On the horns of a (Viking) dilemma
Minnesota is all screwed up. A year ago, Viking Nation was pirouetting with joy after Brett Favre threw the miracle pass to Greg Lewis to stun the 49ers. Today, the Vikes are 0-2, and Favre threw more interceptions in the first 54 minutes of his first home game Sunday (three) than he threw at home last year in eight games (two).
The popular theory is that he misses Sidney Rice, which is smart because he and Rice made beautiful music together last year, and because he hasn't bonded with Bernard Berrian the way he did with Rice. Two of his interceptions Sunday were intended for Berrian, which could bode ill for the offense until Rice returns. No one's sure when that will be after Rice's August hip surgery, but it's likely to be in November.
Meanwhile, there's a drumbeat building to trade for and sign holdout Chargers wideout Vincent Jackson, as if that will solve what ails Minnesota. Jackson is under suspension by the league for violating the personal conduct policy for a second alcohol-related driving violation; he also was placed on the roster-exempt list by the Chargers. Last week, the league and the players union agreed he could return after missing four games, as long as the Chargers trade him by Wednesday.
Though I love Jackson, one of my two All-Pro receivers in 2009, I see three problems with the Vikings trading for and signing him:
1. He wouldn't be eligible to play until mid-October, when the Vikings are slated to play Dallas. The Vikings are in crisis mode now, and they want Jackson. But if the Vikings have to play two more games without him, how smart would it be to deal for him now? By the time he gets in the lineup, Rice might be two or three weeks away from returning.
2. It's not very smart to deal a high draft choice (likely a second-round pick, or a second-plus something) to acquire a guy who is one misdeed away from a possible year's suspension.
3. The Vikings have put off negotiations with prominent players in the last year of their contracts -- linebackers Chad Greenway and Ben Leber, Rice and defensive end Ray Edwards -- and said they were finished doing new contracts. Then owner Zygi Wilf found $3 million to sweeten the pot for Favre to return for one more year. Now, if the Vikes deal for Jackson, that's another slap in the face to four guys who were major factors in the Vikings reaching the NFC Championship Game last year.
4. Even if the Vikings deal for Jackson and play it safe, signing him to, say, a one-year, $7 million contract instead of a long-term one, in essence they'd be trading a high draft pick for a guy who'd be a 12-week rental, then watching Jackson hit the free-agent market next offseason. Not smart.
I understand the desperation. But for the Vikings, it's clear Jackson's not the answer.
A non-scandalous scandal.
Last week, it was reported in Boston with some outrage that the car Tom Brady wrecked a couple of weeks ago, a $97,000 Audi, was owned by a charity he has worked for, Best Buddies, and given to him as a perk for the work he's done for the charity. The outrage stems from the fact that Brady, who just signed a $72 million contract extension, shouldn't be taking a $97,000 car from any charity, obviously.
But sources close to the story tell me it's not true. These sources say Brady was signed to represent Audi in corporate promotional work three years ago, independent of Brady's long involvement with Best Buddies, a charity that pairs mentally challenged people with mentors and friends in mainstream society. Part of his Audi deal was having Brady make four appearances a year for the car company. As part of his compensation, Audi gave Brady an expensive car to use each year. Best Buddies later partnered with Audi, and as part of that agreement, Audi told Brady he could do two of his four annual Audi appearances with the charity, on behalf of the car manufacturer.
Whether the appearances were done at Best Buddies events or other events not aligned with the charity, Brady was still going to get the car. Brady, the sources said, has never been paid money by Best Buddies, and the car involved in the crash was owned by Audi, not Best Buddies.
I'm all for good watchdog work against those who would use their celebrity to take advantage of the little guy. That's not what this story is about. The Brady/Audi story is a business deal between a famous athlete and a big company that has nothing to do with a charity Brady has worked with since 2002 -- and I'm told he's financially supported as well.
One good byproduct of this story? Two longtime Patriots fans have stepped up to donate $1,000 per Brady touchdown in 2010 to his favorite charity. Brady chose Best Buddies, and the fans, Brian and Armanda Hanson, are trying to get corporations or private citizens who believe in Brady to match what they're doing by visiting bestbuddies.org.
Where, exactly, is this landslide for the 18-game season?
I asked on Twitter: Which would you prefer for the future in the NFL -- a 16-game season with four preseason games or an 18-game season with two preseason games. I got 593 responses, and the results surprised me.
A 16-game schedule: 386 votes (65.1 percent).
An 18-game schedule: 207 votes (34.9 percent).
Now, maybe some people are telling me what I want to hear, because I'm very much against expanding the regular season; it's already hard enough to get players through 16 games. I think the league's asking for trouble, big-time, if it goes to an 18-game schedule, which it will try to do in this next CBA with the players. The players are aware of the league's intentions and are not impressed.
"The 18-game schedule and player safety,'' Jets linebacker Bart Scott told me. "That's what I call an oxymoron. All we say as players is: Don't insult our intelligence and say it's about making the game better. You know the 18-game schedule is about the money, not about the game.''
A sampling of what my Twitter followers said:
@sportsindenver (Tim Larison, Denver): "From a 42-year NFL season ticket holder. Don't want to see the season pushed deeper into winter.''
@SSI311 (Robert Scott): "they can't stay healthy for 16 let alone 18! Somebody please use some common sense!''
@slbguru (Josh Lewis): "4 gm preseasons is a joke/thievery by owners. Yes, more injuries, but there will be expanded rosters as concession to union.''
@ericrmusic (Eric Roberts, Dallas): "Are the 'fans' Goodell hears from 'everywhere he goes' about having an expanded season [actually] the owners?''
Interesting idea from former NFL executive and San Diego Chargers president Jim Steeg. He proposes a 17-game season, with the 17th on each schedule at a neutral site to re-energize fans after a possible work stoppage, and to engage markets hungry for the game, foreign and American. "It could also serve to help teams develop their regions even more with cities like Portland, Columbus, Raleigh,'' Steeg said. "No team would have to give up a home game for international games. This might be the chance to ensure that the NFL is the nation's number one sport across the country, and not just in the 31 markets it now dominates.''
The schedule will continue to be a hot-button issue through negotiations next year.
I'd love to focus on a few of the other games -- especially the meaning of Jets 28, Patriots 14 and the significance of the game for Mark Sanchez -- but I'll save that for tomorrow.
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