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This week's edition of the mailbag features a collection of Terrell Owens-related mail, more remarks on Albert Haynesworth, some musings on Brett Favre and other random thoughts.

Away we go.

TRADING FAVRE? ("Vengeful reaction?" Oct. 5, 2006)
What a stupid suggestion: trade Brett Favre. You try to make it sound like it would be in Favre's best interest. "Just win Baby" might be OK for Al Davis and the Raiders, but these are the Green Bay Packers. The Packers are more then just a business; they're part of the people and city of Green Bay. Granted, Favre isn't quite the player he was several years ago but he's still the best quarterback in Green Bay, and [better than those in] a lot of other places. With the talent in Green Bay right now, they won't be doing much better this year then last, but there's a lot more to Favre and the Packers than their record. Unlike all the other teams in the league, Green Bay is still owned by fans like me. In a small town like Green Bay, the Packers are an institution that is a huge part of what the city is. … I think Favre has made his feeling about the Packers and Green Bay clear over the years with his comments about [former teammates Mike] McKenzie and [Javon] Walker when they were crying for a trade and all the renegotiated contracts he's done to help the team's salary cap.

Jeff Boldig
Stafford, Va.

Jeff, just in case you missed it, here's what Favre said in September to Bob Costas: "If it comes to a point where they [the Packers] do start over, and I feel like I can play and they say, 'Brett, if you want to go somewhere else, go ahead, but we've got to start over, it's time for us to rebuild. It just doesn't make sense, so do what you want.' If I got the itch at some point, I can't say no." I know he downplayed it afterward, but that sounds like a guy who'd be willing to go. Favre staying there is only inhibiting their ability to transition to the next era.

So much for team loyalty. It is this kind of talk that makes it easy to understand why players are only interested in getting paid and not supporting their team. Brett is a Packer and he is very loyal even though he is on a young losing team right now. If Brett doesn't finish his career as a Packer, to me it will be the end of football as a team sport.

Craig Goetsch
Iron River, Wis.

Craig, Johnny Unitas didn't finish his career as a Colt. Joe Namath didn't finish as a Jet. Joe Montana didn't finish as a 49er. Football as a team sport seemed to survive all of those situations quite well.

You say that putting a supporting cast around Brett is what needs to be done. I believe if you look back over his last six playoff games, he threw 16 interceptions. Some of them came in critical spots, such as against Philly in a divisional-round game in overtime. … Don't you think he had talent around him over those six playoff games? In addition, Brett has never come back from 15 or more points down in his career. So, Brett will always do what he has always done with or without talent: make stupid plays in key spots.


Chris, while it's certainly fair to be critical of Favre in those playoff games, I think it's also fair to point out he was the quarterback who helped get those teams into the playoffs. I'm not sure Favre has a Super Bowl title left in him. But if he does, it's not happening in Green Bay.

THOUGHTS ON T.O. ("Rude Awakening," Oct. 8, 2006)

First of all, let me say that I am not a Terrell Owens fan. However, it seemed as if [Dallas Cowboys coach Bill] Parcells and [Dallas quarterback Drew] Bledsoe intentionally did not throw the ball to Owens during the first half of the game [at Philadelphia]. Am I alone on this theory? As for the TV analyst calling the game, he blamed Bledsoe's interception on Owens not running full speed on the snap of the ball. However, Owens was still open. This was an anti-Owens game in every aspect. It's amazing how far some people will go to discredit Owens.

Fort Worth, Texas

Michael, I have to agree with you in some respects. Owens had three passes thrown his way in the first half, which is silly. Philadelphia did a nice job of shading coverage his way, but the Cowboys could have done a better job of working the ball to him. The second half was different. As for the two interceptions on throws toward Owens, the first was tipped and the second was badly under thrown by Bledsoe when Owens was open. To blame Owens for either interception is silly.

Could you tell me exactly which television stations Terrell Owens owns? That's right, he doesn't. So don't blame him if the camera is in his face. My question to you is if all you reporters are always so disgusted with his actions, why do you insist on reporting his every move? Go write about the guys who are doing the "right things". Like Oakland's Jerry Porter laughing on the sidelines while his team gets destroyed. Maybe Chris Henry of Cincinnati constantly trying to be featured on COPS. How about Green Bay's Brett Favre with his "What are they gonna do, cut me?" line. Now that's a real teammate, isn't it? You guys have more power than you realize. You shouldn't go around putting your own personal spin on a guy's every action. Hearing reporters call Owens selfish for coming back to play in the Super Bowl was mind blowing. Owens said it best himself in saying that, had it been Favre in that position or a lot of other guys you reporters give passes to, he would have been called a warrior. It would have been all for the team and not at all about him. You don't have to like the guy but you can be fair. It's sad to see some reporters go out of their way in an attempt to get readers to share their disdain for T.O.

Jamie Tart
Durham, N.C.

Jamie, I really don't know what you're referring to. After the opener against Jacksonville, I was pretty complimentary of Owens and I didn't exactly rip him after the Philly game. Now, I have said he's a distracting player and I don't think that's an outrageous comment. As for Porter, I wrote about his issues in August and similarly have written about Henry. I've never ripped Owens for the Super Bowl. About the only thing I notice is your stereotyping: "all you reporters are always so disgusted with his actions."

Your story doesn't give Terrell Owens the credit he deserves. [Donovan] McNabb, [Jeff] Garcia and Steve Young had their best seasons with T.O. in the lineup. He was on pace for a record season when McNabb refused to continue playing with him due to selfish pride. T.O. wanted to play. T.O. wanted to win.


Carlos, that's clearly true for Garcia and partially true for McNabb, whose 2004 season got a double boost from the presence of Owens and the stricter enforcement of the bump rules for pass coverage. The tighter rule enforcement helped a number of quarterbacks, including McNabb, Peyton Manning (Indianapolis) and Daunte Culpepper (then with the Vikings), have their career years in 2004. As for Young, his 1997 season is excellent, but I think you would have to rate the 1994 season and probably the 1992 season ahead of it in terms of overall play combined with team success.

I think that it is so hilarious that all you "experts" were wrong about the Eagle fans and their reaction to T.O. In fact, I think you should apologize to every citizen of my great city for your misconceptions of our fan base and our city. But I bet that you are not man enough to do so.

Jack Przybylowicz

Jack, where exactly did I predict anything about the Eagles fans and what they would do?

SUPPORT FOR BLEDSOE ("Rude Awakening")
Hey dude, I give credit to McNabb as well, but you totally exaggerated his game yesterday when you compared him and Drew Bledsoe. McNabb had got several good bullet passes and his long passes were accurate. But he only got the touchdowns due to several rare Cowboys defensive mistakes. … Miscommunication was the only reason Drew Bledsoe couldn't tie the game in the final minute. So I agree with you that McNabb was awesome, but not as good as you claimed and give Bledsoe credits that he deserves. He also made amazing plays.


Bro, Philadelphia's defensive game plan was based on attacking Bledsoe. He had three interceptions, three fumbles (lost one) and was sacked seven times. He was awful.

A LITTLE MORE BUSH ("Cash and carry, Sept. 14")
A general comment on the NCAA and money: When these players graduate and go on to the pros, how about they pay the colleges back the scholarship money? I mean, did Reggie Bush graduate? USC provided a means to an end, yet some poor slob like my kid gets stuck with student loans for what seems like forever. … I realize colleges make tons of money off these kids, so let's put this money back out there for scholarships for others less fortunate and more deserving. How about this: If they graduate with a degree, don't pay the money back. If they don't, pay it back.

Ormond Beach, Fla.

Wally, it's an interesting suggestion. But the reality is that a scholarship is an inducement/cost that a college can and should absorb. It's the cost of doing business. The same goes for someone who is awarded an academic scholarship. It's what the school does to attract certain people. Those people have earned that scholarship. I'm sorry your kid is stuck with a loan, but that's the deal. Now, the presumption by most colleges is that if a student-athlete is successful, that person will add to the overall sense of college life for everyone and make that college a more popular place to other students. There are stats that back that up, meaning that the overall investment in an athletic program can enhance the school. In the case of Duke, for instance, it has risen to a high ranking among non-Ivy League schools through a combination of investments in both liberal arts and sports. It's now considered a top-10 institution, much higher than it was 25 years ago.

HAYNESWORTH TALK ("Vengeful reaction?")
In reading your editorial piece on Albert Haynesworth, you opine that perhaps Haynesworth retaliated drastically and that perhaps Andre Gurode had it coming. Come on! Gurode is known as one of the most even-tempered guys on the Cowboys. The knock on him coming out of college was that he was perhaps too nice for the game. … Your defense of Haynesworth at the expense of Gurode sounds like a lawyer suggesting that perhaps the woman deserved to be raped. Haynesworth had a bad rep coming out of Tennessee. Gurode was the polar opposite. You owe Gurode an apology.

Brian Williams
Alamogordo, N.M.

Brian, you need to check what was written. I didn't suggest that Gurode did anything wrong. Kevin Gogan simply said, in so many words, that it's hard to know when you don't know all the facts. As for me, my point (and one that is shared by former players such as Gogan and Joe Greene) is that all players are essentially on the edge of this type of behavior and a lot more of it happens than we really know. It's the nature of the game.

While you did point out [and I believe rightfully so] that this man's actions were reprehensible, you seemed to take issue with people who are, as you deemed it, overreacting "as badly as Haynesworth did". You implied, through quotes from former Dallas guard Kevin Gogan, that actions taken by Gurode may have provoked the response in the plays leading up to the incident. You also insinuated that because the sport is nothing more than controlled violence, we should expect these kinds of actions and not be offended because the violence exceeds "the parameters of what we deem to be acceptable violence". This sort of logic implies the fans of the sport are some sort of spectator in a barbaric and bloodthirsty gladiatorial contest. It is a disservice to the sport and the fans to make these leaps of reasoning. Whereas you should embrace the fact these actions are neither tolerated nor accepted by either the fans or the league, you scoff at the notion we should be offended by this behavior.

Charles Cota
Wichita, Kansas

Charles, what I scoff at is the notion that what Haynesworth did is an isolated situation. That was also the point that Gogan made when referring to what Danny Noonan did. There are plenty of other stories of similar behavior over the years. I scoff at people who say, "I've never heard such a thing" and act like this type of behavior is unthinkable. I find it preposterous. As for "the fans of the sport are some sort of spectator in a barbaric and bloodthirsty gladiatorial contest," I have one question. Have you ever been to a Jets game?

In your Oct. 5 article you made the following closing statement: "In legal terms, Bertuzzi demonstrated malice aforethought. So far, there has been no evidence of that in Haynesworth's case. That doesn't mitigate the act, but it does show a difference in circumstance. In the end, Haynesworth's actions are inexcusable. He has and should be punished. But before people make him out to be a symbol of all that is bad in the game, understand the entire situation. In short, don't overreact as badly as Haynesworth did." So in your opinion, if I were to stop you after work and stomp on your head … I should not go to jail provided that I have no "malice aforethought"? That is completely ridiculous. Assault is assault, regardless of my state of mind. You can argue that malice aforethought can cause additional punishment and incarceration. But the lack of [malice] does not excuse the action.

Doug Waddell, Delaware, Ohio

Doug, first of all, I never said he shouldn't go to jail. If Gurode or any other agency had wished to press charges, I would have been fine with that and I wrote that. As for the presence of malice, the point is that Bertuzzi was far different than Haynesworth. Bertuzzi considered his actions over the span of days, not seconds. There was clearly malice aforethought in Bertuzzi's actions, which made the case against him clear. As for you and me in the work place, that depends on what we do for a living. If our jobs are to pound on each other all day, I would certainly have a sense about me that the job could drive you (or me) over the edge at some point. It's not acceptable, but it's reality.

I am sitting here reading the responses you received on the Haynesworth incident, and thinking to myself "why are these guys getting published?" Especially the guy defending the Broncos' dirty play. I would just like to point out I read your column, and I understood your points. I personally believe he got what he deserved and that the five games are enough. He didn't end the guy's career, like [Bill] Romanowski did [with his violence towards] his own teammate – which did not earn near this much attention. It's time for some of these people to just drop it and move on. Keep up the good writing.

Jeffrey Benson
Maricopa, Ariz.

Jeffrey, thanks. I've kind of been out there on an island with this one.

DENVER'S BLOCKING SCHEME ("Down on Haynesworth," Oct. 6, 2006)
You level some fairly serious allegations here. I am presuming you have some sort of evidence to back these statements up, other than the hearsay you offer in your column. Just how many broken legs and career-ending injuries have opponents really suffered while playing the Broncos? Does that genuinely exceed the rate for the same type of injuries incurred by the rest of the teams in the league? I suspect you have no real basis for making your claim, other than scant anecdotal statements that opposing coaches dislike having to deal with the Broncos' blocking schemes. Perhaps you could improve the journalistic integrity of reporters who cover sports and look more deeply into the subject before slandering the integrity of one of the premier NFL franchises.

Shawn Woodford

Shawn, from 2001-04, five defensive linemen suffered injuries as serious as broken legs and/or dislocated ankles in games played against Denver. All came on cutblocks. In addition, Denver offensive linemen were fined at least a dozen times for illegal hits. In 2004, both Bill Cowher and Marvin Lewis complained about the scheme publicly. Is the technique legal? Yes. Is it right? No, and unfortunately more and more teams are using it. It's a terrible manner in which the game has evolved.

AN OVERSIGHT ("Down on Haynesworth")
After reading your response to the "With the first pick..." I was slightly annoyed by the fact that you didn't mention Carolina's Steve Smith as one of your choices. He maybe be little, [you picked bigger, and taller receivers such as Oakland's Randy Moss and Larry Fitzgerald of Arizona] but he is one of the most electrifying receivers in the game and certainly the most important to his team [0-2 while he was out, 2-0 after his return].

William Wezenter
West Haven, Conn.

William, you're absolutely right. My bad on the Smith oversight. He would be my No. 1 guy, as long as he's healthy.

If there ever was an award for the single most incompetent professional football executive [perhaps even for all professional sports], do you think Matt Millen would win it hands down? As a long-suffering Detroit Lions fan, I've seen a mediocre at-best, generally bad team become an absolute laughingstock year after year. There's been three coaches [four if you count Gary Moeller, who was fired by Millen] during his tenure. During this ignominious run of futility, he has been the constant factor of futility and sheer mismanagement leading to never-ending losses. Oh, and I also want to give full credit to the Ford family, who hired him and haven't fired him. Therefore, they also bear full responsibility for this fiasco. The Fords have run the Lions in the same way that they have run the Ford Motor Company to the ground. Sorry, had to rant a bit, but if you followed the Lions, you'd understand.

Xavier Olave
Hoboken, N.J.

X, I feel your pain.

PATRIOTS PLAN ("Business as usual, Sept. 17, 2006)
I hope you don't mind a few more questions about the New England Patriots and Deion Branch. First, should the Patriots be willing to overpay for Branch because they have the cap room? Do you consider Branch a top five wide receiver as Seattle obviously has by what they're paying him or more of a top 15 WR as the Patriots' offer reflected? Personally I think the Patriots are doing the right thing. If you start breaking your value model, you're eventually going to run into salary-cap problems and if you're willing to overpay for one player, other players are going to want to be overpaid. When I see other teams overpaying for players such as Seattle for Tom Ashworth, Tennessee for (David) Givens, Cleveland for (Willie) McGinest and Oakland for (Ted) Washington, all that does is cause further problems down the road.

David Zeltserman
Needham, Mass.

David, you make a decent point. But I would counter that the Branch contract that Seattle gave him was simply market value. It's about the same deal that Reggie Wayne got from Indianapolis. Furthermore, I think that deal eventually is going to be pretty cheap after the cap starts to go up significantly in the next few years. I generally agree that you don't overpay and you certainly don't overpay for veterans. But Branch was young and effective. To me, he was a keeper.

Yes, I would have liked to see the Pats sign them all. If the Pats had given Branch what he wanted [rip up this year's valid contact] I would bet there would have been a line at the door to redo contracts. This is why I am a fan, you're a good sports writer and the Pats sign players. We can look at the here and now, but the Pats have to look at the future. I think they got reasonable value for Branch given their success with the draft and the position they were in.

J.W., Boston

J.W., I agree that they couldn't sign all of them, but I think Branch would have been the one guy I would have kept.

LANGUAGE BARRIER ("Down on Haynesworth")
How could you pass up ragging on that guy who ragged on you specifically for the word "aforethought." I mean, anyone with only a ninth-grade vocabulary who thinks that they know how to write better than a journalist or understand language use better, regardless their opinion of the article content, is the true dumb butt. Passing up that comment was like [San Francisco slugger] Barry Bonds passing up a juicy curve. Man, oh man, people have to learn how to read and think at the same time. Or at least learn how to use one of the dozen online dictionaries while they are typing. Your point about football violence was rather well made.

Joshua GinzlerSeattle

Joshua, as tempting as it is to rip people for their butchering of the English language, I've certainly made my mistakes over the years. I leave that kind of stuff alone because I think it tends to alienate people rather than encourage them to write more. In the end, the only way people are going to get better at using the language is to keep writing, so any criticism of that type is only counter-productive.

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