EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- So it wasn't an epic. The Patriots preseason finalecould be the most forgettable, unwatchable game I've covered since being fortunate enough to get a job covering the NFL in 1997. So we'll stay off the game-specific stuff for the most part as we tidy up and look ahead. Yes, the replacement referees are embarrassingly bad. And I don't feel sympathywhen they look silly. They put themselves in a position to look dumb by climbing in bed with a partner -- the NFL -- who is going to ride them hard and put them away when this impasse is done. There may be some individual dynamics at play but it doesn't seem a leap to presume the replacement refs are doing it for the money and to advance their careers. So they can take the chants of "We want Hochuli!" and "Scab!" -- which they were showered with Wednesday night as they left the field -- and realize they signed up for it. But the locked-out officials -- to the surprise of many, I'm sure -- deserve a lot of blame for the present situation. I know the NFL's a cutthroat, monolith that greedily sucks up every penny it can find to add to the stack of billions it already generates. But the officials are turning their noses up to an offer that raises the average official's salary from 149,000 currently (!) to 189,000 by 2018. The average starting salary will go from a modest 78,000 in 2011 up to 165K in 2018. The officials don't want their benefits from the part-time job converted into 401K. And they don't like the idea of the league expanding its bench, so to speak, by hiring officials that could be summoned to replace a guy who sucks. Right now, the real refs are winning because the issue manifests itself to fans and most of the media as replacements screwing up the game. And that typhoon of outrage may force the NFL to just say, "Whatever..." and pay them. But don't be misled by the fact the NFL usually wears the black hat in negotiations. In this one, the refs are the ones trying to carry out a stickup. (Great post by Florio on this right here.) I lampooned the speech of the head referee, Don King, on Twitter. Kind of a low-rent move in hindsight. Wish I had foresight to edit that stupidity. It was a cheap, immature way to try and get alaugh and I feelbadly about it. One last thing, as he was leaving the field Wednesday night, Scott Zolak predicted that, against the Titans, Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels will try to take advantage of the officials by going extreme up-tempo. Hadn't thought that far ahead myself. He's exactly right. But here's where it gets interesting. The officials will stand over the ball until they are ready for it to be snapped. In 2010, we saw the issues that arose when the league moved the umpire from the linebacker level to 12 yards off the line of scrimmage in the offensive backfield. The umpire has to get the ball after each play, spot it correctly and get the hell out of the way. When the head linesman signals, the ball can be snapped. The real refs struggled to keep up.The new guys? Seriously? And that's where the replacement referees will start to impact game plans. If the Patriots are stymied from going no-huddlehurryup by the incompetence of the replacement referees, Bill Belichick will blow a gasket. And,gasket blown, he may not choose to to defer to Mike Pereira's comments on the replacement refs but offer some of his own. Which courts incurring the Wrath of Kraft since coaches are under orders to keep their lips shut on the matter. This is a perfect example of NFL and owner business infringing on the vocation the coaches and players hold sacred. And that's where this will get interesting.
Rob Gronkowski is a model citizen in the NFL. In fact, the NFL Players Association is advising rookies to be more like Gronk, according to The Boston Globe.
The New England Patriots tight end has developed a name for himself on and off the football field. With that attention comes branding. And at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere from May 18 to 20, the NFLPA encouraged rookies to develop their own brand -- much like Gronkowski.
“Some people think he’s just this extension of a frat boy, and that it’s sort of accidental,” Ahmad Nassar said, via The Globe. Nassar is the president of NFL Players Inc., the for-profit subsidiary of the NFLPA. “And that’s wrong. It’s not accidental, it’s very purposeful. So the message there is, really good branding is where you don’t even feel it. You think, ‘Oh, that’s just Gronk being Gronk.’ Actually, that’s his brand, but it’s so good and so ingrained and so authentic, you don’t even know it’s a brand or think it.”
Gronkowski's "Summer of Gronk" has indirectly become one of his streams of income. The tight end makes appearances for magazines and sponsors. Because of his earnings from branding and endorsements, he didn't touch his NFL salary during the early years of his career.
Gronk was one of three players who were the topics of discussion during the symposium. Dak Prescott and Odell Beckham were also used as examples of players who have been able to generate additional income from endorsements. Beckham, in particular, has been in the spotlight off the football field. He's appeared on the cover of Madden, and just signed a deal with NIke which is reportedly worth $25 million over five years with upwards of $48 million over eight years. His deal, which is a record for an NFL player, will pay him more than his contract with the Giants.
“A lot of people talk to the players about, ‘You should be careful with your money and you should treat your family this way and you should treat your girlfriend or your wife.’ Which is fine. I think that’s valuable,” Nassar said, via The Globe. “But we don’t often give them a chance to answer the question: How do you see yourself as a brand? Because Gronk, Odell, none of those guys accidentally ended up where they are from a branding and marketing standpoint.”
Tom Brady delivered a video message last week at the funeral of Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken, a Maine native and former UConn track athlete killed in Somalia on May 5.
Bill Speros of The Boston Herald, in a column this Memorial Day weekend, wrote about Milliken and Brady's message.
Milliken ran track at Cheverus High School in Falmouth, Maine, and at UConn, where he graduated in 2001. Milliken lived in Virginia Beach, Va., with his wife, Erin, and two children. He other Navy SEALs participated in a training exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011 where he met and posed for pictures with Brady.
Speros wrote that at Milliken’s funeral in Virginia Beach, Va., Brady's video offered condolences and thanked Milliken’s family for its sacrifice and spoke of how Milliken was considered a “glue guy” by UConn track coach Greg Roy.
Milliken had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning four Bronze Star Medals and was based in Virginia since 2004. He was killed in a nighttime firefight with Al-Shabaab militants near Barij, about 40 miles from the Somali capital of Mogadishu. He was 38.
The Pentagon said Milliken was the first American serviceman killed in combat in Somalia since the "Black Hawk Down" battle that killed 18 Americans in 1993.
In a statement to the Herald, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said: “It was an honor to host Kyle and his team for an exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011. It gave new meaning to the stadium being known as home of the Patriots. We were deeply saddened to hear of Kyle’s death earlier this month.
“As Memorial Day weekend approaches, we are reminded of the sacrifices made by patriots like Kyle and so many others who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend and protect our rights as Americans. Our thoughts, prayers and heartfelt appreciation are extended to the Milliken family and the many families who will be remembering lives lost this Memorial Day weekend.”