Sports Outside the Beltway

Former NFL Punter Tom Whittum dead at age 60

He was also a talented baseball player and was selected in the 1968 draft by the Chicago White Sox.RIP.

Former San Francisco 49ers Pro Bowl punter Tom Wittum, who was drafted by the Chicago White Sox but opted for a standout baseball and football career at Northern Illinois, has died. He was 60.

Wittum died of cancer Friday at his home in the northern Chicago suburb of Antioch, his son, Matt Wittum, said Tuesday.

A fifth-round pick of the Chicago White Sox in 1968, Wittum instead chose to attend Northern Illinois. He set 10 school kicking records as a place kicker and punter, including the career, single-season and single-game records for punts, punting yards and punting average.

Equally skilled as a third baseman, Wittum helped lead Northern Illinois to a 24-8 record in 1972 — the first year the Huskies were invited to the NCAA baseball tournament.

Wittum was drafted by the 49ers in 1972. The two-time Pro Bowler played in 70 games with San Francisco from 1973-77, kicking 380 punts for 15,494 yards with a 40.8-yard gross average, according to the team.

He retired from the NFL after a serious car accident left him with several broken bones in 1978, but went on to teach driver’s education and coach for more than 30 years, most of it at Grayslake High School in Grayslake, Ill.


NFL considering mandatory echocardiograms

The NBA has required this test for its players since 2006. From ESPN-

Between the time of Bears defensive end Gaines Adams’ death last Sunday to his funeral Friday, the NFL’s Cardiovascular Committee began discussing the possibility of subjecting all players to a heart scan called an echocardiogram, starting with potential draft picks invited to the NFL scouting combine next month.

NFLPA medical director Thomas Mayer told ESPN that the medical examiner who performed an autopsy on Adams stated the enlarged heart that led to his death could have been detected by an echocardiogram.

But, as Mayer pointed out, the process is complicated.

Is the fear of legal liability going to influence a doctor? Are cardiologists going to agree on whether a player has an enlarged heart or an athlete’s heart? Does that mean he’s systematically finished as a football player?

More likely, a questionable echocardiogram could lead to more sensitive tests, such as a cardio catheter procedure.

As a person who had major cardiac surgery less than 18 months ago, I see mandatory electrocardiograms as a good idea. Putting the policy into place will be complicated, but it shouldn’t be used as a reason not to do this. My heart condition, a bicuspid heart valve and ascending aortic aneurysm was very serious, and till as little as two weeks prior to my operation, nobody knew I had those conditions. Some heart problems in addition to a enlarged hearts, show few or little warning signs.

I would also add that a large amount if not majority of NFL players, are grossly overweight. Heart testing is for their own good.


Miami Dolphins name Mike Nolan Defensive Coordinator

He replaces the recently fired Paul Pasqualoni. From ESPN-

Fewer than 24 hours after splitting from the Denver Broncos, Mike Nolan was hired by the Miami Dolphins to be their new defensive coordinator.Mike Nolan

Nolan replaces Paul Pasqualoni, who was fired after the Dolphins’ 7-9 season. They allowed 390 points, the third-highest total in the AFC.

The Broncos started the season 6-0 and were the talk of the league. Nolan received much of the credit as he turned around a defense that ranked near the bottom of the league in every major category in 2008.

Nolan’s scheme shaved 7.8 points a game off a defense that surrendered 28 points a game the previous season.

Then the team went into a free fall, losing eight of its next 10 games to miss the postseason for a fourth straight year.

Nolan was the 49ers’ head coach in 2005-08.

Nolan, whose father was also an NFL head coach, was defensive coiordinator for the NY Jets, Washington Redskins, Baltimore Colts, and New York Giants before his gig in San Francisco.

Nolan inherits a defense that has some talent, but its either- young and error prone, erratic, or getting up in years. The Dolphins are in need of help at Defensive Tackle, Linebacker, and Safety. How well Miami does in the 2010 will be the deciding factor as to whether the Dolphins defense improves or declines next season. I think it slides or maintains the status quo myself.


No punch- San Francisco beats St. Louis 28-6

Tight End Vernon Davis tied a NFL record in the 49ers 2009 season finaleAP-

The San Francisco 49ers finished strong, scoring three touchdowns in the final 7 1/2 minutes. The St. Louis Rams bowed out with a performance worthy of the No. 1 overall pick.Vernon Davis

Vernon Davis tied the NFL record* for touchdown receptions by a tight end with his 13th of the season, sparking the 49ers’ late surge in a 28-6 victory on Sunday.


Frank Gore added 107 yards rushing on 23 carries and two TDs for the 49ers (8-8), who pulled away after a desultory first half in which they mustered only 52 yards and trailed 3-0.

Gore rushed for almost as many yards as the Rams as a team collected offensively(109). Today was the fifth worst offensive performance in Rams franchise history.

blockquote>San Francisco ended a string of six consecutive losing seasons, halted a six-game road losing streak and finished 5-1 against the NFC West. The Rams (1-15) wrapped up their first winless home schedule since going 0-6 in 1959 and only the third in franchise history.Early in the last decade, St. Louis went to consecutive Super Bowls. At the close of the 00′s they went 6-42 from 2007 to 2009. What a reversal in fortunes.

The Rams have acquired the #1 pick in the NFL draft based on their record for the first time in almost fifty years. In 1962, they drafted Heisman trophy winner Terry Baker(Who was a bust). In 1997 the Rams traded up to select Orlando Pace, who is a likely Hall of Famer one day. St. Louis fans will probably clamor for the team to select a quarterback,(Tim Tebow?)but that’s a risky move. If a young QB doesn’t have a offensive line to protect him, it will be awfully difficult for him to succeed.

*- Antonio Gates caught 13 touchdown passes in 2004 for the San Diego Chargers.


Terrell Owens records his 1,000th career reception

He was two catches away from the milestone entering today’s game between the Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Falcons. From AP-

Terrell Owens is the sixth player in NFL history to catch 1,000 passes.

Owens reached the milestone with an 8-yard catch for Buffalo in the second quarter of Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons. He had a 10-yard catch from Brian Brohm, making his first start, earlier in the drive.

Owens entered the game needing two catches to reach 1,000 for his career, which began in 1996. He reached the milestone in 203 games. Only Marvin Harrison and Jerry Rice reached 1,000 career receptions in fewer games.

As of the time I wrote this blog post, Falcon TE Tony Gonzalez has 996 career receptions.

I remember when the NFL career reception record was a little over 600. That is the basis for the following trivia question. Who is the NFL player who has the highest yards per catch for a receiver with over 600 career receptions? The answer is below the fold.


Snow delays kickoffs of Ravens-Bears and Eagles-49ers games

What’s a little bit or a lot of snow when there is a important football game to be played? From ESPN-

Kickoff for the Ravens game against the Chicago Bears on Sunday was moved to 4:15 p.m., because of a snowstorm expected to hit Baltimore this weekend.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning in Baltimore, predicting snow accumulations of 10 to 20 inches. They expect it to begin snowing late Friday and continue through early Sunday morning.

The NFL approved the change on Friday after the City of Baltimore recommended the move, according to the Ravens’ Web site. The game was originally scheduled for 1 p.m.

Safety concerns was the reason given for the time change. I guess that is meant for the fans, not the players. Snow falling while a professional football game is taking place is hardly unique.

Update- Another NFL game has been postponed. The Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers will be kicking off late in the afternoon also.

The revised article brought up an issue I hadn’t thought of. That two NFL teams had to fly into the snow packed Northeast. The Chicago Bears original flight to Baltimore, scheduled for Friday night, was canceled.


NFL changes return to play concussion rules

Nearly 1/5th of NFL players surveyed said they hidden or downplayed the effects of a concussion. From AP-

NFL teams now have new, stricter instructions for when players should be allowed to return to games or practices after head injuries, guidelines that go into effect this week.

In the latest step by the league to address a hot-button issue, commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to the 32 clubs Wednesday saying a player who gets a concussion should not return to action on the same day if he shows certain signs or symptoms.

Those include an inability to remember assignments or plays, a gap in memory, persistent dizziness and persistent headaches.

The old standard, established in 2007, said a player should not be allowed to return to the same game if he lost consciousness.

Wednesday’s memo also says players “are to be encouraged to be candid with team medical staffs and fully disclose any signs or symptoms that may be associated with a concussion.”

The new guidelines sound good in practice(I think they were overdue. A player not able to think clearly has no business being on a football field.) but I doubt they will be adhered to. Coaches are under pressure to win and most NFL players aren’t inclined to challenge these people who have authority over them. A person is also more likely to press on and shrug off any ill feelings they have. I know I have for maladies large and small, including a slight concussion I suffered six years ago after an auto accident.


San Francisco 49ers sign WR Michael Crabtree

After missing all of training camp, four preseason games, and four regular season games, how much impact can you expect from the Texas Tech hold out? From ESPN-

After months of holding out, wide receiver Michael Crabtree has agreed to a contract with the San Francisco 49ers.

The deal, first reported by ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, was confirmed by 49ers spokesman Bob Lange in a text message to The Associated Press early Wednesday.

Crabtree will get a six-year deal that he can void to five years if he meets undefined performance clauses, a league source told ESPN’s Michael Smith.

The 22-year-old Crabtree is expected to report to the team’s training facility Wednesday.

More on Crabtree

Sando’s Mike Sando breaks down the implications of the Michael Crabtree signing for the 49ers and rest of the NFC West. Blog
• Blogs: NFC West | NFL Nation

Crabtree and agent Eugene Parker met into the early-morning hours Wednesday with 49ers owner Jed York, general manager Scot McCloughan and Paraag Marathe, vice president of football operations. The two sides had gone almost three weeks without talking.

San Francisco selected Crabtree with the 10th pick in this year’s draft and could use the wideout’s game-breaking ability in the passing game. That said, he has a lot of catching up to do to learn the offense after missing all of training camp.

He also sat out the 49ers’ offseason minicamps and organized team activities while recovering from a foot injury, but was a regular presence for rehabilitation and strengthening workouts at the team’s training facility.

The supposed reason for Crabtree’s late signing, was that he wanted more money than Darrius Heyward-Bey who was selected ahead of him in the NFL draft. That’s not how rookie salaries are worked in the NFL and therefore the holdout.

Now Crabtree and the 49ers have come to terms. Someone should teach the NFL’s newest player about humility. Then again it would probably be a waste of time.


Former Detroit Lions Coach Monte Clark dead at 72

He was also one of Don Shula’s assistants during their undefeated season.The AP article fails to note that Clark was the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers for one season. This isn’t the first such omission involving AP’s sports obituaries in recent history. Does the wire service ever think about checking a football reference book or wikipedia? RIP Coach Clark.

Former Detroit Lions coach Monte Clark has died at 72.

The Lions said Clark died Wednesday night at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. He had a bone marrow malignancy associated with lung and liver disease.

Clark coached the Lions for seven seasons and was an assistant on the Miami Dolphins team that went 17-0 in 1972. He was the coach of Detroit from 1978 to 1984 and had a 63-61-1 record in the regular season.

He led the Lions to the playoffs in 1982 and 1983, the first time the club made consecutive postseason appearances since its three straight playoff runs from 1952 to 1954.

He was a tackle who spent 11 years in the league with San Francisco, Dallas and Cleveland. His last season as a player was 1969.


Former Kansas City Head coach Frank Gansz dead at 70

He had a long career as a college and pro football assistant coach in addition to the two years he spent running the Chiefs. Gansz started coaching at Air Force in the 60′s, did a stint with his alma mater Navy for four years, and worked for six college teams in all before making his way to the NFL. In addition to his stint in Kansas City, Gansz was on the staff of the St. Louis Rams the year they won Super Bowl XXXIV.

Gansz retired from coaching in 2001 but in 2008 June Jones persuaded him to return as an assistant coach at SMU. Some people called Gansz the best Special Teams coach in the NFL. RIP.

Former Kansas City Chiefs coach Frank Gansz has died in a Dallas hospital.

SMU spokesman Brad Sutton said Gansz, who was special teams coach for the Mustangs last year, developed complications after undergoing knee replacement surgery last week. He said Gansz died Monday afternoon.

Gansz, who was 70, coached for 38 years, 24 in the NFL. He was head coach of the Chiefs from 1987-88. Other stops included special teams coordinator for Jacksonville, Atlanta, St. Louis and Detroit, and well as stints at Philadelphia, Cincinnati and San Francisco. He was on the Rams’ staff for their 2000 Super Bowl win.


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