Enjoy the game, everyone!
Happy Super Bowl Sunday, Broncos fans! The NFL hosted their first ever awards show last night - Aaron Rodgers was named league MVP, Drew Brees took Offensive POY, Terrell Suggs the Defensive POY, Jim Harbaugh the Coach of the Year, and Matthew Stafford was named Comeback POY. Of course, Von Miller took DROY and Cam Newton was his offensive counterpart.
Meanwhile, six players were named to the Pro Football HOF yesterday: Jack Butler, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Doleman, Curtis Martin and two AFC West stars - Cortez Kennedy and Willie Roaf. Did any of these players perform on a level different than that of Terrell Davis and Steve Atwater? I think not.
Von Miller's dominant season earned him the AP's Defensive Rookie of the Year award in a vote that wasn't nearly as close as expected. Miller took 39 of the 50 votes, while Niners DE Aldon Smith received the other 11 votes. Drafted second overall out of Texas A&M, Miller was credited with 11.5 sacks, 64 tackles, four passes defensed, and two forced fumbles.
But Von wasn't just exceptional relative to his rookie status - PFF rated him the best linebacker in all of football. His 50.3 overall rating nearly doubled the next best 4-3 OLB (Daryl Smith, 27.6) and easily beat the second best overall linebacker (Cameron Wake, 43.4). PFF also credited Miller with 12 sacks, 19 QB hits, 29 pressures, and 41 stops to go with zero missed tackles.
Sometimes these writer voted awards are popularity contests (like the HOF votes which were just announced), but they got this one right. Congratulations, Von!
Good Morning, Broncos fans! Two more groups of ex-players have filed suit against the NFL regarding its handling of head injuries, including HOFer Leroy Kelly, former Broncos first-round pick Ashley Lelie and perhaps most interestingly, NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger. At some point, Baldinger is going to speak up about his experiences, and the NFL and their network are going to have a delicate situation on their hands.
In related news, the Sports Legacy Institute, which is led by Chris Nowinksi and collaborates with Boston University in studying the effects of CTE, is suggesting that the number of blows to the head suffered by youth football players be tracked. Says Nowinski:
We have to find a solution for the children, who are most at risk, and the guidelines will help us get there...We have to recognize the (physiological) differences. They're not little men, they're children.
We'll have to have the guts to put down a number on paper and say, 'This is a rational goal. This is what kids should be under.'We're not anti-football. But we are pro-child.
Thurday's AP article which focused on players' injuries recalled for Times Op-Ed writer Joe Nocera an article written 36 years ago by Clark Booth - as Nocera tells it, that piece was the first to honestly address the long-term health consequences facing players. Former Cowboys TE Jean Fugett talks of crying when his own son accepted a football scholarship, and he suggests that tackle football not be played before high school.
Happy Friday Broncos fans! Several notable ex-players who are suing the league for its handling of head injuries during their careers spoke to the AP about their experiences. Among them was former Broncos RB Tony Dorsett, who rightly thinks the league should provide retirement healthcare for players:
"Yeah, I understand you paid me to do this, but still yet, I put my life on the line for you, I put my health on the line," Dorsett says. "And yet when the time comes, you turn your back on me? That's not right. That's not the American way."
"They were hitting me, and I'd be squealing like a pig," Dorsett says, imitating the guttural sound. "It was so bad that the other team was telling our coaches, 'Get him out of the game.' You know that something's wrong then. And like a fool, I stayed as long as I could. They're going to our sideline, telling our coaches, 'Get him out of the game!' ... You know it's bad when the opposition feels sorry for you."
"The owners need to own up to it, own up to what the game does to human lives. There's a zillion football players in the same situation with their brains, their backs, their knees. Come on. They just need to own up to it, and do something about it. They've got money they can put in funds to take care of guys when they need to help," Dorsett says. "We need health insurance for life. Paid by the NFL. No question in my mind, we definitely need that."
"They use you up. No matter what the circumstances are, it's all about winning games, football games, regardless. And they don't care, because they figure, you know, 'We got, you know, replacement factories,' which are colleges. And there's going to be somebody else to eventually come along and fill that void," he says. "So they just put you out there, and feed you to the wolves. And if you make it through, fine. If you don't, that's fine.
Dorsett frames the NFL's reluctance to care for its ex-players as being un-American. But that's too narrow a point, for this is not about American values. It's about humanity.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! Gather 'round, kids - it's time for another episode of Learning With Woody. Today's lessons:
Now to the actual journalism (maybe): Woody's sense is the Broncos will give Tim Tebow all of 2012 to prove whether he should be their long-term QB or not, and if not then they'll draft a new guy high in the 2013 Draft.
¹ This is not a suggestion that Manning should come to Denver. Really, it's not.
² According to PFF, Tebow ranked 28th out of 31 QBs in terms of deep passing accuracy, despite the 10th-lowest drop rate on such passes (only two drops in 63 attempts).*
* Not saying Tebow can't throw deep or can't improve. Just presenting facts.
When I first moved to Colorado, I was coming from about 250 ft of altitude in Chicago (where I was born) to 9,200 feet up in Summit County. For those not in Colorado, it’s an hour up the interstate 70 and through either Loveland Pass or the Eisenhower Tunnel to get to the main area of the county, which includes Breckenridge, Frisco, Keystone, Silverthorne and other towns and areas. I loved it from the first time I saw it, years before I moved up there.
And, for years after, I’d find myself breathing differently just to go up six steps. It wasn’t hard - but I’ve been told that there’s only a third of the oxygen that there would be in Denver, the Mile High City, so you simply pant more. Denver has a third less oxygen than the air at sea level. Later I trained heavily at the altitude at the Continental Divide and I found that by going down to Denver, still a mile up, to work out it was like drinking oxygen soup. When you train at altitude, you adapt and you get in that kind of condition. I shared a clinic with an expert on high altitude nutrition for the first year I was there and there was no shortage of such cases, so I got a fast indoctrination into the concepts of training at altitude and nutritional approaches to preventing altitude sickness. I then spent another 15 years or so living down lower at the connection of SW Denver metro and the foothills, and I learned about adjusting to that altitude. It’s not complicated. Friends from sea level would visit and quickly adapt. Many did so in a few days which is medically about normal. Rehydrating consistently and taking simple over the counter nutrients is all that’s required in the vast majority of cases. And a professional athlete is at a vastly lower risk than an average person.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! The Super Bowl is only four days away, but the biggest news in Indy continues to circle around Peyton Manning, who says his recovery is on schedule and that he has no plans to retire. In an interview with the Worldwide Leader, Manning said,
I really feel good. I continue to make progress every day. Everything that the doctors have told me has been on point, which is encouraging to me. I just had a great day today with rehab, just got back from the facility, and that's what we continue to do. Just keep trying to get better. So far I have. That's the plan from here on out.
Meanwhile, he told Dan Wetzel.
I have no plans on [retiring]. All the other talk, it is what it is. My plan hasn’t changed. I’m on track with what the doctors told me to do. I’m doing that. I’m rehabbing hard. And I’m enjoying this week.
Barry Petchesky thinks Peter King and Jason Cole went a bit far in their coverage of Manning's rehab this week; in their younger days, Peyton used to dole out some knowledge along with the beatings he gave Eli.
As we ramped up to the Senior Bowl, a few names came up that Broncos fans may want to keep an eye on. There’s little doubt that Denver will need a top man corner in the near future. Safety is an issue, with Brian Dawkins unsure of his return and the number of injuries that have plagued the team at that position. Then there’s the running back the Broncos need, probably a wide receiver (although hopefully a veteran who can teach and catch, like, oh, Jabar Gaffney or someone) and the constant need for ever-better defensive line players. The OL is very young already, but you never miss a chance to upgrade if you can take it rationally. Since you can only do so much, I mostly wanted to take a look at some of the names that we can watch on defense, given the issues that Denver has there.
Denver’s front office and scouting team did a heck of a job of putting together a front defensive line for 2011, but there’s still some work to do going forward. They have a one-gap penetrating line that needs the discipline to sniff out the screen, but the ability to get pressure consistently. Former longtime NFL GM Ernie Accorsi said once, in essence, that beyond a QB and his protection, you can’t have too many pass rushers. Defenses that also play the run tough are even more difficult to go up against. Getting a first-rounder with both attributes, if he’s still there, makes the middle more powerful early on. It’s one option.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! Let's lead off with a phenomenal quote from Von Miller (via Jeff Legwold) about being taken off the field during Denver's Week 5 home loss to the Chargers. Keep in mind, Von is only 22 years old (he'll turn 23 in March):
Something like that had never happened to me before. They took me off the field, and I had to watch other people play because of my mistakes. I felt like I was better than that and that it would make me stronger, but right then you kind of think you weren't ready. But they want to see how you do with that too. You can't just fold up. You have to be strong. I was determined to be strong and show the coaches and my teammates that I'm a guy they can rely on.
That's a remarkable bit of self-awareness and perspective, especially from an elite young athlete. One has to figure the Broncos didn't need to think long about whether to draft Von after seeing his tape and interviewing him at the Senior Bowl.