Quote of the Week I
"The truth of the matter is ... somebody is going to die here in the NFL. It's going to happen.''
-- Cincinnati's Carson Palmer, in my quarterback roundtable discussion this week in Sports Illustrated.
I found that comment chilling, to say the least. The other quarterbacks at the table -- Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers -- didn't dispute Palmer's words, and when he said them, the table got very quiet. They know. They feel the same thing happening in this game, too. And the fact that this statement has gotten zero traction in the last four days tells me something that all of us should find frightening: People read that line and just said, Yup, someone's going to die. We accept that. Now bring on football, dammit!
I gathered the five quarterbacks after their Friday round of golf at the celebrity golf tournament at South Lake Tahoe in mid-July. [If you think that was easy, for my next trick I'm going to pull a rabbit out of this MacBook Air.] It was a loose group. The light beer flowed, and it was the kind of scene you wish could have lasted five hours, not one. And so occasionally, a Roethlisberger would grab his phone and text someone, or chat with Rodgers about something that happened out on the course, but when Palmer said what he said, the table got quiet and everyone listened.
My question was about the endless defensive grousing concerning the overprotection of quarterbacks by the NFL, and Palmer went on, stridently, for a couple of minutes. "I don't mind [the league's protection of passers],'' he said. "In fact, I love it.'' In SI's preview issue, we edited some of his comments for space reasons, but here's much of what he said:
"Guys are getting so big, so fast, so explosive,'' Palmer said. "The game's so violent. Now that they're cutting out the wedge deal on kickoff returns, those guys [are] coming free, and at some point somebody is going to die in football. And I hope it's not anyone at this table, and I hope it doesn't happen, obviously. Everyone talks about the good old days, when guys were tough and quarterbacks got crushed all the time, but back in the day, there weren't defensive ends that were Mario Williams -- 6-7, 300 pounds, 10 percent body fat, running a 4.7 40.
"The game has changed, the game is getting bigger, faster, stronger, and there needs to be more protection. If I weren't a quarterback, I would be mad about the rules. If I were a safety or a defensive back, I would be mad about the new rule that you can't hit your helmet above their shoulder pads or whatever it is because it does take some of the ferociousness out of the game, but somebody is going to get seriously hurt, possibly die.
"I don't think you can change it. It's the nature of the world. The ways that guys train now, the way that guys eat and take vitamins and take supplements and all these things, guys are getting more muscle mass, more explosiveness, faster. Like I said, I hope to God it doesn't happen. Since I've been in the league, I feel like the D-Ends that come into the league, they're freaks, they're freaks of nature, and I hope it doesn't happen, but the rules need to be adjusted a little bit because [the violence] is getting a little out of control.''
Quote of the Week II
"He told me the offense wasn't simple enough for him. He wants a Pop Warner offense. He limited me in formations and limited me in plays. He's been on my back all offseason.''
-- Fired Buffalo offensive coordinator Turk Schonert, on the constraints he felt were put on him by coach Dick Jauron, in an interview with Buffalo TV station WIVB.
Quote of the Week III
"I like it. I like it. I mean, it's man-eat-man out here.''
The block, of course, was reprehensible, because Favre could have seriously injured Wilson. But it was also one of those things that gets a player closer to his teammates. I was in the Vikings locker room after the game, and the players clearly appreciated that Favre was blocking for Percy Harvin instead of ole-ing a phony block. It's like a pitcher in baseball who "protects'' his teammates by hitting an opposing batter. It might not make sense to people on the outside, but it's part of the culture of the locker room. And Favre won over a few guys the other night by doing that.
Stat of the Week
Monday dawned with the Patriots having two quarterbacks from Big Ten arch-rivals on their roster. Tom Brady you know. Brian Hoyer you don't, probably. But they weren't very different coming out of college, as their college stat lines show:
Now, don't go saying, "King thinks Hoyer's the second coming of Tom Brady.'' I have no idea what Hoyer is. But the Patriots have never cared much about what the public thinks of their quarterback situation. They abandoned Drew Bledsoe for Brady, then in 2008 went on a playoff chase with Matt Cassel, who hadn't started at quarterback since high school.
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
Think Josh McDaniels doesn't carry Bill Belichick in his hip pocket every day? In the team meeting room of the Denver Broncos are two huge pronouncements on either side of the video screen. They say the same thing.
DO YOUR JOB.
That was always the mantra in New England. In other words, don't worry about the guy next to you; if everyone does the job he's been assigned to do, and does it well, we'll win.
Enjoyable/Aggravating Travel Note of the Week
Two reasons why I'll be looking to fly AirTran this season after returning from Dallas to Boston the other day on the off-the-beaten-track airline:
1. Ninety stations of free XM radio on board. Listened to Dan Patrick for two hours. Nice to see you've got all those ads, Dan. Love the Matthew McConaughey spot. "Beef. It's what fer dinner.'' And I didn't know you had a 1967 car.
2. WiFi. My first Internet-on-the-airplane experience -- $5.95 for a two-hour, 30-minute segment from Dallas to Baltimore. Not sure long-term whether that's a good thing or bad. Got a lot of net-surfing stuff done, but I could have been writing instead of i-chatting about [Hideki] Okajima with Jon Heyman. Not to mention the salt-and-cracked-pepper kettle cooked potato chips. A pleasant flying experience, AirTran -- and that's a rarity these days.
Tweet of the Week
"I'll bet Thanksgiving at the Richardsons is gonna be a blast this year!''
-- jrolson1013, John Olson of the Twin Cities, after Panthers club president Mark Richardson (unexpectedly) and stadium president Jon Richardson (who'd battled cancer and told confidants he'd be leaving soon) resigned from the team last week. Reportedly, the two men were at odds about the future direction of the team.
It's now understood that Jon Richardson was going to be moving on this year, even though it hadn't leaked 'til last Tuesday. But Mark has been one of the two backbones of that team, and the fact that he was leaving shocked even his close associates around the league. I was with Dallas owner Jerry Jones, who is close to the Richardson family, 30 minutes after the news broke, and he was blown away by it.
Two personal points underscore the value Mark Richardson had to football in Charlotte. In 1989, I went on a trip for Sports Illustrated to several cities exploring franchises in the proposed new minor football league run by departed Dallas executive Tex Schramm. In Charlotte, Mark and (Panthers owner) Jerry Richardson met our traveling party, and Jerry went to meet with Schramm at length. Mark took me out for a bite to eat and we ended up shooting pool until the wee hours.
He'd been a defensive end at Clemson -- we talked about him being a teammate of Andy Headen on Tiger bowl teams just seven or eight years earlier -- but now was transitioning to the family business, which he and his dad hoped would be football. They wanted to bring an NFL franchise to Charlotte. Level-headed, very smart, sharp dresser. Four years later, at a suburban hotel in Chicago, the Richardsons were awarded the franchise, and Jerry Richardson and Mark emotionally discussed getting a team for the Carolinas with a few writers.
I just always assumed Jerry would run the team for a generation, then Mark would take over. As one league exec told me the other day, "We all assumed that. No one saw this coming.'' But I also hear inside the Panthers that Mark Richardson had grown full of himself over the years and the father just had enough.
The Panthers have had an awful last eight months, starting with a 33-13 home playoff debacle against Arizona and continuing with Julius Peppers trying to abandon ship for months (that failed; he's back), the family/executive flap and an 0-4 preseason. It won't be easy to turn it around, with games against Philadelphia, Atlanta and Dallas -- the last two on the road -- to open the season.
NFL Truth & Rumors