The NFL’s injury problem is quickly turning into an epidemic, and there is no end in sight

You could see it on Tom Brady’s face last night. The frustration in his voice was obvious but he knew there was nothing he could do.

“I hate to see it, but it really is the only way defenders can hit now,” Brady said, according to WEEI. “I bet if you asked the players, they would really rather go high than low. I don’t think it’s dirty. I just think that is how football is played now.”

Brady was of course referring to the play that led to the injury of New England’s star tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronk suffered what is now known to be a bone-bruise on his right knee after getting hit there late in the fourth quarter. The point that was made last night during Tom Brady’s postgame press conference may not have been something that was physically said, but was still clear as day; the NFL has an injury crisis on its hands, and there is no end in sight.

The NFL is caught in what is called a “Catch-22”. Merriam-webster.com defines a Catch-22 as “a problematic situation for which the only solution is denied by a circumstance inherent in the problem or by a rule”.

Here’s the situation:

Over the last decade or so the NFL has been fighting lawsuits from former players citing negligence in the case of concussion safety. Former players are claiming that the NFL knew the dangers involved with playing football and the risks of brain injury that come with playing, but did not disclose this information to the players. After the 2012-2013 season where there were over 160 players who sustained head injuries, the league banned players from lowering their heads to deliver a hit in the open field. Here’s the rule as described in a March 2013 article from the latimes.com:

“The rule imposes a 15-yard penalty if a runner or tackler initiates forcible contact by delivering a blow with the crown (top) of his helmet when both players are clearly outside the tackle box. The tackle box is defined as an area extending from offensive tackle to tackle and from three yards beyond the line of scrimmage back to the end zone behind the line of scrimmage. Incidental contact by the helmet of a runner or tackler is not a foul.”

This is where the Catch-22 comes in.

With the new rule, players had to fundamentally change the way they were tackling. Rather than launching themselves head first, they had to figure out a new way to tackle offensive players who had only been getting bigger, stronger and harder to take down. So instead of going high, players began to go low, specifically at the knees.

Football is a violent sport with the object being, as a defensive player, to cause as much physical punishment as possible. This puts the NFL in an impossible situation right now with regards to player safety given the limits that have been set on how defensive players can play. The quality of play this season, more so than any other in recent memory, has been significantly worse due to the number of injuries sustained by the league’s top players. Jamal Charles, Carlos Hyde, Dion Lewis, Arian Foster, Le’Veon Bell, Joe Flacco, Julian Edelman, Jimmy Graham, Steve Smith Sr., Jordy Nelson and Kelvin Benjamin are just a few of the best players who are out for the rest of the season due to a lower body injury.

This is not a problem that the NFL can simply sweep under its rug like they tried to do with concussions. Fans, the media, and even the players themselves are noticing the drop in quality due to injuries/rules related to injuries and fear that it could be what dooms the sport. The following is an excerpt from a PBS Frontline report from 2013:

“Ravens safety Bernard Pollard tells CBS Sports that the NFL’s renewed emphasis on player safety is threatening the league’s future.

“’Thirty years from now, I don’t think it will be in existence,’ said Pollard. ‘I could be wrong. It’s just my opinion, but I think with the direction things are going — where [NFL rules makers] want to lighten up, and they’re throwing flags and everything else — there’s going to come a point where fans are going to get fed up with it.’”

In an article written on espn.com last Friday, Kevin Seifert wrote, “more players have already been placed on injured reserve because of confirmed ACL tears (38) than in all of 2012 (32) or 2011 (25), according to ESPN Stats & Information.”

Fans are more than aware of the injury problem at this point. According to a New York Post report from Sept. 2015, “The [NFL’s] latest Spending & Saving Tracker said 74.7 million Americans plan to participate in fantasy football this year, spending $4.6 billion, company spokeswoman Jane Di Leo said.”

With that many fans playing fantasy football, and millions more watching and rooting for players and teams on top of that, fans know all too well how many star players have gone down due to injury this year.

While these injuries have hurt the quality of play, it hasn’t stopped people from watching. According to a bostonglobe.com report from early Nov. 2015:

“Midway through this season, the trends suggest that ratings and viewership numbers will trump even last year’s. Thursday Night Football is up 6 percent in viewership this year from the same date a year ago, averaging 17.6 million viewers, up from 16.7 million last year. Overall, CBS is averaging 18.5 million viewers for its NFL telecasts, which would be the highest for the AFC game package in 29 years. NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” continues to be a ratings behemoth, averaging 23.6 million viewers this season, making it the top-ranked program on television this fall. ESPN is averaging 13.2 million viewers for its “Monday Night Football” telecasts. So far this season, NFL games account for the top 10 and 19 of the top 20 programs on television this fall.”

The ratings have never been the NFL’s problem, as people are always going to watch football as long as it’s around. However, player safety has become a major issue in this league and more than just players are beginning to pay attention. In the same Frontline report, Days before Super Bowl XLVII (47), President Barack Obama told The New Republic that,

“I’m a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football. And I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence. In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won’t have to examine our consciences quite as much.”

With even the President saying that his concerns about the risk of sustaining an injury while playing football would be enough to keep his child from playing the sport, who is to say that millions of parents across America don’t share Obama’s sentiment?

It is time for the NFL to take a long and hard look at itself. The league needs to figure out how to protect its players, because what’s going on right now just ain’t cutting it. Maybe it starts at the youth level, where players first learn how to tackle. Maybe players are training too hard and wearing their bodies down. Or maybe players have just gotten plain old unlucky this year. Any of those are plausible reasons for why the NFL is going through this injury crisis. However one thing is certain, this is a problem that needs to be addressed and it isn’t going away any time soon.

 

Photo via baltimoreravens.about.com

Addressing The Stupidity Problem In Professional Sports

If you stop and think about it and really break it down, professional athletes get paid every day to do the same thing that four year olds do on day-to-day basis: play games. Yes I obviously know it’s not that simple, calm down. But just think about it. At its most basic level, a professional sports league is a group of teams playing a game. LeBron is playing the exact same game that a 12-year-old kid from New York City plays after school each day. The only difference; LeBron gets paid millions of dollars to do so.

Now for an athlete to get paid in the first place, they have to sign a contract that was offered to them. In every job that requires you to sign a contract, all you have to do in order to stay employed and get paid is to follow any rules that your contract includes. That’s it. Really, that’s all you have to do. Just follow the rules and you’ll live happily ever after.

For professional athletes is a pretty fucking sweet deal they are getting. This is how I imagine a conversation between a player and a GM after the player signs a fat extension: “Boss, are you telling me all I have to do is follow these rules and I can make millions of dollars?” Yes, that is EXACTLY what they’re telling you. The GM wouldn’t even respond. He would just shake his head yes and that’s it. That’s how simple it is. Have you ever wished you could have a set of step-by-step directions that tells you how to make millions of dollars? That’s what these pro athletes are getting here. On top of everything, these rules also happen to be unbelievably simple to follow. Things like “Don’t get arrested” and “Don’t do drugs” top the list. Seems easy enough, right?

Now that we have established how easy it is for professional athletes to be and stay successful, we can talk about how dumb some of these players are when it comes to following these rules. And I say ‘dumb’ because honestly it’s the nicest way I can possibly put it when talking about some of these guys. For example, this past weekend the NFL was in the news for its players being really dumb. The news broke last Thursday on July 2 when the NFL handed out a multitude of suspensions, including some of the top players in the league at their positions. Antonio Gates, Sheldon Richardson and Rolando McClain were all suspended for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. (Remember the “Don’t do Drugs” rule? Yup I was thinking the same thing don’t worry.)

To be fair, pro-athletes have been doing dumb shit for decades. Honestly a lot of the stuff people would consider dumb these days weren’t considered to be so back in the day. For example, Wade Boggs claims that he drank 100 beers the same day they had a game. Dock Ellis throwing a no-hitter while tripping on LSD is another example. To put those things in perspective, Pablo Sandoval was benched being on his phone during a game, and a few years ago the Boston Red Sox got a lot of heat for drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse during a game. Really? People got upset over that? WADE BOGGS DRANK 100 BEERS THE DAY OF A GAME AND NO ONE BATTED AN EYE. I can understand funny stories like this. I honestly don’t even mind Sandoval using his phone mid-game. What I do mind is players doing things to get them suspended or hurt for multiple games that were ultimately avoidable/preventable.

For example this past weekend Jason Pierre-Paul decided that, as a professional football player, it was a great idea to buy a truckload of fireworks and personally set them off. That really wouldn’t have been that bad of an idea as it was the Fourth of July and people tend to set fireworks off that night…except for the fact that he’s a fucking professional football player and fireworks are dangerous as shit. As everyone is well aware of by now, one of those fireworks went off in his hand, causing severe burns and potential nerve damage in his fingers. The man was just franchise tagged by the New York Giants and there was a long-term contract extension offer for over $60 million on the table as well. Well, after fucking up his hand, the contract extension offer was pulled and JPP’s long-term future with the Giants is up in the air.

Nothing in the world pisses me off more than hearing stories like the one about JPP and his fucking fireworks or guys like Josh Hamilton who recently mixed up his cocaine and Vitamin-C (he probably thought they were the same thing). They have one job: Don’t do anything stupid. I mean goddamn, if I had the talent that JPP or Hamilton have, I would make it my priority in life to NOT fuck up. If the Giants walked up to me and said, “You’re really great at football so were going to pay you $60 million a year to tackle whoever is holding the football. All you have to do in order to earn that money is continue to produce on the field and don’t do anything stupid off the field.” Come on, man. If you give me $1 million and tell me its all mine as long as I don’t do anything stupid for a year, you can bet your ass I’m swimming in cash a year later.

It’s pathetic that so many of these grown men continuously fuck up time and time again. I’m sure Justin Pierre-Paul is a great guy and all, but when you start drawing comparisons to Plaxico Burress you need to stop whatever you’re currently doing and start doing the exact opposite. JPP is lucky that he didn’t lose a finger or two, and while he didn’t shoot himself like Plax did, it’s still an all-time bonehead move to blow up your hand with fireworks. Bottom line is, if you’re a professional athlete stop doing stupid shit. Hey pro-athletes, FYI: there are hundreds of guys grinding every day to make it big, and they would gladly take your place if you continue to be stupid. So, stop being stupid so we, the fans, don’t have to watch scrubs come in and replace your sorry asses.

Tom T-Money’s ESPY Picks

Best Male Athlete: Steph Curry, Aaron Rodgers, LeBron James, J.J. Watt.

My Pick: LeBron James.

To me, this one is pretty obvious. LeBron James is undoubtedly one of the best athletes in the word and what he accomplished in the 2014 -2015 NBA season is nothing short of remarkable. A newly assembled Cleveland Cavaliers finished the season 53-29 and fell just short of an NBA championship. The unfortunate injuries of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Anderson Varejao, and the empty bag of shits J.R. Smith gives were major setbacks for the Cavs, and had these circumstances been any different, it is reasonable to say that LeBron could have been donning ring number three. David Blatt’s biggest contribution to the team was suggesting all players wear a Yamaka during warmups, which was immediately shut down by Iman Shumpert because he didn’t want to mess up the hair. With a beat up Cavaliers team and a Rabbi for a coach, LBJ singlehandedly carried them to the Finals and almost did the unthinkable. Give the man his damn ESPY.

Best Game: A’s vs. Royals (MLB AL Wildcard), Spurs vs. Clippers (Game 7 of the NBA Western Conference Quarterfinals), Seahawks vs. Patriots (Super Bowl)

My Pick: Seahawks vs. Patriots

I still get a quarter chub thinking about the amount of wings, pizza, and entertaining football I watched during Superbowl XLIX. I’m neither a Seahawks nor Patriots fan, so I was just hoping for a good game and it certainly was that. True Story: the hair on my balls stood straight up when the Patriots defense made the huge interception to save the game and I’m pretty sure Pete Carroll is still giving himself titty-twisters to this day for not running the ball with Marshawn Money Lynch on this play. Gotta love the Superbowl.

 Best Comeback Athlete: Rob Gronkowski, Alex Rodriguez, Derrick Rose, Lindsey Vonn

My Pick: Rob Gronkowski

This one was mainly done by a process of elimination. Elimination #1: Lindsey Vonn. Yeah she has a nice face, but skiing is kind of irrelevant in my humble opinion. Elimination #2: A-Roid. Sure, 3,000 hits is cool but you know what isn’t? Sticking a syringe up your ass to make you hit a ball better. Elimination #3: Derrick Rose. I would call it an okay comeback. He went from averaging 25 PPG in his stellar 2010-2011 season to just 17.7 PPG this season. Give the guy credit though, he’s playing on one leg out there. All that’s left is the party animal himself; Rob Gronkowski. Superbowl Champion and a 12 touchdown season, Gronk definitely deserves the award over the other athletes.

Best Female Athlete: Ronda Rousey, Breanna Stewart, Lindsey Vonn, Serena Williams

My Pick: No Opinion

Alright guys let’s face it, out of all of these women, the only one I’ve seen perform was Serena Williams on Sportscenter highlights and I was too busy staring at her thunder thighs and biceps to know what was going on. On to the next one I guess.

Best Breakthrough Athlete:  Odell Beckham Jr., Mo’ne Davis, Cardale Jones, Jordan Speith

My Pick: Jordan Speith

From winning the Green Jacket at The Masters to his comeback victory at the U.S. Open in Chambers Bay, it’s safe to say Jordan Speith is having himself quite a year. Speith has put himself among some very elite names after being the 13th player to win back-to-back major tournaments. Other golfers to have done this include Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, and Arnold Palmer. Who knows, if he keeps golfing this well he may have a refreshing beverage named after him one day (or have a golf club smashed through the rear window of his SUV from a psycho wife… but let’s not go there).

One Love,

Tom

What Makes a Team Valuable: Location or Historical Success?

According to a study that we have conducted here, at East Coast Egos, we have come to the conclusion that the world is full of no-good, godforsaken, bandwagon sports fans. We have found a way to back up this notion with statistics: There is a much greater correlation between a teams’ historical success and their value than the amount of local supporters they have and their value.

Value, of course, is derived from the amount of fans that a team has, amongst other factors. In ECE’s study, we took the top 31 ranked teams on Forbes’ 2014 Most Valuable Sports Teams list and weighed them against the teams’ success and population in their metropolitan area. Success was measured by major championships won by the respective team.

Although there are outliers, such as the poor San Antonio Spurs and Montreal Canadiens, this study is shockingly accurate

Here is a look at the data:

bandwagon2

For those statistics nerds, there is a .136 correlation between a team’s home metropolitan area population and their respective value. On the other hand, there is a .781 correlation between the amount of major championships a team has won and their respective value. For everyone who slept through statistics class, a higher correlation suggests a more significant association, and the highest possible linear correlation is 1.

So when your friend from Minnesota tells you that he likes the New York Yankees “because he always has,” you now know that, statistically, he is likely to be just another goddamn bandwagon fan.

Is Bob Kraft the Most Likeable Scumbag of All Time?

About three years ago Robert “Bob” Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, lost his beloved wife Myra Kraft. Married for 48 years until her death, Kraft had a family with her including four sons. The team honored Myra the season after her death while battling breast cancer by wearing a patch reading “MHK”. Last weekend, we got to witness maybe the biggest party in sports celebration history when the Patriots received their fourth Super Bowl ring at Krafts own house.

Kraft, being the man he is, you’d think would be loyal and loving to his late wife and could never love another woman after his lifetime of a marriage. But, he was pictured at his ring ceremony with a beautiful 20 something year old slutting it up like the old pimp he is. How can you not be like “my goodness this man is a stud?” or even say “how the hell can he do something like that?” It brings me to wonder about my beloved Patriots owner is he truly a scumbag?

I love him for what he has done to my favorite sports franchise, and I cannot help but respect the game he’s pulling at his age. But c’mon Mr. Kraft. You really think she’s into you or is it that mansion displayed in the best vine videos of all time?

Jets tweak Marshall’s contract, raising more questions about Wilkerson’s future

Yes I know its pretty damn late, but this topic has been nagging at me for weeks now and I gotta say something about it. The New York Jets continued their offseason-spending spree this in early June, reworking the contract of star wide receiver Brandon Marshall. The team, according to ESPN.com, had promised Marshall after he was traded that they would retool his contract, giving him a chance to make $2.7 million extra over the next two seasons. The deal is full of performance incentives that can make Mr. Marshall a very rich man over the next three years and its all unicorns and butterflies over in Brandon’s World for now.

With the restructuring of Marshall’s contract, the Jets have topped off one of the busiest off-seasons in recent memory, with the team handing out new contracts to everyone and anyone not named Muhammad Wilkerson. That fact right there has a lot of fans very worried.

Now before everyone goes crazy, remember this: the Jets have Wilkerson under contract this season at a price of $7 million. That’s a very reasonable price to be paying for most quality players in the NFL, but Wilkerson isn’t just another quality player. Since joining the Jets in 2011, the player Jets teammates refer to as “Mo” has dominated his position. Since 2012 he has been elected to 3 straight All-Pro teams, and many consider him one of the top 3-4 defensive ends in the league (obviously behind J.J. Watt).

So what do we know? We know how good Wilkerson is and being only 25 years old (26 in October) he will only get better. We know that the Jets have him under contract for this season at a bargain price of $7 million – which is way under his market value. We also know that the Jets are absolutely stacked across the defensive line. However, what we don’t know is Mo’s future with your beloved New York Jets. There are many possible scenarios that could play out over the next year or so, but only two seem to make sense; 1) a franchise tag leading to a contract extension or 2) the team will cut ties with Mo and let him test free agency. I break them down below.

Scenario #1: Franchise Tag and/or Contract extension

After this season the New York Jets have options when it comes to Muhammad Wilkerson and his contract. The first option and most likely route the Jets will take would be to apply the franchise tag on him. By doing so, the Jets would be paying Wilkerson around $15 million in salary. What makes this contract situation so different then when the Jets were negotiating with Darrelle Revis in 2010 is that Wilkerson doesn’t have a clause in his contract that prevents franchise tags like Revis did. With the franchise tag applied, the Jets would be able to take their time with Wilkerson’s contract extension as the team currently has all of the leverage in these negotiations (Drafting Leonard Williams has a lot to do with this. More on this below).

 

Scenario #2: Cut ties

 

The Jets currently have all of the leverage in Wilkerson’s contract negotiations. After Leonard Williams fell to the Jets with the 6 pick, general manager Mike Maccagnan decided to pick the guy who many people believed was the best player in the draft shattering any leverage that Wilkerson had at the negotiating table. In getting Williams, who plays the same position as Wilkerson, the Jets now have options. If the Jets play this year out without giving Wilkerson a contract extension, they can cut ties with him after the season.

By allowing Wilkerson to hit free agency, the Jets would be left with Sheldon Richardson, Damon Harrison and Leonard Williams as their defensive line, and one cannot complain about a unit of that caliber. This is all under the assumption that Williams pans out and becomes the player that many believe he will be. However, if Williams has an average to below average season, it would give the Jets more incentive to apply the franchise tag or resign Wilkerson rather than let him walk in free agency.

There are many different ways this can go in the next year or so with Muhammad Wilkerson. Only time will tell on whether or not the Jets will give their stud defensive end the elusive contract extension that he so rightfully deserves. As of right now they have shelves the talks as Mo has established himself as the bigger man and decided to not only show up to the Jets’ mandatory mini camp but he will supposedly be attending training camp later this summer as well. One thing is for certain though—Big Mo Wilkerson is going to get paid handsomely by some team over the next two years.