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NFL honors military with show of support PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, November 07, 2013 8:42 PM

Associated Press


The NFL kicks off its “Salute to Service” campaign this week, with Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach playing a major role.

The league will donate $100 for each point scored to the Pat Tillman Foundation, USO and Wounded Warrior Project for a total of $300 per point. Last year, the first year of the campaign, the NFL donated nearly $800,000.

Each team throughout November will designate one home game to honor the military. Fans will notice players wearing helmet decals honoring the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and National Guard. Camouflage ribbon footballs will be used, as will camouflage goal post wraps, and pylons with camouflage ribbon decals. Players will wear newly-designed hats, sweat shirts, gloves and captains patches and use camouflage towels on the sidelines. Coaches and sideline personnel will also have camouflage hats, plus camouflage ribbon pins for coaches and team executives.

Footballs, equipment and uniforms used in the games will be auctioned off, with proceeds going to the league’s three military nonprofit partners.

USAA, which provides insurance, banking, investment and retirement products and services to 9.6 million current and former members of the U.S. military and their families, will present a Salute to Service Award at the end of the season. Last year’s winner was Bears cornerback Charles Tillman.

“Football and the military have always had a special connection, from the great players and games at the U.S. Service Academies to the lift it provides to our thousands of troops around the globe who are able to watch every week,” says Staubach, who won the 1963 Heisman Trophy at Navy before leading the Dallas Cowboys to two Super Bowl titles. “This weekend, USAA will be staging powerful gestures of military appreciation at select NFL games across the country, as fans will show their military appreciation with a special ‘Thank You’ message. One of the games is in New Orleans, and I will have the chance to be there and also meet with, and offer thanks to, military members.”

At that game, fans will take part in a card stunt thanking military members and veterans for their service.

UNION BOWL: Several Pro Football Hall of Fame members will coach in the NFL Players Association’s all-star game on Jan. 18.

Working as assistants to American team head coach Dennis Green will be defensive tackles coach John Randle and defensive backs coach Darrell Green.

Helping National team coach Dick Vermeil will be wide receivers coach Charlie Joiner.

Also working as assistants for Green will be former NFL standouts Kevin Mawae (offensive line) and Andre Reed (inside receivers). Vermeil can call on Will Shields (offensive line) and Bill Bradley (defensive backs).

COMING ATTRACTIONS: NBC naturally promotes its Sunday night matchups regardless of who will be on the field. Over the next three weeks, though, the quality and significance of the games is noteworthy.

This week, NFC East leader Dallas — yeah, we know, the Cowboys are only 5-4 in the league’s weakest division — visit NFC South leader New Orleans (6-2). Saints quarterback Drew Brees has a habit of doing big things in prime time.

On Nov. 17, the fight for first place in the strong AFC West pits Kansas City (9-0) at Denver (7-1 and at San Diego this weekend. The Chiefs are guaranteed to still be undefeated for the trip to the Mile High City because they have a bye this week.

And to close out the Sunday night slate for November, the classic rivalry between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will be showcased as the Broncos visit New England (7-2).

The overall record of the teams through Week 9 is 41-10, the best in seven years for three successive Sunday night games.

SHIN GUARD: New York Giants running back Andre Brown is going to wear a soccer-type shin guard on his left leg for the rest of his career to protect a fibula broken twice in nine months.

Brown, who broke the leg in the preseason finale against the New England Patriots, is returning to action this weekend against the Oakland Raiders. The much-traveled 5-year veteran spent the past 10 weeks on recallable injured reserve.

When asked about the device, Brown didn’t know whether to call it a fibula guard or a tibia guard since he could not remember which bone he broke.

“Yeah, they built a little carbon fiber plate for me,” he replied. “They said I would probably be wearing that for the rest of my career. It is what it is.”

Brown, who had eight touchdowns in 10 games last season in clearly his best NFL season, then reached into his locker, grabbed the white guard with No. 35 on it and showed it off.

“I don’t even feel it on my leg,” he said. “It’s basically part of my leg. That’s it.”

HUNT’S TIME: The Bengals figured it would take defensive end Margus Hunt a while to figure out how the NFL works. The break-in time is about finished.

The Bengals need help on the line with end Robert Geathers and now tackle Geno Atkins out for the rest of the season with injuries. Hunt was inactive for six of the first seven games but has played 50 plays on defense and 20 on special teams in the last two games.

The 6-8, 280-pound track star is still a work in progress.

“This is more than about having strength,” Hunt said. “You have to be able to get off blocks and get to the ball. Those are things I have to learn still and get better at. You have to learn to use (strength) and not just have it.”

The Estonian was an international track star with a scholarship at Southern Methodist when the school ended its track program and Hunt decided to take up football for the first time. He became an expert special teams player with a knack for blocking kicks. He also used his speed and size to get after the quarterback.

The Bengals are not only using him as an end but have started moving him inside the line on passing downs, a new and challenging experience for Hunt.

“It’s tough because the entire time I’ve been learning defensive end stuff,” he added. “Most of the stuff goes with every position you play but still it’s a lot tougher inside because the guards are a lot shorter, so I have to really focus on staying low and getting off the blocks.”

MARTIN CASE: In a culture that fosters conflict, Jonathan Martin sought to avoid it.

Upset by treatment he considered abusive, the Miami Dolphins tackle let the situation fester for months before leaving the team last week. Martin’s agent then complained to the Dolphins, who suspended guard Richie Incognito.

The NFL is investigating whether Incognito harassed or bullied Martin and whether their teammates and the organization mishandled the matter.

But pro football is a macho world and some players believe Martin should have responded more firmly.

“Is Incognito wrong? Absolutely. He’s 100 percent wrong,” New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle said. “No individual should have to go through that, especially in their workplace.

“But at the same time, Jonathan Martin is a 6-4, 320-pound man. I mean, at some point and time you need to stand your ground as an individual. Am I saying go attack, go fight him? No. I think we all understand we can stand our ground without anything being physical.”

Dolphins’ players have robustly defended Incognito, long considered among the NFL’s dirtiest players. He’s now a notorious national villain but teammates praise his leadership and loyalty.

They’ve been less passionate in their support of Martin, saying he and Incognito behaved like best friends.

“They did a lot of stuff together,” tackle Tyson Clabo said. “So if he had a problem with the way he was treating him, he had a funny way of showing it.”

Martin is with his family in California to undergo counseling for emotional issues.

A senior partner in a New York law firm was appointed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to investigate possible misconduct and prepare a report. DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, said Thursday that he continues to be in touch with those involved.

“The NFLPA has taken steps to ensure that every one of our affected members is represented,” Smith wrote in a statement. “It is our duty as a union to learn the full facts, protect the interests of players involved and hold management accountable to the highest standards of fairness and transparency.”

Martin is the son of Harvard graduates and his great grandfather graduated from the school in 1924. Martin attended Stanford, where he majored in the classics and protected Andrew Luck’s blind side.

Martin was taken by the Dolphins in the second round of the 2012 draft. But while he has been a starter since the first game of his rookie season, he developed a reputation in the NFL for lacking toughness.

That impression might have been reinforced by the way he handled his issues with Incognito, current and former teammates acknowledge.

“A lot of people might look at Jonathan Martin and think that he’s soft because he stepped away from the game, and say, ‘Why don’t you just fight him’?” remarked Seattle Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin, who played with Martin at Stanford. “Well, if you look at it with common sense and being logical, what options did Jonathan Martin have?

“He could fight Richie Incognito. He could go and tell on the players, which we know in the football locker room doesn’t go over too well. Or he could remove himself from the situation and let the proper channels take care of itself. And I think he made the intelligent, smart choice without putting himself or Richie Incognito’s physical abilities in danger.”

Incognito’s harassment of Martin included text messages that were racist and threatening, two people familiar with the situation have told The Associated Press. Incognito is white, while Martin is biracial.

Two other people familiar with the situation have said Martin talked of quitting football earlier in his pro career before leaving the Dolphins. One person noted Martin considered giving up the sport because of the way he was being treated by other offensive linemen on the team, adding that Martin now wants to continue his football career.


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