Ray Ratto

Only answer to what we learned from NFL's preseason: Ask in 22 weeks

shanahan-us.jpg
USATSI

Only answer to what we learned from NFL's preseason: Ask in 22 weeks

Now that the NFL’s practice games are over and we are done enduring the “What did we learn from . . . ?” pieces in which we learn that we didn’t learn anything at all except that injuries are still bad, what will football fans do with the next 10 days?
 
Well, 49er fans, just to name a group at random, will muscle up their love for Kyle Shanahan because he’s really all they have for the moment. They can’t fully trust Brian Hoyer, they don’t know what to make of a draft class people like only on conjecture, and 2-14 is a deep ditch from which to climb. Shanahan has been praised as one of the superior offensive minds of the day, which reminds us that Lane Kiffin has also been praised as one of the superior offensive minds of the day. Correlation is not causation, though, and Shanahan might indeed be the face of a franchise that has only Jed York’s, and we see from the Levi’s Air Force how well that plays.
 
Raider fans, on the other hand, are watching their window of opportunity rise while wondering if they are destined to sneak in one last Lombardi Trophy in the last three years of their existence or forever be known as the Quebec Nordiques of the NFL – building a champion just in time for it to be crowned in another city.
 
Derek Carr is playing just the way you would expect the second highest-paid quarterback in the NFL would, and the offense is tasked with averaging 34 points a game just to stay ahead of its still too-generous defense, thus reaching the old AFL nostalgia freaks who are entering their dotage.
 
But we knew all this going into the practice season, and given that Roger Goodell keeps trying to shorten the practice season to add more games that count (because CTE is good for you, damn it!), the real thing we’re learning is that we are choosing as media conglomerates to lavish more attention on less important things based solely on the fact that people need their needles.
 
So enjoy the holiday weekend and strap in for the next 21 weeks of Armageddon rehearsals in which we will learn how quickly Kyle Shanahan’s image ages and how close to the New England Patriots the Raiders really are, because those are the questions that will be asked most often because they are ones that most completely will define their years.
 
And only then, 22 weeks from now, when we are asked what we learned, we can answer with a straight face, “Only 81 days until the draft!” because we like it on the hamster wheel and have no intention of ever getting off.

In retirement, Andre Ward will have days when he desperately wants back in

ward-andre-knees.jpg
AP

In retirement, Andre Ward will have days when he desperately wants back in

Andre Ward finally did what he said he would do – retire before the sport of boxing retired him.

Now we’ll see if boxing intends to leave him be.

Ward announced his retirement via Twitter Thursday morning, seemingly ending the career of one of the world’s greatest fighters in the elusive pound-for-pound category. He now plans to get into media, which is a battle of its own (ask Teddy Atlas when he talks with Stephen A. Smith how rewarding that can be).

But there’s that word “seemingly.” Boxers have a greater incidence of unretirement than any other sport because they miss what they do, they are typically surrounded by people who like the paydays the boxer’s fights provide, the unpaid tax debts some incur never go away, and sometimes they just don’t have anything better to do.

And then one day they find out they can’t do anything at all because of the punishments that come with violent sport, and then they become either tragedies or cautionary tales. Almost nobody gets to 95 like Jake LaMotta did.

Ward has said repeatedly that would never happen to him, that he was in control of his destiny and would remain so. And you want to believe him, because he would be that rarest of boxing stories – the unmitigated success.

It will be his toughest fight, however, far tougher than Sergei Kovalev. Boxing has this weird thrall upon its practitioners that can prove irresistible, if not outright necessary, and Ward will have to train as hard to repel its call as he did when he was neck-deep in it. It will not be easy, and he will have days when he desperately wants back in.

But retired fighters typically make poor unretired fighters, and the more one unretires, the worse the future becomes. So Andre Ward has to win this one more than any other fight.

And maybe it will be an easy victory for him – but it is a victory that will have to be achieved every day, almost like fighting alcoholism. Boxing is bad for you, and though it has been good for Andre Ward (as far as anyone knows), being an ex-boxer will be even better. He has done what needs to be done, and now he needs to do something else, one that doesn’t require putting his body and brain at risk for our amusement.

If this can be done, Andre Ward can achieve it. But neither he nor anyone else should think it will be any easier than understanding an Adalaide Byrd scorecard. Post-boxing will be difficult and rewarding business. All he has to do is master it every day for the rest of his life.

The time has come to draw your own conclusion

The time has come to draw your own conclusion

For the record, and just so you can’t say you weren’t told, these are the 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL and the 50 backups. Draw your own conclusions.

(Author’s note: We list these only because Joe Webb was just signed by the Buffalo Bills, whose starter and first backup, Tyrod Taylor and T.J. Yates, are still in the concussion protocol).

AFC WEST

DENVER: Trevor Siemian (Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiler)

KANSAS CITY: Alex Smith (Patrick Mahomes, Tyler Bray)

LOS ANGELES: Philip Rivers (Cardale Jones)

OAKLAND: Derek Carr (E.J. Manuel, Connor Cook)

AFC NORTH

BALTIMORE: Joe Flacco (Ryan Mallett)

CINCINNATI: Andy Dalton (AJ McCarron)

CLEVELAND: DeShone Kizer (Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan, Josh Woodrum)

PITTSBURGH: Ben Roethlisberger (Landry Jones, Joshua Dobbs)

AFC SOUTH

HOUSTON: Tom Savage (DeShaun Watson)

INDIANAPOLIS: Scott Tolzien (Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett)

JACKSONVILLE: Chad Henne (Blake Bortles)

TENNESSEE: Marcus Mariota (Matt Cassel)

AFC EAST

BUFFALO: Nathan Peterman (Taylor, Yates, Webb)

MIAMI: Jay Cutler (Matt Moore, David Fales)

NEW ENGLAND: Tom Brady (Jimmy Garoppolo)

NEW YORK: Josh McCown (Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg)

NFC WEST

ARIZONA: Carson Palmer (Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert)

LOS ANGELES: Jared Goff (Sean Mannion)

SAN FRANCISCO: Brian Hoyer (C.J. Beathard)

SEATTLE: Russell Wilson (Austin Davis)

NFC NORTH

CHICAGO: Mike Glennon (Mitchell Trubisky, Mark Sanchez)

DETROIT: Matthews Stafford (Jack Rudock)

GREEN BAY: Aaron Rodgers (Brett Hundley)

MINNESOTA: Sam Bradford (Case Keenum)

NFL SOUTH

ATLANTA: Matt Ryan (Matt Schaub)

CAROLINA: Cam Newton (Derek Anderson, Brad Kaaya)

NEW ORLEANS: Drew Brees (Chase Daniel, Taysom Hill)

TAMPA BAY: Jameis Winston (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin)

NFC EAST

DALLAS: Dak Prescott (Cooper Rush)

NEW YORK: Eli Manning (Geno Smith, Davis Webb)

PHILADELPHIA: Carson Wentz (Nick Foles)

WASHINGTON: Kirk Cousins (Colt McCoy)

Again, draw your own conclusions. I know I’ve drawn mine.