NFL Suspends 4 Players for Saints' Bounties
Written by Howard Fendrich, AP Pro Football Writer Wednesday, 02 May 2012 15:11
New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma was suspended without pay for the entire 2012 season by the NFL, one of four players punished Wednesday for participating in the team's cash-for-hits bounty system.
Defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, now with the Green Bay Packers, was suspended for the first half of the 16-game season; Saints defensive end Will Smith was barred for the opening four games; and linebacker Scott Fujita, now with the Cleveland Browns, will miss the first three games. Like Vilma, they were suspended without pay.
All four players have three days to appeal NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's ruling, and the head of the NFL Players Association said the union would fight the penalties. Fujita is a member of the NFLPA's executive committee.
The league's statement said Vilma, Hargrove, Smith and Fujita were suspended because of "conduct detrimental to the NFL as a result of their leadership roles" with the bounties.
Goodell has made an effort to emphasize player safety in recent seasons. The NFL is facing dozens of lawsuits brought by more than 1,000 former players who say the league didn't do enough to warn them about — or protect them from — the dangers of concussions.
An NFL investigation determined that the Saints had a bounty system from 2009-11 that offered thousands of dollars to players for big hits that knocked opponents out of games. In March, Goodell suspended Saints head coach Sean Payton for all of next season, and levied other penalties against the club.
But no players were punished until Wednesday. Originally, the league said that 22 to 27 defensive players were involved in the illegal scheme, which was orchestrated by then-Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and started in the season New Orleans won its only Super Bowl championship.
Targeted opponents included quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Brett Favre and Kurt Warner. "Knockouts" were worth $1,500 and "cart-offs" $1,000, with payments doubled or tripled for the playoffs.
"In assessing player discipline, I focused on players who were in leadership positions at the Saints; contributed a particularly large sum of money toward the program; specifically contributed to a bounty on an opposing player; demonstrated a clear intent to participate in a program that potentially injured opposing players; sought rewards for doing so; and/or obstructed the 2010 investigation," Goodell said in a statement.
While the league said that its investigation showed "a significant number of players participated" in the bounties — by ponying up cash or collecting it — "the players disciplined participated at a different and more significant level."
According to the league, Saints defensive captain Vilma offered $10,000 in cash to any player who knocked then-Cardinals QB Warner out of a playoff game at the end of the 2009 season, and the same amount for knocking then-Vikings QB Favre out of that season's NFC championship game. The Saints were flagged for roughing Favre twice in that game, and the league later said they should have received another penalty for a brutal high-low hit from Remi Ayodele and Bobby McCray that hurt Favre's ankle. He was able to finish the game, but the Saints won in overtime en route to the NFL title.
According to the NFL, Fujita "pledged a significant amount of money to the prohibited pay-for-performance/bounty pool during the 2009 NFL Playoffs when he played for the Saints."
The league said Hargrove "actively obstructed the league's 2010 investigation into the program by being untruthful to investigators." He also "actively participated in the program while a member of the Saints," the league said, adding that he eventually "submitted a signed declaration to the league that established not only the existence of the program at the Saints, but also that he knew about and participated in it."
The NFL said that "multiple independent sources" said Smith "pledged significant sums to the program pool."
The league said no player agreed to be interviewed in person and the NFLPA did not share information from its own investigation.
After the NFL announced the players' suspensions, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith issued a statement saying the union "has still not received any detailed or specific evidence from the league of these specific players' involvement in an alleged pay-to-injure program. We have made it clear that punishment without evidence is not fair. We have spoken with our players and their representatives and we will vigorously protect and pursue all options on their behalf."
All payouts for specific performances in a game, including interceptions or causing fumbles, are against NFL rules. The NFL warns teams against such practices before each season, although in the aftermath of the revelations about the Saints, current and former players from various teams talked about that sort of thing happening frequently — just not on the same scale as was found in New Orleans.
Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning supported Goodell's decision.
"I think he's doing the right thing to make sure this doesn't happen ever again. There's no room for any kind of bounty system in the NFL. It's a physical sport and you've got to respect the game," the New York Giants quarterback said. "He's been harsh to try to make a statement saying there is no place for this in the game of football."
But James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who has been punished repeatedly for leveling hard hits on opponents, tweeted the penalties were "ridiculous."
In a memo sent Wednesday to the NFL's 32 teams, Goodell reminded them that "any program of non-contract bonuses, however it is characterized, is a violation of league rules" and said that every head coach must review those rules with assistants and players during mini-camp or preseason training camp.
Also, all players will be told how they can confidentially report rules violations.
In March, Goodell made Payton the first head coach suspended by the league for any reason, for trying to cover up the system of extra cash payouts. Goodell also indefinitely banned Williams, who was hired in January to run the St. Louis Rams' defense.
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In addition, Goodell suspended Saints general manager Mickey Loomis for the first eight regular-season games next season and assistant coach Joe Vitt for the first six games. The Saints were fined $500,000 and lost two second-round draft picks.
Fujita, Hargrove, and Smith are allowed to participate in offseason activity, including preseason games, before their suspensions take effect. Vilma, though, is suspended immediately and will be reinstated after the coming season's Super Bowl — which, coincidentally, will be played in New Orleans.
Junior Seau Dead from Apparent Suicide
Written by The Associated Press Wednesday, 02 May 2012 13:05
OCEANSIDE, Calif. (AP) — Former NFL star Junior Seau was found shot to death at his home Wednesday morning in what police said appeared to be a suicide. He was 43.
Police Chief Frank McCoy said Seau's girlfriend reported finding him unconscious with a gunshot wound to the chest and lifesaving efforts were unsuccessful. A gun was found near him, McCoy said.
Seau's mother appeared before reporters, weeping uncontrollably.
"I don't understand ... I'm shocked," Luisa Seau cried out.
Her son gave no indication of a problem when she spoke to him by phone earlier this week, she said.
"He's joking to me, he called me a 'homegirl,'" she said.
Seau was a standout linebacker with the University of Southern California before going to the San Diego Chargers — his hometown team — whom he led to the Super Bowl following the 1994 season.
"Everyone at the Chargers is in complete shock and disbelief right now. We ask everyone to stop what they're doing and send their prayers to Junior and his family," the team said in a statement.
Seau's death follows the suicide last year of former Chicago Bears player Dave Duerson, who also shot himself in the chest.
Seau remained with the Chargers until 2003 and went on to play with the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots before retiring after the 2009 season.
"Junior was a fierce competitor whose passion and work ethic lifted his teammates to greater heights. His enthusiasm for the game was infectious and he passed that on to everyone who was around him. He loved the game so much, and no one played with more sheer joy," Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said in a statement.
"Junior was one-of-a-kind. The league will never see anyone like him again," Dee said.
The Patriots also issued a statement expressing grief over Seau's death. "This is a sad day for the entire Patriots organization, our coaches and his many Patriots teammates," the statement said.
In October 2010, Seau survived a 100-foot plunge down a seaside cliff in his SUV, hours after he was arrested for investigation of domestic violence at the Oceanside home he shared with his girlfriend. The woman had told authorities that Seau assaulted her during an argument.
There was no evidence of drugs or alcohol involved in the crash and Seau told authorities he fell asleep while driving. He sustained minor injuries.
Seau spent parts of 20 seasons in the NFL, including his 1990-2002 stint with his hometown Chargers. He helped them to their only Super Bowl appearance, was voted to a team-record 12 straight Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro six times.
He amassed 545 tackles, 56½ sacks and 18 interceptions in his career.
"Twenty years, to be part of this kind of fraternity, to be able to go out and play the game that you love, and all the lessons and the friends and acquaintances which you meet along the way, you can't be in a better arena," Seau said last August after the Chargers announced he would be inducted into the team's Hall of Fame.
Seau was the fifth pick overall in the 1990 draft out of Southern California, and stayed with the Charges until being traded to the Dolphins. He came out of retirement a few times to play with the Patriots in search of a Super Bowl ring and was with the team when they lost to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl following the 2007 season, which ended New England's quest for a perfect season.
More than 100 people gathered outside of Seau's home, only hours after he was found dead. Families showed up with flowers and fans wearing Chargers jerseys waited to get more news.
Seau was beloved in San Diego, where he created a foundation and had a popular restaurant that bore his name.
Louie Lieras, 54, of Oceanside was driving through the area when he saw a number of cars parked outside Seau's house. Once Lieras heard the news about Seau's death, he went home and put on an old Chargers jersey with Seau's name on the back.
"I don't know how you could give this up. This was his backyard. He's never going to see it again," said Lieras, gesturing toward the Pacific Ocean just yards from Seau's front door. "I feel for the family and his children."
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Ex-Bengals Player Convicted of Ohio Sex Charges
Written by Lisa Cornwell, Associated Press Thursday, 26 April 2012 04:41
Former Bengals linebacker Nate Webster was convicted Wednesday of sex-related charges involving the teenage daughter of a former assistant coach for the Cincinnati team.
A jury in Cincinnati found Webster, 34, guilty of four counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. Jurors found him not guilty of three other charges: gross sexual imposition, sexual battery and a fifth count of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. The jury deliberated for about six hours before reaching the verdict.
Prosecutors say Webster had sexual contact with the girl in 2009 when she was 15 and threatened to harm her if she told anyone. Webster admits having sex with the girl the next year, when she was 16, the legal age of consent in Ohio, but denies that the sexual relations began earlier than that.
"We obviously are disappointed with the verdict in some respects," Webster's attorney, Gregory Samms said after court. He said they plan to file an appeal after sentencing, but said he could not comment on specific issues being considered for the appeal.
Samms said that the girl lied when she said she was 15 at the time she and Webster began having sex. Prosecutors said Webster told police that he had sex with the girl when she was 15 and played tapes of those interviews in court, but Samms said Webster was mistaken about the dates in his earlier statements.
Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor Seth Tieger declined to comment on the verdict or other aspects of the case prior to sentencing, scheduled for June 6.
The prosecutor's office said Webster could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. Webster could have faced up to 36 1/2 years in prison if he had been convicted on all counts.
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Webster played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2000-03 and for the Bengals in 2004-05. He finished his career with the Denver Broncos from 2006-08.
NY Jets' Antonio Cromartie Says 'No' to Reality Show
Written by BlackAmericaWeb.com Tuesday, 17 April 2012 10:26
New York Jets player Antonio Cromartie, 27, is no stranger to fatherhood. The corner back just had his second child with wife, Terricka, which totals 10 children for him.
Cromartie's private life has caught the attention of a television production company that is trying to bring to life a reality show featuring the mothers of his children. According to the New York Post, most of the mothers are on board, saying they want their children to know their siblings.
But the NFL player is not at all interested in the idea, as he has blocked any filming of his offspring. The children live in various states including Georgia, California, Texas, Florida, North Carolina and New Jersey.
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Cromartie, featured on HBO's "Hard Knocks" in 2010, is remembered for forgetting the name of one of his children in an attempt to name them all.
Unforgettable Moments of the NFL
Written by Roscoe Nance, Special to BlackAmericaWeb.com Thursday, 29 March 2012 20:45
Baseball may be America’s favorite pastime, but there’s no debating that football has become the nation’s No. 1 passion. Fans from coast to coast have developed a zeal for it that approaches holy obligation. They can’t get enough of mayhem on Sunday afternoons– or Monday nights and Thursday nights for that matter. As the players have gotten bigger, stronger and faster since the days of Red Grange, Bronko Nagurski, Paddy Driscoll and John “Blood'' McNally, the action on the field has increased in ferociousness and excitement.That in turn has produced a laundry list of unforgettable moments. This is a list, in chronological order, of some of them:
The Great Awakening: The NFL was founded in 1920, but for the better part of more than 3 1/2 decades it was just an afterthought for most sports fans. Their hearts belonged to baseball, college basketball and football and boxing. All of that changed, however, when the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts met in the 1958 NFL Championship Game at Yankee Stadium in what would become the first sudden death overtime game in league history. The contest featured 17 players, coaches and administrators who eventually were enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and it has been called the greatest game in NFL history. Both teams finished the regular 9-3, and the Giants had registered a 24-21 victory when they played in Week 7. The Giants were coming off their fifth consecutive winning season and had won the 1956 NFL Championship. By contrast, the Colts, who were founded in 1953, had only had one winning season before 1958. Those factors made the Giants the favorites. The Giants went ahead 3-0 in the first quarter, but the Colts rallied for a 14-3 halftime lead. The Giants responded with a touchdown in the third quarter and another one in the fourth for a 17-14 lead. The Colts mounted two drives in the fourth quarter, but weren’t able to get points on either of them. They got the ball back again at their 14-yard line in the waning minutes, and quarterback Johnny Unitas took them on a two-minute drive – at least a decade before the term was even thought of – that produced the tying field goal that sent the game into sudden-death overtime. The first team to score would win. The Giants won the coin toss to start overtime and went three-and-out. When the Colts got the ball, Unitas drove them 80-yards in 13 plays – all called by him – for the touchdown, a one-yard run by Alan Ameche, which gave the Colts a 23-17 victory. The game and its dramatic finish, seen by an estimated TV audience of 45 million, captured the nation’s imagination and sent the NFL’s popularity into the stratosphere.
The Ice Bowl: The 1967 NFL Championship Game, played on New Year’s Eve, is literally frozen in fans’ minds. The Eastern Conference champion Dallas Cowboys played the Green Bay Packers, the two-time defending World Champions who won Super Bowl I the previous season, in weather that was unfit even for polar bears. The game-time temperature at Lambeau Field was -15 degrees with a wind chill about -48. The game was a rematch of the 1966 title game, won by the Packers 34-27, and it featured a pair of future Hall of Fame coaches, Tom Landry for Dallas and Vince Lombardi for Green Bay. Two had coached together in 1954 with the New York Giants when Lombardi was offensive coordinator and Landry, who played left cornerback, took on the responsibility of defensive coordinator. The Packers, 6 1/2 point favorites, built a 14-0 lead while holding the Cowboys without a first down in the second period. Dallas’ vaunted Doomsday Defense rose up in the second quarter and jump started the Cowboys scoring. Willie Townes sacked Packers quarterback Bart Starr, who fumbled the ball. Defensive end George Andrie scooped it up and returned it seven yards for a touchdown. The Cowboys made the score 14-10 at half with a field goal after Packers fumbled once again. The Cowboys forged ahead in the fourth quarter when Dan Reeves threw a 50-yard touchdown to Lance Rentzel on a halfback option pass. The Packers drove into scoring range when they got the ball back, but Don Chandler missed a 40-yard field goal. Their defense thwarted the Cowboys on their next possession and Starr another opportunity with 4:50 left in the game. He drove the Packers to Dallas’ three-yard line, completing three crucial passes along the way. The Cowboys stopped running back Donny Anderson twice at the one-yard line, the second time after Anderson’s footing gave way on the frozen turf. On third-and-goal from the two-foot line with 16 seconds left in the and after the Packers had taken a timeout, Starr wedged in behind right guard Jerry Kramer for the touchdown. Chandler kicked the extra point, and the Packers won 21-17. They went on to beat the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl II – Lombardi’s final game as their coach – for their third consecutive World Championship.
The Guarantee: Super Bowl III wasn’t supposed to be much of a game, but nobody told New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath. If they did tell him, he wasn’t listening. Namath led the Jets, champions of the fledgling AFL, to a 16-7 victory over the NFL champion Baltimore Colts after guaranteeing his that his team would win three days before the game. The Colts, 18-point favorites, appeared to be invincible. They had breezed through the 1968 season with a 13-1 record, and they beat the Cleveland Browns 34-0 in the NFL Championship Game. The experts figured the AFL was in for its third consecutive lopsided Super Bowl defeat. However, much to their chagrin, the Jets controlled the game with Namath’s timely passing and the running of fullback Matt Snell, who rushed for 121 yards on 30 carries, and the game’s first touchdown on a four-yard run in the second quarter. The Colts’ defense, led by end Bubba Smith and linebacker Mike Curtis, was among the best in the NFL. It was No. 1 in points allowed with 144, which tied the league record at that time, and third in total rushing yards, having allowed just 1,339. However, the Jets’ defense stole the show with four interceptions and a fumble recovery. The high-scoring Colts, who racked up an NFL second-402 points during the regular season, only gained 324 total yards while completing 17 of 41 passes. The Jets’ victory served notice that the AFL, founded in 1960, was the equal of the more established NFL. It was also sweet revenge for a number of Jets players and coaches who had been let go previously by NFL clubs, including corner back Johnny Sample who played on the Colts 1958 championship team and Weeb Ewbank who coached the Colts to NFL championships in 1958 and ’59.
The Longest Day: The 1971 AFC Divisional Playoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins, played on Christmas Day, saw a back-and-forth battle of touchdowns and field goals that went on and on and on. The contest wasn’t decided until midway through the second overtime period, lasting 82 minutes, 40 seconds before the Dolphins emerged with a 27-24 victory. Twelve future Hall of Famers played in the game, and two future Hall of Fame coaches – Kansas City’s Hank Stram and Miami’s Don Shula – patrolled the sidelines. But it was Garo Yepremian, a balding Cypriot tie-maker turned field goal kicker who decided the game. Yepremian booted a 37-yard field goal at the 7:40 mark of the second overtime. Ironically, Jan Stanerud, one of the future Hall of Famers who suited up for the Chiefs and among the most accurate field goal kickers in NFL history, missed a short field goal with 35 seconds remaining in regulation that would have put Kansas City ahead. The way the game started gave no indication of the drama that was to come. The Chiefs scored the first two times they had the ball and led 10-0 after the first quarter. But the game was tied 10-all after the Dolphins scored twice in the second period. The teams matched touchdowns in the third quarter before the Chief regain the lead 24-17 in the fourth quarter. The Dolphins tied the score with 1:25 remaining. Ed Podolak, returned the ensuing kickoff 78 yards to set up Stenerud’s failed field goal attempt. Both teams missed scoring opportunities in the first overtime. Stenerud had a 42-yard field goal attempt blocked, and Yepremian missed a 52-yard attempt. Podolak, a converted college quarterback, had one of the most impressive individual performances in playoff history with 350 combined yards. He rushed 17 times for 85 yards, caught eight passes for 110 more yards, returned three kickoffs for 153 yards and ran back two punts for two yards. The Dolphins got all the ways to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Dallas Cowboys 24-3.
The Perfect Season: The 1972 season, the team’s seventh and third in the NFL, was a magical one for the Miami Dolphins. They won all 14 of their regular season games, plus three playoff games. Their 14-7 victory against the Washington Redskins made them the only NFL team to win the Super Bowl with a perfect season. The Dolphins didn’t appear to be prime candidates for perfection when starting quarterback Bob Griese suffered a broken ankle in Week 5 and journeyman Earl Morrall replaced him. For Morrall, it was a case of been there, done that. When Johnny Unitas injured his passing arm during the preseason in 1968, Morrall stepped in and led the Baltimore Colts to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the New York Jets. His coach with the Colts was Don Shula, who had since moved on to Miami. With Morrall at the helm, the Dolphins kept winning on the strength of their ball-control offense and their No-Name defense, so named because of its lack of star power in comparison to the other side of the ball. The Dolphins were anything but flashy. They fed opponents a steady diet of their running game, which was built around of fullback Larry Csonka, a future Hall of Famer, Jim Kiick and Mercury Morris with an occasional pass to Paul Warfield, another future Hall of Famer. Csonka and Morris became the first pair of teammates in NFL history to rush for 1,000 or more yards in the same season, and Warfield averaged more than 20 yards a catch on his team-high 29 receptions. The offensive line included future Hall of Famers Jim Langer and Larry Little and Pro Bowler Norm Evans. The Dolphins didn’t overpower their opponents, yet they were able to win with relative ease. They won 11 of their 14 regular season games by 10 points or more. Their closest game was their 24-23 home victory against Buffalo in Week 7. They also had a two-point win, 26-24, at Minnesota in Week 3, and they beat the New York Jet 28-24 in Week 10. The Dolphins’ detractors point to a weak schedule as the primary reason for their perfect season. Their opponents had a combined .397 winning percentage and only two, both of whom were 8-6, had winning records.
O. J. Runs into History: O.J. Simpson, the No. 1 pick in the 1969 NFL Draft, came into the league as one of the most bally-hooed rookies ever. Simpson led Southern Cal to the Rose Bowl championship after winning the 1968 Heisman Trophy as a senior. However, he struggled his first three seasons with the Buffalo Bills, who were coached by John Rausch and were one of the league’s weaker teams. That changed when the Bills replaced Rausch with Lou Saban. One of the first things Saban did was build his offense around Simpson. The strategy paid of handsomely. Simpson rushed for a league-high 1,251 yards in 1972. that was only a warm up for what was to follow in ’73. Simpson, known as Orange Juice – a play on the initials he used rather than his given names Orenthal James – and later shortened to Juice, Simpson was virtually unstoppable in 1973. Running behind an offensive line nicknamed the Electric Company because it turned the juice, Simpson’s quest to break Jim Brown’s single season rushing record was the NFL’s top story. After gaining 219 yards against the New England Patriots in Week 13, Simpson entered the last game of the season against the New York Jets at Shea Stadium with 1,803 yards. He rushed for another 200 yards to become the first runner in NFL for 2,000 yards in a season and ended the year with 2,003. Simpson’s jubilant teammates carried Simpson off the field as if they had won the Super Bowl. The Bills ended the season 9-5, second in the AFC East, but they missed the playoffs.
A Hope and A Prayer: The Dallas Cowboys seemed doomed to defeat in their 1975 NFC Divisional Playoff game against the Vikings at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minn. They had the ball at midfield with 32 seconds left in the game. The prospects for scoring against the Vikings impregnable Purple People Eaters defense in that situation were about as good as those of an Eskimo building an igloo in the Sahara desert, or so it seemed. A hope and prayer were all the Cowboys had left. Their hope had life and their prayer was answered. Quarterback Roger Staubach, a future Hall of Famer, lined up in the shotgun formation and took the center snap. Staubach pumped faked to his left, turned right and threw a desperation pass to his favorite target, wide receiver Drew Pearson, who was covered by All Pro cornerback Nate Wright. Pearson made a one-handed circus catch at the five-yard line with his back to the end zone, trapping the ball against his right hip as Wright fell down. Pearson turned and ran into the end zone with 24 seconds to spare, and the Cowboys won 17-14. Pearson’s touchdown became known as the Hail Mary Play when Staubach, a Roman Catholic, told reporters following the game that he closed his eyes and said a Hail Mary. Wright, who was victimized on the play, had another explanation for why the pass was completed. He contended that Pearson pushed off to make the catch and should have been flagged for offensive pass interference. Pearson on the other claimed he simply used the swim move that receivers use to get inside position on defenders. The Vikings and their fans were furious. Tackle Alan Page, the Vikings’ defensive captain, was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the ensuing kickoff for arguing with the officials. Fans threw debris onto the field in disgust, and referee Armen Terzian was hit in the head with a whiskey bottle thrown by a fan. Terzian was knocked unconscious and had to be replaced for the last two plays of the game. The Cowboys went on to lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl X.
Man on a Mission: Neither rain, cold, the flu nor the Vikings’ defense could keep running back Walter Payton from rushing into history when Chicago hosted Minnesota at Soldier Field on Nov. 20, 1977. The Bears were teetering on the brink of elimination from playoff contention for the 14th consecutive season with a 4-5 record. They had lost to the Vikings 6-3 earlier in the season, and the Houston Oilers drubbed them 47-0 two weeks prior to them facing the Vikings for the second time. To make matters worse, Payton – who was the Bears only offensive threat – hada flu bug the week leading up to the game that left him with a 101 degree fever at kickoff. Still, he rushed for an NFL record 275 yards – two more than O.J. Simpson’s mark – on 40 carries and scored Chicago’s only touchdown as the Bears won 10-7. Payton did more than simply break a record. His performance inspired the Bears for the rest of the season. They won their final five games and ended the year with a 9-5 record, which was good enough to get them into the playoffs thanks to an overtime victory in the last game of the season and an edge over the Washington Redskins on a tie-breaker. Payton said following the game that before taking the field he didn’t think he could put on a Walter Payton performance. He did more than put on a Walter Payton performance. He put on a performance for the ages as his record stood for 23 years. Payton was in his third season with the Bears, and that game solidified his status as one of the league’s premier backs. He went on the win the NFL rushing title, and he was named league MVP. Payton ended his career as the NFL’s all-time leading ground gainer with 16,726 yards, a mark that has since been surpassed by Emmitt Smith.
A Myth Is Killed: The idea that Blacks lacked the ability to play quarterback in the NFL had about around as long as the league existed. But it only took former Grambling State All-American signal caller Doug Williams one quarter in Super Bowl XXII to dispel that notion. Williams threw four touchdown passes in the period, a Super Bowl record, and his Washington Redskins scored 35 points, an NFL playoff record. When the carnage was over, the Redskins had humiliated the Denver Broncos and John Elway, their golden boy of a quarterback, 42-10, and Williams, who threw for 340 yards and was named MVP, became the first Black quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl. Williams, the Tampa Buccaneers No. 1 pick in the 1978 NFL, entered the game as the “other quarterback’’ in the contest. His status as the first Black Super Bowl quarterback made him more of a novelty among the media, not someone who could lead his team to victory, during the week leading up to the game. For Williams to be in the league, let alone starting in the Super Bowl was an accomplishment in itself. He bolted to the USFL, where he played for Oklahoma Outlaws and Arizona Wranglers when the Bucs refused to pay a salary commiserate with other starting NFL quarterbacks. However, the USFL folded, and William was left without a job when training camps opened for the 1987 season. The Redskins were the only team that called him. Their coach, Joe Gibbs who had been offensive coordinator for the Bucs when Williams played for them, told Williams he could join the Redskins as the backup to Jay Schroeder, but there would no competition for the starting job. By the time the playoffs began, Williams had supplanted Schroeder. Williams’ storybook Super Bowl performance had a nightmarish beginning. The Broncos took an early 10-0 lead, but that wasn’t the worst of it for the Redskins. Williams, had undergone a root canal on his lower right molar the night before, suffered a hyper-extended left knee in the first quarter. He sat out one series before returning and putting on one of the best big-game performances in NFL history.
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The Big Comeback: ESPN NFL talking head Chris Berman often says “Nobody circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills’’ because of the team’s penchant in the 1990s for bouncing back from adversity. The Bills, however, outdid themselves in their Wild Card Playoff game against the Houston Oilers following the 1992 season. The Bills found themselves in bleakest of bleak situations. They trail 35-3 with 13.19 left in the third quarterback, and they were depending on backup quarterback Frank Reich, who started in place of injured starter Jim Kelly. Many of the 75,141 fans who turned out for the game and left early missed the wildest Wild Card game ever. The Bills came all the way back and beat the Oilers 41-38 on 32-yard field goal at the 12-minute mark of overtime. It is still difficult to imagine that the Bills actually won the game, considering that in addition to playing the entire game without their future Hall of Fame quarterback, Pro Bowl linebacker Cornelius Bennett also missed the whole game with an injury, running back Thurman Thomas was hurt and sat out most of the comeback. Oilers quarterback Warren Moon riddled Buffalo’s defense for 218 yards and four touchdowns in the first half as the Oilers scored 28 points. The Bills’ defense stiffened in the second half, and Reich got the offense in gear. Buffalo amazingly took a 38-35 lead in the fourth quarter on a 17-yard pass from Reich to Andre Reed. Forced to play catch up, Moon responded with a 12-play, 63-yard drive that resulted in a 26-yard field by Al Del Greco that sent the game into overtime. Disaster struck the Oilers in overtime after they won the coin toss. On third-and-three from his 27, Moon dropped back to pass. The Bills pass rush forced him to deliver the ball before he wanted to, and cornerback Nate Odomes intercepted it. Odomes return, plus a 15-yard facemask penalty against Houston gave the Bills the ball at the 20. After a couple of safe running plays, the Christie kicked the winning field goal. The Bills advanced to the Super Bowl for the third straight year and suffered their third straight Super Bowl defeat, this time 52-17 to Dallas.
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