The NFL Kick-Off Celebration is here! The crowd on Wednesday at Rockefeller Center in downtown New York will be entertained by Mariah Carey and No Doubt prior to the NFL season opening clash between two NFC East divisional rivals in the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants. This will be the 10th anniversary of the NFL Kickoff Party and the tradition of the league saluting the defending Super Bowl champions by having them host the opening game in primetime. Before the game the Giants will be honored with the raising of their Super Bowl banner. The nation, several countries and the other 30 NFL teams will be watching this prime time event.
Also during the Kick-Off Celebration, the NFL will have 32 legendary NFL alumni (one representing each team) partner with a fan, who together will unveil their team’s 2012 season flag. The league held a nationwide contest, were fans submitted flag designs that incorporated their team’s colors, city attractions and traditions. The best inspirational concepts were used to create the 32 team’s flag that will be seen Wednesday evening at Rockefeller Center.
The 32 legends involved in this special event are:
Arizona Cardinals, Frank Sanders (WR), Atlanta Falcons, Alge Crumpler (TE), Baltimore Ravens, Rob Burnett (DE), Buffalo Bills, Steve Tasker (WR), Carolina Panthers, Wesley Walls (TE), Chicago Bears, Gale Sayers (RB), Cincinnati Bengals, Jim Breech (K), Cleveland Browns, Greg Pruitt (RB), Dallas Cowboys, Charles Haley (DE), Denver Broncos, Rod Smith (WR), Detroit Lions, Charlie Sanders (TE), Green Bay Packers, James Lofton (WR), Houston Texans, Seth Payne (DT), Indianapolis Colts, Jeff Herrod (LB), Jacksonville Jaguars, Fred Taylor (RB), Kansas City Chiefs, Will Shields (G), Miami Dolphins, Larry Little (G), Minnesota Vikings, Matt Blair (LB), New England Patriots, Troy Brown (WR), New Orleans Saints, Willie Roaf (T), New York Giants, Antonio Pierce (LB), New York Jets, Chad Pennington (QB), Oakland Raiders, Willie Brown (DB), Philadelphia Eagles, Brian Dawkins (S), Pittsburgh Steelers, Dermontti Dawson (C), St. Louis Rams, Jack Youngblood (DE), San Diego Chargers, David Binn (LS), San Francisco 49ers, Roger Craig (RB), Seattle Seahawks, Shaun Alexander (RB), Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Derrick Brooks (LB), Tennessee Titans, Keith Bulluck (LB), Washington Redskins, Pat Fischer (DB).
The 2012 offseason was action packed and one that won’t be forgotten for a very long time. Exposed was an old school NFL underground practice of pay for performance that, per Commissioner Goodell, was much more than a payment for a kick return for a touchdown among players. The league accused the New Orleans Saints of what is now being called “Bounty Gate”, a pay for performance that resulted in cart off injuries for their opponents. The league says information stretching from emails, key witnesses to thousand page documents, resulted in Commissioner Goodell suspending head coach Sean Payton, assistant coach Joe Vitt and the G.M. Mickey Loomis. The Saints organization was fined 500K and lost two second round draft picks in the future. Four players were suspended for without pay, DE Anthony Hargrove 8 games, DE Will Smith 4 games, OLB Scott Fujita 3 games and Jonathan Villma for the complete 16 game season. A defamation of character law suit was filed against the NFL Commissioner by Jonathan Vilma and is currently in the courts.
We saw the power struggle in Indianapolis between owner Jim Irsay and Peyton Manning that became extremely public, a battle Manning was not going to win even with fan pressure and support. The Colts bucked Manning, making him the most sought after free agent in NFL history. He ultimately landed in Denver.
The St. Louis Rams pulled off the trade of the decade that some say may be the best draft trade that didn’t involve players, allowing the Washington Redskins to move up and acquire their #2 overall pick. In exchange, the Rams received the #6 pick in the 2012 draft and Washington’s #1 picks in the 2013 and 2014 drafts. While the Rams hit a home run with this trade, and now have enough ammo to build a dynasty through the draft with plenty of options, Dan Snyder (owner) and his Redskins may have mortgaged their future for an exciting quarterback in RG3.
There were several head coaches added to the helm in order to guide organizations back on the path of winning, Chuck Pagano (Colts), Jeff Fisher (Rams), Mike Mularkey (Jaguars), Romeo Crennel (Chiefs), Joe Philbin (Dolphins), Dennis Allen (Raiders) and Greg Schiano (Buccaneers).
During the preseason, five of the 32 teams helped make NFL History by announcing that rookie quarterbacks will start opening day; Andrew Luck (Colts), Robert “RG3” Griffin III (Redskins), Ryan Tannehill (Dolphins), Brandon Weeden (Browns), Russell Wilson (Seahawks). It is the most rookie quarterbacks to start the opening week since 1950.
The biggest concern this offseason is still ongoing, the battle between the NFL and the NFLRA (Referees’ Union). The officials were locked out by NFL ownership and were replaced by scabs, or replacement officials. On opening day, fans will see the first women to officiate an NFL game in Shannon Eastin. The replacement officials have struggled during the preseason games with a record number of defensive pass interference and offensive holding calls compared to the normal crew. Commissioner Goodell and the NFLRA met for three days last week and the only thing the two sides could agree on was that they can’t agree, so the season opener will be governed by the replacement crews. The question is who will break first, the owners or the refs?
I’m excited for the start of the 2012 season, after such a stormy off season, I’m ready for some football and it starts Wednesday evening with the season opener between the Cowboys and the Giants.
Coming tomorrow are my predictions for the 2012 Divisional Champions, NFC & AFC Champions and my Super Bowl prediction, don’t miss it!