Posted on: October 3, 2011 7:06 am
OPENING HIT: In Houston, there is both excitement and dread. Excitement because the Texans are 3-1 and finally showing some toughness. Dread, because Andre Johnson injured his hamstring. The fear is that Johnson may miss a few weeks, at least. "If we have to go without him for a period, we're going to have to ask some guys to really step up to the plate," coach Gary Kubiak said.
Some in the organization were privately saying they felt Johnson's chances of playing this week were extremely slim. The interesting thing about the Texans is that after Johnson went out the team did exactly what Kubiak wanted. Everyone played better particularly the defense. If that Texans defense continues to play the way it did against Pittsburgh the Johnson injury won't be as crushing.
Ben Roethlisberger: He left the locker room in walking boot and there's fear, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported, that he might have a broken foot. When myself and a group of reporters spoke to Roethlisberger after their loss to Houston, he was, well, typical Roethlisberger. He said, if needed, he'd wear a cast on the foot and play. Crazy thing is: he did it last year with this other foot when he a broken bone in it. His off-the-field stupidity aside, he's one tough dude.
REVENGE OF THE TURDS: The Lions are 4-0. Let that sink into your gonads for a moment.
Also, the 49ers, Bills, and Redskins are 3-1. This remains the biggest reason why the NFL is the most popular sport. A team can go from scrubs to hopeful overnight. Now, this doesn't mean these teams will stay successful. Rex Grossman is sure to doom the Redskins eventually. It will happen because he's Rex Grossman. He will always let you down but for now the ex-uglies rule the league.
Tim Tebow: I'm told Broncos coaches, in light of the team's horrid start, are privately softening their stance about starting Tebow at quarterback.
AND LASTLY...NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth may not be invited to the sexy home of sexy quarterback Mark Sanchez anytime soon. On one play during the Jets' atrocious offensive performance, Sanchez, who had been hit hard all night, looked to be ducking a hit. Collinsworth basically said Sanchez was quitting the play and avoiding a hit. He was calling Sanchez gutless. Not cool.
Posted on: September 28, 2011 7:39 am
Edited on: September 28, 2011 10:38 am
OPENING HIT: When I heard about the Cowboys complaining that Redskins defensive linemen were calling out fake snap counts, and the Titans complaining about the Broncos using the same illicit tactics, I thought of one guy: John Randle.
Randle was one of the most high-energy, successful pass rushers in the history of the sport. He was also a relentless trash talker and used every trash talking technique at his disposal to try and distract players. Randle was also brilliant at something else: learning an opponent's snap count. Or faking that he did.
Sometimes Randle would bark like dog -- literally, like a dog -- to distract offensive linemen. But sometimes he'd yell jibberish in anticipation of the snap count get the center to snap the ball prematurely. He was great at it. Teams complained about it but nothing happened in response because there was little the NFL could do about it.
Years later, here we are again, teams using the same stuff to cheat. The Cowboys have said they will complain to the NFL about the Redskins' tactics but like when Randle and many others did it some time ago there is little the NFL can do unless a game official hears it.
So expect more of this especially in extremely loud stadiums where it's very hard to catch the cheaters.
Posted on: September 19, 2011 6:39 am
Edited on: September 19, 2011 8:08 am
OPENING HIT: The NFL is considering suspending Atlanta defensive back Dunta Robinson, according to a source close to the situation. The likely remedy, the source explained, will be a hefty fine. But a suspension is being seriously considered.
They should suspend him but the story of Robinson is bigger than that. Robinson has now become the poster child for the dirty player. Robinson represents the last remnants of old school, head-hunting football at a time when Commissioner Roger Goodell is trying to -- rightfully so -- end that mentality and clean up the sport.
Robinson was fined last year for his nasty hit on Philadelphia wide receiver DeSean Jackson. It was one of the dirtiest hits of all last season if not the dirtiest. When I saw it, I thought Jackson was seriously and permanently injured. I was stunned he even got up mainly because Robinson led with his head.
Robinson was fined $50,000. The fine was later reduced to $25,000.
Robinson did the same thing on Sunday night to Jeremy Maclin. Leading with the head. Aiming for Maclin's. Reckless, disgraceful behavior.
Dunta Robinson is dirty.
And he's about to be heavily fined for it. Maybe suspended.
Terrelle Pryor: League decision on his appeal could come as early as Monday. His chance of having suspension overturned remains slim.
DAVID GARRARD: One Jaguars player tells me the likely course for the ex-Jacksonville player is to sign on with another team by the end of the month. But the player also says don't be shocked if Garrard doesn't play the remainder of the year and catches on with a team next year. Again, Garrard wants to play now, and probably will, but players close to him believe if the right situation doesn't arise he'll decide to spend this season hanging with his family and look into playing next year.
Tony Romo: His two broken rib performance was one of the most gutsy of the year. Good for him. People like me crushed him after his choke-fest of the Jets but what he did against the 49ers could change how he's viewed by people on the outside and inside the organization.
Posted on: September 16, 2011 6:27 am
OPENING HIT: Well, maybe not no chance. Maybe it's one percent. Or five. Or 15. But for all practical purposes Terrelle Pryor's appeal to the commissioner to shorten his five game suspension will ultimately fail. It's doomed.
Pryor and his agent Drew Rosenhaus met with Commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday. Rosenhaus said he expects a ruling soon. I've been told one could come as early as Friday (but my guess is Monday).
A variety of league and union sources expect the commissioner to totally reject Pryor's appeal. I think if Goodell could reject the appeal and then do an Ochocinco-like post-rejection touchdown, he would.
The Pryor case raises all kinds of interesting issues. Two are the most important. First, Goodell has invested a great deal of effort, sweat and blood into this new initiative of not allowing college players to break the rules in college and then use the NFL as an escape vessel. You can agree or disagree with that but this is the NFL's plan. They won't allow players like Pryor a free pass into their league.
Thus reversing his decision to suspend Pryor would undermine all of that. That's the main reason why Pryor's suspension will probably hold.
The second issue is the biggest and an old one. It's about commissioner power. The biggest thing players remain upset about post-lockout is that Goodell retained his power to be judge and jury on suspension issues like Pryor. It absolutely infuriates a number of them and Goodell upholding his own ruling will drive them to drink.
In effect, this will be a divisive issue in the NFL for a long, long time.
But for now Pryor shouldn't make any plans to play any time soon.
Posted on: September 15, 2011 4:51 am
Edited on: September 15, 2011 10:58 am
OPENING HIT: The following is a subject that will likely cause great debate. I can tell you some NFL players will react almost violently to it.
It was previsouly believed the avereage career length was around threee years. So the NFL is saying a new analysis shows that a decades-long belief is incorrect. The NFL said something similar during the lockout and it caused some union members' heads to explode. Now the NFL is claiming to offer concrete proof that today's players will have careers a lot longer than players in years past.
The release from the NFL continues: "NFL Management Council calculated average expected NFL career length using statistics from its prior study on career expectancy for players entering the league between 1993 and 2002. 120 of the players entering the league during that time period earned spots on 2011 Kickoff Weekend rosters.
Again, if true, this all fairly stunning. It will be interesting to see how players react as this news becomes public.
Posted on: September 8, 2011 8:49 am
OPENING HIT: I want to describe a scene to you. It's Wednesday afternoon in Milwaukee. I'm about a 90 minute drive from Green Bay and stuck in traffic. Around me are cars with Packers flags and bumper stickers. Almost every car I see. I drive around other parts of the city and stores decorated in Packers colors. More flags. More fans wearing Packers shirts and hats. Talk radio is all Packers. It felt like I was in a college town and I mean that in a good way. Of course you can imagine what it was like in Green Bay.
This isn't a shock--Green Bay loves the Packers. The state of Wisconsin loves the Packers. Wow. Breaking news. No, not a shock, but it was an enjoyable scene. Green Bay is the best football town in America and seeing a city preparing for its defending champions' season opener is neat to see.
It's also the best sign yet that football is back. After all of the lockout insanity. The craziness. The back and forth. The dark days when it seemed this day, the opening of the season, would never come, football is here, and it's the Packers.
And it doesn't get much better than that.
Posted on: September 6, 2011 7:16 am
OPENING HIT: Put aside, for the moment, that Brett Favre was a selfish putz. Put aside that he allegedly had a bit of a freaky side. That Brett Favre only cared about Brett Favre. That he was a bully in his final days in Green Bay. That he acted, at times in his final days in Green Bay, like a petulant child.
Put all that aside and reflect on the most remarkable record in the history of sports. The utter insanity of that record, the craziness of it, the incredible nature of it, again came into focus when Peyton Manning was listed as doubltful this week and will likely (definitely) miss this week's season opener. He's started 208 regular season games consecutively. Every team other than the Colts had at least three players start at quarterbackover the past 13 years Manning has started. Remarkable.
Yet it pales to Favre. Think about that. Pales. Favre has 297 straight starts and it's becoming increasingly clear no one will ever touch that streak. No one. Manning had the best shot and he would have still needed to play six more seasons to overtake Favre.
The next closest to Favre now is Ronde Barber, the Hall of Fame worthy cornerback from Tampa Bay. He's at 179 straight games and at 36-years-old he won't get close to Favre, either.
So despite all the damage Favre did to his image that part of his legacy remains intact and likely always will.
MORE ON RONDE: I've said for the past several years Ronde Barber is Hall of Fame worthy and nothing has changed that. His statistics are noteworthy but more important is his longevity. He's been in the NFL since 1997 and played expertly and at a high level since. Such longevity at the cornerback position is remarkable and in some ways -- some ways -- Barber's consecutive playing streak is more impressive than Manning's because corner is such a violent position. He should be in the Hall of Fame and I think one day he'll get in.
ONE MORE BARBER: One general manager, on a team that actually needs running back depth, explained why he didn't even call Barber for a tryout: "I don't trust him. That's pretty much it." Well, um, alright then. But that, I think, is the general consensus of many team front office types. The lack of interest in Barber isn't as much about his age or time away from football as teams don't trust his motivations for returning or, more explicitly, don't trust him period. He's seen as a bit of a locker room politician and that's putting it kindly.
Posted on: September 1, 2011 7:14 am
Edited on: September 1, 2011 7:27 am
OPENING HIT: The cross-pollination of politics and sports has long existed. One year before Don Shula's Miami Dolphins had their historic perfect season, Shula was preparing for his Super Bowl against the Dallas Cowboys. One day that week, at 1:30 in the morning, President Richard Nixon phoned Shula in his home to talkabout the game. Nixon played three sports in college and constantly interacted with coaches believing himself to be a sort of coach-in-chief. He once invited Washington coach George Allen to the White House.