Teddy Bridgewater suffers injury in non-contact drill at Vikings practice

Posted by Matt Field | Posted in NFL | Posted on 08-30-2016

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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater went down with a non-contact injury during practice Tuesday, causing the team to call off its final preseason practice after 25 minutes.

Bridgewater dropped back to pass during the drill, planted his foot and immediately went down. Trainers rushed to Bridgewater’s side and began inflating an aircast, while the quarterback appeared to be holding his left leg.

Several players threw their helmets and shouted expletives as they scattered, while many simultaneously dropped to one knee in prayer. Moments later, a siren-blaring ambulance pulled into the team’s Winter Park headquarters, stayed for about 10 minutes and then pulled away.

The nature of the injury was not immediately clear. Bridgewater was still on the practice field grass as the team’s PR staff ushered reporters from the premises.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is scheduled to address the media at 5 p.m. ET.

Players were visibly distraught as they exited the field, some hurling expletives into the air. A small group remained behind, huddled around him in prayer as team athletic trainers worked to immobilize his leg.

If Bridgewater is unable to return in a timely manner, there is little behind him on the depth chart. Shaun Hill is the primary backup, but he’s 36 years old and has played only sparingly over the last five years.

Bridgewater is entering his third season in the NFL and the Vikings were counting on him to take some major steps forward after a promising start to his career. He helped lead the Vikings to the NFC North championship last season as more of a game manager, but Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner have said that they expected him to be much more of a playmaker in 2016.

Bridgewater missed the second preseason game with a sore shoulder, but was very sharp on Sunday against San Diego. He went 12 for 16 for 161 yards and a touchdown in two quarters of work, leaving Vikings players and fans fully confident as the team starts to prepare for the season opener at Tennessee on Sept. 11.

The Vikings host the Los Angeles Rams in their final preseason game Thursday night, though Bridgewater and most of the starters were not expected to play.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Vikings give Zimmer a contract extension

Posted by Matt Field | Posted in NFL | Posted on 07-28-2016

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MANKATO, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings trickled into the residence hall for their two-week training camp stay, toting the usual duffel bags, electronic gadgets and mattress pads.

Coach Mike Zimmer came with a contract extension.

The Vikings announced Thursday they’ve added to Zimmer’s deal, rewarding their revered coach well before his contract status ever became a headline and further galvanizing an organization already buzzing with anticipation of the season and the future.

General manager Rick Spielman declined to disclose the terms of the deal, revealed when the Vikings reported to Minnesota State University, but Zimmer’s original contract was not close to expiring. Zimmer even said he saw no rush to address it, entering his third season on the job.

“They really didn’t have to. There was nothing that was pushing this deal,” Zimmer said. “But I feel very, very fortunate to be the coach of the Vikings. It’s a great organization, a lot of great people.”

Talks took place over the past month between Spielman and Zimmer’s agent, Marvin Demoff.

“Our ownership, myself, the entire organization felt very strongly about getting something done with coach Zimmer,” Spielman said.

“We have so much excitement building up with the new facility, the new practice facility, and I know how strongly we feel about coach Zimmer in leading this football team in the future.”

The ribbon has been cut at U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis. Next week, they’ll break ground on new suburban headquarters. Coming off an 11-5 regular-season finish that earned them the NFC North title, the team has plenty of momentum. Now the power structure has even more stability.

“I can tell you, in my 26 years in the NFL, I have not had the experience and the cohesiveness with a head coach as I do with coach Zimmer,” Spielman said.

Zimmer, a long-time defensive co-ordinator for Dallas and Cincinnati who got his first opportunity to be a head coach with Minnesota at age 57.

He’s 18-14, with one loss in the playoffs. Only Dennis Green, with 20, had more wins in his first two seasons as coach of the Vikings.

“I don’t want to oversimplify it because I think he’s done a lot of things,” safety Harrison Smith said, finally settling on a favourite: “Really, just the get-it-done attitude. There’s no excuses for anything. It’s either you got it done or you didn’t get it done, and guys really enjoy that. Because it’s just straightforward, and you know where you stand, and that allows you to get better.”

Both sons of football coaches, Spielman and Zimmer have been in step from the beginning. Spielman is the boss, but Zimmer said they’ve hardly had any disagreements about decisions regarding the roster.

“We’re kind of like the odd couple. He’s messy, and I’m the clean one,” Zimmer said, before his tone turned serious. “It’s been a real good relationship, and I’m looking forward to more.”

Zimmer is the kind of coach who can keep a team carrying high expectations appropriately grounded. Supplementing his own brand of defiance, fueled by all those head coach positions he interviewed for but didn’t get, Zimmer has rarely missed an opportunity to prod his players by slapping the doubt card down on the table.

Deep passing and the kicking game are the biggest questions surrounding this team, not the danger of complacency.

“When you have a lot of good people, guys who work hard, all the things that I’ve been saying about this team, I think it’s easy,” Zimmer said.

Throughout his first two seasons, Zimmer often said half-jokingly in response to queries about the future that he wasn’t sure whether he’d be around for it. He once dismissed a question from a team official about the colour of the wood in the new stadium locker room: “I said, ‘Heck, I don’t know if I’m going to be here for the new stadium.'”

Here he is, with the Aug. 28 exhibition opener against San Diego a month away.

“That’s what pushes me, that someone else can come and take my job or we don’t play as good as we can play or proving people wrong,” the 60-year-old Zimmer said. “That’s just my mentality.”

Report: Vikings RT Loadholt retires

Posted by Matt Field | Posted in NFL | Posted on 07-25-2016

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Phil Loadholt, Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Offensive tackle Phil Loadholt informed the Minnesota Vikings Monday that he’s retiring, according to reports from ESPN and the NFL Network.

ESPN reports Loadholt will retire as a result of soreness in his surgically repaired Achilles tendon, among other aches and pains. Loadholt missed all of last season due to the torn Achilles, an injury that occurred in pre-season.

Loadholt played seven seasons with the Vikings after Minnesota drafted him in the second round in 2009.

 

Northern Exposure: NFL awards Minnesota 2018 Super Bowl

Posted by Matt Field | Posted in NFL | Posted on 05-22-2014

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Nina Moini WCCO/AP– NFL owners voted to hold Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis in 2018, over competing bids from New Orleans and Indianapolis.

“We appreciate the collaborative effort from Minnesota’s business and community leadership in putting together this winning bid,” Vikings owner Mark Wilf said. “It was evident to me and my brother Zygi that the other NFL owners were extremely impressed with everything Minnesota had to offer, and we have no doubt they will be even more excited with what the community will deliver in February 2018.”

The vote came in the fourth round of voting, which meant that Minneapolis was selected on a simple majority among the NFL owners, and not the supermajority of 75 percent required during the previous three rounds.

Officials with the Vikings and Minneapolis went to Atlanta, Ga., on Tuesday to make their final pitch in a closed-door meeting. The Minneapolis delegation was the first to present.

The Minnesota Vikings’ $1 billion future football stadium in Minneapolis will be done in 2016, and the committee making the final pitch Tuesday afternoon said they had hoped the project would give them a leg up over the other contending cities. They also highlighted our winters as a selling point and the fact that the stadium is in downtown Minneapolis.

The group making the multimedia pitch Tuesday includes Marilyn Carlson Nelson from the Carlson Company and Richard Davis from U.S. Bank.

The Vikings released a logo as part of their presentation. It was designed to match the Vikings new stadium with the Roman numerals for the Super Bowl resembling the stadium’s pivoting doors.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development estimates the game will mean up to $324 million in potential dollars being pumped into the state’s economy, thanks to the predicted 100,000 visitors.

Minneapolis hasn’t hosted a Super Bowl since 1992, when Washington beat Buffalo. Indianapolis has hosted one, which was in 2012, and New Orleans has hosted 10 Super Bowls, which is tied with South Florida for the most.

Next year’s game is in Glendale, Arizona, followed by Santa Clara, California, for the 50th Super Bowl, then Houston.

What would the end of football look like?

Posted by Matt Field | Posted in NFL, Prevent Defense | Posted on 03-18-2014

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The NFL is done for the year, but it is not pure fantasy to suggest that it may be done for good in the not-too-distant future. How might such a doomsday scenario play out and what would be the economic and social consequences?

By now we’re all familiar with the growing phenomenon of head injuries and cognitive problems among football players, even at the high school level. In 2009, Malcolm Gladwell asked whether football might someday come to an end, a concern seconded recently by Jonah Lehrer.

Before you say that football is far too big to ever disappear, consider the history: If you look at the stocks in the Fortune 500 from 1983, for example, 40 percent of those companies no longer exist. The original version of Napster no longer exists, largely because of lawsuits. No matter how well a business matches economic conditions at one point in time, it’s not a lock to be a leader in the future, and that is true for the NFL too. Sports are not immune to these pressures. In the first half of the 20th century, the three big sports were baseball, boxing, and horse racing, and today only one of those is still a marquee attraction.

The most plausible route to the death of football starts with liability suits. Precollegiate football is already sustaining 90,000 or more concussions each year. If ex-players start winning judgments, insurance companies might cease to insure colleges and high schools against football-related lawsuits. Coaches, team physicians, and referees would become increasingly nervous about their financial exposure in our litigious society. If you are coaching a high school football team, or refereeing a game as a volunteer, it is sobering to think that you could be hit with a $2 million lawsuit at any point in time. A lot of people will see it as easier to just stay away. More and more modern parents will keep their kids out of playing football, and there tends to be a “contagion effect” with such decisions; once some parents have second thoughts, many others follow suit. We have seen such domino effects with the risks of smoking or driving without seatbelts, two unsafe practices that were common in the 1960s but are much rarer today. The end result is that the NFL’s feeder system would dry up and advertisers and networks would shy away from associating with the league, owing to adverse publicity and some chance of being named as co-defendants in future lawsuits.

It may not matter that the losses from these lawsuits are much smaller than the total revenue from the sport as a whole. As our broader health care sector indicates (try buying private insurance when you have a history of cancer treatment), insurers don’t like to go where they know they will take a beating. That means just about everyone could be exposed to fear of legal action.

This slow death march could easily take 10 to 15 years. Imagine the timeline. A couple more college players — or worse, high schoolers — commit suicide with autopsies showing CTE. A jury makes a huge award of $20 million to a family. A class-action suit shapes up with real legs, the NFL keeps changing its rules, but it turns out that less than concussion levels of constant head contact still produce CTE. Technological solutions (new helmets, pads) are tried and they fail to solve the problem. Soon high schools decide it isn’t worth it. The Ivy League quits football, then California shuts down its participation, busting up the Pac-12. Then the Big Ten calls it quits, followed by the East Coast schools. Now it’s mainly a regional sport in the southeast and Texas/Oklahoma. The socioeconomic picture of a football player becomes more homogeneous: poor, weak home life, poorly educated. Ford and Chevy pull their advertising, as does IBM and eventually the beer companies.

There’s a lot less money in the sport, and at first it’s “the next hockey” and then it’s “the next rugby,” and finally the franchises start to shutter.

Along the way, you would have an NFL with much lower talent levels, less training, and probably greater player representation from poorer countries, where the demand for money is higher and the demand for safety is lower. Finally, the NFL is marginalized as less-dangerous sports gobble up its market share. People — American people — might actually start calling “soccer” by the moniker of “football.”

Despite its undeniable popularity — and the sense that the game is everywhere — the aggregate economic effect of losing the NFL would not actually be that large. League revenues are around $10 billion per year while U.S. GDP is around $15,300 billion. But that doesn’t mean everyone would be fine.

Big stadiums will lose a lot of their value and that will drag down neighboring bars and restaurants, causing a lot of them to shut their doors. Cable TV will be less profitable, and this will hasten the movement of TV-watching, if we can still call it that, to the web. Super Bowl Sunday will no longer be the best time to go shopping for a new car at the dealership.

Take Green Bay as a case study: A 2009 study of the economic impact of the Packers’ stadium estimated “$282 million in output, 2,560 jobs and $124.3 million in earnings, and $15.2 million in tax revenues.” That’s small potatoes for the national economy as a whole, but for a small and somewhat remote city of 104,000, it is a big deal indeed.

Any location where football is the only game in town will suffer. If the Jets and Giants go, New York still has numerous other pro sports teams, Broadway, high-end shopping, skyscrapers, fine dining, and many other cultural activities. If college football dies, Norman, Oklahoma (current home to one of us), has … noodling? And what about Clemson, in South Carolina, which relies on the periodic weekend football surge into town for its restaurant and retail sales? Imagine a small place of 12,000 people that periodically receives a sudden influx of 100,000 visitors or more, most of them eager to spend money on what is one of their major leisure outings. It’s like a port in the Caribbean losing its cruise ship traffic. (Overall, the loss of football could actually increase migration from rural to urban areas over time. Football-dependent areas are especially prominent in rural America, and some of them will lose a lot of money and jobs.)

Outside of sports, American human capital and productivity probably rise. No football Saturdays on college campuses means less binge drinking, more studying, better grades, smarter future adults. Losing thousands of college players and hundreds of pro players might produce a few more doctors or engineers. Plus, talented coaches and general managers would gravitate toward management positions in American industry. Heck, just getting rid of fantasy football probably saves American companies hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Other losers include anything that depends heavily on football to be financially viable, including the highly subsidized non-revenue collegiate sports. No more air travel for the field hockey teams or golf squads. Furthermore, many prominent universities would lose their main claim to fame. Alabama and LSU produce a large amount of revenue and notoriety from football without much in the way of first-rate academics to back it up. Schools would have to compete more on academics to be nationally prominent, which would again boost American education.

One of the biggest winners would be basketball. To the extent that fans replace football with another sport (instead of meth or oxy), high-octane basketball is the natural substitute. On the pro level, the season can stretch out leisurely, ticket prices rise, ratings rise, maybe the league expands (more great athletes in the pool now), and some of the centers and power forwards will have more bulk. At the college level, March Madness becomes the only game in town.

Another winner would be track and field. Future Rob Gronkowskis in the decathlon? Future Jerome Simpsons in the high jump? World records would fall at a rapid pace.

This outcome may sound ridiculous, but the collapse of football is more likely than you might think. If recent history has shown anything, it is that observers cannot easily imagine the big changes in advance. Very few people were predicting the collapse of the Soviet Union, the reunification of Germany, or the rise of China as an economic power. Once you start thinking through how the status quo might unravel, a sports universe without the NFL at its center no longer seems absurd.

So … Tennis, anyone?

Never missed a Super Bowl

Posted by Matt Field | Posted in NFL | Posted on 02-14-2011

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Member of “Never missed a Super Bowl” club passes away.

r-cookOne of the four men in the “Never missed a Super Bowl” club featured by Visa in an ad campaign before the big game has passed away at the age of 79.

Bob Cook was a Packers fan that was unable to attend this year because he was feeling too sick.

“Why football?” Cook asked in the commercial.  “It’s really the only sport there is, isn’t it?”

He watched his team win it all from a hospital bed according to the Associated Press and was surrounded by his family when he passed last week.

Our condolences go out to his family.

The Final Decision

Posted by Matt Field | Posted in NFL | Posted on 02-05-2011

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Your call: Who will win Super Bowl XLV on Sunday?

pitgb--big_66745And then there were two.

A year’s worth of blood, sweat and tears now comes down to a single game.  The countless hours spent in the gym or on the training field or watching game film will all seem worthwhile for the one team that lifts the Lombardi Trophy over their collective heads on Sunday.

Meanwhile the losing team will lament what went wrong and what changes will be necessary to take that one extra step next year.

Super Bowl XLV in Dallas will be a showcase of two of the NFL’s elite franchises as the publicly owned Green Bay Packers take on a Pittsburgh Steelers team that was founded in 1932 by Art Rooney, and continues to be run by members of his family to this very day.

While the Steelers are the most successful team in the Super Bowl era with six titles, the Packers are the greatest team in professional football history with a record 12 World Championships, including three since the AFL-NFL Merger of 1970.  The Steelers last brought home the title two years ago by beating the Arizona Cardinals, while the Packers last claimed the crown in 1997.

Both sides are heavily reliant upon their respective defenses, with NFL defensive player of the year Troy Polamalu anchoring the ‘Steel Curtain’ while defensive player of the year runner-up Clay Matthews handles similar duties with the Pack.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger goes in search for his third Super Bowl title in just his seventh season in the league.  It has been a roller-coaster season for Roethlisberger, who was suspended the first four games of the season for violating the league’s conduct policy.  He has a veteran receiving corps featuring established threats such as Hines Ward and Heath Miller, as well as deep threat Mike Wallace who can break a game open with his speed.  In addition, Rashard Mendenhall has developed into a game-breaker that has the ability to ram the ball down the throat of opposing defenses.

The Packers have a star of their own under center in Aaron Rodgers.  Over the past few seasons, Rodgers has emerged from the shadow of Brett Favre to establish himself as one of the truly elite quarterbacks in the league.  The only thing missing from his resume heading in to this season was success in the post-season.  He is now one game away from immortality in Green Bay and perhaps shaking the ‘Cheeseheads’ memory of Number 4 permanently. 

While the Packers have struggled all year running the ball, James Starks has emerged into a star in the making during the post-season, leading all rushers with 263 yards from scrimmage.  However he will be forced to deal with the top-rated run defense in the league on Sunday.

Fortunately for the Packers, their receivers are top notch with the likes of Greg Jennings and Donald Driver.  While All-Pro tight end Jermichael Finley was lost early in the season, Rodgers should still be able to spread the ball around the field with players like James Jones and Jordy Nelson seeing an increased workload.

The Steelers have some new blood on special teams, Shaun Suisham replaced long-time Steelers kicker Jeff Reed mid-season.  Suisham has been stellar for Pittsburgh since then, converting 16 of 18 field goal attempts.

The Packers will respond with veteran Mason Crosby, who went 24 of 31 this season in the difficult kicking environment of Lambeau Field.  With the game indoors, weather will not be a factor in the kicking game.

On the sidelines, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin goes in search of his second title in just four seasons, while the Packers’ Mike McCarthy has never been to the big game.

So who ya got?

Las Vegas has the Packers as a 2.5 point favorite to bring home the title, and Green Bay has been the hottest NFL team down the stretch, having won their last five games going back to the end of the regular season.

You’ve read what we have to say; now it’s your turn.  Who will win Super Bowl XLV, the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Green Bay Packers?  As always, it’s Your Call!

Jamie Bell TSN

Titletown U.S.A

Posted by Matt Field | Posted in NFL | Posted on 01-31-2011

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Who deserves to be called Titletown: Packers or Steelers?

pitgb--big_66745Titletown USA.

Green Bay claimed the nickname years ago. Pittsburgh, which already has a renowned nickname, Steel City, thinks Titletown is more appropriate for the Pennsylvania burg with three rivers.

Next Sunday’s Super Bowl features the NFL’s dynasty of the 1960s, the Packers, against the franchise that dominated the ’70s, the Steelers. Never has a Super Bowl been so loaded with history.

But since those lofty times, neither team has been so dominant, although the Steelers are making quite the run for a second string of championships. Led by Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu, they’re in their third Super Bowl in six years, and already own a record six rings.

That, folks in Blitzburgh say, is worthy of the name Cheeseheads claim up in northeastern Wisconsin.

So maybe more than a simple NFL championship will be on the line next weekend.

“We can call it what you want, we just want to keep winning championships,” says Steelers receiver Antwaan Randle El, now in his second go-around in Pittsburgh. “We want to be the, I guess, the bully on the block, the team that everybody’s hunting for.”

Adds nose tackle Casey Hampton, owner of two championships already: “Man, we’ll worry about that if we’re fortunate enough to get this one. I’m not going to take away from what guys have done because they’ve done it in the past and won their Super Bowl. I’m not going to compare us to them until we finish the job, and we haven’t finished the job yet.”

Even if they do finish off the Packers, who won six championships before the merger. Green Bay took the first two Super Bowls under Vince Lombardi, didn’t return to it until 1997, when it won its only other title. Does that mean Pittsburgh deserves to be dubbed Titletown over the original version?

Rocky Bleier, a key performer on the Steelers’ four championships in six seasons (1974-79), is a Pittsburgh icon. He also grew up in Appleton, Wis., just down the road from Lambeau Field. While he has no mixed emotions about the upcoming matchup at Dallas Cowboys Stadium — he’ll be there waving his Terrible Towel — Bleier concedes that Green Bay can keep the title of Titletown USA.

“Being a Packers fan growing up and them winning the NFL championships and then the Super Bowls, it was a fact that they were Titletown,” Bleier says. “That’s a small market capturing the imaginations of their fan base and even of America. And they have worn that mantle for a long time and should be proud of it.”

Yet, Paul Hornung, a hero on those vintage Packers, recognizes the reasoning by Steelers fans.

“Well, if (Pittsburgh) wins you’ve got to hand it to them, it’s as simple as that,” Hornung says.

Hornung also thinks the current Packers could challenge what his teams did.

“The Packers have had more championships if you add them all up,” he adds. “We won five, and if they can get on track they can win three or four in the next few years. They’re good enough to do that.”

There’s something else that only Pack fans can revel in, according to former Packers receiver Antonio Freeman, who caught an 81-yard TD pass in the 1997 Super Bowl and scored two more TDs the next year, when Denver beat Green Bay.

“Those first two Super Bowls, that was the start of it and made it all relevant,” he says. “That is why they named it the Vince Lombardi Trophy. I repeat, the Vince Lombardi Trophy.”

The Steelers own a half-dozen of those, and even though the original Steel Curtain came down for the last time more than 30 years ago, its legacy is as strong as, well, steel in Pittsburgh — and among Steelers fans everywhere.

A connection remains with those teams, and not just because Bleier and Franco Harris and other members of Chuck Noll’s championship squads are still so visible in Pittsburgh today.

“They’re amazing,” safety Ryan Clark says. “I talked to Franco a couple weeks ago. It’s almost like a fraternity: once in, always in. I don’t know how much Terry Bradshaw likes us at times, if you watch us on TV, but the guys around here: Louis Lipps, Mel Blount. Mr. Greene, that’s what we call him — I don’t call him Joe — just seeing those guys and the love they still have and the respect they show when they see us. They don’t have to. They started all this, but for them to always be so excited about us and be so complimentary of the things we’re doing, it’s amazing.”

Yes, but is it dynastic? If the Steelers win a third crown in six years, is it fair to list them with the Steel Curtain teams? Or with the Lombardi Packers?

Is it worthy of moving Titletown 665 miles southeast?

Packers coach Mike McCarthy has one sure way of blunting that conversation. If his team wins next Sunday, the Pittsburgh native will be lionized in Green Bay the way Mike Holmgren was 14 years ago. And, if only slightly, in the way Lombardi was while McCarthy was growing up — in the Steel City.

“Pittsburgh is obviously a big part of who I am. And my family’s still back there,” McCarthy says. “This is going to be a very unique experience for everybody. Half my coaching staff has either played in Pittsburgh or is from Pittsburgh.

“And I think the fact that I’m from back there, it’s neat. I’m a Pittsburgh Steelers fan growing up. They’re my second favourite team. I thought it was awesome to have Terry Bradshaw present the Halas Trophy in the locker room (to the Packers). Personally I got a charge out of that. Terry was obviously the quarterback in my youth during the ’70s when they won the four Super Bowls.

“But trust me I’m a Green Bay Packer and it’s important for us to bring the Lombardi Trophy back home.”

To Titletown USA.

——

AP Sports Writer Will Graves in Louisville and freelance writer Chris Adamski in Pittsburgh contributed to this story.

Calling it quits

Posted by Matt Field | Posted in NFL | Posted on 01-17-2011

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Vikings’ Favre files retirement papers

favre1_65547Brett Favre has apparently called it quits for good this time.

NFL.com reported Monday that the league has confirmed that Favre has filed retirement papers, which would finally put an end to the future Hall of Famer’s storied career.

After Minnesota’s dismal 6-10 season concluded on January 2 with Favre on the sideline because of a concussion, the quarterback had indicated that this was indeed the end of his 20-year career, saying “I know it’s time and that’s OK.”

Favre has, however, retired twice before. He called it quits after the 2007 season in Green Bay, then again following the 2008 campaign with the New York Jets. Of course he came back and played two years with Minnesota.

After leading the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game and an overtime loss to New Orleans following the 2009 season, the 2010 campaign was not nearly as successful for the three-time NFL MVP.

Favre and the Vikings got off to a rough start, as a 3-7 record led to the firing of head coach Brad Childress. It was also an injury-filled year for Favre.

Elbow tendinitis cropped up early in the season and a pair of broken bones in his ankle didn’t sideline Favre in October, but his streak of 297 consecutive regular-season starts finally came to a close after a shoulder injury suffered on December 5 against Buffalo forced him to sit the following week against the New York Giants. He returned a week later against Chicago, but left that contest with a concussion and sat out the remaining two games of the season.

Favre, a year after throwing for 33 touchdowns with just seven interceptions, threw just 11 TD passes this year with 19 interceptions.

“This year did not work out the way we hoped, but that’s football,” Favre had said following the team’s finale in Detroit. “I enjoyed my experience here and my teammates and it goes without saying that the fans have been absolutely wonderful. It’s been a great ride for me.”

The 41-year-old legend has completed exactly 6,300 passes for 71,838 yards with 508 touchdowns and 336 interceptions — all NFL records by far. After appearing in two games with Atlanta in 1991, the Packers acquired him and the historic ride began in earnest.

Favre spent 16 glorious years in Green Bay, leading the Packers to a Super Bowl title after the 1996 season and another NFC championship the following year. He and the Pack returned to the NFC title game in 2007, losing at home to the New York Giants, and it appeared as though the superstar’s career was over.

In March of 2008, Favre held a press conference to announce his retirement, but he wanted to return the following summer. The Packers said they were ready to move on with Aaron Rodgers and traded him to the Jets.

Favre helped the Jets to an 8-3 start in 2008, but an injury limited his effectiveness over the final five weeks and New York stumbled to the finish at 9-7 and missed the playoffs. In February of 2009, Favre retired again.

The Vikings then came calling in the summer of 2009 and lured Favre out of retirement once again. Minnesota was his original choice of destination when Green Bay was trying to work a trade, but the Packers were reluctant to deal him within the division.

After the incredible 2009 season, Favre sat home in the spring and early summer of 2010 debating whether to return. Ankle surgery had put doubt into his mind and a visit by three Vikings teammates apparently swayed him to return for one more year.

In addition to the struggles on the field this past year, Favre also had issues off it stemming from his brief time with Jets. He allegedly sent former Jets employee Jenn Sterger improper voice mails and graphic pictures, igniting a league investigation that resulted in a fine of $50,000.

Five for Friday

Posted by Matt Field | Posted in NFL | Posted on 01-14-2011

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Five burning questions heading into NFL Divisional round of playoffs

1) Can the road-warrior Ravens keep up their winning ways in Pittsburgh?

Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Saturday, January 15 – 4:30pm et/1:30pm pt
Heinz Field – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Compared to the other AFC playoff game this week, the Steelers-Ravens has been surprisingly quiet on the trash talk front. Save for Terrelle Suggs’ press conference t-shirt that displayed a message to Pittsburgh, there has been very little back and forth between the two AFC North rivals. Suggs seemed so distraught over the Steelers’ lack of retaliation over his t-shirt that he took to attacking potential AFC Championship opponent Tom Brady on Thursday.

Despite the lack of noise leading up to the game, no-one expects a Steelers-Ravens playoff game to be quiet. There are too many loud players on both sides of the ball – Ray Lewis, James Harrison, and Suggs come to mind – for this game to be played with anything less than full intensity.

The question then becomes, can the Ravens travel to Heinz Field and pull out a win? The Ravens are one of the best road teams in the playoffs; they proved that once again with their Wild Card win in Kansas City last week, controlling all aspects of the game and cruising to an easy 30-7 win. And Baltimore has proven that they can win in Pittsburgh; although the two teams split their regular season series, the Ravens picked up their win at Heinz Field.

The Steelers meanwhile should be a more rested team on Saturday after having a round one bye – not that rolling past the Chiefs took too much out of the Ravens. Pittsburgh did however, have a better record on the road than at home during the regular season.

With Joe Flacco arguably playing at a higher level than at any other time against the Steelers, there are enough signs that point to Baltimore finally getting it done against their divisional foes, and Suggs’ shots at Brady not being premature.

2) Can Matt Ryan keep up his impeccable home record, in the playoffs?

Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons
Saturday, January 15 – 8pm et/5pm pt
Georgia Dome – Atlanta, Georgia

We all know about Matt Ryan’s near flawless home record, he’s virtually unbeatable at the Georgia Dome. But that record (20-2) was built during the regular season; Ryan has yet to suit up at home during the playoffs. His lone playoff experience was a loss to the eventual NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals in his rookie season.

Even though he’s played like a seasoned veteran this year, Ryan’s still a young quarterback with very little playoff experience and nerves are always a question when it comes to young QBs. That being said, Ryan has time and again proven his maturity and there’s no reason to believe he can’t handle this next step.

The QB on the other side of the field come Saturday is pretty good too. And any questions about Aaron Rodgers, still green himself, and his poise and maturity were answered last week, when Rodgers went into a hostile Philadelphia and led the Packers to a Wild Card Weekend win. Rodgers was 18 for 27 for 190 yards and three touchdowns last Sunday at Lincoln Field.

Although Ryan and Rodgers have only three post-season starts, and only one post-season win, combined, there aren’t many out there that think they can’t handle this stage. Look for both QBs to put up strong performances, but the home-field advantage may be enough for Ryan to capture his first playoff win, and start a home record in the playoffs that he’ll hope one day rivals that of his home record in the regular season.

3) Can Seattle win on the road, without the help of their 12th man?

Seattle Seahawks vs. Chicago Bears
Sunday, January 16 – Noon et/9am pt
Soldier Field – Chicago, Illinois

A lot has to go right for the Seahawks if they’re to pull out another improbable win in the playoffs, this time away from the familiar confines of Qwest Field.

They’ll likely need another stellar performance at quarterback from Matt Hasselbeck, another defensive breakdown by the opposing team, another Beast Mode run by Marshawn Lynch, and maybe even another Bengals play to steal and use against the Bears.

Last week, Hasselbeck was 22 for 35 for 272 yards and four touchdowns to just one interception against the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints. But the Wild Card performance was more an aberration than the norm for the aging passer these days and it’s likely he won’t be able to pull out another one like that against a strong Bears defence.

As for Marshawn Lynch? He’s an adequate running back but was only worth a fourth-rounder (or third-rounder, depending on who you ask) earlier this season and probably won’t be able to replicate one of the greatest post-season runs of all-time just one week later. And the Bengals play? Well Chicago didn’t play the Bengals this year so the Seahawks will have to look at film from other teams if they’re to find a secret-weapon play for the second straight week.

Meanwhile in Chicago, the Bears continually won during the regular season without ever really getting the respect a 13-win team should have gotten, and with them opening the playoffs at home against the 8-9 Seahawks, look for that trend to continue this week. The Bears however, likely don’t care too much, because they are just two wins, whether they get respect for them or not, from returning to the Super Bowl.

Even though the Bears haven’t been respected very much for their wins this season, a team doesn’t need a whole lot of respect to still be considered the favorites over the Seahawks. That being said, the Seahawks did win the teams’ lone regular season meeting this year, at Soldier Field no less, so anything is possible.

head_425584) Who will laugh last between the Jets and Patriots?

New York Jets vs. New England Patriots
Sunday, January 16 – 4:30pm et/1:30pm pt
Gillette Stadium – Foxborough, Massachusettes

If it wasn’t already crystal clear that these two teams don’t like each other before this week, it sure is now. Even before the Jets defeated the Colts on Wild Card Weekend, Rex Ryan started what would become a long and entertaining war of words between the Jets and Patriots, when he indirectly took a shot at Tom Brady in complimenting Peyton Manning.

The trash talk started in earnest this week by Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who directed a couple of expletives at Brady. Just when it looked like the Patriots were going to take the highroad, Wes Welker answered a few questions at a press conference. And while nobody is saying for sure that Welker was taking shots at Ryan and his scandal earlier in the year, he did seem to be making more foot references than usual.

In the end, the trash talking will mean nothing. Brady has three Super Bowl rings and isn’t about to be phased by an opposing cornerback calling him out before a game, just like Ryan will shake off any jokes directed his way, and keep his team focused at the task at hand.

The teams split their regular season series, with each team winning at home. The Patriots routed the Jets in Week 13 at Gillette Stadium and at no other time was the contrast between the teams’ quarterbacks more apparent. Brady went off for 326 yards and four touchdown passes during that game en route to cementing what will surely be an MVP season. Sanchez looked rattled the entire game and wound up throwing three interceptions.

While it’s entirely possible Brady could put up a performance reminiscent of his spectacular Week 13 game in the playoffs, it is unlikely that Sanchez will be as bad as he was that week. That being said, it’s also unlikely Sanchez will be able to do enough to lead the Jets to a victory in New England. Of the two, look for Brady to be the one celebrating during the game, whether he points to the Jets sideline or not.

5) With just the Raiders left to hire a head coach, which type of bench boss will be the most successful?

A number of different types of head coaches have been hired this season. The San Francisco 49ers went with the hot shot college coach in Jim Harbaugh. The Carolina Panthers and Cleveland Browns went with the respected co-ordinators in Ron Rivera and Pat Shurmur, respectively. The Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings stayed in house by removing the interim tags from Jason Garrett and Leslie Frazier. And the Denver Broncos went with the experienced head coach – or retread depending on who you ask – in John Fox.

While the 49ers hiring of Harbaugh is getting lauded the most in the media, it should be noted that several successful college coaches couldn’t make the transition to successful NFL coaches. That list includes Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban, and perhaps most unceremoniously, Bobby Petrino.

While the hirings of Rivera and Shurmur weren’t met with the most excitement by fans, several pundits in the media are quick to point out that the hirings of Falcons coach Mike Smith, Packers coach Mike McCarthy, and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin weren’t met with much excitement at the time either. Rivera and Shurmur may not be grabbing the headlines that a Jim Harbaugh will, but they are smart football men and safe hires.

Both Garrett and Frazier were given the opportunity to show they deserved to be head coaches late last season, and both did a solid job. Had they not been given the reigns mid-season by their respective teams, both coaches would fall into the respected co-ordinators category, and since the Cowboys and Vikings both got a sneak peak at their coaching abilities, these hires come off as both smart and safe.

While Fox is entering his second stint as a head coach, it isn’t completely fair to label him a retread. Fox’s dismissal in Carolina was as much about money as it was about money. And even though Fox is well-respected around the league, it’s tough to ignore that he was the head coach of the 1-16 Carolina Panthers this year.

And as for the Oakland Raiders, history says don’t get too attached to whoever is hired, he’ll likely be gone in a year or two.