The last 10 NFL Street players who haven’t retired yet


By Nick Veronica

Peyton Manning’s retirement this week meant we lost another member of an exclusive club: the list of active players who were in the original NFL Street video game.

Of the game’s 398 players, Manning makes 388 who have called it a career. Only three remaining players – all quarterbacks – are under contract for 2016 and definitely coming back, while seven more hope to get another year.

The classic game was released in 2004 with rosters from the 2003 season, so the atrophy of this list was inevitable and expected. (In fact, many players outlasted the game systems NFL Street was made for: Play Station 2, GameCube and Xbox.)

But still, going through and hoping to find active players was an exercise in futility. (Hat-tip to the Madden Ratings blog for help with the rosters and big ups to Josh for his research assistance). There were multiple occasions where we thought we might have an active player, only to learn he retired years ago.

Here are the results. Players who are definitely playing in 2016 are highlighted in green, while questionable players are highlighted in blue. Keep in mind that NFL Street was played 7-on-7 with no special teams. We’ll update as players sign/retire (which may been soon, since free agency opened at 3 p.m. Wednesday).

AFC rosters

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– Brady’s contract runs through the 2017 season.

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– Palmer’s contract runs through the 2017 season.

– Suggs tore his Achilles in September but vowed he wasn’t finished playing, even if it’s not for the Ravens.

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– The Colts are unlikely to bring back Johnson, but he said “I am playing, there’s no question about that.”

– Freeney nearly retired before signing with the Cardinals last season and enjoyed their playoff run. No word on yet on where he’ll be in 2016.

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– Brees will enter the final year of his deal with the Saints in 2016.

NFC rosters

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– Vick said Wednesday that he wants one more year. He’s willing to wait as long as it takes, but if an offer doesn’t come, 2016 will be it for him.

– Smith said 2015 would be his last year, but changed his mind after an injury.

– Peppers’ contract runs through 2016, but after the Packers’ playoff loss he said he was “not sure” if he’d return for another year or retire. We put him in blue, but he could switch to green.

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– Boldin is a free agent but said in December “right now it’s not the time” to retire.

So here’s the breakdown:

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Who will be the game’s final active player? I’d have a hard time betting against Brady (38 years young), even if he is older than Brees (37) and Palmer (36).


New Orleans Saints sign Chris Manhertz

By Nick Veronica

Chris Manhertz, the former Canisius basketball player turned NFL prospect, was picked up by the New Orleans Saints Monday night after being released by the Bills last week.

The Saints had success with their last basketball-playing tight end, Jimmy Graham, and were willing to give Manhertz a shot, cutting third-year veteran Michael Egnew.

Manhertz should get a bump up the depth chart, too: after being as deep as the seventh tight end with the Bills, Manhertz is now the fifth TE on the Saints’ 90-man roster, behind Ben Watson, Josh Hill, Orson Charles and Alex Smith.

Manhertz did not play in Bills’ preseason opener against Carolina and was released on Aug. 19. He went unclaimed on waivers and was a free agent for about four days. The Saints have two remaining preseason games: Aug. 30 vs. Houston and Sept. 3 at Green Bay.

Bills give Chris Manhertz No. 47

By Nick Veronica

Former Canisius basketball player and Buffalo Bills signee Chris Manhertz has been given jersey No. 47.

Manhertz signed a reserve/futures contract with the Bills in December as a tight end prospect. The team starts a voluntary minicamp next week.

Tight ends can wear numbers 40-49 and 80-89. Notable tight ends to have worn 47 include Washington’s Chris Cooley and Carolina’s Jeff King.

Former Buffalo Bills 47s include Willie West, Willie Ross, Charley King, Pete Richardson, Leon Garror, Clint Haslerig, Roscoe Word, Curtis Brown, Bill Hurley, Lucious Smith, Mike Panepinto, Kirby Jackson, Ahmad Brooks and Cary Harris.

Manhertz is currently the fourth tight end on the Bills depth chart, behind Charles Clay, Chris Gragg and MarQueis Gray.

Canisius’ TJ Wheatley commits to Michigan

By Nick Veronica

TJ Wheatley’s college decision ultimately came down to family.

The Canisius High School star tight end/defensive end announced Wednesday that he’ll continue his football career at the University of Michigan, where he’ll join his father, Wolverines running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley Sr.

TJ Wheatley poses with his father, Michigan running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley.

MICHIGAN MEN: TJ Wheatley poses with his father, Michigan running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley.

Wheatley had offers from nearly every major college football program but narrowed his decision to Michigan or UCLA. Sources close to Wheatley said he was leaning heavily toward UCLA before his father took the job at Michigan, his alma mater, in January.

“The opportunity to play big-time Division I football and still be with my family was truly a blessing,” Wheatley said after making his decision. “I think that’s what God had planned.

“At first, honestly, I think I was gonna end up at UCLA,” he added, “but then I went out and visited Ann Arbor, and I was like, ‘this is home.’ ”

Wheatley (6-foot-6, 245 pounds) was graded as a four-star tight end by Rivals and the 13th-best tight end prospect nationally. He was one of the most — if not the most — highly recruited athletes in Western New York history.

Wheatley said Michigan promised him to opportunity to try playing both tight end and defensive end. UCLA wanted him to play defense.

But that didn’t make his decision any easier. It took him until the wee hours of Wednesday morning to decide.

“I made up my mind probably around 3 o’clock in the morning,” he said. “I woke up in the middle of my sleep, called my mom downstairs, we started talking, talked to my dad, and I was like, ‘this is the right place for me.’ ”

Wheatley said there was no pressure from his parents about the decision.

“From the beginning, they told me this opportunity is mine,” he said. “This is my life and the next four years of my life is mine to choose.”

TJ Wheatley said he’ll be on campus at Michigan next during his February break, Feb. 16-20.

Wheatley was the 2014 Buffalo News Player of the Year and the New York State Class AA Player of the Year.

Also at Canisius’ signing day, stud kicker Michael Tarbutt signed with UConn, linebacker Brad Zaffram signed with UTEP and defensive back Josh Huffman signed with Maine.

After months of preparation, Manhertz signs with Bills

Chris Manhertz posted a picture of himself signing a contract with the Bills.

Chris Manhertz posted a picture of himself signing a contract with the Bills.

By Nick Veronica

Former Canisius basketball player Chris Manhertz had a tryout with the Buffalo Bills in April and signed a reserve/futures contract with the team on Tuesday.

His version of this story is short and sweet.

“It wasn’t really out of the blue,” Manhertz said Tuesday after watching Canisius beat UMKC, 67-52. “At some point I was going to get reevaluated and I went in and did what I needed to do [on Tuesday]. They liked what they saw and they signed me.”

Manhertz would have no problem letting you believe things were really that simple. He doesn’t like talking about how hard he’s worked for this. But make no mistake: the degree of difficulty was high. The work was hard. And it’s nowhere near finished.



Manhertz had offers to play basketball in Israel and Germany after college but passed them up to focus on football. His last eight months have been dedicated to it.

Manhertz’s brother, Omari, is a defensive lineman at Division II American International College, but Chris never played organized football. He spent his summer studying under Canisius High School football coaches, learning the complexities of the tight end position, and working out at Absolute Performance in the Eastern Hills Mall.

“We watched a ton of film,” Canisius head coach Rich Robbins said. “I just taught him kind of Football 101 — gaps and zones, coverages, how to run routes. We did all that classroom work and then Marty and Matt Glose helped him on the field, ran him through routes, did a lot of stuff with him. They were putting helmets on and running routes against each other, getting off of press coverage.

“He was real humble about it,” Robbins added. “He said, ‘Listen, I don’t know anything about football, I’ve never played football,’ so we started from scratch. I showed him some Wheatley film, some things at tight end, watched some Canisius film with him and then went on the white board.” (T.J. Wheatley is Canisius’ high-profile tight end recruit.)

Manhertz was connected to the Canisius coaches through his agent, Ron Raccuia, a Canisius College booster and a member of Canisius High School’s Board of Trustees who also represents players such as Fred Jackson, Brian Moorman and Terrence McGee and is the president of ADPRO Sports.

[WATCH: Chris Manhertz destroys K.J. Rose]

Robbins said Manhertz was a great student.

“The guy was there early every day and always wanted to stay after,” Robbins said. “I’d be getting text messages from my wife, we’d all have other stuff to do and he’d be like ‘Hey, how do I run this route, what am I doing here,’ so he was just great.”

Manhertz is 6-foot-5 and was a muscular 235 pounds at the start of his senior season. He said he is now up to 255.

But his athleticism was never in question. People really want to know one thing about him: Can he catch?

“He has gigantic hands and he uses them really well. The guy catches everything,” Robbins said. “He’s got great hands. I was really impressed. When he shakes your hand, his hand, like, wrapped around my hand, and I’m not a small dude.”

So how does he project as a pro?

“He has all the physical tools,” Robbins said. “Blocking and speed of the game, it’s going to be how he adapts to that. The physicality and speed of the game at the NFL level is unbelievable. Coming from basketball to football is a huge transition from that standpoint.

“The parts of basketball that translate to football … he was great with that stuff, it was really stance and start and specific football techniques and learning how to run routes and how to use your feet, those were the types of things we focused on.”

[TRUE GRIT: Where Chris Manhertz gets his tenacity]

Manhertz said it still hadn’t really sunk in yet that he signed an NFL contract.

“I worked my tail off for months to try to get this done,” he finally admitted. “This is news I expected, personally, knowing how much time I had put in.

“I knew there was interest there, I just had to really sit down and put the time in and really get better. The more I trained, the more I felt comfortable with how I was going to do and how I was going to make a second impression. It went well.”

Manhertz got a locker, an ID badge and a tour of the Bills facility on Tuesday.

“My foot is in the door,” he said. “I have to go through camps, OTAs, that’s a whole other beast. I won’t have my big sigh of relief until after that.”

As they say, hard work has its rewards: more hard work.

“I’m going in there [Wednesday],” Manhertz said. “Now is when the real work begins.”