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Old 07-29-2006   #1
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Default Joppru Gets Deserved Recognition

July 29, 2006, 1:11AM
TEXANS SPOTLIGHT
Joppru takes big step forward
Injury-prone TE makes it through a summer practice


By FRAN BLINEBURY
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

Sometimes progress is made in the smallest of steps.

There were no touchdown catches or raucous victory celebrations. No throng packed inside Reliant Stadium giving a full-throated roar or cheerleaders trying to see if they can kick as high as the retractable roof.

Bennie Joppru made it through a training camp practice with the Texans. So maybe there is hope for peace in the Middle East.

"It feels good to be out here," he said. "I was having fun. It reminded me why I love the game."


Painful road
That love has to run deeper than the Marianas Trench after the exasperating, painful road Joppru has traveled over the past three years.

Taken in the second round of the 2003 draft, the 6-4, 242-pound tight end suffered a groin injury before the start of his rookie training camp and spent the season on injured reserve.

In 2004, Joppru aggravated the groin injury in a minicamp workout and was placed on the physically unable to perform list that season. In March 2005, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee and lost another year.

"Go crazy, feel sorry for yourself. I think I did both the first two years," said Joppru, sweat running through a stubble of beard that surrounded a smile running halfway down Kirby Drive. "Last year I decided I wasn't going to let this game affect my life. Just made a decision to work as hard as I can. Whether or not this is for me, I'll find out.

"But I worked as hard as I could, and I'll never second-guess myself.

"I'm either strong mentally or extremely hardheaded. I'm just stubborn like that. There's nothing more that I want than to be out here."

Trying to block charging defensive linemen in the sultry heat of a summer Texas morning. Juking this way and cutting back another way to get free and catch a pass that came through the heavy humidity. It all feels good when you've spent the past three years going no place but to the trainer's table or the weight room for rehab. He worked briefly with the practice squad in his rookie year, but this was the first time he'd taken part in a training camp drill healthy.

"It's nice to see him out here," said quarterback David Carr. "The guy has had a hard time the last couple of years. He's got a couch in (assistant trainer) Ray Wright's office that he sleeps on."

Joppru caught 66 career passes for 711 yards and eight touchdowns in college at Michigan and caught the eye of the former Texans coaching staff at the Senior Bowl, and big things were expected from him when he arrived in Houston.

But one setback followed another, and even his backers began to back away.


Getting looks
"It got tough," Joppru said. "After about two years there, you get looks, whether it be the old management or what-have-you or from coaches who don't believe you're really hurt or don't believe you're truly injured. That you're soft. I've never been soft in my life. I've never been called soft before I got here.

"That's been my strong suit. Coming out of college, I was a tough (guy). I was a Michigan guy and that's what we are — we're tough.

"It doesn't feel good to have people questioning who you are."

It's a perfect convergence of events that Joppru is healthy and trying to fit in with a new coaching staff.

"Timing-wise, it couldn't have worked out any better," he said. "I got fortunate that we got a new coaching staff, and basically I'm starting all over."

One who's noticed the effort is the first-year head coach.

"Bennie Joppru's probably had one of the best offseasons of any player that's out here, and the key for him is he hasn't been able to stay healthy," Gary Kubiak said. "Maybe that's over."

A year ago, with a dearth of tight ends, Joppru would have been a good bet to make the team. Now with Jeb Putzier, Mark Bruener, Owen Daniels and Ben Steele in camp, he's a long shot.

"What happens happens," Joppru said. "There's not any pressure on me. I'm out here playing football, the game I love.

"I'm thankful, yes. But I worked for this. I look back and it's comical. Unbelievable. Blow after blow after blow. And if it happens again, so be it. But I worked my butt off to get here, and I'll never second-guess myself."
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Old 07-29-2006   #2
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It's a nice story, but he probably won't make the team. Tight end is one position where the new regime has already brought in their own guys (Daniels, Putzier). With Bruener already there, they'll have to carry four tight ends for Joppru to make it. And even then, he's probably nothing more than a special team player, if he's active at all. It might be best for him to get a new start somewhere else. He seems destined to get buried on the depth chart here at best.
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Old 07-29-2006   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by texanfan2100
With Bruener already there, they'll have to carry four tight ends for Joppru to make it.
And IMO they wiil carry 4 TEs, which gives Bennie a reasonable shot.
Biggest challenge for him is how he does when they start hitting. Remember,
he's seen zipo contact since, well perhaps his last year at Michigan, so we're talking the Fall of 2002 !
But He's got the HC in his corner, and that counts for an awful lot.
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Old 07-29-2006   #4
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Nice story. If BJ can make it through camp then how can you not keep him? His trial and tribulations coupled with his skill level makes this a story to good to pass up and use as a testimony to true professionalism.

Kubiak is not just a coach at this moment he is an architect. The genius of an architect is to use suppossedly damaged or renewed resources and make them part of something that lives well within a new dynamic. If BJ can make it on the field of play during the reagular season, imagine the electricity on the field and in the stands it will yield.

We are all rooting for you BJ even if you are from Michigan.
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Old 07-29-2006   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nunusguy
And IMO they wiil carry 4 TEs, which gives Bennie a reasonable shot.
Biggest challenge for him is how he does when they start hitting. Remember,
he's seen zipo contact since, well perhaps his last year at Michigan, so we're talking the Fall of 2002 !
But He's got the HC in his corner, and that counts for an awful lot.

I, too, believe we'll be carrying 4 TE's and very likely only 1 FB. I think Joppru will have a good chance of making the team if he makes it through TC and brings up his blocking value.
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Old 07-29-2006   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CloakNNNdagger
I, too, believe we'll be carrying 4 TE's and very likely only 1 FB. I think Joppru will have a good chance of making the team if he makes it through TC and brings up his blocking value.
I'm pretty confidant that 4 TEs on the regular season roster for Kubiak's
offense does not raise a potential redundancy issue because Kubiak does not just run a lot of schemes with TE emphais, but he runs a lot of plays with
TEs, or double TE sets. With that in mind, you really need to keep more than 3.
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Old 07-29-2006   #7
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Okay, let's say that they do carry four tight ends on the 53 man roster. How often does the fourth tight end play on the average nfl team? They're mostly special team players, or they aren't one of the 45 active players.

I hope Joppru makes it, but I would hate to see him relegated to only special team duty, or worse. Seems like he's a better player than that.
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Old 07-29-2006   #8
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While we've focused our attention to Bennie, I wanted to post THIS old 2002 draft article from Pro Football Weekly, written by my all time favorite sports analyst Joel Buschbaum (may he rest in peace). Little known to probably most of you, Bennie turned his life around from a direction which would have probably ultimately had him flipping burgers. It is this "turn" and the great deal of unrelenting and undiscouraged effort in the face of so many emotional and physical hurdles, that has "made" the Bennie we now have come to know, "love" and respect:


Finishing strong

Michigan’s Joppru overcomes rough start to become a top TE prospect

By Mike Wilkening
Nov. 29, 2002


Editor's note: This is the fourth in a series of nine articles profiling top prospects for the 2003 NFL draft. We'll feature a different position each week online. Running concurrently, but exclusively in the print editions of Pro Football Weekly, draft analyst Joel Buchsbaum will evaluate numerous top prospects, with a different position each week.



For three seasons, Michigan TE Bennie Joppru was more party guy than pro prospect.


Bennie Joppru


Then, in the spring before his senior season, the music stopped.
Last April, Joppru was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after getting into a scuffle outside a campus pub in Ann Arbor. Joppru was suspended from the team by head coach Lloyd Carr.

His football future hanging in the balance, Joppru got honest with himself.

“I realized what I was doing,” he said, “wasn’t going to get me where I wanted to be.”

With new dedication, Joppru worked on his game like never before. His hard work convinced Carr to give him another chance.

And Joppru has not disappointed. He’s been one of the country’s most productive tight ends this fall, catching 47 passes for 499 yards and five touchdowns. Just as importantly, he is a team leader — one of the Wolverines’ best captains during Carr’s tenure at Michigan, according to the head coach. Draft expert Joel Buchsbaum rates the 6-foot-4, 245-pound Joppru as one of the Big Ten’s best tight ends, and said in the most recent issue of Pro Football Weekly that the redshirt senior has “grown up and improved more than anyone on his Michigan team.”

In short, he has become everything that he wasn’t in his first three seasons at Michigan.

The 22-year-old Joppru comes from a family of successful football players; his father played for the World Football League’s Shreveport Steamers, and his brother J.J played for Arizona.

Bennie looked set to follow in their footsteps after excelling at Minnetonka High School in Wayzata, Minn. He was a king-sized running back — “a real big athlete,” said Michigan offensive coordinator Terry Malone, who recruited Joppru.

Joppru got by on athleticism in high school. He figured he could do the same thing in the Big Ten.

“I just guessed I’d just show up and make plays, too,” he said.

But after a redshirt season in 1998, Joppru languished on the Michigan depth chart the next three seasons. The skill was there, but the work ethic wasn’t.

A frustrated Michigan coaching staff rode Joppru. “We always knew he had great talent,” Malone said, “and [we] did what we could to get it out of him.”

Still, Joppru liked the Ann Arbor nightlife as much as he liked to play. Which got him into trouble the night after the Michigan spring game in April, when Joppru got into a bar fight with a Michigan wrestler.

Joppru was suspended from the team, at one point wondering if he was going to have to transfer to a Division I-AA school to finish his career. As punishment, Joppru was made to walk the steps of gigantic Michigan Stadium each morning.

It was around this time that Joppru decided to get his act together. Gone were the late nights carousing. In was plenty of work in the weight room. Out was junk food and midnight, post-party snacks.

“I decided, ‘This is my final year,’ Joppru said. “I started working.”

He was a changed young man, and Carr noticed, reinstating him before the season. His teammates noticed, too.

“He spent more time in the building than anybody else,” Wolverines QB John Navarre said. “He was the first in the running lines. His dedication was really kind of his apology, I think.”

The proof that Joppru had changed for the better on the football field came in offseason workouts, when, according to Navarre, he was tough to stop in seven-on-seven passing drills.

“We knew he was a gifted athlete, but once he bought in and became focused, put it all together, he just became that much more of a tremendous athlete. This summer was really when the light was turned on,” Navarre said.

It has stayed on during a senior season when Joppru doubled almost all of his career statistics. Joppru first got national attention Sept. 14 at Notre Dame, when he snagged seven catches for 80 yards and a touchdown, and was Navarre’s go-to-guy throughout Michigan’s 25-23 loss to the Fighting Irish. Joppru also starred in the Big Ten opener vs. Illinois, shredding the middle of the Illini defense for seven catches, 74 yards and two touchdowns.

Joppru’s just-in-time emergence could be quite fortuitous for his NFL aspirations. This year’s class of draft-eligible tight ends is thinner than in years past due to several top juniors leaving school early last season.

An NFL scout that saw Joppru early in the season vs. Utah, when he caught only one pass for minus-1 yards, praised the tight end for his good hands, toughness and short-route running ability, but added that “he doesn't have great playing speed. He isn't sudden or fast down the field. He's not the type that can stretch a defense. He could be a West Coast offense tight end if he was more of a threat down the field."

Navarre thinks that Joppru, while not sprinter fast, is fast enough.

“‘Forty’ time is always going to be a question with everybody,” Navarre said, “but I think he’s got the game speed to run away from DBs and safeties, and he shows that on game film, and that’s what NFL scouts go on.”

Said Joppru: “I think my playing speed is good on the field. I think it shows when teams put cornerbacks on me on third downs.”

Joppru’s athleticism and versatility should also endear him to the NFL; in PFW’s 2002-2003 Pro Prospects Preview, Buchsbaum called the tight end an “above-average athlete with good hands who can play tight end or H-back.” Joppru can also long snap, something he said he’s been doing since he was six years old.

Joppru will use the offseason to work on his strength and explosiveness. Malone would like him to work on his blocking technique, which is very important for the somewhat light Joppru; Buchsbaum wrote last week in PFW that Joppru is “not your classic, tackle-sized blocking tight end, but is big enough to be an in-line tight end.”

One area where he doesn’t need work is leadership, according to all accounts. Joppru’s summer of mind and image rehabilitation was highlighted by his teammates electing him a co-captain before the season.

“He’s been a great leader, a guy that’s very approachable to all the players,” Navarre said. "He keeps his promises. If anybody’s got an issue, he addresses it with the coaching staff.”

Bennie Joppru, leader of men. It’s a notion Malone couldn’t have fathomed a year ago.

”If you had told me he was going to be captain. I would have told you [that] you were crazy,” he said.

Malone was contemplating this while out on a recruiting trip. Every year, some of America’s most talented football players sign with Michigan. Invariably, some leave having never reached their potential, Malone said.

“But with Bennie,” he added, “he really has taken full advantage of the opportunity he was given.”



Pro Football Weekly personnel analyst Joel Buchsbaum reports on the top TE prospects for the 2003 draft, including the highly regarded Joppru, in the current print edition (dated Dec. 2, 2002) of PFW. You can find the print edition at newsstands and bookstores across the country. You can also subscribe by calling our toll-free number, 1-800-FOOTBALL (1-800-366-8225).
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Old 07-29-2006   #9
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[quote=CloakNNNdagger]July 29, 2006, 1:11AM
TEXANS SPOTLIGHT
Joppru takes big step forward
Injury-prone TE makes it through a summer practice


By FRAN BLINEBURY
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle


"It got tough," Joppru said. "After about two years there, you get looks, whether it be the old management or what-have-you or from coaches who don't believe you're really hurt or don't believe you're truly injured. That you're soft. I've never been soft in my life. I've never been called soft before I got here.


"It doesn't feel good to have people questioning who you are."


"Timing-wise, it couldn't have worked out any better," he said. "I got fortunate that we got a new coaching staff, and basically I'm starting all over."

We are all in agreement with you here BJ.

Just what the hell was the previous regime saying and doing to our players.

Bet Wand could add a few comments also.

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Old 07-29-2006   #10
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Personally, I don't care for articles like this.

I am sure Bennie doesn't want to be defined by the freak injuries that kept him off the field. I am guessing the guy just wants to play ball.

It just seems to me, in the scheme of all the articles there are to write about the Texans, writing about where the mind is of the TE who may or may not make the team is low on my list.

How about talking football stuff? Things they are working on. Stuff we are likely to see next year.

I'm rooting for Bennie, but geez, it must suck for people to pigeon hole you a certain way and only talk to you about the same topics over an over. Not just with Bennie, but just in general.

Just slightly grumpy about this. I like knowing more about the players, and it makes it easier to root for them, but I also like articles about more football oriented stuff.

And I just wanted to add this real rant:

DANG YOU FRAN! YOU CAN'T WRITE THIS ARTICLE THE FIRST DAY OF TRAINING CAMP, YOU JINXATOR! May I suggest a nice article about how the tight end is going to be used in the new offense? Or maybe about the success that the assistant coach for TEs have had in coaching them?

Okay, I'm spent.
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Old 07-29-2006   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Texans_Chick
Personally, I don't care for articles like this.

I am sure Bennie doesn't want to be defined by the freak injuries that kept him off the field. I am guessing the guy just wants to play ball.

It just seems to me, in the scheme of all the articles there are to write about the Texans, writing about where the mind is of the TE who may or may not make the team is low on my list.

How about talking football stuff? Things they are working on. Stuff we are likely to see next year.

I'm rooting for Bennie, but geez, it must suck for people to pigeon hole you a certain way and only talk to you about the same topics over an over. Not just with Bennie, but just in general.

Just slightly grumpy about this. I like knowing more about the players, and it makes it easier to root for them, but I also like articles about more football oriented stuff.

And I just wanted to add this real rant:

DANG YOU FRAN! YOU CAN'T WRITE THIS ARTICLE THE FIRST DAY OF TRAINING CAMP, YOU JINXATOR! May I suggest a nice article about how the tight end is going to be used in the new offense? Or maybe about the success that the assistant coach for TEs have had in coaching them?

Okay, I'm spent.
my sentiments exactly TC
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Old 07-29-2006   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CloakNNNdagger
I, too, believe we'll be carrying 4 TE's and very likely only 1 FB. I think Joppru will have a good chance of making the team if he makes it through TC and brings up his blocking value.
I think you are right - Bennie took the majority of snaps at H-back during OTAs. Putzier took most of what was left. I think Bennie will make the roster because of this role in addition to normal tight end.
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Old 07-29-2006   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Texans_Chick
Personally, I don't care for articles like this.

I am sure Bennie doesn't want to be defined by the freak injuries that kept him off the field. I am guessing the guy just wants to play ball.

It just seems to me, in the scheme of all the articles there are to write about the Texans, writing about where the mind is of the TE who may or may not make the team is low on my list.

How about talking football stuff? Things they are working on. Stuff we are likely to see next year.

I'm rooting for Bennie, but geez, it must suck for people to pigeon hole you a certain way and only talk to you about the same topics over an over. Not just with Bennie, but just in general.

Just slightly grumpy about this. I like knowing more about the players, and it makes it easier to root for them, but I also like articles about more football oriented stuff.

And I just wanted to add this real rant:

DANG YOU FRAN! YOU CAN'T WRITE THIS ARTICLE THE FIRST DAY OF TRAINING CAMP, YOU JINXATOR! May I suggest a nice article about how the tight end is going to be used in the new offense? Or maybe about the success that the assistant coach for TEs have had in coaching them?

Okay, I'm spent.

Boy, that’s hard TC.......Joppru’s been part of this team for 3 years. These articles (especially the 2nd which points out his playing positives) contain possible explanations for the patient approach that TWO different staffs have taken with him.
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Old 07-29-2006   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Texans_Chick
Personally, I don't care for articles like this.

I am sure Bennie doesn't want to be defined by the freak injuries that kept him off the field. I am guessing the guy just wants to play ball.

It just seems to me, in the scheme of all the articles there are to write about the Texans, writing about where the mind is of the TE who may or may not make the team is low on my list.

How about talking football stuff? Things they are working on. Stuff we are likely to see next year.

I'm rooting for Bennie, but geez, it must suck for people to pigeon hole you a certain way and only talk to you about the same topics over an over. Not just with Bennie, but just in general.

Just slightly grumpy about this. I like knowing more about the players, and it makes it easier to root for them, but I also like articles about more football oriented stuff.

And I just wanted to add this real rant:

DANG YOU FRAN! YOU CAN'T WRITE THIS ARTICLE THE FIRST DAY OF TRAINING CAMP, YOU JINXATOR! May I suggest a nice article about how the tight end is going to be used in the new offense? Or maybe about the success that the assistant coach for TEs have had in coaching them?

Okay, I'm spent.
Really well said. I mean yes, hooray for Bennie, and I want to see the kid do well as much as anyone else, but IMO it's sort of in poor taste and not good journalism to write an entire article, the actual football content of which was exclusively about how he didn't get injured.
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Old 07-29-2006   #15
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Joppru has lost a ton of weight and doesn't even look like a TE any more. The daily roster has him listed at 242 but that's generous IMO. He looks light. Kubiak's system doesn't need big hulking TEs, and they do use motion on TEs splitting them wide which suits him, but I don't think Benny has enough lead in his ass to block anything any more.
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Old 07-29-2006   #16
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FWIW, the Broncos website has a DC dated 1/16/2006 which probably was about the date of their last playoff game.
They've got 5 names at TE, including JP and another player that has also apparently departed Denver.
But of the remaining players that appear to be active for the Broncos, they've
got a very diminutive group as far as NFL TEs go: 250 lbs, 245 lbs, & 235 lbs.
Maybe guys like Joppru aren't too small for Kubiaks taste in TEs. Afterall, the 4th round Wisconsin TE that he personally drafted is listed as being only about Bennies size.
http://www.denverbroncos.com/page.php?id=134
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Old 07-29-2006   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Texans_Chick
Personally, I don't care for articles like this.

I am sure Bennie doesn't want to be defined by the freak injuries that kept him off the field. I am guessing the guy just wants to play ball.

It just seems to me, in the scheme of all the articles there are to write about the Texans, writing about where the mind is of the TE who may or may not make the team is low on my list.

How about talking football stuff? Things they are working on. Stuff we are likely to see next year.

I'm rooting for Bennie, but geez, it must suck for people to pigeon hole you a certain way and only talk to you about the same topics over an over. Not just with Bennie, but just in general.

Just slightly grumpy about this. I like knowing more about the players, and it makes it easier to root for them, but I also like articles about more football oriented stuff.

And I just wanted to add this real rant:

DANG YOU FRAN! YOU CAN'T WRITE THIS ARTICLE THE FIRST DAY OF TRAINING CAMP, YOU JINXATOR! May I suggest a nice article about how the tight end is going to be used in the new offense? Or maybe about the success that the assistant coach for TEs have had in coaching them?

Okay, I'm spent.


I couldn't agree with you more TC!!!
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Old 07-29-2006   #18
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AJ, that avatar is hysterical.....but don't forget that he wants the "mango salsa" as well.....
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Old 07-29-2006   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CloakNNNdagger
Boy, that’s hard TC.......Joppru’s been part of this team for 3 years. These articles (especially the 2nd which points out his playing positives) contain possible explanations for the patient approach that TWO different staffs have taken with him.

I like Bennie.

I want Bennie to be on the team.

It would be a really cool story if he succeeds on the team.

But I don't want Bennie to be defined solely as the injured guy. Bennie obviously doesn't want to be defined that way--you can see it in his quotes in the article.

That's all I'm saying. And I don't want this article on Day 1.

There are more interesting observations about the TE position in this thread than that whole article.

And besides, Fran is trying to do the inxja of the oppruJa. Argh.

But thanks for putting the thread up tho.
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Old 07-29-2006   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Texans_Chick
I like Bennie.

I want Bennie to be on the team.

It would be a really cool story if he succeeds on the team.

But I don't want Bennie to be defined solely as the injured guy. Bennie obviously doesn't want to be defined that way--you can see it in his quotes in the article.

That's all I'm saying. And I don't want this article on Day 1.

There are more interesting observations about the TE position in this thread than that whole article.

And besides, Fran is trying to do the inxja of the oppruJa. Argh.

But thanks for putting the thread up tho.

On to better and bigger things............
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