"Present-day players ... don't understand what the guys went through [in previous labor battles with owners]. Quite honestly, I don't think they really give a damn about the guys that laid the foundation for the game. I think it's a lot of verbiage, but I don't think they really care. These [former players] deserve something ... they deserve medical benefits, and they deserve treatment for all the issues that former players are now dealing with.''
-- Former player Ron Jaworski, who was active in the union when he played, to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday.
"A lot of the criticism he's receiving is unfortunate and racially based. I thought we were all past this. I don't see other quarterbacks in the draft being criticized by the media or fans about their smile or called a phony. He's being held to different standards from white quarterbacks. I thought we were past all this stuff about African-American quarterbacks, but I guess we're not.
"Of course there is racism in every walk of society. We've made a lot of progress in this country. But racism is still there. I just thought in the sports arena we were beyond it. I think the way Cam is being treated shows we're not ... It's blatant racism, some of it.''
-- Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon, an adviser to Cam Newton, to Mike Freeman of CBSsports.com, on the portrayals of Newton by the press leading up to the draft. Moon apparently was upset about a Pro Football Weekly scouting report on Newton that accused him of being a phony.
Before the draft, there are lots of critiques of players. Coverage of the draft has skyrocketed, of course. Newton is a tremendous football player and an engaging person ... with a lot of red flags. He was in possession of a stolen laptop at Florida; charges were dropped when he completed a program for first-time offenders. Foxsports.com reported he transferred out of Florida after being accused of cheating at school. His father has been accused of asking Mississippi State boosters for $185,000 for his son to enroll there. In February, Newton said he wanted to be not only a quarterback, but an entertainer and an icon. Now, I'm not saying Newton shouldn't, or won't, be chosen very high in the draft. But there's enough cause for concern with him that any responsible scout or general manager would work very hard to find out the truth with him.
I'm a white reporter. Moon was a black quarterback -- a great one. He's been there. So I'm not saying you should take my word over his. But I am saying that I have heard many of the same things the Pro Football Weekly writer, Nolan Nawrocki, heard and wrote. Many of those in my business have. And I believe the same as Newton, this is more a case of skepticism than racism by the people who analyze football players.
"There's an unwritten rule that it's not a sin to tell a lie during pre-draft stuff. Everybody does it, it's accepted, so everything you read or hear or see, you need to keep in mind that about 10 percent of it is the truth."
-- Buffalo GM Buddy Nix, talking to Bills boosters and season-ticket holders last week, giving everyone in my business good reason to not dial up Nix in the days leading up to the April 28 draft.
If I hear one more agent or college coach crow about what a great job a quarterback did in a pro day, I'll ... well, I'll think it's malarkey -- and I don't mean Mike. The real test of a quarterback is how he plays in games, not how he does against no pass rush or coverage. In a pro day, that's what it is: just the quarterback throwing against air. Let's compare the career numbers of the top quarterbacks with their pro day production -- at least the ones who had unofficial stats kept:
|Pro Day performances for Ryan Mallett (college: 552-955, .578) and Christian Ponder (college: 596-965, .617) could not be learned.|
My read: The quarterback with the biggest hill to climb in terms of proving himself to pro scouts is Locker, who played much of four Washington seasons but had an awful completion percentage. Even though he played much of 2010 with broken ribs, that doesn't account for how shaky he was throwing the ball over his Washington career.
Dan Lauria was a guest on our Sirius NFL Radio show the other day. He's Vince Lombardi in the critically acclaimed Lombardi play, which now is the longest-running non-musical currently playing Broadway. He said on one recent night of the play, Hank Aaron, Yogi Berra and Frank Robinson were in the house, and afterward he met them backstage. Aaron told him he used to practice with the Packers of those great years in the offseason in Green Bay, and he said Lombardi once told him, "You'd make a great running back.''
The thing I find interesting about that is Aaron stuck around frigid Green Bay in the offseason to work out, two hours north of Milwaukee. Imagine a baseball player today practicing outside in Wisconsin in the fall and winter to stay in shape for the summer game. And imagine the dedication of Aaron to work during the fall and winter -- when many players reported to spring training to get in shape in those days.
Lauria said Washington coach Mike Shanahan came to the play last week and told him: "You ought to bring this play to Washington.''
Lombardi's last year in coaching, of course, was with the Redskins just before he died of cancer in 1970.
Two travels notes from the week, the first from my friend Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe, about a strange sight in a Florida airport last week:
1. Reports Abraham: "I was leaving Fort Myers (SW Florida International Airport) on Wednesday, headed for Dallas. While at the gate waiting for my Delta flight, the 40-ish woman across the way was holding her little white dog. As the boarding time approached, she reached into her bag and took out what looked like a disposable diaper and laid it flat on the carpet. As people looked on in disbelief, she was encouraging the dog to do its business.
"The dog circled around, sniffed the diaper a few times but didn't go. The gate agents were looking askance but nobody stopped her. The woman put the diaper back in the bag then took a few photos of herself and the dog with her cell phone camera. Before we boarded, she gave the dog a few treats. It was amazing to watch, as much for the reaction of the other people. You see a lot of fun and/or weird things while traveling. That was right up there. The dog was a good little traveler, it hopped right it its case and never barked during the flight.''
2. I flew to Dallas the other day. On the way back to my seat, I passed a three-seat row in mid-coach. The aisle seat was empty. The window seat was occupied by a huge, bronze-colored cello case, which, I assumed, held a cello. It was seat-belted in, with a ticket taped to the outside of it.
In the middle seat was a man of about 60. I'm guessing, because he wore a black ski cap, with graying hair poking out of the bottom, and a black sleeping mask. Around both the back and front of his neck were those Brookstone half-circle airplane pillows, which, together, covered the circumference of his neck. He had an American Airlines blanket pulled up to his neck with his arms tucked underneath and the seatbelt buckled over the outside of the blanket. The man was asleep when I passed, but if ever body language said anything, this man's screamed the following: "LEAVE ME ALONE ON THIS FLIGHT OR I WILL HURT YOU. BADLY.''
"Is it possible that more people were rooting for the Red Army hockey team in 1980 than will be rooting for UConn tomorrow night?''
--@MikeVacc, Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post, Sunday, on the prospects that the NCAA title game will have a Butler home-crowd feel over the big, bad Huskies.
"Most disturbing sight: Clemson DT Miguel Chavis working out in white compression shorts, black cleats, that's it. Scouts know his religion.''
--@daringantt, Darin Gantt of the Rock Hill (S.C.) Herald and Charlotte Observer, reporting from Clemson on Friday, watching several Clemson players, including Da'Quan Bowers, work for NFL Scouts. As Bowers said, "You don't see many guys get naked to run.''
Just one reason, after blanching significantly, to wonder why teams don't have players run in what they're going to wear on the field instead of running in strange near-nakedness.
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