Mikey’s Incoherent Guide to Understand the NFL Draft

The NFL Draft usually takes place every year sometime in April, and is held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Each year several hundred players identified to possibly have what it takes to benefit professional football teams. These players were identified through a combination of watching the game tape of their college career, and evaluating performances in the Senior Bowl [ located in Mobile, AL usually ], if they were one of the lucky players invited to play in the Senior Bowl.

The NFL Scouting Combine, which takes place currently in the Indianapolis Colts stadium, gives scouts, general managers, head coaches, basically entire front offices, owners and other people important in the drafting process to watch things in person that might otherwise go unnoticed.

SUPPOSEDLY, you get to see the immeasurables, things like a potential player’s charisma, football IQ, overall intelligence, the way his hips move, quickness in a small space, ability to take directions (AND ability to change directions), composure under pressure, composure when being grilled by people who know the game, blah blah you get the idea. I said supposedly because every year there’s a number of players who should never get drafted, or at least should get drafted much lower that end up going much higher based solely on how they performed at the Combine.

Let me get this straight, if a player has languished around doing absolutely nothing on the football field, eating potato chips and drinking beer, going to frat parties and being a detriment to his team, but then decides he really wants a multi-million dollar contract, he can just work out really hard for a few months with elite personal trainers, score really high at the Combine, or at his college’s Pro Day, or both, he deserves a pick in the first or second round rather than the 7th or going undrafted?

That’s a great way to find people who love football, understand it, and will provide reliable offensive or defensive output for years to come.

Despite some of the more brainless draft picks taken over the years, the NFL Draft is still the most important tool for teams to find continuity and success. There are other ways of getting decent players like buying them for exorbitant amounts of money during Free Agency, signing players from NFL Europe (I’m not sure if this is still around), signing college players who weren’t chosen through the draft, and of course there’s the NFL Supplemental Draft.

I’m not really sure how players enter the Supplemental talent pool, but I think it has something to do with players that are dismissed from their teams. Suspensions, criminal charges, taking money from crooked agents, missing a significant amount of time in college, in short, players who for whatever reason weren’t invited to take part in the traditional NFL Draft.

Even with all these other minor talent pools from which the 32 NFL teams get to choose from, the regular draft is where successful franchises are born. There are exceptions to this rule when a team gets really good in a short amount of time, but for continued success take a look around.

The Baltimore Ravens, guided by General Manager Ozzie Newsome, have arguably drafted  better than any other team in the past two decades. The New England Patriots have Bill Belichick and had GM Scott Pioli, the New York Football Giants have Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin, and the Indianapolis Colts had Bill Polian and Tony Dungy.

In the past 20 years, these 4 teams have combined for 8 Super Bowl wins and 11 appearances. Teams that don’t draft particularly well like the New York Jets under Rex Ryan, can have short-term success but eventually begin to fall apart. After two consecutive appearances in the AFC championship game, they haven’t been to the playoffs since.

Maybe it has something to do with their troubles involving Tim Tebow, Darrelle Revis’s contract dispute, continued offensive struggles, or signing Mark Sanchez to a contract extension (WTF?) but mainly it has to do with not having successful draft classes to replace losses in free agency, and retirement.

The 2013 NFL Draft is finally over, and I can finally relax now that I know that my team (the Ravens) will be able to field a defense this season. I can’t remember the last time our team (or any team) lost that many star players in a single season to free agency and retirement. I tried to tell myself that this happens all the time, but honestly I was starting to lose faith in Ozzie the Wizard.

I know, shame on me.

I felt a little better when we signed OLB Elvis Dumervil from Denver for 5 million less than former-Raven OLB Paul Kruger (HAH!). I don’t want to get into a long conversation about the free agents we signed prior to the draft (I brought this up in a previous article, see State of the Franchise: Baltimore Ravens 3/30), but I really have to say at least one thing about Rolando McClain.

WHAT THE HELL MAN! If for some reason Ozzie and John Harbaugh don’t toss you off the team prior to the regular season, count your lucky stars and don’t go back to Decatur, GA for any reason until you can get your sh*t straight! Stop getting arrested and use that passion for life to show our team, and the entire NFL, that you’re not completely worthless. You were a top-10 draft pick in Oakland, and it’s about damn time you act like it.

There I said it.

This year’s draft class was different from any other I have ever witnessed. Only one QB went in the 1st round, which is crazy since there are a LOT more than 1 teams who need a new starting QB. It wasn’t even one of the quarterbacks we thought were going to be drafted in the 1st round, it was EJ Manuel, QB from Florida State. Nothing wrong with that, except he’s probably going to be asked to step in immediately since he got picked in the 1st round.

I refuse to make fun of this pick, even though it seems a little out there, especially when there were so many other quarterbacks available at the time.

Another quarterback, Geno Smith from West Virginia, went as high as 6th overall in a number of mock drafts, but didn’t get drafted until the 2nd round, 39th overall by the New York Jets. Now this I do have a problem with since the Jets have MANY other needs. They also have 5 other quarterbacks on the roster currently (4 others now that they released Tim Tebow), Mark Sanchez, Greg McElroy (former Alabama QB), David Garrard and Matt Simms (?).

Quarterback is the one position where you do NOT need that much depth.

Very quickly I’ll list some of the other things I took from watching this year’s draft.

Manti Te’o didn’t fall as far as some sports analysts feared he would, and didn’t get taken as high as I thought he would (38 overall by the Chargers). Even though Geno Smith threw a hissy fit for not getting drafted in the 1st round, at least he didn’t fall as far as USC QB Matt Barkley (4th round, 98 overall by the Eagles), or Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib (4th round, 110 overall by the Giants).

Tyrann Mathieu (aka: the Honey Badger), despite getting dismissed from LSU last year for smoking weed, managed to get drafted pretty high (3rd round, 68 overall by the Cardinals) thanks to a vote of confidence from Patrick Peterson.

DJ Hayden’s love for the game and burning determination got him drafted on the first day of the draft (1st round, 12 overall by the Raiders), even after sustaining a life-threatening tear of his IVC (inferior vena cava) 6 months ago. Most people (upwards of 95%) with this injury die before or during the surgical operation. Somehow the University of Houston corner back is back on the field, this time in the National Football League.

No running backs went in the 1st round, not Wisconsin’s Montee Ball (2nd round, 58 by the Broncos) or Alabama’s Eddie Lacy (2nd round, 61 by the Packers), South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore (4th round, 131 by the 49ers) or anyone else. Lacy and Lattimore both dropped due to injury concerns, but Montee Ball’s only fault, being used a lot in high school and college, was a double-edged sword; Some teams take that to mean he’s reliable and non injury-prone while others look at the mileage on his body due to taking an enormous amount of carries and/or hits.

Two offensive tackles got drafted 1st and 2nd overall for the first time in the draft since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger. Three offensive linemen were grabbed in the top 4 picks, and five in the top 10. That leaves two conclusions on the table.

Either the linemen are that much better than usual this season or the skill position players, especially QB and RB, were just that much worse than usual.

West Virginia’s Tavon Austin (1st round, 8 overall by the Rams) needs recognition as perhaps the biggest play making wide receiver in this year’s draft. No wonder Geno Smith threw for so many touchdowns. Austin is reminiscent of ex-Vikings receiver Percy Harvin, or perhaps Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson. Even though he’s only 5 ft 8 in and 180 lbs soaking wet, he should immediately step in as one of Sam Bradford’s top receiving options, as well as be able to contribute during punt/kick returns, or as a slot receiver.

At least that’s what’s expected of him.

Florida State’s EJ Manuel (1st round, 16 overall by the Bills), I mean what can I say about this pick that hasn’t already been said? Even though the Bills already swapped picks with the Rams (used to acquire Tavon Austin), many people think that he still got drafted too high.

I can’t think of a single mock draft that had him picked ahead of better known quarterbacks such as Barkley, Nassib, or Smith.

EJ obviously has talent, otherwise he wouldn’t have even been a subconscious thought during the first day of the draft. He has prototypical size and height (6 ft 5 in, 237 lbs), can make all the throws required of an NFL-ready quarterback, and solid mobility (think of Andrew Luck or Ben Roethlisberger). Not the type of mobility that makes him a threat to score with his feet every time he touches the ball like Michael Vick or Colin Kaepernick, but the ability to generate 1st downs by scrambling when necessary, or to buy time in the pocket for coverage to ease up.

His flaws are just as obvious, which is the reason he wasn’t even rated as a 1st-round prospect by most football analysts. He lacks sufficient accuracy to hit smaller windows of opportunity at the next level, he has trouble reading through a complete progression, lacks experience playing under center and/or running a pro-style offense. He forces throws into impossible blanket coverage on occasion. He is not so overwhelmingly good that he can create offense without significant help around him, very possible seeing as how he’s probably going to be starting in Buffalo’s defunct offensive system.

To put it in layman’s terms, he doesn’t have enough skill position options, or even sturdy offensive linemen to keep him from getting annihilated 3-6 times a game. I’m sure he would be much more likely to become a dependable starting quarterback if given time to adjust to the speed of pro football, even thought that’s highly unlikely now that Ryan Fitzpatrick is in Tennessee (Didn’t the Bills JUST give him a contract extension last year?).

I’ve read stories about quarterbacks taking years to develop back in the good ol’ days like Pittsburgh’s Terry Bradshaw, Baltimore’s Johnny Unitas or Oakland’s Jim Plunkett. The shelf life of a quarterback, especially one drafted in the 1st round, has lessened to the point where sometimes a single losing season can lead to him being traded/waived/cut, along with the head coach, general manager and more depending on how desperate the owner/front office is.

Nobody is more guilty of having an itchy trigger finger than the Raiders, especially when under the ownership of the late Al Davis. He hired 8 different coaches since 1998, and only 1 coach has been able to last more than one full season since 2006.

FACT: 15 different quarterbacks have started at least 1 game in a Raiders uniform in the past decade (2003+).

Players all across the league are being given less time to situate themselves, and must spend more time learning complex playbooks than ever before. EJ Manuel and Geno Smith, along with pretty much every other draft pick in the 2013 class, are no different; They will most likely be given less than 2 full seasons to make a good impression on their coaches/bosses.

I’m only mentioning quarterbacks separately since no other position deals with as much criticism and publicity. They will always get more credit and more blame than the rest of their teammates, which puts them in an even more precarious spot.

It’s time to sink or swim, put up or shut up. Although I’m not a fan of this ideology, I understand the reasoning behind this mentality to a certain extent. Too many jobs are on the line and too much money involved for a franchise to give much more time than they are currently without something substantial to show for it.

As in wins and losses, butts in the bleachers, TV contracts and PSL season ticket sales.

Good luck to all those lucky players drafted in the 2013 NFL Draft. Here’s one piece of advice you can take to the bank:

**ADVICE**

Don’t get repeatedly arrested or get caught taking drugs or steroids. Put some money away with your financial adviser and exercise restraint when thinking about adding to your exotic car collection. They just aren’t a great investment, but in the back of your mind you already knew that.

Babymommas can get expensive rather quickly. Just think of each illegitimate kid as a few million dollars being stolen out of your bank account. Use simple math when adding up your expenses:

Contract + Bonuses + Endorsements

– Babymommas – Exotic Cars – Strip Club Expenses – Patron/Cristal/Ciroc/Dom Perignon/Moscato – Agent Fees – Rent on 4 Unnecessary Mansions – Charity Costs – TAXES

= Net Income

 

Next up will be my opinion on Baltimore’s 2013 Draft Class, including Matt Elam, Arthur Brown, Brandon Williams, etc.

 

Read my numerous other articles at: http://www.Kyarnboy.Wordpress.com

OR Email me at: Wong_83@Hotmail.Com

 

 

Return of the Honey Badger

 

Tyrann Mathieu Heisman

Better days, prior to dismissal from LSU

 

I couldn’t go anywhere last year without seeing replays of the Honey Badger plastered all over television sets.

Anytime I’m working at one of my restaurants, making drinks or talking to customers, there are TVs running nearly continuously behind my back. I am forever watching ESPN Sportscenter, the NFL channel, local sports programming, or whatever they feel like nationally televising.

And they always televised the games between LSU and Alabama.

I don’t remember all that much about the games between these two teams except they both are in the SEC conference, they both are NFL football factories, and they both play stifling, suffocating, punishing, physical defense (I distinctly remember one game where they combined to score 9 total points).

Oh and one more thing. Tyrann Mathieu, instantly recognizable from the stripe of bright blond dyed hair, aka: the Honey Badger, is a P-L-A-Y-M-A-K-E-R. With a capital P. If you love football, college or professional, then you should at least admire his awe-inspiring football instincts and ability to lay bigger, stronger, faster players out cold.

If you don’t believe me or need a refresher course, check out this highlight reel:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KBPaoS6odk

Yes that really happened, and No he doesn’t have a stunt double.

If they paid college players based solely on the number of big plays they made, the Honey Badger would be a millionaire before he got to the NFL. He’s just that much better than the next player.

It’s not everyday that a consensus All-American, Heisman finalist as a defensive player and winner of the Chuck Bednarik award gets dismissed from his team. I don’t think that’s ever happened to someone as highly decorated as him.

Fast forward to August 10th, 2012, and that’s exactly what happened.

I was looking through articles on NFL.com and Bleacher Report when a little box on the right side of my screen said something about him getting dismissed from the LSU football program. I clicked on the link and for some reason my brain refused to acknowledge this as reality.

Could one of the best defensive players in the country, on a team that came this close to winning last season’s NCAA National Championship game, really be getting the boot from Les Miles team? I read every single word on that page. Still in denial. I went to the NCAA.com page, searched for Tyrann Mathieu on Google, Yahoo, random sports blogs. I desperately needed to find something that could refute this statement.

Evidently he has a problem with drugs. ‘Technically’ the Tigers team released him for unconfirmed violations of team rules but I’m assuming, along with pretty much everyone else, that he got tossed for testing positive for marijuana on his blood and urine tests.

Here’s where it gets personal. For people on the outside of this world, living in an innocence bubble, it’s just too easy to point fingers and shake your head at others for having substance abuse problems.

Even people who are in the substance abuse-rehabilitation programs are nearly as bad. Doctors, therapists, counselors, program managers, teachers, these are people who think all kids are cured the same.

Kind of like a one size fits all program, a step-by-step program to curing the want or need for whatever substance their clients are stuck on.

You take a kid who has been hanging out with the wrong people for  a very long time, listening to them, using them as role models and aspiring to become the same type of person. Sometimes there are problems at home, domestic verbal, mental, or physical abuse. Sometimes these problems are genetically linked to the parents, or grandparents, such as documented cases of familial alcoholism.

I can’t speak for him personally, but I know that I have dealt with substance abuse issues for a long time, and no program, no speeches, no campfire atmosphere filled with drug addicts and people with mental issues is going to permanently change your way of thinking in a matter of days or months.

What it really takes to change, in my opinion, is to create an outlet, somewhere you can run to and take solace whenever the stress and fear becomes overwhelming. Drugs and alcohol offer something that nothing else can compete with, a way to forget and erase bad memories and suffering.

Friends and family members can only support you by giving you a reason to continue to live, a better option.

Personally, everyone I knew and everyone I spent any time with made it seem like it was normal behavior to go out and smoke weed, drink alcohol, do drugs. It’s not even a debate about whether my actions were right or wrong, because I figured anyone outside of my circle of friends had no idea what we were going through… what I was going through personally.

Every time I wanted someone to talk to and listen to me I was given a stern lecture about how I should know better, how it could be harmful to my body and my life. Well that’s the pont isn’t it? I never thought I would live past adulthood so that point doesn’t even make a difference. When I woke up one day, having suddenly aged into my mid twenties, I was shocked and confused that my heart was still beating and my body was still in relatively good working order.

To be perfectly honest, I was actually pretty mad at myself. I couldn’t even do a good job of destroying myself. Once again I was a failure at whatever I was trying to do, even if what I was trying to do was to kill myself before I turned 21.

I’ve given casual thought to the merits of whether drowning myself in drugs and alcohol was the same as pointing a gun to my head through one ear, blowing my brains out through the other. If the end result of both is death, and the procedure or journey doesn’t matter, then there’s no difference between them.

I’m not a psychologist, and through the use of drugs/alcohol, I’ve numbed myself to the point that I don’t possess either the required intelligence or want to give myself a definitive answer.

As for the Honey Badger, I’m not as quick to criticize him for a handful of positive drug tests as many people out there are. I don’t think he was trying to derail his blossoming career in football, I just think he didn’t really know any better. Yeah I’m sure he said all the right things when the LSU football program told him that drugs were forbidden but he probably thought he could just do it in private while covering it up with detoxification drinks or masking agents.

Luckily, he and I both found a reason to continue to battle on.

It must have been quite a wake-up call when he found himself without a job, without an education, pretty much living at home, surrounded by a number of beautiful trophies that he would never have the chance to add to. If only someone who give him a chance. Someone who would take him under his wing, give him a positive male role model without asking for anything in return. There was only a slim possibility that he would ever be able to play football competitively ever again, I mean just look at what happened to Marcus Vick.

For anyone who doesn’t know who I’m talking about, Marcus Vick is the younger brother of Michael Vick, the currently on the hot seat Philadelphia Eagles starting QB. Marcus was supposedly as gifted, if not more gifted, then his brother. He played QB just like his brother, and even starred at the same school, Virginia Tech.

His career path careened off a cliff during the last game of his college career, when he stomped on an opposing player’s hand/arm with his cleats in the nationally televised Gator Bowl. Then he got into a lot of trouble, including possession and gun charges, driving on a suspended license and finally went to jail.

Sounds familiar for anyone who has dealt with substance abuse issues, doesn’t it?

Instead of getting drafted in the top 10 like most of the media thought he would, Marcus ended up as an undrafted free-agent to the Miami Dolphins. They didn’t even bring him in as a QB, despite his game tape or prodigious skill. He got signed to the team as a wide receiver, for almost no money. Not surprisingly, he didn’t make it through one season before his once promising football career was over.

In no way, shape or form is Tyrann Mathieu as bad as Marcus Vick was. He doesn’t have a string of criminal charges attached to his resume, forcing potential employers to weigh those against any potential benefit he might add to the team. He might have gone down that path too if not for several players taking time out of their busy schedules to talk to him, to act as a big brother to a troubled yet undeniably talented youth.

Arizona corner back Patrick Peterson, and famous former All-World cornerback Deion Sanders have both taken an interest in helping Tyrann find his way back to the light. For months, they have been tutoring him, talking to him, and most importantly, listening to his problems, relating to him in a way that doesn’t push him into a corner.

For all the problems he has caused, and all the people he negatively impacted by getting himself kicked off his former team, he remains one of the most exciting and interesting players I have ever seen in at least the past decade. Because he is so short (5’8″) and so small (185 lbs), and just so captivating as a character on the football field, it seems that I’m not the only one in his corner.

It’s exactly because he’s so normal in stature that I want to see him do well in the NFL.

As of yesterday or the day before, the Honey Badger was drafted in the 2nd round, 69th overall by, of all teams, the Arizona Cardinals. The same team that Patrick Peterson plays for.

The return of the Honey Badger to prime time television is good for the sport, good for us, the viewers at home, and good for him, his friends and his family. His personality and penchant for making big plays at the most opportune times will make any game he’s in more exciting.

The doors of opportunity opened slightly once again, all he has to do is not mess up and end up like Rolando McClain.

http://www.baltimoreravens.com/news/article-1/Newsome-Rolando-McClain-Still-Part-Of-Football-Team/646ecc31-8826-47fa-8331-29337b3695ab

Rolando McClain

Rolando McClain 3

Kyarnboy.Wordpress.Com

Wong_83@Hotmail.Com

 

Tom Brady vs. Joe Flacco and his Gigantic New Contract

Nobody is saying Tom Brady ISN’T a good QB. Far from it. What many members of the Media, as well as fans, are saying is that Joe Flacco isn’t a BAD QB.

If you’re considering playoff wins, total or just on the road, nobody has more over the past 5 seasons. If we’re talking about total statistics, anything but yardage, he’s not even in the top 10. But personally I’d take wins over touchdown/interception ratio.

Another thing that people conveniently forget is that the Ravens defense had its worst statistical performance this season in the past decade. So we can’t just say the defense carried this team to another Super Bowl victory. If anything, Joe Flacco stepped up to the plate BIG TIME this postseason. He didn’t throw a single interception and averaged 2.75 touchdowns per game over 4 playoff wins. Know who else has done that over the course of 50 or so years of NFL history?

NOBODY.

‘Nuff said. If your one of those Ravens fans, or worse a fan of some other team, saying Joe Flacco doesn’t deserve 120 mill over 6 years, please tell me this. What’s the going rate on the open market for a Super Bowl MVP quarterback in the prime of his career, who has over 60 wins in the past 5 years and just set a record for best playoff TD-INT ratio?

I’d say about 20 mill a year.

#JustSayin.

Joe Flacco: All-Around Humble Guy, and Super Bowl MVP

Image

(http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.1254644.1359960203!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_635/flacco.jpg)

Just some quick thoughts on Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco‘s impending contract extension. From a die-hard, hardcore, purple blood dripping Ravens fan.

Let’s face it, he’s worth it. We’re definitely going to pay the man, and pay him top dollar. Even if he is a terrible human being, who doesn’t give money to charities, womanizes all the time, and was addicted to weed, heroin, crack, and alcohol, we’d still end up paying him in the weeks ahead. Big time.

Luckily he’s not any of those things. Surprisingly, in the search for the perfect poster boy for the new (and improved) NFL, one with strong family values and morals, Joe Flacco is exactly what the NFL and Baltimore needs at the moment. Here’s why.

1. He’s a family man who has never gotten in any type of womanizing scandal, loves his wife, his daughter, and the one that his wife is pregnant with. The happily married couple announced the coming of their second child only hours after a thrilling win in Super Bowl XLVII (WOOHOO!!!). The worst thing that’s said of him, for the most part, is that he can sometimes be extremely boring.

He has this certain caveman-esque aura that can have you imagining him driving his family to the grocery store in a vehicle made of rock, and powered by their quickly churning feet. Although this is bad for infamy or notoriety, this is good for garnering trust from football-watching families across America.

2. His stunningly good work on the football field. He may not throw for 50 touchdowns and 5000 yards a season, or anything even close, and there are times when Ravens faithful everywhere just scream for him to stop looking like a confused ogre behind a quickly deteriorating pocket. That’s not completely his fault. Actually it’s usually Michael Oher’s fault (Blind Side My Ass). But other statistics, not advanced statistics or true QBR or any other fancy stathead crap, say he’s better than anyone else in the game over the past 5 seasons. Such as regular season wins, regular season losses, and postseason wins. It’s really that simple.

Like many other people in America currently, I don’t really give a flying dog turd about all the hours of computing that go into making some of the more ridiculous statistics found in ESPN the Mag, or Sports Illustrated, NFL.com, etc. If I can’t add it up on my fingers and toes, or at the very worst with a bunch of pencil scribbles on my bar napkin, it doesn’t really make much sense to me. What I know is that Joe Cool 2.0 has 9 playoff wins in his first 5 seasons and averages over 10 regular season wins a year. He’s never NOT made the playoffs like some other “elite” QB’s out there.

The definition of an Elite quarterback is ambiguous at best. Falcon’s QB Matt Ryan has great statistics and plenty of wins, averaging 11 wins per season. His 11-win rookie campaign helped turn the page for a city still reeling from Michael Vick’s dog-fighting scandal. Now all he needs is some playoff wins, beyond the single miraculous comeback win against Seattle.

Flacco, on the other hand, has won at least one playoff game for every year he’s played. This year he won 4, including 3 on the road. He finished with 11 passing touchdowns to 0 interceptions during the playoffs. I’m pretty sure no other QB, including Joe Montana, Steve Young, John Elway, Tom Brady, or Peyton Manning. His career statistics, regular + postseason, are as follows: 20,308 passing yards, 130 total TD, 64 INT, 509 rushing yards, and 21 fumbles lost. 2-1 TD to INT ratio, check.   Super Bowl ring and Super Bowl MVP, check. 4000+ yards avg. per season, check.

Did I mention he’s never missed a start? 93 of 93 games.

He wasn’t a 1st-overall draft pick, or even a top-10 pick. He somehow someway got himself drafted 18th-overall, even though he wasn’t even a D-I starter! That’s a story for another day, but basically he couldn’t get the starting gig at Pittsburgh, so he decided after much consideration to go to D-I FCS Delaware, just up the road from Baltimore. He had to fight and scratch his way into the NFL, where his tall, solid build and laser-rocket arm, combined with Troy Smith’s sudden illness, made him a starter in week 1. In his rookie year. The rest is history.

3. He’s the best quarterback in Ravens history, by a long shot. Not including his Super Bowl victory, or his string of consecutive seasons with a playoff appearance/playoff win, Flacco just exudes the type of confidence and quiet leadership needed to pilot a AFC North team to victory. I want you to carefully think about Baltimore’s long turbulent history with quarterbacks.

1996 – Vinny Testaverde(16)

1997 – Vinny Testaverde(13)/Eric Zeier(3)

1998 – Jim Harbaugh (Yes, that Jim Harbaugh)(12)/Eric Zeier(4)

1999 – Tony Banks(10)/Stoney Case(4)/Scott Mitchell(2)

2000 – Tony Banks(8)/Trent Dilfer(8)

2001 – Elvis Grbac(14)/Randall Cunningham(2)

2002 – Jeff Blake(10)/Chris Redman(6)

2003 – Kyle Boller(9)/Anthony Wright(7)

2004 – Kyle Boller (16)

2005 – Kyle Boller(9)/Anthony Wright(7)

2006 – Steve McNair(RIP)(16)

2007 – Kyle Boller(8)/Steve McNair(6)/Troy Smith(2)

2008 to 2012 – Joe Flacco (16)

Summary: in the 12 years before drafting Joe Flacco, the Ravens started 15 different QBs. A single QB started the entire season only 3 times. Flacco has started and FINISHED 5 entire seasons by himself, including every postseason game. I don’t think 18-20 million per year is too much to ask, do you?

4. Humble and soft-spoken, Flacco does everything asked of him without a complaint. He’s the first one in, and the last one out (as expected). He takes less credit and more blame than he’s due, while usually saying all the right things when dealing with press conferences or public appearances. Can you manage the game without F-ing things up for the defense? Sure. Can you win the game on the strength of your arm? Absolutely.

5. Joe Flacco is the FUTURE of Baltimore professional football. There’s a 99% chance  Ray Lewis is retiring. That’s been the heart and soul of this team since the day he got drafted. Except for one almost forgotten season, the defensive captain has always been there, making sure everyone’s prepared and ready to play on game day. Now we prepare for life without Ray Lewis and probably numerous others.

Ozzie Newsome, the genius General Manager of the Ravens, has already publicly stated he won’t restructure many contracts, pinning all his hopes on another Super Bowl next season while basically sacrificing 2014.

That means we’re probably gonna lose our other defensive captain Ed Reed as a salary cap casualty. Keep in mind that’s another hall of fame-type player who will no longer be with the Ravens. Pro-Bowl fullback Vonta Leach could be next. WR Anquan Boldin, TE Dennis Pitta, DE Paul Kruger, all starting players who will be free agency decisions this offseason. Oh, C Matt Birk is retiring too, supposedly, but he’s said that before.

Hopefully we don’t lose ALL these players. I just don’t have much hope in a repeat if we can’t at least salvage a few of these cap casualties. Regardless of whether we do or don’t, it’s going to take top-5 QB money to keep Flacco around Charm City, and we’d be incredibly stupid not to pay him.

Let’s just say I hope there will be some great players available at the end of each round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

Fighting for the Right to Bust Heads.

I’ve had enough with all the bologna about CTE, concussions, etc. and so forth. Quit trying to make me feel bad for wanting to watch football players crack into each other like 200 lb monster trucks. I don’t care about your studies, your clinical trials, the fact that your husband can’t sleep at night after playing pro ball for 15 years, or anything else you might throw in my face.

I just want to watch my professional football. Period.

Forgive me for being blunt, and probably not PC, but this really just feels and sounds like a lame excuse for people to point fingers at the most popular sport in America, or even the world. I wanna know who’s coming up with these bullshit figures. Someone please tell me how the game of football is solely responsible for head injures in the US. It’s not, and before anyone else jumps on that bandwagon, how about I list just a few of the other sports in which players are likely to get a head injury.

Ever watched NASCAR, Formula-One or any other form of professional race car driving? Why do we watch it? It’s inane and boring, stupidly repetitive and perhaps my least favorite professional ‘sport.’ For me, the single thrill of watching a bunch of overpaid rednecks zoom around a track for hours is the crashes. Not the fender benders, and not the jockeying for position, but the spectacular flaming wreckage that occurs when a car flips over repeatedly, car parts and oil scattering like coins across the rubber and asphalt. Do you know what else happens when those cars lose control at over 100 miles an hour? They cause head injuries, even with a helmet and safety gear.

What about MMA, Pankration, Boxing, and all other forms of hand to foot combat? Right after the announcer with the deep, harmonic voice announces the competitors, the various career statistics of each fighter come up on the television screen underneath their picture. These statistics include wins, losses, ties, wins by decision… and wins by KNOCKOUT. Need an example? Go re-watch last month’s fight between Juan Marquez and Manny Pacquiao. To put it plainly, the Pac-man got knocked the FUCK out. This occurs when an extreme amount of force applied by fist or foot to an opponent’s head/neck area causes the brain to go into shutdown mode, ie: Blacking Out. This is usually accompanied by a concussion, which occurs when the brain bounces violently against the sides of the skull causing a bruise. How come nobody is picketing Mandalay Bay or the MGM Grand in Las Vegas? Why don’t we change the rules of Boxing so that fighters can only hit each other with pillows taped around their fists.

While we’re at it, let’s take the Enforcer-role out of NHL Hockey, and permanently ban all fighting on the ice. Let’s remove the baseball from MLB baseball games, and exchange it for a wiffleball instead. This would prevent head injuries from occurring to either the hitter or pitcher, at the expense of changing the entire game of baseball. Bull-Riding, Skateboarding, Snowboarding, BMX, Drag-Racing, Rugby, the list of sports that do/can cause head injuries could go on forever. Even fake sports such as Professional Wrestling can cause real concussions and damaged grey matter. So again, what is it about Football in general that has parents, loved ones and even the President calling for reform?

When asked about the Ravens ability to outhit their opponent, and their reliance on playing physical football in the trenches, Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh had this to say: “That’s what we’re all about. That’s what football is. Ultimately, if you don’t have that foundation, you’re not gonna last. It might look pretty, you might light up the scoreboard, but without that, there’s nothing. That’s what football is in the end. It’s not the off-tackle belly that Woody ran or the power that Bo (Schembechler) ran or Jim runs. Those are plays. It’s the format. It’s hard work and dedication and commitment.” Well said.

These are the defining ideals behind the game of Football, regardless of whether we’re talking about Pop-Warner, Prep, Collegiate, Arena or Professional Football. This is what Football is all about. Not to be callous, or uncaring, but most of the players suing the NFL currently on grounds of irreversible physical/mental damage are almost certainly looking out for number one. You knew the risks involved when you started playing, and if you didn’t want to continue playing after getting your bell rung, you should have quit right then and there.

I’ll give you an example. If you applied to work as a crash-test dummy, would you sue the company after being in an accident? What if they offered to pay you $100,000 dollars per accident? If you wasted that money on hookers and a fleet of expensive handmade convertibles, would it be fair to say that the only reason your attempting to sue the company is because you are broke as shit and are looking for a handout? This is how I feel about many if not all of the dozens of bullshit lawsuits out there. I guarantee if you gave me 30 million dollars over 5 years, I wouldn’t need to beg for charity after my career was over.

I don’t care if you have 6 children by 3 different women, a charity, 3 mortgage payments, there is absolutely NO good reason these players shouldn’t have some money left over from their playing days. Even back in the 50s and 60s, when Football was a side job rather than a career, there were perks and benefits for being a Professional Football player. Women, bonuses, game checks, coaching opportunities, free food, vacations, advertising jobs, and I’m not even talking about anything from the free-agency era. So the next time you hear about a lawsuit against the NFL, or how another ex-player’s suicide is a result of CTE, remember this:

Make them sign a waiver. Make sure they understand the permanent damage that can result from repeated collisions with other gigantic men. If your thinking of entering the NFL Draft, go buy a Fathead (A life-size wall sticker) of J.J. Watt first. Put it up in your room and close your eyes. Imagine yourself getting hit by a ton of bricks, many, many times over the course of a 3 hour game. If your completely OK with that, then DON’T FUCKING COMPLAIN ABOUT IT AT THE END OF YOUR CAREER.

 

The Cost of Violence.

Like a lot of people in our country, I’m a big proponent of watching football on Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays, and even Thursdays. The first NFL game I ever watched just happened to be the first Super Bowl played between America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys… and that team from Buffalo. Not to make it sound like I favored the Cowboys, it’s just at the time I didn’t know I was supposed to hate them.

Just like I hate the Patriots. Not to mention the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s taken a lot of time, patience, studying and stat-watching to figure out the ways of professional football. It was like a shining light when I finally could watch games and understand nearly everything that’s going on. A moment of clarity in a world filled with uncertainties. I could tell the difference between a horse-collar tackle, unsportsmanlike conduct, a clean hit, and a reasonably assumed penalty for helmet-to-helmet contact.

I thought I knew what’s legal and what’s not. I was badly mistaken.

As you already well know if you read this blog on a regular basis, I am a big fan of the Baltimore Ravens. I’m guilty of being biased as much as any other REAL fan of another team, so it’s not like I am promising neutrality or anything. Anyone who watches games in our division, the AFC North, knows that we play big boy football. Physical, grinding football, as much as that is possible in today’s turbulent, changing times.

We aren’t talking about the jewels of North America here, like New York City, San Francisco, Dallas, Miami, or anywhere else you’d think of when taking your next vacation. You go to Baltimore if you want to eat crabs (or get crabs), buy drugs or squat in abandoned row-housing. You go to Cincinnati if you are lost and it’s the closest city with a hotel, or you are a locally born-raised Ohio native (who thinks Cincy is considered a big city). You go to Pittsburgh if you like Primanti Bros. sandwiches (big ass sandwiches stuffed w/ fries & coleslaw), if you just got here to America (like my parents did.) or if you still somehow earn a living making American steel. As for Cleveland, I can’t really think of too many reasons to go there unless your European ancestors settled the area. These cities are called ‘The Rust Belt’ for a reason.

All jokes aside, the main reason people come to my lovely city is either they’re stuck here because of work or family, and because of serious football. Ask any real Ravens fan who they’re favorite player is and I guarantee they’ll be able to tell you his jersey number, what position he plays, his first AND last name, and his stats this season. None of that bandwagon bullshit (“I’m from West Virginia but my friend likes the Cowboys so I like the Cowboys! Go Toby Romo!”). Here in Baltimore, there’s a common saying we use. ‘Ain’t shit to do around here so let’s get fucked up.’ Sad but true. That’s why our football is so important to us, and why we don’t care much for these fancy new rules changing our sport. At least I don’t.

Fancy new rules, what’s he talking about? If you watch football, anyone and their non-NFL watching mother can tell you that shit has changed over the past few years. Just a few days ago, the world watched as the AFC/NFC Divisional games set a record for most points scored in a single weekend. Denver and Baltimore combined to score 10 touchdowns and 73 total points. Houston and New England scored 69 total points. None of that happened because of luck or coincidence. Defense’s are being flagged for anything and everything. Quarterbacks and Kickers are nearly untouchable. Entire jobs are being erased that have been in the game since the very beginning. Something has to be done before this game is ruined forever (Then what am I going to do, watch hockey? pfft).

Ed Reed is a prime example of these changes. As a safety, Reed’s job since the day he was drafted was to provide deep coverage, almost like an outfielder in baseball. Anyone throwing the ball down the field knows that he will be waiting for them, either with a big hit or an interception. His job description is to stifle opposing offenses with fear, forcing them to rethink their game plan. If your a Ravens fan, you already know all the crap he’s had to deal with, including a number of legal hits that were penalized regardless. He’s not the only one guilty of laying the law down in Baltimore. Bernard Pollard, Ray Lewis, and a number of our defensive backs have all been flagged or fined for [hitting defenseless receivers]. Let’s explore this little rule, shall we?

There is NO SUCH THING as a defenseless receiver. That may not be 100% true, but it’s closer than you think, maybe 98 or 97% true. Before this ridiculous rule was implemented (or enforced), wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs were defending themselves just fine. Quarterbacks are taught not to put the ball where it will get their receiver killed, like up high over the middle when a linebacker is charging from 10 years away. With the change in rules/enforcement, all of a sudden QBs are putting the ball wherever they want too, possibly hoping to draw a flag. Ed Reed is good at hitting people like a ton of bricks without using his helmet. So if it’s considered a legal hit, and the receiver he just blew up purposefully left himself defenseless, why is he the one getting flagged. Enough with the flopping, ok?

This is not the only problem, and definitely not an isolated incident. Offenses are pushing off, hand-fighting, chop blocking and anything else they can get away with. If both the receiver and defensive back are pushing/holding each other, 75% of the time the defensive player gets called for pass interference. How is that interference when both players have an equal right to the football? These flags are bad enough to change the course of a game, especially when 3rd or 4th downs are turning into 5/15 yards and a 1st down, completely at the mercy of biased officials. I ask myself all the time how league officials could allow this travesty to occur.

After careful consideration, this is what I have come up with:

1. Offenses, especially passing touchdowns, bring more fans to the stadium. This means more tickets sold, more direct TV packages, more concessions, etc.

2. The commissioner, Roger Goodell, and his cronies are in cahoots with the large market teams. Pittsburgh, Dallas, New York, San Francisco, these are teams that have fans across the country. If these teams do well, more people will watch. This means higher ratings, which in turn, leads to more lucrative TV contracts, advertisement money, etc.

3. Nothing in the world will remove the looming danger of concussions from the game of football. To actually limit dangerous activities to the point where players can’t get concussions would mean changing the sport until it’s unrecognizable. Why don’t they have players sign liability/injury waivers, and let them go back to their barbaric ways of yore.

4. The players union claims that many retired players should get royalties, free insurance, a pension fund, etc. The minimum salary for a rookie is $405,000 this season (as of 2013). The average salary for any NFL player is OVER $1.9 million(as of 2011). You give me either amount of money and I guarantee I will be able to pay my own insurance/start my own retirement fund. It’s the players own own fault if they can’t invest their huge incomes wisely.

5.  Only real fans of football could watch a theoretical game with a final score of 6-3. I’m not talking about two inept teams that are just unable to score points. I’m talking about two teams filled with brutish, violent ogres on defense. Can you imagine the physical battle, blood-stained jerseys and a test of sheer willpower. Dominating your opponents with a gap-toothed smile, rain and mud flying as bodies slam into each other and the ground like bulging sacks of meat. If you can’t envision, or enjoy, this spectacle in your imagination, real football isn’t for you.

So go back to your Banana Daiquiri, sipping it delicately through a twisty straw. Perhaps you should watch figure skating, or gymnastic floor routines. It’s not like I have anything against watching men spinning around in spandex on ice skates, or Gabby Douglas  flying around like a tiny squirrel across a floor mat.. it just isn’t football. If your jersey is clean, either your opponents aren’t very good, or more likely you ain’t doin’ it right. That’s what I think about finesse football.

The best example of what could happen to professional football is probably Arena Football. It’s kind of like NFL or NCAA football except the field is only 50 yards, it’s always indoors, and there are padded walls instead of boundary lines on each side. If you haven’t seen it yet, Arena Football is very exciting to watch. There’s a ton of offense, and very little defense. Players often hit the padded boundary lines, jumping or getting tackled into the bleachers. A lot of people who didn’t make it in the NFL or can’t play professionally anymore end up in the AFL, like Terrell Owens. Nobody bets on AFL games, there’s no high drama, it’s kinda like a pick-up game except that they get paid and they have fans. There is no draft, and I doubt many people even know when their championship is played.

This is the future I foresee for the NFL if it doesn’t shape up quickly. The reason the game is so successful is because the rules are enforced, the stage doesn’t get any bigger, statistics are carefully kept and tradition/history is honored. There is no bigger sport in the world. From Vince Lombardi to Jimmy Johnson, Troy Aikman to Tom Brady, heroes are immortalized for all eternity. The more we change the sport, from taking away kickoffs to changing the rules, adding games or changing playoff format, the farther away we move from the original, unadulterated version of football.

 

 

Not Such a Happy New Year for Baltimore.

Baltimore Ravens

 

If you’re a Baltimore Ravens fan like I am, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Our team is a reasonably acceptable 10-6, especially when compared to any number of other quarterback-hungry teams in the NFL. Unless you consider that we are 1-4 in the last 5 games, including two divisional losses to the Steelers and Bengals respectively. Not a great way to end the regular season by any measure.

Usually around this time of the year, I’d be giving thanks to the football gods, whether or not they exist, for helping my team continue as one of the NFL’s elite when it comes to making the playoffs year in and year out. Only teams like the Philadelphia Eagles under Andy Reid(before this season), the New England Patriots under Bill Belichick, New Orleans and Indianapolis Colts(with Peyton Manning) could claim as many consecutive playoff appearances. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still giving thanks for not being a fan of the Jacksonville Jaguars or Carolina Panthers. Thanks for not having Kyle Boller as my starting QB, and thanks for having Justin Tucker instead of Billy Cundiff as our kicker. I don’t want to seem ungrateful but something just feels different this season. Kind of like having a dozen snakes crawling around in my stomach, telling me something is wrong with the greatest team to ever play professional football.

I know that sounds biased but since I don’t really care about any other team than my Ravens, I don’t really care. Taking a look at some of the other teams that are joining us in the playoffs, especially troubling are the Denver Broncos and the Patriots. We got beaten down like a red-headed stepchild a few weeks ago by Peyton Manning and Co., and it doesn’t look like our defense has figured anything out since then. Princess Brady is throwing like an MVP candidate again this season, and if we couldn’t seal the deal last year when our defense wasn’t ranked in the bottom half of the league, I don’t see how we will this year.

Sure could use a miracle right about now, God.

Until the past couple weeks, Houston and its brutish manchild at defensive end, J.J. Watt, looked like they could beat the snot out of  the rest of the NFL. They sure did when they played us earlier this season. They plain embarrassed us, winning by only around 30 points. Big deal, right? WRONG. For all the faith and bravado I usually have in my team, all the blustering in the world isn’t going to change the fact that we are having trouble on both sides of the ball. Even if we take a Mulligan on this week’s game at Cincinnati, I mean we did sit our starters, we still went 1-3, losing all 3 by a combined 12 points. I don’t feel like there’s a single easy win available on our playoff schedule. Especially not on the AFC side. At times like this, you really gotta dig down deep and ask yourself the following question: “If the Ravens play their absolute best on Sunday, will it be enough to win if __(Insert Team Here)__ plays their absolute best as well?” By now your probably getting that wiggly feeling in your stomach as well… if you didn’t already have it before and were just ignoring it.

I guess the only thing we can do this year is remember the good times we had over the past couple years. Especially last year. Both the Baltimore Orioles and the Ravens were amazing success stories in 2012. The Orioles performed way beyond my wildest dreams, even going so far as to crush those irritating Texas Rangers in the wildcard round. The Ravens came a Billy Cundiff untied shoelace away from possibly going to the Super Bowl. I know, I know, anything can happen on any given Sunday.

So do you really believe this team has a real chance to win a championship this season?

Here are a few final questions and thoughts:

Can Flacco not give up too many Saccos? (Note: That’s such a terrible line, yet it’s so catchy and everyone says it around here.)

Can Torrey Smith be consistently good for 4 straight games?

Can Michael Oher do anything other than beat up drug dealers in a movie based loosely on his life? (Zing!) Can Terrell Suggs regain his form that got him a defensive MVP award ?

Are Ray Lewis & Ed Reed too old to play solid Ravens football?

Can Justin Tucker, as amazing as he’s been in the regular season, keep his cool in the playoffs?

Can new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell run an effective offense with two weeks under his belt?

Read, React, Response and Comment. Oh, and ENJOY!

~Michael, WONG_83@HOTMAIL.com

Something stinks like Bronco Manure in Baltimore.

You heard me right. Joe Flacco is stinking up the joint like he was Kyle Boller, circa. 2004.

I say this with love, hoping that the best Baltimore Ravens QB in franchise history somehow sees this(except for Steve McNair in 2006, but that was a fluke). As of today, December 17th, 2012, The hometown Ravens have dropped 3 games in a row, including 2 at home!  This is almost unheard of, especially not in the past few years.

Before the 20-17 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers that started this losing skid, against a 3rd string back-up that hasn’t played a meaningful down in the last decade, the Ravens had won 16 home games in a row. We took the Steelers game at 3 Rivers Stadium, we were perfect against divisional opponents, and had a chance to lock up the divisional crown before week 11. Everything was looking perfect, almost as if Joe Flacco and the Cam Cameron(I shudder as I type his name) led-offense were finally able to take over for our newly suspect defense.

…Yes, that defense. The vaunted Baltimore D that has finished no worse than 3rd in the league for the past decade. We were counting on our offense to finally take that next step, to finally join the elite offenses of the league. Like Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, Drew Brees and New Orleans Saints, or even Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers of 2009. Well that didn’t happen.

Our defense can’t get out of 1st gear, with notable injuries across the board. MLB and Defensive Captain Ray Lewis is drinking his magic ‘juice’ by the gallon, hoping to come back this season and actually have an impact. Even though he didn’t earlier this season when he was healthy, AND’ he’s almost 80. Pro Bowl CB Lardarius Webb is out for the season with a torn ACL,  DE Terrell Suggs is playing even though he’s not even fully recovered from his injury this summer, and DT Haloti Ngata is pretty banged up on the defensive line. You gotta give him credit for playing anyways.

If your not familiar with Baltimore football, just for the record, that’s 4 Pro-Bowlers, 3 of which are All-Pros, 1 of which is the reigning defensive player of the year, while the other has won multiple DPoY awards. I don’t care if you buy into the next man up routine or not, your defense has a 0% chance of playing at a higher or even equal level when you lose that many star players on one side of the field.

Pro Bowl S Ed Reed(shoulder), CB Jimmy Smith(abdomen), WR Torrey Smith(concussion), TE Ed Dickson(knee), S  Bernard Pollard(chest), FB Vonta Leach(ankle), DT Arthur Jones(shoulder), Pernell McPhee(thigh), Dannell Ellerbe(ankle) and Jameel McClain(neck), WR Jacoby Jones(ankle), and both starting running backs, Bernard Pierce(back) & Ray Rice(hip) round out the list of significant injuries.

So was I really surprised at how badly the entire team played last Sunday? Not really. It was like I was waiting all year for the other shoe to drop, and what better time to drop a stink bomb than against the reinvigorated Denver Broncos, led by Peyton Manning. Coming into the game, we already knew what would happen if we fell behind against a QB of his caliber, and we still let it happen. It was almost like watching a scrimmage between the Alabama Crimson Tide and a first year Pop Warner team. The Ravens were dominated, out-played, out-coached, and basically unprepared on both sides of the ball.

What I’d like to address, however, is the State of the Football Team. Consider this, we just fired our head offensive coordinator, Cam, who had been with Flacco ever since he got drafted. Our defense is completely maimed with injuries, while our offensive line wasn’t great to begin with, even worse now that Pro Bowl OG Marshal Yanda is hurt as well. Even when the team is relatively     healthy, Peyton Manning has beaten them 8 times in a row. Well 9 times in a row as of yesterday.

Personally, I’m going to reserve judgement for the end of the season.  Joe Cool has had his share of good and bad games this year, typically good at home, and bad on the road. The fact remains that he’s still the best option we’ve got, the best and most consistent QB in Raven’s history, and far too valuable to risk losing on the open market. Desperate teams like the Cardinals, Chargers, Raiders, Jets and Bills will be more than happy to toss a tall stack of hundreds at him. Hopefully the play calling gets better on both sides of the ball.

Dean Pees, this is my opinion. Get your act together. If your players can’t tackle, and they can’t defense against the run or pass straight up, your probably going to need to gamble to win the game. Take some chances, the worst thing that happens is you give up some extra points. That’s already happening so you might as well try to do something differently. If too many starting defensive players are injured, go sign some free-agents. It’s not like our team doesn’t have the money. Just stop making excuses and adapt your game plans.

Jim Caldwell, I heard your really good at working with quarterbacks. Maybe you aren’t cut out to be a head coach, but it’s time you take a relatively smart, strong, athletic, young QB like Flacco and turn him into a Manning or a Brady. We’re not asking you to work miracles, I’ll be happy to accept 2 passing touchdowns per game, along with 0 fumbless and 0 interceptions. Also, can you please tell Joe not to hold the ball so damn long? It’s hard to watch when he has that furrowed brow/slack jaw expression, right before he throws a pick-6 from inside the red zone. If he can’t find anyone open, tell him to dive ahead for 3 yards, or throw the frickin’ ball at someone’s feet.

With the Steelers losing last night to the Cowboys in overtime, the Ravens still look good to win the division. If Flacco & Company manage to win their remaining 2 games against the New York Football Giants and the Cincinnati Bengals, we’re pretty much guaranteed  a home game and even a possible bye week. We own the tie-breaker over the Patriots, so we still control our own destiny.

Let’s keep it that way, one game at a time.

 

~Wong_83@Hotmail.com

Who REALLY Gives a Damn About Concussions?

How much do you really care about someone getting a bump on the head?

I never thought that concussions were a big deal. When I was growing up, you could get a concussion from something as stupid as falling out of your chair after leaning back too far. I could have gotten concussions while playing basketball, driving ATVs, throwing snowballs or power-bombing my neighbor into a basement floor.  After reading about them in every sports magazine and obscure website for the last year or so, I have come to a new realization.

I still don’t care about whether or not some NFL player has a concussion. I think it’s pointless to blame the NFL or the owners for hiding the truth about whether or not their players have a concussion because if you think about it carefully, the players are usually the ones who are willing to risk life and limb to stay on the playing field. Who am I to tell them they shouldn’t?

If these larger than average human beings were working in any other field, we would never hear anything about this subject. At this very moment, there are people out there doing things way more dangerous than repeatedly bumping into each other from opposite sides of the field. Let’s tell it like it is: Football is and never will be the most dangerous profession in the world. The list of things that humans will do for a few hundred dollars is enormous.

Have you ever watched Deadliest Catch on the Discovery Channel? It’s basically a show about men fishing for crabs in the middle of the extremely dangerous Bering Sea. The title of the show comes from a US Census report that had Alaskan crab-fishermen rated as the most dangerous job in the entire country. After watching the show for a few years, I can see why. These guys must be borderline crazy to do the things they do, at least on the show. Imagine handling heavy equipment and heaving 6 foot square metal crab pots over the railing while gale-force wind, rain and snow causes 25 foot waves to careen into the side of the boat. The water is so cold that you will freeze to death in under 3 minutes if you fall in without a protective suit. All of this while sleeping barely 4 hours a night at best. Getting a concussion is the least of their worries.

Gold-mining by hand in the Amazon Jungle is one of the MOST dangerous jobs in the world, let alone the US. These workers face environmental waste, poisonous plants, snakes, spiders, frogs, highly corrosive chemicals and collapsing tunnels, all while working barefoot without protective suits or even masks. Do you think anyone’s going to step in and prevent them from working because of a little concussion? I’m positive they would lie through their teeth if asked whether they needed some time off. I know I would if my family was in dire need of money to pay the rent, money to pay the bills and money to put my kid in school.

So what I really want to know is where this public outcry against playing through concussions came from. All of a sudden, players are not allowed to play in a game after getting a concussion. Scientists and doctors have done countless clinical trials showing how a brain becomes riddled with holes and dead matter after taking a beating. They “might” have trouble sleeping, or have nightmares after their career is over.

Let me get this straight, you DIDN’T know there would be some side-effects from having your brain tossed around like a waffle for most of your adult life? Anyone who claims they didn’t know their were consequences for all those repeated blows is lying and definitely does not deserve my respect. The brain is no different from any other part of your body in that it will eventually wear down if you don’t take care of it. Does this mean that football is dangerous? Yes, but that doesn’t mean people should stop playing it.

Without this threat of injury, football would be meaningless. Tell me you don’t feel a child-like sense of wonder when your favorite players come back from injury. It almost feels like they are different from you and me, god-like, in some aspects. If you  tore up all the ligaments in your shoulder, like I did, you would probably feel a sense of satisfaction if and when you finally could move your shoulder nearly as well as before the injury.

One of the things that makes football so exciting is knowing that the players are putting their bodies on the line for a chance at immortality. A chance to win a Super Bowl. We remember when players fight through pain and suffering to play in the biggest game of the year. Terrell Owens played for the Eagles with one ankle still held together with screws, and Terrell Davis played for the Broncos even though he was temporarily blind. A concussion is no different, and in my opinion, it’s a player’s right to choose. Every player should have a chance to decide his own destiny, regardless of what the independent or team doctor says.

For all those players who are now retired and filing lawsuits against the NFL for “pressuring” them to play through repeated concussions, I say that’s bullshit. That’s the nicest possible way I can say it. You ALWAYS had a choice, nobody forced you to play football. If you didn’t like it, you could have quit, or asked for a trade, or sat out, or just said no. Anything besides playing through a concussion. The reason you did, even though you might not admit it now, is because you wanted to show you were tough enough to play through pain & adversity, show that you were worthy of all that fame and wealth.

A starting NFL player typically specializes in either offense or defense today. That means they play a little less than half the game. The average regular season game lasts around 3 and a half hours, so a starter plays for roughly 1.7 hours a week. Multiple that by 16 and you get 27.2 hours played through the entire season. Add in 4 postseason games if they make it to the Super Bowl and you arrive at 33.6. that’s 33 hours and 36 minutes worth of actual game time for an entire year.  The NFL minimum salary for a rookie in 2012 is $390,000.

That’s $11,607.14 PER HOUR. Do I feel bad because they didn’t save their money wisely and now they’re trying to get more from the NFL for, boo hoo, getting a few concussions?

Not really.

 

Wong_83@hotmail.com

Who’s “Running” the Show in Baltimore???

Something stinks in Baltimore, Maryland.

I’m not talking about the discarded crab shells, Domino sugar factories, or boarded-up row houses. The Baltimore Raven’s defense reeks of something terrible this year. This is the Baltimore defense, for god’s sake. The heart and soul of our team, the cause and reason for our lone Super Bowl win, the one thing we could always count on. Through all the years with Vinny Testaverde, Chris Redman, and especially Kyle Boller at QB, we always knew one thing. Our defense would bail them out, or at least keep the score respectable so we didn’t have to hang our heads in shame. Even after we drafted Joe Flacco, our defense was as good as advertised, helping the rookie QB guide our team to the AFC Championship Game. So what exactly changed this year?

I mean it’s not like Ray Lewis isn’t roaming from sideline to sideline, pounding running-backs into the dirt. Ed Reed is relatively healthy, still destroying wide receivers too stupid to stay off his side of the field. Haloti Ngata‘s still smacking offensive linemen left and right, while Lardarius Webb is blanketing receivers and pressuring the quarterback. So why is our defense, perennially ranked in the NFL’s top ten, suddenly ranked 22nd out of 32 teams?

Sure we’ve had a few players leave during the free-agency period or get injured, but every team has the same problems. Losing Terrell Suggs, the reigning defensive MVP, definitely hurt our defensive front. We’re also still trying to replace a couple of our more talented defensive backs. S Haruki Nakamura and S Tom Zbikowski were unsung heroes in our aggressive 3-4 defense. So was our slot-corner Chris Carr. Cary Williams doesn’t get physical enough and our 1st-round pick CB Jimmy Smith seems a little lost sometimes.

Playing solid defense depends on knowing the plays, recognizing offensive formations and reacting instinctively, all in the span of a few seconds. Our defense has been so successful over the years for being more physical and by playing sound, fundamental football. You just can’t do that when your always thinking about what position to be in, or whether or not you have  coverage help down field.

Just as an example, MLB Ray Lewis has been with Baltimore for 17 years now. Most players have retired by this age, spending most of their time doing guest-appearances on ESPN, or making commercials for a charity fund. When a player gets to his age, the cumulative effects of a football career start to take their toll. Joints hurt, old injuries throb, ligaments, muscles and tendons become worn down. Memory fades, the result of years of concussions and helmet to helmet tackles. A nearly 40-year old football player shouldn’t be able to keep up with players barely half their age. What it comes down to is a form of premonition, otherwise known as being able to see into the future.

I’m not talking about magic or psychics here. Combining a knack for play-recognition with superior instincts and muscle memory makes it seem like Ray-Ray knows where the ball is going and how long it will take to get there. This allows him to make split-second decisions, moving and utilizing his considerable strength to blow up the opponent’s play before it even has time to develop. To a true football believer such as myself, seeing these moments are what we live for.

Getting back  to the point, I believe our major deficiencies lie solely upon the Raven’s defensive players stopping the run. Since we can’t seem to stop anyone from running on us this year, offenses aren’t making nearly as many mistakes as normal. Usually our defense forces teams into 3rd and long situations, which is a lot easier to handle than 3rd and 2. Our single loss this year, to Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles, happened because our defense allowed Vick to run and pass his way straight down the field. At the end of the game and under 2 minutes no less.

Against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, we nearly lost again due to defensive issues. The problem was not the replacement officials. When the defense gives up 31 points, you’re gonna have a hard time winning games, unless your Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers. I don’t think the Ravens will give up that many points on a regular basis but you never know.

Luckily our offense is holding up it’s side of the bargain for once in like, ever. Maybe that’s the problem with our D, they aren’t playing as hard now that they think it’s no longer necessary. A man can only hope that’s all we have to worry about. Then our season wouldn’t depend on Paul Kruger, Sergio “My Mind is Somewhere in Texas” Kindle, Courtney “Things were Easier in Alabama” Upshaw,  Pernell Mcphee, etc.

~MSW, WONG_83@HOTMAIL.COM

The author has written articles on the Baltimore Ravens, Baltimore Orioles, and Philadelphia Eagles for Bleacherreport.com. He also scribbles sporadically, either on WordPress.com, or on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace(note: a long time ago).

Ravens looking to BBQ in Kansas City [Baltimore/Kansas City Preview]

Don’t underestimate the Kansas City Chiefs.

To all the fellow Ravens fans out there reading this post, PLEASE, PLEASE do not underestimate the Chiefs. Here are the facts. Yes the Baltimore offense is 2nd in the league, 4 weeks into the season. Yes the Baltimore defense looks solid on paper, still led by LB Ray Lewis and S Ed Reed. Yes QB Joe Flacco‘s arm is helping us win games so far this year, providing aerial support for the running game. Yes if everything goes as planned, the better football team, I mean Baltimore, will come away with a win in Arrowhead Stadium this Sunday afternoon.

With that being said, anything can happen on any given Sunday in the National Football League.

The Baltimore Ravens have a very hard time staying focused, often failing to play to their full potential against opponents they consider freebies, teams with a bad regular season record or starting a rookie QB for example. Last season this team won 100%, 8 out f 8 games, against teams with a winning record as of the match-up. The 4 games we lost were against the Seattle Seahawks (7-9), the Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11), the Tennessee Titans (9-7) and the San Diego Chargers (8-8). It doesn’t look that bad if you look at their combined win-loss record now but I promise, nobody in a 50-mile radius of the Inner Harbor thought these teams had a fighting chance before the losses actually happened. What makes it even worse is that directly before each loss, the Ravens had just won against a superior team.

This brings us back the Baltimore/Kansas City game coming up on Sunday.

Let’s make this abundantly clear, the Chiefs should NOT win in week 5. Chiefs starting QB Matt Cassel does not strike fear into the hearts of defenders; He lacks both decisiveness and the big, accurate arm to stretch NFL defenses down the field. Even though it’s not a necessity to have a huge arm to win in the NFL, his accuracy on short and intermediate throws isn’t good enough to make up for his obvious deficiencies. Personally speaking, I never thought Cassel was the answer in Kansas City. He wasn’t the answer when he played in New England and he’s proven over the years that he isn’t going to play like Tom Brady just because he backed him up for a season or two. At least that’s what I think. I could be potentially biased however, I am after all a high priest in the Church of Baltimore.

So what skilled players do play for the Chiefs?

Well first there’s RB Jamaal Charles. After missing most of last season, Charles is showing flashes of his former talent; he ran for 1467 yards and had 8 total touchdowns  in 2010. Even though he’s not huge, Charles has repeatedly shown he can play in the NFL. He has above average speed & quickness, is a decent receiving option, and good elusiveness in the open-field. He is a danger to go the distance of every play, as he did against the Saints earlier this season. If for some reason Baltimore’s defensive-line forgets to set the edge, take good angles or take the screen-play into account against him, he will make them pay for it dearly.

WR Dwayne Bowe is a very good receiver. He’s big, fast, strong(6-2, 220), and accounts for a large portion of his team’s total yardage each year. Over the past 5 seasons he’s averaged nearly 1000 yards and 7+ touchdowns a year, meaning he will definitely be a part of Baltimore’s defensive game-plan. Above all else he’s a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver, regardless of whether Matt Cassel is the one throwing him the ball. Baltimore’s secondary has definitely had trouble stopping talented receivers all season, CB’s Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams will need help covering him. Actually let’s not talk about Cary Williams since he has trouble covering anyone.

On the defensive side of the ball, S Eric Berry is probably one of the best defensive backs in the league, at least when healthy.I remember watching him play for the Tennessee Volunteers a few years ago, and thinking to myself that he looked a lot like a younger version of Ed Reed. There was a lot of hype during the draft, reasonable considering how much Kansas City improved during his rookie year. That’s the main problem however, he’s only played one full season in the NFL. He blew out his ACL last September, and it’s difficult to tell how players coming off major knee surgery will do the first year back. Look at RBs Frank Gore or Willis McGahee.

The other problem is that Berry’s not getting a lot of help, either from the defensive line or in the secondary. DE Glenn Dorsey, LB Tamba Hali and LB Derrick Johnson have talented, they just aren’t playing stopping anyone for some reason. CB Brandon Flowers has had trouble staying on the field due to injury; without him, the rest of the Chiefs secondary just isn’t getting the job done. Through 4 games, the Kansas City defense has given up 136 points, an average of 34 points per game. They couldn’t stop a senior citizen from getting into the end zone, let alone a professional football player. If they can’t figure out a way to stop offenses and soon, they aren’t going to win 5 games this season.

Other than these players, there aren’t a lot of recognizable names(for me) in Kansas City, with the exception of T Branden Albert, TE Kevin Boss, Back-up QB Brady Quinn, WR/QB Dexter McCluster, and WR Steve Breaston. Some I have heard of or have seen on other teams in the past, Boss with the Giants, Quinn with the Browns, and Breaston in Arizona. The others, McCluster at Ole Miss, Quinn at Notre Dame, Albert at Virginia, I watched play college football. I’m sure there are other reasonably talented players on the roster, they just haven’t done anything big in the past that warranted national recognition. Most people outside of Kansas probably haven’t heard of them either. Breaston is a solid 3rd receiver, Albert is a Pro Bowl-caliber offensive tackle while McCluster has shown flashes of potential as a kick returner and slot receiver. The problem is there just isn’t enough talent across the board. Someone on this team is going to have to step up and make some plays for the Chiefs to end up 8-8.

Now let’s look at Baltimore and the new look, no-huddle offense.

RB: Ray Rice is playing great football at the moment. He looks fresh thanks to Flacco’s passing game, and to a lesser extent newly minted rookie Bernard Pierce. Both running-backs have different running styles; Ray Rice is quick, hard to bring down or even see behind bulldozing FB Vonta Leach, and arguably the best receiving running-back in the league. Bernard Pierce is also hard to bring down, with a north-south running style that has him smashing between the tackles, consistently falling forward for an extra yard or two. Both RBs are extremely fast, with Rice running a 4.42 and Pierce a 4.49 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. They should have little trouble against the Kansas City defense.

WR/TE: For the first time in the Ravens history, there is enough options for the offense to carry the defense into the postseason. Torrey Smith is now considered one of the premier receivers in the game, a constant threat to go deep while continuing to improve his short and medium routes. Anquan Boldin is as good as advertised; He continues as Baltimore’s best possession receiver and is rarely brought down without gaining a few extra yards. Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson are better than average options at TE, while newcomer Jacoby Jones has been a solid free-agent addition as a slot receiver. As stated earlier, Rice has some of the best hands in the business, providing a safety-valve in the backfield, flat, and short-middle area. For once, I can actually rely on, and be proud of, Baltimore’s passing game as an asset on the field.

O-Line: If there is a weakness on this side of the ball, it definitely has something to do with the offensive line. C Matt Birk is often a detriment during pass-blocking, and doesn’t get a push consistently during run-blocking. Considering he’s the oldest player on the line, I expected this while hoping for more. At least he plays smart, doesn’t mess up calls very often, and rarely fumbles the snap. I’ve never been the biggest fan of T Michael Oher… you’d think having a movie called The Blind Side would mean you played well on the blind side. G Kelechi Osemele and G Gino Grawkowski are both talented but green, they will get better with time. Marshal Yanda is our only surviving Pro Bowler on the O-line. Baltimore fans are hoping and praying everyone else, including Bobbie Williams and Bryant McKinney, will hold up against premier pass-rushing defenses such as the Giants and Texans.

As for the defense, the linebackers and defensive backs are still led by All-Pro LB Ray Lewis and All-Pro S Ed Reed respectively. All-Pro DT Haloti Ngata still runs the defensive line while Pro-Bowl CB Lardarius Webb continues to improve on a weekly basis. Reigning defensive player of the year LB Terrell Suggs continues to rehab his ACL in preparation for hopefully a return in November. LB Sergio Kindle, LB Paul Kruger and DE Pernell Mcphee need to get better at pass-rushing in a hurry. Kruger’s personal foul gave Browns another chance to win, while their inability to consistently get pressure on opposing QBs has led to a steep drop in the defensive rankings. One of these games, our offense is going to struggle; Flacco & Co. won’t put up 35 points every single weekend. 2nd-year CB Jimmy Smith and Slot CB Cary Williams need to play more instinctively whether that means watching more game tape or not over-thinking plays.

At least Cary Williams had that pick-six last week against the Browns.

The special teams play has been as good as I’ve ever seen since Matt Stover retired a couple of years ago. Justin Tucker is an upgrade from Billy Cundiff; I’m greatly relieved he’s kicking field goals for the Redskins this year instead. Especially after last week, when Cundiff missed 3 against the Buccaneers and almost cost them the game. Sam Koch is having a career year at punter, averaging nearly 50 yards per punt. Our coverage team has been good, not great, having given up a few long returns but no touchdowns as of yet(cross your fingers!!). All of our kick returners have good hands(Webb, Jones, Williams, etc) but are no Devin Hester. No one is though, so I’m not particularly worried about that.

In summary, things look good for the Baltimore Ravens, at least on paper. If everyone plays the way they’re supposed to that is. If the Ravens can keep the turnovers to a minimum and don’t give the Chiefs any easy points, they will have to play from behind, something that doesn’t bode well for any offense led by Matt Cassel. This will not be a 50 point blowout by the Ravens but nor will it be a last second nail-biter with a chance for the Chiefs to win.

I predict John Harbaugh’s Ravens to continue their winning ways, dropping a quarter and a dime on Romeo Crennel and the Kansas City’s defense.

Baltimore over Kansas City: 31-17

Dear NFL: Can you please, please bring back the Refs?

On so many occasions in the past, I, like other casual fans of football, found myself screaming at the television screen until I lost my voice. I yelled and screamed, kicked over furniture, drank heavily to console myself, sobbed, pleaded and ultimately made a complete fool of myself. How could they miss the call?! It’s not like they’re staring at the play through a flickering, freezing TV screen like I am, I mean they’re right on the field with the players! Are you BLIND?! Everyone in the room, including the completely hammered unconscious man sitting in the recliner that I’ve never met before, can see that it was the other team who started pushing and throwing punches and whatnot, but somehow your throwing a yellow flag at the guy on my team? I don’t know how old the man in the corner is, what he does for a living or whether he’s a child molester or a serial killer, but I’m 110% certain that he’d do a much better job calling the game then the zebras on the playing field.

Or at least that’s what I used to think. Like one of those bedtime stories my parents used to tell me, it seems there’s a moral to the story, karma has come back with a brutal vengeance to bite me in the rear. Those idiots who couldn’t possibly call a game any worse have been replaced by a group of shopping mall employees, or perhaps rag-wearing drug abusing vagabonds. Yes, you heard me correctly, vagabonds, the guys wearing filthy ripped rags, shuffling slowly across the street from their dumpster homes to the street corner they beg from. Instead of reading the rules handbook they were given on their first day of employment, these faceless drifters must have ripped out the pages and used them in a trashcan fire to help them stay warm.

Maybe they aren’t actual vagabonds. These “replacement officials” are probably trying to officiate these games as best they can. They probably aren’t out there trying to destroy the game I love and yet, that’s exactly what they’re doing. It’s not their fault that they haven’t been educated in the strange and complex language of the NFL rulebook, they were just the bottom of the officiating barrel, what was leftover after the team owners decided they would rather line their pockets with even more money than to give the real officiating crews a pay raise. As a fan of the game, someone who has nothing but time and interest invested, it seems to me that the team owners have more than enough money. If it takes a couple hundred thousand dollars or even a couple million dollars to settle this ridiculous negotiation, so be it.

Let me put it this way, the contract for even a mediocre player on an average team would cost at least as much, not to mention it would be paid for by a single team under a salary cap.

Any pay raise or benefits package for the officiating crews would be paid for by the combined might of all 32 team owners, each of who has a net worth over a billion dollars. Are you fucking kidding me? Jerry Jones and Dan Synder, owners of the Dallas Cowboys & the Washington Redskins respectively, have the 1st and 2nd highest net worth of any sports team in the world. THE WORLD! Under the circumstances, when the officiating has begun to affect the product put on the field, it wouldn’t be out of the question to pay the referees anything they asked for, new cars, private airplanes, millions of dollars, you name it.

Good officiating is part of the package we the fans are paying to see. When the officiating is actually causing serious reverberations across the country, such as in the Green Bay/Seattle game last night, it should send up a serious red flag to the owners and league offices. Now it’s affecting the product they are selling by causing us to have serious doubts over the validity of the win-loss columns. Maybe it will or maybe it won’t change the playoff fortunes of the two teams involved last night, either way I’m completely sure this isn’t the last time we hear about it. If my team failed to reach the playoffs due to a single horribly called game, I would probably riot, running through the night with a blazing torch and a glittering machete screaming like a maniac. [Note: For legal purposes, none of this would actually happen.]

So please, please, pay those damn referees! Am I going to boycott football games like certain television personalities say I should? Probably not. Will I still buy tickets and watch certain must-see games at the stadium? Absolutely. Is the NFL still more entertaining than watching professional baseball or hockey? Yes. How about basketball? Maybe. Either way, the owners can afford it, the referees deserve it, and the fans expect it. When the rules are enforced correctly, or at least more correctly, we as fans should not be able to point out how blatantly wrong the referees are.

Privately, we might question whether it was fair for them to throw a flag on our team when the play before that someone on the other team had done exactly the same thing, but at least we should feel reasonably comfortable that the referees aren’t taking bribes from the mob to throw the game [Note: Over a billion dollars in sports betting changed hands last night]. Just a couple of weeks ago, the NFL almost let a Seahawks fan officiate a regular season Seahawks game! Think about that for a second. Do you really believe that you could be impartial if asked to call a game for your favorite team? What if you were nearly bankrupt and had to take care of your wife and children?

It makes me suddenly grateful that someone else has to make the calls on the field. Well, most of the time. Hopefully the owners and the referees will soon shake hands, sing Kumbaya around the campfire and get back to making difficult rulings that are only tempered by the failings and limitations of being human. Otherwise, someone far more unstable than me is going to make this decision for them real soon.

Michael, Wong_83@hotmail.com

Teams Michael identifies with: The Baltimore Ravens (NFL), Baltimore Orioles (MLB), Miami Heat (NBA), Washington Capitals (NHL), Maryland Terrapins (NCAA) and sometimes the Philadelphia Eagles (NFL).  

You think I’m gonna stop watching football? You must have lost your MIND.

Yes that’s correct, there’s gotta be something wrong mentally if you think I’m ever going to stop spending my Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays watching anything else besides professional football. Beyond the fact that I work as a bartender, meaning I get to watch a lot of football games on NFL Ticket, some of the reasons that people think we shouldn’t allow our children and other family members to watch or play football are completely ridiculous. “To whom it may concern, I can make up my mind on the dangers of playing a contact sport. I don’t need anyone else’s opinion. Thanks, Michael.” I don’t know about anyone else but it seems like some of the arguments against football are either rhetorical or blatantly obvious:

“They might get a concussion! They might get hit repeatedly!!” Please tell us something I’m not aware of. This is not something new or even unpleasant. Football is a test of physical dominance over the opposing team, a man’s game of forcing one’s opponents to slowly give ground and finally submit to your will. It’s fundamentally ingrained in the most primal part of our psyche, we want to watch and become victorious with the team or teams of our own choosing. I learned this as a child playing pee-wee football, watching the Giants.. and the Redskins.. and finally the Cowboys dismantle the poor Buffalo Bills. It’s not like they don’t know deep down that getting hit in the head repeatedly ‘might’ lead to severe health concerns, concussions, brain aneurysms, etc. and so forth. They knew there was a pretty good chance of lasting injury but still signed a contract to play professional football against other gridiron warriors.

“The game has become faster, the players have become bigger and stronger!” Are you serious? That’s part of the reason why we here in America consider our football as superior to football in other countries! When watching a sporting event, regardless of what sport it is, do we want to watch average people, somewhere in the middle of the pack? More likely you, and I, want to watch the most athletic and dominant human beings on the planet face off in mortal combat. Besides, it really only becomes an issue when the other team isn’t growing at the same or similar rate as your team. As long as every team in the league is comparatively strong and fast, I don’t see any reason to worry. Well, maybe at the college level when you sometimes have Division-1 FBS schools padding their stats by humiliating tiny FCS schools; Look at what happened this week between 18th ranked Oklahoma State vs. Savannah State. Then it might become dangerous, but I’m getting away from the point.

Recently I read an ESPN Insider article about how current safety measures didn’t stop player deaths, only delayed them. In return let me state the completely obvious: NOTHING in the world can stop death from occurring. It’s inevitable, at least it has been for the past 5000 years of civilization. All we can do is, *cough*, delay that from occurring by making sure that we keep our football players from dying instantly from a collision. If we were to follow the logic of how helmets and pads don’t stop concussions, why don’t we quit driving cars and trucks while we’re at it? Seat-belts, air-bags and aluminum crumple zones don’t stop drivers and passengers from dying either. They only prolong the inevitable. While we’re at it, how about we never fly planes because we might fall out of the sky?

Basically it’s all a bunch of propaganda. Activists and people who have lost loved ones want to equate playing football to cigarette smoking or some form of preventable disease. It’s not. Certainly I feel a bit of remorse and sympathy for Junior Seau‘s family but this doesn’t mean that he is different in any way from a king crab fisherman on the Bering Sea or a coal miner in Western Pennsylvania. Every single one of these men work in a dangerous profession and are exponentially more likely to suffer grievous injury or death than say a dentist working in an office building. The difference is that in return for signing a contract to play in the NFL, Junior Seau received a huge sum of money per year.

“How about all of those ex-players that never had a concussion but still are dealing with brain-related issues, such as nightmares, trouble getting out of bed, incontinence, memory loss, etc?” I currently have and probably always will have a problem deciding which of these problems, if any, have football as it’s only deciding factor. Look at Brett Favre, one of the most often hit players in NFL history. Favre played in more games than any other player, period. The iron man of football played for an astonishing 20 seasons at arguably the most dangerous position in the game. The only issues he has shown beyond the normal aches, pains and soreness associated with playing football until your 40 had to do with sexual misconduct, ie. sexting and revealing yourself to young women. I honestly don’t see anything wrong with a dirty old man being a dirty old man. In all fairness, they dropped the charges, most likely due to the fact that the woman was probably a gold-digging whore looking for a fat settlement after sleeping her way up the Jets corporate ladder. Other than that incident and an annoying penchant for retiring and un-retiring, I don’t see anything wrong with Brett Favre’s brain.

Another veteran player who’s doing just fine is Baltimore’s future hall-of-fame linebacker, Ray Lewis. This dominant run-stopper has averaged over 120 tackles a year, or more than just about anyone else over his 16 year career. If there is anyone who should show signs of football-related symptoms, memory loss or other effects of repeated blows to the head, it should definitely be him. I’m pretty sure it’s not because he needs anymore money, unlike other professional players like Terrell Owens.  Even though he has lost a step over the years, his mind remains sharp, his memory and instincts still make him one of the best linebackers in the game.

These are just a few examples of ex-NFL players who have had little to no lasting mental effects from their playing days. Troy Aikman, Phil Simms, Boomer Esiason, Desmond Howard, Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, these men are still in the public spotlight and we as the public would notice if there were anything significantly wrong with their minds. In summary, I don’t see how anyone can consider this “scientific” investigation into proving how football has caused this recent rash of suicides anything beyond your average 17th century witch hunt. How can the media and the scientific community not consider these cases when deciding whether football is inherently dangerous?

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that sometimes people will suffer long-term effects while other times they seem to do just fine. I’m not saying that there is absolutely no correlation between hits and brain injury. I’m certain there is. But as long as we’re blaming football, why don’t we stop everyone from racing cars or fighting in the octagon? Martial arts and race-car driving both expose participants to possible concussions and death but haven’t seen nearly as much negative media coverage as the NFL. How come? Why are members of the scientific community and media outlets crying wolf?

Beyond the reasons listed above, mass hysteria might be playing a part in this unfolding drama. One scientist comes to a finding that some or even of the brains examined from football players have areas of trauma. He tries to find a correlating event and is quick to blame this on football. Other people, including and especially the families and widows of ex-football players are quick to jump on these findings, regardless of their whether or not they’re conclusive, and proceed to file countless lawsuits against the NFL. What they conveniently forget is that the players took on this occupation willingly, just like every other dangerous occupation in the world. They signed the contract and willingly walked on the field.

Let me ask you this: If someone offered you the chance to play professional football along with the requisite fame, fortune and a truck load of money, would you take a chance and possibly become physically injured? It’s not like when its time to sign the contract, the coaches and general manager are saying, ‘Nobody is going to run into you like a 250 pound cannon ball. They would never use their arms and legs to pummel you until you cough up the football. Above all else, there is a 0% chance that you will ever get injured or die.”

On top of everything else, I’m just going to tell you how I feel personally on the subject. If there wasn’t the threat of death or injury, I probably wouldn’t watch football. I relish the spectacle of large-scale conflict. I want to watch the biggest, strongest, fastest men on the planet overcoming their fears to become more than just human. I want them to go on the biggest stage we can construct, overcome every single obstacle and finally earn their rightful place in history. For this I’m willing to pay thousands of dollars a year in television fees, stadium tickets and merchandise, just so that years down the road I can tell my wife and children about that time my team won everything. When the dust settled, they were the only ones left standing.

That’s why every year millions of fans replay every moment of the regular season again and again(I mean why else would there be an NFL network?) and why every playoff game becomes a national holiday in America. The Super Bowl? If sports were considered a religion, professional football would be the 4th largest, behind only the Christians, Muslims and soccer. Actually, I take that back, here in America we know that soccer isn’t even a real sport.

So take as much time as you need to make perfectly safe football helmets, impose heavy fines and mandatory time-off for blows to the head(oh wait, we’ve already done that), just don’t even think about taking away my football. To all the families that are still mourning the loss of their loved ones to brain disease or suicide, I feel your pain, I really do but all the lawsuits and finger-pointing in the world isn’t going to change the fact that your family member willingly chose to risk death and injury, in return for fame, fortune and a solid gold bathtub.

A free ride to a college education, food, clothes and a beautiful home for the wife & kids, money to invest in stocks or businesses, insurance for their aging parents, cars, jewelry and most importantly a bright future. The absolute minimum salary for a rookie in 2012 is $390,000-$465,000/year, not including signing bonuses, roster bonuses or likely to be earned incentives. Add in local, national and even international endorsements such as Direct TV, Nike or Under Armour and I can’t see any reason their families would ever want for anything material. It’s completely on them if they spent everything  they had on Rolex watches, Louis Vuitton bags, Gucci sunglasses Lamborghini sports cars.  I don’t care how they used their money in the past, I only care that these frivolous lawsuits are threatening my favorite weekend pastime.

So yes, you have to be out of your mind if you think anything is going to stop me from watching professional football. It’s gonna take a lot more than a couple player suicides or vegetative-state linemen to stop me from laying on the couch on Sunday, watching my beloved Baltimore Ravens catch assault & battery charges against Ben Roethlisberger.

Kyarnboy, Wong_83@hotmail.com