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Jun 18 2010, 07:43 PM
Some eyebrows were raised on Thursday when Bills running back Marshawn Lynch left Organized Team Activities early.
But Lynch, who finally showed up after missing weeks of offseason workouts, didn't suddenly decide to return to his obstinate ways. Per a league source, Lynch left to attend the wedding of Seahawks running back Justin Forsett, who was Lynch's roommate at the University of California.
The move comes at a time when speculation persists that the Bills could reunite Lynch and Forsett via trade. Lynch likely will have a chance to get better acquainted with some of the Seattle players at Forsett's wedding -- and possibly with head coach Pete Carroll, if he attends the party.
Jun 18 2010, 07:41 PM
The league undoubtedly sees the "enhanced season" as an opportunity to grow the financial pie that currently is shared with the players. On the surface, then, the players should support the notion of creating more opportunities to generate more money.
But it's not that simple. Adding two regular-season games in place of two preseason games results in 20 total non-playoff games, but it results in greater exposure by starters, who play sparingly in the preseason, to potential injury.
And so the players are cautious. Two of the higher-profile members of the NFL fraternity have chimed in on the matter.
"Don't get me wrong, I love the game of football," Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said. "If fans want to show their love, they should let everyone know that we are not machines. I've been blessed to play this game for so long, but it's time to start thinking about what legacy and impact changes like this will leave for the players of tomorrow and us after we retire.
"I know our fans may not like preseason games and I don't like all of them, but swapping two preseason games for two end-of-season games -- when players already play hurt -- comes at a huge cost for the player and the team."
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who has taken a more active role in union matters, spoke on the situation as well. "I've taken part in several postseason runs where we have played 20 games," Brady said. "The long-term impact this game has on our bodies is well documented. Look no further than the players that came before we did."
And so the notion of an 18-game season isn't something that the players will automatically accept, even if the current CBA already authorizes it. The fact that the league is now pushing the concept aggressively suggests that perhaps the NFL possibly hopes to use this issue as a way to get the general public on the side of management.
Mar 25 2009, 07:37 PM
The Offseason Zebra Report Special
Posted Mar 25, 2009 5:23PM By Matt Snyder (RSS feed)
Filed Under: NFL Fans, NFL Referees
Not to say I didn't need the break, because it was nice, but not filing a quasi-weekly Zebra Report left a void in my writing life. With all the recent attention being paid to rule tweaks -- most of which are just guidelines -- in recent days, though, I figured we'd dust off TZR (initials! How cool are we?) and give a little spin on what this means between the lines.
As a refresher, I am a high school back judge with nine years of experience. I'm obviously not qualified to critique the NFL officials, but I'm much more qualified than those who have never officiated at all. The looks at officiating here are simply from the perspective of a high school official, and in no way do they reflect the actual opinion of the NFL officials.
So, last we met, I discussed the Super Bowl -- which was a well-officiated game on the surface. Sure, there were some things they could have done differently, such as reviewing the Kurt Warner incomplete pass as a PR move (because, yes, it was clearly an incomplete pass, but it wouldn't have hurt to look at it and satisfy the public), or not calling that roughing the passer on Karlos Dansby (bad call). Overall, though, the game was decided on the field. That's all you can ask, because it's so tough to officiate football. That sentiment brings me to my first issue at hand for today.
Train Wrecks, Full-Time, Comparisons to Other Sports
Please realize this is all in good fun, as I'm going to take my new colleague, Dan Graziano, to task here.
First of all, I'll offer a bit of an agreement. He discusses Mike Pereira's comment that there were a few "train wrecks" in NFL officiating last season. Honestly, that's close to an understatement in regard to the Ed Hochuli snafu in Week 2. That was a horrible black eye to the league and officials alike. The biggest problem with blown calls of this nature, though, is that the public has a tendency to grasp onto this as proof of just how incompetent all officials are. This is partially why I decided to create TZR. One bad call does not a league make.
With this in mind, I'd like to focus on Dan's opinion that the NFL's grade of 98.3 percent accuracy as not being exceptional. In the few walks of life where that percentage is not acceptable, lives are usually at stake. This is football. To understand how difficult officiating football really is, I'm of the opinion you have to actually do it. There's no other way to fully grasp how much responsibility in a variety of areas each individual on the field has until you've been there.
Next, just taking a percentage and assuming there is only one call per play -- as Dan did in figuring three missed calls per game -- is far too simplistic. On each and every play, there are dozens of evaluations being made from a purely judgmental standpoint. The spot, possible holding calls, legality of formation, whether or not the ball was in-bounds, when to blow the ready-for-play whistle, what contact is legal and what is not, whether or not a block was in the back or the side, etc. With each rule comes myriad stipulations, so while the officials are watching their keys on each play, they have to constantly pay mind to where everything is occurring, in addition to simply seeing what is happening. With his head on a swivel, each official is trying to watch a group of incredible athletes -- much better athletes than the officials -- play a complicated game within the rules. Calls are going to get missed in each and every game, most of the time more than three a game. To claim this means they are bad at their jobs, however, is misleading.
The train wrecks are bad. Awful, in fact. Any official would admit that, and agree there should never be an inadvertent whistle even in pee-wee levels. An umpire missing a minor holding call on a guard in the second quarter of Week 4, because his view was obstructed by a receiver on a crossing route, however, is part of the game. The nature of the game, with all the moving parts, creates a field on which calls will be missed. This is why football is the sport that relies most heavily upon replay.
I've never understood the public outcry to make the referees full-time employees. Of course the NFL has the money, but why waste it? Each crew only works one game per week. The officials are required to spend the entire weekend -- beginning Friday night -- in the city where they will officiate a Sunday game. The time leading up to the game is spent as a crew, breaking down film and discussing their upcoming game. They work together in the summer months and work clinics with lesser experienced officials. They know a nearly 100-page rule book virtually by heart. Making these guys full-time employees would only increase their knowledge of the rules -- an area where they aren't lacking anyway -- not help them better see a facemask or better interpret a block in the back.
Finally, you can't compare football officiating to other sports. They have a similar ratio of officials per player to basketball, but a much larger area to cover these players. They also have the most extensive and complicated rulebook in any sport. This is no knock against my favorite sport (yes, I like baseball more than football), but how difficult is base umpiring in baseball? Out, safe, fair or foul are 95 percent of the calls. Sure, basketball officials have to run a lot -- but how far? They have to move maybe 30-40 feet at a time before standing stationary. NFL officials will have plays where they travel 30-40 yards while still trying to see if Larry Fitzgerald has been illegally contacted or if he initiated it. Any comparison between sports is purely apples vs. oranges and is, thus, a waste of time.
The "Tom Brady" Rule
This wasn't a new rule by any means. The league just wanted to clarify and set forth a point of emphasis that a defensive player may not take out the legs of a quarterback once he is already on the ground. Basically, let's say the defender is laying on the ground, having been pancaked, but he doesn't have enough time to get back up before the quarterback passes the ball. He makes a last-second lunge and takes out the ankles and/or knees of the passer. While football is a violent game, I don't see any reason this needs to be a legal act. It's not sportsmanlike, nor is it within the competitive spirit of the game. If a defensive player wants to make a difference in the play, he's free to stand up and tackle the quarterback around the waist. If he doesn't have time, well, maybe he shouldn't have gotten knocked down in the first place.
To those who think the quarterbacks are the most protected players on the field: They actually aren't afforded any more protection than kickers, punters or holders. It all has to do with a guy standing there not able to defend himself. He knows he has the chance to get decked in the back or leveled in the chest. Do we really need him worrying about his dome or a career-threatening knee injury?
Regardless, the opinions of everyone are now moot. It's passed, and the officials have to call the game by the rules they've been given.
"Close to Two-Hand Touch"
Adam Gretz summarized a bevy of rule changes released by the NFL, many pertaining to player safety. Obviously, there are two sides to this. One side can point to the multitude of players who are crippled later in life due to the violence inflicted upon them during an NFL career. The other side proclaims the NFL is becoming a "sissy" -- or some more vulgar derivative that often precedes "willow" -- sport.
Blind-side hits are brutal and violent, yet, they've been accepted as long as they are above the waist, not helmet-to-helmet, and not in the back. Now, it will be a 15-yard penalty to hit someone shoulder-to-head if they aren't looking. The rationale for this rule is understandable, but I can't help but wonder how difficult this is going to be to call. Did the defensive player really not see the blocker? What if he repositions his body at the last second before getting hit? In my view, all this does is make any already incredibly tough job for the officials even tougher -- and it creates more gray areas in the rules where it's tough to tell even in slow-motion whether or not something should have been a penalty. It's awfully tough to judge what hit what, but now we're asking officials to judge what each player saw.
As far as the defenseless receiver rule, it was already being put in practice, and I don't foresee it as changing the way the backfield officials (back judge, field judge, side judge) call games. It should actually make matters easier on defensive backs. They just need to stay below the head with their head and shoulders now, instead of trying to punish the receiver by hitting them in the head with their shoulder pads. Again, may I point players to the waist area? You can still make the highlight reel with a devastating blow the midsection.
The Bottom Line
Yes, NFL referees make mistakes. Those are bound to happen and are part of the game. "Train wrecks," however, should not be. Those should be avoided, hence the moniker given by Pereira. Going overboard with replay or making them full-time employees isn't going to stop someone from making an egregious inadvertent whistle, though.
As for the rest of the rule tweaks we discussed, I'd like to ask a favor of the fans. Instead of booing an official for calling something a penalty he's been instructed to call, could we direct our attention to the front office? I can tell you from personal experience that we are bound by the rules, whether we like them or not. A personal example is that I recently learned the high school federation has passed the horse-collar penalty. I really, really don't believe this should be an illegal method of tackling at the high school level, but I'll call it this year if I see it. I won't like it, but that's not my choice. It's not the job of the official to question the points of emphasis laid forth by the league.
As I said a few times last year, several officials were severely downgraded for not calling roughing penalties. They aren't permitted to stray from the league mandates.
So when your favorite defensive player is penalized for breathing on Eli Manning this season, let us please direct the venom at Roger Goodell, not Mike Carey. Otherwise, you are no better than a patron screaming at some poor waitress about a steak being undercooked and overpriced. Because, you know, she was the one who cooked it and set the price.
Now, it's time to hibernate. We'll see you around Week 1 when the zebras resurface
Mar 24 2009, 09:54 AM
Gregg or Marmol 50-50 proposition
Y GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org
PHOENIX -- Asked again Monday about his closer decision, Cubs manager Lou Piniella said, ''I'll flip a coin.''
The way Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg are pitching, the decision might wind up looking that arbitrary when Piniella makes the call, probably late this week.
One thing's for sure, Piniella said: It won't be a job-share program.
''You can only go with one,'' he said. ''If we win enough ballgames, there'll be closing opportunities for both of them, so that's my out.''
Gregg pitched two-thirds of an inning Monday in a 20-5 victory over Oakland, with another appearance scheduled today to give him the back-to-back days Piniella wants to see from both candidates before making a decision.
Marmol won't get that opportunity until at least Thursday and Friday.
''I've been reading the comments a little bit from both candidates, and they're both certainly forceful about their desires to close, and I don't blame them,'' Piniella said. ''They're both very capable.''
Gregg, who has yet to allow a run this spring, looks as if the knee injury that affected him in the second half of last season is behind him. But he wouldn't say he has made a better case than Marmol, whether by his track record (62 career saves) or the nearly spotless spring.
''I really don't look at it that way,'' Gregg said. ''I'm showing them what I can do. Carlos is showing them what he can do. And Lou's got to make his decision. You're only getting 10 innings out of us, and with our track history, you know what we can do. Now it's how you put things together.
''It's not going to change what I'm doing here. I'll keep doing my thing until the season starts.''
Rest of the pen
As for the rest of the bullpen, Piniella is trying to decide on another late-inning short man and a long reliever to join the five who already have earned spots.
''The final decision will probably have to wait till right toward the end,'' he said. ''We have a pretty competitive situation in our bullpen.''
That was before Luis Vizcaino, David Patton and Kevin Hart all had successful outings Monday.
''Right now, if you would ask a poll of our coaches, I don't think there's a clear-cut direction, which to me means it's pretty competitive,'' Piniella said.
The front office also will weigh in on contract situations (Vizcaino is guaranteed $4 million) and service issues (Patton is a Rule 5 draft pick who leaves the organization if he doesn't make the 25-man roster).
Angel takes wing
One significant bullpen candidate is Angel Guzman, who is out of options and was in jeopardy of being out of luck until tweaking his mechanics with pitching coach Larry Rothschild about 10 days ago. He has pitched well since then.
''He's thrust himself back into this thing,'' Piniella said.
Cut and run
The Cubs plan to make about a half-dozen cuts today, getting the roster down to about 10 over the Opening Day requirement, and after Wednesday's final day off in Arizona, Piniella said he'll start playing his regulars daily.
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