Tony Romo has turned into a star after going undrafted 10 years ago. Romo’s spring of 2013 was a tad more lucrative than his spring of 2003.
Eight months ago, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback signed a six-year, $108 million extension with $55 million in guaranteed money.
And 10 years before that?
“I was a very sought-after [rookie] free agent,” Romo, tongue firmly in cheek, told Twin Cities reporters on Wednesday.
Romo said he had nibbles from 15 to 20 NFL teams immediately after the 2003 draft. Of course, as Romo noted, that interest level came from 15 to 20 teams, “that really didn’t like [me] enough the previous 48 hours.”
So, Tony, what did the Cowboys have to fork over to get the late-bloomer from Eastern Illinois? Five hundred bucks?
“Yeah, I made a little more than that,” he said. “I think it was 10 grand, actually, which felt like a year’s paycheck coming out of college. It was nice.”
Say what you want about Romo. He has been labeled as a guy who can’t win the big game. A guy who is prone to mistakes late in games. A guy who is 1-3 in the postseason. But there aren’t too many teams, the Vikings obviously included, who wouldn’t swap quarterbacks for Romo.
Heading into Sunday’s game against the Vikings, Romo ranks fifth in passer rating (101.7) behind only Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.
Romo is 59-42 heading into his 102nd NFL start. Among quarterbacks through 100 starts, Romo ranks No. 1 in completions (2,262) and passing yards (27,485). He also ranks third in touchdown passes (189) behind only Dan Marino (214) and Brett Favre (194).
In that 2003 draft, 32 teams made 262 selections. Thirteen quarterbacks were selected. Only one of them — Carson Palmer, selected No. 1 overall by the Bengals — ever made a Pro Bowl. Romo has made three.
The other quarterbacks selected in the first round that year were Byron Leftwich (seventh), Kyle Boller (19th) and Rex Grossman (22nd). Later rounds saw names such as Chris Simms, Senaca Wallace, Brian St. Pierre, Brooks Bollinger, Drew Henson and Kliff Kingsbury.
“I think more than anything, I was just very raw,” Romo said. “[The scouts] were all right. But at the end of the day, they just didn’t see the things that can separate you.”
Romo was asked what it is about quarterbacks and the draft selection process that can lead to No. 1 overall picks flopping and undrafted free-agents flourishing.
“I think sometimes only certain people can evaluate the quarterback position at a high level,” Romo said. “I think it’s a very tough thing to do because there are so many things that go into it. And I think it’s a difficult position to gauge. Just [the offensive] system alone dictates differing decision-making processes and I think that unless you’re really the guy coaching him and teaching him, you don’t necessarily know his strengths and negatives.”
So what’s the one trait Romo would look for if he were in charge of drafting a quarterback coming out of college?
“Instincts,” he said. “Just their ability to get through progressions at a fast rate. You can always work on accuracy, you can always work on footwork. You can get guys to do the right things and be leaders and all that stuff. But inherently what you can’t teach him is to see the field quickly, react quickly and get through stuff fast. That’s where I find that [teams] just miss the mark the most times with young guys.”
Courtesy: MARK CRAIG | Minnesota Star Tribune
BRISTOL, Conn. – Are you ready for some football? Hank Williams Jr. isn’t anymore.
The country singer and ESPN each took credit for the decision Thursday morning to ax his classic intro to “Monday Night Football.”
The network had pulled the song from the game earlier this week after Williams made an analogy to Adolf Hitler while discussing President Barack Obama on Fox News on Monday morning.
“After reading hundreds of e-mails, I have made MY decision,” Williams said in a statement to The Associated Press. “By pulling my opening Oct 3rd, You (ESPN) stepped on the Toes of The First Amendment Freedom of Speech, so therefore Me, My Song, and All My Rowdy Friends are OUT OF HERE. It’s been a great run.”
But ESPN’s statement said: “We have decided to part ways with Hank Williams Jr. We appreciate his contributions over the past years. The success of Monday Night Football has always been about the games and that will continue.”
Spokesman Kirt Webster said Williams made the decision Wednesday night, while the network said it informed Williams of the move Thursday morning.
Regardless of whose call it was, one of sports’ and entertainment’s most visible partnerships is over. The song had been a “Monday Night Football” staple since 1989 and survived the game’s switch of networks from ABC to cable a few years ago.
The song is based on Williams’ hit “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight.” The lyrics were changed each week to reflect the night’s game.
ESPN will no longer have access to the music or words because Williams owns the publishing rights, the master recordings and the song. Williams, the son of country music icon Hank Williams, is known for his bombastic manner and easy opinions.
Williams’ statement on “Fox & Friends” comparing a golf game between Obama and Republican Rep. John Boehner to an outing featuring Hitler and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went viral after ESPN announced it would pull the intro late that afternoon.
“It’d be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu,” Williams said during the satellite interview.
Asked to clarify, Williams said, “They’re the enemy,” adding that by “they” he meant Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Anchor Gretchen Carlson later said to him, “You used the name of one of the most hated people in all of the world to describe, I think, the president.” Williams replied, “Well, that is true. But I’m telling you like it is.”
Williams issued a statement Monday night insisting his remarks were misunderstood, then apologized Tuesday.
Williams got plenty of support, even from some unlikely places.
Among his defenders were Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar of “The View,” who have a very different political viewpoint from the conservative Williams, but often are called out for their own comments.
“Those among us who are without sin, cast the first stone,” Goldberg said.
NFL Boxscore – Dallas at Minnesota
Final Team Statistics
|Time of Possession||
|Dallas||– D.Murray 7-32, P.Tanner 5-25, F.Jones 5-20, T.Choice 3-14, D.Harris 1-10, L.Miller 3-7, S.McGee 1-4, J.Kitna 1-3, S.Chapas 1-2, K.Ogletree 1-1, T.Romo 1-(-1).|
|Minnesota||– A.Peterson 14-81, J.Webb 2-46, L.Booker 3-15, T.Davis 3-12, A.Robinson 3-9, D.McNabb 1-7, C.Ponder 1-5.|
|Dallas||– T.Romo 15-20-0, 141 yards. J.Kitna 4-6-0, 59 yards. T.Brandstater 1-1-0, 31 yards. S.McGee 1-3-0, 12 yards.|
|Minnesota||– D.NcNabb 12-18-1, 164 yards and 1 touchdown. C.Ponder 3-8-0, 60 yards. J.Webb 4-7-0, 81 yards.|
|Dallas||– D.Bryant 5-67, J.Witten 4-17, J.Holley 3-51, F.Jones 3-18, M.Johnson 2-49, K.Ogletree 2-22, R.Radway 1-12, D.Murray 1-7.|
|Minnesota||– P.Harvin 4-29, M.Jenkins 3-48, B.Berrian 2-64, A.Reisner 2-38, S.Burton 2-30, L.Booker 2-18, E.Arceneaux 1-43, R.D’Imperio 1-23, J.Iglesias 1-7, J.Kleinsasser 1-5.|
Notice that only selected stats were shown. No mention of the blocked field goal that resulted in a DAL touchdown!
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MARK CRAIG, Star Tribune Updated: August 28, 2011 – 1:00 PM
The Vikings opened the most important game of the preseason with exactly the kind of offensive attack they’re hoping will stun the rest of the NFC North during a regular season that starts two weeks from Sunday.
The result was a perfect combination. Powerful running by Adrian Peterson setting up a 49-yard, quick-strike touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb to last year’s forgotten man, Bernard Berrian, for a 7-0 lead over the Dallas Cowboys in front of 62,800 fans at Mall of America Field.
Yeah, the Cowboys ended up winning 23-17 behind a blocked field goal that Alan Ball returned for a second-quarter touchdown. But if you’re a Vikings fan, you’re not nearly as nervous about this new offense after Saturday night’s game.
“That drive,” said coach Leslie Frazier, “was really indicative of what we want to be like during the course of the year.”
If you’re a Vikings fan, you’re also breathing a giant sigh of relief because starting cornerback Antoine Winfield’s right shoulder is A-OK. He went down with a stinger in the second quarter and did not return, but he would have if it had been a regular-season game.
The game billed as the regular-season dress rehearsal couldn’t have started any better.
After the Vikings defense held the Cowboys to one first down on the game’s opening drive, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave gave fans their first glimpse of how he intends to move the ball this season.
His first call was a power run by Peterson behind three tight ends lined up to the near right side.
Peterson gained 4 yards and then touched the ball four more times for 25 more yards — converting two third-and-1 situations — during a seven-play drive.
And just when the Cowboys decided they’d better stack the box, quarterback McNabb took a seven-step drop and stood there with all the time he needed to launch a perfectly thrown ball to Berrian. Berrian caught the ball between two defenders at the goal line.
“We’re counting on Bernard to make the kind of plays he made on that opening drive,” Frazier said. “If that does happen for us, we have a chance to be an explosive offense.”
It was a perfect knockoff of the Atlanta Falcons (Musgrave’s old team), using power to move the ball, bring the defense close to the line, slow the pass rush and set up a quick strike down the field for the first touchdown by the first-team offense this season.
Musgrave also mixed in a brief no-huddle offense and had McNabb throwing to receivers instead of sticking with tight ends and running backs. McNabb looked comfortable throwing short and long, completing 12 of 18 passes for 164 yards behind a line that played well in the first game back from knee surgery for right guard Anthony Herrera.
“I love Coach Musgrave’s offense,” said receiver Percy Harvin, who was moved around quite a bit. “I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
McNabb wasn’t flawless. He tried to force a ball through double coverage to Jim Kleinsasser, but the ball was tipped and intercepted. The Cowboys converted the turnover into a touchdown and a 17-7 lead.
The first-team defense held the Cowboys to 10 first-half points. The special teams struggled with the blocked field goal and a 52-yard field goal attempt by Ryan Longwell that fell short.
But the offense clicked for the most part as the starters played through the first series of the third quarter. Peterson ran 14 times for 81 yards (5.8-yard average). McNabb targeted his wideouts 13 times, completing nine passes for 141 yards. Berrian, who was lost in last year’s offense, was targeted four times, catching two for 64 yards.
“We want to spread the ball around to different guys,” McNabb said. “But Adrian is kind of the straw that stirs the drink. When we get that part of the game going, it opens up a lot of things in the passing game.”
Most of the Vikings’ starters are expected to rest in Thursday’s preseason finale against Houston at Mall of America Field. The team must cut from 90 to 80 players by Tuesday.
Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe suffered a setback with his hamstring injury and was back on the sideline a day after returning to the practice field. Coach Leslie Frazier said the team is erring on the side of caution by deciding not to play the veteran in Saturday night’s third preseason game against the Cowboys.
“It’s nothing major,” Frazier said of the setback. “Just enough that we don’t want to chance him not being there for the first [regular season] game.”
Shiancoe first injured the hamstring during the first week of practice in Mankato. His first day back to practice was Tuesday, when the Vikings practiced for 2 1/2 hours in full pads.
Meanwhile, backup middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley missed practice because of a hip flexor that has bothered him since the end of last season.
On the flip side, Frazier said right guard Anthony Herrera will start on Saturday in what will be his first game since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last November. Frazier said the team hopes to get at least one quarter out of Herrera on Saturday.
Herrera has been practicing with the first team since last week, but was held out of last Saturday’s preseason game. With Scott Kooistra (neck) landing on injured reserve, Chris DeGeare fading and Ryan Cook probably better suited to be a backup at multiple positions, Herrera is the favorite to recapture his starting position, assuming he stays healthy.
Other highlights include:
- The team will wait until Thursday to determine whether Christian Ponder or Joe Webb will be the No. 2 quarterback on Saturday night. The two split time with the No. 2 offense today.
- Frazier was asked what he thought of the Ravens signing former Vikings’ tackle Bryant McKinnie. Said Frazier: “Good for him. Should be good for the Ravens. I wish him nothing but the best.” Frazier released the overweight McKinnie on the second day of training camp.
- RB Toby Gerhart missed practice again. Frazier said an MRI revealed no damage to Gerhart’s Achilles’ tendon or ankle. Gerhart is just experiencing soreness and will not play on Saturday.
- Quarterback Donovan McNabb said he feels the timing and chemistry between himself and his receivers is “very close” to being where he wants it.
- Special teams coach Mike Priefer said the team will talk more about the punt return rotation on Saturday, but added that he would like to see Marcus Sherels go first.
- Jamarca Sanford and Tyrell Johnson continued to split time with the first team at strong safety.
- Adrian Peterson fumbled an exchange with Ponder. Off the top of my head, it was the first time I remember seeing AD fumble this summer. And it might not have been entirely his fault.
- Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave worked practice from the sideline, using a headset to communicate with the quarterbacks.
- Rookie tight end Kyle Rudolph had several nice catches. He’s just so fluid and his hands are so soft. The longer Shiancoe is sidelined, the more Rudolph gains on him. But there is room for two pass-catching tight ends in this offense.
- Husain Abdullah had a nice read and interception.
- Percy Harvin made another outstanding catch, diving to grab a pass from Ponder.
- Rookie DT Christian Ballard was on the first-team goal-line defense. Letroy Guion, Kevin Williams’ replacement, made a nice stop on the goal line. He was in on three of the four stops in Saturday night’s goal-line stand. CB Chris Cook played in the nickel and had a nice pass defense while covering Michael Jenkins.
Welcome to the most important week of the summer.
Returning to Winter Park for a 1 p.m. practice today, the Vikings have reached the part of their preseason where more than baby steps are required to keep the pace.
Coach Leslie Frazier will treat this week more like he would a regular-season game. Practices will have a regular-season tempo, there will be specific game-planning for the Cowboys, and the starters will play into the second half on Saturday night at Mall of America Field. How long they play hasn’t been determined, but coaches always mark the third preseason game as the one in which starters get reacquainted with returning to the field for the second half.
As far as baby steps to get to this point, the Vikings deserve a passing grade, all things considered. The defense was stifling in Saturday night’s 20-7 win at Seattle, while the offense showed some rhythm after a slow start. Yes, the offense still hasn’t scored a touchdown, but that 81-yard drive from inside their 1-yard line was impressive, especially considering it came without Percy Harvin (ribs) and Visanthe Shiancoe (hamstring), two major parts of a new offense still taking its baby steps.
Possibly the most unexpected observation to this point is how comfortable new quarterback Donovan McNabb has looked with a little more than two weeks in the offense. He’s been decisive, sharp on the short and intermediate passes, threw a nice longer pass to Michael Jenkins and has shown he still can move around in the pocket.
So as we head into the big-boy steps part of the preseason, I wouldn’t put McNabb among the top five concerns at this point. Here are my top five:
1, The offensive line.
Most coaches want their starting five in place by the third preseason game. The Vikings are unsettled up front, to say the least. They still don’t know who their right guard is. Their left tackle looks like a guard and made a major mistake that gave Seahawks DE Raheem Brock an open path to McNabb. That can’t happen. Not to a 34-year-old QB who hasn’t survived all 16 games since 2004. The O-line is easily the biggest concern on this team.
2. The third cornerback.
The backup corner that’s turned more heads this summer than any other is Marcus Sherels. That’s good for the undrafted ex-Gopher, but he’s the No. 6 corner on the team. He isn’t going to move ahead of Chris Cook or Asher Allen, two young players the Vikings have a lot more invested in. Cook especially needs to start playing like a second-round draft pick. Or like he did last season before knee injuries derailed his career. He has it in him. In this division, the Vikings hope he relocates that ability in a hurry.
3. Strong safety.
The seemingly never-ending battle between preferred candidate Tyrell Johnson and Jamarca Sanford trudges on. Sanford started the preseason opener. Johnson started the second game. Whoever starts this week has the inside track for the regular-season opener. Rookie Mistral Raymond is a possibility. He would play free safety and Husain Abdullah would move to strong. The Vikings probably don’t want to show Philip Rivers a rookie free safety on Sept. 11. The good news is there’s nowhere to go but up from the Vikings’ safety play in recent years.
4. The receivers.
Harvin, Bernard Berrian and Jenkins are the starters. Greg Camarillo probably is the fourth receiver (and second slot guy in four-wide sets). The fifth receiver could be the winner from a pool of interesting prospects. Devin Aromashodu would get my tentative vote. Harvin is explosive, but not a No. 1 receiver that can line up wide and present a physical mismatch. Jenkins has the size and deceptive speed, but he’s never proven to be that No. 1 guy. And one wonders if Berrian, the split end, can be a deep threat if the offensive line can’t give McNabb the time needed to throw deep. And what happens to Berrian’s attitude if he’s not a big part of the offense?
This is the week that Shiancoe, Harvin, Camarillo and others need to be on the field. It will be the only chance to play extended minutes as full units before the regular season begins. That’s especially important for a brand new offense that’s going to have to score touchdowns to keep up with the Chargers in San Diego. There needs to be a test run with a full complement of players.
Mark Craig has covered football and the NFL the past 20 years, including the Browns from 1991-95 and the Vikings and the NFL since 2003.
JUDD ZULGAD Star Tribune
Updated: August 21, 2011 – 11:30 PM
The Vikings’ first-team offense has played four series and 31 plays over the first two preseason games. That has led to three drives that ended with Chris Kluwe punts and one that Ryan Longwell completed with a field goal.
But with the Vikings learning a new offense and 21 days until the regular-season opener at San Diego, how much stock should be put into the fact quarterback Donovan McNabb has yet to lead a touchdown drive?
“We just tried to improve from the first game with the opportunity that we’ve had,” McNabb said Saturday following the Vikings’ 20-7 victory at Seattle. “I think that was the biggest [thing] for all of us was try to improve off of the first game.”
McNabb completed six of 11 passes for 40 yards and had a long completion of 12 yards as the Vikings opened the exhibition schedule with a 14-3 loss on Aug. 13 at Tennessee. On Saturday, he completed six of eight throws for 81 yards with a long of 23.
Coach Leslie Frazier and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave are certain to want to see McNabb and the offense take a step forward Saturday when the Vikings play their preseason home opener against Dallas. The stakes will be increased a bit, too, as the Vikings will game-plan for the Cowboys. They did not game-plan for the Titans or Seahawks.
“We’ll actually structure practices now,” Frazier said. “We’ll be out of training-camp mode and structure it as if we were getting ready for a game during the season. We’ll do some game-planning, not to the degree that we would if we were playing a regular-season game. We’ll go through simulation of what a game week is like.”
Frazier said Saturday night that he and his coaches would sit down on Sunday and discuss how much the starters would play against Dallas. The players were off Sunday and will return to work at Winter Park on Monday.
McNabb and the other starters will see their most extensive work of the preseason. Starters from many teams usually get their most work in the third exhibition — it wouldn’t be surprising to see McNabb play into the third quarter — and then do close to nothing in the finale, which in the Vikings’ case will be Sept. 1 against Houston at Mall of America Field.
Frazier did say he liked what he saw from his top offense Saturday at CenturyLink Field, even if they didn’t get in the end zone.
“[I] really was encouraged by the fact they were able to move the football as well as we were,” he said. “This is not an easy place to play whether it be the preseason or regular season. We seemed to be composed and really seemed to have a handle on what we wanted to get accomplished. We went into this game and we wanted to be able to establish an identity up front with our offensive line, along with our defensive line. I really thought we got in a rhythm with our first unit, and that was encouraging.”
It took awhile for them to find that rhythm. The Vikings’ only offensive series of the first quarter lasted three plays. But McNabb returned in the second quarter to direct a 13-play, 81-yard drive that began at the Vikings 1 and stalled at the Seahawks 18. Longwell completed it with a 36-yard field goal.
“That was big for us,” McNabb said of getting out of a backed-up situation. “Obviously it was tough field position to be in and being able to sustain a drive to get down in our red area and be able to have an opportunity to score. That was big for us. But again we have to be able to capitalize on that.
”… We came out with three, but still we want to be able to come out with seven. Obviously, in the tough division that we’re in we’ve got to score points.”
McNabb, as has been his custom, was able to spread the ball around during the series. He completed passes to running back Adrian Peterson (2, 2 yards), tight ends Kyle Rudolph (17) and Jim Kleinsasser (23) and wide receivers Michael Jenkins (21) and Devin Aromashodu (9) before his attempts for Peterson and Rudolph on second and third down fell incomplete.
“For myself, obviously, being in a new offense and being around new guys, that was kind of something that I try to go into each practice and trying to get comfortable with one another,” McNabb said. “Those guys get comfortable with me. Coming out here in game situation, we had opportunities, just didn’t capitalize.”
McNabb, Frazier and Musgrave all will hope to change that on Saturday night.