Players joining forces off the field for good causes is nothing new. All one has to do is look back on the past month for several examples. Every fan was treated to the NFL Pink campaign for an entire month as the league relaxed its uniform rules and players raised awareness for breast cancer. Hurricane Sandy in New York was a painful reminder that there’s far more to life than football, as the NFL and the NFLPA made donations to assist the relief efforts.
Last month on separate weeks both Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears reached out to the family of a Bears fan killed after a game in Jacksonville. Both players have been seared in the media over the past two years for character flaws and perceived attitude problems, but their acts of kindness barely generated a blip on the radar. True, sincere charity isn’t done for publicity, but in this age where negativity and fabricated conflicts drive many “news” stories, it’s important to reflect on off-field contributions. It doesn’t take much for some athletes to make a big difference, but a small difference is all it takes for some people’s lives to be greatly uplifted.
When the San Francisco 49ers beat the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football last night, fans were treated to a moment of rare greatness when Randy Moss tied Terrell Owens for fourth all time on the career touchdown list with a 47-yard grab and run in the third quarter. In a perfect example of a player past his prime but still possessing pure, simple speed, Moss reminded the NFL that while his number is rarely called upon at this point in his career, his speed is still lethal.
New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw surprised a lot of people this past Sunday when he openly argued with head coach Tom Coughlin over getting the ball with the game on the line. While he wouldn’t be a starter if his ability was suspect, openly challenging a coach is walking a fine line and practically asking to get benched.
What the hell does Aaron Rodgers know about winning?
In a rare move from a seasoned veteran, Aaron Rodgers turned heads in the NFL this past week when he criticized Green Bay’s backups for poor practice habits.
“For whatever reason, the rookies have not picked up the practice tempo or the importance of the scout-team looks as well as maybe it’s been in the past. There needs to be a level of professionalism that is current through the entire team from the veterans to the rookies that they kind of understand how each part of the day adds to the preparation. And I think it definitely can be improved on their standpoint from an assignment and a tempo side of practice.”
In turn Rodgers was criticized by the media for throwing younger and lesser known teammates under the bus, a rare move in professional sports. Seriously, who blames the backups? Was Rodgers blowing off some steam? Shifting blame? Or could it be the media missed and Rodgers was onto something no one else knew about?
The most exciting play in sports is the Two-Minute/No Huddle/Hurry Up Offense, slight variations on the same assault. Once reserved for the end of games when teams are desperate to score, it’s becoming more common to see the no huddle during the first half and at regular times during games in the NFL. You see players on offense marching efficiently and precisely down the field as the frantic defense retreats and looks to the sideline for help, and the quarterback barks directions like a mad man behind a runaway sled. The best teams I’ve played on use this drill as a jolt of energy to start AND finish practice.
Legendary teams use it to finish opponents and seal championships. See Eli Manning vs. NE Patriots in Super Bowl XLII and XLVI.
What do Santonio Holmes, Darrelle Revis, and Brian Orakpo have in common? They’re all missing in action until next year thanks to serious injuries. Each year a group of players have the unfortunate experience of missing significant time due to injury, and also risk losing their position and playing time for the same reason.
Detroit’s running back Jahvid Best awaits tests this week to determine if he’ll finish the season on injured reserve after two concussions last year, and he hasn’t played a down in 2012. So far Adrian Peterson is returning to strong form after missing most of last season to knee surgery. When you’ve suffered a devastating injury and miss an extended period of time, every minute you’re injured is another minute someone else is filling in your position. Don’t kid yourself, professional athletes worry about losing their jobs to injury more than they’ll ever reveal.
Ask Drew Bledsoe about when he opened the 2001 season as the New England Patriots starting quarterback before Tom Brady finished off the year as the youngest quarterback ever to win the Super Bowl, and the Super Bowl MVP. Some guys can play through smaller injuries thanks to incredible pain thresholds, but serious injuries don’t leave you with a choice even though they raise plenty of questions among coaching staffs. Will he fully recover? Did he lose a step? Is that player worth the health and financial risk? I wonder who else is available? Who gets his playing time?
Ask Peyton Manning how he became a Bronco.
I’ve experienced the sting of a season-ending injury myself, and know the frustration it carries.
Yes, it’s practice, and it’s not even an NFL practice. Still, when the Kentucky Wildcats strapped a camera to Max Smith’s helmet to provide a very rare and unique perspective, you quickly get a feel for the extremely tight windows a quarterback has to throw into, and the distance from the pocket to the far reaches of the sidelines.