Pasquarelli's Friday Tip Sheet

The Sports Xchange discusses the impact of Reggie Bush in Miami, potential landing spots for coach Jeff Fisher, Michael Turner's fading production, Josh Freeman in Tampa and more.

For all his perceived foibles, a four-season record of 29-33 that earned Tony Sparano a pink slip after 13 games this season, Miami Dolphins tailback Reggie Bush is grateful to the deposed head coach for one significant thing.

"The man," Bush told The Sports Xchange, "kept his word to me."

Acquired from New Orleans in July, after five seasons in which he failed to live up to the glitz and hype that accompanied his status as the second overall selection in the 2006 draft, and where he had become just another component in head coach Sean Payton's tailback-by-committee approach, Bush was perceived by many as simply an insurance policy for rookie Daniel Thomas. The former Kansas State standout, many felt, would be the starter in a revamped Dolphins' running game.

Five months later, the insurance policy has matured, and then some.

Miami will miss the playoffs for a third straight season, but Bush has paid handsome dividends that it seems only the departed Sparano envisioned. Shortly after the deal that brought Bush to Miami, Sparano proclaimed that the six-year veteran, despite never having carried more than 157 times in a season, or rushed for more than 581 yards, could be an every-down back.

The skeptics chuckled. But the endorsement was music to the ears of Bush, who always felt he was more than simply a situational, part-time player.

Said Bush, who had rebuffed attempts to keep him in New Orleans on a contract that would have reduced his scheduled $11.8 million haul there, and rolled the dice that another franchise would be interested in him: "I knew I believed in myself, and it was good to have someone else believe in me, too."

That was not designed as a slam at Payton, who hasn't had a 1,000-yard rusher since his first season on the job in '06 (Deuce McAllister), and who had seemingly defined a well-crafted role for Bush's talents. But for the Saints, Bush, who was clearly a fan favorite during his five-season tenure in New Orleans, was always going to be a man, not The Man. He filled a certain niche, primarily as a third-down back and a player who created matchup nightmares for defenses, because of his ability to play out in space. But he was an expensive role-player, too, and the Saints couldn't afford to keep the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner and former Southern Cal star under the conditions of the rookie contract he had already reworked once.

Before the Saints likely would have released Bush, the Dolphins acquired him in the trade. The deal has been a windfall for both sides. The onetime Hollywood glamour boy, who once dated Kim Kardashian, and whose career sort of languished on the Gulf Coast, has found a home in South Beach.

Before his dismissal last month, Sparano characterized Bush as "everything we felt like we were getting ... and then some." And Bush, 26, conceded this week that he "finally feels like I can do the things I want to do."

Back in the summer of 2007, at training camp for his second season with the Saints, Bush told this reporter that he was confident that, despite the perceptions, he could be an every-down back. He cited a game from his rookie campaign, one in which he had carried 20 times for 126 yards in a Christmas Eve victory against the New York Giants. "That game," Bush said last week, "was no fluke. This (year) proves it."

Even if he isn't able to play in Sunday's season finale because of the knee and leg injuries that forced him out of last week's loss to New England, Bush has defied the skeptics by rushing for 1,086 yards. Not only does it represent his first 1,000-yard season, but Bush has also posted a career-best 216 rushing attempts. His 5.03-yard average is the best in the league among backs with 200 or more carries.

Maybe he isn't quite a workhorse, but Bush is closer to being the thoroughbred that many felt he would be than the glue-factory nag some had labeled a five-year stint in New Orleans in which he didn't quite fulfill the billing with which he arrived.

Before this season, Bush had just two games in which he carried 20 times or more. The effort against the Giants in '06 was his lone 100-yard game. This season, he has carried 20-plus time in three of the last four outings, and has strung together four consecutive 100-yard performances, including a 203-yard game against Buffalo on Dec. 18. That game included a career-best 76-yard run for a touchdown.

"The long run (aside), he looked like a back who could hit it up in there," Bills end Chris Kelsay said. "He was tougher than people thought he might be."

In fact, Bush takes some pride in the fact the 76-yard burst against Buffalo is his lone rush for more than 40 yards this season. He has just seven runs of 20 yards or more, just the 11th-most in the league. While Bush retains his "long speed," and the ability to break into a secondary and out-race all the defenders, he fact he hasn't had many long runs in 2011 is testimony to his every-down capabilities. Certainly over the second half of the season, when his numbers have increased dramatically -- Bush averaged 11.0 attempts and 53.4 yards the first eight games, and 18.3 rushes and 94.1 yards in the past seven contests -- he has demonstrated his potential to take on an every-down workload.

And he has done so without much dropoff at all from his all-around skills. Bush has 43 receptions for 296 yards and one touchdown. That's not far off the 44.3 catches that he averaged the past three seasons. Bush caught 161 balls his first two years in the NFL, but the development of the New Orleans passing game rendered those kinds of numbers probably unattainable again.

He remains an accomplished receiver, and a tough draw for the linebackers and safeties who have to attempt to check him, but Bush is still a runner at heart. And this season has done his heart well. If he could project his numbers over the past seven games to a full year, it would equate to a 1,500-yard season, a threshold he feels is within reach someday.

"I always felt this could be me if I got the chance," Bush said. "I'm still a young guy, and there's a lot more to come." He told that he viewed 2011 as "just the tip of the iceberg."

Even some of his former New Orleans colleagues agree. Payton acknowledged on Monday night that he was "thrilled" for Bush. A Saints executive said that, even with the trade, Bush remained one of his "favorite people." Tailback Chris Ivory, part of the four-headed group used by Payton this season, said that Bush was "just living up to what he always thought he could be."

Noted one Saints offensive lineman: "This has (validated) him. I hope he keeps it up. I loved the guy, but maybe this is the best thing for him, huh?"

Bush won't disagree.

"This is just the beginning," he said.



Of all the currently out-of-the-league former head coaches, Jeff Fisher is the man expected to elicit the most attention by franchises seeking to hire new sideline bosses, according to an informal survey by The Sports Xchange of 11 NFL owners or general managers.

"Everyone else has some sort of question mark over him," one general manager said. "Jeff has sent pretty strong signals through his people (principally agent Marvin Demoff) that he wants back in. If he wants them, he can probably have some options."

As reported previously, Miami owner Stephen Ross is said to be ready to pursue a big name, and while Fisher may not have quite the cache as Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden, he qualifies as a big name. And it's been noted that Demoff's son, Kevin, is the executive director of football operations (read: negotiations and salary cap expert) in St. Louis. There are even some rumblings that Fisher could attract attention in San Diego.

No matter where Fisher winds up, the strong consensus is that he will return to the NFL in 2012 after his one-year hiatus from the game.

Breesway New Orleans officials reiterated to The Sports Xchange this week that negotiations toward a contract extension with quarterback Drew Brees will not resume until the Saints' season concludes. That means that, even if the Saints somehow gain a first-round playoff bye and have a week off, there will be no formal talks, according to the officials. Ditto if New Orleans win the NFC title and has a "dark week" before Super Bowl XLVI.

"The mutual understanding," one official said, "is that when we pack away the equipment for good, and all's said and done, we'll start things up again."

Another club executive said there is "no way" that Brees will ever get onto the unrestricted market, meaning the Saints are prepared to use the franchise tag if necessary.

"But we don't think it will get to that," he said. "We're pretty optimistic we'll get it done."


Although there has been no directive from the commissioners of either league, a Northeastern concussion expert who has treated players in both sports told The Sports Xchange this week that team doctors from the NFL and the NHL have unofficially been sharing some information for the last few months.

Said the expert: "Most of it is anecdotal stuff. I mean, we're not quite apples and apples, I suppose, in the sports, but we're in the same orchard."

According to the doctor, the information swap between team physicians "maybe has some chance" of becoming more formalized in coming months.

Pack the bags, Spags

There is plenty to like about Steve Spagnuolo, as many of his players will attest, but a coach is measured on wins, and he simply hasn't had enough victories in his three seasons in St. Louis. In fact, win or lose at home against San Francisco on Sunday afternoon, Spagnuolo will have registered one of the worst tenures since the 1970 merger for any coach who was with a franchise for one stretch of 40 games or more.

And, actually, Spagnuolo's record could be historically bad. Spagnuolo currently stands at 10-37, a winning mark of just .213 percent. A victory over the 49ers nudges him to .229, while a loss would drop Spagnuolo to .208. A defeat would tie Spagnuolo with Rod Marinelli (Detroit, 2006-2008), for the poorest record for coaches in the 40 games-or-more category.

Since '70, there have been just nine other coaches who lasted 40 or more games with a team in one stint and who had winning percentages of less than .300. The list: Marinelli, .208; Dick LeBeau (Cincinnati, 2000-2002), .267: David Shula (Cincinnati, 1992-96), .267; Abe Gibron (Chicago, 1972-74), .274; Dom Capers (Houston, 2002-2005), .281; Frank Kush (Baltimore Colts/Indianapolis, 1982-84), .287; Mike Riley (San Diego, 1999-2001), .292; Tom Flores (Seattle, 1992-94), .292: and Dave McGinnis (Arizona, 2000-2003), .298.

You too, Raheem

By all accounts, Tampa Bay's Raheem Morris is a good guy, a coach who is energetic and outspoken and liked by his players. But that probably is not enough to save him, and the nine-game losing streak the Bucs take into the Sunday season finale at Atlanta is only part of the problem.

Bucs ownership feels the team is a sloppy one, undisciplined on the field, and points to the fact Tampa Bay is tied for the NFL lead in turnovers (36), second worst in turnover differential (minus-14), third worst in penalties (121), and in the top 10 in dropped passes. Those elements all point to lapses in concentration and fundamentals, and those things tend to fall on the coach.

So, while Morris was on-target this week in noting that it's hard to go from a coach of the year candidate one season (as he was in 2010), to fired the next, the pink-slip is still almost certain to come, perhaps as early as Monday.

Beyond the team's performance, the Bucs have essentially become irrelevant in their own city, with fans avoiding Raymond James Stadium in droves, and that won't help Morris' cause. There is some feeling that general manager Mark Dominik, who has emphasized building through the draft and staying away from the kind of outrageous free agent deals that have handcuffed the Bucs in the past, will come under scrutiny as well. There are no indications, though, that Dominik -- whose reliance on young players may have left Tampa Bay shy of veteran leadership -- will be ousted.

Still, stay tuned, because next week could be a busy one in Tampa. One other sense about the Bucs: The team's 10-win season in 2010 -- only two other clubs since 2002 had won three or fewer games one year and 10 or more the next -- might have actually been the worst thing that could have happened. The spurt perhaps caused Dominik and Morris to overvalue the Bucs' talent base and, it unwittingly accelerated the perceptions of the rebuilding process, and certainly raised the expectation level.

Turner doing slow burn(out)?

Some of the numbers suggest that Michael "The Burner" Turner is still a very viable No. 1 tailback for the Atlanta Falcons. The eight-year veteran has cracked the 1,000-yard mark again, the third time in four seasons since he became a starter for the Falcons in 2008, and his lone season with fewer than 1,000 yards in Atlanta was in '09, when he played in only 11 games because of an injury.

Turner has as many 20-yard rushes this season (nine) as he did in each of the previous two campaigns and his three runs of 40 or more yards is a career best. His five 100-yard games aren't far off his average (six) in his first three seasons for the Falcons. Turner's average yards per carry (4.11) is, albeit marginally, better than last season (4.10).

But the numbers notwithstanding, Turner doesn't quite measure up in the "eyeball test" as much as he used to. Some pro scouts who either witnessed firsthand the Falcons' loss at New Orleans on Monday night, or who have reviewed the game via videotape agree that Turner perhaps looks a step slower than in previous seasons, especially on cutback attempts.

"When he brings it way back (against the grain), the explosion doesn't seem to be there," assessed an NFC scout in discussing Turner with The Sports Xchange. "It looks like he has some room cutting it back, but it closes up quickly. And it's not just about the speed of the defense."

Said another: "There are just times he seems slow getting out of the backfield."

For all the stats that point to Turner still being a top-shelf runner, there are, indeed, a few red flags. He has gone five straight games with an average under 4.0 yards per carry; his average over that stretch is just 3.33 yards. And he hasn't rushed for 100 yards in five consecutive games, his longest such streak since signing with Atlanta as a free agent in 2008. In the last five games, 31 of his 84 rushes have gone for one yard or less. Turner's longest run the past five weeks was for 16 yards, that after registering at least one attempt for 20 yards or more in four of the previous five outings.

Over the past two seasons, Turner is averaging 4.11 yards per rush, after averaging 4.64 yards in 2008-2009. Some team officials point to the loss of Pro Bowl-caliber fullback and lead-blocker Ovie Mughelli to injury, but Mike Cox seems to have developed nicely as a replacement.

And there is this: While many people don't realize it, perhaps because he didn't become a starter until his fifth season in the league, having served as LaDainian Tomlinson's caddy in San Diego for his first four campaigns, Turner will be 30 in February. Historically, that has been a dread age for running backs.

The upshot: Turner, who has averaged 20.2 carries per start since the beginning of 2008, probably still has a few more productive seasons in him for the Falcons. But the franchise will doubtless have to begin to consider its tailback options in the next couple years.

Standing by their man

In the offseason, Tampa Bay officials suggested to The Sports Xchange that they would not trade quarterback Josh Freeman for any player in the league. And they were dead serious.

Give credit to team officials, who may not deserve kudos for much in this disastrous season, for this much: Despite a terrible campaign, one in which he is tied for the NFL lead in interceptions, and has made some questionable decisions, Bucs executives are standing by their man.

Recently, they reiterated their assertions about Freeman, even though the consensus around the league is that the three-year veteran has regressed as the team has crumbled around him and enters the season finale at the Georgia Dome having lost nine straight games.

Freeman is near the bottom of the league among starters in passer rating and yards per attempt, but the Bucs still believe in him. The lockout, they point out, affected players in different ways, and they feel the lack of minicamps and OTAs really had a negative bearing on Freeman's progression. Freeman also has played behind a dubious offensive line, and his young wide receivers have not made the strides the Bucs thought they would.

That's especially true of second-year veteran Mike Williams, who has been unreliable, and has dropped more than his share of passes. Williams will probably end up with more catches than a year ago -- he is only one shy of his 65-reception total from 2010 -- but his numbers are way down in other areas. Williams averaged 14.8 yards per catch last season and had 11 touchdowns. This year, his average is 11.6 yards, and he has only three touchdowns.

The feeling among Tampa Bay executives is that Freeman, the team's first-round pick in 2008, remains the face of the franchise and the building block around which the team must assemble a foundation.

Super Mario

Given that six-year veteran Mario Williams is coming off a pectoral tear that landed him on injured reserve after only five games, and that the former top overall pick (2006) is eligible for unrestricted free agency in the spring, Houston officials face a decision on his future. The feeling, though, is that the Texans will retain Williams, even if it means designating him a franchise player.

Williams will be only 27 in January and, while most pro evaluators still feel he is better suited to playing end in a 4-3, the former North Carolina State standout demonstrated in the first five games before his injury that he could adapt well enough to linebacker in coordinator Wade Phillips' 3-4 front.

Is he the perfect fit? No.

"But," Phillips told The Sports Xchange early in the year, "he's got everything it takes to make the switch. He's really picked it up well."

Williams had five sacks in five games and Phillips was excited by his potential as a hybrid linebacker-end. In Williams' absence, Houston has developed some really good outside people like end J.J. Watt, and rush 'backers Connor Barwin (11.5 sacks) and rookie Brooks Reed (six sacks), and Brian Cushing has made a superb transition from strong-side linebacker to inside linebacker.

But the feeling in the Texans' front office and on the coaching staff is that Williams makes those pieces even better, and that he can't be allowed to depart.

Long division

If Cincinnati upsets Baltimore at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday, and squeezes into the playoffs as a wild card, the AFC North will have three entries in the postseason. That will represent just the fourth time since the '02 realignment that one division produced three playoff clubs. The other times: The NFC East in both 2006 (Eagles, Cowboys, Giants) and 2007 (Cowboys, Giants, Redskins), and the AFC South in 2007 (Colts, Jaguars, Titans).

Short division(s)

Last week, we noted in this space that the NFC East is going to produce its first champion with fewer than 10 victories, either the New York Giants or Dallas, since the '70 merger. Well, the AFC West will have a champ with fewer than double-digit wins as well, Oakland or Denver, although the division had a similar situation as recently as 2008, when San Diego took the crown with an 8-8 mark.

This will be just the second time, however, since the 2002 realignment, that a pair of division winners will have fewer than 10 wins. In 2008, besides the Chargers, the NFC West champion Cardinals were 9-7. Since 1970, the feat occurred only one other time, in 1989, when Buffalo was 9-7 in the AFC East and Cleveland was 9-6-1 in the AFC Central.

Against the wind

Yeah, we're fans of the great Bob Seger, but he and one of his most famous hits probably will have little to do with the outcome of this weekend's games. But in a note from The Weather Channel, passed along by The Sports Xchange colleague Jeff Reynolds, the weather, and particularly high winds, could have some impact Sunday on a few key matchups.

A "strong area of low pressure," according to The Weather Channel, is slated to move into portions of the Midwest on Sunday, and could especially affect important contests at Green Bay, Cincinnati and Cleveland. Winds will be particularly gusty, as strong as 20-25 mph at Cleveland and Cincinnati, and could influence the passing and kicking games.

Not surprisingly, the winds and temperatures at Lambeau Field could be dicey. All three games carry some degree of playoff implications.


--Except for a few occasions, like the silly and misguided attempt to expand the season to 18 games, we have agreed with most of the decisions made by commissioner Roger Goodell and with his initiatives. But the mandate by Goodell that all 16 games for the final weekend of the regular season be intraconference matchups was a flat-out masterstroke. Of the 16 games on Sunday, 14 will have some sort of impact on the playoffs or on postseason seeding, or on who owns the top overall pick in the draft. Those contests will affect the fortunes of 15 franchises, nearly half the league.

--With a pair of sacks Sunday, Dallas linebacker DeMarcus Ware will not only hit the 100 mark for his seven-season career, but will become the first player to record two 20-sack campaigns since the league recognized sacks as an official statistic in 1982. Ware led the NFL with 20 sacks in 2008. The only season in which he failed to post double-digit sacks was his 2005 rookie campaign, when he notched eight.

--Baltimore wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who underwent knee cartilage surgery last week, is said to be making a solid recovery, and the team seems to have no fears now about him being ready for the playoffs.

--Following up from last week: Barring a tie in either the Cowboys-Giants or the Eagles-Redskins games on Sunday, the NFC East will finish with 30 cumulative victories, the division's smallest win total since the realignment. A tie, obviously, would mean even fewer wins.

--If Oakland fails to earn a playoff berth, Raiders officials will start interviewing players as early as Monday about the direction of the franchise. Granted, such postseason "exit interviews" are common in the NFL, but the Raiders plan to be even more in-depth than usual. In fact, one of the former NFL executives who has consulted intermittently of late with Oakland officials in recent weeks could even be on-site for the interview sessions.

--The NFC won the season series with the AFC, 33-31, for the first time since 1995, when the conference claimed a 33-27 edge. The conferences tied in the series in 2000, 2001, and 2007.

--How quickly can fortunes change in the NFL? Only two years ago, linebacker Derrick Johnson was benched by Kansas City, and the Chiefs dangled the former first-round pick in trade talks. This week, Johnson, who's finally found a niche as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 front, was chosen for the Pro Bowl.

--Notwithstanding his contentions that Sunday could be his last game, people close to Tomlinson say that the 11-year veteran wants to play again in 2012. Those same people, though, allow it won't be with the Jets.

--Condolences to former NFL linebacker Chris Draft, a 12-year veteran who played five seasons in Atlanta (2000-2004), and who was always a class act with the media. Draft's wife, LaKeasha, passed away earlier this week after battling cancer.

--At least four franchises, including Chicago, inquired this season about Marc Bulger, his representatives tell The Sports Xchange. But Bulger was adamant that he is retired for good, at age 34.

--It's been a pet peeve of ours for a long time but, in a week when everyone is pontificating about perceived Pro Bowl "snubs," we'll repeat it: How about an entire position being overlooked? All six of the offensive tackles chosen for the Pro Bowl are left tackles. There's not a right tackle among the sextet of Joe Thomas, Jake Long, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Jason Peters, Joe Staley, or Jermon Bushrod. It's like the position, which entails a different skills-set than left tackle, doesn't exist.

--Not to come off as too Pittsburgh-paranoid or anything, but you think the game officials in the Pittsburgh-Cleveland rematch on Sunday will be paying particular attention to Steelers' weak-side linebacker James Harrison?

--Assuming coach Mike McCarthy yanks his starter at some point in the second half of Sunday's game, the contest could be an audition of sorts for Green Bay backup quarterback Matt Flynn. The four-year veteran will be an unrestricted free agent in the spring and, at age 26, is projected by some scouts to be the best passer available. Some people are surprised that the Packers got no trade inquiries about Flynn, a onetime seventh-round draft choice, last summer.

--On the subject of Packers' quarterbacks, don't discount Green Bay quarterbacks coach Tom Clements as a viable candidate at Penn State. Despite the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the school is holding together its recruiting class pretty well, and seems more focused on getting the right guy to succeed the legendary Joe Paterno than on rushing a decision. That could mean the Nittany Lions are willing to wait until Clements completes the season, which may not come until after the Super Bowl.

--New Orleans wide receiver Marques Colston, a former seventh-round pick who is making $3 million in base salary this season and is probably headed to unrestricted free agency, credits tight end Jimmy Graham with showing him some "post-up" techniques for shielding off defensive backs. Likewise, Graham, who needs 78 yards on Sunday to set a new record for receiving yards by a tight end in a season, told The Sports Xchange that Colston has been a "tremendous (tutor)" for improving his route-running. "It's been a mutual admiration society," Colston said.

--Despite league efforts to insulate the players at the position, 21 of the top 22 players in fumbles through the first 16 weeks of the season are quarterbacks. And quarterbacks hold down the top 13 spots in terms of fumbles lost.

--Because he has been such a warrior and team leader for Indianapolis for nine seasons, it's hard to imagine Gary Brackett and the Colts parting ways. But there are rumors, given the strong play this season by second-year veteran Pat Angerer at middle linebacker the team could release Brackett in the offseason. Because of a shoulder injury, Brackett, who will be 32 before next season, played in just one game in 2011. And he is due a $5 million base salary in '12, with a salary cap number of about $7.4 million on the five-year, $33 million extension that he signed in 2010.

--Green Bay officials may take one more run at a contract extension for Pro Bowl center Scott Wells before the Saturday deadline for being able to use the 2011 season for bonus proration purposes.

--Who'd have thought that when agent Drew Rosenhaus proclaimed back in November that, despite the fact zero teams were represented at Terrell Owens' workout, at least one club was "very interested" in signing the wide receiver, he meant an arena football franchise. Owens joins "retired" tailback Tiki Barber, and to a lesser extent offensive lineman Chester Pitts, as players whose agent/mouthpieces strongly suggested would be back in the league in 2011, but who aren't.

--Once ranked as high as second in the league in defense versus the run, Atlanta has fallen off to No. 8, after surrendering an average of 149.8 rushing yards the past four games and 5.5 yards per attempt. One big reason is that opposition guards and centers have been getting into middle linebacker Curtis Lofton too easily, and the noted tackling machine has found it more difficult to get off blocks. New Orleans' Pro Bowl guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks mashed Lofton too many times last Monday night. Lofton faces another Pro Bowl guard, Tampa Bay's Davin Joseph on Sunday, and he needs his tackles to better protect him.

--Update on the league's quarterback count entering the final weekend: There have been 54 different starters and 31 "switches" so far. At the same point in 2010, there had been 60 starters and 55 "switches."

--Given the kind of season Andy Lee has had in San Francisco, it's tough to argue with his selection as the punter on the NFC Pro Bowl team. But the New Orleans people are touting Thomas Morstead, and deservedly do. Morstead is sixth in the league in gross average (48.0 yards), second in net average (43.1 yards), has only three touchbacks versus 13 punts inside the 20-yard line, and is a monster on kickoffs. Aided by the rules change that moved the kickoff point to the 35-yard line this year, Morstead has shattered Billy Cundiff's record for touchbacks, with a mind-boggling 62. "He's a weapon," Atlanta return ace Eric Weems told The Sports Xchange last week. "He makes life frustrating for us (return) guys."

The last word: "You know (that) playing football, you're going to get hurt, right? In the back of your mind, you've got to know that the worst thing that can happen is you can break your neck and be paralyzed for the rest of your life, right? You have to go into every game knowing that could be what happens. (On) any given play, that could happen to you, right? So there it is. When you sign these deals, you know in the back of your mind that's what could happen. Now, basketball, on the other hand, it's a different sport. Race car driving, you know that when you get in that car, there can be an opportunity for that thing to flip over and catch on fire. You see what I'm saying? It's an occupational hazard, simple as that, and you have to be willing to accept it, and I am." -- Jacksonville tailback Maurice Jones-Drew, who recently said in a poll by The Associated Press that he would hide a concussion to keep playing, on head injuries.

Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008.

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