MMQB Mail: Debating summer work and how pregame shows should go
Players are being asked to do more each year, but with no good purpose
NFL refuting NFLPA's assertion about benefits for needy retired players
Email questions about NFL news, pregame shows and much more
I'll have a few quick hits before completely diving into today's e-mail, but first a cardiologist speaks from the heart:
From Raj Abrol of McLean, Va.: "I read your column every week and enjoy your insight and information. A true break from my otherwise extremely busy day. Speaking as a cardiologist who works seven days a week to take care of the sick patients of this world, I was amused that you think our Sunday 'heroes' may work too hard in the offseason.
"I understand that football is an incredibly physically demanding sport. But to imply that playing football seven days in a row in May for these world-class athletes is too much to ask is a bit of a stretch. I naturally respect your opinion. But this is 'work' for them, just like it is for you and me. No one should expect less than their dedication and respect for their profession. If you and I can do it, so can they. Appreciate your work. It is beyond excellent.''
Thank you, Dr. Abrol. I made this point about players and coaches for this reason: We're getting to the point in the NFL where the physical demands in the offseason -- at least in my opinion -- are going beyond the pale. Players would naturally do a good job taking care of themselves year-round, and if they didn't, it'd be reflected in their future paychecks and job opportunities.
Most players are asked to do the mandatory/voluntary workouts starting in early March, and most go at it pretty hard 'til around the Fourth of July. These are not just running and lifting sessions. There isn't supposed to be contact, but teams live on the edge of that every year, and last week, vital Jaguars defensive lineman John Henderson hurt his shoulder rolling around on a fumble-recovery drill. Do you want your 320-pound prize defensive tackle diving on the ground in the middle of the offseason? I don't.
I've heard from a lot of people on this topic, and almost all of you agree with Dr. Abrol, so I understand I'm in the minority. I just think players (and assistant coaches too; don't forget they're losing more and more of their "offseason'' each year) are being asked to do more and more every year, and for what good purpose? It's such a labor-intensive and demanding game. I'm not sure four to five months of hard work in the offseason does anything but ensure you're simply keeping up with the rest of the crowd.
Several of you asked, and rightfully so, why I didn't ask Rodney Harrison in the lengthy Q&A about his four-game suspension for admitting to using Human Growth Hormone, a substance banned by the NFL. I did ask him, but the responses weren't great, so I didn't include it in Monday's column. But by popular demand, here's what Harrison said when Bob Papa and I asked on our Sirius NFL Radio show if he thought his four-game ban for admitting to HGH use would affect his uphill Hall of Fame candidacy, and whether it should:
"That's really not up to me. I never failed a drug test. I told the truth, the commissioner did the research ... I never used it to enhance my performance. I used it to get myself better at one particular time [to speed his recovery from injury] ... That [how it factors into the Hall discussion] is not up for me to decide. It's up to others.
"It's funny because a lot people who haven't played the game sit back and decide if you're a Hall of Famer. If you don't know what a football player goes through, if you haven't experienced it, then why should those guys solely have it on their shoulders to decide who goes in the Hall of Fame? Overall, I admitted to what I've done. I've had an opportunity to talk to kids and said when you've made a huge mistake or a small mistake, admit to it, 'fess up to it, be a man about it and get better from it. That's what I've done.''
Re: the pregame show excess of bodies on the set: Many of you, on Twitter and via e-mail, said you felt the problem with the NBC show is it should be a highlight show, that you miss the simpler Chris Berman/Tom Jackson collection of highlights after the late game, you think NBC doesn't show enough highlights, and you think NBC clogs the show with too many people in the 75-minute window before the Sunday night game. Understandable. Let me tell you a few things about the NBC show.
Did you know, for instance, that NBC cannot show any highlights until 7:15 p.m.? The league wants the final games of the afternoon to be finished, or nearly finished, before highlights commence on the Sunday night pregame show. There was never a night in the past three years, with a normal schedule being played, of less than 30 minutes of highlights on the Sunday show. If you consider everything else that has to go in a show, with all those commercials, and if you consider that one of the complaints we'd get on the show is that people have already seen the highlights from the early games, I believe the tightrope NBC walked was a good one. (Of course, I worked on the show, so I'm not at all impartial.)
The aim of the show, I think, is to try to show you what happened and to try to explain why, and to try to hit the newsiest items coming out of the day's games ... while promoing and reporting on the big game coming up at 8:15.
The NFL is refuting the assertion by NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith that benefits for needy retired players would be slashed in an uncapped year. Smith told me over the weekend that he's highly motivated to get a deal done with the owners in the next 10 months to avoid the league slashing benefits to some handicapped veterans by as much as three-quarters if the league ever came to the imposition of an uncapped year, which the league says would happen if no deal is reached by next spring.
I'm told by a league official that the NFL does have the option to reduce payouts to retired players in an uncapped year, but there is no requirement to do so. "We have never said that we intend to reduce funding for disability benefits ... and the union has not raised this issue with us,'' the spokesman said.
Any decision on this is a ways off, I'm told. In addition, with the strides Commissioner Roger Goodell has made in repairing bridges with retired players, I'd be surprised if he imposed such a heavy cut with the retirees. The union told me players injured in games and having to go on permanent disability would have their benefits reduced by $224,000 per year to $48,000.
The response from the union today -- Smith is in San Diego preparing to meet with the Chargers players -- came via NFLPA director of benefits Miki Yaras-Davis: "The one and only way to guarantee these benefits is to get a successful CBA signed before an uncapped year. Otherwise we fear that they will go the way of coaches pensions.''
Finally, I'll be doing a couple of meet-and-greets while on the NFL camp trail in late July or August. Tweetups, I think they're called. Candidate spots for them, and please let me know which you favor: Albany, N.Y., State College, Pa., Indianapolis; Denver; Bourbonnais, Ill.; New Orleans or Kansas City.
Convenience will dictate the decisions on which to choose, to some degree, and my ability to set aside a couple of hours will play a part, too. But send in your vote here, or, more conveniently, to my Twitter page. Then follow me there to see which sites are chosen. Looking forward to meeting a bunch of you.
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