Labriola On

Labriola on Cam vs. Chris, Le'Veon, HOF

Ready or not, here it comes:

  • Last Tuesday during his regular news conference at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, Mike Tomlin began his injury update with this: "Cameron Heyward (hamstring), can be characterized as out for this game. I am not going to get into the length of time that he could be out. Just being around him for the last number of years, he doesn't fall in the realm of what's normal in anything that he does. He just has that level of commitment, and he's that talented of a guy."
  • Quite the contrast from an injury report Chuck Noll once gave to the media on a Notre Dame cornerback named Chris Brown. I believe it was 1985, a 7-9 season that was going to become 6-10 in 1986. Brown, a sixth-round draft pick in 1984, was being counted on to fortify a cornerback position that had Dwayne Woodruff and absolutely nothing else.
  • The day training camp opened at Saint Vincent College, Brown reported wearing one of those foam neck braces. It was a surprise, and over the course of an afternoon's worth of interviewing players it was learned that Brown had been involved in a car accident a couple of days previously.
  • When Noll met the media to provide a camp-opening briefing later that day, this was his take on Brown: "Chris Brown was in an automobile accident a couple of days ago and injured his neck. Doctors tell me an average person would need six weeks to recover, and Chris is very much that."
  • Boom. Brown's NFL career ended with that 1985 season.
  • There are no dynasties anymore in the NFL, in fact a team hasn't repeated as Super Bowl champions since the New England Patriots did it after the 2003-04 seasons. Free agency tied to a salary cap, the way the schedule matches the previous season's better teams, the draft, waivers, all of it is designed to create parity. Or to stifle dynasties. However you want to look at it.
  • The Carolina Panthers are the 2016 team that so far is being victimized by its 2015 success and the way the NFL discourages even division champions from repeating. The Panthers were 15-1 in 2015 after feasting on a schedule that included two games against 6-10 Tampa Bay, 7-9 New Orleans, and 8-8 Atlanta. The Panthers also faced 3-13 Tennessee, 5-11 Jacksonville, 4-12 Dallas (after Tony Romo was injured), and the 6-10 New York Giants.
  • The Panthers wake up today at 1-4 after having lost in Denver on Opening Night and to the undefeated Minnesota Vikings. In the NFC South, Tampa Bay is improved, and Atlanta actually might be more than an early-season mirage this year. Also, the Panthers have games against Arizona, and at Oakland and at Seattle coming up. And Carolina also opened the week with Cam Newton in the concussion protocol.
  • Back in 2013, it seemed to be a legitimate question. Le'Veon Bell or Eddie Lacy? Today, not so much. At least in my mind it's not.
  • Bell has missed 16 games to injuries and suspensions, and he has 4,498 yards from scrimmage, with 2,987 on the ground (4.4 average) and 1,511 more coming on 166 catches. He was a first-team All-Pro in 2014 after his second NFL season. Lacy has missed only three games with injury, four total, and he has 4,264 yards from scrimmage, with 3,370 coming on the ground (4.4 average) and 894 more coming on 100 catches. Lacy made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, which is decidedly not the same thing as being a first-team All-Pro.
  • Give me Bell over Lacy. No matter how you want to paint the picture, give me Bell. Maybe time proves my faith in him was misplaced. I'll take that chance. Give me Bell.
  • The NFL's continuing interest in playing regular season games in London got a big boost recently from the Indianapolis Colts. Starting last year, the NFL began to experiment with earlier kickoffs in Wembley Stadium, which meant the game would be televised in the Eastern United States at 9:30 a.m. The earlier kickoff in London meant a team theoretically wouldn't need to have a bye built into its schedule  following that trip across the pond.
  • By defeating the Bears in Indianapolis one week after losing to the Jaguars in London, the Colts serve as evidence to other teams that any possible negative effects of a trip to England don't necessarily linger beyond the actual trip across the Atlantic Ocean. That should make it easier for the league office to twist the arms of franchises to cooperate with the European initiative.
  • I get a lot of questions about Hines Ward's likelihood of election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with some of those inquiries being even more specific regarding whether he will get elected the first year he is eligible. One of the factors working against all of these younger generation eligibles for induction is the inflation of statistics.
  • And here is a great example of what I mean by statistics inflation: With 75 yards in 14 carries last week for the Colts, Frank Gore passed Jim Brown on the NFL's all-time rushing list. Frank Gore has more rushing yards than Jim Brown. You can be certain that when it would come down to Gore being considered by the Hall of Fame Board of Selectors, the person making the case for Gore will point out that he had more rushing yards than Jim Brown.
  • Obviously an example of when more doesn't mean better.
  • Apparently, Pittsburgh isn't the only place where the standard is the standard. The Minnesota Vikings look like the best team in the NFC, and remember, the Vikings were the ones lost both starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and running back Adrian Peterson to season-ending injuries. The Vikings did make a trade for Sam Bradford to replace Bridgewater, but the manner in which the rest of the roster banded together in the wake of those injuries deserves to be commended.
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