Articles By Rich Mcvey
When the doors opened to training camp in late July, everyone was filled with such promise. There was hope renewed. There were storylines in unexpected places. Everyone had their eyes set on a big season. Everyone had the Super Bowl in their sights.
Typically as NFL players age, their skills diminish and their battered bodies fail, leading many to retire or find another line of work before they hit 30. But a few are able to stand the test of time and excel in a league full of 20-somethings. Here are the 10 best old-timers in the NFL.
Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams and players in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings and Players of the Week for August 13, 2012.
1. Nationals — Will they or won’t they shut down Stephen Strasburg?
2. Reds — Continuing to cruise without Joey Votto.
3. Yankees — Rangers and Red Sox visit the Bronx this week.
4. Rangers — Josh Hamilton heating up again with 12 RBIs in last nine games.
5. Braves — Lost just one series since the break.
6. Pirates — Easiest team to run on.
7. Dodgers — Fewest home runs in the majors, four less than the Giants.
8. Giants — Tim Lincecum-Stephen Strasburg matchup on Wednesday.
9. Rays — Majors’ best save percentage.
10. White Sox — Chris Sale in Cy Young discussion.
11. A’s — Pinch-hitters batting .300, AL average is .209.
12. Cardinals — Bullpen not getting any better.
13. Orioles — Used 10 starting pitchers this season.
14. Angels — Quickly losing ground in wild card race.
15. Tigers — Lost four of seven vs. Yankees and Rangers; Twins, O’s on deck.
16. Diamondbacks — Crept back into the race, but can’t get over the hump.
17. Red Sox — Rocking offense, woeful pitching.
18. Mariners — Starting pitching has been terrific, but still worst OBP in majors.
19. Blue Jays — Lost 11 of 14 with tough stretch ahead.
20. Mets — Visit two first-place teams (Cin. and Wash.) this week.
21. Marlins — Most stolen bases in majors.
22. Phillies — Trying to hold it together while playing out the string.
23. Twins — Swept by Rays, but just 3.5 games back of Cleveland.
24. Indians — Nine-game West Coast trip could be trouble.
25. Brewers — Bullpen saddled with 28 losses.
26. Padres — Tossed three shutouts in last six games.
27. Royals — Three regulars batting .294 or better.
28. Rockies — Carlos Gonzalez on pace for another 100 runs and RBIs.
29. Cubs — Won just one of 12, but Houston comes to town now.
30. Astros — No team strikes out more often than the Astros.
AL Player of the Week
Josh Hamilton, Texas—With Hamilton back on track, the Rangers are winning at a better clip than they were over the previous six weeks. After suffering through a terrible slump in July, Hamilton is now working on a 10-game hitting streak. Last week, he batted .455 with three home runs and nine RBIs. He scored seven runs and showed much more patience at the plate, which produced a .538 OBP. With his bat warming up, Texas won four of six and now owns the best record in the American League.
AL Pitcher of the Week
Chris Sale, Chicago—The White Sox continue to defy the odds and maintain a slim lead over the Tigers in the AL Central. Sale tossed eight strong innings vs. Kansas City on nine days rest. The White Sox have been giving the young lefthander some extra rest when possible. For the week, he totaled 14.2 innings and did not walk a batter while striking out 18. He won both starts, defeating the Royals and A’s.
NL Player of the Week
Buster Posey, San Francisco—For the second week in a row, Posey had a tremendous stretch for the improving Giants. The All-Star backstop followed up on his previous Player of the Week honor with a .421 batting average and .571 OBP. Posey slammed three homers and knocked in seven runs.
NL Pitcher of the Week
Jake Westbrook, St. Louis—With just a little more than a month until his 35th birthday, Westbrook is quietly having the best year of his career — certainly his best since his All-Star season in 2004. The righthander has won his last five starts, and last week defeated the Giants and Phillies. In 13.2 innings, he allowed 11 hits and two walks. He struck out just seven, but recorded 18 groundball outs in the win over Philadelphia.
LSU dismissed Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu on Friday for a violation of team policy.
Mathieu was LSU’s best defensive playmaker.
Starting with the 2010 bowl win over Texas A&M, Mathieu went on a remarkable seven-game stretch into 2011 in which he forced six fumbles, recovered four fumbles (returning two for touchdowns) and intercepted two passes. This was against teams like Oregon, West Virginia, Florida and Mississippi State. On a team with offensive deficiencies, his ball hawking and game-changing ability was invaluable.
Mathieu was a special teams demon.
His 62-yard punt return for a touchdown with 5:48 left in the first half against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game put LSU on the scoreboard and overshadowed a first half of inept offense. His 92-yard highlight reel touchdown against Arkansas a week earlier also made up for a slow start for the LSU offense, tying the game at 14 late in the first half and opening the floodgates to a 41-17 win. His 15.6 yards per punt return ranked fourth nationally.
LSU has two games to prep its pass defense.
The Tigers won’t face Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson until the last week of the regular season and won’t see Georgia’s Aaron Murray unless it's a rematch in Atlanta. That said, LSU will see an elite quarterback in the second week of the season. Washington’s Keith Price passed for 3,063 yards and 33 touchdowns last season and was second only to Andrew Luck in the Pac-12 last season in pass efficiency.
Reasons LSU shouldn’t panic.
Mathieu wasn’t the most indispensable player on the defense.
According to Athlon’s own estimations, Mathieu was the 19th-ranked player in the SEC, the seventh-ranked player for LSU and the fifth-ranked player on the LSU defense. Mathiue’s playmaking aside, safety Eric Reid and corner Tharold Simon could make cases to be more sound defensive backs. Mathieu was a Heisman finalist largely on his performance in LSU’s biggest games. In a five-game stretch from Oct. 15-Nov. 19, Mathieu was more or less a non-factor. He contributed no turnovers during that span, which included his suspension against Auburn.
Teams gambled with Mathieu ... and won.
Alabama’s A.J. McCarron challenged Mathieu’s side of the field in the BCS championship game with great success. McCarron passed for 234 yards against the Tigers to lead Alabama to a national title in the rematch. If there was a blueprint to beat the LSU defense, McCarron and Alabama may have exposed it.
With Zach Mettenberger, the margin for error might be smaller.
The spotlight was on Mathieu’s game-changing ability last season because LSU needed it so desperately with Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee at quarterback. Zach Mettenberger could stabilize the LSU offense, which already has a standout offensive line and and impressive group of running backs. In short, LSU may not have many games like it did against Georgia, in which Mathieu’s punt return for a touchdown bailed out a first-down free first half.
Recently we put together a post on the 25 Twitter Accounts Every Summer Olympics Fan Should Follow. Unfortunately, we missed perhaps the greatest Olympic tweeter yet—Samuel L. Jackson. The actor goes full-on in his curse-filled reaction to the US winning gold, shady judges, and "drunk girl dismounts" in the gymnastics competition. Here are our 20 favorite tweets from our favorite foul-mouthed, Olympics-loving actor.
A Twins fan in Kansas City proudly displays his back hair, which is shaved with Joe Mauer's name and number. Awesome? Stupid? Awesomely stupid? We'll let you decide.
Former Nebraska quarterback David Humm may be a footnote to most college football fans, but to Big Red Nation, Humm takes his place alongside Mike Rozier, Tommie Frazier and the other latter-day legends of Cornhusker football. A three-year starter from 1972-74, Humm bridged the eras of Nebraska's two greatest coaches, quarterbacking Bob Devaney's last Husker team and Tom Osborne's first. For Humm's three seasons under center, the Huskers went 27–7–2, including three bowl wins.
Following a 10-year NFL career, Humm's life took a difficult turn with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, eventually costing the mobile Husker great the use of his legs. But his Husker family hadn't forgotten him, and his story prompted the creation of one of college sports' unique outreach programs, one that proves that Nebraska's college athletes have earned a permanent place in the hearts of Cornhusker State residents.
David Max, the founder of the popular HuskerMax Nebraska fansite, learned of Humm's predicament and felt called to do something about it. The result: the Husker Greats Foundation, created by Max and former Husker linebacker and prominent booster Jerry Murtaugh. Modeled after Mike Ditka's Gridiron Greats, which seeks to care for former NFL players in financial need due to circumstances beyond their control, the Husker Greats Foundation recognizes that an athlete's connection to the state doesn't end after three or four years on the playing field or the court, particularly when that athlete needs help.
The expressed mission of the Husker Greats Foundation is to provide medical and emergency assistance to former athletes who lettered in sports while attending a university or college in the state of Nebraska. Humm was among the first recipients of the Foundation's support in the form of assistance in covering his home-care costs.
Despite its close ties to the University of Nebraska, including its name, Husker Greats does not limit its support to UN-Lincoln alumni. Rather, it is available to any letter-winner from any university or college in the state.
The Foundation, which has the full support of Osborne and the University, is structured so that payments will be made directly to medical professionals providing services to qualifying recipients. Supporters' tax-deductible donations will relieve the financial burden on the former student-athletes, allowing them to focus on their recovery.
A great Husker memory-maker, Trev Alberts captures what it means to be a Cornhusker for life in his foreword to Athlon's book, "Game Day Nebraska Football": “The first time I learned what it meant to be a Husker was running into Memorial Stadium as a redshirt freshman. It was daunting as 80,000 dressed in red stood in an almost reverential way and saluted their Huskers. I couldn’t feel the turf. My knees were weak. I understood this wasn’t our team. This wasn’t even Coach Osborne’s team. This was Nebraska’s team!”
And Nebraska takes care of its own — even long after the cheers have died down.
Visit the organization's website — Huskergreatsfoundation.org — for more information or to make a donation to this worthy cause.
Each week Athlon Sports looks back at the previous week's best baseball players in the American and National Leagues and recaps the most outstanding pitching performances. Here are last week's —July 1-July 8 — standouts.
NL Player of the Week
Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh
Having played in relative anonymity over the past few years in Pittsburgh, fans all over are becoming familiar with the distinctive dreadlocks of the best Pirate. Last week, McCutchen batted .517 with a 1.479 OPS. He led the majors with 11 runs and hit three homers with nine RBIs. The centerfielder’s work for the week included three three-hit games and one four-hit game, raising his season average from .346 to a league-best .362.
NL Pitcher of the Week
James McDonald, Pittsburgh
The Pirates are surging in the National League, taking over the lead in the Central division, and McDonald is a big reason for the Bucs’ recent hot streak. He tossed 14 innings last week in wins over Houston and San Francisco, giving up just eight hits and five walks. The Pirates have won eight of his last 10 starts, and the righthander gave up just one run in each of the two losses.
AL Player of the Week
Kevin Youkilis, Chicago
The former fan favorite in Boston has been a catalyst for the White Sox offense over the past two weeks. Last week, Youk batted .478 with three home runs and 10 RBIs. He hit safely and drove in runs in each of his six games last week, with both streaks currently at seven games.
AL Pitcher of the Week
Jered Weaver, Los Angeles
Weaver is the hottest pitcher in the American League right now and makes a case to be the All-Star Game starter. He won both his starts last week and didn’t allow a run over 15 innings in wins over Cleveland and Baltimore. Since his return June 20 from a muscle strain, he has won all four starts and given up just one run over 27.2 innings. He is 10-1 with a 1.96 ERA for the season.
Well, here's something you almost never see. It happened during Saturday night's game between Cleveland and Tampa Bay. Indians manager Manny Acta came out of the dugout to complain to the first-base ump after he called Jose Lopez out, despite the first baseman bobbling the ball. Instead of being tossed out of the game, the ump consulted the other umps and reversed the call. Yes, our minds our officially blown. See for yourself.
This week several media sources reported that former South Carolina QB Stephen Garcia injured himself while giving a peace sign. Turns out, it was just a joke, and Garcia's career as a fourth-string CFL quarterback is still on track. But, of course, that doesn’t mean that players don’t hurt themselves doing random, seemingly mundane things. Here’s a list of our favorite ways players have been injured. Most are true, but a few seem a bit suspect. We’ll let you decide.
Wild animal attacks. While Nolan Ryan was playing for the Astros in 1985, a coyote bit him on the hand and forced him to miss a start; no word on whether any Acme products were involved. Former Norwegian soccer star Svein Grondalen was absent from an international match in the late-1970s because an angry moose ran into him while he was jogging. We suspect the moose was a fan of Brazil and vuvuzelas.
Eating. The Homer Simpson Award for injuries sustained while eating donuts goes to former National League MVP Kevin Mitchell, who chipped a tooth on a frozen donut in 1990 (dude, that's what microwaves are for). He had to have a root canal and ended up on the DL. Montreal Expo infielder Bret Barberie got chili pepper juice in his eye and missed a game. Hockey player Dustin Penner of the Los Angeles Kings takes the (pan)cake, though, wrenching his back earlier this year while leaning over to eat a stack of flapjacks. His back spasm caused him to miss one game.
Sneezing. Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa got back spasms from sneezing in 2004 and was never the same player again (he even turned white after he retired). Pitcher Mat Latos tried to learn from Sosa's example on the dangers of the sneeze, attempting to suppress the one he felt coming in July 2010. Latos strained muscles in his left side and wound up on the DL anyway.
Vomiting. Most of us feel better after we throw up, but not baseball’s Kevin Mitchell (yes, the same Mitchell from the earlier item) and Josh Outman. Both strained rib muscles while puking and had to be placed on the DL. Mitchell’s injury occurred in 1992, while Outman’s happened in April.
Playing video games. NBA star Lionel Simmons missed several games of the 1991 season from tendonitis suffered while playing his Nintendo GameBoy. Detroit pitcher Joel Zumaya may have been a Guitar Hero, which cost him a chance to be a baseball hero in the 2006 ALCS. He missed three games due to injuries to his elbow and forearm due to aggressive strumming on his PlayStation 2. Apparently he was attempting to play Buckethead on advanced.
Chopping wood – in the locker room. When the Jacksonville Jaguars started 0-3 in 2003, coach Jack Del Rio put an axe and a stump of wood in the locker room and implored his team to “keep chopping wood.” It turns out that his players were still better at football than lumberjacking. Punter Chris Hanson took aim at the stump, but whacked his non-kicking foot instead and missed the rest of the season. Del Rio finally got the axe himself, a few years too late for Hanson.
Participating in the coin toss. Call this one the Anton Chigurh Award for career-ending coin toss. Offensive tackle Turk Edwards’ career was good enough to make the Hall of Fame, but it might have been better if he hadn’t been the Washington Redskins’ captain in 1940. Edwards called the coin toss and shook hands with Giants’ captain Mel Hein, but when he turned toward the sideline, his cleat caught in the turf and his knee buckled. He never played again.
Yelling at teammates. Words hurt, especially when you scream them with such force that you dislocate your jaw, as Manchester United goalie Alex Stepney did in 1975. If you're a python swallowing a deer, a dislocated jaw is an advantage. Otherwise, not so much.
Sleeping. All sorts of potential dangers await the slumbering athlete. Former baseball player Glenallen Hill, an arachnophobe, had a nightmare in 1990 involving spiders and consequently tumbled down the stars and slammed into a glass table. He sustained multiple cuts and required a stay on the disabled list. Thank God he steered clear of the bed pillows, or it might have been worse: former MLB pitcher Terry Mulholland scratched his eye on a loose feather in 2005, and Detroit catcher Brandon Inge went on the DL a few years later (2008) when he pulled an oblique while adjusting a pillow. Former Tigers pitcher Denny McLain once awoke from his slumber with two dislocated toes in 1967. Then, there’s "sleeping." Milan AC midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng earlier this year had a muscular lesion on his left thigh. His model girlfriend attributed it to “too much sex.”
Ironing shirts. This possible injury is shrouded in mystery. As legend has it, former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz burned himself back in 1990 while ironing his shirt. But that’s not the weird part. The story goes that Smoltz was wearing the shirt when he decided to iron it and not surprisingly burnt himself. Smoltz, of course, denies that it ever happened. And he’s probably telling the truth. Probably.
Purdue basketball players have put out a new video showing that they're keeping their skills sharp during the off season. Players Dru Anthrop and D.J. Byrd are joined by former player and now student assistant coach Ryne Smith at Mackey Arena, where they're showing off their best trick shots. The shots range from far-off bombs behind the basket to one hoppers from the stands.
Each week Athlon Sports looks back at the previous week's best baseball players in the American and National Leagues and recaps the most outstanding pitching performances. Here are last week's — June 25-July 1 — standouts.
AL Player of the Week
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
The first baseman-turned-third baseman did his best work in bunches last week. He had three games with three or more hits, including 3-for-4, 4-for-5 and 3-for-3 games. He batted .462 and tied for the AL lead with six RBIs. Cabrera scored five times.
AL Pitcher of the Week
Phil Hughes, New York
With both CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte injured, the Yankees were desperate for quality starting pitching. Hughes responded in a big way, tossing eight shutout innings against the Indians, and followed that with eight strong innings vs. the White Sox, allowing just a couple of runs. He totaled 12 strikeouts in his 16 innings of work for the week.
NL Player of the Week
Ryan Zimmerman, Washington
Mired in a season-long funk, Zimmerman emerged with the best week in the National League. He hit .364 with a 1.158 OPS. He enjoyed four multi-hit games and three multi-RBI games. Zimmerman, who plays exceptional defense, had seven extra-base hits and reached base in every game via a hit or walk.
NL Pitcher of the Week
Mat Latos, Cincinnati
Latos entered the week with a 5.20 ERA, tossed a pair of complete games last week, allowing just one run in each contest. He set down the Brewers on four hits, including a solo homer, then won at San Francisco, 2-1, by giving up just two hits. His weekly ledger reads: 2-0, 1.00 ERA, 0.44 WHIP, 18 IP, 6 hits, 2 walks and 20 Ks.
Who needs a glove? During last night's game between San Diego and Houston, a young fan made an awesome foul ball grab using his tub of popcorn. It was a sweet catch. Check out his excitement in the video below.
The New York Nicks' Carmelo Anthony celebrated the unveiling of his wax statue at Madame Tussaud's in New York by having some fun with visitors. Carmelo pretended to be his wax figure, scaring visitors who stopped by to look. Result? Awesomeness.
If you'll recall Troy Polamalu played an identical prank last year.
In what seemed to be an amazing grab by Yankee outfielder Dewayne Wise last night as he lept into the left-field stands to snag a foul ball, turned out to be nothing more than a great acting job… or gross incompetence by the umpire. The ump, who called it an out, never asks to see the ball, not to mention there's a fan five feet away jumping up and down holding up the ball.
Later, the Indians Jack Hannahan, who hit the foul ball, points out to the ump that Wise didn't have the ball in his glove and the ump tosses him from the game. Hilarious. It'll likely be one of the greatest blown calls of all time. See for yourself.
Tennessee Titan defensive end Kamerion Wimbley brought some serious game to the American Ninja Warrior 2012 Southeast Regional Semi-Finals in Miami recently. Watch as the 6-foot-4-inch, 255-pound Wimbley makes the crazy obstacle course look like a Sunday stroll through the park. The reality TV show airs Sunday nights on the G4 Network and Mondays on NBC.
Comedian Bill Murray was spotted at a minor league game in Charleston, S.C., on Sunday. During a long rain delay Murray took to the field of the Charleston RiverDogs (he's part-owner of the team) and had some fun entertaining the crowd. Fans of the RiverDogs, a Class-A affiliate of the Yankees, seem to approve.
Chad Ochocinco was released by the New England Patriots yesterday, but it seems he has a pretty good sense of humor about the whole experience. On his Twitter bio Ochocinco, who has nearly 3.5 million followers, says he's now an "Unemployed Black Guy…." In addition to the new bio, he also posted a new photo of himself sitting on a suitcase with his thumb out looking for a ride.
If you haven't noticed it yet, Google has a new feature for celebs and athletes. When you type in a name, Google will pull in a short bio and photo on the right-hand side for you. Of course, it doesn't always work so well.
Case in point is Harrison Barnes, the University of North Carolina standout who entered the NBA Draft this year. Check out Barnes' results below or try it yourself in Google.
Kate Upton has a new behind-the-scenes bikini video for her latest photoshoot for Beach Bunny swimwear. And yes, it is spectacular. Check out the video below and enjoy some shots of Upton on the beach.
The UFC show "The Ultimate Fighter" had its live finale in Las Vegas last Friday and didn't disappoint in the lightweight contest. During the third and final round, Justin Lawrence landed a crazy kick to the head of John Cofer, knocking him out in spectacular fashion.
During last night's Giants-Marlins game, Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton threw a rocket toward home plate, but nearly took off the head of teammate Logan Morrison in the process. OK, we exaggerate slightly, but check out their reactions in the video below as Morrison ends up on his butt.
The Chicago Cubs' Tony Campana put on quite a base-running display yesterday against the Astros. While heading to third, Campana, a pinch runner, dove over Matt Downs to reach third base safely. It was awesome, as you can see below from two different angles.