Monthly Archives: July 2012

“I took a prescription drug (Adderall) legally under a doctor’s care for an anxiety condition during the off season in March of this year. The purpose was to help me with public speaking appearances. I had no idea that this prescription drug was banned by NFL policy. Although I take full responsibility for this situation, I also want to state that I have never cheated or taken performance-enhancing drugs, and I frown on those who do. I am highly disappointed by the league’s decision in this matter, but I will continue to do my best on and off the field. From this point on, I will be more conscientious about every single thing I put in my body. Once again, I want to reiterate that I have never been and will never be associated in any way with performance-enhancing drugs. The timing of this positive test was March 2012, a time during which there is no physical performance required of me. I hope this explanation reinforces my innocence and shows that my intentions were pure.”‬
http://tmi.me/uvle0

Tyler Sash on his 4 Game ban. He has already appealed and lost. http://tmi.me/uvle0

Week 1 Storylines – Cowboys @ Giants

Since the Giants had a day off from practice at training camp today (Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) restriction) I thought I’d begin to cast my eye down their regular season opponents and try to establish some of the storylines that I’ll be watching through the season. I’ll post these blogs covering one game at a time in the build up to the season.Image

 2012 Kickoff Night Wednesday 5th September 2012

Jerry Jones is no stranger to controversy and this week (before his team had even started camp) he stated

“Y’all should come to Cowboys Stadium and watch us beat the Giants’ asses”

This is a strong statement since the Giants are yet to lose in his $1 billion football palace in Arlington (3-0).

But the Week 1 game is in the Giants’ home stadium and it will be an interesting one. Cowboys and Giants have been rivals for a long time, legendary Giants linebacker, Harry Carson wrote in his 1985 book :

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”We really hate Dallas because they perceive themselves to be above the rest of us in the NFL, “America’s Team”…  we hate that mystique. They’re on their high horse and we wanted to knock them off”

The sentiment hasn’t changed in the last 27 years.

We beat the ‘boys twice last season. The first was close (too close – we needed to come back two scores in a few minutes at the end of the game and still relied on JPP’s finger and Miles Austin’s ‘butter fingers).

The second one (at the Meadowlands in week 17) was an all or nothing bout for the NFC East title and the right to be in the play-offs. Dallas didn’t show up; the Giants steam-rollered them.

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To say I’m looking forward to this one is an under-statement. Can I call a winner in it? No. But I hope it is close and we find a way to win.

Key Week 1 Match-ups

Dallas Rookie CB Morris Claiborne (LSU) vs Giants Rookie wide-receiver Rueben Randle (LSU)

The Cowboys moved up in the draft to get the talented Claiborne (touted by some as the best defensive player in the draft) while the Giants feel like they got a bargain securing a first round talent at the bottom of the second round with his college team mate Rueben Randle.

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UPDATE 01/08/2012 Ian Rapoport on Claiborne:

 “The Cowboys traded up to select the LSU cornerback in April’s draft,claiming they’d given him their best grade for a defensive prospect since Deion Sanders. They aren’t wasting their time putting him out there. Claiborne worked with the first team during the opening practice, which is something he’ll continue to do. He’ll be challenged throughout camp by the Cowboys’ receivers, and he’ll make mistakes; Bryant has been making life difficult for him. Ryan is leaning on his previous experience as defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Brownswhen it comes to handling Claiborne. When Browns cornerback Joe Haden was a rookie in 2010, “we didn’t start him in the first four games and we didn’t have any success,” Ryan said. “Finally, (we) put the kid in, and he grew quick. He took off.” That’s the plan for Claiborne.”

Kevin Gilbride Jnr (Wide Receivers Coach) on Randle:

Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan vs Giants Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride

Rob Ryan’s dad Buddy Ryan once famously punched Kevin Gilbride during a Houston Oilers game (they were coaching on the same team) but Gilbride beat both Ryan brothers three times in a four week span last season. Here’s hoping he can do it again.

Dallas receiving corps vs Giants (already battered) Secondary 

The Giants will likely be missing Terrell Thomas (ACL), they lost Aaron Ross to the Jags in the off-season. The time is now for Amukamara, Coe and Tryon to step up. The Giants have talented safeties Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips and promising young players in Tyler Sash and Will Hill on the depth chart and may by week 1 have re-signed Deon Grant.  But at times last year they were porous against both run and pass.

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The Dallas Cowboys are stacked with offensive firepower – Miles Austin, Dez Brant and Jason Witten – and a gun-slinging QB in Tony Romo.

This is the match up that may decide the game. Can the secondary hold in coverage until the D-Line gets to Tony Romo? Romo is excellent at extending plays by moving in the pocket and rolling out. The Giants need to contain him and be physical with these fast young receivers to stand a chance and stay in the game. An interception or two won’t hurt either!

UPDATE 31/07/2012 21:18

It’s been a rough couple of days for the Giants’ secondary:

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Shoes, Spiderman and Sustain

Why I’m excited about training camp and what it means for the Giants in the 2012 season.

Training Camp for me is the start of the NFL season. When everyone else has been getting excited about the Olympics in our biggest city, my attention has turned to the University Campus at Albany in up-state New York where the whole Giants team are gathered to practice and install the messages and plays that will lead them to success or failure in the season.

The message from the current Super Bowl Champion Giants has been that they want to see which team from last year is the real one.

Is it the team that went 9-7 and only squeezed out an NFC East title, along the way losing games that they should have won, their once proud run game sputtering throughout, the defense questionable and at times seeming soft and porous against run and pass.

Or is it the team that got ‘hot’ at the right time and once in the play-offs kept the high-octane Falcons to 0 offensive points, made the number-1 seeded and reigning champion Packers sputter and implode, knocked out a very good 49ers team with special teams in a close overtime game to win the right to humble the Brady-Belichick machine in the last NFL game of the season.

At the end of the day the 2011 Giants were one dropped Miles Austin catch and the tip of Pierre-Paul’s finger on a Dallas field goal away from missing the playoffs completely.

Shoes:

This week amongst news of injuries, recoveries and practices we’ve seen Eli Manning’s and Hakeem Nicks’ game shoes:

Spiderman

We also found out from punter Steve Weatherford’s twitter account that these multi-millionaires sometimes sleep on Spiderman bedding:


Sustain:

The message coming out of camp last year was ‘Finish’ – finish games, finish drives, finish the season and it worked.

This year the message is ‘sustain’ – don’t get complacent, don’t think you are better than you are. Eli Manning summed the message up succinctly:

“This past year, we showed our potential those last six games of the season … that we can play with anybody and we can compete and we can play great football, a matter of getting to that point, finding that style of football, the way to be successful, and then holding on to it for the season.”

Justin Tuck:

“You just can’t allow yourself to think about (the Super Bowl). You’ve got to be humble and remember the reasons why we turned around a team that was 9-7 to a Super Bowl team. So Eli’s right on.”

Tom Coughlin:

“The comparison between the last six and the first 14, you just kind of shake your head, I’m hoping we’re the team that finished.”

My main areas of interest going through camp and into the season broken down by position are:

(N.B. the following are my arm-chair opinions and I make no apology for them but if you think I’m mistaken about anything then please do comment!):

Defense (the key to the great Giants teams)

D-Line -can Osi and Tuck stay healthy and can Jason Pierre-Paul (still only 20) continue to mature his raw athleticism into technique to become a dominant force?

Update 4th August JPP is looking like having another good year:

JPP looking to continue Giant ascension.

D-Backs – With such a great pass rush the job of the D-Backs is lessened but the two elements must work in harmony and must cover long enough to let the pass-rush get ‘home’.

Deon Grant – will he return as he says he wants to? This would allow Perry Fewell to run his 3 safety formations from 2011. Or is Fewell confident enough with the development of Tyler Sash that he feels Grant is a ‘nice to have’ but maybe not an essential cog in the ‘D’

UPDATE 31/07/2012 The re-injury to Terrell Thomas could bring Grant back into the fold:

Prince Amukamara – will the 2011 1st round draft pick mature and replace the hole left by Aaron Ross’ departure to the Jags?

Terrel Thomas – is he fully recovered from the knee injury which kept him out all lastseason (his back stiffened up in practice today but the knee seemed strong)?

UPDATE 31/07/2012 Bad news for the DBs:

Linebackers – will this young group continue to grow and find their roles and what does the addition of Keith Rivers mean to the LB corps?

Offense:

QB – no question who the starter will be but can Eli continue to make great decisions, protect the ball and put the team on his back when the running game sputters?

Receivers/Tight Ends (a lot of interesting stories to follow in this group)–

Hakeem Nicks – can he get back to full strength and on the same page as Eli early in the season after breaking his foot in the off-season?

Ramses Barden – can he create in games like we hear he does in practice?

Domenik Hixon – coming off his second consecutive season ending knee injury will he be able to fill in for Manningham (now with the 49ers) and Nicks (until his return).

Reuben Randle – how ‘NFL-ready’ is this exciting talent that the Giants viewed as a steal falling to them at the end of the second round.

Victor Cruz – can the salsa dancing sensation continue to produce at such a high level and dominate from the slot position again?

UPDATE 20:40 28.07.12 Mike Garafolo tweeted from camp:

@MikeGarafolo: Anybody looking for Cruz letdown should probably keep looking. He looks as explosive as he was last year plus more polished. #nyg

Travis Beckum – can he come back from his knee injury in the Super Bowl and step up to fill the hole left by Jake Ballard’s injury and subsequent poaching by the Patriots?

Martellus Bennett – can he break out and fulfill that potential that he flashed but never maintained in Dallas? Will he keep his weight down and stay healthy?

Adrien Robinson – this is one of my favourite storylines. The Giants look on this young tight-end as needing technique but rivaling JPP for raw athletic ability. Look for him to make a big contribution either late in the season or in 2013.

Running back – a key position for the Giants. Last year was statistically one of their worst ever running the ball. This is something that they’ve always prided themselves on.

Ahmad Bradshaw – I’m rooting for 44 to have a big year. I’m not going to lie, I’m going to miss the joint celebrations of Bradshaw and Jacobs

David Wilson – one word from me: “Exciting.” In Eli’s words: “The thing about David Wilson is he’s the fastest running back we’ve ever had. I mean, this guy’s; quick, he’s explosive, so that’s kind of exciting.”

Andre Brown – hoping to see this guy step up and perform. Lots of promise but it’s time to see production.

DJ Ware and Da’Rel Scott – These guys have been with the team a while and except for occasional flashes (and 2-point conversions) we’ve seen little from them. It’s time for one (or both) of them to step into the sizeable hole that Jacobs has left in the roster.

O-Line – In 2011 this group were oft-injured and not the same group we’d seen for so many years. We need more consistency and better center play in 2012.

Special Teams – can we get a return game going?

Really good to see Justin Tryon back. He wins my prize in 2011 for sheer grit. Tackling and hanging onto Reggie Bush with an already fractured arm, breaking it completely in the process and ending his season. Tough kid.

Also expecting continued performance from Devin Thomas – my undisputed MVP of the NFC championship game.

UPDATE 5/08/12 –

UPDATE 07/08/12: A look at the Giants’ Special Teams unit

The forgotten 1/3 of the game will be big (maybe make or break) for the Giants this season.

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What are you looking for from your NFL team as they move through camp, the pre-Season and into the Season?

Don’t forget to follow me on twitter @anthonysavell.

Bucket List Nov 2004 – July 2012

November 2004. It started with a flat mate, a video game and a holiday television program, all roughly around the same time.  One evening after work,  Ben, a long time friend and flat-mate (also the first person I met in University) casually knocks on my bedroom door holding a copy of ESPN 2K5 with a player I’d not yet heard of (Terrell Owens),  in an Eagles ‘uniform’ (I called it a ‘kit’ at the time) I’d eventually learn to despise on the cover. With our ‘popcorn ready’ and controllers in hand,  Ben (a long-time Packers fan) began to teach me the rules of the NFL.

A few evenings later and a holiday program I was watching over dinner with my girlfriend showcased a few nights in New York – a holiday we realised we could probably afford and would both like to take. Our trip was booked within days. The stars had begun to align.

Our sessions on the Xbox were nightly, then at the beginning of February we watched the Super Bowl highlights on TV in my room – the first NFL action I’d really paid attention to. I still hadn’t chosen a team to follow- the Patriots were the best in the game (video and in reality), but with a British idea of favouring the underdog (but still not good enough to play with a really mediocre team) I played with recent Super Bowl runners-up the Panthers. It is worth noting that at this point I was a video game fan, not an NFL fan. It is also worth noting that the Giants and Jets were really bad in this game! The Jets’ signal caller was Chad Pennington; the Giants’ was Kurt Warner – a rookie player called Eli Manning was keeping the bench warm on the starting depth chart behind him.

I had an idea that I wanted to support a New York team – I was unsure which one and I leant towards the Jets but only very casually. I couldn’t name more than two players on the team and had never seen the team play a down. Nevertheless I returned from New York (we fell in love with the city) with an ‘ESPN Monday Night Football’ branded ball for Ben and (I’m ashamed to admit it now) a Jonathan Vilma Jets jersey – hey we all make mistakes, look at Plaxico… he played for them!

That was about it for a few years. I returned to New York. I continued to play 2K5 but I didn’t follow the NFL or keep up with it- except to visit Ben (now living in Cambridge) to watch the Seahawks lose in the Super Bowl to the Steelers. I rooted for the Seahawks and started a season (franchise) with them in the video game on my return home.

That was it really until September 2007.  I was aware that there was an NFL game being played at Wembley but I thought I’d missed the tickets. A Ticketmaster email alerted me of a few late released tickets and on impulse I bought two. My girlfriend was about to learn about the NFL and I was about to find my team and the second love of my life. In the excitement leading to the game I bought an Eli Manning shirt from Footlocker. My soul-searching lead me to a conversation with a girlfriend who – to be fair – didn’t really care:

Me: It’s fine to support a different New York team – I support the city, not the club.
Lucy: Yeah it’s fine
Me (still unsure): After all I never really followed the Jets and this is my first real NFL game… I’ll just switch allegiance to the Giants or support both?
Lucy: It’s fine.
Me (knowing Ben will still take the piss): Good.

October 2007: Giants @ Dolphins. Wembley Stadium.

We got to the game and in the pouring rain and mud I watched the eventual Super Bowl winners grind out a close win against a very poor Dolphins team. My highlight? Eli running in for a long touchdown (for a Manning) just under where we were sitting. Lucy was sold on the sport, the pageantry and the merchandise. I had found my team.

I avidly followed the rest of the Giants season. Cheering a win in Buffalo (silently – Lucy was asleep) and applauding a valiant attempt in a meaningless week 17 game to stop the Patriots going undefeated (we lost by 3 points but we’d win the one that counted). In a frigid game in Greenbay I watched as Coughlin’s face froze and Tynes kicked the Giants to the Super Bowl in overtime (for the first time). I cheered silently and hopped around the bedroom. Lucy was asleep.

She was awake and watched the Super Bowl with me – her in a Manning shirt; me in an Umenyiora one (a fellow Brit). I struggled to watch (through my hands) for the final drive. I learnt the name Tyree and watched Brady get beaten badly by a D-line who were unstoppable.

I haven’t missed a televised Giants game since (Sky Sports and NFL Gamepass) from their ‘oh so close’ 2008 season; through their depressing, under-achieving 2009 and 2010 seasons; to their ‘our schedule should be scared of us’ fast finish in 2011 which culminated in the ‘Still a Cruz and Nicks game’ Super Bowl drive.

Every single one of those games I imagined how great it would be to be there roaring with the crowd. In October 2010 on our 5th visit to NY I watched from a Manhattan bar as they knocked Romo out for the season on Monday Night, but they were hundreds of miles away in Arlington, Texas. The next day I visited the deserted Meadowlands stadium – the cab driver thought we were mad to bother going there. I wandered round the car park took a photo and returned to Manhattan.

This off-season I took the plunge. For two nights in September I’ll be in New Jersey, in week two. What’s more I’ll be in Row 1 as my heroes run out to face (and hopefully beat) the Buccaneers. I’ll be wearing my JPP Elite Nike jersey (a present from Lucy) and I will be in the car park amongst the fans tailgating all morning, soaking it all in.

This blog is the story of a UK NFL fan fulfilling a dream and ticking something off his bucket list, but it will also be the story of a (heavily Giants biased) NFL season from a UK fan’s point of view.

Far less exciting (but still pretty good) I will be in Wembley for the first time since 2008 (Chargers at Saints) watching the Rams play the Super Bowl XLVI runners-up at the end of October.

October 2008: Ben at the Chargers vs Saints game. Wembley Stadium.

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How did you get into following the NFL? How did you find your team? What’s your dream NFL experience? What games have you been to and what are your memories of them?Post your comments and experiences below. I’d also like ideas for a cardboard sign to take to the game…

Don’t forget to follow me on twitter @anthonysavell to find out when new posts are added to the blog.