While preparing for another 21-week NFL thrill ride.
I hope that all involved are telling the truth amid the rabble Friday with so many taking the NFL to task for not safeguarding the health of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who was hit several times in the head (some that weren’t called) during Thursday night’s loss to Denver, and questioned the concussion protocol. Friday, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said Newton was checked between possessions, passed “several exams” after the game, and was symptom-free Friday after returning to Carolina from Denver.
I wonder, as many do, whether Newton’s size (6-foot-5, 241 pounds) affects officials when it comes to throwing a flag. Rivera also said Friday, “There’s a little bit of prejudice to that. It’s kind of like what happened to Shaquille O’Neal. Here’s a big, physical basketball player and he goes to set a pick, a guy falls down and they call a foul on him. He goes to shoot a little layup and gets hacked and hammered and they don’t call it. (Newton’s) an imposing figure, and sometimes those big hits don’t look as bad on a big guy. … I’d love for him to start getting some of that veteran favoritism.”
Meanwhile, talking to ESPN, Newton’s father Cecil played the race card while claiming he wasn’t. In one 65-word comment, he said, “I’m not just going to always say it’s race … I’m not going to keep fanning the flames of race in every situation … I’m not going to fan the flames of race in this particular category … ” Those were 35 of those 65 words, and he later mentioned six white quarterbacks that he claims are protected. Notably, he didn’t mention Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is listed as 6-5, 245, and who the team believes doesn’t get the protection he deserves.
Finally, I know it’s way overdue that the league utilize instant replay to confirm or overrule personal fouls or penalize plays where fouls aren’t called. While numerous plays aren’t flagged, many that are turn out to be wrong, and those can be game-changing plays. Rivera agrees. He said Friday, “I think the biggest thing is if there is an opportunity to go back and review things. As far as big hits on quarterbacks or hits to the helmet, I think that would be important, and I think eventually it is going to come to that. If there is a questionable call and you have to go to replay just to make sure. This is about player safety at the end of the day, so we have to find a better solution to keep these things down to a minimum.”
I hope everyone knows how good the AFC South will be in a few seasons, if not sooner, especially if quarterback Brock Osweiler is as good as Texans head coach Bill O’Brien thinks. The youth of all the division’s quarterbacks is a good sign for the future, and that includes Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts who is entering his fifth season. With Blake Bortles in Jacksonville and Marcus Mariota in Tennessee, it’s only a matter of time before this division will be up for grabs every season.
I wonder if the running ability of Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith will have an impact on Sunday’s home opener against San Diego. Smith rushed for 498 yards last season, not much less than the 540 that Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has gained in his entire career. As for that key AFC West matchup, San Diego’s 4-12 record in 2015 was driven by nine losses in one-score games, including six on the road, where overall they were 1-7.
I know that Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford never seems to get the credit he deserves. He’s never had a quality running game to compliment him, and now the season begins at Indianapolis with wide receiver Calvin Johnson in retirement. After some injury issues early in his career, would it surprise you to learn Stafford currently has the fifth-longest active consecutive game playing streak at 81? The only quarterbacks ahead of him are Eli Manning (183), Philip Rivers (160), Tom Brady (112) and Matt Ryan (99). Brady’s streak will officially stop when he doesn’t play because of a four-game league-imposed suspension.
I hope that Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo throws 23 passes in the season opener Sunday night at Arizona. Now, that seems like such a random and weird wish, doesn’t it? But it really isn’t for someone that exults in strange numerical coincidences. When Tom Brady made his first career start with Bill Belichick as head coach in 2001, he had 23 pass attempts. Not to be outdone, when Brady was injured in 2008, and Matt Cassel made his first career start, he attempted, yes he did, 23 passes.
I wonder, and probably the Chicago Bears do, too, whether linebacker Pernell McPhee is another in a long line of Ravens linebackers that didn’t play up to expectations after signing as an expensive free agent with new teams. The names Edgerton Hartwell, Adalius Thomas, Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe come immediately to mind. McPhee had 6 sacks in 14 games last season and is starting this season on the physically unable to perform list.
I know the recent reaction to the NFL injury report changes was over the top and totally exaggerated. When the league revealed Friday the injury status for Sunday’s 13 games, it all turned out to be much ado about nothing. There were 38 players listed as out, 52 questionable and six doubtful. Many of the names have little relevance to fantasy football, whose legions of players were apoplectic because they believed they’d have no clue who to play because all the teams would supposedly list a myriad of players as questionable after the disappearance of the probable category.
The number of questionable players averaged four per team. Chicago led with nine, New England had eight and Miami six. That, of course, is nothing new for the Patriots. On Friday’s initial report, tight end Rob Gronkowski and tackle Nate Solder were designated as questionable and several reports said they weren’t on the team plane to Arizona Friday. Later Friday night, Gronkowski, Solder and guard Jonathan Cooper were officially downgraded to out.