As the Scouting Combine gets into full swing, the NFL world follows suit. Anxious eyes follow every sprint, shuttle and bench press; in fact at times, the event itself can be a bit overwhelming.
It's easy to get caught up in the "underwear olympics" as it provides a fix to the withdrawal symptoms tearing away at fans and media alike; but what about the rest of the league. All of this hub-bub is over a group of young men, who may or may not actually survive the professional level. What about the guys who have already proven themselves?
Outside of going on an occasional television spot to give their opinion on fractures and fraternities or having their contract and performance situations dissected down to a subatomic level, they're doing what we've all been doing since our respective team's season ended. They're just waiting.
Some are waiting for the March 12th deadline, when they'll be free-agents. Some are waiting to pick up a new Rolls-Royce (Mike Wallace), and some are touring their native Texas while waiting for their broken arm to heal (Baron Batch). Some are waiting patiently until they are needed or required.
Some are just waiting to feel wanted.
@ramonfoster Just grinding my good brother, and waiting on the word. Hit me up later— Willie Colon (@willcolon74) February 21, 2013
While most are either enjoying a brief respite from their football lives or already hitting the training facilities to prepare for the 2013 season, they are able to do so comfortably. They only have to focus on their bodies and roles. Those about to become unrestricted free-agents have a little extra worry on their plates, but most are more worried about where they want to play or how much money they're going to make.
What about Willie Colon? Colon has three years left on his deal, which schedules him for base salaries well over five millions dollars per year. However, he has found himself as the target of release rumors because he failed to play an entire season for the third consecutive year.
As the Pittsburgh Steelers near the March 12th deadline, they will have to do something to clear the salary cap. They can restructure expensive contracts and push money into future years, or they can release aging veterans with large price tags. Colon's health history makes restructuring a gamble, but his release savings barely cover an inexperienced player. This begs the question, "What word is he waiting for?"
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert addressed the topic of pre-deadline cap-related moves during his press conference at the combine. He said the team would not be assessing their current players until after the combine was over, when the team had measurables on the upcoming draft class and a better feel on how the draft would play out.
James Harrison is the aging veteran whose release saves the most cap space. Colbert said the team has not even begun talking to Harrison, he would have to wait until after the combine like everybody else. Larry Foote has already confirmed his agent has been in talks with the team, although his situation is a bit different as 2012 rookie Sean Spence is still doubtful for a 2013 return. Foote is also not currently under contract. Harrison and Colon are. If Colbert and Co. aren't talking to players under contract right now, because they plan to get under the cap without releasing anyone, then Colon should have nothing to worry about. Right?
We haven't heard anything from either the team or Colon regarding his end-of-year meeting with the team. Players have already begun talking about redeeming themselves next season by improving on their 8-8 2012 season, but not Colon. He hasn't been spotted impersonating a member of the soup-bowl society, or giving his take on how the team is broken but not fractured. Is he separating himself from the Steelers brand because he is worried about losing his job, even though he only failed to finish the 2012 season because of vicious intent - not a self-destructing body? The running game flourished behind his fire, as he grew into his new position at left guard; and it died when he was gone. Should he really have a reason to worry?
Of course, there are a lot of words in the English language; many more than just release, renegotiate or restructure. He could be waiting on word from a doctor regarding his recovery. He could be waiting on Alec Baldwin to take his turn. He could be waiting for the big check from Ed McMahon, which a signed letter said he may had already won.
The tweet referenced here actually took place slightly before the beginning of the combine, and it really is impossible to guess what he was talking about; but after hearing Colbert's press conference, he really should have nothing to worry about - right now. Unfortunately for Colon, this happened.
Commence the mancrushing! RT @jimwexell: Jonathan Cooper has met with the Steelers and he's aware of a potential opening at LG.— BTSC Steelers (@btsteelcurtain) February 21, 2013
Now what word is Colon waiting for?
While just meeting with a player is no implication of where they will wind up on the team's draft board, this potential opening at left guard will most likely be news to Colon. However, the Steelers aren't usually in the habit of starting rookies unless they have to. Even if the team were to take Cooper with the 17th pick in the 2013 draft, they may still intend to retain Colon, at least as a reserve should a new rookie guard suffer the same fate of last year's rookie guard, David DeCastro.
Colon can probably put his mind at ease, and just focus on his rehabilitation. If there is a date he should be nervous over, it is June 1st when cap penalties from his release could be spread by the team over this year and next saving more cap space. Until then, he would be well suited to keep grinding away, as the team will allegedly undergo a schematical shift towards more athletic offensive line play.
Because it is only late February and he should feel pretty confident about his job for now, at least until after the draft; he may not be waiting for any word from the team at all. If it is not a health or football related manner, what could it be? Maybe he is simply awaiting word, because he really hasn't heard; but I would have felt pretty sure everybody had heard by now.
Mr. Colon, the bird is the word. You're welcome.