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The Huddle: Backup Quarterbacks, Contract Disputes and Crotchety Coughlin

Here’s your Friday whip-around on the stories dominating the headlines and lingering in the margins of the NFL. No pads needed.

  • Thursday night’s NFL preseason games gave fans a peek at top-line talent like Michael Vick, Philip Rivers, and Tony Romo. But since most of those starting quarterbacks took one series, put on visors (Vick) or hats (Rivers and Romo) and then went on sunflower-seed binge (seriously, Mike, mix up your sideline snacking), the real action was in watching the backups battle for the spotlight.
    Tim Tebow and Vince Young, two guys with a lot to prove, showed that they were more comfortable in fake games than real practices. Tebow overcame some pretty apocalyptic pregame buzz (according to Cowboys analyst Babe Laufenberg: “I have never seen a QB more inaccurate during warmups in my life than Tebow,”), finishing 6-for-7 for 91 yards.
    Young, who no doubt had heard some chirps that Eagles third-stringer Mike Kafka might usurp him for the backup role, also did well. Andy Reid liked what he saw, given the amount of time Young has had with the Eagles playbook, saying: “We’ve thrown a lot at him — it’s like learning French in four days.”
  • Perhaps the most impressive backup performances of the night came from the second- and third-string Patriots quarterbacks. Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett sent the Jacksonville Jaguars to bed with dinner whatsoever. Mallett was especially sharp, completing 12 of 19 for 164 yards and a touchdown. Bill Belichick was his usual over-the-top self, saying: “Both guys did a good job.” Take it down a thousand, Bill.
  • In Tennessee, Titans GM Mike Reinfeldt said the team will make Chris Johnson the highest-paid running back in the NFL, provided Johnson turns up to camp. Don’t pop the holdout champagne yet, though. According to Johnson, “I am surprised … [about Reinfeldt’s] statement … offering to make me the highest-paid running back. Neither me nor [Johnson’s agent] Joel [Segal] have received any offer from the Titans. Maybe they talked, but I guarantee we never received any offer.”
  • In other yes-you-did-no-I-didn’t news, ex-Bears tight end Greg Olsen is disputing Chicago GM Jerry Angelo’s claims that he wanted out of Chi-town. “I never asked for a trade,” said Olsen. “If he had said, ‘We are going to try to get rid of you,’ I would have said, ‘That’s fine.’ I did not go in his office and ask for a trade. I think a little bit of that is him trying to make it look like I tried to force my way out because they took so much heat about it. It’s just not true.”
  • It has been, by any standard, an uninspiring offseason for the New York Giants. Between the ongoing Osi Umenyiora soap opera and Steve Smith’s exiting stage south and heading to Philadelphia, there’s a feeling that something is wrong with the big dudes in blue. Naturally, this has led some to ask about coach Tom Coughlin’s job security. Coughlin, raising his head out of his little black book where he tracks fines he has leveled at players for being 34 seconds late to a meeting, chimed on in this very subject, recently. “Frankly, I equate it with Walter Alston,” said the coach, comparing himself to the longtime Brooklyn Dodgers manager who famously (to use the term loosely) worked on a series of one-year contracts. “I mean, let’s go. Let’s do one year for a while and see where we go with it.” It’s cutting edge references like Alston that keep Coughlin in touch with the modern player.

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