Why AP's revote decision is right, and why I won't vote for Cushing
I made a mistake with Shawne Merriman and don't want to repeat it
Clay Matthews Jr. among those I'm considering for defensive rookie
Mailbag questions on the Seahawks, Tom Brady and charity activities
Peter King and Don Banks are two of the 50 AP voters who will revote for the 2009 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Read Banks' contrasting view here.
Life changes. Tom Brady said it in my column Monday, and I'm saying it today. In 2006, I voted for Shawne Merriman on my all-pro team as one of two outside linebackers, even though he had tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug and was suspended for four games that season. I made a mistake and I'm not going to duplicate it this year.
As one of 50 voters for the Associated Press postseason all-pro team and award list, I voted for Brian Cushing as my defensive rookie of the year in January. But I won't vote for him Wednesday. I won't vote for him even though this morning ESPN's Adam Schefter Tweeted that Cushing tested positive for hCG, which the body can produce naturally. But hCG also is known to be used during and after steroid cycles to maintain and restore testicular size as well as for normal testosterone production. It's the same substance that got Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez suspended by MLB last year.
I spoke Monday with Terry Taylor, the sports editor of the AP, when the news organization made the unprecedented decision to take a second vote on the defensive rookie of the year. (The AP is also opening up the outside linebacker voting; Cushing was second-team all-pro as a rookie.) She acknowledged it's a slippery slope, opening up the vote. But she said the AP prides itself on its transparency and credibility, and just because this sets a precedent that may lead to difficult future scenarios, that's no reason for the organization to not make this decision.
I agree. Just because you make a mistake one time doesn't mean you can't change your mind in the future.
Now, I also agree with the AP's decision to keep Cushing in contention for the award. It's up to the 50 voters to decide -- just the way it should be. If a majority feel he should be the defensive rookie of the year, then so be it. But I won't be one of his supporters. I'll spend the day considering my options, and I'm leaning toward Green Bay outside linebacker Clay Matthews as my revoted choice.
Now for your e-mail:
COULD CHARACTER BE OVERRATED? From Rich Ross of New York City: "I have been thinking a lot about the issue of character lately in light of the unfortunate situation with Ben Roethlisberger, and to a lesser degree the retired Lawrence Taylor. It dawned on me that there have been plenty of teams that have won the Super Bowl with players of questionable character and I wonder if it really has anything to do with a team's success.
"Take the Steelers. Big Ben to Santonio Holmes for the game winner against the Cards -- not exactly a couple of choirboys. The previous year you had Plaxico Burress catching the game winner from Eli Manning. Then you have the first Big Ben Super Bowl, the Ray Lewis-led Ravens, numerous Cowboys Super Bowls with Michael Irvin, etc. Go all the way back to the early years of the great Packers teams, and you have the gambling Paul Hornung and the gallivanting Max McGee out drinking before starring in the Big Game. I am not trying to besmirch anyone here, I am just saying that the record books are filled with champions of questionable character. So at the end of the day, while it would be great to have a team full of Rhodes Scholars, I think too much is made about the correlation between character and winning.''
Well put. Thanks for writing.
I AM BULLISH ON SEATTLE. From Phil of Friday Harbor, Wash.: "Where do you see the Seahawks finishing after crushing the draft and cranking up the energy and expectations with the start of the Pete Carroll era? I think it's going to be a very competitive division with San Francisco and possibly Arizona, but I like the vibe from Seattle.''
I do too. Here's the sense I got from being out there for three days last month: Carroll will significantly ratchet up the level of competition, which is important for a roster that was in need of repair. I like what I heard from the players I spoke with. And the best thing of all for Seattle, is the division. No Kurt Warner, no dominant team, lots of transition on all four teams. Carroll is in a good spot to make an immediate impact.
NOTICED THAT TOO. From Peter of Somers, N.Y.: "I found it interesting that at least twice in your piece on Tom Brady, he mentioned the Patriots players needing to respond to Bill Belichick and his staff's coaching. What, if anything, was Brady implying? Do you sense some unrest in Foxboro?''
Unrest, no. But I do think it's fair to wonder if the current crop of young players -- who have not been on a Super Bowl champion -- give the coaching staff as much respect as the team did five years ago. That's what I sensed from what Brady said about the players needing to listen to Belichick more.
REGARDING OFFSEASON ATTENDANCE ... From GChop of Santa Monica, Calif.: "Do you have any insight into other top quarterbacks' attendance to voluntary OTAs? Peyton Manning? Drew Brees? Just curious if there's any correlation. Either way, as a father, I don't begrudge Tom Brady for doing what he does, but it would seem that earlier in his career, when he was all football all the time, it was having an effect. Or was that just part of the sixth-round, out-of-nowhere myth? In your opinion, can he reclaim the mantle as the best without reclaiming the celebrated parking spot?''
That's the $64,000 question and one we'll all be studying early in the season. Now, I don't think he had perfect attendance last year either. But he'll be missing, in all likelihood, at least half the offseason program this year. And we'll just have to wait to see how much of an impact that has on his season. No one knows.
I NEVER THOUGHT OF IT THIS WAY. From Bruce of Denver: "I find it a little ironic that you sandwiched your column with a story on Brady's offseason/off-field charity activities, ended with a note on the Matt Light Foundation, and wrote in between on how Lawrence Taylor's and O.J. Simpson's off-field activities are irrelevant to their Hall of Fame credentials. I tend to agree with your stance, but why bother writing about the other charity activities if they're not really relevant to anyone's ultimate status as a footballer?''
They may not be relevant to Hall of Fame credentials, but my reporting on charity stuff in the offseason, when there are no games, is going to be more prevalent than during the season. There's more time for players to be involved in those things, and when I think it merits attention, I try to give it some attention.
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