Welcome to the first edition of NFL Rage where each week during the 2010-11 NFL season, I will take to task a player, coach, fan, or issue that has popped up during the previous week of NFL games.
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In this first edition I'm going to look at the biggest on filed issue already this year, a preseason nightmare for the league, the positioning of the umpire. Adding fuel to the flame is future first ballot Hall of Famer, Peyton Manning who has now shown to have influence on the NFL's decision making process, more than any single active player should.
It's not a big secret that NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell likes to cater to the needs of the bigger named athletes in his sport, especially the elite Quarterbacks. Under his regime, there have been a plethora of rules that have come about, simply meant to keep quarterbacks safe. Let's call it like it is thought, these rules are meant to keep Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Ben Roethlisberger safe.
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The same hit below the knee that put Brady out for the season, took Carson Palmer out of the playoffs a few years before. It wasn't made illegal until the NFL's golden boy missed time. Brady spends as much time during games begging for penalties as his coaching staff did stealing the defenses signals from 2001-2008.
Brian Cushing didn't fail a steroid test, he tested positive for taking HCG which is often used as a masking agent and received a 4 game suspension (as if he was caught taking steroids.) When he appealed the suspension, stating over trained athletes syndrome, he was denied a reduced suspension. Ben Roethlisberger has now been charged multiple times for sexual assault. After the latest incident this offseason, he received a 6 game suspension. The season hasn't even started yet and the suspension was just reduced to 4 games! Goodell stated that it was due to Roethlisberger making changes in his life that they agreed to. Wow, so he didn't rape anyone in the last 6 months so he gets a reduction in his suspension? This is usually the point where the Steeler / Roethlisberger faithful point out that the judge didn't find enough evidence to go to trial. To that I say, Pacman Jones didn't serve time for any of his off filed run- ins with the law either, he received a year suspension. Hey Mr. Goodell, I was just thinking, I haven't raped anyone either, does that make me entitled to a promotion at work? Please call my boss and put in a good word for me.
The latest story in the series of books about NFL favoritism is "Peyton Manning and the ball that was snapped to soon". The story starts with the NFL changing the position of the umpire this season. The umpire has long been located on the defensive side of the ball, behind the linebackers. This positioning has in fact caused numerous collisions between umpires and players. Umpires have gotten in the way of passes and running backs, and have been used as legal picks on receiver routs.
I agree that the umpire needs to be moved for safety. In the Clemson vs. North Texas game this pass Saturday, on the second play from scrimmage the umpire was taken out violently. The NCAA has not yet made this change, but it makes sense. Try telling the umpire who was carted off the field Saturday that it's not rational thinking.
To combat all the injuries and other problems, the NFL decided to move the umpire to the offensive side of the ball. He would be placed behind the furthest offensive player from the ball and about 15 yards from the line of scrimmage. The way the rule was written was that ball can't be snapped until the umpire set the ball for the next play and ran back to his position. So everything sounds good, everyone will be safe, there would be no stoppages in play to attend to maimed umpires, and a resolution to the problem has been found right?
The problem came to light in the very first week of preseason when Peyton Manning was trying to run his hurry up offense and was penalized twice for snapping the ball before the umpire got back to his designated position. Peyton was seen irate on the field with the officiating crew. I knew then that he would complain and get Bill Polian, the Colts GM involved and the rule would be changed. How dare you change a rule and not seek Peyton's approval first.
In an effort to please Manning, after each week the NFL tries something different. After week one, they made it so that the official only had to run back 12 yards from the line of scrimmage (instead of 15) where he set the ball and get set. After week three they tried having the umpire simply go "behind the deepest offensive player." In a two minute drill with an empty backfield, this would simply mean that the umpire had to get behind the QB. After the fourth preseason game, the Commissioner being the stand up guy he is, just 2 days before the kickoff to the 2010 season, has decided to permanently change the rule that they implemented this offseason before ever using it in an NFL game that counted. I'm no NFLologist, but this has to be precedent setting in sport. A league's commissioner altering league rules to appease a whining player 48 hours before the season starts?
The league sent out the memo to all 32 teams on Tuesday, September 7. The Saints will kick off the season versus the Vikings on Thursday, September 9. Don't doubt the power of Peyton Manning. He'll turn water to wine, walk on water, not choke in the Super Bowl...DOH!
The "Umpiregate" memo stated that the umpire would stay on the offensive side of the ball but would only go back 12 yards from the line of scrimmage not 15...really. That's your answer. But wait it gets funnier. The head linesman or line judge will signal when the ball can be snapped. Now this is the part where you realize that Goodell is all for legalizing marijuana. The umpire will move back to the defensive side of the ball for the last 2 minutes of the first half and the last 5 minutes of the second half. I'm not done yet...the umpire will also be on the defensive side of the ball at any point in the game when the offense has the ball inside the defense's 5 yard line. I couldn't make this up if I wanted to. I kept waiting to see where the umpire would be when the Jets leave New York on a train at 3 pm and the 49ers leave San Francisco on a train at 11 am and.... Ridiculous! I had to check my calendar and see if it was April 1st, then I looked around outside my house for Ashton Kutcher. When I figured out this wasn't an April Fool's joke and I wasn't getting punked, I couldn't do anything but panic because I realized that if they are dumb enough to release a rule like this, then they would be stupid enough to have a lockout in 2011, when the NFL is at its most popular level ever.
Exactly what message is Roger Goodell sending? Wasn't the while point of moving the umpire for the official's safely? While Goodell appears to represent himself as being concerned about the welfare of the umpire the majority of the time, he apparently has total disregard for the umpire's wellbeing during the last 2 minutes of the 1st half, the last 5 minutes of regulation time or any time inside the 5 yard line! And exactly what is Peyton Manning going to say to the family of some poor umpire who becomes a cripple because Manning couldn't wait another fraction of a second to snap the ball?
Join me with your bagel and coffee bright and early each Sunday morning here on Xtra Point Football as I will be publishing ‘NFL Gameday' giving you a quick rundown of all Sunday's games and what to look for. - Jayson Braddock
Jayson appears on Sports Radio 790 AM in Houston, TX once a week as the football insider on the Dylan Gwinn show. He's a graduate of the Sports Management World Wide Football GM & Scouting Course and has been mentored by former NFL player / executive John Wooten and Sporting News.com NFL Draft Expert Russ Lande. His work is mostly appreciated by die-hard fans interested in every little detail about their team and not just watered down mainstream talk.
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