With 77 consecutive starts, Ryan Tannehill proved he’s tough enough to come back and do it again

 

Ryan Tannehill is a tough guy or he wouldn’t have started 77 consecutive games while absorbing a total of 213 career sacks.

Of course, that streak is over now, with knee trouble stopping the Miami Dolphins’ quarterback late last season and a training-camp relapse knocking him out for all of 2017.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) talks with Jay Cutler during warmups before pre-season game against Atlanta Falcons at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on August 10, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Still, I wouldn’t bet against his return from a long and difficult rehab to take over again as Miami’s starter in 2018. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they consistently show up for work, and Tannehill would probably be out there right now if he had another chance to delay surgery. Gimpy but game, he was throwing pregame passes in shorts and a T-shirt before the Dolphins’ preseason opener last week.

Dan Marino is the only Dolphins quarterback with more consecutive starts than Tannehill. He had a string of 95 between 1987 and 1993, fourth-longest in team history behind Jason Taylor (130), Richmond Webb (118) and Jim Langer (109).

In NFL history, only 21 quarterbacks have topped Tannehill’s string of 77 consecutive starts. Brett Favre (297) and Peyton Manning (208), a couple of Hall of Famers, are No. 1 and No. 2 on the list.

The only currently active NFL passers with streaks longer than 77 at some point in their careers are:

Eli Manning (199, streak is active)

Philip Rivers (176, streak is active)

Joe Flacco (122)

Matt Ryan (115, streak is active)

Tom Brady (112)

Tom Brady (111)

Matthew Stafford (96, streak is active)

Drew Brees (82)

Russell Wilson (80, streak is active)

Drew Brees (79)

 

Crazy to think that Brees would have a couple of starting streaks that rank in the league’s all time top 25. He’s the quarterback Miami passed on as a free agent in 2006, thinking his surgically-repaired right shoulder wasn’t fully healed and might not hold up.

Brees came back strong, of course, with the New Orleans Saints. Maybe Tannehill will, too.

[Jim McElwain follows clumsy coaching norm in keeping Antonio Callaway]

[Is this waivers business anything to worry about with Giancarlo Stanton?]

[The two places in America where there is nothing but love for Jay Cutler]

 

Gators’ Jim McElwain follows the clumsy coaching norm by keeping Antonio Callaway on the team

 

Antonio Callaway, the only sure playmaker on a Florida offense that has ranked among the nation’s worst for a couple of years now, is suspended for the season opener against Michigan.

The kid earned every bit of it, and really should be kicked off the team by now. This latest case of misusing school-issued funds to buy textbooks and then resell them is piled on top of previous problems.

GAINESVILLE – Florida wide receiver Antonio Callaway runs after a reception against Kentucky a 2016 game. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Pleading no contest to a marijuana charge and paying a fine. Being suspended for a semester by the university during a sexual assault investigation that eventually came to nothing. Getting pulled over as a passenger in a car with a 40-year-old man whose criminal history is well known to police. Being far too well acquainted, overall, with the school’s hearing system for student conduct code violations.

Of course, Gators coach Jim McElwain needs this spectacular wide receiver and kick returner against the Wolverines on Sept. 2. Heck, the way this offense struggles to put points on the board, he needs Callaway against Northern Colorado the following week.

“Very disappointed,” is how McElwain described his reaction, as well as the necessity to suspend six other players for the opening game because of the same text-book scam.

Very light, in Callaway’s case, the punishment. He isn’t learning anything from all of these close calls and dodges except that McElwain, like most major coaches trying to get a shot at the national title, will do whatever he can to keep his best players eligible.

Here, meanwhile, is what I have learned through the years of watching college players trade touchdowns for true accountability.

First, there is a reason that the Gators and many other high-profile programs generally schedule an easy game or two to open each season and have done so forever. It allows room for painless suspensions in response to offseason idiocies. This Michigan opener is an experiment, and with the exception of Miami as a season kickoff game in 2019, it’s not the kind of instant challenge that Florida will pursue on a regular basis.

Second, Cam Newton got away with a lot of stuff before he left the Gators in 2009 but more than that we probably still don’t know the whole story.

Urban Meyer knew what he had in this transformational quarterback, the logical successor to Tim Tebow, and he didn’t want Cam to get away. So even though a Fox sports report said Newton was caught three times for academic cheating before and after an arrest for buying a stolen laptop computer, he only decided to transfer to a junior college when the university threatened to expel him for repeated violations of the school’s honor code.

Was Newton worth the trouble that Meyer and his staff must have gone through to try to keep him on the team?

The fraternity of coaches probably has a different answer on this than you might, but consider that Gene Chizik had an undefeated and national championship at Auburn in his one season with Newton at quarterback. Two years later, without Newton, Chizik bottomed out and got fired.

[Is there anything with this waivers thing to worry about with Giancarlo Stanton?]

[Pahokee’s Anquan Boldin will have a strong influence on Buffalo Bills]

[The two places in America where there’s nothing but love for Jay Cutler]

“I saw these strides, right, and then sometimes you take a step back,” McElwain said of Callaway’s suspension. “Yet I’m sure he’s not the only one that’s done that, and yet it’s my responsibility to keep teaching.”

Teach on, just like Nick Saban has done by deciding not to suspend Da’Shawn Hand for the season opener against Florida State, even though the star defensive end was charged with DUI for being asleep at the wheel of a car while impaired.

This is how it works with the best players, in every sport, at every level. This is how it always will.

Is there anything with this revocable waivers thing to worry about with Giancarlo Stanton?

 

I’m not enough of a seamhead to know everything there is to know about revocable waivers but if the Miami Marlins just ran Giancarlo Stanton through that process over the weekend and he went unclaimed, as reported by Yahoo Sports, it’s time to dig in.

As explained by the MLB Daily Dish website, “In August, tons of players throughout the league are placed on revocable trade waivers, in many cases for clubs to gauge value of their players and in some rare cases, because clubs are actually interested in making waiver-wire deals.”

MIAMI – Giancarlo Stanton breaks the Miami Marlins’ season home run record as he hits his 43rd of the season against the San Francisco Giants on Monday night. (Patrick Farrell/Miami Herald/TNS)

My interpretation: Generally speaking it’s no big deal for a player to be placed on revocable waivers in August. Happens all the time. This, however, makes Stanton eligible to be traded to any team now, and since the Bruce Sherman/Derek Jeter group just signed an agreement to purchase the team from Jeffrey Loria, you have to assume that Jeter is the one who wants to discover all the possibilities.

Stanton is owed $295 million between 2018 and 2027. Surely Jeter’s group and Loria talked about that during negotiations to buy the team at the reported price of $1.2 billion. The franchise and its new owners can either build around Stanton or start a new long-range plan with greater freedom to spread money in other directions.

Stanton’s on a career-best roll, too, with an all-time high trade value. Going into Tuesday night’s game against the Giants, he had homered in five consecutive games, setting a franchise season record of 43 in the process. In August alone Stanton has 10 homers, more than three teams (the Phillies, Pirates and Rays) have managed to pile up. He also went into Tuesday’s action with 22 homers in the space of 34 games, a pace that hasn’t been seen since Shawn Green of the Dodgers matched it in 2002.

Now, about the “revocable” part of the waivers process, which Stanton reportedly cleared on Sunday.

Other teams have 48 hours to make a claim on a player who has been placed on revocable waivers. The teams at the bottom of the standings get first priority if there are multiple claims.

At this point, a trade can be worked out, or the original team may pull the player back off waivers and everything returns to normal.

Or, as explained by MLB Daily Dish, “the team can simply award the player to the priority claiming team, with the claiming team taking on the rest of the player’s contract and immediately acquiring him.”

My interpretation: If some other team was willing to take Stanton’s contract or any significant chunk of it off the Marlins’ books, it would have been tempting for Jeter to approve that. Sounds like a horrible PR move for the new group, of course, in terms of dumping the Marlins’ best player in the midst of an incredible home-run barrage, but Loria still owns the team and fans are already inclined to blame him for everything.

Either way, since Stanton was not claimed, the new ownership group has a better idea of which teams are interested enough, and wealthy enough, to make a call and seriously discuss the situation when it comes to Miami’s young superstar.

[Pahokee’s Anquan Boldin will have a strong influence on Buffalo Bills]

[Two places in America where there is nothing but love for Jay Cutler]

[Any legendary story you hear about Vince Wilfork is probably true]

The Detroit Tigers just went on a fact-finding mission with second baseman Ian Kinsler, who was placed on revocable waivers and was claimed by another unknown team. Since no deal was worked out within the 48-hour waiver period, Kinsler stays with the Tigers. Maybe he gets traded in the offseason or next summer or maybe nothing ever happens with Kinsler but Detroit has more information about his market value at this point and that is important to them.

With Stanton, who has a no-trade clause, it remains possible that he could be traded away by the end of August if there is somewhere he agrees to go and some team rich enough to assume his contract. After that it makes no sense because players have to be with a contending team by Sept. 1 in order to make the postseason roster.

Bottom line, I don’t think Stanton is going anywhere right now, but it’s no surprise that Loria’s guys are looking around to see what is possible, and that Jeter is eager to see what they find out.

The Marlins need to build everything over, from the farm system up. If Jeter is soon to be in charge of both the business and the baseball side of this operation, Stanton is the key to every blueprint that must be reviewed and approved over the next decade.

 

 

 

 

Anquan Boldin will have a strong influence on Buffalo, and that’s not good for Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins can’t be happy to have Anquan Boldin in the AFC East.

In his previous 14 NFL seasons the durable star from Pahokee and Florida State played in other divisions. Now, just two months from his 37th birthday, Boldin has signed a one-year deal with Buffalo for $2.75 million plus incentives.

PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Newly acquired Buffalo Bills receiver Anquan Boldin makes a catch during passing drills at training camp ON Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017. (Jaime Germano/Democrat & Chronicle via AP)

This is a man who does not need incentives beyond the opportunity to catch lots of passes and score lots of touchdowns and make other teams wish they had signed him instead.

Miami, for reasons I have never understood, has repeatedly passed on chances to sign Boldin. Maybe because he’s not the fastest player in the league. Maybe because he’s getting older. Maybe because he’s spent most of his career in the NFC, where his steady production and intense leadership skills haven’t hurt the Dolphins that much.

Well, now Boldin will be facing Miami twice a season. He won’t always be as good as he was in Arizona’s 31-10 blowout of the Dolphins in 2008, when Boldin caught six Kurt Warner passes for 140 yards and three touchdowns, but he always is a threat in the red zone, with those post-up basketball moves and those strong hands.

Last year Boldin caught eight touchdown passes for Detroit. Kenny Stills had nine for Miami but no other Dolphins receiver came close.

Last year Boldin caught 67 passes. Jarvis Landry was the only Dolphin with more.

Over his career Boldin has 82 touchdown catches and 1,076 yards in receptions.  Chalk it up to longevity if you like, but both of those numbers would be franchise records if he had played his entire career in Miami and not bouncing around from Arizona to Baltimore to San Francisco to Detroit.

Boldin will get a shot at being Tyrod Taylor’s No. 2 receiver in Buffalo opposite Sammy Watkins. I wouldn’t bet against him taking the role, just like I never bet against him on a 50-50 ball with a linebacker or a safety or even a nimble, young cornerback. Bills general manager Brandon Beane must feel the same way.

“I’ve been a big Anquan fan from afar,” said Beane, “so even if I had the likes of Jerry Rice and guys like that on this team, to get Anquan is an addition that has zero to do with where our receivers are.”

The Bills are better because of Boldin, and they weren’t that far behind Miami without him. The Dolphins’ two wins over Buffalo in 2016 were by a combined total of six points, and one of them was in overtime.

[Any legendary story you hear about Vince Wilfork is probably true]

[There’s a lot of Heisman history blocking Lamar Jackson from second trophy]

[No second-guessing Adam Gase on Jay Ajayi’s training camp concussion]

As August transactions go, Boldin’s signing doesn’t come close to the importance of Miami adding Jay Cutler.

The Dolphins can’t be happy about it, though. Boldin didn’t come to Tampa Bay or Oakland or Houston. He’s coming to the AFC East, and he’s coming, as always, with something to prove.

The two places in America where there is nothing but love for Jay Cutler

There are all kinds of opinions around the NFL on new Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler but there also are at least two places in America where you will never hear anything but good.

One of them is Lincoln City, Ind., down near the Kentucky border. Abraham Lincoln spent most of his childhood on a farm near there and, a little bit later, Cutler led the local high school, Heritage Hills, to its first state championship in any team sport during the perfect 15-0 football season of 2000.

Jay Cutler throws for NFL scouts at Vanderbilt’s Pro Day on March 17, 2006 in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Cutler scored the winning touchdown in overtime of the state final against Zionsville, and he did it as a receiver.

First Cutler threw a lateral to a teammate and then he released down field to make himself wide open for a 12-yard score. The rest of the passing attack hadn’t gone all that smoothly for Cutler, who threw three interceptions that night, but he also scored a touchdown on a quarterback sneak earlier in the game and was credited with 19 tackles as a two-way player at safety.

Cutler was a three-year starter at quarterback for Heritage Hills and a first-team All-State selection in football and basketball so, yeah, the good folks of southern Indiana aren’t too interested in hearing from anybody who is disappointed in their boy.

The next stop was Vanderbilt University, which last year added Cutler to the Commodores’ Hall of Fame.

Vandy is the only private university in the SEC and they don’t do a lot of winning. It was no different during Cutler’s time there, but in four seasons as the starting quarterback he put a major scare into some of the league’s traditional powers.

One of the most memorable games was a 49-42 double-overtime loss at Florida in his senior season of 2005. The Gators appeared to be in good shape, leading 35-21 with 4:11 to play and getting a couple of touchdowns off Cutler turnovers. However, two quick Cutler touchdown drives, sandwiched around a successful on-side kick, tied the game and Vandy actually came awful close to winning it in regulation.

A celebration penalty on the receiver who caught Cutler’s fourth touchdown pass of the game prevented coach Bobby Collins from trying for a two-point conversion and the win. Ultimately, Cutler, who passed for 361 yards in the game, was intercepted in the second overtime to end the upset bid.

Cutler was voted the SEC’s Offensive Player of the Year as a senior and he remains the career leader at Vanderbilt in passing yards (8,697) and touchdown passes (59) and total offense (9,953 yards).

Not bad for a player whose scholarship offer from Illinois was withdrawn, leaving Cutler to fight his way through an 11-35 career with a Vanderbilt program that was overmatched at every position but quarterback. Cutler still keeps his offseason home in Nashville, close to Vanderbilt, and he got a little emotional while addressing the crowd at his Hall of Fame induction there.

“It snuck up on me a little bit,” he said. “I have such fond memories here and have been surrounded by so many people at this university and within this organization.”

A former Vanderbilt teammate, wide receiver Brandon Smith, said Cutler would step into the huddle at the roughest moments and say “It’s time to play, I’m going to be your leader, that’s what I’m here for, trust me.”

A little bit of that would go a long way with the Dolphins now.

[Any legend you hear about Vince Wilfork is probably true]

[Lamar Jackson bucking tons of Heisman history in trying to win second trophy]

[No second-guessing Adam Gase on Jay Ajayi’s training-camp concussion]

Cutler didn’t win any championships at Vanderbilt but his final play there was just as dramatic as the way he wrapped up his high school career in Indiana.

With the last pass of his college career, a 5-yard touchdown to Earl Bennett with 1:11 to play, Cutler gave Vanderbilt its first victory over Tennessee in 23 years.

Not quite a fairy tale, not with a 4-27 record in every other game Cutler played against SEC competition, but a foundation. The guy just keeps coming, and there are at least two places in America where people believe he always will.

Any story you hear about Vince Wilfork is probably true, all the way back to Santaluces High School

There’s nobody like Vince Wilfork, the Pro Bowl nose tackle who got his start at Santaluces High School in Lantana and also starred at the University of Miami.

This week he announced his retirement from the NFL with a hilarious video tweet that doubled as a commercial for Kingsford charcoal. Vince, 35, is shown hanging up his cleats and grabbing a pair of  tongs from the same locker to head out into the parking lot and grill up some meat. In his overalls.

Former Houston Texans nose tackle Vince Wilfork waits between plays in the second half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015 (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

Any story you hear about the guy is probably true.

He has weighed 300 pounds and more since his sophomore season at Santaluces, at least, yet his quickness confounded blockers through 13 NFL seasons with the New England Patriots and the Houston Texans and one national title season at Miami.

Bill Belichick paid an incredible tribute to Wilfork when the retirement news broke, calling him “a special, special, special player.” Wow. Three superlatives in a row. Maybe Belichick will reel off four “specials” when Tom Brady hangs it up one day, but that’s all.

I looked back to find some of the Post’s old articles about Vince. There’s one recounting the time that Wilfork, a 350-pound Miami freshman, lined up outside to cover D.J. Williams on a pass route. They were just having fun at a bowl practice, and with the blessing of UM coaches, but instead of getting blown away on a streak up the sidelines, Vince stayed close enough to the speedy receiver to knock away Ken Dorsey’s pass.

“A lot of people are ashamed of their weight,” Vince said in that 2001 article. “I’m not. Dudes line up across from me think I’m sorry, that I’m a big load. Right off the bat, they’re thinking I’m slow. But I fool them. After that first play, they know I’m real.”

Vince left Miami after his junior season and was drafted in the first round, 21st overall, by New England. He won a couple of Super Bowls with the Patriots and in 2009 was voted onto the franchise’s 50th anniversary team. Yeah, he was for real.

[Lamar Jackson would have to knock down a lot of Heisman history to win it again]

[Crazy waves of schools adding football shows future is still strong for sport]

[No second-guessing Adam Gase on Jay Ajayi’s training-camp concussion]

Here’s one of the old Santaluces nuggets I came across, though, from a time before everyone knew his name.

At the 2000 Florida High School Athletic Association meet in Gainesville, Vince won state titles in the shot put and discus throw in 4A, the highest classification of member schools.

Santaluces finished ninth in the team competition with 23 points and Vince accounted for 20 of those. Now that’s throwing your weight around, and making everybody else duck.

 

 

Lamar Jackson would have to knock down a whole lot of Heisman history to win his second trophy

Is there any reason why former Boynton Beach High School star Lamar Jackson can’t win his second consecutive Heisman Trophy in 2017?

Well, actually, I can think of about 13.

Louisville’s Lamar Jackson poses with the Heisman Trophy after winning the Heisman Trophy award, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

That’s how many Heisman winners returned to school to try to win it again but came up short. We’re not talking about juniors who left early to play pro ball, just underclassmen who had another crack at it.

Billy Sims of Oklahoma came the closest. He finished second to Charles White in the 1979 Heisman voting after winning the trophy in 1978.

Here’s the list, with the years each guy won it and where he finished in the voting thereafter.

 

Doc Blanchard (Jr.) 1945 – 5th in 1946

Doak Walker (Jr.) 1948 – 3rd in 1949

Vic Janowicz (Jr.) 1950 – Not a finalist in 1951

Roger Staubach (Jr.) 1963 – Not a finalist in 1964

Billy Sims (Jr.) 1978 – 2nd in 1979

Ty Detmer (Jr.) 1990 – 3rd in 1991

Jason White (Jr.) 2003 – 3rd in 2004

Matt Leinart (Jr.) 2004 – 3rd in 2005

Tim Tebow (So.) 2007 – 3rd in 2008, 5th in 2009

Sam Bradford (So.) 2008 – Not a finalist in 2009, left early

Mark Ingram (So.) 2009 – Not a finalist in 2010, left early

Johnny Manziel (Fr.) 2012 – 5th in 2013, left early

Jameis Winston (Fr.) 2013 – 6th in 2014, left early

 

Now, of course, injuries got in the way with some of these guys. Other times, especially in recent years, Heisman winners like Bradford and Winston and Manziel gave up a couple of years of college eligibility to enter the NFL draft early. Always, voters are looking for a new name to follow, a new legend to write, and that also plays into this.

There are some great names, too, who won the Heisman as juniors and didn’t return to school, superstars like Herschel Walker and Barry Sanders and Cam Newton.

Frankly, it always amazes me that Griffin won a couple. His senior year was nowhere close to the dominance of his first Heisman season.

His touchdowns went down from 12 in 1974 to four during his senior season of 1975. His rushing average dropped from 6.6 yards per carry to 5.5. His rushing total also slipped slightly from 1,695 to 1,450.

These are super numbers, but Chuck Muncie, Ricky Bell and Tony Dorsett all outgained Griffin on the ground in 1975. They all rushed for 13 touchdowns, too.

Overall, Jackson and Louisville will have to improve on last year’s 9-4 record if he’s going to have a chance at a second Heisman. He’ll have to beat Florida State and defending national champion Clemson and keep going from there. That’s asking as much as anyone ever has of a returning Heisman winner.

Tebow had some advice for Jackson at last year’s Heisman ceremony, and he shared it recently with the Sporting News.

“Know going into the season it’s going to be harder,” Tebow said. “The other teams; they don’t care if the other guys get the big plays. Their game plan will be to stop you and shut you down. Focus on getting your teammates involved, and that’s also going to help you. It can’t be on the numbers, it’s got to be on, ‘Did I do my job every single play?'”

[Crazy wave of schools adding football proves game still in good shape]

[Snakes mixed with Dolphins at team’s first training camp in 1966]
[NBA checking to see if Jupiter man is league’s oldest former player]

Good luck to Lamar. He has the maturity to process that information and the courage to accept the challenge. The temptation is to chase stats, and that really isn’t the fault of players. Heisman voters and ESPN talking heads and dopey newspaper columnists lean on those flashy touchdown numbers way too much.

 

 

 

No second-guessing Adam Gase on full-contract practice session during training camp

Adam Gase is right. There’s only so much you can worry about in football.

Jay Ajayi being diagnosed with a concussion during Monday’s practice has people talking and thinking about the risks and rewards of having a full-contact session with helmets and pads and tackling so early in training camp. There’s no predicting, however, when or where an injury will come.

Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi (23) with running backs coach Danny Barrett at Baptist Health Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Florida on July 30, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

A head coach can’t make any part of his team’s preparations for the season entirely safe. The game doesn’t work that way, even with finely tuned athletes, and even with expert medical trainers constantly working to keep those athletes healthy.

The strangest concussion ever involved former Dolphins kicker Caleb Sturgis, who wasn’t even in the game at the time.

Last August Sturgis was warming up for a preseason game between his Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers when a ball punted from the other end of the field by teammate Donnie Jones came hurtling out of the sky and hit him in the head.

Sturgis wasn’t wearing his helmet at the time. Up in the press box, NFL concussion spotters saw the whole thing and ordered him to the locker room for evaluation, causing the unlucky guy to miss the game.

Not much a head coach can do about something like that.

On the first day of training camp in 1997, Miami’s Yatil Green, a first-round draft pick, blew out a knee while running a pass pattern and was lost for the season. It was a non-contact situation. Same thing happened to Larry Izzo that same day as he ruptured an Achilles while running simple drills between some pylons.

Not much a head coach can do about that, unless he wants to confine his team to the meeting room until the opening kickoff of the regular season.

During 2015’s training camp Carolina lost wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and Miami lost safety Louis Delmas to season-ending ACL injuries. They went down within 20 minutes of each other during a joint practice session between the Panthers and Dolphins in Spartanburg, S.C., and each injury happened in one-on-one drills rather than a full-contact scrimmage.

Not much a head coach can do about that, except protecting his highly competitive players from being in highly competitive situations.

[Crazy rise in college football programs shows the game’s future is still bright]

[Snakes mixed with Dolphins at team’s first training camp in 1966]

[Looks like Jupiter’s Billy Gabor might be NBA’s oldest former player]

Minnesota quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is still working to get back from a terrible knee injury from last August’s training camp. He was dropping back to pass during a non-contact team drill when a wrong step ruined everything.

Not much a head coach can do about that, though Vikings coach Mike Zimmer did end the practice session right there, after just 25 minutes, and sent the whole team back inside.

Football is full of risks, in and out of practice sessions, in and out of live tackling situations. Gase is getting his guys into football shape the only way that he can. The rest is out of anyone’s control.

Crazy wave of colleges adding football programs shows the sport is still in good shape

All these CTE studies are legitimately scary, verifying what we already knew, that football is a violent and dangerous game with the potential for serious long-term impacts.

Then comes an update from the National Football Foundation veryifying America’s love affair with the game, a magnetic appeal that shows no signs of waning.

According to the NFF, a record 777 schools will field football teams in 2017, spanning the NCAA’s various levels plus NAIA and independent competition. That’s up from 484 in 1978.

New football head coach Doug Socha speaks to the audience during a press conference at Keiser University in West Palm Beach on January 18, 2017. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

Eight more programs will start football teams in 2018, including Keiser University in West Palm Beach.

Other Florida schools to add the sport in the last decade are the University of West Florida in Pensacola (2016), Southeastern University in Lakeland (2014), Florida Tech in Melbourne (2013), Stetson University in DeLand (2013), Warner University in Lake Wales (2013) and Ave Maria University near Immokalee (2011).

Conference USA, the league that includes Florida Atlantic and Florida International, is packing up on new programs. Old Dominion, which won the Bahamas Bowl in December, started football in 2009. Charlotte started in 2013 and Texas-San Antonio in 2011.

Add it all up and 40 schools have added football to their athletic programs in the last six seasons.

It takes a lot of players to fill all those rosters, including non-scholarship programs, and the kids keep coming from high schools everywhere.

Doesn’t mean that the NFL and colleges and high schools should stop investigating the causes and possible preventions of multiple concussions. Just last month the Miami Dolphins announced they would pay for baseline concussion testing for 15,000 public high school players in Miami-Dade County. That project, in partnership with the University of Miami Sports Medicine Institute, is exactly what NFL teams and other industry leaders need to be doing.

[Snakes mixed with Dolphins at team’s first training camp in 1966]

[NBA checking to see if Jupiter man is league’s oldest living ex-player]

[No matter what Vegas says, not expecting major step back for Dolphins]

All the talk about football dying out in the future because of health concerns seems to be premature, however. There is anxiety over cognitive impacts from repeated blows to the head, but not enough to shut this game down any time soon, or even to significantly alter the way it is being played.

The whole package, from the game to the marching band to the cheering in the stands, remains attractive to colleges and universities. Football is more than just fun. It’s a tiebreaker for some students in choosing between one school or another. Though expensive to produce, it’s a part of the overall college experience that many small schools simply don’t think they can afford to leave out.