Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

Thinking out loud: NFL preseason is way too long

August 12, 2017 - 11:12 am

By John Rooke

Thinking out loud…while wondering whatever happened to Rod Rust?

  • Oh joy.  That maddening, frustrating time of the year, when summer attempts to turn into fall before you’re ready for it; that four-week slice of Shangri-La after waiting six months for the pads to pop again; that three-plus hours of watching, listening, observing what looks like a football game but really isn’t…is here again.  Welcome to the NFL preseason.


  • Of course, saying that exhibition football isn’t real football is akin to saying the WWE isn’t a real sport.  The physicality is real, of course.  But these aren’t real games, just like pro wrestling isn’t real.  They both follow scripts.


  • And I can’t believe I agree with Roger Goodell, but the preseason is just too long.  It has outlived its current usefulness.  The NFL commissioner said as much this week himself.  There’s just too little value in playing four games that don’t count in the standings, even with reduced ticket pricing for many of them.  26 teams, including the Patriots, have reduced prices for the preseason.  But that’s not enough.


  • With so much emphasis now rightly turning to health and safety issues in football, being the injurious, collision sport that it is, the league needs to preserve its players (and its superstars) for games that count.  When and if the commissioner and the owners come up with a plan to reduce meaningless games but not significantly reduce meaningful revenue to the players, we’ll have an answer here.


  • Even though they’ve owned the Jets for years (pun intended), did you get a look at the TWO 767’s the Patriots bought for team-chartered travel?  The first NFL team to buy their own plane(s) for travel, the two jets will base their operations out of Warwick’s T.F. Green Airport, and be available for use by others seeking to book charter flights. 


  • Charter flights are becoming more expensive to operate, as we mentioned here a few months ago.  As such, airline companies are reducing the number of charter flights they’ve offered, and retiring larger planes due to these costs.  Some colleges and universities are already grappling with this issue, as travel demands have increased in recent years.


  • The Patriots’ solution?  Buy their own airkraft (pun intended, again).  It’s a move that undoubtedly makes even Jerry Jones a bit envious.  Dallas will undoubtedly follow suit in 3, 2, 1…oh, wait. Ezekiel Elliott’s suspended?  Put the plane plans on hold.


  • If anyone believes that a real Patriots’ fan would actually pose with Goodell for a photo before Thursday’s game, as allegedly took place, I’ve got swamp land in Florida to sell you. #theyrefromnewhampshire #notreallynewengland


  • Gotta hand it to TurtleBoy Sports, who tracked these guys down and outed them for their transgression, whether an NFL set-up or not.  And produced the Line of the Year, already: “It’s like being a Jesus diehard and posing for a picture with Pontius Pilot.”  Outstanding. 


  • But whatever the truth, it was a brilliant move by the commish, dammit. Sucks the ferocity right out of hating on the guy, who says he’s still coming to the Sept. 7th opener.  Can Barstool Sports get its’ money back on those 30,000 Roger-the-Clown towels they were supposedly handing out?


  • Following the preseason (YAWN) opening loss to Jacksonville, two thumbs up:  Tight end Jacob Hollister and receiver Austin Carr.  Hollister took a lickin’ and kept on tickin’, with seven catches.  Carr’s TD reception from Jimmy Garoppolo in the 2nd quarter made you think of Julian Edelman a little, didn’t it?


  • Two thumbs down:  Defensive backs Cyrus Jones and Jordan Richards.  Yikes.  Jones was toasted on two deep balls (three catches allowed on four targets, 151 yards, 2 TD’s) and Richards was badly out of position on big plays from the Jags’ offense.  Jones played some safety for the first time, but still, methinks the turk lurks.


  • Jacoby Brissett is another story, however.  Simply because he’s not expected to be in demand unless there is an injury above him, Brissett’s game is getting extra scrutiny this summer.  Is he worth taking up a roster spot from another area of need?  His performance Thursday was fine, but it’s a debate that will heat up as we near Labor Day.


  • What?  Camp is already over?  There is only one more open-to-the-public practice in Foxboro (Monday) before the regular season arrives, since the team goes on the road for two straight weeks.  And I’m still waiting for summer to get here.


  • New rules this season?  The most apparent you’ll see will be allowing players some room to celebrate after scoring and/or big plays, and there will be no more referees going “under the hood.”  Instead, the ref will view the play from an iPad while in a 3-way conversation on headsets with an official upstairs in the stadium booth, and one in New York.


  • And celebrations will be allowed, to an extent.  Players won’t be allowed to use the ball as a prop, or to otherwise be disrespectful to an opponent.  No Fun League?  Not For Long, apparently.


  • Bill Belichick this week said Vince Wilfork was the best defensive lineman he ever coached.  That’s quite the epitaph on a career for #75, who retired from pro football by signing a “Patriot for Life” contract with Robert Kraft. 


  • You’ve heard of the “unstoppable force” meeting the “immovable object” in sports?  Wilfork was about as immovable as a football player could get.  Happy barbequing, Vince.


  • ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith and Bob Ley, among others, lashed out on-air at Tom Brady for refusing to discuss his alleged concussion issue from last season, following his wife Giselle Bundchen’s disclosure to CBS.  Look, last I checked, every person in this country – including TB12 – has a right to privacy when it comes to health issues.  They’re called HIPAA laws.


  • Ill-advised.  Immature.  Irresponsible?  That’s what Stephen A. Smith tagged TB12 with.  I get why some feel Brady should speak out, because this is now an NFL issue.  It may be a defining issue going forward for the future of football.  But he also has a legal right to (some) privacy, and there are laws governing his right. 


  • Very sad to learn of the passing of former Patriots (and Syracuse) coach Dick MacPherson this week.  An Old Town, Maine native and College Football Hall of Famer, Coach Mac spent just two seasons on New England’s sideline in 1991 and 1992, but he began the process of rebuilding from 1-15 to respectability before Bill Parcells took over. 


  • As the Boston College football play-by-play voice in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Coach Mac always insisted on greeting me/us personally when the Eagles visited the ‘Cuse.  He also always took us to the legendary Grimaldi’s to strap on a feedbag.  Always classy, always kind in a grandfatherly, gruff kind of way.  You were appreciated, coach.  Rest in peace.


  • In case you’re looking (way) ahead: The Patriots can set the NFL record for the most consecutive seasons with at least one playoff win. Right now, they are tied with the 1991-96 Cowboys with a playoff win in six straight years.


  • Spike Lee wants to hold a rally for Colin Kaepernick?  Mars Blackmon would have a better chance of getting him work in the NFL.  Just sayin’.


  • My buddy “Big E” sez he just finished up a marriage seminar dealing with communication issues between husband and wife, and he feels like he did pretty well.  The instructor told the group of couples it was essential that husbands and wives know each other’s likes and dislikes.  He then turned to the guy next to Big E and asked, “can you name your wife’s favorite flower?”  While the guy broke into a sweat trying to come up with the answer, Big E turned to his wife, touched her arm gently and whispered, “yours is Pillsbury, am I right?”


  • While there’s some excitement stirring about Brown’s upcoming Ivy League football season, media day this week provided a cold slap of reality.  The Bears were selected 6th in the Ancient 8, with Harvard and Princeton in a tie for the top spot.  Preseason practice gets started next week.


  • URI’s basketball trip to the Bahamas got off to a great start this week with a 100-77 win over the NBPA All-Stars. The key takeaway?  64 points scored in the paint – which is expected to be an Achilles heel for this team next season.  Next, it was 132-87 over the Bahamas All-Stars.  They have all-stars in the Bahamas?


  • Providence athletic fundraising continues to operate at a high level, especially for a small, private school.  A record $6.6 million was raised in fiscal 2016-17, the 10th straight year for the athletic department to set an all-time high.  Kudos to AD Bob Driscoll and Senior Associate AD Steve Napolillo.  Commitment and winning are working hand-in-hand in Friartown, it seems.


  • Friar basketball players Drew Edwards and Maliek White are currently in Spain playing for the USA East Coast team under HOF’er Larry Brown’s tutelage. The team won its’ opener against the Spain All-Stars 97-95, with Edwards scoring 12 points (#3 scorer behind South Carolina’s Hassani Gravett), and adding four assists and two steals. White led the team with seven assists, and scored five points with two steals.


  • In game two against Espana Select, White hit for 13 points (tied for 2nd on the team) while Edwards contributed six points, three rebounds, four assists and a steal.  They’ll next face Venezuela’s National Team Friday night.


  • PC Men’s Soccer received a preseason #12 national ranking from the United Soccer Coaches’ poll – the highest ranked Big East team (out of three) in the Top 25.  The defending Big East regular season champs open Aug. 25th against 4th ranked North Carolina at Elon University, then tackle #2 Wake Forest on the 27th.  Whoa, nothing like hitting the heavy bag early.


  • Speaking of bags, the team we all love to bag on (ok, I do too) suddenly has found its’ winning ways are contagious.  But with a lead over the Yankees heading into the weekend series, there will be plenty of chances for a NY catch-up – with ten games between the two over the next month.


  • Pitching has solidified.  Drew Pomeranz has surprisingly assumed the role of a tough #2 guy in the rotation.  If that Price character can get his act together, the Red Sox have 15 of 27 at home in September.  Time to make hey.


  • Oh, and timely hitting (with RISP) has returned, for now.  Like it’s supposed to.


  • Don Baylor’s passing this week brought to mind not just his MVP in 1979, or his being hit by a pitch 267 times in his career, or his helping the Red Sox to the World Series in 1986 – but also what might have been as a potential football star. 


  • As a 3-sport star athlete at Austin (Texas) High School, Baylor was recruited by Texas and legendary coach Darrell Royal.  But it was Royal who told him the Southwest Conference, at that time, wasn’t yet ready to welcome integration.  So, baseball was his ultimate choice, drafted by Baltimore in 1967.  It was a good call.


  • Not for nuthin’, but Royal also said the same thing to one “Mean” Joe Greene, who eventually ended up attending what is now the University of North Texas.  Royal wanted these guys, but considered their well-being first, knowing the scrutiny and prejudice could be tough to take at that time – even for athletes of their caliber. 


  • Glen Campbell also passed away this week, after battling Alzheimer’s.  He was 81, and a huge part of our musical culture.  As my friend Kerry Byrne said perfectly this week, his voice was one of the soundtracks of American life in the 1970’s.  Galveston and Rhinestone Cowboy were two of my favorites, and I don’t even care much for country music. 


  • But there was profound wisdom in his lyrics.  Campbell’s songs were the first where I remember really “listening” to the words. 


  • Tough year for the Rhode Island Little League state champs from Cumberland, dropping their first two games at the Eastern regional in Bristol, CT.  Holden, Massachusetts did the same thing.  Can’t win and go to Williamsport every year, although it sure seems like the Rhode Island champs do.  And congrats to the Providence Washington Park 12-year-old Cal Ripken team, for reaching the semi-finals of the 12U World Series.


  • Was it an overreaction to the Little League softball team from Virginia getting disqualified for a Snapchat photo showing them flipping the bird to an opponent?  Absolutely not.  Social media has its consequences, in case you haven’t noticed.  It was an important lesson in “growing up,” if nothing else.  Those kids will remember this forever, and hopefully, learn from it.


  • ICYMI, high school sports participation has reached an all-time high in this country.  Nearly eight million high school students play sports, and it’s the 28th straight year for participation to reach an all-time high.  Girls’ sports last year had their biggest one-year jump to more than three million athletes.  More than a million boys play football – the #1 sport – even though numbers are down slightly from two years ago.


  • Rhode Island had more than 28,000 students playing high school sports last year, the highest level since the 2012-13 school year.  Football is #1, but down overall for boys, while outdoor track is tops for girls.


  • You’ve heard that WEEI and 98.5 The Sports Hub are now owned by the same company, right?  Entercom (WEEI’s owner) purchased CBS Radio (The Sports Hub’s owner), putting Entercom at #2 nationally in radio ownership.  But because there are FCC rules in place over too much dominance in one market, Entercom may – may – be forced to give one of them up.


  • Which one goes, if the company is forced to sell?  Great question. 98.5 has the Patriots, Celtics, Bruins and Revs, WEEI has the Red Sox.  103.7 also has the Friars.  Play-by-play sales and association are huge in sports radio, driving all-important revenue, and both stations have solid talk show numbers overall.  Rumor already has it that Entercom is willing to sell legendary WBZ-AM, hoping to hang onto the FM side (98.5 WBZ-FM), but that may not be enough.


  • For fans and listeners, it shouldn’t affect you too much, unless the station that gets sold to new ownership cuts salary and/or cleans house – which is what often happens in the broadcast biz.  As the saying goes, stay tuned.


  • Rod Rust was the coach, for one season in 1990, before Dick MacPherson took over the Patriots in Foxboro.  I know this, because I hosted his one (and only) coaching show on TV.  Coach Rust was – and still is, to my knowledge – a football lifer.  Even though his one-and-only Patriots’ team finished a miserable 1-15, his overall knowledge of defense was widely respected, and it kept him gainfully employed in the CFL to 2006, as he was well into his 70’s by then.  He spent more than 20 years on NFL coaching staffs, 14 more in the college game and another eight in Canada.  Coach Rust turned 89 years old on August 2nd.


  • Ben in Boston posted several items on Facebook this week, this among them: “What do you think the Friars’ ceiling is this year in terms of regular season and postseason play?”  Ben:  Thanks for the questions.  I’ll start the hype machine, if it hasn’t already started.  But the upcoming PC hoop team is as deep as I’ve seen in 30 years, and this is the first time I can recall a Friar team suited to legitimately challenge for a Big East regular season title.  A 5th straight NCAA appearance should come with that, and the potential exists for this team to play into at least the second weekend of the tournament.  How’s that for hype and expectation?  Senior guards.  Experienced scorers.  A rim-protector.  Solid defenders.  Speed.  Questions remain around consistent rebounding, free throws and three-point shooting.  But this season could be one for the record books.


  • Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ‘em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments and local stories to [email protected]. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and on Facebook, ...


Don’t forget to tune into Providence’s 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am for Southern New England Sports Saturday!  Call in at 401-737-1287 or text at 37937.

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