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Never a Dull Moment

The Super Bowl concluded just seventeen days ago, but it feels like ancient history.

So goes life in the NFL.

With the season officially ended with final Pro Bowl game in Hawaii, the off-season is now in full swing.  Team are getting ready for the scouting combine, which begins on Wednesday with workouts commencing on Saturday.

Big name players plan to show up, though some (such as Michael Crabtree and Matthew Stafford) obviously don’t plan to do much while on the field.

Dont Expect Crabtree to Run the 40 at the Combine

Don't Expect Crabtree to Run the 40 at the Combine

Then there’s free agency.  Players such as Matt Cassell, Karlos Dansby and Shayne Graham have already been franchised.  Others aren’t so lucky.  The Bucs have released Jeff Garcia.  The Jaguars said goodbye to Fred Taylor.  Deuce McCallister is out in New Orleans and the Ravens have cut ties with cornerback Chris McCallister (no relation).

Expect more blood shed in the coming weeks.

Oh, there’s also movement outside of the league, too.  Marshawn Lynch was arrested on gun possession.  Apparently, Plaxico Burress is Lynch’s hero.  Lynch has already been in trouble with the law–last time it was a violation with his car (bumping a cop with his vehicle).  Clearly, some players never learn.  If Lynch gets suspended, he might just spend some time with PacMan Jones.

Then there’s the Vick saga.  It’s been reported that the Atlanta Falcons are actively shopping the rights of still incarcerated former quarterback Michael Vick.  Vick’s status with the league is in limbo, as he’s currently suspended indefinitely.  If he does return to the the league, it will be interesting to see how much protesting a given team will receive from PETA and fans alike.  Then again, if Ray Lewis, Jamal Lewis, and Lawrence Phillips can get second chances, is it really out of the realm for Vick, too?

Regardless, the NFL off-season is starting to kick into high gear.  And it’s quite possible that it will be just as exciting as Super Bowl 43.

February 17, 2009 Posted by | Features & Opinions, NFL | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

With Favre Gone, Where Do the Jets Go from Here?

Today, it has been reported that Brett Favre has informed the New York Jets that he plans to retire.

Again.

This isn’t shocking.  While Favre had some success in New York, the team tanked in December and blew a shot at the playoffs with a loss against Miami in week 17.

Coupled with that, Favre has been battling against a shoulder injury that may or may not need surgery, while some of his teammates have suggested that Brett’s penchant for throwing interceptions was a significant reason as to why the team finished so cold.

Favre Calls It Quits

Favre Calls It Quits

At least Favre did not drag out his decision. And with a decision now made, the New York Jets can finally move on.

With new head coach Rex Ryan, there are a few options for the team to pursue.

They already have Kellen Clemens, a young quarterback who has seen limited playing time.  He appears to have a big arm, but his potential is completely unknown.

The Jets could also go after a veteran quarterback.  It’s highly unlikely that the Jets would like to give up what’s needed to acquire Matt Cassell.  It’s also highly unlikely that the New England Patriots would want to trade their young quarterback to a division rival.

Jeff Garcia could be available, but Garcia is almost the same age as Favre.  There’s no future in acquiring Garcia, and his style of play is very specific.  Garcia likes to be able to roll outside the pocket–something he wasn’t given as much leeway to do during his unproductive years in Cleveland and Detroit.  Garcia would have to truly fit into a system perfectly, and with a new head coach, it’s hard to know what type of system Rex Ryan prefers on offense.

Jeff Garcia

Jeff Garcia

Then there’s Derek Anderson of Cleveland–an intriguing prospect.  Though Anderson had a disappointing 2008, his 2007 season was off the charts.  He’s only 25 years old, and has a rocket arm.  On the right team, it’s possible he could flourish.  His salary wouldn’t be as high as Matt Cassell, and he could probably be had for a third round pick.  The only sticking point would be that former Jets coach Eric Mangini is now the head man in charge in Cleveland.  Due to the seemingly bad blood between Mangini and the Jets front office, they wouldn’t want to be trade partners with each other.

Other options include Pittsburgh’s Byron Leftwich, Kurt Warner, Kerry Collins, and even Vince Young.

In a year when the quarterback class isn’t as strong–both in free agency and the upcoming NFL Draft, it just might be a seller’s market.

February 11, 2009 Posted by | Features & Opinions, NFL | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

STERIODS: Contrasting the NFL & MLB

This time last year, Hank Steinbrenner came out and stated that he didn’t “like baseball being singled out” when it came to the attention by media and congress over the steroids issue.  He later commented, “Everybody that knows sports knows football is tailor-made for performance-enhancing drugs.  I don’t know how they managed to skate by.  It irritates me.  Don’t tell me it’s not more prevalent.  The number in football is at least twice as many.  Look at the speed and size of those players.”

In the wake of A-Rod’s admittance of steroid use between 2001 and 2003, I do think it’s interesting to contrast why there seems to be a double standard between performance enhancing drugs in baseball and football.

A-Rod Admits His Guilt

A-Rod Admits His Guilt

I do think it is amazing that guys like Shawne Merriman and Rodney Harrison–two prominent defensive players in the NFL–can test positive for steroids/HGH and no one truly seem to care.  Do football fans not care about the integrity of the game?  Do fans and maybe even the media enable these players because they want to see brutal collisions on the field?

I do think, though, that there are a few differences between baseball and football in regards to this issue.  Harrison, and to some degree, Shawne Merriman, admitted that they were wrong.  They were willing to accept their penalties.  That doesn’t make what they did okay, but these players and others did not break NFL policy and continue to lie about it time after time.  They didn’t play the “he said, she said” game.

That’s not to say that some of the players in the MLB should admit guilt if they aren’t guilty.  But, at least in the court of public opinion, they all certainly aren’t innocent.  Barry Bonds?  Palmeiro?  Clemens? Maguire?  Sosa?   There is this “hush, hush” mentality among these big name players, and yet damning evidence mounts against them that would appear to seriously cloud their credibility.  With A-Rod stating that he did indeed take performance-enhancing drugs–after a 2007 interview with Katie Couric where he flatly denied this claim–an entire era of baseball has an enormous blemish on it.

Another distinct difference between baseball and football in regards to steroids is the actual benefit.  It is known that steroids can give you a boost in strength, muscle, and speed.  HGH, a substance that Rodney Harrison was found to be taking this time last year, is widely believed to aid in the recovery of injury.  When Harrison apparently took the drug, he was attempting to recover much quicker from an injury than he otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.  Again, this doesn’t justify his actions.

Harrison Tested Positive

Harrison Tested Positive

But at the same time, we as fans cannot begin to fathom the wear and tear on one’s body that playing in the NFL induces.  There are former players that have a hard time going about their day due to massive injuries.  ESPN NFL analyst Mark Schlereth, a former offensive lineman, has admitted to having at least twenty knee surgeries.  And some former players even suffer from dementia due to the brutal sport of football.

Another issue is the impact steroids has on the game of baseball and football.  Baseball is much less of a team sport than football.  Essentially, baseball is a pitcher versus a batter.  If the pitcher is taking steroids which in turn allows him to throw the ball with a bit more velocity, that is an advantage.  If the batter is utilizing steroids to allow him to hit the ball further, that could potentially turn a double play into a home-run.  That is, most certainly, an advantage.

These factors decide games.

Can games really be decided by steroids in football, though?  Does steroids help you read a defense better?  Does steroids allow you to make every single tackle on the field?  Does steroids give you the drive to study film, decipher signals, or enhance your vision to see the hole?

Football is a team sport.  If one person–or for that matter, a few players–are using steroids on the offensive or defensive side of the ball, I am not convinced that that is an advantage.  It may make you a bit stronger.  It may make you a bit faster.  But, unlike baseball, I don’t think those benefits can make you and your team better.  I’ve seen guys come into the NFL who are complete physical specimens (Former number 1 overall pick in 2000, DE Courtney Brown, springs to mind), and yet could barely crack the starting lineup.

Looks Like Tarzan, Plays Like Jane

Courtney Brown: Looks Like Tarzan, Plays Like Jane

Guys who are the strongest and fastest and yet their careers never take off due to injury, an inability to pick up the playbook, or a complete lack of heart.

Remember, you need the physical tools and talent in the NFL, but football is most certainly a mental game.  Akili Smith and Michael Vick could throw the ball out of the stadium and into oncoming traffic on the highway, yet they were both mediocre quarterbacks.

Smith Didnt Work Out for the Bengals

Smith Didn't Work Out for the Bengals

I am not saying that players cannot and do not benefit from steroids in the NFL.  In 2006, when Merriman was suspended four games for steroids, he still racked up 17 sacks in 12 games.  That is an incredible stat.  At the same time, in 2007, in just 15 games, Merriman still registered 12.5 sacks.  That is a very good total, still.  And while steroids may have contributed to Merriman being able to get around the corner and sack Peyton Manning a couple extra times, steroids absolutely cannot aid you if you bite on Manning’s play fake and he throws it over the top to Reggie Wayne for a touchdown.

Lastly, it cannot be forgotten that baseball is a numbers game.  Home runs, batting averages and bases stolen–it’s what baseball fans care about, from age 8 to 80.

Quick, name me how many yards Emmitt Smith gained in his career?  How many touchdowns did Jerry Rice retire with?  How many sacks did Reggie White have?  How many consecutive games has Brett Favre played?

Even the most die-hard NFL fan would be hard pressed to answer those questions.

Yes, baseball is about the numbers, and if a player is on steroids and has a chance to balloon his numbers into the stratosphere, that is something that the common baseball fan can’t stand.  No one wants someone to eclipse Hank Aaron or Babe Ruth without knowing they did it the old natural way.

February 9, 2009 Posted by | Features & Opinions, NFL | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NFL Halftime Show=NFL Punking Out

The NFL needs to grow up.

Janet Jackson in 2004

Janet Jackson in 2004

Or maybe young.

Ever since the infamous moment when Janet Jackson’s breast was exposed for public consumption in 2004, the NFL has become scared.  Terrified, really.

In fact, that 2004 Super Bowl didn’t just feature Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake.  Nelly, P.Diddy, and Kid Rock performed, too.

Previous years have seen acts such as No Doubt, Mary J. Blige, Boyz II Men, U2 and Queen Latifah.

But since 2004, the NFL has played it safe.  They’ve turned to classic performers who are now carrying AARP cards.  The last four Super Bowls have featured Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Prince, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show will feature Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

It’s not that we shouldn’t recognize past artists who helped pave the way.  But there are dozens of great acts that deserve to be given the exposure of the world at halftime.  From Alicia Keys to Adele to Kanye West–there is a new generation of musical acts that fans would love to see.  And ones who haven’t already been in the business for four decades.

Even Jennifer Hudson, a young woman who has won an Oscar and has recently been nominated for four Grammy awards due to her debut release this past year, is only singing the National Anthem.  For two brief minutes.

The NFL needs to get its act together.  You can’t market the league, memorabilia, and its products (such as Madden NFL Football) to a demographic that is roughly 35 and under, and yet trumpet out artists who are pushing sixty.  It’s not that Prince or Bruce Springsteen aren’t legends–they are.  But it’s time to showcase new legends for a new generation of fans.

The Super Bowl is the most watched event of the year, and so there’s no doubt that someone is enjoying the choices of halftime performances.  But the league should not be so scarred by the Janet Jackson incident that they’re afraid to let a young woman back on the stage.  Or any woman, at that.

Memo to the NFL:  You don’t have to worry about an orgy breaking out on stage.  No one will spew vulgarity.  Learn from your 2004 mistake, find ways to correct it, and move on.  Don’t hide your product behind an artist whose hey day was during the Nixon administration.

January 30, 2009 Posted by | Features & Opinions, NFL | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Straight Cash’s Divisional Playoff Picks

There are some juicy, juicy matchups this weekend. Lots of top defenses showcased, a wild gun show on display in the South, and a good old NFC East hatefest. Let’s get it on.

Do the dance, Ray, do the dance.

Do the dance, Ray, do the dance.

Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans, 01/10/09, 4:30pm EST, CBS
Line/Total: TEN -3, o/u 34

The Pick: BAL +3

Everyone’s saying that a rookie QB like Flacco will fold against Tennessee’s punishing front, but New Guy Joe gets to see this type of “D” everyday in practice. The Titans won back in Week 5 (13-10) in a grind it out, defensive battle, but I think the difference this time is the improved play and confidence of Flacco and the growth of Le’Ron McClain as a legitimate back to pair with Willis McGahee. Kerry Collins, LenDale White and Chris Johnson are stabling forces for the Titans, but the loss of Kevin Mawae under center will play a big role at the line. To me, it just seems like the Ravens D is jacked entering the postseason, led by All-world hawk Ed Reed. No doubt, Tennessee is still one of the top 3 defenses in the league, I just don’t think they have enough weapons offensively to put up points. The Ravens will keep it close and may win outright — lots of penalties, trash talking and clock running in this one.

My name is not pronounced Del-Homey

My name is not pronounced Del-Homey

Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers, 01/10/09, 8:15pm EST, FOX
Line/Total: CAR -10, o/u 49

The Pick: Over 49

I’m riding the Arizona “over” train until it falls off the tracks. This team cannot cover anyone and Kurt Warner must try to outgun each opponent they face. And why not? with both NFC Pro Bowl WR starters at his disposal in Boldin and Fitzgerald, could you blame him. Carolina has found gold in their backfield tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. And of course, Steve Smith is a game changer. Need some numbers? The two teams combined for 50 in a 27-23 Panthers win in Week 8. The over is 7-2 in Arizona’s and Carolina’s last 9 games. Carolina has given up an average of 25 points in that span, and Arizona 29.5. It’s Jake Delhomme’s 33rd birthday Saturday and his wish of a Carolina win will come to fruition, just not sure it’s by the 10 points Vegas is projecting them by. So take the over, sit back on the Lazy Boy and watch some fireworks in the Bank of America Dome.

Don't do the dance, Donovan, don't do the dance.

Don't do the dance, Donovan, don't do the dance.

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, 01/11/09, 1:00pm EST FOX
Line/Total: NYG -4, o/u 38

The Pick: NYG -4

The Eagles are playing excellent ball at the right time. The Donovan McNabb Hall of Fame talk has resurfaced. Philly’s defense has been dynamic with Johnson at the helm. I’m still taking the Giants to win and cover. A few reasons why: 1) They’re at home. 2) Eli has more weapons to pass to than Donovan. 3) Brandon “Frankenstein” Jacobs is at full force. 4) The 3-headed monster that is Jacobs-Ward-Bradshaw is more effective than a nicked up Westbrook and Buckhalter. 5) The Meadowlands field will be slick and there’s a 90% chance of snowfall/rain, which bodes well for the Giants ground attack. 6) The Giants have been there, done that, and coach Coughlin has had an extra week to prep the troops. And finally, 7) Those two “MENSA” candidates Andy Reid and McNabb will find a way to implode on the big stage. ‘Nuff said.

Now if I could just "PLAY like a champion" on Sunday.

Now if I could just "PLAY like a champion" on Sunday.

San Diego Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers, 01/11/09, 4:45pm EST, CBS
Line/Total: PIT -6, o/u 37.5

The Pick: PIT -6

I still don’t believe in Philip Rivers. While everyone waxes poetic about his natural ability and competitiveness, I still think he’s just a gunslinger who lacks the leadership quality (charisma) to inspire his team. That said, the Steelers will bring the pressure in waves at the Chargers, and Rivers will have to get rid of the ball quicker than he’s used to. Darren Sproles has to be ready to catch short dinks from the backfield ala LaDainian Tomlinson, while Gates must push hard off the line for SD to be effective. Now, what concerns me for Pittsburgh is the offensive side of the ball. Big Ben is holding on to the ball longer than he should be, resulting in multiple sack games, while the deep threat in Santonio Holmes has been nullified throughout the year. Look for the Steelers to give the Chargers a big dose of Fast Willie Parker and Mewelde Moore. The -6 points from Vegas is pretty steep, but the Steelers have gotten all the breaks of late and it’ll be a game-changing turnover (maybe by the wavy-haired Samoan) that’ll put the Steelers over the top. Also, that same competitiveness that Rivers is lauded for will be his undoing as he’ll attempt some unnecessary deep throws into the Pittsburgh’s secondary. The only thing that worries me is Big Ben’s bell being rung to the tune of another concussion.

Went 3-1 in last weekend’s Wild Card matchups. Let’s keep up the good vibes.

2009 record: 5-2.

Straight Cash … Homey!

January 10, 2009 Posted by | General, NFL, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Karma is a B**** for OJ Simpson

Thirteen years after the most controversial court case in the United States, OJ Simpson was sentenced to a possible 33 years in prison for robbing sports memorabilia. This takes me back to the subject, “Karma is a B**** for OJ Simpson” because though OJ deserves the sentence for his previous actions, his recent crime shouldn’t amount to such jail time.

I by no means am an OJ Simpson “stan”, or fan to say the least. I was a mere middle schooler when he drove off in his White Bronco across Los Angeles. However, I do think his sentence was decided on an emotional level. If anyone else had committed the same crime, his or her sentence would not have amounted to a possible 33 years in prison or at least 9 years with potential parole leave after.

OJ Simpson was hit with the karma stick and as much as his lawyers try to appeal the case, it ain’t happening. Do I feel OJ deserves the lengthy sentence? YES – But strictly emotionally and taking into consideration everything that happened with the Goldman’s. Do I think that’s the sentence he should have received? NO – Because the court of law operates on facts not dwindling emotions. I’ve heard of cats who’ve committed worse crimes and gotten a lesser sentence than one time Heisman trophy winner OJ Simpson.

So what am I saying if I feel he deserves the sentence and think he doesn’t…? I’m saying this sentence was sort of a “catch 22” and according to laws that work on case by case scenarios, his sentence was wrongfully decided. For this particular crime, his sentence should have been less.

Skrybe – Keep it Fly

OJ Simpson Pleeding

OJ Simpson Pleeding

December 8, 2008 Posted by | Features & Opinions, NFL, Stupid Athletes | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments