Alan Dell

Commentary | Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie fine could turn into benefit

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will be $21,000 lighter in the pocket for putting an illegal hit on Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Byron Leftwich, but you could argue it was a boost to his image.

The Philadelphia Eagles cornerback out of Lakewood Ranch was getting a reputation for being someone who didn't like contact. Critics were talking about his missed tackles the last two seasons and diminishing coverage skills.

DRC's hit was late, but it showed toughness that some didn't believe he had. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Leftwich towers over the somewhat spindly 6-foot-2, 182-pound DRC, who has only one kidney.

The criticism of DRC might be unwarranted if you look at the stats. DRC was covering the slot last year when it was obvious that with his speed and length he is clearly better patrolling the outside. He will do that this season with Asante Samuel gone to the Atlanta Falcons.

Nnamdi Asomugha led Philadelphia cornerbacks last season with 12 missed tackles, Samuel eight and DRC seven. But Asomugha had 38 solos tackles, Samuel 30 and DRC 24.

As for DRC's statement that he didn't have the money to pay the fine, well, his salary for the upcoming season is $1.9 million, so we can assume he will find a way to come up with the money.

"I won't hit him no more, I'll tell you that much," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "It's not even a vicious hit. ... Shoot, he got up right from it. I mean, I'll say I left my feet. I can understand that. I can understand a fine coming. ... I wouldn't do it again. In place, you never know. It's football. You have to keep playing. Play through it."

To make matters worse, DRC was forced to leave the Eagles' game against the New England Patriots on Monday night with a shoulder injury. He also had an interception wiped out by a penalty.

Raymond keeps his word

As promised, Mistral Raymond's fight to become a starter in the Minnesota Vikings secondary appears to be going down to the wire.

After the Vikings drafted safety Harrison Smith out of Notre Dame, the media and everyone else seemed to have written Raymond off. But with the opener less than three weeks away he is in a battle with Smith and Jamarca Sanford for the starting safety spots.

Raymond, who played cornerback at USF, gives the Vikings versatility at free safety because of his coverage skills, while Sanford is more physical. Smith is said to have the best overall skill set.

Sanford started 15 games last year, and Raymond started the final five after the Vikings were hit with injuries.

Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier said Raymond has a big upside because of his intelligence and athletic ability. It was the same thing said about the Palmetto product when he walked on at USF before turning himself into an all-conference defensive back.

Johnson hurt again

Tough luck continues to plague Palmetto High product Kedric Johnson, who has had to deal with a slew of injuries during his four years at Florida. The redshirt junior defensive end recently dislocated his left knee and had surgery last week. He is out indefinitely.

Williams on mend

On a more positive note, former Southeast/Bradenton Prep standout Jared Williams is back practicing with SMU after surgery and numerous months of rehabilitation following that gruesome broken femur he suffered in the BBVA Compass Bowl last season. He is right in the thick of the battle for the backup running back position behind 2010 all-conference player Zach Line.

Williams, a 5-9, 195-pound sophomore, ran for 180 yards on 42 carries sharing backup duties with sophomore Rishaad Wimbley last year.

Pompeys reunite

Chris Pompey left Eastern Michigan to walk on Iowa State and be with his brother Quinton Pompey, who is expected to see extended time on the defensive line. Everyone at ISU is raving about receiver Quenton Brundrage, who figures to be the Cyclones' top receiver. All three played at Manatee.

Heaven moving up

It looks as if former Manatee safety Clinton Heaven will see significant playing time at North Carolina this season. The true freshman has been working with twos and mixing in some with the first unit.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112.