August 23, 2016
The title of Ben Utecht’s book is “Counting the Days While My Mind Slips Away.”
Not much more needs to be added to that. Utecht, the former tight end for the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals from 2005-09, suffered five major concussions in his college and pro career. We’ve heard plenty of these stories by now, so we know where it’s headed: Utecht finds himself battling memory loss.
The MMQB’s Emily Kaplan wrote about Utecht’s battle with long- and short-term memory loss, and his book about it. Utecht wrote it as a way to document the memories he still has.
“This book is a keepsake,” Utecht told The MMQB. “I wanted to provide content for my daughters to be able to hold on to, to have forever.”
The premise of the book is heartbreaking (as is the title). The recommendations on Amazon include one from Dr. Bennet Omalu, made famous by the movie “Concussion,” which documented his work researching chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
The MMQB’s story documents how the Cincinnati Bengals mistreated his last NFL concussion in 2009, initially blocking his attempts to get a second opinion and not giving him any workout recovery plan to follow. Utecht won a grievance against the Bengals, who cut him during the 2009 season when he was on injured reserve. Concussion awareness has grown a lot since then, but there will presumably always be stories like the one Utecht has to tell.
Utecht has become a public speaker and advocate for concussion awareness, even testifying before Congress about concussions in 2014, as he’s feeling the effects. The MMQB told the story of how he couldn’t remember a friend’s wedding even though he was a groomsman and sang in the wedding.
Utecht has a story to tell, and wants to share it, worried what awaits him in the future.
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Even if your name is something relatively common, like Jason or Charlotte, chances are high that at some point, your neighborhood Starbucks barista has misspelled your name on your cup.
But for those of us with unique names, the struggle is real.
Just ask Washington rookie safety Su’a Cravens.
The second-round pick from the University of Southern California has already developed a routine in his new home of getting his weekly coffee, but he’s had to make a little change.
“I go to Starbucks every Sunday and order my white chocolate mocha. Venti. I don’t tell them my real name because the last time I told Starbucks my real name they spelled it ‘Suwqua’,” Cravens told CSN Mid-Atlantic. “She spells it like that and then when my name comes she goes ‘Sewer.’”
After a few weeks of hearing his name mangled, Cravens came up with a new strategy.
“From now on, I just put Chris,” Cravens said. “‘White chocolate mocha for Chris?’ This guy right here.”
Chris is definitely much better than “Sewer.”
August 23, 2016
Josh Norman plans to say whatever he wants this season, but the NFL receivers he talks about aren’t going to quietly take his trash talk.
Norman said a lot of things in an ESPN the Magazine piece this week, and he talked about how he shut down Denver Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas in Super Bowl 50.
“I don’t know what he was out there for,” Norman told ESPN. “He was supposed to be an all-world guy, and I shut him down.”
It’s true that Thomas had just one catch for 8 yards. And Norman wasn’t necessarily bragging about how great he was in the Super Bowl; he lamented that he dropped two possible interceptions in the Carolina Panthers’ loss. It’s also fair to note that the entire Broncos passing game suffered all season with uneven quarterback play.
But there’s really only one comeback that matters, and Thomas had it.
— Demaryius Thomas (@DemaryiusT) August 23, 2016
At the end of the day, I’m sure Norman would trade “shutting down” Thomas for one of those rings.
Of course, Thomas isn’t Norman’s rival. Norman, now with the Washington Redskins, won’t play the Broncos this season. But Norman does have a rival, and that’s New York Giants star Odell Beckham.
Norman said last month he’s done talking about Beckham, but we all knew better.
“Everybody saw what he was,” Norman told ESPN, referring to the multiple altercations the two had when the Panthers and Giants played last year. “People from around the league were coming up to me afterward and saying, ‘He does that crap all the time.’ He lost so much respect from people for that little tantrum. I’ve already got a couple people telling me, ‘OK, I’ve got a hit out on him.’ It’s going to be rough for him this year. And he brought it on himself.
“He’s skilled and talented. I won’t take that away from him. But he’s never been through any adversity in his life. It’s like, when are you ever going to grow up?”
So it appears Norman is serious about saying whatever he wants whenever he wants. He might start a feud with every receiver in the NFL along the way.
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August 23, 2016
Usually when a team drafts a player in the second round, they can afford to be patient with him. He can play a role as a backup, take some reps as a special-teamer while he learns the ins and outs of the playbook.
But with a kicker, it’s not so easy.
A lot has been written in a short time about Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Roberto Aguayo, the former Florida State standout the Bucs took in the second round this year – the highest a team has drafted a kicker in over a decade (New York Jets, Mike Nugent, 2005).
Aguayo is struggling. Really struggling.
The 22-year-old missed his first kick in the preseason, an extra point. Then he missed two field goals last week against Jacksonville, one from 32 yards and the other from 49.
And now this, from Tampa Bay’s joint practice with the Cleveland Browns on Tuesday:
— Pat Donovan (@PatDonovanNFL) August 23, 2016
— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) August 23, 2016
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter told reporters after practice that Aguayo’s problem is mental; to that end, Aguayo has already consulted a “mental coach” to help him work through things and bolster his confidence.
He may need an extra session after Tuesday: not only was Aguayo bad, but fans were heckling him. According to JoeBucsFan.com, he was booed, heard the FSU war chant, and heard a lone “You can do it!” a la “The Waterboy.”
Aguayo was an All-American in 2014 with the Seminoles, and never missed an extra point in his three years with the team. He also converted 69 of 78 career field goals in college, though he missed more kicks last fall (five) than he did over his first two seasons combined (four).
It’s not unheard of for rookie kickers to struggle: Adam Vinatieri, who will receive serious consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was perfect in his first game with the New England Patriots in 1996, but then followed that up by missing 5 of 12 field goals and 2 of 6 extra points over the next three games. A decade later, also with the Patriots, Stephen Gostkowski was just 2-for-5 on field goals over the second, third and fourth games of his career.
Although the Bucs used a high pick on Aguayo, the team didn’t bring in a second kicker for training camp this year to push the rookie and at least give the illusion that it wasn’t automatic he’d get the job. Now with Aguayo struggling, if they bring someone in they risk making things worse for Aguayo mentally. If Tampa Bay cut him, another team would surely scoop him up, and teams have a tough enough time composing a 53-man roster without having to keep two kickers.
It’s a tough spot general manager Jason Licht finds himself in.
August 23, 2016
NFL coaches, front-office personnel and owners are probably better off saying nothing about domestic violence. We all know when they talk tough, they don’t really mean it.
It’s easy to make proclamations in an interview though. Like New York Giants coach Ben McAdoo did in January, when asked by the New York Post what he won’t tolerate as a head coach. According to the Q&A transcript, McAdoo gave one answer:
“Domestic violence is something that we’re all cracking down on in this league,” McAdoo said. “That’s something that’s important to us as an organization, important to me as a man, and important to me as a coach.”
McAdoo didn’t even get exposed as a hypocrite over one of his team’s stars. His kicker Josh Brown — a fine kicker, but certainly not irreplaceable — was suspended one game for violating the personal conduct policy after he was arrested for misdemeanor domestic violence in 2015 (and no, I don’t know why the NFL went light on him either). Then the media started looking into Brown’s history, since the arrest was never publicized. Brown’s wife claimed he had been physically violent with her more than 20 times.
Now remember, McAdoo was asked what he won’t tolerate as a head coach, and the one thing he said was “domestic violence.”
“We support the league office in their decision and their stance on personal conduct,” McAdoo said last week, according to the New York Daily News. “I do support Josh as a man, a father, and a player. We treat these situations on a case-by-case basis.”
But as new information surfaced about previous incidents, McAdoo couldn’t just keep ignoring it, right? No tolerance, after all.
“I’ve said everything that I’m gonna say about Josh,” McAdoo said on Tuesday, according to the New York Daily News. “I respect that you have to ask that question but my comments stay my comments.”
I guess domestic violence is not quite as “important to me as a man” as it was before it involved one of his players. If you have no interest in taking action when actually faced with a domestic violence case, why even talk about it?
In the back of our minds, we should know most NFL people are full of it when they talk about issues like domestic violence. It might be important to them to some level (and at very least it’s important for them to project the public image that it’s important to them), but not as important as retaining a kicker who hit 93.8 percent of his field goals last season, much less if one of the team’s true stars was involved in something like this. If your team has said they won’t tolerate domestic violence, take a moment and wonder what its reaction would be if there was a case involving the starting quarterback or another star.
The league can take note, too, because all its talk about domestic violence is only as good as their actions, and the one-game suspension of Brown has been roundly criticized.
Maybe the real lesson here is that teams and the league should get out of the business of talking tough on domestic violence, at least until they’re ready to finally back it up.
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August 23, 2016
The whole story of Tom Brady and his thumb was strange.
He had to be scratched from a preseason start after reportedly “slicing” his right thumb with some scissors, while digging something out of his cleats. Brady’s agent Don Yee told NFL.com that Brady “will be OK in time,” and what the heck did that mean? Then Brady was gone from practice Sunday and Monday, supposedly for personal reasons, and Bill Belichick wouldn’t acknowledge any part of it. And when you pass on offering any information, it invites speculation.
Brady was back at New England Patriots practice on Tuesday, and even met with the media, who got a look at the damage to his right thumb. Rather, the lack of damage. Here it is, via Phil Perry of CSNNE:
Shot of the damage to Tom Brady's right thumb. I think he'll be ok. pic.twitter.com/rdJadYffY1
— Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) August 23, 2016
That’s it? Doesn’t even seem like something that should cause someone to miss a preseason start. Brady said that if it was a regular-season game he would have played.
“I was ready to go, had everything on, was just trying to get something out of my shoe and the scissors slipped,” Brady said. “Just a silly accident.”
Jimmy Garoppolo needs the work anyway, because Brady is suspended four games, and he has gotten plenty of reps this preseason. Brady hasn’t played in the preseason. He missed the first game due to funeral services for a family member, and then missed the second because of the scissors accident.
Brady’s absence from practice this week was unusual, but if anyone is allowed to miss a couple days in August, it’s Brady.
“I just had to take care of something,” Brady said. “It’s good to be back.”
It’s unclear if we’ll see Brady play this preseason. The Patriots’ third preseason game is Friday at the Carolina Panthers. NFL teams rarely play starters in the fourth preseason game, and the Patriots are unlikely to play Brady behind a patchwork line in that final preseason game. So either Brady plays Friday or we likely won’t see him on a field until Oct. 9, his first game back from suspension.
Brady said he wants to play this week.
“Absolutely,” Brady said, according to ESPN. “I like to be out there every time I get a chance to play. You only get so many opportunities a year.”
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August 23, 2016
Even before he took an NFL snap, there were many who believed that Tim Tebow might be better suited as a fullback or H-back-type player if he wanted to have a career in the league. Once Tebow was drafted and he struggled as a signal-caller – he couldn’t make decisions quick enough and he was inaccurate – the calls for him to switch positions, or maybe try his hand in the Canadian Football League, only grew louder.
But Tebow refused. It was quarterback or nothing. So nothing it is; Tebow spent training camp with the New England Patriots in 2013 and the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015, but the 2010 first-round pick hasn’t played a meaningful snap in the league since 2012.
So now Tebow has turned his attention to baseball. He hasn’t played the game since his junior year of high school over a decade ago, but he’s been working out on the diamond, and feels he’s ready to try out for teams.
On Tuesday, multiple reporters tweeted that Tebow will hold a showcase in Los Angeles on Aug. 30, and there’s enough curiosity in what the now-29-year-old Tebow can do that more than 20 Major League Baseball teams are confirmed to be sending personnel to watch the workout.
Tebow is of course willing to pursue whatever he’d like, and if he can find folks willing to indulge him, all the better. But as noted by The MMQB’s Albert Breer, it’s curious that after refusing to consider other positions and options with the sport (we assume) is his first love, Tebow is now willing to grind it out in baseball.
If he’s signed, Tebow isn’t just going to jump onto a Major League roster; he’ll be in the minors, the antithesis of glamour. In the NFL, games are played in front of 65,000 fans, teams travel to road games on chartered planes and have police escort their buses from hotel to stadium.
That’s not life in the minors. Tebow is from Florida and played in the SEC with the Florida Gators, so let’s say the Tampa Bay Rays sign him. Their advanced Single-A team is the Charlotte Stone Crabs in Port Charlotte, Fla., in the Florida State League. That means traveling all over his home state, to cities like Bradenton and Dunedin, and the biggest stadium is 11,000 seats for the Tampa Yankees.
Assume the Rays place Tebow with their Double-A team, the Montgomery (Ala.) Biscuits. The Biscuits are in the Southern League. You know the other teams in the Southern League? The Chattanooga (Tenn.) Lookouts, the Biloxi (Miss.) Shuckers and the Pensacola (Fla.) Blue Wahoos, among other teams. Again, biggest stadium is 11,000 seats. And the bus rides are a lot longer.
Keep in mind, too, those leagues wrap up their respective regular seasons by Sept. 5, though maybe he will play in the Arizona Fall league.
For the teams interested in Tebow, signing him is worth it if you believe that he’ll help boost attendance. That makes business sense.
Maybe Tebow is prepared for the reality of life as a minor leaguer. It seems odd that he wouldn’t change positions in football but now he’s all in on a baseball career that will almost certainly start in some small city, in front of small crowds, with a paltry per diem as he spends hours and hours on a bus between series.
August 22, 2016
Russell Wilson started his college career at North Carolina State and wanted to marry Ciara in North Carolina, but the state’s controversial transgender bathroom law caused the couple to scrap those plans.
Wedding planner Mindy Weiss told The Knot that Wilson and Ciara moved the wedding from North Carolina because of House Bill 2, also known as the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, which restricts bathroom access for transgender people in government buildings and public schools. The law has drawn the ire of LGBTQ groups, and apparently the Seattle Seahawks quarterback and his Grammy award-winning wife don’t agree with it either.
“They were first getting married in North Carolina, but they called it off due to the transgender bathroom laws,” Weiss told The Knot. “But it was really done.”
The law caused the NBA to pull its 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, and also many musical acts have canceled concerts there. It’s curious why the famous couple, with more than nine million Twitter followers combined, would take a political stand with their wedding plans but not bring any attention to what they apparently feel is an unfair law. It took an interview with their wedding planner to uncover the story.
After ruling out North Carolina the couple set its sights on Paris, but it was going to be difficult there with Fashion Week going on. So they got married at Peckforton Castle in England in early July.
Weiss plans weddings for celebrities, and hooked up with Ciara through La La Anthony, New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony’s wife. Weiss also complimented Wilson’s style.
“He has really, really beautiful taste. He just — you should see what he looks like,” Weiss told The Knot. “And [Ciara’s] son is delicious. Baby Future. Very delish!”
In case you were wondering.
It seemed unusual that Wilson and Ciara went all the way to England to get married. Now we know why.
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Last week, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced an increased reimbursement package for fans who traveled to Canton, Ohio to see the Hall of Fame game, only to have it canceled due to field conditions.
But it may not be enough to stop a fraud claim.
Attorney Michael Avenatti, who has hinted at filing a claim that the Hall and the NFL defrauded fans, believes he’s found a smoking gun, so to speak, that the league and Hall officials knew the game wouldn’t be played but let the thousands of fans into the stadium anyway.
Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee recorded a podcast the day after the game was supposed to be held, and said, among other things, that “There was a big ‘no tweeting’ policy, like nobody’s allowed to say (expletive)” among instructions given to teams after they were told of the cancellation.
McAfee was also asked to characterize Hall of Fame president David Baker’s comments and said, “This is gonna be a big (expletive) problem.”
Added McAfee: “They let everybody into the stadium. I think that was the issue. So they let everybody into the stadium before telling them it was being cancelled.”
In a statement to ProFootballTalk, Avenatti, who has previously sued the NFL over a seating error at Super Bowl XLV, wrote:
“This recording together with other evidence shows that there was a deliberate and collective effort to hide information from the fans until the last possible moment. The league and the Hall wanted to have as many fans enter the stadium as possible and spend money on concessions, etc. before being told the truth. In the law, this is called ‘fraud.’ It is one thing to defraud one person, but another to defraud thousands of people who make your business possible to begin with. The problem for the NFL and [Commissioner Roger] Goodell is that we have now have countless people and whistleblowers who are coming out of the woodwork and disclosing facts to us about what really happened with the game and the timeline. And none of its good for the NFL or Goodell. If they wanted to successfully defraud the fans out of their hard-earned money, they should have done a better job at covering it up and not involved so many people. The NFL now has a big, big problem. And that problem is they have been caught purposely deceiving their fans.”
The Hall of Fame’s reimbursement package includes all costs associated with buying a ticket to the game, any pre-paid parking fees, one night hotel stay, and other enticements, like being able to buy a ticket to the Hall of Fame game before the general public, but to Avenatti that’s not enough if the game was not called off until after fans had bought food, drinks and souvenirs inside the stadium.
Plenty of athletes seek help for their mental struggles between the lines. But it’s rare to see a rookie do it before his first game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo, one of the most accomplished college kickers in recent history, has been off to a rough start to the preseason. According to team insider Roy Cummings via 620 WDAE Radio, Aguayo is consulting both a kicking coach and a “mental coach” after missing an extra-point try and two field-goal attempts in his first two professional games.
Former NFL kicker Ryan Longwell and former Bucs special teams coordinator Billy Miller have been enlisted to try to help Aguayo with his mechanics. The mental coach is there to help repair Aguayo’s confidence, which he says has been shaken “a little bit.”
Aguayo missed 32- and 49-yard tries Saturday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Bucs suffered through kicking problems most of last season, with the NFL’s third-worst made field-goal percentage as a team.
“I’m just focusing on relaxing and sometimes not thinking about it too much,” Aguayo said. “When you’re overthinking like, ‘OK, I have to do this and this and this,’ you get too many thoughts in your head. Sometimes you have to sit back and relax and just kick it. That’s the mindset going into practice and throughout this week.”
Quite the alarming development for the player the Bucs traded two draft picks up to take Aguayo with the 59th pick in the 2016 draft — the highest a kicker has gone in almost a decade. In three years of college (he declared after his junior season), he made all 198 of his (shorter) extra-point attempts, made 69-of-78 FG attempts and never missed a kick shorter than 40 yards at Florida State. He also had not missed a fourth-quarter kick in college since having his end-of-game attempt blocked against Georgia Tech and run back for an improbable game-winning score.
Is it possible the ghosts of that kick are still haunting him? That’s difficult to say. But Aguayo did mention at the NFL scouting combine that the Tech game was one of the few moment of adversity that he faced.
“I think the only thing adversity I had was coming off that Georgia Tech game, the blocked field goal and just ending up losing the game, just the way it happened,” he said back in February. “It was unfortunate for me and our team. I felt like I let the team down, but at the end of the day it was good adversity to go through. It made me a better person and overall a better kicker, and I fought through that. It was good because I had two years before that that were just a breeze, and fighting through that adversity, you need to get better sometimes.”
Aguayo also said at the combine that he thought NFL kicking would be easier than either high school or college.
“To me field goals, it’s easier,” he said. “The hashes are closer. Growing up I always thought, wow, NFL is much easier than high school, let alone college. Kickoffs are out the back. There’s not that much placement, not that much hang time putting it on the goal line, trying to cover. Kicks is usually kicking it out and trying to force things to start on the 20-yard line.”
Clearly with the NFL’s rule changes about kickoffs starting at the 25, that no longer applies. And the Bucs have had him working with two different holders, which certainly can cause for an adjustment period. Plus, the NFL kicking balls are different.
As we wrote in the Saturday Preseason Blitz, there’s still ample time for Aguayo to turn things around — plenty of terrific NFL kickers, such as Adam Vinatieri, struggled out of the chute as rookies. But hearing that Aguayo is seeking help from multiple people prior to his first regular-season game has to be a bit of a worry for the Bucs.
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