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A crazy week for the NFL

With the lockout coming to an end, about 5 months of the NFL offseason is about to be crammed into 1 or 2 weeks.  Outside of the draft at the end of April, rosters saw no change from what we saw when your team walked off the field for their final game in 2010 because of the lockout.

The beginning of March usually marks the beginning of free agency.  And veterans slowly signed throughout the summer until training camps kicked off.  Now teams have under a week to double the size of their current roster as they can carry up to 90 players during camp.

Free agency can make or break your football team even though there are general managers like the Packers’ Ted Thompson who usually sit still while other teams hand out blockbuster contracts.  Thompson though will still have some tough decisions as there’s around 10 of his players who are now wearing Super Bowl rings that are not under contract.  Lets look at the soon-to-be Packers free agents and I’ll give my thoughts on what will happen.

PLAYERS I THINK THE PACKERS SHOULD RE-SIGN

-Offensive Guard Daryn Colledge:  Is he the best player on their offensive line?  No.  You could actually make the argument he was the least valuable of the 5 starters from last season.  However starting guards don’t grow on trees and I just feel a lot better with Colledge starting on September 8th vs. the New Orleans Saints compared to TJ Lang, Marshall Newhouse, or Nick McDonald - that is assuming Colledge doesn’t command a huge contract.

-Fullback John Kuhn:  Once again, a player I don’t think should cost a whole lot to bring back.  Kuhn proved to be extremely valuable for parts of the 2010 season because of his flexibility to carry the ball in a semi-featured role.

-Kicker Mason Crosby:  Rookie kickers scare me.  Who wants a fresh leg out of college or some veteran playing on his 5th team over the past 3 years kicking a field goal with a spot in the playoffs on the line?  A career 78% kicker, however I am slightly worried some team may push up the bidding for his services.

PLAYERS WHO I THINK WON’T BE BACK WITH THE PACKERS

-Defensive End Cullen Jenkins:  Great player, great guy to talk with in the locker room.  But this one is simple economics - his price tag is going to be way too much.  Add onto that his injury history and this one’s a no-brainer.  Last year 2nd round draft pick Mike Neal will hopefully be ready to take over this spot.

-Wide Receiver James Jones:  His drops during Super Bowl XLV still haunt me, how big of a goat would he have been if the Steelers won that game?  Packers have depth at this position with Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, and Jordy Nelson as well as drafting Randall Cobb in the 2nd round back in April.  Did flash brilliance in some games, but seemed to always drop a big pass the next game.

-Running Back Brandon Jackson:  Had a few chances of being the featured back for the Packers during his time in Green Bay but could never run with an opportunity (no pun intended).  With the emergence of James Starks as well as Ryan Grant coming back from injury and drafting Alex Green this year shows the writing is on the wall for Jackson.

-Safety Atari Bigby:  His breakout season of 2007 seems a long time ago.  His 3 seasons since, he’s started only 17 games.  Green Bay is set at safety by re-signing Charlie Peprah prior to the lockout as well as Morgan Burnett coming back from injury during his rookie year.

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Will “K-Rod” be a problem or solution for Brewers?

“Thank goodness he’s somebody else’s problem now.”

I imagine that’s what Mets brass is saying this morning after sending closer Francisco Rodriguez and cash considerations to the Brewers for two players to be named later.

How can I be sounding so negative when Milwaukee about acquiring the man who saved an MLB record 62 games in 2008, and has 23 saves (only 3 blown) this season?

There are reasons to be concerned:

- K-Rod recently switched to notorious agent Scott Boras who recently told Newsday: “Francisco Rodriguez is a historic closer.  He’s not going anywhere to be a set-up man.”

He added this gem: “Closers don’t make good setup men,  Does anyone want an unhappy setup man in their clubhouse?”

-If those comments reflect K-Rod’s feelings, it could become an uneasy situation.  Rodriguez has a $17.5 million option if he finishes 55 games this year.  He’s at 34, and there is no way the Brewers will let him finish 21 more and get that huge payday.  He and his agent won’t be happy because his next payday likely won’t be so big as he turns 30 in January.

-If K-Rod is angry, he has not dealt with that well in the past  See here: http://www.nypost.com/p/sports/mets/rod_arrested_at_clubhouse_charged_mlcCljSHgTceC0BDmuJSzJ

-Finally an actually on field concern: K-Rod is known for making innings “interesting” as his career-high 1.41 WHIP will tell you.  His 7.71 ERA and 3 HR’s allowed in June worry me, though he has turned it around as the calendar flipped to July (3-3 saves, 0.00 ERA).

Reasons to be excited:

-The Brewers seem like they are going for it by making a big splash in the trade market ala CC Sabathia trade in 2008.  K-Rod brings with him big-game playoff experience and has always played his best in the big moments.

-According to reports the Brewers did not have to give up any top prospects for Rodriguez and the trade reeks of a salary dump for the Mets.

-He’s not going to cost them a ton of money if he doesn’t reach that HUGE vesting option.  Reports say the Mets sent along $5 Million to cover their former closers salary for the end of the year.  That would leave Milwaukee on the hook for a $3.5 Million buyout only if he doesn’t reach 55 finishes.

-And of course the most obvious reason to be excited: If K-Rod accepts and excels in his role the Brewers will have one of the best, if not the best 8th-9th inning combo in all of baseball.  Need I remind you how much the back-end of the bullpen has struggled with the exception of Axford?

So what do you think? Are the Brewers now a playoff team?  If you already thought they were, are they a World Series contender?

Now if they could just do something about the Yuniesky Betancourt situation…

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News 8 Sports Xtra - April 20, 2011

Watch News 8 Sports Xtra - Ryan Rodig and myself sit down to talk a couple of topics regarding next week’s NFL Draft.  We talk about which positions we’d like to see the Packers address with their first 3 picks and who we think they could end up selecting with the 32nd overall pick.  We also discuss which direction the Minnesota Vikings should go with their first round selection.

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New Era For UW-La Crosse Football

Joel Dettwiler has been working his new job for two months already, but things picked up this week with spring football practices beginning.  I had an opportunity to sit down with Coach Dettwiler before his very first practice.  We talked about a wide range of things - the importance of strength and conditioning, what type of product the Eagles will look like next fall, and going to high school with up-and-coming NCAA men’s basketball coach Shaka Smart.

I walked away impressed with the new UW-L football coach and am excited to see when his team hits the football field for their first game on September 3rd.  By the way, the schedule makers didn’t do him any favors - the Eagles host defending NCAA III National Champion UW-Whitewater for their first game of the season, followed by a trip to Mary Hardin-Baylor (who finished ranked 5th in the nation last year).

Watch the video and get to know the new leader of the Eagles.

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2011 Milwaukee Brewers Opening Day Roster

The Milwaukee Brewers released their Opening Day roster today.  No big surprises, as all the roster spot were reported in the last couple of days.  It will be interesting to see what happens to this list when players start coming off the Disabled List.

So I ask where do you see the Brewers finishing in the N.L. Central in 2011?  I have seen opinions ranging from 4th place to 1st place from national baseball writers.  What does that mean?  It should be an interesting season!

PITCHERS (12)

59 John Axford…………………………………RHP
21 Zach Braddock …………………………….LHP
49 Yovani Gallardo……………………………RHP
54 Sean Green…………………………………RHP
61 Brandon Kintzler ………………………….RHP
50 Kameron Loe ………………………………RHP
18 Shaun Marcum…………………………….RHP
52 Sergio Mitre…………………………………RHP
38 Chris Narveson…………………………….LHP
40 Takashi Saito……………………………….RHP
57 Mitch Stetter…………………………………LHP
43 Randy Wolf ………………………………….LHP

CATCHERS (2)

16 ………………………………………George Kottaras
33 ………………………………………………Wil Nieves

INFIELDERS (6)

22 …………………………………..Erick Almonte
3………………………….Yuniesky Betancourt
30………………………………….Craig Counsell
28 …………………………………..Prince Fielder
14……………………………….Casey McGehee
23……………………………………Rickie Weeks

OUTFIELDERS (5)

8………………………………………Ryan Braun
27…………………………………..Carlos Gomez
25……………………………………..Mark Kotsay
2 ……………………………………Nyjer Morgan
7…………………………………….Jeremy Reed

STAFF

10 Ron Roenicke …………………..Manager
35 Garth Iorg ……………………….1B Coach
39 Rick Kranitz……………..Pitching Coach
53 Stan Kyles………………..Bullpen Coach
36 Jerry Narron ………………Bench Coach
6 Ed Sedar ………………………..3B Coach
31 John Shelby …………….Outfield Coach
29 Dale Sveum……………….Hitting Coach
56 Joe Crawford ……..Coaching Assistant
55 Marcus Hanel …………Bullpen Catcher

DISABLED LIST (5)

13 …………………………………..RHP Zack Greinke
32 ……………………………….RHP LaTroy Hawkins
1 …………………………………………OF Corey Hart
20 …………………………………..C Jonathan Lucroy
26…………………………………….LHP Manny Parra

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