INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 27: Cam Newton runs the 40-yard dash during the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 27, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Unless your idea of great football conversation includes 3-cone drills, 40 times and spandex, the NFL labor situation can't get settled fast enough.
The NFL Labor situation has done the worst possible thing the NFL could do, at least to me. I hate all football news right now. The union decertified, and they're fighting over a ton of money, and I'm already tired of the story even though it's only been going on for a couple weeks. Still, it's impossible to take. When the big news of the day is an NFL owner writing a letter* to season ticket holders, or Roger Goodell writing a letter* to the players, I'd rather not hear anything.
(*I think we're officially at the point where letters can only be considered negative, aren't we? Back when I was a kid, I maybe received a few letters, and they were supposed to be these great, great things. And in the days before email and smartphones, they were. Letters from distant family members when I was little. Letters from a penpal in some other country who was forced to write to me for the same 4th grade class project I was forced into, complete with lines like, "I like to go to school." Letters in high school from girls, read secretly underneath my desk, once I could figure out that intricate origami fold every girl knows -- the folding technique that's harder to crack than a safe at Bank of America.
But now, any letter is bad news. I just got a letter today from my insurance company, saying that "to provide you with the best experience possible" they need me to call an agent and tell them my most recent odometer reading. How in the world does this constitute the "best experience possible"? Maybe if I recently learned how to read odometers it would be an enjoyable activity so I could practice my skills, but I learned how to do that over two months ago. I'm not really keen on going down to my garage with a piece of paper in my hand so I can call a 1-888 number, be put on hold for five minutes, and then read my odometer and find out how they'll use this information to jack up my insurance rates. Letters are overrated.)
One of the worst things about this mess is more people are obsessing over the NFL Combine, for longer, than ever. Sure, it's nice to find out if your potential franchise quarterback is smarter than the average "Real Housewife," and physicals are important to assess injury. We also know how much football fans love to see muscular guys run around indoors while wearing spandex. The problem is, it now garners FAR too much attention from NFL fans starving for NFL news that comes from a field and not a conference room.
Yes, scouts need to see raw speed and power up close to verify its existence (and to make sure players haven't stopped working out between the end of the college season and the beginning of March), but it should just be one piece of the equation. A small piece, actually. Cam Newton has terrible footwork, but he ran the 40 in 4.59 -- Carolina might take him now with the No. 1 overall pick! Nick Fairley's the most dominant player we've ever seen ... wait, did you see his 3-Cone Drill? Everything they said about his work ethic must be true!
I'm not an NFL scout, and I'll never be an NFL scout. I couldn't even decipher an NFL scout's notes, or probably even bring an NFL scout a cup of coffee without spilling it all over myself. But there's a reason why Al Davis is mocked because 40-times seem to be his favorite shiny objects; instead of in a sport like basketball, where athletes have to be judged before they're even finished growing in some cases, or baseball, where so many of the best players are drafted out of high school, NFL scouts get to watch each player develop in a de facto minor league system -- college football -- for three or four years in most cases. The problem for fans is that while scouts have access to all those game tapes from the SEC, Big-10, Pac-10, wherever, fans don't. What we do have is all these numbers generated by stopwatches and tape measures, and as a result they carry far too much weight.
Because most recent NFL news only interests lawyers (hello, Fooch!), the only stuff football fanatics have to talk about are the draft. Whether or not the draftees will show up after the NFLPA (are they still the NFLPA if they decertified?) not-so-politely hinted they should stay home. Who's moving up based on drug rumors, Combine stats and other assorted bits of innuendo? All this has a place, but it's unfortunate that it's all people have to focus on. What about free agency, minicamps, players actually practicing and playing football? No, instead it's shuttle runs and what the cover of Madden 12 would look like if there's a lockout (my choice: this picture of Panthers owner Jerry Richardson sitting uncomfortably in a golf cart).
The flap over helmets
- Switch-hitter Andres Torres recently grabbed the wrong helmet on his way to the plate, and took a pitch before realizing the flap was on the wrong side. On the less humorous side of the spectrum, Brodie Brazil pleads with the NHL to make visors mandatory. Brazil makes a compelling case, considering the Matt Cooke controversy and how head injuries are making the most headlines in the NHL these days.
- Ray Ratto told Ralph Barbieri on KNBR yesterday that Logan Couture probably won't miss any time with his "lower leg injury." In the meantime, Joe Pavelski notched 2 goals and an assist in Sunday's 5-3 win over the Blues, the third win in a row for the Sharks, who've gone 21-4-3 in their last 28 games.
- Stephen Curry played less than Acie Law for the second time in a week in the Warriors' fifth loss in a row, a 111-96 inevitability in San Antonio. Either Keith Smart doesn't read Matt Steinmetz, or he's trying to prove wrong Steinmetz's assertion that Smart's relationship with Curry will cost him his job.
- While Curry's ready for this season to end, Ekpe Udoh's just getting started. 15 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks in 38 minutes is pretty solid. The rebounding numbers could stand to improve, but the fact that Udoh played that much and took 14 shots (making 7) makes Andris Biedrins' ankle injury that much easier to stomach (if anybody was really all that broken up about it in the first place).
- Brandon Belt's getting more press since he's trying to break the defending World Series champions' roster, but check out Chris Carter's Spring numbers: 54 PA, .262/.426/.500, with 12 BB and 10 SO. Sure the games don't count, but that's a nice improvement from a BB/SO ratio of 1/3 in 24 games last season, and 1/5 in Spring of 2010.
- Brian Wilson's oblique strain leaves him day-to-day, while Andrew Bailey's forearm strain got a bit of good news when his visit to James Andrews didn't immediately result in a Tommy John surgery that same afternoon. Now the Giants have to figure out if their contingency plan means Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt or Santiago Casilla, and I drafted Brian Fuentes in my fantasy league on Sunday (I know, I know, nobody cares).