THE GRAPEVINE: Rumors, Opinion & a Conspiracy Theory

Lombardi's Way THE GRAPEVINE: Rumors, Opinion & a Conspiracy Theory

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For the life of me I don’t get all the hate and bile directed towards Derrick Mason from Baltimore Ravens fans. All Mason did during his 6 seasons in Baltimore was to give all that he had. Sure he yapped when things weren’t going well offensively and ok, I get that the needle leaned towards the selfish side but from his arrival in B’more to his departure, no one was a more consistent or more reliable starter than Derrick Mason.

No one!

Mason never missed a game as a Raven, playing in 96 consecutive regular season games and 8 playoff games. He is the franchise’s all-time leading receiver in receptions (471) and yards (5,777). He was also a leader on offense, a role normally reserved for the quarterback but given the temperament of the men behind center the Ravens have employed, Mason seemed more like the offensive alpha male than anyone else.

He played fearlessly, practiced hard and always respected the game.

If the Ravens had 53 Derrick Masons during his 6 season here, there would be another Lombardi Trophy in the Ravens’ trophy case at The Castle.

The Baltimore Ravens and the New York Jets have more in common than just Rex Ryan, Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard. The temperament of the 2007 vintage Ravens and the 2011 Jets seem to be about the same. Back in ’07 there was a lot of frustration simmering at the surface during Brian Billick’s last season with the team. They got off to a 4-2 start after an ugly win in San Francisco (9-7) and a win against a hapless St. Louis Rams (22-3) at home. But despite the decent start, you knew things weren’t right.

Following that win over the Rams the Ravens would go on a 9 game losing streak, including a loss to the then winless, Cam Cameron led Dolphins – the only win Cameron had as a head coach. The streak ended on a gift from the Steelers whose playoff seeding was set, win or lose game 16.

Given the offensive struggles of the Jets in 2011, a defense that isn’t performing to its standards and their volatile temperament fostered by the head coach, this season could turn on the Jets like the Ravens ’07 season. And the balance of their schedule suggests this isn’t an impossibility or just wishful thinking on the part of yours truly.

Count me among those who think the fines in the NFL are out of control. Count me also among those who think that these unruly fines are part of a conspiracy.

Stay with me here…

It’s no secret that the Retired Players Association wasn’t exactly thrilled with their slice of the pie in the newest Collective Bargaining Agreement. Law suits have been tossed around and meetings were scheduled between God Goodell and the RPA to try and settle the differences.

But perhaps to ease the pain, $25,000 fines are being levied as quickly as those cameras around the Baltimore Metro area can take a picture of your license plate for keeping up with traffic and mailing you an invitation to pay $40. It’s ridiculous. Matt Birk was fined $5,000 by the league for taking a mic out of his shoulder pads (one that the league requires to enhance viewer enjoyment for the game’s sights and sounds) because it was sticking him in the neck.

So what does this have to do with the RPA? Well those retired players are the beneficiaries of those fines. Maybe this is Goodell’s way of still getting what the owners wanted at the bargaining table for the retirees without it costing the owners.

Speaking of fines, why is it that Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz won’t be fined for their little stiff arms while Ray Rice gets a $7,500 bill for his – one that was so offensive it wasn’t even penalized on the field.

On the surface it looks to me like Schwartz overreacted but then who knows if Harbaugh said anything to the Lions’ skipper after the exchange. Some of you may recall that Schwartz was a Ravens assistant during the Marchibroda years – one of which Jim Harbaugh was the Ravens QB. There are rumors floating about that the two never really liked each other back then.

Hey how about a 3 round bout for charity guys?

Proceeds will go to the RPA.

I’m sure the Commish could get behind that…

One thing that as a fan I can’t get behind is a night game. I hate night games at M&T. Sure the national stage has some allure to it and your team gets exposure but I’d rather speak softly and carry a big stick; fly under the radar and pull a surprise attack. Besides, if you are like me and enjoy a great tailgating event, it’s always nice to do have a nice opening act (pregame tailgating) followed by the headliner (the game) and of course an encore is quite nice (the postgame tailgate).

Night games, you lose the encore and it’s replaced by miles of red taillights because nearly everyone leaves at the same time when it’s midnight.

Just give me some good old fashioned, “It’s 1 o’clock somewhere!”

Carson Palmer is heading to Oakland! I must admit that I didn’t think Palmer would play this season and that he’d be involved in a draft day trade next year. But a possible two No. 1 picks is really hard to turn down, particularly for a guy who almost can’t return as a Bengal. Big win for Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis.

The deal places a lot of pressure on Palmer. Can he step out of the gym and on to the field and justify the hefty price tag? One thing going for Palmer is a great running game which might become even better since the big right hander’s resume commands more respect than Jason Campbell and certainly the next man up, Kyle Boller.

Trades don’t happen often in the NFL. Being the ultimate team game, it’s hard to pull and plug players from one system to another and expect similar results. This isn’t baseball. But given all of the frustration from fans regarding Joe Flacco, I wondered if given the opportunity to make this same deal and you were Ozzie Newsome, would you?

I happen to consider Flacco to be an above average quarterback and in the case of the NFL that means he had to fall in the top 15 quarterbacks. If you take Peyton Manning out of the equation because we aren’t exactly sure at this time if he’ll ever resume his career, the top 15 in my opinion are:

  • Tom Brady
  • Drew Brees
  • Aaron Rodgers
  • Philip Rivers
  • Ben Roethlisberger
  • Sam Bradford
  • Matt Stafford
  • Matt Schaub
  • Josh Freeman
  • Michael Vick
  • Matt Ryan
  • Joe Flacco
  • Tony Romo
  • Eli Manning
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick

Arguments could be made that Cam Newton, Jay Cutler, Kevin Kolb, Matt Hasselbeck and Mark Sanchez all belong in this grouping. Some might argue that players like Andy Dalton and Colt McCoy will soon be part of this group. Add it up and that’s 22 quarterbacks, probably 11 of which could jockey for the bottom five spots in the Top 15.

Where does Flacco sit in your opinion?

And if you have him towards the bottom third of the top 15 it remains an interesting, volatile and debatable question, “Would you trade an above average QB for 2 No. 1’s?” You can vote here.

The Palmer deal might evolve into a win-win but if the Bengals don’t bungle those picks, it is a big win for them particularly since Palmer was never going to take another snap as a Bengal and Mike Brown’s dusty wallet can remain dusty. He won’t have to pick it up to pay Palmer again.

And I thought that the cinema adaptation of Mike Brown’s life would feature the dude from Weekend at Bernie’s! Brown deserves credit for this fleecing.

During Sunday’s game against the Texans, the first half ended with a Hail Mary pass from Matt Schaub into the Ravens end zone. On the play Chuck Pagano, after a time out mind you, decided to rush only 1 player, Terrell Suggs. The other 2 defenders at the line of scrimmage could called Domino’s and got their delivery. They just stood there.

In hindsight, Schaub could have stood there and waited until a player decided to break out of the end zone cluster and then completed a TD pass. Chuck, here’s hoping you take that play to the shredder.

And finally, big props to Ray Lewis for being the first member into the 40-30 club (sack-interception). To continue to play at such a high level in his 16th season is a physiological marvel. This man, this leader will be incredibly missed and only when he’s gone will we fully realize just what he means to the Baltimore Ravens. As Ravens fans we’ve been blessed by No. 52 whose echo in Charm City’s heritage will nearly approach that of Johnny U.


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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24×7 Networks, LLC’s founder (the parent of and His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts “The Fanimal” also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi.

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