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Terrell Who? Today is Jerry Kramer’s Day 0

Posted on August 04, 2018 by Dean Hybl
Jerry Kramer was a key part of the famous Packer power sweep.

Jerry Kramer was a key part of the famous Packer power sweep.

When we started Sports Then and Now nine years ago, one of the first things we did was create a list of former NFL players who we felt were deserving of being included in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but up until that time had been snubbed for induction.

Number one on that list was former Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Jerry Kramer. Today, Kramer’s name can finally be removed from that list.

While one member of the Hall of Fame class of 2018 is trying to steal the attention by focusing on what he believes was a personal snub not to be a first-year inductee, in reality, his perceived snub and hardship is nothing compared to what Jerry Kramer has endured over the last half century.

When the NFL announced the 50th Anniversary All-NFL Team in 1969, Jerry Kramer was one of the two offensive guards named to the team. Yet, it took until just one year before the 100th Anniversary All-NFL Team will be announced before Kramer was selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Green Bay Packers of the 1960s were one of the great dynasty teams in NFL history. Kramer will join 12 other members of the 1960s Packers (plus Coach Vince Lombardi) in the Hall of Fame.

Kramer retired after the 1968 season and was first listed as a Hall of Fame finalist in 1974. Initially, it seemed likely that Kramer would be inducted pretty quickly. He was a finalist seven times in an eight year stretch between 1974 and 1981 while seven of his teammates were inducted.

At that time, Kramer wasn’t the only 1960s Packer having to wait his turn for induction. In 1981, two of his former teammates, Willie Davis and Jim Ringo, were inducted in their sixth and seventh years as a finalist, respectively. Later in the decade, Paul Hornung was selected in his 12th year as a finalist in 1986 and Willie Wood in 1989 in his 10th time as a finalist.

Kramer was again a finalist in 1984 and 1987, but still had not yet received the call. Read the rest of this entry →

Old School Football Players: Where Are They Now? 0

Posted on July 24, 2018 by John Harris
Ronnie Lott

Ronnie Lott

Some football stars never leave the sport. After concluding his Hall of Fame playing career as a tight end, Mike Ditka became a Super Bowl-winning coach and then transitioned into the media world as analyst after he put down the clipboard.

Others follow a different path and disappear from the public eye. When they do, it’s easy to lose track of their whereabouts. But many of those who have seemingly fell off the face of the earth are now living truly fascinating lives.

From Silicon Valley and the big screen to entrepreneurship and the courtroom, the following four football players are worth catching up with even decades after they took off their cleats.

Ronnie Lott

Ronnie Lott was a hard-hitting safety known for striking fear into receivers who dared cross the middle of the field and quarterbacks that he blindsided sprinting across the line on a blitz. The Hall of Famer, four-time Super Bowl champion, and 10-time Pro Bowler for the San Francisco 49ers then made a very successful transition to the business world, leveraging investments in a few car dealerships into larger ventures and roles in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley with firms including HRJ Capital, GSV Capital Corp., and Fortress Investment Group. “He’s been a winner on and off the field and accordingly has earned enormous respect in Silicon Valley,” said GSV in a statement after the venture capital firm added Lott to its board of directors in 2015.

Carl Weathers

Though many people only know him as Apollo Creed and other prominent Hollywood roles on the silver screen, actor Carl Weathers first reached stardom as a football player. As a defensive end, he played college ball in Southern California for the San Diego State University Aztecs before going on to play in eight NFL games from 1970 to 1971. He didn’t quite have what it took, however, and made the tough choice to abandon his dream and switch to acting — a decision that now looks genius in hindsight. After earning a degree in drama in 1974, he gained global fame through his iconic performances in the “Rocky” franchise and would go on to earn acclaim for his work in “Predator,” “Action Jackson,” “Happy Gilmore,” and “Arrested Development,” among other films and television shows. Read the rest of this entry →

Best 10 and Worst 3 NFL Stadiums 0

Posted on May 17, 2018 by Scott Huntington

Going to an NFL game is an adventure. It’s exciting to see a professional sports team play live in front of you. The only downside is you pay lots of money for the tickets and parking — and then you get gouged on food prices. But it’s all worth it because you enjoy the atmosphere, the energy and the stadium where the game is played.

What about the stadiums themselves, though? Some stadiums are brand new, and others have been open for decades. You may love or hate a certain stadium for reasons that are hard to describe. Some just have that certain atmosphere you can’t find anywhere else. Others are architectural masterpieces and full of high-tech inventions.

Some stadiums are clearly better than others, however. Here’s a look at 10 of the best and three of the worst you’ll find.

The Best

These are 10 of the best stadiums you’ll find:

Read the rest of this entry →

Sports Injury Treatment Then And Now 0

Posted on February 26, 2018 by Joe Fleming

White-Wilson-NFLThe ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus probably first said that “the only constant in the universe is change.” This phrase definitely applies to sports injuries, at least to some extent.

Some people still remember the 1992 NBA All-Star game which featured the return of Magic Johnson. A few months earlier, he had retired after announcing he was HIV positive. Several other players, including Karl Malone, openly expressed misgivings about Johnson’s return and their own risk of contracting AIDS. We now know these fears were foolish, but they were very real at the time.

Fortunately, deadly sexually-transmitted diseases like AIDS are not a problem on most sports teams. But sports injuries are a constant concern. In some cases, the treatment approach has changed significantly in recent years; in other cases, not so much.

Football and Concussions

Head injuries have been an issue in football ever since William Harvey laced up the cleats for Penn in 1894. “In a scrimmage behind the goal I was knocked insensible, but recovered in about fifteen minutes,” he later wrote. For the next hundred years, every player who received a head injury in football got basically the same treatment: a few plays off, some smelling salts, and a cursory “how many fingers am I holding up” medical exam.

Things began to change in 1994 when then-NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue ordered league doctors and other scientists to examine the problem more closely. Today, no one is really sure how the NFL and other football leagues should handle head injuries. Players want to play, coaches want to win, and fans want to see lots of action, but a player’s long-term health is at stake. There’s a balance there somewhere.

New innovations should help improve treatment protocols. For example, the Food and Drug Administration recently approved a concussion diagnosis blood test. Very soon, this test could eliminate the guesswork involved in this area. Read the rest of this entry →

NFL Knee Fractures Now And Then 0

Posted on February 11, 2018 by Joe Fleming
One of the most famous leg injuries of all-time occurred on a Monday Night Football game in 1985.

One of the most famous leg injuries of all-time occurred on a Monday Night Football game in 1985.

Starting in Pop Warner league, most coaches teach players to tackle low and block low. So, it is not very surprising that there are so many knee injuries in tackle football.

Most players can come back after even rather serious ligament or tendon injuries. The knee has a rather large network of these muscles, so if one doesn’t entirely heal, the others often take up the slack. But there’s only one bone, and if it is at all compromised, there is nothing else to bear weight and provide mobility. As a result, a serious knee fracture often means the end of the line, or at least the end of the salad days.

Zach Miller, 2017 Chicago Bears

In an October contest against the New Orleans Saints, Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky found his tight end near the right sideline of the end zone for an apparent touchdown. Officials overruled the call because Miller did not sufficiently possess the ball long enough “to clearly become a runner,” as the rule requires. So, the Bears had to settle for a field goal in a game they eventually lost 20-12.

But the real story is the injury that Miller sustained. At first, trainers said his knee was only dislocated. But the more trainers and doctors looked, the worse it got. The dislocated bone partially severed an artery, and Miller’s leg filled with fluid. He later said that amputation was only a “couple wrong turns away from actually happening.”

J.J. Watt, 2017 Houston Texans

The three-time Defensive Player of the Year is one of the most effective, and one of the most popular, players of his or any generation to line up in a three-point stance. But in an October game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Watts’ left foot struck his right ankle as he pressured the quarterback, resulting in a tibial plateau fracture to the bone directly below his knee.

Even though Watt is only 28, he already has a history of injury and, immediately prior to the knee fracture, was in the midst of the longest sack-less streak of his professional career. So, this latest setback is probably either career-threatening or the start of a very compelling comeback story. Read the rest of this entry →

Pro Football Hall of Fame Gets a Bit Closer to Legitimacy 0

Posted on February 03, 2018 by Dean Hybl
Nearly 50 years after retiring from the NFL, Jerry Kramer (#64) has finally been selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Nearly 50 years after retiring from the NFL, Jerry Kramer (#64) has finally been selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

For me and likely many other long-time lovers of the history of pro football, the relationship with the Pro Football Hall of Fame has always been a messy one.

I have enjoyed the great fortune of visiting the Pro Football Hall of Fame multiple times over the years, including taking my kids to Canton in 2015. The museum is a wonderful place to see, recall and learn about the many great moments, players and teams that have been part of the nearly 100 year history of the NFL.

However, while the Hall of Fame was created to be a historical archive to tell the story of professional football, over the years it has become more associated with the players specifically enshrined as Hall of Famers.

That is where for me the relationship starts to get a bit challenging.

While most of the 310 men who have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame through 2017 are unquestionably deserving, the process in which players are chosen has often been an uneven process in which some former players, coaches and administrators are quickly recognized while others with similar credentials either wait for many years or are totally omitted.

Made up of sports media professionals, the Hall of Fame selection committee has a long history of personal vendettas and bias.

Longtime committee member Paul Zimmerman reportedly said that Ken Stabler would never get inducted in his lifetime and sure enough Stabler was not inducted until the year after he died in 2015.

My greatest frustration with the Hall of Fame selection committee stems from their regular practice of making players and coaches who clearly have Hall of Fame credentials wait extended periods of time before being inducted.

Among the clearly deserving Hall of Famers who have been forced to wait beyond their initial year of eligibility were Fran Tarkenton, Shannon Sharpe, Derrick Thomas, Hank Stram, Willie Lanier, Tom Mack and Willie Wood.

The one position that has historically been treated with limited respect by the selection committee is position of wide receiver. Entering 2018, 25 modern era wide receivers have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, but only four of them (Jerry Rice, Raymond Berry, Paul Warfield and Steve Largent) were selected in their first year of eligibility. Read the rest of this entry →

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Billy Kilmer: Hard-Nosed Quarterback
      September 2, 2018 | 7:32 pm
      Kilmer

      Billy Kilmer

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month began his NFL career as an athletic running quarterback, but he endured a near fatal car accident to completely change his game during a career that spanned nearly two decades.

      Anyone who is familiar with former NFL quarterback Billy Kilmer probably remembers him as the portly, un-athletic, but very tough quarterback for the Washington Redskins in the 1970s. However, during his first two NFL seasons, Kilmer was primarily used as a running quarterback and running back for the San Francisco 49ers.

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