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The Road to the Draft: WR Torrey Smith


Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland

6-foot-1, 204 pounds

Draft projection: Late first, early second round

Lowdown: Smith is a smooth-running, home-run-hitting receiver and return man. Some teams will have him rated as high as the third WR in the draft. Some may have him eighth. He caught 61 passes for 824 yards in 2009 and had 67 for 1,055 yards with 12 TDs in 2010. He's the Atlantic Coast Conference's record-holder for career kickoff return yardage (2,983) and holds Maryland marks for career all-purpose yards (5,276) and touchdown receptions in a season (12). His all-purpose yardage total was second in on the ACC career list to Buffalo's C.J. Spiller.

While Smith left Maryland a year early, he's an inspiration off the field. He's the oldest of seven children and he had to help his mother, who had him at age 16, with child-care from an early age. His mom used to call him "the Microwave King" because he was adept at cooking meals for his siblings from the time he was in kindergarten. His mother put herself through school to get an associate of arts computer degree. Smith is the first male in his family to graduate college. He got his degree in criminal science in December.

Quote: "Yes, I was the oldest of 7. It had its ups and downs. I was always with my family. There were certain times when other kids would be able to go and have fun doing something, and I had responsibility. But that’s something I would not take back. ... For every one of me, there are a million other people in my situation. Like with my mom, there’s a million of her, a million other women making mistakes, being in relationships they probably shouldn’t be in, and there’s a kid that has to help his family -- make a decision whether to be positive or turn his back and go the wrong way. When you’re an athlete, it gets more attention."

---Mark Gaughan

Bills among 'a dozen' docking coach pay

The Buffalo Bills are among about a dozen teams that have imposed pay reductions for coaches with the start of the NFL lockout, according to Larry Kennan, staff director for the NFL Coaches Association.

“I have talked to many agents, and from what I’ve been told, there are 12 or 13 teams – somewhere in that range – that have started docking pay or decided they can start docking pay,” said Kennan, who heads the trade association that represents about 600 NFL coaches.

“On the other end of it, there’s eight or nine teams that aren’t going to take any pay for at least six months,” Kennan said. “And if we get to that point, we’re all in trouble.”

The rest of the teams not in those two categories are expected to start reducing pay within roughly 30 or 60 days. It’s believed most of the pay reductions are in the range of 20 percent to 25 percent, depending on the pay level of the coach. The Bills’ coaches will have their pay reimbursed as long as no regular-season games are lost, team sources have told The News. Most teams that are docking pay also plan to reimburse the pay lost to coaches in that event.

Kennan said he knows of three or four teams that have told coaches their salary is not expected to be reimbursed. But Kennan sees the pay reductions as unfair, regardless if they are likely – presuming the two sides eventually settle by September – to be reinstated.

“That’s like the rich borrowing from the poor to pay their costs and they saying they’ll pay them back without any interest,” Kennan said.

Kennan, a 16-year NFL assistant before joining the coaches’ association in 1999, says it has been harder for him to get concrete information on coaches’ contracts this year. “Many coaches will not tell me anything about their contracts because they’ve been warned not to do so,” Kennan said.

---Mark Gaughan

The Road to the Draft: WR Dane Sanzenbacher


Dane Sanzenbacher, WR, Ohio State
5-foot-11, 182 pounds
Draft projection: Seventh round.
Lowdown: Overahcieving, high-character receiver who won both the MVP award and the Bo Rein most inspirational player award for Ohio State. That was a first in Coach Jim Tressel’s career at Ohio State. Sanzenbacher caught 55 passes for 948 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior. He’s tough. Three days after dislocating a finger in practice – the bone broke through the skin at the knuckle – he caught a TD pass against Illinois. Sanzenbacher also is known for his moving pregame speeches. His first catch at Ohio State was a touchdown. A Toledo native, he only had one Big Ten scholarship offer (from Iowa) but went on a bus tour of colleges for prep players that was set up by ex-Buckeye Ted Ginn and got an offer after visiting Ohio State’s football camp. Could be a valuable special-teams player in the pros.

---Mark Gaughan

The Road to the Draft: RB Jacquizz Rodgers


Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State

5-foot-7, 196 pounds
Draft projection: third to fifth rounds
Lowdown: Rodgers had more than 900 touches over the last three seasons. Rodgers, coming out as a junior, rushed for 3,877 yards, tops in Oregon State history and sixth best in Pac-10 history. He had 46 rushing touchdowns. He has excellent hands, with 151 career catches. He’s a good cut-back runner. He’s a Darren Sproles-type player, but he’s not the explosive, breakaway threat that Sproles is. Sproles ran 4.47 out of college. Rodgers ran 4.59. Rodgers said he had only one fumble in his college career.

Quote, on his ability to handle a lot of carries in the NFL: “People are always going to question my size. They say ‘You’re 5-7. That’s not a prototypical running back. But my heart, my passion for the game, I think I could show them that.”

---Mark Gaughan

Brandon statement to fans

Bills Chief Executive Officer Russ Brandon sent the following statement to season-ticket holders today:

"We share our fans' disappointment with the news on Friday that the NFLPA has filed for decertification and a work stoppage has begun. We remain hopeful that a new and fair agreement can be reached in time to avoid any significant disruption to our preparations for the 2011 season. We believe that the quickest way to a fair agreement for everyone - players, teams and fans, is through negotiations facilitated by the mediator and not through litigation."
"As an organization, winning a championship continues to be our number one goal. Under the direction of General Manager Buddy Nix our entire football staff is hard at work preparing for the upcoming 2011 NFL Draft where we have the 3rd overall selection. Coach Gailey and his staff are also hard at work preparing for when our team returns to the field. Concurrently, the administrative departments continue to work diligently on the day-to-day business operations in preparation for the season."
"Although the off-season has not kicked off in typical fashion, one constant is the Buffalo Bills commitment to our season ticket holders, business partners and fans. On March 28th we will hold our second annual premium seat holder and sponsor "State of the Bills" event featuring Coach Gailey and GM Buddy Nix. We also are excited to host our annual Draft Day Party here at the Buffalo Bills Fieldhouse on April 28th and 29th for all of our season ticket holders. "
"We certainly appreciate the support and patience of our fans and we look forward to presenting a full season of exciting Buffalo Bills football in 2011."

Live NFL chat with Mark Gaughan at 11 a.m. Tuesday

Big gap in NFL labor standoff

When NFL labor talks broke off and the players' union decertified, word leaked out that the gap between the owners' last proposal and the players' last proposal might be as little as $185 million. The owners reportedly had dropped the amount they wanted as a give-back from players to $325 million per year. Union chief DeMaurice Smith said right after talks ended that the union was offering $137.5 million. It seems, however, there was a lot more to the story.

This was detailed in an item Sunday on the blog According to PFT, the owners and players also were negotiating over how the growth in revenue would be split in the coming years, based on projections of the growth. So if in 2012, the revenue was projected to grow 4 percent and it wound up growing 10 percent, how would that extra 6 perecent be split? The owners were planning on taking the first 1.5 percent above the projection. How would the rest be split? The owners' last proposal didn't have any mechanism for splitting the revenue above the projection. So in reality, the two sides could be as much as $860 million a year apart on their positions.

This makes much more sense. If the standoff truly was about $185 million, or about $6 million per team per year, it would be hard to imagine the union going to "Defcon 4," and playing the decertification card. Here's a link to the details:

---Mark Gaughan

The Road to the Draft: WR Titus Young


Titus Young, WR, Boise State
5-foot-11 1-2, 174 pounds
Draft projection: Second round.

Lowdown: Early in the college season, teammate Austin Pettis got more attention, but Young soon came to be seen as the best pro prospect among the Boise wideouts. Young is quick. He ran a 4.43-second time in the 40-yard dash at the combine workouts. He’s just about the same size as Eagles fleet game-breaker DeSean Jackson (5-10, 175). Young had 71 catches for 1,133 yards and seven touchdowns last season.

On the Jackson comparisons: “I know DeSean Jackson, coming out of college, he did a lot of exciting things for the NFL these past couple of years. I look forward to kind of following his footsteps on the field, and to find a good veteran wide receiver to look up to, and follow his ways, as well.”

---Mark Gaughan


The Road to the Draft: RB John Clay


John Clay, RB, Wisconsin

6-foot-1, 231 pounds

Draft projection: Third day.

Lowdown: NFL scouts might have to do a double-take when sizing up Clay this spring. He played at 260 pounds during last season with the Badgers. But he got himself in much better shape during post-season workouts. Clay enters the draft a year early. He rushed for 1,517 yards as a sophomore and 1,012 yards as a junior. He had 76 yards and a touchdown in the Rose Bowl loss to TCU. He's the kind of complementary, big-back who could be a steal in the later rounds. He's a downhill runner. His nickname is "Gumby."

Clay on his weight loss: "I felt I still have the attributes of power and speed at this weight. I’m able to pull away from people. Before, I was able to run, but I didn’t have that breakaway speed like I wanted. At this weight, I feel I’m able to do that now."

On how he lost the weight: "Diet was the biggest part of it. Not having time to eat in college, I’d be eating sometimes only twice a day, eating big meals, and that wasn’t the best thing. I’ve been eating three times a day, smaller meals, and I changed my diet."

 ---Mark Gaughan


The Road to the Draft: LB Brooks Reed


Brooks Reed, LB, Arizona

6-foot-2 1-2, 262 pounds

Draft projection: second or third round

Lowdown: One look at Arizona's Reed and the comparison is obvious: Clay Matthews. Like the Green Bay linebacking star, Reed has long blond hair sticking out the back of his helmet. He's a similar size and he has pretty good athleticism. The difference is Reed played defensive end in college. Matthews was a linebacker at Southern California. So scouts will have to judge how Reed can project at a new position. Reed had 34 starts in college and made 17 sacks. In 2010 he had 6.5 sacks. He was not great vs. the best competition in college. But he did have a pretty good week at the Senior Bowl. From Buffalo's perspective, he might not be good enough to go high in the second round. But he might not last until the start of the third round.

What does he think think of the Matthews comparisons? "He’s a great athlete. I know a lot of guys compare me to him just because of the hair. He’s a great athlete. He played in a system where he was a stand-up linebacker, whereas I’m trying to make that transition right now. I think it’s going to take me maybe a little bit more time to understand the position, but I think I have the athletic ability to do that. Athletically moving your hips I think I can do that. But there’s basic things about the positions, just new responsibilities that I’m not used to as a defensive end."

---Mark Gaughan

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