1. Five quick thoughts on Zeke, the Kettle Bell and NFL charity.
First, I thought Ezekiel Elliott tossing himself into the Salvation Army Kettle Bell last weekend vs. Tampa Bay was just wonderful. It was a throwback to my time watching the NFL as a child when you could have joyous end zone celebrations, though this one wasn’t nearly as theatric as say Butch Johnson’s “California Quake” or the receivers for the Washington Redskins and their “Fun Bunch.” Heck, I can even live with Terrell Owens’ Sharpie if they can just let these guys have just a bit of fun. And it’s even better when the fun leads to something good for others.
In fact, the Salvation Army noted that donations spiked by 61 percent in the hours after Zeke’s jump into the Kettle Bell. So it’s going to be a good Christmas for more people out there.
Second, despite that, Zeke did break the rules. You’re not supposed to use props. The Kettle Bell is, obviously, a prop. Head coach Jason Garrett wasn’t amused, either, saying “(Elliott) shouldn’t have done that.” Garrett was probably more worried about injury than the fine (Zeke did check to make sure there was nothing in it during pre-game warmups). And, Zeke wasn’t fined. Frankly, by the letter of NFL rule, he should have been fined.
Third, that’s why players like Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell and the New York Giants Odell Beckham Jr. are right to point out a double standard. In fact, ODB has a HUGE point when you consider that he wore Craig Sager-themed cleats to raise money for cancer research and he says he was fined $18,000. And this happened the same weekend Zeke hopped in the Kettle Bell.
I can see the NFL getting huffy about their uniform code if ODB wore, say, a Sager-themed turtleneck with sleeves. But shoes? C’mon. He wasn’t promoting anything. He was raising money for CANCER RESEARCH. Must he go through the proper channels and sign a half-a-dozen releases, to support others?
Fourth, the NFL is starting to get a little smarter about this. Earlier this month, if you recall, the NFL allowed players to wear charity-themed cleats during one game to support their cause (here were the cleats Cowboys tight end Jason Witten wore):
Plus, next year the NFL is going to allow players to support whatever cancer charity they want during the month of October, instead of just restricting the league’s and the players’ support to breast cancer charities. These are both good things, but it’s incomprehensible to me how long it takes the NFL to get there when it comes to these sorts of things. They’re about as reactionary as a sloth — except when rules are broken. Unless the NFL won’t enforce that rule on that given day. The NFL’s inability to consistently punish a player or a team for ANYTHING is completely absurd. Zeke gets nothing. ODB gets an $18K fine. And they did practically the same thing. I didn’t want to see Zeke get fined. But if you have a rule and it’s clear it was broken — and he did break it — then you must apply the punishment.
Fifth, NFL ratings are down across the board this year. I believe some of that was due to this vicious presidential election cycle. But I also think fans are getting a little turned off by the “No Fun League” reputation the league has cultivated the last several years. It’s time for the league to give the players a little rope and allow a little more freedom in end zone celebrations. If soccer players can rip off their shirts after scoring one goal and take TWO MINUTES to celebrate surely we can let a few guys dance a jig in the end zone for 20 seconds? The NFL also needs to give players more freedom to choose footwear, especially if it supports a charitable cause. These guys have an incredible platform to raise money on a consistent basis. Imagine 16 weeks of Sager Strong cleats, with ODB auctioning them off every week? Or the money Zeke could raise for the Salvation Army from September to December? This league takes in billions. It’s a perfect way for the league and its players to insert a little social awareness each week without beating people over the head with it.
I mean just look at Zeke and the Salvation Army. One hop in a life-sized Kettle Bell and the Salvation Army has $200,000 more than it had a week ago. And counting.
2. I have no expectations for Randy Gregory this weekend. The guy hasn’t played in nearly a year and I don’t see him playing more than 20-25 snaps, assuming he plays (all indications are he will, but you never know). Gregory’s eligibility to play comes at a good and bad time for the Cowboys. As we first reported, DeMarcus Lawrence is hurt and could miss the rest of the regular season. So having Gregory there to take his place in the rotation is nice timing. But how long will Gregory need to shake off the rust and, in doing so, does that make him a short-term liability? I’m betting it does this Monday night.
3. Wess Moore of Fox Sports Radio in Arkansas and I talked Cowboys-Buccaneers earlier this week. We talked about Dak Prescott’s bounce back game and got the audience ready for the Monday Night game with Detroit.
I appear with Wess after every Cowboys game. Listen in at foxsportsarkansas.com if you don’t live there.
4. Ezekiel Elliott continues the fine tradition of running backs taking care of their offensive linemen at Christmastime.
Elliott, the league’s leading rusher, gave each lineman a John Deere ATV for Christmas.
Remember the days when Emmitt Smith gave each of his linemen a Rolex? Times have changed.
Oh, and it looks like Dak and Zeke got involved in more gift-giving ...
6. Need to get ready for this Monday’s game with the Lions? Let me help. Here are links to all our stories from the game:
7. Here are my three keys to victory on Monday night for the Dallas Cowboys:
Don’t give an inch in pass protection. The Lions are one of the worst pass-rushing teams in the NFL right now (yep, they’re even worse than Dallas). The Lions have just 24 sacks, good for No. 29 in the NFL. Theoretically that means Dak Prescott should have a consistent pocket all night. But this offensive line, as good as it’s been this season, has committed some bad penalties at key moments the past few games and given up nine sacks in the last three games. This isn’t the time for the Cowboys’ offensive line to give the Lions’ front four something to feel good about.
Stick with the plan. I believe that part of the reason the Cowboys lost to the Giants two weeks ago was they just got away from their game plan a bit too much. Sunday’s game with Tampa Bay was more like it — solid running on first down and short-to-intermediate passing on second and third down, when needed. Don’t let the Lions suck you in to doing anything different.
Keep creating turnovers. The Cowboys have created eight turnovers in their last three games, and this came after the Cowboys generated no turnovers in four straight games. Turnovers are critical in the regular season and they loom even larger in the postseason. With the Cowboys starting at a first-round bye, keeping the momentum moving in this department is critical. The Lions will be a tough nut to crack. They’ve committed just 12 turnovers so far this year, but four have come in the last two games.
8. It’s our Tweet of the Week:
Well you knew that was coming.
9. This week’s great moments in headline porn: “Man Killed Mom for Gloating about Dallas Cowboys victory, Police say” from foxnews.com
Like our headline a few weeks ago, this isn’t headline porn. It’s just plain sad and distressing that someone’s allegiance to a team could lead to something this tragic. My thoughts and prayers are with this family.
10. My prediction: Lions 23, Cowboys 21
The Lions? Really? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, I suppose. The Cowboys have been great at home this year and haven’t lost a home game since the opener. But the Lions have far more to play for Monday night. The Lions need the win. The Cowboys -- who find themselves involved in a Rest vs. Rust vs. Records argument -- don’t. My gut just says Lions this week.