Current NFL Europe players look to the past

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  1. k19

    k19 Active Member

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    Current NFL Europe players look to the past

    By Mike Carlson
    Special to

    (March 1, 2006) -- Maybe you noticed Kelly Herndon during the Super Bowl. After all, he did make a pretty big play. But you probably weren't aware that Herndon might not have been in the NFL at all had he not had a fine season for the late, lamented Barcelona Dragons of NFL Europe.

    Nor would his Barcelona teammate Chartric "Chuck" Darby.

    Did you notice Sean Morey was one of the Steelers captains for the Super Bowl? I'm not sure which is odder, two Ivy Leaguers as Super Bowl captains (Seattle's Isaiah Kacyvenski was the other) or Morey having played three seasons in Europe: two as a receiver with one as a cornerback sandwiched in between. Perhaps it was that determination that impressed Bill Cowher.

    Last year, I started my coverage of NFL Europe by picking an All-NFLE team from the 2004 NFL season, and all three of these guys feature in this year's version.

    WR: Brian Finneran, Falcons; Marcus Robinson, Vikings; Dane Looker, Rams
    TE: Bryan Fletcher, Colts
    OT: Matt Lepsis, Broncos; Barry Sims, Raiders
    G: Ben Hamilton, Broncos; Brian Walters, Chiefs
    C: Andy McCollum, Rams
    QB: Jake Delhomme, Panthers
    RB: Maurice Hicks, 49ers; Aaron Stecker, Saints
    FB: Obafemi Ayanbadejo, Cardinals

    DE: Paul Spicer, Jaguars; Bobby Hamilton, Raiders
    DT: Keith Traylor, Dolphins; La'Roi Glover, Cowboys; Chuck Darby, Seahawks
    LB: James Harrison, Steelers; Donnie Spragan, Dolphins; Keith Adams, Eagles (yes, I know they're all OLBs, so I'll add Rich Scanlon of the Chiefs to play MLB if you insist)
    CB: Kelly Herndon, Seahawks; Corey Ivy, Rams
    S: Nick Ferguson, Broncos; Deke Cooper, Jaguars
    P: Brian Moorman, Bills
    PK: Adam Vinatieri, Patriots
    KR: Dante Hall, Chiefs
    ST: Sean Morey, Steelers

    It's not a bad little team. Like last year, it's short at what I'd call the "natural talent" positions (cornerback, running back, wide receiver), though there is good depth on both lines, at quarterback, linebacker and safety.

    What is disappointing is that it is so similar to last year's team. Very few players from last season made an impact this year. That's not unusual. If you look at a guy like Bryan Fletcher, who stepped into Marcus Pollard's role in Indianapolis without any loss of effectiveness, he follows the usual pattern. The season in Europe provides the impetus for the player to make the roster. Then he eventually gets his chance (or sometimes doesn't) to actually get on the field and make a difference. Sometimes it takes a change of team, an injury or just the luck of making the big play when you finally do get that chance, but usually the process takes more than a year.

    Having said that, there's still a sense that too few of the players assigned to NFL Europe are the ones who might benefit most from the opportunity, namely those in the bottom 10 spots on the roster, as well as the practice squad. Too many are street free agents, signed, more often than not, in the assumption they aren't going to make the NFL roster. It's left up to them to prove the personnel guys wrong, as most of those players listed above did in their time.

    Last year at the World Bowl, Carl Peterson told this column that's it's worth the approximately $450,000 per team NFL Europe costs, if only to avoid bringing a couple of players to camp whom you don't want and who might cost you. If you get roster players from the league, you're ahead. And if you get Pro Bowlers (the Chiefs have notched three: Waters, Hall and Gary Stills), well, it's like hitting the lottery.

    This year we've again got the big-name quarterback trying to resurrect his NFL career. Here's hoping Drew Henson does better than Akili Smith, but I wonder if the Cowboys might wonder whether Henson might have been better served playing in Europe a couple of seasons ago. Henson's not the only former NFL starter looking to kick-start his career. Two years ago, Qasim Mitchell was starting on the Bears' offensive line. Now he finds himself trying to make it with the Frankfurt Galaxy. Kliff Kingsbury wasn't a starter, but he did feature under center for the Jets during their nightmarish 2005 quarterbacking odyssey. He'll be with Cologne. But the most interesting quarterback back this year is Amsterdam's Gibran Hamdan, who begins his third European season. Last year, he started the first four games before going down with a season-ending injury: Amsterdam went on to win the World Bowl with the Bears' Kurt Kittner going the rest of the way. Could the third time be lucky for Hamdan? We'll be reporting from Tampa as we try to find the answers to that and many other questions during training camp.

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