Tag Archives: fights

Don’t let the facts get in the way of . . .

Everybody loves a good story. But you can’t love it so much — as a journalist, at least — that you don’t do your due diligence and verify, verify, verify.

One such story got some play on Twitter and elsewhere a few days ago. This was after Ikemefuna Enemkpali, the Jets’ rookie linebacker, cold-cocked starting quarterback Geno Smith and broke his jaw. NFL.com’s Gil Brandt, who’d dealt with a similar episode during his Cowboys days in the ’70s, tweeted the following: 

(Over 3,000 retweets, folks — for those of you scoring at home.)

Longley brandishes his clippings after the '74 Redskins game.

Longley brandishes his clippings after the ’74 Redskins game.

There’s only one problem: It ain’t true. For starters, nobody in 1976, not even the wily Brandt, was going to — presto chango — trade Longley for the second pick in the next draft. The kid had had a stellar small college career at Abilene Christian, sure, but he was still an unknown quantity who’d thrown just 44 passes in his two NFL seasons, completing less than half of them (19). He had, however, flashed in a 1974 Thanksgiving Day game against the Redskins, coming off the bench to throw two touchdown passes to rally the Cowboys to a memorable 24-23 win. That, and his Dallas pedigree, were what gave him some market value.

But hardly No. 2-overall-pick market value. The deal Brandt brokered actually went like this: Dallas sent Longley and its 1977 first-rounder (24th) to San Diego, and the Chargers forked over their first (14th) and second (41st) selections in the same draft. Got it? The Cowboys came away with a second-rounder and moved up 10 spots in Round 1.

The trade, then, wasn’t really Longley for Dorsett. It was Longley for a couple of the chips Brandt needed to pry the No. 2 pick away from the Seahawks. Dorsett ended up costing Dallas their young QB plus four prime selections: the first- and second-rounders acquired from San Diego and two other seconds — 30th (which came from Buffalo for defensive end Pat Toomay) and 54th (the Cowboys’ own choice) overall. That 30th choice, I’ll just remind you, would be a first-rounder today.

Peter King wrote about the Longley-Staubach scuffle in his Wednesday mailbag. And to his credit, he acknowledged:

“The details in the Cowboys story are a little fuzzy now. Brandt’s recollection differs from the memory of some Cowboy players in a Matt Mosley story for the Dallas Morning News a decade ago. Brandt recalls Longley and Staubach getting into a fight after a training-camp practice in California in 1976, Longley riding Staubach about it being time for him to retire (he was 34 in that training camp), and Staubach saying if he wanted to discuss it, they’d discuss it after practice on an adjacent field. They fought then, and later, in the team’s locker room in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Brandt recalls Longley trying to hit Staubach in the head with a folding chair — just like in the old days of professional wrestling. The players recalled the fight to Mosley, but not the chair. They say that Longley cheap-shotted Staubach when he wasn’t looking in the locker room.

This is not in dispute:

“After it happened,” Brandt said Tuesday night, “Tom Landry called. He wanted Longley traded  immediately.” Brandt, within a day, had Longley dealt to San Diego.

Not in dispute? It most certainly is in dispute — the “within a day” part, that is. Longley wasn’t traded for nearly three weeks (18 days to be exact). But “within a day” sounds so much more dramatic, doesn’t it?

On Aug. 25, 13 days after Longley jumped Staubach, The Associated Press reported:

Longley has been on the trade marts for almost a month, but Landry said, “We’ve had offers for him, but they weren’t good enough to consider. It’s possible he won’t play anywhere this year.”

Landry also added, “I never write off conciliation.”

It wasn’t until Aug. 30, when teams were beginning to set their final rosters, that the Chargers, still not sold on future Hall of Famer Dan Fouts, decided they needed Longley as quarterback insurance. (In their defense, Fouts was 5-20-1 as a starter at the time and had a career passer rating of 56.)

A year later, with the legendary Dorsett rushing for over 1,000 yards as a rookie, Dallas won its second Super Bowl. By then Longley was out of the league, never to return. Brandt’s version of events make for quite a tale, but it’s only that — a Texas-sized whopper honed, no doubt, in press boxes and hospitality suites over the decades. Clint Longley slugged Roger Staubach when he had his head turned, and 24 hours later I traded the SOB for Tony Dorsett. How much more brilliant can a personnel man get?

Unfortunately for Brandt, we have the Internet now, and it’s harder to get away with these fish stories — except on websites that are either too understaffed, too overworked or too trusting to double-check basic facts.

Sigh.

(Sorry, I’m just not a print-the-legend guy. When the legend becomes fact, I begin to worry about the fate of civilization.)

Source: pro-football-reference.com, prosportstransactions.com.

More Redskins fisticuffs

A practice-field fight between Redskins Bashaud Breeland and Andre Roberts a couple of weeks ago caused quite a stir in the nation’s capital. What else is there to talk about when a team is 3-10?

I made light of it in a blog, saying it paled in comparison to some of the more action-packed battles in the NFL’s combative history. I’ve since discovered — as if I needed any more Paul Lipscomb cardammunition — that the Breeland-Roberts bout isn’t even the most notable between two Redskins. The brawl between middle guard Jim Ricca and defensive tackle Paul Lipscomb after a game in 1952 was much better, according to accounts.

Breeland (5-11, 195) and Roberts (5-11, 192), after all, are mere cruiserweights. Ricca (6-4, 270) and Lipscomb (6-5, 246), a four-time Pro Bowler, were super heavyweights. When they walked, the ground shook. (Or at least, it did in those days, when players weren’t nearly as big as they are now.)

The two behemoths came to blows in the locker room after the Redskins had blown a 10-0 lead in the second half and lost 14-10 to the Giants at Griffith Stadium. “Blaming each other for missed assignments that led to Washington’s final-period collapse, . . . they tangled in a brief, but bloody brawl,” the International News Service reported.

“Ricca suffered a deep gash under the chin that required seven stitches to close. Eyewitnesses said he apparently fell against a trunk as the two beefy linemen wrestled to the floor.”

The Associated Press added this detail: “They were separated, before much damage was done, by several players, including 226-pound Chuck Drazenovich, who used to be the intercollegiate boxing champion.”

Redskins coach Curly Lambeau, who had seen a tiff or two between teammates in his day, told Ricca and Lipscomb to shake hands. He then sent them to neutral corners. (OK, I made the second part up.)

“I’d rather see the boys worked up than take the loss lying down,” Lambeau said — football philosophy at its finest.

Here’s what’s eerie. Both fights — Breeland-Roberts and Ricca-Lipscomb — took place after the Redskins had dropped their fifth in a row. In both instances, there were three weeks left in the season. In both instances, the Redskins lost their next game, then won the one after that to end their string of defeats at six.

The moral, I guess: Beware late-season five-game losing streaks. (And for goodness sakes, keep your gloves up.)

Source: pro-football-reference.com

INS version of fight 11-24-52

Sideline extracurriculars

From the look of the things, 49ers wideout Anquan Boldin and Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett exchanged some Hard Consonants on the Washington sideline Sunday. They may even have uttered a few vowels.

Late in the game, as you can see in this clip, Boldin was driven out of bounds by cornerback Greg Ducre and free safety Trenton Robinson after a 10-yard catch. When he “pushed,” as he put it, one of the defenders off him, lips started flapping. Line judge Byron Boston actually stepped between principals to make sure the situation didn’t escalate.

The 49ers' Anquan Boldin and Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett debate the proper way to baste a turkey.

The 49ers’ Anquan Boldin and Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett debate the proper way to baste a turkey.

Afterward, Boldin claimed to be unaware of what set Haslett off. “A guy tried to hit me late on the sideline,” he said, “and I pushed him off. [Haslett] had some words for whatever reason. I don’t even give that a second thought. He don’t . . . he’s irrelevant.”

(For the record, Haslett was the 51st pick in the ’79 draft, a linebacker out of Indiana (Pa.) taken by the Bills. Mr. Irrelevant, who went 279 picks later to the Steelers, was wide receiver Mike Almond from Northwest Louisiana.)

I bring all this up for a couple of reasons: 1. Who doesn’t love a little sideline flare-up, be it inter-team or intra-team? 2. These episodes can involve so much more than just foul language.

In fact, long before Haslett joined the Bills, a Buffalo coach was accused of punching an opposing quarterback after he’d run out of bounds. It allegedly happened in a 1961 game against the New York Titans — whose descendants, the Jets, meet the Bills tonight in Detroit (thanks to the avalanche of snow that fell on Orchard Park last week).

The coach was Buster Ramsey, a crusty former all-pro guard with the Chicago Cardinals. The quarterback was Al Dorow, one of the better scramblers in that period. And the owner who leveled the charge against Ramsey was Harry Wismer, the famous sportscaster who owned the Titans (back in the days when franchises could be bought out of petty cash). Here’s The New York Times’ description of the incident:

9-18-61 NYT game story

Sounds like a nasty game, doesn’t it? And AFL Commissioner Joe Foss — this was before the league had merged with the NFL — had a ringside seat.

Anyway, the Times said Ramsey “shoved” Dorow — which was bad enough, I suppose. But Wismer upped the ante, claiming Ramsey “slugged” his QB “and cost us the game,” which the Ramsey football cardBills wound up winning 41-31.

Dorow seconded the motion, saying, “Ramsey was the first one on me and knocked me down with a punch. A player cannot lay his hands on an official and certainly a coach should not be permitted to punch a rival player.”

(I’m not sure what the word “rival” is doing there. Is Al suggesting it was OK in that era for a coach to punch his own player?)

It only got worse. When the Bills sent the Titans a copy of the game film, Wismer accused them of splicing out the fight. He fired off a wire to Buffalo general manager Dick Gallagher — that Gallagher released to the media – that read: “Received doctored up film of Titan[s]-Buffalo game. Amazed you would cut out episode of Ramsey slugging our quarterback Dorow.”

Gallagher’s reply: “Film shipped intact. Nothing cut out. Shocked at your accusation.”

Wismer was having none of that. “The film they sent us shows Ramsey going for Dorow,” he told The Associated Press. “Just about the time he gets to him, the scene shifts. They say they didn’t cut it. I say the fight isn’t in the film. Dorow got hit on the side of the jaw by Ramsey, and he will testify so.”

But beyond that, he went on, “Coaches are supposed to stop trouble, not start it. Ramsey’s actions in Buffalo could have incited a riot.”

The Titans owner went as far as to demand a lifetime ban for Ramsey — or at the very least a suspension. The Bills coach, meanwhile, continued to maintain his innocence. “I did not swing at Dorow football cardAl Dorow or any other New York player,” he said. “Harry Wismer’s statement that I did substantiates a belief I have long held . . . that he is full of hot air.”

How great was pro football in the ’60s?

Dorow got such a going over in the Buffalo bench area, the Times reported later in the week, that the team physician, Dr. James Nicholas, “said it was extremely doubtful that [he] would be able to play against Denver.” The most severe of the quarterback’s injuries, Nicholas said, was a “lumbar-sacral strain, which left him with a weakness in one leg.”

Lumbar-sacral strain or not, Dorow did indeed play the next Sunday against the Broncos, throwing three touchdown passes in a 35-28 New York win. As for Ramsey, he wasn’t suspended and probably wasn’t even fined. The AP put the matter to bed this way:

9-22-61 Foss letter to Buster

That wasn’t quite the end of it, though. The teams still had to play each other again on Thanksgiving at the Polo Grounds. In the days leading up to the game, Wismer asked the New York police commissioner to put a detail behind the Buffalo bench to maintain the peace. “We still remember the terrific beating Dorow took at the hands of Ramsey and the Buffalo players in the game at Buffalo Sept. 17,” he said.

The Titans took the rematch 21-14, with Dorow tossing for one TD and running for another. Best of all, everybody lived to tell about it – though, if you examine the box score, you’ll see Dorow was sacked six times for 66 yards. That can’t be good for the lumbar-sacral area.

Source: pro-football-reference.com

Wismer asks for protection