Halloween special: The scariest players in the NFL

On this Halloween, I profile the scariest players in the NFL.  If you’re like me, you have nightmares about these players staring you down…not to mention your quarterback.

Jared Allen, Defensive End for the Minnesota Vikings

Yes, Jared Allen may be lovable…in a big, goofy dog kind of way.  But he’s also intimidating…in a growling Doberman kind of way.  You never really trust him, you never take your eyes off him, you never turn your back on him, and you never…ever piss him off.  Just ask Tampa Bay Buccaneers Quarterback Josh Freeman.

During last week’s Thursday Night Football game between the Vikings and the Buccaneers, Bucs Tackle Donald Penn kept blocking Allen after the play was over.  The two got physical and Penn knocked Allen’s helmet off, giving him a bloody nose.  Once the two were separated and back on the field for the next play, no one had to tell you what was going to happen next.

The whistle blew, the ball was snapped…and before he could say, “Trick or Treat,” Josh Freeman was on the ground with a bloodied Allen starting him in the face.  Just like a scene from a horror movie.

Fan’s best friend…but only if he’s on your team.

Troy Polamalu, Safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers

Don’t let the Head & Shoulders commercials fool you.  Troy Polamalu may be sitting at a piano, long hair flowing…but as elegant as he looks, he’s a fierce fighter on the field.  Over ten seasons in the NFL, Polamalu has racked up 614 tackles, 9 quarterback sacks, and 29 interceptions.  He also has two Super Bowl rings and seven Pro Bowl appearances to show for it.  Superhuman strength and speed?  Maybe he does moonlight as a vampire.

The hair is fair game on the field.  If you think it holds him back, though…think again.  But Head & Shoulders did insure Polamalu’s locks through Lloyds of London (for one million dollars), just in case.

If any player has the nerve to mess with Polamalu’s mop…it will grow right back anyway.  At least, it would in Twilight.

Ray Lewis, Linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens

Ray Lewis is not only the best linebacker on the Ravens defense, he is arguably the best linebacker in the NFL…and quite possibly the best to play that position.  Ever.

The Ravens are missing Lewis, who was ruled out for the season with a torn triceps muscle in week six.  And they may be missing him for much longer.  Reports say the 17-year NFL veteran who is not so quiet along the sideline, is quietly contemplating retirement.

In his storied career, Lewis has racked up more records than any trophy case could hold, including a Super Bowl, Super Bowl MVP, a record 13 Pro Bowl appearances, more than 2,000 tackles, 41 sacks, and 31 interceptions.

Coupled with his keen sense of leadership and that intense look, this is not a guy you want anywhere near your quarterback.  Not even on the sideline.

And then, there was that murder investigation…but I won’t go into that.

If Ray Lewis retires from football, he will be remembered only for his game killing plays, his violent attacks on quarterbacks, and his ability to stop runners dead in their tracks.

Aside from all that, he’s also one of the most loved and respected players of all time and is known for having a huge heart.  In 2010, Lewis had a street named after him in honor of his work in the Baltimore community.

I don’t care.  I still don’t want to run into him in a dark alley.  Even if it is Ray Lewis Way.  But don’t tell him I said that.  Ok?

Happy Halloween!


Coffee Cup Quarterback | Week 7: A new season, a new scandal. Welcome to…Stickygate

San Diego Chargers

A new year, a new “gate” in the National Football League.  First, we had the New England Patriots and Spygate, then we had the New Orleans Saints and Bountygate, the fallout from which is still settling.

And now, it’s the San Diego Chargers who find themselves in a sticky situation.  Literally.  Jay Glazer from Fox Sports reported Sunday that an official spotted a Chargers equipment manager hiding something in a towel he was giving to players during the Monday night game against the Broncos.  The employee refused to turn over the towel, but when officials asked him to empty his pockets, they confiscated a sticky substance.

And just like that, a scandal is born.  Welcome, my friends to…Stickygate.

Stickum has been banned by the NFL for years, but was once used liberally to help players hold on to the football.  The NFL is investigating and the Chargers are on bye week (and likely doing laundry).  Coach Norv Turner says no one on his team used Stickum during the Chargers’ 35-24 loss to the Denver Broncos on October 15th.  With six turnovers, you wouldn’t think anyone would accuse the Chargers of having sticky fingers.

Speaking of gates…Saints Assistant Coach Joe Vitt has returned to the team following his Bountygate suspension.  He will be on the field at Mile High Stadium this week when the Saints play the Broncos on Sunday Night Football.

So that’s what the Baltimore Ravens look like without Pro Bowl Linebacker and future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis.  The Ravens defense allowed the Houston Texans to score more than 40 points on Sunday, something they haven’t done since 2007.  The team lost both Lewis and Cornerback Lardarius Webb for the season last week.  And no defense is pretty hard to overcome with no offense.  Ravens Quarterback Joe Flacco recorded the lowest rating for any quarterback since 2008.  The Ravens lost to the Texans 43-13.

Johns Skelton was back at quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals this week.  His welcome back gift?  He was sacked seven times by the Minnesota Vikings (and is probably still having nightmares about Brian Robison and Jared Allen).  Kevin Kolb was hurt after being sacked more than 20 times in three games.  The two are taking turns taking sacks and trading injuries.  The Cardinals have allowed their quarterbacks to be sacked 35 times this year, the most in the NFL.  Once again, I hope the Cardinals invest in some protection…or have a binder full of backup quarterbacks.  Yes, people…that one was just too easy.

The best news in the NFL for week seven…Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano has been released from the hospital and was able to watch his team beat the Cleveland Browns at home…from home.  Pagano has been hospitalized and undergoing treatment for leukemia since the end of September.

And NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says that unless the quality of the game improves, this could be the last year for the NFL Pro Bowl.



Coffee Cup Quarterback | Week 3: The Week It Got Ugly

Write it down, people…week three, that is.  That was the week the NFL’s ongoing lockout with the officials went from a distraction to crazy town.

It was a wild week to begin with.  A lot of close games and surprising outcomes.  And there were bad calls, missed calls, and questionable plays.  Yes, the longer this impasse goes on, the more uneasy we all become every time a flag is thrown.  And the more some players will try to get away with…

Like they say, it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.  Or an ear.  Which happened to Texans Quarterback Matt Schaub.  Schaub lost part of his left ear to a brutal, vicious, and illegal hit by Denver Broncos Linebacker Joe Mays, that ripped his helmet off (and apparently part of his ear with it), but thankfully left his head intact.

With emotions already running high, Sunday Night Football rolled around.  A big game.  The Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots.  A rematch of last season’s AFC Championship game, with the Ravens at home this time and on the hunt for revenge.

Young Ravens Wide Receiver Torrey Smith had a courageous performance after losing his younger brother in a motorcycle accident the night before.  He was teary at times and clearly feeling the outpouring of love from the Baltimore fans.  Smith had two touchdowns and helped to bring his team back within reach of the Patriots in the fourth quarter.

Just like last time, it came down to a field goal.  But unlike last time, it wasn’t Billy Cundiff, who missed.  Down by two, and with two seconds on the clock, undrafted rookie kicker Justin Tucker drove one high and over the top of the upright (making it non-reviewable).  The refs made it official.  The Ravens rallied around Torrey Smith.

And then…this happened.  On the way off the field, an angry and non-hoodie-clad Bill Belichick hopped on the Crazy Train (Patriots team song) and accosted one of the replacement officials.  He stopped and composed himself long enough to shake hands with Ravens Coach John Harbaugh.  You don’t mess with those Harbaughs and their handshakes.

Asked about his behavior during his post game press conference, Belichick, his usual, personable self, refused to comment.  Instead, he cited his team being flagged “like 30 times.”  Guess you can’t buy class in the form of a $75 pullover.

This is where we’re at, guys.  The NFL is one big dysfunctional family right now.  Fun to watch…but only if you’re not directly related.



Coffee Cup Quarterback (Monday Edition) | Preseason Week 3: The One With the Starters

Ahhh…week three of the NFL preseason.  When the starters actually play and our teams begin to look less like it’s the preseason and more like the regular season.  For some teams, that was good news.  For others…not so much.

The New York Jets were featured on Sunday Night Football hosting the Carolina Panthers.  Panthers Quarterback Cam Newton was in regular season form.  He ran, he threw, he impressed.  And his team went on to beat the Jets 17-12.  No, the Jets don’t have a touchdown yet.  That was four field goals for them.  They have Mark Sanchez, they have Tim Tebow.  Before the season started, we couldn’t stop talking about this duo and what they could do.  And now that it’s started, we can’t stop talking about what they can’t do.  There were visions of hope.  After a thoroughly unsuccessful half by Sanchez (who was booed for letting the clock run down to end it), it was Tebow Time.  Tebow did what Tebow does, which is run and throw to the other team.  At one point, NBC Host Cris Collinsworth was dissecting the mechanics of his unconventional left-handed throw and Tebow broke out for a huge run and first down.  The timing was nothing short of divine.  This is what Tebow can do.  A few plays later…perfectly thrown ball…to a Carolina Panther.  This is also what Tebow can do.

Note to self: take Jets kicker in fantasy draft.  Tebow was eventually booed as well.  Yes, Jets fans booed both of their quarterbacks in one game and it’s only the preseason.  Tough crowd.

And to back up my theory that Twitter has no better use than for in-game football commentary, take this.  For me, the tweet of the night, maybe of the entire preseason:

Michele Tafoya asked Sanchez about the Jets’ lack of a touchdown and he pointed out that there is still a fourth preseason game to be played.  When pressed, he responded, “Looks like we’re saving all our touchdowns for the regular season.”  When they count.  Good plan.

And then we had the battle of the draft picks.  Number one, Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts take on number two, Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins at Fed Ex Field.  There was hype.  There was a t-shirt…

In the end, it was just another preseason game.  Both quarterbacks highlighted their strengths.  Luck threw a lot and ran a little, RGIII threw a little and ran a lot.  Both had moments of brilliance.  Both had rookie mistakes.  The Redskins beat the Colts 30-17.  The most impressive drives came from (wait for it)…Rex Grossman.  Yes, Wrecks Grossman.  The guy who has never really been able to establish himself as solid starting material (at least for long), was brilliant.  Grossman finished 8 of 8 for 130 yards, 2 touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating.  Don’t be surprised if he gets traded to the Jets!

Other highlights for week three of the preseason:

We said hello to: Russell Wilson as starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, Peyton Manning’s first touchdowns (a pair) for the Denver Broncos, and Cornerback Vontae Davis as a Colt, traded to Indy by the Miami Dolphins.

We said goodbye to: Terrell Owens as a Seattle Seahawk (and possibly as an NFL player), Pro Bowl Kicker Billy Cundiff as a Baltimore Raven (the team chose to move on with Rookie Justin Tucker), and many of the players who will be released by our teams as the rosters are reduced to 75 players.

Lest you forget, the NFL really stands for “Not For Long.”

One thing we do hope is not for long…the replacement refs.  There is confusion, discussion, and an on field meeting with practically every call.  The games are being dragged out, and there have been mistakes.  Plenty of them.  But it is the preseason.  And the games don’t count.  Yet.  The players, coaches, even the fans have been fairly patient thus far.  That will end once those calls result in a “W” or an “L” in a team’s record.  We need better than this for the regular season.  And really, by the start of it.

So, let’s hope week four of the preseason brings renewed talks between the NFL and the official officials.

And…a Jets touchdown.