Safety Awareness

By now we’ve all seen the NFL’s commercial addressing player safety. It features Tom Brady answering the queries of a worried mother about how the NFL is improving safety, particularly for younger players. 

It is a clear PR move, attempting to soothe fears over head injuries and other such problems endemic to football. Perhaps it is slightly misleading in that no amount of equipment improvements or safety protocols will ever erase the fact that football is a game where people, and thus their brains, are subjected to full speed stops that damage vital tissue regardless of precautions.

The NFL is clearly mindful that every autumn there is a new crop of worried mothers determining whether or not their young will participate in our nation’s glorious blood sport. With this commercial they attempt to say, “Hey, we’ve got it covered. We’re the NFL after all. We have top scientists on this matter. At least we have since this became part of the public debate. But come on. Don’t you trust Tom Brady?" 

Well maybe this is a step forward, however small. Five years ago you would have never seen a commercial even admitting to the problems the commercial claims are being addressed. The only question I have left: how is Ray Lewis older than his mother?


Time for Another Revolution!

Field goal kicking has become an increasingly exact science in the NFL. Kickers are hitting longer field goals with greater accuracy than ever before. Of the twelve longest field goals in NFL history, five of them have been kicked in the past three years. This year kickers are 45/67 (67%) from 50+ yards out. The long-standing record of 63 yards by Tom Dempsey (kicked with a club-foot that resembles a mutated driver) will soon be bested. It is only a matter of time. 

The NFL has tinkered with field goal posts in the past, when it was felt that kickers were becoming too important to the game. They have been moved out of the end zone and resized numerous times to keep the little men we love to mock from taking over the NFL. After all, they want the posters to feature people like Tom Brady and Ray Lewis, not Martin Gramatica. 

On Thursday night Mike Mayock decided that the time had come for another revolution. He advocated for another narrowing of the posts. After all, these rotten little men with Spanish names and European sensibilities are becoming reckless, boastful. We would rue the day when David Ackers is a more important fantasy play than Drew Brees.


Too Big for Their Britches 

Last week I detailed the stunning rise to competence and prominence of the Green Bay Packers’ special teams. This week they were at it again. The Packers managed to block a Jaguar punt and return (term used loosely for this particular play) it for a touchdown. To add insult to injury, the Packers had fielded only ten players on the play in question, and still managed the block.

Well all of that hot special teams action got the Packers in the mood, and later they attempted a fake field goal from 55 yards out. After lining up for the field goal they quickly adjusted to a shotgun formation with punter Tim Masthay receiving the snap. Masthay misread the coverage, expecting man, but getting cover-2. His strange and useless pass fluttered towards a well-covered receiver and fell to the earth harmlessly and the Jaguars took over on downs. 

It’s clear that the Packers have a confidence in their special teams never before witnessed by this particular observer. This particular observer also has been waiting for their confidence to outgrow their reason. That seemed apparent when the Packers asked their punter to diagnose a defense from the shotgun formation. The true shame is that Tim Masthay no longer has a perfect career passer rating. Barring any further passing adventures, he will finish his career with a 135.5 QB rating.


This Week’s Fashion Blunders

During the Packers/Jaguars game, Greg Gumble appeared in the booth wearing what looked like a leather trench coat. To his left sat Dan Dierdorf, resplendent in his CBS Sports broadcast jacket. You never want Dan Dierdorf to look sharper than you. You also want to avoid dressing like a social reject with a taste for homemade pipe bombs. 

The Steelers donned their bumblebee throwbacks this Sunday, and as usual the groans were audible. Boomer Esiason couldn’t even look at them without becoming dizzy. For the record, I agree that they are ugly and that they even have the power to induce nausea and some minor mental confusion. However, some primitive part of me still likes them, maybe BECAUSE of these factors. They certainly beat the hell of out of a leather trench coat, and Gumble CHOSE to wear that.