Super Bowl XLIV week begins with storyline: Will Colts' Freeney play?
MIAMI LAKES, Fla. -- We've got ourselves a story. When the Indianapolis Colts take the practice field Wednesday, everyone who follows the NFL will be interested in learning if
The Colts Sunday night described Freeney's right-ankle injury as a low-ankle sprain. ESPN described it as a serious injury that could keep the standout defensive end out of the Super Bowl, an injury that includes torn ankle ligaments. Either way, it's likely he won't be practicing much, if at all this week, and could be a gametime decision. My guess is the Colts will keep Freeney mostly out of sight Wednesday through Friday, when the serious practices will take place at the Miami Dolphins training complex in nearby Davie, Fla. I'm told he's been here since Friday, sleeping with a stimulation machine on his right ankle and spending hours per day in a hyperbaric chamber to increase the amount of oxygen his body ingests.
If the injury is a Grade 3 ligament injury, sports-injury expert
But Freeney's a right end, and with a right-ankle injury, sprinting, cutting and pivoting with the right leg will be problematic.
I surveyed the AFC locker room last night after the Pro Bowl to see how much of a factor the loss of Freeney would be. The answers were predictable. "This is huge for the Saints if he can't play,''
Jones-Drew is right: Losing Freeney would probably allow the Saints to not help left tackle
I guess I'm the lucky one; I'm the Pro Football Writers Association's AFC pool reporter, assigned to watch Colts practices and write a daily report for the assembled media on their activities. I hope before the end of the week I'm able to see Freeney at least test the ankle in something close to full speed. We'll see.
But I'm not finished advocating for a change to the archaic system that calls for the two teams to take part in a coin flip at the start of overtime, beginning a period of sudden death. In the past two postseasons, two playoff games have been decided with the teams that lost the coin flip (Indianapolis in 2008, Minnesota in 2009) never touching the ball in overtime. To those who say defense is an equal part of the game, I say, Why have only seven of the 460-some overtime coin-flip winners in NFL history chosen to play defense first if it's such an equal part of the game?
Enough about my thought. This morning I've enlisted former Naval pilot
An excellent summation. But I don't sense traction on this right now. It's been five years since the Competition Committee presented a proposal on a two-possession overtime to be voted on by membership. It got 16 votes, eight shy of the 24 needed to change the overtime procedure. One Competition Committee source told me he thinks sentiment peaked toward overtime when "about 19'' teams favored the rule if the kickoff were advanced to the 35- from the 30-. But he said it's never been close to winning approval to change the rule. My feeling is it'll take a one-possession game in the Super Bowl to get any real sentiment to change.
One more thing: I knew the winner of the coin flip in New Orleans in the NFC Championship Game would win the game on the first possession. In the stadium, you could just feel it. It was a rock-'em, sock-'em-robot kind of game, and the two teams were absolutely spent by the end of regulation. "I think both
In the past three years, the team winning the coin flip to start overtime has won 64 percent of the games. It's too much of an imbalance. The NFL should act now to fix it.
The other day, one respected member of the Competition Committee told me, "I struggle with why we want a coin flip to play such a major role in who wins and loses games. The statistics have gotten to the point where I feel they're unreasonable. In the last three years, almost two-thirds of the games were won by the team winning the flip. It just doesn't smell right.''
The following is presented simply to open the discussion for the week on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2010. The 44 selectors for the Hall gather at 9 a.m. Saturday for this year's selection meeting in Fort Lauderdale. I don't throw out the Hall of Fame tote board to say that after locks
There are 15 modern-era candidates and two Senior candidates. A maximum of five modern candidates can be chosen; after Rice and Smith, though, 13 candidates are left to joust for three spots. The two Seniors, running back
In order, here's how I see the class of '10 falling:
The five things I consider particularly amazing about the
1. It's the most amazing story in football in a half-century. I don't say that lightly. In 1955,
Warner, an undrafted free-agent in Packers camp in 1994, was cut by Green Bay and went to work for $5.50 an hour stocking shelves in a Cedar Falls, Iowa, grocery store. He bounced around Arena and pro football until earning the backup job in St. Louis in 1999, then ascending to the top job when
2. The Rams never signed a veteran quarterback, like
That night, or soon thereafter, Martz had a conversation with a skeptical reporter about the decision to play Warner. "The guy said to me, 'How can you possibly think you can win with Kurt Warner?' I said to him, 'Well, we see him every day. We trust him. He can run our offense.' The guy kept going, and I finally, said, 'This discussion is ended.' We just trusted Kurt.''
3. As quickly as he came, he just as quickly vanished. From 2002 to 2006, a five-year window, he was brittle and seemed to fall to earth. With the Giants and Cards, he seemed to settle into a nice little backup role. But inside he seethed and wouldn't accept being relegated to second-string. I call it the five-year Donut Hole in the middle of his career.
4. As quickly as he vanished, he just as quickly climbed to the top of the football world again. Warner won the starting Cardinal quarterback job to the shock of many ... because he beat out bonus-baby and high first-round pick
5. Two rotten franchises, the Rams and Cards. Two makeover jobs. Quickly. Both led by Warner.
Lucky break number one came in the form of an injury.
"I'll never forget when Trent got hurt,'' Warner said by phone Friday, after his retirement news conference. "There was a lot of emotion, a lot of fear, in the locker room because of the way Trent was playing. He was so well thought of by the guys in the locker room, everyone felt awful for him. But for me, as unfortunate as it was for him, it was the opportunity that comes sometimes in football when you least expect it. It was the chance I'd been waiting for my whole life -- to be able to start for a team in the NFL. Now I could never say anymore, 'Nobody ever gave me a chance.' Now I was going to know if I could really do it or not.
"What was perfect for me was that Mike [Martz] drew the game up exactly the way I always wanted to play football -- with a lot of quick decisions to be made. He wanted to play decisively, not be afraid to make decisions and live with them. And I had the great toys at my disposal in that offense. I played exactly the way the offense was drawn up by Mike. It was a perfect marriage.''
Lucky break number two came because Arizona coach
"No question I was skeptical I'd get the job,'' Warner said. "I'd heard it before -- the best man will win -- but sometime it hadn't happened. Here, I knew without a doubt I was the best man for the job. That's not a cut on Matt [Leinart]. And it wasn't a cut on Eli [Manning] when I was with the Giants. But I felt like there were times in my career where it didn't matter what I did, I wasn't going to get the job. And when Coach Whisenhunt called me into the office and gave me the news I'd be starting ... I don't want to say I was shocked, but I knew I was in the right place. I was playing for a coach who thought outside the box. He was willing to follow his gut.''
Players need coaches to show faith in them. Coaches need players who reward their faith.
"I knew we had something great,'' said Martz. "I'll never forget a pass Kurt threw against the Giants. It was about third-and-15. He was back to pass, and a tackle and linebacker came free. They were inches from hitting him. It's a sack. Easy sack. Kurt's got
There's a special place in football lore for Warner. And there's a special place in football history for a player who came out of nowhere and ran an offense no one could stop for three years -- and had a two-year career rebirth when he was almost as great. He was a meteor across the NFL sky. Twice.
Ten years and one week ago, Warner made the throw he'll always remember. Taking you inside the three plays that will never leave him:
1. Jan. 23, 2000, NFC Championship Game. Rams 11, Bucs 6. Trailing 6-5 with five minutes left, the heavily favored Rams were at the Buc 30. Nothing was working. Tampa Bay was beating the tar out of St. Louis. All week, instead of the regular sight-adjusts the receivers would make in their patterns depending on what the defense did, Martz had the wideouts run deep. But now, late in the game, the Rams just needed to move the ball downfield, at least into guaranteed field-goal range. As Warner left the huddle, he and
2. Jan. 30, 2000, Super Bowl. Rams 23, Titans 16. Rams up 16-0. Titans score 16 unanswered points. Two minutes left. Warner rears back and fires a bomb, perfectly placed into Isaac Bruce's hands, up the right sideline, for a 73-yard touchdown.
3. Feb. 1, 2009, Super Bowl. Steelers 27, Cardinals 23. "This throw will be etched in my mind forever,' he said. Trailing 20-16, Fitzgerald bisected two Steelers defensive backs, was perfectly led by Warner in the middle of the field, and gamboled for a 64-yard go-ahead touchdown. If not for
Chances are you don't know
Now, Roseman, who morphed into a personnel man and scout over the years, is going to have to prove a worker bee who's highly intelligent can run the football side of a team. Of course, in Philadelphia, running the football team as GM isn't the same as an all-powerful GM.
"Coach speaks for all of us,'' he said. "I'm a Donovan McNabb fan.''
Said Roseman: "Andy doesn't care if you come from Mars. If you work hard, you can work for him.''
Let that be a message to you front-office wannabes. Now, about getting that foot in the door ....
In the past five years, defensive coordinator
A 70-percent passer. Fourteen scores in 24 drives. Not trying to be a Negative Nate about the Saints' chances here, and obviously the players are different than Williams had in Washington and Jacksonville, but New Orleans has a tall order Sunday, as every team has when facing Manning. Open Sports Illustrated this week and you'll see a more detailed analysis of the Williams-Manning matchup from me.
"Whoever gets me is going to love me.''
"One of my goals coming into the game was just be relevant and show all the people who said, 'What is he doing in there -- the Pro Bowl has dropped off a few pegs,' that I do belong.''
No, David. A quarterback who finished 17th in the league in passer rating and 22nd in touchdown passes has no business being in an all-star game.
"It's impossible for me not to think about. There haven't been 30 seconds that have gone by since that game that I haven't thought about it ... It was the inability [mentally] to get over that first miss. On that day, I wasn't mentally strong enough to come back and swing through the ball.''
I said this at the time he missed the third kick.
And the new life begins.
I arrived in my Fort Lauderdale hotel around 3:30 on Sunday afternoon, and around 4 p.m., I left my room to walk to the media center 400 yards away to get credentialed for the week. While waiting for the elevator on the seventh floor, I looked out of the window and saw three Texas writers I'm friends with --
When I got outside and walked across an access road to get to the street-crossing, there were my three friends -- maybe five or six minutes after I'd seen them from the seventh floor. "What's going on?'' I asked. Just as they were starting to say the road was blocked for Pro Bowl team buses coming from the east, the police officer standing in the street -- with no cars moving in any directions -- yelled at us standing on the corner, "STAY RIGHT THERE! DO NOT MOVE!'' Whoa. OK.
So we waited. And waited. For what? No cars moved. It was two minutes. Three. Four. We could have walked across the street and back 17 times. Finally, after what McClain estimated was 12 minutes standing there waiting for nothing, two Pro Bowl teams buses, led by motorcycle cops, sped by. That was it. No Obama. No governor of Florida. No mayor of Fort Lauderdale. Just a couple of buses of
There's more where that came from, south Florida. It's Super Bowl week.
"Kurt pleeeeeeeeese stay just one more year! I take a pay cut -- hold on ummm! Ok not a pay cut but I'd wash ur car ... the 49ers talking ish already!''
Don't have all the details finalized, but I hope to see as many of you as possible Thursday night in the Fort Lauderdale area at my Super Bowl Tweetup. With me will be several guests, including
Bob will have copies of his book to sell and sign for you. I'll be there to talk football. We'll likely have it at a sports bar near the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center. Stay tuned to my writing on SI.com this week, and to my Twitter ramblings at @SI_PeterKing, and I'll give you plenty of notice about the Tweetup
1. I think the turf on the Miami field was in superb shape Sunday night for the Pro Bowl, and though it rained, I don't think the field sustained any kind of damage that will impact the Super Bowl.
2. I think for those of you who asked -- and I wondered too -- this was the reaction of Army First Sergeant
"Yes, I heard that Kurt was retiring. Sad day to see your hero ride into the sunset. Many nights I sat up late (keeping my wife up also) to watch him. The things he has done on the field are so impressive, building a career in St. Louis from one that was not supposed to be. Then going to the Giants, no love there, so moved to the Cardinals, where he built another career.
"I have been deployed and listened to his games on Armed Forces Radio, been in Germany and watched them at 2 a.m., and so on. I have read all his books. But we live through the NFL and our favorite players. He was mine. I still can't believe I missed his phone call a couple of years ago when he called. Oh well.
"He was a great player and even better off the field. I think that is why I followed his career so much. So humble and appreciative of every thing he had. When I was deployed the second time years ago now and he sent me that autographed helmet, you would have sworn I won the lottery. Not often in life your hero responds to you. Mine did. I was watching when he took that hit in the playoff game, I knew right away that it was over. That was a hard hit.
"The best about Kurt on the field was he would sit in the pocket, watch a huge defensive player running at him full speed and he would deliver the ball and take the hit. Not many do that. When we heard he retired, my wife actually came over, hugged me and said, 'I'm sorry.' I know he did not die, but it's fun, it's life, it's a break from real life, it's your guy walking off the field for the last time. One thing, I -- we -- will be at Canton. Never been yet, but will be the day he goes in. Take care, Peter ... I am rooting for New Orleans, but Peyton is Peyton and I don't think he will lose.''
3. I think this is the luck of the Raiders: one injury Sunday night, and it was an undisclosed knee injury to
4. I think this is the best unkept secret in the NFL: Roger Goodell told
5. I think I understand, and appreciate, the strident feelings on each side of the
I don't argue with those who say he's got miles to go to be a good NFL player, but I do argue with those who say it's impossible. I remember doing a draft story on the 49ers when
6. I think, if you missed it, Palmer did retire as
I'd love to see the team called the Connecticut Knights. I remember as a kid going to a puffed-up high school stadium in downtown Hartford, hard by Interstate 91, Dillon Stadium, and watching the Hartford Knights play in the Atlantic Coast Football League.
7. I think the one thing I hope every reader and follower of the Hall of Fame process understands is that the 44 voters in the room Saturday morning know and feel the pressure to do the right, honorable and just thing with each of the candidates. We understand the gravity. I was reading a good profile of
Little told Kiszla: "Do you know the average life expectancy of an NFL player? It's 58. And you're talking to a 67-year-old man. So I'm already on borrowed time. I don't have that many years left on this earth. I don't want to go in the Hall posthumously. No sir. That's not for me. I need to be alive to enjoy the celebration with family and friends. Forget posthumously. If I'm not here to enjoy it, give the honor to somebody who's still breathing."
8. I think these are a few thoughts about the Pro Bowl, which I will heap disdain on from now 'til the end of time:
a. The reason I couldn't care less about this spectacle reared its head on the first touchdown of Sunday night's game. Andre Johnson was working against
b. On the same play, my seatmate in the press box,
c. I believe trying was optional Sunday night.
d. Well, the music in the stadium was nice. And I liked the flyover.
e. I don't care how close the game was,
9. I think this is what I'll remember from the Kurt Warner press conference for a long time: As he took stock of his career and looked around the room in Tempe, he said, "I've enjoyed being able to be me.''
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Watched a really good documentary/movie the other night: "Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29,'' a story about the 1968 Harvard-Yale game that, obviously, gives away the ending in the title of the movie. Here's a further spoiler alert: Harvard scored 16 points in the last 43 seconds to tie the game against the 16th-ranked team in the country. Yes, Yale, the 16th-ranked team in the country.
A few funny things about the movie, and the game: The legendary Yale coach,
b. Cool Super Bowl Event I: My buddy
c. Cool Super Bowl Event II: I've attended this in the past, and if you're in the neighborhood Saturday night, you need to try to get into
d. I am honored, touched, pleased and humbled by those of you who came up to me at the stadium last night and chatted with me about Monday Morning Quarterback and SI stories you recall fondly. Thanks. It means a lot to me.
e. Coffeenerdness: ESPN's
f. When I grow up, I want to spend two hours every day in Brookline Booksmith. Had the pleasure of ducking in there Saturday on a pleasant outing to the tony Boston neighborhood, and I just hope if Amazon, Kindle, Nook, iPad and who-knows-what-else of an electronic vein succeeds that we still keep loving classic old bookstores.