When we last left our favorite broccoli-topped scribe, he was doling out fantasy football advice, inviting people to join his daughter’s fantasy football league and telling the world he usually is ninth in her fantasy league. Circle of life, my friends. King also lobbied for a pay increase for flight attendants, so let’s see if he offers his support to the striking workers in the retail and fast-food industry this week.
There’s only one story today, still.
It’s football season?
I know the season is three days away, and the concussion case settlement is four days old. But this head trauma issue was the nuclear cloud that hung over the game, and I think there are things you need to know—particularly you who would trash the settlement as being too meager. “Chump change,’’ I believe many of you called it on Twitter and elsewhere.
I myself expressed my disgust with the settlement amount by vandalizing the Frolic Room’s bathroom walls.
We’ll have all week, and the bottom 3,500 words of this column,
to trumpet the opening of the league’s 94th season. This morning, you need to hear the story of 44-year-old former battering-ram fullback and current ALS sufferer Kevin Turner, and of the lead plaintiffs’ attorney who woke up more than once at night thinking of Turner, and how men like Turner pushed this case to get settled.
Really should have included a Spotify playlist of sad songs to listen to while reading the first two pages of this week’s PK.
“I have a policy of not getting involved with the plaintiffs in cases like this, whether it’s NFL players, ballerinas or regular people,’’ Chris Seeger, one of the lead attorneys for the 4,500 former players and estates of former players, told me Sunday night. “I like to keep a level head. But I met Kevin several times. Nobody had a bigger impact on me in this case than Kevin did. I’d wake up at night, sometimes in a cold sweat, thinking about this man and how important it was to him that he provide for his family, that his children get the college education they deserve.”
I spoke with Turner over the phone for an hour Sunday afternoon. His voice is often garbled, because amyotrophic lateral sclerosis—known by many as Lou Gehrig’s disease—is in the process of robbing all his muscles of their vitality, including the ones that form words in his tongue and mouth and vocal cords. But this was a pretty good afternoon; he’d taken medication to ensure he could be well understood.
Well now I’m just sad Turner had to waste his medication just to have a phone call. Peter King, anyone. But especially King.
Turner is an Alabama boy. He played for the Crimson Tide, then got drafted by the Patriots in the third round in 1992. He played eight years for the Patriots and Eagles, and retired following the 1999 season. He lives in Birmingham now. He is divorced with three children, the oldest of whom played his first varsity high school game ever on Friday night. That filled Turner with pride, knowing his son loved the game enough to pursue it, and now as a sophomore he was playing at a high level.
He knows what you’re thinking: How can he let his son play? And how he can he not hate the sport that very likely gave him—such a young man—this cruel disease with no cure?
“It’s not complicated,’’ Turner said. “I love football. I always will love football. I love football so much I let my oldest son play the game, because I knew he would love it too.’’
And this in a nutshell is why football is not going away any time in the near future.
I have little to no interest in breaking down King’s reaction to the settlement, mostly because he wisely frames his piece speaking to the immediate needs of one player, which plays into the sad reality of some money is better than no money, which terrified the plaintiffs. No one wants to hear about damaged, former players unable to afford the medical care they need, nor the needs of their immediate family members who watched their husbands, fathers and sons be turned to jelly by trainers forcing them back onto the field too soon, and certainly people don’t want to read someone snarking on those needs (hopefully) being met.
There is one doozy in here that cannot be ignored.
I’m told a large majority of NFL owners approved the details of the settlement in conversations with commissioner Roger Goodell in the last couple of weeks. (But it was not unanimous.) And why wouldn’t they approve?
That is a very good question and am I sure we would all love to know which owners voted against the deal, Mr. Insider Football Personality. Honestly. Much like we know which owners voted against the last collective bargaining agreement, why can’t you reveal the holdouts? Be a reporter. Speak truth to power. If you don’t know who was against it, find out who was against a deal. One of the players’ attorneys called out Jerry Jones, why not delve into that nugget of information?
You asked why the owners wouldn’t approve, but told us not all of them did. This is what we need to know more about, not the softball pitch of players worried about putting their kids through college. Because during the next lawsuit — and you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think there are not more to come in the ensuing decades — the holdouts could matter.
But then again, if PK did out the owners who wanted to drag this whole affair into court, then he wouldn’t be Mr. Insider Football Personality for much longer.
Quotes of the Week
Good place to have a quote summing up the previous two pages on the concussion lawsuit settlement. Smart.
“He looked good. He looked good. If we can have him practicing on Wednesday and we feel that he’s good enough and mentally ready to play, then he’s going to play [against New England in Week 1].”
—Bills coach Doug Marrone on Sunday, after watching rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel do individual drills at practice for the first time since minor knee surgery two weeks ago.
And so, apparently, ends the Jeff Tuel Era in Buffalo.
Well, I guess rushing players back to the field after their bodies have been cut open is different than rushing players back after head trauma.
“It probably wasn’t fair to Vince. We threw a lot on his plate and the fault is probably mine. I probably should have had him in here earlier.’’
—Green Bay GM Ted Thompson on Sunday, after releasing quarterback Vince Young over the weekend. Young was signed Aug. 5, and couldn’t assimilate to the Packers offensive system with the proper mechanics in time to earn the backup job to Aaron Rodgers.
Missed an opportunity to point how many people, including the venerable Adam Schefter, had already declared Young a lock for the backup quarterback position.
“Players don’t want to be reminded about their concussions. They don’t want to be known as the guy who went down with one. They downplay it. Then it happens to me and I start wondering how these guys go back to being hit, taking all that punishment, a week or two later.”
—FOX sideline reporter Pam Oliver, who suffered a concussion when hit by an errant pass from Colts quarterback Chandler Harnish during warmups before an Aug. 18 preseason game, in a New York Daily News column by Bob Raissman Sunday. For days Oliver said “the sun was completely my enemy’’ and she had to stay in darkened rooms. She hopes to return for the network’s opening regular-season nationally televised game Sunday, Green Bay at San Francisco.
From the New York Daily News column:
In the immediate aftermath she refused to read about it, talk about it or watch the video. “Now I want to get it out there. It was a painful, shocking moment,” Oliver said in an exclusive interview over the telephone. “I didn’t really know what happened.”
In the days following this flash of pain, neither would anyone else who watched the Internet video. Not the people who thought it was funny. Nor the ones who felt bad for her.
Pretty heavy, right? Doesn’t put you in the mood to watch the video again. But just in case, MMQB embedded the video right there under the above.
“Pretty much every facet of my life was in turmoil, and I was basically waging war against myself at that time. I didn’t realize that the battle was within me. It was a lot easier to blame everybody else. And it was a lot easier to be mad at everybody else and not be mad at myself. I placed blame anywhere blame could be placed. It was a coward’s way out.”
—Miami guard Richie Incognito, to NFL.com’s Jeff Darlington, in a superb piece about how Incognito has gotten his life under control—or, at least more under control than it was when he first entered the NFL.
Actually, that was a pretty good read. Thanks, MMQB. Missed that.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Preseason stats are meaningless?
Last season broke a 16-year streak of at least five new teams qualifying for the playoffs. Only four new teams—Indianapolis, Minnesota, Seattle and Washington—made the postseason in 2012.
You can see the number of new playoff teams per season over the past 10 years to the right.
Thus: In 10 years, 61 of 120 teams—almost exactly half of the total playoff teams—have made the playoffs after being out of the postseason the year before.
Stats like the above are deceiving, because they allude to complete parity in the league, but don’t speak to how often those four teams made the playoffs in the previous sixteen years. The Seahawks made the playoffs eight out of those sixteen years, the Colts twelve, Washington four, Vikings eight. What about teams like the Cleveland Browns (one playoff appearance in sixteen seasons) or the Buffalo Bills (two playoff appearances over the same span)? Or New England’s twelve, or Green Bay’s eleven, Pittsburgh’s nine? That hardly seems like an equal distribution of playoff wealth.
Really, all you can take away from the above examples is Peyton Manning had a pretty dominate run in there.
FACTOID OF THE WEEK THAT MAY INTEREST ONLY ME
Wintergreen Lifesavers create little sparks in your mouth when you chew them? Oh wait, that’s a factoid that may only interest me.
It’s likely New England coach Bill Belichick will one day walk into Canton wearing a yellow jacket. But it won’t be because of his drafting acumen in the secondary. Belichick drafted seven defensive backs in the first two rounds of the six drafts between 2007 and 2012, and of those seven, only one is a starter today: Devin McCourty, and not at the position he was drafted to play. McCourty, a corner taken in the 2010 draft, will open the season as the starting free safety.
The ignominious seven:
Nope. Stopped caring. You said it may only interest you and it did.
Counting the game coming Thursday, three of Denver’s most recent five games have been against Baltimore.
It’s almost like the schedulers knew what they were doing putting together a marquee game of two teams who faced each other in the playoffs and late in the season last year — again, a game set by the same SMRT schedulers — when planning this season’s kickoff.
MR. STARWOOD PREFERRED MEMBER TRAVEL NOTE OF THE WEEK
So is the Starwood birthday program worth it? Also, why is it such a pain to get points added when I forget to use my husband’s Starwood account when I book our travel.
I went to Boston Tuesday night to catch a Red Sox game.
This no longer seems to be about Starwood.
And a wonderful meal—at Eastern Standard, around the corner from Fenway Park on Commonwealth Avenue. If you like a place with a fine menu and a better beer menu—and a place where the wait staff can talk about the beer the way Italian waiters can talk about wine at a restaurant in Italy—Eastern Standard’s the place for you.
Okay, this is definitely no longer about Starwood. Also, I have found in my travels the French waiters are far better about talking about wine than the Italian waiters, the French waiters living in Belgium are even better at it the the French waiters in France and the Spanish restaurant owners living in Switzerland are surprisingly the best experts on wine. The Scots, Czechs, Germans, Brits and Austrians are who you want talking about beer, Mr. Starwood. How did they let you into the club, anyway?
TWEETS OF THE WEEK
“@profootballtalk there is no conspiracy. I pulled the plug.”
—@JedYork, the 49ers’ CEO, after the Pro Football Talk piece about Ray Lewis saying he didn’t think it was a coincidence that there was a blackout when the Ravens were spanking the 49ers in the middle of last year’s Super Bowl.
That, by the way, might be the silliest thing I’ve heard a player say in a long, long time. And that encompasses a lot of silliness. Lewis said he had no facts to back up his accusation, made in the NFL Films’ America’s Game show, which will be shown tonight on NFL Network. “But,’’ Lewis says on the show, “you cannot tell me somebody wasn’t sitting there and when they say, ‘The Ravens [are] about to blow them out. Man, we better do something.’ … “ Lewis doesn’t need advice from me, but he should have stopped at, “I’m not going to accuse nobody of nothing.”
SHOTS FIRED AT A MAN INVOLVED WITH A STABBING! The ESPN/NBC turf wars finally get real this season.
“Drake Nevis released by the Colts, claimed by the Chargers. Goes from Chuck Pagano to John Pagano”
—@brian_mcintyre, an NFL writer for Yahoo! Sports, after a defensive tackle cut by the Colts and head coach Chuck Pagano got picked up by the Chargers and defensive coordinator John Pagano.
Pretty low bar for Tweets this week.
“Do I have a football problem if I am sitting at a middle school football game and none of my kids are playing? I paid”
—@chris_spielman, the former Lions, Bills and Browns linebacker. I assume he meant “I paid” for a ticket.
Payola is a pretty big problem in Pop Warner, so hard to say. It’s only a problem if his children are not of middle school age. Related: Middle schools charge for tickets to football games? When did that start?
TEN THINGS I THINK I THINK
*Starts scrolling faster, as most of the items are factual statements on roster moves that have no added insight or thought.*
i. Curtis Painter beat out David Carr at the Giants’ backup quarterback. Somebody’s got to sign Carr.
Why? In a league were Vince Young isn’t given time to learn a playbook, why should David Carr get about his twentieth chance to earn a roster spot. Is it his quick, 34 year-old feet? His previous playoff success? I mean, he shockingly does have a Super Bowl ring without having to play. Make an argument why one of the biggest busts in league history should be signed to a team.
j. What a disaster the Eagles’ 2011 first-round firefighter, Danny Watkins, turned out to be. Good example of reaching for a guy who never really loved the game. Watkins never played football until he was 22.
You can only play football unless you’ve survived the hard knocks of the pay-for-play middle school system.
3. I think it wasn’t a good weekend for bonus baby quarterbacks, and not just ones named Tebow. Five quarterbacks picked in the top 50 of the last seven drafts were cut: Vince Young and Matt Leinart (2006), Brady Quinn (2007) and Tim Tebow and Jimmy Clausen (2010). Brian Billick says picking a quarterback is no better than a 50-50 proposition between success and failure. Let’s see, based on the five drafts between 2006 and 2010. (It’s too early to make definitive judgments on quarterbacks in the league for two or fewer years.) Let’s look at the quarterbacks picked in the top two rounds from 2006 to 2010, and their fate:
*Insert giant chart of more draftees not playing in the NFL than playing in the NFL.*
Of the 21 quarterbacks drafted in the top two rounds of these five drafts, six are solid starters, and eight are out of football.
If only they had been named David Carr.
Let’s now cut it down to first-rounders only. Billick, it turns out, is on the money. If you don’t count Sanchez as a starter—and I don’t see how you can term him a starter right now—six of the 12 first-round picks over a five-year period are starting in the league. So it’s still a crapshoot. Six players in the first two rounds of the ’11 draft will be opening-day starters, but let’s see if Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder, among others, can stand the test of time.
Plus we still have Brady Quinn in the league!
8. I think I got to thinking when I saw the Colin Kaepernick/Russell Wilson EA Sports/Madden commercial, the one that has little Colin and little Russell training in weird ways to be NFL quarterbacks: A year ago today, people had barely heard of these guys. If you don’t think the NFL can invent stars out of whole cloth, look at the story of the second- and third-round picks who might own the future of the quarterback position. It’s amazing how fast things change in the NFL.
It’s almost like a well-oiled, money-making machine like the National Football League doesn’t know how to promote new talent. At one point none of us had heard of Kelly Clarkson, but with some natural talent and millions of dollars behind her, now we all know who she is.
9. I think The New York Times has made a smart hire in retaining Scott Fujita as a regular correspondent. Fujita’s first column (I’m guessing his take on the settlement between the league and the 4,500 players over head trauma) will appear this week. The reason it’s a smart hire is that Fujita’s one of those players who always saw every side of the game—from the league’s perspective, the union’s perspective and the player’s perspective.
Second week in a row praising the NYT.
That, plus he can write a sentence.
*Stares into the white WordPress field where I’m supposed to put words for a good three minutes. That, plus he can write a sentence.*
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Welcome to the world, Taylor Mattingly Eisen. The third child and first daughter of Rich and Suzy Shuster Eisen came into the world Friday. And yes, the middle name is for the first baseman Rich has sort of a thing for. And Mattingly knows. Rich believes it’s not the first time someone has named a child for him.
We all shudder to think how many children are named after Dick Trickle.
b. Saw a cool indie film over the weekend, In a World, written by and starring Lake Bell. Never thought I’d find the dog-eat-dog world of voice-overing making a good film, and I never knew Lake Bell before Saturday. But the movie’s good, and she’s a star.
Distributed by Roadside Attractions, home of WINTER’S BONE, MUD, SUPER SIZE ME and MYSTERY TEAM. Indie cred confirmed! Maybe Lake Bell will be in a Madden commercial now that’s she’s a star.
c. The Red Sox have a 5.5-game American League East lead with 24 games to play. They wouldn’t be fixing to break hearts from Millinocket to Woonsocket, would they?
A smug Red Sox fan waiting for the collapse. You’re the reason why Yankee fans are tolerable.
d. I hate the one-game Wild Card in baseball. It devalues the 162-game season. Having said that, a sudden-death playoff game in the National League Central, with Cincinnati playing at either Pittsburgh or St. Louis, will be pretty dramatic. And that’s how it’s shaping up.
Good to know the solid work of an entire season is worth trading in for just one good sudden-death game. If Boston was in this situation, King would spend the entire column talking about the the wild card.
On a personal note, as a Pirate fan; STUFF IT IN YOUR WOONSOCKET, BROCCOLI HEAD.
f. So … are you actually trying to convince me that Teddy Bridgewater is better than my alma mater’s Tyler Tettleton? Is that what you’re trying to say?
No, I’m not saying that. I’m saying your head reminds me of broccoli.
g. One request about Week 1 of the college football season: Can we wait a few more games—one or two at least, please—before saying Jadaveon Clowney has blown the No. 1 pick in a draft that is 36 weeks away? Thank you. Clowney, by the way, is tops on Andy Staples’ draft board.
Listen Broccoli, I wouldn’t go starting beefs with Ray Lewis and Andy Staples in the same week.
h. Coffeenerdness: Sunday marked the last three-espresso-shot day of the season. From now on, it’s a minimum of nine per Sunday. Let the all-nighters begin next Sunday for this column.
Surprisingly, we have heard very little about PK’s cardiologist over the years. I’m in my thirties with a clean bill of health and even my doctor says I should keep it a cup a coffee a day.
i. Beernerdness: I have no idea what it means to be a Double Imperial IPA, but I do know it tastes very good—a classic IPA. Had one the other night: Calalyst Double IPA, by Backlash Beer Company in Holyoke, Mass., and if it hadn’t been so lethal (8.5 percent alcohol), I’d have had more than two.
Should have asked the beer waiter what it meant, because they would have told you that”double” and “imperial” generally mean the same thing in brewing. The high alcohol content is help tone down the hops. See? And I’m not even an Italian waiter.
k. Now for all the rest of my picks … I accept all over-ripe tomatoes, right in the forehead.
All of them? Because that seems rather time consuming and wasteful. Well, who did you pick.
*Scrolls down, sees that all of PK’s picks are in a three minute video with an ad running before them.*
NOOOOPE. Three minutes of video? I don’t have that type of time, but honestly, do I have that level of interest. Put your picks into words on the page that I can read in them thirty seconds, not suffer through a deodorant ad for thirty seconds before getting to the content.
THE ADIEU HAIKU
Long U.S. nightmare?
Over. Next 20 Sundays
Are football Sundays.
Still not a haiku.
Where is the weather report?
Learn your poetry.
I want more like this!
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