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Concussion fear taking toll on families

Michael Silver
Yahoo Sports

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Jesse Warner is 17, and yet when you ask her about the sport that made her father rich and famous, she speaks with the jaded weariness of someone who has been around forever.

"Honestly, I've gotten kind of tired of the whole football thing in general," Kurt Warner's(notes) eldest daughter says. "I'm tired of the injuries, how difficult it is to go through the ups and downs, and just the whole business side of things. I've been dealing with it my whole life, and I'm just sort of done with it. The whole thing has been kind of exhausting."

If you're assuming that those are the callous words of a disaffected teenager, think again. Jesse, a freshman at New York University, has seen her dad take enough beatings – literal and figurative – that her protective instincts are on red alert, especially in the wake of the concussion he suffered two weeks ago.

Like her mother, Brenda, Jesse is terrified that Kurt, the Arizona Cardinals' 38-year-old quarterback, could be staring at a future laced with challenges that their family understands all too well. Jesse's 20-year-old brother, Zachary, has been virtually blind and developmentally disabled since infancy, when his biological father accidentally dropped him in the bathtub. Zachary, later adopted by Kurt, lives with the Warners and five other siblings and is a constant reminder of the potential perils of brain trauma.

"Because of my brother, yeah, that does change our perception of this issue, because we experience it firsthand as a family," Jesse says. "We know exactly what a brain injury is like. It sounds stupid, but we know how important the brain is. And we obviously want my dad around as long as we can, and we don't want him to struggle or to be in pain."

After sitting out last week's 20-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans, Warner – barring a recurrence of postconcussion symptoms – is expected to return for Sunday night's game against the Minnesota Vikings. That his status for such a potentially pivotal clash between division leaders is even in question is an indication of the newfound seriousness with which concussions are being treated in NFL circles. It's a sea change that earlier this week led league commissioner Roger Goodell to implement a new policy with more stringent guidelines pertaining to concussion safety, including a requirement that players who suffer head-related trauma must be evaluated and cleared by independent medical experts.

Less than three months ago, I wrote about former NFL offensive lineman Kyle Turley's(notes) issues with residual brain trauma and a growing concern among some medical experts that the sport may be facing a pronounced medical crisis. Since that time, there has been a great deal of momentum to address the issue – most notably a congressional hearing on the matter in October.

In recent weeks, we have seen some teams act more cautiously than in the past when dealing with concussions, holding out high-profile players such as Warner; the Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger(notes), his opponent in Super Bowl XLIII last February; Philadelphia Eagles halfback Brian Westbrook(notes); Washington Redskins halfback Clinton Portis(notes); and Cleveland Browns halfback Jamal Lewis(notes), who earlier this week was placed on injured reserve, ending what he has said will be the final season of his career.

Last Sunday, seven days after getting knocked out of a game against the St. Louis Rams with a concussion, Warner was still experiencing some vision-related symptoms, prompting Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt to deactivate him against the Titans.

In a phone conversation Wednesday, Whisenhunt provided an explanation that would have been hard to imagine an NFL coach giving until very recently: "Kurt had been cleared by our doctors, but there was no point in taking the risk. Kurt wanted to play. The team wanted him to play. That drives you sometimes to make bad decisions, even about yourself. Because of the recent awareness of these types of things, you really want to take the conservative approach, and we did."

As much as Jesse and Brenda appreciated Whisenhunt's cautiousness, they're still nervous about his likely return on Sunday. Whisenhunt says Warner will play if his "symptoms continue to diminish, as we expect them to." Suffice it to say that every time Warner drops back to pass, Brenda and Jesse will be experiencing some queasiness of their own.

"When it comes down to it, as a wife, I don't care who wins the game," Brenda said Wednesday. "I want my husband to be healthy and walk off healthy and live a healthy life. This is the love of my life – he is my future – and I don't want anyone messing with him. Add to that the seven kids we're taking care of, and the whole thing is really scary. And Jesse is scared to death."

“Honestly, I've gotten kind of tired of the whole football thing in general. I'm tired of the injuries, how difficult it is to go through the ups and downs, and just the whole business side of things. I've been dealing with it my whole life, and I'm just sort of done with it. The whole thing has been kind of exhausting.”

– Jesse Warner on her father Kurt's football career

The Warners may have a heightened sense of fear because of their experiences with Zachary, but they're hardly alone in their concern about concussions. Cara Morey, whose husband, Sean, is a backup wideout and special-teams ace for the Cardinals, says she has already recognized changes in his behavior that she believes are related to the head trauma he has suffered during his eight-year career.

"What I stress out about at night is what it's gonna be like in 20 years," Cara Morey said Thursday between classes at Arizona State University, where she is working toward a master's degree in biology and education. "I don't even like to think about it because it's so scary. But sometimes I find myself thinking about what he's going to be like and how he's going to change."

Cara, too, has a unique perspective on the issue: Among NFL players, Sean Morey(notes) is the leading advocate for enhanced safety regarding brain-related injuries. Last month, he was selected to co-chair an NFL Players Association committee dedicated to addressing such issues. As I noted in a previous column, he is one of three current players who announced in September that they'd agreed to donate their brains after death to a Boston University medical-school program that studies severe postconcussion ailments.

Cara Morey says her husband is "obsessive about this issue; this has been his life for the last year now." Yet Sean, whose aggressive special-teams play earned him his first Pro Bowl selection last season, is as vulnerable as most of his peers when it comes to a propensity for putting himself in risky situations. The same forces which drive players to try to stay on the field at all costs – a hypercompetitive, tough-it-out mentality; a strong desire not to let teammates down; understandable fears about job security – recently conspired to keep him from practicing what he preaches.

Somewhat amazingly, after suffering a concussion in a Nov. 1 game against the Carolina Panthers, Morey suited up and played against the Chicago Bears the following week despite having experienced dizziness and nausea. Cara, a former hockey star who played for the Canadian national team and met Sean when both were standout athletes at Brown, says she bore some of the blame for her husband's decision.

"Honestly, it was my fault," she insists. "He texted me [from Chicago] and said, 'I'm a little dizzy,' and I said, 'I'm a little dizzy.' [The couple's three kids and I] had all had the H1N1 virus, and the pediatrician had told me it stays in the head for a week. He didn't tell me there had been any big blow to the head, and when he played and still had the symptoms afterward, I realized it probably wasn't swine flu – and I felt guilty.

"I told him, 'Listen, if you know all this stuff and it's hard for you to walk away, imagine how hard it is for other people.' Obviously, it shouldn't be the player's decision."

Yet the player can decide whether to report his symptoms, downplay them or try to hide them altogether.

"And with this new policy," Cara says, "I'm scared that no one is going to report anything."

On Wednesday, Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn(notes) was held out of practice because of a concussion he'd sustained the previous Sunday. He admitted his head still ached, but Munnerlyn told reporters: "I really don't want to accept it right now. I'm still going to try to play … because it's football. It's my life. I love football so much. I've got to go out there and help my team win."

In a taped interview with NBC's Bob Costas which aired before the Steelers' loss to the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday night, veteran wideout Hines Ward(notes) bemoaned the fact that Roethlisberger was sitting out a game with potential playoff implications, saying: "I could see some players or teammates questioning, like, 'It's just a concussion. I've played with a concussion before.' It's almost like a 50-50 toss-up in the locker room. … I've lied to a couple of doctors, saying 'I'm straight, I feel good' when I know that I'm not really straight."

After widespread criticism, Ward backed off his comments and apologized to Roethlisberger, who admitted he was "hurt" by the statements. Though the sentiment may have been unwelcome, Ward was merely voicing a mentality that is obviously prominent in many NFL locker rooms – yet another reason there is so much pressure on star players like Warner to disregard personal safety for the sake of the team.

On Monday, Warner told The Arizona Republic that he had seriously considered lying to the Cardinals' medical staff about his symptoms because of his desire to play against the Titans.

"That's the whole key with this issue, is a player being honest, which is hard," Warner told the newspaper. "I can tell you I wrestled with it when I was going down to that room to talk to them [before the game], saying, 'Uh, do I want to stretch the truth a little bit? Do I not want to tell them everything so I can play?' Because I know I could dictate that."

Had her husband done so, Brenda says, "I would have been livid. That's the interesting part: Here's the 'Christian icon,' and he's saying he wanted to lie. I can see him wrestling with it. That's the competitor in him; that's what makes him so good. It is a hard decision, and it's going to be a hard decision each and every week."

Because of her concern, Brenda insisted upon going to a pair of doctor's appointments with Kurt earlier this week. At a visit with a neurologist, she learned that Kurt was suffering from nystagmus, an unintentional, jittery movement of the eyes.

"I said, 'Really? I didn't know that,' " Brenda recalls. "I knew exactly what the doctor was talking about, though, because Zach's eyes do that all the time."

In Brenda's eyes, the shared symptoms between her husband and son are hardly coincidental.

"Zachary's occipital lobe is damaged," Brenda says, referring to the brain's visual processing center found in the back of the head. "That's why he's blind – if you took his eyes out and put them in the body of a person whose brain was undamaged, they'd be able to see. Kurt's got vision problems right now because the back of his brain was rattled. How ironic – and how scary?"

Not surprisingly, Brenda says that when her husband decides it's time to retire, "I'll welcome it. And the moment he says he's going back in [after the most recent injury], I'll start praying. I don't view the game the way everyone else does: Every play, I just watch to see if he gets up. He throws the ball and everyone's looking at Larry [Fitzgerald] to see if he catches it, and I'm watching Kurt, saying, 'Get up. Get up.' "

Cara, who sits in front of Brenda during Cardinals home games, also has an unconventional viewing perspective.

"Before I knew about the long-term consequences, this issue didn't bother me as much," she says. "I played hockey and got a few concussions, and I never thought much of it. Now, after everything Sean has told me about, I don't even watch the game the same way anymore. Now I watch him to see the way he's making the tackle or block – is he using his hands or is he using his head?"

In September, when I asked Sean Morey how many concussions he'd suffered during his career, he answered: "More than I'd care to admit."

What concerns Cara is that she believes that, even at this early stage, she has observed the cumulative impact.

"He already has some residual effects, and you can tell because in the offseason he gets better," she says. "These things [concussions] make you a little bit moody. They really do. I've seen it change for the worse over the years. He gets moody and grumpy after games. He'll say, 'I just feel edgy.'

View photo

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Morey is on his third team in seven seasons.
(Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire)

"Sometimes he'll get down for a while. His energy's down. I'm not gonna say he's depressed; he's just a little off. He can't remember things as well. I tell myself, 'Well, I can't either. We're aging.' I try to come up with any reason besides [brain trauma] as an explanation. It's my defense mechanism. I try to brush it off."

Brenda says she doesn't notice any difference in her husband other than pronounced neck stiffness – when he unconsciously rubs the area, she figures it's a byproduct of the head trauma he suffered last month. Before that incident, according to Kurt, he hadn't suffered a concussion since 2003.

Says Jesse, who was 11 at the time: "Back then, I only vaguely remember him getting hurt. I don't think I really understood what a concussion would mean in the long run, so I wasn't really as worried as I am now."

When I spoke to Jesse on Wednesday, she sounded totally exasperated by the notion that other people – acquaintances in college or talking heads on TV – were freely weighing in on her father's welfare.

"People think they're medical experts," Jesse says. "There's so much politics and stuff that goes on that they don't understand. I trust my dad's judgment, and I feel like he tries really hard to protect himself. I don't think he'd play when he shouldn't play just to win a game; I don't think it's that important to him. When people talk about whether he should play or not, they don't realize that it takes on a completely different meaning for us, the people who depend on him."

Jesse isn't sure if she'll tune into Sunday night's game.

"I'm not very good at watching football," she says. "I get very distracted."

Instead, she often relies on her mom to text her with any pertinent updates. But what's frustrating to Brenda – and, realistically, to hundreds of players' loved ones across the league – is that so much about this serious issue remains a mystery.

"Players want to know what the future holds; we all do," Brenda says. "But the doctors can't tell them that. There's so much they don't know about the brain. Until then, it's just scary to think you're playing a game that you love and getting millions of dollars, yet exposing yourself to that risk.

"A lot of people think it's worth it. There are lots of perks: You get backstage tickets to concerts and special passes at Disney World and a bunch of other exciting things, and of course you get a great lifestyle. But no amount of money is worth it if you're not healthy enough to live a decent life."

TAKE IT TO THE ATM

Sorry, Panthers fans – even with Jake Delhomme(notes) sitting, Carolina's offense will struggle as the Bucs pull an upset in Charlotte. … The Saints will have a predictable letdown against the 'Skins, but a big play from one of the O.G.s in the secondary (Darren Sharper(notes), Mike McKenzie(notes), Chris McAlister(notes)) will keep New Orleans perfect. … The Houston Texans, teases that they are, will launch one last winning streak by beating the Jags in Jacksonville.

PLEASE, BOSS, SEND ME TO …

Arizona, where I can watch games all day on Sunday, then report to the strange spaceship in the middle of the desert to visit my favorite Cardinals wives and watch the defending NFC champions battle Brett Favre(notes) and the Vikes. After writing through the night, the odds of my eating way too much sushi for lunch in Scottsdale on Monday are about the same as that of the sun shining.

LIES, LIES, LIES

1. There's a better cornerback on the planet than the Jets' Darrelle Revis(notes).

2. Inspired by Ron Artest's admission that he used to drink Hennessy at halftime when he played for the Bulls, deposed Kansas coach Mark Mangino revealed that he used to ''devour Shetland ponies'' during intermission.

3. After encountering the billboard on Interstate 880 urging him to hire a general manager, Raiders owner Al Davis used a giant overhead projector to cast a reflection of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum of a cellophane sheet inscribed with magic marker reading ''I Am The Right Thing.''

WORLD'S SIMPLEST POOL

Thanks to the Cincinnati Bengals, who completed an AFC North sweep by pounding the Cleveland Browns, 16-7, last Sunday, I am now five games away from a perfect regular season. That's crazy – and for the first time, I'm going to try to look ahead and strategize about which teams I might want to use when. For example, while I'm buying Mike Tomlin's notion that the Steelers' will ''unleash hell'' on their remaining opponents (beginning with the Raiders at Heinz Field Sunday), I'm also intrigued by the fact that the Chargers visit the Browns. If I were to go with San Diego, that would free me up to pick Pittsburgh the following week at (you guessed it) Cleveland. However, that game will be played on a Thursday night, and The Gameface posts on Friday, so it won't do. The Chargers are at Dallas the following week, so I probably wouldn't pick them, and the Saints are at Atlanta, which also sounds a bit dubious. Ah, what the hell – I'm overthinking this. I'll worry about this stuff next week; my pick is the Steelers. (Off limits: Patriots, Redskins, Ravens, Texans, Eagles, Packers, Colts, Bears, Falcons, Vikings, Cowboys, Bengals.)

MY BUDDIES' ANNOYING FANTASY ADVENTURE

UCSB women's basketball coach Lindsay Gottlieb's team, Harsh Reality, has been living on the edge all season, and it clinched a playoff spot in the 12-team "Gauchos, Tigers & Bears oh my!" league Monday night in the most excruciating fashion. After riding the usual monster effort by Chris Johnson and strong showings by Terrell Owens(notes) and Vernon Davis(notes) to a 25-point lead over The Punt Blockers Sunday afternoon – Miles Austin's(notes) 20-point Thanksgiving for Blockers was a killer, but Matt Ryan's(notes) zero-points-and-injured disaster more than made up for it – Gottlieb watched nervously as Rashard Mendenhall(notes) put up 11 points on Sunday night and Pierre Thomas(notes) scored an early touchdown for the Saints in their Monday night victory over the Patriots. By the third quarter Gottlieb's lead was down to two points and she had basically accepted defeat. Then, amazingly, Thomas stopped gaining yards – apparently Sean Payton read my texts and let Mike Bell(notes) carry the load once he got a big lead. (Yeah, I was joking about the texts; but I did try some telepathy.) With a one-point lead inside three minutes, Bell chewing up yards and the Saints facing a third-and-3, Gottlieb was ready to celebrate. Then, suddenly, a holding penalty was called as Bell was thrown for a loss, and the running back came up limping. ''No!'' Gottlieb screamed. In came Thomas for a 10-yard run, and the crestfallen coach thought she'd gotten the fantasy shaft. Finally, the computer screen refreshed: A 92-92 tie.

It turned out to be better than kissing one's sister – with a 6-5-1 record, Harsh Reality can finish no worse than sixth and will compete in the playoffs next week. In the meantime, there's a matchup with fifth-place I'm On A Boat!!! (Tom Brady(notes), Steven Jackson, Jamaal Charles(notes), the Giants' Steve Smith, Percy Harvin(notes), Malcom Floyd(notes), Dallas Clark(notes)) that has potential seeding implications. This week, on my hunch, we picked up the Bills' defense (which scored a less-than-expected 6 points against the Jets Thursday night); looking ahead to the playoffs, we also snagged the Titans' D (which faces the Rams in two weeks) and waived St. Louis wideout Brandon Gibson(notes). We also gave up on original draftee Julius Jones(notes), claiming the Falcons' Jason Snelling(notes), who could get a reasonable amount of work depending on the status of Michael Turner's(notes) ankle. This week we're expecting big games from Carson Palmer(notes) and Chad Ochocinco(notes) (vs. Lions) and went with Terrell Owens (underwhelming 3 points vs. Jets) and Antonio Bryant(notes) over normal starter Greg Jennings(notes). ''He's been underachieving for us all season,'' Gottlieb said. ''I'm benching him this week to send him a message before the playoffs.'' We'll see if the telepathy works again.

As for my buddy Malibu, all you need to know is that thanks in part to my lineup advice, his last-place team, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, would have captured its third victory of the season last week had he not neglected to insert a kicker into his lineup. Instead, with Kris Brown's(notes) nine points languishing uselessly on the bench, he suffered a two-point defeat to Bangs to drop to 2-10. Sabbath's season mercifully expires this week (I picked up Johnny Knox(notes) and Shayne Graham(notes) in a desperate attempt to get Malibu out of the cellar) while his son, A-Man, tries to push Man Up Willis U … to its ninth consecutive victory and clinch first place in the regular season. Assured of a first-round bye, A-Man is trolling for favorable playoff matchups – he's stashing the Packers' defense and sitting on recent acquisition (and new Bills starter) Fred Jackson(notes) while signing tight ends Fred Davis(notes) and Bo Scaife(notes). (I told him to keep an eye on Titans rookie Jared Cook(notes), a beast of a prospect who could start getting some looks in the next few weeks.) ''I've been putting a ton of time into this,'' says A-Man, a Cal freshman desperate for the $4,000 payout that goes to the Sex, Drugs and Fantasy Football league champion. ''Realistically, I've been spending more time on fantasy than on my schoolwork.'' I know that will make Mrs. Malibu (Cal '86) especially proud. With a lineup that features Chris Johnson, Laurence Maroney(notes), Ochocinco, Randy Moss(notes), Donovan McNabb(notes) and Eli Manning(notes), Man Up Willis U battles the Suck It Easys (Tom Brady, Knowshon Moreno(notes), LeSean McCoy(notes), Andre Johnson(notes), Michael Crabtree(notes) and a three-pronged tight end attack of Tony Gonzalez(notes), Antonio Gates(notes) and Vernon Davis) in its regular-season finale.

If only A-Man had the expert advice of Y! Sports guru Brad Evans. Wait, he does …

Great moments in virtual pigskin history. Coach Gottlieb's miraculous tie is a reminder how agonizing this time of year can be. The blood, sweat and beers owners have invested in their teams hinges on uncontrollable events. Hopefully, your team won't be victimized by a random running back kneel down (MJD!!!!) or another Drew ''Freaking'' Bennett. The Noise, a proud Billy Volek(notes) owner, is still haunted by the former UCLA quarterback's record-setting first half against the Chiefs on Dec. 13, 2004. We started Volek, who tossed 426 yards and four touchdowns, but were upended by a miniscule sum because he refused to throw the damn ball to Derrick Mason(notes). Our liver has yet to fully recover.

Da Coach's message to Jennings is rather silly. Owens, faced with the unfortunate task of drawing Darrelle Revis Thursday night, should not have been trusted. With apologies to Nnamdi Asomugha(notes), New York's wideout Snuggie is the league's best cover corner. He dominated Andre Johnson, Randy Moss and Marques Colston(notes) earlier this year. Revis also silenced T.O. in Week 6, holding the mouthpiece to just three catches for 13 yards. Jennings was the proper play. Though the Ravens have tightened up versus the pass, they've still surrendered the eighth-most 20-yard pass plays this year. If Aaron Rodgers(notes) remains upright – and that's a big IF – he will connect with the speedster early and often.

Meanwhile, A-Man has made several savvy moves to position his squad for a title run. Sacrificing reading assignments in uninteresting prerequisite courses in a quest to acquire enough cheddar to satisfy your imbibing needs is unequivocally the right move. Your father has taught you well. For owners like A-Man trying to uncover playoff diamonds in the rough, here are a few widely available players to comb the waiver wire for: Alex Smith, SF, QB (55 percent-owned), Chris Jennings(notes), Cle, RB (18 percent), Chris Brown, Hou, RB (20 percent), Sammy Morris(notes), NE, RB (24 percent), Jason Avant(notes), Phi, WR (48 percent), Kenny Britt(notes), Ten, WR (46 percent) and Mark Clayton(notes), Bal, WR (37 percent).

OXYGEN-DEPRIVED THOUGHT FROM ABOVE

So if you buy into the theory that Tiger Woods' wife, Elin, chased after him with a golf club, rather than courageously using it to pry him from his SUV after it crashed, what kind of chilling message does that send to other athletes who are caught making transgressions against their spouses? As one NFL wife said to me this week, ''Does that mean if I catch my husband cheating I throw a football at him, or put on pads and a helmet and put him on the ground?'' My suggestion: Rev up a JUGS machine (so to speak) and watch him duck for cover. If this sports-specific-equipment-as-revenge thing becomes a trend, which athletes would be in the greatest jeopardy? MMA fighters? Shot-putters? Javelin-throwers? Bobsledders? Hockey players? There are a lot of ways I could go with this, but I think in the end I'd be really, really careful about enraging my spouse if I were a NASCAR driver.

LET'S DO SOME DON JULIO SILVER SHOTS FOR …

President Obama, for signing the executive order last March that overturned the Bush administration's policy restricting federal tax dollars for stem cell. The floodgates opened earlier this week when 13 embryonic stem-cell lines were approved by U.S.-funded researchers, with hundreds more hopefully to come. While I realize some of you will lash out at me for espousing my political beliefs – and those who read this column regularly are well aware that such criticism won't deter me from doing so – understand that this is personal. My 10-year-old son has Type I diabetes, and those of us who deal with that condition (as with so many other ailments) on a constant basis tend to advocate the aggressive pursuit of a cure.

DISPATCHES FROM THE LAIR OF THE BEAR

Cal's David Seawright should have been studying for finals Thursday night, but I suspect the sophomore kicker was spying glances at the thrilling Oregon-Oregon State game that determined the champion of the best football conference in the country this season. Yeah, I said it – and I'm proud that the 19th-ranked Golden Bears are right in the mix. Next year, they'll win the thing; Pasadena, 1-1-11. In the meantime, they travel to Seattle to face the Washington Huskies before learning which low-profile bowl (have I mentioned the Pac-10 has the worst bowl tie-ins on earth?) they'll win to complete their season. Here's Seawright's perspective on life in the Pacific 10.

If you haven't watched much Pac-10 football this year, I suggest you start paying attention. Now.

Every game in the nation's strongest top-to-bottom conference this weekend has postseason implications. All six Pac-10 affiliated bowls are waiting to see which top-25 team will fall into its lap.

The conference is so log-jammed that its Rose Bowl berth wasn't decided until the final weekend of the season, with Oregon beating OSU 37-33 Thursday night.

For those of you who weren't lulled asleep by Big Ten football by Week 4, you might have noticed that Ohio State booked a flight to Pasadena weeks ago. (Don't mind that a USC team with three losses – all to conference foes – beat them at the Horseshoe.)

The only things putting Pac-10 fans asleep are its poor television deal and late-night East Coast airtimes.

The thrills don't stop at the top. Currently, five teams are tied for second place in the conference, with three of those playing on Saturday. Seven conference teams are bowl-eligible, exceeding the conference's allotment for guaranteed bowl invitations.

A stacked conference ensures solid matchups on a weekly basis. Combine that with our round-robin scheduling, and every game is a battle.

Which makes this weekend's trip to Washington that much more important. Plenty is on the line – momentum, bowl placement, conference finish – and even more remains within our grasp. A 10-win season in this conference is no feat to shy away from. We just need our ninth win first.

Sure, the weather in Seattle will be colder than Tiger Woods' attitude toward prying paparazzi. The Huskies have already knocked off Arizona and USC at home – the two teams most likely to play in the conference's consolation prize, the Holiday Bowl.

But we're ready for a dogfight (pardon the pun). With the nation's best college football on the West Coast, it's time for other time zones to catch on.

After all, it's better late than never.

YAHOO! SEARCH WORDS OF THE WEEK

amazing Florida State lineman

ROLLIN' WITH THE ROYALS

Well, so much for Reading's revival. After a three-game stretch that featured two victories and a draw, the Royals came crashing back to earth with a 2-1 defeat to Derby County at Pride Park last Saturday, leaving them one point above the relegation line in the Championship table. Reading went ahead in the 56th minute when Jay Tabb took the ball inside the box and Glyfi Sigurdsson slotted home with a side-footed finish off the post. Four minutes later Derby equalized on a goal by midfielder Paul Green, and Rams' Rob Hulse got the winning goal in the 73rd minute off a Jay McEveley assist. The Royals will try to regroup this Saturday at Sheffield Wednesday (wait, I thought it was Saturday? … oh, Wednesday is the name of the team … right, never mind) and back home at Madejski Stadium against Crystal Palace on Tuesday.

LYRIC-ALTERED SONG DEDICATION OF THE WEEK

In this week's 32 Questions, I included a reference to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin's promise that his team will ''unleash hell in December'' and suggested it made me want to reach for a glass of ice water. Some of you wrote in wondering whether I was being sarcastic; I wasn't. What I meant was, if Tomlin says it, I believe it will be so, and that's bad news for Pittsburgh's five remaining opponents, beginning with the Raiders on Sunday. When I close my eyes, I picture Tomlin – complete with folded arms, bubble jacket and fly shades – stepping up to the mic in the locker room and channeling Danzig's "Mother."

Raiders
Tell Gradkowski not to come our way
Tell JaMarcus to tuck in his shirt
Wear a skirt
Better pray
Haters

Cable
Rest assured that I am not your wife
Don't go accidentally bumping me
Oh Tommy

Roger
You'll be handing out some hefty fines
Beef between Ben and Hines?
Oh no more

Not about to say goodnight
And if you wanna raise hell with me
I can show you how to fight
Till they're bleeding

Not goin' down without a fight
And if you wanna raise hell with me
I can make you follow

Farrior
Tell the linebackers to crack some ribs
Make ‘em drool like they are wearin' bibs
No mercy

Ballers
Do you wanna bang heads for me?
Do you wanna make me angry?
I think not

Not about to say goodnight
And if you wanna raise hell with me
I can show you how to fight
Till they're bleeding

Not goin' down without a fight
And if you wanna raise hell with me
You had best take cover
Damn

Not about to say goodnight
And if you wanna raise hell with me
I can show you how to fight
Till they're bleeding

Not goin' down without a fight
And if you wanna raise hell with me
I can show you how to bite …

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