Is it time to give Ray Rice a second chance?

Photo credit: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has been out of football since 2014. For those of you who don’t remember Rice was released by the Ravens for a domestic violence dispute that he had with his girlfriend. What made Rice’s case so popular in the public’s eye is the fact that Rice’s incident was filmed on camera. That footage was eventually sold for $100,000 dollars to TMZ, who then released it to the public. What ensued next would be something that completely destroyed Rice’s career. That film footage created a backlash that caused the public to call for Rice’s head. While at the time people’s frustrations with Rice were justified because nobody should  hit their loved one (or anyone for that matter). Now two years later you have to start to ask yourself? Has Rice paid his debt to society for the heinous actions that he committed? We’ve seen athletes comeback from much worse than physically striking their significant other. Mike Tyson was charged for rape and sent to prison before eventually coming back and re-entering the ring. Ray Rice never went to jail and before this mishap was a staple of positivity and well being in the Baltimore community. With a clean slate before this very public domestic violence case does that mean we should give Rice a second chance? Truthfully I believe it does. We’ve all said and done things that we aren’t proud of. It’s unfair to continue to punish Rice and take away the twilight portion on his career. Which ultimately will take away from him providing for his family. Michael Vick was in a similar situation when he was out of the league and in prison for dog fighting. Vick made it back to the field for his NFL comeback. So why can’t Rice when he never served any prison time for his actions? On top of that Rice has spent his time away from football speaking at rookie symposiums helping to guide future NFL players in the right direction. So they don’t follow in his foot steps and make the same mistakes that he did. It’s clear Rice is doing everything that he can to move on from the past. It’s about time the NFL does the same and reinstates him. A lot of people will be against the decision but it’s the right move. No one deserves to be punished forever, especially when others were allowed to comeback after their punishments!

Charity of the day: Prostate Cancer Foundation

Go donate! www.pcf.org

Lions need to address several positions in the offseason:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Detroit Lions are looking to transition into a new era with first year General Manager Bob Quinn. In order to properly execute Quinn’s vision the team released Stephen Tulloch and James Ihedigbo. Both moves were made to clear up cap space and give the Lions a little more room to operate in free agency. They will have several voids they have to fill before they are a competitive football team. So making these cuts makes sense because they will need all the cap space they can get to make their team relevant again. There are issues with the offensive line, the defensive line, the secondary and now Calvin Johnson just retired leaving another hole at wide receiver. When you are that thin at that many positions you really have to shake things up. It’s better to try to land a whole bunch of new players and try to build a new core rather than stick it out and try to resurrect a team of the past. Clearly Martha Firestone-Ford understood this and that is why she has been making changes throughout the organization in hopes to better this team. Quinn will be up against some serious odds if he plans on making Detroit a Super Bowl contender. The Lions have never once been to the Super Bowl, however they did win four NFL Championships the latest being back in 1957. That was before the Super Bowl was originated and in order to have success in the modern era. The team will have to first and foremost dominate in the trenches. Which means win the battle at the line of scrimmage with the offensive line on offensive. Then win the line of scrimmage with their defensive line on defense. You most likely have to go defensive line first because defense wins championships. Plus the team has to fill the holes left by Suh, Fairley, and Mosley when they all left last offseason. At some point through free agency and the draft they also have to add a playmaker on the outside to replace Calvin Johnson. Maybe a free agent like Alshon Jeffrey or Travis Benjamin could be a guy that could come in and pair well with Golden Tate in this Lions offense. The Lions also have to find a solution to protect Matthew Stafford in 2016 as well. Stafford is a talented passer but was constantly overwhelmed by the defensive pass rush. Protecting Stafford would go a long way in propelling the Lions offensive efforts. Unfortunately The team has bottomed out again after making it to the playoffs in 2014. Lions fans believe there is only one way and that’s up. However they’ve been waiting for a long time to see a quality product put on the field. The fans were leaving in masses when the team struggled early on last season. The team can’t afford to get it wrong again.

Charity of the day: Wishing Well Foundation USA

Go donate! www.wishingwellusa.org

Cut from the team: The Rams cleaned house today

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Los Angeles Rams are in a transition phase as they relocate to the LA area and the team decided today that parting ways with Chris Long, James Laurinaitis, and Jared cook were the best moves for this team moving forward. The Rams are expected to save roughly 24 million dollars in cap space by cutting those 3 players. Which leaves the team in a position to make a splash this offseason. You have to keep in mind the Rams will be recruiting players in free agency to Los Angeles this offseason rather than St. Louis. The Los Angeles area is much easier to sell as a destination to players than St. Louis due to the emergence of the SoCal area in culture and entertainment. Having that 24 million dollars to spend in free agency outweighed having those 3 players on their roster to the Rams front office. Keep in mind these players were all core players of this team at one point in the past. Moving on from them couldn’t have been easy but it was ultimately the right move. The NFL is a young man’s league meaning teams are at their best typically with a younger average age for their team. That is why you see so many team opt for a youth movement and then part ways with veteran players. They are hoping to develop a new young nucleus for their team when they do that. That is exactly what the Rams had in mind when they made this decision. They have some good young players like Todd Gurley and Tavon Austin. Now they are hoping to bring in some other young players in to mesh with them, that way they can start off on the right foot in Los Angeles. You have to applaud Jeff Fisher for having the backbone to pull the trigger on this deal. He clearly wants to make a bang in California and we should all keep an eye on the moves they make this offseason.

Charity of the day: Reading Is Fundamental

Go donate! www.rif.org

The Colts need to get back to dominating the AFC South in 2016:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Colts used to be the standard of the AFC South but in 2015 they took a huge step back. Losing Andrew Luck certainly was a big factor in that regression however the team still had a chance to win some games near the end and make it to the playoffs. While ultimately the team didn’t get in, owner Jim Irsay stated that he liked the way the team fought despite battling serious injuries. That effort was enough to help head coach Chuck Pagano keep his job. A good sign moving forward because the continuity the team will develop from keeping the coaching staff together should pay some good returns in 2016. The teams next goal will be to sign starting quarterback Andrew Luck to a massive extension according to Irsay. It’s no secret that the Colts success all starts with Luck’s ability to lead this football team. If he can return to top form the Colts will surely be in the conversation to win the division title again. They have to make the right moves this offseason to keep up with the emergence of the Texans and Jaguars. Not an easy task when you consider the Texans could be a whole lot better if they land a quarterback. Still expect the Colts to continue to progress with a solid free agency and a good draft. They will need to address their offensive woes in order to make the necessary progression in 2016. They ranked 28th in the league in yards per game and adding a few dynamic playmakers around Luck could be answer to some of their problems. The team has a promising young player in Donte Moncrief, if they can add a couple offensive lineman and another receiver to go along with Moncrief and Hilton that should bolster their offense. The team must also make significant upgrades on the defensive side of ball to improve on their 26th overall ranking in yards surrendered. The Colts were giving up 379 yards per game and they must get that number down in order to compete moving forward. The team can improve significantly by building up their defensive front. There are some talented defensive lineman in the draft and adding one to their roster in April would be a good move. It won’t be easy but this is what is needed for Indy, they have to make the necessary adjustments and get back to winning the division and making playoff runs. It’s not impossible by any means.

Charity of the day: Reading Is Fundamental

Go donate! www.rif.org

Jared Allen had a great run over the course of his 12 seasons:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

Jared Allen is hanging his cleats up after a 12 year professional football career. Allen who played for the Chiefs, Bears, Vikings, and Panthers. Decided it was now time to ride off into the sunset as he put it with a video he posted on twitter which featured him riding off into the Minnesota wilderness. Allen at one point was one of the most dominant pass rushers in the game. In 2011 as a member of the Minnesota Vikings Allen recorded 22 sacks in a single season. Just half a sack shy of Michael Strahan’s 22.5 sacks which are the most ever recorded in a single season. Not only that but his 136 career sacks are good enough to rank him 9th all time among all pass rushers. It’s clear Allen at one point was the best defensive player in the league and wreaked havoc on opposing offensive lineman. Being a defensive end Allen was always matched up against the leagues best offensive tackles and still managed dominate night in and night out. When the Chiefs sent Allen packing to the Vikings for a 1st round pick and two 3rd round picks in the 2008 draft. They certainly might of regretted that decision when you consider Allen’s best years took place after that trade happened. Maybe retaining Allen in Kansas City was the right move looking back but Allen was unhappy about how he was perceived in a negative light for contract talks that took place between him and the Chiefs. So Allen went packing to Minnesota where he gave the Vikings 6 productive seasons. After his time was over in Minnesota he moved on to the Bears where he recorded 5.5 sacks over two seasons. Finally Allen was traded to the Panthers in hopes to land him a Super Bowl ring. Only to come up short on the big stage in the Super Bowl against the Broncos. While that was certainly a disappointment, Jared Allen’s career was a complete success. He earned his respect over those 12 seasons and will likely be in the Hall of Fame someday. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Charity of the day: Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research

Go donate! www.michaeljfox.org

Von Miller shined on the biggest stages:

Photo credit: Michael Thomas

Author: Jon Kuzma

Von Miller had an outstanding regular season for the Denver Broncos. Then he had an outstanding postseason for the Broncos followed by an excellent game in the Super Bowl. There is an old saying in football “big time players make big time plays in big games.” Miller showed he could live up to those expectations and was as good as the draft scouts projected he would be coming out of Texas A and M. He finished the regular season with 11 sacks and finished the postseason with 5 sacks. Not to mention he was the nominated the Most Valuable Player in the Super Bowl. It’s clear Miller is the best player on the most dominant defense in the league. His ability to rush the passer makes him an irreplaceable asset for the Denver Broncos and expect John Elway to do whatever he can to strike a deal with the 5th year player. He has earned his respect time and time again for this franchise by compiling 60 career sacks over the course of his career. Without that defensive firepower it would be extremely difficult for the Denver Broncos to repeat as Super Bowl champions. The skills set that Miller has worked so hard to develop, allows him to beat offensive lineman with a number of different approaches. In the Super Bowl he gave us a great example of how he could work a spin move against offensive lineman and get to the quarterback. On a different play he beat the opposing offensive tackle by speed rushing pass the right tackle and stripping Cam Newton leading to a defensive touchdown for the Broncos. Outside of JJ Watt Miller might be the best defender in the National Football League. Don’t believe us? Then why did Miller shine on the biggest stages? The answer is simple, because he is that damn good.

Charity of the day: Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research

Go donate! www.michaeljfox.org

On the clock: What is the right move for the Titans?

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Tennessee Titans had a disaster first year with Marcus Mariota at the helm. That is not to say Mariota is a bad player, but collectively as a team they were just downright awful. That is why they will be drafting with the first overall pick in the 2016 draft. In order for the Titans to have the success they desire they will have to add a great depth of talent to their roster. That means they will have to make a big splash in free agency and have an outstanding draft. In order for that to happen they need to land 2 good offensive players via free agency. Then they must have a draft where they maneuver a little bit and be unconventional. Landing offensive lineman certainly has the priority in both the draft and free agency because the Titans gave up a league high 54 sacks. It will be hard for Mariota to stay healthy unless they address that position with a sense of urgency. They have the number 1 pick which teams will compensate the Titans for enormously if the team were to trade the pick. Maybe moving down getting an extra pick somewhere and taking a guy like Jack Conklin would be the solution to the Titans problems. If they can land an extra 2nd or 3rd round pick from that trade they could do a great job of adding extra talent to their roster. That is what we mean above when we say be unconventional in the draft. Don’t trade down just once, trade down twice if you can. Trade up if you need to get a guy that really fits in your vision moving forward. Whatever the Titans do, they have to make sure they make a splash when it comes to the bottom line. Doing so would show the fans that they are committed to putting a successful product on the field. It also sets a precedent with your player and other players in the league that this franchise will do whatever they have to in order to win football games.

Charity of the day: International Peace Institute

Go donate! www.ipinst.org

Happy Birthday Jim Brown: The Greatest Football Player of All-Time

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Author: Jon Kuzma

In the era of the internet, Twitter, and Facebook it’s easy to forget where we came from.
In the past sports didn’t have all of these platforms to express our thoughts and stances regarding topics or issues in pro sports. Instead there was radio broadcasts and newspapers clippings to cover sporting events that had hardly any fans in the stands. Fortunately for pro football the greatest football player of all time is an icon that can transcend over many different generations and eras. That player is Jim Brown and while he might seem old fashioned and outdated, Jim Brown is anything but that. Brown is arguably the greatest football player to ever play the game of football. He ranked #1 in the NY Daily News Top 50 NFL players of all time and that ranking was well deserved. Brown finished his professional career with 12,312 rushing yards and 106 rushing touchdowns. Paul Brown the founder of the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns stated “Jim Brown is the greatest football player I’ve ever seen.” What stands out most when watching Brown play is his physical superiority. Brown was flat out dominant on the football field. He could out run defenders, out juke defenders, or flat out run them over. On several plays when you plug in Brown’s game films you’ll notice that the opposing team tries to gang tackle him. Only to have Brown spin off of those defenders and turn the play into a big gain. It’s consistent plays like that which make James Nathaniel Brown the greatest football player of all time. If that isn’t impressive enough for you consider this. Brown was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the College Football Hall of Fame, and the Lacrosse Hall of Fame. A testament of how dominant of an athlete Brown truly was.

Charity of the day: International Peace Institute

Go donate! www.ipinst.org

The Miami Dolphins were mediocre with a high payroll in 2015:

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Author: Jon Kuzma

The Miami Dolphins went through a hectic year in 2015. They started out with high hopes after signing Ndamukong Suh to a 114 million dollar contact. The team was also optimistic about inking quarterback Ryan Tannehill to a 77 million dollar contract. Owner Stephen Ross opened the checkbook for his team and he expected to yield results for those commitments. The team failed to provide those returns however and out the gate they stumbled under head coach Joe Philbin. The team decided to release Philbin from his contract after a 1-3 start hoping to gain better leadership. Miami then turned to Dan Campbell who temporarily added a spark to the team winning the next two games. However the team would go 3 and 7 after those first two initial wins. It was clear to Dolphins management that in order to compete in 2016 they needed to look outside of their franchise and bring in a candidate that would fit the direction they were looking to take the team. That wouldn’t be an easy feat when you consider the Dolphins have the 5th worst cap space scenario in the league. Meaning the Dolphins would have to build their team up with very limited funds to spend entering their new head coach’s era. The team went on to hire Adam Gase former offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears. Gase has gained recognition as a brilliant player caller and ultimately got the vote of confidence from Stephen Ross. It must be stated though it is hard to win games in the National Football league with a roster depleted of talent, regardless of how good your head coach truly is. In order for Gase to have the success he yearns for he will have to find a way to keep free agents Lemar Miller and Olivier Vernon from skipping town. Not to mention find a way to also attract other free agents into choosing Miami as a landing spot. The team has already discussed the idea of scaling back Ndamukong Suh’s contract just a year after inking the defensive lineman. A move that would free up cap space for the Dolphins and allow them to maneuver more freely this offseason. Don’t expect Suh to be too optimistic about restricting his contract, they made a commitment to him and he will expect the Dolphins to honor that commitment. The Dolphins have a lot of problems and most of them revolve around finances and cap space. That could be a lingering issue for some time to come. We will see how Gase can manage those finacial problems.

Charity of the day: International Peace Institute

Go donate! www.ipinst.org

Deal breaker: Redskins and Kirk Cousins stall in contract talks

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Author: Jon Kuzma

Kirk Cousins had an outstanding 2015 season and that was a big reason the Washington Redskins went back to the postseason. Cousins managed to finish the year with 29 touchdowns, 4,166 passing yards and a 101.6 passer rating. If you think the Redskins are going to be anywhere near the football team they were in 2015 without Cousins, think again. This could spell disaster for Washington if they don’t strike a deal with Cousins somehow. That might be by placing the franchise tag on Cousins and preventing him from leaving the D.C area. While it’s clear the team would like to land a deal that will keep their quarterback around longer. The team has been adamant that they only sign Cousins for the right price. Meaning they didn’t want to overpay for Cousins who only has one outstanding season of work on his resume. The situation feels like Cousins’ agent wants to capitalize on the big year from the 4th year player. While the team is trying to get a bargain deal to not throw their finances out of whack. In an era where we see teams overpay for players left and right. You have to respect the Redskins efforts for trying to get a good deal. However you don’t want to alienate the guy who led the team to an NFC East title and eventual playoff birth. If the Redskins were to franchise tag Cousins it would cost them approximately 20 million dollars for 1 season. That would allow the team to reopen negotiations next season and hopefully allow the team to strike the deal they are looking for. Still you have to ask if the Redskins are making the right move. There are plenty of teams that are looking for a quarterback, even a few in the NFC East. If they aren’t careful Cousins could be out the door and the team could be out of luck. Certainly something to look out for.

Charity of the day: Food for the Hungry

Go donate! www.fh.org

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