Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Cooley Zone: My draft day story has a happy ending

The Cooley Zone: My draft day story has a happy ending

No player really knows where the hell he's going in the draft (except Jake Long). I know this because playing four years in the NFL has taught me that anything is possible. Watching high-profile draftees sulk while teams pick in every different direction but theirs shows that anything is possible. Ryan Leaf vs. Peyton Manning is possible:

Still, people make a great living deciding which team and city an athlete should play for, but what happens in the 15 minutes on the team's clock falls on the shoulders of all the agents, scouts, GMs and teams.

I went into my own draft day with high hopes, as I'm sure every player does. I was predicted as high as the third tight end taken, down to as low as the sixth or seventh. These predictions put me anywhere from the middle of the second round to anywhere in the fourth. As any player would have, I expected it would be somewhere in the second round. High hopes are more fun.

I made it casually through the morning before the start of the draft. No chance I was getting taken in the first round, so my plans were to go golfing and wait for a phone call. I figured a little golf was much more relaxing. As it turned out golfing on a Saturday in Logan, Utah is a popular event. I made the rounds to four different courses, striking out at all of them. If the first round could have been Sunday it would have worked out great for me. No Mormons golf on Sunday, I would have had the course to myself.

Since golf didn't work out, I did nothing. Waiting around to get drafted felt almost like running on a treadmill. I was helpless to do anything but sit and stare at the clock and wait for it to be over. A parade of naked women could have run through the living room and my eyes would have never left the TV.

Toward the end of the second round my mind was running wild with scenarios. Maybe San Francisco would take me. I would love to play for the Broncos. I was even ready to settle for Detroit. As a matter of fact I didn't care where, just now!

My mind drifted back to a trip to visit the Cowboys. Everything was great until I made my way into Bill Parcell's office. After sitting down, the first words out of his mouth were, "I'll be honest, the reason you're here is because we like you as a special teams player. I don't think you'll ever be a starter in the league. We're thinking about taking you around the sixth round." I'm a pretty confident guy, so I walked out of the office with my head high. I did a great job and blocked out the trip, but by the middle of round three I was dying.

Two months earlier I got my first cell phone. Yeah, 2004 and Chris Cooley finally has a cell phone. The problem wasn't that I had a phone, the problem was the service. I couldn't keep more than one bar in the corner of the phone, and I was starting to believe that I must have been missing calls. I had spent the last four hours glued to the screen, but had to drag myself outside to at least see if I got a message from someone. By the time my foot hovered over the bottom stair of the front porch the house erupted. The cheering couldn't be mistaken, but I had still never received a phone call.

Eighty-first pick to the Washington Redskins and I could have never felt more relieved. I remember thinking why hasn't the team called me? It was a perfect thought as my little brother turned to me and said, "Oh yeah, some guy is on hold for ya, he's only been on hold for a couple minutes." I took the phone and Joe Gibbs says, "I hope you want to be a Redskin, we had to trade up for you." Joe Gibbs! A Hall of Fame coach wanted to trade up for me.

One of the most important factors in the NFL draft might be how a player matches a team. Becoming a Redskin couldn't have been a better fit for me.� I have been given every opportunity to succeed and have always worked to make the best of them. With all the things I have accomplished in my short career, draft day�will always be one of my best memories.

Chris Cooley is a Pro Bowl tight end for the Redskins and blogs every Wednesday here on Shutdown Corner. Read more from Cooley on his personal blog, where he gets awesome all the time.

Fish trying to trade Jason Taylor?
Clark Judge of CBS Sportsline reports that the Dolphins are trying to trade Jason Taylor. Supposedly, they're looking for a mid-to-late first round pick for him. I don't think they're getting that, and I'd put the chances of this trade actually happening at about 5%.

Unhappy with contract, Jets TE Baker bolts workouts

New York Jets tight end Chris Baker, disgruntled with his contract status and management's apparent refusal to renegotiate, has left the team's offseason strength and conditioning program in protest, The New York Post�reported.

Baker, who's fresh off the best season of his career, having caught 41 passes and become more of a focal point in the Jets' offense, has two years remaining on his $6.6 million contract and he's clearly underpaid by NFL starting tight end standards. Without attempting to make any significant waves, the 28-year-old Baker spoke after the 2007 season about his desire to sign a new deal that would pay him more fairly and keep him in his native New York for the rest of his career.

"Hopefully, we'll get something done," Baker said the day after the season.

I doubt there will ever be a Julius Jones tribute song

I assume that some team will take a flyer on the recently-released Shaun Alexander, provided that he's willing to play for something near the veteran minimum. So we probably haven't seen the last of him.

Still, that's no reason we can't pause to reflect on his career with the Seahawks. And what better way to do that than with a brutal song that will firmly lodge itself in your head all day long, and may eventually cause you to ram a steak knife through your ear, so that you might stop thinking about it for even one second.

Sorry I had to do that to you. But if I'm suffering, you're all going to suffer, too.

Cowboys are willing to deal for a receiver

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones acknowledged Tuesday he has asked another team about the availability of a veteran wideout according to the San Antonio Express-News.

"I wouldn't give who it was, but the answer is yes, we have talked (with another team)" Jones told reporters in Irving. "I wouldn't give you a time frame on it either, if you're talking the last week or the last few days. But certainly since (the start) of the offseason."

With Terry Glenn's status for next season uncertain, the Cowboys are in the market for a receiver to take pressure off Terrell Owens. Speaking at a news conference to discuss the draft, Jones said the first round Saturday wouldn't yield such a player. Jones emphatically denied that he's talked to Cincinnati about the availability of disgruntled receiver Chad Johnson, who is threatening to sit out the season if he doesn't get a new contract. ESPN reported this week that the Bengals informed Washington, which was offering its first-round pick (No. 21) and a conditional third-rounder in 2009, that Johnson wasn't available. Arizona's Anquan Boldin and Detroit's Roy Williams are other veteran receivers the Cowboys could be eyeing.

If the Dolphins didn't go for Jake Long, it would've been Chris

Bill Parcells had a Tuesday deadline to get "Quote Machine" Jake Long signed to a deal, or he would've moved on with the same offer to defensive end Chris Long of Virginia. That's according to Chris Mortensen, who attributes it to Dolphins team sources.

Wrote Mort:

Bill Parcells, the vice president of football operations for the Dolphins, had set an internal deadline of Tuesday to get the deal done or he would have turned to Virginia defensive end Chris Long, according to team sources.

Parcells even sent a letter on Monday to Jake Long's representatives -- Tom Condon and Ben Dogra of Creative Artists Agency -- suggesting Parcells would have to move on if the deal didn't come to a conclusion.

That sounds like a very Bill Parcells-ish thing to do. "If you want to be the #1 overall pick, you'll have to agree to our terms by Tuesday, or you can go stuff it, mister, because I am in charge here, and not you." That sort of approach has worked pretty well for him through his career thus far.

I don't think I buy it, though. I'm not saying I don't believe Mortensen, I'm saying I think Parcells was full of dolphin excrement.

If you've identified one guy that you think is the best player in the draft, then that's the guy you draft, right? Would Parcells really have taken a lesser player, just because someone wouldn't give in to his tough-guy act? That's cutting off the nose to spite the face, right?

I know you'd like to twist and contort everyone to the uncomfortable pose of your choice, Bill, but if you can't, you're just going to have to figure something else out. I don't think Parcells is petty enough to cost himself the best player in the draft, just because he felt like setting some arbitrary "I'm just doing this so you know I'm the boss" kind of deadline.

Power of Parcells clearly evident in Long signing
Be honest. If Cam Cameron were the one announcing that Jake Long is the Miami Dolphins' No. 1 draft pick, frazzled South Florida fans would be screaming bloody murder today.

Instead, it's Bill Parcells spending the top overall pick on an offensive tackle from Michigan and doing it four days before the draft is conducted, which virtually eliminates the possibility of another team making a late trade offer.

This, of course, is more than acceptable. It's commendable. It's Big Tuna commencing what promises to be an impressive haul. Such is the power of Parcells, and I have no argument with it. Between him and head coach Tony Sparano, a former offensive line coach, Long's potential will be stretched to the limit.