What is it like to be around true greatness? A lot of fans over the years have asked me that question, or a variation of it, and fortunately for me and them, I know exactly what it's like. That's because for the third straight year a former teammate of mine will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This year it is former Cowboy teammate
It's kind of a bizarre feeling, really. For years upon years growing up, I would look at the newest members of the Hall with awe and watch their peers talk about them in videos sure to be cataloged at NFL Films and aired for years to come. My first thought when I watch the festivities in Canton and see a guy I shared a locker room with being inducted is,
First, it was
That last quality is the single most commonly identifiable trait about all three former teammates. They were all wily veterans by the time I played with them, still producing at a fairly high level, more as a result of their football acumen than their raw physical skills at that point in their career. Their intimate knowledge of the game and their positions enabled them to contribute at a time when their bodies really couldn't do a lot of the things that were commonplace earlier in their careers.
That's also one of the things that best defines my second teammate that made the Hall,
The ironic thing about being a teammate of Bruce's is that I was also an opponent. Midway through that 2002 season, I was released by the Redskins and picked up on waivers the next day by the Cowboys. Four weeks later, I was starting against Bruce, Darrell, and the 'Skins on Thanksgiving Day. I completely whiffed on him one play and am somewhat awkwardly proud of the fact that I gave up one of his NFL record 200 sacks.
Alas, my last interaction with Smith was not a good one. In the season finale that year, I had been very aggressive during the game, hustling around the field in order to get an extra shove in or to cut a defender down. Once or twice, it was Bruce. He didn't take too kindly to that and refused to shake my hand after the game. Oh well.
Part of the reason I was flying around was because I was so frustrated that we were going to fail as a team in our secondary goal that day, behind winning the game of course. We really wanted to help Emmitt get over 1,000 yards rushing for a record 12th consecutive season. We couldn't get it done and I wasn't pleased to be a part of the group that stopped that streak for the NFL's all-time leading rusher.
I was happy, however, to be on the sidelines and in uniform the day he broke
The last story I would tell about these three legends of the game is that I only acquired three autographs during my entire time in the NFL. Three. Guess whose they are?
At the end of my rookie season in Washington, I was given an autograph-friendly ball and I looked around the locker room and decided I only wanted two signatures on it. One side of the ball says Darrell Green. The other says Bruce Smith. I haven't asked anyone for an autograph in the 10 years since then. The Emmitt Smith autograph was a gift from Emmitt to the offensive linemen, an autographed jersey that I later got framed. Looks like the three autographs I got during my career turned out to be pretty good ones ...
Not a bad thought, but that seems pretty unlikely, considering that it appears to have been both players and team officials and it was more than one person that claimed to have received the text messages and more than one reporter who reported it. I have thought about the fact that maybe Favre does things like this in order to stir things up and laugh about how much of a firestorm he can cause.
I believe it is part of the job description for an offensive lineman to protect his quarterback at all times, no matter who that person is. My point was simply that I would be apt to perform that task with a lot more vigor for a guy that I really respected on both a professional and personal level and who took care of his offensive linemen like Bledsoe did.
Lewand isn't a scapegoat, but he certainly is an example. Goodell has been very clear that team executives and personnel should be held to an even higher standard than the players and Lewand just happened to be the first high-profile incident. The fact that he happens to work for the Lions is meaningless in my opinion.
There really isn't any. It is just a ceremonial thing and a courtesy that some teams extend to players that they deem worthy of the honor. No money changes hands when the contract is signed, but it does give the player closure and a chance to say goodbye and meet with the local media for one last time.