Terrelle Pryor Gets His First Lesson on Life in the NFL by Lloyd Vance


Welcome to the big leagues! Former Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor will be allowed in the 2011 NFL Supplemental Draft with one big caveat

On August 18th, the National Football League did the right and wrong thing to potential prospect QB Terrelle Pryor.  The world’s most powerful league did find it in their heart to letOhioState’s wayward Buckeye into the 2011 NFL Supplemental Draft, but at the same time showed their unilateral influence by instituting a precedent setting 5-game suspension to Pryor at the start of his NFL career.

The league in a dual statement announced that this year’s Supplemental Draft would be moved from its originally scheduled date of August 17th to Monday August 22nd and that indeed finally Pryor would be allowed to participate.  The news was welcomed around NFL Universe that the former prep All-American turned public enemy number one inColumbus,Ohio would get his chance at redemption.  But overwhelming their was a groundswell movement by fans and media that were saying, “What the hell is Roger Goodell and the NFL doing” by instituting a 5-game suspension –without pay by the way – for transgression that happened before Pryor has even signed a league contract.

For sure much like the cases of former NFL bad boys Pacman Jones and Micheal Vick the NFLPA was sure to get involved.  But once again armed with a brand-newCBA, NFL Commissioner Roger “Hang’em High” Goodell was back.  During the league’s 136-day lockout many wondered if the still existing NFL Personal Conduct policy with Goodell as the Judge and Jury would be back in full effect.  Well it didn’t take long as the Commish once again made a player “beg” to step on the field before relenting with another of his controversial caveats. 

The league informed teams that Pryor “made decisions that undermine the integrity of the eligibility rules for the NFL draft.” Among those actions, the league said, were the hiring of an agent in violation of NCAA rules and a failure to cooperate with the investigation that cost then-Ohio State coach Jim Tressel his job. The NCAA committee on infractions is working to determine the school’s final penalties.

With no other “viable” alternatives other than the minor league CFL or UFL, Pryor like so many other players caught in Goodell’s player misconduct has to eat crow and accept the decision. “We accept that voluntarily,” Pryor’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus recently said.  The loquacious agent added, “It’s a small price to pay for him to have a chance to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL.”   Many are saying that if Pryor had decided to fight the league’s suspension that there was a distinct possibility that he would have been ruled ineligible all together – see Maurice Clarett and Mike Williams circa the 2006 NFL Draft – a lengthy career-delaying court battle would have ensued.

In the end, as a family supporter I understand Pryor have to accept his medicine to support his family, but I don’t have to like it.  The league can say that Goodell consulted NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith all they want, but how can the NFL just decide to retroactively apply a suspension based on “College” transgressions.  What is next the league suspending Dolphins RB Reggie Bush for the mess that he caused atUSCor the many former University of Miami Hurricanes in the league that were just found out to be on the take in the Shapiro Scandal.  League spokesman Greg Aiello even tweeted you can’t break the rules as Pryor did “and get a free pass into the NFL.”

As I stated in my last article on the Pryor / Supplemental Draft situation, “Give me a break, the NFL has way too many other problems than to worry about cleaning up the NCAA’s mess involving a fallen quarterback”.  Pryor like so many other supplemental draft eligible players of the past has made a mistake as a young college athlete and now wants to move-on to the NFL.  But now Pandora’s box has been opened and the league better hope the NCAA’s nex bad boy castoff is coming over clean – Hey BTW, I just heard that potential 2012 first overall pick Stanford QB Andrew Luck was caught cheating at hide-and-seek in the 3rd grade..I’m just saying.

Bills safety George Wilson, an NFLPA representative said of the situation, “I don’t understand, my question is, with thisMiamiprobe, are those players who took those gifts, are those guys — guys that violated NCAA regulations — are they subject to his discipline as well? Is it retroactive? This opens up a big can of worms”. Wilsonadded, “You can’t pick and choose when you want to apply, when you don’t want to apply, who you stick it to, who you don’t stick it to. It needs to be clearly defined. I don’t agree with it. But we have to see how he chooses to proceed as well as the union. It’s just setting a whole totally different precedent.”

Next Pryor will have a pro day for all 32 NFL teams Saturday inPittsburgh, where he’ll workout in drills similar to the NFL Scouting Combine. I know come Monday that some team is going to give him a chance to be the next “Brad Smith” or whomever in the NFL that Pryor will become.  But this process to me, quite frankly stinks.

So now we move-on with Pryor even tweeting, “God bless and thanks for support! Time to have a little fun!”  But to tell you the truth I don’t like it one bit.

Good luck Terrelle, as you already understand that being in NFL sometimes means you have to understand “who” is in charge.




Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).  You can reach Lloyd on Twitter @lloydvance_NFL


The NFL Debates How Badly Players Can Be Jacked Up by Lloyd Vance

After Week 6’s headshot fest, if some people around the NFL have their way… ‘Jacked Up’ hits, like this one delivered by former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins on TE Alge Crumpler in the 2004 NFC Championship Game, may draw more than a fine

After a weekend where the National Football League saw an unprecedented number of head injuries, i.e. Concussions , caused by some extremely hard hits. The entire league including officials, players, media and fans were talking about what to do to protect players better from devastating hits. 

The four biggest collision hits that were deemed “flag worthy” by the league — or as ESPN used to glorify, where guys getting “Jacked Up”.  Were Falcons DB Dunta Robinson knocking himself and Philadelphia Eagle WR DeSean Jackson out on a bang-bang play; Steelers LB James Harrison knocking out Cleveland Browns WR/RB Joshua Cribbs on a running play and on another play sending WR Mohamed Massaquoi to the sidelines for a good bit after a head shot; and New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather’s blatant helmet-to-helmet big shot on Baltimore Ravens TE Todd Heap.

Concussions, which have been the NFL’s biggest hot button topic – especially after congress got involved last year – were plentiful in Week 6.  Players Jackson, Robinson, Cribbs, Jaguars QB David Garrard, and Redskins TE Chris Cooley all suffering the league’s most dreaded injury.  So now the league in “protecting” the shield is talking tough about big hits. The cases of Massaquoi, Heap, and Jackson drew the most ire as at least two of them involved helmet-to-helmet contact to “defenseless” receivers, which is a big no-no since the NFL beefed up the defenseless receiver rule before the 2009 season.  The rule — which some say was in response to 2008 “flagged” hits on WR’s Wes Welker and Anquan Boldin” — states that a defender must have two feet on the ground before contact to the head. 

Almost before Sunday’s 1 PM and 4 PM EST games were completed varying shots were fired from both sides of the “devastating” hit debate.  Immediately I was receiving emails and texts saying, “Put flags on these guys, because football is too soft” or on the other side, “Football is becoming too violent and the league needs to step in”.  The situation got so bad that NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson, i.e. “The Fine Man” had to go on the offensive. 

On the “Mike and Mike” Show on ESPN Radio, Anderson said, “We need to get our players firmly in line with the current rules”.  He added when talking about defenseless players, “What we’re trying to make sure our players understand is that you should know the rules.  The coaches know the rules, the players should know the rules. And so if you are in violations of the rules — particularly one of those trying to protect against head, neck injuries — we’re going to hold you to a higher standard.”  However lastly Anderson said there is no intent to change any rules. “We are just going to enforce the existing rules much more to the letter of the law so we can protect our players”.

“We understand this is not just about the NFL,” Anderson said. “This is about safety at our level, at the college level, at the high school level, at the pee-wee level, because we are the standard bearer and we are committed to safety at the highest level.  “So we will take all the criticism and all the backlash against those that say we are acting too aggressively in this regard. We are not going to be apologetic. We are not going to be defensive about it. We are going to protect our players and hopefully players at the lower levels as well by example.”

Trust me as someone that has gotten to know a lot of current and former players over the years, I am all about “Player Safety” and trying to preserve football players’ health long-term.  However I think many members of the media and fans are being too over reactive  in regards to big hits.  Yes, there were players laid out everywhere in Week 6, but too often these types of bone-crunching hits are too hard to evaluate in live action to call them “dirty”.  You cannot blame a defender for trying to make a play in a split second especially when separating a receiver from the ball. 

In the game that I was paying particular attention to, the Eagles-Falcons, I clearly thought that Robinson was not intentionally trying to knockout Jackson.  He led with his shoulder pads and it was a quick bang-bang play where the former Pro Bowl corner could not stop his forward motion.  Unfortunately both players laid on the ground for some time before they were helped off and neither did not return.  As outrage filled the Philadelphia area and Robinson was being painted as a “dirty” player, I thought it was ridiculous given the speed of the play.  I even had to chastise one hypocritical Eagles’ fan who I had to remind that he was the same guy who celebrated former Eagles corner Sheldon Brown’s big hit that “Jacked Up” Saints running back Reggie Bush in the 2006 NFL Playoffs.

Fox contributor and former head of officials Mike Pereira said in explaining the Robinson-Jackson hit,   “Jackson is considered defenseless as the pass was incomplete, and as a defender, Robinson is not allowed to lower his head and contact Jackson anywhere on his body. I’m not sure what you tell a defender to do in that situation, but we have to avoid these types of hits that create the injuries that result from them”. Pereira closed the topic by saying, “The NFL will continue to look at these types of actions to try to eliminate these injuries. Robinson and others are going to have to lead with their shoulders and not their heads.”

Giving the officials the leeway to suspend/eject players for big hits is going to open a firestorm of “subjective” calls.  The NFL needs to relax as big non-helmet-to-helmet hits occur on almost every play and they have been part of the fabric of football since the game was created in the late 19th century.  I can still remember talking to former Falcons veteran safety Lawyer Milloy after the Falcons-Eagles game in October 2008 where he had been flagged for a hard hit on a “defenseless” TE LJ Smith on a bang-bang play.   Milloy was flagged 15-yards for unnecessary roughness  on a big hit over the middle where he used his shoulders mostly to knock the ball away from Smith.  Milloy said, “It happened so fast that I couldn’t stop my momentum and I was just playing the game hard”.   The former University of Washington hitter was not fined by the NFL for the hit, but it showed the “skewed” nature of officials calling penalties for big hits.

However the one hit from Week 6 that everyone can agree on as excessive and cannot be tolerated was Meriweather’s hit on Heap.  Anderson said of the blatantly late helmet-to-helmet hit that landed the former University of Miami star in Patriots head coach Bill Belichick’s doghouse (i.e. the bench for a few plays), “That in our view is something that was flagrant, it was egregious.”  Anderson added, “And effective immediately, that’s going to be looked at a very aggressive level, which could include suspension without pay.”  Anderson also made it a specific point to accentuate the fact that game officials have the authority to eject players in those situations, if warranted.

So after a 24-hour firestorm of sports talk, the NFL came out strong with $175K worth of fines in hopes of changing player’s minds. James Harrison was fined $75K for his two hits on Browns’ players – already had been under the league’s microscope for body-slamming Titans QB Vince Young in Week 2; Plus Meriweather and Robinson received $50K fines for their infractions.  In addition, the NFL when presenting the fines also planted the seed of possible ejections/suspensions for big hits.  Greg Aiello, the NFL senior vice president of public relations said, “Fair warning needed to be given to players and clubs before increased discipline starts to include game suspensions.  A communication will go to the clubs, coaches, and players tomorrow about the increased discipline for violations of player safety rules.”

We will see if the ejection/suspension threats are merely tough talk and can change the way the game is played.  As NFL players have still played with a hard-hitting style for decades despite fines.  Former New England Patriots thumper turned NBC Football Analyst Rodney Harrison, who received more than $200,000 in fines in his career, gave a great story about the fines he accumulated for his hard-hitting style.  He said, “I used to set aside $50,000 before the start of each season to pay fines for big hits”.   That quote shows that Harrison and the rest of the NFL’s hard-hitters know exactly how much their tough-hitting style was going to cost them in playing to win and they are okay with it.  Some are saying that Harrison didn’t learn his lesson until he was finally suspended for 1-game in 2002 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Jerry Rice.  I guess not being able to be on the field to help his team win was the final impetus to make Harrison change his hitting style to stay on the field.  And ejection/suspension may indeed be what it takes to reel-in today’s hard hitters.

Call me crazy, but I do believe in the NFL’s 91 years of existence that “Devastating Hits” have always been celebrated.  I can still remember reveling in the Eagles’ late ‘80s/early ‘90s safety combo of Andre Waters and Wes Hopkins laying receivers out.  Remember Hopkins setting the tone in the infamous “House of Pain” game on December 7, 1991 in the Houston Astrodome where he laid out Ernest Givens and later received a $7500 fine for the hit… but I digress.  Some of the biggest names in professional football’s history including HOFer’s Deacon Jones, Butkus, Lott, Blount, Larry Wilson, Night Train Lane, and others, were celebrated for being fierce intimidating hitters.  These guys had  the ability to knock a guy into next week and everyone loved it – the NFL Films even used produce videos call “Crunch Course” that were hugely popular. 

You can call me a “Narcissist” all you want…but almost all contact sports fans love the brute force of the pros and are drawn to it .   Remember how quickly a circle would form and sides would be taken on the playground when someone yelled, “Fight, Fight”.   Like it or not… people like the big hits of the NFL — just like the Ancient Rome’s Gladiators, NHL Fights, WWE, MMA, Boxing, etc.  “Player Safety” aside, we all love to watch the tough guys of the NFL, because these guys have the “guts” to play in the hit or be hit world of the greatest league on Earth.  

Hopefully the league will try not to impose themselves too much into the equation and NFL football can remain the hard-hitting game that we all love.  When I talked to former 9-year NFL veteran safety Robert Massey about the whole NFL cracking down on big hits situation he said that understood “player safety”.  But Massey added, “Hitting is a big part of the gameYou don’t want to take away the ‘Beauty of the Game’ which is hitting and intimidation”.   What I believe Massey was saying was that hard hits are part of the gamesmanship of the NFL and the brotherhood of players understand that risk.

I am not even sure if fines and penalties are going to deter devastating hits in the NFL.  To the dismay of Pereira, the NFL’s former hot button penalty (horse-collar tackles) increased during the 2008 season even after the league place an emphasis on them — 24 horse-collar tackles called in ’08 as opposed to 12 in ’07.  We will have to wait to see if “Devastating Hits” will fall by the wayside.  Like past NFL big stories ‘SpyGate’ and the Wildcat, but for now get used to everyone talking about the league legislating big hits on “defenseless” players.

You know the NFL is going to be vigilant or is it “reactive” in making sure that players are safe, especially the “Golden Boys” (Quarterbacks and Receivers).  So as former Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan used to say, “They should just put flags on offensive players and get it over with”. 

But c’mon let the defensive guys play hard too! Can anyone please tell me if the same kind of uproar would have been heard if a couple defensive lineman were lost to chop blocks and zone blocking knee-diving schemes…you already know the answer.

Lloyd’s Leftovers

“NFL looks like the league that cried wolf by not suspending a player after being so aggrieved about it.”  – Peter King on Twitter

“Henceforth, unless a Merriweather-type hit earns you a week off, NFL will be guilty of talking big but not following through with action” – Don Banks on Twitter

Sports Ilustrated’s Top 10 biggest hitters from a couple of years ago http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/multimedia/photo_gallery/0707/top10.hitters.today.nfl/content.1.html

Checkout some of these YouTube NFL Big Hits including some from when the league “promoted” crunching shots

NFL Crunch Course – part 1 of 5 — www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOBOxxxKNXQ

Sheldon Brown Jacked Up Steven Jackson — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3c5jwoWPRpI&feature=related

Brian Dawkins: BIG HITS!!!! — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suYFi8zW6pE&feature=fvst

DAWKINS kills Crumpler — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5ApFRBpdf8

NFL’s Most Bone Crushing Hits — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXLOHF71L_c&feature=related



Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2010 NFL Pre-Training Camp Top Stories – Player Misconduct

Leading up to 2010 NFL Training Camps there have been too many stories of player misconduct.  Recently Green Bay Packers DL Johnny Jolly (pictured) was suspended for the season by the league for drug charges

Hard to believe 3 years after NFL Commissioner Roger “Hang’em High” Goodell instituted a Player Conduct policy that gave him much latitude in its application, we are still talking about players putting themselves in bad situations.  Sure the majority of the NFL’s over 1500 players are good up-standing types, but since the Super Bowl ended in February there has been a steady stream of player misconduct that has fans, media, and league officials concerned about a pattern. 

And to make matters worse, now the players involved seem to be more “high profile”.  No longer is everyone talking about the misdeeds of a 2nd string nickelback (i.e. Adam “Pacman” Jones), now quarterbacks who are the league and franchise’s faces are producing negative front-page news too, that may have implications going into the 2010 NFL season. 

Philadelphia Eagles backup QB Michael Vick (a shooting occurring after his 30th B-Day Party), Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (Bar hopping gone array in Milledgeville, GA), Tennessee Titans QB Vince Young (misdemeanor assault citation after allegedly punching a guy in a strip club for an upside down hook’em Horns sign), Tennessee Titans back-up QB Chris Simms (arrested for allegedly driving under the influence of marijuana in New York City), former Oakland Raiders QB / 2008 NFL Draft first overall pick JaMarcus Russell (arrested for illegal possession of Codeine to allegedly produce a drink called “The Sizzurp”) and too many others. 

The situation that Roethlisberger got himself into was most distressing to Goodell and everyone else as he is the marquee player of one of the NFL’s cornerstone franchises.  Though eventually the authorities in Georgia decided to not press charges for sexual assault against Big Ben, the salacious details and accusations, including the showing of taped interviews with the alleged victim, will follow Roethlisberger, the Steelers and NFL for a long time. 

The former 2-time Super Bowl winning quarterback has been suspended for the first 6 games of the 2010 Season, but it is looking like his early summer good behavior could have his suspension lowered to 4 games instead.  However good behavior by Roethlisberger and the NFL’s other bad boys withstanding, it will be interesting in CBA negotiations if NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith wants to call Goodell and his sometimes heavy-handed administration of the Player Conduct Policy to task.  Because you know the league will counter with tales of how disorderly players have taken signing bonuses and other guaranteed money and not lived-up to their end of the bargain.

Hopefully the final days before training camps begin (Cleveland Browns rookies report on July 23rd) will be free of player misconduct as fans and media should be looking forward to the action on the gridiron rather than NFL players on the police blotter.

2010 Player Misconduct Suspensions

  • Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, 6-game suspension (Player Conduct – two sexually related incidents) — Out until at least Week 8 vs. New Orleans, but could be shortened to 4-games based on league review
  • San Diego Chargers WR Vincent Jackson, 3-game suspension (Player Conduct – Multiple DUIs) — Out until Week 4 vs. Arizona
  • Atlanta Falcons OT Quinn Ojinnaka, 1-game suspension (Player Conduct – Domestic Violence) — Out until Week 2 vs. Arizona
  • Seattle Seahawks LB Leroy Hill, 1-game suspension (Player Conduct – Drug Charge) — Out until Week 2 at Denver (also their could be an additional suspension coming for Player Conduct – Domestic Violence)
  • Green Bay Packers DE Johnny Jolly, indefinite suspension with the minimum for all of the 2010 season (Player Conduct – Drug Charge)
  • Free Agent WR Plaxico Burress, indefinite suspension (gun charges) that will end once he is released from prison

*** It should also be noted that when a player serves a suspension, he does not get paid and misses out on game checks.

Other possible misconduct violations

  • Miami Dolphins DE Phillip Merling – Domestic Violence
  • Cleveland Browns DT Shaun Rodgers – Carrrying a weapon into the airport
  • Atlanta Falcons DT Jonathan Babineaux – Drug Chrages
  • Cincinnati Bengals RB Cedric Benson – Assault
  • Tennessee Titans QB Vince Young – Citation for Assault
  • Philadelphia Eagles backup QB Michael Vick — Possible probation violation from a shooting that occurred after his 30th B-Day Party
  • Tennessee Titans back-up QB Chris Simms — Arrested for allegedly driving under the influence of marijuana in New York City
  • Free Agent QB JaMarcus Russell – Drug Charges



Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)


Roethlisberger Avoids Charge, but still has others to answer to

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger reads a statement after learning that he will not be charged over an alleged incident

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger learned yesterday that indeed he had avoided a huge bullet in tiny Milledgeville, Georgia. The two-time Super Bowl winner will not face a rape charge in connection with an incident at a Georgia nightclub in March 2010.  But in avoiding being charged, Roethlisberger was not spared a scolding by Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Fredric D. Bright that included the prosecutor advising Big Ben to “Grow Up.”

To the surprise of many, Bright was more than willing to spell out what allegedly happened in a nightclub bathroom and the amount of alcohol that was involved in an incident with a 20-year old college student that he continually called the “victim”.  You know that the Steelers and the NFL cringed at the salacious details that were given for the world to hear.  And there is no denying that Bright’s forthright information surely brought shame to one of the league’s most decorated franchises and possibly left a crack in the league’s indelible shield. 

However in the end, Bright said that there wouldn’t be any charges with the following accompanying comments, “Based on the evidence here, we don’t have enough evidence to prosecute. I know when I have a case, and I know when I don’t. And I don’t have enough evidence to convince 12 jurors beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Roethlisberger would be guilty of a crime of rape.”

Bright added, “Everybody could be criticized for their actions that night. I’m not condoning what (Roethlisberger) did.   There was too much drinking going on. If he were my son, [I would say], ‘Ben, grow up. Come on, you’re supposed to stand for something. I mean, you’re a leader, you should be a role model. You don’t need to put yourself in this position anymore.”  Bright firmly summed up his feeling on the non-moving-forward case by saying, “We do not prosecute morals.  We prosecute crimes.”

Bright also revealed that the alleged victim did not wish to pursue the case, due to facing public scrutiny, but added that it had no bearing on his decision.  Of course, after the decision was finalized both the 20-year old alleged victim’s attorney and  Roethlisberger’s Atlanta-based attorney, Ed Garland, issued statements saying that the whole matter was thoroughly investigated and it would now be behind both parties. 

But not so fast as Roethlisberger could possibly have to face his second civil case in 2 years around a sexual case and there is also the matter of both the Rooney family and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wanting to meet with him later this week.

After the decision was announced,  Roethlisberger addressed the media from the Steelers headquarters, where he read a prepared statement and took no questions.  Below is the text from his statement (courtesy of the Steelers).

 “I’d like to begin by expressing gratitude for the thorough investigation process in Georgia and the Prosecutor’s decision not to bring charges. I know without a doubt it is the right conclusion. I don’t intend to discuss any details related to the events in Georgia. I am happy to put this behind me and move forward. 

I am truly sorry for the disappointment and negative attention I have brought to my family, my teammates and coaches, the Rooneys and the NFL. I understand that the opportunities I have been blessed with are a privilege, and that much is expected of me as the quarterback of Pittsburgh Steelers. I absolutely want to be the leader this team deserves, valued in the community and a role model to kids. I have much work to do to earn this trust, and I am committed to improving and showing everyone my true values.

I am excited to get back to work with my teammates, and I am more determined than ever to have a great season. I intend to make my family, friends and the Steeler Nation proud on all fronts.

Thank you. God Bless!”

It will be interesting to see where the Steelers, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and Roethlisberger go from here.  The Steelers have already unequivocally voiced their displeasure with the negative spotlight their star quarterback has shined on the organization.  Over the years, the Steelers and the Rooney family have been known for making tough decisions around “character”, just ask recently departed Super Bowl hero Santonio Holmes – traded to the New York Jets for a measly 5th round after several legal run-ins and being suspended (4 games) for failing a league mandated drug test.  But this time it involves the team’s biggest star and everyone will be watching.  I believe that the Steelers will wait for Goodell to impose any sanction before acting.  However remember that any team decision can be appealed by the player’s association, if Roethlisberger wishes.

As for Goodell, remember back when he first took office in 2007 that cleaning up the NFL’s image was omnipotent.  Commissioner Goodell, fueled behind a “beefed” up Person Conduct Policy that was blessed by the NFLPA and player’s advisory committee, quickly went on the attack against the league’s “Bad Boys”.  Goodell clearly was agitated about the NFL’s off the field image and the policy gave him a lot of latitude that he applied in suspending players like Adam “Pacman” Jones, the late Chris Henry and others.  At the time that the new policy was enacted in 2007, co-chairman of the league’s competition committee Rich Mc-Kay said, “We’re all concerned with the things that go on off the field and how the actions of a few may affect many (players)”.

Alright then Goodell and the rest of the “Keepers of the Shield” now it is time to follow the same course of action with Roethlisberger.  Because you know in a league that is over 70% African-American that everyone wants to see if a prominent Caucasian player will get the same treatment as a Pacman Jones.  Already Pittsburgh Post Gazette columnist Ron Cook wrote after Bright’s decision. 

“There is tremendous pressure on Goodell — some of it racial pressure — to take a tough position with Roethlisberger. The commissioner has earned something of a reputation for being a hanging judge in his disciplinary dealings with black players such as Michael Vick and Adam “Pac-Man” Jones. He has to know how it would look if he turns soft with a star, two-time Super Bowl-winning, white quarterback, who, clearly, has violated the league’s Personal Conduct Policy. Certainly, the league’s black players will be watching closely how Goodell handles the Roethlisberger situation.”

My gut is telling me that the NFL will impose a 2 to 4-game suspension against  Roethlisberger plus tell him to attend some kind of alcohol classes.  You can also expect that the Steelers will support the league’s decision and possibly add in their own recourse which could include fining their quarterback.  And it will behoove Roethlisberger to not appeal and accept whatever punishment that the league and the Rooney family hands down. 

 But the biggest decision of where we go from here involves Roethlisberger himself.  The Georgia small town DA was right when he told Big Ben to “Grow Up” and now he must.  Second chances are few and far between in the eyes of NFL and the league’s millions of fans and Roethlisberger better take advantage of it.  Though some fans will never fully take him back, I believe humbling himself and winning are the keys for the two-time Super Bowl winner to get back in good graces of the court of public opinion. 

 Big Ben should take a page from the circumstances that once surrounded Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis back in 2000.  At the time, Lewis went through a double homicide trial in Atlanta and was ultimately exonerated after pleading guilty to a lesser charge of obstruction of justice. Then the NFL sent their own message in the form of a $250,000 dollar fine – highest in league history.  However it was during this trying time that Lewis learned that he needed to some self-reflection  first causing him to change his ways.  

Afterwards Lewis prospered on the field, winning defensive player of year honors during the regular season and leading the Ravens to victory in Super Bowl XXXV where he was named MVP of the game.  The future Hall of Fame linebacker even got back in the good graces of the NFL, fans, and advertisers to the point where he appeared on the cover of the popular EA Sports Madden football game and did commercials for the NFL Network of all places.

Now it is decision time for Roethlisberger, he can either “Grow Up” or end up just another story in the NFL’s lengthy list of guys that “Just Didn’t Get It” during their playing days.


Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)


Martellus Bennett’s ‘Black Olympics’ video is a Disgrace

In the wake of America’s first black president in office plus the many progresses made by African American since the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950’s.  You would think that in the Year 2009 and approaching the 90th season of NFL play that I would have much more on and off the field positive stories to write about than something called the “Black Olympics”.  But after viewing Cowboys tight end Martellus Bennett’s egregious video, I thought it was only proper that I join Kansas City Star columnist Jason Whitlock and many others in setting the record straight for another NFL player that “Just Doesn’t Seem to Get It!”

Let me state that I love some good humor just as much as the next individual.  My tastes span from Richard Pryor to Chris Rock, but I can’t imagine how in his right mind that Bennett thought the “Black Olympics” was a good idea or even funny.  In an era where sadly to say some African Americans are still struggling for equality, the Bennett brothers, Martellus and Michael – a Seattle rookie, thought it would fun to emphasize offensive racial stereotypes of African Americans and then broadcast them to the world via YouTube.  The video shows the pair chowing on fried chicken and watermelon plus drinking Kool-Aid all in a timed fashion.

Bennett recently said on Hall of Famer Michael Irvin’s Dallas radio show that he thought the spoof was not racially insensitive and Irvin being Irvin agreed with him.  “I don’t really think it’s offensive,” the second-year tight end told Irvin. “It depends on your sense of humor and how you look at things. We were just having fun and it was very funny for me and my brothers, when I look at it I just can’t stop laughing. If someone takes offense, I apologize. That wasn’t my intention. It was just us having fun.”

But the Bennett were dead wrong!   I was already surprised that Martellus Bennett was involved again in these type of shenanigans after he had been fined $22,000 earlier this year by the Cowboys for insulting blacks and gays in another YouTube video.  But you would think someone in the Pro Football Hall of Fame like Irvin would understand and convey to the young tight end that being role models and representatives of “America’s Team” – like it or not – requires much more.  Bennett needs to understand that the news around the NFL already has enough negative player stories — Michael Vick’s Dogfighting case, Donte Stallworth’s drunk driving manslaughter situation, the many misdeeds of Pacman Jones and many more — that kids, particularly those in urban communities without male role models, do not need more fodder to tear down their self esteem especially from their “so-called” NFL heroes.

The Cowboys had “No Comment” on the video, but I am hoping NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will meet with the Bennett brothers and possibly hand down some kind of disciplinary action for their behavior.  Some people may think that this line of thought is too heavy handed and everyone should just “lighten-up”.  Plus what right does the NFL have to interlope into a player’s private work during the offseason.  But in today’s world where the NFL wants to be a global marketing entity, this type of behavior cannot be tolerated.  Already the NFL’s headman has used the open-ended NFL Player Conduct Policy associated with the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) to administer discipline in all kinds of situations.  And all Goodell has to find a similar example from the sports pages to support this type of action is go back to October 2000.  Do you remember the firestorm around the NBA caused when former Sixers guard Allen Iverson released a hip-hop rap single off his debut CD filled with NBA fan unfriendly lyrics?  League officials met immediately with Iverson causing the want-to-be rapper to shelve his 40 bars CD for the betterment of the league and giving a half-hearted apology, like only Allen Iverson can do.

The NFL, Dallas Cowboys, owner Jerry Jones, and any other person/entity affiliated with the league do not need the “Black Olympics” video and the problems that it brings.   I can only imagine what prominent former NFL players and trailblazers like Mel Blount, Doug Williams, James “Shack” Harris, and others think of Bennett’s tasteless video.  Sadly Bennett like every other rookie in the 2008 NFL Draft class visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame last summer in a program that Irvin encouraged Goodell to implement to teach youngsters coming into the league about respect for the legacy of the National Football League. 

I guess Bennett kept his eyes and ears shut during his tour as he neither understands nor appreciates the history of the NFL. Especially the plight of men like Charles Follis (first black player in professional football), Fritz Pollard, and the four men that helped to re-open the NFL to blacks in 1946 (Woody Strode, Kenny Washington, Bill Willis and Marion Motley).

If Bennett needs something constructive to do until training camp, I have an idea…read a book.  My suggestion is Outside The Lines: African Americans and the Integration of the National Football League  by Charles K. Ross.  Just maybe Bennett, in all of wisdom at age 22, will learn something about the “journey” of the black football player in the NFL and the legacy that he needs to help preserve. 


Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)


Troubled Bears RB Benson Expected to be Released

It seems that troubled running back Cedric Benson has run out of the chances with the Bears organization as the team is expected to say “Bye, Bye” to him later today

(Philadelphia, Pa) Bears RB Cedric Benson’s visit to Halas Hall Monday will be his last as a Bear, according to the Chicago Tribune.  After Benson’s second highly publicized incident this off-season and the NFL cracking down on player misconduct by fining franchises, the move to cut the troubled running back seems logical. 

Benson was arrested this past weekend and was charged with drunken driving in downtown Austin, Texas. On the heels of the former Texas Star’s BWI incident, the mischievous running back probably had run out of chances with the Bears organization. Bears GM Jerry Angelo said of Benson’s latest arrest, “Disappointment is too much an often used word when we’re talking about Cedric. The No. 1 lesson for every player is protect your job. We’re all held accountable for our actions”.

I still remember covering the 2005 NFL Draft and attending Benson’s initial press conference.  Over and over in the media gathering the former University of Texas star –ran for 5540 yards and 64 TDs in college — talked about how “Ricky Williams” of all people was a role model to him.  Unfortunately for Benson even though he had Ricky’s dreads, he never produced Williams’ numbers on the field.  However Benson sure did find ways to follow in Williams’ troubled footsteps off the field plus exceed them by having repeated problems with the law.  Benson never produced over 1,000 yards in a season and had been questioned in the Bears locker room for his lack of desire with an overall impression that he was somewhat coddled by a patient front office. 

Bears head coach Lovie Smith tried every avenue in motivating Benson, but in the end the stoic coach must be thinking that he sent the wrong running back packing after the 2006 season — Thomas Jones left via free agency to join the Jets.  The 2007 season was a disappointment for Benson as a starter for the first time.  Benson couldn’t follow up his strong 2006 season — appeared to have turn the corner rushing for six touchdowns plus scoring in the Super Bowl while splitting carries with Jones – producing only 674 yards and 4 TDs plus being benched late in the season.

It clearly seems that the Bears have moved on after they selected upstart Tulane running back Matt Forte in the second round of the ’08 draft.  Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner recently said of Forte, “I love Matt Forte, He’s got the size, he’s got the hands. He’s smooth as an athlete, very smooth. How many touches do I see him getting? A lot”.

The expectations were high for Benson after his selection as the fourth overall pick in 2005, but he now will need to find a new NFL home.  We will have to wait and see if some team takes a chance on Benson as a reclamation story or if he fades into “Blivion” as Mike Tyson would say.  Benson’s disappointing 3-year Bears’ career finishes with 1593 rushing yards, 3.8 ypc, 10 TDs, and 4 fumbles lost.  

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)



2008 NFL Annual Meeting is Over and This is What We Learned

(Philadelphia, Pa) – As myself and countless other members of the NFL’s traveling show return home from the 2008 NFL Annual Meeting in Palm Beach, Florida.  I wanted to give a recap of what happened, what changes are coming, what was tabled, and other tidbits from the event.  Much like the NFL combine, I cannot help but to marvel at the amount of coverage at this non-playing event on the NFL calendar – there were NFL scribes, owners, fans, agents, coaches, and many other hanger-on types everywhere at the hotel. Even in the midst of NCAA’s “March Madness” leading up to Final Four time (what a snooze as all four top seeds made it) and opening day for Major League baseball (registered a blip as everyone has grown tired of all the ‘roid talk), NFL fans everywhere wanted to know “Did the Hair rule pass??” or “Will they allow defenders to have radios in their helmets??” 

To be honest the entire four days is filled with the NFL community getting reacquainted in a “convention” like setting.  Sure there were presentations and voting.  But don’t be fooled by the icy stares across sidelines on NFL Sundays as you could readily see owners, GM’s, and coaches from opposing teams/division/conferences dining together and talking “shop”.

Remember Economics Are Everything – With everyone talking about Hair or possible rules changes, I believe that Commissioner Roger Goodell in his address wanted everyone to understand that the “Economy” of the NFL should be foremost in their thinking.  The Commish said when talking of the “Economy” of the NFL, “What the (NFL’s economy) does is demonstrate the risks that are in the marketplace right now. When you shrink the margins by increased player costs and other increased costs, at some point in time the economics become untenable”.

The Commish talked about the following financial topics extensively

  • The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) – Passed in March of 2006.  The NFL or NFLPA could opt out the deal in the next year and many owners were talking about “how” bad the deal was for them.  Could labor unrest enter the NFL for the first time since 1987 with labor problems looming in 2011?
  • The Salary Cap – $116 million this year with a scheduled “uncapped” year in 2010.  BTW: Payrolls have risen $30 million in the past two years.
  • The NFL’s Debt – It was reported at the meetings that the NFL is 9 Billion dollars in debt.  That figure needs to be looked into at a time when the league’s NFL Network is losing money – while they are still encouraged/funding it, the spending of millions in building the league’s many new stadiums/palaces at low-interest loan prices with little chance for revenues, small market teams like the Buffalo Bills hurting (enough to go to Canada for dollars) and we all know something is brewing at NFL Films.  And can someone give me a straight answer on how all this debt is possible when the NFL is by far the most popular game in the world in terms of attendance, merchandising, ticket sales, and television dollars.

Hair Takes a Back Seat – The issue of whether a player’s hair can cover their name plate — biggest hot-button issue from the Annual meeting — was tabled as everyone saw the unfathomable amount of time needed to debate this issue.  This “can of worms” opened by the Kansas City Chiefs and pushed hard surprisingly by their coach Herman Edwards — you would think the Chiefs would be more interested in improving 4-12 team — will be looked into further at the Spring Meeting held in Atlanta on May 19-21st.  I think even then with the NFLPA, individual long hair players, and even the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) speaking up that Commissioner Goodell and owners will choose to step away from this issue.  Trust me I know it hurts the “IBM” crew-cut esque NFL to see uniforms “tarnished” in their opinion by long hair. But it is a fight that will leave the league with a black eye no matter the outcome.  As stated before “I really don’t care how many tattoos a player has or if his hair is down to his waist.  The key matter in player evaluation is whether the guy can bring the “wood” on the field or not.  I like that some guys have the unusual “forget image” attitude that they are willing to express themselves in a sport where uniformity has gotten out of control”. 

Rules Changes That will take effect with the 2008

Good Bye Force Out – NFL receivers will no longer be credited with a catch if they are forced out of bounds. Under the new rule, game officials will not have to determine if a receiver was forced out on a reception. The receiver will have to have both feet inbounds for a legal catch – LV’s take:  I say good riddance to the “force out” rule as too often officials (part-time older guys with some having problems keeping up with the fast pace of the NFL game) miss the call or didn’t apply the “true” interpretation of rule – Remember the bad call in Week 13 by Side judge Joe Larrew where he ruled Browns TE Kellen Winslow’s 37-yard apparent game-winning touchdown catch on the last play of the game was not a “force out” even though Cardinals Oliver Celestin and Antrel Rolle pushed him out before he could get his second foot down.

Defense Gets Their Radio Too – In move that everyone hopes will stop the problem stealing defensive signals, the league approved a communication device for defenses.  Now like quarterbacks the defensive signal caller can have contact with their coach.  Only one player on the field of play for the defense can have the device and the radio helmet is not to be used on special teams.  LV’s Take:  I really like that the NFL finally is giving the same communication advantages to the defense and I will not even go into the whole Spygate thing.

Big Brother can now look at Field Goals and Extra Points – Now officials can use replay to look at whether a field goal or extra point or was good or not.  Thank Goodness in week 11 the officials correctly called Browns Kicker Phil Dawson’s 51-yard game-tying field goal versus the Ravens correctly without replay even though it hit the pole behind the cross bar and went back in the field of play.  LV’s Take:  Short and Simple, I like that the officials can be assisted further since you know “how” confident I am in their abilities.

All Facemask Penalties are Big Ones – The league eliminated the 5-yard penalty for incidental contact with a facemask.  This was another ambiguous call that too often left it up to the referee to judge intent.  LV’s Take: I know defensive guys will not be happy about this rule and I am going to take a wait and see approach.  However I am leery since too often I have seen runners turn their head and a defender’s finger gets caught in an offensive player’s cage not on purpose.  With all face mask calls being 15 yarders look for some controversial calls.  Also please call this on offensive players as well as too often stiff arms turn into grasping the face mask (see old tapes of Emmitt Smith)

The Coin Flip Goes Back to College – The league decided to follow the suit of college football in allowing teams winning the opening coin toss to have the ability to defer their decision until the second half. LV’s Take: I like that now coin-toss can be a more strategic event and I can’t wait to see a rogue coach like Tampa Bay Bucs head man Jon Gruden steely telling his captain “Wait until the second half”.

A Roller from the Center is Now a “Live Ball” – The ball will be ‘live’ any time it is snapped by the center without touching the quarterback instead of the team being assessed a false-start penalty. This rule stems from this year’s Eagles-Bears game where Bears Center Olin Kreutz flubbed a snap to quarterback Brian Griese and the Eagles recovered on an apparent game-changing play.  Unfortunately to the Birds’ fans dismay the ball went back to Bears on a “false start”.  I can still see the bewilderment amongst all of us in the pressbox as the referee explained the play.  LV’s Take: Good as I thought it was ridiculous that a ball could be basically fumbled and given back to the offense.

Hey NFL You Forgot Something – Can someone please tell me how in the world the NFL’s league meetings could not look into my biggest pet peeve from the 2007 season.  I am talking about the bleeping TIMEOUT right as a kicker is about to kick the ball causing the kick to not count.  Here is hoping that the issue is brought in May at the next meetings or a gentleman’s agreement was reached not to do it.  But you know Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan will be waiting with timeouts in hand to annoy us all be calling the timeout at the worst moment.

Off the Field Items that were Discussed

No Playoff Re-Seeding – This item was not even voted on and was removed by the competition committee after everyone knew a fight was going to ensue.  Sure everyone wants teams to play to the end of the season, but I am not sure if deemphasizing Division titles is the way to go.  When it comes to losing home playoff game revenues you know owners will always raise an eyebrow.

Compensatory Picks Announced – 15 teams were awarded compensatory picks in the upcoming 2008 NFL Draft. The Big Winners for losing players were the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals who were awarded four picks.  Washington, Chicago, Indianapolis and Philadelphia each got three selections. Receiving two were Buffalo, Carolina and Miami. Getting one apiece were Atlanta, Green Bay, St. Louis, San Diego, Tennessee and the New York Giants.  For you Eagles fans out there, they got a 4th Rd Pick (131st) and two sixth round (200 and 203 Overall)

Season Opening Games Announced – For the fifth consecutive season the Super Bowl champion will open the slate as the champion New York Giants take on the Washington Redskins on Thursday, Sept. 4th at 7 p.m. EDT on NBC. The kickoff was moved forward 90 minutes from its usual start time because the Republican National Convention will be going on at that time.  The Sunday night opener on September 7th will feature the Chicago Bears traveling to play the Indianapolis Colts in the first regular-season game in Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium.  And Monday Night football on September 8th, ESPN doubleheader will have a doubleheader with Minnesota playing at Green Bay at 7 p.m. EDT and the Denver Broncos playing at Oakland at 10:15 p.m.  Unfortunately for team diehards all team schedules will not come out until around April 15th.

Half of the Dolphins are sold – The league approved the sale of half of the Dolphins for $550 Million to businessman Stephen Ross.  In the deal Ross partial owner of the NHL’s New York Islanders now owns half of the team, Dolphins Stadium, and land near the complex.  Now lets see if Ross can help disgruntled Dolphins’ owner Wayne Huizenga keep VP of Football Operations Bill Parcels in line and keep running back Ricky Williams off the ‘chronic’.

Patriots Apologize for Spygate as Everyone wants NFL Espionage to go away – In a move that showed how close-knit the fraternity of football is.  The Commish made everyone take a “Boy Scout” like pledge regarding the Integrity of the game. Also Patriots owner Robert Kraft apologized for his coaching staff’s role in “Spygate” and head coach Bill Belichick said that he was interviewed by the Commish again with no new developments.  Commissioner Goodell seems to be very annoyed by the current environment where former Patriots employee Matt Walsh is holding the “smoking tape” that could take the Pats down and he wants whatever Walsh has to come forward.  Goodell said of the whole thing, “I think the last time he was a Patriots employee was back in early 2000. So, we’re talking about six or seven years since he’s left the league. He’s certainly made it known publicly that he has something. I would like to see him present that”. LV’s Take: After all of the legal wrangling and rhetoric look for this whole thing to disappear, which we all know the Pats and the NFL will gladly accept.

Disciplinary Problem Players – It seems that currently suspended Tennessee Titans CB Adam “Pacman” Jones will be traded to the Cowboys for a mid-level draft choice in 2008.  Though talks slowed down this week, I still expect Jerry Jones to bring in the troubled and talented cover corner/return man.  The Commissioner also gave no indication on the reinstatement of Bengals LB Odell Thurman and Niners WR Antonio Bryant.  The Commish also better get ready to deal with former Bengals problem receiver Chris Henry, who was arrest again and finally cut by the Bengals.

That is a wrap and I will definitely be back in the hotel lobby next year looking for more tidbits from the NFL’s version of their annual convention.