Fun Fact of the Day: During Sunday night’s primetime game, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott celebrated a touchdown by jumping into a human-size Salvation Army kettle. His stunt produced a 61% increase in donations compared to this time last week. The NFL’s heart must have grown 3 sizes yesterday, because they even decided against fining Elliott for his excessive celebration.
Barely holding on. The Carolina Panthers beat the Washington Redskins last night 26-15, all but ending the Redskins playoff chances. Now with only 2 weeks left of the season, the Redskins will need to win their final 2 games and pray that their competitors for the NFC Wild Card spot lose. During the game, refs missed yet another helmet-to-helmet hit on Panthers QB Cam Newton, and even gave him a penalty for taunting the player that hit him. Later, Redskins tight end Jordan Reed was ejected for throwing a punch at an opponent.
Seen and Heard
Clipped short. L.A. Clippers power forward Blake Griffin will have knee surgery and miss 3-6 weeks. Unfortunately, Griffin has a history of ailments. He missed his entire rookie season after getting surgery on his other knee, and he sat out half of last season with a recurring quad injury. Is there any good news? This actually isn’t the worst time to lose Griffin. The Clippers have an easy strip of games coming up. Only 5 of their next 19 games are against teams with winning records.
Spotlight on Stars Dropping Out of Bowl Games
This week, 2 of the best running backs in college football decided to drop out of their teams’ bowl games so that they could rest up and prepare for the 2017 NFL draft. Here’s what you need to know about the bowl game controversy:
Who decided to skip? LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey. Last year, both were Heisman Trophy candidates (given to the best player). They have both declared for the NFL Draft and are expected to go in the first round.
Why would you skip a bowl game? Players risk injury (and a big NFL paycheck) every time they step onto the field before the NFL Draft. On top of that, bowl games are actually pretty meaningless except to make money for the NCAA and the schools that participate. A lot of folks are siding with Fournette and McCaffrey and asking why individual players should risk their big paychecks just so their schools can get richer.
A prime example. Just last year, Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith was projected to be a top 5 NFL draft pick. Then in his team’s bowl game, he tore both his MCL and ACL. He ended up getting picked 34th in the draft and received a 4-year contract with $4.4M guaranteed, while the #5 pick got $22.9M guaranteed. Smith is still trying to rehab his knee.
Who is worried about players playing hooky? College football fans are calling the players selfish for not helping their teams win these bowl games. And some current NFL coaches and players like Ezekiel Elliott tweeted concern that they weren’t team players.