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Tag:Mike Ditka
Posted on: February 7, 2012 3:35 pm
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Posted on: February 7, 2012 1:32 pm
Edited on: February 7, 2012 3:49 pm
 

Ricky Williams tells Ravens he will retire

R. Williams will retire with more than 10,000 rushing yards. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

According to numerous reports, Ravens running back Ricky Williams has informed the club that he will retire, and if he keeps that promise, it will end one of the most successfully interesting (or interestingly successful) careers in many years.

He rushed for 10,009 career yards (the 26th best total of all time) and 66 touchdowns (third-most among active players), and at one point early in his career, he was the greatest workhorse in the league, recording 313 carries for the Saints in 2001, 383 for the Dolphins in 2002 and 392 for Miami in 2003.

He only gained one more 1,000-yard season after that three-year stretch*, recording 1,121 yards in 2009 for the Dolphins.

Unfortunately for Williams and the Saints -- who traded their entire 1999 draft to the Redskins (plus a first- and third-rounder in 2000) for the right to draft him at the No. 5 spot in 1999 -- he was never a player who could turn around a franchise.

*Proving he could take a pounding and continue to perform at an NFL standard, there are only three other players who are currently active (Donovan McNabb, Champ Bailey and Antoine Wingfield) from the first round of the 1999 NFL draft class and only four from the second round.

Wrote Williams on his Twitter account: “Thank you all, but this ain't it, I'm gonna do something really special. "Be you and change the world.”

Ricky Williams in 2005. (US Presswire)
Williams entered the league surrounded by controversy after Mike Ditka orchestrated the trade that got Williams to New Orleans. It was the largest trade since Ollie Matson was sent from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Los Angeles Rams in 1959 (a trade that was made by future NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle and eventually got legendary coach Sid Gillman fired), and it backfired for the Saints, setting back the franchise a number of years -- Ditka went 15-33 during his three years with the team.

"I don't care if it was for the second coming of Walter Payton, there was no way the deal could work out, " NFL analyst Chris Landry told the New Orleans Times Picayune in 2009. "And the fact that Ricky was a disappointment, a non-productive player for them, made it one of the worst trades of all time."

While he was introverted and, well, just kind of weird -- anybody remember that Sports Illustrated cover with Ditka in a tuxedo and Williams in a wedding gown? -- he had a resurgence when he went to the Dolphins in 2002, gaining a combined 3,225 yards in 2002 and 2003.

But he got in trouble with the league for drug usage and retired in 2004 before unretiring, and from 2005-08, he only played 13 games. Last season, he went to Baltimore to be the No. 2 back behind Ray Rice, and he accumulated 444 yards and two touchdowns. After the year, in fact, he spoke about returning next season.

“My body feels good and I know I’m going to train hard and so I’m excited about next year,” Williams told the team's website. “I’ve grown a lot, kind of falling into a new role and a new city and a new organization, and I’ve gotten better.  And like everyone else, I feel like I have something to build on for next year.”

Here's the statement released by Williams:
“The NFL has been an amazing page in this chapter of my life,” Williams said. “I pray that all successive adventures offer me the same potential for growth, success and most importantly, fun. I want to thank all my fans, teammates, coaches and supporters for the strength they've given me to overcome so much. I want to especially thank my family, coach Mack Brown, coach [Mike] Ditka, coach [Bill] Parcells, Ronnie Brown, Wilbert Montgomery and the Jamail Family for believing in me. As for what's next, I am excited about all the opportunities ahead -- continuing my education, running The Ricky Williams Foundation and whatever other opportunities present themselves.

“My football career has been filled with many great memories going back to pee wee football with coach Tom Miller, [San Diego’s] Patrick Henry High School and coach Jerry Varner and on to the University of Texas. It has been a big part of my life and blessed me with so many wonderful opportunities and the chance to connect with many people who have helped me grow and mature. I will miss the game, the camaraderie, my teammates and especially the emotions of a big victory. I love the game and leave it feeling fulfilled, proud, in great health and excited about the future.“

I have to thank coach [John] Harbaugh and the Ravens organization for the opportunity they gave me this year. I had so much fun and really appreciated the chance to finish on such a great note.”
And here’s what Ray Rice had to say.

“I was a big fan of Ricky before we were teammates, but being around him this year is the best thing that happened to me in my NFL career. As a young player, you need to be around a guy who knows what he is doing, and Ricky was tremendous to learn from. The way he took care of his body and the way he prepared, he always showed that he is a true professional. This past season with him is a year I will never forget. I had the best year with him beside me, and that was no accident. I believe that Ricky Williams is a Hall of Famer. All that he has done in his career, he deserves that. I was honored to share the field with him when he went over 10,000 yards. What an amazing accomplishment, as he is one of the best. I will miss him, but I wish him and his family well.”

As Williams' career advanced, he's changed his identity. He used to be an aloof character who would conduct interviews while wearing his football helmet, but he's morphed into a spiritual voice on Twitter. 

This isn't the first time Williams has retired, but it seems much more likely to stick considering that he'll turn 35 in May and he's playing a backup role in Baltimore. And if so, good luck to one of the more fascinating characters in the league. I'm sure we'll miss him more than he misses the game.

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Posted on: December 5, 2011 7:47 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2011 7:50 pm
 

New Jags owner Khan is all about the mustache

New Jags owner Shahid Khan. (AP)
Posted by Ryan Wilson

There truly is something remarkable about mustaches. And in less than a week, new Jaguars owner Shahid Khan has one of the all-time great mustaches in NFL history. And according to a recent New York Times story, it's Khan's calling card.

"He is described as a private person with a gregarious, salesman’s personality," the Times' Richard Sandomir wrote on November 30. "With long, wavy hair and a thick mustache that ends in waxed tips, Khan cuts a somewhat rakish figure."

Added Ron Guenther, the former athletic director at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, Khan's alma mater: “That mustache didn’t come out of nowhere. That’s his signature.”

Well, we applaud and embrace it. And so too, it appears, do Jags fans. Details via the Florida Times-Union:
Jaguar fans don’t know a whole lot yet about Shahid Khan, the Illinois truck-parts magnate who has agreed to buy the team. But they do know he has an awesome mustache. … There are already T-shirts around town showing the mustache on the Jaguars logo, and several websites have popped up.
The Times-Union says that "Khan won’t be at tonight’s Monday Night Football game between the Jaguars and the San Diego Chargers — he said last week that he’ll be in New York, prepping for an NFL Finance Committee meeting where his bid go buy the team will be considered, and that he’d rather leave the spotlight on outgoing owners Wayne and Delores Weaver."

And because you asked for it (okay, you didn't -- we were curious), here are how some other NFL luminaries would look with their very own Mr. Tickles. You're welcome.

From left to right: Roger Goodell, Norv Turner, Hines Ward, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady.

No homage to mustachioed gentlemen would be complete without a nod to those players and coaches who unwittingly made it possible for the rest of us to look less ridiculous. Again, you're welcome.

From left to right: Mike Ditka, Dave Wannstedt, Jake Plummer, Ryan Wendell (Getty Images)

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Posted on: October 23, 2011 2:53 pm
 

Gonzalez only behind Jerry Rice on all-time list

GonzalezPosted by Josh Katzowitz

During the week, Tony Gonzalez was interviewed by his son for a Sunday pregame show, and during the questioning, Nikko Gonzalez asked him his thoughts about the greatest tight end in history. Tony Gonzalez gave shout-outs to Kellen Winslow Sr., Mike Ditka and John Mackey, but in the end, Gonzalez said he thought he was the best tight end in history.

Statistically, it’s tough to dispute him.

After catching four passes for 52 yards as the Falcons took an 11-point lead into the halftime of the game against the Lions, Gonzalez has passed No. 3 Cris Carter and No. 2 Marvin Harrison as the second-leading pass-catcher of all time.

He’s currently at 1,103 catches. That’s 446 catches behind Jerry Rice but better than anybody else in history. So yeah, it wouldn’t be incorrect to say that Gonzalez is the best tight end ever.

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Posted on: October 8, 2011 2:04 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2011 2:22 pm
 

In 1966, Al Davis wanted to destroy the NFL

Davis

Posted by Josh Katzowitz


Forty-five years ago, Al Davis wanted blood. He wanted revenge. He wanted to take the NFL for all its worth and engulf it, like the NFL had done to so many other start-up leagues before. But unlike those other leagues, the American Football League -- which had been established in 1960 and which had been looked down upon by NFL owners -- was about to make a real problem.

The AFL had gone through troubles in the early part of its life. The owners had lost millions of dollars, the teams played in terribly unprofessional stadiums and the NFL looked at the AFL as short-term, inferior competition. But the AFL also was building a fan base, mostly due to its high-powered offenses that excited TV audiences -- which contrasted nicely with the NFL’s power-run game that put fans to sleep.

Al Davis started as an assistant coach with the Chargers, signing Lance Alworth and helping Sid Gillman build the most exciting offense in pro football, and then moved on to become the coach -- and eventually one of the owners -- of the Raiders.

By the mid-1960s, the AFL was becoming a real problem for the NFL. Not only was the new league’s football a more exciting brand, the AFL could offer competitive contracts to the best graduating college players. When Joe Namath left Alabama, he was courted by the AFL’s New York Jets and the NFL’s St. Louis’ Cardinals.

The Cardinals offered him $200,000 to sign. The Jets got him for $427,000. That was the power of the AFL in those days.

Which led the NFL to quickly decide to merge with the AFL -- which, by then, employed Davis as its commissioner. At that point, there was a strong belief by some AFL owners that the NFL could be beaten in a head-to-head matchup, and at least one person wanted to try to send the NFL out of business.

“We could have beaten them,” Davis said via Ken Rappoport’s 2010 book The Little League That Could. “I didn’t necessarily want a merger, but they wanted it.” In fact, the AFL owners were so confident in their place in the pecking order that, assuming they didn’t receive a legit offer from the NFL, one owner said, “If they’re lying to us, we’ll have to drop the bomb on them.”

But when the New York Giants signed away AFL kicker Pete Gogolek, who had played out his contract in Buffalo, that’s when the AFL went on the attack. Though a gentleman’s agreement between the two leagues stated that the opposing league wouldn’t sign players in Gogolek’s position, the Giants went ahead with it anyway, inkng Gogolek to a three-year deal worth $96,000.

That’s when Davis knew what he wanted. He wanted to be the one to drop the bomb on the NFL. He wanted blood.

Said Davis: “Now, we can go after their guys. We are going after the quarterbacks, after places they feel it.”

The AFL had been saving money for a scenario like, and the owners went to work going after the top NFL quarterbacks -- Roman Gabriel, Fran Tarkenton and Sonny Jurgensen. Then, a bombshell. Bud Adams in Houston signed tight end Mike Ditka, one of the biggest stars in the NFL. Ditka had never made more than $25,000 in Chicago, but Adams gave him $50,000 just to sign (the contract would have paid him $183,000 during the next three years).

While Davis wanted to go after the NFL -- or, at the very least, get the best possible deal from the opposing league in the merger -- the AFL owners met with their NFL counterparts  and negotiated in secret meetings without his knowledge and then signed a deal without his input.

According to Jeff Miller in his 2003 book Going Long, Davis emerged from his commissioner’s office in New York early one afternoon, and Val Pinchbeck -- who went on to become a close advisor to NFL commissioners -- said, “Are you going to the press conference?”

Said Davis: “What press conference?”

“It seems that there’s an announcement being made by the AFL and the NFL over at the Warwick (Hotel) in a couple of hours.

Said Davis: “Do you remember Yalta?”

Later remarked AFL co-founder Lamar Hunt: “He was a general without a war. “

Davis soon recovered and went on to big success as the Raiders owner. But he had to wonder what could have happened if the AFL had put the NFL out of business, if he had dropped the bomb and taken its blood. Davis’ impact on the NFL was great, but if the AFL had survived and taken down the NFL, Davis could have been the most important figure in pro football.

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Posted on: September 29, 2011 9:37 pm
 

Ditka: new Payton biography 'serves no purpose'

Former Bears coach Mike Ditka says he would 'spit' on Walter Payton's biographer. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Jeff Pearlman has written a biography on the late, great Walter Payton, but the book is about more than the Bears running back's Hall of Fame career. It includes the warts, too, and that has a lot of people angry after Sports Illustrated this week excerpted part of Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton.

Most notably upset, Payton's former coach in Chicago, Mike Ditka.  In an interview with NBC Chicago, Ditka, now an NFL analyst for ESPN, said he would "spit" on Pearlman were he to meet him. "I have no respect for him."

Pearlman wrote that Payton abused pain-killing drugs during his career, contemplated suicide and even had both his wife and his girlfriend sitting near each other at his Hall of Fame induction.

"Pathetic. Despicable. It serves no purpose," Ditka said, adding, "People will buy it."

Pearlman is no stranger to controversy. He's written books about Barry Bonds and the 1986 New York Mets. On Thursday, he responded on his personal blog to the criticism surrounding his latest endeavor.

"The question I ask is: When is it OK to write about a late person’s shortcomings? When is it OK to look back at his life and analyze the highs and lows; ups and downs? Ever? Never? Maybe—as many detractors clearly feel—we’re better off floating on a cloud of ignorance. Maybe the Never Die Easy depiction of Walter Payton’s life—terrific family man, happy go lucky, not especially deep—is the way to go. Is it real? From a certain perspective, sure. But perhaps that’s all sports fans want; to believe their heroes are only heroes, and nothing else matters."

As CBSSports.com colleague Josh Katzowitz pointed out Wednesday, the Payton family issued a statment about the biography (via the Chicago Tribune): "Walter, like all of us, wasn't perfect. The challenges he faced were well known to those of us who loved and lived with him. He was a great father to Jarrett and Brittney and held a special place in the football world and the Chicago community. Recent disclosures -- some true, some untrue -- do not change this. I'm saddened that anyone would attempt to profit from these stories, many told by people with little credibility."

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Posted on: August 9, 2011 2:32 pm
Edited on: August 9, 2011 5:01 pm
 

Hot Routes 8.9.11: Grossman takes the lead

0

Posted by Josh Katzowitz
  • What kinds of consequences will Titans DB Cortland Finnegan have to face after missing practice last weekend because he was unhappy about his contract (and then lying to his fans about it)? Sounds like the team management will forgive, but might not forget.
  • Anthony Gonzalez isn’t exactly sure how many NFL players are taking HGH, but he’s pretty sure that those players are out there, lurking in the shadows. Said the Colts WR to the Indianapolis Star: "How many guys are on it, that's hard to say," Gonzalez said. "It could be 10, it could be a hundred or more; either way, it's too much. But around the league, you see guys on Sunday, and things don't add up; they don't look right. I see guys I saw in college, now they're in the NFL and they look totally different."
  • The relationship between newly-minted HOFer Richard Dent and his former coach, Mike Ditka? Yeah, not too good. Ditka didn’t show for last weekend’s induction ceremonies, and Dent didn’t mention Ditka in his speech.
  • Browns DE Marcus Benard bulked up about 25 pounds during the offseason because he thought that would make him more effective. Funny thing about that. The coaches disagree and want him to lose the weight.
  • As a brief aside, we hit the 10,000th follower on our Twitter feed today. Many, many thanks to those who made it possible.
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Posted on: July 7, 2011 5:50 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2011 6:18 pm
 

Innovating TE John Mackey dies at 69

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

It’s been a sad day for the people of Baltimore and those in the NFL and the NFLPA today, as former Baltimore Colts TE John Mackey has died at the age of 69. Along with making his name as one of the best tight ends in the league’s history, he also was the first president of the NFLPA.

According to his former coach, Don Shula, Mackey helped innovate his position.

"Previous to John, tight ends were big strong guys like [Mike] Ditka and [Ron] Kramer who would block and catch short passes over the middle," Shula told the Baltimore Sun. "Mackey gave us a tight end who weighed 230, ran a 4.6 and could catch the bomb. It was a weapon other teams didn't have.”

After he was elected to the Pro Football HOF in 1992, he refused to accept his ring in Indianapolis, where the Colts had relocated. He said he wanted the ceremony to take place in Baltimore, and eventually, he got his wish.

But he also didn’t get in to the HOF until his 15th and final year on the ballot, and some believe that’s because of his involvement with the NFLPA.

More from the Sun:

As the union's first president after the 1970 merger of the NFL and American Football League, Mackey quickly raised the owners' ire. That July, he organized a three-day strike that won the players $11 million in pensions and benefits. In 1972, he filed and eventually won a landmark antitrust suit that brought them free agency. (The union bargained it away in 1977.)

"He was the right man at the right time," said (Ordell) Braase, who preceded Mackey as head of the player's association. "We were a fractured group until John began putting permanence in [the union's] day-to-day operations. He hired administrators and a general counsel.

"He had a vision for that job, which was more than just putting in time and keeping the natives calm. You don't get anything unless you really rattle the cage."


Here’s what NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith had to say in a statement: "John Mackey is still our leader. As the President of the NFL Players Association, he led the fight for fairness with a brilliance and ferocious drive. His passion continues to define our organization and inspire our players. His unwavering loyalty to our mission and his exemplary courage will never be forgotten."

(FYI, the person speaking in the video below is Michael Gibbons, the executive director of the Sports Legends Museum in Baltimore.)

 

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com