Cubs

Football's not for the weak

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Football's not for the weak

I've been spending the last couple of weeks listening to the comments being made surrounding the New Orleans Saints and their bounty program.

First, let me say that to intentionally try to hurt someone isn't what the sport is about. However, every time a player steps onto the field, he expects to hit, as well as get hit, as hard as humanly possible.

I played football from the time I was 10 to 26 years old. I can't count the times a coach said things along the lines of, "take his head off", "punish him", "let him know he is going to get hit", "make him afraid to come across the middle", or simply, "knock the living s out of him". That wasn't only told to me when I got older, it was from the beginning until the end.

I'm not sure people understand the mentality of the game and the people that play it and coach it. Football, in many ways, is surrounded by a barbaric attitude and atmosphere. It's about ego, manhood, and machismo to the one hundredth degree.

My biggest change in the game came in college. I played wide receiver at the University of Arizona (was cut by 2 NFL teams, played in the old World League and part of a season in the CFL). Every freshmen that arrived on campus was a star in high school, but from the minute you arrive to the program it's made clear you are nothing until you prove yourself.

It might begin with making you sing at lunch or dinner in front of everyone, or making you pick up an upperclassman's dinner tray or carrying pads after practice. It's a right of passage to see how you handle being subjected to various degrees of humiliation. I've seen this lead to fights, or for those who refuse to follow the "tradition", be outcasted. They may call you names or give you an unflattering nickname. Yes, it's childish, but it's the nature of the game.

The atmosphere is like a constant mental and physical warfare. Players will tell you they are faster, stronger, and flat out better than you. Everybody is fighting for a starting spot and the jealousy and fear of not being "the guy" is a part of it all. Some guys try to crush your spirit, or as we would say, " take your heart" with words and play on the field.

It is not a sport for those weak in the mind. I've seen locker room fights--coaches go after coaches and coaches go after players--that's just the way it is. However, it's our family and we all end up as brothers in time. When I think about it, the whole thing is a bit psychotic.

My sophomore year, I ran a route over the middle during 7 on 7. The ball was overthrown but the safety came up and knocked the hell out of me during a non-contact period. I received a nice cut under my chin.

During the next play, I went in for payback. I ignored the play and went straight for the safety and laid his a out. He never saw me coming. Just to strengthen my point, I did it the next play and the coaches didn't say anything. They knew what it was all about. He and I are friends to this day, further proving my point is that things get handled differently in football than in the typical work world.

If you don't play the game as hard as possible, you will get hurt. Every time I caught a pass or ran the ball I felt like guys were trying to kill me. I expected nothing less.

The words of a coach never made me play harder or differently. When a coach said go kill the son of a b, nobody ever thought he meant it literally. It's football talk. Anybody who has played at a major college or in the NFL has heard it. If they say they haven't, they are flat out telling a lie.

Football is the all about proving yourself. Nobody is given anything and that's what makes the sport great. You earn your teammates' and coaches' respect by what you do on the field. I think most people would be appalled by what a lot of coaches and players say on a field or in a meeting, but it's just the atmosphere and it will never change.

Kris Bryant's injury looms large as Cubs finish home stand in underwhelming fashion

Kris Bryant's injury looms large as Cubs finish home stand in underwhelming fashion

There are 162 baseball games in a season and some days, you’re just not going to have it. On Sunday afternoon, in a 10-2 loss to the Reds, the Cubs just didn’t have it. 

“It’s already in the trash can...” Maddon said. “... so let’s flush it out and move on.” 

Things were bleak from the very first at-bat of the game, when Kyle Schwarber took a 3-2 fastball looking for one of his three strikeouts on the day. Anthony Rizzo was the only starter not to strike out at least once, as the Cubs’ finished with 11. Reds starter Tanner Roark was responsible for 9 of them, his season-high. 

Things weren’t much better on the basepaths or in the field. Besides making two errors, Anthony Rizzo was thrown out at the plate in the 2nd inning and David Bote got doubled-up at first after drawing a walk in the 6th. The Cubs were playing playing their 13th game in 13 days, and it showed.

“I feel really good about how we’ve been playing until today,” Maddon said. “This whole month we’ve been in almost every game except for this one, and maybe the [7-0 loss on May 10th] against Milwaukee. There’s not a whole lot to be upset about, and I’m not. I just want to make sure everyone’s well moving forward.” 

There was a scary moment in the 6th inning, as Kris Bryant and Jason Heyward collided in the right field gap while trying to make a play on a fly ball from Eugenio Suarez. Bryant was slow to get up and eventually had to leave the game. He’s still being evaluated for a head/neck injury, and the Cubs don’t yet know if he’ll go into concussion protocol. For what it's worth, Bryant was cleared to fly with the team. 

“He’s doing okay,” he said. “He’s still under evaluation. We don’t know exactly what we’re doing with this whole thing yet, but we’re trying to talk with the doctors and find out exactly where we’re at.”

“We collided, and I called for the ball,” Heyward added. “We were both going hard to make a play and ran into each other.”

The loss dropped starter Jose Quintana to 4-4 on the season. Quintana went 5.1 innings while allowing six runs on 12 hits with one walk and two strikeouts. Despite relatively weak contact, the Reds hit well all weekend. Their 42 hits over three games was the most for them in a three-game series at Wrigley since 1976, and they finished the weekend with a .404 BABIP. 

“Yeah, I just had to keep pitching, you know?” Quintana said. “Keeping my focus. It was really tough - too many base hits. In some contests that happens. I just try to stay close in the game.” 

The Cubs finished their 7-game homestand at 3-4, and now hit the road for a two-city trip. Up first comes the 35-19 Astros, who are 20-7 at home. This season Houston ranks first in on-base percentage, second in slugging percentage, and third in home runs. Their closer, Ryan Pressley, has the lowest ERA of all qualified relievers and is fresh off a streak of 40 straight scoreless appearances.

“I’m excited,” Joe Maddon said before Sunday’s game. “Let’s get by today, but I’m excited for the whole week. Look at our schedule - it’s been pretty firm, and it continues to be pretty firm. And that’s the way it should be. I’m looking forward to it.” 

Kris Bryant leaves Sunday's game after outfield collision with Jason Heyward

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Scott Chagnon/NBC Sports Chicago

Kris Bryant leaves Sunday's game after outfield collision with Jason Heyward

Add injury to insult for the Cubs. 

In the top of the 6th inning, with the Cubs already down 6 runs, right fielder Kris Bryant left the game after colliding with Jason Heyward in the outfield.

You can check out the video right here. 

It's possible that the move was simply precautionary. The Cubs are on their 13th game in 13 days, and being down six runs in the latter half of a getaway game isn't the time to roll the dice. That said, Bryant missing time would be a significant blow, as the Cubs' star is in the midst of a stellar season. Through 49 games, Bryant's slashing .288/.411/.576 with a .987 and a 160 wRC+. As of Sunday afternoon, only Javy Baez has a higher WAR (2.5) than Bryant (2.4). 

There's been no further announcement on the extent of Bryant's injury.