stephen-davis2

After multiple concussions, Stephen Davis struggled with a sensitivity to light in retirement.

Football, like every sport, is a mere distraction. Or a diversion, whichever word you prefer.

It may be an all-encompassing one which consumes our entire being for 12 hours or so every Sunday, and another six combined between Thursday and Monday, a quick but intense marathon that stretches over five months of the year before immediately bleeding into offseason draft and free agency chatter.

But it’s meaningless. It has no bearing on your life outside of entertainment value. The media — and writers like myself — are fans too, and we provide daily content to feed and grow your interest, and to ideally expand knowledge.

In the end, though, we’re all still watching humans with wives and kids and mothers and fathers play a game to amuse us. And although there are many fans who care little, some of the performers in our theater of chaos depart from football in their late 30′s, and are unable to participate in basic life joys like bending down to play with their kids.

That’s why yesterday when the NFL reached a legal settlement with the over 4,500 players suing the league for concussion damages, a final farewell was made to a dinosaur era, however feeble it may have been.

The league and the players reached a settlement which totals $765 million, 50 percent of which will be paid out over the next three years, with the other half coming over the following 17 years (yes, that’s a lot of depreciation, but them’s the breaks I guess). The majority of the settlement ($675 million) is available to players who “present medical evidence of severe cognitive impairment, dementia, Alzheimer’s, ALS, or to their families”. The families of players who have committed suicide will receive more, as this isn’t a process of simply dividing the total and spreading it out to the entire group. There’s also no admission of guilt by the NFL, which makes the entire settlement feel hollow, though that’s mostly standard legal posturing in a case of this nature.

The settlement still awaits final approval. But since yesterday afternoon when it was first finalized by the league, the criticism from the dissenters has been on the lowest branch of logic, on trees grown by curmudgeon farmers. They live and choose to remain in darker times.

I won’t mention them by name (though I’m happy to direct you to them), because their names matter little. Their thought process stops at the very surface layer, the one populated only with the belief that if you choose to play football, you accept any and all damages to your body.

There’s a logical limit to that thinking. Dustin Keller’s recent injury was brutal and horrible, but he was certainly aware that such a catastrophic break was possible. Over time, though, ligaments and bones heal. Perhaps not always to their original state, but as Adrian Peterson and now Robert Griffin III have shown us, those wounds are mended.

The head is another matter, and it’s where the limitations to the acceptance of risk ends. Should players fairly anticipate that, like Stephen Davis, they’ll have a sensitivity to light at the age of 39, with a constant buzz in their ears that can only be drowned out by a television and more noise? At the ripe age of 20 or so as rookies, should they warmly embrace dizziness, memory loss, and brain abnormalities upon retirement, which is Jamal Lewis’ experience? What about a degenerative brain disease that can significantly alter behavior? Cool, sign me up, right?

Watching football change suddenly over the past few years due to new rules protecting the head and defenseless receivers has been a difficult transition, but a wholly necessary one. There is and always will be a certain level of risk assumed, but that ends when life after football is altered drastically due to preventable injuries.

More notes, stray thoughts, and other such randomness

Try to act surprised, it’s only polite

For, I dunno, two months at least it’s been clear that only a catastrophic and highly unexpected setback would keep Robert Griffin III on the sideline for the Redskins’ opening week game against Philadelphia. Looking back, he was already doing jumping jacks in late April at a draft event, and at the time he was only four months removed from major knee surgery.

At every step — from the initial running, to cutting, to throwing — he was impressive without a setback of any significance, and we ohhhh’ed and awwww’ed even though last year Adrian Peterson completed a similarly resounding defeat of medical logic.

So yeah, although having some finality to the process is nice, forgive me if my excitment was pretty mild late last night when this bounced across my computer screen…

Griffin meet with Dr. James Andrews, the famed gatekeeper of football dreams, fantasy and reality alike. After an examination Andrews completed the formality, and cleared him for game action. However, in his post-game press conference following the Redskins’ final preseason outing (a 20-12 win over Tampa), ‘Skins head coach Mike Shanahan said that Andrews still has some concerns which will be reviewed over the weekend, and then discussed with the public at large Monday. Translation: Shanny isn’t quite ready to throw down his rubber stamp yet, and complete his half of the formality.

Medically, the final word on Griffin’s knee obviously rested with Andrews. But once the doc gave clearance, Shanahan has repeatedly said that just like all decisions on a football team, the call as to whether or not Griffin is playing still starts and ends in the head coach’s office. That’s why in saying that he and Andrews have a few concerns to review over the weekend, Shanahan is in effect delaying his final call for a few more days.

Whether it’s a conscious move or not, that delay is likely influenced by public perception. Last January Shanahan faced major backlash for a perceived mishandling of Griffin, his first-year quarterback who dragged himself through that playoff loss to Seattle, and the latter portion of the season. Now, he’s overcompensating by refusing to make a decision even when Andrews has waved his green flag.

It’s all posturing, and perhaps also a little bit of gamesmanship with the Eagles. If the latter is true, that’s fair play, as even if he’s only keeping an inkling of doubt alive, forcing Chip Kelly to spend any time at all preparing for Kirk Cousins is time wasted.

From a fantasy perspective, what I’ve been writing since January hasn’t changed: it’s great that Griffin has looked fantastic in practice for what that’s worth, and for those of you with drafts still upcoming, you should pounce on the discount you’re getting. But after you do that, expecting the same old RG3 immediately is foolish.

The major test still hasn’t happened yet: taking contact. And we won’t see that until it matters just over a week from now, and the intensity increases.

It wasn’t supposed to go down like this, Andre Brown

During the most meaningless of all the utterly meaningless preseason action last night, Giants running back Andre Brown fractured his leg, and he’ll now be out for roughly four-to-six weeks. Optimistically, Brown said it’s a small fracture that won’t require surgery, hence the relatively quick timetable for such a serious injury.

As humans who can stop being dirty fantasy degenerates for a moment, we can applaud that, because broken bones are terrible things, and we wish Brown a speedy recovery. But as fantasy fiends, the implications are clear: those who drafted David Wilson in about the third round now have a terrific value pick.

When you made that pick, you did it knowing that Wilson would be on the high end of a time share with Brown, but he’d be in a platoon nonetheless. Jerry Reese saying that he’s the “starter” recently was pretty meaningless, because all along we assumed Wilson would get the early-down work and therefore the far greater workload overall. But since he’s better in pass protection, Brown would then likely come in on most third downs and he’d get the goal-line touches with his barreling running style, putting a ceiling on Wilson’s value.

Now said ceiling has been shattered, and owning Wilson as your RB2 could be mighty profitable. He’s pretty fast, and quite skilled at locating a corner…

The most football is back picture ever

An American flag puked all over Aaron Rodgers, and he gives few craps. ‘Merica!

Fantasy football: what does it all mean?

There is only ever one problem with fantasy football, one that doesn’t bother me personally because I’ve always been able to watch a game with two eyes (one as a football fan, and one as a fan of the players on my teams). But as fantasy football has grown, how we watch and consume the game has evolved. And for those who can’t make that separation, perhaps not for the better.

We see it every Sunday. There are far too many twisted minds that are actually living in a fantasy, and when their supposed stud player does poorly, they bombard him with twitter hate. Losing touch with the simple fact that fantasy football is a game and a hobby is the worst kind of human failure.

Will Leitch reflected on his personal experience in a keeper league with friends for several decades, and perhaps unknowingly described this type of fantasy player.

Nothing any NFL player ever does — tearing their ACL, putting on 20 pounds in the offseason, being accused of murder — has even the slightest bearing on our lives in any palpable way except for how it affects our fantasy football team. Why wouldn’t we only see them that way? They only see us as fans, after all; watching someone play sports, or playing sports in front of someone, is not an efficient way of making new friends with them. Still: This personal commodification of the athletic experience allows us, sometimes, to purposely look away from how the sausage is made. It makes it much, much easier.

He’s right, I suppose, but there’s something deeply icky about the notion of commodification through fantasy football. The ownership — and indeed, we constantly refer to fantasy players as “owners” of a certain player — is fabricated, and entirely fake. Most are fully aware of this, and approach the game as such in a passionate yet still harmless manner.

But those who cross the line between fake and real, and are unable to differentiate between a true commodity and the actual person behind the ticking fantasy digits every Sunday are the ones who Arian Foster was referring to a few summers ago. They’re the people who value a digital game over a human, and the sort who legitimately believe that without fantasy football, players like Foster would be “cleaning toilets“.