The Legend Of: Pat Tillman

It was hard for me to decide how best to approach this article. Pat Tillman is a legend and a hero across the country. But what he has meant to the state of Arizona is immeasurable. How do you capture that kind of life with words on a screen? I can’t, but if there is a story worth telling over and over, it is this one.

I am a huge football fan and no secret that I have a love for the Cardinals that some would describe as unhealthy. I am not a big fan of ASU athletics, but as a Phoenix native and my wife being an alumni, they have been something I am more than familiar with.

This is how I learned about Pat Tillman. For a few hours a week, I would watch him work. How he handled himself on the sidelines and sprinted on and off the field regardless of circumstance. The announcers constantly touting his academic prowess as well as his hard hitting attitude.

From my perspective, the best way to describe the Pat Tillman I watched, is an underrated star. Even as he was coming out of high school where he was great and helped lead his team to a division I title. He was told he was too small to play at the next level. Not only did he play, but he excelled and not at a small Division 2 school, but a major PAC-10 (at the time) school. Of course as he ended his college career he was not high on many teams draft boards and once again was told he was too small to play at the pro level.

But again, Pat defied his critics and was drafted by the Cardinals keeping the local star in the valley, but as the seventh round pick he was not ensured of even making the roster. He continued to fly around and make plays like he always had in high school and college, and so he made the roster.

However, making the roster also meant he would be buried on the depth chart and never see the field, but that changed quickly getting 10 starts in his rookie season.  In 2001 he set a team record with 224 tackles in a single season.

This is where the story becomes legend. Many players have silenced doubters and overcome long odds to make it to the NFL. But Pat Tillman truly was unique. He was more introspective and intellectual than he was jock or brute. He didn’t let football define who he was or who he was going to be. After the Cardinals were set to extend his existing rookie contract to give him millions of dollars, Pat walked away. He walked away from a career that millions of people envy, to join the military.

In the wake of September 11th Pat Tillman was inspired. He wanted something bigger and more meaningful than playing a game on Sundays.

Pat told a reporter, “At times like this you stop and think about just how good we have it, what kind of system we live in, and the freedoms we are allowed. A lot of my family has gone and fought in wars and I really haven’t done a damn thing.”

Joining the military or Army doesn’t really describe what he did though. Pat was an Army Ranger. He wanted to be on the front lines with his brother Kevin that joined with him to fight for our country. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting for the freedoms that he cherished.

Pat was shot and killed by friendly fire on April 22nd of 2004. I was sworn into the Air Force 6 days after that on April 28th, 2004. The news didn’t reach me until a few months later after I had completed basic training and technical school in Texas. I was home assisting my local recruiter before heading to my permanent duty station in Las Vegas when I remember thinking about the tragedy and how it could have been different. The coward in me was thankful that I picked the Air Force. For the most part, I would be safe from that type of firefight in a canyon in the Middle East that took Pat’s life. At the time I found out, it was not disclosed that it was friendly fire and speculation  of an attempt to cover up the incident by high ranking Army officials was rumored, but it didn’t matter to me.

What I knew was the guy I grew up watching and admiring was gone. In the service of his country and all that he held dear, he gave the ultimate sacrifice. Pat was a hero the day that he swore this oath;

 “I, Pat Tillman, having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of Second Lieutenant do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.”

But out of this tragedy his legend grew. He lives on through the Pat Tillman Foundation, the annual Pat’s Run, the PT42 mantra adopted by ASU football, but most importantly his family.

I am really looking forward to watching “A Football Life: Pat Tillman” airing October 28th of this year. I think this story is worth remembering and worth retelling to our kids and their kids and their kids.

Thank you Pat.

#TheLegendOf

#LongBall

Joey Bosa A Veteran Among Rookies

With the third pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, the Chargers Select, Joey Bosa. When these words were uttered by Roger Goodell, Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco probably never imagined he would struggle to get his first round pick signed and in camp on time. A lot has been written already about this story. We know the two sides are at odds over deferred payment of the signing bonus and what is referred to as offset language. According to Telesco, deferred payment of signing bonuses and offset language have been included in all their contracts since 2011.

Joey Bosa is a veteran among a bunch of rookies when it come to signing a NFL contract.

Telsco told The Mighty 1090 “But it really just comes down to generally this, there’s some things that are negotiable, and money always is negotiable, obviously,but there’s certain things in contracts language-wise, whether you’re picked third, 33rd or 203rd, there’s certain things of consistency and doing things the same way for everyone on the team.”

This is ludicrous. If you are a professional athlete and you hear a quote like this red flags should go up immediately. Franchise owners and their GM are negotiating for their best interest and these terms clearly benefit their side of table. Rookie contracts in the NFL are already subject to the NFL salary table so this is one of the few areas that Bosa can actually negotiate a deal that is in his best interest. All other draft picks have agreed to terms with their respective teams. 

This is a sad state of affairs for athletes competing in arguably the most physically demanding sport. These teams make great money because of the show these athletes put on for us. Any athlete negotiating more favorable terms, especially when their is such a high risk of their career ending by means of injury is just smart business.

Joey Bosa, way to lead by example!

#SportShorts

Three Big Signings!!!

Steve Keim is the best GM in football and it is not even close.

With hundreds of roster moves at the back end of the roster, finding veteran diamonds in the rough, and keeping the core players happy and paid, he is killing it.

His first extension to get done this training camp, may be the most exciting. Honey badger is a once in lifetime talent and is a redemption story for the ages.

It was not a straight forward negotiation with both sides working to get what was best. You can tell that Tyrann was frustrated with the process, but in the end both sides knew it would happen.

The relationship between Tyrann Mathieu  and the Cardinals is probably the symbiotic player/organization pairing in the league. Mathieu’s troubles prior to the NFL are well chronicled, but it is not as well known of a story about how he has become who he is today. When the Peterson’s (Patrick and his father) moved Mathieu into their home, it gave him the structure that he needed. Players like Rashad Johnson, Jarrod Powers, Darnell Dockett and most importantly Peterson all helped to provide guidance and support to a kid that was willing to listen and learn.

Tyrann treated his issue with Marijuana seriously and put his heart into the process. He had a pragmatic look at the mistakes he made. It slandered his name and cost him millions of dollars.

Steve Keim said this week there was a time that he looked at Mathieu’s name in his draft board and thought “there is no way”. But, Steve Keim is also the same guy that said if Hannibal Lecture could run a 4.3 forty, he would classify it a eating disorder. So it makes sense that as he watched more and more film of Mathieu that he was willing to learn more about him.

Keim also recently told a story about taking Mathieu to dinner and Keim’s six year old son was there and told his dad that Honey Badger was the real deal.

Hindsight is able to show us that Mathieu is the type of player and in this case more importantly the type of man the Cardinals needed. Taking risks and coming out ahead on this gives the team confidence to take chances on other players like Robert Nkemdiche, which could pay off big again for Keim.

These risks don’t always work out. The Cardinals know all too well what can happen if a player can’t get past issues with marijuana. Darryl Washington was one of the most promising up and coming players in the league before getting suspended indefinitely in 2013. He has still yet to be reinstated and is still on the Cardinals roster.

There is also defensive lineman Randy Gregory from the Cowboys, a team famous for taking risks on players as well. Gregory also had issues documented before the draft, but unlike Mathieu he has just been suspended for the first four games of this season.

So, as fan of him as person and a player, congrats to Tryann and his family. Hopefully, Arizona will be your home for life.

Then the other big news from the week, was extending both Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald by a year.

This is a sign that BA and Keim believe the window for a super bowl is two years and not a one time, go big or go home year that this year has been shaping up to be.

This somewhat silences the questions about Fitz’ potential retirement. I have not looked at what this does to their cap number for the next two years, but you have to believe that this was also done in part to address resigning Chandler Jones next year.

It is widely anticipated that the Cardinals will use the franchise tag on Jones, to lock him up, but will need to come to an agreement before the season. Jones most likely won’t play on his tagged contract number if he has a big year.

This is a really great job of Keim identifying and solidifying a core of players that will keep the Cardinals competing for at least a couple more years.

In Keim we trust.

#LongBall

#CardsCamp Notes

Carson Palmer had the day off from throwing the ball, but did participate in some of the run game reps.

Here are some of the things that caught my eye:

There was good balance from both the offense and defense today. Patrick Peterson had an impressive twisting interception on a overthrow from Stanton.

Jaron Brown then beat rookie Brandon Williams on a post route for a 35 yard TD.

DJ Humphries had some really impressive blocks in the run game. One of which sprung David Johnson for a long TD run. He was celebrating his block so much that he forgot his assignment on the PAT after the score.

Kent Somers provided this insight:

He got beat badly a couple of times by Chandler Jones during some third and long scenarios. But in Humphries defense, Jones made a lot of people look bad all day.

Some of the middle and  back end of the roster played will today also.

Kareem Martin flashed a few times, stopping runners in the back field on couple of occasions and getting his hands on a ball that he was playing underneath coverage on. It was an impressive play as he was covering Chris Johnson in the flat and the throw went to the receiver up the field. He was able to peel off and with his 6’6 frame he almost came up with a pick.

Trevon Hartfield had a pick and a pass break-up on consecutive plays. Asa Jackson had a very athletic pick after a tipped pass. That was his second interception in as many days.

Xavier Williams got some time with ones today and looks slimmer than last year. It looked like they were giving him some time at D tackle and not just keeping him at nose.

The one big negative of the day was from a very unsuspecting candidate. Chandler Catanzaro missed at least five field goals. His first one hit the upright and it looked like it got into his head.

It was a good day though overall and it looked like everyone came out clean from a tough padded practice.

#LongBall

NFL and injuries…

Next man up is a mantra used by every NFL team. It is used by every team, because they are going to have injuries in a season. The question is to who and for how long.

I saw this interesting tweet a week ago and I decided to take a stab at answering this question.

Michael asks a great question. When I start looking at teams to come up with the list, I eliminated teams like the Browns and 49ers right away because their season is done before anyone gets injured.

So here are the top 10 that I could come up with. There are a few that you could flip flop spots, but I think the list looks pretty good.

10. Rob Gronkowski and the Patriots

Rob Gronkowski is as good of a football player that we have in the league. Brady does not have an effective receiving core or dependable running game. Having Gronk on the field makes more space to operate for the rest of the offense and he converts third downs at an alarming rate. Sure Brady is great and could keep any  game interesting without Gronk, but it is significantly more difficult without him.

9. Julio Jones and the Falcons

Julio Jones is a freak athlete. There is not another decent option at receiver or tight end to stretch the field for the Falcons. The running game is not bad, but it is not great either. Devonte Freeman can end up being a piece that can help win games, but without Julio the falcons would most likely finish last in their division.

8. Odell Beckham and the Giants

As OBJ goes, so goes the Giants. He is the offense and it needs him to take all of the attention off the defense to get anything going to the rest of the threats on offense. Could there be a shot that the Giants make the playoffs without OBJ? Sure. But the division is so bad that even if they did squeak in, it would be because the Cowboys, Eagles and Redskins all imploded.

7. Khalil Mack and the Raiders

The first defensive player on the list. Mack had a  career year last year and is part of a very improved defense and team for that matter. Without the pass rush that Mack provides, the rest of the team will suffer and the sleeper pick by most experts won’t make the turn and end up in the playoffs.

6. Fletcher Cox and the Eagles

Sticking with defense, Fletcher Cox is a terror on the interior of the line. He can single-handedly keep the Eagles in games. As I mentioned earlier about the NFC East, it is so bad that Cox will have a shot at the playoffs where anything can happen. Without Chip Kelley putting the defense on the field for more times than any other team in the league, Cox will be able to apply pressure at an even higher level.

5. Andrew Whitworth and the Bengals

Andrew Whitworth has been quietly one of the best tackles in football for a few years. Protecting the “Red Rocket” is critical for this team and it would be impossible to replace Whitworth. I know this is kind of cheating, because it is still about the QB, but without Whitworth this team will not make the playoffs.

4. Anthony Castonzo and the Colts

For the same reason as Whitworth above, but the Colts need a healthy protected QB more than the Bengals do. The Colts defense is suspect and there are not any great targets that the team would miss too significantly if they had to go without. We are expecting a bounce back performance from Luck this year and Castonzo is a big piece of that.

3. Michael Bennett and Seahawks

I know that Seattle is deep and most think they would be fine without any single piece, but Bennett is the exception. He is the reason that opposing teams can’t simply pick on the side opposite of Sherman all game. The cover three they play is susceptible to the 6-8 yard passes (i.e. Patriots in the Superbowl), but only if you can get Earl Thomas and Kam Chancelor spread out. That can’t happen if the QB does not have time. With Bennett on the field, QBs do not have time.

2. J.J. Watt and the Texans

The Texans might be a team that are out of the playoffs with or without Watt, but he is the best player in football right now. He is the engine to that whole team and without him they could finish in the bottom three or four in the league.

1. Adrian Peterson and the Vikings

The Vikings were a field goal away from beating Seattle in the playoffs. This team is built around AP and for good reason. He is the hardest player to tackle in the league and makes defenses pay for trying to stop him. They’re another Cinderella pick going into this year, but that can only happen with a healthy Peterson.

Honorable Mentions: Luke Kueckly, Von Miller, and Travis Kelce

#LongBall

The way too early roster projection.


3 QB:

Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, and Matt Barkley

No Surprise here and Barkley beats out undrafted rookie Jake Coker.

RB:

David Johnson, Chris Johnson, Andre Ellington, and Stepfan Taylor

Again no surprise at the top 3, but great special teams play and trust in pass blocking situations keeps Stepfan on the team. Probably won’t be able to keep Kerwynn on the practice squad after his last two years. I would not be surprised if Ellington is not on the trade block right now. He has not been available for most of his time with the Cardinals and could return good value. If Keim does not like the trade market for him, we will be happy to keep him as a third option as an explosive dual threat.

6 WR:

Larry Fitz, Michael Floyd, John Brown, JJ Nelson, Jaron Brown, and Brittan Golden

The first four guys are locked in. Jaron and Brittan having been here for so long and have a  huge advantage to make the roster, especially when you consider they’re big time contributors to special teams. Golden has versatility to play some corner in an emergency which is something Keim and BA love.  This may keep one of our late round DBs from the 53 man roster.

4 TE:

Jermain Gresham, Darren Fells, Troy Niklas, and Ifeanyi Momah

Jermain Gresham turned down a much larger contract to stay here in AZ and anchor this group. Troy and Ifeanyi need to stay on the field to round out this position group throughout the season. This group is excellent in run blocking and can create some mismatches down the field. We saw some great production from Fells at times this year too.

6 OL:

Jared Veldheer, DJ Humphries, Mike Iupati, Evan Mathis, AQ Shipley, Evan Boehm, and Earl Watford

The center position is causing some drama this year. Can a rookie take the starting role away from Shipley who was brought into start, but ended up sitting behind Sendline last year after the team resigned him late in camp? Watford can now play four positions on the line with the only exception being left tackle. Meaning that if something were to happen to Veldheer, Humphries would most likely slide over to left and Watford take his spot at right tackle. I think that Rob Crisp has a shot to land on the practice squad again.

Ok, I am now done with the offense and I am looking at the Cardinals’ defense. It is for real. They have guys that are either contributors or are high upside guys that will not make this football team. Unfortunately there are not a ton of names that will draw a ton of trade consideration, but there are guys that will most likely end up on someone’s roster.

DT:

Calais Campbell, Rodney Gunter, Robert Nkemdiche, Corey Peters, Frostee Rucker, Red Bryant, and Ed Stinson

This is the deepest group on the team. I have left off the list Josh Mauro and Xavier Williams, both of who the team likes. Xavier is listed as a NT and the lack of versatility could cost him a roster spot this year. Writing out these names makes me very excited. Frostee is another name that could be on the trading block. Again if the value is not there we will be happy to keep his leadership in our locker room even if Peters (returning from Injury) and Nkemdiche (rookie) cut into his playing time.

6 OLB:

Chandler Jones, Marcus Golden, Kareem Martin, Alex Okafor, are locked in. Tristan Okapalogu, Shaq Riddick and Zach Waggenman will battle for the last two spots. I think that Waggenman will end up on the practice squad this year, but he did have quite the buzz before getting hurt last year. Okafor could be on the trade block, but I doubt he is not on the roster come game one.

4 ILB:

Kevin Minter, Gabe Martin, Alani Fua, Deone Buchanan. Yeah, I am calling Buck an ILB, but this is where he will spend his time until the Cards find a Daryl Washington replacement. Alani Fua is a guy that can also stand up and play some OLB so that helps him make this team.

5 C:

Patrick Peterson, Justin Bethel, Brandon Williams, Cariel Brooks, and the newly signed Mike Jenkins. If the Cards do end up signing Chris Culliver it could be hard for Brooks to make the roster, but he will be a practice squad target again this year. Harlan Miller has an outside shot at beating Brooks, but should also be a practice squad guy.

5 S:

Tyrann Mathieu, Tony Jefferson, Tyvon Branch, DJ Swearinger, and Marqu Christian will get a spot as a rookie with his versatility to play some slot corner in addition to safety. Chris Clemons would have made this list, but after his Scottsdale bar incident he may be on the outside looking in.

P

Drew Butler

K

Cat Man

LS

Kameron Canaday

Can we just have Mike Leach back? But this guy is 6’4″ 240 though.

Never-ending Gate

I am not a fan of the way that Rodger Goodell and the NFL has handled Deflate Gate. To me it shows the ineptitude that happens at the NFL offices with almost anything that Goodell touches.

Let’s be clear. Rodger Goodell is not fighting this into the 2016 season to smear Brady and the Patriots at this point. At this point it is 100% for power. The power to be judge, jury and executioner to the league and it’s unionized players. He is using the collective bargaining agreement against the NFLPA in spite of Collective bargaining being the single most powerful tool the union has to make sure there is a balance of power.

Goodell asked the appeals court to overturn the ruling of Richard Burman due to the fact that the bargaining agreement allows him to set punishment, investigate incidents and rule on appeals of his own judgments.

Goodell is trying to use the broadest term of “conduct detrimental” policy to apply his ruling to Brady. To make the case that he can create a rule out of thin air if the player violated the conduct policy.

The appeals court agreed with Goodell that under the collective bargaining agreement he was within his right to impose such a penalty. Here is what they said:

The Commissioner was authorized to impose discipline for, among other things, “conduct detrimental to the integrity of, or public confidence, in the game of professional football.” In their collective bargaining agreement, the players and the League mutually decided many years ago that the Commissioner should investigate possible rule violations, should impose appropriate sanctions, and may preside at arbitration’s challenging his discipline. Although this tripartite regime may appear somewhat unorthodox, it is the regime bargained for and agreed upon by the parties, which we can only presume they determined was mutually satisfactory.

So, they admit the amount of power that Goodell has is “unorthodox,” but agreed upon.

To be fair, I think that the ruling on its own is the correct ruling, but they are leaving out a very critical piece of the puzzle. The conduct which was most detrimental to the league was the leaking of the information about the investigation on the night of the game.

The decline in “the integrity of, or public confidence, in the game of professional football” was due to the media and public being lead to believe that 11 of the 12 footballs from one team were deflated and that none of the the other teams were deflated at all.

As soon as I hear that, I think, what is the advantage of throwing a deflated football? (I still don’t know if that is an advantage). But, he must have really deflated those footballs if 11 out of 12 footballs were below the limit allowed.

We were lead to think that for weeks. It was not until the Wells report was released, media circus commenced and the public opinion of the situation was made, that we find out what we originally heard was garbage.

The Colts balls all started at 13 psi and the Patriots started at 12.5 psi. Every single one of the balls measured lost air pressure during the first half for both teams. The Patriots started the game at the minimum psi allowed and after being used in cold weather lost air. Of course they are going to be below the allowed amount if they started at the absolute bottom of the range. The Colts started with all of their balls at 13 psi and all of them came back in at 12.15 to 12.95 depending on what gauge you look at from the report. Again with consideration for which gauge you look at, three of the four balls tested were below the 12.5 psi allowed for the Colts. This would have been good info to give to the public as roughly 44 states, not in the far northeastern tip of our country, flipped the heck out.

The fact that this was a scandal at all is 100% on the league. The investigation should have never been leaked. It should have not been reported the way that it was, but when the information is coming directly from the league sources, you can’t blame guys like Bob Kravitz and Peter King. These are trusted sources with info from the horse’s mouth.

Now we sit and wait to see if the supreme court of the United States is going to hear this case before we know the final fate of this case. I don’t care about Tom Brady and deflated footballs, but I think that this is a case of commissioner blowing it and needing to save power for the league office to keep the control they so desperately think they need.

If you think I am biased, I would love to see Jimmy instead of Tommy week one.

#Cardinals #LongBall