SAN FRANCISCO — Even now, nearly seven years after experiencing a sports-obsessed politician's worst football nightmare, Gavin Newsom can't bring himself to look at John York's Field of Dreams.
When Newsom, California's progressive, popular and sometimes polarizing lieutenant governor, drives past the San Francisco 49ers' future home in Santa Clara, he shields his eyes from a resplendent facility that is set to open next summer. The symbolic weight of Levi's Stadium is still too much to bear for the former San Francisco mayor, who lost both the team he loved and a chance to bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics when Niners owner John York set his sights on the Silicon Valley.
So, while Newsom is pragmatic enough to herald the NFL's announcement in May that Super Bowl L will be staged in the stadium in early 2016, he still gives the joint the invisibility treatment as he cruises up or down U.S. Highway 101.
The last time the New England Patriots played a football game, their fans at Gillette Stadium were unwilling witnesses to the penultimate act of pro football's greatest redemption story.
As Ray Lewis celebrated the Baltimore Ravens' 28-13 AFC championship game victory over the Patriots, and the future Hall of Fame linebacker prepared to head to New Orleans for the Super Bowl triumph that would cap his legendary career, it was a stark reminder that dramatic turnarounds are possible.Sun, Sep 14New England30 - 7MinnesotaGame Recap
Bill Belichick threw Tim Tebow a lifeline Monday, giving the disenfranchised football icon a spot on the New England Patriots' roster and, in the process, making a certain Y! Sports columnist (and a knowledgeable organizational source) appear dead wrong in public, which is always an awesome sensation.
As the journalist who a month ago quoted that source as saying Belichick "hates" Tebow as a player – a contention Belichick strongly disputed last Friday – I'm tempted to call Tebow's agent and ask for a cut of the signing bonus. After all, my column urged NFL teams to give Tebow a chance, and if Belichick's desire to spite me ended up producing that outcome, I'm happy to have played a role in extending the kid's NFL career.
Unlike the conversations he had with reporters during his six-year stint with the New England Patriots – whose coach, Bill Belichick, scrutinizes his players' public comments with NSA-like zeal – Welker felt no urgency to walk the line between bland and unrevealing.
"I feel like I can be myself a little more for sure," said Welker, who signed a two-year, $12-million deal with the Broncos on March 13, a day after becoming an unrestricted free agent. Asked if he'd received any pre-interview lectures about what subjects to avoid, Welker laughed and said, "Here? No. … All they told me was, 'Just be yourself.' "
Long regarded in player circles as one of the funnier, edgier NFL stars, Welker may finally reveal that to fans after six years of mostly pent-up plainness. Indeed, the switch from playing with one future Hall of Fame quarterback (Tom Brady) to another (Peyton Manning) may not be nearly as jolting as the shift in organizational climate – or, to borrow from Jimmy Buffett: (and, in this case, farewell to platitudes).Sun, Sep 14Kansas City17 - 24DenverGame Recap
While the physical struggles Manning experienced in returning to the field following four neck surgeries and a 19-month absence have been well-documented, the quarterback's transition to a new city, team, coaching staff, system and set of teammates was a similarly jarring endeavor, one he managed to navigate with far less fanfare.
The transition was so overwhelming that Manning, who has always regarded his penchant for impeccably detailed preparation as his greatest edge, had to adopt a less stringent standard in the name of self-preservation. That he thrived so conspicuously in the process, putting up one of the best statistical seasons of his phenomenal career while leading the Broncos to an AFC-best 13-3 record, earned him Comeback Player of the Year honors and a second-place finish in the MVP balloting, as the NFL's only four-time winner of that award was edged by Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.
As a ninth-year veteran who has yet to experience a winning NFL season, Richie Incognito views offseason hype with the same eye-rolling dismissive demeanor that most voters reserve for politicians vowing to end the gridlock in Washington.
While it seems as though virtually every other member of the Miami Dolphins' organization has conspicuously talked up the team's 2013 prospects over the past two months, the Pro Bowl guard prefers an approach more consistent with his surname.
"Yeah, I have noticed that everyone's looking through rosy-colored glasses," Incognito says. "It's a combination of things: We got more talent. We have our starting quarterback set. Our coaches and coordinators are back for another year. And we've got a good foundation here, and we work our asses off.
TEMPE, Ariz. – Carson Palmer didn't see the safety coming, zipping a pass into the right flat that was destined to end up in the wrong man's hands toward the end of a two-minute drill. The accompanying rebuke from Bruce Arians, the Arizona Cardinals' first-year coach? That was easy to read.
"We can't have that," Arians growled after an errant Palmer throw during organized team activities (OTAs) earlier this week, accentuating his sentiment with a couple of choice expletives. Palmer, the Cards' newly acquired starting quarterback, nodded dutifully and kept smiling on the inside.
It's only May, but Palmer is thrilled with his third and perhaps final incarnation as a presumptive franchise quarterback, and nothing is going to stomp on his buzz. Seven weeks after the Oakland Raiders shipped the 33-year-old passer to the desert for a pair of late-round draft picks, the NFL's version of CP3 begins each workday with the giddy excitement of a kid rushing to the tree on Christmas morning.Sun, Sep 14Arizona25 - 14NY GiantsGame Recap
Brian Urlacher said "Peace out" to pro football Wednesday, ending an iconic 13-year career that will absolutely lead to a bronze bust in Canton at the end of this decade.
In responding to a chillier-than-a-Windy-City-winter market for his services, I believe the great linebacker was, in essence, making another two-word statement to the NFL's 32 franchises, this one of the unprintable variety.
Did you really expect Urlacher to go out any other way? Does it make sense that a fierce competitor, who once told me that after a game "win or lose I'm up all night" in a self-flagellating stupor, would let his storied career bleed itself to an undignified conclusion?
While Urlacher may well have arrived at this decision after considering a multitude of personal factors — including, most important, the state of his body, which has more cause to be broken down than virtually any other skeletomuscular structure that has worn a football uniform this century — a business-driven blow to his pride clearly pushed him in this direction.
As a journalist who has consistently experienced the wrath of Tebow Nation — mostly for passing along the slings and arrows voiced by various NFL players, coaches and talent-evaluators — I'm well aware that many devotees of the world's most celebrated unemployed quarterback carry a heavy persecution complex.
Yet as Tim Tebow's career wheezes to an underwhelming halt, with less apparent interest in his services than Massachusetts funeral parlors have in Tamerlan Tsarnaev's remains, something strange is happening. Against all odds, I'm starting to wonder whether the man who helped the Denver Broncos become one of the league's most stunning success stories in 2011 is getting unjustly blackballed.
He sat at a podium and called it "the greatest trade in football," a calculated burst of hyperbole that would haunt him like a silver-and-black poltergeist.
Now, 18 months after championing his team's costly, driven-by-desperation deal for Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer in the middle of the 2011 season, former Oakland Raiders coach Hue Jackson admits he'd like to take it back.
No, Jackson doesn't regret the organizational decision to send first- and second-round draft picks to the Bengals for the then-retired Palmer, a much-maligned transaction that officially ran its course last Friday when Cincinnati selected running back Gio Bernard with the 37th overall pick of the 2013 draft. Rather, the do-over Jackson desires is a retraction of that five-word statement accompanying Palmer's arrival in Oakland in October of 2011, a proclamation that many Raiders fans now regard as the ultimate irony.Sun, Sep 14Houston30 - 14OaklandGame Recap