NFL

NFL fans, would you like fake crowd noise added to your TV games?

NFL fans, would you like fake crowd noise added to your TV games?

Joe Buck has been quoted as saying that when or if the NFL plays games without fans in the stadium, it’s “pretty much a done deal” that fake crowd noise will be used by Fox and other networks.

He also indicated that “virtual fans” might be used to give the impression of a packed stadium, which is going too far, I think.

I wouldn’t mind the crowd noise, if people need that, because I usually tune it out, anyway. And I’ve also had some thoughts that a few stadiums and arenas pipe in extra crowd noise, anyway -- just to give their venue a better atmosphere, even though there are rules against that.

I have watched MMA and Korean baseball without fans in the seats and I do think that unless you are very interested in one of the teams or competitors, it's a rather dull experience without the crowd noise.

But the fake noise would require an astute audio person with a good sound board who could manipulate sound as quickly as the course of the game can change with an interception, fumble or bad call by an official.

It’s going to be a new world when sports resumes and we are all going to have to adjust. But I’m curious -- what do YOU think? Leave your comments here or on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

A timeless Father's Day message from my late father about the National Anthem

A timeless Father's Day message from my late father about the National Anthem

In all my years of writing columns for The Oregonian and Portland Tribune, I didn’t make my family a part of my work very often.

I didn’t think it was right that they had to share their personal life in public just for the sake of my column once in a while. I always thought there were better things to write about that were less exploitive of my own family.

But since today is Father’s Day and memories of how my late father would have reacted to what’s going on in the world today seem relevant, I figured maybe it is time to write about Bill Jaynes.

My dad has been gone for years now, but I believe everyone who ever met him still treasures his memory. He was one of those men who brightened every room he walked into -- a good man whose word was his bond and his handshake was his contract.

He worked for decades for the Southern Pacific Railroad and Amtrak as a conductor on freight and passenger trains. Worked long and hard.

He managed to find the money somehow to buy both his sons brand-new cars of their choice when they graduated from college and spoiled his grandchildren with his attention. No matter their activities, he was there in the front row to support them.

"Everybody has 'grandpa stories,'" my daughter said Sunday. "I loved him so much."

He was a veteran of World War II, but didn’t talk a whole lot about the experience. I remember his frequent lament that he was shipped off from his base in St. Louis to Europe just a week before the one and only “All-St. Louis” World Series in 1944 and how sad he was to have to miss those games after watching the Cardinals and Browns play all season. And he would speak with tears in his eyes of how it felt to watch some of the New Yorkers sob as their ship passed the Statue of Liberty on its way to war. "They could almost see their house," he would say.

Mostly, though, he would entertain us with stories of his time in Germany and Belgium, painting himself as something of a WWII version of Sgt. Bilko.

He loved his country and was a staunch union man, as were most of the people who worked alongside him on the railroad. He loved sports, his family and his job. And he was a man strong enough that, in his 70s, he bought a backpack, some plane tickets and headed out alone to retrace his steps in the war, in France, Belgium and Germany.

Politics? They usually had a way of raising his blood pressure.

He always stood up for the “little guy” and loved Oregon Senator Wayne Morse, whom he corresponded with on several occasions. That meant he was solidly against the war in Viet Nam, as, of course, was Morse.

He would very often take my brother and me to sports events, most often Portland Beaver games.

But he would usually start those evenings very agitated. And my brother has the same memories of it that I do. My dad, who served this country in its biggest war, was very much against playing the National Anthem before sporting events.

“It makes no sense,” he would say. “They don’t play it before movies or plays or concerts or other things -- why sports?

“I’m sitting here in a cold, damp ballpark with rain dripping off my cap, listening to somebody attempt to sing a song that most people can’t come close to getting right. Why? Why are we doing this? It doesn’t honor the country. It’s not respectful. And look at the poor pitcher out there -- he’s just warmed up, he’s ready to go and now he’s standing there with his cap off as somebody forgets the words to a song.”

And believe me, my father wasn’t angered because he was personally inconvenienced by time wasted or the chilly weather.

He just felt that it was a case of sports teams wrapping themselves up in the flag in order to make themselves look more patriotic -- or to pander to service veterans.

And he just wasn’t having it.

“This doesn’t honor the country or the flag,” he said to me later, when we were adults attending a game. “It’s just wrong. It makes very little sense. It's played so often and so poorly many times that it loses meaning. And people aren’t paying attention. Look around -- they aren’t affected by it."

I’m not sure how my father would have felt about players kneeling during the anthem, but I have a feeling he’d be supportive of their right to do so.

But more to the point, I think he’d probably just offer a suggestion that the anthem be saved for the Super Bowl, first game of the World Series and no other games.

And I know he would have been supportive of the players' right to peacefully demonstrate anyplace where their message wouldn’t get wrapped up in an irrelevant controversy about the flag and the national anthem.

He would probably look at it as an opportunity to point out that a song before a ballgame is no measure of anyone’s love of country or their patriotism. It’s just a song that people hear so frequently it’s often rendered as background noise.

My dad loved his country, you see, but he didn't always love its government. And he wasn't afraid to say so.

We miss you, Dad.

The NFL has the worst chance of all the pro leagues to play a season

The NFL has the worst chance of all the pro leagues to play a season

Dr. Anthony Fauci finally said it. Maybe because nobody else would:

"Unless players are essentially in a bubble -- insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day -- it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall. If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year."

I will take it even a step farther. I don’t think the NFL is going to be able to safely get off the ground this season, even if it attempts to operate in a bubble. Power-5 college football may have a better chance, because its players are often in some sort of athletic-dorm bubble, anyway.

Of all the pro sports, football is by far the most difficult to sequester personnel in a practical way. There are just so many more people -- players, coaches, support staff, even game officials -- than any other sport.

And the game itself features constant body contact and a high level of exertion. Listen to Rams Coach Sean McVay try to make sense of it:

"We're gonna social distance, but we play football? It's really hard for me to understand all this. I don't get it. I really don't."

The NBA has some body contact, too, and is wrestling with how to safely protect its players -- even going so far as issuing orders about no doubles in ping-pong because of social distancing...

...Between players who have just finished a basketball game where they are bumping, pushing and leaning on each other constantly -- and you want them to stay six feet apart while playing ping-pong?

Silly, right?

And whatever problems the NBA will have, it will be nothing compared to the NFL, which doesn’t seem prepared for the daunting task ahead of it. I'm not even sure it will get through training camps without having to shut down.

The league seems to be intent on each team playing in its own stadium and there even seems to be hope of having fans in the stands. There has been no public discussion of a bubble and with so many people to keep track of, I can’t see any hope of any of these teams being kept free of positive COVID-19 tests.

And when one tests positive, what happens then? That player will have had physical contact with many others. This virus is nasty, in case you haven’t noticed. It spreads quickly and obviously, can be deadly.

It just takes one. One player, one coach or one trainer -- and it can blow all kinds of holes in any sport’s bubble.

The NFL, it seems to me, has been waiting for some sort of virus Hail Mary -- a vaccine or treatment program that can solve its problems.

It’s not happening. And neither is that season.

Sports Uncovered: How to listen to 'Sean Taylor, the NFL superstar we didn’t get to know'

Sports Uncovered: How to listen to 'Sean Taylor, the NFL superstar we didn’t get to know'

Former Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor is one of the most talented defensive backs the NFL has ever seen, but sadly, he was taken away from us far too soon. 

On a new episode of NBC Sports' "Sports Uncovered" podcast, NBC Sports Washington takes a look back at the life of Taylor, including his football career and tragic death at age 24 in November 2007 during a burglary attempt at his home in South Florida.

The episode features appearances from several of Taylor's former Redskins teammates, including Clinton Portis and Chris Cooley, who provide an in-depth look at what made the hard-hitting safety such an incredible player and teammate.

The episode releases Thursday, June 18. You can listen to this episode and the entire "Sports Uncovered" series by subscribing for free wherever you listen to podcasts.

To never miss an episode, be sure to subscribe to Sports Uncovered and get every episode automatically downloaded to your phone. Sports Uncovered is available on the MyTeams app and on every major podcasting platform: AppleGoogle PodcastiHeartStitcherSpotify, and TuneIn

Schedule is out, but NFL will have more trouble playing than other leagues

Schedule is out, but NFL will have more trouble playing than other leagues

The 2020 NFL schedule was released Thursday and it was written almost as if there are no concerns for COVID-19 problems. It’s a full schedule with fans in the stands.

But don’t get too excited about those early season games. They are very likely to be casualties of the virus.

And remember, of all the major professional sports leagues, the NFL could prove to be the most challenged to find a way to play in this environment.

A closer look at the schedule reveals that there is a plan to shorten the season, if necessary. Weeks three and four of the schedule feature no divisional games. They would apparently be the first games canceled. Then weeks one and four could be shoehorned into bye weeks later in the season.

That could allow for a 14-game season with a month’s delay. And it could be played with the Super Bowl pushed back just one week. I would assume the league would then, if it must, continue to push the schedule and Super Bowl back a week or two at a time until able to play.

I would also assume there are many more contingency plans that have not yet been revealed. There have to be -- because what was released Thursday just doesn’t seem possible.

The league took the approach of scheduling its season in very much a normal fashion, but a statement from Commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear his league will attempt to adjust as needed:

"We are prepared to make adjustments as necessary, as we have during this offseason in safely and efficiently conducting key activities such as free agency, the virtual offseason program, and the 2020 NFL draft."

If virus concerns continue through the summer, which appears more than likely, the NFL faces more logistical problems than the other pro leagues, simply because of the number of participants in its games.

First of all, this game features a tremendous amount of physical contact between participants, meaning the virus could spread quickly through a team or even an entire league.

You can reasonably talk about being able to quarantine a 15-player NBA roster, but NFL rosters feature 55 players, along with a 12-player practice squad. In addition, NFL teams have a multitude of coaches and support personnel.

While NBA and Major League Baseball are considering scenarios featuring putting their entire leagues in a "bubble" to keep them safe, possibly playing out a season in one location without fans, the NFL would seemingly have an impossible task of trying to do the same thing.

And it’s also questionable that even traveling to all NFL cities by September will be possible.

States are opening up at different times. It’s likely that a team in Florida or Georgia could begin practice sooner than the one in Washington, for example. Would the league allow that or would all teams have to begin at the same time? Could all the teams be ready to play in time for the season to start as scheduled?

The NFL schedule reflects a great degree of optimism and the league is going to have to be very nimble in order to make it work in some fashion.

But that’s a league not necessarily known for its flexibility. I would say this is not a schedule, it’s a wish.

Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston hitting reset button -- who will be better?

Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston hitting reset button -- who will be better?

It appears that Jameis Winston is signing a free-agent contract with the New Orleans Saints.

And now that Marcus Mariota has signed with the Las Vegas Raiders, it leads me to think that perhaps, after five seasons in the NFL, we still don’t know which of those guys is the best quarterback.

They were drafted in 2015, Winston No. 1 out of Florida State by Tampa Bay and Mariota No. 2 from Oregon by Tennessee, in a year when the draft wasn’t exactly loaded with blue-chip quarterbacks. Both players had previously won a Heisman Trophy.

And it’s certainly time to ask the question, are either of these players going to emerge as a high-quality NFL quarterback?

Of course, regional bias in these parts will always say that Mariota is a star in waiting. The storyline has always been that he hasn’t been used properly, the offense hasn’t been tailored to fit his skill set, he hasn’t had quality receivers, hasn't had a good offensive coordinator, too many coaching changes, etc., etc.

I’m not going to bury you with statistics, you can find Mariota’s stats here and Winston’s here. Just see for yourself and cherry-pick the ones that bolster your argument.

But in summary, I would state the obvious: that Mariota is the steadier of the two, less prone to mistakes. More careful. But Winston, who has been in a Pro Bowl, can be more spectacular, more likely to take chances.

Everyone talks about Winston’s 30 interceptions last season, but he also had 33 touchdown passes, a figure Mariota has never approached. Mariota’s all-time high in picks is 15 and he has only 44 in 63 career games. Winston has thrown 88 interceptions in 72 games. On the other hand, Winston has tossed 121 TD passes while Mariota has thrown just 76.

Both quarterbacks get to hit the reset button -- Winston for a team that resurrected Teddy Bridgewater’s career and Mariota with a coach who seems to love him.

I don’t think I’d be betting on either of them becoming a breakout star with their new franchise, but anything is possible with a fresh start.

At this point, though, I think it’s probably fair to say that neither man has lived up to expectations.

Former Patriots RB Kenjon Barner reveals what being on the team was really like

Former Patriots RB Kenjon Barner reveals what being on the team was really like

What is the New England Patriots locker room really like?

That is the question that has plagued mankind for centuries, or at least since 2000 when Bill Belichick became head coach and changed the franchise's fate forever. 

20 years later, Belichick is still going strong and the Patriots have won six Super Bowls during his tenure. 

It helped that he had Tom Brady, perhaps the greatest quarterback of all-time under center, but Belichick was the man that called the shots.

On Monday, former Oregon Ducks running back Kejon Barner joined The Brian Noe Show to talk about his time in New England. 

Barner played for the Patriots in 2018 and he used his first-hand experience to give host Brain Noe a glimpse of what Patriot life is like. 

The former Oregon Duck admitted he was nervous to enter the Patriots locker room based on what he had heard. 

But, when he arrived, his eyes were opened.

"It's a special place," said Barner. "There's a standard of excellence that they have and you're either gonna live up to it or you're not, and if you're not, you won't be there for too long."

That standard of excellence has made the Patriots one of the greatest dynasties in all of sports. 

It's that success, coupled with Coach Belichick's constant grumpy face, that leads outsiders to believe that the Patriots locker room is all business, all the time. Barner says that couldn't be further from the truth. 

I had a ton of fun. That was something that was obviously a concern. I wanna have fun playing this game. I wanna enjoy it. I wanna laugh. I wanna be goofy. I wanna be who I am. I wanna be the goofy guy that I am. It wasn't like this is strictly business, you're not gonna have fun. That was just as fun as any other locker room I've been in. When we worked, we worked. There is a time for work and there is a time for play. But when you worked you were gonna work. But outside of that, it's no different than any other locker room. Same goofy guys laughing, joking around, playing around. It's a locker room, no different than any other place. It's just, when it's time to work, you are going to work... and you're going to work."

If you noticed, Barner put some emphasis on work. That is what set the Patriots apart. When it was time to work, it was time to put the joking aside to get the job done. 

"That's what a learned there. If you walked into that organization, you did the things you were supposed to do, carried yourself as a professional athlete, you came to work every day, grinded hard, did the things that were required of you, you don't have a problem at all," said Barner. "But for the guys that come in and they aren't accustomed to that type of locker room environment where when it's time to work you actually have to work, there's gonna be a problem for you."

Barner spent just five games with the Patriots, and spent last season with the Atlanta Falcons where he was the team's primary punt returner. Barner h 35 punt returns for 267 yards and a single touchdown. He also had 17 kick returns for 406 yards.

Barner is currently a free agent and is continuing to train while waiting for his phone to ring. 

Nickelodeon to air NFL Wild Card games in 2021

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USA Today Images

Nickelodeon to air NFL Wild Card games in 2021

NFL clubs announced Tuesday plans to expand the postseason by two teams beginning with the 2020 season. The expansion had recently been voted on and passed in the new collective bargaining agreement.

Now official, there will be seven playoff teams from each conference, including three Wild Card teams. The No. 2 team will no longer receive a bye and will instead host the No. 7 team. 

But buried in the announcement is the launch of a kid-friendly broadcast on Nickelodeon, which will attract a younger crowd.  

Yes, the NFL will be on Nickelodeon.  

The league announced NBC and CBS would broadcast the additional wild card games. NFL Wild Card Weekend will include three games Saturday, Jan. 9 and another three games Sunday, Jan. 10. In addition to CBS’ extra broadcast on Jan. 9 — which also will be carried via a livestream on CBS All Access — the NFL noted a separately produced telecast of the game will air on Nickelodeon, tailored for a younger audience.

The Nickelodeon broadcast could quite possibly be the most watch-worthy event of them all. Just imagine: SpongeBob on the sidelines doing player interviews, or a superstar slime down during halftime. 

NFL Twitter seems into it, honestly. 

You’ll have to wait until January 10, 2021 to catch the kid-friendly telecast, but it is happening. 

Report: NFL Draft to be held in TV studio, leaving the Las Vegas Strip

Report: NFL Draft to be held in TV studio, leaving the Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas had grand plans for the 2020 NFL Draft. 

From the stage floating on the water in front of the Bellagio, to players being brought to the stage via boat. It was going to be a spectacle only Sin City could pull off. 

Unfortunately, that spectacular show will have to wait. 

Earlier this week, the Las Vegas Strip shut down to help contain the spread of COVID-19. That decision will impact next month's NFL Draft.

According to reports, the NFL Draft will no longer be held in Las Vegas and the league has plans to hold the draft in a TV studio, while cutting into live looks of the team war rooms. 

According to a memo obtained by the LA Times, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote: “Planning for the Draft is a good example of how we need to think differently, embrace technology and collaborate. We will also use the Draft to help support fans and those people impacted in our communities.”

Following the NFL's announcement, the Las Vegas Raiders and owner Mark Davis issued a statement of their own. "After careful consideration, the Las Vegas Raiders, the NFL, the NFLPA and the LVCVA have decided to cancel the 2020 Las Vegas NFL Draft celebration... Health and safety has always been our top priority, so despite it being a major disappointment, this was the right decision."

The situations we are all dealing with due to the pandemic change by the hour, and we are all forced to adjust.

Las Vegas was supposed to put on the greatest NFL Draft imaginable. Now our imagination is all we have to picture this event. 

The NFL Draft is scheduled for April 23-25.

Will Tom Brady justify that huge deal at age 42? He already has!

Will Tom Brady justify that huge deal at age 42? He already has!

A quick look at the NFL, since it’s the only place in sports where there is actual news.

  • Momma, don’t let your kids grow up to be running backs. Todd Gurley is 25 and may be close to the end of the line. Yes, partly because of knee injuries, but running backs always get those. And unlike players at other positions, the little mobility they may lose because of it could cost them their job. Plus, the colleges keep churning out adequate replacements for them every year. Gurley signed today with Atlanta and we wish him luck -- but he better start showing some of that explosion he showed as a star at Georgia.

  • Does it really make sense for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to sign a 42-year-old, 20-year-veteran quarterback named Tom Brady to a big-money contract? Well, the Bucs raised ticket prices by 15 percent for all but club-level seats this season and those tickets are selling like toilet paper at a Costco. This franchise is suddenly a hot property in its city, But will the team win? Actually, to a lot of NFL owners, that doesn’t matter -- and you must know that by now. The team should be better, much money will be made and that equals a GREAT signing.

  • The single best thing tight end Jimmy Graham has always been able to do is convince teams to give him large sums of money. The Chicago Bears signed him for two years and $16 million, in spite of the fact that he’s never been much of a blocker, isn’t as explosive as he once was and really, Jimmy Graham?

  • And speaking of free-agent signings, I’m not sure how well Philip Rivers will end up being for Indianapolis at $25 million for one season. Man, at this point of his career I’m not sure he’s better than last year’s QB, Jacoby Brissett. Raise your kids to be quarterbacks, momma.

  • Have the latest free-agent signings made the Seahawks better? You’re asking the wrong guy. Wish I could tell you I am an expert on line play in the NFL, but there aren’t many sports writers who really know what they’re talking about when it comes to the guys up front -- which is where Seattle has spent its money so far. They’ll say they’re better, which teams always do, but the hope would be that they could stay healthier.