Osi agrees with Kurt Warner about kids and football; Ahmad Bradshaw enters his ‘thunder’ phase

Osi Umenyiora. (nfl.com)
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A weekly column about what the Giants are up to when they're not playing football.

You’ve probably heard about this little dust-up: Kurt Warner, the former star quarterback who took a mysterious sabbatical from his stardom as a Giant, expressed misgivings about having his children play football.

When asked if he would prefer if they didn’t play, Warner—who, significantly, is now an N.F.L. Network analyst, said—“Yes, I would. Can’t make that choice for them if they want to, but there’s no question in my mind.”

To this, Amani Toomer, who, for all his stately elegance as a player has morphed into a blowhard as a television personality, harshly reproved him:

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“I think Kurt Warner needs to keep his opinions to himself when it comes to this. Everything that he’s gotten in his life has come from playing football. He works at the NFL Network right now. For him to try and trash the game, it seems to me that it’s just a little disingenuous to me.”

Toomer was heavily criticized for his own criticism, which indeed comes off as boorish and misguided. But to me, Toomer’s remarks can be separated into two separate points. The first point is not legitimate, but the second one is.

The first point—that Warner shouldn’t criticize football because he has financially benefitted from it—is silly. That would be like telling a guy who made a good living in the coal mines that he’s duty-bound to support the coal industry, and that he should want the same career for his children. People do things given their own situations and the limitations of their knowledge at the time. That doesn’t lock them into a moral position.

Also, it's only after Warner ages, and the effects from his many concussions show themselves, that anyone will be in a position to assess just how much he's benefited from his football career.

But the second point Toomer is making—that he’s being hypocritical because he still draws a paycheck from football—makes some sense to me, and cuts to the uncomfortable moral space that most of us occupy when it comes to football these days.

If football is too dangerous to let your own children play, is it ethical to profit from other people’s children playing it? Most of us right now, who are either benefitting from the sport financially or purely as entertainment, would likely say something about the free, informed choice that players make. But most of us also regard that as an unsatisfying moral position, a temporary refuge from our conscience until we figure out what exactly is going on and what to do about this sport that is so thoroughly embedded in our memories, habits, and emotions.

On this point, Toomer is at least consistent.

After Toomer’s criticism, and possibly after being reminded of who butters his bread, Warner basically recanted his statement.

Then, this week, Osi Umenyiora echoed Warner’s original comments.

“Its an awesome game and has done a lot for me, but I know when I’m 45 there is a strong chance il be in a wheelchair,” Umenyiora tweeted. “If i can avoid that for my son, i will.” 

TOO BAD, HERE: CHAD JONES WAS NOT CLEARED TO PARTICIPATE in rookie minicamp (which starts today) or veteran minicamp in June, and Giants officials told the Post’s Paul Schwartz that Jones “still has a long way to go” in his recovery and that they “are not planning on him for this season.”

(Jones, a third-round draft choice of the Giants two years ago, shattered both major bones in his left leg in a car crash the summer he was drafted.)

It’s not surprising that the Giants aren’t planning to have Jones around; in fact, it would be pretty alarming if they were actually counting on him. But this bit of news will nonetheless be disappointing to Giants fans. Last month, there was a spate of optimistic stories about Jones’ doing workouts with the team, which inspired hope that he would participate in training camp.

It would obviously be amazing to see Jones make it all the way back to the field. It's already an incredible achievement that he made it back this far.

STACY ROBINSON, A STARTING WIDE RECEIVER on the 1986 Giants championship team and a member of the 1990 team, died this past week of cancer, at 50.

I met Robinson three years ago as part of my research into a book about the 1986 Giants. We talked for a couple hours, and I really liked him. Here’s my remembrance of him, on this site.

APPARENTLY, THE GIANTS HAVE LOCKED UP THEIR top two draft picks, David Wilson and Rueben Randle, meaning every draftee except for Markus Kuhn was signed for the start of rookie minicamp today. Rookies have signed much quicker over the past two years than in previous years before because the new collective bargaining agreement has a wage-scale for rookies based on draft position, leaving very little wiggle room for contracts.

That, combined with a full training camp, has made the Giants optimistic that this year’s rookie class will made a smoother transition to the league than last year’s, writes Jorge Castillo of the Star-Ledger.

Speaking of rookies, the Giants released their numerical roster, which includes numbers for rookies:

Wilson will wear number 34, Randle will wear Mario Manningham’s old 82, and Brandon Mosley will wear Kareem McKenzie’s old 67.

WHILE ADDRESSING FANS AT HIS ALMA MATER Southern Connecticut State University, Kevin Gilbride said that Victor Cruz will remain in the slot, which veterans like Ramses Barden, Domenik Hixon and second-year man Jerrel Jernigan competing with second-round draft choice Rueben Randle for the other outside receiver spot opposite Hakeem Nicks.

Keeping Cruz is the slot is smart. Last year, according to Pro Football Focus, Cruz amassed more yards than anyone else while lined up in the slot, with 1,208 of his 1,536.

Obviously, Giants fans are hoping that Randle—who, judging by this article, seems like a low-key dude in the Nicks mold—snatches that quasi-starting job.

Randle is a native of Bastrop, Louisiana, a town of 13,000 in the northern part of the state. The town is named after the self-styled Baron de Bastrop, born Philip Hendrik Nerling Bogel, a Dutch tax collector who found himself on the lam from Dutch authorities for embezzling the monies he collected.

He fled to Spanish Louisiana, where he faked noble heritage by adopting his new name, and soon found himself negotiating land deals. He befriended a man named Moses Austin, father of Stephen F. Austin. Together, Bastrop and Austin would play an instrumental role in the Anglo-American “settlement” of Texas.

Now you know.

ANOTHER NUGGET FROM THE GILBRIDE EVENT: The five starters along the offensive line, as of now, are Will Beatty at left tackle, Kevin Boothe at left guard, David Baas at center, Chris Snee at right guard and Dave Diehl at right tackle.

Other than Snee at right guard and probably Diehl at some position along the line, none of these guys’ jobs is especially secure. Diehl can supplant any of the guards, as well as Beatty at left tackle. James Brewer can supplant Diehl at right tackle, while Sean Locklear can supplant both Beatty and Diehl. Mitch Petrus can supplant any of the guards and Baas, and Boothe can also supplant Baas.

Next year, Brandon Mosley will be in the mix at guard and maybe tackle, and Matt McCants will compete for time at guard.

Interchangeable parts and positional depth: Bad for players’ job security, good for the team.

I HAD AN INTUITIVE FEELING FROM LAST YEAR THAT Ahmad Bradshaw wasn’t breaking nearly as many tackles as he had in previous years (Brodney Pool notwithstanding). So I looked into the numbers, and learned I was wrong.

According to Pro Football Focus stats, Bradshaw broke a tackle or made defenders miss 34 times on 234 rushing attempts including the playoffs, or 14.5 percent of what NFL Films narrators would call “would-be tacklers.” That’s right in line with his previous career numbers of 15.2 percent in 2010, 14.1 in 2009, with the mini-outlier of 19 percent in 2008.

So despite the problems with both Bradshaw’s foot and the Giants’ offensive line, Bradshaw’s tackle-breaking and elusiveness were as good as ever.

Judging by the stats, the problem was more his speed: He only had three carries of 20 yards or more, compared to 13 in 2010, six in 2009, and four in sparing duty in 2008.

These stats are obviously highly context-influenced and therefore must be taken with a grain of salt, but they could point to a second phase of Bradshaw’s career as the between-the-tackles workhorse to David Wilson’s perimeter game-breaker.

Bradshaw has always been a very good between-the-tackles runner; that whole “Thunder vs. Lighting” dichotomy with Jacobs misstated the strengths and weaknesses of both runners. Going forward, and health permitting, Bradshaw is now “Thunder.”