Tag Archive | "derrick"

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It needs to be said: Good riddance, Derrick Mason!

Posted on 08 August 2011 by Nestor Aparicio

Over the past two weeks I’ve read and heard and watched a myriad of different reactions to the swath of cuts the Baltimore Ravens have made to veteran players and unlike the overwhelming majority of the fan base here, I understand the salary cap and how it works.

(If you have any questions, feel free to forward them along: nasty@wnst.net. That’s why WNST.net exists – to educate you and answer your questions about Baltimore sports.)

Bottom line: the Ravens played about $14 million over the cap last year in a “wild, wild west” uncapped NFL season. In the new post-lockout 2011 season, everyone will need to align franchise expenditures with the reality of the league. For the Ravens, that means playing with less veteran (re: well-paid) talent.

This brings us to wide receiver Derrick Mason, who has somehow at 37 years of age  managed to stir up the fans of Baltimore using his Twitter account and his ever-present voice to make a case for himself as a returning veteran to the Ravens.

He was texting with John Harbaugh. He was talking about other opportunities and greener pastures. He was “shocked” by the Ravens’ cut, which had almost happened two other times over the last two years.

Here’s the truth: the Ravens didn’t want Derrick Mason anymore. And his “pick” of the New York Jets and all of the bluster that Rex Ryan blew around at the press conference about Mason electing to take “less money to play in New York” was just typical Ryanspeak.

Fact: Rex Ryan hates the Ravens more than any NFL team. He barely even speaks to me anymore because he knows I’m a Ravens fan. He stews about not getting the head coaching job every time he looks at me.

Fact: Derrick Mason wasn’t welcomed in Baltimore any more. The Ravens don’t have any cap room and felt that overspending on the clearly devalued stock of an almost-40 wide receiver wasn’t good business for them.

This was a good marriage for Mason and Ryan. It fits both of their needs to get even with the Ravens and to take the “Play Like A Jet” braggadocio to The Big Apple and potentially make another run at a Super Bowl appearance.

Oh, and the parting shot? Mason and Ryan both let it be known that they believe they have a better chance of winning the Super Bowl than the Ravens do.

Fair enough.

And when these teams lock horns here in Baltimore eight weeks, it’s going to look like the NFL’s newest Holy War and if I could wave my magic wand and have it all work out right the Ravens would host the AFC Championship Game and play the mighty titans of New York for all the marbles here in late January.

Baltimore vs. New York? As long as it’s not baseball, I really like our chances!

And because I’ve said this before when Derrick Mason was wearing purple every week, I’ll say it again out of fairness and full disclosure. In my 16 years of chasing the Ravens all across the continent and working every locker room of every game, Mason was one of my least favorite Ravens.

It’s almost blasphemous because for most he was a media dream. He would always set up in front of his locker and welcome the lights and the cameras and the questions and would always fire off long, winding diatribes about his feelings and his insights filling notebooks and video storage devices. And I’m all for a loquacious athlete. It’s good for business all the way around.

Except in Mason’s case, I always thought it was personal and it was overkill. And he was always speaking down to the media, which in my opinion is speaking down to the fans.

Look there’s no getting around it, Derrick Mason was a helluva football player – a classic overachiever in every sense of the word and my respect for his abilities as an athlete is unquestioned. And I’m pretty sure he’s a good family man and an all-around decent human being. He did charitable things here and in Nashville and I know he really wanted to win.

But as a guy who plays on a team with 53 other guys?

You can have a 37-year old Derrick Mason, New York. He’s perfect for you!

He’s all about himself.

Don’t believe me? Well, I’ve talked to enough of his teammates and coaches over the years to know how they feel about him. Helluva player, but he’s gonna bitch loudly and unrepentantly about not getting the ball – win or lose. Many would say he’s a “typical me-first wide receiver” and that’s fine, too.

Last I checked that class full of brats — Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Chad Johnson — all have one thing in common: nude ring fingers!

I saw Mason stew after victories – many times – because he wasn’t the biggest part of the offense that day. I’ve seen him pop off and say all sorts of things that had a very “anti-team” edge to them as I heard them. And I also remember his retirement proceedings on his agent’s website two summers ago.

Apparently, so did Joe Flacco, who amidst the Ravens’ mystery “negotiations” with Mason threw him under the bus by calling him a diva in front of the world 48 hours ago.

I think that says it all.

Sure, there will be days this fall when Flacco would’ve loved having him on 3rd and 6, but the other six days and 21 hours of the week sure sounded like an issue for some folks at The Bellagio in Owings Mills.

And I get it.

But all of this green bluster coming out of New York is just that – another chance for Mason and Ryan to take a few verbal jabs at the Ravens and Baltimore, where they weren’t welcomed anymore.

We’ll see them on Sunday night, Oct. 2 here in Baltimore.

To be continued…

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Hey John: You can’t be 4-4 and seriously talk playoffs

Posted on 09 November 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Just judging from the sheer volume of social media I consumed all day yesterday, the fan base here is in “quit on the 2009 season” mode. The lofty expectations following a rookie campaign for John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco that ended in the AFC Championship Game led all of us in the Charm City to feel as though this year would somehow be better.

Well, we’re halfway through the race and things haven’t gone according to the best laid plan.

The Ravens have lost four of their last five, including yesterday’s turd in Cincinnati. The team, overall, just hasn’t been as good as advertised in many ways. The Bengals have now embarrassed the Ravens twice in four weeks en route to sole possession of the AFC North lead and have earned the right to crow.

While yesterday’s loss certainly felt like more of a beatdown than the final score — and we’ll get to Steve Hauschka’s missed kick in a minute — the NFL only counts one thing en route to a playoff berth in the tournament: wins. And right now, at 4-4, this isn’t going to get it done.

I could make excuses for all of the other three losses — and losing in the waning seconds on the road to New England and Minnesota doesn’t make you a bad team. But the pair of losses to the Bengals has been illuminating, especially when you consider Marvin Lewis’ recipe for building a team with a 6-2 start.

The Bengals have just about everything you’d want — a world-class quarterback with a world-class wide receiver and a running back who runs like Jamal Lewis with a line that’s got a nasty streak. On defense, they’ve built through a young linebacking corps (sound familiar?) and a pair of first-round cornerbacks who allow the safeties and linebackers to play hardball with the pass rush. Oh, yeah — they also arguably have the best kicker in the sport.

The Ravens, as was in full display yesterday, are sorely lacking in various departments but especially the ability to get off the field consistently on 3rd down on defense. It’s been a defensive franchise for the better part of 11 seasons. All good things must end and the 2009 defense is not up to “Play Like a Raven” standards.

Is that Greg Mattsion’s fault? Is that because of the clear falloff at the cornerback position? Is it not having Rex Ryan? Is Bart Scott missed that much? Is Ed Reed OK? Will Haloti Ngata be injured all year?

The entire secondary was beaten in coverage during the first half and the penalties were dreadful. All over the field. Ray Lewis is still the Ravens best player when Ngata is not dressed and that speaks volumes.

The first three losses were “excused” in my opinion. Yesterday, however, did a lot to expose the Ravens as a team that’s pretty good but not a serious playoff contender, especially not with that secondary and lack of pass rush.

Sure, Haloti Ngata’s absence needs to be factored into the equation in the Bengals debacle, but the Ravens have sufficient depth at that position and I’m not sure Ngata would’ve been a difference maker in the outcome yesterday in Cincinnati.

As for the offense, Joe Flacco just was not good enough yesterday, nor was the offensive line, which played its worst game of the season. Penalties? All over the place and ill-timed. Productivity? How about making their first third-down conversion in the fourth quarter? That’s just putrid, unacceptable and not worthy of the NFL playoffs.

They didn’t run well. They didn’t pass well. They were out of sync all day and Flacco looked bewildered during his short stints in the first half. Flacco has now dropped five straight to teams led by Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer.

Derrick Mason and Ray Lewis declined to comment after the game yesterday but I’m sure they’ll have something to say on Wednesday at The Castle.

Harbaugh did his usual tap dance around any tough questions from the media — (memo to John: denying that the team doesn’t tackle well is laughable at this point) — but it’s easy to do what you want when you’re in the AFC Championship Game and things are going better than advertised.

But when the team is a disappointing 4-4 at the turn and the one decision that’s truly pinned to Harbaugh’s special teams badge of expertise — the banishment of kicker Matt Stover in the offseason — costing the team team parts of two of the losses, the questions are only going to get tougher around the head coach and around Steve Hauschka.

This team was supposed to go to the playoffs. This team was supposed to be a Super Bowl contender. The “upgrades” of the offseason were well-calculated and the draft went well. The Ravens and the fanbase were not prepared to be swept by the Bengals and be 4-4 at the turn.

All eyes will now turn to Cleveland, where the Ravens most certainly will awaken eight days from now at 5-4. Right? We can only hope…

The Ravens have amassed four losses and haven’t yet seen the Steelers, the Colts or a frigid December night at Lambeau Field and a West Coast trip to the zoo in Oakland in early 2010. There’s a lot of football left to be played.

The Ravens will sort this out on the field. They need to go 6-2 to have a chance. They need to go 7-1 to be assured of a spot.

If they do it, they’ll be good enough. If they lose two more times to the Steelers, they’ll be playing golf on Jan. 4th and deservedly so.

And if that happens, John Harbaugh’s gonna have a lotta ‘esplainin’ to do at that postseason press conference while he sits next to Steve Bisciotti and the Steelers and Bengals are still playing football…

Things like:

What really happened in the decision to replace Matt Stover with Steve Hauschka?

What really happened with Chris McAlister and how did we get sold that Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr are upgrades?

Why all the penalties?

Where is the pass rush?

Where is Willis McGahee?

Where is the urgency on offense when the team is down two scores with three minutes left?

Of course, Harbaugh doesn’t really like the tough questions but they’re coming. It’s a tough job. It’s been a lot of fun, this honeymoon of riches and a great start to his era in Baltimore. Getting to the AFC Championship Game as a rookie head coach indeed buys you a hall pass for a while.

I have a feeling a lot of that ended yesterday, with a sweep to the Bengals and a 4-4 record at the turn.

But, as Brian Billick would no doubt tell him, these Monday mornings aren’t a whole lot of fun when the town gets disappointed and the team plays poorly.

And someone has to answer the questions…

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Jonathan Ogden chats with Kelly Gregg

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Live From Westminster: Mason dislocates finger, causes a scare

Posted on 11 August 2009 by Luke Jones

4:06 p.m. — With Harbaugh not revealing any plans on which injured players will suit up and play on Thursday, here are some thoughts on the players in question.

Demetrius Williams will play if he feels good during the team walk-through tomorrow.  He’s pushed through a hamstring issue for most of camp.

Todd Heap’s lower back has tightened up over the last couple days, but there’s still a chance he’ll play.  Heap had not missed a practice before sitting out yesterday.

Jared Gaither is still bothered by the shoulder/neck issue, but he took part in plenty of live reps yesterday morning.  He wants to play on Thursday, but it’ll depend how he feels during the walk-through.

Derrick Mason suffered a dislocated finger this morning during practice.  I’d be surprised if he plays, and if he does, I’ll predict he’s nothing more than a decoy.

Ben Grubbs continues to battle an ankle issue dating back to the offseason.  He participated in the early portion of practice today, but David Hale took his place at left guard.  He’s questionable.

Marshal Yanda was given the day off today and is far ahead of schedule compared to where most people predicted he’d be at this point.  However, the team has emphasized they want to take it slow with Yanda.  He’s questionable.

Trevor Pryce has a foot issue, and his status is unknown.  It did not appear serious, so we’ll see how the veteran defensive end is feeling by Thursday.

Terrell Suggs (heel) and Mark Clayton (hamstring) will not play and have not practiced since Aug. 2.  Clayton has been on the field the past two days doing some light conditioning work.

Honestly, the only injury to really be concerned with at this point is Clayton’s.  As much as Ravens fans want to beat Washington, a preseason game on Aug. 13—even against the hated Redskins—is meaningless in terms of wins and losses.  The goal is to get these players ready for Sept. 13.

I suspect that most of these players would be playing if it were the regular season.

4:00 p.m. — In preparation for their preseason opener against the Washington Redskins on Thursday night, the Ravens will hold their walk-through on Wednesday.  The walk-through is closed to both the media and general public.

3:30 p.m. — Chris Carr is still listed as the No. 1 punt and kick returner and looks very fluid while returning kicks.  After watching him work in Westminster, it’s easy to see how he became the Oakland Raiders’ all-time leader in kickoff returns.

3:27 p.m. — The special teams practice lasted an hour and 15 minutes, and the focus of the afternoon was the punt and kick return teams.

Sam Koch was booming his punts and looks to be in mid-season form.  He continues to use the rugby-style kick for placing punts inside the 20-yard line.

Steve Hauschka did an outstanding job kicking off, consistently kicking the ball inside the 5 with great hang time.

Rookie Paul Kruger received praise from John Harbaugh on several occasions.  It looks like the second-round pick will be a major part of the special teams units this season.

1:56 p.m. — As expected, Derrick Mason’s injury appears to be a dislocation and not a broken finger. He’s probably doubtful for Thursday night at this point and it looked painful when it happened.

1:46 p.m. — Today was Baltimore football alumni day at training camp, and we saw a number of Baltimore Colts including Art Donovan, Lenny Moore, Jim Mutscheller, and John Mackey.

Among the former Ravens was wide receiver Michael Jackson (taking us back to the early days of the purple!) and future Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden.  We had a chance to chat with J.O. for a short time, and you can check that out in the WNST.net audio vault.

Ogden spent some time catching up with his former teammates on the sideline during practice.
Jonathan Ogden chats with Kelly Gregg

1:38 p.m. — It’s been a very quiet camp for Ray Lewis, but the 34-year-old linebacker has been very active on the field, talking to the offense and competing as he always does.  Lewis came into camp trimmer this season, wanting to maintain his speed as he begins his 14th season with the Ravens (hard to believe, isn’t it?).

Here’s a shot of No. 52 working on his hands at the jugs machine.
Ray Lewis

12:51 p.m. — Graham Gano appeared to have a much stronger leg this morning and kicked with much more confidence.  Unofficially (there were no officials underneath the goalpost, so it was difficult to confirm a few), Gano hit field goals from 35, 43, 47, and 51 yards.  He did appear to miss one from 38 yards, but it was very close—again, no official underneath the goalpost.

Steve Hauschka appeared to have the morning off after taking most of the reps yesterday.

12:48 p.m. — With the finger injury to Derrick Mason, there’s a good chance Harper will be starting on Thursday night, and the young receiver made another long catch this morning.  Troy Smith lofted a 30-yard pass to Harper who beat Walker on the play.

12:31 p.m. — Despite all of the injury updates, there were some highlights this morning I wanted to share.  Domonique Foxworth had an impressive pass breakup in the end zone as Mason tried to make the catch.  Foxworth has been very steady in the secondary, and I am eager to see him play on Thursday night.

Chris Carr picked off Troy Smith this morning during passing drills.  Carr continues to work as the Ravens’ nickleback in passing situations.  He’s only 5-10, but he tends to play with a pretty physical style—a good thing as long as it’s within the rules of the game.

Yamon Figurs beat Evan Oglesby for a long completion from John Beck.  In order for Figurs to make the 53-man roster, he will need to show the same playmaking ability in the four preseason games.

Figurs also got into an altercation with Frank Walker on the sideline during 11-on-11 drills.  Figurs hauled in the pass and was then thrown to the ground by Walker.  The two players took swings at one another, but the fight was quickly separated and cooler heads prevailed.

12:29 p.m. — Ed Reed once again tossed away the red jersey this morning and was sporting the white one like his fellow defensive mates, but don’t read too much into it.  When asked about it, Harbaugh said Reed wears the white during non-contact days, so quarterback Joe Flacco cannot pick him out in the secondary as easily as he does in the red shirt.

Harbaugh would not reveal any new information on Reed’s status, so it’s a mystery whether he’ll play against Washington on Thursday night.

12:24 p.m. — The Ravens continue to run single-back sets with Le’Ron McClain lined up on the wing as a tight end and often going in motion.  I imagine we’ll see this look on Thursday night, especially with Heap’s uncertain status.  McClain has also shown an improved ability to catch passes coming out of the backfield so far this summer.

12:17 p.m. — Harbaugh was very tight-lipped when asked which injured players would play on Thursday night, saying the media could probably figure it out.  With that being said, I would predict we’ll see an offensive line (going left to right) of Oniel Cousins, David Hale, Matt Birk, Chris Chester, and Michael Oher.  Gaither had returned to practice yesterday, but it appears the shoulder/neck is still bothering him, and the team will also bring Yanda along very slowly.  Grubbs may see some reps, but I would think Hale gets most of the time with the starting unit at left guard.

Defensively, we’ll have to wait and see on Pryce’s status, but Dwan Edwards took his place on the defensive line today.  Rookie Paul Kruger will take Terrell Suggs’ spot in the starting lineup, but we’ll see Antwan Barnes get some time at the position.

12:15 p.m. — Despite several players missing practice this morning, linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo once again practiced and took reps with the second-team defense.  He has been slowed by a toe injury since the beginning of camp and just recently began working out with the team.  While he’s still not 100 percent, he looks much better moving around on the field than he did last week.

12:11 p.m. — Ravens fans will continue to hold their collective breaths as we wait for further news on Derrick Mason.  Harbaugh did not sound too concerned, but Mason will have an x-ray taken on the finger, and I’ve heard some rumblings about it possibly being dislocated.

If Mason and Williams cannot play on Thursday, the Ravens would likely start Kelley Washington and Justin Harper at wide receiver—a scary proposition if it were the regular season.

12:00 p.m. — If Tuesday’s practice is any indication of who will be suiting up for the Ravens on Thursday night, quite a few players will be missing from the starting lineup.  Jared Gaither, Marshal Yanda, Trevor Pryce, Todd Heap, and Demetrius Williams did not practice this morning.  Heap and Williams were dressed to practice, but they did not participate in any team drills and observed most of the practice from the sidelines.

Cornerback Fabian Washington sat out the latter portion of practice with Frank Walker taking his place in the lineup.  Washington has battled tendinitis in his knee for the last week.

Left guard Ben Grubbs practice and took reps in the early portion of practice, but David Hale took his place on the line, and Grubbs was not present at the end of practice.  It will be interesting to see if Grubbs plays on Thursday night, as he continues to deal with the same ankle issue that landed him on the PUP list at the start of training camp.

11:04 a.m. — John Harbaugh just met with the media and said that Derrick Mason will get his hand X-rayed but he didn’t seem too concerned. More to come…

10:15 a.m. — Derrick Mason just left the field with trainer Bill Tessendorf. He appears to have jammed some fingers on his right hand. More to come…

10:01 a.m. — David Hale also getting reps at left guard. Ravens are going to be careful with Ben Grubbs’ ankle.

9:53 a.m. — Yamon Figurs and Frank Walker get into a little altercation on the sideline after the catch.

9:31 a.m. — Art Donovan, Lenny Moore and some other Baltimore Colts are at camp today. Jonathan Ogden also!

9:18 a.m. — L.J. Smith is taking the first team reps. Todd Heap is dressed to practice but not doing much.

9:10 a.m. — Demetrius Williams is not doing much so far.



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Derrick Mason’s return to Ravens was never in doubt at WNST

Posted on 01 August 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

In what has not been a surprise to us – if you go back to Monday July 13th’s blog vault you’ll see we can confirm this — Derrick Mason will in fact play for the Ravens this season, ending his temporary “retirement” from the Ravens and the NFL.

Three weeks ago, it took us about 45 minutes after Mason announced his “retirement” via his agent’s sports website, to begin predicting that Mason would play in 2009 but somehow it’s a major “news” story today. This was in no way a huge upset/surprise/shocker for anyone using common sense and their “sniffer” for facts.

The amount of money at stake, Mason’s lack of true leverage (he would’ve had to refund money to the Ravens if he didn’t play) and the fact that he attended virtually every camp in the offseason and is in world-class shape all were clues that we would be seeing Mason in a purple sweater on Sept. 13 when the Kansas City Chiefs come to town.

So, while others may take the credit for “breaking” the story today we’ve felt all along that it would be a major upset if Mason didn’t play in 2009.

Just this morning I told a friend that if it were a horse race I’d pay no more than 2-to-5 — or .40 cents — if he winds up playing. Even a bet that bad would’ve been a lousy one!

I’ve been told Mason has had some personal issues he’s had to resolve this summer, even above and beyond his situation with the tragedy of Steve McNair and his own contract-extension wishes.

In the end, this was a bit of a stare down — albeit with complications — about money and reward and desire.

No one sensible really ever expected that Mason wouldn’t play.

It’ll be good to have No. 85 back in the fold.

Here’s what baltimoreravens.com is reporting:

“Mason came to the team’s training camp hotel in Westminster, Md., to meet with general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh.

He also called Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti earlier today to inform him of his decision.

Mason is sending a letter to the NFL stating his intentions.

He will take a physical either later this afternoon or early tomorrow morning.

The Ravens anticipate that Mason will be on the field sometime Sunday, although like all Ravens, he will have to pass a running test.”

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The “Drew Bennett era” ends before it begins

Posted on 26 July 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

In yet another weird turnabout of July pre-camp events, wide receiver Drew Bennett who signed to become a top option for the Ravens on the edge has decided to retire instead of report to camp on Tuesday in Westminster.

Apparently, he has re-injured his knee and has reconsidered his Friday decision to sign a one-year deal with the Ravens.

“I’ve been blessed to have the opp to play in NFL for as long as I have but it’s time for me to move on to next chapter in my life,” Bennett said in a statement.

After returning home from Baltimore this weekend, a previous knee injury flared up, making me realizing that I am unable to play another NFL season. Therefore, I have decided to retire from the NFL.”

After an offseason of workouts and rehab, I thought I was ready to play again, but it became apparent over this weekend that while my mind is willing, my body will not be able to make it through another NFL season.”

So, just who are the options left on the marketplace?

Matt Jones, Reggie Williams, Marvin Harrison, Joe Horn, Plaxico Burress and Ashley Lelie.

Not exactly a buyer’s market. There’s a reason these guys don’t have jobs.

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Ploy or legit? Derrick Mason shocks everyone, “retires” on his agent’s website

Posted on 13 July 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

UPDATED 9:11 p.m. — In a turn of events that can only be deemed “shocking,” Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason announced his retirement from the NFL via a website called JockLife.net at precisely 5 p.m. tonight.

This much is assured: Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens had NO idea this was happening. And privately, they aren’t as concerned about the announcement as the fan base has been over the last few hours. Honestly, it smells more like a negotiating ploy than a legitimate retirement and Mason’s agent has already responded to the initial purple response of “no response.”

But, one of two things is happening:

1. Mason’s “retirement” is 100% sincere and the death of Steve McNair has affected his desire to play…

or

2. His agent, C. Lamont Smith, who owns the website that “released” the news is angling to get Derrick Mason the final pay day that he cried out for in another story on the same website back in March. See that piece here…

“For any player to retire, he has to send a letter to the NFL stating this. Derrick Mason has not done that,” said Kevin Byrne, the Ravens’ senior vice president of public relations.

Before I left Limited Access on AM 1570 tonight, I had Quentin Jones, the “reporter” for Jocklife on my show and he said that Mason gave him this statement “a few days ago.” Making the story even more fishy is that fact that two sources told me that Derrick Mason was working out at the team’s Owings Mills training complex earlier today.

This is what Mason told the website, www.jocklife.net, which his agent, C. Lamont Smith, apparently owns or has a stake in with various players and business associates. The domain name is owned by Smith.

For what it’s worth, the web traffic to this “sports” website is negligible per www.alexa.com.

“I have had a tremendous career and I played for two great teams, I had fun. In my career, I have been able to do everything but win a Super Bowl. I’ve had the opportunity to play on great teams and with great players. After 12 years, I have seen it all and done it all,” Mason stated. “Right now, I am content with the decision I am making. All good things come to an end and I am ready to see what else life has to offer.”

“I have been thinking about this since season ended. Emotionally I am just not that enthused. I have not been that enthused to get up and work out…it was getting to that point. This decision has nothing to do with the contract situation; I have made enough money, more than enough money. Emotionally there are things that are more important. It’s time right now. I don’t know what’s going to happen from here, but it’s going to be really nice to see what life has in store for me. What I want people to remember about my NFL career is that I played hard…played hard in practice and the game. I tried to make everyone better and would do anything to help.”

More quotes from Mason:

“I have left them in great hands,” said Mason. “Mark Clayton is a younger version of me and Williams can be a true player, he can be in the elite class. Smith, Harper, Washington, they all are a young group that can only be better with Joe in back field.”

The story also states: “Now that Mason has finished his football career, his only plans are to spend time with his family and possibly get into the radio business. As far as what else Mason has in store for the future, he simply proclaims, ‘to be continued’.

Every person I’ve spoken with inside the Ravens organization believes that Derrick Mason will be in uniform for the Ravens on Sept. 13 when the Chiefs come to Baltimore.

But these are STRONG words and emphasize (in writing no less) that it’s “not about the contract.”

So, take this story for what it’s worth and consider the source it’s coming from over the past few hours. And consider that Mason might’ve lost his heart for the game.

Is this Derrick Mason being “not enthused”?

Or is this another July ploy by a slimy agent to grab for money with a holdout before training camp?

Time will tell. But my “sniffer” ain’t happy with this one.

If Mason files his retirement papers with the NFL, we’ll know it’s official.

Until then, it makes for great sports radio during the slowest week of the year.

And it smells more like a holdout than a retirement until further notice.

But there’s no doubt the “next man up” theory will make for some interesting web comments and calls to WNST tomorrow.

During the slowest news week of the year we poor S.O.B.’s in the media were thrown a bone.

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Getting a grip on the Festivus activities

Posted on 23 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

So, it looks like we’re getting into the playoffs. Well at least we can talk that way for a few more days and as a 10-point favorite against Jacksonville this weekend (and please note the gametime change to 4:15 p.m., which means the coldest possibilities for us) the Ravens should win. Heck, if they don’t win they don’t deserve to be in the playoffs, really.

So, assuming that the Ravens are going to win this week and advance to the playoffs I started putting together playoff possibilities onto a cocktail napkin on Sunday and this is what I came up with…and I can’t imagine the NFL scheduling gods could have cooked this weekend up with a whole lot more drama than what they have – several cool matchups and playoff spots on the line in both conferences.

Indianapolis can now pack their bags for Denver or San Diego. But that Sunday night game is gonna be a good one. You gotta think that the Chargers have all of the momentum and the home field. What a story that would be, digging out from 4-8 to make the playoffs. Kinda unheard of…

Clearly, Nasvhille and Pittsburgh are just sitting tight, taking a “bye” week before their official byes. And as we saw two years ago, that extra slacker time isn’t always the best route. Two of the last three Super Bowl champs (Pittsburgh 2005 and N.Y. Giants 2007) have come from the No. 6 hole and not only won three in a row on the road but also overcame the extra game and the lack of a bye. You’d figure that being a higher seed would be a good thing but the recent history doesn’t support it.

And the Ravens (or the eventual No. 6 seed) will be headed to the AFC East winner. If Miami beats the Jets, we’re headed to South Florida. If the Jets beat the Dolphins, we go to New England provided they win in  Buffalo (hardly a given).

And such begins any legitimate Ravens fan’s aspirations of catching fire and making January 2009 one helluva memorable month. Here are my thoughts:

1.    Miami is the Ravens’ best first-round path. While the flights are jam-packed (good luck trying to get to South Florida next weekend if the Ravens make it there!), the weather and a matchup where the homefield won’t be so unkind is favorable for the Ravens. It certainly beats going to frosty New England, which is the worst scenario for the Ravens. If the Jets win and the Patriots flop this weekend and we wind up at the Meadowlands against Brett Favre, I still like our chances. Just FYI: if the Ravens go to New England or New York, we’ve already got “Miller Lite Roadtrips” ready to go! If the Ravens play in Miami, we will not be offering a trip.
2.    A Ravens win at the AFC East champion would take them to a path that’s well-traveled and familiar to Ray Lewis, Matt Stover and any real Ravens fan: Nashville. Clearly, the Titans would rather not see No. 52 coming back into the former Adelphia Coliseum in January. And assuming another Tennessee road miracle win…
3.    The AFC Championship Game could be in Pittsburgh (assuming they don’t choke the weekend of Jan. 10-11) or San Diego, Denver or even Indianapolis, if they could win two in a row on the road and take down the Steelers at Heinz Field.

Of course every fan of every team is plotting their own pathway through their respective conference playoff possibilities. This is the joy of having a Festivus celebration – the possibilities and hope that even being a “potential” No. 6 seed affords. And, we still have to win a game at home this weekend against a feisty Jacksonville team to do that.

As we’ve seen over and over again in the NFL: NO ONE LAYS DOWN late in the season. Well, no one but the Arizona Cardinals, any way…

The lowly Seahawks, Redskins and the Bills all pulled off upsets over playoff-inspired favorites last Sunday. The Jaguars played the Colts extremely tough last Thursday night and they’ll have two extra days of rest before coming here this Sunday. Maurice Jones Drew got dinged up very late in the game against Indy, so it’ll be interesting to see how effective he’ll be this week but he’s an explosive threat, like a human pinball or a poor man’s Barry Sanders. He’ll present speed issues for the Ravens defense in the middle of the field.

There’s no “counting chickens” as a Ravens fan. This Jaguars game is hardly a walkover in my mind. But a win this week opens all sorts of doors of possibilities for 2009 and dreams of an improbably Super Bowl run with a rookie coach, a rookie quarterback and a veteran Hall of Famer inspiring the troops in the September of his career.

The storylines for the Ravens are obvious:

Ray Lewis in a walk year trying to win another Super Bowl…

Trevor Pryce going for No. 3…

Derrick Mason and Samari Rolle, who both came up one-yard short almost a decade ago, getting another chance…

A first chance for Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Todd Heap and other Pro Bowlers to win a championship…

Will it start in Miami?

Or New England?

Or a trip to the Meadowlands for Favre and the Jets?

Can the Ravens avoid an upset at the hands of the Jaguars – who were truly Kyptonite to this franchise in the early years when they won the first eight matchups of the rivalry – to earn the No. 6 seed. For better or worse, the playoffs come to Baltimore at 4:15 this Sunday in what amounts to a “play in” game for the franchise and the city.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, indeed…

Happy Festivus to all…

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Ravens beat Dallas 33-24, throw a purple party in Dallas

Posted on 21 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s become a joke amongst the local media, calling the Ravens “mighty men.” It’s John Harbaugh’s favorite “term of endearment” and corny catch phrase for his team. Tonight in Dallas, they were indeed mighty men, dropping the vaunted Cowboys like a bad habit at home on their special night and the hyper-emotional closing of Texas Stadium. The Ravens were impressive in dispatching the local stars, 33-24 to urinate on the biggest party in the biggest state in the swan song of the state’s greatest icon on a brutally cold evening.

Tonight, the real “stars” were wearing the purple helmets with the B’s. Strangely enough, it was punter Sam Koch who not only did his thing booting the ball effectively all night (including a 61-yarder) but it was the trick draw play on a field goal fake that stole the show and changed the momentum of the game. Really, who in the world was expecting that? A brass balls move if there ever was one by Harbaugh and the crew.

If this team makes noise in January, they’ll look back on this bounce back from that Pittsburgh fiasco and see the huge emotional breakthroughs. They finally beat a quality opponent on the road. The sheer willpower to persevere amidst an avalanche of injuries speak volumes about their “mighty men” status. The training room looked like an infirmary after the game, with Derrick Mason not being able to lift his arms, with Samari Rolle banged up, with Willie Andeson and Todd Heap hobbling. And while Fabian Washington gritted out a start, the team played the whole game without Ray Rice, who was an injury scratch. So, in came Willis McGahee, whose 77-yard scamper for an apparent “icing” touchdown was only topped minutes later — after Tony Romo led the Cowboys back down the field for an answer on a Ravens’ defense that has been leaky lately – by Le’Ron McClain’s 82-yard bolt to truly put the game out of reach. The final numbers were downright gaudy: McClain was 22 for 139 yards and McGahee finished with just eight carries but 108 yards and team rushing total was a whopping 266 yards and the Cowboys defense will look at the two fourth-quarter runs as busted plays that cost them their season.

For the local fans, it was morgue like, an evening of horrors from the home team on a night when it was all set up for the Ravens to be a “homecoming” pansy for the legends of Cowboys’ past and a night of civic remembrance and celebration. No doubt the Ravens players were inspired when informed that Jerry Jones PERSONALLY, HAND-PICKED the Ravens as his final opponent in Texas Stadium. (That’s a FACT by the way. Jones insisted on having the Ravens because when he looked at the schedule the Ravens were the weakest team on the slate. Perhaps he should’ve chosen Cincinnati?)

After the game Bart Scott and Terrell Suggs screamed all sorts of stuff about it into the NFL Films cameras and the postgame was filled with notions that the Ravens are the new Rodney Dangerfields of the NFL. But at 10-5 with a chance to ice a playoff berth against Jacksonville at home next weekend, it has been the most unlikely of seasons for the purple. Next Sunday will be OUR civic celebration for the 2008 Ravens, our final home game and a chance to send the Ravens on the road in style for an unexpected Festivus.

What a ride…Enoy the videos. I enjoyed making them.

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THE COMPLETE ART MODELL PRIMER & FAQ REGARDING HIS HOF CANDIDACY

Posted on 03 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

Here is a primer on all things Canton, Pro Football Hall of Fame voting, the politics, the rules, the history and most importantly “Where Art Modell stands” in his lifelong quest to be bronzed and rightfully enshrined amongst the greats of the NFL game. You can also listen to Tuesday’s interviews with Peter King and Len Shapiro in our audio vault for more discussion about the reality of Art’s bid. Shapiro wrote a huge piece yesterday in The Washington Post pimping Modell’s candidacy and calling it a “travesty” that he’s not in Canton. It’s a must read!

(Incidentally, I’d love to link to a story in The Baltimore Sun regarding Modell’s candidacy, but once again our friends on Calvert Street are asleep at the wheel. Nice job of sticking up for your own, boys!)

This getting into the Hall of Fame business is more about politics and less about achievements these days if my research and the people I’ve chatted with who are in the room are really being honest.

The “clear cut” guys – this year it figures to a slam dunk for Rod Woodson, Shannon Sharpe and Bruce Smith as inductees – are mere formalities in many ways. Wide receiver Cris Carter is a bit of a holdover from last year, and figures to be a major factor with his gaudy stats. So, for the sake of argument, let’s just make them automatic and play for the bottom of the card, which appears to be the remaining one or two inductees. No one needs to make any strong argument for the non-bubble guys. It’s always the fringe people or the overlooked people who create the emotional stirs and long, heated debates in the minds of the voting committee.

There are 43 men and 1 woman who vote for the inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. There are 12 at-large members plus one representative from each of the 32 NFL cities/teams on the committee. Scott Garceau is Baltimore’s local rep. Mike Preston was formerly on the committee until 2004, when the Tribune Company decided to make it “against company policy” to vote on such committees because of “conflict of interest” concerns.

The 2009 list of 25 candidates will be pared down to 15 before Dec. 17th, when all 44 members must have their ballots and recommendations received. On Jan. 31, 2009 – the day before the Super Bowl – this group of 44 will enter the same room in Tampa and arguments will be given for all 15 candidates, plus the two senior committee nominees (this year it’s Claude Humphreys and Bob Hayes up for induction).

Let’s be straight: Virtually none of the candidates have anything left to “give the game” outside of Art Modell and Ralph Wilson, whose legacies and franchises live on in Baltimore, Cleveland and Buffalo. Paul Tagliabue is the only other “non player” on the current ballot of 25 names. All 22 of the others will be judged by their play on the field over the years, and virtually everyone on the HOF committee of 44 feels that “players” trump “contributors” when it comes time for voting. So, at best, Modell’s candidacy could be derailed by most anyone who actually stepped between the lines and played the game.

For the record, Tagliabue has many supporters among the 44, who all came in direct contact with His Commissionership many times over the last 20 years as he was the ultimate power broker in the sport for nearly a generation.

SO, HOW DOES ART MODELL GET INTO THE HALL OF FAME?

Good question. At this point, I believe it’s simply a matter of someone in our community (us?) making a stir and making it a viable, public outcry of support for Modell. Trust me, no one in Cleveland and not many amongst the 44 people in the room feel inclined to “jump on the table” for Art Modell. Other than Garceau, who is a staunch supporter of Modell (but who admits that having worked for the club as a play-by-play voice for a decade appears as a conflict of interest in that room), only Len Shapiro of The Washington Post has shown any partiality or inclination to grandstand on behalf of Modell. Another retired former voter and proponent of Modell is former USA Today columnist Gordon Forbes, who sends information to the current panel each year on behalf of Modell.

Here is the official “selection process” from the Pro Football Hall of Fame site.

I don’t think it’s as much about the facts of Modell’s contributions since 1961 to the NFL at this point. I think there’s some clear politicking – or lack thereof – going on. I’ve been told there are two major factors at play:

1. The move from Cleveland has created a “he’ll never get in because of that” mentality amongst some in the room and all of his other accomplishments have been diminished like Pete Rose’s sin of gambling on the game in baseball or Mark McGwire’s “not here to talk about the past” confession. For some, Modell is a lifelong pariah never to be recognized after “kicking the dog” on the cover of Sports Illustrated in Nov. 1995.

2. Over the years, some of Modell’s detractors have minimized his role and the legend of his involvement in the basic tenet of the merit of his candidacy: his role in the television negotiations and growth of the game with the networks and revenue. Time and the death of his contemporaries has definitely hindered Modell’s bid for Canton as much as anything because the very people who knew, felt, respected and lived through his many contributions are not the ones making a case for him at this point. Pete Rozelle, Wellington Mara, George Preston Marshall and Lamar Hunt are not here to be involved in the discussion although all of them no doubt believed in Modell’s Hall “worthiness.”

It’s now in the hands of the storytellers and some on the committee have heard conflicting reports as to whether Rozelle was the “smart one” and Modell was simply a guy who was the “No. 2” and simply got the credit of associating with the league. Of course, the mere fact that Modell came from a background of New York television in the late 1950’s would tell you that his network expertise was a key factor in the exponential growth of the league and its revenue during his tenure on the “television committee” for nearly 30 years.

From the Thanksgiving doubleheader to Monday Night Football, from winning an NFL Championship in Cleveland to winning a Super Bowl in Baltimore, from being involved at the game’s highest level since 1961 and being a massive part of shaping the sport for longer than most of us have been on the planet, Modell certainly deserves a better fate in Canton during the September of his life.

Certainly, most on the committee must believe that if Art is going to live long enough to see his own induction, the time is NOW for some action here in Baltimore.

We plan on creating some noise this week and hope that you’ll join our Facebook effort to help Art and raise awareness in Baltimore this week in anticipation of having a national audience here on Sunday night for the Redskins game.

WHO ARE THESE 44 GUYS ANYWAY AND HOW DID THEY GET ON SOMETHING AS IMPORTANT AS THE HALL OF FAME VOTING COMMITTEE?

Below is the list of the Hall of Fame voting committee, as selected by a board at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio:

Bernie Miklasz, Bob Gretz, Bob Oates, Charean Williams, Charles Chandler, Chick Ludwig, Clare Farnsworth, Cliff Christl, Dan Pompei, Dave Goldberg, David Climer, David Elfin, Don Pierson, Ed Bouchette, Edwin Pope, Frank Cooney, Howard Balzer, Ira Kaufman, Ira Miller, Jarrett Bell, Jeff Legwold, Jerry Green, Jerry Magee, Jim Trotter, John Clayton, John Czarnecki, John McClain, Kent Somers, Len Pasquarelli, Leonard Shapiro, Mark Gaughan, Mike Chappell, Mike O’Hara, Nancy Gay, Paul Domowitch, Paul Zimmerman, Peter Finney, Peter King, Rick Gosselin, Ron Borges, Sam Kouvaris,  Scott Garceau, Sid Hartman, Tony Grossi, Vinny DiTrani and Vito Stellino are the list of people.

Obviously, some of these names are more familiar than others. Some are frequent contributors to WNST. Some of them you know from television. And two of them – Miklasz and Stellino – were journalists here in Baltimore and covered the Colts leaving for Indianapolis. So, there’s plenty of perspective here on the NFL and plenty of expertise.

WHO ARE THE 25 NOMINEES ON THE CURRENT BALLOT?

Cris Carter Wide Receiver 1987-89 Philadelphia Eagles, 1990-2001 Minnesota Vikings, 2002 Miami Dolphins

Roger Craig Running Back 1983-1990 San Francisco 49ers, 1991 Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-93 Minnesota Vikings

Terrell Davis Running Back 1995-2001 Denver Broncos

Dermontti Dawson Center 1988-2000 Pittsburgh Steelers

Richard Dent Defensive End 1983-1993, 1995 Chicago Bears, 1994 San Francisco 49ers, 1996 Indianapolis Colts, 1997 Philadelphia Eagles

Chris Doleman, Defensive End-Linebacker 1985-1993, 1999 Minnesota Vikings, 1994-95 Atlanta Falcons, 1996-98 San Francisco 49ers

Kevin Greene, Linebacker-Defensive End 1985-1992 Los Angeles Rams, 1993-95 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1996, 1998-99 Carolina Panthers, 1997 San Francisco 49ers

Russ Grimm Guard 1981-1991 Washington Redskins

Ray Guy Punter 1973-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders

Charles Haley, Defensive End-Linebacker 1986-1991, 1999 San Francisco 49ers, 1992-96 Dallas Cowboys

Lester Hayes, Cornerback 1977-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders

Cortez Kennedy, Defensive Tackle 1990-2000 Seattle Seahawks

Bob Kuechenberg Guard 1970-1984 Miami Dolphins

Randall McDaniel Guard 1988-1999 Minnesota Vikings, 2000-2001 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Art Modell, Owner 1961-1995 Cleveland Browns, 1996-2003 Baltimore Ravens

John Randle, Defensive Tackle 1990-2000 Minnesota Vikings, 2001-03 Seattle Seahawks

Andre Reed Wide Receiver 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000 Washington Redskins

Shannon Sharpe, Tight End 1990-99, 2002-03 Denver Broncos, 2000-01 Baltimore Ravens

Bruce Smith, Defensive End 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000-03 Washington Redskins

Ken Stabler, Quarterback 1970-79 Oakland Raiders, 1980-81 Houston Oilers, 1982-84 New Orleans Saints

Paul Tagliabue Commissioner 1989-2006 National Football League

Steve Tasker, Special Teams-Wide Receiver 1985-86 Houston Oilers, 1986-1997 Buffalo Bills

Derrick Thomas Linebacker 1989-1999 Kansas City Chiefs

Ralph Wilson, Owner 1960-current Buffalo Bills

Rod Woodson, Cornerback-Saftey 1987-1996 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1997 San Francisco 49ers, 1998-2001 Baltimore Ravens, 2002-03 Oakland Raiders

HOW SIGNIFICANT IS TONY GROSSI OF THE CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER?

Six years ago, when Modell’s candidacy had its best chance – while Art still owned the team and was fresh off of the Super Bowl XXXV victory – it was shot down in a legendary way when Tony Grossi, Cleveland’s representative and outspoken hater of all things Modell on behalf of the greater Cuyahoga and Northern Ohio area, gave an impassioned speech about how what Modell did to his hometown should forever forbid his enshrinement to Canton. This much is public record.

Now, what influence that actually had on the other committee members is debatable. My sources tell me that there are “anti” candidate guys all over the room. As an example, I have a feeling Scott Garceau, who was the reporter told by Tagliabue to “build a museum,” won’t be voting the former Sun King commish into bronzeness anytime soon on behalf of Baltimore’s  shoddy treatment in 1993.

Over the years, my mentor John Steadman lobbied against John Mackey’s induction. It’s just the way these things go. Some people have an axe to grind. Some just legitimately look at a candidate like punter Ray Guy and say: “I’m not putting a punter in the Hall of Fame.”

In the case of inducting Modell, there is obviously plenty of precedent given Al Davis and Lamar Hunt and other contemporaries have long been inside the walls of Canton. There are also several owners in the Hall of Fame who have moved franchises from one city to the next.

If these 44 people entrusted to “get this right” are going to hold a business decision (and one that many of them couldn’t possibly understand) against inducting Modell into the Hall of Fame when that business move made a community like ours whole is preposterous.

I will be writing more later in the week about Art’s specific contributions here in Baltimore since 1996.

Feel free to comment and please spread the word about our plans for Sunday night and the Baltimore fans’ ability to affect this vote and get Art rightfully inducted into Canton.

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Are they who we thought they were?

Posted on 16 November 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

Any amateur football talking head can tell you that if you run the ball and play defense you’ll have a chance to win in the NFL. Of course, when you can’t stop the run it makes for a long afternoon for your defense.

We’ve all been spoiled by the Ravens’ defense over the past decade. They’ve consistently nullified the running game of every team in the league over the past three seasons but today’s effort at Giants Stadium was pedestrian at best and we saw the result: Giants 30, Ravens 10.

The Ravens got humbled today at the Meadowlands, beaten badly by the defending World Champions, who at 9-1 seemed to be toying with them after jumping out to a 20-0 lead with three straight scoring drives to start the day. It was a thorough beating by the NFC leaders, showing the Ravens to be more pretenders than contenders for a Super Bowl title at this point.

The Ravens knew all week that the running game of Brandon Jacobs and company was coming but they were helpless to do anything to stop it. You had to know they were in the trouble the first time Ray Lewis got punched five yards backwards on the first drive.

As for quarterback Eli Manning, he didn’t have to do much. Manning managed the game, made a few passes when he needed to but wasn’t ever put in any third and long situations that needed to be converted.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco didn’t have his best effort, but certainly wasn’t helped by the deflected passes off the pads of Derrick Mason and company. Flacco showed himself to be fleet afoot and there was a point there at the end of the third quarter when it even felt as though the Ravens might be en route to pulling a Cleveland-style comeback.

But, in the end, the Giants proved to be a formidable foe, forced turnovers and punts while keeping the Ravens in ugly down and distances most of the afternoon.

The most disturbing part of the afternoon were the penalties on both sides of the ball, frustrating occurrences that stopped drives and allowed the Giants to stay in control.

Matt Stover missed a field goal.

Flacco threw a few bad balls that thwarted drives.

And the Ravens’ secondary play and tackling was suspect most of the day as well.

It was flashes of Billick-like frustration in the fourth quarter as Flacco moseyed up under center and the team wasted four minutes on a fruitless 30-yard drive while down 27-10.

At 6-4 no one should be disappointed. Of course, San Diego could’ve helped but inevitably fell short as well in Pittsburgh.

But the truth as the team turns for the home stretch – a literal reference when they play four of the final six games at M&T Bank Stadium – is this:

The Ravens have beaten the smelliest teams in the league – Cleveland, Cincinnati, Oakland – and lost in various ways to the only four playoff-caliber foes they’ve seen in Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Tennessee and now the New York Football Giants.

Until they can run with the big dogs of the NFL, they can continue to chalk up wins against the likes of Cincinnati, who sits on their schedule as a Thanksgiving dessert two weeks from now.

But Philadelphia, Washington, Dallas and Pittsburgh again are also on the slate and it will take a better effort than the one we saw today to get the Ravens to the promised land of a 10-6 season and a playoff berth.

As John Harbaugh said in his postgame new conference, “There’s plenty of work to do.”

Amen.

That was a tough one today.

Are the Ravens the below-average team that Vegas had at a “6-win over/under” during August?

Or are they the 6-3 juggernaut who entered today on the heels of beating bad teams 41-13 on the road?

Or are they somewhere in between, just ripe to have a late-season collapse amidst the “going getting tough” schedule that began in earnest at 1 p.m. today?

After a 6-3 start, an 8-8 season would be a massive disappointment.

Some of us had our purple holiday lights ready to hang for Festivus season and our next promotion, “The Miller Lite Purple Palace” promotion, which will begin tomorrow on WNST.

Based on what we saw today and the big guy in the No. 27 getting out on the edge and the general exposing of the backend of the defense, perhaps we should hold off on that Festivus celebration for a few more weeks.

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