The Jump To Conclusions Mat Has Way Too Many Footprints On It


Look, I’m not going to state that the facts out there surrounding Plaxico Burress’ shooting himself in the thigh aren’t there. It’s monumentally stupid of him to be carrying a gun illegally, only having a permit that had expired in Florida and at the very least, not applying for one in either New York or New Jersey. The fact that it went off in his pants suggests he has no clue about how to operate the safety on a gun, which is even more disturbing.

But I can’t help but sit back and want to smack the usual suspects like Bob Costas, Mike Ditka, and the rest of the NFL studio show crews make the usual suggestions about how players shouldn’t be allowed to own guns, and that they shouldn’t be out late after certain hours. Witness Ditka on the guns bit:

“This is all about priorities. When you get stature in life, you get the kind of contract, you have an obligation and responsibility to your teammates, to the organization, to the National Football League and to the fans. He just flaunted this money in their face. He has no respect for anybody but himself. I feel sorry for him, in the sense that, I don’t understand the league, why can anybody have a gun? I will have a policy, no guns, any NFL players we find out, period, you’re suspended.”

Lucky for us he never ran as the GOP candidate for Senate from Illinois. Jesus, who thought this guy would make a good senatorial candidate?  As long as he has the permits (which he apparently didn’t), it shouldn’t have mattered, period. The NFL is not big enough to where it should decide to take away people’s individual rights.

When I witnessesd Costas’ outrage on Football Night in America, I thought, “Spoken like a man who has never understood what it’s like to have to fear for your life.” It took Tiki Barber to correct Costas, by saying that many black athletes grow up in tough situations with gangs where they are protected because of their athletic abilities, and are used to a world where you have to protect yourself — you do not trust security people or the police. I don’t know if this is reflective of Burress’ background, but if you are a black man with millionaire money, you’re going to be wary inside and outside your home.

The situations are not comparable, as Burress was out on the town with teammates Antonio Pierce and either Derrick Ward or Ahmad Bradshaw (depending on who you read or hear)( but it’s silly not to think of how Sean Taylor was killed in his home and Antoine Walker was robbed near his home in Chicago.  Again — those are at home, but don’t you think you would protect yourself even more when you were out of you think you are a target? Yet this impulse seems to elude everyone commenting on the stubject before everything is known.

It is merely another string in Burress being a bad actor; it is part of a narrative to take missed meetings and fines and conflate them into something larger and more insidious. But the cycle hasn’t played itself out yet. Burress still has to be charged, and we have to find out his side of the story, too.  It’s asking too much to back off for a little bit though — there is blood in the water.

Play At Your Own Risk

Far be it for me to criticize a player’s decision about his own personal health, no matter what the sport. None of us are privy to the full information Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman got from his doctors regarding those two ligaments in his leg, but when I hear or read the words “possibly career-ending” attached to any aspect of the report, I hope the Gigantor isn’t making the wrong decision when he says he’s going to play hurt.

This mentailty is part of the NFL culture, it’s part and parcel of what we love about football at all levels, whether high school, college, or pro: these are gladiators who wnat to play, no matter how badly the bruising and nicking gets.

But this is a league where there are no guaranteed contracts, where you can be cut on a whim, and even if you play hurt, management can come back to you after the season and say, “Well, your numbers were down, you played hurt, but we have to consider your injury history.”

If I were Merriman, I’d have shut it down for the year and hoped to come back at full strength. But I’m not him — I don’t have that drive and ego necessary to be a pro athlete at the top of his game. And for all the crap he deservedly took after testing positive for steroids, I hope he makes it through without making it worse.

No one wants to see a career go down the tubes unnecessarily.

Injured Merriman opts to begin season [San Diego Union-Tribune]

Quarterback Follies.

The Joey Harrington Era is now officially over in Atlanta, as Bobby Petrino has decided to hand the offense over to Byron Leftwich for the rest of the season, saying the former Jacksonville QB will give them a better chance to win (obviously — no one really wants to trust a franchise to Harrington.) At least we can say this for Petrino now: he’s obviously not interested in tanking to get a chance at Brian Brohm. If Atlanta winds up doing poorly enough to draft the Louisville QB or Kentucky’s Andre Woodson, it won’t be intentional.

Let’s review that tally on the QB carousel. First, signal callers who have lost some time due to injury (at least initially):

  • Jake Delhomme (elbow)
  • David Carr (back)
  • J.P. Losman (something leg-related)
  • Trent Green (concussion)
  • Marc Bulger (ribs)
  • Josh McCown (ankle, I believe)
  • Matt Leinart (shoulder)
  • Kurt Warner (ligament)
  • Vince Young (quad)
  • Chad Pennington (ankle)
  • Alex Smith (don’t recall)

Now, the more interesting list — this one’s for sucking:

  • Rex Grossman
  • Charlie Frye
  • Steve McNair (part injury, part sucking)
  • Tarvaris Jackson (although he’s starting again)
  • Joey Harrington

This is the kind of turnover that gets Vinny Testaverde, Kelly Holcomb, Tim Rattay, and Tim Hasselbeck jobs again. Let’s say that this latest removal of Harrington won’t do much to help the Falcons — Jerious Norwood is showing up, big time — what they need is for their receivers that aren’t Crumpler to maybe catch a ball or two.

Who’s next on the QB Death List? I say Eric Mangini puts up with two more weeks of Pennington before going to Kellen Clemens.

Photo: Doug Benc/Getty Images

Hey, Portland, Want A Do-Over?

Hm, maybe this puts the lie to the man being only 19 or 20. This is old man ish right here. Damn arthritis!

Multiple reports are filing in that the #1 draft pick, one Greg Oden, is showing his age in ways even we couldn’t joke about through Blogfrica. Oden won’t be showing his stuff this NBA season, as he’s just gone through micro-fracture surgery on his knee (and yes, if you were thinking “isn’t that the same surgery Amare Stoudemire had?”, then your instincts are correct):

An exploratory arthroscopic surgery performed on Greg Oden today revealed cartilage damage to the Portland Trail Blazers rookie¹s right knee. Oden is likely to miss the 2007-08 NBA season.

“Greg had an arthroscopy and a micro fracture surgery today,” said team physician Dr. Don Roberts, who preformed the surgery. “He was found to have articular cartilage damage in his right knee. The area of injury was not large and we were able to treat it with micro fracture, which stimulates the growth of cartilage. There are things about this that are positive for Greg.
First of all he is young. The area where the damage was is small and the rest of his knee looked normal. All those are good signs for a complete recovery from micro fracture surgery.”

Draft Kevin Durant is already all over it, and I suspect Bill Simmons will have an “I told you so” ready rather soon. Yeah, you get an injury-prone big man, this isn’t out of the question. However, this is devastating beyond the loss of a #1 overall pick expected to make an impact, so much so that Portland traded away Zach Randolph to the Knicks. At least when Stoudemire had the surgery, he had a year or two under his belt, worked to come back, and became a better player. The problem with Oden is that he’s still an unpolished offensive talent — he hasn’t fully developed that offensive game to go with his defense, and there’s no telling if this will cost him speed, some athletic ability, or what have you.

What I can assert is that it is going to hurt for Portland fans to watch Durant screaming down the lanes in Key Arena next year, and possibly thinking about the specter of great expectations. And it will make even more teams wary about the drafting of big men at high levels in the draft — there was enough of this talk before the draft, with much of the league moving to a more up-tempo focus; dependent more on quick guards, forwards, and a 6’10-6″11 guy in the middle who can run and rebound; now you get even more fuel for the theory that the big man as franchise may become less and less of a risk teams are willing to take.

For now, let the Sam Bowie hand-wringing commence.

The Thought Process Of Watching Something Awful On TV.

Within five minutes of watching this actually happen in yesterday’s game:

  1. “How long has he been down for? Hope he’s OK.”
  2. “Crap, he’s not getting up.”
  3. “Geez, it looked like Hixon got the bad end of that, not him.”
  4. “Not even a thumbs up yet.”
  5. “If you ever need an argument for guaranteed NFL contracts, there you go.”

Kevin Everett’s been sedated for a day or two, and at this rate, I just hope the man is able to walk again.

Photo: AP/Don Heupel

The Conundrum of the Pre-Season.

Again, I lend my writing to anyone who will have me these days (somehow, I’ve garnered the time to write a guest post or two every so often), and this time, I’ve cranked out a few paragraphs on the paradox that is the NFL pre-season for Juiced Sports Blog.

(If the Broncos miss the playoffs this year due to a lack of pass rush, I’ll be praying for the death of Wade Phillips by high blood pressure.)

Photo: Dave Einsell/Getty Images

Make The Cover Of SI One Week, Bail Out The Next.

Any SI subscriber west of the Rocky Mountains likely has received a copy of this week’s issue with Southern Cal running backs C.J. Gable, Chauncey Washington, and Emmanuel Moody on it — and read through the backlog of 10 blue-chip tailbacks that those three are part of, including a sixth-year senior (Hershel Dennis), a redshirt freshman (Marc Taylor), and the true freshman stud in Joe McKnight. Gable, Washington, and Moody were the trio behind John David Booty last year, and were expected to play a part.

Well, the L.A. Times says Moody, fresh off that cover, will be transferring.


Most of us in Trojan fandom knew there would be musical chairs a-coming with this — something had to give, and McKnight said a couple days ago it certainly wouldn’t be him, but it looks pretty bad to have one of the RBs on the cover of a national magazine for several states rumored to be halfway out the Coliseum door. Southern Cal’s running backs have been vulnerable to injury ever since Reggie Bush and LenDale White left — having a committee of Gable, Washington, and Moody was necessary last year, because all three had injury issues, and that problem hasn’t left, even running nine or ten deep.

Joe McKnight picks up a sprained knee and neither Dennis nor Tyler have practiced recently. Pete Carroll’s gonna need every tailback he can get his hands on and keep in practice right now. Carroll would not comment, but speculation is that part of Moody’s decision to transfer was spurred by the coach’s statement in practice that he would be donning the lab coat and asking for the assistance of the science department in creating a “Frankenback” from the working parts of all ten blue-chippers.*

The resulting hodge-podge of running back would barrel through linebackers and only emit sounds similar to grunting, along with the occasional utterances of “ENNNNDD ZONNNE…CHEEERLEEEEADERS….BRAAAAAAAAINNNNNS….”

Tailback Moody to transfer [Los Angeles Times]

(*Speculation via the voices in my head, as always.)

Another Fashionable Surgery.

My bullshit radar starts to ping pretty loudly whenever you get youth trend pieces like this, but with Cards ace Chris Carpenter joining the growing ranks of pitchers getting Tommy John surgery, a misconception seems to be a-brewing, according to the New York Times, that the ligament replacement surgery is so successful that it will actually give the recipient a better, livelier arm post-rehab. The article, regardless of its relying on the anedoctal from orthopedists, does clear up some things I wasn’t aware about regarding the procedure. We’re very used to hearing about pitchers recover magically in a year and a half, and that’s not always the case.

Although it is highly successful, the surgery may require two years for recovery. Infection, fractures, nerve irritation and numbness are possible. About 20 percent of pitchers do not return.

Doctors said they spent considerable time trying to talk parents and young pitchers out of the surgery, suggesting rest; exercises to strengthen the arm and shoulder muscles; restricting pitch counts; avoiding throwing curveballs until old enough to shave; and switching to another position.

John, who has coached high school pitchers and now manages in the independent Atlantic League, said that a kind of benevolent “child abuse” seemed to exist in baseball as pitchers are pushed too hard by parents and coaches who are uninformed about the risks of overuse.

Are we surprised, ever, when parents get involved, well-meaning as they may be? It’s the reason why Little League this summer has been hacking and changing the rules on pitch counts. Specialization among youth sports is happening earlier and earlier with teenagers, particularly ones with discernible and serious talent in one of the major ones to develop, so they’ve got arms coming out of high school, as one doctor put it in the piece, with 100K+ miles on their arms already.


Dudes getting gored by the bulls in Pamplona is funny because they know the risk. This is just painful.

Buyer’s Remorse, Anyone?

Free agency is always a crap shoot. Always. But schadenfreude regarding pitching staffs, overpriced free agent pitchers, etc. is always so much more satisfying when it is not only the big free-agent signing from a team you hate, but also one you drafted in fantasy baseball and now look prescient for trading away before the season started.

This year, that is the Dodgers’ Jason Schmidt, who is now out for season with a torn labrum and a frayed biceps tendon in his right arm after they were discovered during arthroscopic surgery. He’s making over $10 million a year on a 3-year deal worth over $47 million, and is rivaling Barry Zito for the most disappointing free agent signing this season, although, to be fair, Schmidt is far behind Zito in annual money and injuries don’t count as much against you (Zito just plain sucks). That said, Dodgers GM Ned Coletti isn’t exactly taking it well, saying that if he’d seen these problems in X-rays, he’d never had inked Schmidt to that contract:

Schmidt also underwent shoulder surgery in 2000 to repair partial fraying of his rotator cuff, but Colletti said the Dodgers had no concerns about Schmidt’s durability when they signed him. Schmidt pitched 213 1/3 innings for San Francisco in 2006.

“Had we any inkling that this was going to be happening in the middle of June, I doubt if we would have went forward with it,” Colletti said of the signing. “You can’t predict. All you can do is look at previous performance, look at how many innings somebody throws, how many strikes they make, what an MRI shows. The MRIs are almost identical going back for a few years.”

Chad Billingsley will take Schmidt’s spot in the starting rotation in order to prove whether he can earn the starter’s spot he’s wanted for a while, or if the Dodgers may be trade market players for another arm.

(Photo: Getty Images/Jeff Gross)