By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
The NFL Is Here (Part One)
PHILADELPHIA – Since April 11rh, when the 2007 NFL schedule was released one date has been circled by the football fans everywhere — no it wasn’t Christmas, Thanksgiving, or any other holiday — it was September 6, 2007. “What’s the significance of that date?” someone who has had his or her head in the sand may ask. That day just happens to be the start of the 88th season of America’s Passion — the National Football League.
When Colts and Saints met Thursday night on NBC, football fans everywhere finally quenched their undying thirst for NFL regular season game action. Though the NFL is now a year round league with Training Camp, Pre-season Games, OTA’s, the NFL Draft, Summits, Rookie Symposium, Owner Meetings, and so many other activities that this page it too small to list — nothing gets fans going to the point of delirium except NFL game day. Bigger than any holiday, NFL game day is a once a week fan fest (this week there are three NFL game days, but who cares).
I am not sure if it is the long arduous 7 to 8 month wait for real games after the Super Bowl, the once a week high, the boredom of baseball, the talented athletes, the “every game counts” subplots, the autumn weather, team allegiance, trash-talking, the dreaded g-word (gambling), fantasy football, or any other thing, but we all know that the NFL is everyone’s sports obsession like none other. Honestly, my mother who never watches sports and doesn’t know a touchdown from a homer even said to me the other day “Isn’t the NFL starting soon?”
I can just smell tailgate barbecues, taste an icy cold pre-game beer, see high definition flat screen and plasma televisions coming out of boxes, Direct TV NFL Sunday Ticket subscriptions flying in by the hundreds of thousands, and bars filling up everywhere as fans finally have their beloved NFL back.
I have to agree with the executives at Fox, NBC, ESPN, CBS, and the NFL Network that pay billions for the rights to broadcast NFL games that everyone is watching including stars like Jessica Alba (Oakland Raiders fan). You can also count me among the millions and soon to billions of NFL fans around the world (going globally this season) that are singing “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, The NFL is back.”
Super Bowl XLII on February 3, 2008 will be here too soon, so let the games begin!!!
To celebrate the NFL returning, I have compiled a list of news and notes surrounding the start of the NFL regular season.
- New Logo:- The familiar NFL Shield logo has a new twist. The new logo, which will officially be unveiled at the 2008 NFL draft, features eight stars (one for each division), a football resembling the one on top of the Vince Lombardi Trophy, and modified lettering.
- America’s Game will soon be the “World’s Game”: A historic event will take place on October 28, 2007 as the New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins will be play at Wembley Stadium in London. The game will be the first regular season game played abroad and with the growing popularity (Sold over 90,000 seats in minutes) expect to see more games outside of the United States. After Europe, the NFL’s next stop will probably be in China (pre-season game moved to 2009). NFL owners have approved a plan to stage international regular season games through at least 2011.
- A New Thanksgiving Day Tradition: After great success on last year’s holiday broadcasting more than two games, the NFL decided to again show three games this Thanksgiving (November 22). In addition to the traditional games hosted by the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys (Packers-Lions game starting at 12:30 p.m. (EST) and the Jets-Cowboys game kicking off at 4:15 p.m (EST) respectively), NFL Network will broadcast the Super Champion Indianapolis Colts versus the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome at 8:15 p.m (EST)
- Flex scheduling is back: Make sure to check your team’s website because games can be re-scheduled due to year two of “Flex” scheduling. In the final weeks of the NFL season (Weeks 11 through 17), NBC’s Sunday Night football has the option of changing to a more “favorable” game. If NBC opts to change a game’s date/time the other networks can also make moves to their schedule. The whole process must by done up to 12 days prior to the game.
- Competition Rules: Every year at the Owners meetings key NFL decision makers try to better the game by adding or tweaking rules and policies. In 2007, some of the noteworthy rules/policies enacted will be:
- Instant Replay gets a facelift: The system, which has been around since 1999 became a permanent part of the game. Plus funding was added to upgrade to use high-definition monitors for every stadium except Texas Stadium, RCA Dome, and Giants Stadium, which are all on the docket to be closed soon. The new monitors will allow for larger images and crisper viewing by officials when reviewing a play. The new technology should also speed up reviews (shortened from 90 seconds to a minute). Officials can also review “down-by-contact” plays.
- No more in game spikes: I love this rule, because I am sick and tired of players spiking or throwing the ball away from an official after a five-yard catch. Now if you spike the football in the field of play (outside the end zone) a 5-yard penalty will assessed. Like my grandfather used to say “act like you have been there before.”.
- Bring the noise: The five-yard penalty against the defense for excessive crowd noise has been eliminated. The penalty had not been called in many years. But is good now that fans can pump up the volume.
- A revision of the injury-reporting system: I call it the “Patriots Rule” due to their past history reporting injuries. The new rule has a team give a practice status for injured players on Wednesday and Thursday and not list them as probable, questionable, doubtful or out until Friday.
- Level Playing Field, Revenue Sharing: This issue stems from the CBA signing in 2006. An expanded revenue sharing system is now in place where the NFL’s richest franchises will be feeding a pool funds to help out the poorest ones. A committee of eight owners and league executives was formed to come up with qualifiers to help determine who deserves revenue help and how much they should get. This should help keeping a level playing field so stronger teams cannot horde all of the best players (Are you listening, baseball?).
- Happy Anniversary: Three NFL teams the Washington Redskins (founded in 1932 as the Boston Braves), Philadelphia Eagles (founded in 1933), and Pittsburgh Steelers (founded in 1933) will be celebrating their 75th anniversary. All three teams will sport a diamond logo on their regular uniforms. Plus special replica uniforms will be worn by the Eagles (inaugural season uniforms against the Detroit Lions at home on September 23) and the Steelers (1960 uniforms at home against the Buffalo Bills on September 16 and the Baltimore Ravens on November 5).
- Nice Suit: Going back to the legacy of Hall of Fame coaches Hank Stram, Tom Landry, Vince Lombardi and others, San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Nolan and will be allowed to wear a suit on the sidelines for all of their team’s home games. In the past, Nolan and Jacksonville Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio were only allowed to wear a suit for two home games. Don,t worry the suits are supplied by official NFL supplier Reebok.
- Players getting smarter: 20 veteran NFL players this off-season completed their college degrees. Many of the graduates took advantage of the NFL Continuing Education Program that was established in 1991 by the NFL Player Development Department.
- Leaders on the field recognized: The NFL clubs this year will emphasis the role of season-long NFL team captains on offense, defense and special teams through a team captain leadership initiative. Captains will be a vital link between their follow players, coaches and management to help foster cohesion on and off the field. “Team captains are a key element in building team leadership and enhancing communication between players, coaches and management,” recently said by Ray Anderson, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations who will oversee the program.
- Bye, Bye RCA Dome: After raising a championship banner from 2006, the Super Bowl Champion Colts will be leaving the RCA Dome after 2007. The Colts moved into the facility, then known as the Hoosier Dome, in 1984 after leaving Baltimore. They will be to the new Lucas Oil Stadium for the 2008 season. After the season the Dome will be razed to make way for an expansion to the attached Indiana Convention Center.
- Realignment Works: The NFL divisional realignment of 2002 to eight divisions of four teams has worked. In the last five years, 27 of the 32 NFL teams have qualified for the playoffs at least once. Also in that time 22 different teams have won division titles.
- Player Advisory Established: Commissioner Roger Goodell in conjunction with the NFL Players Association established the first NFL Player Advisory Council. The Player Advisory Council will meet regularly and throughout the year with Commissioner Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director Gene Upshaw to discuss competition on the field, player safety, medical and health issues, player conduct, retired player issues, and other matters. The six members of the council were selected by the NFLPA and are comprised of safety Donovin Darius (Free Agent), fullback Tony Richardson of the Minnesota Vikings, center Jeff Saturday of the Indianapolis Colts, linebacker Takeo Spikes of the Philadelphia Eagles, wide receiver James Thrash of the Washington Redskins, and safety Troy Vincent (Free Agent and President of the NFL Players Association).
- Player Conduct is Commissioner’s Hot Button: If you want to see the serious side of Commsissioner Goodell bring up the topic of player conduct. In his first year in office, Goodell has had to deal with a potential landmine field of player issues around player misconduct. I like the way Goodell has handled the issues from Michael Vick’s dogfighting case to “Pacman” Jones’ many brushes with the law to drug related offenses by Ricky Williams and Odell Thurman. The “Commish” has shown that he will not stand for any shannighans that could further damage the NFL and justified suspensions will be handed down. The NFL is not the NBA and the league and the image of the over 1600 other players is the key to the continued success of the NFL. Goodell is backed by the NFLPA (Gene Upshaw, Players, and the new league player advisory council) in his efforts to keep football as America’s game and remove malcontents (thugs) that can’t follow the rules. Vick has been suspended indefinitely and he may never be allowed back in the NFL, Jones was suspended for the entire 2007 season, Bengals WR Chris Henry for the first 8 games of the ’07 season, Free Agent Tank Johnson was also will sit out 8 games, Thurman’s submission from re-instatement was denied for 2007, and who knows if Williams will be let back in the NFL after habitual failed drug tests (of course he will have to comeback from his own person planet “Chronic” first).
“We must protect the integrity of the NFL,” Commissioner Goodell said when announcing the league’s suspension of Jones and Henry under the misconduct policy . He added “The highest standards of conduct must be met by everyone in the NFL because it is a privilege to represent the NFL, not a right. These players, and all members of our league, have to make the right choices and decisions in their conduct on a consistent basis.”
Goodell stressed “I must emphasize to you that this is your last opportunity to salvage your NFL career,” and added “I urge you to take full advantage of the resources available to support you in that effort.”
TOMMORROW: Part Two.