Whenever the Labor Day weekend rolls around, several things are certain to
happen—summer as we know it ends, the threat of hurricanes subsides somewhat, cooler
weather is right around the corner AND the National Football League starts playing
games “for real.”
But the 2019 edition of the NFL’s first week was put on the back burner as two of
the game’s premier performers—Ezekiel Elliott and Antonio Brown– were holding out
and getting most of the pro football headlines.
The Dallas Cowboys were faced with Elliott, their star running back, demanding
his contract be re-negotiated despite having two years remaining on his rookie-year pact.
This ploy usually ends up with the star player agreeing to play the entire season
and then receiving a new contract after the season has ended, kind of like what Earl
Thomas did last season with the Seattle Seahawks.
But Cowboy owner Jerry Jones realized that without Zeke in the lineup the
Cowboy’s running game would be nil, screwing up then entire offense.
Jones remembers way back when star running back Emmitt Smith did the same
thing and the season began with three straight losses before he relented and gave Smith
what he wanted.
This season was predicted to be one of the Cowboys’ best in many years and
Jones didn’t want a certain win to not happen because Zeke wasn’t in the lineup.
So last week Zeke got his five-year extension worth nearly $100 million and the
Cowboys had Zeke in uniform ready to play in Sunday’s lop-sided 35-17 opening win
over the hapless New York Giants.
But the Elliott Episode was not nearly as weird as the one involving Antonio
Brown. He was the property of one of the best franchises in NFL history—the Pittsburgh
Steelers—until he got tired of catching short passes over the middle from quarterback
Ben Roethlisberger and demanded to be traded.
Brown, the four-time All-Pro who caught 837 passes over nine seasons with the
Steelers, got his trade wish and was dealt to the Oakland Raiders in March after
Pittsburgh got tired of his weird antics. But he never made it onto the field in a Raiders’
uniform, according to an article that appeared in the Houston Chronicle last week.
“Instead of providing them with a marquee star in their final season in Oakland
before moving to Las Vegas, Brown gave them months of headaches, from a bizarre foot
injury to a fight over his helmet with the blowups last week that ended his career there
before it began,” the article pointed out.
The straw that broke the camels back apparently occurred in a practice session
when he caught a pass and then punted the ball after the catch.
Brown made the next catch and stuffed it into a garbage can and after his third
and final reception, he heaved the football out of the stadium and onto some railroad
tracks, according to Sunday’s pre-game show on Fox Sports.
The Raiders told Brown his total of fines exceeded $200,000 and that the team
was voiding the remainder of his $29 million guaranteed salary, so he demanded his
release on Instagram. He was granted his wish very few minutes later.

And within a couple of hours, Bill Belichick, who has a habit of picking up these
renegade players off the garbage heap, signed Brown to a one-year contract with the New
England Patriots that guaranteed him $9 million this season with the potential of earning
as much as $15 million.
Brown was scheduled to earn up to $50 million from Oakland over the three-year
deal. “We just exhausted everything,” Raider’s coach Jon Gruden said. “We tried every
way possible to make it work. All I’m going to say is, it’s disappointing.”
KWICKIES…Orange native Earl Thomas has already given the Baltimore
Ravens what they signed him for—to create turnovers. On the Ravens’ first defensive
stand in Sunday’s game at Miami against the Dolphins, Earl snatched a pass thrown by
Miami quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and returned it 15 yards, which set up one of the
Ravens’ many touchdowns they scored in that 59-10 blowout. Earl has picked off
Fitzpatrick four times in his 10-year career. Earl had four interceptions in the three games
he played last season with the Seattle Seahawks before his season-ending injury, which
totals five picks in his last four games.
The Houston Astros got in the swing of things on the first Sunday of the 2019
NFL season by scoring three touchdowns and extra points (21 runs) in crushing the
Seattle Mariners 21-1 to sweep the three-game series. Right-hander Gerrit Cole retired 24
of the 25 batters he faced, striking out 15 hitters and improving his record to 16-5. Going
into Monday’s game against Oakland, the Astros needed only six more victories to reach
the 100-win milestone, leading the major leagues with their 94 victories.
After LSU’s impressive 45-38 victory over the Texas Longhorns at Royal
Memorial Stadium in Austin Saturday night, the Bengal Tigers moved up from No. 6 to
No. 4 in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 College Football Poll. The top three teams
remained intact—Clemson, Alabama and Georgia—Oklahoma and Ohio State each
dropped one notch, idle Notre Dame moved up one spot to No. 7, Auburn and Florida
jumped up two places while Michigan, who had to go two overtimes to subdue Army,
dropped three places to No. 10. Texas sunk from ninth to No.12 while the Texas Aggies
went from No. 12 to No. 16.
JUST BETWEEN US…My grandson, Logan Smith, was one of the 500 West
Point cadets who were chosen in the lottery to attend Saturday’s big game between Army
and Michigan at Ann Arbor and stand behind the Black Knights bench in their fatigues.
Army came very close to pulling off one of the biggest upsets at Ann Arbor, losing after
their game-tying field goal attempt to send the game into a third overtime period was
fumbled, giving Michigan a lucky 24-21 double-overtime victory.