MMQB Mail: Debating summer work and how pregame shows should go

Publish date:

• From Raj Abrol of McLean, Va.: "I read your column every week and enjoy your insight and information. A true break from my otherwise extremely busy day. Speaking as a cardiologist who works seven days a week to take care of the sick patients of this world, I was amused that you think our Sunday 'heroes' may work too hard in the offseason.

"I understand that football is an incredibly physically demanding sport. But to imply that playing football seven days in a row in May for these world-class athletes is too much to ask is a bit of a stretch. I naturally respect your opinion. But this is 'work' for them, just like it is for you and me. No one should expect less than their dedication and respect for their profession. If you and I can do it, so can they. Appreciate your work. It is beyond excellent.''

Thank you, Dr. Abrol. I made this point about players and coaches for this reason: We're getting to the point in the NFL where the physical demands in the offseason -- at least in my opinion -- are going beyond the pale. Players would naturally do a good job taking care of themselves year-round, and if they didn't, it'd be reflected in their future paychecks and job opportunities.

Most players are asked to do the mandatory/voluntary workouts starting in early March, and most go at it pretty hard 'til around the Fourth of July. These are not just running and lifting sessions. There isn't supposed to be contact, but teams live on the edge of that every year, and last week, vital Jaguars defensive lineman John Henderson hurt his shoulder rolling around on a fumble-recovery drill. Do you want your 320-pound prize defensive tackle diving on the ground in the middle of the offseason? I don't.

I've heard from a lot of people on this topic, and almost all of you agree with Dr. Abrol, so I understand I'm in the minority. I just think players (and assistant coaches too; don't forget they're losing more and more of their "offseason'' each year) are being asked to do more and more every year, and for what good purpose? It's such a labor-intensive and demanding game. I'm not sure four to five months of hard work in the offseason does anything but ensure you're simply keeping up with the rest of the crowd.

• Several of you asked, and rightfully so, why I didn't ask Rodney Harrison in the lengthy Q&A about his four-game suspension for admitting to using Human Growth Hormone, a substance banned by the NFL. I did ask him, but the responses weren't great, so I didn't include it in Monday's column. But by popular demand, here's what Harrison said when Bob Papa and I asked on our Sirius NFL Radio show if he thought his four-game ban for admitting to HGH use would affect his uphill Hall of Fame candidacy, and whether it should:

"That's really not up to me. I never failed a drug test. I told the truth, the commissioner did the research ... I never used it to enhance my performance. I used it to get myself better at one particular time [to speed his recovery from injury] ... That [how it factors into the Hall discussion] is not up for me to decide. It's up to others.

"It's funny because a lot people who haven't played the game sit back and decide if you're a Hall of Famer. If you don't know what a football player goes through, if you haven't experienced it, then why should those guys solely have it on their shoulders to decide who goes in the Hall of Fame? Overall, I admitted to what I've done. I've had an opportunity to talk to kids and said when you've made a huge mistake or a small mistake, admit to it, 'fess up to it, be a man about it and get better from it. That's what I've done.''

• Re: the pregame show excess of bodies on the set: Many of you, on Twitter and via e-mail, said you felt the problem with the NBC show is it should be a highlight show, that you miss the simpler Chris Berman/Tom Jackson collection of highlights after the late game, you think NBC doesn't show enough highlights, and you think NBC clogs the show with too many people in the 75-minute window before the Sunday night game. Understandable. Let me tell you a few things about the NBC show.

Did you know, for instance, that NBC cannot show any highlights until 7:15 p.m.? The league wants the final games of the afternoon to be finished, or nearly finished, before highlights commence on the Sunday night pregame show. There was never a night in the past three years, with a normal schedule being played, of less than 30 minutes of highlights on the Sunday show. If you consider everything else that has to go in a show, with all those commercials, and if you consider that one of the complaints we'd get on the show is that people have already seen the highlights from the early games, I believe the tightrope NBC walked was a good one. (Of course, I worked on the show, so I'm not at all impartial.)

The aim of the show, I think, is to try to show you what happened and to try to explain why, and to try to hit the newsiest items coming out of the day's games ... while promoing and reporting on the big game coming up at 8:15.

• The NFL is refuting the assertion by NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith that benefits for needy retired players would be slashed in an uncapped year. Smith told me over the weekend that he's highly motivated to get a deal done with the owners in the next 10 months to avoid the league slashing benefits to some handicapped veterans by as much as three-quarters if the league ever came to the imposition of an uncapped year, which the league says would happen if no deal is reached by next spring.

I'm told by a league official that the NFL does have the option to reduce payouts to retired players in an uncapped year, but there is no requirement to do so. "We have never said that we intend to reduce funding for disability benefits ... and the union has not raised this issue with us,'' the spokesman said.

Any decision on this is a ways off, I'm told. In addition, with the strides Commissioner Roger Goodell has made in repairing bridges with retired players, I'd be surprised if he imposed such a heavy cut with the retirees. The union told me players injured in games and having to go on permanent disability would have their benefits reduced by $224,000 per year to $48,000.

The response from the union today -- Smith is in San Diego preparing to meet with the Chargers players -- came via NFLPA director of benefits Miki Yaras-Davis: "The one and only way to guarantee these benefits is to get a successful CBA signed before an uncapped year. Otherwise we fear that they will go the way of coaches pensions.''

• Finally, I'll be doing a couple of meet-and-greets while on the NFL camp trail in late July or August. Tweetups, I think they're called. Candidate spots for them, and please let me know which you favor: Albany, N.Y., State College, Pa., Indianapolis; Denver; Bourbonnais, Ill.; New Orleans or Kansas City.

Convenience will dictate the decisions on which to choose, to some degree, and my ability to set aside a couple of hours will play a part, too. But send in your vote here, or, more conveniently, to my Twitter page. Then follow me there to see which sites are chosen. Looking forward to meeting a bunch of you.

Now for some of your other e-mail:

• WE STILL NEED THOUGHTFUL NFL STORIES. From Mike Strawser of Cincinnati: "I agree with your summary of the blogging trailer at the Eagles' camp this summer. What is missing in this era of instant info is the thought process that can only accompany the passage of time, and the patience to discover what the underlying facts are, not just the surface sheen. Unfortunately, you aren't getting that in the ever-shrinking newspaper. We only get that in the weekly magazines or on the specialty NFL-related shows. Not to blow wind up your skirt [or shorts in your case], but that's why I enjoy reading MMQB -- you think before you write, so we get depth, not surface sheen.''

Thanks a lot, Mike. The biggest problem with "headline news'' coverage of the NFL, especially as it relates to other sports, is that football is the hardest sport to simplify. That's what I worry about.

• ALL PREGAME SHOWS HAVE TOO MANY VOICES. From John of Chester Springs, Fla.: "Peter, no one is complaining about the other shows having too many people because EVERYONE has too many people in their shows. We don't need 10 people telling us the same thing over and over. Give me a studio show with four people and one news man. I can get all the rest of the information on the Internet. Having so many people takes away from why we watch the pregame shows in the first place, to get important news about the players and teams we root for, not to hear 50 differing opinions on how good a person is or the other fluff passed as news. Sometimes, bigger is not better.''

I answered some of those points up top, and I think the TV industry might be a little too focused on packing 15 pounds of stuff into a 10-pound bag, as you say. I guess I look at what each person adds to the show. Take Fox, for example. I think the weather thing is absurd, but understandable because of the cheesecake factor. I think Jay Glazer is great at uncovering stories. And I think Michael Strahan has added an opinionated presence in the middle of four TV guys with good chemistry. So other than the weather, it's hard to find fault with what Fox does. Take away any one of those six mainstays and I think the show would be diminished.

• GOOD POINT. From Clint Burson of Hamilton, Mont.: "According to your Twitter feed, only four percent or so of your column was about Brett Favre. By my calculations, a little over 10 percent of your column was about baseball. I know you like baseball, but MMQB is about football. Can you cut back baseball coverage to Favre levels? I didn't mind the occasional mention, but it's getting to be a major part of the column these days.''

Post-draft, sometimes I may get a little too baseballish, because I grew up in it and love it. I never promised that this column would be all football, and when I come across the Austin Wood stories, or the Chicago Blackhawks-at-their-GM's-father's-funeral stories, I'm going to tell them. But I'll heed your advice to watch the overbaseballization of MMQB.

• ANOTHER GOOD POINT. From Brian Bruce of Wichita: "Do you find it ironic that in the same article you [deservedly] praise our troops for enduring such brutal working conditions without complaint, then bemoan the fact that some NFL players had to work, gasp, SEVEN whole days in June?''

Very good. Nice point. You're right.

• MOVIES WE LOVE. From Neal Cassidy of Houston: "You said North By Northwest is one of your top three all-time films. How can you say that and then not list the other two? It's not a huge deal, but I'll bet thousands of MMQB readers saw that and thought, at least in passing, 'I wonder what the other two are?'"

1. North By Northwest2. Casablanca3. High Noon

Of course, I could have gone with Animal House, Rear Window or The Big Sleep, one of history's most underrated movies.

• TWITTER COMMENT OF THE WEEK. From Will Martinez (@heymynameiswill) of Montreal: "I chuckled at the Eagles installing a blogging trailer. This from the organization that fired an employee for what he blogged.''


• A REAL PROFESSIONAL CHECKS IN. From Eric DeCosta (Baltimore Ravens' director of player personnel) of Owings Mills, Md.: "Loved the travel note about I-295 in Rhode Island. Same happened to me once on 295. Only I got pulled over for speeding and missed my flight. They need to take the damn sign down.''

And people, let me tell you something about DeCosta: He's as New England as they come. Born in Taunton, 19 miles from Providence. Educated at Colby in Maine, then at Trinity in Hartford. To think the sign fooled him is giving me hope I'm not a total doofus.