A Glimse into a Champions Celebration

The Minnasota Lynx swept the finals and earned the WNBA Championship yet again. Take a look at the photos below and take in what it feels like to be a champion.

Seconds Leading Up to the Big Win

 Final Seconds

Monica Wright is Embraced by the Crowd(AP Photo/John Bazemore)The Team Takes in the Moment and Maya Moore Expresses Her Thoughts on the Championship

Photo Courtesy of Associated Press

Celebration Time

Photo Courtesy of AP Photo/John Bazemore

A Moment to Always be Remembered

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)..

Peyton Manning All Set for Season Debut

There’s never been a question before of whether or not Peyton Manning could produce as an NFL quarterback, but there is a question of whether he can take a hit.

Manning last played in the 2010 campaign and has been catering to some neck injuries ever since.

Tonight at Soldier Field against the Chicago Bears and Jay Cutler, all Denver and Peyton fans will find out if this quarterback truly is a soldier.

A neck injury is not to be taken lightly in this combatic sport and especially for a quarterback who practically has a bullseye on his chest.

Manning is particularly adept at avoiding sacks,  and most likley he will only be on the field tonight for a short amount of plays. Those few plays will be a huge tell as to whether he can bounce back from this serious injury and get back into stride with the NFL system.

Throughout training camp Peyton has proven that he can still zip the ball around accurately to his young group of receivers.

With a fused vertebrae, Manning will try and perform just like before when he was effortlessly great for over a decade on the Colts. Manning caused a free-agency frenzy this past off season and now it is time to see if he was worth all the fuss.

At age 36, recovering from multiple neck surgeries is going to be an uphill battle for this athlete. This future Hall-of-Famer is out to prove to everyone that he can still play football and take a hit. In his first game in over 19 months, Peyton will take the field tonight and set out to display his talents in the little time he’ll have in action.

Manning will only be playing with the starting linemen on offense tonight and that’s just the Broncos playing smart, not catering to his injuries as they’ve assured the public that if he wasn’t medically-cleared  to play he wouldn’t be playing.

With just a few short series’ of playing time in tonight’s preseason game, Peyton will have a little more pressure on him to perform. For the last decade Peyton had experienced nothing but consistency, now we’ll be able to see how he handles change.

If this season’s change hasn’t shaken up his abilities on the field, the Broncos just might have the impact quarterback they need to take this franchise where they want to go.

Three Veterans Try to End Career on a High Note- Football Nation

Football Nation, it’s about that time of year that we’ve all been waiting for. Training camp is in full swing and pre-season games are just a glimpse into the exciting season ahead. This upcoming season just got a lot more interesting with the recent signing of big name receivers. The return of Randy Moss and Terrell Owens to the NFL, as each of the veteran players signed one-year contracts with teams in the NFC West. Chad Johnson is back to his birth name and ready to return to his productive way of playing, leaving the drought of last season with the Patriots behind him and in the past.

These three high profile receivers all have something in common, they’re all outspoken characters. Another thing they have in common is that they’re all receivers that have had huge careers but have plateaued more recently in their older age. At 38,Terrell Owens has a lot to prove to everyone. After an ACL tear Terrell couldn’t get his opportunity to compete on an NFL roster and instead took his talents to the IFL.

Despite his age, this physical specimen has proven that his abilities, skill, and speed all still remain, recently being timed at 4.4 seconds in the forty. He’s going to be an intriguing player to watch this season on the Seattle Seahawks. T.O. will be returning to a West Coast offense which he’s proven that he can excel in as he did with the San Francisco 49ers and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Speaking of the 49ers, Randy Moss has plans to make a huge comeback after his 2011 season hiatus. For reasons we will not know about anytime soon, Randy Moss took a year off of football in 2011, and he’s shown that he hasn’t lost any talent or passion for the game. After sitting out the 2011 campaign, Moss is back, and if the Niners want to be a contender again he will have to be a huge impact player for San Francisco’s offensive scheme.

Of course this notorious showman has a lot of nay-sayers, but that hasn’t seemed to affect him in the slightest so far through the 2012 training camp. Moss has been described by teammates as a down to earth guy who has re-energized the team and is even as a great leader to the younger guys. With 14 NFL seasons under his belt, he’s got quite a bit of football knowledge to share. The 49ers hope for big things from Moss and quarterback Alex Smith in this 2012 season. With a one-year contract and at age 35 it isn’t hard to detect that this could be Moss’s last hooray in the league.

Chad Johnson is a whole different story. The former “Ocho Cinco” has a whole new perspective on football and it just might be exactly what he needs. The old Chad Johnson is back and the 2011 season with the New England Patriots is said to be a thing of the distant past. Johnson admitted to having reached a plateau where he thought he had arrived and at that point he stopped trying to get better. This season is going to be different. Chad Johnson is back, he’s putting in the work, and he definitely has something to prove.

He’s openly admitted to his weakness and that’s blocking. If Chad Johnson can improve on the field and off the field then we might just see a productive season once more for this 34 year-old. Johnson is going to set out to prove that after a year of being nearly transparent on the Patriots roster he can return to his notorious touchdown celebrations that we all love to watch.

These three players are all such high profile players in the NFL and also some of the loudest mouths in the league. In the popular HBO Series Hard Knocks Chad Johnson already got talked to by Head Coach Joe Philbin for dropping the f-bomb a handful of times at a press conference. Terrell Owens has had his hand in quite a few projects in his off time during the 2011 campaign. He was part-owner of the IFL team he was playing on until getting fired, debuted on Dr. Phil talking about his baby mama drama and produced the USA series Unnecessary Roughness.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUXOr1IvzLw

Moss is a low risk high reward pickup for the 49ers. Even though he’s a Hall-of-Fame player, there’s a lot of people that don’t think he will be able to produce any more coming out of a one-year retirement. Moss will be striving to prove all of the doubters wrong in possibly his last ever NFL football season. He’s looking to be a perfect fit, gelling very well with Alex Smith in the Harbaugh’s offense.

All three of these players will be capitalizing on what could be the last attempt for  them to produce on the field, proving all the doubters wrong. They’ve each got their baggage, high-expectations, and a lot of pressure pushing them to be great once more.

Replacement Refs – Football Nation

Preseason is a time for NFL teams to get their football legs back and prepare for the real deal.

The same goes for NFL officials, however this season they’re on a lockout.

The NFL is foremost a bussiness before anything else, we know this from last season when the players and owners were going through a similar process.

While the bigger headline might have recently been that there was the first ever woman official, another story was the mistakes these replacement refs have been riddled with in these recent preseason games.

Referee Craig Ochoa blew the Hall of Fame Game’s coin toss when he incorrectly announced to the crowd the team that won the toss.

One official repeatedly called the Alanta Falcons “Arizona”.

In Thursday night’s Washington-Buffalo game, preseason officials called a touchback on a punt that never went into the end zone. A false start was also called a “snap infraction” at this same game.

Head coach of Buffalo, Chan Gailey, had to use his challenge flag to rectify the mistake. The same crew missed an illegal hit by by a Washington cornerback slamming into a Buffalo receiver on a deep pass downfield.

An official at the Chicago-Denver game incorrectly spotted the ball by a large margin.

“I think it was a (expletive) call,” Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady said about one holding penalty. “This guy’s clearly a rookie. Terrible call. Please quote me.”

In the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh preseason game a replacement ref blew a call on a touchdown play, calling Mardy Gilyard out of bounds when it was clearly a touchdown. The decision was overturned thereafter.

The main concern is quality, consistency and safety with having replacement referees out on the field. The integrity of the game is being questioned. The media, players, and coaches have all expressed their concerns with the replacement referees.

Veteran NFL player and defensive lineman for the Oakland Raiders, Richard Seymour said, “I think the integrity of the game is at stake.”

“It’s just the unknown,” he says. “I’m not a fan of the replacements. Our regular refs, they work so hard to prepare themselves all throughout the year. They put in a ton of work to compete at the highest level. I want the best of the best.”

The pension plan seems to be what the hold up is between officials and the NFL as they try and reach a new contract agreement heading into the 2012 season.

For now we bear with the stand in refs and try to make it until the pros are back.

49ers Eric Bakhtiari’s Persistence Paying Off – Football Nation

After being signed and released eight times in his NFL carreer, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Eric Bakhtiari has finally had the oppurtunity to play an entire four quarters for a team.

Sure it’s just preseason, but this is the prime time for ‘blue-collar’ guys like Eric to use this platform to prove to teammates, fans and most importantly coaches, that he belong’s on the 53-man roster.

Eric led the 49ers’ defense in Saturday night’s game against the Houston Texans with seven total tackles, hence marking the second straight week he’s led the team in tackles at the outside linebacker position.

After performing on seven practice squads since being signed by the San Diego Chargers in 2008, Eric has finally seemed to found his niche.

In last week’s matchup against the Minnesota Vikings, Eric had a solid performance sacking the quarterback twice (and he nearly had another sack against Texans quarterback T.J. Yates Saturday).

His steady improvement and work ethic this season has been evident to both teammates and coaches. At the age of 27, Eric has proven that dreams are attainable if you consistently work towards them with a never give up kind of an attitude.

“It’s not easy playing an entire preseason game,” said Parys Haralson of San Francisco. He added, “I look up to him for that. He’s always learning and I think he played well today, and last week, too. He’s always learning, comes to work every day, understands the defense and he plays hard. I think that’s all you can really do, play your heart out and make plays.”

This could be another season on the practice squad for Eric, but that doesn’t discourage him from working hard to earn his place on the 53-man roster. The last time this dedicated athlete saw playing time on an active roster was in 2010 on the Tennessee Titans’ defense for three games.

Eric has proven that he can survive in the league over a length of time, but now is his time to step up and prove that he can thrive.

“It was a good test for me,” Bakhtiari said. “To go from snap one until the end of the game, I felt pretty good. I was a little tired at the end, but I tried to compete on every play until the end.”

At 6-3, and 250 pounds Eric demonstrated his skill set and ability to perform on a level that can be highly contributive to the 49ers’ 3-4 defensive alignment.

Eric has proven in the last two exhibition games that he has what it takes to be on an NFL roster, let’s see if coach Harbaugh thinks the same. Harbaugh has spoken of his all-out playing style and has seemed to be very impressed so far. Harbaugh expressed he is eager to see how Eric can build off of his progress.

“That’s an important thing now to come back and put an exclamation on that for Eric Bakhtiari, this week in practice and in games,” Harbaugh said.

For Eric, football has been the love of his life. Unfortunatley, the game that he has been relentlessly chasing since his college days hasn’t returned the affection. It takes a lot of passion, heart, and commitment to continue chasing after your dreams and Eric is a master at that.

“Initially, it was so incredible that I was ever in the NFL based on where I came from, so that was really cool,” Eric said. “But I always wanted more out of the game than I’ve done in the game. And that’s what drives me.”

During the 2010 NFL season, Eric wore five different team’s jersey’s in a 101-day span, hopefully this season will be the end of his chase and he can settle into Harbaugh’s program once more.

Jon Gruden: Intense Football – Football Nation

To be successful at anything, you’ve got to pledge your entire heart into what you are doing.

Often people’s lives will be consumed by their dreams, interests and careers. This is the case for NFL color commentator and previous head coach Jon Gruden.

The love of football comes with a price. NFL has been said to stand for “Not For Long,” and Jon Gruden knows that first hand.

After being both traded and fired from head coaching jobs, Gruden remains somewhat bitter towards the team that he took to Super Bowl XXXVII as the youngest head coach ever to do so.

“I’m still emotional and upset about it to a degree when I think about it,” said Gruden on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.

Even though it was nearly ten years ago that he led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their first ever Super Bowl win, he’s still breaking down film until four in the morning in what he calls the Fired Football Coaches Association. He’s not even a coach, just a color commentator and he hasn’t lost the desire to break down film, now that’s undeniable love.

Gruden has been captured by the game of football since a young age, as he watched his father Jim Gruden, who was an assistant coach at the University of Notre Dame. After his own college football career as a quarterback, Jon then began to make his way into the coaching world.

His first NFL job was for the San Francisco 49ers as a quality control coach, after time he moved up through the ranks by way of his in-depth knowledge and passion for football.

In 1998, owner and general manager of the Oakland Raiders, Al Davis, selected Jon Gruden to be the head coach of the team. Gruden was then the youngest to ever serve as a head coach in the NFL. After four seasons with the Raiders, Gruden posted a 40-28 win-loss record.

After this stint with the Raiders, Al Davis discarded Gruden to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With the Buccaneers, Gruden took down his former team in SuperBowl XXXVII, giving him great satisfaction. His coaching career concluded just above .500, which he isn’t satisfied with.

“Not good. I mean, that’s average,” he said. “Fifty-seven and fifty-five? That’s nothing to get excited about, but I don’t like to live in the rear-view mirror.”

At the age of 49, coaching is not yet out of the question for Jon Gruden. Football is his wife, girlfriend and mistress and it shows up in every avenue of life for Jon Gruden.

“I’m trying to figure out where I’m going,” Gruden told Gumbel. “If the right opportunity presents itself, I will come back.”

Despite signing a five-year contract extension with ESPN to remain a broadcaster in October, Gruden hasn’t closed any doors for his future. While ESPN may have built Monday Night Football around Gruden, he certainly isn’t shaping his future around them.

“Jon is a rare individual who has been successful at everything he has done, going from one of the youngest coaches to win a Super Bowl to reinventing himself with this new broadcasting career in his 40s,” Gruden’s agent, Bob LaMonte, said in a statement.

The intensity and fire in his eyes make it evident that he’s got that intangible characteristics that few have. While fans enjoy listening to him commentate, sharing his in depth library of football knowledge with the world, there would be many fans excited to see him coach once again in the NFL.

Whether he’s in the FFCA breaking down plays, meeting with quarterbacks for his camp, or analyzing a Monday Night Football game, Jon Gruden is the essence of football and the NFL is better for having him involved.

Miami Dolphins Name Starting Quarterback- Football Nation

The culture of football has been evolving rather rapidly, as this season there are potentially five rookie quarterbacks starting in the 2012 NFL season.

The days of rookie guys like Aaron Rogers and Carson Palmer sitting out a couple seasons to learn behind a veteran like Brett Favre and Jon Kitna are long gone.

This season proves that rookie quarterbacks are no longer going to wait around to learn from the vets, instead they’re being thrown in the fire and learning as they go.

At 24, rookie Ryan Tannehill will be leading his team into the 2012 regular season as the starting quarterback.

This Texas A&M athlete will be readily accepting all challenges thrown his way on the grand stage.

“I wanted to be the starter,” Tannehill said. “As a competitor, that’s just human nature. As a competitor, to want to be the guy. I was going out there every day trying to prove that I could be the guy to win games for this football team and, right now, that’s the case.”

As the 17th starting quarterback of the Miami Dolphins, since the legendary Dan Marino left the franchise, Tannehill will be bearing the No. 17 on his jersey and looking to return this team to greatness.

Rookie head coach Joe Philbin made the decision to start Tannehill going ahead into the home game against the Atlanta Falcons. Following David Garrard going down after a freakish left knee injury that happened off the field, Matt Moore and Tannehill were left side by side competing for the job.

Matt Moore has 12 game starts under his belt with the Dolphins, finishing the 2011 season with a 60.5 pass completion percentage and an overall 87.1 quarterback rating.  As a journeyman, Moore been a backup before in the league and has equivalent skills to Tannehill but with more experience in the quarterback position.

However, he’s not the guy that the coaches want to make the face of the franchise for the next ten years.

Tannehill has proven that he understands the intricacies of the offense and can perform at the pro level as a quarterback that can lead his team to success. In his first two preseason games, Tannehill went 25-for-47, for 267 yards and one score. In comparison, Moore was 12-for-27, for 136 yards and one interception.

At 6’4″ and 222 pounds, Tannehill’s size, strength, poise, and overall atheltic ability make up a phenomenal skill set at the quarterback position.

It seems as though the new NFL model is to hand the rookies the keys to the offense instead of a clipboard with a notepad.

“We didn’t hand him anything,” Miami coach Joe Philbin said. “Nothing is forever in this league if a guy doesn’t play well, at any position.”

The Dolphins want the next Peyton Manning or Aaron Rogers, someone to lead their team into a bright future over the next decade and hopefully those years are filled with multiple championships.

With colleges throwing the ball more than ever, there’s a parity between the pro and college levels making it easier for rookie quarterbacks to explode into the league with earlier success than those rookies who have come before.

Tannehill’s familiarity with newly added Miami offensive coordinator Mike Sherman will be of big help with acclimating to the pro level. Tannehill and Sherman worked closely together at Texas A&M as quarterback and head coach.

Tannehill’s cannon isn’t the only quality he brings to the field, while competing for a job as the starting quarterback in college, he also played as a receiver for three seasons.

In an offense that utilized true receivers, Tannehill was extremely productive on the offense before finally being named the starting quarterback and team captain his senior year. As a quarterback, knowing the timing of receiver’s routes is critical, and Tannehill having experience as a receiver will bring that knowledge to this Dolphins offense.

As the 8th overall 2012 draft pick, Tannehill will be the first quarterback taken by the Dolphins in the first round since Marino who spent 17 seasons with the team.

This franchise is hungry for a Super Bowl, the last time they saw that excitement was in 1972 when they propelled all the way to the championship game with an undefeated record.

The 2011 NFL Draft class was a diamond studded group of quarterbacks who have proven that they can quickly assimilate and produce at the next level with guys like Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton.

If history proves anything, Tannehill along with Robert Griffin, Andrew Luck, Brandon Weeden and Russell Wilson, will do the same.

Arizona Cardinals: Quarterback Competition – Football Nation

Thursday night’s preseason game didn’t provide much clarity as to which quarterback will be taking the lead reigns as the starting quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals.

While John Skelton did start, his performance didn’t set him apart as he finished the night 4-of-10 for 31 yards and an interception. Kevin Kolb didin’t have too much of an impact on the offense either as he finished 17-of-22 for 156 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

In the fourth preseason game of the year, quarterback John Skelton started the game with an interception against the Tennessee Titans. Following that shaky start, Skelton didn’t make enough happen to secure his position on the Cardinals quarterback depth chart.

Kolb relieved Skelton midway into the second quarter and had a pick in his second pass of the game, but bounced back with a deep 53-yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald, while extending the play while outside of the pocket.

Kolb had a 7 play, 86-yard scoring drive that was the offensive highlight of the game. His ability to keep the drive alive was critical as they finally converted in the red zone. After the scoring drive down the field, Kolb had another interception that was returned for a touchdown.

Once Kolb started to gell with his team on the field, he had a quick change of momentum with the interception that swung the energy the Titans way.

“I think we found a rhythm but I obviously can’t turn the ball over like I did,” he told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. “The one (interception), no reason to throw back across your body, and the second one I just didn’t see him — the linebacker made a great play on it. But I can’t put my team in that kind of position. Besides that, I thought we moved the ball well those three drives and we found something there with our no-huddle.”

The Cardinals next preseason game will be against the Broncos where both quarterbacks will once again be given the platform to compete for the starting job.

Kolb has a 59.5 completion percentage compared to Skelton’s 56 for the 2012 preseason. Kolb has posted one touchdown and three interceptions compared to Skelton’s one score and two picks.

As their numbers prove, both these quarterbacks have been somewhat mediocre throughout this preseason, neither one of them has set themselves apart.

A quick glimpse into last season isn’t much of a tale as to which quarterback deserves the position as they both were average performers. Kolb started a total of nine games in 2011 and finished the year with a completion percentage of 57.7 and 1,955 passing yards. Kolb threw 9 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, as well as 8 fumbles.

Skelton started seven games in the 2011 season, threw for 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, 1,913 yards, and finished with a completion percentage of 54.9.

Regardless of who wins the job, these quarterbacks may not be the long term solution that Arizona needs.

Kolb has had moments of clarity, like the 53-yard pass he precisely muscled down the field and into franchise player Larry Fitzgeralds hands, but he also is seen as being reckless with ball security. Skelton too hasn’t proven to have great ball management skills thus far and could stand to gain more experience before being named as the leader.

What Opening Games Say About These Quarterbacks – Football Nation

What a start to the 2012 football season this has been. There were six quarterbacks that threw at least three picks in the season opening games. Two of them actually won (Vick and Stafford).

With the most rookie quarterbacks starting ever at five total, I expected a major learning curve, yet that wasn’t necessarily the case for all of them.

RG3 had an incredible over the middle touchdown pass to Pierre Garson for 88-yards marking his first ever thrown touchdown as a quarterback in the NFL . He’s the youngest quarterback to ever start in the NFL but it doesn’t show one bit in the way he plays or carries himself.

The Redskins concluded the opener putting up 40-points in a road victory against the New Orleans Saints. RG3 sure knows how to make an entrance into the league as he posted the highest passer rating at 139.9 for any quarterback making a debut since a record set in 1961. Expect big things for the Redskins this season and even bigger things from RG3.

The Colts rookie quarterback didn’t have such an easy first season game. Andrew Luck had many ups and downs in the Colt’s opener as he threw three interceptions, was sacked three times, and lost a fumble.  His 5-yard TD pass to Donnie Avery wasn’t nearly as stunning as RG3’s 88-yarder. This number one overall draft pick will have something to prove this season as the predecessor of Peyton and as the top choice in the draft picked over RG3.

Vick threw four, almost five picks in his opening game against the Browns. The Eagles pulled away with a 17-16 win against the Browns but it was no easy task. Vick had major inconsistency on the field, but in the end he was the play maker to bring the Eagles back into the game to break the Browns hearts. He’s just got to get his ball management under control and he can improve the Eagles offense vastly.

“Great team win. Wasn’t pretty at all on my behalf. I expect way more from myself. Looking forward to my next opportunity,” said Vick on his Twitter following the victory.

The New York Jets scored only one touchdown all preseason but today they ignited a fire and showed up in their season opener. In a 48-28 victory, the Jets experienced vindication at last. Mark Sanchez had a big time performance for his career making a statement that he’s the only quarterback worth discussing on the roster. Sanchez went 19 of 27 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns. Expect big things from this team, they’ve got a chip on their shoulder and Mark Sanchez especially does.

Randy Moss is back. With his 154th career touchdown he surpassed Terrel Owens and now is second of all time in NFL history for career touchdown passes.

The entire San Francisco 49ers team came out strong as they defeated the Packers on their own turf with a score of 30-22. David Akers tied the record for longest field goal with a 63-yarder but that wasn’t the only big time play the 49ers executed. Quarterback Alex Smith connected well with his targets and the running game was powerful throughout the entire four quarters. Alex Smith is proving to all the nay-sayers that last year wasn’t just a fluke, he’s got the it factor. Watch out for this team, they’ve got the ability to be championship contenders.

“I thought we played our best game with our minds that we’ve ever played out there today. Very proud of our guys,” said Head Coach Jim Harbaugh in his press conference following the win.

Brandon Weeden’s quarterback rating was 5.1 which is the lowest for any week one rookie debut since 1960. His season debut for the Browns was downright embarrassing as he had four picks. It was  an ugly game altogether, a lot to improve on to get anywhere this season.

Tom Brady became the 14th quarterback in NFL history to pass over 40,000 career passing yards in today’s opener. Brady led the Patriots to a 34-13 win against the Titans. He threw for 236-yards and two touchdowns. The team looks just as good as last season as if they’re picking up right where they had left off.

Cam Newton is the first player in NFL history to throw for at least 300 yards in his first two season debuts. This sophore threw for 303 yards and one touchdown. He also threw two interceptions which led to the team’s loss against the Buccaneers with a score of 16-7. There’s a lot of work for Newton to do in order to bring his team around.

John Skelton was injured in the match up against the Seahawks, forcing Kevin Kolb to step up and lead the team to a 20-16 victory. Kevin Kolb did a great job at leading the team once he stepped in and looks to have what it takes to move forward as the starting quarterback finishing the night with a 138.5 passer rating. Next week the Cardinals take on the Patriots which will surely be a difficult challenge for Kolb.

Peyton Manning had an exciting season debut on the Broncos as he joins NFL history with 400 career touchdown passes.

A great week of games in the books, with only two Monday night games left to play and then onto week two. Is there anything better than the football season starting up? No. This is my favorite time of year, as we get to watch 32 teams chase after the championship from the beginning. Nothing better.