Chat with Merril Hoge
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, ESPN NFL analyst, and cancer surviver, Merril Hoge stops by to talk football and celebrate Jimmy V Week here at ESPN.
In the 18 years since The V Foundation for Cancer Research was founded by ESPN and Jim Valvano, the foundation has raised more than $100 million. For more information, or to donate to the V Foundation, call 1-800-4-JimmyV or go here. Every cent of every donation goes directly to cancer research.
Hoge was diagnosed with stage II non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2002 and was pronounced cancer free in 2003. He spent most of his eight-year NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers before retiring as a Chicago Bear in 1994, having his career cut short by a series of concussions.
Send your questions now and join Hoge Wednesday at noon ET!
Buzzmaster (12:03 PM)
Merril will be here soon, everyone!
Merril Hoge (12:15 PM)
Hi everyone, I'm honored to have been able to survive cancer, and to help fight for a cure someday. Happy to be a part of this. What's going on?
Did your battle with cancer change you? How so?
Merril Hoge (12:17 PM)
I don't think I had a life-changing experience with it. What it did for me is it created a more sensitive approach to life -- a greater perspective on things. Birthdays for example. I'm grateful for every birthday I have now, because I know people who'll never see age 40 or 50. I was so happy to be able to see my daughter go to college -- she was nine years old when I was diagnosed.
How crazy is it that Tebow and the Broncos keep winning?
Merril Hoge (12:18 PM)
I think it's nuts, actually. My evaluation of him was as a pure thrower and passer, which he's not. I love to see him winning. Can he continue? It's hard in the NFL to be that one-dimensional. You don't have to chuck it all over the place to be a good QB, and he's proven that right.
Joe (Simi Valley, Ca)
What's your take on the Dallas Cowboys so far this year and if they make the playoffs how deep do you think they'll go?
Merril Hoge (12:19 PM)
Dallas looks as good as any team in football at times, but they haven't been nearly as consistent as they need to be. They need to protect Tony Romo. They have some problems with their pass coverage as well. They do have a staple to that team -- DeMarco Murray has really established that and has calmed that team down, allowing them to weather certain storms. I think they can go fairly deep, but it'll be hard to beat the Saints or Packers.
do you agree with the Jaguars firing Jack Del Rio midseason?
Merril Hoge (12:20 PM)
Obviously the Cowboys did it last year, and it helped them, but I've never seen it rectify and change the course of a season to a significant level. I think it would have been better to finish the season off as-is. I've always felt that way, but they did not.
Landry (San Diego)
Do you agree with the Suh suspension?
Merril Hoge (12:21 PM)
Yes. That kind of behavior is unacceptable for an NFL player. I'm shocked that he did that. It's not the person I know. Inside the white lines, you have to play with a certain emotion and temperament. You have to control that a little better, though. Hopefully he's learned his lesson.
Ron (New Hampshire)
Do you see the Patriots winning a playoff game this year, and if they can, how far do you think they can go
Merril Hoge (12:22 PM)
I think they can go fairly deep, as long as they don't run into a defense like Pittsburgh or the Giants, because they played them very well. They don't have many dimensions to their offense, which is what you need to win championships. That's why the Packers are so good. Their defense is still extremely suspect.
Merril, you beat cancer almost 10 years ago now...but do you still have regular checkups with your doctor to make sure it's still gone?
Merril Hoge (12:23 PM)
I no longer have to do that, but I have bloodwork and a physical every six months. I stay in tune with my body to make sure everything's good. I stay active with that, but I don't have to do CAT scans like I used to.
What do you make of the Chargers' downfall this year?
Merril Hoge (12:24 PM)
They've just been in shambles. Philip Rivers has not been consistent -- his accuracy and decision-making have suffered. Defensively, they have not been as good off the edges, rushing the quarterback. They have also had issues defending the run.
Merril, do you think the Bears can survive for a few weeks without Cutler and hope that he comes back for the playoffs?
Merril Hoge (12:25 PM)
I actually do. I think they have a strong enough team to survive. Cutler won't be back until the playoffs, but I don't think with a broken thumb on his throwing hand that he'll be effective enough to succeed in the playoffs.
You had a number of concussions during your playing days, so are you satisfied with the NFL's concussion rules as they are today?
Merril Hoge (12:27 PM)
Yes, I'm pleased with where we're going. Something I'm even more passionate about is the Return to Play policy for the NFL. Youth football is very important to me, how we're treating the three million kids who play it every year. It's important for our administrators and coaches to know not to put our kids in harm's way when they've experienced head trauma.
Rob (San Antonio)
Can the Steelers win it all?
Merril Hoge (12:27 PM)
Yeah they can. They'll have to play more consistently, but they absolutely could. Their offense can be better than it was last year by a long shot. They clearly could.
Hey Merril, my mother was diagnosed with cancer this summer. Do you have any advice or encouraging words for someone currently going through treatment?
Merril Hoge (12:29 PM)
One thing I really try to encourage everyone to do is to not let it run the moment. Stay active in the things you do already as best you can. Whatever your routine is, keep doing it. You dictate it, don't let it dictate to you. I know there can be moments where it does, but you'll feel more empowered by taking back control.
The packers defense gives me ulcers. They are allowing a ton of yards, but still come up with game changing plays. Do you think that will be enough to repeat?
Merril Hoge (12:30 PM)
If they can keep making those game-changers, it will, because their offense is so good. They're better than they were five weeks ago, but teams have been able to exploit their linebackers. It'll be interesting to see whether or not that holds up in the playoffs against good teams.
Kyle (Lock Haven PA)
Merrill, do you think Peyton Manning will retire when the season ends? I can't imagine he can risk another neck injury.
Merril Hoge (12:30 PM)
The word I'm hearing is that he will come back. It's more of a nerve thing which takes a long time to heal. It's not a for sure thing, though.
John M (Ocean City, MD)
I am a hugh Giants fan. What I saw during the game, aside form the confusion on defense, was our front four not being ready when the offense was at the line. Do you think the players were just trying to confuse Brees or were they being lazy?
Merril Hoge (12:31 PM)
Sometimes they can be confused themselves. The Saints do this to a lot of teams, because they do so much motion that they'll make you sit and hesitate. That could be the bigger problem, to me.
Merril Hoge (12:32 PM)
We are getting closer and closer to finding cures for any every type of cancer. It's so important to keep fighting, because we will see a cure someday. Thanks everyone!