By Dan Rubin
Noontime Sports had the chance to talk some football with our good friend Aaron Burns of the Charlotte Weekly recently about the upcoming season, as well as what fans should expect to occur the next few weeks around the league.
DR: Free Agency is off to a roaring start, but due to the short window, does that mean some players are going to be overpaid or underpaid? Also, does that mean players are more likely to get short or long-term deals and jump at the first offer?
AB: I think with the number of free agents being so high, the number of teams with many needs being high, and teams’ front office personnel being the same number, phones are going to ring off the hook. It’s going to make for possibly the most entertaining preseason ever.
DR: Al Davis abstained from voting on the new CBA deal. Can we confirm if he was actually alive or at least sane?
AB: Al Davis is the guy in the fraternity who voted no on the best incoming pledge class just because he could. There’s always one guy like that, and frankly, I thoroughly enjoy his presence as both outlaw and owner of a middling at best team.
DR: During the lockout, drafted rookies weren’t allowed to receive playbooks and in the case of the Carolina Panthers, who drafted Cam Newton, how did that particular waiting period help or hurt his development toward future success in the league?
AB: Newton got his playbook in the one day the lockout was lifted and has been training at IMG headquarters in California with former pro quarterbacks Chris Weinke and Ken Dorsey. Supposedly in late June, he had already absorbed “95 percent” of the Panthers’ new playbook. His learning curve shouldn’t be as bad as some say.
DR: As for the direct part – a lot was made about rookie wage scales and contracts. It looks like draft picks will be forced into more amenable contracts against the salary cap. For a team like the Panther, who had the number one overall pick, being able to avoid giving Newton a top-dollar contract means they’ll have more money to spend on other areas of need. How much is that going to help rebuild the franchise?
AB: The Panthers have always looked to keep their own, and bringing back DeAngelo Williams, Charles Johnson,James Anderson and Thomas Davis will be paramount. But with this extra cap room, they have the funds to go after a veteran quarterback or a solid offensive lineman, defensive tackle or cornerback. There are some on the market.
DR: When teams report, it’s a short window for preparing for the upcoming season, so which teams are going to get ready the quickest and which ones could fall behind without the offseason conditioning and OTA’s?
AB: The Cincinnati Bengals have to be in the worst shape. Their presumptive quarterback, Andy Dalton, to my knowledge, as a second round pick didn’t get a playbook. Even if he did, he hasn’t been in a camp-like environment like Newton and Minnesota Vikings rookie quarterback Christian Ponder. No team is in great shape, but the quickest turnaround could be in New Orleans. With a rookie running back and most of the core intact, their drop-off is almost non-existent.
DR: Prediction time – Week 6, who’re the teams that break out of the gate fast? Who would be a team or two that you’d believe would be ahead of the curve by this point of the season?
AB: The Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers routinely start strong, and I think they can do it again this year. If I’m going with a surprise pick, watch out for the Kansas City Chiefs.
DR: Instead of spending 11-hours in front of the television, what was your Lockout plans?
AB: You can’t lock out college football. So the gridiron would still dominate my weekends, NFL or not.
DR: How happy are you that the NFL is back in action? Is it a good feeling?
AB: It’s more of a relief to have the NFL and the NCAA than just the NCAA. My life seems to have more harmony with both. But the seasons haven’t started yet. Everyone can have hope of a championship. Well, maybe not the Jacksonville Jaguars’ fans, but most of everyone.