When we last left Vivendi Entertainment’s star-famished fluffer, Peter King, he was complaining how the NFL Combine was a sitcom about nothing and a boring waste of everyone’s time, but, boy, those football people sure know how to mine it for television nuggets. He also kept demanding an apology from the Red Sox for the beer and fried chicken fiasco of 2011, ’cause PK is the worst.
So what about this week? Obviously, Peter King is very concerned about bounties and how they affect Saints players who got hurt playing for the team before Gregg Williams ever arrived. What does PK think is the newsiest thing about the scandal, from the standpoint of the news? Is Favre willing to testify on the stand about how newsy it is? READ ON.
On Friday night of Super Bowl weekend, I met Steve Gleason, the former Saint now suffering with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), at a restaurant in downtown Indianapolis. There was a big group at the table. Gleason, as part of his foundation to help ALS patients live meaningful lives, brought a fellow patient from Louisiana with him, and I brought along a couple of guests, including a friend, Field Yates, once an intern with Bill Belichick’s Patriots. Yates told a story of a Patriots game against the Saints during Gleason’s career, and how Belichick had told him to watch Gleason on the field, because he was one of the best special-teamers in the NFL. “Just watch,” Belichick told him. Sure enough, Gleason creamed a Patriot, legally, on a kicking-team play during the game.
Someone brought up the crushing hits by James Harrison of the Steelers, and Gleason turned wistful. “I used to love those hits,” Gleason said. “Now I don’t love them so much anymore.”
Shocking that the guy who developed ALS IDON’TKNOWMAYBE because of football might not be so crazy about devastating hits. Follow up with Belichick and see if he’s still haunted by that memory.
Gleason is 34. His brother, Kyle, fed him that night because ALS has robbed Steve of the ability to completely control his muscle movements. No one knows for sure if a life in football caused the ALS that ravages Gleason now, but at least one study has made a direct link between ALS and the hard hits of football, and Gleason has his suspicions. As do I.
I found myself thinking about this scene over the weekend, with the news that the Saints of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, two years after Gleason left the team, began paying defensive players bounties to knock opponents out of games, and for making difference-making plays.
Oh, so this harrowing anecdote has nothing to do with bounties at all. Terrific. This is like leading off a story about the dangers of drunk driving with the tale of someone skidding into a guardrail because he was driving in the snow.
And I thought of Gleason because the game of football is vicious enough with the legal hits Gleason made sprinting downfield on special teams. Imagine players tempted by a cash bonus to be even more vicious, to knock important foes like Kurt Warner and Brett Favre out of games.
This does such a shameful disservice to Steve Gleason that I almost puke thinking about it.
PK projectile vomits the citrus beer and consistent latte spew of indignation at the very thought of players disregarding the memory of Steve Gleason, even though bounties existed and were ignored in Gleason’s playing days as well as the years before he entered the league. Moreover, Gleason’s condition is more relevant to the changes that were made to special teams play, which is where he sustained his biggest hits. That the NFL changed its kickoff rules and reportedly significantly lowered concussions as a result is a bigger nod to Gleason’s legacy than whether of not the league comes down hard on Gregg Williams.
No one’s naïve enough to suggest the Saints are alone here, or that Gregg Williams-led teams are the only ones to practice this act.
But are there those fatuous enough to support throwing Gregg Williams out of the league for doing what many others also do? Yeah, there are plenty of those.
I don’t doubt other teams in full desperado mode have had and still have bounty systems in place. But it’s like doing 72 in a 60-mph zone and seeing other cars zip past you, and having the cop pull you over. Officer, what about the cars passing me! They’re speeding faster than I was! True. But you’re guilty. And you’re the one that got pulled over.
I’ve heard the nutty the-league-has-it-out-for-the-Saints theories over the weekend — Goodell wants to put cocky Sean Payton in his place, the league wants to corral a team playing by its own rules. Nonsense. Goodell brought the hammer down on one of his closest league allies, Bob Kraft of the Patriots, four years ago in Spygate. Goodell, on many occasions, has brought the hammer down on his single closest league ally, Dan Rooney of the Steelers, by a steady stream of fines for excessive hits by Steeler players.
Yes, Goodell is Solomonic in his ability to pinpoint troubling practices that many teams are guilty of and take it out on just one. Sometimes, that team is a league darling, so it’s okay. I doubt the NFL “has it out” for the Saints, but New Orleans is getting the shaft in this ordeal. Back in ’08, Terrell Suggs admitted that the Ravens had bounties (yeah, he clumsily backtracked on that statement shortly thereafter), except Brian Billick, who had coached the team the season prior, also admitted that the Ravens (not to mention other teams) engaged in bounties. He basically just faulted Suggs for discussing it publicly. Where was the league investigation on that?
Fair or unfair, whether everyone does it or not, the Saints got caught urging their players to hurt players on other teams — and paying them through a players’ slush fund to try to do it. It’s beyond reprehensible. If Goodell doesn’t come down very hard, just what will he come down hard on?
Pennyante uniform violations, probably.
Goodell has a few reasons to issue a string of suspensions the likes of which the league has never seen. (Don’t think Spygate sanctions here, folks. Think Alex Karras-Paul Hornung sanctions. The Patriots got fines and lost a first-round pick for illegal videotaping. In 1962, Karras and Hornung got a year for gambling.) He has to worry about the message he sends to other teams and make sure they scurry to stop all such off-the-books payment and bounty systems. He has to defend the league against head-trauma-related lawsuits and show that the NFL is aggressively trying to make the game safe. And there’s the specter (idiotic, in my opinion) of the 18-game schedule, which only has a chance if somehow the league can prove through safer equipment and maniacal attention to erasing things like bounty programs that more games won’t be an overt safety risk to players.
And here PK inadvertently stumbles onto the real reason why the NFL manufactured this freakout. Former players are filing lawsuits against the league. The Rog is still dead set on achieving his plan for an 18-game season. The easiest way to realize this and to avoid litigation is to show that the NFL is, and has always been, a force for safety. After all, hey, Goodell’s tried his level best to make the game safe, but these damn mindless players and their malicious coaches are too busy trying to kill one another with their bounties. “We had no idea!”
Regarding the penalties: I’m not saying Williams will get a year. He might; I don’t know that.
Could the NFL ban him, his children and his children’s children… for three months? MAYBE
If you’re a Saints fan today and you’re worried about Goodell’s discipline, you should be. Recall this Dick Ebersol story from the end of my Goodell profile 13 months ago in SI. The story ran on the eve of the start of serious negotiations between the players and owners last year for a new bargaining agreement.
In 2004, when Ebersol was mourning the loss of his 14-year-old son, Teddy, in a plane crash, Goodell got Paul Tagliabue and then-NFLPA head Gene Upshaw to each fund a suite in the dormitory the Ebersol family had donated to Teddy’s private school in Connecticut. Dick Ebersol was overcome with emotion when he toured the dorm and saw little plaques outside the two rooms, side by side, noting the NFL’s and NFLPA’s generosity. It’s a gesture from Goodell the Ebersol family will never forget.
Fast-forward to the 2009 negotiations for a two-year extension, through 2013, to NBC’s contract with the NFL. The NFL, according to Ebersol, was stuck on a rights fee of $600 million year for the 2012 and 2013 seasons, though NBC wasn’t getting a Super Bowl in either season. Ebersol and Goodell had a few back-and-forth discussions, and Goodell finally said the NFL wouldn’t pay a dime more. “There was a coldness and a ‘that’s it’ kind of tone in Roger’s voice that was chilling,” Ebersol said.
Goodell went from being a lackey who performed kind deeds for a top official at one of the NFL’s most important business partners to being a forceful negotiator who was also then commissioner IN ONLY FIVE YEARS!? There’s no telling what you’ll get out of this guy.
“At his heart,” said Ebersol, “Roger can be a cold son of a bitch. I think the people on the other side of the negotiating table are going to hear that in the coming months. This really nice man is going to show mettle, and he’s going to do what he thinks is best for the National Football League. It’s what he’s always done.”
“And he’ll do it while doing one-armed push-ups, with the other arm choking Gregg Williams, but not in a way that shames Steve Gleason!”
Favre isn’t that angry — but he is glad the truth is coming out. I caught Favre at the end of a day planting soybeans on his ranch in southern Mississippi Friday.
The story had broken two hours earlier, and his cell phone kept vibrating. That’s how he knew something was up.
Because Favre hadn’t yet figured out how to use his phone and hadn’t given his number to anyone.
When I told him the extent of it, and the Vilma story, I waited for his reaction. “Hmmmm,” he said, and paused. “That’s about it.”
“But don’t quote me on that.”
With Favre, the reaction is rarely three words long.
Words? No. Inches? MAYBE
“I’m not pissed,” he said. “It’s football. I don’t think anything less of those guys. I would have loved to play with Vilma. Hell of a player. I’ve got a lot of respect for Gregg Williams. He’s a great coach. I’m not going to make a big deal about it. In all honesty, there’s a bounty of some kind on you on every play. Now, in that game there were some plays that, I don’t want to say were odd, but I’d throw the ball and whack, on every play. Hand it off, whack. Over and over. Some were so blatant. I hand the ball to Percy Harvin early and got drilled right in the chin. They flagged that one at least.
“I don’t wanna say they were odd, because I found them incredibly blatant. I would’ve loved to have been on their side. Jared Allen, for all his talk, just don’t know about the hunt.”
“I’ve always been friends with Darren Sharper, and he came in a couple times and popped me hard. I remember saying, ‘What THE hell you doing, Sharp?’
GIT OFF THE DANG ROOF!
As for the story finally seeing the light of day, Favre said: “Now the truth comes out. That’s good. But that’s football. The only thing that really pisses me off about the whole thing is we lost the game. That’s the thing about that day that still bothers me. And that’s the way it goes. If they wanted me to testify in court about this, they’d be calling the wrong guy.”
CLASSIC UNDERHANDED FUCK FACE FAVRE!
“Naww, I understand the code. I’d never speak ill of another player. You got me? They can do what they want to me. I’m a man. Call me to the stand and I’ll plead the Fifth, even though they was clearly cheating and I’m glad those fucknuts got caught and I hope they fry. Never would I say that in court, though. You got that, little reporter buddy? Now read the quote back to me to make sure you got it right.”
This gives head coaches and general managers a teaching point. One coach said to me over the weekend that he had nothing like this going on with his team — but he’d be sure at his next full staff meeting to tell everyone in the room that if that goes on at any point in the future, the offending assistant coach should expect to be fired. Imagine the guts a coach would have to possess to continue a bounty program now. He’d have a death wish.
NFL Head Coach: “Uhhhh, yeah, no. Nothing like that going on around here…”
[Races into team headquarters to tear down bounty update white board, pictures of Boba Fett taped to player lockers and burn down bounty collectors' VIP party room]
Can Peyton Manning’s neck injury be traced to Gregg Williams?
Did Gregg Williams develop NeckAIDs in a laboratory to infect the Fetushead community? Read about it in next month’s issue of Adbusters.
Afterward, as I wrote last fall in this column, Dungy told me: “Earlier in the game, I’m outraged that there was a flag for roughing-the-passer on Dwight Freeney for just grazing the quarterback’s helmet. So I’m yelling at the ref [Scott Green], ‘Where’s the flag! Where’s the flag!’ And I don’t yell much, but I did then.
I usually yelled at fags, not flags, because something something QUIET STRENGTH.
/concedes that Philip Daniels’ hit on Peyton was pretty damn dirty
“Then we sort of forgot about it at halftime, and Peyton seemed fine,” said Dungy.
Tony Dungy: claims everyone had a bounty on Peyton, forgets about possible debilitating injury after about 20 minutes.
Good sign for Houston.
In the last two seasons, since taking over the starting job, Foster has 2,840 rushing yards in 29 games, and he’s shown the ability to take the kind of pounding a coach like Kubiak likes.
Willingness to destroy your body for a coach? That’s the kind of hustle Steve Gleason loves.
Which leads us to …
Good sign for Seattle.
A fun-loving, Skittles-chomping player, Lynch even got the sedate billionaire owner of the Seahawks, Paul Allen, excited early this morning on Twitter. “BeastMode will be back!! Great news for this young, exciting team & 12th Man.”
BEEF MOE, so dynamic that he got a rich guy away from his robot army long enough to write fewer than 140 characters.
Newsiest thing about this deal, from the standpoint of how it influences the running back market:
And there’s your Peter King Butchered Sentence of the Week.
“The newsiest thing about Sandra Fluke, from the standpoint of how her perceives slutiness with influence the race for the White House…”
“The newsiest thing about Lindsay Lohan’s SNL appearance, from the standpoint of her face not looking like how a face should look:”
On one hand, it provides very little benefit to Ray Rice and Matt Forte, on the surface. Lynch got a deal averaging $7.75 million a year. The franchise tags Rice and Forte will play under — unless they sign long-term deals — is for $7.7 million a year. On the other hand, Rice, for instance, has outgained Lynch by 1,532 yards over the past three years. So shouldn’t he say he’s worth significantly more than Lynch in a four-year deal?
On one hand, Lynch’s deal doesn’t affect either Rice or Forte because both got the franchise tag. On the other hand, LOOK A SANDWICH!
Who is Will Wilson?
Wade Wilson’s even less remarkable brother?
You’ll be hearing a lot of Will Wilson in the next few weeks. He’s Andrew Luck’s agent. Luck is Wilson’s first client. Luck is also Wilson’s nephew.
Oooh, your dipshit uncle as your agent. That worked wonders for Andre Johnson.
As usual, some good nuggets in the Giants’ Super Bowl DVD.
The other points I enjoyed about Vivendi Entertainment’s Super Bowl XLVI Champions: New York Giants:
– Vivendi Entertainment’s advisory about intellectual property theft. Classy, but stern.
– Steve Weatherford playing a harmonica on the sideline in the final minute. THAT GUY IS WACKY!
– Eli Manning admitting the critical pass to Mario Manningham was really his original design for Jersey City concert hall
• Victor Cruz on the field before the Super Bowl, speaking to himself incredulously, sounding like a perfectly programmed Tom Coughlin football player. This Cruz talking to Victor Cruz: “I used to think it was all about me. It’s about this team. THIS TEAM.”
• New England linebacker Jerod Mayo in the huddle with a minute to play, telling his defense to play dead: “Huddle up! Huddle up! Gotta let ‘em score! Gotta let ‘em score!” And they did.
• Finally, Tom Brady, with urgency, just before his Hail Mary on the final play of the game, to Aaron Hernandez: “Run to the goal post and catch it!” That’s exactly what Hernandez tried to do. And failed.
Peter King is about as encouraged by players acting like good automatons as you think he might be.
The RG3 Toteboard
I’m not particularly interested in the odds that Peter gives each team in the RGIII sweepstakes, so much that he describes Miami owner Stephen Ross as “star-famished”. When, oh when, will the Dolphins get more celebrity owners for Ross to eat?
If the 49ers signed Wallace to a front-loaded five-year, $40 million contract, and the Steelers didn’t match, the Steelers would either agree to pay Wallace an onerous contract that would force more cap restructuring, or get the Niners’ first-round pick in this year’s draft, the 30th overall.
In other words, the Steeler worries aren’t over. Wallace is a 25-year-old speed demon with good hands who runs good routes and has been productive, averaging 57 catches and 18.7 yards per catch in his first three years as a Steeler.
Ah, Steeler worries, the most Pittsburgish worries of all. “Is it possible we’ll be TOO good this season?”
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week
Thursday, 5:20 a.m., JetBlue Terminal, JFK Airport, New York: Hundreds of travelers, maybe 2,500 or 3,000, snake around the kiosks in the terminal until they reach the labyrinthine maze to get to the open X-ray portals. It is a stunning sight. Only once in my travels — at the airport in Paris a few years ago — have I seen a security line like this. People enter the terminal and jaws hit the floor. The JetBlues scurry to open more security lines, and finally, after maybe 35 minutes, the line starts moving pretty well. Time to get through security: 66 minutes.
Friday, 5:25 a.m., Baton Rouge (La.) Airport: I am ninth in line for the morning rush (four early planes) at the lone security gate. There is nothing noteworthy to report. No jousting with TSA people. Nothing. Time to get through security: five minutes. The time from my rental-car drop to sitting at the gate: 13 minutes.
I’m truly floored by this. You mean flying out of New York is more of a hassle than Baton Rouge? And there’s more security? No way! Quit fucking with us.
In more groan-inducing but less retardedly bitchy PK travel nuggets:
OH HO HO! All fun and games until it dawns on him that she was distracting him to steal his iPad.
Tweet of the Week II
“Dolphins’ Joe Philbin, in the row behind me on flight home, spent hours reading Pat Riley’s The Winner Within, taking notes on yellow pad.”
— NFL.com’s @JeffDarlington, on his plane-mate on the way home from the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last week.
“Chapter 4: How to keep your owner from eating your stars.”
Tweet of the Week III
“Tek is the epitome of hard work and dedication… he will be missed in our clubhouse. It’s been an honor to be his teammate. #captain
— @JacobyEllsbury, Red Sox center fielder, on the retirement of catcher Jason Varitek.
I hope he drinks and fried chickens himself to death now.
Tweet of the Week IV
“People who tell me they’re tired of reading about Peyton are same ones who said they got tired of OJ coverage — and watched every minute”
— @bkravitz, columnist Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star, on the apparently insatiable desire of his readers for more Peyton Manning coverage.
Ten Things I Think I Think
2. I think if any of the 22 players implicated in the Saints’ bounty program ever ends up in one of the burgeoning concussion or football-as-long-term-damage lawsuits 10 years from now, I hope the judge takes one look at the suit, chuckles, and says, “Are you kidding? Get out of here.”
Ten Goodell Talking Points I Think I Wanna Repeat
6. I think Tom Coughlin deserves a back-pat for doing the right thing and naming Kevin M. Gilbride the team’s receivers’ coach. Coughlin had denied Gilbride, who served as the team’s offensive quality control coach and was the son of offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, the opportunity to interview for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ quarterback coaching job. And he didn’t immediately give Kevin M. Gilbride a bigger job, but he did late in the week, which was clearly the right thing to do.
Ha ha, Giants. You’ll never be rid of the Gilbrides now.
8. I think that was a good hire of Bill Polian, ESPN. You’ll be able to get him to talk, and about important things.
Oh good. I feared for a while that Polian would only be allowed to come on the air to talk of silly things and skylarkings.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
b. Toured the expanded Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center on the campus of Montclair (N.J.) State the other day. What a treat. The place is a treasure trove of baseball history — with Berra’s jersey from the Don Larson perfect World Series game, rings from throughout his career, used bats and gloves from the ’50s. And the love letters from Yogi to his future wife are so charming. The place is used for coaching clinics, educational seminars, speeches, book signings and readings, but it’s worth it to just drop by and spend two hours soaking in baseball history up close.
Jesus, the combine sounds like a coke and hookers party compared to that shit. That sounds like where you spend the afternoon before Bob Costas date rapes you.
c. Dick Ebersol has urged me not to mention anything about politics in this presidential-election year. And so I won’t. But as a college grad and father of two college graduates and a husband of a college graduate, boy, am I dying to.
We owe Dick Ebersol a debt of gratitude for keeping PK from airing his squishy limousine liberal views for at least a week or two.
e. I can’t believe you didn’t know who Adrian Gonzalez was, Adam Schefter.
Tough talk from an NFL writer who only knows who two players eligible for the draft are.
g. I’ve seen a couple of ads for the Masters, which starts a month from today. After going last year and crossing it off my bucket list, I strongly, strongly urge any of you who’ve thought twice about doing it to act on it, if you can afford it. One of the things I recall is being impressed with the course not being overcrowded, and being able to get pretty close to most any tee box and certainly having room to stand in the fairways right next to players hitting shots.
It was a luxurious as an airline trip out of New Orleans. What’s that? You’re too hung up with “work” or “not having enough” money to go to the Masters. Now let’s be fair. Peter King didn’t have to pay for his tickets to The Masters last year, because luckily he’s completely devoid of things like professional integrity, which conveniently allowed him to accept free tickets from THE FUCKING VICE PRESIDENT OF A SPORTS MARKETING FIRM.
i. Trading Rondo, Danny Ainge? Linsane.
Fuck. I take it back. Someone give PK free tickets to The Masters so he stops trying to discuss the NBA. I’d rather he talk politics.
j. Go get him, Rachel Maddow.
Or maybe I’d just rather kill myself. Way to disguise those liberal-learning views, Peter. “ATTA GIRL, RACHEL! FOUR MORE YEARS! FOUR MORE YEARS!”
k. I am either old or out of touch with modern sports or both, because these first two paragraphs of a USA Today story confused me: “This weekend’s title bout for Strikeforce will mark the first time a major promotion leads a card using a women’s division with staying power. Bantamweight champion Miesha Tate and challenger Ronda Rousey will enter the cage Saturday (10 p.m. ET, Showtime) at Nationwide Arena more than 2 ½ years after Christiane ‘Cyborg’ Santos defeated Gina Carano in the main event of s Strikeforce card in August 2009. This time the women have a realistic chance of producing future headliners.”
What is “Strikeforce?” And the third graph tells me this is MMA (mixed martial arts). But I still have no idea what the first sentence in this story means. I guess I must be lower than the lowest common denominator the paper is trying to reach. I don’t get it.
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!? I’m not even that big of an MMA fan and I understood it perfectly. As for Strikeforce, they’ve had events on network television, you obtuse fuck. Still unclear on the concept? It’s called Google, shitbird. Use it. All the top results for Strikeforce will explain what it is. “Who’s this Gina Carano woman? I thought he was only that charming ingenue in Soderbergh movies.”
m. Beernerdness: Don’t know how good you’ve had it until you walk into a restaurant in Manhattan, far from Portland, Maine, and they have Allagash White on the beer menu. Heavenly.
Oh yeah, Allagash, a tiny unknown regional brewery so obscure that they sell their beer in the fucking Costco near me in Northern Virginia. Now, maybe if they had Allagash Curieux on tap, that would be a decent find, but run-of-the-mill citrus-y Allagash White? Anything but the diviest dives will have that shit.
I want more like this!
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