Tone Deafness Strikes The NFL

There must be an epidemic of tone-deafness running amok in the NFL. The league took a lot of heat from fans and just general folks with regard to the perceived leniency in Ray Rice’s meager suspension for assaulting his fiancée. That was bad; then the NFL allowed/sent one of its vice-presidents to Mike and Mike on ESPN Radio to explain. What that gentleman did was to tell everyone that they did not understand and that the NFL had come down hard on Ray Rice and that there is no way that anyone could think the NFL was soft on domestic violence issues.

That message flew like a cement feather. Rice’s suspension is half of the suspension handed out to players who fail a PED test. That gives you a measure of the NFL’s stern stance in that case.

However, the NFL is not the only tone-deaf party in the Ray Rice affair. There were reports that when he stepped onto the practice field at the Ravens’ training camp, the Ravens’ fans gave him a lengthy standing ovation. Let me try to list a few reasons why athletes get standing ovations:

    Just achieved a statistical milestone
    Scored the winning TD in last year’s Super Bowl Game
    Overcame a personal tragedy (such as loss of a child)
    Overcame a horrible injury or disease

As you might imagine, I would need a very lengthy list to get to the entry that says:

    Beat up his fiancée and skated with a mere 2-game suspension.

I have no idea what was going through the minds of the Ravens’ fans at training camp but I would like to hear how they might explain their behavior to an 11-year old child – of either gender – who witnessed it.

Moreover, tone-deafness is not only resident in the Ravens’ camp. It seems to have spread to the Browns’ camp. According to reports, someone asked Johnny Manziel about the criticism he got from Browns’ owner Jimmy Hazlem about his partying in the off-season. Manziel’s response mentioned that he indeed needs to mature a bit which is a good tack to take in that situation. However, then he seemed to go off the rails just a bit when he said that what he was doing in the off-season was legal and that he has a right to go partying when it is the off-season.

    Memo to Johnny Manziel: No one is questioning your “rights” in the matter. What some folks do question is your maturity, your self-control and your “work ethic – whatever that is with regard to football. You whiffed on a good opportunity to score some points with those folks.

Manziel is in the midst of a QB competition in the Browns’ camp with Brian Hoyer. Obviously as a first-round pick and as “Johnny Football”, it has to be his objective to win that competition and start for the Browns. Remember, he is trying to beat out Brian Hoyer for the job and not John Unitas. Hoyer has been in the NFL since 2009 but has only started 4 games in that span. Granted, he was holding a clipboard for Tom Brady for three seasons but he never saw the field on a Sunday in New England.

Theoretically, the Browns have 4 QBs who are in the competition; Connor Shaw and Tyler Thigpen are also on the roster. Shaw is a Steve Spurrier product and not all of Steve Spurrier’s QBs go on to greatness in the NFL. Thigpen is either the nicest guy in the world or the best practice player in the NFL. He has been in the league since 2007; the Browns will be his 6th team and when he starts an NFL game, it is usually not good news for his team. He has started 12 games; his teams have lost 11 of those 12 games.

Another potentially interesting QB “battle” is in the Vikings’ camp. Theirs is a real 3-way dance between Teddy Bridgewater, Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder. Bridgewater is in an “algebraic situation” here. Both Cassel and Ponder have shown they are not the answer as the Vikes’ QB; they are negatives. What Bridgewater needs to show is that he is neither Cassel nor Ponder. In that situation, he would be a negative of a negative – and in algebra, you learn that is a positive. It will be interesting to see how that turns out.

The QB completion that has the potential to generate the most fireworks, though, is the one in the Jets’ training camp. Geno Smith was “raw” last year; he threw 12 TDs and 21 INTs. Rex Ryan loves to sugarcoat situations like that but there is not enough sugar in the Western Hemisphere to make Smith’s 2013 season palatable. Pushing him for the starting job will be Michael Vick who can still show flashes of brilliance in his game and who remains injury prone and who continues to be “accuracy-challenged” throwing the football.

In a parallel universe, the Jets have a competition going on for their 3rd string QB too. Tajh Boyd came in the draft this year; he is big and athletic and to say he is “accuracy-challenged” would be generous indeed. The other party to the competition there is Chris Simms. I think the bottom line on Simms is that if his surname were Flabeetz he would have been out of the league for a while now.

Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot had an interesting observation recently regarding NFL officials:

“Hurry up: Because of the popularity of high-tempo offenses in the NFL – the Chip Kelly Effect – game officials are undergoing more rigorous physical training so they can spot the ball faster. I’d rather they spent the offseason figuring out what is and isn’t pass interference.”

I cannot possibly disagree with that statement…

Finally, Greg Cote of the Miami Herald had this comment about a new NFL “initiative” recently. I would have a hard time disagreeing with it too:

“The NFL plans to place cameras in locker rooms and air video to fans in stadiums. It will be a good idea until the moment a horrified crowd is accidentally shown a 365-pound guard with no pants.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

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  • Doug  On July 30, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Or a 235 pound kicker with no pants.

    • Rich  On July 30, 2014 at 10:47 pm

      ….or Rex Ryan with no pants.

      • The Sports Curmudgeon  On July 31, 2014 at 1:11 pm


        Or Andy Reid…

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On July 31, 2014 at 1:10 pm


      Not a pleasant thought…

  • Steve  On August 1, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    I was interested to read your comments on Ray Rice. Coincidentally, my son—a known quantity to you, Curmudgeon, for better or worse—is 11 years old, the age you cited in wondering how one would explain Rice’s behavior to a child. My son and I have been taking in one Ravens’ home game per season over the last several years, and I wonder how the crowd will react to Rice at the home opener. Even if we don’t attend that particular game, I wonder what I should tell him when Rice is introduced and the crowd goes nuts. Sad.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On August 1, 2014 at 9:56 pm


      Good to hear from you. I did not have Daniel in mind when I wrote my commentary on the fans cheering Ray Rice but it sure would have been been difficult to explain to him what was going on had you and Daniel been at the Ravens training camp on the day Rice showed up for practice.

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