Didinger: Asomugha and Eagles shock the league


Didinger: Asomugha and Eagles shock the league

Nnamdi Asomugha once was asked if he had a favorite quotation.

Patience is a virtue, he said.

It was appropriate considering Asomugha went through his entire career -- high school, college and pro -- and played on only one winning team. It also fit because as the most feared cover corner in the NFL, he spent most Sundays watching quarterbacks throw the ball to the other side of the field. No one dared challenge him.

So Asomugha always seemed to be waiting. Waiting for the opportunity to make a play. Waiting for the chance to play for a winner. Waiting and waiting

In the end, maybe thats what brought him to Philadelphia. By signing with the Eagles on Friday in a move that sent shock waves across the NFL, Asomugha put patience aside and joined a team that is built to win right now.

After playing eight seasons in Oakland, Asomugha finally had his shot at free agency. This was his chance to write his own ticket. Money wasnt the issue, really. He knew he would strike it rich; that was guaranteed. A dozen teams were pursuing him, all with their checkbooks open.

But Asomugha wanted to sign with a team that had a legitimate shot at winning the Super Bowl. He had seen former teammate and fellow cornerback Charles Woodson do it when he left Oakland for Green Bay. Woodson now has a Super Bowl ring to show for it. As he studied the free agent market, Asomugha kept Woodsons example in mind.

Asomugha just turned 30 and he is aware the clock is ticking. If he is going to win a Super Bowl, he had better do it soon. He agreed to a five-year deal with the Eagles, but he is thinking in more immediate terms.

Patience may be a virtue, but there comes a time when you have to put that aside and push your way to the front of the line. Thats what Asomugha has done, signing with a team that will now be among the favorites to win it all in 2011.

The deal was a stunner. Almost no one saw it coming, certainly not the New York Jets. The Jets thought they had the 6-2, 210-pound cornerback locked up. They had visions of pairing him with their All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis and giving coach Rex Ryan the best secondary in football. It would be announced any minute, people said.

Then out of nowhere the Eagles swooped in to sign Asomugha, rocking every NFL war room from New York to San Francisco and leaving Eagles fans slack-jawed asking: Is this for real?

Yes, it is.

Give the Eagles credit. This was like stealing a Picasso from the Museum of Art right before closing time. The Jets are probably right now studying surveillance video trying to spot either Joe Banner or Howie Roseman to figure out how they pulled off this caper.

Why would Asomugha pick the Eagles over the Jets? The Jets went to the AFC title game each of the past two seasons under Ryan. You could make the case they are closer to winning a Super Bowl than the Eagles.

But keep in mind the AFC looks like a tougher road than the NFC. The Jets will have their hands full just getting past New England in their own division. The Jets also have young Mark Sanchez at quarterback while the Eagles have a resurgent Mike Vick coming off his best year. In a quarterback-driven league, the Vick factor looms large.

Both teams will be among the preseason favorites. Asomugha couldnt go wrong either way and whichever team he chose would immediately become that much better. He chose the Eagles. If you are a Philadelphia fan, all you can say is, Wow.

The thought of the Eagles teaming Asomugha with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and, oh yes, Asante Samuel (almost forgot about him) is mind-boggling. You have to wonder if there is still another shoe to drop in the form of a trade. Can the Eagles afford to tie up that much salary at one position? If the Eagles wanted to move, say, Samuel, it wouldnt be hard to find a taker.

But thats a story for another day.

For now, this is all about Asomugha and what he brings to the team. Much has been said about the University of California product and it is all true. Believe the hype. Asomugha is as good as advertised.

The term shutdown corner is thrown around a lot and often overused. Samuel really isnt a shutdown corner. He makes big plays, but he doesnt take away one side of the field as, say, Revis does or Woodson or Champ Bailey did in his prime. Asomugha can do that. When he covers a receiver, he takes him out of the game.

Quarterbacks rarely throw to his side. According to STATS, Inc., he has allowed only one touchdown pass in the last three seasons. But what really separates him from other guys at his position, Asomugha is physical. He is a strong, solid tackler who will aggressively force the run.

In short, he is a complete player.

During the season, NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger and I watch a lot of tape. One night, Brian said: You want to see what great cornerback play looks like? He clicked on the computer and there was Nnamdi Asomugha, crouched at the line, arms extended, ready to jam another receiver at the snap of the ball.

Play after play, Asomugha blanketed the receivers, running with them stride for stride, always in perfect position. He didnt trash talk or play to the crowd. He just took care of business. Only one pass was thrown in his direction and he tipped it away.

I could watch this all day, Brian said. It is like a clinic.

This season, Nnamdi Asomugha brings his clinic to Lincoln Financial Field.

Who knew?

E-mail Ray Didinger at viewfromthehall@comcast.net

NL East Wrap: Mets SP Matt Harvey gets back on track in win over White Sox

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NL East Wrap: Mets SP Matt Harvey gets back on track in win over White Sox

NEW YORK -- On the mound in the seventh inning for the first time this season, Matt Harvey gave up his first walk of the game and his second hit, leading to a sacrifice bunt and a second-and-third jam.

"You kind of think about the worst at that point," he said. "You start getting some negative thoughts that creep in your head."

But 11 days after disappointed fans at Citi Field booed him like a villain, the Dark Knight was back - at least for one afternoon.

Harvey retired Todd Frazier on a foulout and J.B. Shuck on a grounder to escape trouble, Neil Walker homered off Jose Quintana on the second pitch of the bottom half and the New York Mets beat Chicago 1-0 Monday to send the reeling White Sox to their seventh straight loss.

"Today's a big first step," Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia got six straight outs to complete the two-hitter, preserving Harvey's first win since May 8. Harvey struck out six, walked two and threw four pitches of 98-98.5 mph after not topping 97.5 mph previously this season. He threw 61 of 87 pitches for strikes (see full recap).

Mallex Smith's 3-run triple powers Braves past Giants
ATLANTA -- Mike Foltynewicz is showing he can be more than just a fastball pitcher - and that he can be part of the Braves' long-term rotation.

Foltynewicz continued his recent upswing by allowing only three hits and one run in six-plus innings, Mallex Smith hit a three-run triple and Atlanta beat Jeff Samardzija and the San Francisco Giants 5-3 on Monday.

The Braves survived San Francisco's two-run, ninth-inning rally. They have won three of four and are 5-21 at home, still easily the worst in the majors.

Foltynewicz (2-2) gave up a leadoff homer to Brandon Belt in the second inning, but allowed only one other runner to advance to second.

Foltynewicz, 24, has had other recent strong starts, including eight scoreless innings in a 5-0 win at Kansas City on May 14. His start on Monday may have been his most impressive demonstration of altering the speeds of his fastball while mixing in a curveball and slider (see full recap).

Locke tosses three-hit shutout against Marlins
MIAMI -- Jeff Locke tossed a three-hitter and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Miami Marlins 10-0 on Monday night.

Gregory Polanco's grand slam, Sean Rodriguez's two-run homer, and David Freese's four hits helped power the offense for the Pirates, who won the first of a four-game series in Miami. The first two games were originally scheduled to be played in Puerto Rico, but were moved due to concerns of the Zika virus.

Locke (4-3) struck out one and did not walk a batter while throwing 67 of 105 pitches for strikes. It was his first complete game in 101 career starts. Locke retired 19 straight at one point and needed just six pitches to get through the seventh inning.

The announced crowd of 10,856 was a season-low for the Marlins, who entered the day averaging just under 20,000.

Gary Bettman talks NHL expansion, missing Ed Snider's presence, 2018 Winter Olympics


Gary Bettman talks NHL expansion, missing Ed Snider's presence, 2018 Winter Olympics

PITTSBURGH -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman offered no clues on Monday during his annual Stanley Cup Final address as to the state of NHL expansion or the current odds that Las Vegas gets a franchise.
The league’s Board of Governors will meet on June 22 to make a decision on expansion. The earliest a team(s) could play would be 2017-18.
Quebec City is also in the running, but the value of the Canadian dollars weighs heavily against another team being added north of the border at the moment.
If a Vegas franchise is added, it would have a direct impact on Pacific Division clubs such as the Sharks, who take on the Penguins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final Monday night at CONSOL Energy Center.
Bettman refused to “handicap” the situation but said he expected to know at least a week in advance as to what the committee’s recommendation will be.
Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said there are “a lot of on-going” issues related to expansion and some involve input from third parties.
“We’ve made good progress ... it hasn’t been quick progress,” Daly said.
Asked about rumors of the NFL, specifically the Oakland Raiders, going to Vegas and what that impact would mean to hockey, Bettman said he hasn’t even broached the topic of having two pro sports there with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or even considered such.
“If the NFL comes to Vegas at some point, so be it,” Bettman said. “We’re judging the application we have before us on the merits of that application.”
Bettman said the thought the NFL moving to Vegas, in his opinion, wasn’t “anywhere close to a done deal.”
Daly added that even if there is movement by the NFL toward Vegas, it would not be seen as a “deterrent” to the NHL expanding there.
Snider not replaced
Bettman said that former Flyers chairman Ed Snider’s spot on the 10-person executive and competition committees has not been filled since Snider's death in April.
Snider was an original member of the league’s competition committee and the only owner on it.
“He was a great owner and is terribly missed,” Bettman said.

More Olympic issues  
IOC President Thomas Bach and IIHF President Rene Fasel have gone on record they want to end paying the out-of-pocket expenses for NHL players to attend the Olympics.
That’s a non-starter for the NHL if both organizations want participation of the NHL's players at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. The practice of subsidy has been in effect for the past five Winter Olympics.
“If they are unable to resolve the issue, I have no doubt it will have an impact on our decision,” Bettman said, adding the NHL would have to take a hard look at continued Olympic participation since its member clubs aren’t interested in putting up the “many, many millions” it would take to make up the financial gap.
Whenever there is change in the IOC leadership, Bettman said, there are always discussions of whether some sports, such as hockey, should receive subsidies.