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Monday, July 29, 2013

2013 NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement

I can't believe that this weekend is the 2013 NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony! I like to do a write-up each year about the people who made this the game I love so much and my thoughts on each of them. After hearing the finalists announced back in February, I've struggled to put pen to paper (or keys to keyboard).  Why you ask?  Here's the list and let's see if you can figure it out....  sigh.

(For information about how the HOF process works, click this link.)

Curley Culp - (1969-1979 Kansas City, Houston, Detroit) A pioneer at the Nose Tackle position, his coach in Kansas City - Hank Stram - had him going one-on-one vs the center, paving the way for the 3-4 defense that is growing in popularity in the NFL today. Undersized for a defensive lineman, he was the perfect "middleman" on the line, forcing the Center to get help from his teammates, which freed up the other defenders to get at the QB.  He was a six time Pro-Bowler recording 68 sacks, 14 forced fumbles and 10 fumble recoveries.

Dave Robinson - (1963-1974 Green Bay, Washington) A member of the College Football HOF for his play at Penn State, this defensive end turned linebacker ruled the left side of the Packer line from '64-'72. He was traded to Washington for the '73-'74 seasons and then retired. He recorded 27 interceptions, 12 fumble recoveries, three Pro Bowls and two Super Bowl Championships. He was also selected as one of the linebackers in the NFL's 1960's All-Decade Team.

Larry Allen - (1994-2007 Dallas, San Francisco) This offensive lineman from Sonoma State University proves that a rotator cuff injury in college may drop you in the draft rankings, but certainly doesn't mean you can't play ball.  ELEVEN Pro Bowls, SEVEN All-Pro, One Super Bowl, plus both the 1990's and 2000's NFL All-Decade teams at offensive line? Yeah - he could play! Why you ask?  Because he was the guy protecting Troy Aikman's blind side... Exactly.

Cris Carter - (1987-2002 Philadelphia, Minnesota, Miami) How can you not love a guy who gets THIS emotional when he finds out he is going to be enshrined into the NFL HOF? As if his status as an Ohio State Buckeye isn't enough to make me love him, his personality and talent - both on and off the field - sealed the deal. As a player, he ruled the Minnesota passing lanes with over 1,000 receptions and 130 career touch downs. He's #2 all-time as a WR behind Jerry Rice. We all know who Cris is, and to this day, he's one of my favorites.

Warren Sapp - (1995 - 2007 Tampa Bay, Oakland) This "home town guy" was born in Orlando, played college ball at U Miami, and was drafted in 1995 by Tampa Bay.  I guess he likes Florida!  Recording 573 tackles and 96.5 QB Sacks, 19 forced fumbles and 4 interceptions over his career, this was a Big Man who could move on his feet! A 7c Pro-Bowler and 6x All-Pro, no QB who played against him in the 90's wasn't just a little afraid that the big man would get to him.  He's the standard that all young defensive tackles look to, and the scouts are all wondering who will be the "Next Warren Sapp."  His gentle and humorous nature off the field didn't seem to match up with his intense play on the field, but if you ask me, that just makes him one-of-a-kind.

Bill Parcells - Coach (1981-1990 NYGiants, 1993-1996 NE Patriots, 1997-1999 NY Jets, 2003-2006 Dallas Cowboys) When I think "Bill Parcells" I think "angry guy on the sidelines." Everytime the camera hit on him, he was growling or yelling at someone. But he knows how to motivate players and his regular season record of 172-130 and a post season record of 11-8 with two Super Bowl Championships is proof of that. His impact today is most felt in the "coaching tree" he created - assistants and coordinators that worked under him over the years who have gone on to become great Head Coaches themselves. (Belichick, Coughlin, Payton, MacIntyre, Weiss, Handley, Palmer, Crennel)

Jonathan Ogden - (1996 - 2007 Baltimore) Yeah. This is a hard one for me.  I keep thinking Coulda-Woulda-Shoulda... if the Browns hadn't left town, this amazing offensive tackle would have been MINE!

ELEVEN Pro Bowls and TEN All-Pro selections tell you how the Ravens were so successful in their early years. Their defense gets a lot of credit but without JO protecting the average-at-best QB's that played in Baltimore, they wouldn't be thought of as the great team they are. He played all 12 of his NFL seasons with one team - a feat that doesn't happen too often these days. He's a member of the NFL's 2000's All-Decade team, the Ravens Ring of Honor, and the College Football HOF for his play at UCLA.

Respectfully Submitted,
Cleveland K8

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Day 4 Training Camp Diaries - Cleveland Browns

Dear Diary,

Well, it was disappointing that the Day 3 workout (first with full pads) was moved indoors due to rain. Players worked out in shoulder pads only. Scary moment when media reported via twitter that a player was down and withheld his name/number pending family notification. Soon after, they reported movement in all 4 extremities so fans could breathe a bit better.  Turns out #60 OL Ryan Miller (trying to get a starting guard position) took a freak helmet-to-helmet hit during a 1-on-1 drill. He was taken to the Cleveland Clinic and later released with the diagnosis of a concussion.  So glad it wasn't serious!

Day 4 started late for me - I had Cleveland Indians tickets - so I got to camp around 4:30... Standing room only with over 4,400 fans in attendance on a beautiful Sunday afternoon!  (Oh, Tribe beat the Texas Rangers, 6-0, completed the home series sweep and showed that P Ubaldo Jimenez still has it!)  If you are looking for play-by-play on the drills, check somewhere else. I could tell you how many passes each QB threw, completion percentage, etc., but as you can see from the picture of #06 QB Brian Hoyer throwing a pass, the Defense really wasn't "going after him."

Instead, I'm just going to give you a quick recap of the injury report and a progress report on some of the players I've been watching this week.

Injury Report:
Ryan Miller OL - NFL concussion protocol
Montario Hardesty RB - hamstring
Tashaun Gipson S - left practice with sprained shoulder
Desmond Bryant DT - back spasms
Oniel Cousins, Jamoris Slaughter - no details just didn't practice

They're Baaaccckkkk
Phil Taylor NT
Kellen Davis TE

Players I'm Watching:

#11 WR David Nelson - Brian Hoyer welcomed David back to NFL practice looking like the ACL is just fine.
After a couple incomplete passes, BHoyer hit him for a TD in goal line drills.  He looked good! He was the #2 receiver for the Buffalo Bills in 2011 but the ACL injury in 2012 ended in Buffalo's loss and Cleveland's gain!

#21 DB Chris Owens - lined up opposite #23 DB Joe Haden quite a bit today. I've like what I've seen from him so far and today was no different. Sharing time with #22 DB Buster Skrine, he's making the most of his reps, hitting hard, wrapping up the receivers, and even had an interception earlier at camp. It will be interesting to see if he can beat out Skrine for the starting job, or if Ray Horton will take advantage of the depth at DB and just keep changing-up the personnel packages.

Frankly, 3rd round draft pick #29 DB Leon McFadden is going to need more time to catch-up to the speed of NFL receivers, getting beat by #10 WR Jordan Norwood at least three times today. Yes, Norwood looked good, but McFadden made him look a little better than he was.

#28 RB Dion Lewis - He makes you forget he's only 5'9" and 195. He moves with a grace and athleticism that makes running between 300 pound tackles look easy. As long as he keeps anticipating where the hole will be - and being right - he's gonna see some time this year. Even Coach Chud commented today that Lewis is having a good camp.  If you want to see his moves for yourself, check out @RuiterWrongFAN. He posted a Vine video of Lewis which garnered a round of "Ooooohs" from the crowd!  (click to open video window)

Today, we focus on the 80's...

#80 WR Travis Benjamin 
#81 TE Kellen Davis 
#82 TE Gary Barnidge 
#83 WR Cordell Roberson
#84 TE Jordan Cameron 
#85 WR Naaman Roosevelt
#86 WR Mike Edwards
#87 TE Dan Gronkowski
#88 WR Josh Cooper 
#89 WR Dominique Croom

If I get to vote, Benjamin, Davis, Barnidge, Cameron, Gronkowski, Cooper, and Croom are still here on Opening Day. The others haven't shown me enough in camp to justify keeping them.

Respsectfully Submitted,
Cleveland K8

Friday, July 26, 2013

From @Monte_Colorman: Merry Swishmas to All

Every once in a while, a Tweeter comes along who manages to impress me. And, if you know me, that ain't easy to do. I like to think I'm the Queen of Twitter when it comes to things like NFL Draft Day or the now famous "Ode to Flop Night" where I definitely ruled the Twitterverse.

And along comes @Monte_Colorman. While his wit is obvious to any who follow him, the fun and brilliance of his timeline of tweets this evening has prompted me to put them all together and showcase therm here so that you can all read them. ENJOY!

Twas the night before Monte's Vacation, when all thro' the Twitter, Fans wondered if the the Tribe was bound for the shitter.

The spikes were hung by the locker with care, In hopes a new reliever soon would be there.

The prospects were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of new teams danc'd in their heads.

And Chris in his 'kerchief, and Mark in his vest, Were racking their brains on a trade deadline quest

When out on the field there arose such a clatter, They sprang from their suite to see what was the matter.

It's a dude on a Scooter trying to be incognito. They knew in a moment it must be St. Tito.

More rapid than eagles his coaches they came, And he whistled, and shouted, and call'd players by name:

"Now! Brantley, now! Bournie, now! Stubby and Kipnis, "On! Carlos, on! Giambi, on! 'drubal and Chizkid;

"Off the end of the bat! To the top of the wall! "Now take second! Take third! Take home, all!"

Tito spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, And fill'd two bases; then turn'd with a jerk.

And laying his finger aside of his nose A quick double-steal keeps defense on their toes.

After the inning ended on a Reynolds pop fly, With a lead and their gloves, they're ready to try;

So up to the mound-top the pitcher he threw, With an arm full of fastballs — as St. Tito knew:

And then in a twinkling, I heard thru the mic, The cracking and pounding of each little strike.

As I nodded my head, and was screaming around, Downed the side on 3 K's and Big Masty came off of the mound.

He was dress'd in polyester, his blue uniform shirt, And his clothes were all tarnish'd with pitchers mound dirt;

His eyes — how they twinkled! His dimples: how merry, His cheeks were like roses, his head, not too hairy.

Home runs to the bleachers, the balls carried true, With all of the regulars — and Rayburn too:

The fans' mouths all dropped while watching Yan throw, His right arm, a cannon, put on a great show;

A pipe stump was found in the house of Pure Rage, And the smoke from the dog was a magic first aid.

Slider's chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, And I laugh'd when I saw him in spite of myself;

He had a broad face, and a huge fuscia belly That shook when he laugh'd, like a bowl full of jelly.

A wink of Tito's eye and a twist of his head Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He sprung to his scooter, to his team gave a whistle, And away they all flew, with beards full of gristle:

But I heard him exclaim, in a voice quiet post-gamey— Happy Swishmas to all, and to all a !

Pics from 2013 Cleveland Browns Training Camp

No real blog entey here... just a bunch of pics I snapped.
I thought you might like to see what you are missing if you haven't been to camp yet!

Go Browns!

@CleSoldier2011 and @Me_Miss_C

Day 2 Training Camp Diaries - Cleveland Browns

Dear Diary,

2013 Cleveland Browns Training Camp Day 2 comes to a close and still no serious injuries!  Wahoo!  NT Phil Taylor didn’t practice again (strained calf) but #12 WR Josh Gordon was back on the field.  He OWNED it yesterday but today, well, not so much. I hope he was just taking it a bit easy and it’s not a reflection on his cramp/injury at the end of practice yesterday.

I spent today in the sunshine (yeah, no sunscreen. don't ask.) watching the receivers work against different combinations of defensive backs. One of the big questions for Ray Horton's new defense is who will work the opposite side from #23 Joe Haden.  With #43 TJ Ward in the middle and Hade on the right, we're looking for the answer to the combination 23-43-??.  
A number of guys had their reps today, but #21 Chris Owens looked the best to me. While most experts feel Browns 3rd round draft pick from San Diego State #29 Leon McFadden is the top candidate for the starting CB job opposite Haden, He's got about 15 pounds on Owens, but I think Owens is making the most of his reps in camp.  

When the 23-43-21 combo is on the field, they seem to work well as a unit already.  At 5'9, 180, Owens went to San Jose State and was a 3rd round draft choice in 2009 of the Atlanta Falcons. He's only got 3 interceptions from his time there, but when you've on a team with Assante Samuel and Desmond Trufant, you aren't seeing a lot of the field. 

As for the Tight Ends, I'm liking #82 Gary Barnidge and #87 Dan Gronkowski (yes, he's related to Rob). With off-season signee #81 Kellen Davis out with a knee sprain, #84 Jordan Cameron has some competition for starting TE.  We've all seen what Norv Turner likes to do with a RB and TE in his offensive scheme (Hello?  Ladainian Tomlinson? Antonio Gates? Ring any bells). So these guys are all interested in being the next great fantasy football TE. And look - they are TALL!  6'5" and 6'6", you gotta love a target that Brandon Weeden can see over the top of his linemen. Whichever one gets the nod, I'm good with it and excited to see what blocking and crossing patterns can do to get the Browns some TD's this year!

I saw quite a bit from RB #28 Dion Lewis. The Browns acquired him in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles, sending them Emanual Acho. He stands 5'9" and weighs in a 190. He's quick, let me tell ya, really quick to hit the holes and move through the lines. Catch-and-run out of the backfield is also something I see being in his wheelhouse. I felt a bit like I was watching Gerald "The Ice Cube" McNeil. Yeah, he's that quick. But he's little so he has to rely on sliding through and passed the defenders. With top man #33 Trent Richardson back and healthy, Lewis could provide a nice change-of-pace the Browns have been missing.

Final note: Saturday camp is first day of Full Pads. This should be great - time to get a look at the Front 7's and see how they deal with a little pounding!  If you'll be going to camp, two tips:  #1 wear sunscreen. #2 check out the scissor lifts and see which ones have the video equipment setup on them. They'll play on that side of the practice field so you can pick a spot to sit and be closer to the action.

Respectfully Submitted,
Cleveland Kate

Day 1 Training Camp Diaries - Cleveland Browns

Dear Diary,

2013 Training Camp for the Cleveland Browns started yesterday.  The practice facility at 76 Lou Groza Blvd in Berea looks excellent!  Very "fan friendly" with some bleacher seating, cool-off tents, food vendors, autograph stations, and kids games.  While running 11 on 11 and 7 v 7 drills, the team did a nice job of moving around the field which gave everyone there a chance to see what was going on.

Injury Report:
Thankfully, no one was carted off the field today on a stretcher. After LeCharles Bentley’s injury in 2006, that’s always a good thing!  But there are a few minor injuries worth mentioning.

#98 Phil Taylor: he played only 8 games last season due to a torn pectoral muscle. This year in the new Ray Horton 3-4 defense, he’s been moved to Nose Tackle. I looked for him on the field and… nothing. Turns our he has a strained calf and is listed as “day-to-day.” Coach Rob Chudzinski says it’s nothing to worry about. I’d like to see Phil get off the Bike Brigade and onto the field…

#12 Josh Gordon: while he has to serve a suspension for the first two games of the season, he is fully participating in training camp – or at least he was until he went up to catch a pass near the end of practice and landed awkwardly. At first I thought ankle injury but when he stood, he buckled at the knee. A trainer came over, got him up and moving again, and he sat out the rest of the day. Browns are reporting it was just a cramp and he should be fine.

Players to Watch:
#08 Brandon Bogotay. One of the big questions for Browns fans is “Who will replace Phil Dawson?” Yeah, we worry about kickers here. And yes, Shayne Graham was signed this off season. So maybe it’s just the fact that he did me no favors as his Fantasy Football owner a couple season ago, but I don’t have much faith in him. I watched quite a few kicks from Bogotay yesterday and he looked good to me. The 6’3” K is 24 years old and posted solid numbers at UGA. We’ll have to see how he handles wind and snow…

#40 Abdul Kanneh – at 5’10” and 185, this rookie comes from New Mexico Highlands University where he had 9 interceptions, returning 4 for touchdowns. He seems small, but he’s quick and he’s aggressive. He was all over the receivers in coverage – but in a good way. He got five blocked kicks on his resume and is an early favorite of mine to make the team. If he keeps up the energy during camp, we could see him on special teams to start the year.

Well, that’s it for now.  It was only the first day after all.  Yes, Jimmy Haslam addressed the media.  Yes, Coach Chudzinski greeted some fans and signed autographs. And yes, we are only getting started… can’t wait to watch some of the defenders tonight and get a look at the team in full pads on Saturday!

Respectfully Submitted,

Cleveland Kate

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sports Tub Time Machine

I'm one of those people who is fascinated by the idea of Time Travel... not just visiting another time and place, but the possibility of changing one small thing and what the ripple effect of that change would be. I love TV shows like Sliders, Quantum Leap, and especially Dr. Who. Movies have also done their share of time traveling - Back to the Future or Mr. Destiny being two of my favorites.  I like to ponder the idea of going back in my own life and changing something. But what to change?

As I get older, I realize that I wouldn't change anything in my life. What impact would that have on my family? Would I have married the same man? Would my daughters be the amazing women they are today? Dunno. And don't want to ever find out.  I like them just fine the way they are.

But as a sports fan.... Hmmmm. What if I could go back in time and change one single play in a sporting event..... That's something to think about!  I posted this question on twitter last night and got a ton of answers.  Most were exactly what I expected, but there were a few surprises.  And yes, you have to pick just one!

Quite a few of the responses surrounded the Cleveland Indians, Game 7, 1997 World Series... apparently we all think Jose Mesa should have thrown the change-up!

But, as you can imagine, it was mostly Cleveland Browns Football moments that people want to go back and change....  There are 3 big moments that we all remember.  No, Kelly Holcomb almost beating the Steelers isn't one of them.  Come on - you can name them.... Red Right 88, The Drive, and The Fumble. Yeah, we all know those, whether we lived through them or just heard about them from our parents. 

Red Right 88 - Mike Davis does NOT intercept that ball and Ozzie Gets it!

The Drive - Just like @Dwvork says, the prevent defense doesn't give up the huge 3rd and 18 play!  OY!
The Fumble - This one got the most votes and it absolutely gets mine. Now I know what you are going to say, it was just the AFC Championship Game. It wasn't the Super Bowl or the World Series. It's not as big as the others. But I maintain that it is. That this single event not only added to the problems Cleveland Sports Fans have endured, but became the 3rd strike (if you will) in our football history and paved the way for dreadful season after dreadful season.

And out of all the events that people would change, The Fumble touches my heart not just as a football fan, but because of Ernest Byner. That man suffers over that play just like we do. It haunts him to this day. I don't think Jose Mesa gives the '97 series a second thought. I haven't heard another player involved in any other Cleveland Sports Catastrophe talk about what happened the way EB does. He would give anything to go back and change that one single moment. 

And for that reason above all others, so would I. 
God Bless you, Ernest. As a Browns fan, I'll always love you. 

Respectfully Submitted,
Cleveland Kate