Last week ended well for the Falcons as they were able to kick off the legal tampering period by re-signing two free agents. One of which, in William Moore, was their biggest priority of the off-season in terms of keeping.
Things also took a positive spin on Sunday where reports indicated that Tony Gonzalez is set to return. And while Moore was their biggest priority re-signing, Gonzalez is likely the biggest difference maker they could add or retain. I honestly struggle to see how the Falcons will contend for a title with Gonzalez’s presence in the offense. His presence on the inside and virtually unstoppability on third down work in perfect conjunction with the playmaking abilities of Julio Jones and Roddy White on the outside. Remove Gonzalez from the equation, and while the Falcons would still be difficult to defend, it’s not an insurmountable feat.
Besides Gonzalez, the thing that could potentially impact the Falcons’ offense the most is improving their running game. And that would likely take a really good running back to do that given the likelihood that there won’t be major changes to the offensive line in 2013. And given the current rumors that the Falcons might be pursuing Steven Jackson as their new starter doesn’t particularly excite me in regards to any major improvements the ground attack could make this year.
Now I could question the reliability of these so-called “sources close to Gonzalez,” but given these sources are saying things that fans like myself want to hear, I won’t.
Hopefully this week the Falcons will get even more good news since Sam Baker and Brent Grimes could be the next dominoes to fall.
With all the talk about Darrelle Revis being traded from the New York Jets, some of the talk has centered around his injury. Revis tore his ACL early last season, and the questions surrounding that injury have been cited by many experts as a major hurdle to any trade. Teams won’t be willing to give up the compensation likely to be required (at least one first round pick) without being 100% certain that the knee is healthy. Now obviously, there are ways around that. Before any trade can be finalized, the player must pass a physical. And if a team acquired Revis and had misgivings about his rehab, they could fail him and recoup their traded assets. But then throw in the probability that Revis will demand to be one of if not the highest paid defender in the league will deter a lot of folks. That’s a lot of money to spend on a corner, even one as good as Revis.
It’s why I’m going to ape what many of the talking heads are saying in that I don’t believe Revis will be traded between now and the draft in late April. There will be constant talk of it; rumors about teams contacting the Jets and where Revis’s best fits may lie. But I believe they will be nothing more than rumors and media-induced hype. The Jets are in New York after all, and there’s got to be something to talk about with them for the next six months. Last spring they had Tebow, this year it will be a Revis trade.
I think once we get into training camp, that’s when potential Revis trade talks might pick up in earnest. If he shows himself to be healthy during the preseason, and then gets off to a good start in September, then I think you’ll start to hear trade speculation heat up. A contender that has some struggles in coverage may be tempted to give up that first round pick for Revis at that point as a midseason boost to get over the hump. I do believe at that point, the Falcons could become a legitimate contender. But a lot of that will depend on the status of Brent Grimes, and the play of any other corners on the Falcons roster.
A first round pick is a steep price for any player, and one that I doubt the Falcons would part with sans hesitation unless they really thought Revis was the final piece of the puzzle. But again, that will have to do with other pieces falling into place. One of those will be any improvements the Falcons attempt to make to the pass rush.
But why I bring up the Revis talk isn’t to relate how or when the Falcons could acquire him, but the issue of his injury got me thinking about a different unrelated subject: performance-enhancing drugs.
The return of Adrian Peterson, Peyton Manning, and to a lesser extent Jamaal Charles, Terrell Suggs, and Ray Lewis this past year have set the bar pretty high for players like Revis and our own Brent Grimes. Peterson and Charles both returned from torn ACLs, while Suggs recovered from a torn Achilles, Manning had three neck surgeries, and Lewis tore his triceps.
Speedy returns aren’t unheard of, as Jerry Rice once returned from a torn ACL within the same season although Rice has since admitted that it was to his own detriment. But having that many successful and unexpected returns within the same year is odd.
Lewis was accused of using performance enhancers like deer antler spray to aid in his recovery. But for none of the others has the topic of performance-enhancers really been broached outside a few. It’s no secret that performance enhancers like human growth hormone (HGH) can quicken recoveries.
Is it possible that any or all of those players were aided artificially with their speedy recoveries? Possibly. And it raises a question in my mind, if it was to be uncovered down the road that any or all of them were aided by performance-enhancers with their sensational recoveries, would it be a scandal?
I’m sure the media would try to drum it up into one because that is their job. But would most of America care? For me personally, I think the answer would be no.
At first I thought perhaps it would feel tainted if their recoveries were “unnatural.” But upon thinking about it further, I don’t think I could really produce any great enmity for any player that uses performance enhancers to aid in healing.
It’s no secret that a career in professional football exerts a huge physical toll on the human body. And it’s also not a secret that relative to their other counterparts in professional sports, football players aren’t compensated as well. All in all, life after football comes much more quickly than it does in those other sports, and often with substantial medical bills.
Nothing tightens NFL teams’ wallets quite like “durability concerns.” Teams appear a lot more willing to roll the dice on players with character issues than a guy that struggles to stay healthy. And when teams do gamble, e.g. Jahvid Best, Peria Jerry, etc., it seems more often than not they get bit.
Because of that a player that is coming off injury stands to lose earning power, which we’ve already established. Just look at Brent Grimes, who a year ago could have potentially earned a $50 million contract had he not been tagged by the Falcons, and now may be looking at a deal for less than half that. So there is definite incentive for players to try and get back as quickly as possible.
And if taking performance enhancers like HGH makes that possible, then it’s hard for me to get overly judgmental towards players. Factor in the wear and tear of an NFL career, if evidence suggested that a player “cheating” during his career was then better able to “cheat” huge medical bills after it, then again who am I to judge?