1. And the Darwin award this week goes to...
Jason Pierre-Paul, who almost blew his hand off lighting fireworks. This was, well, terrifically stupid.
I'm hearing from league sources that—while the hand injury isn't catastrophic and could have been far worse—there is a possibility it could cause Pierre-Paul to miss significant time.
Wednesday, July 8
Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, Pierre-Paul has had his right index finger amputated as a result of the fireworks incident.
--End of update--
I'm also told the Giants coaching staff is absolutely apoplectic. Before this incident, apparently, there was already some concern from the Giants over whether they could trust Pierre-Paul with a huge payday. Now, that concern is cemented.
No, Pierre-Paul didn't commit a heinous crime. But he did commit an act of stupidity, a damaging one for the Giants, who were counting on him anchor a suspect defense.
None of us is perfect, and players are of course allowed to have fun. But there's a line. You don't risk tens of millions of dollars or earnings over the next decade for fireworks. Maybe if it's a few sparklers, but it's possible Pierre-Paul had enough fireworks to launch a small craft into low orbit.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported the Giants pulled a $60 million offer to Pierre-Paul because of the incident. The New York Post's Mark Cannizzaro disputed that, but it doesn't really matter either way, because Paul was never going to accept it. He could have gotten more. At least, before this accident.
Dumb. Just dumb. Especially when you're looking for a long-term deal.
It will be interesting to see what Pierre-Paul says about this other than: Damn, I was stupid.
2. NFL still taking hard stance on performance-enhancing drugs
No organization is better at the Friday News Dump, or FND, than the NFL. What the league did this past holiday weekend was one of the better FNDs of all time. But make no mistake: There was also a serious message buried in its dump.
(That previous sentence sounds a little funny, but you know what I mean.)
The NFL normally uses these news dumps to relay news it wants to bury. But this one, I believe, was different.
Last Thursday, while most Americans were preparing for a long weekend of grilling the heck out of hot dogs and watching the U.S. beat the world at soccer, the NFL pulled one of its classic FNDs. (It happened on a Thursday, but because Friday was a national holiday, it counts as an FND. I know this is like wormhole physics, but it's true.)
The announcement was a whopper. Chargers tight end Antonio Gates was suspended four games for a PED violation. Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson was suspended four games for pot. Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain was suspended four games after failing a drug test. Packers defensive end Datone Jones was suspended one for violating the substance-abuse policy.
There is a great deal happening with those suspensions. Don't think, despite the FND, the NFL isn't sending a serious message. The league knows FNDs eventually get covered (usually the next week), and its message will be conveyed to the media.
And that message is that despite the controversies the league has recently endured—the embarrassing incidents involving the mishandling of Ray Rice and others—it isn't backing down on any issue.
Sure, the testing is automatic, and a failed test is a failed test, but the NFL could have spread these suspensions out across days or weeks. Instead, it packed them together. The league wanted players and the media to notice, despite the FND.
I think in this rare case, the FND was used as an attention-getter instead of a place to dump unwanted news. I can't remember the last time the league put four suspensions into one FND.
I'm not a big conspiracy theorist—other than aliens, Bigfoot and Atlantis being real—but what the NFL did was purposeful.
The NFL is telling players: We may have taken a beating on Deflategate and domestic violence issues, but when it comes to PEDs and marijuana, nothing has changed, so don't even try to beat the system. We will catch you.
Then, the league will make sure everyone knows, even if it's a Friday.
3. Gates still a Hall of Famer
Gates' PED use may hurt the Chargers this season, but it won't kill his Hall of Fame chances.
Sure, there will be some voters who will say Gates' suspension may mean he was using throughout his career and that should disqualify him. That is not an altogether outlandish position, but it is a wrong one.
This is basically the argument Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe makes:
It calls into question everything that he's ever accomplished. If he does it at the beginning of his career, because he was an undrafted free agent, people are gonna say he did it to get in the league. Now he did it Year 13, Year 14. People are going to say he did it to remain in the league. It does; it makes you question everything someone has ever accomplished.
I actually pseudo-believe Gates (and will probably regret writing those words), and my guess is most voters will believe him as well.
Gates was the best tight end I ever saw, and I don't believe that talent was PED-fueled. I think it was just Gates being great.
4. A Jim Harbaugh book?
I have heard this before and I continue to hear that Jim Harbaugh wants to write some sort of tell-all about his 49ers days. I'm hearing this from NFL assistant coaches who are friends with Harbaugh.
I find this hard to believe, and I don't know if it's true. But these coaches believe it's accurate.
You'd assume if he was going to do this, he'd wait until his entire coaching career is over. But then again, he is a different sort of dude.
5. Video dooms another woman-beater
If what Johnson's lawyer told NBC is accurate—if the woman used a racial slur—it's still no excuse to punch her.
This case was followed closely by NFL scouts. Some believe Johnson was an NFL-caliber player. Now, his potential pro career is dead, some people in the NFL tell me.
"No one will touch him in the NFL," one scout said. "No one."
But scouts also followed this case because of the video. The case reminded them of another one. An infamous one.
6. And Rice still isn't employed
That case is Ray Rice, of course. The only reason—the only reason—Rice remains jobless in the NFL is that infamous series of videos. It's not just that Rice is a declining player. There are plenty of declining players in football.
It's those videos. No team, at least for now, and possibly forever, wants anything to do with Rice because of them.
7. Reminder: OBJ is still awesome
(Video contains profanity.)
These catches by Odell Beckham Jr. are…I mean…wow.
Across the sport, some assistant coaches believe Beckham will take a small step back as defenses focus even more resources on stopping him.
I think he'll even be better because that Giants offensive line will be better, Eli Manning will be better and the team overall will have more weapons on offense. In short, I think Beckham will still be almost unstoppable.
We'll see at least one ridiculous catch. Probably more. That's what he does.
8. Well, OK then...
Three Colts linemen posed naked for ESPN. This is presented without comment.
9. Haynesworth's note to younger self
Albert Haynesworth wrote a smart and touching letter to himself that for the first time showed him as a human being, rather than the guy who stomped on another player or signed a catastrophic contract with Washington that would become one of the worst free-agent deals of all time.
I got to know Haynesworth a little, and he was deeper than he showed. It bothered him that after signing that fat deal, he was portrayed as lazy and a bust. Granted, he was a bit lazy and a massive bust, but he was also more than that.
Some tidbits from the letter, published by the Players' Tribune, explain why. He wrote:
Before games, your coaches will essentially pimp you out. They're going to use humiliation and fear as a means to make you play as hard as humanly possible. One of them will literally show you a scene from the movie Deliverance during a mid-week meeting in order to demonstrate just how badly the opponent is going to own you. You will love this, in a way. It will make you go absolutely nuts. The NFL culture will brainwash you into a certain mentality: "My opponent is trying to take food out on my mouth, and I want to embarrass him in front of his family. It disgusts me to be on the same field as him."
He also wrote:
You will approach games as war. I don't mean that as a cliche. There will be many times where you feel like your opponent is trying to steal your entire life. In October 2006, you'll be playing against the Dallas Cowboys, rushing against the guard like you have thousands of times before, when you get your knee clipped from behind. You'll get up, furious, and see that it's the center, Andre Gurode, who hit you. This is an unspoken rule among linemen. You don't do it. But maybe it was an accident. You say, "What the hell was that? You ain't man enough to block me straight up?"
"Nah," he'll say, "I'm trying to put your ass out."
People are going to be all over you for your contract, and you're going to feel really frustrated. You're going to do some dumb things. But what people aren't going to see is Mike Shanahan calling you into his office and saying, "Albert, we just want you to eat up space. All we want you to do is grab the center and let the linebackers run free."
You're going to look at this famous NFL head coach in total disbelief and say, "You want to pay me $100 million to grab the center?"
And he's going to say, with a straight face, "Albert, if you have more than one sack this season, I'm going to be pissed."
When I tweeted about the new HBO show about NFL players, Ballers, it caused a bit of a stir, and I heard from current players, former players, the media and many NFL fans. My main points about the show:
• It's not an accurate representation of NFL players.
Sure, some players are womanizers. Some are turds. Some go broke. Some do stuff like sniffing cocaine off the breasts of women while on a yacht or having sex with a teammate's mom.
But most, the vast majority of players I've met in over 25 years of doing this, don't do any of that stuff. I know this seems crazy with all of the crimes and insanity going on in the sport, but it's true. The show traffics in stereotypes of players. The characters are one-dimensional. In reality, most NFL players are complex people who stay out of trouble. Most, not all.
Longtime veteran Geoff Schwartz, now with the Giants, wrote to me on Twitter:
• Another problem is the one female character, a television journalist, slept with one of the players. Does that happen? Yes. Is it extremely rare? Hell yes. It's .00000000001 percent.
• The acting by The Rock is, well, unbelievably good. If this is the sports version of Entourage, then the Rock is Ari Gold. He makes what would normally be an unwatchable show highly enjoyable. Even if it's highly flawed.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.