- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 10, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

We all make mistakes.

It was a mistake for me to write last season that I would keep Ray Rice on my roster amid his on-field struggles because I appreciated the way he played the game. I pride myself on not getting caught up in the misplaced hero worship of athletes, but that’s exactly what I did by assuming I knew Ray Rice because I watched him play a lot of football.

That mistake was foremost on my mind Monday morning when I first saw the video of Rice brutally knocking out his then-fiancee/now-wife Janay Palmer. Hours of debate and introspection followed.

When this incident occurred in February and I saw the initial video of him dragging her unconscious out of an elevator in an Atlantic City casino, I was done with “my guy” Ray Rice. Like Michael Vick before him, I made a stand that I would not draft him. And on Monday, amid all the talk and contemplation, I realized it was hypocritical of me to have drafted Ben Roethlisberger, who served a high-profile suspension in 2010 after being implicated in a sexual assault at a Georgia bar (he was never charged). I wrote previously that he would have a big year. I still believe that, but if I’m going to be consistent, I had to drop him. He can have that big year for someone else.

Now, I realize that many people will think this is meaningless. It’s only a game, right? It’s just for fun, right? Sure. But just because something is not important in the grand scheme of things doesn’t mean that it’s not a thing worth doing.


SEE ALSO: LOVERRO: Pitchman to pariah: Last year, NFL used Ray Rice jersey in women’s apparel ad


Between the time of the first and second Rice videos, I became the father of a little girl. She laid (mostly) silently only a few feet away from me Monday as I made my way through the Ray Rice wormhole on social media.

I was mocked for being too serious, but how often do any of us do serious things? Most everything we do in our lives is of little or no consequence in our great big world. But we all do many little things that are important to us — and those closest to us. That is more than enough to give them meaning.

Someone pointed out that just being involved in fantasy football could be seen as supporting an organization that has shown itself to be, at the very least, tone deaf when it comes to the issue of violence against women. There’s some truth to that. However, the NFL’s negligence — which is now going to be thrust into the spotlight — is no reason we shouldn’t enjoy the games that have kept some of us company since we were little boys.

I understand this position may someday prevent me from fielding a competitive fantasy team. But until then, I’ll keep watching, I’ll keep playing, and I’ll start hoping that the latest fallout is a catalyst for positive change.

***

A few observations from the opening week:

• There has been a lot of talk about how bad the Cowboys’ defense is, but if you’re talking about stopping (or not stopping) the run, the Bears’ defense is even worse. Maybe the unit will get better as all the offseason acquisitions continue to jell, but it gave up 193 yards rushing in a loss to the Bills. Any running back facing Chicago is a must-play until the defense shows it’s not as porous as it was last season.

• Don’t worry about Jamaal Charles. OK, maybe just a little. I was down a bit on Charles this season because he had never been a big touchdown producer until last season, when he led the league with 19. He won’t do that again; however, he made a name for himself as one of the game’s best all-purpose backs on some terrible Chiefs teams, and this appears to be a terrible Chiefs team. He only gained 34 total yards in a loss to the Titans, but he’ll get his eventually.

Andrew Luck is going to account for a lot of touchdowns. The Colts defense is bad and the running game is worse, so he’s going to spend each week throwing, throwing and throwing some more. He also has an uncanny knack for running into the end zone — something he might want to teach Trent Richardson.

• I drafted Victor Cruz over Randall Cobb in one league and immediately regretted it. My regret seems to be well founded after Eli Manning and the Giants offense outLioned the Lions on Monday night. I’ve been hearing Rich Gannon say for weeks that it takes half a season to become comfortable with a new offense. I should have listened. I’m not sure Cruz is going to be a viable option against any team other than Dallas. He’s headed for my bench.

• I’ve been sleeping on Kelvin Benjamin. The rookie wide receiver gives the Panthers their first big-play guy since Steve Smith’s heyday. It will be interesting moving forward to see how he adjusts as defenses try to take him out of games. A related good sign in the win over the Bucs was Greg Olsen’s big game (8 catches, 83 yards, 1 TD). He presents enough matchup problems on short and intermediate routes that it will make it that much harder for opponents to keep Benjamin in front of them.

***

Week 1 Lineup Crime: I could have started DeAndre Hopkins, Joique Bell and the Philadelphia defense, but I still would have kicked off the season with yet another loss to my wife. With Hopkins, Bell and the Eagles on my bench and my top two picks — Jimmy Graham and Eddie Lacy — doing nothing, I lost to the person who has dominated my longtime league the past two years by 55 points.

Week 2 Lineup Time: I was surprised by Knowshon Moreno’s performance against the Patriots (134 yards, 1 TD), but maybe he’s finally living up to his potential (and showing last year’s success was about more than lining up behind Peyton Manning). The Dolphins’ rebuilt offensive line is solid, so Moreno is a must-start against the Bills. … Justin Hunter was the talk of the preseason, and this week the Titans wide receiver faces the Cowboys. This is the kind of matchup the flex position was made for. … The Falcons defense couldn’t stop the Saints running game last week. No one on the Saints is as dynamic as Gio Bernard. … The best defensive matchup of the week is Lovie Smith’s Bucs facing a third-string quarterback at home. Turnovers galore.


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