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How one interaction with Cam Newton had ex-Redskins safety Ryan Clark thinking about retiring from football

How one interaction with Cam Newton had ex-Redskins safety Ryan Clark thinking about retiring from football

When newly signed New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton entered the NFL in 2011, he offered a rare combination of size, athleticism and arm strength that few other passers in league history had, if any.

In fact, when former Redskins safety Ryan Clark first played against Newton in the NFL when the signal-caller was a rookie, seeing the quarterback's size made the veteran question how much longer he could play in the league. 

"Cam Newton is what started me going into TV," Clark said on ESPN's Get Up on Wednesday, only half-joking. "I walked past him, Newton's in his first year...Cam Newton was walking on the field, I was walking out of the locker room. They're on opposite sides. Me and Newton cross, and I said to myself, 'Welp, if they're going to start making quarterbacks like this, I need to start working on my second career.'"

The safety, who was a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers at the time, recalled a defensive backs meeting during the week leading up to the game versus Carolina where he and fellow safety Troy Polamalu did not know how to prepare for the then-rookie Newton.

"The dude is just different," Clark said on Newton. "When you're sitting in your defensive back room and you look over at Troy Polamalu and the question isn't 'How are we going to stop him?' When Troy Polamalu looks at you and you look at him and he goes, 'How are we going to tackle Cam?' that is an issue. Those are the issues you have every week when you're playing against somebody like that."

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Thankfully for Clark and the Steelers' defense, the contest was a preseason one, so Pittsburgh escaped having to face the talented rookie for an entire game. One week later, Newton became the first quarterback to throw for 400-plus yards in his NFL debut.

After that season, Clark said he reached out to ESPN vice president of production Seth Markman and analyst Trey Wingo, which resulted in an internship with the company that summer. Throughout the final years of his NFL career, Clark would make guest appearances on ESPN shows when time permitted.

RELATED: DWAYNE HASKINS LIKES THE LOOK OF CAM NEWTON IN A PATRIOTS' UNIFORM

Clark, who had an impressive 13-year career in the NFL, retired three years after first facing Newton in February of 2015. One month later, was hired full-time as an ESPN NFL analyst, his occupation ever since.

"I was built as an inferior human," Clark jokingly said. "When they started drafting aliens to play quarterback, it was time for me to do something else, which I was okay with."

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Culture change? Bruce Allen signed Reuben Foster; Ron Rivera cut Derrius Guice

Culture change? Bruce Allen signed Reuben Foster; Ron Rivera cut Derrius Guice

About 20 months ago the Washington Football Team made a roster move that shocked much of the country and sparked outrage among many in the NFL. 

The move?

Former team president Bruce Allen's decision to claim linebacker Reuben Foster off waivers in late November 2018. San Francisco released Foster a few days prior following his second domestic violence arrest in less than a calendar year. The 49ers invested a lot in Foster, including a first-round pick in 2017, but the team said enough was enough and cut him. 

No other NFL team even put a waiver claim in for Foster.

Except Washington. 

A firestorm erupted then around Allen's decision to claim Foster and the NFL quickly put the linebacker on the Commissioner's Exempt list, keeping him off the playing field and the practice field.

RELATED: WASHINGTON CUTS DERRIUS GUICE

Still, Washington made clear that the priority was acquiring a football player with high-end potential over the public relations nightmare of signing a player fresh out of jail. 

It's important to note that Foster was eventually cleared of all charges. The NFL did not even suspend him. But at the time Washington signed him the team had no way of definitively knowing that would be the case. Foster still hasn't played in Washington after a devastating knee injury last year and is currently on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Much has changed since that decision in late November 2018, starting with the ouster of Allen following the lousy 2019 season. 

Ron Rivera took over the organization in January 2020 with a pledge to change the culture of the franchise. 

Back then much of the culture change was believed to be about winning football games, as the team has struggled to do that for the better part of two decades. In the months since, the scope of what needs to change grew far broader as a Washington Post report last month alleged a culture of sexual harassment and verbal abuse towards 15 women that formerly worked for the team. It was shameful behavior and led to the firing of two personnel executives and the resignation of the former team broadcaster. 

Still, the accusations linger.

It's a stain on the organization, and maybe that will wash away over time, but not immediately. 

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Then Friday night happens, when third-year running back Derrius Guice turns himself into Loudon County Police on domestic violence charges.

Rivera was thrust into the exact situation he has pledged to change. And the head coach released the running back. Post haste. 

Let's not make anybody a hero here.

Guice has played five games in two seasons. He's had multiple surgeries since coming into the NFL in 2018 on both of his knees. Releasing a player with Guice's potential is always a tough call, but releasing a player with Guice's actual on-field resume is not particularly difficult. He couldn't stay on the field. 

But it's also important not to diminish Rivera's swift action, and more importantly, point out how different the behavior is than what happened in Washington under Allen.

Consider that Allen claimed and signed Foster after his second domestic violence arrest while Rivera almost immediately released Guice on similar charges. 

That says a lot. 

Guice's attorney claims the Washington Football Team acted "inexplicably" in their decision to cut his client without an internal investigation. He might even be right. 

If it's proved Guice did nothing wrong and the charges are false, he will probably get another look with another NFL team. He oozes talent and skill, even if the injury history is scary. 

But Washington wasn't in a position to wait, to perform an internal investigation, to sit through another public relations nightmare. 

Washington was the only team that wanted Foster. Washington is the team that just lost three employees amid sexual harassment allegations. 

That's the Washington team Rivera came to fix. His action was swift, perhaps even harsh, but fixing something that is broken doesn't come easy. 

That's the thing about changing a culture. It requires actual change. Actions. Not words. 

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Making a case for Red Wolves as Washington Football Team's new name

Making a case for Red Wolves as Washington Football Team's new name

It's been several weeks since the Washington Football Team announced it was retiring its former name and logo after more than 80 years. Ever since FedEx became the first known sponsor to formally ask Washington to change its name, fans have taken to social media to voice some of their favorites among potential replacements. I spoke with several marketing experts about a few of the fan-generated names, and will use their responses to make a case for some of the most popular suggestions. This is the case for Red Wolves.

Case for: Red Wolves

The previous story in this series made the case for why a DC-themed name would be the best option for the Washington Football Team. One of the reasons marketing professionals said it would be a good idea is because teams that have a name connected to their city have stronger brand equity. So, it’s easy to see how those same experts weren’t as thrilled about names without a deep connection to Washington, like Red Wolves.

However, the marketing professionals weren’t against the idea that Red Wolves could work. And a big part of that has to do with the very reasons former Washington cornerback and unofficial leader of the Red Wolves movement Fred Smoot brought up.

“I can just see FedEx Field and the 80,000 people just howling like Wolves. That would really be something," Smoot told NBC Sports Washington last month.

That very atmosphere described by Smoot is why the name could be a good option. While a good name contributes to strong brand equity, it isn’t the only factor, according to Tim Derdenger, associate professor of marketing and strategy at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business. The fan engagement opportunities with that brand is also important, and those opportunities definitely exist with Red Wolves.

RELATED: 5 NEW AND IMPRESSIVE FAN-GENERATED RED WOLVES LOGO AND UNIFORM DESIGNS

“Absolutely, that’s certainly a dimension that you’re concerned about is what environment, what atmosphere, what engagement can you get from the fans when we can go back to these games, hopefully sooner rather than later,” Derdenger said. “And so what is that experience like? If you have really good fan experience, that is going to elevate brand equity and in the end make the organization more valuable.

“I think [Red Wolves] lends itself to a pretty interesting and maybe amazing fan experience with maybe the howling and everything.”

A good amount of fans are already fond of the Red Wolves name. It was a runaway favorite in a poll conducted by NBC Sports Washington, which also included Red Tails, Warriors and Red Hawks.

 

The poll didn’t include ‘other’ as an option, so it’s possible fans just chose the best of the names provided, but they aren’t alone in favoring the name. Harry Poole, VP of client services at RedPeg Marketing, also named Red Wolves among his favorites, along with Red Tails and Warriors.

“Each of these names has a story that can be told, rolls off the tongue and gives a nod to themes that represent the franchise -- strength, power, fight, courage, tradition and heroes,” Poole said.

He agrees that the team’s rebrand is about more than the name, but as the team undergoes the process, he thinks the name change can work in conjunction with an improving team on the field to create a better fan experience.

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“When the product on the field is strong, it makes the business side of things a lot easier as it relates to sales, marketing and community relations,” Poole said. “If I were selling tickets, merchandise, sponsorships or creating the gameday experience, I would be thrilled about the opportunity this presents for each of those functions.

“This is a momentous decision for the franchise, and it will impact every facet of their business. It needs to be treated as more than a creative project to identify a new moniker and logo, but instead, an exercise to reshape the entire fan experience.”

RELATED: TEMPORARY NAME CHANGE A POSITIVE STEP FOR THE RED WOLVES MOVEMENT

If Washington were to go with Red Wolves, it would only be the first step of a rebrand that would need to include creating the experiences described above, but also defining what the team’s culture will be and what the brand represents going forward. In attempting to do that, RedPeg Marketing CEO Brad Nierenberg thinks Red Wolves is a name “you can run with.”

“A name is an important starting point, but it’s all about what is the pieces of the puzzle, what you build around it,” Nierenberg said. “It’s about what culture you create, what is the brand known for. And I think that it’s interesting, I think the Redskins have an incredible opportunity to start a new narrative. They really do. There’s definitely a silver lining that you can take from this. And I think they have an opportunity, and to create a new narrative about the brand, and they’ll always go, this is the new brand.”

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