Knuckleheads Can Spoil the NFL

Howard Balzer

December 07, 2012 at 2:00 pm.

Detroit Lions wide receiver Titus Young (16) celebrates his game winning touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Seattle Seahawks at Ford Field. Detroit won 28-24. (Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports)

Some guys just don’t get it. They enter the NFL with all the talent in the world, yet somehow believe something is owed to them or that greatness can be achieved without hard work.

We have all seen examples of players with ability that wash out quickly because of an attitude of entitlement. What makes it even stranger is when a team has great examples of what it takes, but the wayward player still can’t figure it out. Guess it’s another viewing of “Knuckleheads will be knuckleheads.”

The latest is Detroit Lions wide receiver Titus Young, who was sent away by coach Jim Schwartz, brought back, sent away again and finally placed on injured reserve last week as a last resort. Considering some of the issues that have affected Lions players in the last couple years, imagine how bad this must have been for the Lions to do what they did.

It is also illuminating to hear the comments from teammates after the decision was made.

Writing on his blog on the team’s website, wide receiver Calvin Johnson said, “Titus not being here — he’s been a distraction the last few weeks whether it being him just not being fully prepared or not showing up to things when we have things on the schedule, him not being there on time. It’s just him not being a professional, put it like that. Point blank. Simple.”

In addition to being late for meetings, Young was consistent only in “lining up incorrectly, running wrong routes, arguing with coaches and sulking during games.”

Aside from that, he was a model citizen.

Wide receiver Nate Burleson, currently on injured reserve, was also outspoken regarding Young, especially since Burleson had tried to lead him down the right path.

“If you don’t take advantage of opportunities, sometimes it’s tough to get chances,” Burleson said. “I think everybody would hope (the time away will do Young some good). It lets you kind of re-evaluate what it is you want out of the NFL. You’ve got to have an understanding that you are going to get from the NFL exactly what you give.”

Burleson added, “He could be really good. He’s extremely talented; some of the best hands I’ve ever seen. That’s just me being honest. He’s a great route runner. When he’s healthy he can get in and out of his breaks as fast as I’ve ever seen. He has a chance to be a mainstay in the NFL.

“It’s just that you have to start your career off right. You’ve got to kind of earn your stripes and go through the wringer like everybody else did. You make your mistakes and you learn from them. You get back up and you go out there and play ball.”

There were some raised eyebrows when Young went on injured reserve, but Schwartz said, “(The knee) is something that’s been on his radar since the spring. We will move on without him.”

Schwartz summed up the frustration everyone has with Young when he was asked if Young will have surgery. Said Schwartz, “Most likely, yes … Unless he doesn’t show up for it.”

Coming to Grips

The shockwaves from the murder-suicide involving former Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher reverberated throughout the NFL world in addition to inside the team’s locker room.

It was notable the game running back Jamaal Charles played the day after the tragedy, considering it was Charles’ wife Whitney, who was a first cousin of victim Kasandra Perkins, and introduced her to Belcher.

Charles hadn’t talked to the media as of the end of last week, although he issued a statement Dec. 3 that said, “As my actual family and my Kansas City Chiefs family have been altered forever, we ask that you keep us and most importantly their child in prayer.”

Said Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel, “He’s taking it kind of hard. I think the game was good for him, so he could take his mind off of it a little bit. It’s a tough situation, but I think Jamaal will get through it and we will help him get through it.”

Chiefs defensive lineman Shaun Smith said, “He’s really broken up and Whitney is too, so he has to deal not only with his feelings, but hers. It’s like all of us in here; we didn’t lose just one person, we lost two friends. We just have to honor their memory and keep going forward.”

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr was previously with the Chiefs fior four seasons and said, “She (Perkins) was near and dear. We were a family at Kansas City. Couples would go out all together. We all came in contact with each other. There are a lot of lives that have been affected by this incident. People that were close, people who weren’t as close. My household, we’re still in shock. “It’s disbelief still, but I know it’s real. You don’t want to have to go through these things in life. This is probably going to stick with me for a very, very, very long time. You just have to learn how to cope and deal with it. I’m a firm believer in Christ, so I can’t question his plan. I can’t question his actions, none of his work that he’s done on this earth. Until my time comes, I can just continue to be just the best person I can every day.”


As the end of the season approaches, it is becoming very real that Seattle’s controversial Week 3 win over Green Bay could have a significant effect on the playoff chase in the NFC. It involves not only the Seahawks and Packers, but other teams competing with them for spots in the post-season.

Packers quarterback recently admitted on ESPN Radio that that game is still on his team’s minds and it is being talked about.

Said Rodgers, “How can you not? We’re all human here. That was obviously a difficult moment for us. We’re hoping that we’ve put yourself in a position right now where that’s not going to have an effect on things. We’re not going to use that as an excuse. We have four games left and everything is right in front of us, with a chance to win out, and not only be division champions (but also) also a potential first-round bye. But in some of those quiet moments, of course, you can’t help but think about it.”

Splitting Families

The life of an NFL coach is usually a disruptive one when it comes to families. Lucky coaches stay in one place for a while. Most don’t. That means frequent uprooting of families.

What often happens, especially when older children are involved, is coaches moves and families remain in the previous city for a period of time.

So it was that Jack Del Rio, after being fired by the Jaguars as head coach, had a decision to make. He could have sat out a year and collected around $5.6 million, while his son Luke entered his senior season in high school, where he was a highly recruited quarterback.

When Broncos coach John Fox came calling after defensive coordinator Dennis Allen left to become the Raiders’ head coach, Del Rio couldn’t resist and headed to Denver. But what about Luke? While it wouldn’t have been a surprise to have the family remain in Florida where he was comfortable, they went the other direction.

How did that work out? Amazingly, actually. Luke Del Rio committed to Oklahoma State and became the quarterback at Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch, where they won the 5A state championship the weekend of Dec. 1.

Said the proud father, “It was just the culmination, for him to have the courage to come up here with me and to come during the middle of his junior year and start over and learn a new system, make new friends and plug in and all that. To go out and win the state title, it was just awesome.”

Even more awesome was that the Broncos were home, and Del Rio was able to see the championship game.

“It was probably as good as anything I can remember,” Del Rio said. “It was pretty special, pretty cool. Almost like watching him be born.”

The Quotebook

*Bears quarterback Jay Cutler on a retooled offensive line that has allowed one sack in each of the last two games: “They’re playing better. I don’t know if it’s because I’m yelling at them more or what’s happening. But guys are playing well. We’re getting rid of the ball quickly. I think we have good game plans going into it. I think (offensive coordinator) Mike (Tice) is doing a great job of mixing it up and spinning the play-calling and keeping teams off balance.”

*In advance of playing the Texans Monday night, Patriots coach Bill Belichick had this tyo say about Houston defensive end J.J. Watt: “He looks like the defensive player of the year to me. He’s been so productive and so disruptive. It’s not just the pass rush. It’s the batted balls, it’s the tackles for loss, the blocking that he draws, it helps everybody else out. He’s been a terrific player for them in a lot of different ways. He’s the most disruptive player in the league. He’s really pretty good at everything. He’s got great quickness and length and instincts.”

*Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan on wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who needs 421 yards receiving in the final four games to break Jerry Rice’s single-season record of 1,848 yards and 572 yards to reach 2,000:  “That receiving number … we’re not about individuals, we’re not trying to put a game plan around guys getting individual records, but certainly would love to see it. Nobody better than Calvin to be able to have an opportunity to help our team win while he’s getting in position to maybe break history.”