Insider: NFL Quick Links

In this edition of “Quick Links,” we explore the retirement of Ricky Williams, Gronk’s dance party, the Chargers saving up their nickels, Michael Vick’s likability and the SEC winning again.

Ricky Williams Hangs Up the Cleats

Former Saints, Dolphins, Argonauts and Ravens running back Ricky Williams has decided to retire from football at the age of 34. Although Williams will always be remembered for his first “retirement” in 2004 after failing an NFL drug test (marijuana), he was one of the most productive backs in football as he is currently just one of 26 backs to go over 10,000 career rushing yards.

SB Nation’s Bomani Jones had a great piece on the enigmatic runner.

Our take: Ricky Williams was a great athlete that played football, not a great football player. He simply saw the game as his job and was going to put in his “9 to 5″ to stay employed and pay his bills. Although many fans have a great distaste for Williams not “loving” football, he is one of the rare athletes that was able to use the game instead of the game using him. Williams made plenty of money, hopefully enough for him to live the rest of his life on and will walk away from the game in as good of health that a 13-year running back can have. Good for him.

Chargers Clearing Cap Space With Pro Bowlers

According to San Diego Union-Tribune writer Kevin Acee, the Chargers are expected to waive Pro Bowl left tackle Marcus McNeill. Clearing McNeill’s salary off the books would save Chargers general manager A.J. Smith roughly $10 million. Due to holdouts and injury, McNeill has missed 12 games over the past two seasons after posting Pro Bowl campaigns in 2006 and 2007. McNeill is expected to be a hot commodity on the market as he’s a true left tackle and is only 28 years old.

Our take: Chargers general manager A.J. Smith must have a plan as he is on the hottest of hot seats entering the season. It’s difficult to imagine cutting your second or third best player as part of “the plan” to win as many games as possible and make the playoffs. McNeill will be one of the most sought after free agents not named Peyton Manning during free agency. Look for Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Seattle, Minnesota, St. Louis and Indianapolis to be some of the teams interested in his services.

Vick is Still Most Disliked NFL Player

Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles didn’t do nearly as much winning as many predicted in 2011, but he still took home a trophy in one category- most disliked NFL player. Forbes Magazine ran a poll and 60 percent of respondents claimed Vick was a player that they “dislike,” “dislike somewhat,” or “dislike a lot.”

Those who run afoul of the law tend to lead these lists as the Jets Plaxico Burress and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger rounded out the Top 3.

Our take: If you mindlessly kill small animals for your own sick pleasure and enjoyment that is going to resonate throughout your career and that’s the label that you earned. Vick’s on-field talents will allow him to repay his debts to his creditors, but he will forever be morally bankrupt in most of America’s minds. As for Plaxico, he shot himself in the leg. It’s somewhat of a laughing matter because nobody else was hurt, but who hates a guy that shoots himself? Ben Roethlisberger is trying to amend his reputation as he’s scheduled to wed sometime in the near future. There’s no truth to the rumor that the lucky lady’s father has put a hit out on the two-time Super Bowl champion.

Gronk Rocks Out After the Big Game

By now everyone has seen the video of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski dancing (or having a seizure?) at the Patriots post-Super Bowl party. In case you missed it, here it is.

Our take: If you were a Pats fan I could understand you taking exception to Gronkowski partying it up after the biggest loss of his career. People are wired differently and “Gronk” may be wired differently than most anyone else in the world. The young Pro Bowler is in his second season and probably believes that he’ll be back to the big game sooner rather than later, and he might be right…..Although, with Tom Brady about to turn 35 years old before the season begins there’s no guarantee the Pats will be back. He doesn’t understand that yet and that’s okay. The only thing I take offense to is his actual dancing. The “Caucasians have no rhythm” stereotype is now even more popular. Thanks Gronk.

SEC Dominates the Combine

The NFL has issued out 327 combine invites for February’s test of strengths and interviews. Teams from the Southeastern Conference make up for 53 of the 327 invites and BCS Champion Alabama has nine players invited.

Our take: The SEC keeps winning national titles, clearly they have the best players. You could see as many as five players from the Crimson Tide drafted in the first round this April.

Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPNFlorida.com and ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie

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