The Pro Football Hall of Fame game and enshrinement weekend means one thing: football is back. While the game itself was a relative fizzer, the acknowledgment of some of the greatest to have ever played the game is always a highlight of the NFL calendar, including Randy Moss acknowledging Al Davis.
I want to start by making note of Randy Moss‘ enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend, and not just because Moss was a Raider (though some, even himself at times, would say otherwise). Growing up as a pre-teen in the late 90s, I was one of the few Australians who got hooked on Madden. Good old Madden 2000, I rented it for what must have been months at a time at the now-defunct Blockbuster store around the corner from my house. It was Madden in which I learned the rules of football, and was introduced to a few of the more recognizable stars in the league. Front and center in my eyes was Moss.
Moss possessed a unique size and speed combination I doubt will ever be seen in the NFL again. Jerry Rice might be considered the greatest receiver of all time, but Moss was the most feared threat in the game. Topping it off was a flamboyant and, in many ways, diva-like attitude that was as much polarizing as it was mesmerizing on the general public.
Every year when I’d play the new edition of Madden, I would always trade Moss from the Vikings to the Raiders. He was my favorite offensive player (Charles Woodson was my favorite guy on defense). So when it was announced that Al Davis had acquired Moss via trade in 2005, my excitement was through the roof. I bought a Moss authentic jersey with the little pocket money I must have saved over six months, and I even remember taking a day off school to watch the Raiders’ first game of the 2005 season, Moss’ first game in the silver and black. He had five catches for 130 yards in that game, including a whopping 73-yard touchdown reception from a Kerry Collins strike deep down the left sideline. Moss started his career in the silver and black well over the opening month, but as the season dragged on, his numbers dwindled. He rekindled the magic in the final game, but was infamously kept off the field by Norv Turner in the final quarter when the Raiders were at the 1-yard line. Moss didn’t hide his disappointment, and that really was the beginning of the end of his Raider career.
Turner was fired and Art Shell returned for a second stint as head coach in 2006. Moss never bought in again to the team, though he was hardly the sole reason that Tom Walsh’s Bed and Breakfast offense was historically poor. , I was distraught when Lane Kiffin did the unthinkable and convinced owner Al Davis to trade Moss for a fourth-round pick. Not only was it measly compensation for an elite player in his prime, he was traded to the Patriots, of all teams. Moss went on to have one of the greatest seasons by a wide receiver in NFL history that year, while the player drafted by the Raiders following the trade, cornerback John Bowie, played five games for the Raiders in 2007 and 2009 with a total of two tackles.
Moss has often distanced himself from his time with the Raiders, but it was good to see him acknowledge Davis and the Raiders organization in his enshrinement speech. Yes, Moss’ two years in Oakland were, like the rest of the team, a disaster. But Moss got me really interested in football, and Davis made this young boy’s Madden fantasy a reality.
With first-round talent, Key’s selection late in the third round was a calculated risk by the Raiders, and, so far, it appears to be paying off. He is extremely twitchy and explosive as a pass rusher and has been open to mentoring and advice from the older veterans on the team. Many people are comparing the new No. 99 to the old No. 99 (Aldon Smith), but one person I’ve spoken to with the team recently claimed his anxiousness was more akin to Von Miller. No one is saying Key is going to be as good as Miller, but he has the talent to be a special player.
— DLineVids (@DLineVids) August 1, 2018
The center-to-quarterback battery connection is the most key in all of football. Fortunately for the Raiders, Rodney Hudson and Derek Carr are in lockstep. Hudson has had an amazing offseason that has so far bled over to training camp. Gruden was gushing about Hudson last week, saying, “He’s the best center that I’ve coached.” Hudson might possibly be the best center in football, and his presence will certainly have a big impact on the offense going forward.
Some Quotes to Remember
“Straight cash, homie”
Moss, when asked how he was going to pay a fine for pretending to moon the crowd at Lambeau Field in 2005. He was traded to the Raiders a week later.
“We gotta get Mack in here, of course, but I’m sure they’re going to figure that out, ‘cause where’s he gonna go? Where could you go that’s better than this, or Vegas? Haha, yeah, baby!”
The ever-charismatic Phil Villapiano, on Khalil Mack’s contract negotiations with the Raiders.
“I’m just trying to make some points. There were some guys who played the game who were pretty good. I think they love it. They love seeing Barry Sanders. I think they love seeing Joe Montana in a two-minute drill. I had a couple young guys get up there they didn’t know who Jack Tatum was. They didn’t know who Art Shell was. And part of that is having the respect for the league you’re in, and the guys who came before you. So, you try to accomplish a lot. You only have them for so long. You try to keep their attention span. And all of a sudden, man, there’s Dan Marino. Man, I didn’t know he had that quick of a release. Jeez, he was pretty good! A lot of these guys have never heard of Mark Duper or Mark Clayton. So, I think they like it. You can make some points, show some great routes, and also teach them a little bit about some of the people who came before you.”
Jon Gruden, on why he shows players game film that is decades old.
A Tweet of Amusement
Sorry you feel that way. If you have any spare knee cartilage or a triceps tendon lying around anywhere you should let me have ‘em and I’ll give it another go!
— Jack Mewhort (@jackmewhort) August 1, 2018
Velocity Frequent Flyer Travel Note of the Week
Traveling is a funny thing. Travel for leisure is almost always an enjoyable experience (unless it’s a 15-hour plane flight across the world in the middle seat between two obese people and a screaming baby behind you); while travel for work is almost the complete opposite: just get me there and make my life as easy as possible from point A to point B. I travel twice weekly, so my routine is down pat. Get to the airport in time just enough to chill in the lounge for 15-20 minutes, then get on the plane.
Last week at the lounge, a man working at the counter called Phillip made me feel more welcome than I ever had in the last few years. He even remembered me a week later when I returned to the lounge, and that was before I had even handed over my boarding pass or frequent flyer card to him. It’s that kind of service that puts you ahead of the game, no matter what field you’re in. I look forward to seeing you soon, Phillip.
1) The Raiders are practicing with the Lions this week before their game Friday night. The last time the Raiders had any joint practices was under Dennis Allen in 2014, when they traveled to Oxnard, Calif., to practice with the Cowboys. Camp has been humming for a little while, and by now, players start to get sick of lining up across from the same opponents. Getting a few practices in where your opponents are different brings out great competition on both sides. At the same time, the egotistical nature of football players inevitably ends in scuffles whenever joint practices are held. I don’t expect a repeat of the brawls that we saw back in 2014 in Oxnard, but there are certainly going to be fireworks.
2) This week’s preseason game is going to go one of two ways from a play-calling standpoint. Either Gruden is going to want to stick it to the media, which has run with his 1998 comments and runs a bunch of RPOs or variations thereof, or he keeps it pretty vanilla, as I expect. This will no doubt have many analysts digging deeper on Gruden’s comments earlier this year. One thing Gruden has emphasized internally since re-joining the Raiders is an “us-against- the-world” mentality, and such media commentary will only continue to fuel that approach.
3) The new helmet contact rule is going to be ridiculously over-officiated during preseason. I see it being the biggest talking point in the NFL after the first round of games this week.
Seven things I think
1) Jared Cook might just be my favorite player to present to the media. He’s always candid and refreshingly honest without the frequent use of clichés.
2) Most commonly, the green communication dot on defense is held by the middle linebacker. However, Derrick Johnson said last week that he had been substituted out for Marquel Lee in the middle on first down in the base package. If that is the case during the regular season, I wonder who will have the green dot to receive the play call from defensive coordinator Paul Guenther? My best guess at this point is Tahir Whitehead, but this is certainly something I’m going to be watching over the preseason.
3) Once the third-string players enter this week’s game, the only real takeaway will be the special teams play. Special teams will likely decide the final half a dozen spots on the 53-man roster, and these players can leap up the depth chart in quick succession.
4) I have no idea how Brent Musburger is going to commence his radio calls with the Raiders starting this week, but “You are looking live!” doesn’t exactly fit on a radio broadcast.
5) Stefon Diggs’ new contract extension (five years $81 million total with $40 million in guarantees) is just another sign that the wide receiver market is exceedingly out of control. Diggs’ talent is undeniable, but this is a player who has never played a full 16-game season in his NFL career and doesn’t have a 1,000-yard season to his name. Inflated contracts like these are only going to make it tougher for the Raiders to keep Amari Cooper long-term, assuming he bounces back to form in 2018.
6) The LeBron James I Promise School is in my opinion, one of the greatest pieces of philanthropy done by an athlete in recent memory. The NFL does similar charitable work (though not on this grand scale), yet it is not covered by the media to the same extent as their NBA counterparts. Given the number of on and off-field scandals recently plaguing the NFL, increasing the exposure of their players and organizations’ charitable work would be a great way to improve the league’s image.
7) The Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremony, was, as always, a powerful and enjoyable event to celebrate the achievements of some truly elite players. My question is whether the Hall of Fame game, as it is currently set up, should be a standalone game? I understand the tradition, but teams hate having to play that fifth preseason game, not to mention those teams have to start training camp a week earlier than the remaining 30 teams. Would a better solution be to have the ceremony as a way of starting the commencement of the preseason, with the first game of Week 1 of the preseason being the Hall of Fame game?