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Tenaciously supporting a minority that so many in the majority have yet to understand takes considerable strength and courage, perhaps in its own way, requiring even more bravery than donning pads and a helmet on Sundays.

Speaking out in favor of marriage equality has put NFL players Chris Kluwe, Brendon Ayanbadejo and Scott Fujita (all heterosexual, in case you were wondering) on a new kind of athletic map, one that spans far beyond the football field.  The three veterans of the sport, all California natives, will have their eyes on Washington D.C. Tuesday and Wednesday as the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in two cases that could change the course of history for gay people in this country.    

With the help of attorney John Dragseth and university law professor Tim Holbrook, the three NFL players filed an Amicus Brief with the court - a document stating one’s position as it relates to a case before the court - in support of marriage equality. 

"Basically it’s a way to bring attention to an aspect of the case we think is important to the Court that they might not have otherwise considered," said Kluwe who used the athlete perspective as the primary focus of the brief.

"Many different entities file amicus briefs in high profile cases, and if they’re cogent and well reasoned, the Court generally takes them into consideration."


Several athletes (current and former) have signed the brief, hoping to use their names to help push what they see as positive legislation forward.

"The brief shows that historically, many athletes have been powerful agents for social change," said Fujita, who recently wrote an essay about his views on marriage equality for the New York Times.

"People look to us, whether we like it or not. And that’s why our actions, and how we treat others, and the words we use, carry a lot of weight. We need to set the right example, especially for kids."

In an age where world famous sports stars (i.e. Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, etc.) keep quiet about their personal and political beliefs, many find the recent surge of athletes coming out in support of the LGBT community and marriage equality to be something new, and surprising.

"Renaissance" would be a more accurate description of the gay rights movement building within the community of current and former professional athletes as the sports world has often been at the forefront of civil rights issues. 

Jackie Robinson integrated baseball when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, several years before the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education integrated the country in 1954.

Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Peter Norman stood for racial equality on the medal stand in Mexico City during the 1968 Summer Olympics.

Women gained equal access to play sports in school with the Title IX portion of the Education Amendments of 1972 and here we are, four decades later, where women earn only 74 cents for every dollar earned by men in the workplace.

The NFL’s renaissance men embrace the challenges faced by their predecessors as they become the next generation of athletes to take a stand on social issues.

"Until everyone is accepted and treated equally we will continue to push the envelope toward equality," said Ayanbadejo, who plans to speak at a marriage equality rally in Washington on Tuesday.  

"People know and accept that racism isn’t right. When every one feels the same way about discrimination and the law backs our stance, only then will we be satisfied."

While Ayanbadejo, Fujita and Kluwe have long been supporters of the LBGT community and marriage equality, their stock soared sky high in 2012, and even ruffled some feathers along the way, thanks to an election year with marriage equality on the ballot in several states. 

The broad discussion of constitutional gay rights narrowly trickled down to the sports world Monday as news broke regarding an NFL player who is strongly considering coming out to the public.  He would become the first openly gay, active athlete in the history of North American team sports.

It’s clear that a host of fellow athletes would support him, as there are plenty of notable names on the athlete’s brief submitted to the court.  But the list is noticeably devoid of the most recognizable sports figures.  No LeBron James, Tom Brady, Kobe Bryant, or Sidney Crosby.  No Venus or Serena Williams, Rory McIlroy or Derek Jeter. 

"It would really help bolster the environment of support and equality we’re trying to promote in the NFL and other pro sports," Kluwe said of the importance of the biggest names in the business publicly supporting LGBT rights and marriage equality. 

"Top athletes are definitely role models for a lot of people, and having their help is invaluable."

In fairness to the aforementioned, they weren’t necessarily asked to participate.  Ayanbadejo did the majority of the recruiting himself on a busy, Super Bowl-winning schedule.

"The first filtering of candidates was done in my head. I targeted my athletes and went for it," said Ayanbadejo when asked how many "A-list" athletes were asked to join the cause.

Fujita made a few calls as well, witnessing first hand how money and corporate sponsorship can so easily create a serious conflict of interest for celebrities.

"There were a handful that I approached. And it wasn’t that they weren’t with us on issue. Sometimes ‘corporate interests’ weigh in, I think. That’s why I occasionally (half-jokingly) challenge these guys to be the ‘anti-Jordan.’"

Despite those who declined to participate (publicly or privately), Ayanbadejo was encouraged by the progress made by those who were willing to lend their support.

"There really wasn’t any flat out no’s but there was plenty of hesitation. And just as many guys that were hesitant stepped up and affirmative said yes. For me to be fair I would have had to have asked more guys but the overwhelming majority said yes. I would say I was batting around .650."

That average lines up nicely against the country as a whole, as nearly 60 percent of Americans said they support gay marriage.

The NFL’s renaissance men are hoping that one more majority sides with them as well come June, when the Supreme Court makes its decision on marriage equality. 

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Dear Chris,

Hey man, how’s it going? I would like to sugar coat the meaty contents of this letter by first saying congratulations on making it to the Super Bowl, as you and your 49ers teammates have made the city of San Francisco beam with football pride for the first time in many years.  That is wonderful.

More importantly, I have a personal favor I’d like to ask of you.  Please don’t apologize for your homophobic comments, attempt to rephrase or claim your words were taken out of context. 

I’m not sure even the best and brightest of the PR world could find a way to spin this (courtesy of the Mercury News):

“I don’t do the gay guys man,” Culliver said. “I don’t do that. No, we don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do.

“Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Nah … can’t be … in the locker room man. Nah.”

Culliver suggested that homosexual athletes keep their sexuality private until 10 years after they retire.

Oy Vey. 

Apparently, Artie Lange is the new Oprah, getting guys like you to open up about such controversial subjects.  Impressive!

Here’s the thing Chris.  Personally, I respect your right to freely discuss your opinions, any time, any place. I’m sure the majority of San Franciscans agree, given the Bay Area’s storied history of the peace movement, freedom of speech and gay rights activism. 

This is why I implore you not to attempt to color these comments as something other than what they are; the dark truth that homophobia and strong anti-gay views remain deeply rooted in the world of professional sports.

Sure, there are other guys sprinkled throughout pro sports, for instance, your fellow NFL pals Brendon Ayanbadejo, Chris Kluwe and Scott Fujita, who are openly supportive of civil rights in this country, including LGBT rights.  But clearly the movement is not yet powerful enough to have impacted you, despite your own team’s efforts to join the cause

While it was a poor business move to publicly reveal your feelings about gays as a member of a San Francisco-based organization, there is no going back so you may as well resign to moving forward.

Should you apologize for hurting people’s feelings or offending them?  That seems fair.  You can stick by something you say while feeling bad that others are hurt by it.  In a weird and twisted way, I actually respect Lance Armstrong for a non-apology he gave Oprah in their sit-down interview.

Instead of taking the apology bait when Oprah asked him if he felt remorse, Armstrong’s response was, “everybody that gets caught is bummed out they got caught.” Finally, he was honest about something.

Chris, you are strong enough to take the Lance route on this one. 
Don’t be like your Super Bowl opponent Terrell Suggs who, after verbally decimating the "arrogant prick" Patriots, received a talking-to from teammate Ray Lewis, and consequently changed his tune to, “people don’t like them because they win,” in hopes of avoiding backlash.  That’s weak sauce.  Super weak. 

Stick to your beliefs.  Only if you mean it, say you’re sorry for offending anyone and then keep your mouth shut regarding this issue for the rest of the week.

And don’t worry about being excluded or treated as a leper back home in San Francisco after the Super Bowl.  Most of the folks in the Bay are much more accepting than you, so you need not worry.  It’s all good.  In fact, I bet you’ll be even more popular upon your return, as the locals will surely stop you on the street for a quick chat from time to time, in hopes that maybe, just maybe their open-mindedness might rub off on you. 

Sincerely,
Jackie

UPDATE:  Well, looks like Chris didn’t read my letter.  Bummer.

49ers statement, on behalf of Chris Culliver:

"The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel. It has taken me seeing them in print to realize that they are hurtful and ugly. Those discriminating feelings are truly not in my heart. Further, I apologize to those who I have hurt and offended, and I pledge to learn and grow from this experience.”

                         
For some professional athletes, playing to win is not nearly as important as the paycheck and lifestyle that comes along with the job.  For others, like Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, logging that W is a major source of pride and accomplishment, making any loss unacceptable.

Suggs and the Ravens (10-4) were humiliated by the San Diego not so super until three weeks ago Chargers (7-7) on Sunday night, the 34-14 defeat not sitting well with the four-time pro bowl selection.  Check out a tweet posted by a sizzling hot T-Sizzle a few hours after the game ended:

@untouchablejay4:  That was Phuckin Bullsh!t Bmore. I apologize from the bottom of my heart. WE WILL WIN OUT!!!!!!! #byanymeansnecessary

Please pardon his phrench, as clearly, Suggs is frustrated.  When this tweet popped up on my timeline, my first thought was, “uh-oh.  Guaranteeing wins never ends well.”

Suggs had several reasons to be upset.  For starters, the Ravens went into Sunday’s game leading their division, but because of the loss, should the Steelers beat the 49ers on Monday, Pittsburgh would take sole possession of the AFC North and drop Baltimore down to the fifth seed.   

"It’s back to the drawing board," Suggs told the media in the locker room after the game.  "Everybody said we’d fall to fifth so what… Like I said, we in hell now, so, but, we got a vacation home in hell.  This is normal for us…" 

Umm, okay.  I won’t pretend to understand exactly what Suggs is getting at there but losing the game to the Chargers stung on several levels and wasn’t cool, even by Hades-dwelling standards. 

The long-heralded Ravens defense only laid two nasty hits on Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers in the entire game, and the only sack the Ravens notched went bye-bye with a personal foul called on Suggs. 

The Ravens came into Sunday’s game not only riding a four game winning streak, but also enthused for the return of their captain/emotional leader/amazing pre-game dancing linebacker Ray Lewis (from injury) for the first time in as many games. 

Despite leading the defense with ten tackles, Lewis’ return wasn’t nearly enough for the Ravens as quarterback Joe Flacco was hammered by the Chargers, being sacked five times and throwing two interceptions. 

As for Suggs’ promise of winning out, that isn’t out of the question by any means as the Ravens host the Cleveland Browns (4-10) next week, followed by the Bengals (8-6) in Cincinnati to close out the regular season. 

Ravens fans should wait to see what goes down with their arch-rival Steelers on Monday night before going into freak out mode just yet, although ESPN’s Trey Wingo tweeted Sunday that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said he was optimistic that the injured Ben Roethlisberger will be under center against the 49ers.  I wonder if Suggs and the Ravens will watch that game with the rest of us?

 

Everyone can agree that that the Cleveland Browns handled the Colt McCoy concussion situation poorly.  Well, everyone but the Browns themselves. 

Quick recap:  After the Browns quarterback received a crushing helmet-to-helmet hit last Thursday night care of the Steelers’ James Harrison, McCoy’s hand was checked out by the team’s medical staff, not his head, after the play.  McCoy played the rest of the game, missing only two plays after the hit and was not even tested for a concussion until after the game when his complaints compelled the medical staff to do so.  As an indication of how serious that hit was, McCoy’s father said his son has no memory of the play ( http://tinyurl.com/bvbly8t ).  According to the Washington Post, McCoy did not undergo the mandatory Sports Concussion Assessment Tool review until the following morning.  The results of the test were abnormal and the doctors sent McCoy home.

Browns president Mike Holmgren confirmed the fact that McCoy did not undergo concussion-related testing on the sideline during the game, yet defended the reaction of the coaches and medical staff in a press conference on Wednesday, saying that nobody on the sidelines saw the helmet-to-helmet hit. 

"I’ve had guys in my career come out and go, ‘hey, you better check Steve Young, somebody better check him because he’s not coming out right.  None of that happened," Holmgren said.   "Ok, no one alerted anybody to this.  It seems inconceivable that nobody did, so, how do we do this, now so they get the information they need, the doctors?  This is still to be talked about, but to have somebody say something at a proper time."   

My first thought was why didn’t the assistant coaches up in the booth call down to the sideline and inquire about the hit once they realized McCoy was going back in the game after sitting out for less than four minutes?  The coaches have a television feed in the booth and even if the TV was muted, they would’ve seen NFL Network replay the hit over and over again.   Interestingly enough, that was the situation Holmgren himself was in.

"I saw the hit on replay, and I go, ‘okay, that’s not good’ but I’ve also seen hits that… it looks bad, but you know, and off ya go," Holmgren said.  "You really do have to just let the medical people go through their procedures and make the judgement they’re getting paid to make.  I’m telling you, we’ve got good guys.  It didn’t start to show until the locker room, and a good, good time in the locker room, that’s when they really got alerted to it I suppose."

Accidental or not, I thought the NFL should fine the Browns, which would hopefully compel teams to do their due diligence when recognizing and diagnosing head injuries, regardless of how it could affect the outcome of a game. 

Just when I thought fining the Brows was the answer, I read this from an article written by Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com:

"The NFL has a new policy this season where a league observer in the press box can alert a team’s medical staff on the sideline about a concussion (or other injury) the team may have missed. Some players say that isn’t good enough. They want an independent observer with a medical background to look for concussions that were missed or are being hidden by players or ignored by the medical staff."

Holmgren confirmed that the appointed NFL official at the game last Thursday did not speak up or contact the Browns in any way regarding the hit.  Given that information, how could the NFL possibly condemn the team’s inaction when the league’s own representative failed to see the severity of the hit noticed by the NFL Network broadcast crew and subsequently, every viewer? 

Even more disturbing is an attitude expressed by Holmgren in Wednesday’s press conference.  Holmgren said that even if the coaches and medical staff had seen or been alerted to the severity of the hit, because McCoy was on the bench after and not displaying any signs of a concussion at that point, nothing would’ve been done differently.  Well ya see Mike, that is the problem.  That’s why guidelines are set mandating the medical staff to test a player for concussion after a play like whether the player shows “symptoms” of trauma or not.

Freeman’s article addresses that issue as well:

"Said one player, who is also a player representative: ‘The concussion rules are the best they can be. The league and the union have done a good job protecting players, but the truth remains, players are still hiding concussions, because they want to protect their careers. In some cases, teams know a player is concussed and let it go. Yes, that still happens.’  The NFL and players union might soon respond to holes in the policy by placing independent doctors on the sidelines during games, taking the decision out of the hands of the interested parties: the teams and players. But until then, some players will continue to put themselves at risk by doing whatever they can to stay on the field."

Remember what happened to San Diego’s Chris Dielman in October?  The Chargers guard took a hard hit in a game against the New York Jets, stumbling around the field after the play.  The referee even approached Dielman as he couldn’t find his balance, yet the Chargers didn’t take him out of the game.  Dielman did in fact suffer a concussion on the play and ended up having a grand mal seizure on the plane ride back to San Diego ( http://tinyurl.com/7zyz3hg ).

Research has proven that hits taken before the symptoms of a concussion have subsided can be extremely damaging and sometimes fatal.  Second-Impact Syndrome (SIS) has killed several high school football players, as the brain is fragile and still forming in the teenage years.  SIS is a huge reason why the NFL and other athletic governing bodies have created guidelines to test for a concussion immediately following a play.  The goal is to save an injured player from sustaining further damage by letting the athlete continue to play. 

Colt McCoy finished the game after being knocked out.  Chris Dielman finished the game after suffering a concussion.  NHL star Sidney Crosby not only finished one game after receiving a concussion, but was knocked out of the following game four days later before the Pittsburgh Penguins realized the severity of his injury. 

Crosby was forced to sit out for 10 months before returning to the ice this season.  After only eight games, it was recently announced that Crosby will be out indefinitely with concussion-like symptoms. 

While many players are starting to come around in terms of realizing the importance of healing from head injuries ( http://tinyurl.com/7nalxh2 ), many still choose to ignore the evidence pointing to a tragic future that possibly awaits them.    If the story of the NHL’s Derek Boogaard won’t scare someone into taking care of themselves ( http://nyti.ms/vvLrZM ), perhaps nothing will. 

That is exactly the point.  It is the league’s job to save players and coaches from themselves and their perhaps misguided self interests.  While the NBA, NHL and NFL have all taken steps in the right direction by adopting policies to keep players safe, it clearly isn’t enough just yet. 

Click here to read Mike Freeman’s eye-opening story about the NFL’s efforts to curb concussions while many players still try to avoid the polices designed to help them: http://tinyurl.com/7nalxh2

               

From the looks of the pictures above, Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee and Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson have a lot in common.  They wear the same numbers, their team colors are similar, heck, it looks like they could be buddies!  Unfortunately, the chances of these two playing video games, grabbing a cold one together, or doing any other form of male bonding is probably slim.

Apparently Scobee didn’t appreciate Jackson’s taunting the Giants’ sideline during the Philadelphia Eagle’s win in the Meadowlands on Sunday.  Or maybe Scobee didn’t like how Jackson slept through a team meeting, thus being benched in Philly’s game against the Cardinals last weekend.  Perhaps it was the fact that Jackson held out for 11 days of training camp in hopes of getting a new contract in hopes of bringing home a bigger paycheck.

Maybe it was all of the above and then some that inspired this tweet from Scobee (who like Jackson, also wears the number 10) late Sunday evening:

@JoshScobee10: Desean Jackson is a punk. #growuputinybastard

WOW!  Right or wrong, gotta love a placekicker who takes a stand and tweets from the heart. 

The 29-year-old, who has made 15 of 16 field goals this season (including five +50 yarders, three of which came in the Jags win over the Ravens in Week 7) clarified his tweet… kind of:

@JoshScobee10: Relax people. He’s just a punk, which to me means he doesn’t respect anyone or anything around him. Therefore, I don’t respect him.

Ok then!  Scobee sure is fired up about this.  I’m sure word of Sobee’s tweets will eventually get back to Jackson, who at this point, would be wise to refrain from commenting. 

While Jackson’s image might be down in the dumps, he beat Scobee where it counted Sunday, which was in the win column.  The Browns toppled the Jags, dropping Jacksonville to 3-7 (a distant third place in the AFC South) while Jackson and the Eagles managed to squeeze out a victory over the Giants behind Vince Young at quarterback.  The 17-10 win breathed a bit of life back into the Eagles, improving (I’m using that word loosely) their record to 4-6, still leaving them behind the Giants and Cowboys, both at 6-4. 

It’s too bad the Eagles and Jags don’t play each other this season.  Can you imagine the media  talking about the twitter beef between Scobee and Jackson heading into the game?  That would be classic. 

If you needed any further confirmation of the creativity and depth of Bill Belichick’s bag of tricks, here it is, as one of the coach’s old school gimmicks was just revealed.

In a profile piece in the Dayton Daily News, former NFL defensive lineman Chad Eaton explained that Belichick,  who was the Cleveland Browns head coach at the time, secretly paid Eaton to start fights in practice.

According to Eaton, who spent ten seasons in the NFL, “If practice was going slow, he’d look at me and just say, ‘It’s time.’  He wanted me to get on somebody’s [case] and start a little fight.” 

Seriously Bill? HA!  I don’t like fighting, but I see the strategic value.  Belichick must watch hockey because this is right out of the NHL playbook.

Back when Eaton and Belichick made this undercover deal, it was 1995 and Eaton was on the practice squad.  This reminds me of a hockey player who once told me that his coach in Juniors told him that in order to make the team, he’d better learn how to fight.  But don’t feel bad for Eaton, as he told the Dayton Daily News that the arrangement paid off. 

"I was known for that and it paid off on Fridays. There’d always be some extra money in my locker. Practice players don’t make much, so I really appreciated it."

While the Patriots coach often gives you next to nothing as a reporter, there are occasionally those around him who are willing to drop some knowledge about what Bill Belichick does behind the curtain. 



When Jahvid Best went down with yet another concussion, I’m sure Detroit Lions back up running back Jerome Harrison felt ready to seize the opportunity of getting on the field and contributing, as all competitors do.  Surely, Harrison’s spirits took a nose dive when shortly after, he found out he was being traded to the struggling Philadelphia Eagles (where he spent part of last season after being traded from the Browns) for Ronnie Brown.  Little did Harrison know this unwelcome move by the Lions would be a blessing in disguise.

While we don’t know the details yet, a brain tumor is a brain tumor… you don’t want one, no matter what kind it is, and that, unfortunately, is what 28-year-old Harrison, in his sixth NFL season has.  Eagles team doctors found the tumor while giving their new running back a physical exam which nullified the trade.  Now Brown will stay put in Philly and Harrison is having the tumor treated.  Hopefully we will get more information about his exact medical condition soon.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter writes, “The trade might have actually saved Harrison’s life, the sources said. Without the deal being made, Harrison would not have undergone a physical.”

If you have read my previous blog post about head injuries, concussions, depression and player suicide, you can guess where I’m headed here.

For many years, I’ve believed every player on a professional team should undergo three physical (including blood work, body scans) and psychological exams per season.  Once before the season starts, again at mid-season and a third time at the end of the work year. 

While I know my ideal is just that, an ideal (for many reasons such as cost, and teams surviving on “what we don’t know can’t hurt us” in regards to their players), imagine the impact such care could have in terms of both physical and mental health. 

Hank Gathers.  After collapsing during a game in December, 1989, the Loyola Marymount University basketball star was checked out and diagnosed with an exercise-induced abnormal heartbeat and prescribed medication.  Gathers was fortunate to survive that first episode, but we all know how this story ends.  Gathers had reportedly reduced his dosage of medication or perhaps stopped taking it all together because he felt it adversely affected his play on the court.  Just a few months later, he collapsed at a West Coast Conference Tournament game and died shortly after. 

Michigan high school basketball player Wes Leonard wasn’t as lucky as Gathers, never getting that initial second chance at life.  The first collapse, which came after Leonard and his teammates celebrated his game-winning shot, would be his last.  Shortly after his death in March of this year, the medical examiner said the 16-year-old died of cardiac arrest brought on by a condition called dilated cardiomyopathy.  According to an LA Times article by Eryn Brown, “people with dilated cardiomyopathy have enlarged and weakened hearts that cannot pump blood through the body efficiently.  The American Heart Association has advised that children with dilated cardiomyopathy should not play competitive sports ‘because of the possibility of a sudden collapse or increased heart failure.’”

The last sentence suggests that such ailments, like Gathers’ condition, can be diagnosed by a doctor, certainly, before death. 

Unfortunately, the idea of such screenings is a bit of a mixed bag.  Famed Chicago Bears running back Brian Piccolo passed a full physical, including a chest x-ray in July heading into the 1969 football season.  Four months later, the 26-year-old was diagnosed with cancer after a grapefruit-sized tumor was discovered in his chest cavity.  Piccolo died less than a year later.

David Epstein provides more details on the pros and cons of screening athletes in his Sports Illustrated column:

"A study published last year by doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital reported on a program that screened 510 Harvard University athletes. That study identified 11 athletes with heart abnormalities that had not been previously identified, and three of those athletes ultimately had to be restricted from sports…At the same time, about one in every six athletes was given a false positive result that required follow-up, begging the question of whether a mandatory nationwide screening program would be effective from a financial and emotional standpoint, given current diagnostic tools."

Clearly this discussion opens up a massive can of worms and perhaps there is no easy or obvious solution to the problems faced by athletes, athletic institutions and medical providers.  But it’s still a discussion worth having.  Just ask Jerome Harrison. 


Read more of David Epstein’s story about athletes and heart conditions: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/david_epstein/03/08/enlarged.hearts/index.html#ixzz1bLkr1kLY


            
Well this just got  interesting, didn’t it? Browns running back Peyton Hillis  answered questions in front of his locker for nearly 11 minutes on Monday discussing a range of topics, including his future in Cleveland. 

After having a breakout season in 2010, Hillis is in the final year of his contract, making $600,000 and his agent and the team have not been able to work out a contract extension at this point. 

Hillis is taking some heat for sitting out of the Browns’ third game of the season against the Miami Dolphins on September 25 with strep throat.  He’s not being criticized for not playing sick, but some think strep throat was a cover, using the missed game as a form of protest against management. 

Hillis didn’t do himself any favors by saying that he would’ve played sick, but decided to sit out after his newly hired agent Kennard McGuire convinced him otherwise, opening the door to speculation. 

Doing a bit of backtracking/damage control, Hillis tweeted, “if I could have physically played against the Dolphins I would have. I love this city and hope to retire here.”  Hope to retire there?  Cleveland?  After only one season?  That has to be a first.

Regarding his agent’s role in taking a sick day, Hillis said in Monday’s media session, “It was his recommendation, but it was ultimately my choice in the end.  We both knew how sick I was and how bad it could be for the team and for myself if I had tried to play”

Strep Throat is no joke, so it was his responsibility to stay away from his teammates and get better.  In fact, the team doctors should have forced him to stay home, although an argument can be made that one isn’t contagious after 24 hours on antibiotics (can you tell I’ve had strep before?).  Where Hillis went wrong was publicly admitting that he would’ve played had his agent not intervened.  The reason isn’t important because all people will hear and see is that his agent pushed him to sit.  Most won’t bother to find out why. 

From the Browns perspective, I can see why they are dragging their feet on signing Hillis to an extension.  Barring any Browns managerial history (can’t say I’m well versed in Cleveland’s front office moves of yesteryear), it looks like they are playing it safe.  Although Michael Vick has a much longer and impressive track record than Hillis, look what happened in Philly.  Vick comes back from prison, has a once in a lifetime season, the Eagles sign him to a 5-year, $80 million contract, and as of now (in the short term), that gamble hasn’t paid off, as Vick is taking a pounding every game and the Eagles are 1-4. 

While Vick had proved himself over a long period of time prior to the Eagles coughing up the mega contract, the Browns have a lot less to go on with Hillis.  Yes, he was an absolute maniac last season, playing all 16 games racking up 1,777 yards rushing, 477 yards receiving, 13 TDs and throwing plenty of nasty blocks on defenders.  Hillis was wonderful and made Browns gams worth the price of admission. 

But you have to consider what came before what might have been an anomaly last season.   Remember how Hillis landed in Cleveland?  He was a recently promoted running back (from fullback) that Denver traded to the Browns, along with two draft picks, in exchange for Brady Quinn back in March 2010. 

On Monday, Hillis said of his contract situation (or lack thereof) with the Browns,  “Whenever something’s not set in stone, then I guess anything is possible, which means your career’s not here. So, yeah, that definitely worries me.”  Career uncertainty stinks, you can’t blame him there.   

Back to Hillis’ career, pre-Cleveland.  2008, rookie season: 12 games, 343 rush yards on 68 carries. 2009, sophomore season: 14 games, 54 rush yards on 13 attempts.  These low numbers involve a variety of explanations, such as playing fullback, injuries, and issues with Broncos then-head coach Josh McDaniels.  None of that changes the fact that the majority of Hillis’ career doesn’t come close to matching his production last season. 

In three games thus far, Hillis is averaging 3.6 yards per carry, running the rock 54 times for 197 yards.  Fair or foul, strep throat or not, I’m guessing the Browns are waiting to see if last season will, in fact, only come once in a lifetime. 

If you read my last post, you know the Cleveland Browns had some problems en route to Indianapolis to face the Colts… the team plane got stuck in the mud.  After more than three hours of troubleshooting, the guys are finally in the air.  Here are some final tweets before take off.

@jordaNorwood: New plane! Guess they’re bout to take care Of us on here http://t.co/HOuCnZbl

@BossWard43: This is crazy…but its been jokes waiting on this plane. @JoshCribbs16 @joehaden23 @GoHam59 @PhilTaylor98 are comedy on this Booray.

@JoshCribbs16: We are now on a super small plane 3 to a ro, cranky, & irritated… Somebody gotta pay!!! Indy we coming 4u!

@jordaNorwood: Slow-clap going for take off. Holler at you all from Indy.

Gotta love the “Slow-clap” LOLOL.  Yes, I actually laughed out loud when I read that one.  Hopefully the guys have a safe and relaxing flight after that ordeal.  By the way, many of the guys tweeted about the Mayweather/Ortiz fight as they waited around, and it seems like they all have their money on Money May.  Fingers crossed that this little detour won’t jack up their schedule to the point where the guys won’t be able to watch the fight. 

The Cleveland Browns are stuck in the mud.  Literally.  Thanks to various Browns players tweeting from the team plane, we’ve learned that the guys are having a tough time merely getting to Indianapolis to take on the Colts tomorrow at 1pm est. 

Here’s the play-by-play, in chronological order, via twitter.

@C_Mitch18: Soooo this week our Plane is Stuck in the grass -_- #ReallyDude? http://t.co/iSevQlZY

@jordaNorwood: **looks out the window** i think ur right RT @C_Mitch18: So this week our Plane is Stuck in the grass -_- #ReallyDude? http://t.co/HKXQgG8h

@MoMass11: 3 weeks in a row RT @C_Mitch18: Soooo this week our Plane is Stuck in the grass

@JoshCribbs16: We’re stuck on the runway in Cleveland, hope we make it 2 Indy… Lets hope 4the best..(side note) any browns fans have an extra jumbo jet?

@joehaden23: Ding this is your captain speaking “we are stuck in mud” thank u! #what??

1 hour later…

@JoshCribbs16: They pulled us out the mud & now checking making sure we good 2go!! It’s all good guys are a lil nervous but we good!!

@jordaNorwood: Just woke up from a nap. I thought we landed… We haven’t taken off yet.

 (watching Michigan St/Notre Dame on the plane…) @BigHomie4real: How the hell the ref didn’t see the dam holding!!

@C_Mitch18: Waiting….Waiting…

@C_Mitch18: DePlane…. AGAIN! -_- smh switching planes

@JoshCribbs16: I guess we’re getting off the plane headed to the terminal… We gonna be all standing on the turnpike with our thumbs out!! Lol

@C_Mitch18: Lol you good? @str8upglittle http://t.co/oRI2yHbp

@C_Mitch18: When I was 14 I had a Huffy Bike with one pedal ….I could ride through Grass and all with no prob…and I Never got stuck 0_O #JustSayin

2 hours later…

usama_young28: Nap on hold… Gotta make sure this plane is right. I’ll b back. Gotta get my tools

ANNND SCENE.  As if the Browns don’t have enough to deal with.  But hey, at least the guys are safe and have a sense of humor about the situation.