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News » Focused groups a necessity

Focused groups a necessity

Focused groups a necessity
There are distractions. Like, I'm sorry, were-you-talking? distractions or the I-just-walked-into-a-glass-door distractions.

Then there are Football distractions. Like, say, Plaxico Burress and Clinton Portis.

And beyond running out of coffee in the middle of the week, there may be no bigger fear in the halls of professional Football power than distractions.

In part because distractions aren't planned events in a world where lunch gets planned as if it were some NASA outing, where the planes, buses and meetings are supposed to run on time or somebody's getting fined or fired.

Former Broncos wide receiver Rod Smith used to talk about "the wall."

As in what happens outside the walls of the team complex needs to stay outside the walls of the team complex if winning games is the goal, or at least influencing some people to keep you around.

"I would tell young guys all the time," Smith has said, "if you bring all of the things going on in your life to work, this is not a job where you're going to function all right. Go do something else.

"There are things more important than Football, lots of things, but if you play Football in this league and you get paid, you have to learn to leave those things for the time you are in the building. Or somebody's taking your job and then you'll have a lot more to worry about."

The Giants' seven-game winning streak ended Sunday when they lost to Philadelphia in a sluggish effort in Giants Stadium. Their total of 14 points was their lowest since mid-October, which is exactly how many points they had scored in their only previous loss - Oct. 13 in Cleveland.

And much of what happened on the field Sunday for the New Yorkers was laid at the feet of Burress, who had accidentally shot himself in the leg the previous weekend, then seemingly tried to hide the fact he shot himself by using a false identity at the hospital.

Somehow, the Giants won the game - 23-7 over Washington - two days after Burress shot himself, but not the one over a week later.

But those who track such things say that's just how it works sometimes.

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said he doesn't know what the Giants did or didn't do, what they said or didn't say in the wake of Burress' shooting, but he does know when things come up, they don't ever just go away without some attention.

"If there is something out there, you try to talk about it, try to get it out of the way," Shanahan said. "If something happens . . . you talk about it as a team. Once you talk about it, everybody gives their opinions on what they may think, it's kind of over with and you go on to the next problem.

"That's how you eliminate distractions; distractions are when you don't address them. The wives are talking about it, the girlfriends are talking about it, the media is talking about it and you don't address it, then it's a problem."

Whether it be an arrest off the field or some public griping about playing time on it, Shanahan said the biggest item is to go public.

Not to the general public, but rather in the closest thing to a town meeting that a Football corporation has - the team meeting.

"If you don't address these guys head-on, and you don't address the problem, then it gets bigger and the distractions just mount," Shanahan said. "It goes local, national and, all of a sudden, the snowball is rolling. They never just pass, go away on their own."

Portis, who led the league in rushing earlier in the season and is now third with 1,260 yards, took his displeasure public over being taken out of Sunday's game. Portis, who had 32 yards on 11 carries in the Redskins' loss to Baltimore, appeared on a radio show and blasted coach Jim Zorn.

Zorn, who is in his first year as an NFL head coach, is likely being tested by one of his team's best players. Portis had sarcastically referred to Zorn as a "genius" this week and said if Zorn didn't want him to get the carries in a game, maybe it was time to "sever" the relationship between Portis and the Redskins.

Zorn also had made public that missing practice was finally catching up to the battered Portis.

To clear the air, Zorn and Portis talked Wednesday to iron things out. Portis said publicly later in the day that he was "cool with everything."

"Some of it as you coach is if you don't deal with it, (the players) are going to wonder what you think instead of knowing because you told them," Shanahan said. "They get bits and pieces, girlfriend, wife, it's embellished and it all snowballs.

"So in the end, yes, I do think those things can affect how you play, especially if you don't address it. If you've got a problem with a guy, if you've got a malcontent, what you do is in front of the team and then you say, 'Hey, this is what I think, this is what he thinks,' and you clear the air and then you've got a chance."

A chance to keep the outside world outside.


GAMES TO WATCH * Buccaneers (9-4) at Falcons (8-5), 11 a.m. Sunday (Fox 31)

The Falcons have the league leader in rushing touchdowns - Michael Turner with 14 - and the league leader in receiving yards - Roddy White with 1,249 - in their offense. It's why rookie quarterback Matt Ryan needs only 60 passing yards to have his first career 3,000-yard passing season.

* Vikings (8-5) at Cardinals (8-5), 2:05 p.m. Sunday

These teams haven't faced each other in Arizona since 2003. With three games to go, Cardinals QB Kurt Warner already has topped 4,000 passing yards. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has had six 100-yard rushing games during his past eight and is averaging 120.5 rushing yards per game during that span.

* Steelers (10-3) at Ravens (9-4), 2:15 p.m. Sunday

Pittsburgh has the league's No. 1 defense and Baltimore is at No. 2. The two pounded away at each other in September, with the Steelers winning 23-20 in overtime. Ravens rookie QB Joe Flacco has thrown 12 touchdown passes the past eight games.

* Giants (11-2) at Cowboys (8-5), 6:15 p.m. Sunday (Ch. 9)

The Giants won this matchup last month when QB Eli Manning threw three touchdown passes. The Cowboys secondary has been battered by injuries much of the year, and Manning has a passer rating of 102.2 in his past five games against the Cowboys combined.


181games safety Brian Dawkins will have played for the Eagles in his career when he takes the field Monday night against Cleveland - the most in the franchise's history.


Air time

In a season when quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Drew Brees already have surpassed 4,000 passing yards, they also lead the way in 300-yard games. Ten teams, including Tennessee (12-1) and Carolina (10-3), don't have a 300-yard passing game this season.

300-yard 400-yard Total Quarterback, team games games yards

Drew Brees, New Orleans 8 2 4,100

Kurt Warner, Arizona 7 1 4,020

Jay Cutler, Denver 6 1 3,679

Tony Romo, Dallas 6 0 2,769

Philip Rivers, San Diego 4 0 3,169

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 12, 2008

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Willis McGahee Name: Willis McGahee
Position: RB
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