NFL Nation: Dick Lane

CANTON, Ohio -- We're a few hours away from the 7 p.m. ET start to enshrinement ceremonies at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

I'll be heading over early to get a feel for what awaits.

Cortez Kennedy and his daughter, Courtney, were seen downstairs at the main hotel here a bit ago. Kennedy seemed relaxed for a man nearing the hour when he'll be giving a speech center stage.

The Hall itself opened early Saturday. A few thoughts after touring the Hall for the first time:
  • Cool Cardinals exhibit: One display case features a Pat Tillman jersey, the shiny black Nike shoes Patrick Peterson wore when returning a punt 99 yards for a touchdown to beat the St. Louis Rams in Week 9 last season and the gloves Larry Fitzgerald wore while collecting his 400th career reception against the New York Giants on Nov. 23, 2008. Fitzgerald became the youngest receiver to reach 400 catches.
  • Busts are accessible: The Hall features busts for the 267 Hall of Famers already enshrined, plus spaces for the busts honoring 2012 inductees. The busts are arranged by year of enshrinement. They rest on open-air perches, allowing visitors to touch them. The busts were low enough for our kids to pose with them, sometimes almost cheek to cheek. Seeing our boys' heads flanking Dick "Night Train" Lane's bust was a highlight of the visit.
  • Interactive video: Touch-screen menus allow visitors to cue up short highlight and documentary packages for various Hall of Famers. These were good, but a little short. We wanted more. Of course, with more than nine million visitors to this point and quite a few coming around the time of enshrinement each year, there isn't time for each person to watch a full-length movie.
  • "Madden 12" center: Kids packed this area and ours were initially eager to join in the gaming, but we drew the line on this one. Something seemed wrong about using time at the Hall to play games many kids have at home.
  • Homage to Lombardi: The Hall features a sideline player bench used at Lambeau Field for Vince Lomardi's final game as the Green Bay Packers' coach, in 1967. They've wisely got it stowed safely in a display, preventing people from sitting on it.
  • Harbaughs making history: Jim Harbaugh's autograph dresses up a game ball from the San Francisco 49ers' game against Harbaugh's brother, John, and the Baltimore Ravens last season. The game itself was forgettable from the 49ers' perspective.

All for now. Time to get ready for the festivities Saturday night.
Four quick thoughts on the NFL's latest rules changes addressing player safety:
  • The changes attack the culture. Previous changes have emphasized specific rules. These changes seek to address the broader culture that encourages such hits even when in violation of the rules. I'm not sure whether fining teams will make a huge difference, but if the commissioner is serious about going so far as to strip teams of draft choices, you can bet coaches will focus on playing within the rules. The old-school attitude will resist these changes, but if the greater emphasis leads to improved tackling at the expense of reckless hitting, everyone wins. I just have a hard time believing the league would actually take away draft choices.
  • The rules themselves make sense. Reasonable protections for defenseless players are good for all. These latest changes sound reasonable. Players should not be able to launch themselves forward and upward to use their helmets as weapons against other players' helmets. Receivers who have not had time to protect themselves after making receptions should not have to worry about defenders hitting them in the head or neck area with helmets, facemasks, forearms or shoulders. Football will remain a collision sport. These rules will not make it otherwise.
  • Motives are secondary. The labor situation invites skepticism as to the NFL's intentions. The league stands to gain politically by pushing for measures to protect players. These changes cost the league nothing while allowing owners to claim they're looking out for players, even as they lock them out. These changes also put owners in better position to say they've been proactive should a player die from injuries suffered on the field. Players' skepticism is justified, but if the changes make sense, motives matter less.
  • Huge hits are fun to watch. I'll admit to enjoying those old clips showing Dick "Night Train" Lane nearly decapitating opponents with tactics that would draw suspensions in the current game (go to the 2:40 mark of this video for evidence, and watch the clip at 4:50 in particular). I'll agree with Deacon Jones when he says he could not be himself under the current rules. Hard-nosed defensive players would not be hard-nosed defensive players if they didn't grumble every time the league tried to legislate violence from the game. Defensive players should be frustrated every time the NFL makes changes benefiting their offensive counterparts. The issue, however, is to what degree the NFL should allow unnecessary, violent hits to the head and neck amid mounting evidence of the long-term consequences.

Your thoughts?

Darrelle Revis all-time cornerback talk

January, 18, 2011
Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber, Arizona Cardinals kicker Jay Feely and "First Take" raconteur Skip Bayless discussed where New York Jets star cornerback Darrelle Revis rates among the all-time greats at his position.

"He does everything you expect a corner to do," Barber said. "He hits people. He tackles. He makes plays on the ball. He locks people down in man-to-man coverage. ... But he had no interceptions this year. Largely on reputation right now, he is a great, great corner. But he doesn't make a whole bunch of game-changing plays."

Barber said his Buccaneers teammate, Aqib Talib, already is in Revis' realm.

Feely gave his perspective as someone who played with Revis for two years.

"No one can objectively say he's the greatest of all-time, but he can get there," Feely said. "I'll tell you why: because he's strong, he's physical, he can play man, he can play bump, he can be off the ball and play well.

"One of the things that makes him so great is he's diligent. He studies hard. I played with him two years and watched him and was thoroughly impressed with him. ... He practices harder than I've seen another guy practice. He gets after it in practice.

"There was a story he told me. I asked him 'Why do you go so hard against Braylon Edwards.' He said 'Because my rookie year he burned me twice, and I want to prove to him every day in practice that I'm better than him.' That said a lot to me."

Barber's all-time pick was Rod Woodson. Feely and Bayless went with Deion Sanders.



Sunday, 1/25