NFL Truths: Change our view on PEDs

BY Jason Whitlock • September 19, 2011

Dear Boo, also:

It was so wonderful to read your column apologizing to me and blasting the lamestream media. You betcha, mister. I almost liked that column as much as your NFL Truths. You are so mavericky, also.


Sarah "Barracuda" Palin

Here are your NFL Truths for Week 2:

10. If human growth hormone or some other performance-enhancing drug would help Peyton Manning’s nerves regenerate and heal his neck, would you be against the NFL’s top player using it/them?

Think about it.

I’m just talking hypothetically. I don’t have any reason to believe HGH or any other steroid would help Manning’s recovery. But who knows, maybe they would? If so, would you be outraged if he used them to save his career, save his season?

Let me tell you who wouldn’t be outraged: 1. Colts fans; 2. Peyton Manning; 3. Jim Irsay; Jim Caldwell; 4. FOX, CBS, ESPN and NBC executives; 5. Manning’s teammates.

I could go on. The list is endless and probably extends to the commissioner’s office.

I bring this up to illustrate the lack of sophistication in the debate about performance-enhancing drugs and professional athletics. The debate lacks nuance and maturity right now.

In its quest to stop Barry Bonds from eclipsing Babe Ruth as baseball’s most celebrated slugger — it was never really about Hank Aaron’s home run record — the sports media demonized performance-enhancing drugs and made it impossible for America to have a legitimate discussion about them.

We’ve acted like there is no gray area when it comes to PEDs. We’ve acted like the only kind of athlete who would stoop so low as to use them is a man or woman with no integrity. It’s just not true.

The culture of sports pretty much dictates that athletes use PEDs. There’s too much money in the games for PEDs not to be embraced.

Colts owner Jim Irsay just gave Manning a $90 million contract. You think Irsay wouldn’t look the other way if PEDs would help Manning? How about Jim Caldwell? He’s going to lose his job without Manning. The city of Indianapolis just paid for a sweet, new domed stadium that will be difficult to fill on NFL Sundays without Manning.

The entire Colts franchise could collapse without Manning.

This weekend my colleague Jay Glazer reported that Manning flew to Europe for stem-cell surgery in an attempt to avoid a third neck surgery. The procedure reportedly did not work. But at least Manning was able to try it. Suppose you’re not an NFL superstar with the means to travel overseas for a new form of stem-cell surgery and you have the same injury as Manning. Would a journeyman NFL player be wrong for trying PEDs in desperation to avoid a third surgery?

It’s not all that difficult to understand why athletes use PEDs. They want to compete at the highest level. They want to offset the pain of competition and injuries.

I don’t know what the solution is, but I do believe the demonization of PEDs should stop. We need to understand them and try to figure out the best way to use them safely and responsibly.

9. Just think how good Matt Ryan will be when the Falcons give him permission to take his eyes off rookie receiver Julio Jones in the first three quarters.

The Falcons traded Tommy Nobis, Jeff Van Note, Steve Bartkowski, Dominique Wilkins, Spud Webb and Greg Maddux in order to move up in the draft to nab Julio Jones, the alleged second coming of Randy Moss. General manager Thomas Dimitroff orchestrated the deal and apparently has exclusive access and control of Matt Ryan’s vision through three quarters.

The Falcons nearly blew their game against the Eagles because Ryan was apparently given strict instructions to target Jones. Dimitroff wants to justify his bold draft-day maneuver. Ryan aimed eight passes at Jones and the rookie caught two of them. Two were picked off, too. Other than future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez, Jones was Ryan’s favorite target.

Someone might want to remind Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith that Roddy White caught 115 passes for 1,389 yards last season. Dat boy good. Let Jones serve as an expensive decoy until he learns how to finish routes.

8. I love Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels, but I did not like their call of the Eagles-Falcons.

They went overboard with their criticism of Dunta Robinson for a hit on Jeremy Maclin. Yes, Robinson went helmet to chin/helmet on Maclin. Yes, Robinson deserves a fine under the new NFL guidelines.

But it’s damn hard to unlearn years of “blow up” football in just a year. The hit Robinson laid on Maclin is just the kind of hit that used to put defensive backs in the Hall of Fame. It’s the kind of hit that used to be celebrated on "SportsCenter" and every other highlight show before "SportsCenter."

Collinsworth is a former receiver. I’m sure he wishes they’d had the safety rules in during his career. Plus, Collinsworth coaches high school football. Collinsworth believes in the intent of the rules. I get it. But the transition to a safer form of football is going to be rocky. Let’s cut the players a tiny bit of slack. Let’s don’t crucify them for a culture they didn’t create.

My other beef with Collinsworth and Michaels is they didn’t rip Mike Smith for the kneel-down strategy at the end of the game that forced the Falcons to punt the ball to DeSean Jackson and survive a Hail Mary pass from the 50.

Had Smith run the ball up the gut three times with Michael Turner, the Falcons probably would’ve punted with four or five seconds left on the clock rather than 15. Or maybe all the time would’ve been used because Turner is hard to bring down.

It was horrendous clock management by the Falcons and Smith. DeSean Jackson is a dangerous return man.

I hate it when 50-year-old broadcasters find it easier to rip 25-year-old players than 50-year-old coaches.

7. Cam Newton lost the Packers game on second-and-goal from the 3 early in the fourth quarter with the Panthers trailing by 10 points.

The Panthers went play-action pass, Legedu Naanee was wide open on a simple out route. Newton didn’t set his feet properly and threw wildly incomplete. It was a really simple, easy pass. It was a throw a quarterback must make.

The Panthers had to settle for a field goal. If they’d scored a touchdown there, they could’ve kicked a game-tying field goal on their next possession rather than going for it on fourth-and-6 at the 6.

In his first two games, Newton has dazzled with gaudy stats. You can’t look at passing stats anymore. The numbers have been perverted by the rules. The truth about quarterbacks is in the details. Accuracy under pressure, accuracy in pressure situations, ability to remain confident and fearless after taking hits.

Accuracy is a problem for Cam Newton. Maybe it will get fixed. Maybe it won’t.

6. Apparently Lions general manager Martin Mayhew knows why I use the catchy nickname “Egoli” when referring to Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli.

After curb-stomping the Chiefs 48-3, Mayhew declined to shake Egoli’s hand. Egoli accused the Lions and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham of tampering in 2010. I have no clue whether the Lions tampered with Chiefs players.

I do know Egoli has the biggest ego in professional football. I do know he’s rather fond of insinuating he was the key to the Patriots dynasty. I do know that I sat through a three-hour private dinner in which he wouldn’t allow coach Todd Haley to speak. I do know at the same dinner with Kansas City Star reporters and yours truly he lectured, ranted and screamed about how the local media needed to get on board with his program.

I do know I’m taking delight in his two-week, 89-10 comeuppance.

Yes, Todd Haley is primarily to blame for the Chiefs’ lack of preparedness. But Egoli brings out the worst in Haley, who is embarrassingly insecure about his background as a golfer. Egoli and Haley form the worst GM-coach combination in football. Haley was hired to be Egoli’s puppet.

5. The Lions will be the most overvalued team in Week 3. It sounds crazy, but hop on the Vikings plus-4 against Detroit.

The Lions did not play all that well Sunday. They didn’t run the ball. They didn’t stop the run. They won by 45 points because the Chiefs are horrendously coached, lack poise and lost Jamaal Charles to a knee injury early.

Adrian Peterson will run for 200 yards against Detroit. Ndamukong Suh is a beast. But he’s a one-man army. Take the Vikings.

4. Halloween is my over-under date for when Tedy Bruschi leads a team of former Patriots SEALs in a vicious attack on Chad Ochocinco.

Ochocinco is going to do something really, really stupid by Halloween that will piss off Bruschi. The Ochocinco tweet that set Bruschi off was nothing. Bruschi’s reaction to Ochocinco’s harmless tweet leads me to believe Ochocinco is an absolute nightmare behind the scenes.

Ochocinco has just three catches in two games. The Pats don’t need him. Ochocinco’s need for attention won’t allow him to continue quietly as New England’s fourth or fifth option in the passing game. Real sparks are going to fly by Halloween.

3. Tony Romo’s decision to play with a broken rib — or two — is why football players reacted so passionately to Jay Cutler’s decision to take a seat in last year’s NFC Championship Game with a bad knee.

Romo gutted out a Week 2 regular-season game and Cutler sat during the game that puts a team in the Super Bowl. I know Chicago fans and Cutler supporters are tired of hearing about it, but Cutler simply didn’t handle his injury properly.

It’s probably extremely foolish what Romo did. And maybe we shouldn’t celebrate him for it. But it’s football, damn it. It’s a gladiator sport. It’s what we love about the game.

2. If you haven’t read Pulitzer Prize-winner Taylor Branch’s magnificent piece in The Atlantic about the “shame of college sports,” please do yourself a favor and click this link.

Branch articulates in significant detail what motivates my perspective on college football and basketball and why the sham of amateurism must end. I also taped a podcast with Taylor Branch.

Frank Deford called Branch’s lengthy deconstruction of college athletics the “most important story ever written about college sports.” I agree with Deford.

1. Can I change my Super Bowl pick? Can I jump off the Baltimore bandwagon after one week? Will Mike Tomlin, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers take me back?

Rematch: Pittsburgh 34, Green Bay 31.

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