Despite All of Its’ Problems, the NFL Remains Number One

NFL Map
NFL Map
The National Football League has a firm grasp on the nation's sports' attention.

Trying to knock off the popularity of the National Football League is like Robert Duvall’s space shuttle crew in the movie “Deep Impact.” No matter how hard they tried, the crew was unable to completely knock the asteroids off their collision-course with Earth. Oh sure, they were able to deflect an asteroid but a great deal of damage was still done.

This must be how the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball must feel when trying to slow the momentum of pro football in this country.

No one in all of sport has a better playoff than the guys in the National Hockey League. No one in all of sport has a more decorated history than does professional baseball and no one in sport has the glory of individuals like the NBA does. Yet despite all of that, the National Football League continues to run roughshod over the other three.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, for all of his faults and sometimes ridiculous decisions, has made the NFL into the only year-round professional sport. Even with its’ length, baseball can’t hold the attention of the fan base for 12 months. The NHL or NBA? Not even close.

McDonald
Ray McDonald is but another NFL player who has screwed up yet the NFL continues to thrive.

Strangely enough, the NFL also leads in the dubious category of ‘most likely to have criminal and otherwise bad behavior.’ Look at the developments over the last few weeks… Players in Pittsburgh busted for smoking marijuana in the car just hours before they departed for game… Wes Welker of Denver got his 3rd concussion since November yet that was overshadowed by his four-game suspension for amphetamine usage… Indianapolis Colts’ owner Jim Irsay was banned for six games and fined $500,000 for a DUI in which he tested positive for a number of drugs… Just hours after Goodell laid out the new penalties for domestic abuse which included a six-game suspension followed by a lifetime ban, the Niners’ Ray McDonald was arrested on domestic assault charges.

I didn’t even mention Josh Gordon in Cleveland who announced yesterday that he was going to be a car salesman while on suspension and  I didn’t even mention Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones drunk-dialing Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson either.

All sports’ leagues have problems. I’m not suggesting any are free of them. Baseball has PED problems and basketball had Donald Sterling and hockey has a goon mentality it is trying to remove. Those things really do pale in comparison to the excessive issues of the NFL. From domestic violence and drunk driving off the field to the crackdown on illegal holding on defense, the NFL is essentially a dysfunctional family that relies on its’ popularity and wealth to remain at the top.

For all of the problems this opening weekend of the NFL will once again reign supreme over anything else that might be on television. Stadiums will be filled and merchandise will be sold in ridiculous amounts. Fans will check their smartphones and tablets and computers not for emails or texts or tweets but to see how their fantasy football teams are doing.

I honestly don’t know what it will take for the NFL to stumble to the point where it loses popularity or lags behind another major sport. Fans are tired of the criminals being in uniform and office personal getting in trouble but they continue to watch anyway. The NFL is both the unstoppable force and the immovable object rolled into one.

Irsay Gets His Medicine in NFL News, As Does Welker and Are the Badgers in Trouble Already in CFB?

Goodell-Irsay
Goodell-Irsay
I think Roger Goodell did a great job nailing Jim Irsay but I also think it could have gone slightly further.

National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Indianapolis Colts’ Owner Jim Irsay for six games and fined him $500,000 for his arrest back in March. Irsay admitted to a judge that he was under the influence on both hydrocodone and oxycodone. According to ESPN, he also had Xanax in his system as well when he was pulled over near his home.

While I congratulate Goodell for finally reaching a decision in the matter and actually being a bit harsh, the fine is laughable in my opinion. Much like the players who get fined and simply pull the money from the front pockets, Irsay will do the same. If General Managers, Team Presidents and owners are going to commit these types of actions (see the Lions and Broncos for example) then the way you actually get the point across is by hitting them with draft picks.

Most of the reaction on Irsay has been ‘ho-hum’ as expected. Again, I think it’s a great step forward for Goodell but if you really want to put a stop to this stuff then hit’em where it hurts then go after the draft picks because that’s when the fans will get involved too.

Welker
Perhaps Welker should take this as a sign to walk away from the game.

Welker Suspension Shouldn’t Surprise You

Late yesterday the NFL suspended Denver Broncos’ receiver Wes Welker for four games after a test for amphetamines came up positive. Welker is already out dealing with his third concussion since November. Welker attended a hearing several days ago in which he argued the sample was tainted but it was to no avail.

When the issue of marijuana use comes around, we are always told that we’d be surprised by the number of players who use the mostly illegal drug. What I believe to be just as prevalent is the use of these amphetamines. Normally taken for things like depression or Attention Deficit Hypertension Disorder (ADHD), the drug is banned by the NFL.

Players in the NFL have been looking for any advantage possible going back to the earliest days of the game. Using amphetamines and other drugs as a way to gain more focus, recover quicker and get stronger faster are as common as a Peyton Manning touchdown pass.

If I’m Wes Welker, I take this as a sign. With so many concussions in such short amounts of times, he needs to think about walking away from the game and perhaps this latest misstep is a sign from above.

 

Wisconsin Has Another Issue

If you saw the Wisconsin Badgers jump out to a 17-point lead that they carried into the second half Saturday night against LSU then you know they did it on the back of the offensive line and running back Melvin Gordon. QB Tanner McEvoy was making his first start at the position and while he made plays with his feet , he was just 8 of 24 for 50 yards and two interceptions.

The man he was replacing was last year’s starter Joel Stave and there were thoughts that maybe he would return to spark the Badgers’ passing game. That notion is now on the shelf along with Stave who is sidelined with a sore throwing shoulder. It’s been reported that it could be serious enough to keep him out all season. If that’s the case, the Badgers will have to ride with McEvoy which means the running game will have to carry the team.

Along with Nebraska, the Badgers are the favorites to win the Big Ten West but this injury clearly puts them in a tough spot for the remainder of the season.

 

 

Goodell Continues to Drag His Feet

Gordon
Gordon
Josh Gordon is among many NFL players struggling to stay out of trouble.

I sure hope National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell has enjoyed his summer. It’s obvious he must have spent a great amount of time out of his New York office because there sure hasn’t been a lot done this offseason.

Apparently the NFL Draft took it out of Goodell. So exhausted he must have been that we’ve seen neither hide nor hair of him since he had to walk out onto the stage 32 times or so. I know how grueling that can be for a guy used to being behind his desk most of the day.

All kidding aside, I know I’d really feel better if Goodell decided to finally make some decisions regarding both player and owner misconduct. At the very least, it would be nice if Goodell made a special walk to the podium and said, “Enough!” But that doesn’t seem likely either.

Over the last couple of weeks, the NFL has been hit with another rash of arrests and questionable behavior. The Baltimore Ravens’ Jimmy Smith was arrested for disorderly conduct making him the fifth Ravens’ player put in cuffs this offseason. You’d think this would urge Goodell to act or at least make a comment considering this is hometown team.

Former player Titus Young was arrested again, this time for battery and bodily injury. I’ve lost count on his arrest totals quite honestly. Cleveland’s Josh Gordon is out of control and likely facing a suspension of at least a full season. So bad is the behavior in the National Football League that profootballtalk.com actually has a ‘police blotter’ section.

Goodell
Goodell needs to end his summer break early and start doing his job.

The recent issues are bad, but they take a back seat to the pending discipline that should have been handed down months ago. Whenever Goodell does pop his head out the beach sand and is asked about pending consequences for Jim Irsay, Ray Rice and Aldon Smith he typically goes with, “We are still investigating.”

I call bull crap. What is left to investigate?

Jim Irsay has already received his penalty from the State of Indiana regarding his arrest. The Colts’ owner was arrested for driving under the influence and possession of a controlled substance when he had a plethora of prescription drugs that weren’t prescribed to him. ESPN Football Writer Jim Trotter routinely tweets that Irsay has been penalized by the state but asks Goodell (@nflcommish) what his stance is.

What is left to investigate here? Nothing to be honest. This is about making sure he nails Irsay properly but not so harshly that he upsets the other 31 owners who are basically his bosses.

In the case of Ray Rice who knocked his fiance, now wife, out cold in an elevator, what is left to discuss or investigate? The public has seen the video of Rice dragging her out of the elevator but there is also video of inside the elevator as well. We haven’t seen that one and likely never will. We also know that Rice and his wife have gone to New York City where they met with Goodell.

What is left to decide here?

Ultimately, Goodell is doing a major disservice to teams like the Colts and Ravens among others as he drags his feet with his discipline. The Colts certainly would like to know the status of their owner but even that isn’t as important as the situation with Baltimore where the team would clearly like to know the status of its’ starting running back heading into training camp.

Sadly, this tardy approach by Goodell has become the norm for him and this makes fans have less and less confidence in him all the time.

Could Someone Please Explain Why Roger Goodell is Asleep at the Wheel?

Goodell-Irsay
Goodell-Irsay
Roger Goodell has dragged his feet long enough on suspensions for guys like Jim Irsay and he needs to act now.

As more and more players in the National Football League continue to make poor choices, get suspended and get pulled over, the man in charge of the NFL is nowhere to be seen or heard.

In the past few days, Dion Jordan of Miami,  Rokevious Watkins of Kansas City and Lane Johnson of Philadelphia were all suspended for four games under the League’s substance abuse policy. The Colts’ LaVon Brazill was suspended for the entire 2014 season for yet another substance abuse issue. They are among a growing handful of suspended players already heading into the season.

These three incidents are easy for the NFL to deal with because of the protocols that already in place. What isn’t so easy is the plethora of decisions facing Roger Goodell and these include players like Ray Rice who is awaiting his fate following his domestic violence problem. Also expecting a decision is Aldon Smith of the 49ers.

Gordon
It may be a long time before the Browns see Gordon in a uniform again.

This past Fourth of July weekend brought us yet another chance to see Johnny Manziel partying in Las Vegas (not illegal by the way) and more importantly, another arrest of a very high-profile player in Josh Gordon of Cleveland.

Gordon is already facing the potential of a year-long suspension and now he could be looking at even longer. Gordon was arrested in North Carolina early Saturday morning for speeding and ultimately driving while impaired. To make matters look even worse, he was bailed out by a man with a significant criminal and drug history.

Don’t forget that he was also pulled over for speeding in May and his passenger was arrested for possession of marijuana. He was suspended for the first four games last season and still went on to lead the NFL in receiving. Tons of talent but all kinds of problems would be putting it mildly.

While I can respect taking one’s time in making important decisions, Roger Goodell has fallen flat on his face when compared to new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. Silver has shown swift and effective decision-making when it has come to discipline of not only players but owners as well. Just look at how quickly he acted with the Donald Sterling situation.

Goodell has taken his sweet time with the aforementioned Ray Rice who still doesn’t know his fate. What of Indianapolis Colts’ owner Jim Irsay? He is facing a significant number of charges resulting from his traffic stop and drug possession issues. Months have now gone by and Irsay has not been punished in any way, shape or form.

Obviously the players’ association is a most interested party in Irasy’s case because they want to see how Goodell handles the discipline for one of his own in comparison to that of their players. The time for patience has gone though and fans and the general public deserve answers.

Goodell has already put himself in a very unenviable position by making the game of football “safer” in an effort to do nothing more than satisfy the plaintiffs of the concussion lawsuit. He has also shown overwhelming subjectivity when he does give suspensions often hiding behind the ‘protect the shield’ mantra.

The Hall of Fame Game is less than a month away. The Buffalo Bills, who play the New York Giants in that game open camp on July 18th. If Roger Goodell has not made rulings on Ray Rice, Aldon Smith and Jim Irsay by that point then shame on him. Then again, it’s what we’ve come to expect from him.

Mid-Week Thoughts Around the Sports World

Goodell
Goodell
While the players and fans await Roger Goodell's ruling on the Colts' Jim Irsay, another player has been nailed for a DUI.

Kansas City Chiefs’ cornerback Sean Smith was cited for driving under the influence a few nights ago after an officer witnessed him crashing into a light pole. Sean Smith is not the most high-profile player in the National Football League but that doesn’t matter. What will matter in the eyes of his union is how quickly he receives punishment from the NFL.

Why does this case matter? It takes on greater significance since NFL Commissioner Roger Gooodell has yet to rule on Indianapolis Colts’ owner Jim Irsay’s punishment for more egregious actions. The state of Indiana as suspended Irsay’s driver’s license for one year but the NFL has continued to say nothing.

I have a feeling a stiff penalty is coming and don’t be surprised if Irsay’s Colts are stripped of a draft pick or two. Fining or suspending him does very little to ‘penalize’ him so the league needs to hit him where it hurts.

Welch Passes at 57

Welch
Bob Welch was a Cy Young winner in 1990 and a member of five World Series teams.

When you get to be my age, you understand that many of the guys you watched as a kid and young man start to pass on. Former LA Dodgers’ and Oakland A’s pitcher Bob Welch was not someone I expected to see gone just yet. At just 57 years old, Welch died of an apparent heart attack.

For those of you who don’t recall, Welch burst on to the scene in 1978 when he struck out Yankees’ legend Reggie Jackson to end game two of the World Series. Welch would go on to play in four more fall classics and had a Cy Young season in 1990 when he won 27 games. He remains the last guy to win at least 25 games which is a span of 24 years.

Welch battled alcoholism for much of his career but was known as a great teammate and highly competitive guy.

US Open Tees Off Sans Tiger

I’ve been extremely hard on Tiger Woods over the last few years for any number of reasons many of which were warranted but even I admit that when he isn’t playing a major tournament it loses some luster. That will be the case for the second straight major as Woods recovers from back surgery.

The positive however is that with Woods out, we the viewers get to actually see more golfers taking more swings. When Woods is in a tournament, the bulk of the coverage centers on him and that’s understandable but it isn’t always what we want to see especially if Woods is struggling.

There are some great stories heading into this year’s US Open and without Woods, we’ll get to see those. Will Bubba Watson win another major? What about the young phenom Jordan Spieth? Can Lee Westwood finally get that first major? How will Phil play consider off-course issues?

Don’t turn the TV off just because Tiger isn’t there. You will miss some great golf if you do.

Phil Gets His Man, Take Two

The entire free world knew that New York Knicks’ President Phil Jackson was going to go after former player Steve Kerr to become his head coach. Wisely, Kerr took the Golden State job which afforded him a far better roster to work. That left Jackson needing to find ‘his guy.’ Well, not surprisingly he chose and got Derek Fisher who just finished his final season as a player in Oklahoma City.

Fisher will be an extension of Jackson who will be able to have his hands on this team while rebuilding it and teaching Fisher how to coach the system that Jackson wants. The real question is whether Jackson can keep Carmelo Anthony on the roster. Personally, I think ‘Melo goes somewhere he can win a title.

Weekend Ramblings Include More NFL Suspensions and How Dumb the NBA Looks Right Now

Goodell
Goodell
Roger Goodell laid down some suspensions yesterday and there will be more coming.

Yesterday the news coming out of the National Football League was anything but positive and if it’s any indication of things to come, Ray Rice should be very concerned.

It was announced on Friday that Arizona Cardinals’ linebacker Daryl Washington was suspended for the entire 2014 season. Washington was suspended under the league’s substance abuse policy. This was his third violation and also includes a domestic violence charge as well. That offense of the league’s personal conduct policy appears to be part of this year-long suspension.

Also on Friday, New York Giants’ safety Will Hill was suspended for the first six games of the 2014 season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Since 2012, Hill has failed three drug tests and missed the first four games each of the last two years.

What these two suspensions will do is create speculation about just how long Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice may be suspended. Rice recently gave  less than stellar six-minute press conference speaking for the first time about knocking his wife (then fiance) out in an elevator. The one advantage Rice has is that this was a first-time event and he has been a positive force in the community.

The disadvantage is that it appears more and more NFL players are slipping up and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s policies just aren’t working. When things such as these aren’t working, one of the few options is to get tougher and especially on first-time offenders. I have to think that deep within the walls of the NFL Offices, Goodell and his disciplinary minions are preparing to go nuclear.

The danger for them is the pending discipline that Indianapolis Colts’ owner Jim Irsay is awaiting. The players are keeping a very close eye on this to see how Goodell handles his situation compared to that of their own.

All I can tell you is stay tuned because I think both Ray Rice and Jim Irsay have more coming than they originally might have thought.

Sterling
Sterling may have lost his team but he has a lot more money now too.

The NBA May Have Screwed Up

Six weeks ago, Donald Sterling caught the ire of nearly all Americans with his ignorant and insensitive comments about African-Americans. Since that time, his Los Angeles Clippers were taken from him and his team was bounced in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs. Over the last 48 hours, it has become clear that former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will become the new owner of the team.

His $2 billion bid was far and away the leading bid and I’ll address more about that in a second. Shelly Sterling is the one who has been working behind the scenes to get a deal done before NBA owners vote to force Donald Sterling to sell. Because earlier this week Mr. Sterling was deemed mentally incompetent, Mrs. Sterling was legally allowed to proceed with the sale.

It was reported late yesterday that Sterling may have Alzheimer’s.

Let’s remember that Sterling purchased the Clippers for $12.5 million 33 years ago. While he will be forced to pay capital gains taxes in the hundreds of millions, he will still come out with significantly more money now then had he chose to sell the team had this never happened.

While NBA Commissioner Adam Silver did the right thing by banning Sterling, hindsight shows us that he may have jumped the gun in forcing the sale. While I’m sure Sterling would have preferred to keep his team, he ends up getting much, much wealthier in the entire process while the NBA looks foolish for making a racist owner richer and almost sympathetic in the process.

 

Can Ibaka Play?… And Roger Goodell Faces Serious Decisions With Discipline

Ibaka
Ibaka
Serge Ibaka wants to play, but what affect can he have if still less than 100%?

San Antonio Spurs’ Head Coach Gregg Popovich has been pretty insistent about his thinking regarding Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka. Popovich has said all along that he thinks the Thunder’ big man will return before the end of this series. It now looks like Popovich has been right all along.

Although Ibaka has yet to be cleared by team doctors, he said as of last evening that he’d be willing to play through the pain. As courageous as this sounds, Ibaka has not even run on his strained calf since injuring it in game six against the Los Angeles Clippers. To say that Ibaka would be less than 100% would be an understatement and one has to wonder just how effective he can even be.

The irony of the situation is that Oklahoma City desperately needs him to be in the game. The Spurs have dominated the Thunder in the first two games of the Western Conference Finals and in large part due to the absence of Ibaka in the paint. Regardless of Ibaka’s presence I think this series belongs to the Spurs.

Jim Irsay's punishment will be a major issue for Roger Goodell.Ravens, Roger Goodell and What to do with Jim Irsay

Ever since the time that the Baltimore Ravens made Ozzie Newsome their general manager, they have done about as many things right as any team in the National Football League. On Friday, those good choices and decisions were tarnished by seven minute press conference.

Ravens’ star running back Ray Rice addressed the media for the first time since he was arrested for knocking out his then-fiance in the elevator of a casino. Rice was accompanied by his now-wife and their infant child. Rice gave his apology for his actions and said that he was working towards being a better a person, husband and father.

Part of the problem for the Ravens was the cliche-filled comments by Rice but also the lack of questions allowed by the media. With the incident having happened in February, the media deserved to ask questions but they were not. Also scarring the image of the Ravens was the person in charge of the organization’s Twitter account.

For who knows why, the Ravens decided that ‘live-tweeting’ the Rice press conference would be a good idea. All they did was set domestic violence awareness back about 25 years with a series of bizarre and poorly worded tweets. The early speculation on Rice’s punishment is that the league and Roger Goodell will come down with a suspension that starts at a minimum of three games.

Since Goodell became Commissioner his main focus has been “protecting the shield” and limiting ‘conduct detrimental to the League.’ Goodell has painted himself in a corner in this regard because five years ago he suspended Ben Roethlisberger despite never being arrested and never being charged. Goodell claimed his behavior was ‘conduct detrimental to the League.’

Goodell’s problems don’t end there though because now he has to punish one of the very men who helps pay his salary. Although Jim Irsay’s crimes were reduced last week, Goodell still has to take action. Irsay was arrested for numerous offenses including having prescription drugs that weren’t his and we all know if this were a player, the penalty would be harsh.

If Roger Goodell is going to suspend a player (Josh Gordon) for a year due to marijuana use, then how does he not come down equally as hard on a player like Rice who has struck a woman. Furthermore, what will Goodell do with Jim Irsay? Fining him really doesn’t do much considering his wealth and suspending him probably doesn’t do much either.

My suggestion? Hit him where it really hurts; take away draft choices.

NFL News Includes Jim Irsay, Pro Days and an AFC Arms Race

Irsay
Irsay
How will Roger Goodell handle the discipline for one of his bosses, Jim Irsay?

Well, well, well, this is going to be very interesting now isn’t it? National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell is now facing one of his toughest decisions the leader of the most popular professional sports league in North America.

He has to punish his boss. More specifically, Goodell will have to decide the fate of one of the 32 men who he reports to on a regular basis.

Indianapolis Colts’ owner Jim Irsay was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated and also was charged with having controlled substances in his vehicle. Police discovered prescription medication that was not prescribed to him in the car.

In the hours since his arrest, many, including journalists in Indianapolis have suggested that Irsay is a ‘sick man’ in desperate need of help. This may be true but should that disqualify him from the punishment that you and I would face in the circumstance?

No, it shouldn’t and this is part of the dilemma facing Goodell.

There will be no more interested group than the NFL Players’ Association in this situation. They have watched more than one of their members get raked over the coals for seemingly minor things while owners and front office personnel get slapped on the wrist with a wet noodle.

Roger Goodell cannot afford to mess this punishment up. He must be fair and understanding of Irsay’s issues but he must also send a clear message. He cannot treat one group in the league one way yet treat another group totally different.

The divide that exists between players and the management is already quite wide. A lazy or soft punishment will create a canyon so wide it may never be mended.

Bridgewater
Bridgewater's less than stellar pro day has him dropping a bit in mock drafts.

Pro Day Nonsense

Earlier this week, Louisville Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater held his pro day for NFL teams and according to most who were present, things didn’t go all that well.

Bridgewater was very inaccurate on deep balls and reportedly struggled making some of the other ‘NFL-type’ throws which include sideline routes and crossing patterns. This is what we should keep in mind about these pro days; JaMarcus Russell’s pro day was called one of the best ever in the history of pro days.

That bit of information should tell you that there is nothing more important than game film. I could care less how a kid throws in his t-shirt and shorts in a perfect environment. Give me the kid who makes plays with his feet and his arm.

Most of all let his game film tell the story. I have no idea if Bridgewater will be a bust or an all-pro but what I do know is that his future won’t come down to what he did at his pro day.

Pats and Broncos in an Arms Race

I really do love this time of year in the National Football League. Fans and even the talking heads at ESPN and the NFL Network are already handing the AFC Crown to either Denver or New England based upon their free agent signings thus far.

Do these same people forget that not even a snap has been made yet in the 2014 season? Games are not played on paper and they are not played in March. If fans want to be excited about their team’s moves then by all means be excited. I admit, both of these teams have added several key parts to already solid line-ups but let’s see how things play out before we go crowning people.

Did we learn nothing from Dennis Green’s rant a few years ago?