A lot of people, commissioner Goodell included (and maybe you too) are of the opinion that this is just fine, that football is meant to be played no matter what the weather. But I disagree; because if that were true, then the season would begin around Hallowen instead of Labor Day. Why doesn't it? Because it gets too cold, duh.
Some of you may be too young to remember this, but before the Chicago Bears began playing their home games at Soldier Field, their home field was Wrigley Field. In Detroit, the Lions played at Tiger Stadium before they moved to the Silverdome. Before the first stadium at the Meadowlands was built, the New York Giants played home games at Yankee Stadium, and the New York Jets at Shea Stadium. And in Minnesota, for almost the entire existence of the Vikings franchise, they played at the same facility as the Twins. My point is this: with both football and baseball teams playing at the same stadium, it would have made sense for the NFL to wait for the baseball season to end before starting their season - to avoid any scheduling conflicts. But they didn't. Before the NFL changed from a 14 to a 16-game schedule, the season always started in mid-September, a couple of weeks before baseball was finished. Why? Because the NFL wanted to have their season finished before it got too cold. So, sorry commissioner, but football actually was intended to be played before it gets cold. Players don't want to play in the cold, and fans certainly don't want to sit in it for 3 hours.
And that's why, prior to this season, the Super Bowl has always been played where it wasn't cold (or at least where it wasn't supposed to be cold). It's more fair for both teams that way. I mean, allowing the weather to become a factor at the Super Bowl provides a built-in excuse for a team's failure. You know, like "we wouldn't have lost if it hadn't snowed", or something like that. You take the weather out of the equation and there's no arguing and no whining.
Now you may have heard some people rave about how wonderful it is to watch a game played in bad weather. And I'll admit it; yes, bad weather games can be very entertaining. But those bad weather games had to be played where they were. When you have the choice of where a game is to be played (as the NFL does with the Super Bowl), it just doesn't make sense to pick a location where the weather is likely to skew the outcome of the game.
When Colts QB Andrew Luck hit Eagles WR Desean Jackson with a deep pass for a 36-yard TD to cap a 5-play, 79-yard opening drive for Team Sanders last Sunday, it looked like it was going to be another typical Pro Bowl, with minimal defensive intensity and points galore. But then a funny thing happened. The next 6 possessions went by (3 for each team) and nobody scored. No, the 2014 version of the NFL's All-Star Game was not going to be your typical Pro Bowl. Oh, it still didn't resemble a real football game. But it was competitive enough that the commissioner himself, who not very long ago wanted to get rid of the Pro Bowl, actually complimented the players for the show they put on.
You know, I was planning to watch the game right after I finished last week's report; but I kept dozing off, so I really didn't get to see much of it at all. Instead of the usual AFC vs. NFC format, the two teams were determined in a player draft held 4 days before the game, with the selections being made by former NFL greats, Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders. That meant there would be several instances where players who are teammates during the season would not be teammates in this game. For example, Bears CB Tim Jennings had the opportunity to cover Bears WRs Alshon Jeffery (photo below) and Brandon Marshall. And when Chiefs QB Alex Smith dropped back to pass, Chiefs DT Dontari Poe was one of the players trying to sack him.
The other incident happened early in the 2nd quarter, when Browns WR Josh Gordon was upended and flipped all the way over by Browns S T.J. Ward after gaining 12 yards on a reverse. I couldn't find photos of either play, but you can see them both in the video on this link: http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-pro-bowl/0ap2000000318239/Teammates-hitting-teammates
http://www.bengals.com/media-lounge/videos/Pro-Bowl-Vontaze-Burfict-diving-interception/bd51b4c5-2a1c-42ad-8699-d5731db7bd5e ..... Too bad he couldn't have gotten there a split second earlier and stayed on his feet and taken it to the house.
None of the 6 TD were by anyone with dreads. Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald did not add to the record he holds for most career TD scored in the Pro Bowl. He was shut out: 0 catches on 4 passes thrown to him. One of those four was thrown into the end zone, but he was too well covered and had no chance to catch it, and it was intercepted by Chiefs S Eric Berry (photo below). Charles was the game's leading rusher - with 43 yards on 5 carries. Packers rookie RB Eddie Lacy had 7 carries for 14 yards and a 9-yard reception.
After McCluster's 26-yard punt return, Team Rice, trailing 21-14, drove 58 yards in 4 plays, getting the TD with 41 seconds to go on a 20-yard catch and run by Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray, and taking a 22-21 lead when Panthers FB Mike Tolbert scored on a run up the middle for the 2-point conversion. On their final possession, Team Sanders only made it to the Rice 49, and a 67-yard FG attempt on the final play was short (of course). Offensive game MVP was Eagles QB Nick Foles, who went 7 for 10 for 89 yards and 1 TD for Team Sanders and was the only one of the 6 QBs who played who didn't throw an INT.
Two of the NFL's very best players with dreads will be in uniform when the Seahawks and Broncos take the field for Super Bowl 48. But overall, the dreads in this year's Super Bowl won't be as good as last year's, mostly because these two teams don't have very many players with dreads.
2 of the 8 teams in the two West divisions got an "A" grade for their dreads last season; but there's just one this time - and it's neither of the two from last year.
Best player with dreads: Jamaal Charles (KC)
Player with the best dreads: Jahleel Addae (SD)
6 players with dreads on the roster - none of them on offense. After infamous blunder on opening night when he let go of the ball at the 1-yard line on a would-have-been pick 6 (bottom photo), Danny Trevathan had strong season and is in the running for a spot in the dreaded dozen. I just wish he'd let us see his dreads.As you can see, they're long enough to be seen, but I think he's been keeping them reduced most of the time. Nate Irving (celebrating after tackling Ravens RB Ray Rice for a 2-yard loss in Week 1 in top photo) finished season with 8 TFL, but only one of them was a sack. Best dreads on the team weren't on the field much - Quinton Carter was on IR all season and Omar Bolden almost exclusively plays on special teams. With roster thin at CB due to injury, ex-Patriot Marquice Cole was signed after 2nd round playoff game - just in case. Sick CB Mario Butler cut at end of training camp. Free agent DE Jason Hunter not re-signed.
S Omar Bolden
S David Bruton
CB Marquice Cole
LB Nate Irving
LB Danny Trevathan
S Quinton Carter (IR)
GRADE: C+ ..... (LY: C+)
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
If I had seen the Pro Bowl, I might have thought I was watching a Chiefs game. 9 Chiefs (at least) played last Sunday, including three with dreads. Dontari Poe excellent in his 2nd NFL season and seems on his way to having an outstanding career. Unfortunately he's now got the partial dreads look, having cut off the dreads along the sides of his head. And the dreads he does have are too often reduced. Tyson Jackson also prefers his dreads reduced, but at least he did have them flowing for a couple of games (middle photo at Oakland in Week 15) after keeping them reduced all of 2012, although they seem to be shorter than they used to be. Jackson's 5-year rookie contract now expired, and it'll be interesting to see if they try to re-sign him. As expected, with hiring of Coach Reid, Jamaal Charles (bottom photo) more productive than ever, finishing 2013 only 20 yards short of 2,000 total yards from scrimmage and scoring 19 TD. Dexter McCluster (top photo, making catch in front of Broncos S David Bruton in Week 13) more productive on offense too and was a star on punt returns. Junior Hemingway had promising season - both as a WR and special teams ace - after spending rookie season in 2012 on practice squad. I love that Kendrick Lewis has great dreads, but he might be the worst tackling safety in the league. Dunta Robinson signed as a free agent but did not play well and is coming to the end of his career. I'd be surprised if we see his sick dreads in the NFL next season). Sick dreads on the O-line with Rishaw Johnson, who got some playing time late in the season. I noticed that rookie CB Marcus Cooper's hair was getting longer. Hopefully he's thinking about bringing back his dreads. He had long dreads early in his college career at Rutgers before cutting them off. DE Austen Lane and rookie WR Rico Richardson cut at end of training camp.
RB Jamaal Charles None
WR Junior Hemingway
DE Tyson Jackson
G Rishaw Johnson
S Kendrick Lewis
WR/RB Dexter McCluster
LB Dezman Moses
CB Ron Parker
DT Dontari Poe
CB Dunta Robinson
GRADE: A ..... (LY: B+)
Raiders lost the awesome dreads of LB Philip Wheeler (who signed with Dolphins) but added several free agents with dreads - many of them sick - including Pat Sims, Usama Young, Mike Jenkins, and Jason Hunter - all of whom were major contributors on defense. Young (celebrating his sack with S Charles Woodson in Week 2 in bottom photo) finished season on IR after playing 12 games. Sick dreads of David Ausberry also unfortunately went on IR very early in season. Sio Moore's dreads too short to be seen easily in his rookie season but might be visible outside his helmet by next season.
DE Jason Hunter TE David Ausberry (IR)
WR Greg Jenkins LB Eric Harper (PS)
CB Mike Jenkins S Usama Young (IR)
WR Denarius Moore
LB Sio Moore
DT Pat Sims
GRADE: B+ ..... (LY: B)
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
Chargers did not re-sign free agent S Atari Bigby (and nobody else did either) but still had one of the sickest safeties in the league, as undrafted rookie Jahleel Addae not only earned a roster spot but was a major contributor on defense. Richard Marshall had dreads when team signed him in late August, but as you can see (photo on right, helping Addae tackle WR Demaryius Thomas in the playoffs) they're gone now. He cut them off sometime after the season opener and before game day of Week 3. Tourek Williams added in the draft, and Reggie Walker picked up just before start of season after he was released by Cardinals. Also picked up sick dreads of Terrell Manning after being released by Packers, but they were on practice squad for most of season. Cam Thomas finished season with 23 tackles (17-6), 4 TFL, 0 sacks and 1 INT. WR Richard Goodman cut at end of training camp, leaving no offensive players with dreads on roster. Rookies Josh Johnson (CB), Tony Burnett (S), and Randy Richards (OT) also cut at end of training camp. DT Drake Nevis signed after being cut by Colts at end of training camp but was released two weeks later.
S Jahleel Addae LB Terrell Manning (PS)
DT Cam Thomas
LB Reggie Walker
LB Tourek Williams
GRADE: C ..... (LY: C-)
Best player with dreads: Marshawn Lynch (SEA)
Player with the best dreads: Sidney Rice (SEA)
Mercy (!), what has happened here? Last year Cardinals' defense could have taken the field with 7 players with dreads in the lineup; but astonishingly, all 7 were either gone or their dreads were gone this season. Team started 2013 season with no players with dreads on defense and finished with one, that being Marcus Benard (with short dreads in photo below), who signed as a free agent in early October. As for the 7 that were on the team last season, CB Greg Toler, CB William Gay (now an ex-dread), and LB Quentin Groves were free agents who were not re-signed. LB Reggie Walker was cut at end of training camp. CB Jamell Fleming, a 2012 draft choice, was released after the first game of the season (I guess the new coaching staff was no fan of his). And the other two, along with two players on offense, showed up at minicamp last June after cutting off their dreads, those being DT Darnell Dockett, S Rashad Johnson, WR LaRon Byrd, and RB Ryan Williams. That's right, four ex-dreads in one offseason, nearly topping the carnage that happened with the Dolphins in 2012. You can't do that and maintain your "A" grade. Details in this article on the Cardinals' website: http://blog.azcardinals.com/2013/07/01/hair-last-year-but-its-gone-now/
LB Marcus Benard
RB Andre Ellington
WR Larry Fitzgerald
WR Andre Roberts
G Jonathan Cooper (IR)
RB Robert Hughes (PS)
GRADE: C+ ..... (LY: A)
ST. LOUIS RAMS
There's no use crying over spilled milk any longer. Daryl Richardson's and Janoris Jenkins' dreads aren't ever coming back to normal. They're reduced for good. Jenkins' aren't too bad (I guess), but Richardson is down to what, about a dozen dreads? I'm just not a big fan of that look. Richardson was given chance to be Rams' starting RB after longtime starter Steven Jackson was not re-signed; but he had a disappointing season, finishing with only 215 yards rushing (3.1 yards per carry). And after two seasons he still hasn't taken even one to the house. Jenkins (top photo, being called for a defensive holding penalty while covering WR Anquan Boldin on 3rd and 11 in Week 13) had just 1 INT this season after getting 4 (and scoring 3 TD last season). Rookie Justice Cunningham signed to practice squad in November after being released by Colts. Long dreads of Brandon Washington made their debut this season after spending rookie 2012 season on practice squad. He certainly took the scenic route, but Ray Ray Armstrong (bottom photo) made it to the NFL. He was a contributor on special teams in his 1st season. Matthew Daniels on IR for 2nd straight season. Rookie CBs Andre Martin and Robert Steeples cut at end of training camp.
LB Ray Ray Armstrong TE Justice Cunningham (PS)
CB Janoris Jenkins S Matthew Daniels (IR)
RB Daryl Richardson
WR Justin Veltung
G Brandon Washington
GRADE: B- ..... (LY: C)
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
The incredible shrinking dreads of Ray McDonald just keep getting shorter. In 2012 - when they already were a bit shorter than in 2011 - his dreads were still easily seen (left photo below) but this season even when you squinted your eyes, you could barely see them (right photo below, from Week 1).
2nd edition of C.J. Spillman's dreads are now starting to become visible (photo below), and 2nd edition of Anthony Dixon's dreads should be visible by next season. Free agent DT Ricky Jean Francois was not re-signed, partly because 49ers expected youngster Ian Williams to replace him. But Williams went down with broken ankle in Week 2. Best dreads on the roster belong to rookie Chuck Jacobs, who showed enough in training camp to be signed to practice squad, where he spent entire season. Hopefully we'll see him on the field next season. Free agent S Dashon Goldson not re-signed (and apparently not missed). Rookie TE MarQueis Gray cut at end of training camp.
RB Anthony Dixon
DE Ray McDonald
S C.J. Spillman
WR Chuck Jacobs (PS)
CB Dax Swanson (PS)
DT Ian Williams (IR)
GRADE: C- ..... (LY: C+)
Like the Cardinals, Seahawks suffered significant losses, dropping from 10 to 5 players with dreads on the roster. But I'm not going to drop their grade too much - because they have both the best offensive player with dreads and the best defensive player with dreads in the league. Marshawn Lynch (bottom photo) finished with 1,200+ yards rushing and 12+ TD for 3rd straight year, and Richard Sherman had 8 INT for 2nd straight year. Sick O-lineman James Carpenter (top photo) showing promise after two disappointing seasons. I kind of feel sorry for Sidney Rice. He barely missed Super Bowl while with Vikings in 2009; and he misses it again this season after suffering torn ACL injury in Week 8. Hopefully he'll come back strong next season, but he might be with another team. Pro Bowl S Earl Thomas, LB Bruce Irvin, and rookie OT Alvin Bailey all cut their dreads off during the offseason. After participating in rookie minicamp, rookie RB Dominique Whaley decided to have surgery on his ankle in June. He'll give it a try next again next season, but not necessarily with Seahawks (he's a free agent). CB Ron Parker, S Winston Guy, and G Rishaw Johnson all cut at end of training camp - and all three found homes elsewhere and contributed for their new teams this season.
G James Carpenter WR Arceto Clark (PS)
RB Marshawn Lynch WR Sidney Rice (IR)
CB Richard Sherman
GRADE: B ..... (LY: A)
2013 NFL ALL-PRO DREADS
I did a post similar to this on Yardbarker a few years ago, and now it's time to do another one. This is a whole 53-man team featuring the sickest dreads in the league. Not a ranking of the 53 players with the best dreads; but a team, with enough players at each position to be able to go out and play an actual game.
Obviously there are no kickers or punters in the NFL with dreads, so this team will be going without one. But you can't play without a QB, and sadly there still has never been a full-time QB with dreads to play in the NFL. There are, however, several players in the league who played QB in college, so we'll be going with some of them to quarterback this team. Remember, the team itself and who will be the starters and non-starters are determined only how great someone's dreads are, not how good a player he is.
Certainly Buccaneers DE Adrian Clayborn and Rams RB Daryl Richardson have dreads long enough to be considered for the team. But I'm trying to go with as few players with reduced dreads as possible, so you won't see their names on the team. I also cheated a bit with some of the linemen, playing a couple of them out of position so that I could include as many sick dreads as possible. Here we go.
G James Carpenter (SEA)
C Davin Joseph (TB) (right)
G Rishaw Johnson (KC)
OT Dallas Thomas (MIA)
TE MarQueis Gray (CLEV) (top right)
WR Travis Benjamin (CLEV) (lower right)
WR Sidney Rice (SEA) (lower left)
QB Josh Cribbs (NYJ)
FB Quinn Johnson (TEN)
RB Chris Ivory (NYJ)
A couple of N.Y. Jet newcomers are in the starting backfield, Chris Ivory (left) and Josh Cribbs (right), who before becoming a Pro Bowl kick returner, passed for over 7,000 yards during his college career at Kent State.
DE Erik Walden (IND)
DT Ishmaa'ily Kitchen (CLEV) (top left)
DT Ricardo Mathews (IND) (right upper)
DE Jabaal Sheard (CLEV) (right lower)
LB Mario Harvey (IND)
LB Dannell Ellerbe (MIA)
LB Philip Wheeler (MIA) (top right)
CB Rashean Mathis (DET)
S Winston Guy (JAC) (below)
S Reggie Nelson (CIN)
CB Dunta Robinson (KC)
Dannell Ellerbe (right upper) and Mario Harvey (right lower) join Philip Wheeler to form the trio of starting LBs.
When Reggie Nelson (right) has his dreads flowing freely, just watching him make a tackle is worth the price of admission.
OT Xavier Nixon (IND)
G/OT Chris Scott (CAR)
G Willie Colon (NYJ) (right upper)
C Uche Nwaneri (JAC)
TE David Johnson (PIT)
WR Marlon Brown (BAL)
WR Kevin Cone (ATL)
WR Larry Fitzgerald (ARIZ)
WR Dexter McCluster (KC)
QB Greg Jenkins (OAK)
QB Denard Robinson (JAC)
FB Greg Jones (HOU) (top right)
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (CIN) ...
RB Deji Karim (JAC) (below)
RB DeAngelo Williams (CAR)
WRs Kevin Cone (right upper) and Marlon Brown (right lower). Rookie Greg Jenkins (below) played special teams with the Raiders this season after starring as a QB for Alabama State.
DT Pat Sims (OAK) (below right)
DT Damon Harrison (NYJ)
DE Pernell McPhee (BAL) (below left)
DE David Bass (CHI)
LB Jarvis Jones (PIT)
LB Kelvin Sheppard (IND)
LB Brandon Spikes (NE)
CB Stephon Gilmore (BUF)
CB Josh Gordy (IND)
CB Greg Toler (IND)
CB B.W. Webb (DAL)
S Jahleel Addae (SD)
S Robert Lester (CAR)
S Brandon Meriweather (WASH)
Josh Gordy (above left), Brandon Spikes (above right), Robert Lester (below left), and Stephon Gilmore (below right).
KR/PR Dwayne Harris (DAL) (below)
These players would have been serious candidates for the team had they not spent all or most of the season on IR.
TE David Ausberry (OAK)
S Quinton Carter (DEN)
G/C Jonathan Cooper (ARIZ)
RB DuJuan Harris (GB)
S Phillip Thomas (WASH)
OT Brennan Williams (HOU)
Yes, we have to have an 8-man practice squad too (players who spent all or most of the season on various teams' practice squads), and hopefully we'll see these great dreads in action in the seasons ahead. The teams listed are the teams whose practice squad each player was on at the end of the season.
CB Mario Butler (BUF)
G Edawn Coughman (BUF)
TE Justice Cunningham (STL)
CB Bobby Felder (TB)
LB Eric Harper (OAK)
WR Marcus Harris (NYG)
LB Terrell Manning (SD)
WR Rico Richardson (photo, making game-winning TD catch in overtime vs. Steelers in preseason Week 3 while he was with the Chiefs)
With the defense likely to have difficulty stopping anyone, we're going to need the offense to score a lot of points. But with the QBs we've got, we're going need to get a very imaginative offensive coordinator. Otherwise these guys might go 0-16. But they sure would look good doing it.
We're all set for another Super Bowl Sunday. I'm sticking with my crystal ball's preseason prediction of a Broncos' victory. You just get the feeling that Peyton Manning somehow will figure out how to score enough points. I'll be cheering for the Seahawks. But for real, it doesn't really matter to me who wins. I'm just going to sit back and enjoy what hopefully will be a good game.
We'll take a look at the game in my next report, and we'll head north for the final two divisions of our focus on dreads.