31

August

Cory’s Corner: NFL injuries cannot be stopped

Everyone applauded the NFL this week when it handed down $765 million for concussion-related injuries.

It’s great that the NFL has owned up to the nearly 4

B.J. Raji had to be carted off last October at Indianapolis with an ankle injury.

B.J. Raji had to be carted off last October at Indianapolis with an ankle injury.

,500 claims that have been hanging around every time more and more information was found about how these types of injuries continue to keep brains in a thick fog following a career.

And now the NFL is trying to curtail injuries to players’ knees. Let’s not forget knee injuries were an understandable by-product of policing hits to the head. The target area for the defense went south and it was only a matter of time before knees started to shatter, tear and split.

But when will NFL no longer resemble itself?

There’s a reason why mothers sob uncontrollably when their son is lying motionless on the turf. There’s a reason why players make impromptu prayer huddles following a lengthy injury delay that usually ends with the injured player leaving on a stretcher with a neck brace.

Everyone knows the risks involved with football. An offensive or defensive lineman can be pushed the wrong way and tear his ACL. Skill players rip up their hamstrings because their quads are too muscular or they simply do inadequate stretching.

Mike McCarthy made this preseason a war on injuries. He didn’t want to address medical issues until games started counting. With Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Bryan Bulaga, DaJuan Harris and others became sidelined it seemed like he failed.

Problem is, it’s a losing battle. Unless you’re willing to bubble wrap the players or turn America’s most popular sport, which was worth $35 billion as of September 2012, into a product that people no longer resemble. That’s more money than the GDP of 80 countries by the way.

As much as some people want the NFL to get a safety facelift, Roger Goodell just cannot do it. And the reason is simple: he is printing money.

There aren’t a lot of sports that would force the president to alter his State of the Union Address, or force churches to change their worship schedule.

This preseason has been one of the worst in terms of injuries. Key guys like Michael Crabtree, Arian Foster, Jamaal Charles, EJ Manuel, Kevin Kolb, Ahmad Bradshaw, Victor Cruz, Dustin Keller, La’Veon Bell and Wes Welker among others have experienced some sort of injury this preseason.

4

June

Four Things the NHL Playoffs Teach Me About the NFL

NHL and NFL LogosThose of you who regularly read my posts know that I live in Pittsburgh. I arrived here after making a few different stops in my life journey, though my mom did grow up in Western Pennsylvania, so I do have roots here. And while I am a football fan to the extreme, I have grown to enjoy watching ice hockey. Put two and two together, and you should not be surprised to know that I have been following the Pittsburgh Penguins in their run towards another Stanley Cup championship.

Right now, the Penguins are favored to win, despite their disappointing loss on Saturday against the Boston Bruins. It was the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals, so they’re down but certainly not out.

However, as I was watching the game, my mind couldn’t help but explore the similarities and differences between the two sports. Football is far and above more popular, and you could probably even rank hockey below baseball and basketball in terms of viewership. Nevertheless, here are some things I learned about the NFL as I watched the NHL playoffs:

1. Individual games hold more value.

I probably should have noted in the beginning that I am a very, very casual fan of ice hockey. In fact, I generally only tune into games when the playoffs roll around. Each NHL team plays 82 games in the regular season, for a grand total of 1,230 games across the league. In short, I simply don’t have the time to commit to my team.

Contrast that with the 16-game schedule of NFL teams, and it’s easy to see why each game holds more value. Now, this it not a new revelation, but it’s a model that has helped football become the biggest sport in the nation. When so few games are played, each one carries more weight in determining playoff chances for a team. And that means more fans will feel the urgency to tune in and see what happens.

Like the NHL, the NBA teams also play 82 games each in the regular season. Meanwhile, MLB teams see nearly twice the action, with 162 games per season. It’s great for the statisticians, because the large sample size makes the numbers more meaningful, but it can be too much to follow for the average fan.

26

September

Where Did Football Go?

To be honest, I’m not really that angry about Monday Night’s Packers – Seahawks game.  Of course I believe that the Packers should have won against the Seahawks.  I would like to think that even if I was a Seahawks fan, I would have to admit that the Packers should have won the game.  People are going to argue about who actually had the ball and how the play should have been called, but one thing that I think all football fans can universally agree on is this isn’t the game that we love.

More than anger, I am greatly saddened by where I see the NFL going.  I don’t see parity and fair play.  I don’t see the rules of the game being followed.  I don’t see sportsmanship on the field.

I sincerely hope that football does not follow the path of boxing; back in the 1950’s boxing was a huge sport in America, but with the discovery of dementia pugilistica and the fall of fair and unbiased judging, boxing has fallen greatly from the spot it once held.  Football is on that same precipice; more and more research is already showing the negative physical and mental effects that playing football can cause and letting money get in the way of fair and safe play is a grave mistake.

I also don’t want to see football fall into the rut of hockey, where fighting is the marque event during a game and teams sign goons exclusively to intimidate and fight other players and not for their skills in the rink.  The game of football is violent enough as it is, look at what has happened to Junior Seau and Dave Duerson; football cannot afford to have Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak as well.

Referees, regular or replacement, are human and thus can and will make errors.  This wasn’t the first time where referees blew a call that cost a team a victory nor will it be the last.  Expect that to happen, sometimes that’s the way it goes.  What I am more concerned about is the replacement refs aren’t following the rules of the game.  If the referee truly believes that Golden Tate came down with the ball on the Hail Mary, then he should stick to his guns and call it as such.  What he shouldn’t do is lose all sense of composure  and flee from the scene like a criminal and forget the extra point.

25

July

With Unanimous NFLPA Vote, The NFL Lockout Is Over

 

That wasn’t so bad now was it?

Yes folks, it is finally over.  With the player reps for the soon-to-be-again NFL Players Association unanimously approving a new CBA with slight modifications from the version the owner also unanimously approved recently, the NFL lockout is over and football is back.

Let me repeat: FOOTBALL. IS. BACK.

There are still some issues like the players actually reforming their union, but those matters will be resolved as players report to camp.  There were a few casualties on the calendar such as delayed free agency, no organized team activities (OTAs) and no Hall of Fame game but going forward the NFL schedule remains largely intact with free agency scheduled to take place as training camps open.

Players must also ratify the new CBA but there is little no doubt that they will overwhelmingly.    Once that happens, players can once again start being paid.

What remains to be determined is any long term damage to the game.  Fans will return and cheer for their teams as they have since the league was created.  The damage to the legacy of Commissioner Roger Goodell remains to be seen.  He never lost any regular season games, but he still presided over the league’s first work stoppage in over 20 years.

There will be debates over who were the big winners and losers of this new deal and the debacle that preceded it.  Now is not the time for that, however.

Today is a day for celebration, joy and a big sigh of relief. Football is back.

Get ready fans.  Free agency and training camp will be occurring at the same time.

You think the process to end the lockout was chaotic? You haven’t seen anything yet.   At least this part will be fun to watch.

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Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke

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