The National Football League today launched its Legends Program, the newest step in a series of programs designed to help former NFL players connect with each other, their former teams and the NFL.
Nineteen former players, including two Hall of Famers, form the first class of NFL Legends who will participate in this multi-faceted program developed by NFL Player Engagement and the league’s Marketing Department. The Legends will develop, foster and manage national and local alumni relations to deepen the relationship and communication between the league office, teams and former players. They also will participate in the league’s calendar events and fan platforms as additional ways to remain connected to the game.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Senior Vice President of Player Engagement Troy Vincent kicked off the program on Monday, the first of two days of training at the NFL office in New York City.
“Based on our peer-to-peer model, the Legends Program will reach out to our former players, and let them know that their contribution to the game we love is appreciated and their voice is welcome,” said Vincent. “We are a brotherhood, a family. We need to strengthen our relationships across the generations of our alumni, stay connected, and continue to contribute to this game and to each other.”
The Legends Program is built on a peer-to-peer model used in other NFL Player Engagement programs, fostering deeper relationships between generations of NFL players. Legends commit to a three-year term during which they will work to connect the 32 teams and the league with more former players. Legends will work closely with existing club-designated alumni directors, communicate with groups representing former players, and help develop and participate in team and league events.
The 19 former players participating in the Legends Program are:
|Lavar Arrington||Chad Pennington||Mark Bruener||John Randle|
|Mark Brunell||Ed Reynolds||Donovin Darius||Ron Rice|
|Warrick Dunn||Mike Rucker||Keith Elias||Will Shields|
|Rocket Ismail||Leonard Wheeler||Patrick Kerney||Aeneas Williams|
|Hardy Nickerson||Rod Woodson||Jay Novacek|
The NFL Legends Program is an extension of NFL Player Engagement programs designed for former players. The NFL Ambassadors program involves former players who are committed in the development of high school, college, and professional (both current and former) players and facilitate life skills and professional development seminars. In addition, the Transition Coaches program trains and certifies former players to help both current and former players in the areas of mental and behavioral health. The Legends will be the latest group of former players to continue the tradition of representing their teams at annual league events such as the NFL Draft and NFL Kickoff.
Sam Dana, a running back for the NFL’s 1928 New York Yankees team
Next week, NFL staffers will be heading to Canton, Ohio, for the Hall of Fame Game. In future years, it’s possible it won’t be the only Hall of Fame Game of the season.
The NFL is considering naming a big, regular-season contest “The Hall of Fame Game” in an effort to increase interest in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It sounds like the game would take place in the normal home city, but there might be events and promotions around the game related to the Hall. The game might be a prime-time affair.
Next week’s matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins will bring a lot of fans to Canton for the festivities. Everyone’s mind will be on the Hall of Fame for one week, but the NFL is hoping to extend that interest the rest of the year.
As long as an NFL team doesn’t have to give up a home game, the idea doesn’t appear to have any downside.
SETTING THE TONE: Historic capture of Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett’s team-meeting speech (FULL VIDEO)
Surprisingly, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett allowed SI.com’s Peter King to record Garrett’s entire Saturday team meeting to kick off the start of this year’s training camp (see below).
For the folks who only see the robotic version of Garrett during weekly and postgame press conferences, this version of the coach is a lot different.
The biggest difference: On several occasions, Garrett uses a certain four-letter — and sometimes seven-letter — word that starts with F.
Even after Garrett leaves the podium following press conferences and speaks with media members when the cameras are off, he almost never uses a curse word. This video shows he has no problem doing so in front of his players if that’s what it takes to keep them engaged.
Here are some of the highlights.
– “It’s hard to get in this room. Since you were this [expletive] high, you wanted to do it. Have a passion for it. Great attitudes.”
– “The NFL is hard. It’s a journey. It’s [expletive] hard. It’s hard to play one game in the National Football League, let alone 16 of them.”
– “I want Dez Bryant and Mo Claiborne [expletive] here tomorrow one-on-one on the left-hand side. That’s what I want, competing your [butt] off.”
– “You want guys who are leaders. Step up and be a [expletive] leader. Lead this football team. Lead it!”
– “The [coaches] I love to this day, were on my [butt] of every [expletive] minute of every day. I swear to God, I go to their weddings, their kids are getting married, I travel all over the world to see them. They [expletive] grinded me. It was hard. They made me better. That’s my job.”
– “The best [expletive] football teams I’ve been on, the quarterback held them accountable, the middle linebacker held them accountable, the pass rusher held them accountable, the tight end held them accountable. This is how we do stuff. This is the Cowboys. We’re trying to do something!”
– “Distinguish yourself from your play, not with what you say. We have a little bit of society that gets to a point where people want to distinguish themselves. They want to be famous by what they say. Twitter, all that kind of stuff that goes on, what they’re saying. Stick with yourself and your play. Talk about Sean Lee because he’s the best [expletive] Mike linebacker in football. Right? Not because he tweeted something, or said something in a press conference, or whatever.”
DAWN OF A NEW DAY – and football in a new way—starting in the inner sanctum of the Dallas Cowboys
Courtesy: Peter King
OXNARD, Calif. — “Life,’’ Jason Garrett told his team Saturday afternoon, pacing in front of his 90 players, “is about opportunities. The NFL! The Dallas Cowboys! Are you kidding me? Since we were this high we wanted to be here.”
I find myself this morning feeling the same as Garrett. Only I’ve got a different team. It’s called The MMQB, a site under the Sports Illustrated umbrella, using all the means of modern media to disseminate that football prose and information. Unlike Garrett, I haven’t made a speech to fire up the troops. I don’t have much Lombardi in me anyway.
First things first: I’m excited about our first post. I’ve always been intrigued with the speeches coaches make to teams at the start of training camp, in part because I once heard a 1973 tape of Paul Brown’s to his Cincinnati Bengals. I wrote about that speech a year ago. The rules, the expectations, the mundane, the inspirational. In the spring, I knew we’d be kicking off this new site around the start of NFL camps, and I went in search of a team that might let us not only write about a coach’s first speech of the season to his team, but show video of it. In our business today, we’ve all got to get wise to video. So after some convincing, Dallas owner Jerry Jones gave his blessing, along with coach Jason Garrett. And so, on Saturday, in his team meeting room a few long spirals from the Pacific Ocean, Garrett stepped to the front and laid out his hopes, plans, expectations and rules for the new season. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t believe a head coach’s full training-camp speech, the words and video, has ever seen the light of day … until today. We’re proud to bring it to you.
The full 35-minute video can be found here.
Three things I found compelling about Garrett’s presentation:
• Notice how silent it is in the room? Never a peep in 36 minutes, and there was a sensitive microphone at work in the room. You notice it especially when the vague topic of leadership surfaces, and Garrett gets animated. “We want guys who are leaders. Leaders!’’ Garrett said, eyes wide. “Step up and be a leader. Lead this football team. LEAD IT! It’s time! It’s time to lead this football team! It’s your time!’’ When he’d pause, you’d hear nothing—not even a cough. It’s hard to read the mood and feelings of 90 men, of course. But the players’ focus is a sign, to me, that Garrett’s still got the attention of his team, after back-to-back disappointing 8-8 years.
• The son of a coach talks like a coach, paces like a coach and warns that players had better be able to take coaching. “The coaches I hate—that I had a visceral reaction to—were the guys who told me, ‘You’re doing a great job.’ … And allowing me to be as mediocre as mediocre could be,” Garrett said. “None of us need help being mediocre—especially me. Coach my ass! … You been to the Pro Bowl eight times? You’re getting your ass coached. You just got here 15 minutes ago? You’re getting your ass coached. First-round picks, free agents who signed for nothing—everybody’s getting coached.”
• Ever notice the NFL’s getting more and more careful with every utterance? Garrett wants to keep it that way. With the media, Garrett said, players should be “respectful, brief, boring and humble … Distinguish yourself with your play, not what you say.” My favorite thing of everything Garrett said is about tuning out the distractions that flood every NFL locker room. “Don’t listen to the noise,” he said. “Think Einstein listened to the noise? Think Martin Luther King listened to the noise? Be strong enough mentally, be strong enough physically” to tune the distractions out.
“We’re gonna establish an identity that lasts forever,” Garrett told his players. “That starts today.”
Our site, and football America, owe Jones and Garrett (and Cowboys PR VP Rich Dalrymple) a debt of thanks for educating fans on the hidden ritual that, this morning, is no longer hidden.
OXNARD, Calif. – The Cowboys are now well underway in training camp here at the Oxnard River Ridge complex. The club wrapped up another light walk-through practice Monday, followed by a regular press conference from Jason Garrett.
Here are some highlights from the morning and early afternoon occurrences today:
- Defensive end Anthony Spencer didn’t participate because of a bone bruise on his leg. Spencer told reporters after practice he is trying to be smart about all injuries. His goal is to be “ready for that first game against the Giants.” From the sound of things, Spencer will be limited in his practice participation.
- With Spencer out, and after the torn Achilles injury of Tyrone Crawford, it put second-year pro Kyle Wilber working with the first-team defense at end.
- Running back Joseph Randle, who has been limited for most of the summer with a broken thumb injury, said he is “pretty much” 100 percent healthy now. Randle said he is wearing a small splint that fits inside his glove.
- Tight end James Hanna suffered a slight hamstring strain towards the end of the walk-through.
- When asked after practice what keeps Jason Witten’s motor running after 10 seasons, the Pro Bowl tight end said, his drive to “win a Super Bowl” is the biggest motivator. However, Witten said having the goal isn’t good enough. Putting in the hard work and long hours of camp and the offseason is only half of the battle. But still, Witten doesn’t deny the ultimate prize is to be holding that Lombardi Trophy at the end of the year. “When that day happens around here, it’ll be very special.”
- Jason Garrett said in his press conference the Cowboys won’t be able to put Crawford on IR until the roster is trimmed to 75 players. While they won’t gain a spot on the roster because of his injury, they already had one open spot. In regard to the defensive end, Garrett said “we need to reload there. We just need to continue to look at available options there.”
- Garrett on Tyrone Crawford: “I thought he had an outstanding year last year. He was a different player at the end of the year than the start. You know he’ll do his rehab right and we know he’ll be better and stronger than ever.”
- The head coach said defensive tackle Ben Bass has “some position flex” and he’ll get the chance with Crawford out, to play both end and tackle in the next few days.
- Jason Garrett was asked a few questions about his team-meeting speech on Saturday that has become viral in the internet Monday. The coach said motivational speaking is the biggest part of his job. “I think you have to give them a path, a roadmap, some inspiration and motivation to get up each and day to accomplish that vision. It’s my job as the head coach to do that. If you’re a human being, you need motivation and inspiration. It’s something I believe I have to do.
- Injured defensive end Tyrone Crawford said he will try to remain upbeat after his disappointing Achilles injury that will put him on IR for the entire season. “I’m still a part of the team. But I’m just not going to be there on the field. I learned a lot from DeMarcus Ware this offseason. I learned a lot from Hatcher, Ratliff this offseason. Now, I’m going to learn a lot from (Barry) Church and Britt Brown and the rest of the medical staff. But I’m going to work hard. I’ll make it back.”
- Cowboys VP Stephen Jones, the team’s director of player personnel, said Tyrone Crawford’s replacement is already on the roster. “We certainly like the guys we’ve got better there anyone out there.”