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Archive for June, 2011

British Insight: Q&A With Mike Carlson!

Mike Carlson is a very respected NFL Pundit here in the UK. Originally from America, Mike played Tight End for Wesleyan University, in Connecticut,  from 1968-1972. He moved out to the UK in 1977 and has since assumed many roles, mainly working on Major League Baseball, before freelancing and teaming up with Channel 5 in 1998, presenting Monday Night Football for the UK. He currently works for Channel 4, presenting Sunday Night Football, after Channel 5 dropped their coverage of the sports when ESPN took over broadcasting right for MNF in the UK.

Most importantly, Mike is a Patriots fan. Mike has been good enough to offer all the fans on patsfans.com his very own insight into the sport over here and the Patriots, based on questions I have asked him. Here is what he has to say!

Q: Firstly, the NFL’s influence has been spreading increasingly throughout the globe. Just recently you visited Tanzania and witnessed the first ever American Football match to be played there. How do you feel about the way in which the NFL is expanding overseas, through it’s many media channels and the International Series and what do you think the future holds for the NFL here in Great Britain?

Mike:  Well the NFL had nothing to do with the Global Kilimanjaro Bowl, sadly, and realistically football’s always going to be a hard sell as a participant sport when soccer and basketball are so much cheaper and easier to set up and maintain. But the NFL’s focus has changed with the change in commissioners–NFL Europe and game development programmes, which cost money, have gone and the international games, which make money have come: it’s a strategy aimed at raising the profile of the NFL rather than exporting the game itself, and it makes some sense. Though I think a spring development league is a huge positive, and I would restart one even if it were based in Florida, or the Gulf, or Texas and Mexico, etc…

I can see the International Bowl being a long-term winner, but I don’t really see a Super Bowl (time difference problems, sponsor travel problems) as a realistic dream. I also don’t think an NFL team in London will work: where will the players live in the off-season, what will they do with their families in season, where will the front office be, there are lots of practical problems that aren’t insurmountable but would require a lot of cooperation between owners and players. The cost of a development league is really only 40% of what it costs, from the owners’ point of view, because the players would get 60% of the revenue if it isn’t spent anyway. That’s why I thought complaining about the costs of NFL Europe, less than $1 million per team (i.e. $400,000, or one minimum salary player) was short-sighted.

Q:  Secondly, the questions a lot of fans are asking right now tend to revolve around the current lockout. What is your stance on this and do you see any quick way out?

Mike: I  thought they were quite close when the talks broke down–but the players thought, with their court wins, they had the owners’ backs to the walls and misread the owners’ willingness to wait them out. Basically, I thought the system in place worked very well, the best of all the major American sports, and the owners willingness to throw that away was a signal that the really wealthy teams want more of the pot for themselves, and the really poorer teams think they can do better. Again, the change in commissioners (and in union leaders) has prompted this: Tags was the last remnant of the Rozelle era where the comish could keep the more aggressive owners under wraps for the good of the league. Things like the 18 game season I always saw as give-back items; the real issue is the split, the money that the owners can keep from being shared, and the individual team revenues that don’t go into the league pot. That’s why the owners are so reluctant to open the books: they don’t want the full extent of non-shared revenue to be known, and they don’t want the players to see, in some cases, how many ways the owning family takes money from the franchise, in terms of salary and expenses, which otherwise would be considered their profit.

Q: As usual, the Pats did their usual wheeling and dealing in this years draft, making more surprise moves. How surprised were you that the Patriots failed  to add to the front seven in the early stages of the draft, given the lack of pass rush the team has? Do you feel Bill Belichick will address this issue in free agency once the lockout situation has been resolved?

Mike: I was a bit surprised: I thought they’d take a DE like Cameron Jordan or Muhammed Wilkerson somewhere in R1 and maybe not trade the pick: I think Jordan’s another Richard Seymour, though he lacks the size, and Wilkerson may be another David Harris, a guy BB passes on and goes right into the Jets lineup. We know from the past that BB has certain requirements for his OLB, and that the pass-rush candidates often don’t live up. I think his philosophy is that he can use his scheming to create sack opportunities, and Mike Vrabels can have 12 sack years if they execute right. I think too they feel Jermaine Cunningham will be a Willie McGinest type. But BB has never really had a monster rusher, except perhaps McGinest, since Lawrence Taylor at the Giants. Solder surprised me going so early, but he’s very much a Vollmer type: reminds me of Matt Lepsis a bit. I agree with Mike Reiss that Dowling is the key to the Pats’ draft. I’m not convinced he’ll be injury free nor that he was the best value there–on the other hand Brooks Reed, who would’ve been the best rush option available, doesn’t really fit BB’s prototype OLB. I wonder if they’d've preferred to trade pick 33 and use 28, I would have, but they probably got a better deal for 28 with NO. I don’t see any premium pass rushers in free agency, certainly not at OLB (tho they could bring Vrabel back), and I don’t know if they’d want to try to get a year out of a Marques Douglas or Aubrayo Franklin, or Jacques Cesaire, or maybe 2-3 from Cullen Jenkins. Prob not at Jenkins’ price. Marcus Spears is an enigma. Warren could be brought back, tho the signing of Marcus Stroud is more important than people think. I like Dave Ball, but he’s a backup.

Q: During the draft, the Pats took Ryan Mallet in the 3rd round. Belcichick had been quoted as saying he was the best QB on their board. Do you see Mallet as a real long term replacement prospect for Tom Brady and what does this mean for Hoyer?

Mike: Good question, because Hoyer appears to have made good progress, but he doesn’t have Mallet’s upside. It’s a good situation for the Pats. They trust Hoyer, and if Mallet turns out to be everything his potential says, they ought to be able to trade him. Or if they don’t really like Mallet they can showcase him and trade him. Or Hoyer could become one of those guys caught as a backup to two good QBs. Anyway it plays out, they win.

Q: One area for concern in the coming future is the ageing Offensive Line with players out of contract. Do you feel that the Patriots addressed this issue well in the draft and what are your impressions on Nate Solder, the Pats’ number one overall pick?

Mike: Yes, though another guy I thought they’d target was Baylor guard Danny Watkins at 28 or 32, but he went 23 to Philly. They really do need Mankins back, however. I wonder if Kaczur goes to guard, at least until Marcus Cannon is ready. Connolly’s OK, but I wonder about Wendell and Ohrenberger, maybe Ojinnaka plays guard. They may regret letting Ted Larson go last year. I also think Steve Maneri may be their third tackle down the line.

Q: Belichick and the Patriots are notorious for keeping everything behind closed doors. What is your view on how Bill Belichick handles himself with the media and on how difficult it is to get information on the Patriots?

Mike: It’s very difficult. BB answers every question with ‘what’s best for the club’ but rarely explains WHY he thinks it was best. But he does give a lot of general information. I think he learnt not to trust the press from his Cleveland days, because their interests and yours increasingly come into conflict, and face it, none of us know half as much about football as he does.

Q: Finally, I’d like to ask you about the state of the Franchise. What do you feel the 2011 season holds for the Pats?

Mike: If there is a season it could be a good one, because I’m not convinced the Jets or Dolphins will improve. The Jets, however, could be dangerous if the season is shortened, because their D will be ahead of the game and their O can rely on the run. I thought the Jets had another excellent 2 player draft, but watch for Jeremy Kerley, who could be the next Wayne Chrbet, if not Wes Welker. The Pats are a young team with an old core, which could be a problem, because they need to tinker with the O line and DBs (I was surprised they didn’t draft a safety project), and they need a down field threat (which may be Tate or Price. I was a little surprised they went with two RBs in the draft, and I wonder if they will keep four for the season: I dont anticipate either Faulk or Morris coming back, and wonder if they also keep 4 tight ends and use one as a FB. It would have been nice to see who they’d chase among the undrafted guys: Mark Herzlich would have been a natural, a safety like Jeron Johnson or Deunta Williams, maybe C Kris O’Dowd, and DE/DT Cedric Thornton, DE Brando Bair, ILB Josh Byrnes, maybe Ian Williams Martin Parker, or OT Willie Smith all seemed like guys they might chase. The NFL season’s a fascinating chess game and few play chess like Belichick…he’s turned the team over almost completely from the 18-0 season, and they may be a year away, or they may lack the chemistry that team had.



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Ty Law Should Retire A Patriot!

On Tuesday night, Ty Law was honoured by Kraft and the City of Boston at The Sports Museum’s 10th annual The Tradition Awards; where the Patriots’ own presented the ex-Patriots Cornerback with the football legacy award. After the event, Law spoke withthe Boston Globe and hinted at one day deal with the team, to allow him to retire a New England Patriot.

“… That’s one of the reasons I haven’t officially turned my papers in because I would like to at least say the last contract I sign was with New England,” Law said in an interview with the Globe adding,  ”And that would be an honor if I was able to do that, if Mr. Kraft was to bless me with something like that, that would be the icing on the cake for a 15-year career.”

The 23rd Overall Pick in the ’95 NFL Draft spent ten of those fifteen years  at the Patriots. In that time, he made 4 Pro Bowl appearances, won 3 Superbowl Rings, was twice an All-Pro Selection, was voted to the 2000′s All Decade Team and was part of the Patriots record breaking 2003 offense which made the best passing attacks look mediocre. Many remember him for his 47 yard interception returned for a touchdown during Superbowl 36 and his 2 interceptions of Peyton Manning in the 2003 AFC Championship Game!

However, all these memories are marred by the bitter contract dispute that erupted after the team’s 3rd Championship in 4 years.  The Patriots couldn’t handle the monster salary the player demanded, and released him, whilst Law complained that he couldn’t ‘feed his kids’ off of the apparently ‘petty’ wages the Patriots were offering him. He then went on to play with the team’s divisional rivals, the New York Jets, where he had a career year with ten interceptions, making his 5th Pro Bowl appearance. This led many fans to disown the player that had done so much in helping the Patriots  build the NFL’s last great dynasty. Since his release form them, he played with the Chiefs and the Broncos, returning for one more year at the Jets in between the two.

According to Law he had another opportunity to play after the 2009 season but it “wasn’t the right time.” He added, “I said, ‘It’s time to call it a career,’…but hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to officially retire as a Patriot. That’s my ultimate goal right now.”

So are you all willing to forgive and forget? Remember the good, and take the bad with a pinch of salt? Kraft seems to be, stating, “To me, he is a Patriot and will always be a Patriot,” and I agree with with him! Words have been said by the two sides in the past but it seems to me like they’ve been forgotten, and so they should. Ty Law did so much for this team and that can’t be forgotten after a petty argument around money. The Patriots aren’t known for giving out their one year deals however, it seems likely after Kraft’s comments on the Cornerback.

I think we should give him the one day deal and let him retire a Patriot, just like the likes of Bruschi and Brown. He is part of what made our Dynasty so great, and I think this would be a great way for all the fans to put aside the ill-feeling, and remember the good times with Law, which brought the team so much success!

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British Insight: Britain Gets European Cup Fever!

When I first started my blog here on patsfans.com, I said I would be trying to bring you an insight into what it is like to being a fan here in the UK, and what it it’s like to play the sport here too. So here’s my first piece; I hope you all enjoy reading it!

My first article focuses on the London Blitz, one of our biggest rivals and most dominant teams in the country in recent years. Since 2006 they have reached the National Championship 5 times and won it on 3 of those occasions! The League’s were founded in 1987, known as the British Senior League, it was divided into 3 divisions; the Premiership, Division 1 and Division 2. Division 1 and 2 were made up of divisions within itself, like the AFC and NFC are today, whilst the Premier League was made up of fewer teams, all playing each other for the title of best team in the country! The system uses promotion and relegation as an incentive to win each division’s title; the winner will progress to the next league up, and the team with the worst record gets demoted to the lower league! In 2005, the league became known as the British American Football League. However in 2010, it ceased operations and the British American Football Association formed a new league; the British American Football Association Community Leagues (or BAFACL for short), still maintaining the previous format.

The two top teams in the country, who compete for the national title in the Premiership, earn the right to play in the European Cup, or EFAF Cup for short. EFAF, or the European Federation of American Football, is the overall governing body of Football in Europe. It holds the EFAF Cup annually, with top teams from all of it’s 22 registered countries competing to be Champions of Europe! This is only the second highest European honour however. The EFAF set up the European Football League in 1986, where 13 teams compete annually to play in the Euro Bowl, and earn the right to be the best team on the continent!

 No team in England has reached the EFAF Cup Final since 2004 when the Farnham Knights, then known as the PA Knights, lost in the final to the Tyrolean Raiders in a very one sided affair! This year however the current National Champion London Blitz will be representing the UK in the final , this weekend, on Saturday 2nd July. They will be competing against Serbia’s Kragujevac Wild Boars; a team that was only formed in 2006, when Kitted Football was finally introduced to the country. It is a marvellous achievement for the team to be where it is within such a short space of time! American Football is already Serbia’s 3rd most popular sport, drawing an average of 1,000 people a game to watch!

So at 3pm, on Saturday, the London Blitz will go head to head with the  Kragujevac Wild Boars for the EFAF Cup at Finsbury Park in London. Tickets come at a very affordable price. Anyone who wishes to watch two of the top teams in Europe play will only be charged ÂŁ7 on the day to do so, which amounts to around $11! I myself will be there, putting aside our team’s rivalry in order to cheer them on, and hope they bring the Cup home for Britain!

That as my first insight into British American Football for you guys. I will be covering the game for the countries national Football magazine, Inside American Football, and the site ukamericansportsfans.com. Once my game reports are finished, will post them here as well. I hope you all enjoyed reading about the sport in my country!

On a more NFL related note, please remember to help end the lockout! NFL News is drying up fast and, as a blogger, it is incredibly frustrating with very little happening! For those of you on twitter, hash tag ‘endthelockout’.

I will leave you with a few websites for those of you interested in looking into the British game!

www.bafacl.com – The official website of the BAFACL
www.efaf.info – The official website of EFAF
www.londonblitz.com – The official Website of the London Blitz
www.wildboars.org.rs - The offical website of the Kragujevac Wild Boars; to convert to English follow the homepage down the left to find the language converters!

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Plaxico Burress: A good fit for the Pats?

Plaxico Burress was released from prison on Monday and speculation is rife about where he may end up. Many teams’ names are being thrown around and it’s not surprise that the Patriots are one of those teams.  It has been widely talked about since the Pats’ 28-21 Playoff loss to the Jets that the team lacks a downfield threat to spread the field since Moss’ departure, and this need is still evident after the 2011 NFL Draft.

The 33 year old Wide Receiver stands at 6’5” and 232 pounds, has 8 years’ worth of experience under his belt and in that time has caught 505 passes
one of which was the game winning touchdown pass in the ‘Superbowl-That-Must-Not-Be-Named’
amounting to nearly 8, 000 receiving yards. His intangibles are there, and his reputation speaks for itself as a player, but is he a reformed character?

This is one of the main things which people will talk about when linking the Receiver to the Pats. If Burress joined the team, I would have no doubt that Belichick, Kraft and Brady would be able to keep him under control, but do we need that reputation in a very young an influential locker room? We certainly don’t need the veteran experience; Wes Welker and Deion Branch provide enough of that at the WR position.

The Patriots have two young Receivers in Brandon Tate and Taylor Price. Price went through a red shirt year during his Rookie season, participating in one regular season game against Miami in which he showed a lot of promise. The local media reported that the team were very happy with his progress, but he was sitting behind a very talented Wide Receiver Corps. Some would argue we are grooming him to be our deep threat for the future. I think that Belichick could utilise these two as our deep threats, taking off the pressure with the other weapons we have.

The offense has a lot of weapons, which include Welker and Gronkowski, whilst having a wide range of Running Backs. Therefore do they need a prominent deep threat? The Patriots demonstrated much more balance than they had in previous years like 2007, in which Tom Brady threw for a record 50 TDs, 23 of which to Randy Moss. Benjarvis Green-Ellis had a 1,000 yard rushing season in 2010, the Pats’ first 1,000 yard rusher since Corey Dillon in 2004, and Danny Woodhead had a solid years rushing also. With the addition of two new Running Backs in the draft, they are certainly loaded at the position and look to build on what they achieved last season with the running game.

Another issue is money. The Patriots certainly won’t pay you what you want; unless they think you’re worth it. Ask Logan Mankins. Will the Patriots be prepared to stump up the cash that Burress would be after? There would have to be a lot of guaranteed money in this sort of deal, and I just can’t see the Patriots agreeing to it. Would Burress take a massive cut to be at the Patriots? Of course not. The Jets will pay the kind of money he wants and have had limited success in the post season as of late. This could definitely appeal to the Receiver.

Personally, since the loss to the Jets, I think this whole downfield threat thing has been blown out of proportion. The Pats finished 14-2 last season. They survived the whole regular season with pretty much no deep threat; even when Moss was here for the first 4 weeks, he had little impact on the team. We can rely on Tate and Price to step up and fill the role when needed, but it is clear the Patriots are trying to become less pass heavy and more balanced on offense. We had one bad game, in which we still only lost by one touchdown. Because of one performance in which we had limited success in the passing game, all of a sudden, this team needs a tall, speedy deep threat.

I think we’ll survive with what we have. If Bill Belichick truly believes we need a new Receiver, then I believe he will tackle the issue elsewhere. If we bring in anyone, it’ll be Chad Ochocinco. He and Bill Belichick have an outspoken respect for each other and I think he would flourish in Tom Brady’s offense. I would rather see him as a Patriot then Burress.

Other than that, I wish Plaxico all the best. I have no ill feeling towards him. He’s a talented player with a gift. I hope for his sakes that he does what Michael Vick has so far been successful in doing, reforming his life and getting his NFL career back on track. Good luck to him, but we don’t need him!

End the lockout!

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