Jan 302013

Just Shut 'Yer MouthIt’s been a while since I have felt the need to comment on some of the commentary coming from the mouths of current and former NFL players, but this Super Bowl week seems to provide endless opportunities for people stick their feet in their mouths. So let’s let at our most recent batch of guys who squawk first and think second, or third, or… ok, maybe not at all. And just so you’ve been warned, I’m not exactly feeling a lot of tolerance for some of this silliness.

Randy MossRandy Moss
I love Randy Moss as a player, and really enjoyed him as a member of the New England Patriots when he had his head on straight. The trouble with Randy is that he seems to be one very weird dude, if we judge by his antics on and off the field over the years, his bizarre video-pooping (there’s a term we don’t use every day) incident on MOSS-TV, and his ability to talk his way out of New England after reviving his troubled career.

But now Randy has made (and re-made) the claim that he believes that he is the greatest wide receiver in NFL history. Now, it’s great that Randy believes that, and he is certainly welcome to do so. But given his up and down career, the fact that his numbers come up short of Jerry Rice, and the fact that Moss has still not won (at least for a few more days) a championship, it seems to be a dubious claim at best. Yet Moss continues to make it.

“What I said is what I felt, and I don’t want to get into a shouting match with Jerry Rice or anybody,” Moss said on Wednesday. “It’s my personal opinion. (Rice) has the numbers but I don’t believe in numbers.”

So Moss doesn’t believe in numbers; he also doesn’t believe in rings.

“In today’s society, it’s how we measure athletes or teams — on rings,” Moss said. “I don’t base it that way. I changed the game. But I’m not trying to make it all about me.”

Not trying to make it about you? Now that would be news. OK Randy, so you have a claim, and no objective measure for backing it up. By that standard, Rex Ryan is the best head coach in the NFL too.

There can be no doubt that Moss is one of the greatest receivers in NFL history, and that he had (past tense) the ability to completely take over a game. But it was only when he wanted to… when he felt like it. His own effort and lack of effort are what define his career, and he never put forth the effort that Rice put forth on a consistent basis and that made Rice better than everyone else. Randy is trying to write his legacy on how he wants people to remember him after he hangs up the cleats, and the legacy he is writing for himself is going to be a bit more generous than what will be written by others.

Like Jerry Rice, I wish Moss every bit of luck in getting his first ring this Sunday, but he needs to drop his silly claim of being the best ever.

Tim BrownTim Brown and Jerry Rice
Speaking of silly claims, how about the one made by Tim Brown, who is currently a nominee for the Professional Football Hall of Fame?

Just over a week ago the former Raiders’ wide receiver came out and said that former coach Bill Callahan intentionally altered the game plan in Super Bowl XXXVII to sabotage the Raiders’ chances of beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Callahan’s good friend Jon Gruden.

“We all called it sabotage . . . because Callahan and [Tampa Bay coach Jon] Gruden were good friends,” Brown said. “And Callahan had a big problem with the Raiders, you know, hated the Raiders. You know, only came because Gruden made him come. Literally walked off the field on us a couple of times during the season when he first got there, the first couple years. So really he had become someone who was part of the staff but we just didn’t pay him any attention. Gruden leaves, he becomes the head coach. . . . It’s hard to say that the guy sabotaged the Super Bowl. You know, can you really say that? That can be my opinion, but I can’t say for a fact that that’s what his plan was, to sabotage the Super Bowl. He hated the Raiders so much that he would sabotage the Super Bowl so his friend can win the Super Bowl. That’s hard to say, because you can’t prove it.

Brown later added, “I can’t say the man was incompetent because he was far from that. You only leave me with one other choice so I’ll have to go ahead and take the latter of those two choices.” The latter of the two choices of course being intentional sabotage.

What made the story even more stunning was the fact that Jerry Rice then got on board with the claim.

According to Rice, “For some reason — and I don’t know why — Bill Callahan did not like me. In a way, maybe because he didn’t like the Raiders he decided, ‘Maybe we should sabotage this a little bit and let Jon Gruden go out and win this one.’”

Now anyone who watches Jerry Rice on television knows that Jerry Rice thinks a great deal of himself, but this statement was simply way over the top. First, there is simply no way in the NFL that coaches and players who work as hard as they do to win games in the NFL and advance through the post-season are going to throw a game like the Super Bowl in order to make some bizarre point or let a friend win. Second, it seems far more likely that Callahan simply over thought the situation and altered the game plan so he could be less predictable in the Super Bowl and have a better chance to win. If Callahan seems guilty of anything, it would seem to be outwitting himself.

It wasn’t much of a surprise that Brown later backtracked from his claim, stating he never made a suggestion that Callahan sabotaged the Super Bowl, but by then the damage, both to Brown’s credibility and to Rice’s, had already been done. The story has been dying a slow death over the past week, but both Brown and Rice made a miscalculation in spouting out fictional nonsense about something long since passed.

Ray LewisRay Lewis
Many people believe, myself included, that Ray Lewis is either a murderer or an accessory to two murders. We will never know the truth of the situation, given that Lewis plead to a lesser charge, that no one has ever been held criminally responsible for the stabbing deaths of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar, and that important evidence in the case vanished. Lewis preempted a wrongful death civil finding by reaching a financial settlement after the filing of the suit.

But we do know this about Ray Lewis; the man is very likely an outright liar.

This week it was revealed that Lewis used a banned substance (IGF-1) to aid him in recovering from a torn triceps. According to Sports Illustrated, Lewis contacted a company owned by a former male stripper to obtain a deer-antler velvet extract after tearing his triceps in October. Mitch Ross, the owner of S.W.A.T.S, videotaped the phone call from Lewis. During the conversation, Lewis said to Ross, “Just pile me up and just send me everything you got, because I got to get back on this this week.”

Lewis has rebuked the claim and pointed to his history of negative drug tests, but there is currently no testing of players for IGF-1. The video evidence seems particularly damning. Lewis’ response to this? Why of course it’s to appeal to emotion and call the accusation a ‘trick of the devil.’

“That’s the trick of the devil,” Lewis said. “The trick of the devil is to kill, steal and destroy. That’s what he comes to do. He comes to distract you from everything you’re trying to do.”

Ross, however, is adamant that Lewis was using the substance. On ESPN Radio’s “VP and Russillo” show, Ross alleged that Lewis “used every product that I have.”

“Ray did what he had to do to get back on the field, that’s what he said,” Ross told Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo. “I’m not telling you he didn’t use anything. He got on a protocol, he absolutely certainly did… It was set up by me how to do it, and I even developed an armband for him to use at Day 7 to strengthen his triceps better… It sounds like he’s disputing it, I guess because he’s scared of Roger Goodell. Ray’s not the only athlete taking in the SWATS protocol.”

The report from SI is incredibly well documented, and Lewis is not the overt target of the article. The article also links IGF-1 to last year’s Alabama Crimson Tide team, and also notes Johnny Damon, Vijay Singh, and Shawne Merriman. In his interview on ESPN, Ross added Brett Favre, Carnell Williams, Heath Evans, and others to the list. You can read the article here.

Maybe the video is the trick of the devil, Ray. But I for one will believe a well-vetted report that is backed up by video evidence, particularly when compared to someone who is already convicted of interfering with a previous murder investigation. So I’m going with SI’s report, unless Ray Ray feels like producing a blood-spattered white suit to the police.

Marshall FaulkMarshall Faulk
Speaking of guys who need to shut the hell up…

Marshall Faulk was interviewed by Tom Curran of CSNNE.com and stated he still believes that the Patriots cheated the Rams out of a victory in Super Bowl XXXVI. Faulk said that he believes that the Patriots spied on the Rams’ walk-through practice the day before the game, and were able to respond to plays that the Rams had created for the Super Bowl. This is in conflict with the findings of the NFL, and Commissioner Goodell insisted there was no evidence that the Patriots obtained any information by spying on the walk-through.

“Am I over the loss? Yeah, I’m over the loss. But I’ll never be over being cheated out of the Super Bowl. That’s a different story. I can understand losing a Super Bowl, that’s fine . . . But how things happened and what took place. Obviously, the commissioner gets to handle things how he wants to handle them but if they wanted us to shut up about what happened, show us the tapes. Don’t burn ’em.”

“I understand Bill Belichick is a great coach,” said Faulk. “But No. 13 (Kurt Warner) will tell you. Mike Martz will tell you. We had some plays in the red zone that we hadn’t ran. I think we got to fourth down — we ran three plays that we hadn’t ran, that Mike drew up for that game… Bill’s a helluva coach… we hadn’t ran them the whole year, and the Patriots were ready for them.”

Whatever Faulk’s feelings about the way the Commissioner handled the investigation, the fact remains that Faulk’s accounting of the walk-through seem to be manufactured memories. John Czarnecki from Fox (thanks to Tom E. Curran for the reference) has indicated that the Rams did very little of actual preparation for the game, but were more focused on taking pictures. Further, the Boston Herald, who initially published the John Tomase report that the Patriots had taped the walk-through, retracted the story and issued an apology for running a false report.

Faulk is welcome to believe whatever he wants about the events of Super Bowl XXXVI. But his continued public insistence that he was cheated despite evidence to the contrary simply makes Faulk look like a sore loser.

UPDATE: Willie McGinest has the best response yet to Faulk’s rubbish: If we would have had inside information, the game would have been a blowout. Well said, Willie! My guess is that it’s going to be a little tense on the NFL Network set for the next few days!

Rat1SmallSite News

After the Super Bowl wraps up, we have a fairly aggressive schedule of off-season topics that we will be addressing. So just because the season is over doesn’t mean our writing is taking a break. In addition, we are now planning for some podcasts that will be taking place later in the spring. Twp topics we are looking at right now are free agent moves that take place in March and April, as well as looking at the long-term viability of the National Football League, given concerns over player safety. Our first podcasts will likely be facilitated conversations without listener calls, but we are certainly hoping that this approach will be successful and that we can eventually expand to live online broadcasts and listener calls. But for now it is one step at a time…. more to follow!

Oct 022012

Well, Widows, we have made it to week 5 of the season. This week celebrated the return of the regular officials, which was most likely as big of a hit at your house as it was at mine. Coming out of week 4, I am still coming up last with my predictions. Widow’s intuition allowed me to tie Idaho Quarter, which basically means that I did as well as chance when it comes to selecting who will win football games. I want to do better, ladies. I had not-so-secretly hoped to beat the pants off of the likes of Ghost Rate, Fat Jesus, Country Preacher and Flip Stricland. I may have even bragged a little that I would. It isn’t looking good so far, but we have a long way to go. That is lucky for me. And for the Saints. And the Browns. And the Lions. Unfortunately, the team I most identify with at this point in the Jets; lost, confused, not seeming to understand the game, and with an ever-increasing potty mouth.

If this is your first time joining me, you don’t know that up until this season much of the game of football has been a mystery to me. I have operated with an “ignorance is bliss” approach to the NFL, which had me thinking, for example, that football was only on television on Sunday and Monday. I have gone YEARS without so much as watching a game. In my effort to be the best Football Widow I can be, I have made it a priority to learn something about the game in order to better understand the socially redeeming value that my husband finds in professional football. Imagine my excitement when I discovered a large amount of it this week when I saw officials and players getting their “Pink On”!

I am going to deviate from my usual fun-poking at the NFL to write about the most pleasant surprise I have had to date: The “A Crucial Catch” campaign to support early detection of breast cancer. October was named Breast Cancer Awareness Month in 1984, and the NFL began their support of the cause in 2009. Games played from October 5-27 will be designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Games with items worn by players, pink coins used in the coin toss, and special game balls to be auctioned off with the money donated to the cause. To date, the NFL has raised over $3 million, largely from auction proceeds.

I was impressed by the various ways in which the NFL players, owners and officials have embraced Breast Cancer Awareness. The NFL Referee’s Association presented a check for $14,000 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure during a pregame ceremony at Texas Stadium on Sept. 28. Home games will be dedicated to these efforts this month, with various programs and promotional activities, featuring support for both national and local initiatives that promote early detection. Teams are also partnering with local chapters of the Zeta Tau Alpha (ZTA) sorority whose national philanthropy is breast cancer education and awareness. The activities are too numerous to mention, and can be found by visiting the NFL’s official website.

So, why breast cancer, a disease that most significantly impacts women? In my research on the topic, I found a few skeptics that see this as an opportunistic effort to draw women to the game, given our power when it comes to attracting would-be advertisers. The sale of women’s NFL clothing has doubled in recent years and I myself have seen a very cute commercial for women’s game day jerseys. Nielson ratings reveal that viewership is up among young women, age 18-34, while down in general among women. Still, in the world of professional sports, the NFL has a higher percentage of female fans than any other sport, with most recent US Census data and ESPN surveys indicating that around 44% of fans are women. That’s a lot of breast to protect, Widows…not to mention the wonderful array of man boobs (moobs?) out there in the world of football fandom! To the skeptics, I say “So what?” Many NFL players, like many of us, have been touched personally by breast cancer and using this forum to promote early detection should be applauded.

In 2004, Deanna Favre, wife of retired future Hall of Famer Brett Favre was diagnosed with breast cancer. They dedicate efforts of the Deanna Favre’s HOPE Foundation to the cause. Stephanie Spielman, wife of former linebacker Chris Spielman died of the disease in 2009 at the age of 42. The couple had also been strong supporters and Spielman continues his involvement. Cowboys Line Backer Bradie James supports a team that will walk in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure on behalf of Foundation 56, his personal foundation which raises funds and awareness for breast cancer causes. His mother, Etta, died of the disease in 2001. The Rams established Team Georgia, in memory of late team owner and chairman, Georgia Frontiere, who lost her battle with breast cancer in January 2012. The list goes on and on.

According to nfl.com, “The money raised through A Crucial Catch will support the American Cancer Society’s Community Health Advocates National Grants for Empowerment (CHANGE) program. This program provides outreach and breast cancer screenings to women who need them. The NFL markets being supported in the first year of the program are Atlanta, Baltimore, New England, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Washington, DC.” You, and women in need in those areas, are already winners going into Week 5!

My helmet is off to you, NFL players, owners and officials. This week, my plan was to choose the home team to win, regardless of the matchup. I am sticking to that plan in honor of the dedication of home games to breast cancer awareness. I make a few deviations based on my usual scientific criteria. I am choosing the Packers over the Colts although the Colts are the home team. The NFL press release indicates that the highlighted activities are to be performed by the teams’ Women’s Associations related to local Race for the Cure events, so I went with my gut on that one. I am also choosing the Texans to beat the Jets as a shout out to the efforts of the Lady Texan Wives Association team who will be participating in the Race for the Cure. I’ve got nothin’ in the Football Widow department compared to player’s wives! I wasn’t able to find any information on what the Jets franchise will be specifically doing during their home games this month, but I want to acknowledge Mark Sanchez for recording a public service announcement in support.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but thanks, NFL!

Week 5 Picks
Rams over Cardinals
Redskins over Falcons
Steelers over Eagles
Packers over Colts
Giants over Browns
Vikings over Titans
Bengals over Dophins
Chiefs over Ravens
Panthers over Seahawks
Jaguars over Bears
Patriots over Broncos
49ers over Bills
Saints over Chargers
Texans over Jets

Jun 052012

I am not a “Cheese Head”. I grew up in Central Iowa where college football reigns supreme, and college football fans on Sunday watch the Bears, Chiefs, Packers and Vikings. I liked the Packers, but I also liked the other three teams I referenced. Although I respected and appreciated how Brett Favre played the game, I would not have described myself as necessarily a “fan” of his.

I met my wife in 2003. She was both a big time Packer and Brett Favre fan, and maybe not even in that order? Her family has had Packer season tickets for years and I started attending Packer games on a regular basis that year. Consequently, I developed a greater allegiance to both the Packers and Brett Favre. I felt as though I was privileged to have the opportunity to personally witness a true Packer and NFL legend such as Favre lead the Packers, and I especially enjoyed the playoff runs of the ’03, ’04 and ’07 seasons.

I felt the pain of the playoff losses that ended those seasons and the opportunity for Brett Favre to earn another Super Bowl ring. I will particularly always remember yelling “No!” when Favre hurled what would turn out to be his final pass as a Packer in overtime of the NFC Championship. A few months later, I watched him tearfully say what I thought was goodbye to the sport he loved, in addition to the organization that I thought he loved, and I guess that I thought loved him.

Of course that was far from the end of the legend of Brett Favre. What ensued in the aftermath of March 2008 heightened tensions among both Packer and NFL fans alike. I was one of those fans who quickly turned against Favre for what I perceived to be his narcissistic shenanigans. Other Packer fans I knew remained loyal to Favre during the ’08 season when he played as a member of the New York Jets.

These fans believed the Packer organization had done the unthinkable in the aftermath of the NFC Championship in 2008 when the organization demanded that Favre make a decision about his future in short order. After all, Favre was a Packer legend and the rationale of many was that the organization should have afforded Favre the luxury of making the decision on his own time. Of course, this sentiment went out the window when Favre’s overtures with the Minnesota Vikings became more and more public. Just as the Packer organization had done the unthinkable by giving Favre a timetable to make his decision, Favre had done the unthinkable as a result of his willingness to play for a Packer archrival.

I recall listening to Steve Young on the Jim Rome Show back in the summer of 2008. Young was talking about what was then transpiring between Brett Favre and the Packer organization. Young explained that no matter on how good of terms a quarterback may be with his organization there is nothing that can prepare that quarterback for the feelings that will arise internally when that quarterback realizes that his organization is preparing for its future without him as quarterback. This is the cold hard fact of the business side of the NFL. Further, Favre’s situation was likely compounded by the fact that there is potentially no other general manager in the NFL who is colder when it comes to the business operations of the organization than Packer General Manager Ted Thompson.

On the other side of this issue was a fact that Fox NFL color analyst Troy Aikman brought up late in the 2009 Packer/Viking game in Green Bay. Aikman stated that he was not so sure that Favre wanted to stay in Green Bay given that Favre may have felt that his best chance to win another Super Bowl was as the quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings? Aikman said that he felt like this was a side of the Favre/Packer saga that was never really explored. I think Aikman was correct with this analysis.

Of course, like so many things in life, the truth of who was at fault probably lies in the middle. Further, now three years removed from this matter it has become clear to me that it was in the best interest of both the Green Bay Packers and Brett Favre for Favre to end his career with the Minnesota Vikings. The Packers won Super Bowl XLV, and had it not been for a penalty for having too many players in the huddle Brett Favre likely would have won Super Bowl XLIV. Both the Packers and Favre are probably better off today as a result of that painful split that occurred back in 2008.

Back in 2008 and 2009, I was as critical of Brett Favre as anybody. However, the time has now arrived for the Packer organization to recognize all of the wonderful things that Favre did for the organization, the City of Green Bay, the State of Wisconsin, and the NFL and its fans. Likewise, it is also time for Brett Favre to acknowledge that he would not be where he is today without the Green Bay Packers.

I was in Wisconsin for Easter weekend. I heard on the local news that weekend that Brett and Deanna Favre had reached out to a soldier and his family who were from Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I appreciated hearing this story.  About a month later it was reported that the president of the Packer organization, Mark Murphy, stated that the organization will likely retire Favre’s jersey sometime in the next couple of years. Murphy’s statement seemed to leave the decision up to Brett Favre as to when this will occur. No.

I say that it is time for one of both of these parties to rise above all of this and do what is right for the Green Bay Packers, for Brett Favre, and for Packer and NFL fans alike. Let’s accomplish this sooner, rather than later. How about this coming season?