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Old-School Mike Ditka Says Players Lawsuit is Bogus


Don't you love the old tough guys of the NFL? I do, and when they speak, I listen. The Chicago Sun Times had a question for Mike Ditka, the former tight end great for the Chicago Bears and, later, their coach who led them to the 1985 Super Bowl. What did Ditka think of the lawsuit involving the more than 500 former players who are suing the NFL alleging the league supplied them with painkillers, including narcotics, without getting proper prescriptions or warning them about possible side effects or long-term consequences? Some of the players involved played for Ditka on that Super Bowl-winning team: Richard Dent, Jim McMahon and Keith Van Horne. What are they trying to accomplish? "I don't know, I have no idea," Ditka told the paper. "Did they know what they were doing when they did it? I don't know. The game of football has been too good to me. I have injuries. I've had things that have happened to me. But I'm not going to sit back and complain about what's happened to me." Ditka admitted he took painkillers during his career. "I took injections all the time to kill the pain," he said. "Novocaine. Cortisone. Did it affect me? Yeah, it shortened my career, but so what? I had a great career. I'm still living off football." I might not agree with him, but Ditka, like a lot of the old, tough guys, sure has a way of reducing issues to black and white. Now, from old-school, to new-wave. Here are the rookies of the 2014 draft that really stood out during the recent rookie mini-camps. - Getty ImagesOld-School Mike Ditka Says Players Lawsuit is Bogus originally appeared on Football on Tuesday, May 27th, 2014 at 14:03:09.Permalink | Comment | Email this[...]

Psst! Want a Super Bowl? Got a Billion Dollars?


The latest price the NFL charges to buy a Super Bowl for your city? A billion dollars. That's how much it will cost to build the new stadium in Minneapolis, which was just awarded the 2018 Super Bowl by the NFL owners. Taxpayers will pay about half that. Minneapolis won out over New Orleans. People, people! I ask you: Where would you rather be in February for the country's biggest week-long party, Minneapolis or New Orleans? Come to think of it, where would you rather be any time of the year, Minneapolis or New Orleans? Yeah, I know, but what are you going to do? The NFL fat cats hold all the cards. If you want to host a Super Bowl, make your citizens dig deep into their pockets and give it up for a brand new, super-cool stadium the league can show the world during Super Bowl week. What a deal: Vast sums of public money doled out to benefit billionaire owners and millionaire players. Hey, speaking of hypocrisy on a monumental scale, click here for my in-depth look into the Michael Sam circus. - Getty ImagesPsst! Want a Super Bowl? Got a Billion Dollars? originally appeared on Football on Thursday, May 22nd, 2014 at 14:40:21.Permalink | Comment | Email this[...]

Sad and Sorry: Texas Longhorns and SEC Quarterbacks


What the heck has happened to Texas and SEC quarterbacks? The Texas Longhorns, one of the storied programs in college football history, did not have a single player picked in the 2014 NFL draft. As for the quarterbacks, a guy from the American Athletic Conference was the first pick! Oh, you mean that conference with Rutgers, Temple and Memphis? Yes, them. Johnny Manziel slid to No. 22 and he had to beg the Browns to take him at that spot. A.J. McCarron did not go until the fifth round. This is a guy who led Alabama to two straight college championships, something no one, not even Joe Namath, Steve Spurrier, Archie Manning or his son Peyton or even the mighty, mighty Tim Tebow accomplished. Then there was Zach Mettenberger of LSU, picked No. 178 overall by Tennessee. Of course, he was hurt a lot and reportedly failed a drug test. And Aaron Murray of Georgia, who was also picked in the fifth round. He's also damaged goods, and fairly little to boot. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Now, for a story on how the mighty will rise. Here are my picks for the 2014 rookie class of quarterbacks most likely to find fame and fortune in the NFL. Hint: One of them has been mentioned here, and his name is not Johnny Football. - Getty ImagesSad and Sorry: Texas Longhorns and SEC Quarterbacks originally appeared on Football on Monday, May 19th, 2014 at 12:28:35.Permalink | Comment | Email this[...]

Hey NFL: Pay the Cheerleaders!


The NFL rarely changes anything that is morally or ethically wrong unless it is ordered to by a judge or embarrassed into it by public reaction. And, forgive me for writing about NFL cheerleaders, but it's difficult not to with the growing number of lawsuits. Several cheerleaders from teams around the league have filed suit. I'm not normally a litigious sort, but when I learned what these women make - especially in relation to the gazillions being raked in by owners, players, commissioners and pretty much everybody connected to the game except cheerleaders - I started cheering for the cheerleaders. Cheerleaders usually earn between $100-$150 per game, and those are the starters. Alternates get paid nothing. Even backup quarterbacks who never play a down earn millions. It's ridiculous. The NFL has handled it like most everything else. When the Buffalo Bills cheerleaders file suit against the team, they were unceremoniously eliminated. The NFL and its teams continue to fight for its right to pay cheerleaders slave wages. The league should be ashamed of itself. These teams shouldn't be though. They win my coveted awards for being the winners of the 2014 NFL draft. - Getty Images  Hey NFL: Pay the Cheerleaders! originally appeared on Football on Thursday, May 15th, 2014 at 12:54:58.Permalink | Comment | Email this[...]

NFL Quarterbacks: The Changing of the Game


The hot NFL quarterback, or quarterback prospect, of today can beat you with his feet or his arm, harkening to the way-back days of pro football yore. But, pocket passers are still highly valued in the league. After all, the two best are Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. And look at the first quarterback chosen in the 2014 NFL draft. Blake Bortles has impressive mobility for a big guy, 6-feet-5 and 240 pounds, but he was chosen third overall by the Jaguars mainly for his arm strength and ability to fire away from the pocket. What's happening is the NFL is adjusting to the strengths of the young quarterbacks coming out of college. More and more teams are adding spread offense options, to get the QB out of the pocket and give defenses more headaches to defend. Look at next year's top prospects: Jameis Winston of the national champion Florida State Seminoles, Marcus Mariota of Oregon and Brett Hundley of UCLA. Each of them brings different strengths to the game and, of course, at this point, different weaknesses. The result overall is the NFL game, offensively, has been more exciting and imaginative these past few years than it was in the not-so-distant past when quarterbacks stood like statues in the pocket and fired away. The good news is I don't see that changing for a good long while. - Getty ImagesNFL Quarterbacks: The Changing of the Game originally appeared on Football on Thursday, May 15th, 2014 at 12:30:01.Permalink | Comment | Email this[...]

Did Cleveland Browns Really Want Johnny Manziel?


What's the only thing that grows in Cleveland? The crime rate. OK, I promise no more Cleveland jokes. The question today is did Teddy Bridgewater's disdain of Cleveland play a role in the 2014 NFL draft. Quarterbacks Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel were both on the board when the Browns traded their 26th pick of the first round and a second-round pick to the Eagles in exchange for the 22nd selection. The Browns deny it, but persistent reports keep coming out that the Browns wanted Bridgewater. Bridgewater himself has said publicly he told his agent he did not want to play in Cleveland. Cleveland, according to these pesky reports, switched their pick at the last minute from Bridgewater to Manziel. Bridgewater was the last selection of the first round, going to Minnesota. The Cleveland franchise is a mess, in the front office and on the field, which lends credence to the Bridgewater story. I doubt either quarterback will become a solid starter in the NFL. - Getty ImagesDid Cleveland Browns Really Want Johnny Manziel? originally appeared on Football on Thursday, May 15th, 2014 at 11:11:25.Permalink | Comment | Email this[...]

2014 NFL Draft Obliterates TV Records



That extended buildup for the NFL draft that writers have been whining about for months has paid off big-time - for the networks.

The draft, delayed until May 8 this year because of scheduling conflicts, broke all records for coverage on ESPN and the NFL Network. It had a total viewership of 32 million in the first round. That's a whopping 28 percent higher than last year.

So, far from getting bored with the incessant draft coverage, fans embraced it. Or maybe they just turned it off - I mean, how many mock drafts can you take? - and waited for the event to finally unfold.

Now, league officials may just keep it in May, instead of April.

If they don't, they're idiots.

- Getty Images

2014 NFL Draft Obliterates TV Records originally appeared on Football on Thursday, May 15th, 2014 at 10:43:37.

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The Straight Dope: NFL Players Smoking Weed in Locker Room?


Imagine the new NFL trainer's room: guys sitting around with Ravi Shankar on the stereo, some beer in the cooler and a few ounces of weed on the table. Well, maybe everything except Ravi Shankar and the beer. The NFL is changing its drug policy and one of those changes involves lighter penalties for marijuana and increase the thresholds for positive tests, according to ESPN. Dan Graziano of ESPN writes that the league should take it further - much further - and look into the drug's pain-relieving abilities. I couldn't agree more. Marijuana is becoming more and more accepted these days, legally and ethically, and the herb has enormous medicinal promise. The NFL is a brutal sport and most players suffer pain on a regular basis. The league has shown itself to be more open-minded in recent days. It would not surprise me if players will one day fairly soon be smoking a bud in the training room. What an image. What are your thoughts? Also, what do you think of the accusation Seattle essentially "fixed" the NFC title game by selective ticket sales? - Getty Images  The Straight Dope: NFL Players Smoking Weed in Locker Room? originally appeared on Football on Thursday, May 15th, 2014 at 10:23:46.Permalink | Comment | Email this[...]

NFL Schedule Released: Prime-Time Party Games!


The NFL regular-season schedule has been released, and if you're one of those who likes to mix in a little partying with your NFL, you might want to start planning now. We'll get to the whole schedule shortly, but right now here's a little taste. The first weekend is perfect for a NFL kickoff party. Great games and it will still be warm enough for some outdoor grilling. The Kickoff Game features Green Bay at Seattle, Thursday, Sept. 4 on CBS. The Seahawks open their Super Bowl defense against a team capable of knocking over anybody. Really, why not just stretch the party out the whole weekend? Because on Sunday, the marquee matchups are San Francisco at Dallas and New England at Miami. A few hours later in prime-time, you've got the Colts at the Broncos. That means a possible future Hall of Fame quarterback, Andrew Luck of the Colts, against a certain Hall of Fame quarterback, Peyton Manning. Then on Monday night, you've got a doubleheader: The New York Giants at Detroit - another Manning, Eli, for the Giants and strong-armed Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson for the Lions, and San Diego at Arizona. Party on. Here's the whole schedule. Now, back to the here and now, specifically the upcoming NFL draft. Here's a shot of reality for all those who are getting too excited: last year's first-rounders who sucked this past season. - Getty ImagesNFL Schedule Released: Prime-Time Party Games! originally appeared on Football on Thursday, April 24th, 2014 at 09:37:25.Permalink | Comment | Email this[...]

Mocking the Mock NFL Drafts


Some - well, almost all - of the hundreds of NFL mock drafts going around remind me of when I used to be a travel writer. When I did research on a place before going, I often read travel articles, many of which were found, naturally, in travel magazines. To say that most travel stories are "fawning" would be an understatement of gargantuan proportions, with the obvious and notable exception, of course, of the travel section. Most of them were so over-the-top embarrassing and misleading, that I would choose the most flowery and ridiculous by singling them out in an attempt to humiliate the writers. It never did. These people prided themselves on being travel mouthpieces. They just wanted free trips, and they would do anything to get them. Sportswriters aren't nearly as bad - nothing on earth is as bad as bad travel writing - but they do tend to be a little too positive about most of the projected first-round draft choices. After all, a lot of first-rounders fail. They can't all be can't-miss prospects. Here's my mock draft, painstakingly developed with respect to whom I think teams should draft, according to my research. It's fascinating enough, but right before the NFL draft on May 8, look for a story on those certain first-rounders who I think will fail. I think that one will be more interesting, or at least more fun. - Getty Images  Mocking the Mock NFL Drafts originally appeared on Football on Monday, April 21st, 2014 at 13:37:57.Permalink | Comment | Email this[...]