Patriot Elvis celebrates Birthday
On the 69th anniversary of his birthday, Elvis Presley donned the Patriots uniform in tribute to the Team and in stark denunciation of the carpetbagging Titans from Houston.
Jackie MacMullan works out of the cold snap with a look back at New England's favorite Snow Angel, Lonie Paxton.
He happily toiled anonymously alongside his more celebrated teammates until the Snow Game and his spontaneous choice of celebration. It was spontaneous, wasn't it, Lonie?
"Well . . . " Paxton said. "Not exactly."
The truth shall now be told. The day of that now legendary Oakland victory, Paxton entertained various family members visiting from the West Coast. His guests tossed footballs in the snow and enjoyed a few cocktails while Paxton anxiously awaited the biggest game of his career.
"I was feeling pretty antsy," he said. "My family is out back having a good ol' time in the snow, but I've got the game on my mind. They were saying, `This is going to be wild. You are going to whupp them in this weather.'
"Then somebody said, `Hey Lonie, if you guys win, you should do something crazy.' I'm thinking to myself, `I'm the long snapper, not the quarterback. What chance am I going to have to do anything?' "
"[Former Patriots defensive lineman] Dave Nugent looked at me and said, `If we win this game, let's do snow angels in the end zone,' " Paxton said. "So when Adam [Vinatieri] kicked the winning field goal, and I started doing my thing, but Nugent never showed up. He was jumping on Adam at midfield."
Paxton's snow patterns of jubilation transformed him into an instant folk hero. He repeated his signature move again on the indoor turf in New Orleans shortly after the Patriots clinched the Super Bowl on Vinatieri's 48-yard field goal. The snap on that kick came from Paxton. Long snappers everywhere cheered their new celebrity spokesman.
Michael Smith looks at All-Pro corner Ty Law
Images often can convey so much more than words. A lot of good things can be said about the New England Patriots. But the (moving) picture that says it all, that epitomizes what it means to be a Patriot in 2003, is Ty Law's game-clinching interception return for a touchdown Oct. 5 against the Tennessee Titans, New England's opponent Saturday night at Gillette Stadium in an AFC divisional playoff game.
Law was in pain, as so many of the Patriots have been this season, and the outcome of the game was still in doubt. The team needed someone to step forward, and it was the turn of the guy with the ailing ankle. Law got it done, even though just minutes earlier he had left the game.
There's 2 minutes 1 second left. New England leads, 31-27. Tennessee faces second and 3 from New England's 40. Titans quarterback Steve McNair, having completed a 7-yard pass to Tyrone Calico the play before, drops back and fires to Calico along the right sideline. Law, tender ankle and all, steps in front of Calico for by far the most clutch of his six interceptions this season and brings it back 65 yards for the most dramatic of the six picks he's returned for a touchdown in his career (regular season, that is). The man hobbled the last 30 yards or so to the end zone. That's what these Patriots are about. Making a play when you have to. Ignoring the circumstances and finding a way to get it done.
Mark Blaudschun profiles the Titans Eddie George.
Dislocated shoulder? No problem, George had it popped back in after X-rays revealed no major damage. Think about that for a minute; your shoulder gets pulled out of its socket and someone pops it back in place, and you go about your business.
George will wear a shoulder harness for protection, but that's about it. "The shoulder is a little sore," conceded George. "But my strength is there, the MRI showed that there was no significant damage in there. The ligaments and everything were in place."
George dissects his injuries matter of factly. "There's a little soreness," he said. "Any time your shoulder comes out of the socket, there's going to be some soreness there. But there's only a few strains of the rotator cuff muscles. But it's nothing to keep me out of practice. I will wear the harness just for precautionary reasons, not because of any significant pain. I don't want it [the shoulder] to be in an awkward position or have it slip out of its socket again. It is susceptible to doing that in certain positions. So I want to be cautious with that."
George no doubt will be "taking the needle" again in Foxboro. The Titans contention that there is no structural damage to the shoulder is nonsense. I am not a doctor, nor play one on TV, but a shoulder does not dislocate without structural damage.
Dusting off the archives, Pete Prisco looks at how taking the "needle" is part of the NFL.
It is a simple motion, one NFL players know very well, sending a message without uttering a word.
You take your index and middle fingers on either hand, spread them apart and push your thumb back and forth into the area between them, closing the fingers each time.
It's the universal hand signal for taking the needle: using painkillers to numb the pain and play the game.
Some players refer to the shots as "liquid Advil," which downplays the significance of taking them.
There are risks, of course, but winning football games, staying on the field to help, seems far more important than anything bad that might happen from taking the needle.
If Steve McNair is so tough, then why has he been injured for two years? Tom Curran has a great piece in the Projo on Patriot players tiring of media darling Steve McNair.
Around the NFL these days, it's morally wrong to discuss injuries and not invoke the name of the Patron Saint of Gimpiness. And if one believes what he reads, sees and hears, none of these brittle Patriots can hold a candle to the NFL's greatest gladiator -- McNair.
At least that's the way it's been made to seem.
During Tennessee's Wild Card win over Baltimore last Saturday, ESPN analysts Paul Maguire and Joe Theismann were over the moon every time McNair blinked.
"He's hurt," said one Patriot who caught the on-air canonization of McNair. "So are the other 52 guys on his team."
"Nobody's 100 percent," Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest said yesterday. "Everybody's a little banged up, but if it's not enough to keep you off the field, don't complain about it. It's the nature of the game. I don't think he's always as hurt as they say. That's just my opinion."
A Google search of the words "Steve McNair" and "warrior" yielded 1,060 results. "Steve McNair" and "injury" produced 30,000 results. That "Steve McNair" and "gladiator" brought less than 1,000 hits can be chalked up to the fact that most sports writers steer clear of big words.
Mark Blaudschun is also googling the Titan signal caller.
He is the co-MVP of the NFL, arguably the best of the best quarterbacks in football. But what the Patriots will see Saturday night, what the league has seen for the past few seasons, is not the best McNair has to offer.
Not that the 6-foot-2-inch, 235-pounder is unwilling to give it. But how can he? Do a Google search of "Steve McNair" and "injury" and you will find 10 pages of stories chronicling bumps, bruises, and assorted other ailments all over his body.
Sometimes the reverence overwhelms him, especially when he does stupid things such as getting arrested for DUI last spring, something McNair acknowledges as an "embarrassing mistake."
Blaudschun omits the little issue with the 9mm handgun in McNair's Lincoln Navigator when he was popped and the .18 breathalyzer test. The smokinggun.com has the details on the McNair arrest.
Mike Freeman has an eye-opening look at NFL players penchant for packing heat.
"I think the vast majority of players in the NFL have guns,'' said Lomas Brown, who retired at the end of last season. ``Just about every guy I played with in the NFL had a gun. Almost every player I knew had one. Guns are rampant in football. You have all these players packing guns wherever they go. It's a disaster waiting to happen.''
Weapons, including military-style assault rifles, can be found in players' homes and cars, and even sometimes in their lockers, the players, executives and owners said.
No one knows exactly how many of the NFL's nearly 1,700 players are armed. That is in part because some possess illegal guns, purchased without permits on the black market. The league also does not keep track of which players have permits to possess guns.
Many players and others in the NFL said they believed more players are armed than ever before, with their rough estimates running from perhaps half of the league's players to as many as 90 percent.
"What you're really worried about is some guy having a gun, he confronts you, and you have nothing,'' linebacker T.J. Slaughter said.
Slaughter was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars in late October after he was accused of pointing a gun at two people while they were passing him on a highway. Slaughter, who said he had a permit for his gun, denied having pointed it at the men; he believed they were threatening him.
Possessing a gun has also become a macho emblem, a status symbol among athletic, affluent young men, said Michael Huyghue, a former Jaguars general manager who is now an agent representing dozens of NFL players.
For players, Huyghue said, owning guns ``is as basic to them as owning jewelry or fast cars. They have almost become tools of their trade.''
Michael Smith continues to draw the short straw on Morrissey Boulevard. Yesterday, the Dennis Brolin interview and today the old Brady/Montana comparision.
"They're both righthanded quarterbacks," Bill Belichick said. "You're talking about Joe Montana. The guy is a Hall of Fame quarterback. He's won however many Super Bowls he's won. How many guys can you compare to him?"
He was "Joe-Cool" cool in his first postseason appearance two years ago, right up until the spike to stop the clock for Adam Vinatieri's championship-clinching kick. He's been clutch in this, his third year as a starter, finishing third in league MVP voting after leading the Patriots to the league's best record and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, which for them begin Saturday night at Gillette Stadium against the Tennessee Titans. If New England wins its second title in three years, Brady already will be halfway to Montana.
Coach Belichick weighed in on the lawn issue at Gillette Field. Tom Curran has the coach's terse response on the NFL mandated turf replacement.
"The decision was mandated by the league, so that's that," he said. "I thought the field played well. There hadn't been any problems with it in terms of player safety and cutting and footing, so let's hope that continues to be the case. It's a league mandate."
A major concern for Belichick is the footing on the Delaware Sod. Belichick confirmed that Adam Vinatieri will be kicking in high heels pumps which are the best shoe for kicking on two inch thick sod.
The Vinatieri white pump is designed with crystal imagery representing the overtime Oakland Playoff victory . His design includes an American flag, goal post, and football – each surrounded by stunningly beautiful crystal stars.
The Michael Vick of Groundskeepers weighed in with Michael Smith.
"It's advantage us that there's new sod," said Dennis Brolin, the Patriots field superintendent of 10 years who resigned during training camp because of philosophical differences with coach Bill Belichick. "Bill loves to play on natural grass. You look at the practice fields, they're in great shape. Tennessee's accustomed to playing on a subpar field like what we've been playing on the past couple games. Every one of the Patriots' practice fields is in great shape. They spare no expense when it comes to safety. For us, the new sod is going to be good because it's what they practice on."
Love how this Brolin character still refers to "us", as if he is still working for the Patriots. Just how common is it for groundskeepers to resign for "philosophical differences"?
Titans Owner Replaces Turf
Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams celebrated his 81st birthday with a new hairpiece that has been interwoven and bonded to create a truly bizarre look. The Titan bio calls K.S. “Bud” Adams, Jr. "an enduring figure in the NFL." The people of Houston remember Adams for many things but a "enduring figure" was not one of them.
Ed Fowler wrote a book on Adams, Loser Takes All: Bud Adams, Bad Football, & Big Business
Below is a review of the Fowler book that recalls the Adams era of "turmoil, intrigue, backstabbing, and buffoonery."
Houston Chronicle columnist Fowler, who covered the Oilers for 17 seasons, has written a forthright account of a pro football team whose ineptitude is a matter of public record. He charges the team and its management with "turmoil, intrigue, backstabbing, and buffoonery." Owner Bud Adams began his business career with a grubstake from his father, head of Phillips 66 petroleum, and later was a founder of the American Football League, of which his Oilers were the champs in 1960 and 1961. The AFL and the NFL played their first merged season in 1970, and for 27 years the Houston team has never played in a Super Bowl despite having one of the strongest rosters. But front-office interference, inferior coaching and Adam's penny-pinching spelled trouble, charges Fowler, which came to a head when the owner demanded a new stadium as the price for staying put. Failing to get it and "snarling like a baboon," he moved the team to Nashville.
In a related note, the NFL has ordered the Gillette Field turf to be re-sodded for the playoffs. Michael Felger looks at the "mutual" decision between the NFL and the Patriots.
While spokesmen for the Pats and the NFL said the decision to redo the field was a mutual one between the team and the league, sources confirmed that the NFL mandated the move...If it were up to Belichick and the rest of the organization, the original field would have remained in place. Belichick held a final practice in the stadium last Wednesday before excusing his players for the weekend.
The chances of that sod taking root in a New England January is as likely as T.S. "Bud" Adams being welcomed back to Houston for SuperBowl XXXVIII. Look to see clumps of grass early in Saturday's Patriot-Titans game on the field and from the Titans owner box.