(I'm having some awful writers block, and really tired from a long weekend at work...So I decided to go back in the archives, and share a post from our old friend ThirdStone...Enjoy -The Beeze)
6,723 Receiving Yards
5 Pro Bowls
AFL All-Time Team
First With 101 Receptions In A Season
Charles Taylor Hennigan joined the expansion Houston Oilers as an undrafted 25-year old in the fledgling American Football League in 1960. He had previously been a high school teacher at a high school, where he earned $4,000 annually. He kept a monthly pay stub of $270.72 in his helmet for inspiration on the gridiron.
He had initially went to college at LSU on a track scholarship, where the coaches of the school had designs for him to compete in the Olympic games. The Tigers were the SCC mile-relay champions in his freshman year, an event Hennigan specialized in.
Football became Hennigan's primary interest soon after his high school sweetheart passed away from cancer. LSU did not want him switching sports, so Hennigan transferred to Northwestern State University and played running back for three years.
After college, he was invited to try out for the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League. He was cut after a week, so he had a stint in the United States Army before returning to Louisiana to teach biology and gym class while also coaching both football and track.
Hennigan used his time as a track coach to run and stay in shape, along with using isometrics. Red Cochran was a former NFL player who later became a scout. He happened to live nearby Hennigan, so Cochran got him to try out for the newly founded Oilers. Cochran's career would last 52 years in the NFL, ending up in the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.
Having no real experience as a wide receiver, Hennigan asked Cleveland Browns legend Dub Jones for some help. Jones, whose son Bert would later become a Pro Bowl quarterback with the Baltimore Colts, was a former Pro Bowl receiver who happened to live close by Hennigan as well.
Jones, who still shares the NFL record for six touchdowns scored in one game, drilled Hennigan on how to fake the defender and not the area. NFL defenses employed man-to-man coverage in those days, as opposed to the zone coverage most teams use in the game today.
Hennigan went into a Oilers camp that had a few stars trying out for the team. The team cut future stars like Hall of Fame cornerback Willie Brown and Pro Bowl wide receiver Homer Jones. Jones, who still holds the NFL record for yards per catch in a career, is known best for inventing the football spike after a score.
A big reason Brown didn't make the Oilers is because he had difficulty covering Hennigan in practice. The two would butt heads many times over the years, often complimenting each other as the toughest opponent either had faced in their careers.
There was a few hundred men trying out for the Oilers and Hennigan began to hear rumors he was about to be cut as well. Yet he made the team and had Browns great Mac Speedie, a former teammate of Dub Jones, as his wide receivers coach.
He and Oilers teammate Charley "The Human Bowling Ball" Tolar are the first persons at Northwestern State to play professional football. The school would later produce such greats like Hall of Fame tight end Jackie Smith, Pro Bowl players like quarterback Bobby Hebert, cornerback Terrence McGee, wide receiver Mark Duper, running backs Tolar, John Stephens and Joe Delaney. They are amongst the 44 players from that school to play professional football.
The five Pro Bowls Hennigan accrued is tied with Smith as the most ever by a Northwestern State Demon. Also a track star, he has been named one of the 100 greatest football players in school history.
He soon won a starting job in camp and developed an amazing repertoire with Hall of Fame quarterback George Blanda. Hennigan scored the first touchdown in Oilers history, which happened in the first game in franchise history against the Oakland Raiders.
Separating his shoulder in the first half of that game, Hennigan then sat out for three games as he healed from the injury. He returned to be second on the team in receiving yards and touchdown catches as the Oilers eventually reached the first ever AFL title game.
Playing against the Los Angeles Chargers, Houston came back from an early deficit to capture the championship with a 24-16 victory. Hennigan's four receptions for 71 yards were both the second best totals on the team.
The 1961 season started out strange for the Oilers. After stumbling out to a 1-3-1, they replaced head coach Lou Rymkus with Wally Lemm. This awoke the Oilers roster, as they would then explode upon the AFL with 10 straight wins on their way to winning the second, and so far last, title in franchise history.
The offense was ranked first in the league in offense, total yards and passing yards. They also finished second in rushing yards, points and total yards allowed. It was also the finest season of Hennigan's career.
He had to share receptions with Pro Bowlers like Tolar, Billy Cannon, Willard Dewveall, Bob McLoud and Bill Groman. Groman led the AFL with 17 touchdowns off of 50 receptions for 1,175 yards that year, as well as leading the league in yards per catch.
Hennigan racked up 82 catches at an impressive 21.3 yards per reception average that was second best in the AFL. He led the league with a career best 1,746 receiving yards, breaking an 11-year old record previously set by Hall of Famer Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch.
He had started out the season charting out a way to break Hirsch's record. Hennigan once calculated the number of receptions and receiving yards he needed to break the record by writing on a bathroom mirror with soap as he shaved.
Not only did he set a career best mark by leading the AFL with 124.7 receiving yards gained per game, he also caught a career high 12 touchdowns. The 124.7 yards mark stood as a record until 1982, when Wes Chandler surpassed it in a strike-shortened season that lasted nine games that year. Hennigan appeared in 14 games 21 years earlier and his average still ranks second best in pro football history.
Yet he also piled up more records. He still owns the record for three games of which Hennigan had over 200 yards receiving. He also owns the record for seven straight games of at least 100 yards receiving, which is how he started out the 1961 season. Hennigan was also the first player ever to have 10 games in a season with over 100 receiving yards.
Hennigan had 11 total games that year of at least 100 yards receiving. It, as well as his streak of seven games, was tied in 1995 by Hall of Famer Michael Irvin. Irvin needed 16 games to tie the record.
His streak of seven games ended after getting 232 yards and two scores against the Buffalo Bills. After missing his eighth straight game by 22 yards the next week in a game Houston won 55-14 over the Denver Broncos, he did not catch a pass the following game.
While the Oilers beat the San Diego Chargers for the 1961 AFL Championship, they did a good job limiting Hennigan to 43 yards on five catches. The reason was because they concentrated on him after he had burned them for 214 yards and three scores just three weeks earlier.
Not only did his 1,746 total yards lead the AFL on 1961, Hennigan began a streak of five consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. The record of 1,746 receiving yards stood as a record until 1995, when Isaac Bruce and record holder Jerry Rice surpassed it. Yet Hennigan's total still ranks and the third most ever.
The difference between Hennigan's record setting seasons to those who tied or surpassed him is the fact he passed Hirsch's record in 12 games, the same number of games Hirsch had played in 1951. Rice and Bruce needed 16 games, two more than Hennigan played in 1961, to surpass him.
Another difference is that only Irvin was on a championship team like Hennigan was during these record-setting years. Rice, a Hall of Famer, and Bruce would win titles in different seasons.
Hennigan, who was named First Team All-Pro in 1961 and 1962, then continued his excellence after his incredible year. He grabbed 115 balls for 1,918 yards and 18 touchdowns over the next two seasons. The 1962 Houston team reached the AFL title game for a third straight season, but lost in overtime.
Some say Hennigan's 1964 season was his best, while Hennigan prefers to think his 1961 season was. Though he was good friends with Denver Broncos legend Lionel Taylor, he set out to break Taylor's 1961 record of 100 receptions.
He broke the record by grabbing 101 passes that year. This mark stood 20 years until Hall of Famer Art Monk had 106 in 1984, a record would stand for. Hennigan also had 1,546 receiving yards, which also led the AFL and still ranks as the 21st most in pro football history.
The 110.4 yards gained per game receiving average he has in 1964 also still ranks as the eighth best ever in pro football history. Hennigan is the first pro player ever to have two seasons of over 1,500 yards receiving, and he is also the first to have four games of 200 or more receiving yards.
Concussions began to catch up to Hennigan by 1965, as well as the fact he was running around on an injured knee. He gutted it out over the next two years, catching 68 passes for 891 yards and seven touchdowns over that time.
One game against the Chargers saw San Diego cornerback Claude Gibson hit Hennigan with a rabbit punch, knocking the Oilers star out cold. Hennigan woke up in the locker room, but was dazed. He was put back out on the field, but didn't know where he was most of the time because of the concussion he suffered.
It turned out to be a mistake by Gibson, a great punt returner who led the AFL in punt return yardage and average twice. Player in those days took care of their own teammates.
Unbeknownst to Hennigan, two of his teammates set up Gibson during a preseason game a few years later. He was hit in the knees, which ended Gibson's career. Hennigan was told this story at a 50th anniversary reunion by his teammates.
Concussions went untreated back then, and medical technology was not good enough to do a good job repairing knees either. Houston traded Hennigan to the Raiders for a future draft pick, but he failed the physical and decided to retire.
Not only was Hennigan on the gridiron for the love of the game, but he was able to pursue his doctorate in education with an increase in salary compared to what he earned as a teacher.
He once asked Oilers owner Bud Adams for a raise after his monster 1961 season, but was refused. Instead, Adams cut him a check for $10,000 and sent Hennigan out of his offices.
When Hennigan retired after the 1966 season, he basically owned every receiving record there was for the Oilers and AFL. He still has the most touchdown receptions in franchise history, as well as the fourth most receiving yards and sixth most receptions in team history.
He owns the Oilers record of most catches and receiving yards in a game, when he went for 276 yards on 13 receptions in 1961. His 26 games of at least 100 yards receiving is also a franchise record.
His 71.8 receiving yards per game is not only the best in team history, it is still the 12th best ever in pro football history. Four of the players ahead of him on this list are still active, so Hennigan could move back up the list as the years go on.
The 16.8 yards per reception average is excellent for any era of football, especially one that dealt with the 10-yard chuck rule. Not only does it rank 39th best ever in yards per touch in pro football history, it is the second best in Oilers/ Titans history behind Oilers great Ken Burrough.
I do not know what disgusts me most. Hennigan's exclusion from the Pro Football Hall of Fame or the fact Adams has seemingly spit on his teams earlier history.
Blanda and Jim Norton are the only early Oilers in the franchises Hall of Fame. Ken Houston and Elvin Bethea, two more Hall of Fame players, are the only other AFL Oilers inducted into the teams Hall of Fame.
Hennigan should have been inducted into both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Oilers/ Titans Hall of Fame by now. Not only is he the greatest wide receiver in that franchises history, he is one of the very best in AFL history. Hennigan is a member of the AFL All-Time Team.
There are the obvious signs of the continued AFL disrespect by the Pro Football Hall of Fame as one of the reasons to why Hennigan has not yet been inducted. Even though the building in Canton does not say NFL Hall of Fame, it has become just that.
The NFL's anger of being forced to merge with the successful AFL still seems to burn brightly. The voters obviously cower and heed this anger by inducting modern inferior players instead.
Not only did Hennigan have to deal with the 10-yard chuck rule, which is a lot harder to have success in compared to the modern five-yard rule, he dealt with playing fields that were nowhere as near as pristine as they have been the past few decades.
Football used to be a game for men in Hennigan's era. Players had to actually earn their accolades then, as opposed to the rule changes that guarantee successes like now. Yet the numbers he put up easily match or exceed many players today that are deemed as stars.
Some detractors will point at he fact he lasted just seven seasons, but the Hall of Fame is filled with men who had careers of that length or less. Men who put up inferior production as well.
While Hirsch is in the Hall of Fame, he went to two less Pro Bowls and had one less First Team All-Pro honor than Hennigan. Though a great wide receiver, Hirsch had two excellent seasons and several decent ones.
Lynn Swann, another Hall of Famer, lasted nine years but many of his number pale in comparison to Hennigan. Swann was finalist 13 times before induction, while Hennigan hasn't even been named a semi-finalist once. Hennigan also has more receptions than Hall of Fame receiver Bob Hayes, let alone the fact he either owns or shares several other records with some of the best receivers to ever play the game.
Blanda, who was later a teammate of Brown's, often lamented the exclusion of Hennigan from the Hall of Fame up until his death. Hennigan set his receptions record after catching nine passes against Brown, who also agrees with Blanda that the Oilers legend deserves a bust in Canton.
Not only did Hennigan's 101 reception season stand as a record for 20 years, his 1,746 yards gained stood as a record for 34 seasons. He is the only player ever to have three games of 200-yards receiving in a season.
Voters should look at the travails Hennigan had to persevere through compared to the game now. Not only the rules to empower the modern offense that he did not have to help him nor the shoddy fields he played on often. How the hash marks placement greatly differed then and the goal posts used to be placed hazardously on the goal line in his day.
How the defenses of his day actually were allowed to play defense and even extend it further to the realm of crossing the lines of fair play. Even with medical care that didn't have as much expertise as now, Hennigan went out there and performed at a Hall of Fame level no matter how hurt he was.
There is no doubt that Hennigan belongs in Canton. The seniors committee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame is afforded just two nominees each year, which is unfair to the tremendous backlog they have to sift through annually. Yet Hennigan should never have reached the seniors pool, because it is obvious he should have been inducted long ago.
While he is in that deep seniors pool now, Hennigan easily rises to the top of the best wide receivers not yet inducted. Yet too much times has passed in his omission, so the voters must get it together now and put him in so Hennigan can enjoy his long overdue induction.
It is easy to see Charlie Hennigan is the greatest wide receiver not yet put into the hallowed halls within Canton. He belonged long ago, but now is the time to right the wrongs made by past voters. Contact all of the voters and tell them that Hennigan deserves his rightful place inside the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Another week gone bye and it started off with a bang as the UConn Huskies won both the men’s and women’s NCAA (or NAACP if you saw the Fox News faux pas) Division One Basketball Championship. Baseball is back and the season is rolling along inspiring excitement (Milwaukee) or panic (Boston...yes, after an early season three game sweep by Milwaukee there was panic on the airwaves...yeesh!).
The NBA season is closing out and likely another Miami Heat romp through the playoffs is nigh. Meanwhile, the NHL is closing out the year and teams are locking down spots in the playoff picture. With the NHL regular season ending it kicks off the best playoffs in any sports: the NHL Playoffs. No team is safe. Seven game series that go back and forth. Upsets every year. Incredible intensity night after night. It is just fantastic.
The big news in the NFL is once again superstars running afoul of the law in that CBA-negotiated time that keeps players away from their teams. First, let me say that the NFL is a full-time job. This is not 1950 with professional sports players working a regular job in the off-season and then using training camp to get back into shape. Players work-out all off-season long: coaches are at the facility researching, prepping, planning and preparing. Let the off-season camps run all spring and summer long. The more the players are under team control the less bull**** off-season trouble goes on.
This week had San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick looking at his first off-field black eye as news broke about his being investigated by police for an alleged sexual assault. Of course, with many journalists needing to “break stories” TMZ--who broke the news--may have taken out of context in the report. At this time there is the potential of a crime having been committed with Kaepernick a possible--but not charged or arrested--suspect.
This “suspicious incident” included 49ers and Seahawks wide receivers Quinton Patton and Ricardo Lockette as well. Personally, I hope the players did not do anything wrong as I am tired of “sports stars behaving badly” stories. I think the 49ers/Seahawks Kaepernick/Russell Wilson rivalry is the best in the NFL and could be for at least another 5 or more seasons if there are no idiotic episodes to derail it.
Speaking of San Francisco, reports are that the 49ers are desperate enough to call former San Francisco, Washington Redskin, New England Patriot, St. Louis Ram, Denver Bronco, and Chicago Bear wide receiver Brandon Lloyd. Lloyd had probably the least productive 900 yard receiving season in NFL history in 2012 for New England and was out of the league last year when the wide receiver needy Patriots let him walk. The fact that he burned bridges badly in so many cities is a huge flashing neon sign to stay away.
The 49ers have tons of draft picks (just like they did last year) and are in position to draft a wide receiver early and trade for a veteran to shore up their biggest weakness on offense. A player that would fit in San Francisco is Buffalo’s Stevie Johnson. He is talented and obviously sick of all the losing up North. The Bills have invested heavily in the draft at wide receiver and could move the mercurial Johnson for more draft picks.
The Bills are in the news again as with the passing of owner Ralph Wilson last week comes news that his will is stipulating that his surviving family sell the team. This immediately sets off theories of who will buy and where the team will play. There are already reports of rocker Jon Bon Jovi being the face of a group willing to buy the Bills and move them to Toronto. Expect whispers of moving the team to Los Angeles with the lack of a long-term stadium deal.
New England Patriots had some fun this week with new Buffalo Bills linebacker Brandon Spikes. Spikes left New England in a huff after being dumped into injured reserve during the playoffs for being late to practice in a snowstorm. Spikes is a great run-stuffing middle linebacker--a two-down backer in today’s NFL.
He went on a Twitter madcap adventure talking about beating New England twice and then sparring with trolls, umm, I mean...fans. He started unfollowing and blocking Patriots fans from his Twitter...pretty funny stuff. Then, his worst tweet followed, which was “Four years a slave” referring to being paid millions of dollars in New England. What an idiot. Enjoy the snow and the 6-10 seasons, Brandon.
The Cleveland Browns--with gallons and gallons of salary cap space--did not franchise their talented center Alex Mack allowed an opponent to sign him to an offer sheet that if the Browns did not match would cost them nothing but money. The Jacksonville Jaguars--another team with scads and scads of cap space--wisely put in an offer to Mack which is reported to be for five years and $42 million.
The Browns are idiots not to match it and keep him.
The Browns had an offensive line that was 40% fantastic and 60% crap last year: Mack accounted for 20% of the fantastic. The Browns front office--whoever the hell is running it this week--would be idiotic to let him go and further weaken an Achilles heel last year. For Jacksonville, it would be a coup to add Mack to former Broncos guard Zane Beadles on the interior offensive line. To lose Mack and young Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward in the same off-season is a kick to the groin of Cleveland supporters.
March is finally in the rear view mirror and with it I can finally put away the snow shovels and be free of winter for another few months. With that, there is Major League baseball on the television, the Final Four teams are left in the NCAA Tournament with March Madness winding down, the NFL is about done with major free agent signings and turns towards the NFL Draft, and the NBA and NHL wind down the regular season and ready for the playoffs.
I had a great Wednesday night of sitting on the couch watching TV and working the remote with the Red Sox, Bruins, and Celtics all on the same night locally. Had some half-price pizza and Pabst Blue Ribbon beers at the local watering hole with my buddy and the kiddos (no beer for them!) before that. The only downer being the lovely Mrs. B. was stuck working that afternoon and missed all the fun.
A quick shout-out to O.H. whose blog yesterday got the wheels turning in my head--which is the reason we blog, right? He touched on the return of Milwaukee Brewers outfield Ryan Braun from his 65 game suspension for P.E.D.’s. Braun in Milwaukee, like Barry Bonds in San Francisco, received a powerful ovation from the home crowd and will soon be coming to the friendly confines of Fenway Park in Boston.
I had commented that I would not be among those booing Braun if I were at Fenway that night. Part of that reason is I am a big fan of Braun--a large part of that from him carrying various fantasy baseball teams of mine over the years. Another reason is he is a player who really seems to enjoy and appreciate the opportunity to play baseball for a living. But another part of me has another reason not to boo him.
I was at Fenway for Roger Clemens’ first game back to Fenway as a Blue Jay where he dominated Boston’s lineup and famously pointed to General Manager Dan Duquette’s box as he left the mound. I was booing my lungs out at the Texas Con Man that day. Loudly and lustily. Not only because he was pitching so well for the opposition after having a few rough years allegedly out of shape here, but mostly due to rejection. He rejected the Red Sox. My team!
Fans boo for various reasons. Some is due to simply not liking the player/coach, etc for some reason or the other. Sometimes it is just the opposing team itself. Sometimes it is the player who scorned the team/franchise/city, etc. It may be respect for the player doing well against your team. Or it could be due to something the player did or did not do. There are countless reasons for booing.
But for Ryan Braun, he cheated the system and was caught and paid the price, but that is not the real reason for booing. He was so outspoken in his own defense prior to this suspension that it had a bit of a Lance Armstrong effect. Personally, I would think the fans of Milwaukee would be more likely to boo him: he hurt their home team last year with the stupid suspension.
Ryan Braun never did anything to me personally. In addition, he never hit a home run to knock the Red Sox out of the playoffs (Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone); he never wasted my hard-earned money by taking the field overweight and out-of-shape (Roger Clemens); he never left the team in a messy divorce that came out before the biggest game in franchise history at the time (Bill Parcells); he never beat the home team with a game winning baby hook in the NBA Championship (Magic Johnson); and he never opened his big mouth and bad-mouthed the franchise I root for either (Rex Ryan).
Ryan Braun is an idiot. But I cannot boo him for using P.E.D.’s. In a way, it makes him a tragic figure. He was tempted and he gave into the temptation. As such it is very hard to fault him. If I were approached and told that taking something would allow me the opportunity to potentially secure my family financially for life and allow me to excel at the game I love for the price of some health issues many years down the road, it would be a difficult thing to say “no” to.
It is a deal with the devil, but everyday there are thousands of people give up so much more for so much less each and every day.
I guess I think of it now, and its not that I’m angry at Braun, or even feel upset that he succumbed to the P.E.D. pressure, but more sad for him that he gave in to the demon and was not strong enough to say “no”.
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The free agent signings are finally slowing down in the NFL, but as always there is plenty of NFL news each and every week.
The New England Patriots made an interesting move in bringing back safety Patrick Chung on Thursday after he signed in Philadelphia last year. Chung did not burn bridges on his way out of Foxboro, MA (cough-cough Brandon Spikes cough-cough) and after one injury plagued season miscast as a free safety playing deep centerfield on defense, Chung is back as a back-up and special teamer.
Per ProFootballFocus.com, Chung missed 13 tackles and allowed five touchdowns in only twelve games (ten starts). Opposing quarterbacks had a 129.8 quarterback rating throwing at Chung, who was paid $3 million last year in the first year of a back-loaded deal.
Chung lost his job in New England in 2012 as he fell hard after the team benched him in the playoffs. Primarily a strong safety for the Patriots, the 2009 second round pick had an up-and-down career in his first run in New England. He was likely cheap (no contract details released) but he knows the defense, has some perspective after a year away, and will be competing for a job.
Speaking of the Eagles, Philadelphia finally had enough and released their mercurial and wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Jackson was raked across the coals with a report of gang ties in an NJ.com story right before his release which does not help out much in free agency. Either way, he found a home in the NFC East in a hurry with Washington. For the Redskins, they are able to get two motivated games from Jackson at least (visiting Philly and Philly at Washington DC), but even more importantly he upgrades a wide receiver group in need of another playmaker for franchise quarterback RGIII. Will he behave? Will he produce? That is the big question. Three years for $24 million and $16 million guaranteed means presumably the ‘skins get a year of Jackson before he starts moaning about wanting a new contract.
For Jackson, the best landing spot would have been San Francisco with the 49ers top defensive unit and Colin Kaepernick at quarterback. San Francisco with Jackson and Seattle with Percy Harvin and their defense would have made the best match-ups in the NFL into absolute must-see prime-time games. What a pity.
For the Redskins, having new head coach Jay Gruden get a new toy is a big deal. Pierre Garcon gets a little less attention and fellow new receiver Andre Roberts gets more single coverage as these three wide receivers should give running back Alfred Morris a few less defenders in the box as well. I understand where Philadelphia is coming from with all the issues off-the-field with Jackson despite his excellent on-field talent.
The New York Giants continued a busy off-season of moves in free agency as they grabbed offensive tackle Charles Brown and defensive end Robert Ayers and cornerback Zack Bowman to shore up the defense at value prices. Earlier in free agency, the Giants made a splash signing underrated cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and took a flyer on former Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond. Adding further to the secondary they brought in safety Quintin Demps from the Chiefs. They also brought back wide receiver Mario Manningham on offense and signed Dolphins guard John Jerry and Chiefs guard Geoff Schwartz. The Giants even brought in return specialist Trinidad Holliday from the Broncos.
For all the talk of teams like New England, Denver, and Seattle loading up in free agency the G-men have flown under the radar this offseason. They have a number of solid veterans to step in and the team back into the playoff picture. Their offensive line and secondary were their Achilles heel last season, and they are reloading there with a vengeance.
OK, that’s all I have for this week. Have a great weekend, all!
Big football news in New England today as the Patriots freed up a chunk of salary cap money and ended another round of contentious negotiations with defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. All the bad-mouthing and locker cleaning out turned out to be all posturing by Wilfork. He had no leverage and with Green Bay defensive tackle B.J. Raji getting shafted in free agency, his agent knew his only hope was to try to rile up the fan base to get public support to get his way.
The team ends up reducing his cap number like they wanted, protect themselves if he bounces back by extending him, and then they can unload him easily if he washes out and cannot come back from injury. The deal ends up working out just like it would have had it been done before free agency. There was little market for a 32 year-old defensive tackle who missed almost an entire season due to an Achilles injury. If his agent wants to babble that he had “other offers” to save face, so be it. The real deal is he to rework his contract to have any hope of earning what he wanted and saving face in public.
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Despite fighting it, I ended up spending Thursday night watching college basketball between flipping to watch the Boston Bruins defeat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-0 in a Stanley Cup Finals rematch. Chicago is still one of the best teams in the NHL...just so much speed on offense. Boston got a great game out of goalie Tuukka Rask and was able to play with a lead. Their young defensemen may not have the experience teams want in the playoffs, but their speed and athleticism was evident tonight and a great sign for the upcoming playoffs for Boston.
Oh yeah, NCAA March Madness basketball. Wisconsin in a yawner, but the Dayton-Stanford game was fantastic. It is simply addictive rooting for the underdogs. I do not have a “favorite” as I attended a Division III college. Was loving seeing San Diego State in the Sweet Sixteen as well and an exciting team to root for against Arizona. Hoping I stay awake for the second half!
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* Hated to see free agent defensive end Shaun Phillips sign with Tennessee...he would have been a great fit in New England. The Patriots need a defensive end as both Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones played over 1,000 snaps each last season and were visibly worn down at the end of the season. A veteran free agent and early round draft pick seems like the right move.
* There was a horrible nine-alarm fire in the Back Bay of Boston Wednesday that saw two Boston firefighters lose their life in the line of duty. I heard Tom Brady on the radio talking about it as he was just a few building down from the brownstone on fire. It was weird to see on the news as it was around the corner from where I worked for almost a decade. Of course, that is also around the corner from the Boston Marathon finish line where the terrorist attack took place last April.
I was impressed by Brady on the radio expressing his condolences for the families of the firefighters and talking about the first responders as the true heroes. It is on one hand an easy public relations call, but so many athletes and celebrities continually put their foot in their mouth.
He sounded (and looked in the pictures that came out) seriously concerned about his neighbors. It should not be news when an athlete actually does the right thing and says the right thing. But I guess that is kind of a state of the world in 2014. But kudos for Brady for at least saying the right thing.
* Speaking of quarterbacks, reports out of Philadelphia indicate former Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez will likely sign with the Eagles. I saw Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (formerly of the Boston Herald) tweeted it as did Jason La Canfora of CBS. Of course, Philadelphia backup quarterback Michael Vick signed with the Jets last week. Both teams got rid of an overpriced veteran who had no role on the team to come back to. Is that a win-win or a lose-lose?
* The Miami Dolphins got a great bargain in free agency grabbing Denver’s Knowshon Moreno. A 1,000 yard rusher for $3 million for one year is a heck of a deal. Bad news for Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson, and LeGarrette Blount. NFL teams are just not going to spend for a running back not named Marshawn Lynch, LeSean McCoy, or Adrian Peterson anymore.
Denver is going with second-year back Montee Ball who they drafted in the second round of the NFL Draft last year. Even the running backs already signed got low money as neither Donald Brown or Toby Gerhart broke the bank in free agency. Ben Tate got some money from Cleveland, but nothing excessive. Also, Darren McFadden took a huge paycut to stay in Oakland.
Too many teams are passing teams these days and the ability to plug in young running backs gets easier and easier as more running backs come from pro-style offenses and run out of pistol and spread formations in college.
* Baltimore running back Ray Rice was indicted today for his assault on his fiancee last month in Atlantic City. Another off-field violence issue by a former athlete barely raises an eyebrow these days. Is that an indictment on society or sports? Or both? Allegedly police have surveillance video of Rice knocking her out. If that is the case, he could be in a world of trouble. Nothing pisses me off like professional athletes (heck any guy) hitting a woman. No place for that BS, Ray Rice!
* The Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson Jr. passed away week. Wilson worked hard to compete in a small market and keep his team in Buffalo, NY. The move to branch out to Toronto and tap that market was a wise move, but questions remain if the team will stays or moves in the next few years. Personally, I hate the idea of the NFL losing an original AFL franchise and such a storied franchise. Smaller markets like Buffalo and Green Bay give the league character it desperately needs.
OK, that’s all for today! Thanks as always for stopping by. (And a belated Happy Birthday to Sully!)
Happy Friday! I know I am excited for a weekend of March Madness!
The final week of winter has passed and in the Northeast and with that spring beckons. The green grass of infields, ballpark hot dogs, overpriced watered down beer, and sunshine seems far away, so close.
Of course, March Madness is kicking off right now with two of the craziest days in college basketball (wishing I called out of work for some quality time with the couch, beer, and college basketball). I will admit, my attention span waned on college basketball this winter. This year I was too caught up in the NFL all off-season and over-extended myself a bit with time commitments.
The mad first week of free agency is over and the signings are just trickling in slowly now. The battle for bargains is in place. The big signing on Thursday saw Atlanta overpay for a kick returner (Devin Hester). At 31, a three year deal for nine million dollars is a lot. Yes, the Bears had stuck him at wide receiver and cornerback in the past, but he is a pure special teams player.
I love how the New York Jets have had to put on a media dog-and-pony show to deal with the incessant criticism over their lack of activity in free agency despite a boatload of cap space. Their big news is that Michael Vick may come in and...well, what exactly? Cornerback Antonio Cromartie just signed in Arizona where he will team with Patrick Peterson to make a dynamic one-two punch. All the top corners are gone and there are no great quarterbacks available in free agency.
The Jets now are thinking about Vick to allow them to release Mark Sanchez and free up another $10 million in cap space they won’t spend? The best line by Ryan may have been about how his cornerbacks went from obscenely talented (Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie) in 2011 to...well nothing. Ryan said a lot of stuff about first round pick Dee Milliner and bust Kyle Wilson as part of his media show. But this line is just for the Patriots fans to make them smile:
“And there’s another guy, Ras-I Dowling, a guy that we really thought a lot of. . . . I’m happy with the guys that we have.”
Yup, the one and only Ras-I Dowling. From Revis to Ras-I...nice work, New York.
The highest profile free agent left is Jared Allen and he appears to be close to going to Seattle. Adding Allen would make an elite defense even stronger. Initially there were some frantic tweets that he had signed, but now it appears Allen will decide this weekend.
Over the years, we’ve developed the distinct impression that the NFL prefers to avoid shining too bright of a light on the irregularities of the injury-reporting system. The procedure is aimed at creating the impression that there’s no inside information to be obtained by gamblers. Obsessing over the various violations of the letter and/or the spirit of the rules would serve only to highlight that, indeed, the truth doesn’t reside on a piece of paper filled out by the team — and that it can possibly be obtained by offering small, green, rectangular sheets of paper to persons who are in position to pass along accurate information about who’s really injured, and who really isn’t.
The involvement of the Patriots serves only to complicate matters for the league. As legend has it, the Spygate-related information given to the NFL by the Patriots that was destroyed by the league office consisted of evidence of cheating not only by the Patriots but also by multiple other teams in multiple other ways. As the folklore also goes, Patriots coach Bill Belichick vowed to go public with chapter-and-verse detail about cheating throughout the league if the league were to mess with the Patriots again.
Wow. I would have loved to have seen Belichick roll out the tape on all the other NFL teams that were also “guilty” of “spying”. Damn, that would have been fun to see.
I had my first fantasy baseball draft Thursday night as well. I am really cutting down on the fantasy sports. I am in a hockey league that I have been negligent of and probably won’t return to next year; I had an even dozen NFL fantasy football leagues that was just a bit too much for me and needs to be cut down; this year I am in only three fantasy baseball leagues and have made a point to keep it at that number. Of course, one of them is the Gab league as I have to make up for my terrible performance last season.
Still, baseball is in the front of my mind. It keeps calling to me more and more each day. I already got some bleacher seats for the end of April at Fenway for cheap (well, the wife got them for me). Did not get to Fenway the last two years, but am excited to get back there at a more reasonable price. The last two years the wife and I have dragged the kids to minor league baseball as there are great local products in Pawtucket (AAA Red Sox affiliate) and the Collegiate Summer League team the Brockton Rox. Paying MLB prices for tickets, parking, food, drink, driving (gas money) and/or riding the rails, etc has killed a lot of the joy, and for a family of four it is an afternoon ballgame for the price of a vacation.
I have been following the Red Sox preseason games trying to get as many looks at the young arms that should be on display in AAA Pawtucket this summer. Drake Britton and Brandon Workman look like they are in position to start the season in the bullpen, but it may be in their best interest to be stretched out starting in Pawtucket. That said, there may not be room in the rotation.
Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster came to the Red Sox from the Dodgers when the Sox fleeced them by unloading Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Adrian Gonzalez. Both had opportunities for a stretch in Boston but need polishing. De La Rosa looks like a better fit in the bullpen and Webster had some rough starts in Boston but has a lot of promise.
Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo, and Henry Owens are all starters who may be called on to step up during the season if need be for a spot start or due to an injury. The trio has been flying up the minor league system and all project to be starting in Fenway in the near future. Barnes is the 2011 first round draft pick from UConn with a major league fastball and but has to polish his off-speed stuff. Owens is a big lefty who was also a 2011 first round pick with a mid-90s fastball and devastating change-up. He projects to be a solid starter. Finally Ranaudo is the most interesting case. He fell off the prospect watch after injuries slowed him in 2012. He bounced back with a big 2013 that saw him land in AAA. Still only 24, he could be in Boston by the end of the season.
OK, that’s all I have for today. Enjoy the March Madness and have a great weekend!