Aqib Talib's attorney warns against jumping to conclusions

One of the attorneys hired for Aqib Talib’s defense team warns that you – or specifically the media – should not jump to conclusions when it comes to the felony charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon that has been filed.

After all, Talib is innocent until proven guilty and in this instance, a former coach of his says Talib is telling people it was his mother squeezing the trigger firing shots at a man, not him.

“It’s important to note that these charges are only allegations, allegations that Aqib vigorously denies,” Pittsburgh-based lawyer Jay Reisinger said, according to the Twitter account Jason La Canfora of “Given that the charges are only allegations, we are deeply troubled that certain members of media have jumped to unfair conclusions. Aqib is confident once all facts are known, this matter will be resolved favorably and in an expeditious fashion.”

Talib better hope it is resolved favorably or whatever discipline Roger Goodell could potentially have in mind for him won’t matter. He’ll be facing some hard time. Reisinger, of course, needs to keep in mind that the court of public opinion is going to weigh in no matter what. And the case Talib already went through for punching a cab driver in the head is still fresh on the minds of many. So is the time Talib swung a helmet in practice to hit a Tampa Bay Buccaneers teammate and inadvertently struck another teammate. So is the time Talib got into a fight at the NFL’s rookie symposium.

So, Reisinger needs to realize that his client has already developed a track record. Yes, Talib is innocent until proven guilty and allegations made by Garland, Texas police are just that – allegations. It’s still part of a troubling pattern of behavior.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

Oklahoma State will look into Dez Bryant situation

Oklahoma State University has announced it will investigate whether Dez Bryant did anything to taint his amateur status during the summer of 2009 before the wide receiver was suspended by the NCAA for lying to investigators.

Accepting large amounts of jewelry on an I.O.U. (that may or may not be paid back) would constitute a violation of NCAA guidelines.

Kevin Fite, the school’s associate athletic director for compliance, told the Tulsa World that the school will look into the matter. It’s unlikely any sanctions could come against the program.

“The first I heard of it was when you guys heard of it (this week),” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “Those issues are very delicate and they're hard to speak to … When it hit our office, it was news to everybody on our floor.

“It saddens me that (Bryant) is in that situation, and it saddens me that a (former) OSU player is tied in with it and it's negative.”

Bryant is taking on water as an avalanche of criticism comes his way. Charles Barkley is the latest to fire on him.

“It was high-maintenance with Dez toward the end, but the issues we had the first couple of years were very minor,” Gundy said. “I have more memories of what he did (on the field) … all the plays that he made.”

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

Pro day shakedown

The NFP takes a look at some of the top prospects to work out this past week and discusses what their pro day performances mean for their draft stock going forward.

DL Lawrence Guy: Arizona State (6-5, 304)
Guy is one of the more interesting prospects in the defensive line class as he possesses an impressive size/speed combo, can bend and has some anchor to his game as well. He ran in the high 4.9 range at his pro day, proved how gifted of an athlete he was during position drills and could end up being one of the more sought after five-technique prospects in this year’s draft after round one. There are some concerns about his overall instincts and mental make-up. However, if he can continue to improve in that area, he really is a gifted athlete with starting potential in the NFL.

AyersICONAyers had a strong pro day showing.

DB Aaron Williams: Texas (6-0, 201)
Williams dramatically improved his 40 time from the NFL Combine, running in the low 4.4 range, nearly a tenth of a second faster than he ran in Indianapolis. However, Texas is known for its fast track and a lot of NFL executives will either add time to prospects pro day results or just stick to the Combine times. Either way when you watch the tape, there seems to be a lack of a second gear to Williams’ game when asked to turn and run, and at 201 pounds he might need to lose some weight if he hopes to play on the outside in man coverage in the NFL.

OLB Akeem Ayers: UCLA (6-3, 259)
Ayers showed up five pounds heavier than he did at the NFL Combine, at nearly 260 pounds. However, he ran much better, posting a time in the high 4.6/low 4.7 range and looked very comfortable and fluid during positional drills. When I watched the workout it’s rare to find a guy at his size to be able to cleanly change directions and open up his hips, and I really do think he can play just about any linebacker position in any scheme. However, you can’t ignore his ability to attack downhill and I think he’s got too much upside because of his burst, length and athleticism to not get a real look at as 3-4 rush guy.

CB Brandon Burton: Utah (6-0, 188)
The ability to quickly recover is still the biggest question concerning Burton’s upside as a pro, as he ran two forties in the 4.5 range and on tape simply doesn’t have the second gear needed to make up for a false step. Now, he can be physical off the line and will tackle in space. But he needs to be able to get his hands on receivers in order to be effective. In my view Burton has to play in more of a press scheme or Cover 2 look where he can play near the line, because if he misses on the jam initially, he will struggle to recover down the field.

DT Cameron Heyward: Ohio State (6-5, 295)
A lot of scouts I talked to after the Ohio State workout weren’t real pleased with the 4.95 40 time of Heyward. However, in my mind it’s not a big deal. It’s not like the guy is an edge/speed player. He’s a power guy who is going to either play as a five technique in a 3-4 or a LDE in a 4-3 with three-technique potential. Honestly, that’s about what I thought he would run anyway.

OLB Mason Foster: Washington (6-2, 245)
Foster didn’t “wow” anyone with his 4.7 40 time. However, what I love was his 4.42-second short shuttle. Foster has the ability to cleanly change directions, generates a burst for himself out of the breaks and gets back up to speed quickly, a better attribute in my mind than overall straight-line speed at linebacker.

OT Tyron Smith: Southern Cal (6-5, 310)
If there is a more physically impressive looking tackle in the draft, I would like to see him. Smith displays little body fat on his frame for a guy at his size, possesses a ridiculous 85-inch wingspan and ran in the sub 5.0-second range. He also jumped 29 inches on his vertical, 9-feet-one-inch on his broad and pounded out 31 reps on the bench even with his 36 3/8 inch arms. Quite a day for the Southern Cal offensive lineman who now looks like a distinct possibility for the top ten.

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Stadium bill in Minnesota expected any day now

The next step in what they hope will be the construction of the next home for the Minnesota Vikings could come in a matter of days.

A stadium bill is expected to be introduced in the Minnesota state legislature, perhaps by the end of the week, and the hope is this one will succeed where lawmakers failed a year ago.

Ted Mondale, who leads the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, was optimistic in the remarks he shared with Sid Hartman of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

“My understanding from the bill authors is we're getting close,” Mondale told Hartman. “How they want to handle it is obviously up to them. It's to the point now where the majority over at the Capitol now have their bill together and they're going to bring it out.

“I think it can happen this year. I think it's probably as good a shot as ever,” Mondale said. “The governor (Mark Dayton) would like to see it, and has laid out what he'd like to see. You can't pass a bill like this unless the governor is supportive of it. (Former governor Tim) Pawlenty was saying, 'Maybe, yes, no,' and when he said, 'I'm not going to vote for it,' it just can't get done.”

Many questions remain. The Vikings have said they are only interested in contributing their portion of funds for an open-air stadium. The Metrodome has been used year-round for decades and lawmakers are going to demand a stadium with a roof (more expensive) in order for it to be a multi-use structure suitable for year-round use.

The Vikings’ lease at the Metrodome expires after this coming season. This could be the final at-bat lawmakers in Minnesota have before the team starts seriously exploring stadium options that are hundreds and hundreds of miles away.

“Everyone has seen the economic benefit,” Mondale said. “I think, in a strange way, the roof going down has made the case that a controlled-climate facility like the Metrodome is critically important for sports across the state.”

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

Breaking down Corey Liuget and Aldon Smith

When underclassmen enter the draft it’s hard to get a fix on them because many times you’re starting your film evaluation a little later than with a senior. Once these players get proper evaluation and go through the Combine and workout process you start to hear what kind of “buzz” they are getting. Two such players are defensive end Aldon Smith of Missouri and defensive tackle Corey Liuget of Illinois. In the last few weeks I’ve been hearing that the consensus is these guys are moving up the ladder. Smith could very well go in the top 15 and Liuget somewhere between 20–25. Let’s take a close look at both.

Corey Liuget

Corey LiugetICONCorey Liuget finished 2010 with 12.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.

The more tape I watched on this player the more I liked him. He is a very interesting prospect with the arrow going up. He is a true third-year junior and only 21 years old. He was a 4-star recruit from the Miami area. Programs such as Georgia, LSU, Miami and Florida St. also offered him. He played as a backup in both 2008 and 2009 with a total of six starts in those two years. Though a backup he was still getting a lot of playing time in the defensive line rotation. He had a breakout year in 2010 with 63 total tackles including 12.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.

He played both as a 5-technique defensive end and nose tackle in their base 3-4 defense. When Illinois went to their sub package (4 defensive linemen) he would line up as a defensive tackle. Liuget lacks ideal height at 6-2 but he is a solid 298 pounds with the frame to get to 310 easily. He is a wide body with long arms, great balance and very good play strength. He is a good athlete who is more quick than fast and runs in the 5.0 area. I love his competitive attitude on the field. He has a nonstop motor, is very physical, is always on his feet and you see him chase the ball harder all over the field.

He has very good initial quickness and consistently gets penetration. He is aware and instinctive and is very quick to find the ball. He has very good hand use and does a good job keeping blockers off his body. He can shed quickly and makes plays. Because of his consistent penetration he disrupts a lot of plays. He is a good inside pass rusher mainly because he gets off the ball quickly but he also has a great “feel” when rushing the passer. He has a knack for finding openings and bursting through. He may not get a lot of sacks (4.5) but he gets a lot of pressures and hits and he also does a good job getting his hands up and knocking down balls at the line of scrimmage.

Overall, I feel Liuget has some versatility to play in different schemes. He can be a defensive end or a nose in many 3-4 schemes. He fits what teams like Green Bay use on their defensive line. He can also play nose in many of the 4-3 defenses. The player he reminds me of is the Bears starting nose tackle Anthony Adams. He has more size then Adams but plays a similar type game with an all-out motor. Being so young there is still a lot of upside and he has been very durable. There would be a lot of teams happy to have this guy come draft day.

Aldon Smith

Smith entered the draft with still two years of eligibility left. He was recruited in 2008 as a 3-star defensive end. Many of the top Big 12 schools offered him. He was undersized as a freshman in ’08 and was redshirted. After a year in the weight room he added bulk and strength and started 11 games in 2009 putting up some excellent stats including 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. This past season, he missed 3 games in midseason due to injury yet still had 5.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. In watching film it was obvious that teams game-planned for him somewhat in 2010.

Aldon SmithAldon Smith had 5.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss last season despite battling an injury.

Smith has excellent defensive size at 6-4 and 263 pounds with 34-inch arms. He runs well (4.85) and is very explosive. His bench numbers are still very average (20 reps) but he has the frame to get bigger and stronger. He is an explosive athlete who plays much faster than he timed. He plays like a 4.65 type and has smooth change of direction, body control and flexibility.

He is best as a pass rusher and comes off the ball very quickly with an explosive first step. He stays low and he has a knack for slithering through blockers to find his way to the quarterback. He has quick hands and good hand use and does a good job keeping blockers off his body. While his sack numbers were down from 2009 this season he still had a lot of pressures and hits.

He needs improvement in the run game. He plays the run away from him very well showing excellent pursuit skills. This is where you see his playing speed. I have seen him a number of times make plays in pursuit and catch backs from behind. He has a strong motor and plays hard. He can struggle somewhat at the point of attack. He gets tall and lacks the bulk and strength to consistently hold up when teams run at him. Being so young this is not a big concern to me as he will get bigger and stronger.

Overall, Smith has the trait teams covet — pass rush skills! He has the tools to be a very good NFL pass rusher. He is an excellent fit to play right end in a 4-3 and if the 3-4 clubs feel he can drop into coverage they will be high on him also. He reminds some of Dallas Cowboy DeMarcus Ware with similar size and athleticism.

Report: Aqib Talib says mom was the one firing shots

The story Aqib Talib is telling is that only his mother pulled the trigger, firing shots at Shannon Billings, the boyfriend of her sister, as he fled a domestic disturbance on foot.

Talib is busy preparing a defense now after he has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a felony. Talib turned himself into police in Garland, Texas, on Wednesday and was released on $25,000 bond.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback has hired two law firms and a private investigator to help prepare his case. Police say Talib and his mother Okolo both fires shots at Billings on March 21 after he had argued with Talib’s sister Saran. Talib has also been accused of attempting to pistol whip Billings.

Per the report, Talib has retained the counsel of Pittsburgh attorney Jay Reisinger and Dallas criminal attorneys Frank Perez and H. David Lozano.

The attorneys didn’t comment on the matter but Talib reportedly told Clint Bowen, a coach when he was a player at Kansas, that only his mom squeezed off shots at Billings.

“I talked to Aqib two days ago,” Bowen said, according to the Times. “I told him, ‘I just read something about you firing a gun.’ He said, ‘Man, I didn't do a thing. It'll all come out soon.’ He just kept saying that. … He said, ‘I didn't do that. That was my mom. It's all going to come out.’”

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<em>Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

Charles Barkley to Dez Bryant: 'Pay your debts'

Since Charles Barkley is weighing in on everything these days – from the NCAA Tournament to athletes being paid at Auburn – we might as well get his take on Dez Bryant because, well, it’s been a while since any news has surfaced on the Dez Watch.

When we last left off with Bryant, his advisor David Wells (the guy who helped arrange a lot of the unpaid loans for jewelry) said the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver was in a “dark place.”

Barkley weighed in on KESN-FM on Wednesday and you can listen to the interview here. The Dallas Morning News was kind enough to transcribe it.

“Could you all control Dez Bryant down there for me?” Barkley said. “Guys have to understand, man, it isn’t about being a punk or bagging down or being like that. You have to back down all the time if you’re a celebrity now because there’s nothing positive…growing up, if people started with you, you’d say, ‘I’m not going to be no punk.’ That’s when you’re young and you’re childish. When you’re in the limelight now, you got to stand down. You got to stand down because everything you do is going to be a big deal. So you don’t take it personal.”

Barkley doesn’t advise athletes to invest their money in jewelry, either.

“Anybody that buys a lot of jewelry I think they’re an idiot,” Barkley said. “But, I’m going back to the thing at the mall. You have to be smart enough to understand that I’m going to back down here, because I know whether it’s me or my friends who has their pants hanging down, ‘Dez Bryant’ is going to be the name in the paper. I got to stand down.

“Now, the jewelry thing: pay your debts. I think anybody that wastes their money on jewelry – I think they’re an idiot anyway – but you got to pay your debt, plain and simple. You know it’s going to be a big deal; I mean, now this is all people are going to talk about. You got to pay your debt, plain and simple.”

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Shaun O'Hara healing after second foot surgery

Now, Shaun O’Hara has had surgeries on both feet.

The New York Giants center, who was limited to six games last season, had surgery to clean out his left ankle and Achilles this week, according to ESPN New York. It sounds similar to what Chicago Bears center Olin Kreutz had last offseason.

Two months ago, O’Hara had screws inserted in his right foot to promote healing following a Lisfranc injury.

O’Hara says he has been told he will be healed and ready to go prior to training camp. The surgery that Kreutz had basically wiped out his offseason program, but he was full strength in advance of training camp.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

Ohio State spring preview

As we expected, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel didn’t deliver any news of merit during his press conference on Wednesday. The university made it evident that The Vest would not comment on the ongoing NCAA investigation. Instead, Tressel offered another apology for not coming forward with valuable information about players selling memorabilia to a local tattoo shop owner. And he quickly moved onto going through the Buckeyes’ roster and performing a thorough positional breakdown.

Yes, spring practice has arrived in Columbus. But there’s certainly a different feeling around the Big Ten campus this year because of the Tressel saga, the Buckeye Five scandal and the HBO Real Sports episode that aired on Wednesday evening.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, team spokeswoman Shelly Poe said that the school couldn’t comment on the allegations from that HBO special until more information is known.

What is known is that the Buckeyes begin spring drills on Thursday. So let’s take a look at some of the storylines surrounding the annual Big Ten contender.

Wounded leader

Terrelle PryorICONTerrelle Pryor will sit out the first five games of the 2011 season.

Quarterback Terrelle Pryor may be able to lose his walking boot by the end of the week after undergoing foot surgery in January. However, he will remain limited this spring. But does it even matter considering he will miss the first five games of the new season?

This spring is all about getting reps for the backup signal caller who will need to be ready to lead the offense once the 2011 season commences. Joe Bauserman has the edge over Kenny Guiton and recent top signee Braxton Miller, but he doesn’t have a whole lot of playing experience. Miller is the unquestioned future leader under center, but would the Buckeyes send the true freshman out on the field next season knowing that he’ll just be returning to the sideline when Pryor’s suspension ends? Barring exceptional camps in the spring and fall by Guiton or Miller, Bauserman is the likely choice to keep the place warm for Pryor.

The absence of Posey and Herron

The Buckeyes already had concerns at wide receiver with Dane Sanzenbacher gone and DeVier Posey the lone returning major contributor from last season. But now that the 6-2, 213-pounder will miss the first five games of the season, the pressure is ramped up even more for Corey Brown, who had just eight catches for 105 yards last season. Chris Fields, James Jackson and James Louis will also have to step up with Posey’s 53 receptions for 848 yards and seven scores out of the lineup. Perhaps true freshman Evan Spencer could enter the mix if he adjusts to the college game quickly. Certainly, new receivers coach Stan Drayton has his work cut out for him with this group.

At running back, the Buckeyes can rely on their great backfield depth to fill Herron’s void early in the season. Jaamal Berry is a quick and elusive back, as evidenced by his 67-yard dash last season against Eastern Michigan. He only had 32 rushes in 2010 but averaged over eight yards per carry. Jordan Hall is also very fast and had a strong offseason of conditioning. But Rod Smith is the real wild card of the bunch. At 6-3 and 220 pounds, Smith has long been compared to Beanie Wells. He was a high school stud and would really complement the styles of Berry and Hall.

The offensive line returns three starters, including left tackle Mike Adams, who improved dramatically throughout last season. However, he was part of the Buckeye Five group that will miss the first five games of the year. Andrew Norwell is expected to step in on the left side. Guards Bryant Browning and Justin Boren are gone, so the Buckeyes will be looking for replacements at both spots.

Fickell’s promotion

It was officially announced that co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Luke Fickell was promoted to assistant head coach and will serve as interim coach during Tressel’s five-game suspension to start the season. However, the team’s offensive play-calling duties have yet to be determined. But as Tressel pointed out, it shouldn’t be too big of a deal because they don’t have that many plays. Yes, something many Buckeye fans would tend to agree with based on the head coach’s conservative nature. In addition, Tressel has always said that the play-calling is more collaborative than anything else, with himself just having the final say on matters. It’s a safe bet that coordinator Jim Bollman ultimately will fill in as the designated play caller, perhaps with assistance from running backs coach Dick Tressel. Jim Tressel, of course, will shape the weekly game plans but it will be interesting to see how in-game adjustments are made in his absence. Plus, the Buckeyes will be running an offense without Pryor at the helm for the first five games, as well.

The five-game ban

Jim TresselICONHow will the team respond to Jim Tressel's absence on game days in the fall?

At the end of the news conference, Tressel was asked if he thinks the self-imposed five-game suspension will stand in the eyes of the NCAA. While Tressel said it’s the last thing he could talk about, it remains a big issue. While the investigation may not be completed in time to affect the rest of the 2011 campaign, I still believe Tressel will miss more than five games. Will it be in 2011 — or later down the road?

Tressel cited the leadership roles that Pryor and the other four players serving five-game suspensions had during preparations for the Sugar Bowl and how they will have similar roles this spring. Citing leadership was kind of odd considering the players committed NCAA violations, but nonetheless that’s how Tressel sees it. But how will the NCAA view Tressel’s leadership? That’s really what is most important.

Ohio State will conclude spring practice on April 23 with the annual Scarlet & Gray game at Ohio Stadium. However, Tressel noted on Wednesday that depth issues across the board could prevent the team from having a normal contest. Instead, the Buckeyes could hold a scrimmage in place of a game.

Finally, while the Buckeyes always trot out a stifling defense year after year no matter the personnel losses, finding replacements for standout defenders like end Cameron Heyward, linebackers Brian Rolle and Ross Homan, and safety Jermale Hines remains one of the more overlooked issues entering spring.

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Notre Dame TE Kyle Rudolph: Rob Gronkowski 2.0?

Typically, I don’t like to compare prospects because every player is different. However, there are just too many similarities between 2010 second round pick Rob Gronkowski and former Notre Dame standout Kyle Rudolph. And I’m not only talking physical similarities, but more so the path each took just to get into the NFL.

[ Check Rob Gronkowski Week 1 Props With Tampa Bay Buccaneers just 33.5 yards – BetRivers ]


When I watch Rudolph on tape, much like Gronkowski last year (who was the NFP’s number two tight end prospect) I see a starting caliber “on the line Y” at the next level who has the ability to win for you in all facets of the game.

However, because of medical concerns with his back, Gronkowski fell to the second round last year and I think the same is likely to happen to Rudolph this year because of hamstring issues.

Nevertheless, with Rudolph you have a talented kid who possesses great size at 6-6, 260 pounds, is a natural blocker in both the run and pass game and displays sneaky athleticism when asked to get down the field. Again, much like Gronkowski he isn’t a burner by any stretch. However, he possesses good short area quickness in tight areas, knows how to set up routes, gets up to speed quickly and looks natural going up and making a play on the throw. The former Notre Dame pass catcher is also very natural adjusting to the football and has the kind of strider speed to turn a route up the field and create a play down the seam.

And in a weak tight end class, Rudolph looks like far and away the draft’s top tight end prospect, but will likely fall into round two because he isn’t an overly dynamic athlete in the pass game and possesses some injury concerns.

However, much like Gronkowski, Heath Miller, Zach Miller and Jason Witten, all of which fell on draft day for one reason or another, I could see Rudolph maturing into a similar type player in the NFL. In my view he has the ability to develop into one of the games best all around tight ends and will likely end up being one of the real bargains of the draft, much like the aforementioned group.

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