Cards' QB job open, or is coach trying to keep Leinart honest?


CARLSBAD, Calif. -- Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt may like a lot of what he's seen out of quarterback Matt Leinart this offseason, but there is something keeping him from fully committing to the former first-round draft pick. From all indications, Leinart has put in the time and shown a commitment that was questioned earlier in his career.

Yet Whisenhunt, like general manager Rod Graves a few weeks ago, contends that former Browns quarterback Derek Anderson is still in play.

"We also feel very good about Derek Anderson," Whisenhunt said. "He's a proven player with a lot of talent. There's a lot of excitement about that position. I am looking forward to see how Matt continues to grow into that role."

"We're always going to have competition. That's one of the things that's helped us over the years," Whisenhunt said Monday after addressing players at the NFL Rookie Symposium. "I'm very pleased with how Matt has handled himself through the offseason program, minicamps and OTAs. We're seeing a lot of the things he's learned and worked hard at the last few years come out. We're excited to see where that goes."

But ...

I look at this two ways. Leinart clearly has not lit things up and seized command, either with his play or with the guys he has to lead. That he hasn't established himself and is in the running for a job with a newcomer who struggled beating out Brady Quinn in Cleveland would not make me feel overly comfortable -- especially with the trend that's developed over the past few years.

Quarterbacks Jay Cutler, Vince Young, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Matthew Stafford, Josh Freeman and Mark Sanchez showed enough promise for coaches to risk their reputations and job status by playing them early. Whisenhunt doesn't seem fully compelled to do that with Leinart, who has four seasons to his credit.

At the same time, the job is Leinart's to lose. He is being afforded every opportunity to hang on to the job. In his time with Leinart, I believe Whisenhunt has figured out how the former Heisman Trophy winner operates. If he gets comfortable, then maybe he won't produce to his potential. Whisenhunt is one of the smarter and sharper coaches I've encountered and he's probably just keeping Leinart a little on edge to see if he will establish himself.

Judgment calls

Quarterbacks Michael Vick and Vince Young might escape NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's Time Out Corner -- most likely not his wrath -- for the time being, but Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand seems destined for some type of discipline for his recent DUI arrest while undergoing treatment for what Lewand said was a drinking problem.

To that point first, Goodell said Sunday that team employees, executives, coaches and himself, are held to a higher standard in regards to the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy. Goodell was poignant in emphasizing expectations of team and league executives. Lewand said he is in treatment and the league will empathize with his problem, but one NFL official told me that some form of discipline is all but certain.

Compounding things is the perception of double standards. With Goodell levying punishment on players who violate the personal conduct code, turning a blind eye to Lewand's arrest would look hypocritical. That might be palatable for what appears to be an addiction issue at a different time in league history. With the NFL and the Players Association in conflict over a litany of issues during contentious negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement, the players union will be begging for even-handed accountability.

As for Vick, Goodell was quick to point out that the Eagles quarterback is not a person of interest by police in a shooting that took place outside of a club where Vick and roughly 299 others were celebrating his 30th birthday in the Tidewater region of Virginia. The NFL is investigating the incident to determine if Vick violated any terms Goodell mapped out when he reinstated Vick from a suspension following his imprisonment on federal dog fighting charges.

Goodell said he plans to speak with Vick -- I am guessing very soon, maybe even before the league's investigation is complete -- to get Vick's side of the story. Goodell got Vick's side of the story -- lies -- before Vick was indicted on dog fighting charges in 2007 and that might be why Goodell opts to speak to Vick sooner rather than later. Goodell is going to test Vick's honesty again to see if the quarterback comes clean. If details differ from what the facts turn out to be or, if those facts violate the guidelines (and trust) Goodell afforded Vick, he will be a goner.

Vick might have taken a solid preemptive strike by volunteering to speak to Virginia Beach police Monday. He was cleared of any wrongdoing. Things, at this point, don't point to Vick getting in trouble -- Vick has been a solid citizen since being released from prison. However, at the very least, he is on thinner ice than ever.

If anything, Vick should learn that his old lifestyle is just that -- old.

Lastly, Young looks like he won't get punished for his altercation with another man at a Dallas strip club for which he was criminally cited. He will be getting some sage, and I'd assume stern words of advice (a warning) from Goodell when they speak soon, at the commissioner's behest.

The NFL is still on a fact-finding mission and Young isn't off the hook yet, so he better not get too cozy for the time being. Young hasn't been in trouble before and he could get a pass as a first-time offender. Then again….

All of these guys also need to understand that with the NFL bigger and more popular than ever, they and their colleagues better understand there is little room for bad judgment. To err is human. To knowingly err isn't wise.

A little CBA chatter

The acrimony that has become a staple surrounding the handful of labor talks between the NFL and the NFLPA was non-existent when Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith addressed players and the media at the Rookie Symposium.

What was interesting was that Smith stressed to players that they get educated on the process and the business model of the NFL, adding that the NFLPA has the resources to get them up to speed and keep them current on developments. He told this to what possibly will be the last rookie class that won't enter the league with a wage scale.

A lot of the 252 rookies on hand -- as you would expect -- don't know much about the collective bargaining agreement and the labor battle that could affect their earning potential. They might not be too eager to learn either. Case in point: When Goodell, who did not bring up anything labor related when he spoke to players, asked if there were any questions, there wasn't one. Not one on labor or anything else.

It's hard to fault these 22 year olds for not knowing or wanting to know much about a league they've yet to play in or a business model they haven't helped establish. They've been so busy trying to better their 40 times to get drafted and learn the playbook so they don't get cut, things like free agency and retirement benefits are the furthest things from their minds.

In other CBA related developments (or lack thereof):

» Both Goodell and Smith said that a deal will get done and preferably sooner rather than later. Sooner likely means after the season, though. Several league officials said a deal likely could occur at the 11th hour. I don't know where the hands of the clock are now but time is ticking before play in 2011 is threatened.

» With a rookie wage scale all but a certainty, expect to hear arguments for shorter years and less restrictive policies (franchise tags) for players to reach unrestricted free agency.

» Should a rookie wage scale be implemented, don't rule out the NFL following in the NBA's footsteps by establishing a salary exemption of some sort for a veteran(s) on each team to help salary-cap strapped squads retain their own veterans and/or reward players who've actually done something.



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