Steelers MMQB: NFL HOF Weekend Wrap Up
- Two more Steelers added to the Pro Football Hall of Fame
- 4 Steeler fan favorites officially earn Steeler for Life status
- Curtis Martin makes everyone uncomfortable with his speech
- NFL tries out replacement refs
- Goodell reportedly settling with Saints “bounty” players
- Tragedy strikes the Philadelphia Eagles
It was a big weekend for Steeler Nation with the annual Friday night practice in Latrobe including a special retirement ceremony of some very special former players as well as 2 Steelers joining the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. Former Pitt star Curtis Martin dropped a very heavy and candid speech on the crowd Saturday night. NFL fans finally got their beaks wet on the first taste of football for the season, how did it taste with replacement refs? Goodell is reportedly backing down from some of the suspensions handed out to the Saints players involved in the Bounty scandal presumably in the hopes to have the lawsuits filed against him dropped. Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid loses his oldest son tragically over the weekend.
The replacement refs aren’t going to be nearly as funny as the movie the Replacements featuring Neo at quarterback. The NFL officials are still in the midst of a labor dispute with the NFL in the hopes to get more permanent employment benefits, especially given the added responsibilities levied on officials these days what with Goodell’s increased attention on player safety. Well apparently Goodell is quite alright with the player’s safety being in the hands of refs with no NFL experience with the first installment of the replacement refs being used for the Hall of Fame game Sunday night. How did it go? Well to give you any indication how the evening went officiating wise, it started off with the refs incorrectly calling the coin toss. Immediately everyone in Steeler Nation’s mind went to the OT coin toss debacle on Thanksgiving of 1998 where Jerome Bettis called “Tails” and the ref immediately said the call was “Heads” giving Detroit the ball and essentially the game. In this instance the ref incorrectly announced that New Orleans had won the coin toss and then immediately corrected himself to say that Arizona had won the toss. Awesome. I’m sure it will be fine once the season starts.
While Goodell is busy ignoring the possible consequences from using replacement refs during the NFL season he is apparently working out a deal to reduce the suspensions of the Saints players involved in the Bounty scandal. Specifically with Jonathan Vilma, ESPN is reporting that there is an offer from the league to reduce his suspension to 8 games under the condition he withdraws his defamation lawsuit against Goodell. Seemingly there has been no new information released on the subject of the bounties, and there were more than enough Saints fans present at the HOF ceremonies this weekend having their pity parties of how half their team is suspended including their coach but the players involved had never followed through with their appeals to the league, instead option for legal action instead. Clearly Goodell wants to avoid the lawsuits and doesn’t mind looking like he was wrong in suspending these players. In my opinion, Goodell had every right to suspend the Saints coaches and personnel involved as they were the ones instituting the illegal pay-for-performance/bounty program (as they all have admitted to). As far as Goodell’s right to suspend these 4 players, if he didn’t have specific evidence (which the players are vehemently denying he does) that they were deliberately trying to hurt opponents for cash, he had no business suspending them just to make a point. Now he’s going to look like he’s admitting he was wrong in suspending them if he goes back and reduces the time just to get the lawsuits dropped. The worst part of it all is as long as the NFL can continue to print its own money and craptacular franchises like the Cleveland Browns can sell for upwards of $1 billion, he can do whatever the hell he wants.
The Steelers hopped up on their school buses and headed to Latrobe Memorial High School Friday night for their annual night practice. This year was particularly special with the addition of a little retirement ceremony featuring 4 former Steelers from at least 1 of the last two Super Bowl winning teams. Joey Porter, Willie Parker, Marvel Smith and Aaron Smith all officially retired from the NFL as Pittsburgh Steelers Friday night before practice started. This just goes to show you the respect that players have for the Steelers organization and the respect the organization has for players, whether they were released or retired. Unfortunately from this weekend’s practice, reports surfaced that Ben had tweaked/sprained/stubbed/etc. his “bad ankle” and sat out most of Saturday and Sunday’s practice. This coming a week from reports that he had played the majority of the second half of last season with a torn rotator cuff. Ben’s injuries are coming to be just as common as record heat in the summer. I’m not worried about them mostly because we all know Ben is going to play regardless of what’s torn/sprained/tweaked/stubbed/shot/dismembered/etc.
The Steelers ceremonies didn’t end with the Friday night practice as the Hall of Fame inducted 2 former Steelers as well as 2 former Pitt Panthers on Saturday night. The Hall welcomed Steeler legend Jack Butler, who awesomely quieted the crowd from their “Here We Go Steelers!” chant with an “Ok that’s enough.” Butler’s speech was short and appreciative of the Rooney and McGinley families for allowing him the chance to have a career in football. Often considered to be the Steelers second best center in history behind only Mike Webster, the Hall of Fame also inducted Dermontti Dawson. Dawson paid tribute to Webster by stating, “Mike was a leader because he led by example. I tried to emulate everything Mike did. Even today, I still try to lead by example and be like Mike. Thank you for playing and living with honor. We miss you.” Very well put. Did anyone else happen to catch Dermontti’s son Brandon in the first row with his “I love you Daddy!” outbursts randomly during the speech? This kid entertained me beyond belief.
What could not be described as entertaining as much as gut wrenching and possibly uncomfortable to hear was former Pitt Panther’s star Hall of Fame inductee Curtis Martin’s speech. Martin began his speech by noting that he had nothing prepared and was going off of the cuff. He then proceeded to go into great detail on the acts of violence he witnessed as a child between his mother and father. While his mother sat in the crowd crying and appearing to mouth the words “Please stop” Martin described the physical abuse his mother suffered at the hands of his father all in the idea of showing appreciation to her for never giving up on supporting him and providing for him. Yikes. Ever been around a family that shares way too much info right away? Yeah that’s what this was like. I mean I feel for the guy and I perhaps would have felt just the same for him if he would have said his mother was abused rather than go into graphic details of cigarette burns and black eyes. Never the less Martin’s speech was something else, if you haven’t checked it out I’d suggest giving it a watch. On a lighter note, the tweet of the night during the HOF induction ceremonies had to come from former Dolphin and Pittsburgh native Jason Taylor who tweeted during Willie Roaf’s speech,
“Just watched Willie Roaf get introduced @NFL HOF he hit me in my chest so hard one game I thought I had collapsed lung and shit myself.”
Martin’s speech definitely can help put things into perspective but also unfortunately so can the tragic death of Eagle’s head coach Andy Reid’s oldest son Garrett. Garrett, 29, was at Eagles training camp with his father as a trainer and was found dead in his room on Sunday morning. There are no other details released as of yet aside from the fact that there were no suspicious activities surrounding the death. Both of Reid’s sons had well documented troubles with drugs and the law in recent years. My heart breaks for Andy Reid and his family as I can’t even imagine the pain involved in losing a child. Amazingly the Eagles are reporting that they expect Andy to be coaching this Thursday night as the Eagles take on the Steelers in their first preseason game. Hopefully the Reid family can find the strength in each other to get through this difficult time.
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Topics: Aaron Smith, Curtis Martin, Espn, Jason Taylor, Joey Porter, Jonathan Vilma, Marvel Smith, New Orleans Saints, NFL, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Pro Football Hall Of Fame, Roger Goodell, Willie Parker, Willie Roaf