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Understanding NFL Apparel Violations

Photo credit: Kena Krustinger/GETTY

Photo credit: Kena Krustinger/GETTY

The NFL Draft is one of the most popular and exciting couple of days in American sports. Hundreds of college hopefuls dream of catching the eye of professionals, making it to the league, and living out their childhood dreams as the next great hall of famer, or part of a Super Bowl-winning team. This year was no different. The League’s 81st draft took place in the last week of April this year, and was one of the most talked about things on social media, and not just because of the 253 players selected to join teams. Clothing choices from some of the players was also a highlight of the event.


More specifically, Ohio State running back, Ezekiel Elliott, was the focus of the conversation. Elliot, who selected in a first-round pick by the Dallas Cowboys, was already going to be talked about because of his storied career and undeniable skill, but his decision to turn his button-down shirt into a crop top made even more noise than he likely expected, or maybe it was intentional? At any rate, the star player set social media and traditional media ablaze, with fans laughing at, taunting, and/or praising him for the stand-out choice, for which he seemed proud. Yet, for NFL officials, this wasn’t a laughing matter. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell fined the newbie $10,000 for the uniform violation almost immediately.


This isn’t the first time the NFL has used its strict clothing and uniform policy to whip players into shape. Stars of the game have been fined for everything from ill-fitting pants to colored shoes, as shown in this post from The Riches. Yet, the examples used are players who were on the field and already a part of the league, leading some critics to question whether the decision was too harsh. Elliott didn’t think so. In fact, the running back laughed it off, saying his decision likely helped him in catching the attention of the Cowboys and be chosen so early.


Furthermore, for those who’ve followed Elliott’s career, his affinity for crop tops isn’t new. Just last year, Elliott made headlines calling out the NCAA rule which bans crop top jerseys, saying the rule is “silly.” He even took a political route and reportedly received almost 10,000 signatures from fans calling on the association to change the rule.


Still, it’s important for aspiring (and current) players who’d like to avoid fines, or onlookers who question what qualifies as a violation, to note what the NFL considers to be within its rules for apparel. The NFL Rulebook details a number of acceptable items, from headwear to gloves, on the official website. It also states that professional attire is a must, and given how swift the organization has been at enforcing this rule recently, we should believe them.


What are your thoughts on the issue?


NFL Wins Appeal – Tom Brady to Miss 4 Games To Start Season

New_England_Patriots_wordmark_(c._2000)Roger Goodell and the NFL finally won their appeal against Tom Brady and the “Deflategate” fiasco stemming from the 2015 AFC Championship game. As a result, Brady will be forced to miss the first four games of the season. But don’t think Tom Brady will go down without a fight, much like he did when this whole issue arose after he and the Patriots were crowned Super Bowl XLIX Champions. According to the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe,


“Brady plans to exhaust all of his options to continue this battle with the league and win his innocence. Barring an unforeseen dose of advice from his legal team that causes a drastic about-face, Brady has no intention to quit.”


In case you’re getting caught up, Tom Brady was being investigated for knowing or being “generally aware” of footballs that were deflated for the 2015 AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. It was found at halftime that the PSI rating was below what should be the normal average. The Patriots went on to win the game 45 – 7. The game will be remembered as one of the most lopsided playoff victories in AFC title history.


Tom Brady and the Patriots have done so much in their time together. They’ve made six trips to the Super Bowl while winning four. A lot of people are following this story because it involves the biggest star of the most popular sport in America. A U.S. Senator is even calling out the NFL to release PSI numbers to aid Brady and the Patriots. U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen believes that if the NFL is going to enforce a punishment against Brady, then they need to actually prove he and the team deflate footballs.


This story is obviously developing and should have some more twists and turns along the journey. It’s expected since Brady has made it abundantly clear that he will not roll over and let the NFL win. He vehemently believes in his innocence and for a quarterback that has won it all so many times, it makes sense. Tom Brady is a shoe in for the Football Hall of Fame, and arguably one of the best quarterbacks of all time. This one incident could tarnish his reputation and legacy. It makes you think, is Tom Brady a cheater? That’s the question Tom doesn’t want you to think and is why he will continue to fight to prove he’s not guilty of any wrongdoing.


Philadelphia Eagles Have a Big Question Mark at Quarterback

Eagles_wordmarkThe Philadelphia Eagles have gone through some interesting developments in the last two months with two centering around the most integral position on an NFL team: quarterback. The first news to strike was the 2 year contract extension for Sam Bradford, valued at $36 million with $26 million in guaranteed money. Additionally, it was just announced that the Philadelphia Eagles traded up for the No. 2 pick, after sending five draft picks to the Browns in a blockbuster trade. There’s speculation that the Eagles are chasing either California’s Jared Goff or Carson Wentz of North Dakota, both highly touted quarterbacks in the 2016 drafts. With this intention, people are starting to believe and see that the Eagles are seeking a franchise quarterback of the future in a younger player.


Not surprising, but Sam Bradford is clearly seeing the writing on the wall, especially after a 7-9 record last season and a fairly lackluster performance statistically at 3,725 yards, 19 touch, and 14 interceptions. But then again, The Eagles have yet to “give up” on Bradford after just one season. If anything, the job is for Bradford to lose with the team’s Executive Vice President of Football Operations, Howie Roseman, saying, “Let me be clear, Sam Bradford is our starting quarterback. We told Sam that. We intend to support him, and the moves we made this offseason, we believe, will give us a chance to compete this season.”


Yet Sam Bradford sees it differently and is reportedly requesting to be traded from the team. As the presumptive starting quarterback and after just signing a lucrative extension, it’s crazy to think that he’d be willing to jump ship so quickly. If you know you have a job at the end of the day, and you know it is for you to lose, why panic?


It’s important to note that the Broncos reached out to the Eagles to begin very preliminary talks with Bradford. With Peyton Manning now retired, the Broncos may be seeking another quarterback to compete with recently acquired, Mark Sanchez. Ironically, Mark was the former backup to Sam Bradford on the Eagles…


The Origins of American Football

United States football stems from a combination of rugby and and association football (or what Americans call soccer.) Rugby can trace its roots though history all the way back to ancient Greece, where they have found documents recording similar gameplay dating back as far as 388 BC. From there it moved to ancient Rome, where the Roman politician Cicero (106–42 BC) describes the case of a man who was killed whilst having a shave when a ball was kicked into a barber’s shop. Association football, or soccer, can trace lineage back to the Chinese competitive game of Cuju (translated as “kick ball”) that was around to before the Han Dynasty, but during the Han Dynasty is when rules were implemented and games became standardized and formed the roots that would develop into soccer as we know it today.Georgia Tech Auburn football game Thanksgiving 1921

These two games merged and diverged from the games that inspired it, adapting over hundreds of years from ancient games to medieval football to college ball at the end of the 19th century, and a lot of that is due to Walter Camp, the man known to some as the “Father of American Football”. A Yale and Hopkins School grad, he helped institute the line of scrimmage, down-and-distance rules, and legalized interference, along with many other changes. But these three rule changes helped shape modern football more than almost anything else.

Football has long been a sport with two sides. An ancient warrior game of swiftness, skill, and might combined. But it is also one of the more modern, adaptable sports in the world. In the modern world, most professional and collegiate sports are rigid, with rules that barely change over centuries. Football, however, is constantly innovating. The rules always change, the equipment changes, modern technology is always first adapted to be a part of the game of football before it is anywhere else.

Since the beginning, the sport has been incredibly violent. From groups of villagers playing against one another in medieval towns to college games, the game has always been as much about brute force as it has been about skill. In the 1894 Harvard-Yale game known as “the Hampden Park Blood Bath” where four players were cripplingly injured which suspended the game at both schools for three years, to the Army-Navy game in 1894 that caused the games to be suspended for four years for similar reasons. In the year 1905 there were 19 fatalities from the sport of football in the United States, which led to Theodore Roosevelt threatening to make the game illegal and ban it if drastic safety changes were not made, and made quickly. This led to the formation of the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) who met to retool the sport and the rules to encourage less dangerous gameplay. As a result of the 1905–1906 reform that came from these meetings, mass formation plays became illegal and forward passes legal. Bradbury Robinson, playing for visionary coach Eddie Cochems at St. Louis University, threw the first legal pass in a September 5, 1906, game against Carroll College at Waukesha, effectively putting the meta rules of the game into the place we know them at today.

From school rivalries to ancient Romans, football has deep and emotional ties to much of the world. Though a large majority of the game is played in America, it is a sport watched world-wide. One you’ve been bitten by the gridiron bug, there’s no going back.


National Women’s History Month 2016 & the NFL

Womens History Month Celebrating in Sports on Dimitrie Patterson Sports blogThe National Women’s History Month theme for 2016 honors women who have shaped America’s history and its future through their public service and government leadership. Although often overlooked and undervalued, collectively they have dramatically influenced our public policy and the building of viable institutions and organizations. From championing basic human rights to ensuring access and equal opportunity for all Americans, they have led the way in establishing a stronger and more democratic country. – National Women’s History Project (NWHP).  This year marks a special time in Women’s History and Sports.

Recently, in 2015, the National Football League (NFL) employed two females for the first time in history. Last year, Sarah Thomas became the NFL’s first female official and Jen Welter became the NFL’s first assistant coach.

Sarah Thomas on Celebrating Women's History Month in Sports NFL Blog post by Dimitrie Patterson

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In April 2015, the NFL announced Sarah Thomas as the first full-time female official in league history. Prior to the announcement, a report from the Baltimore Sun surfaced that Thomas was in line for a promotion.  A 19-year veteran, Thomas spent the previous eight years working with Conference USA. She became the first female to officiate an NCAA football game in 2007, and has previously been a finalist for the NFL job, according to a CBS sports news report.  In fact, Thomas had been on the league’s radar for seven years. She had previously worked NFL preseason games and training camps. And while she’s acknowledged as the NFL’s first full-time official, technically Shannon Eastin earned the distinction of the first female to officiate an NFL regular-season game when she worked as a replacement ref early in the 2012 season. Thomas’ NFL officiating uniform number is 153.

Jen Welter NFL Celebration of Womens History Month on Dimitrie Patterson Sports blog

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Subsequently, the Arizona Cardinals did something that no other NFL team in the history of the league has done before. In July 2015, the team announced its decision to hire Dr. Jen Welter as the first female to coach in the NFL. 

Formerly, she served as an intern linebackers coach for the Arizona Cardinals, where her time there has been defined by the bond she has fostered with the players. Cardinals Coach Brice Arians, who’s become known for his efforts to diversify the coaching ranks, downplayed the historic nature of the hiring and hailed Welter’s experience when he announced she would take the position in September 2015.  But this is not the first time Welter’s was the first to do something.  According to Welter’s website, in February 2015 she became the first woman to coach in a men’s professional football league, when she served as linebacker and special teams coach for the Indoor Football League’s Texas Revolution. Prior to that, in January 2014 Welter became the first woman to play running back in a men’s professional football season, when she signed with the Revolution.

These efforts highlight the continuous progress and efforts women have made over the years. To put things in perspective, it wasn’t until a little over 40 years ago that Richard Nixon had signed into law the first protection again sex discrimination in education with the signing of Title IX, on June 23, 1972. 

Click to view Slideshow: Influential Women and Moments in Sports History 

No More 40-Yard Dashes? NFL to Review and Revise Its Scouting Combine Process

An image of a wilson football on the fieldEvery February, the NFL holds its Scouting Combine in Indiana, where it measures overall physicality and aptitude of college-aged players looking to make it into the league. In essence, it’s like the SAT for professional sports. However, with the combine, players only participate by invitation only. And with various professionals from different departments in the league present, individuals are able to prove the worthiness for performance on the big stage. Thus, it become much of a competition as much as it is a test and, at times, entertainment.

The event requires participants complete a series of 14 separate tests, which include everything from a bench press of 225 pounds, to the 40 yard dash, and intelligence and personality exams like the Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test. While the ability to complete these tests and historically high rankings have resulted in a career boost for participants. Many, both within and outside of the organization have begun to question the importance and validity of the tests themselves as an indicator for performance on the field.

Some have argued that the 40-yard dash, for example, is ineffective and practically pointless as a measure for all players. While it would be beneficial to test cornerbacks on their ability to sprint in that way, Steve Silverman, a writer for CBS sports, noted that using it for linebackers like the super bowl-winning Baltimore Ravens player, Terrell Suggs, doesn’t mean much of anything. In his 2003 test, Suggs’s dash wasn’t great, but his status at Arizona State, and later, within the league, was impressive.

The NFL is taking notice to this criticism–which has even come from Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots–and will review the tests, which start tomorrow, February 23, and make necessary changes to currently extraneous measurements, if any. The NFL has cited its goal as wanting to improve in any way possible, to the benefit of the players and the teams as well. With technology on its side, the NFL will be taking a greater look at the data from these tests as a greater measure of performance. Furthermore, the NFL will host its first football performance and technology symposium, as a sign that it’s serious about making the necessary updates to its practices.

That isn’t to say the league hasn’t attempted to make updates in years prior. The USA Today notes that the organization has added a “functional movement screen” and a psychological test to supplement the Wonderlic. However, by many measures, there are additional improvements which the league can make that it hasn’t. It will certainly set a precedent for the way other programs are run, and decrease time wasted on perfecting skills that may not be used for certain players.

Whether or not the League will see fit to update any part of the process, this news is a sign that those who make the decision aren’t impervious to suggestions, but instead are willing to implement advancements. That deserves a round of applause. For many players who might not have gotten a chance, these updates may be a game changer. We’ll have to wait and see.

Who Are The Top Free Agents?

NFL Off-season

The season has been over for a few weeks and teams are searching for the top free agents. There are a couple of players who will receive offers from multiple teams and there will be players who may not get picked up this season. The fate of each player depends on his past performance in the NFL, and the value they hold at their position. Some have stood out at their position more than others in the free agency. To provide some insight on what to expect, I have listed the top free agents of the off-season.

Josh Norman, Cornerback (CB), Panthers

Josh Norman, who played phenomenal with the North Carolina Panthers during this past season, is definitely on a bunch of teams radar. The Panthers made an offer to re-sign Norman right before his All-Pro 2015 debut but he declined. Norman believed he would be valued more by the end of the Panthers’ season. Rumor has it that the Panthers’ general manager, Dave Gettleman, has considered putting Norman on a franchise tag. Of course, the fans want Norman to stay with the Panthers but it looks like Norman is looking for more money.

Marvin Jones, Wide Receiver (WR), Bengals

Marvin Jones is one of the best wide receiver options in the pool of free agents. Despite, him being average size for a receiver, his athletic ability was well noticed this past season. He managed to come back this season strong after missing the entire 2014 season due to an ankle injury. Teams are still hesitant to sign Jones because of his past injuries but with the lack of options for the wide receiver position, he will most likely get re-signed to the Bengals.

Muhammad Wilkerson, Defensive end (DE), Jets

Muhammad Wilkerson has dominated the league with his versatile skill set. There are not many players at the defensive end position who hold as much value in the NFL. Wilkerson’s agents are working to secure a long-term offer for $55 million with $33.47 million guaranteed. For the past two seasons, Wilkerson has averaged double-digit sacks since being selected in the 2011 NFL draft.

All three of these players should have no issue getting signed by a team. They all ended up having a spectacular season and would be a great addition to any team who needs to fill a position. The NFL deadline is approaching, so only time will tell the fate of these top free agents.