Football’s a Contact Sport, Except When the Quarterback’s Involved

So I think we can all agree that the NFL is a violent game that produces tons of injuries each week. Players wear pads as a necessity to protect themselves but most of the time that’s not even enough. A large part of the appeal of the game is the hard-hitting. Heck, that produces half of my material during football season. And even though I understand why the NFL is putting in more rules to protect its star players, it comes across as nothing other than undermining the nature of the game. Witness the Tom Brady Rule which came into effect after he suffered a season-long knee injury:

The fifth provision of Rule 12, Section 2, Article 12 (roughing the passer) says that: “A rushing defender is prohibited from forcibly hitting in the knee area or below a passer who has one or both feet on the ground, even if the initial contact is above the knee. It is not a foul if the defender is blocked (or fouled) into the passer and has no opportunity to avoid him.”

Patriots owner Robert Kraft offered up his explanation considering he lost his star quarterback last year: “It’s not good for the league. What makes it special is special players. It’s like going to see a great movie and the star isn’t in the movie. It’s the same principle.” OK, so basically the league’s admitting that it’s more important to make football into a good movie or TV show than to let the sport play out naturally, the way it’s supposed to be played. Contact and hitting is part of the game. Brady’s injury was part of the game. You can’t hide and run away from it — it happens. Players already get fined and flagged for dirty hits. That’s the stuff I’m OK with them eliminating (the wedge, too). But to flag a player for doing something like what Bernard Pollard did means you’re trying to change the nature of the game. Why even bother sending a defense out there if you’re not going to allow them to hit the quarterback?

Matthew Stafford Dominates Wonderlic Test, Hakeem Nicks Bombs

Although I’m not much of a fan of the NFL combine, I have to say I enjoy when the Wonderlic scores come out. In case you’re unfamiliar with the Wonderlic, it’s a test that’s administered to judge mental swiftness of players. The test asks 50 problem solving questions in 12 minutes and one point is awarded for every correct answer. Vince Young notoriously bombed the test, getting an embarrassingly low 5. Based on the way his career has gone, a low score like that would definitely signal a red flag to me. Luckily for this year’s crop nobody scored that poorly. Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford stood out ringing up a 38 according to Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune. Mark Sanchez of USC scored a respectable 28. As far as positions go, the wide receiver crop certainly disappointed. Like 100% Injury Rate wrote, let’s just hope they can read these headlines:

Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech scored a 15, Darrius Heyward-Bey of Maryland scored a 14, and Percy Harvin of Florida scored a 12. Hakeem Nicks of UNC wowed everyone with an 11 … Jeremy Maclin of Missouri scored a 25, so he’s like the Einstein of this year’s receiving corps.

While it’s an excellent sign for a guy like Stafford where learning a playbook, thinking on the spot, and adjusting to defenses is absolutely critical, the Wonderlic is far less important for a receiver. Honestly, does it really matter how poorly Nicks scored when he can do this on the field? Brains certainly help in football, but that sort of thing is just about natural, athletic ability, excellent hands, and superior concentration. Let’s see if the Lions bite on Stafford based on the Wonderlic considering they might already be in contract negotiations with the first overall pick.

Terence Newman: Jessica Simpson Distracts Romo from Being Great QB

T.O. says it (half-jokingly) and it becomes a firestorm. Terence Newman says it (a week ago) and not much attention is paid. Newman had an interview with WFAA in which he talked all things Cowboys. I thought he had a great take on team captains, saying that it should be the guys who played the best the week before because they’ve earned the right to speak. After that, maybe a few guys are needed to step up and say something when it’s appropriate, but in general, leadership is earned. He was also asked about everyone’s favorite Cowboys subject (now that The Player is gone), Tony Romo. Here were Newman’s thoughts on whether or not Romo’s grasped what being the Cowboys quarterback is all about:

“I think that with the situation Tony was in, I think that kind of maybe hurt him a little bit, being a first-year starter. Then you have the limelight with his girlfriend and situations of that nature — it’s going to take away from him being a quarterback, being a successful quarterback. He won 13 games and everything was perfect, but now, after this past season, it was, ‘Is he doing enough for the team? Is he working hard enough? You know, he’s got this girlfriend, so …’ I think that once he inherited the starting quarterback job and his relationship got into the national media attention, I think that that was something that definitely hurt and took away from Tony Romo being a great quarterback.”

I’ve defended Tony Romo in the past saying people are too quick to criticize him, forgetting how young he is in his NFL career and how good he’s already been. I’ve said it before and I truly believe that winning cures all. Because the team lost and didn’t make the playoffs, people look for reasons to explain what went wrong. I don’t condone going to Mexico the week before a playoff game, but I don’t think anyone would be saying this stuff had they won a few more games last season. And losing was more a factor of a bad secondary, a brutal schedule, and an unfortunate pinkie injury to Romo, rather than his flakiness because of a girlfriend. It’s too bad that Newman fell into the trap along with so many others.

UPDATE: Newman has since tried to “clarify” his comments

Video of the entire interview below in case you want to check it out (Romo comments at the 6:45 mark or so):

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Should the New UFL Compete with the NFL or Complement it?

From what I understand (and it seems pretty obvious) the backers of the United Football League think there’s enough demand in this country for professional football that a second league could be successful. I know NFL Europe was canceled for being a bust and that the USFL didn’t make it, but maybe there’s room for the UFL. From what I understand based on brief research, the USFL posed a strong threat to the NFL but their ultimate goal was to merge the leagues in order to profit on the increase in franchise values. Their lawsuit didn’t work out and the league disbanded. So here’s my question to you: would you care for a second professional football league in this country? (and I don’t consider the Arena League competition). Should they compete using a fall schedule (and play on Thursdays and Fridays like they’re scheduled to do), go up against baseball during the summer, or play during the fall and serve as a minor league-type operation for the NFL?

I think bringing in coaches like Dennis Green, Jim Haslett, and Jim Fassel for three of the four UFL franchises (Ted Cottrell is the other), provides instantaneous credibility to the league. That’s enough to get my attention and make me think the league is for real. Imagine if they land someone like Michael Vick, too, how could we not pay attention? I don’t know if it would work, but I believe a pro football league like the UFL could work during the summertime, competing with baseball and ending before the NFL season starts. Is there enough of a market out there for another league in addition to the NFL? Should they try to compete with the NFL’s popularity or supplement them as a minor league system? Oh yeah, and if you haven’t already, please locate Versus on your cable network because that will be your home for all UFL action.

Terrell Owens Sounds Thrilled to be in Buffalo … Not

Forgive me for that lame reference — I just saw Wayne’s World the other day for the first time in forever. Much like Jonathan Papelbon, one of the nice things about Terrell Owens is that he’s accessible to the media for the most part. He did a station in Buffalo the favor of joining their radio show (Shredd and Ragan on WEDG). What does he get for that nice gesture? Scrutinized for his attitude in the interview. Sports Radio Interviews has the audio and even transcribed the interesting piece.

What did you think when your agent said Buffalo?

(7 second pause followed by TO repeating question, followed by four more seconds of dead air) “At that point in time I was just going up there to have a meeting and I thought that was just going to be the start of the process of trying to find me a team. From that standpoint, once I got there I was very excited with the coaching staff, I met with the head coach and one thing kind of just happened after another.”

First of all, the pause wasn’t seven seconds at the beginning, it was only a few. But if you listen to the audio you definitely get the sense that T.O. has an apathetic attitude towards being in Buffalo. Even when asked about his plans for touchdown celebrations he seemed disinterested. Maybe things happened so quickly that his head is spinning and he doesn’t know what to say yet. Think about it — three days after the shocking news broke, he already had a new team. One that is the antithesis of glamor in the NFL. I guess you can’t blame a guy from being down after being cut from a team he enjoyed to going to a team that hasn’t seen excitement in over 10 years. If I had to sum up T.O.’s attitude to being in Buffalo based on this interview, I’d definitely say he seems apathetic. For Buffalo’s sake, you have to hope that turns around come training camp.

(via Sports by Brooks)

Matt Jones Continues to Impress

Matt Jones is working his way up to Pacman Jones status here at LBS. Hopefully he’s got enough in him to keep this fire fueled for a few more years. First the Jags bust of a wide receiver got caught chopping lines of cocaine in his car along with some friends in Fayetteville last year. It bothered me that he was able to escape penalty under the league’s personal conduct policy until the final weeks of the season, at which point the Jags were already eliminated from playoff contention. Anyway, fast forward to the present day where Jones was busted for drinking alcohol (a few beers on a golf course with friends), which apparently is a violation of his drug program for the coke arrest. Best part is the way the judge laid down the law:

[Judge Gunn] said, “why in the world would you drink beer on the golf course when your future’s at stake? And let me tell you why your future’s at stake. Everybody’s is, but your playing field time is smaller than my career. I could practice law for 50 years, hopefully, but you can’t play football for 50 years. You have more to lose and you have to respect that. I have not seen you be anything but respectful in this program, and man! It’s you, it’s not us! You either work it or you don’t. You didn’t. You’ve got a choice. Stick around and find out what Matt’s going to say. But you’re going to go to jail for a week, Matt, or you’re going to go to residential treatment for 6 weeks, and you know what? You may need both! You’ve been 100% on everything the NFL’s asked, and everything that we’ve asked. Except this; court’s in recess!”

That judge made Matt Jones her bitch! She owned him in court, no doubt. According to them, he’s on $150,000 bail, but could still wind up missing some offseason activities if he’s in a residential treatment program. Between Jones, Reggie Williams (now a free agent), and Jerry Porter’s million bucks a catch, the Jags need a new receiver. Badly.

Pacman Jones Gets Into Fight During Pros vs. Joes TV Show Taping

Pacman Jones WrestlingConsidering no NFL teams have shown interest in him, I’m surprised Pacman Jones hasn’t gone back to TNA wrestling for a second spin as “The Lap Dance Man.” Maybe the paychecks doing the turnbuckle thing weren’t quite cutting it for Pac. Anyway, I guess he’s still trying to stay in football shape, and he’s been doing it by participating in Spike TV’s Pros vs. Joes show (they’re clearly using the term “pro” lightly). Naturally, since trouble and Pacman Jones are like synonyms, you could guess what happened on set. From PFT:

According to Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, who attended one of the sessions, Pacman and one of the “Joes” got into a fight … The hit came from Dan Adams, a former linebacker at Holy Cross who once made 21 tackles in a single game. Pacman had been calling Adams “Waterboy.” A few minutes after the hit, the two started punching each other, and they had to be separated.

“He hit me 10 yards out of bounds, kind of a cheap shot,” Adams said. “I couldn’t sit there and not retaliate. You’ve got to have some pride and dignity.”

Clearly, because nobody would ever want to be outclassed by Pacman Jones. Now I wonder if Roger Goodell will find a way to suspend Pacman for this one. Do you think this could be held against the player formerly known as Adam regarding the personal conduct policy should Pac make a return to the league? I’d say the odds are fair.