Football

The National Fight League? NFL becoming known for chaos instead of football

New York Jets head coach, Todd Bowles, center talks with quarterback Josh McCown (15) during the New York Jets Washington Redskins NFL football training camp in Richmond, Va., Monday, Aug. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
New York Jets head coach, Todd Bowles, center talks with quarterback Josh McCown (15) during the New York Jets Washington Redskins NFL football training camp in Richmond, Va., Monday, Aug. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Steve Helber) AP

The National Fight League?

That seems to be what the NFL stands for these days. And it appears no one is safe.

Whether it’s a joint practice brawl (like what happened with the Washington Redskins and New York Jets), a fight between teammates (which got Gabe Wright booted from the Miami Dolphins roster) or a scuffle between teammates that later led to the media being targeted (an incident that led to one-week suspensions for Jacksonville Jaguars players Jalen Ramsey and Dante Fowler Jr.), the league’s preseason has gotten out of control.

And we’re through merely one week of preseason games.

“The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: You DO NOT TALK ABOUT FIGHT CLUB! . . .” OK, so the angst hasn’t quite gotten to Tyler Durden levels just yet, but nonetheless the NFL has a problem on its hands.

And that’s just the physical fights. We’re still somehow in the midst of the national anthem protest saga, after the league supposedly had a fix for it. Yes, one of the biggest headlines as football returned en masse last week was the one about a handful of Miami Dolphins players either kneeling or raising a fist during the “Star-Spangled Banner” ahead of a preseason game.

Ugh. Here we go again.

As I mentioned last season, I’m not really sure what the protests stand for anymore. Originally, I supported Colin Kaepernick’s stance against racially-based police brutality, but later last year the message seemed to shift to an anti-President Donald Trump narrative. Well, Kaepernick is still nowhere near an NFL roster and Trump is still our president.

Not much has changed since last season. Nor do I think the protests will spur anything of substance now. What’s the point?

It’s as if everyone in the NFL is just looking for a fight these days.

Maybe it’s because it has once again gotten harder to “properly” hit players (another rule change and headline in the spotlight) and the brutal game’s aggression is being taken out elsewhere. Or perhaps it’s the bore that is the way-too-long preseason. Do we really need four weeks in which games mostly involve guys who will barely see the field?

I’m going to go with no on that one.

Regardless, the NFL has become a headline machine, and not for what is happening on the field.

There’s plenty of cool story lines. Will the Cleveland Browns actually win a game finally? Can Houston, led by a healthy Deshaun Watson, collectively stay healthy and compete with the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers of the world? Will any of the rookie quarterbacks make a splash in Year One? Is Jimmy G the real deal?

And that’s just to name a handful.

But instead the headlines making the most noise are about fighting and protesting. I guess it could be worse: At least you’re not in college football’s shoes right now.

The kickoff of the NFL season can’t get here soon enough. And this year, unfortunately, there’s reasons beyond the normal football itch that kicks in at this time of year.

Let’s make football, not war.

David Wetzel: @MYBSports, 843-626-0295

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