Monday, February 21, 2011

Atogwe hopes to be back after release from Rams


Even with his release Friday by the Rams, safety Oshiomogho Atogwe says he hasn't closed the door on a possible return to the team.

"My agent and myself have established a really good negotiating relationship with them, so were we to do something again (with the Rams), I don't believe it'd be a difficult task," Atogwe told the Post-Dispatch. "Because there's no bad blood there. We should be able to get something done."

The only problem — for several years — has been agreeing on Atogwe's value in terms of a multi-year deal. Rather than pay an $8 million roster bonus that was due Atogwe on Monday, the Rams released the six-year veteran.
"It's disappointing to be back in this situation, again," Atogwe said. "Not being able to actually be set at this point in time in my career — it's disappointing."

The relative security of a long-term contract has proven frustratingly elusive for Atogwe, a third-round round pick out of Stanford in 2005.

"I'd say it's frustrating along the lines that I haven't been able to feel at home since my rookie contract," Atogwe said. "Where you say, OK this team wants me for the long haul, for the long term."

Atogwe was franchised following the 2008 season, then in a wrinkle of the uncapped year, reverted back to restricted free agency following the 2009 season. As for this offseason, there's no doubt that the current labor impasse between players and owners, and pending lockout, have caused teams to be more conservative financially.

"Yeah, it has been difficult," Atogwe said. "I think that's why it's very important for us to really get a CBA done, in place and secure, so that other guys won't have to go through a similar situation as myself. And that the teams can really move on in paying their bills and grow for the long term. But for me it's definitely frustrating. I'm thankful that I still have peace throughout this, knowing that it's going to work out the way it's supposed to."

Because he is a released player, Atogwe is free to sign with any team immediately. However, if there is no collective bargaining agreement by March 4, no veteran players — even released players such as Atogwe — can sign new contracts at that time.

So Atogwe has a 13-day window to shop the market, but he plans to wait until there's a new labor agreement before doing so.

"I would say I'm just going to take this time to let God speak to me and go from there," Atogwe said. "I am going to wait till the market opens and then go from there."

Besides the $8 million roster bonus, Atogwe was due a $3.5 million base salary with the Rams in 2011, meaning he would have been due $11.5 million total.

Atogwe, 29, has been a starter the past five seasons for the Rams and was the team's defensive captain in 2010 in voting done by his teammates. He was used more in the box in 2010, limiting his opportunities for interceptions but blitzing more than he had in the past.

"I believe that in the positions they put me in I continued to make plays, continued to help the defense be successful," Atogwe said. "And continued to do all the things that I believe are necessary to be a good player in this league and be a good teammate."
Atogwe had three interceptions and three forced fumbles in 2010. Since becoming a full-time starter in 2006, Atogwe has 43 combined forced fumbles and interceptions, the most in the NFL over that span.

Rams officials and coaches declined to comment on Atogwe's release, but general manager Billy Devaney said in a statement: "This is a decision we have made at this time with O.J. We will continue to explore all of our options at the safety position like we will with every other position on our football team."

For now, Atogwe plans to keep working out while hoping that a labor agreement comes sooner rather than later. He has one other item on his offseason agenda: a spring wedding. He's marrying Jill Singletary, the daughter of former San Francisco 49ers head coach Mike Singletary.

"I was hoping all this would be settled before then and I could focus on that," Atogwe said. "But that's life. You deal with it."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Faulk is elected to Hall of Fame

All week long, Marshall Faulk insisted he wasn't nervous, that there was no sense of anticipation, no angst over Saturday's Pro Football Hall of Fame vote.
When friends or relatives asked him about it, he reacted with a shrug.
"I'm good, I'm fine. Nothing's wrong," Faulk replied.
So as he and a group of friends and relatives gathered early Saturday night in a Dallas hotel to await the results, he remained fine. Or so he thought.
When it was announced on live television that he had made the cut to 10 finalists (a maximum of five can be inducted) it was no sweat. A few minutes later the five finalists were announced. But even though he was on that list, he still wasn't guaranteed of being selected. Another vote is taken after the field is whittled to five, and a player has to be included on at least 80 percent of those ballots to be elected.
Gulp. Here it is.
"Oooh. I actually started to get a little nervous," Faulk said.
For a brief moment his entire NFL life flashed in front of him.
"I thought back to some of those games I missed (with injuries)," Faulk said. "You know, maybe I should have played. Or I could've got two more yards before I got out of bounds."
It was the kind of nervousness and anxiety that he hadn't felt since his playing days. Then his game-day instincts took over and he calmed. And then he heard his name.
From the Desire Projects in New Orleans to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, Faulk's football journey was complete as he became the first Ram from their "Greatest Show on Turf'' days to be elected to the Hall.
"I heard my name and it was a relief that I didn't even know I needed," Faulk said.
Not to worry. Indications all week long that he and cornerback Deion Sanders were slam-dunks proved to be true.
However, filling out the rest of the Class of 2011 was much more difficult. The 44 voting media members took 7½ hours to complete their work Saturday. Joining Faulk and Sanders among the modern-day Hall of Famers:
• Defensive end Richard Dent, who spent most of his career with Chicago and finished his career in 1997 ranked third on the NFL sack list with 137½. He was MVP of Super Bowl XX.
• Tight end Shannon Sharpe, who spent most of his 14-year career with Denver but also won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens. He ended his career as the league's career leader in catches, yards and touchdowns by a tight end.
• Ed Sabol, who created NFL films in the early 1960s, and whose work played a significant role in bringing the pro game to life and revolutionizing the way sports were presented on camera.
• Sanders played for five NFL teams and brought flair, style, and amazing coverage abilities to every stop. He won two Super Bowls: one with San Francisco and one with Dallas.
In addition to the five modern-era players, both veteran committee candidates were voted in:
• Linebacker Les Richter of the Los Angeles Rams, who made eight straight Pro Bowls from 1954 through 1961 and also handled kicking chores early in his career. Richter died on June 12, 2010 at age 79.
• Linebacker Chris Hanburger of the Washington Redskins, who during his 14-year career (1965-78) was known as the "Hang Man" for his fierce clothesline tackles, plays that are now illegal in the NFL.
Among the modern-day finalists not to get in were running back Jerome Bettis, who played his first three seasons with the Rams, and all three wide receiver finalists (Tim Brown, Cris Carter, and Andre Reed) as the logjam continues at that position.
As for Faulk, he simply is the best two-way back in NFL history, ranking third in yards from scrimmage (19,154), a total that trails only wide receiver Jerry Rice, running back Emmitt Smith and running back Walter Payton.
As Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin, one of the hosts on the NFL Network telecast, put it: "They need two backs today to do what he did."
Faulk was just that good both as a runner and receiver.
"He is the best player that I ever played against, and he's the best player I ever played with," said former Rams cornerback Todd Lyght."
Mike Martz, the former Rams head coach and offensive coordinator, talked of Faulk's work ethic.
"He had a coach's understanding of the game,'' Martz said. "He had a professionalism in his preparation that's better than any other player that I've been around."
On the football field, Faulk had a razor-sharp mind, great instincts, and an undeniable will to win. But when his moment came Saturday night, the player whose confidence and swagger helped define the "Greatest Show,'' showed a different side - humility and emotion.
When Rich Eisen of the NFL Network asked if Faulk had spoken to his mother, Faulk nodded, said, "she's proud," and then misted up.
Faulk needed a handkerchief to wipe his eyes. After the TV program concluded, Faulk reflected on his life in football.
"Growing up in the Desire Projects, not a lot of things come out of the Desire Projects," Faulk said.
He credited his high school coach in New Orleans, Wayne Reese, for teaching youth to look beyond what was around them.
"It not where you're at, but where you can get to," Faulk said.
He expanded on what went through his mind when he heard he had been elected.
"I was excited," he said. "I love football. Love, love, love football. It's an honor. I live this game. I breath it."
And he said there was "no doubt" he would be the first of several members of those "Greatest Show'' Rams to reach the Hall of Fame.
"When you just start to put it together, what (No.) 13 did - Kurt Warner- and I hope this whole (logjam) with receivers and where they're at, that Isaac (Bruce) and Torry (Holt) don't get caught up in that," Faulk said. "And then people just forget that we had a great left tackle in Orlando (Pace).
"And I don't quite know what the requirements are for guard, but Adam Timmerman - very reliable, definitely got it done. And then you throw (defensive back) Aeneas Williams in. We had some guys, man."
That they did. But only one Faulk.