The Lard

A comprehensive daily examination of NFL happenings and analysis

The Daily Lard 2-11-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! A pair of academic economists thinks the end of football is a much stronger likelihood than most of us are willing to consider, especially as we learn more about the wide-ranging and long-lasting effects of head injuries. Tyler Cowen and Kevin Grier believe either liability suits or potentially conclusive medical research linking CTE to football will bring down our beloved sport, as parents seek to protect their children and those involved in the sport at the coaching and administrative levels depart due to litigation fears.

An earlier Grantland piece by Jonah Lehrer (sorry to say we missed this one the first time around) addresses the difficulties facing high school coaches and medical staffs as they attempt to prevent, diagnose, and treat concussions. Sadly, even the most generously funded and purely intentioned of programs appear to be losing that battle, which cannot speak well for those with smaller budgets and less institutional dedication to attacking a problem which may have no solution.

If that's the case, Cowen and Grier suggest that basketball will become America's sport if or when football loses its stranglehold. So, how about this Jeremy Lin?

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The Daily Lard 2-10-12

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! My, how quickly things have changed in Oakland. It was only last February that the Raiders gave CB Stanford Routt a puzzling $20M in guarantees to stick around, later restructuring his deal to make it a five-year contract worth a potential $54.5M (but with no extra guarantees beyond the $20M). These were the kind of kooky decisions Al Davis made - with both of his starting corners hitting free agency, Big Al gave Routt only $5M less in guarantees than all-world CB Nnamdi Asomugha ended up getting from the Eagles.

Since then, Davis has moved on to another world, Huebris Jackson is no longer the coach, and Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen are now running the show. Yesterday, the duo established in full that the Raiders are their team, and they put the entire roster on notice by cutting Routt, who had allowed nine touchdowns and dubiously led the league with 17 penalties called against him in 2011.

Routt's agent has reportedly already garnered interest from Buffalo and Tennessee, but no matter where the 2005 second-rounder lands, the message is clear: McKenzie and Allen will not hesitate to differentiate themselves from Davis's ways - which can only be a bad thing for the Broncos and the rest of the AFC West.

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The Daily Lard 2-9-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! It's time again for Woody's Mailbag! Let's see what he's got for us on this fine morn:

There are so many people who think they can "fix" Tebow...Bratkowski and Martinez both think Tebow will be a great passing quarterback...Sean Salisbury, the former NFL quarterback who worked for ESPN for years, said (not to me, but to various others) during the Super Bowl week that he could "fix" Tim Tebow in two weeks and turn him into a "60 percent completion" quarterback.

Yes, clearly everyone who says they can fix Tim's problems are saying so out of purely charitable honesty. There's no ego or self-interest involved. Tell me Woody - is someone really going to say No, I can't fix Tim? Of course not - it's not like Tim is an uncoordinated, unathletic spaz. OF COURSE HE CAN BE FIXED. Tim could also become a concert pianist or an NBA point guard if he put in enough time.

BTW Woodrow, why in the wide world of sports would Timmy want to work with Sean Salisbury? Because he was such a great QB himself? Because he's successfully coached so many other QBs?

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The Daily Lard 2-8-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Only a week after saying he'd be back with the Ravens in 2012, Ricky Williams announced his (second) retirement from the NFL yesterday; he attributed the decision to his own self-reflection after having received a text message from Bill Parcells which read, "Don't chase this thing too long. You can contribute in other ways."

The first time Williams retired was just days before the start of Dolphins training camp in 2004, when it was rumored he had had a third positive drug test and would be ineligible for the season anyway. After coming out of retirement in 2005 and playing that season for the Dolphins, Williams had another positive drug test and was suspended for the 2006 season, which he instead spent in the CFL with the Toronto Argonauts. Williams returned to the Dolphins the next year but suffered a season-ending injury during his first game back.

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The Daily Lard 2-7-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! In his latest mailbag, Mike Klis thinks veteran QBs won't shy away from Tebowmania because they all probably think/know they can beat Tim in a fair QB competition, and he puzzlingly posits that, "The only way the Broncos reach the Super Bowl within the next three years is if Tebow leads them." Three years, really?

According to Klis, Jack Del Rio has a two-year contract (not sure we knew that prior), and he suggests that even if Del Rio leaves after a year for another HC gig, perhaps a revolving door at DC won't be as big a deal under John Fox as it was with Shanny and McDaniels. I'll buy that.

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The Daily Lard 2-6-12

Welcome to the offseason, Broncos fans! For the second time in five seasons, the Giants took down the favored Patriots in the Super Bowl - this time 21-17 for their fourth SB title, all of which have come in the past 26 seasons. Eli Manning again earned SB MVP honors with a late fourth-quarter drive; it started with an exceptional throw and catch to Mario Manningham and ended with the Patriots intentionally allowing (ala the Packers in SB 32) Ahmad Bradshaw to score a TD he tried not to score. But momentum carried Bradshaw into the end zone, leaving Tom Brady and the Pats 57 seconds left to score a TD, and the game ended with a Hail Mary pass that ended up being a bit closer than anyone likely expected it to be.

The Manningham catch would easily be the longest play of the game, and arguably the most important one. From New England's perspective, the game turned just 20 seconds prior on a dropped pass by Wes Welker just outside the Giants 20-yard line. As Brian Burke details, there were few big plays and the game overall was rather unexciting for one with such a close result. This marks the NFC's third straight SB win, and the Giants are the first 9-7 team to take the title; the 2010 Packers, 1988 Niners, and 2007 Giants are the only 10-6 champs. 19 regular season wins in two SB-winning seasons - seven fewer than the '97-'98 Broncos tallied.

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The Daily Lard 2-5-12

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.

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The Daily Lard 2-4-12

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.

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The Daily Lard 2-3-12

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.

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The Daily Lard 2-2-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Gather 'round, kids - it's time for another episode of Learning With Woody. Today's lessons:

  1. March 8 (when Peyton Manning's roster bonus is due) falls this year "at the end of" the month.
  2. Denver isn't close enough to the SB for Manning to join the Broncos, but the Redskins and Dolphins are.¹
  3. The Broncos would have gone 4-12 if Kyle Orton was the QB all year, and this is an indisputable fact.
  4. Demaryius Thomas drops too many passes and runs "pretty lousy" routes.
  5. Denver needs better from Thomas, because Tebow "can make that (deep) throw." ²

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.

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