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Struggling to Play Football
[Posted Tues. p.m.]
NFL Quiz: Name the seven who scored 2,000 points in their careers. Answer below.
--The NFL has a huge issue on their hands with the testing problems that emerged over the weekend, particularly the work at a New Jersey lab. And while the NFL is keeping the testing partner, hoping it can work its issues out, the problem can easily happen again and should this occur during the regular season, the consequences will be widespread. You won’t just be disrupting training schedules.
“We know these tests are not completely infallible,” Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said during a conference call with reporters. “These are really sensitive, delicate tests. These are really complex tests that involve multiple steps and tiny, tiny amounts of genetic information.
“Our lab partner has made some changes in the testing procedures, to prevent any kind of contamination in the future. We’ve made some adjustments already, the lab company has, to how they verify these tests before they’re reported out.”
The NFL has one company, BioReference, that handles all of its coronavirus testing. And the league is sticking with them, despite the weekend false-positive problems at its New Jersey laboratory – one of five BioReference labs nationwide that handle NFL testing.
The New Jersey lab produced 77 false positive tests – including 10 for the Jets and two for the Giants – that impacted 11 teams.
The lab said Monday that “an isolated contamination during test preparation” caused the false positive results.
As Darryl Slater of NJ.com reports: “The NFL has experienced an extremely low rate of positive tests, so the rash of positive tests coming out of the New Jersey lab Saturday should have been a red flag – and the lab probably should have re-tested before officially reporting results.
“From Aug. 12-20, the NFL conducted 58,397 tests on 8,573 players and staffers. There were zero positive tests among players and six new confirmed positive tests for other personnel. Tracking the league’s positivity rate is critical for BioReference.”
Jarrett Bell / USA TODAY
“Just as the NFL sailed with a relatively smooth summer on the Covid-19 front that suggested it might be fully equipped to pull off its plan for a complete season amid a pandemic, along came Sunday.
“News streamed in with the urgency of results from the precincts reporting on Election Night: The Browns, then the Bears. The Steelers and Vikings. Jets and Bills. Patriots. Lions.
“The good news is that the flood of results were pinned on two words: false positives.
“There were no NFL outbreaks. At least not yet. The fire alarm was pulled for a false alarm.
“Yet the reality check for the NFL…came in the illustration of just how quickly the best-laid plans by the league and NFL players union can collapse with a breakdown in the system….
“Since training camps opened, the league has had an estimated 150,000 tests concluded on players, coaches and staff, with such an overwhelming amount of negative results that the number of players league-wide placed on the Covid-19 reserve list has dwindled to single digits.
“But imagine if the rash of false positives over the weekend came three Sundays later – as in Sept. 13, the Sunday of Week 1?
“Chaos. That’s what you can imagine.
“No, with the NFL’s Covid protocols riding with the reliability of the testing process, games might be won or lost, postponed or canceled in the lab.
“The weekend drama didn’t cause any camp practices to be scratched, although Cleveland was in limbo for that, and a few dozen players on the affected teams couldn’t practice. According to the Covid-19 protocols, if a player’s positive test is presumed false, he can return after two negative tests. Many of the players who sat out Sunday were expected to return to work on Monday.
“Somewhere, Matthew Stafford might be cringing. Earlier this month, the Lions quarterback was stung by a false positive that underscored the need for revising the protocols to add additional layers in confirming positives in individuals showing no symptoms of the novel coronavirus.
“Days after the Stafford episode, the league required two confirming tests for positive cases within 24 hours – including a point-of-care test to be analyzed on site….
“(The) weekend drama surely shows the merits of daily testing – something the players union insisted on after the NFL initially wanted a limited window for daily tests. It’s also clear that the confirming tests needed to be added to the protocol.
“The goal of testing, of course, is to catch the actual Covid-19 case and contain the damage by isolating the infected individual and minimizing spread.
“Catching the false cases is quite the challenge, too, with a different type of potential damage.
“The Bills practiced Sunday without quarterback Josh Allen, a presumed victim of a faulty test result. Quick adjustments were employed. Practice happened.
“Bills GM Brandon Beane called it a ‘good fire drill.’
“In other words, better now than in September.”
--The Associated Press released a Top 25 poll featuring nine Big Ten and Pac-12 teams, which when the season starts will no longer be eligible for inclusion in the Top 25 after postponing their seasons, so the whole exercise is kind of stupid.
But for the record, Clemson is on top, a second year in a row to be preseason No. 1.
Defending national champion LSU is the first to start the following season outside the top five since Auburn in 2011, the Tigers losing Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Joe Burrow.
1. Clemson (38 first-place votes)
2. Ohio State (21)
3. Alabama (2)
5. Oklahoma (2)
6. LSU (1)
7. Penn State
10. Notre Dame
What really sucks, among other things, are some of the matchups that have been wiped out. Ohio State at Oregon; Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin at Lambeau Field; Southern Cal against Alabama, and others.
--Then the AP released its preseason All-American teams and 23 of the first- and second-teamers will not be playing.
Trevor Lawrence, Clemson, is the first-team quarterback; Justin Fields, Ohio State, the second-team.
Chuba Hubbard of Oklahoma State and Travis Etienne of Clemson were the first-team running back selections; Najee Harris of Alabama and Kenneth Gainwell of Memphis the second-teamers.
The first-team receivers are Ja’Marr Chase, LSU, and DeVonta Smith, Alabama. Second-team Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State and Rashod Bateman, Minnesota.
Meanwhile, Wake Forest defensive end Carlos Basham is second team!
--It’s not easy reopening campuses and thinking you can play a football season. Phil W. pointed out a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story that has Notre Dame cases at 470 as of today.
I want football as much as the next fan…we’ll see what happens over the coming 2-3 weeks.
--The Clippers-Mavericks series has been intense, with Luka Doncic and Montrezl Harrell getting into in Game 3 of the Clippers’ win over the Mavericks on Friday. Harrell of the Clippers was caught on the NBA’s broadcast referring to Doncic as “a (expletive) white boy” after scoring on the Mavs superstar. Doncic then appeared to trip up Harrell after a Mavericks basket. Doncic also spoke derisively toward Harrell and told him to “stop flopping.” They each received a technical foul for that play.
Harrell addressed and apologized for his comment on Saturday, and did the same thing with Doncic before the Mavericks’ 135-133 Game 4 overtime win on Sunday, though Doncic sounded much more gracious.
“It was OK. No worries,” Doncic said. “A lot of emotions on the court, especially with the playoffs. Sometimes you say things you don’t want to say. He apologized. I respect that. So no problems.”
Harrell’s comment sparked backlash and raised concerns about a double standard after the NBA has embraced “Black Lives Matter” and supported its players in speaking out on systemic racism. Harrell did not speak with reporters Sunday and the NBA did not plan to discipline him, without saying why.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers declined to discuss Harrell’s apology, saying, “I don’t know what he said,.”
But then Rivers told Sports Illustrated that he talked about the incident with Harrell.
“You just have to be careful,” Rivers told SI. “They both were talking. I don’t think Luka was saying anything racial, but he was swearing. So they both were doing it. It’s an emotional game. It’s a playground game out there in the playoffs.
“I said to him, ‘Hey, I don’t think you meant anything racially by it.’ He said ‘white boy,’ but I don’t think there was anything racial intended. But we are in a very heightened climate and you have to be careful. Trez was the first one to say that. He said, ‘I didn’t mean that racially.’ And I said it doesn’t matter. It’s what perceived…make sure you do the right thing.”
It is absurd that Harrell wasn’t suspended.
As for Doncic, who I’ve written a lot about in the past, the Slovenian took charge on Sunday, capping a 43-point, 17-rebound, 13-assist performance with a buzzer-beating three-point basket for the ages that left the heavily-favored Clippers reeling, series tied 2-2.
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said, “Just a phenomenal effort. We know this kid has got a flair for the dramatic. He’s a performer as well as a great player. He’s a guy that looks for these moments and is completely fearless.”
As the Los Angeles Times’ Helene Elliott wrote, Carlisle’s praise was a “sincere yet still inadequate description of Doncic’s exceptional performance.”
“The Clippers acquired Paul George and Kawhi Leonard for games like this, for times like this, when they need leadership and direction and someone to carry the team on his back. Leonard had 32 points on Sunday but George’s postseason shooting woes continued with a three-for-14 performance.”
Game 5 is tonight after I post but I’m all-in on Dallas now. The Mavs, however, will be without their No. 2, Kristaps Porzingis, because of a bad knee.
--LeBron and the Lakers have gotten their act together after losing the first game of their series against the Trail Blazers, L.A. then winning the next three. Game 5 is Wednesday and Portland star Damian Lillard is out with a right knee injury. Series over, folks.
--The Celtics swept the Sixers 4-0 Sunday night 110-106, wasting another good effort by Joel Embiid, Embiid getting zero support, and Philly coach Brett Brown on his way out. First-year GM Elton Brand could also be canned for some poor moves, specifically going with Tobias Harris over Jimmy Butler and then paying Harris the max, which was beyond absurd.
Like try $33.5 million, $36m, $38.4m and $40.9m the next four years! You kidding me? Tobias Harris?!
--Giannis Antetokounmpo was named the 2019-20 NBA Defensive Player of the Year on Tuesday in a landslide, receiving 75 of 100 first-place votes.
He thus becomes just the fifth player to win both MVP and DPOY in his career, joining Kevin Garnett, Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan and David Robinson.
--I’ll have a lot of baseball next time. For now it seems that promising Mets shortstop Andres Gimenez and catcher Tomas Nido caught the coronavirus (to be accurate, only one, officially has, but both were placed on the injured list as the team resumed its season following a reported two positives and four games that were postponed).
So then the Mets hit the field tonight and in the first game of a doubleheader against the Marlins at Citi Field, they were shut out 4-0 in seven innings, with 11 left on base, 0-10 with runners in scoring position. Good lord…they suck.
--The Angels’ Albert Pujols is now alone in second place on the MLB career RBI list. In Monday night’s 11-4 loss to the Astros in Houston, Pujols had an RBI single that gave him 2,087 career RBIs.
Hank Aaron is first at 2,297. May no one pass him.
*Now Babe Ruth had 2,214, but RBIs didn’t become an official stat until 1920, per Elias Sports Bureau.
Of course to me and everyone else the Babe is No. 2. His pre-1920 stats are real, including 1919, when he led the A.L. with 113.
--A one-of-a-kind 2009 Mike Trout rookie card sold at auction Sunday for $3.84 million, topping the legendary T206 Honus Wagner as the most expensive sports trading card in history.
The 1909 Wagner card, long considered the Holy Grail for baseball card collectors, most recently had its highest-graded version sell for $3.1 million in 2016. However, the Trout card, purchased by collector Dave Oancea for $400,000 two years ago, soared to even greater heights.
I’d say that’s a Tesla-like move. Nice going, Mr. Oancea!
The 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects Superfractor was sold by Goldin Auctions to an unknown buyer for $3.84 million, but with the buyer’s premium added, the final purchase price totaled $3.936 million.
In February, a LeBron James/Michael Jordan card with pieces of game-worn jerseys from both players, sold for $900,000 – a record for a modern sports card.
In May, another autographed Trout rookie card – one of only five in existence – sold for a record-tying $900,000.
In July, a LeBron rookie card with a swatch of his Cleveland Cavaliers uniform smashed that record with a sale price of $1.845 million.
--Golf fans are still buzzing over Dustin Johnson’s performance in the first leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs at TPC Boston, 30-under, one shot off the all-time record held by Ernie Els, an 11-stroke win.
The scene now shifts to Olympia Fields in Illinois and I’m assuming Hurricane Laura won’t impact play more than briefly given the storm’s projected track (prayers to those in eastern Texas and Louisiana, however…good luck). The remaining 70 will be whittled down to the final 30 for East Lake and the Tour Championship.
Among those bounced from the playoffs last weekend were Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood, the latter two not able to overcome having played a limited schedule.
Fowler only made four cuts in eight starts since the restart, his best a T12 and T15. Spieth only had a T10 and T13 in nine starts.
Rose had a T3 and 9 in eight starts since the restart but missed four cuts. Fleetwood did nothing in five starts, coming back to the states from the UK late.
Tiger Woods is No. 57 in the FEC standings and needs to do something special this weekend in Chicago to get to East Lake. [Like a top five.]
One more. Rory McIlroy has truly been in a major funk since the restart. He hasn’t missed a cut but his results look like this…T32, T41, T11, T32, T47, T33, T65. He had six top fives in six events to start the 2019-20 wraparound season.
Rory admits he misses the energy of the fans (ditto Tiger).
--Meanwhile, Phil Mickelson’s streak of reaching the second round of the playoffs every year since they began in 2007 was snapped after his quick exit from Boston, so he quickly entered his first Champions Tour event, the Charles Schwab Challenge at Ozarks National.
All Lefty then did Monday in the first round (the senior folks trying to squeeze in as many rejiggered events as possible after having so many canceled earlier) was shoot a 10-under 61 to grab the lead.
So he may be rethinking how much he plays on the Champions Tour after turning 50 in June. After all the courses are shorter, less rough…Phil can just bomb away, though he still has to putt to win.
He’s done enough of that thus far, following up his 61 with a 64 and a 4-shot lead entering the third and final round.
One thing we know for sure…the Champions Tour desperately needs Phil to bring in the fans once they are allowed back.
Eamon Lynch / Golfweek
“It’s no rap to say the Champions Tour won’t offer Mickelson the elixir he desires. He’s a proud man who would much rather compete against young stallions than old warhorses who are one stumble shy of the glue factory.
“That’s been true of most players who’ve aged out of relevance on the regular tour. But recent results suggest Mickelson’s best prospect of being competitive on a regular basis lies with the old dudes. His T-2 finish at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational was one of just three top 20s in the past 18 months since he won at Pebble Beach. Only a fool would bet against Mickelson winning a 45th PGA Tour title, but the confidence needed for that might first have to be mined among the Steve Strickers, Colin Montgomeries and Jerry Kellys.
“Phil is a man with a thirst to be relevant. That explains not just his nebulous flirtation with the TV booth but also with the proposed Premier Golf League splinter tour, both of which promise – at wildly differing scales – pay days based on name recognition rather than on performance. That might be the ‘champions tour’ he ultimately dreams of.
“Until such times as the Saudis come calling with a wheelbarrow full of blood money, Mickelson will probably learn the same lesson as many legends who went before him: that while the Champions Tour isn’t the big stage he’s accustomed to, it’s still a very competitive arena. Take Herr Langer. The German turns 63 on Thursday. He finished second last week. Beating him might deliver all the confidence Mickelson will need this side of Winged Foot.”
--The PGA Tour has made a nice move at the start of the 2020-21 season, filling out the CJ Cup slot that was to be in South Korea by playing the event at Shadow Creek, the swanky club in Las Vegas, Oct. 15-18. Since the tour will already be in Vegas for the Shriners Hospital for Children Open at TPC Summerlin the week before, you might see some strong fields with there being no need to travel; at least the same guys will play both.
Shadow Creek is up to No. 26 on Golf Digest’s most recent ranking of America’s 100 Greatest Courses, and fifth among public courses, though it costs a cool $500 to play, but this covers a limo ride from the Vegas Strip 20 minutes to the south, and golfers must stay at an MGM hotel in order to play it. Only a handful of groups are allowed on the course each day.
The fates of the tour’s two other events on its Asian swing – the Zozo Championship in Japan and the WGC-HSBC Champions in China, held the two weeks following the CJ Cup, are both up in the air as of today. Golf Digest is saying the Zozo will be brought to California, while the HSBC will be canceled.
The tour is supposed to play in the Dominican Republic Sept. 24-27 for an official event, but haven’t heard anything following the extensive damage on the island from what was then tropical storm Laura.
--Finally, I didn’t have a chance to note the great performance of Sophia Popov, a last-minute entry into the Women’s British Open.
Popov almost quit last year, the 27-year-old German having Lyme disease that went undiagnosed for three years, leaving her doubting her future as a professional. Suddenly, a golfer that lost her LPGA card in 2019, who then did poorly on the secondary women’s tours, then somehow finished ninth at an LPGA event last month in Ohio and that qualified her for the British Open, despite being ranked No. 304 in the world.
--We have a big race Saturday night at Daytona, which should be fun to watch; the last race to qualify for the playoffs, which means the last chance for Jimmie Johnson to get in the mix in his final season.
But the domination at the top has been amazing thus far. Of the first 25 races, Kevin Harvick has won seven and Denny Hamlin six. Then it’s Brad Keselowski with 3, and Chase Elliott and Joey Logano with two each. Kyle Busch has yet to see the checkered flag this season.
--Just a note on Indy 500 champion Takuma Sato of Japan, who picked up his second victory at the Brickyard. Because of coronavirus issues and travel restrictions, it turns out he was living much of this year at a friend’s house in Indianapolis, sleeping on the floor.
“Since the start of the quarantine…I have been unable to go home to Japan,” Sato said. “My family is in Tokyo. I am unable to go there. They are unable to come see me.”
As Jerry Garrett of the New York Times notes, Sato never made any arrangements for a place to stay in the U.S. so one month turned into now eight. He had been scheduled to carry the Olympic Torch in Tokyo this summer, until the Games were postponed.
For now he is focusing on the IndyCar Series and trying to win that elusive first championship, so he won’t be heading back home to Tokyo for quite a while.
--The Champions League finale, won by Bayern Munich in Lisbon on Sunday night, finally wrapped up the 2019-20 season, and now the Premier League is preparing to start a new campaign on Sept. 12. There is zero break this year. Normally the season ends in May and then June and July are for international exhibitions, with league seasons beginning in mid- to late-August. Not every star player is going to come out of the rushed restart in good shape, just like many of the stars of major-league baseball have suffered with a reduced spring training.
--The Boston Globe had a report on the lack of Black athletic directors in New England and it is pretty poor…just 4.5%, 5 out of 112 New England colleges and universities.
Across all NCAA divisions in 2019, there were slightly more than 10 out of every 100 ADs and nine out of every 100 head coaches who were Black.
Black athletic directors (10.3%, 115 of 1,113). *If you take out the 45 Historically Black Colleges and Universities, you get 6.6%, 70 of 1,068.
Across all NCAA divisions in 2019, about 12 out of every 100 head football coaches were Black, while more than 39 out of every 100 football players were Black.
Black head football coaches (11.7%, 79 of 674).
--Lionel Messi had said he wanted to finish his career at Barcelona, even after their humiliating 8-2 defeat by Bayern Munich in the Champions League, but today he wired his team that he wanted to leave immediately.
Now this is a late story, and important especially for Euro football, but supposedly a clause in his last contract allowed him to leave for free, but the clause expired June 10. Under the terms of his contract that expires in 2021, the only way he can leave without the club’s consent is if a rival side pays his release clause of $828 million. You are reading that right.
The club considers the contract binding until June 30, 2021.
Messi, who has spent his entire career at Barca, is a six-time world player of the year, but he is now 33.
--Yesterday there were bear sightings in Summit, neighboring New Providence and Berkeley Heights. And from the pictures these were rather large bruins. Will your editor fall victim when he goes downstairs for his Dunkin’ Donuts large black coffee in the morning? Stay tuned.
Top 3 songs for the week 8/29/70: #1 “War” (Edwin Starr) #2 “Make It With You” (Bread) #3 “(They Long To Be) Close To You” (Carpenters)…and…#4 “In The Summertime” (Mungo Jerry) #5 “Spill The Wine” (Eric Burdon and War) #6 “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” (Stevie Wonder) #7 “Patches” (Clarence Carter) #8 “(If You Let Me Make Love To You Then) Why Can’t I Touch You?” (Ronnie Dyson) #9 “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (Diana Ross) #10 “25 Or 6 To 4” (Chicago…B+…)
NFL Quiz Answer: Seven who have scored 2,000 points.
Adam Vinatieri 2,673
Morten Andersen 2,544
Gary Anderson 2,434
Jason Hanson 2,150
John Carney 2,062
Matt Stover 2,004
George Blanda 2,002
Jason Elam 1,983
Next Bar Chat, Monday.