There has been plenty of hand-wringing and shouting over Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth's violent actions against Dallas Cowboys guard Andre Gurode this week, up to and including that Haynesworth should be sent to jail.
Late in Dallas' blowout win on Sunday, Haynesworth tore off Gurode's helmet and stomped on Gurode's face, twice. Gurode suffered seven cuts and required 30 stitches.
Perhaps the best take on the situation came from former NFL guard Kevin Gogan, a Pro Bowl player who helped win two Super Bowls in Dallas and had the honor (or is it dishonor?) of once being called the dirtiest player in the game.
Gogan gave a glimpse into what happens on the field and put the situation in some perspective in his weekly podcast on NBX.com.
"That was bad," Gogan said. "My quick take is that we saw the worst of what happened, but you have no idea what happened before that during the first 50 plays. There may have been some cheap shots before that. Obviously there was some frustration on (Haynesworth's) part. He got caught. He needs to be smarter than that.
"Usually, you don't get your payback like that. You usually have to wait for a few plays then you take your shot. You wait for seven more plays then you take another shot. You wait and wait until you get your opening then you go for the soft tissue. This was made worse because he opened a wound and caused stitches."
The league is rife with situations that are equal or worse to what Haynesworth did. In 1987, New York Jets defensive lineman Marty Lyons accidentally ended the career of Pro Football Hall of Fame Dolphins center Dwight Stephenson with a knee-shattering hit during a fumble return. To this day, the Dolphins believe it was a cheap shot. Lyons, friends with Stephenson since their playing days at Alabama, still has regret over the play, but maintains it was not intentional.
Now comes Haynesworth, who has a checkered past and now a checkered future after being suspended for five games by the NFL. The incident has prompted the hue and cry for severe penalties, including prosecution.
Here's the problem: We expect gigantic, strong men with a propensity for violent behavior to conduct themselves with certain level of decorum in the midst of playing their sport.
A sport that, by the way, is really nothing but organized violence and continues to allow all sorts of conduct that can cause severe injury, such as blocking schemes made popular by Denver over the past 15 years.
But when someone like Haynesworth goes beyond the parameters of what we deem to be acceptable violence, some of us scream and yell that he should be banned for the season, banned from the sport or even put in jail.
Give Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher credit for reacting effectively. He screamed at Haynesworth initially, apologized to Dallas coach Bill Parcells after the game and then made it clear that if the NFL didn't take drastic action against Haynesworth, he would. This sent a clear message that Fisher was in charge of the situation, which is essential to controlling all of the players on his team.
And give Haynesworth at least some credit for being contrite in the aftermath. Immediately after the game, he said he would accept any penalty doled out by the NFL or the Titans. He has called Gurode to apologize. The NFL Players Association has publicly said it won't fight the suspension and Haynesworth was scheduled to hold a press conference Thursday afternoon.
The five-game suspension, which will cost Haynesworth just over $190,000, might not sound like enough. But to put it in perspective, if this was the NBA, it would be a 25-game suspension. In baseball, it would be 50. Those are hefty penalties.
But does Haynesworth deserve to be criminally prosecuted for his actions?
Probably, and there is legal precedent. NHL player Todd Bertuzzi was criminally charged and pleaded guilty in March 2004 after slamming opposing player Steve Moore's head into the ice. The key difference between Bertuzzi and Haynesworth is that Bertuzzi talked before the game about taking retaliation against Moore for things Moore did in a previous game.
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.
Watching Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, who turns 37 on Tuesday, play these days can be somewhat painful, although not as bad as watching the final days of Dan Marino in Miami. Unlike Marino, Favre is still physically able to do most everything required of being a quarterback.
However, the frustration is obvious for Favre as he plays out the string with the 1-3 Packers, a team that doesn't have a talented enough supporting cast on offense to make up for what he lacks.
That was obvious Monday night against Philadelphia. Eventually, it appeared that Favre's frustration got the better of him. While some people might blame running back Vernand Morency for the ricocheted interception, that play really was mostly Favre's fault.
Favre, who needs 19 touchdown passes to break Marino's record of 420 and 18 interceptions to break George Blanda's mark of 277, threw the ball hard and high, two cardinal sins for a quarterback of his experience. Veteran quarterbacks constantly tell you that passes to running backs should be lower on the body to prevent such interceptions.
Favre's second interception was on a pass he lobbed up against soft zone coverage. Again, that's a cardinal sin, but somewhat understandable given that the game was getting out of hand, so greater risks are taken.
The point here is that unless the Packers can quickly put requisite talent around Favre, they need to seriously consider trading him or letting him go so that he can finish his career with a more competitive team, a la Steve McNair in Baltimore.
TRADE CHANGES HELP MOSS
Speaking of trades, a modification in the collective bargaining agreement this year does makes it easier to deal veteran players with high salaries.
In other words, Oakland could easily oblige wide receiver Randy Moss' desire to play for another team. Moss indicated this week in an interview with FOX that he wouldn't mind leaving the hapless Raiders (0-4).
Allowing that to be possible, the NFL and NFL Players Association changed the way cap money is counted if a player is dealt. Instead of all of the remaining guaranteed money counting this year, the money is spread over the current and following seasons.
Thus, in the case of Moss, his salary cap hit for the Raiders if he were dealt would be $3.79 million for this season then another $4.04 million in 2007. If Moss were traded today, the Raiders would actually save $5.735 million this year because that's the remaining amount of salary Moss is due on his base of $7.5 million.
That said, the team acquiring Moss would have to have $5.735 million in cap room available. There are currently at least six teams with at least $8 million in cap room: New Orleans ($11.5 million), Arizona ($10.8 million) New England ($10 million), Jacksonville ($10 million), Houston ($9.6 million) and Philadelphia ($8 million).
Most important in all of this, the NFL trade deadline is Oct. 17. In other words, "Gentlemen, start your rumors."
- Former NFL quarterback and 1994 No. 3 overall pick Heath Shuler has resurfaced in a significant way. Shuler, 34, is running for the U.S. House of Representatives seat in District 11 of North Carolina. Shuler, a Democrat, is a native of North Carolina and appears primed to win election later this month. As of the most recent poll, Shuler had an 11-point lead over his opponent, incumbent Charles Taylor.
- Chicago Bears defensive end Adewale Ogunleye said that the team's playoff loss at home to Carolina last season continues to serve as motivation. "In some ways, that loss may have been the best thing for us," Ogunleye said. "All offseason, when guys were working out, we would talk about how we don't want to let that happen to us again." As for the Bears defensive line, which helped to produce two interceptions and five sacks against Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck on Sunday, Ogunleye said there's a healthy sense of competition among the group. "Everybody [on the line] is trying to get to Hawaii," said Ogunleye, referring to the Pro Bowl.
- Down 13-7 with 5:37 remaining in the game and the Baltimore Ravens facing a fourth and 1 from its own 43-yard line, coach Brian Billick elected to punt to San Diego rather than go for the first down. The fans booed, although the strategy played out perfectly in an eventual 16-13 win. What did Ravens left tackle Jonathan Ogden think? "I wanted to go for it, just like the fans," Ogden said. "You're in the middle of the game and you want to be aggressive and put it on yourself. But the coaches were right. That was the best decision from a strategy side. That's why they pay the coaches."
- San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer, who was on the other side of that game with Baltimore, has a history of conservative play-calling and has been criticized in the past by at least one Hall of Fame coach. During training camp, Kansas City President Carl Peterson recalled a time when he introduced long-time friend and Hall of Famer Sid Gillman to Schottenheimer, who was coaching the Chiefs at the time. At one point, Schottenheimer asked Gillman what the former coach thought of the Kansas City offense. Gillman, who ironically was the Chargers first coach and was one of the great innovators of the passing game, was blunt. "Marty, you have no offense," Gillman said, according to Peterson. "Your offense is three yards and a cloud of dust." Apparently, some things never change.
- Albert Haynesworth
- Todd Bertuzzi