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We could be seeing the end of three great players who are nearing the end of their NFL careers.
Charles Woodson is 37, one of the greatest safeties ever to play the game, says he is seriously considering retirement if he and the Raiders can't come to a deal for 2014.
The 31-year-old Devin Hester, one of the game's great kick returners, is parting ways with Chicago, after the Bears announced Thursday they won't be re-signing him.
And finally, Champ Bailey, 38 years old and a 12-time Pro Bowl cornerback, has been released by Denver after a decade with the Broncos.
All three of these future Hall of Famers could sign with other teams as free agents and play another year or two or even three, but their days of domination - or even starting - are over.
It just shows what happens in the merciless NFL when you lose a step, or even a half step. There's always someone behind you nipping at your aging heels, younger, faster and cheaper.
Speaking of free agents, here are the best of a somewhat mediocre group of quarterbacks on the market this year.
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Farewell Future Hall of Famers? originally appeared on About.com Football on Thursday, March 6th, 2014 at 15:43:41.
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People say the NFL is old-fashioned, stodgy and unreceptive to new ideas.
I don't know about that. They've been coming up with some crazy ideas lately. The latest one, that's actually been kicked around for a while, makes sense, and that is getting rid of the extra point, the most anti-climactic play in football.
Every football fan hits the snooze button for the extra point: Kickers made 1,262 PAT's this past NFL season out of 1,267 tries.
Actually, the NFL is considering making the extra point a 42-yard kick. They're on the right track, but they're not going far enough. I mean, it's still just a kick.
Why not do it like soccer's penalty kick, where one guy tries to kick a goal against a lone goalie? Mano a mano, one on one.
Picture this: One running back, one defender. Give the runner the ball at the 20-yard line and blow the whistle. My best against your best. You score, you get two points. You don't, you get zip.
I like it. What do you think? You got a better idea?
While you're thinking about it, check out these losers from the NFL Scouting Combine, including Johnny Manziel and Michael Sam.
Ditch the Extra Point, Go Mano A Mano originally appeared on About.com Football on Wednesday, March 5th, 2014 at 12:15:24.
It's pretty hypocritical of the NFL to consider banning the "N-word" while allowing the Washington Redskins to keep their nickname.
A slur is a slur, and if it is offensive to a large group of people, you should change it.
Those people, almost always white, who say they'd be proud to be called a "Redskin" are ignorant. Not dumb, stupid, or even necessarily racist. Just ignorant of what it does to people who are offended by the term.
As far as the "N-word" a lot of people are saying it will be hardest for black players to refrain from using it on the field because it's part of their "culture."
That might be true, but if you listen to respected black leaders, it's time to change that.
The NFL can't have it both ways. It should clean up its own act before pretending to be sensitive cultural warriors.
In the meantime, here are my winners in the NFL Scouting Combine.
NFL as Cultural Arbiters? I Don't Think So originally appeared on About.com Football on Saturday, March 1st, 2014 at 12:59:02.
Everybody's raving about the 4.53 second 40-yard dash time by Jadeveon Clowney at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
When you consider that the guy is around 266 pounds and almost 6-feet-6, yes it is freakishly fast, faster than many of the wide receivers who were timed at the combine.
Then again, what happens when game time comes and Jadeveon seems to just be going through the motions, as he often did in South Carolina?
The point is, every year we seem to get too hung on the numbers at the combines. Some of these NFL prospects lose weight temporarily so they can impress scouts with their speed at the combines and get the fat contracts.
Numbers don't mean much if you can't play the game. Remember Jamarcus Russell? He was a 6-5, 223 pound quarterback and could sling it 50 yards on his knees. He was the first pick in the 2007 draft and a complete bust for the Raiders.
Then you have Eddie LeBaron who was only 5-7. He made it to the Hall of Fame.
Warren Moon and Tony Romo were both undrafted. Tom Brady didn't go until round six. Bart Starr didn't go until round 17 and Deacon Jones hung around until round 14.
So, let's get all ga ga over these numbers, but don't forget there are all sorts of intangibles that go into the making of a great football player.
NFL teams can be the same way. They can be loaded with talent on paper and a bust on the field. The opposite can be true as well. Here are my most surprising teams from the 2013 NFL season.
Numbers Can Lie, At Least at the NFL Combine originally appeared on About.com Football on Tuesday, February 25th, 2014 at 11:44:17.
The NFL is considering a rule that would penalize a player 15 yards for using a slur, in particular a racial slur.
Presumably, all this sensitivity on the part of the NFL is related to the expected presence of the first openly gay NFL player, Michael Sam.
Good luck with that.
The NFL is to be commended. If they can make the NFL a place of tolerance, they can change the world.
"Excuse me, sir, I didn't mean to hit you so hard. You have my utmost apologies."
"That's quite all right my good man. It was a fine, fine tackle, one any man would be proud of."
"You're a gentleman, sir, and good luck to you and your team in the remainder of the contest."
"And to you dear fellow. Please know I hold you and your noble ancestors in the highest esteem."
Tolerance is great, but can you imagine Dick Butkus, Mean Joe Greene, Conrad Dobler and all those legendary tough guys playing under this rule?
I can't either.
Speaking of rules, here's one of mine: Don't let go of the past season while you're still in the month the Super Bowl was played. So, here is my list of the past season's most disappointing teams.
NFL Tackles Cultural Insensitivity originally appeared on About.com Football on Monday, February 24th, 2014 at 17:04:29.
Don't worry Oakland Raiders fans, nobody is plotting against you.
All this focus on the strength of the NFL schedule is sort of bogus. The Raiders, a lowly 4-12 this past season, play the toughest schedule in 2014 if you go by 2013 records. The Indianapolis Colts play the easiest, based on the same.
But, this is the NFL. The difference between 2-14 and 11-5 is razor thin. I'm referring specifically to the Kansas City Chiefs, who finished 2-14 in 2012 and bounced back to 11-5 and a playoff berth this past season.
Every year, teams who were supposed to be contenders for the Super Bowl flop like mackerels: I see you, Atlanta and Houston. Then you have teams like the Chiefs, forecast to be losers, only to emerge contenders.
Carolina was supposed to have the toughest schedule heading into 2013. Turned out their schedule contained more than a fair share of cupcakes.
The point is, strength of schedule can be a weak indicator of things to come. Then again, the Raiders must play every team in the muscular AFC West twice. Yikes.
In other NFL news, the Ted Wells report on that bullying scandal in Miami is out. I have some thoughts on that report here every thinking person should consult before forming an intelligent opinion.
Toughest Schedule in the NFL? Don't Count On It originally appeared on About.com Football on Monday, February 17th, 2014 at 14:32:02.
We are entering the NFL rumor season. This always follows the lull between the climactic Super Bowl - anticlimactic in this case - and the college draft in May.
It is sometimes the most entertaining of all the NFL seasons.
Who will be the No. 1 draft pick?
Johnny Manziel, for sure. He's the most electrifying talent in a decade.
No, you idiot, he's too small and wild off the field.
Where will free agent tight end Jimmy Graham go?
I have an inside guy tells me the Saints will sign him before he goes free agent.
Are you out of your mind, you dunderhead, I have an anonymous source says he's already agreed to go to the Packers.
And of course everybody and his brother will come up with a mock draft.
So, in that spirit, I offer my own ridiculously early predictions for the teams most likely to win the Super Bowl next year. Hint: Look to the West.
Johnny Manziel, Jimmy Graham and Next Year's Super Bowl Winner originally appeared on About.com Football on Thursday, February 13th, 2014 at 15:40:18.
By now, pretty much everyone in America knows Michael Sam's sexual orientation.
It's an odd way to advance a cause, but this is the way we do things in these modern times: Wave that cause in everybody's face, no matter how personal, until we give up and jump on the bandwagon, just to turn the volume down. OK, OK, have it your way, no problem.
Let me make this clear: I am all for Sam's right to do whatever he wants regardless of his sexual proclivities. I support gay rights unequivocally, without reservation.
I'm just a little weary of the incessant bombardment. I feel sort of like a G.I. in the Battle of the Bulge when the German panzers came roaring through. I'm a little shell-shocked and want to throw up my hands and surrender.
Sam isn't in the NFL yet, but he already has a PR pro to help him "establish his identity." That's in addition to his two regular agents to get him that multi-million dollar contract and lucrative, outside endorsements.
And if you haven't thrown your support behind Sam, you'd better do it quick. Like, right now.
They've already fined two pro football players for making negative comments about Sam. In Canada, for heaven's sake.
Of course, the Canadian Football League moved at blazing speed - faster than any of its running backs - to get an apology out there in the public.
"The CFL is supportive of openly gay athletes in professional sports and we commend the courage shown by Michael Sam," CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon said via the CFL Web site.
Is the NFL ready for its first openly gay player? Yes, yes, yes!
Now, can we move on?
Yes, yes, yes!
Michael Sam First Openly Gay NFL Player: Fine, Now Play Ball originally appeared on About.com Football on Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 at 08:10:17.
You knew it would happen. The NFL dodges a bullet and a snowstorm and now every gray, miserable, cold-weather city wants a Super Bowl.
Yes, they managed to play the Super Bowl in New Jersey and nobody got run over by a snow plow. They got lucky.
I have to admit I am of two minds about playing the Super Bowl in foul weather.
On one hand, it's an outdoor sport. It's a winter sport. It ain't baseball. It should be played in all sorts of weather.
On the other, isn't the Super Bowl also a reward, for both the players and the fans? Shouldn't it be played in sunny Miami, or San Diego, where fans can frolic on the beach and the players can show off their skills in good weather, unencumbered by freezing temperatures?
I don't know, what do you think?
In the meantime, it's time all you Denver fans cheered up. There are plenty of reasons to start looking forward to 2014.
NFL Gets Lucky, Now Maybe Super Bowl Will Return to Sanity and Miami originally appeared on About.com Football on Thursday, February 6th, 2014 at 11:04:40.
Who's the most annoying person in the world? That guy right over there who keeps telling you he knew the Seattle Seahawks would trounce the Broncos in the Super Bowl. See him? You know him, don't you?
There are dozens and dozens of after-the-fact reasons Seattle stunned the Broncos, as well as pretty much every oddsmaker across the globe, with their 48-3 ol' skool whuppin' of Denver Sunday in New Jersey.
So here's mine: If you want to know how a team will do in the postseason, go snoop around its neighborhood. Look at where he lives, the sort of people he keeps company with.
The Seahawks live in the roughest part of town, the NFC West. They only lost three games and two of them were to division opponents San Francisco and Arizona. The NFC West has the best defensive teams in the NFL, hard-nosed, mean and smart.
The 49ers were the second-best team in the league. The Cardinals came on like gangbusters toward the end of the year and the St. Louis Rams played winning football against non-division opponents while getting waxed by their division brothers, losing five of six.
That's one reason some of the Seahawks say the real Super Bowl was for the NFC title between them and the 49ers.
The Broncos were simply caught off guard by the ferocity of the Seattle defense. They had not played anything this past season that covered as well, hit as fiercely or rushed as hard.
Who are Denver's division rivals? San Diego, Oakland and Kansas City. Enough said.
Denver's soft schedule this past season, playing the toughened Seahawks was like pitting a soft, doughy accountant against an enraged Mike Tyson in his prime.
I knew it all along.
2014 Super Bowl: Seahawks Tough Division Should Have Been a Better Clue originally appeared on About.com Football on Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 at 15:42:18.
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