NFL wants you to focus on fall, not the summer

The National Football League kicks off its season this weekend in its attempt to smoke-cloud the upsetting lockout which occurred this summer.

The league wants us to forget about the off-field shenanigans and to concentrate on the action on the fields this fall wrapping up with Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5, 2012 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Honestly, I’ve already forgotten about the owners-players tug of war. But, what has stuck with me has been all of the changes with players and rookies. It’s been difficult to keep up with players and teams.

What I can tell you are my quick thoughts on how the season should shape up; Though I have known Philip Rivers since he was a small boy growing up here in the Tennessee Valley and I think he’s awesome on the field and would love to see his San Diego Chargers go all the way, I have to pick the New England Patriots to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. The NFC is not as clear. I see four teams: Packers, Saints, Falcons and Cowboys as the leading contenders. In the end, the Saints go marching home to victory with a battle against the Pats in the big game.

Of course lots of season predictions center around the availability of Payton Manning of the Colts. I said a month ago I truly thought he was not ready to return from neck surgery. Now, he has been reevaluated and there’s talk of possible more surgery on the best QB in the league. Having once worked for orthopedic surgeons for about a decade, I can tell you surgeries on the neck area are very complicated and many times the patient never returns to 100-percent form. Thus is the case with Manning. Could his situation be a career ending on? We shall see.

College Football
Already there has been a mental shift of power in the SEC as LSU moved above Alabama to the No. 2 spot in the latest AP rankings. Both teams have several good opponents on their schedules before these two powers do battle head-to-head on Nov. 5th.
This Saturday, the SEC battles to watch include: Auburn-Miss State (11:20 a.m.-Channel 54), Alabama-Penn State (2:30 p.m.-Channel 31), Tennessee-Cincinnati (2:30 p.m.- ESPN 2) and South Carolina-Georgia (3:30 p.m.-ESPN).

My predictions can be seen below.

Next week (week 3) will feature some grand matchups in the SEC and one major game not in the SEC that will go a long way in determining the national championship race. On Thursday, Sept. 15th, LSU-Miss State (7 p.m.-ESPN). On Saturday, the 18th, Auburn-Clemson (11 a.m.-Channel 31), Tennessee-Florida (2:30 p.m.-Channel 19), Alabama-North Texas State (2:30 p.m.-FSN) and Oklahoma-Florida State (7 p.m.- Channel 31).

Coaches Education
The Alabama High School Athletic Association has adopted a new policy requiring middle school coaches to attend the rules clinic for their sport or complete the online rules clinic and exam in their sport. This has been required for the high school coaches for years. A school will be fined $300 for each head coach that does not meet this requirement.

The Alabama Legislature passed a new law this year requiring parents of student-athletes to complete a Concussion Information Form and should be completed annually. Plus, new rules governing the concussion as an in jury was signed into law by the state for the treatment of concussions and when a player is allowed to return to play following what has been diagnosed as a concussion. The injury can be and is serious.

Three new coach education courses are now available online through the National Federation of State High School Associations at www.nfhslearn.com. The courses are Fundamentals of Coaching Track & Field, Sportsmanship and Health and Wellness: A Coach’s Guide to Hydration, Nutrition and Supplements.

Next week, I’ll take a look at attendance and participation in prep sports. What you will find out will amaze you.
Bits and Pieces

The next meeting of the Huntsville Quarterback Club will be held Tuesday, Sept. 13th at The Ledges in Huntsville. Guest speaker will be Pat Sullivan. The former great at Auburn and winner of the 1971 Heisman Trophy will speak on all aspects of college athletics and his tenure in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons and Washington Redskins.

The Dixie Derby Girls are winding down its season with another match this Saturday at the Roller Time Skating Rink in Huntsville. The Girls will face the Mississippi Brawl Stars. More details available on the team’s website: dixiederbygirls.com.

Now for my predictions: Last week I missed the LSU and Boise State victories, but did come away with a winner with BYU over Ole Miss.
This week, just four games to tangle with: Cincinnati will derail Tennessee, South Carolina drubs Georgia, Miss State defeats Auburn and Alabama hangs on to squeak by Penn State.

By Bob Labbe