There is no offseason: NFL teams keep busy, even after games are done

Supposedly, the NFL has reached its downtime. Considering how the league has ignored for nearly five months that this is the offseason, a break sure would be nice right about now.

Head coaches are on vacation -- Philadelphia's Andy Reid and Minnesota's Brad Childress went fishing together in Alaska, where they presumably aren't discussing how to incorporate dynamic first-round picks Jeremy Maclin and Percy Harvin into their offenses. General managers are examining 30-foot putts, not salary-cap figures. Roger Goodell will climb Mount Rainier.

Hopefully, with people in the league really reading the calendar and taking vacations, the rumor mill will stop spinning uncontrollably -- no more breathless Brett Favre half-truths or total misrepresentations, please -- and everyone can recoup before training camps open in five weeks.

Besides, we've just witnessed the busiest offseason in memory. We could use a hiatus.

Free agency and the draft are supposed to pique fans' interest, and they've done the job well. Albert Haynesworth signing the biggest free-agent contract in history, $100 million for seven years, to take his skills from Tennessee to Washington, created a huge splash. Then came Kurt Warner, playing the money game to perfection before extracting a two-year, $23 million deal to return to Arizona. Brian Dawkins tearfully left Philadelphia for Denver, with, by the way, a five-year, $17 million contract that could be worth up to $27 million.

Potential Hall of Famers Derrick Brooks, Orlando Pace, Torry Holt and Fred Taylor were cut by the only teams for which they had ever suited up. Pace and Taylor wound up with likely title contenders in Chicago and New England, respectively, Holt landed in Jacksonville and Brooks should find a new home this summer.

The impressive list of free agents on the move has included wide receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh to Seattle and Laveranues Coles to Cincinnati. Defensive end Antonio Smith left NFC champion Arizona for Houston, and Jason Taylor wound up back in Miami. Safety Darren Sharper signed with New Orleans, and linebacker Bart Scott joined the New York Jets.

Trades, which don't happen in the NFL that often, resurfaced with three doozies, the juiciest of which was the Jay Cutler saga in Denver.

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Already distraught over the firing of coach Mike Shanahan, Cutler was incensed when the replacement, Josh McDaniels, brought up the quarterback in trade talks. Things disintegrated from there, with Cutler at one point refusing to return McDaniels' messages.

Eventually, the franchise quarterback was dealt to Chicago for a boatload of draft picks and his replacement, Kyle Orton.

Another unhappy player -- this time over money -- offensive tackle Jason Peters went from Buffalo to Philadelphia, which has restocked so well that it might be the NFC favorite.

And Kansas City sent the best tight end of his generation, Tony Gonzalez, to Atlanta just before the draft.

Amazingly, not even the Terrell Owens carnival landing in Western New York -- T.O. signed a one year, $6.5 million contract with the Bills just days after being released by Dallas -- drew the most attention. Unfortunately, the stories involving guys who might not even play next season seemed to have the most juice -- and drew the loudest and lengthiest analyses.

Whither Favre, for instance? Or perhaps more pertinently, when will he land in Minnesota?

According to a variety of stories throughout the spring, some of them actually contradicting each other as they were being reported by one particular national sports outlet, Vikings executives/doctors/trainers visited Favre in Mississippi. Or they didn't make the trip.

Favre contemplated surgery, then dropped the idea, then had surgery. The quarterback was given a deadline by the Vikings. Or he wasn't. He was given a training program by the team. Or not.

Maybe the aging passer will come back again. At least Goodell doesn't need to make any decisions about suspensions or fines in Favre's lingering soap opera.

The commissioner isn't so fortunate when it comes to Michael Vick, Donte' Stallworth and Plaxico Burress. Their stories, punctuated by litigation, investigation and plea-bargaining, have kept the seamier side of athletics in the spotlight.

Vick, under home confinement until July 20 after serving his federal prison sentence for running a dogfighting ring, presents the diciest dilemma for Goodell. Has the former Atlanta quarterback, who was released by the team earlier this month, served enough time in the eyes of the NFL? Or will Goodell, in accordance with his powers under the league's personal-conduct policy, suspend Vick?

Goodell already has indefinitely suspended Stallworth after the Cleveland wide receiver pleaded guilty to a DUI manslaughter charge.

Burress' case has been adjourned until Sept. 23 -- he shot himself in the thigh last November in a Manhattan nightclub and was charged with criminal possession of a weapon. Goodell could opt to suspend Burress, too, under player-conduct guidelines, even though his case hasn't been adjudicated.

Got all that?

Did we mention the NFL Players Association hiring DeMaurice Smith, an energetic, high-powered attorney and football lover, to run the union and take on the owners in collective bargaining?

Or singers Gloria Estefan and Jimmy Buffett diving in with the Dolphins? Or New Orleans being awarded the 2013 Super Bowl? Or NFL clubs teaming up with state lotteries for promotional purposes? Or John Madden's retirement from broadcasting? Or ...

What a good time to catch our breath.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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