The veteran knocks
the rookie senseless then helps him up with a grin and a "Welcome to the
NFL." There is no precise etymology for this phrase, but it probably dates
from the early '60s and then mutated into the popular lexicon in the 1969 film
Number One, starring Charlton Heston as an aging quarterback. Defensive end
David Rowe of the Saints (playing a member of the Cowboys) tackles Heston and
delivers the line as Heston writhes on the field. It's a much harsher moment
than the veteran schooling the rookie, but there it is--resonating.
The great SI
writer and literary figure George Plimpton used to talk about how at the heart
of the game was the simple urge to knock somebody down. "That's what makes
football so great," he would laugh. "Welcome to the NFL." Old guy
whacking young guy or the other way around, it's become the omnipotent punch
line, and fans are proud of what it says about the toughness of their favorite
sport. Think about it: You don't say, "Welcome to soccer."
The writers and
editors who cover the NFL for Sports Illustrated know this. They also believe
that this season will be the best (read toughest) ever in the league's 87
years. The NFL has never been more competitive and complicated. This is the
best (also read toughest) of challenges for SI, which now staffs the magazine
and website with writers and editors who can stack up 170 seasons of experience
covering professional football--from NFL editor Mark Mravic, who is in his
second year on the beat after covering college football, to senior writer Paul
(Dr. Z) Zimmerman, who was on the job when it was legal to grab face masks.
This was back when Johnny Unitas was a free agent and Y.A. Tittle was the QB of
the moment (left).
The reporting gets
intense when training camps open in late July. Senior writer Peter King alone
visited 18 camps in 26 days. The goal is to gather smart, exclusive information
that you can't get anywhere besides SI and SI.com. This year every scouting
report will include a preview of mySI, a free customizable desktop application
that works with SI.com's new team pages to collect the most relevant news from
across the Web about your favorite NFL teams and make it easy for you to access
that information in one place--on SI.com. What makes this possible is an
SI-developed "recommendation engine" that aggregates the top stories
and offers many other new features. It's a useful list: a ticker with the
latest sports news, a new-player search feature, an injury tracker and a
rotating screen saver that features full-screen team photo galleries.
Welcome to the