I was struggling for a theme for this week’s missive, but then someone (no names, no pack drill) very kindly used the phrase ‘thuggery versus skill’ elsewhere on this site and gave me a neat tie in to events on and off the field over the past week.
Those of you who have been reading since my first article will know that the NFL is trying desperately to clean up its act following a rather large number of player misdemeanours. That extends not only to acts off the field, but acts on them as well. Players are now routinely fined for going beyond the bounds of what the NFL decides is fair and reasonable. This week alone:
· Mike Vrabel was fined $5000 for the tackle which I referred to last week;
· Kyle Van Den Bosch of the Titans is $7500 lighter after a low tackle on Falcons’ QB Joey Harrington;
· Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jaguars needed a real cash machine after picking up a similar fine for a touchdown celebration where he pretended the goalposts were a cash machine – yes, in the NFL you can now be fined for over-celebrating, although Jones-Drew has been so poor this year I reckon the fine was $500 for what he did and $7000 for having the nerve to draw attention to himself after being such a useless waste of space for the first five weeks.
Basically, in the modern NFL, anything which looks a bit bad on television is going to cost you. It generally takes a week or two for the fines to filter through, but it is a safe bet that anyone who was pulled up for a horsecollar (a tackle around the neck) or facemask this week won’t be spending too much money for another seven days. Given that all of the protective equipment prevents some of the sneakier pieces of foul play you find in other games – it is hard to eye gouge through a helmet – picking up the offenders isn’t the hardest job in the world and indeed you wonder why the league didn’t get tougher before now.
On the other hand, it is all a question of proportion. Is tacking someone high, or late, really only worth as big a fine as using the goalposts as a celebration prop? Surely not. In the examples given above, either Jones-Drew was hard done by, or the other two got off very lightly.
The week’s other news
Tom Brady throws a career-best 5 touchdown passes – two of them to the littlest and least well known of their formidable receiving quartet, Wes Welker – as the Pats destroy the Cowboys 48-27. In doing so, he sets a new record as the first QB to throw three touchdowns in six consecutive matches. There is some talk among pundits that the spying affair has so galvanised this team that they will be hard to beat; in truth, they are simply enjoying having every player fit and on the top of his form. Whilst it is very hard to see anyone beating them at the moment, you get the feeling that it only takes one or two of them to have an off day and the wheels will come off in spectacular fashion;
The Chiefs beat the Bengals 27-20; Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez scores two of their touchdowns to break the record for the most touchdowns by a tight end in NFL history;
Vinny Testaverde (aged 753) extends his own record for the number of consecutive seasons with a touchdown pass to 21 as he leads his new team the Carolina Panthers to a 25-10 victory over the Arizona Cardinals;
Testaverde is a mere stripling compared to 59 year old Mike Flynt, who became the oldest college football player in history on Friday night;
The Rams’ dire season continues as they crash 22-3 at the Ravens;
Over in Jacksonville, the Jaguars beat the Texans 37-17. That man Jones-Drew runs in a touchdown and then bows to the crowd, who hail him for the prize idiot he clearly is;
In the battle of the Adrian Petersons, it is the Viking of that name who comes out on top, going in for three touchdowns against the Bears (and his namesake) and leading Minnesota to a surprise 34-31 victory;
A 43 yard field goal with just 11 seconds remaining gives the Buccaneers a 13-10 victory over the Titans in a game so awful the only thing you could say is that neither side deserved to win;
The Packers beat the Redskins 17-14 and it is another record for Old Man Favre. He might not want this one, though – he has now been intercepted more often than any other QB;
Anthony Hargrove of the Bills will be ordering extra toilet paper after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct, drawing a $300 dollar fine from the court and a the prospect of an uncomfortable meeting with arch-disciplinarian Roger Goodall;
Goodall is also due to hear Tank Johnson’s application to resume playing any day now and is – rumour has it – likely to say ‘yes’ for once in his life;
And continuing the Goodall theme, he has also hinted that, one day, the Superbowl may be played outside the USA – meaning London;
The Cardinal’s QB problems continue as Kurt Warner picks up an elbow injury, leaving only Tim Rattay available. They’ve signed Tim Hasselbeck as back up to him, which means they now have none of the quarterbacks they had six weeks ago. Hasselbeck is the less talented brother of the Seahawks’ Matt, which makes him about ¼ the talent of Eli Manning, or 1/8th of a full Peyton…
Finally, good news of Kevin Everett, who is now walking again with the aid of a special frame, but sad news of Cowboys legend Ron Spring, who is in a coma after a kidney transplant (donated by a former team-mate) failed.