Sunday, February 15, 2004

Rude reception awaits Clarett

Defensive players might go out of their way to hurt former OSU tailback

Mark Curnutte
The future of one-time Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett has been the talk of the league for the past couple of weeks. Most players aren't going to welcome Clarett into the fold.

"I think defensive players are going to give him a little bit extra," Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington said at the Pro Bowl. "I think a lot of guys will feel like he disrespected the process and will go out of their way to bust his tail."

Eagles cornerback Troy Vincent - a possible free agent target of the Bengals - doesn't like eliminating the rule that kept players out of the draft until three until three years past their high school graduation.

"I think the NFL has done a tremendous job of finding out what's good for the individual," Vincent said. "A player can have great talent at the collegiate level, but that talent needs to mature physically and emotionally. This is a man's game, and it takes so much to play it."

There was no word this past week from the NFL or National Football Scouting, which organizes the event, whether Clarett would attend the annual NFL scouting combine beginning Wednesday in Indianapolis. Ohio State officials also were unsure of Clarett's plans.

LAST CHANCE: Dallas quarterback Chad Hutchinson, who started in 2002, has been assigned to play in NFL Europe this spring.

After being beaten out by Quincy Carter for the starting quarterback job in the 2003 training camp, Hutchinson did not play at all in a season in which the Cowboys went 10-6 and made the playoffs. Coach Bill Parcells said NFL Europe is Hutchinson's last chance to prove he can be an NFL quarterback.

Among other Cowboys players headed to Europe is former UC kicker Jonathan Ruffin.

KEEP ONE, LOSE TWO: The Patriots were able to retain defensive backs coach Eric Mangini, who turned down a chance to be the Raiders' defensive coordinator. But two New England assistants are gone. Quarterbacks coach John Hufnagel went to the Giants to become Tom Coughlin's offensive coordinator. And Rob Ryan, 41-year-old son of fabled defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, left his spot as Patriots outside linebacker coach to become defensive coordinator in Oakland.

STAY AT HOME: The Chiefs are not expected to make a plunge into free agency and instead will try to retain their own unsigned players in Kansas City - namely offensive tackle John Tait, defensive end Eric Hicks and Pro Bowl free safety Jerome Woods. They also want to re-sign backup tight end Jason Dunn, who blocks well for Priest Holmes, and nickel defensive back William Bartee.

The Chiefs are counting on the return of defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham and the addition of linebackers coach Fred Pagac to improve a leaky defense that gave up 45 points in late-season losses to Denver and Minnesota and 38 in the playoffs to Indianapolis.

THREE IN THREE: The Falcons are switching back to red home jerseys for the first time since 1989. The team wore black from 1990-2003, when red was added as a third color. The move might not sit well with fans. The home jersey will be the third in as many seasons; that's a lot of Michael Vick shirts to buy.

AFC NORTH: Officially scratch the name of Chris McAlister off the Bengals' wish list of shutdown free agent cornerbacks. Baltimore will put the franchise tag on McAlister again because the two sides remain far apart on a contract. Clubs can designate franchise and transition free agents beginning Feb. 24. It's believed McAlister is seeking a singing bonus of between $16 million and $19 million, which would exceed Ty Law's $14.2 million bonus in 1999. McAlister, 26, earned $5.9 million last year as the Ravens' franchise player and would make $7.1 million this year, a 20 percent raise from 2003. ... Browns coach Butch Davis has yet to make a public appearance since getting a two-year contract extension and the new title of executive vice president, agreeing to have semi-retired Ron Wolf assess pro talent, and have quarterback Tim Couch forced on him by Cleveland's club owner and president. ... The Steelers have the 11th overall pick in the first round and should have their choice of the top two running backs in the draft, Kevin Jones of Virginia Tech and Steven Jackson of Oregon State. Jackson, at 231 pounds, fits the big-back style Pittsburgh has favored.


Written from notes submitted by NFL beat writers.

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