Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Check The Transcript

This is a small thing but its a lie that is self sustaining at this point that I would like to eradicate.

One of the "questions that haven't been answered" by the folks pushing the Benghazi talking points after the fact as a cover up is why Susan Rice said the attack was a response to the video "Innocence of Muslims" when she and the administration knew that it was not?

This past week after the emails on the revisions of the talking points came out even liberal WaPo blogger Greg Sargent (of whom I am a huge fan) put this damning line about Rice's appearance on Sunday talk shows after the Benghazi attacks in his post about the revisions.

However, Susan Rice falsely extrapolated from the talking points during her now infamous TV appearances that the anti-Islam video was the cause of the attacks.
Now this isn't an attack on Greg nor anyone else, its an attempt to set the record straight.

The first thing is that context is needed about what happened on September 11, 2012.

There indeed was a protest in response to the Innocence of Muslims video, however it was in Cairo, Egypt.

Nobody disputes this.

The CIA talking points only related to the events in Benghazi, Libya.

This is the first bullet point of the original CIA talking points before any of it was changed.

  • We believe based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex.
Now, what is tricky about Rice's appearances on the Sunday shows is that she wasn't just asked about Benghazi but instead was asked about all of the unrest from September 11, 2012. So yes she talked about the video in relation to events in Cairo, but what did she say when asked specifically about Benghazi?

This Week

But our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous -- not a premeditated -- response to what had transpired in Cairo.
Face The Nation

But based on the best information we have to date, what our assessment is as of the present is in fact what began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy--
Fox News Sunday

The information, the best information and the best assessment we have today is that in fact this was not a preplanned, premeditated attack. That what happened initially was that it was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo as a consequence of the video.

Meet The Press

But putting together the best information that we have available to us today our current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of-- of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video.

State Of The Union

CROWLEY: Why would one not look at what is going on in the Middle East now and say that the president's outreach to Muslims, which began at the beginning of his administration in Cairo and elsewhere has not worked because, yes, this video sparked it, but there is an underlying anti-Americanism that is very evident on the streets. So Why not look at it and think that this is this outreach has failed?
RICE: For the same reason, Candy, when you look back at history and we had the horrible experience of our facilities and our personnel being attacked Beirut in 1981, we had the attack on Khobar Towers in the 1990s. We had an attack on our embassy in Yemen in 2008. There have been such attacks. There have been expressions of hostility towards the west.
CROWLEY: But this was sort of a reset, was it not? It was supposed to be a reset of U.S.-Muslim relations?
RICE: And indeed, in fact, there had been substantial improvements. I have been to Libya and walked the streets of Benghazi myself. And despite what we saw in that horrific incident where some mob was hijacked ultimately by a handful of extremists, the United States is extremely popular in Libya and the outpouring of sympathy and support for Ambassador Stevens and his colleagues from the government, from people is evidence of that.

Now look closely and tell me where Susan Rice deviated from the original talking points on any of the shows. Did she mention the video? Absolutely. Because she was on those shows to discuss what happened in Cairo as well and to put into context why there was a protest in Cairo for the mob in Benghazi to be responding to in the first place. Hell Candy Crowley added that context herself and never asked specifically about Benghazi the way the other hosts did, yet Rice was still about to add the context of a mob being hijacked by extremists just as it was written in the final talking points.

But she did not, on any of five different shows, say the incident in Benghazi was in response to the video itself nor did she, as Greg put it, "extrapolate" that they were the cause of the video. She referenced the video in relationship to the protests in Cairo.

That's it.

I know plenty of people will dismiss this and say it doesn't matter, from both sides of the political spectrum. People on the left will say what's done is done and its an insignificant matter, people on the right have moved on to claiming calling something an "act of terror" is evidently how one *covers up* a terrorist attack.

So maybe this only matters to me.

But it does matter to me because I've had arguments with people who insist that Rice and the White House linking the Benghazi attacks to the video is THE definitive evidence that this was a cover up.

Now that its proven that it didn't actually happen no matter how the story was changed over the last few months, they at least may have to rethink some things.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Thoughts On Junior Seau's Suicide

After Junior Seau took his own life I had a need to write about it. Instead of doing so here I wrote about it on my School of The Legends wall. I realize most people who would read it here have already read it there but I wanted to make sure I could access it when necessary and the character limits on my sotl wall required that I break it up into 500 character chunks and it continues to move down my wall with every new post I do. So I cut and pasted the whole thing here just to keep it all in one place. The only alterations I made are fixing typos and breaking it into paragraphs. I hope some how some way my words will help someone who reads them.
I've been trying to gather my thoughts on Junior Seau's apparent suicide from almost the moment the tragic news broke. I put some of my real time thoughts on my twitter page but I didn't think that was enough so I wanted to expound a little bit here.

First off Seau's passing hit me like a ton of bricks. He was a hero and a role model to a lot of young football fans who grew up wanting to be just like him. He was only 5 years older than me but I was one of those fans who looked up to him as well. He played the game with such a relentlessness and ferocity that he was like the gold standard of effort you wanted to aspire to. More than that it was readily apparent that he LOVED the game. LOVED making plays. LOVED being out there with his teammates. He was out there having fun and that, to me, is what football is all about. And then he was almost just as accomplished off the field in terms of giving back to the community and doing charity work constantly. But the news that he took his own life also hit me for a different reason. Too many of my retired brothers are dying this way and unfortunately my life experience gives me some insight into why.

I am a pretty private person. Most people who interact with me on social media probably don't even realize how little they actually know about me. And that is by design. While other people choose to put every aspect of their life online, Id much rather keep my private life just that. But this is one time I feel compelled to open up a little. You see I have gone through a pretty bad bout of depression myself. And so I have a special appreciation for what Seau may have been going through. And the reason I am speaking up now is because I know that people who haven't gone through the kind of mental health issues that can lead to suicidal thoughts, generally can't relate to that mindset. But it makes perfect sense when you think about it. Few rational people would ever willingly take their own life. But mental health issues can lead you to a very irrational way of seeing the world. As a former player, albeit a lot less accomplished, I also understand that we are unique in some regards when it comes to having these issues. You see as a professional athlete, especially an NFL football player, you overcome many of the obstacles put in front of you by sheer force of will. Not strong enough? You lift harder. Not fast enough? You run more hills. Not skilled enough? You stay after practice and work on your craft. Hurt? You just play through the pain. And so when you are confronted with mood swings or being "in a rut" sometimes you feel like you should be able to just force your way back into being the person that you were or at least "happier". And when that doesn't happen you can find yourself even further down the rabbit hole.

I was raised in a community that mostly stigmatized going to see a mental health professional. Nobody wanted to be labeled crazy and there was this notion that if you had to tell someone else your problems that was a sign of weakness. Even today I had someone tweet me that Seau was "weak" and "took the easy way out" (that person is now permanently blocked). Those kinds of sentiments make people even more reluctant to seek the help that they need. And I know it seems like its easy enough just to tell someone when you are feeling depressed or suicidal but what a lot of people don't realize is that as those issues manifest themselves more and more that person tends to alienate the very people they would usually turn to for help. And even bigger than that at times, because your thinking has become so skewed, you don't trust those people not to turn away from you if you tell them your problems. I know with ex athletes there can also be this sense of shame that with all that we have accomplished in life for others, now we have to ask someone else for help. Also even if you reach out to a friend or family member they may not be able to help you.

I am a Christian but I know now that you can't "pray away" depression. It helps and as a Christian I recommend every believer pray but some times you need more than that. But even finding a psychologist or psychiatrist to talk to can be a daunting task for a guy who is used to going into the training room and getting whatever he needs. You probably need insurance which a lot of retired guys don't have, then you need someone to refer you to a good mental health professional. Failing that you have to go through the phone book and roll the dice. Even then when you find a good person to talk to the wait may be months before you can even see them. And you're talking about a person who has been taught probably as long as he has been playing that complaining is a sign of weakness to go through all of that of their own volition. It would probably be hard for most of us to do even if we didn't have any mental health issues, but when you are struggling with that as well it may be impossible to come to grips with and admit to yourself, if no one else, that you need help. How many times after a person commits suicide or attempts to commit suicide do we hear their family and friends say they had "changed"? Those changes many times aren't intentional and the person who is changing may not even realize it until its already close to being too late. I'm saying all this to say that we HAVE to change the way we all think about mental health issues.

Yes I believe in personal responsibility but sometimes the people around the person going through this issues, maybe even most of the time, can see the signs before that person even notices them. When that happens we have to be more willing to stick around and convince them to seek help rather than taking offense and keeping our distance. We also have to be more encouraging towards people who have these issues to try to dispel the stigma around getting help. That won't change until this attitude that its "weak" to seek help is done away with. This goes for anyone, not just retired players. I saw a recent statistic about how suicide is prevalent with our troops returning home from war. I can promise you those men and women aren't weak. But I worry that many of them though it would be a sign of weakness to admit to another human being that they were going through something that they couldn't deal with alone. Now I know people want to make assumptions about whether concussions and or CTE had anything to do with Seau's suicide.

I don't have the heart to make those kinds of leaps in logic so soon after his death. But I do realize that some folks will use this situation to question why some players, former and current, are still resistant to the new tackling guidelines and fines instituted by the NFL and Roger Goodell. I'll just say this, focusing on that stuff in my mind is the easy way out for the NFL. They don't have to spend any money to change the rules or fine players for "illegal" hits now. What would impress me and I bet other other players would be if they put their money where their mouth is and started funding more healthcare for former players without having to be asked or begged to. Put simply, most of us knew and know playing football comes with health risks, but if our health care costs were taken care of more than 5 years after we were done playing, as it is in other leagues, a lot of guys would be much better off. Many of our health issues, mental and otherwise, don't show up till more than 5 years after we are done playing anyway. But by focusing on fines and "illegal" hits it seems like more of a PR move than anything else. In closing there are two things I will point out that make us distrustful of this "new" approach by the NFL. http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?id=3644940 One is as recently as 6 years ago the guy who headed up the NFL's position on concussion took the totally opposite position of what the consensus was outside of the NFL community about the danger of concussions and reentering a game. Its hard for most of us to believe that he wasn't just covering for the owners with that BS study and we haven't forgotten. Also http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/23/sports/football/23duerson.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all as much as people have brought up Dave Duerson and his suicide today very few point out that at one time he sat on the disability board for former players that was absolutely notorious for denying benefits to former players, especially those dealing with brain injuries.

But tonight isn't really about all that, for me tonight is about trying to reach out to anyone, and especially former players like myself, who may find themselves having suicidal thoughts or even just "stuck in a rut" they can't seem to get out of. Please seek help. For the people that love them, make them seek help. And make them follow through! You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) if nothing else before you do something you can never take back.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Roger Goodell as Richard Nixon

I was reading through the arbitrators decision to dismiss the grievance from Cowboys and Redskins and I got almost to the end before I found what I was looking for:
Finally, the Clubs suggest that enforcement of the Reallocation Letter as ratified by the March 27 Resolution might (depending on facts as to which they seek discovery) condone violation of the 2006 CBA and perhaps the federal antitrust laws. But, as the League argues, the remedy for any breach of the 2006 CBA is to be found in that agreement, which is not a source of public policy for this purpose. Moreover, anticompetitive behavior in 2012 of the sort the Clubs imagine is similarly shielded from antitrust inquiry, and any remedy must be found in the anti-collusion provisions of Article 17 of the CBA. The Clubs lack standing to enforce those provisions.
Now as I always say I'm nobody's lawyer, however it seems pretty clear that Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder at least hinted at the other owners colluding illegally in the uncapped season a couple of years ago. And the arbitrator makes no attempt to suggest they are wrong. Instead the other owners get off on what appears to be a technicality. Why? Because the NFLPA, under duress (Roger Goodell and nem reportedly threatened to make the 2012 salary cap lower than the 2011 salary cap if they didn't play along), agreed to the cap penalties so Jones and Snyder had no way to get relief. They couldn't even get to see evidence that may have proven their case. It immediately brought this Richard Nixon clip to mind...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

What Am I Supposed To Tell My Kids?

I've resisted writing about the Trayvon Martin case. Not because I didn't have a lot to say about it, but because I didn't want to listen to the 911 tapes which I know I would have to do in order to do any piece justice. And also because I fear in this day and time nothing anyone writes will persuade the folks on the other side of the issue.

But I changed my mind.

I need to write at least this small part about this murder/manslaughter or whatever you want to call the gunning down of an unarmed 17 year old high school student, for my own well being.

You see, I watched over the course of the last few days as much of the discourse has centered around Trayvon Martin's hoodie and George Zimmerman's fear.

As much as I appreciate and support the Million Hoodie marches all around the country I do not think a hoodie has much to do with this crime.

Lets not forget that George Zimmerman didn't even mention what Trayvon Martin was wearing until the 911 operator asked him for a description.

And as much as there is a real and dangerous irrational fear of black men by some people in this country I also don't think that had much to do with this crime, either. At least not from Zimmerman's perspective.

Instead this crime is about a man who decided he would take the law into his own hands and ended up killing a child.

Yes a black child, and believe me I'm will not try to downplay the role race had in this crime. However it was still a child. That he was killed while walking home from the store to get snacks for his younger sibling would be no less tragic if it were a White child, or a Hispanic child, or an Asian child.

Nor would it be any less an outrage if the killer were Black, known to police and still walking free almost a month after the shooting.

What I do realize, however, is that some people in this country will never understand that many of us who are outraged about the killing of Trayvon Martin also believe that if Trayvon had been white his killer probably would have been arrested by now. Especially considering the history of how law enforcement works or doesn't work in this country at times. This kind of injustice has been documented to happen at a higher rate in our communities.

But because of that realization I also don't feel the need to waste my time trying to explain that aspect to those of you whom have made up your mind anyway.

Instead I would much rather try to get my point across by asking a question that applies to every parent, no matter race, creed or religion.

What should we tell our kids to do when they are followed and confronted at night by a stranger?

I ask because although I have taught my kids about "stranger danger" and although I've told them to try to run if approached by a stranger and although I've told them if they can't get away to fight back as though they were fighting for their lives because they just may well be, it turns out maybe I was doing it all wrong.

At least that is what some who are defending the actions of Mr. Zimmerman would have me, you and everyone else believe.

There are facts in this case and then there are assumptions. We don't know everything that happened that night but we do have a pretty clear set of facts.

1. Trayvon had a legal right to be in that neighborhood as he was visiting with his father there.

2. Trayvon Martin walked to the store and purchased Skittles and an iced tea.

3. Trayvon Martin was walking back home at night when George Zimmerman started following him.

4. Trayvon Martin was not in possession of any weapon at the time he was killed.

5. Trayvon Martin was outweighed by Zimmerman by over 100 pounds.

6. George Zimmerman was not a member of law enforcement.

7. George Zimmerman did not accuse nor have any evidence of Trayvon having committed a crime according to the 911 recording.

8. George Zimmerman admitted he was following Trayvon and the 911 operator advised him against it.

Based on those facts and just those facts, what would you have had Trayvon Martin to do differently?

Seriously, I want to know.

The truth is after other calls Zimmerman made we know that it wasn't Trayvon's hoodie that made Trayvon suspicious. Unless you really believe every other person Zimmerman called 911 on for looking "suspicious" was also wearing a hoodie.

George Zimmerman called 911 because that's just what he did when he saw someone he wasn't familiar with. And yes according to Mother Jones those people tended to be black. You can draw your own conclusions from there.

We also know that Zimmerman didn't kill Trayvon over fear. If he feared Trayvon he wouldn't have followed him and then gotten out of his car to pursue him.

If fear was a factor in all of this it was instead Trayvon Martin's entirely rational fear of George Zimmerman. A stranger he didn't know who had been following him at night. Remember, it was Trayvon Martin who ran away from George Zimmerman according to Zimmerman himself on the 911 call.

Let me say that again.

It was Trayvon Martin who ran away from George Zimmerman.

So if there was a person who was fearful here, the facts say that it was Trayvon, not Zimmerman.

And again, isn't that what we are supposed to teach our kids to do when followed by a stranger at night?

There is a report now that Trayvon Martin was seen on top of George Zimmerman as they were on the ground. Some will say that means Trayvon did something wrong and somehow brought the shooting upon himself. Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee even asserted prior to his temporary resignation that he was sure Trayvon would "do some thing's differently" if he had it to do over.

Obviously because of the actions of George Zimmerman he will never have that opportunity. But I'm really sincerely confused about this line of thinking.

Again I point back to the fact that Trayvon ran away from Zimmerman. Any confrontation at that point would be due to Zimmerman pursuing him. Even if Trayvon got the best of a grown man 11 years his senior and outweighing him by 100 pounds, how exactly is that Trayvon's fault?

Should he have assumed that a stranger pursing him after following him, at night, meant to do him no harm? Or should he have defended himself from said stranger?

As a father I can guarantee you I will teach my kids to do the latter. I would love to hear from a parent that would teach their kids to do the former because I have a hard time believing they exist.

At that point it was a fight. Even if you want to believe Trayvon started the fight are there people who believe that its ok to shoot and kill an unarmed person because you are losing a fight?


I can only hope that is not close to a majority opinion in this country.

The fact that Trayvon might have "won" the fight still does not negate the fact of why such an altercation happened in the first place. Because George Zimmerman decided that although he had not seen Trayvon Martin commit a crime, he could still pursue him as if he had.

I would only hope that my child would get the best of a stranger following him at night when he thought his life might be in danger.

And if there are people out there who think a parent is supposed to teach their kid not to defend themselves in a similar situation then I guess I'm never going to get that Father Of The Year award.

At the end of the day there will be plenty of folks who attempt to steer the conversation away from my very basic question. The reason is no rational person would tell their child to react the way some are saying Trayvon Martin should've reacted. But we should be mindful of that and keep the conversation focused on what we do know.

Trayvon Martin did not follow and confront George Zimmerman at night. He did not initiate their contact. In point of fact he did what most parents would teach their child to do in that situation. And he lost his life because of it.

And the man who did pursue and confront him that night, the man who didn't listen to the 911 operator, the man who was not a member of law enforcement, the man who shot Trayvon Martin who had nothing on his person but Skittles and an iced tea, is still walking the streets as a free man.

Everything else is just a distraction and should be treated as such.


Update: Saturday March 31 2012

I really did mean for the thoughts I posted last week to be the last ones I wrote on Trayvon Martin unless something dramatic (like an arrest) happened. However another part of the story that actually illustrates my point even more subsequently came to my attention.

The bit of information was something I noticed in this Orlando Sentinel article that published a "leaked" account of what George Zimmerman told police happened the night he killed Trayvon Martin.

A lot of people, myself included, were pretty disgusted at what appeared to be an attempt by law enforcement to use the media to help Zimmerman since of course Trayvon Martin's side of the story will never be told.

At least from his perspective.

But regardless of the motivation the story Zimmerman told police had at least one new detail that caught my eye:

Zimmerman told them he lost sight of Trayvon and was walking back to his SUV when Trayvon approached him from the left rear, and they exchanged words.

Trayvon asked Zimmerman if he had a problem. Zimmerman said no and reached for his cell phone, he told police. Trayvon then said, "Well, you do now" or something similar and punched Zimmerman in the nose, according to the account he gave police.

Italicized words for emphasis

So let's get this straight, according to Zimmerman he was following someone at night who looked "suspicious", maybe was even on drugs and he lost sight of that person. Said person materializes almost out of thin air, closing to within arm's reach of Zimmerman before he is noticed. And then when this "suspicious" person acts aggressively the first thing Zimmerman thinks to do is go for his...phone?

This is a guy who had a gun concealed on his person and a phone. And out of the two options he picked the phone?


We will get back to that in a minute but, again, lets look at this from Trayvon Martin's perspective.

You have this man, this stranger, following you in his car for no good reason at night who then gets out of the vehicle and pursues you on foot after you try to run away from him and then when you both somehow encounter each other face to face, he reaches for...something.

Even if we generously accept Zimmerman's account that it was a phone he was reaching for, how exactly could anyone expect Trayvon to know that's what it was?

And if your child was in that exact same situation how would you want them to react to a stranger that had been following and pursuing them at night when they had done nothing wrong, reaching for...something?

As I alluded to in the original post, Trayvon Martin had every reason to believe he needed to fight George Zimmerman as if his life depended upon it. And even as the story of Zimmerman's injuries has somewhat imploded I would still hope that Trayvon Martin was able to do some damage to a man whom he had to rightfully have feared.

For the folks who jumped all over this story to defend George Zimmerman by pushing his story that Trayvon Martin was the aggressor, I would certainly wonder how they would've reacted if it was Trayvon who supposedly went for something during this exchange.

Now a few others have mentioned this reaching for the cell phone business, but only in passing. I hope that as some point bring it up more forcefully because it really is a big deal. I think one way to look at this is George Zimmerman had no way of knowing who had seen what when he talked to the police. Why does that matter? Because if someone saw him reaching at all he would need to explain that. But lets run through a few common sense questions on that.

1. We know Zimmerman had already called the police so whom could have have possibly called at that point?

2. Where was his gun holster in relation to the phone he was supposedly reaching for?

3. Would YOU reach for your phone or your gun if you found yourself frightened and in that same situation?

And the last question which is rhetorical: How convenient is it that in Zimmerman's story Trayvon Martin punched him in the nose after he reached for his phone as opposed to if he had been reaching for his gun?

One more thing...

As I assumed there have been even more sideshows since this story has grown to national prominence. I understand why we get sucked in to focusing on stuff like people who weren't at the scene that night giving their description of what happened and even two pretentious media people using cable news air time to have a childish food fight. But remember this, the distractions will not help get justice for Trayvon Martin. Only continuing to keep our eyes on the prize and focusing on what's really important will.

That is what raised the awareness of this case enough to get the DOJ, FBI and even FDLE involved. And keeping the pressure on the powers in charge will likely be what helps to push them to act and arrest George Zimmerman.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dirty Or Not?

Who was your favorite NFL defensive player growing up? I had a few. Here are some highlights of guys who were featured on NFL Network in the Top 10 all time of hitters in the NFL.




For some of you younger whipper snappers you might have watched this guy growing up.

:19 and :22

Oh and I have to shout out my old teammate safety John Lynch.

Didn't you enjoy those highlights? Isn't that what we have been sold for decades what defensive football is supposed to be about?

Well you may be wondering what those numbers are for under each video. Those numbers signify points in each video where the player made a helmet to helmet hit on a "defenseless" player that they likely would have earned a stiff fine for today (no numbers under Lynch's video because...pretty much the whole highlight is him hitting "defenseless" players helmet to helmet). Do you consider any of these guys, several of them Hall of Famers, "dirty"?

And that brings me to the point of this blog. What signifies a "dirty" NFL player these days? Is it the guy who stomps people, or tries to wrench helmets off, or dives at guys knees, or hits guys late, or punches opposing players? Or is it a guy who's only infractions have come between the whistles when he was going full speed and after the fact someone judged his tackles to be "illegal"?

I'm speaking of course of James Harrison.

I don't particularly care if you are a Harrison fan or a Steelers fan or an NFL fan or even a guy that hates all of the above. This is about how a guy can get labeled as "dirty" because he plays the game the way we were all brought up to play it for literally decades. And this is a guy who didn't get an easy ride into the NFL anyway. He went undrafted and had to work his ass off just to make the team. Then he had to work his ass off to graduate from playing special teams to playing regular downs. And THEN he had to work his ass off to reach a perennial Pro Bowl level.

And he has done all this without what has been traditionally deemed as "dirty" play. He doesn't hit guys well after the whistle. He isn't fighting guys on the field. He isn't kicking people or spitting on people or diving at guys' knees.

What he is doing is busting his ass every single play to try to help his team win games. And for this he gets labeled dirty?

I don't get it.

Bigger than that, I don't understand how we got here.

Go down the list of Hall of Fame linebackers and find me one that didn't hit guys helmet to helmet (after the advent of helmets). Repeatedly. And to roaring applause.

I dare you.

You can't do it. For as long as I can remember Linebackers trying to knock the hell out of offensive players were what the game was founded on and helmet to helmet hits were right in the middle of that. Now you can say that because of concerns about concussions that the foundations of what made football, football has to change and that's fine. But the simple physics involved in making a tackle, especially in the open field, suggest that you will never be able to take helmet to helmet hits out of the game completely.

And I know some people will insist that James Harrison MUST be trying to hit guys helmet to helmet. Why? Because he has been fined several times?

Ok, lets do a little math.

According to this article this was the fifth illegal hit by Harrison on a quarterback in the last 3 years.

In that same time Harrison has collected:

28.5 sacks.

231 combined tackles.

13 forced fumbles.

Now if you ask me if he is "trying" to hurt somebody and can only muster up 5 "illegal" hits on a quarterback out of all those plays he made, he really sucks at being a dirty player.

But the reason why Harrison's hits are magnified is, well, because he hits like a Mack Truck. He basically gets penalized for being better at his job than most people. But that's football.

Let me say it again, THAT'S FOOTBALL!

Look at the play which prompted this suspension.

Now before I break this video down I just want to point out the fact that Colt McCoy had already run 6 times that game for 15 yards.On the year he has rushed for over 200 yards and averages 3.5 yards a carry. So its safe to say he is a mobile quarterback and the threat of him running to try to get a first down was real.

Also its important to note that once a quarterback breaks out of the pocket the rules change as far as how you can tackle him.

Here is the relevant part of the rule book


(8) When the passer goes outside the pocket area and either continues moving with the ball (without attempting to advance the ball as a runner) or throws while on the run, he loses the protection of the one-step rule provided for in (1) above, and the protection against a low hit provided for in (5) above, but he remains covered by all the other special protections afforded to a passer in the pocket (numbers 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7), as well as the regular unnecessary-roughness rules applicable to all player positions. If the passer stops behind the line and clearly establishes a passing posture, he will then be covered by all of the special protections for passers.

Now I won't insult your intelligence by trying to make the case that Harrison's helmet didn't meet McCoy's facemask. It clearly did.

However look very closely at the play. They are running at each other full speed and at the last possible second McCoy decides to throw the ball. At that split second Harrison decides to lower his head. Now I won't pretend to know exactly was going through Harrison's mind but I will say most of the people casting aspersions because he lowered his head are full of shit.

Look at the replay again. Now ask yourself where, exactly, would Harrison have hit McCoy if he didn't lower his head?

I'll tell you where, he would have gone full face mask to face mask with McCoy and the damage would have been a lot worse. That he lowered his head, if anything, shows he was at least attempting to lower his aiming point. And in point of fact the top of his helmet only caught the bottom of McCoy's facemask.

The problem comes in with the force of the blow. But look one more time at the video for me. Harrison doesn't completely follow through on the hit and land on top of McCoy. Instead after contact is made you see him ease up and fall backwards as McCoy falls backward in the opposite direction. This isn't man on the grassy knoll conspiracy theory stuff, it's right there on the video.

But the force of the blow was great enough to give McCoy a concussion and leave him laid out on the field for a few minutes. That was very unfortunate and I never like to see a player get concussed like that. However would their be this furor to suspend Harrison over the hit had he sprang up afterwards and gone back to the huddle unscathed?

Somehow I doubt it.

It's also important to note that the Steelers were holding on to a 7-3 lead with just under 6 minutes left in the game and the Browns already at their 39 when this play occurred. Think Harrison might have had a sense of urgency to try to make a play to help his team win the game? I do.

At the end of the day the NFL has the right to change their rules and the right to punish players who they feel break those rules as they see fit. However that doesn't mean that the guy they're punishing is a "dirty" player or playing the game wrong. The truth is at some point you change enough rules and you are simply going against the laws of physics and watering down what football has meant for years and years though. That is the NFL's right but everyone doesn't have to act like they suddenly have amnesia about how the game of football has always been played.

And while I'm primarily talking about James Harrison here it applies to many other players who have been, in my view, unfairly fined essentially because they hit their opponent too hard.


Now I am sure there are those that instead of actually thinking through everything I have written will dismiss it and deem me as someone who just doesn't take concussions seriously. You couldn't be more wrong.

Let me let you in on a few things about me. I have always been considered to be someone of above average intellect. I had good grades through out high school, good ACT score, graduated from college and blew he Wonderlic out of the water. However nine years removed from having played seven years in the NFL there are days when my recall is just terrible. I have moments where I can't remember names or important numbers to save my life. And my memory is something that used to be a source of pride to me. I know that football has taken some things from me and I only pray it doesn't get much worse.

But where I differ from a lot of people is that having played the game I understand that so much about football in general, and defensive football in particular, is the physical contact. The physical intimidation that makes quarterback's throw that ball a second early when they feel the rush coming. Or makes a wide receiver think twice about making that catch going across the middle. And so no matter how many rules the NFL comes up with, these kinds of hits will always happen. And at the end of the day ex players will continue to suffer from brain trauma due to the time they spent playing football.

What would really help in my opinion, probably more than just on the field rules changes, is an overhaul of the process by which retired players have to go through to get disability benefits due to brain trauma suffered during their playing days.

Someone invoked the name of Dave Duerson earlier today on Twitter when talking down on James Harrison and I was so livid I had to log out for awhile. See so many people will bring up a guy like Duerson when trying to make a point about concussions on the field but I've seen few who will show the same focus about Duerson's time on the disability board where retired players were denied time and time again, by design, when they tried to get help while suffering from brain trauma due to football injuries. Everyone wants to bring up CTE but nobody wants to point out that the NFL has been fighting against that diagnosis and those like it for years and years in an effort to save money.

How many people actually remember this part of the NYTimes article on Duerson's death?

Duerson’s case is unique beyond the circumstances of his suicide. Since 2006, he had served on the six-member panel that considered claims for disability benefits filed by former N.F.L. players. Although individual votes are kept confidential, that board has been sparing in awarding benefits, including those for neurological damage.

Duerson himself told a Senate subcommittee in 2007 that he questioned whether players’ cognitive and emotional struggles were related to football.

However, Duerson’s legacy will almost certainly be how he apparently came to believe he had C.T.E., acted upon it and requested that his brain tissue be examined for confirmation and contribution to science

So if you want to impress me with your righteous indignation about concussions in football please take the time to speak out about the way the NFL has stacked the deck against former players to keep them from getting the disability benefits they both need and deserve. Trying to keep NFL players safe during their playing days is a noble and just cause. But taking care of those same players after they are done with the game should be as, if not more, important.

Otherwise who is really dirty in all of this?



You may be wondering what my alternative would be. Well, I'm glad you asked. First I think most helmet to helmet hits should have a standard fine based on a percentage of that week's pay. That percentage shouldn't change but it should be high enough to be punitive while low enough to be excessively so. The only time
fines should increase progressively is when there is clear intent to injure an opponent. That would include hits clearly after the whistle, dives at players knees, forearms to the head (which I personally feel are much more egregious and a lot easier to avoid in that split second before contact than helmet to helmet hits), launching on defenseless opponents and low hits initiated from behind the opponent.

My reasoning is simple, helmet to helmet is going to happen in football and its ok to punish for the act. But there is no way to "deter" something that is a matter of physics no matter how high the fines go or how many games guys get for suspensions. Also in that same vein because a guy does it repeatedly does not necessarily mean he is trying to injure his opponents. Some people will have you believe that any time a defender lowers his head he is intentionally trying to injury his opponent without every acknowledging that many times lowering your head is an attempt to lower your aiming point to avoid helmet to helmet contact.

However when there is clear intent, meaning there is no way anyone can argue that the guy wasn't trying to injure his opponent, that is behavior that can be deterred and should be.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My Pass Rush Plan For The D Line

I was on 1040 AM earlier this week and I was asked if the Bucs have a shot against the Packers. I said that they do have a shot but only if the Bucs defensive line dominates the game and gets Aaron Rodgers off his game. Now I know people are highly skeptical that this could happen and honestly while I think we have enough talent to do it I'm not sure we will get it done on Sunday either. However I did say the same thing two years ago before the game down here when the Packers were coming to town. And I think most people would agree we have more talent up front now than we did then. Sure enough that Bucs defensive line went out and had their best game of the season and helped lead the team to victory. But just like two years ago I understand the skepticism so I decided to post some thoughts about what our game plan up front should be in order to dominate their offensive line again in my opinion.

First let me talk about their Offensive line. The weakest link in my opinion is the left tackle. The reason being is his set is so predictable. He is basically going to kick step twice, then turn his shoulders and try to ride the defensive end past the quarterback. That makes it hard for a speed rush to work most of the time but it also opens him up to all kinds of well timed inside moves. My preference would be our right end take three speed rush steps up field low and hard then spin back inside but we don't really have a lot of defensive ends that like to spin. That is ok though because Adrian Clayborn has a really good inside rip move and a good bull rush to inside rip move as well. His biggest priority has to be to get off the ball low and hard first though. The reason is if he doesn't sell that he is going to try to run around the left tackle then he never will turn his shoulders and really jump on the speed rush. That means he will be in a better position to block the inside rush which will make it harder for Clayborn to win.

The right tackle is a back peddle guy and I'll be honest I always hated those kinds of pass blockers. He doesn't get much width on his kick step and he rarely jumps on the right end. What he wants is just to stay directly between the right end and the quarterback almost forcing you to run into him rather than around him to get pressure. The problem for the defensive end is that although the tackle is back peddling, he is also staying low and preparing to be bull rushed. So he tried s to give you only one pass rush to use in a bull rush and he is setting to block that same bull rush. That and the fact that Rodgers doesn't take many really deep drops makes for quite the conundrum for the left end.

I think the way you attack that guy is line up tighter (closer) to his outside foot, get a great get off, and try to beat him to a spot five yards behind his outside foot on every play. I believe that Michael Bennett has the explosion off the line and the speed to beat him to that point on a regular basis but this year he has started dancing at the line off his get off a lot. It is going to be hard for that kind of move to work this week because the right tackle isn't trying to jump on any inside fakes. He will just continue to back peddle putting even more space between himself and Bennett. I know the worry for most left ends most weeks is that the go too deep around the quarterback and allow him to step up in the pocket and or escape to his right hand. Just for this week I would suspend that worry. I would tell Bennett to speed rush outside until his tongue is hanging out. Eventually as he keeps beating the offensive tackle to that spot, even if he isn't getting sacks, it will cause him to adjust his pass set. And once he starts having to either bail out and or getting more width then he will be wide open for a bull rush/inside move. But I wouldn't try that until later in the game.

As for the two guards and center they aren't anything special but they work ok as a group. In general the guards are going to set back for speed and only jump set at the line either on play action or versus a blitz. Now this gives all of our defensive tackles the option of bull rushing or making a quick inside move off the snap. And because Rodgers doesn't take a deep drop its possible to get push in his face using just those two pass rush options. I wouldn't advise any of the guys to try to make an finesse outside rush this game because Rodgers is so effective at moving around the pocket and when necessary taking off up the field when he finds a lane to run. If you are going to bull rush you commit to it and go all in on the bull rush. If you are going to make a quick inside move do it right now and don't stop until you get inside and up the field. This will not be a game where the inside rushers can afford to be indecisive or get stuck at the line.

Now if you have been paying attention you might be able to paint a picture in your mind of how these different pass rush plans will all work together to put pressure on Rodgers. You have the right end coming inside getting quick pressure and cutting off running lanes, you have the inside guys getting push and or making quick inside moves to cut off running lanes and you have the left end coming around the horn in case Rodgers feels the push coming right at him from the tackles and right end and decides to escape by dropping deeper around the rush. And this isn't a game plan just for a few 3rd and longs, this is a plan I would have the defensive line execute on almost every drop back pass until their offensive line adjusted to it.

Don't get me wrong its definitely easier said than done for it to actually work out this way. The point is if every one follows their individual game plan and is decisive with their moves then it all fits together like a puzzle to put them in the best position to get pressure while not allowing Rodgers lanes to run around in the pocket.

I also believe the Packers' offensive line is susceptible to pass rush games but I would only use two. First and foremost I would use TEX games as the lead pass rush game. The defensive tackles start in a 3 technique, come off with a rip move in the snap then try to get to the offensive tackle's back. The defensive ends, and this is REALLY important this week, get up the field low and hard for at least 3 steps and when they feel the defensive tackle get to the tackle's back they loop back inside. If the defensive ends get up the field this week and really sell the speed rush the TEX games will be very productive. Especially since Rodgers will likely see the middle open up and believe he will be able to just take off running right up the middle. He will likely never even see the defensive ends looping back inside before they hit him. But if those defensive ends don't sell the speed rush then the game will get blocked up and give option time to slice our secondary up.

A TOM game with the two inside rushers would also be a good option against the Packers. I haven't had an opportunity to watch a lot of film and break down which way the center slides obviously but assuming the Bucs have then they should know which way the center is going in certain sets. And with the Packers' center being a guy who moves decisively to the side he his supposed to block and the guards taking deeper sets it opens it up for the defensive tackle away from the slide to make an inside move, get to the center's block and penetrate while the defensive tackle to the side comes off low and hard to attract the guard and center then loops around to the opposite B Gap. Its a little risky because if its run wrong or the center blocks in the opposite direction from where they anticipate then it could part like the Red Sea and give Rodgers a wide open lane to see down the field or take off running. But still it could be a home run for them so I would sprinkle it in.

The Bucs should definitely NOT us EX games this week where the end comes inside and the defensive tackle on that side loops around outside for contain. The reason is with the guards dropping back instead of coming forward its going to be hard to penetrate that B gap. And if the end doesn't get penetration the game doesn't work. I just don't see that working out well for us.

One overlooked advantage of using pass rush games also is that in my experience it helps defensive linemen recognize screens. The guys who loop inside or outside generally get to see the offensive linemen releasing down field. Thus they have an opportunity to get involved in defending the pass. That is extremely helpful when playing a West Coast offense like Green Bay's that uses screens almost as a part of their running game.

That would be my pass rush plan for the Bucs defensive line versus the Packers. It is just one man's opinion and for sure not the only way to get it done. But I do believe if they rush Rodgers in this fashion they would have a lot of success and as we have seen this year you aren't going to beat that guy with coverage. He is simply too good and he has too many weapons. But if he is on the ground he can't complete many passes so that is where my focus would be in the game plan.

See you on Sunday!

PS: Two things.

1. Albert Haynesworth doesn't seem to like to play with his left hand down. Its a small thing but technique wise it kind of takes his first step a little wide when he is lined up on the right side. For that reason I would keep him lined up on the defense's left side as much as possible where that isn't a problem.

2. JerMichael Finley isn't a good blocker at all at tight end. I know this post is about pass rush and the Packers aren't a big time running team but when they do dare run the ball with him lined up as a tight end at the end of the line our guys should totally dominate that match up.

Mike McQueary Is Full Of Shit!

A few days ago it was reported that the Penn State assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Mike McQueary, who was the graduate assistant in the Grand Jury Report that witnessed Jerry Sandusky raping a young boy in the showers in the locker room in 2002, sent an email out to some former teammates of his from his playing days at Penn State asserting that he had in fact intervened to stop the rape contra the Grand Jury report and subsequent news reports about the issue. I believe the exact words he used were "he made sure it stopped".

When I saw this quote come come across my Twitter timeline it really pissed me off. First and foremost I thought it was bullshit. But even if he did more than what was in the Grand Jury report he didn't literally "make sure it stopped" because the whole reason there is an investigation in the first place is because there was another child who was sexually assaulted by Jerry Sandusky starting in 2007, five years later. And so I tweeted a message out to that general effect.

Subsequently there was a report from ESPN's Tom Rinaldi that an anonymous source told him that McQueary had in fact intervened. Now I am generally suspicious of any anonymous sourcing, especially when the source was termed as someone "familiar" with the investigation rather than someone who was actually "involved" in the investigation. Someone familiar with the investigation could literally be anybody including McQueary's own lawyer. But I decided not to question the veracity of the report because I felt like if it was a lie, with as big of a story as this all is now, some other news outlet would bring it all to light.

Two reports came out today that combined with some common sense make a strong case that McQueary is in fact full of shit.

Earlier today Sarah Ganim, who has done an awesome job reporting on this story even before most of us were aware of it, tweeted out this article. In the article she makes this declaration.

Penn State assistant football coach Mike McQueary never mentioned that he talked to police in 2002 after witnessing an alleged sexual assault by Jerry Sandusky of a young boy, according to a hand-written statement McQueary gave to police during the recent grand jury investigation.

The Patriot-News has viewed a copy of the statement and verified it through a source close to the investigation.

The Patriot-NewsPenn State assistant football coach and Jerry Sandusky case witness Mike McQueary has hired a law firm that specializes in employment issues. He is on paid leave from the university.

In it, McQueary states that he witnessed a boy, about 10, being sodomized in a shower and hurried out of the locker room. He does not mention stopping the assault, and does not mention talking to any police officers in the following days, the statement says.

The whole incident, the statement says, lasted about a minute, and McQueary wrote that he would not recognize the boy if he saw him today

Now its true that the Grand Jury report didn't have a transcript of everything every witness said. And that fact has led to plenty of speculation that maybe McQueary had in fact testified that he stopped the rape but it just wasn't included in the report. However this news account directly contradicts that notion completely.

Another claim in McQueary's email was that he had in fact gone to police, again contra the Grand Jury Report. But several outlets including USAToday looked into that assertion and found it to be false as well.

Those last two reports obviously call into question these new assertions both from McQueary's email and Rinaldi's reporting but I admit they aren't necessarily definitive. There is still a chance that perhaps he just didn't tell the Grand Jury about intervening but he had done so and it just didn't come up. Or maybe he did tell the Grand Jury and there just isn't any evidence that he did so. But if he did intervene and stop the rape that night in 2002 I just have one question.

What happened next?

I'm not talking about the phone call he placed to his Dad, we already know about that from the Grand Jury report.

What I want to know is after he stopped Jerry Sandusky from raping this young boy, by whichever means he employed, what did he do then? You have by his description a 10 year old or so kid who has just been sexually violated and I want to know what McQueary did to calm him down? What did he do to check and see if he was injured? What did he do to find out who the child was? What did he do to make sure that child got home safe?

But lets go back to the report from Sarah Ganim that I quoted. According to McQueary he probably wouldn't recognize the boy now if he saw him. And we know that so far investigators haven't been able to find the child and don't even know his name. Now you tell me how that is possible if McQueary really did intervene?

This wasn't some mugging in a dark alley that he just happened upon, this was a rape committed at his place of business in a locker room he was very familiar with both from his playing days and then later as a coach. So just yelling out for Sandusky to "stop it" and then continuing about his business wouldn't reasonably be considered enough to constitute "stopping" the rape.

And regardless of whether he called the police or not, he witnessed this child being raped and didn't attempt to call his parents? Or failing that at the very very least call him a cab to get home? Because Sandusky obviously brought the kid to the locker room with him or at least that is the assumption I think most people would have made that night. So if McQueary stops the rape how did the kid get home?

These are all questions that should have easy answers if in fact McQueary intervened and "made sure it stopped". But it doesn't appear any easy answers will be forthcoming. More than likely because he didn't intervene and he is now just trying to cover his ass.

And as outraged as I was when I was sure he didn't intervene that almost pales in comparison to the anger I feel now knowing that he is trying to sell this fiction that he did. I understand that some will want to give him the benefit of the doubt but for me there is just no rational way that he intervened and stopped this rape and yet he couldn't recognize that child today, he doesn't know his name and he didn't do anything in the way of making sure he was transported home safely by someone other than the man who was just raping him.

He and whomever Rinaldi's anonymous source is, is full of shit and should be called out on it.