited to play in space, and unless the Dolphins rushed Taylor and Joey Porter on every play, both were liabilities in the passing game. Taylor and Porter made the Dolphins slow on defense — in fact, the Dolphins’ defense last year was not a 3-4 but rather a high school 5-2 (five down linemen and just two linebackers). This lack of speed at outside backer is the reason the Fins are looking to add more versatile backers and don’t seem to have an interest in bringing back Taylor.

The Jets are limited in what they can spend on Taylor based on the final eight rules — which is a good thing because, based on Ryan’s love of Taylor and his belief he can get 15 sacks for them next season, the Jets might overpay. Taylor won’t get 15 sacks, and we all know Ryan has no inner voice; he just says what he thinks. Fifteen sacks are hard for anyone to achieve, but Ryan believes his scheme will enhance Taylor’s game. If this were 2000, I would believe Ryan, but it’s 2010, and I don’t believe, based on tape, that Taylor is capable of double-digit sacks.

The Jets are still riding high from last year and clearly believe they can become the fountain of youth for players, but I’m not sold — and neither is Fireman Ed.

Jimmy Clausen

No one can accurately pick a team that loves Jimmy Clausen or know what part of the first round he’ll be selected. Friday, Clausen will work out on campus at Notre Dame, and we’ll be able to gain more information about his final destination. His workout will still be affected by his toe injury, but Clausen knows he has to throw and show the decision-makers that he’s a starter in the league. It will be a big day for him.

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Diner morning news: A time for white lies

QUOTE: “There are seasons, in human affairs, of inward and outward revolution, when new depths seem to be broken up in the soul, when new wants are unfolded in multitudes, and a new and undefined good is thirsted for. There are periods when...to dare is the highest wisdom.” -- William Ellery Channing

What the McNabb

QUOTE: “There are seasons, in human affairs, of inward and outward revolution, when new depths seem to be broken up in the soul, when new wants are unfolded in multitudes, and a new and undefined good is thirsted for. There are periods when…to dare is the highest wisdom.” — William Ellery Channing

What the McNabb trade taught us

At Tuesday’s press conference in Washington, the Redskins made it very clear this move was intended to help them win right away and they plan on talking contract extension with Donovan McNabb. At the same conference, Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan said he still might choose a quarterback with the fourth pick in the draft. Citing examples of the Chargers’ Philip Rivers and the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers, both of whom waited three years before they took over their starting roles, Shanahan implied that the ‘Skins are still contemplating drafting a quarterback.

I love this time of the year because no one tells the whole truth. White lies are at an all-time high in the NFL now as we approach the draft. If the ‘Skins sign McNabb to an extension and draft a quarterback with the fourth pick, they’ll have more money invested at quarterback than any team in the NFL — so if the salary cap returns in 2011, they’ll be forced to trade a quarterback. I don’t think Shanahan wants to lie, but I also don’t think he wants to show his hand in the draft, so he’s leaving every door open publicly. But as is always the case in Washington, if you follow the money, you learn the real truth.

Later in the day, the Rams announced they were “not locked” into drafting Sam Bradford, insisting they haven’t made a final decision on whom they’ll pick. Now, as a fan, you have to wonder, what have they been doing the last four months? How come it takes so long to make a decision? Once again, most of the talk at this time of the year falls into the white-lie category. The Rams know what they want to do, they just don’t want to share their plan with the rest of the NFL, the media or the agents of the players. Of course, releasing Marc Bulger doesn’t mean they won’t draft a quarterback in the first. I’m buying that, are you?

What McNabb leaving Philadelphia taught us

All the talk has been about McNabb getting an extension from the ‘Skins, but knowing how the Eagles operate, I suspect they’ll be handing out an extension to Kolb very soon. The Eagles love to operate well ahead of the contract curve for young players, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Kolb had a new deal in place before the draft. A deal structured to use this uncapped year to their full advantage, thus keeping them flexible if the cap comes back next year and in position to sign players in a very fertile free-agent market in 2011.

What Butler taught us

I hope Chiefs coach Todd Haley loves to watch college basketball, and I really hope he watched the NCAA finals game featuring Duke against Butler. What I hope he noticed was how Butler’s young coach, Brad Stevens, never lost control at any moment in the game, never screamed at the officials, never let a bad play affect his focus or concentration. Stevens might be young in term of years, but he appeared very experienced at handling pressure of the biggest game of the year.

For any coach or executive in a pressure situation, the lesson learned watching Stevens is to focus on what you can control and your behavior becomes your team’s behavior. Butler behaved and played like a team raised on being competitive, being tough, being resilient and being focused on the task at hand. All of these qualities are what allowed Stevens to become a head college coach in seven short years, transitioning from marketing to coaching.

Stevens was fun to watch. I hope Haley tuned in.

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Diner morning news: Do the Rams want Bradford?

QUOTE: “Men experience many passions in a lifetime. One passion drives away the one before it.” -- Paul Newman

What a day in sports Monday — from the Donovan McNabb trade to the Tiger Woods press conference to the Final Four. The game last night was amazing, and Duke deserves to be national

QUOTE: “Men experience many passions in a lifetime. One passion drives away the one before it.” — Paul Newman

What a day in sports Monday — from the Donovan McNabb trade to the Tiger Woods press conference to the Final Four. The game last night was amazing, and Duke deserves to be national champion, although Butler proved to all of America that five working together is always better than one. In a team sport, Butler played beautifully as a team.

On a more somber note, please take a moment today to think of the 25 coal miners who lost their lives in an underground explosion in West Virginia.

The Rams are still on the clock

The Rams announced to anyone and everyone that they’re willing to listen to offers for the first overall pick in the draft. Their behavior reminds me of the first season of “The Sopranos,” when Uncle Junior told Tony at the Sit Tight Diner in Jersey City, “Next time you come here, you better come heavy or don’t come at all.” The Rams want a boatload for the pick, so unless a team “comes heavy,” they won’t trade the pick.

I get their words but not their actions. Why would the Rams trade the pick? They desperately need a quarterback, and they know that any team that “comes heavy” would only come to acquire a quarterback. With the release of Marc Bulger yesterday, it’s clear they must find their quarterback of the present and future (yes, I know they signed A.J. Feeley). From my perspective, there seems to be a disconnect inside the Rams — which, if you know anything about their history, disconnect is often how they’ve done business in recent years.

But most of you are thinking, why not trade down a little, get a “heavy load” and perhaps pick Texas quarterback Colt McCoy in the second round, modeling the move after what the Chargers did years ago. Instead of selecting Virginia Tech quarterback and universal No. 1 pick Michael Vick, the Chargers ended up with players and draft choices that became LaDainian Tomlinson and Drew Brees. The results of their efforts were sensational, but remember, they went through some lean years with LT and Brees. And starting quarterback Philip Rivers would not be in San Diego if the Chargers had been happy with the play of Brees. It was not until Rivers was selected that Brees became the Drew Brees we have come to know. So this notion of trading down might look good on paper, but unless the organization is prepared to go through some lean years, it might not be the best course of action.

I’ve been a part of many draft rooms, some that have gone “all in” (1985 for Jerry Rice) and traded for one player and some that have traded down and collected players (1986 in San Francisco, where we ended up with eight starters), and the recurring theme of both centers solely on the talent of the player a team is either moving away from or moving toward. In the case of Sam Bradford, I believe he is the most talented quarterback in the draft — by far. He’s so uniquely talented that if the Redskins, under the leadership of Mike Shanahan, had the first pick in this draft (which I’m sure they’re trying to acquire), Bradford might already be signed. Shanahan realized that the better deal was to trade for McNabb instead of dealing with the Rams’ request for a heavy load.

Bradford is someone a team can build a franchise around. He has worked under center more than many might think, and his ability to throw the ball accurately and on time is very impressive. And assuming the Rams run the offense that highlights his skill set, like the Jets did with Mark Sanchez (had the Rams realized Bugler was not the man last year, Sanchez would be on their team now), then he will develop quickly into a fine pro player. Will Bradford make the Rams successful next year? Hardly, but he gives them hope for a fresh start. He gives them an extremely talented player at the most important position on the field, something that is more important that having an average player at the most important position. The Rams do not need more average, they need real quality.

What makes the selection of Bradford appealing to the Rams is that he’s telling his agents to embrace playing for them, not to play the “wait-and-see game” that most agents want to play this time of the year. Bradford “the player and the leader” is in control, not his agent in terms of where he plays. The money stuff he’ll let them handle, but he’s controlling his own future, which is important for any young leader.

Is Brandon Marshall next for the ‘Skins?

With the fourth pick in the draft, if I were the Redskins, I would select Russell Okung. But there seems to be some talk the ‘Skins might make a play for Denver wide receiver Brandon Marshall. This is not to suggest they would trade the fourth pick overall to the Broncos for Marshall, but they could trade down in the draft, collect some other picks, and use that for Marshall. Denver wants a first rounder for Marshall, not necessarily a specific first. If the ‘Skins want to make a deal, there are many ways to get it done and still end up with a pick in the top 60 to get an offensive lineman.

One thing is for sure — the Brandon Marshall sweepstakes will either heat up in the next week or so or he’ll be back in Denver.

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Diner morning news: It’s a tougher NFC East

QUOTE: “I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it.” -- Harry Emerson Fosdick

A Norm Snead kind of deal

Sunday night, I had a six-hour flight to L.A. and spent most of it working on my

QUOTE: “I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it.” — Harry Emerson Fosdick

A Norm Snead kind of deal

Sunday night, I had a six-hour flight to L.A. and spent most of it working on my morning column. When I landed, my phone went nuts with the news that Donovan McNabb was being traded — to Washington. Washington? Last Friday, on NFL Network’s “Total Access,” I reported that the Redskins were involved, but the Eagles seemed reluctant to trade within the division and face McNabb twice. However, that reluctance turned to a major deal, and now the Eagles will see McNabb twice a year and most Eagles fans will be holding their collective breaths.

The common thread to achieving success in the NFL is having a good coach, a quality quarterback, a left tackle and a defense that can rush the passer. With the acquisition of McNabb, the Skins have improved to the point that they can now achieve success. They have one of the best coaches in the league in Mike Shanahan, they will now be able to draft a left tackle (Russell Okung seems to be the right pick) and they already had a defense that could rush the passer. Are the ‘Skins perfect with this trade? Hardly, but they are now a team that can win against most anyone. This trade raised them quickly from the dead and had to leave the Cowboys and Giants wondering why the Eagles had to keep him in the NFC East. Of all the places for McNabb to end up, I’m sure the Giants and ‘Boys never thought it would be in Washington helping Mike Shanahan restore the Redskins.

Why didn’t the Eagles just hang on to McNabb for one more year, let his contract play out and take the compensatory pick and move along? Why trade him to a team in their own division? They have a good team and an explosive offense that features the down-the-field throwing of McNabb, so why not leave well enough alone?

The Eagles felt the time was right, that durability issues with McNabb were a concern and it might be best to trade the player a year too soon. This deal to Washington has to make the Eagles feel like they know McNabb very well. They know what bothers him from a scheme standpoint and know he will not be as affective — much like Bill Belichick knew trading Drew Bledsoe to the Bills was never going to cause him problems, in large part because of Bledsoe’s declining skills. But McNabb does not have declining skills; in fact, he’s a year younger that Peyton Manning, and some (although probably not a lot of Eagles fans) might say that McNabb’s best years are ahead of him. The combination of Shanahan and McNabb — both recently fired from their respected cities with much to prove — make this trade very dangerous for the Eagles.

What happened to the Raiders? Sources in the McNabb camp will say he controlled the deal by telling them he wasn’t interested in playing in Oakland. The Raiders will say they were never really interested, but we know better (Baghdad John Herrera at work). The Raiders were not going to add McNabb and his $12 million salary unless they could clear some money from their current roster (hence the rumors about high-priced cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha being in the deal). Remember, the Raiders have been cutting costs since the signing of kicker Sebastian Janikowski and the tagging of defensive tackle Richard Seymour. They released Justin Fargas, Greg Ellis and Gerard Warren because all three were due roster money, and the team didn’t want to commit more cash to an already high payroll. Unless they could clear the room (yes, I know it’s an uncapped year, but most teams operate with an internal budget), they could not add McNabb.

The trade is risky on the Eagles’ part because they have to be worried about Shanahan’s ability to bring out the best in his team. In terms of talent, the Redskins have one of the best defenses that Shanahan has ever coached, so to make this team really good, he must turn around the offense. And that has to worry Eagles fans, because Shanahan is very, very good at making offenses work.

In 1964, the Eagles traded QB Sonny Jurgensen to Washington, and that trade helped the ‘Skins. I think this trade has helped the ‘Skins as well, and the Birds must hope they can win with Kevin Kolb — but more about that later.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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For a look at how the McNabb deal may affect Jimmy Clausen’s draft stock, check out this article from Bleacher Report.

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Sunday at the Post

QUOTE/STORY OF THE WEEK...

“Now it isn't easy to stand up for truth and for justice. Sometimes it means being frustrated. When you tell the truth and take a stand, sometimes it means that you will walk the streets with a burdened heart. Sometimes it means losing a job...means being abused and scorned. It

QUOTE/STORY OF THE WEEK…

“Now it isn’t easy to stand up for truth and for justice. Sometimes it means being frustrated. When you tell the truth and take a stand, sometimes it means that you will walk the streets with a burdened heart. Sometimes it means losing a job…means being abused and scorned. It may mean having a seven-, eight-year old child asking a daddy, “Why do you have to go to jail so much?”

– Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., from his speech, “Why I Oppose the Vietnam War”

From Tavis Smiley…Tremendous PBS Special on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Smiley wrote: “The day after his speech, the editorial boards of numerous mainstream newspapers denounced King’s stance on Vietnam, claiming that he had speciously fused the struggle for civil rights with the politics of war, and plainly overstepped his bounds. The New York Times cast ‘Beyond Vietnam’ as ‘wasteful and self-defeating,’ while the Washington Post averred that ‘many who have listened to [King] with respect will never again accord him the same confidence. He has diminished his usefulness to his cause, to his country and to his people.’ The severity of the overwhelming media pushback brought King to tears.

“‘Beyond Vietnam’ resulted in King’s being disinvited to the White House by President Lyndon B. Johnson and a public rebuke by the leaders of the NAACP and the Urban League. None of this compares, however, to the fateful day exactly one year after King had called the nation to look ‘Beyond Vietnam.’ On April 4, 1968, King was killed by an assassin’s bullet on a Memphis motel balcony. Given the adulation and adoration contemporarily bestowed upon Dr. King, it is mind-boggling to note that on the day he died, King was America’s persona non grata. Almost three-quarters of the nation had turned against him and more than half of Black America had spurned his witness.”

Today we honor the life of Dr. King, who tragically was assassinated 42 years ago today.

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! And so I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!” – Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., April 3, 1968, Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ Headquarters), Memphis, Tenn.

THINGS I HEARD AROUND THE NFL…

“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” — Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

1. The trade between the Browns and Eagles on Friday left Philly with 10 picks — before they trade quarterback Donovan McNabb. The Eagles are a young team, and with 10 additional picks they’ll get even younger. I suspect the Birds are looking to move up in the first round if the right player is within their grasp, but the question may have to be asked if they trade McNabb: Are they too young?

2. With all these trades and free-agent moves, are the Browns improved? Does the move to add cornerback Sheldon Brown now mean they’ll take an offensive lineman or a safety in the first? Offensive lineman will be the value at their pick.

3. The word around the NFL is that the Redskins might be talking about moving up from the fourth pick overall to acquire Sam Bradford. The ‘Skins have made no secret about their intention to add a quarterback in this draft, but the question remains, which quarterback do they really like? My sources tell me they love Sam Bradford and would love to get in position to draft him.

4. Oklahoma wide receiver Dez Bryant is slipping down the first round — quickly. The Cowboys’ interest is minimal, and they would love to trade the pick if Bryant were to fall to them. Like the rest of the league, the Cowboys are worried about Bryant’s life skills.

5. Dallas was not interested in spending $2.5 million on a roster bonus for Flozell Adams, which is why they released him Friday. The Cowboys acknowledges that Adams can still be an effective player, but durability issues were a major concern. I suspect the Bears will be all over him.

6. Another prospect who’s slipping appears to be Rutgers offensive tackle Anthony Davis, who once appeared to be the second tackle likely to be taken but might now be the fourth or fifth.

7. Seattle, Washington, Buffalo, Cleveland, Carolina and New England all appear to have spent significant time with Tim Tebow. From the people I’ve talked to, it now appears likely that he’ll go in the bottom of the first round.

LEADERSHIP IMPROVEMENT IDEA…

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” — Stephen W. Hawking

Define Your Personal Leadership Brand in Five Steps

By: Norm Smallwood

Norm Smallwood is co-founder of The RBL Group, a strategic HR and leadership systems advisory firm. He is author, with Dave Ulrich and Kate Sweetman, of the 2009 Harvard Business Press title, “The Leadership Code: Five Rules to Lead By” and, with Dave Ulrich, on the 2007 title, “Leadership Brand: Developing Customer-Focused Leaders to Drive Performance and Build Lasting Value” (Harvard Business School Press, 2007)

You probably already have a personal leadership brand. But do you have the right one?

The question is not trivial. A leadership brand conveys your identity and distinctiveness as a leader. It communicates the value you offer. If you have the wrong leadership brand for the position you have, or the position you want, then your work is not having the impact it could. A strong personal leadership brand allows all that’s powerful and effective about your leadership to become known to your colleagues, enabling you to generate maximum value.

What’s more, choosing a leadership brand can help give you focus. When you clearly identify what you want to be known for, it is easier to let go of the tasks and projects that do not let you deliver on that brand. Instead, you can concentrate on the activities that do.

So how do you build a leadership brand? My co-author Dave Ulrich and I came up with these five steps.

1. What results do you want to achieve in the next year?

The first thing you should do is ask yourself, “In the next 12 months, what are the major results I want to deliver at work?” Take into account the interests of these four groups:

Customers

Investors

Employees

The organization

Dave and I once worked with a very talented and hardworking executive we’ll call Tricia. Her successful performance in several varied roles at her organization — she’d been an auditor, a process engineer and a customer-service manager — earned her a promotion into a general manager position, charging her with running one of the company’s largest businesses. To succeed at her first large-scale leadership position and meet the complex set of expectations she would encounter in it, she knew she needed to become more deliberate about the way she led others. In short, she knew she needed a new leadership brand, and asked us for help in forging it.

We advised Tricia to begin by focusing on the expectations of those she was working to serve, rather than on what she identified as her personal strengths. Leadership brand is outward focused; it is about delivering results. While identifying innate strengths is an important part of defining your leadership brand, the starting point is clarifying what is expected of you.

2. What do you wish to be known for?

Tricia knew she was seen as technically proficient and hardworking, but somewhat aloof. These traits, she realized, added up to a leadership brand that would not take her very far in her new role.

With that in mind, Tricia picked six descriptors that balanced the qualities that came naturally to her with those that would be critical in her new position. She then tested her choices by sharing them with her boss, her peers and some of her most trusted subordinates. She simply asked them, “Are these the traits that someone in this general manager role should exhibit?” Their responses helped her refine her list to ultimately include the following traits:

Collaborative

Deliberate

Independent

Innovative

Results-oriented

Strategic

3. Define your identity

The next step is to combine these six words into three two-word phrases that reflect your desired identity. This exercise allows you to build a deeper, more complex description: not only what you want to be known for, but how you will probably have to act to get there. For example, calmly driven differs from tirelessly driven. Experimenting with the many combinations that you can make from your six chosen words helps you crystallize your personal leadership brand.

Tricia combined the six descriptors into the following three phrases:

Independently innovative

Deliberately collaborative

Strategically results-oriented

She tested this with several colleagues, neatly pulled together what came easily to Tricia (“independently innovative” and “strategically results-oriented”) with what she could accomplish through disciplined effort (“deliberately collaborative”). Tricia was satisfied that it aptly described both the kind of leader she was and the kind of leader she was becoming.

4. Construct your leadership brand statement, then test it.

In this step, you pull everything together in a leadership brand statement that makes a “so that” connection between what you want to be known for (Steps 2 and 3) and your desired results (Step 1).

Fill in the blanks:?? “I want to be known for being ______________ so that I can deliver __________.”

Tricia’s leadership brand statement read: “I want to be known for being independently innovative, deliberately collaborative and strategically results-oriented so that I can deliver superior financial outcomes for my business.”

With your leadership brand statement drafted, ask the following three questions to see if it needs to be refined:

Is this the brand identity that best represents who I am and what I can do?

Is this brand identity something that creates value in the eyes of my organization and key stakeholders?

What risks am I taking by exhibiting this brand? Can I live this brand?

After going through this exercise, Tricia was satisfied that she had crafted a personal leadership brand that was appropriate for her new role and within her power to live and make real.

5. Make your brand identity real

Espoused-but-unlived brands create cynicism because they promise what they do not deliver. To ensure that the leadership brand you advertise is embodied in your day-to-day work, check in with those around you. Do they see you as you wish to be seen? If you say you are flexible and approachable, do others find you so?

After Tricia defined her personal leadership brand, she shared it with others. She let people know that she was evolving as a leader and invited their feedback, especially on her efforts at working collaboratively.

The exercise of forging a leadership brand and the day-to-day discipline of making it real, Tricia said, helped her stay focused on the most important challenges of her new role.

To be sure, your leadership brand isn’t static; it should evolve in response to the different expectations you face at different times in your career. In our work, we have seen that leaders with the self-awareness and drive to evolve their leadership brands are more likely to be successful over the long term — and to enjoy the journey more.

ARTICLES YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED THAT AREN’T WORTH MISSING…

“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.” — Paulo Coelho

Tragic Story…ND recruit dies in spring break accident. Standout lineman Matt James fell from a third-floor hotel balcony

Hoops gods smiled on Hahn

STORIES TO SHARE…

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand and we will understand only what we are taught.” — Baba Dioum

OLD MAN AND HIS DOG

Author unknown

An old man and his dog were walking along a country road, enjoying the scenery, when it suddenly occurred to the man that he had died. He remembered dying and realized, too, that the dog had been dead for many years. He wondered where the road would lead them, and continued onward.

After a while, they came to a high, white stone wall along one side of the road. It looked like fine marble. At the top of a long hill, it was broken by a tall, white arch that gleamed in the sunlight. When he was standing before it, he saw a magnificent gate in the arch that looked like mother of pearl, and the street that led to the gate looked like pure gold. He was pleased that he had finally arrived at heaven, and the man and his dog walked toward the gate. As he got closer, he saw someone sitting at a beautifully carved desk off to one side.

When he was close enough, he called out, “Excuse me, but is this heaven?”

“Yes, it is, sir,” the man answered.

“Wow! Would you happen to have some water?” the man asked.

“Of course, sir. Come right in, and I’ll have some ice water brought right up.”

The gatekeeper gestured to his rear, and the huge gate began to open.

“I assume my friend can come in…” the man said, gesturing toward his dog.

But the reply was, “I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t accept pets.”

The man thought about it, then thanked the gatekeeper, turned back toward the road, and continued in the direction he had been going. After another long walk, he reached the top of another long hill, and he came to a dirt road which led through a farm gate. There was no fence, and it looked as if the gate had never been closed, as grass had grown up around it. As he approached the gate, he saw a man just inside, sitting in the shade of a tree in a rickety old chair, reading a book.

“Excuse me!” he called to the reader. “Do you have any water?”

“Yeah, sure, there’s a pump over there,” the man said, pointing to a place that couldn’t be seen from outside the gate. “Come on in and make yourself at home.”

“How about my friend here?” the traveler gestured to the dog.

“He’s welcome too, and there’s a bowl by the pump,” he said.

They walked through the gate and, sure enough, there was an old-fashioned hand pump with a dipper hanging on it and a bowl next to it on the ground. The man filled the bowl for his dog, and then took a long drink himself.

When both were satisfied, he and the dog walked back toward the man, who was sitting under the tree waiting for them, and asked, “What do you call this place?” the traveler asked.

“This is heaven,” was the answer.

“Well, that’s confusing,” the traveler said. “It certainly doesn’t look like heaven, and there’s another man down the road who said that place was heaven.”

“Oh, you mean the place with the gold street and pearly gates?”

“Yes, it was beautiful.”

“Nope. That’s hell.”

“Doesn’t it offend you for them to use the name of heaven like that?”

“No. I can see how you might think so, but it actually saves us a lot of time. They screen out the people who are willing to leave their best friends behind.”

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Diner morning news: Do the ‘Skins want Clausen?

QUOTE: “The path to perfection is difficult to men in every lot; there is no royal road for rich or poor. But difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage.” -- William Ellery Channing

‘Skins are now in the front of the draft

Based on the recent workout of Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, all

QUOTE: “The path to perfection is difficult to men in every lot; there is no royal road for rich or poor. But difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage.” — William Ellery Channing

‘Skins are now in the front of the draft

Based on the recent workout of Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, all indications from the Rams are that they’ll make him the first pick in the draft. If this is true (and I believe it is), that means the Lions and Bucs will play off each other and select either Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy at two and three. I’m not certain which tackle the Lions will pick first, but it seems likely that defensive tackle is their choice. Then the Bucs, who have made it no secret that they also want a defensive tackle, will choose whoever is left on the board. That leads us to the Redskins and the fourth pick, and this is where the draft will essentially start.

The ‘Skins have scheduled a workout with Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen, which makes sense but doesn’t shed any light on their genuine interest. With all the reporting from Internet sources about which players are going to visit teams and which teams are going to work out players on their campuses, it’s hard to determine genuine interest. Teams are allowed to bring in 20 players to their facilities to give them physicals or just spend time getting to know them, but it doesn’t mean they’re going to draft them. Some teams bring in the high-rated players on their board and some bring in their lower-rated players and try to start the recruiting process for free agency after the draft. But the one commonality with all the visits is that it’s hard to determine if a team is actually interested — or just interested in collecting more information. Which leads us back to the ‘Skins and whether their workout with Clausen is genuine or a fact-finding mission.

Vinny Cerrato, the former GM of the ‘Skins, loves Clausen and defended him this week in the Washington Post, attacking several of the draft gurus who believe Clausen doesn’t have the necessary leadership skills or maturity to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. As GM, Cerrato was commissioned to spend time learning all about Clausen. He had several conversations with Mike Shanahan during the season, and Cerrato actually thought he would remain in his position once former head coach Jim Zorn was fired. But Cerrato had the rug pulled out from under him when he was also dismissed, and even though he’s on the outside, he is still a consultant for the team. So his information on Clausen will be used and will be considered valuable, in large part because he still remains friends with the owner and the new head coach.

The Redskins’ private work out on April 15 with Clausen at Notre Dame will be the last bit of information they need to make a final decision. The ‘Skins have many needs that the fourth overall pick can address, and their owner (according to the Washington Post, through Cerrato) wants them to select a perennial Pro Bowl player with that pick. So they must make sure they feel Clausen is that player.

I like Clausen as a player, but I don’t have the feeling he’s going to be a perennial Pro Bowl quarterback. However, I do feel that Oklahoma State offensive tackle Russell Okung has those skills, as does Tennessee safety Eric Berry. And both players are scheduled to visit Washington.

So does all this mean that the ‘Skins are genuinely interested in Clausen? My sense is yes, but they’re now the wild card team in the draft, and we might not know whom they’ll pick until just before the draft.

Dez Bryant

On Tuesday, I wrote that concerns about Dez Bryant were not as an athlete but more as a mature, responsible athlete. And lo and behold, he forgets to bring his cleats to the workout. Now, for everyone who thinks their team should just pick Bryant, you might want to consider what life would be like coaching him once he’s been paid large sums of money.

Bryant is a great player, but forgetting his cleats confirms that his maturity level, along with questions about him being a responsible person, is still a huge concern.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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Diner morning news: Is Kolb ready to start?

QUOTE: “Moral cowardice that keeps us from speaking our minds is as dangerous to this country as irresponsible talk. The right way is not always the popular and easy way. Standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character.” -- Margaret Chase Smith

The quarterback shuffle

Given his

QUOTE: “Moral cowardice that keeps us from speaking our minds is as dangerous to this country as irresponsible talk. The right way is not always the popular and easy way. Standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character.” — Margaret Chase Smith

The quarterback shuffle

Given his impressive workout Monday, it looks as though Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford solidified his position as the first overall pick in the draft. I understand the Rams want to hold a private workout with Bradford three days before the draft, so they can say honestly they have not made a “final decision.” (The delay in holding a workout must be for their pending negotiations because it makes no sense to wait that long). With the first pick possibly settled, does that mean we might get the Donovan McNabb saga resolved here in Philadelphia?

ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that the Raiders are the clear favorites to acquire McNabb. If they make this move, it would legitimize the Raiders, give them hope at quarterback and make them a threat in the AFC West — from a talent standpoint. The risk they seem to be willing to take year after year is that they might have to franchise McNabb to get more than one more year on his contract. The franchise number could be as high as $20 million for one season in 2011, which would be acceptable in an uncapped system but hard to handle if the league reverts back to the cap structure (if the league stays uncapped, the Raiders would have two tags to keep, McNabb and Richard Seymour). Not having an extension is not a good business practice, which the Raiders should have learned from dealing with Seymour, but in their current state, they need to do something to win — quickly.

The Raiders would be smart to make this happen, but what surprises me is how few teams seem willing to get involved. Even more surprising is that although Eagles fans and now management want to end the McNabb era, are they sure that life after Donovan will still be successful? This team is built around the power of McNabb’s arm and his ability to move around in the pocket. Kevin Kolb looked effective in two starts last season, but for me, it takes 20 games to actually know what to expect from a starting quarterback. The Eagles seem to be willing to go “all in” with Kolb now.

If this trade does go down, Kolb will be asking himself, “How can I be any better than McNabb has been?” Think about that for a moment. Analyze the numbers and make sure this decision is made based on knowledge and fact, not just emotion. Emotions run deep when discussing McNabb in Philadelphia, but emotional decisions don’t always prove to be right.

I realize McNabb doesn’t have a Super Bowl title under his belt, but he’s been successful in terms of winning games and leading the team to the cusp of the Super Bowl. He’ll be hard to replace, and if Kolb approaches his numbers, he’ll have a wonderful career.

Eagles fans better hope he does. And Kolb has to realize the expectations are enormous.

Dez Bryant

Former Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant will work out for teams today in his hometown of Lufkin, Texas, and I’m confident he’ll do well showing his powerful quickness, explosive movement and great hand-eye coordination. Working out or being athletically talented are not issues that will keep Bryant out of the top 10, but his off-the-field behavior and maturity level could be issues.

Bryant is one of the best wide receivers to come out in the draft in several years, but concerns about what will happen once he makes money and has to deal with the grind of the season have to be resolved by most teams. Whichever team drafts Bryant must have a program in place to assist him and provide guidance, something he was not afforded growing up.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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Diner morning news: Big day for Bradford, Rams

QUOTE: “The principal goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify, and not accept, everything they are offered.” -- Jean Piaget

QUOTE: “The principal goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify, and not accept, everything they are offered.” — Jean Piaget

Who had Butler, West Virginia, Michigan State and Duke in their final fours? If anyone did, congratulations on the great foresight. I’m sure you’ll win your office pool.

Sam Bradford working out today

The draft will take shape after today, assuming Sam Bradford throws the ball with good velocity and power. The Rams have said they’re going to enter into negotiations with several top players, but if Bradford throws well, he’ll be the first pick in the draft. This negotiation strategy of the team with the first pick talking/negotiating with several top picks hasn’t worked well in terms of the teams getting the best deal, or the team really being open-minded on whom it will pick. And typically, there are just one or two agents representing several of the top picks, so teams lose their strength in negotiations.

Back to Bradford. He has center stage today and clearly controls his own fate since most NFL teams have him as the best quarterback in the draft. With the Redskins and Browns also interested in him, the Rams must know that they either pick him at one or run the risk of losing him. Trading down is something that fans love to do, but it only works when you don’t have a specific player in mind. You must be willing to select from a group of candidates, not just one. Teams that trade down must be willing to let the board dictate whom they pick and how far they can trade down. Teams cannot trade below their level of grading of the board or they’ll end up with more picks but not the best player.

Once Bradford throws today, the draft picture will get a little clearer.

More Donovan, and a convenient truth

A report surfaced today that the Bills are not interested in Donovan McNabb and are focusing on the draft. Tim Tebow? I do know the Bills are concerned about McNabb’s contract past this season, and that might be keeping their interest at a lower level.

From a football standpoint, the Bills, Raiders and 49ers should be beating down the door to acquire McNabb. The 49ers’ recent endorsement of Alex Smith is a nice gesture, but do they really think he can lead them to the playoffs?

More mistakes are made by organizations incorrectly evaluating their own teams and counting on the wrong players. This is called a “convenient truth” that allows teams to believe something is true and failing to address the problem. Ask any quality NFL talent evaluator about the 49ers and he’ll tell you they need offensive line help and a quarterback. But the 49ers don’t see QB as a need, which is convenient for them.

Horizontal board, vertical board and more convenience

As we enter the final phase of draft preparation, all teams must make sure they have someone who can make an actual determination of the position board and the value board. For example, if a team has a cornerback rated the same as an offensive tackle, it will always take the position of need. But are the players really the same value? If the corner was graded by different scouts and coaches than the tackle, who makes the call on who is actually the better player? This is the reason teams say they go with their board and not their needs, but in reality, the board is rigged to fill their needs.

It takes one or more evaluators in the organization who know their own team really well and can apply the horizontal and vertical boards to their team. The draft is about improving, and improvement can only happen when you focus on the real areas that need improvement. It might be convenient to believe that your team is solidified in a certain area, but is it actually true? And it might be convenient to believe the corner and the tackle are the same grade, but it might not be true.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

For a look at the Mike Holmgren effect in Cleveland, check out this article from Bleacher Report.

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Sunday at the Post

QUOTE/STORY OF THE WEEK...

“As a professional football player, I learned long ago about the value of teamwork, and I bring that sports mentality to the fight against childhood cancer and myeloma. When you are part of a winning team, you work with others to focus your energy in a single direction.” -- Elijah

QUOTE/STORY OF THE WEEK…

“As a professional football player, I learned long ago about the value of teamwork, and I bring that sports mentality to the fight against childhood cancer and myeloma. When you are part of a winning team, you work with others to focus your energy in a single direction.” — Elijah Alexander

Sadly this past week, Elijah Alexander lost his battle with cancer. He left behind his wife Kimberly and two sons Elijah IV (age 14) and Evan (12). Elijah also left us with the community he started called the Tackle Cancer Foundation, an organization to help others deal with cancer.

When Alexander was first diagnosed with cancer, he would go to the hospital for treatment and refused to feel sorry for himself. Instead, he noticed other families trying to deal with the perils of this awful disease. Alexander decided to form a team off the field to help people fight the same disease he was trying to defeat. As a professional football player, he learned long ago about the value of teamwork, and he brought that sports mentality to the fight against childhood cancer and multiple myeloma once he learned about his condition.

Alexander left us last week at the age of 39, but his gift of love and caring for others will always be with us. His 10-year career in the NFL was filled with great memories, great teammates and great accomplishments, but his gift of giving lives on in his foundation.

TACKLE CANCER FOUNDATION

THINGS I HEARD AROUND THE NFL…

“By seeing the seed of failure in every success, we remain humble. By seeing the seed of success in every failure, we remain hopeful.”— Anonymous

1. From what I hear, the Donovan McNabb trade talks center on two teams: the Bills, who have an interest but are concerned about McNabb not having an extension in place, and the Raiders, who are looking at every quarterback option. A team executive told me the Raiders and Vikings are discussing the availability of backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels. Trading Rosenfels would only happen if the Vikings know for certain that Brett Favre is coming back.

2. Many executives I talked to last week wondered why the 49ers are not actively pursuing McNabb. With McNabb, the 49ers would be the favorites to win the NFC West. As I often write, the biggest problem in the NFL is evaluating your own team, and the 49ers really believe they’re set at QB.

3. Nonstop reports about Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell’s disputed weight are comical. Had he been in shape, would the Raiders be interested in McNabb or Rosenfels? The Raiders send out false weight reports to help the player keep the pressure off, but what they fail to realize is that Russell is indifferent. They care more about Russell becoming a good player than Russell does.

4. Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is virtually untradeable because of the contact he signed last year. His high base salary, along with no franchise rights after the 2010 season, make teams cautious about trading for him.

5. The Redskins seem more intent on drafting a left tackle than a quarterback in the first round, so all those Jimmy Clausen rumors to D.C. might be premature. I’m hearing Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung might be the pick.

6. The Rams might be talking to all the top prospects, but their pick, pending a solid workout this week, will be Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford.

7. Don Banks of SI.com reported that teams are worried about the increased use of marijuana by many of the 2010 college draft prospects. There’s no question it’s a concern, but with the increased use of drugs, the other concern centers on prospects coming from some very tough upbringings with dysfunctional families. The lack of home life and parental guidance worries many teams. They must do great jobs researching each prospect and knowing exactly the kind of person they’re drafting. If a team fails, it will be because it didn’t grade the player’s character correctly.

8. Florida corner Joe Haden has had some top-10 visits, but I keep hearing he’s not a top-10 pick. Hard to pick a speed-deficit corner in the top 10 and pay all that money. Remember, the rookie pay scale overpays the players from the first to the 12th pick in the first round; the rest of the salary structure is effective.

9. Haden might be slipping, but another Florida player’s stock is rising in the draft. Quarterback Tim Tebow has impressed everyone who has worked with him privately, and there’s a strong feeling he’ll be gone before the end of the first round.

10. Tight end Jimmy Graham of Miami is rising very quickly in the draft based on his size, his athletic skills and his potential to keep improving. Don’t be surprised if he moves into the bottom of the first.

LEADERSHIP IMPROVEMENT IDEA…

“Hesitation increases in relation to risk in equal proportion to age.” — Ernest Hemingway

I found a great new blog this week (thanks, Ken), the Samuel Bacharach Blog, which centers on how to improve your skills in every area of your professional and personal life.

FROM WBRIGGS, POSTED MARCH 22, 2010

Ernest Hemingway may go down in the history books as a hard-drinking, big-fishing, Nobel-Prize-winning writer, but he was also a productivity guru. Throughout his career he often gave advice to young writers and openly talked about his work habits and writing style. Even if you aren’t a writer, Hemingway’s tips and tricks can help you increase your productivity.

Following is a list of productivity tips that come from Hemingway himself…and they aren’t just for writers.

1. Don’t Waste Words and Be Clear: Hemingway is famous for getting to the point and killing unneeded adjectives. When he was challenged to write a six word story, he wrote “For sale: baby shoes, never used.” Clearly, he knew how to be economical with his words. If you want to get things done you need to exercise the same verbal restraint. Meetings, email exchanges and conversations often spill into the late afternoon because people employ too many words. Keeping it short, simple and clear will save time, cut down on confusion and get everyone back to work.

2. Make a Schedule: Every day Hemingway would wake up daily at 7 a.m. and try to write between 500 to 1,000 words. The rest of his day he devoted to a combination of fishing, hunting and drinking. Give yourself a schedule. As Jeanette Winterson, another writer, says, “Turn up for work. Discipline allows creative freedom. No discipline equals no freedom.” Routines and schedules give leaders the ability to be creative and consistent.

3. Quit While You’re Ahead: Hemingway said, “The best way [to write] is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day…you will never be stuck.” If you do one task well and you know what to do next, it might help to pause and tackle it the next day. Getting something done every day will increase your confidence and keep momentum going.

4. Keep Your Mouth Shut: According to Hemingway it is bad form for a writer to talk about his work. He said discussing writing takes off “whatever butterflies have on their wings and the arrangement of hawk’s feathers if you show it or talk about it.” Don’t discuss your project or new idea until you are certain it is clear and well thought out. Talking about a new proposal or plan too soon can give your competition time to coalesce against your idea. Productivity will suffer if you spend more time talking about your idea instead of committing to it and making it better.

5. Don’t Give Up: Hemingway once told F. Scott Fitzgerald, “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.” You need to be able to be critical of the work that you do complete. Not everything you do will be perfect. Increased productivity will help you make a lot of progress, but you need to approach it with a critical eye. Don’t get frustrated and give up because you feel you are doing a bad job. Keep producing and moving forward. Eventually you will do one thing very well.

6. Work Standing Up: Hemingway wrote standing up because of a minor leg injury he got in World War I. However, he isn’t alone. Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill and Donald Rumsfeld, among other popular figures, chose to stand up while they work. Standing while working can increase productivity by fighting fatigue, napping and distraction. According to the New York Times, it can also help you lose weight.

7. Lastly, Hemingway said, “Never mistake motion for action”: Leaders have to remember that productivity is about action and getting things done – not running around in circles.

National Football Post and Wharton Sports Business

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With so many people interested in how to negotiate better, the options for learning have been limited to self-help books, classes and tapes, mostly with theories about negotiating. Now there’s a better option: a one-day event learning from the best in the business, from real-life practical experiences in the world of sports.

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DMN: A look at the market for McNabb

QUOTE: “A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.” -- Dwight D. Eisenhower

We are now entering the “Be careful what you believe” phase in the NFL. Starting Wednesday and moving forward, the league is now in its rumor period. In the past, it mostly centered on draft talk, but now,

QUOTE: “A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower

We are now entering the “Be careful what you believe” phase in the NFL. Starting Wednesday and moving forward, the league is now in its rumor period. In the past, it mostly centered on draft talk, but now, with trading between teams highly active, it applies to everything you hear or read. As my colleague Matt Bowen wrote this morning, the Eagles announced they’re listening to offers for all their quarterbacks, specifically dealing with a false rumor involving the Rams and Donovan McNabb. The Rams, as Matt pointed out, vehemently denied the talk, which was based on having safety O.J. Atogwe included in the deal and made this a bad trade rumor. Atogwe is the Rams’ franchise designee for 2010, and for the Rams to trade his rights, he would have to sign his tender — which he has not done. So even before the Rams denied the trade, it was sketchy.

With Eagles head coach Andy Reid’s announcement that the team is entertaining offers for its quarterbacks, the momentum for rumors has heated up. But with all rumors, you must analyze the reality of the teams being mentioned. For example, one rumor had the Cardinals interested in McNabb — which made some sense last month but makes no sense now after they signed Derek Anderson and announced that Matt Leinart is the starter. Yesterday, the Cardinals declared they are not interested in McNabb.

If the Rams intend to draft Sam Bradford, which many in the NFL believe will happen, why would they dabble in the McNabb market? Some may think that McNabb would serve as the starter while Bradford learned the pro game. This might be a great idea in theory, but not in reality. The Rams are not going to pay for McNabb in draft picks and money and then draft Bradford and pay him large sums of money. As is always the case in almost every business, follow the money. The McNabb rumor to the Rams doesn’t make sense if the Rams are going to draft Bradford.

Let’s consider some of the teams that might be dipping their toes into the McNabb waters. The most obvious is the Buffalo Bills. They make sense because they don’t have significant money tied into a quarterback. The Raiders make sense, too, especially since they traded for defensive lineman Richard Seymour last year without an extension. So they might be willing to trade for McNabb without any additional years.

What about all the other teams that might be interested? Cleveland has said it’s not interested now, as it has made two moves already . Denver is not going to be involved in any McNabb talk. What about Seattle? Last month maybe, but now, having given up draft choices and money for Charlie Whitehurst, the Seahawks appear to be settled in their minds at quarterback. Carolina has $12.6 million tied up in a quarterback who’s not even on their roster, so I doubt they would spend outside the draft on a quarterback, especially one who’s not signed for next season. The 49ers should be interested, but apparently they’re more focused on the draft than McNabb.

So who’s involved? Buffalo makes great sense, but will the Bills make the move? Do they have the resources to get it done, and can they make McNabb happy with an extension? All questions that need to be answered before a deal. Oakland also makes sense because the Raiders need a quarterback, especially one who can lead the team. Would McNabb be happy in Oakland? Not unless he gets an extension — a very large one.

At this time of year, one must not forget that being serious with trade talks and actually making a trade are two different enterprises. Both parties have to be motivated to make a deal, and in the case of McNabb, he has to be willing to engage in some extension dialogue. There is much that has to come together before talk becomes real and a trade is actually made.

There will be no Diner tomorrow, but I’ll be back this weekend for the Sunday Post. No, I’m not heading to Amsterdam to cash in my winnings from Bowen, who has yet to pay.

Have a great weekend.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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