Hello and welcome to another Wednesday of deep thoughts. After reading about Cardinal safety Rashad Johnson losing the tip of his middle finger last Sunday, I got to thinking about tough players that I have watched or heard about over the years. This is not a comprehensive list, but rather a list of players that have revealed themselves as tough.
In reading about tough players…Ronnie Lott’s name always seemed to be mentioned. He also lost the tip of a finger, but what is incredulous is that he instructed the Dr. to amputate the finger. His finger had been terribly mashed while making a tackle in the playoffs and simply had not healed properly, so the amputation was performed to allow him to be ready for the start of the next season. It is one thing to suffer an injury, but to choose to lose part of a finger to be able to play is pretty damn tough.
Jack (Hacksaw) Reynolds is another player that has to be mentioned as he suffered a broken leg and played the last three games of the 1979 playoffs by having his trainers tape up his broken leg. Yep…that is tough.
A favorite tough player of mine is Don Meredith. I think I remember reading that over his career, he broke 17 bones. I know that in the 1968 playoff game against the Browns, he checked out of the hospital and played…despite a punctured lung, broken ribs and pneumonia.
An old time Steeler that was as tough as anyone was Ernie Stautner. All you have to do is read this game account from Andy Russell to realize Stautner’s toughness…
“Ernie Stautner comes in the huddle, and his thumb is broken back against his wrist. There's a tear near the break, and his bone is sticking out. He has a compound fracture of the thumb. He takes his thumb in his hand and wrenches it down into his fist. Doesn't show it to anybody. Doesn't say anything.
So he stayed there for the rest of the series, and then we came off, and I'm watching him because I'm the only guy who saw that he had a compound fracture. I saw the bone. So I'm figuring now he's going to ask for the doctor, and he may have to go to the hospital because this thing could get infected, and he says, “Give me some tape.” So they throw him some tape and he just starts taping this huge ball. He makes this big fist. Then we go back in. He plays the entire game. Never misses a down. I'm just astounded, and he's using this hand that is broken as a club. He's beating people with it. After the game, we go into the locker room and he says, “Hey Doc, I think I got a problem.”
Another favorite player of mine was Walt Garrison. As you would expect from a real life cowboy…he was also a very tough player. In a playoff game in 1970, Garrison broke three ribs in the first quarter and continued playing after he was carried off the field. He rushed for over 100 yards, caught several passes, and helped the Cowboys continue their path to the Super Bowl. Garrison has also played through a separated shoulder, a severely broken nose and a broken collarbone. Teammate Charlie Waters recalls the time that Garrison accidentally cut his thumb with a knife so that it was dangling from his hand. Garrison wrapped his thumb in tape and played the next day, rushing for over 100 yards.
So, yes…while the game is still pretty tough today, I don’t think it compares with the NFL of yesteryear. It should be mentioned that Rashad Johnson did not play with his injured digit. Of course, when the end of your middle finger is ripped off…there is surely going to be a search for the source of the blood. I knew that my son was pretty tough when he suffered a bruised liver and a couple of broken ribs in 8th grade and finished the game. We had no idea the ribs had been broken until a week after the injury and did not realize that he had injured his liver until we got to the hospital. I happened to be on the sideline and asked him if he was okay. He grabbed a drink of water and went back into the game. In 9th grade, he played the first half of a game as he was suffering an appendicitis attack. His coach figured out that something was wrong and at halftime, we headed to the hospital. I sure miss those games, but don’t miss the emergency room visits.
As fans, we glorify the toughness of sports. It is what I think we appreciate most of all about football. The gladiator mentality is slowly leaving sports and our society in general. I think football and probably hockey give athletes a toughness that serves them well the rest of their life. I do however, worry about concussions and the long term effect on players…especially players that begin playing while young. It is something that I think may in time eliminate youth football. As a parent, I am torn…but I am glad that my son was able to play football.
I saw a picture today that brought a smile to my face. Can you imagine going to your son’s first football practice and finding out that Joe Gibbs is one of the coaches? What was even funnier to me is that Gibbs was serving as an assistant for his son. But you know what, from what I know about Joe Gibbs…that does not surprise me one bit. I found a comment by Gibb’s son very interesting…he would not let them play until they were in 7th grade. When his son asked why it was okay for his grandsons to play youth football, Gibbs replied…”because I am coaching them.”
Tuesday night, The Book of Manning aired on ESPN. In case you missed it, you should make it a point to watch it. I loved the show and very highly recommend it. Everyone knows that Archie Manning played professional football, but I had forgotten how athletic he was. After watching Archie being pounded as a Saint, I suppose I should add him to my list of great tough players. The show featured plenty of football, but what I really got from the show was how dedicated a father that Archie is. I also did not realize that Archie’s father committed suicide when he was a sophomore in high school. I know that the Manning family took much heat for his trying to prevent Eli from going to San Diego. But, after watching this show, I understood better what Archie was doing. Archie’s father wanted only for Archie to be a good guy…he certainly succeeded in my opinion.
This year, the Manning brothers are headed in different directions. I have never seen Peyton play better than he has this year. Watching Peyton shred the Raider defense, it was as if the defense just gave up. Instead of trying to disguise their coverages, they simply parked their safeties deep so that Peyton would keep handing the ball off to his trio of running backs. It seemed to me that the Raiders were willing to allow the 5 and 6 yard gains as opposed to allowing Manning to beat them through the air. There is something different about watching Peyton play. I am not sure I have ever seen a QB that is as good at reading defenses as Peyton. It is almost not fair to watch the talent Manning has to work with. It has to burn Brady’s ass to look at the weapons available to Peyton. Seattle and Denver do not play during the regular season, but I have a hunch these two teams may be playing later this season. I am not sure how good Seattle is, I guess we will see after this weekend in Houston.
I felt pretty good about the Cowboys chances this year. I really did not think that the NFC East would be as tough as in years past. Honestly, I don’t think that the Giants, Eagles or Skins have a solid identity. The Eagles are adjusting to a new offensive system. The Giants don’t have a running back to run the Coughlin typical game plan and Washington is not the same without a healty RG3. Dallas has a real chance to separate themselves from the division…if Murray can stay healthy. I love what Kiffin has brought to the Cowboys defense. It has been forever since the Cowboys have been this aggressive on defense. It is a very good thing that Romo does not have to throw for 350 for the Cowboys to win. I have a feeling Cowboy haters will have a bad year.
I want to finish with a few random sports thoughts…
We can debate the schedule for Ohio State and other D1 schools, but why in the world do you go for a first down on 4th and 4 when you are up 55 to 0? No idea what Meyer was thinging about.
Have you ever seen running backs decide who gets the carry from the 1 yard line by doing rock/paper/scissor? Hilarious.
Admittedly, I am a hockey novice. I caught a minute of a video on Pardon the Interruption that had Phil Kessel using his stick to fend off a giant attacker. I could not see who the attacker was, but it was clear that Kessel wanted no part of him. Wilbourn argued that he is a scorer and that he was within his rights to protect himself from a much bigger guy. Kornheiser said Kessel will get a long suspension. My money is that Kornheiser is right. What do you think?
Apparently there was more to this story than I thought. The goon that went after Kessel was sent out to get him on the faceoff. Kessel's teammate Clarkson came off the bench to defend Kessel. It was announced today that Kessel was suspended for the remainder of the preseason, but because Clarkson came off the bench, he actually is allowed to play during the remaining preseason games, but is suspended for 10 games once the regular season begins. I guess hockey officials agreed with Wilbourn that Kessel was defending himself.
Have you ever heard of a replacement nose being grown to replace a damaged one? I had not either. Those Dr's in China are getting pretty freaky...
That is all I have today, but I will leave you with a bit of Jack Handey:
Children need encouragement. So if a kid gets an answer right, tell him it was a lucky guess. That way, he develops a good, lucky feeling.
"If you're a cowboy and you're dragging a guy behind your horse, I bet it would really make you mad if you looked back and the guy was reading a magazine."
Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a few deep thoughts of your own...