Salute to Service month in NFL includes award
The Associated Press
Nov. 05, 2015
November is the NFL's month to salute the military. That includes the "Salute to Service Award" that goes to a league member who demonstrates an exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community.
The award is presented by USAA," the insurance and financial services provider for current and former members of the military and their families. USAA is a partner of the NFL.
Nominees range from an owner, New England's Robert Kraft, to six head coaches — Dan Quinn of the Falcons, Tom Coughlin of the Giants, Ron Rivera of the Panthers, Jeff Fisher of the Rams, Sean Payton of the Saints, and Mike McCoy of the Chargers — to players such as Bucs receiver Vincent Jackson, Browns center Alex Mack and Broncos DE Malik Jackson.
This is the third consecutive year the Buccaneers have nominated Jackson, who was a finalist for the award last year. Jackson, who was raised in a military family, has dedicated his charitable efforts to supporting Tampa Bay's military community through team events and personal initiatives.
The winner of the award will be announced at the fifth annual "NFL Honors" awards show on Feb. 6, the night before the Super Bowl in San Francisco. The Associated Press will announce the winners of its eight individual awards that night, including MVP and Coach of the Year.
Past USAA award winners include Jared Allen last year, John Harbaugh (2013), Charles Tillman (2012), and the late Tennessee Titans owner "Bud" Adams, a WWII veteran (2011).
Fans are invited to visit SaluteToService.com, where they can offer a salute via Twitter and Facebook.
NICE LOOK: Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill says backup Matt Moore is looking better than ever after undergoing surgery for a broken nose.
"I'd say he's on the verge of becoming a model," Tannehill said. "I can see it coming together."
Moore was hurt two weeks ago when he and Kenny Stills mistimed a handoff in practice. Even though Moore was wearing his helmet, he took an elbow from Stills in the nose.
"A one-in-a-million deal," Moore said.
"I feel terrible," Stills said. "And everyone did a good job of making me feel even worse."
Moore said he opted for surgery because he was having trouble breathing. Interim coach Dan Campbell jokingly suggested a different motive.
"He wanted plastic surgery; he has been wanting it for a while just for his own looks," Campbell said. "He's very vain."
GIMME THAT BALL: The Eagles lead the NFL with 19 takeaways this season and 78 since 2013, when defensive coordinator Bill Davis arrived with coach Chip Kelly. They've forced at least one in 13 straight games with a total of 32 in those games.
"We put a huge emphasis on it," Davis said. "The takeaway differential has been a huge stat in wins and losses. So, we put a lot of focus on it and the guys have it on the front of their mind."
To ensure the defensive players are thinking about forcing turnovers, the coaching staff placed tackling dummies throughout the team's practice facility. Some are holding the ball like a runner and some are holding it like a quarterback.
"We just said, 'Hey guys, in and out of every meeting, just put it on your mind,'" Davis said. "We always talk about habits and that habits reflect the mission. It's a habit we're trying to get to. Then it's about, does it happen on the practice field? And most importantly, how many times are we actually attempting to punch a ball out in the game? Because the more shots on goal you get, the more success you have."
FITZ'S TAKE: Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald has been so effective in his 11 1-2 pro seasons that a Hall of Fame induction could be in his future. Fitzgerald also is becoming something of a multimedia star thanks to his clever commercials for Visa GameDay Deals and Visa Checkout.
You know, the ones where he makes one-handed catches while ordering merchandise. Or the latest, in which he and Kurt Warner discuss, sort of, what it is like in an NFL huddle.
"It's fun, and it doesn't need too many takes," says Fitzgerald, who's apparently as smooth acting as he is breaking past defenders. "There are a lot of logistics that go on, making sure people with wardrobe are cooperating and that kind of thing. We try to see how innovative and creative we can be."
Innovative and creative should come naturally for Fitzgerald under coach Bruce Arians, an offensive mastermind. This season, Fitzgerald has 55 receptions for 706 yards and seven TDs and the Cardinals are 6-2 heading their bye.
Arians has used Fitzgerald in the slot as well as outside, and it has paid off for the receiver and for quarterback Carson Palmer, a leading contender for Comeback Player of the Year.
"It doesn't matter where you line up. You line up and go out and do it, do your job," Fitzgerald says. "It's about my team. We all come together as a team.
"Arians is the premier coach, he has two Coach of the Year (honors), and Carson is playing at an MVP clip. There's a great rapport, coach Arians is a wonderful players coach. He's always talking to players about what he is thinking. He's really open and communicates with his guys very well, and that is a valuable asset."
IMMACULATE MEMORY: Growing up near Oakland, Raiders coach Jack Del Rio is well-versed in the team's history with the Steelers. The teams met in the playoffs for five straight years in the 1970s, with the most memorable coming in 1972.
Late in that game, Terry Bradshaw's pass for Frenchy Fuqua was either deflected by Fuqua or Raiders defensive back Jack Tatum — replays were inconclusive. An approaching Franco Harris scooped the ball off his shoetops and raced past Oakland linebacker Phil Villapiano and defensive back Jimmy Warren into the end zone to put the Steelers ahead with 5 seconds remaining.
"The catch shouldn't have counted," Del Rio said when asked about the rivalry heading into this week's game between the teams. "I mean come on, let's be real, the ball hit the ground."
The Steelers won three of those five playoff meetings in the '70s, including back-to-back wins in the 1974 and '75 AFC title games. Most memorable, though, was the Immaculate Reception.
"They were kind of a thorn in our side in the mid-70s there," Del Rio said. "It was championship-level football. We're looking forward to this matchup. This is a heck of a team and they're at their place, so it should be a good game."
EDUCATING THROUGH MADDEN: The NFL Players Association, EA Sports and Discovery Education have teamed for a free national educational program that will use video games to ignite a passion for math and science.
Madden NFL: Football by the Numbers is a comprehensive educational initiative to engage students in grades five through nine with science and math content through an interactive digital learning game. It will launch Dec. 1.
A national survey conducted by the Games and Learning Publishing Council found that 78 percent of teachers agreed digital games improved students' mastery of curricular content and skills. Digital gaming helps to motivate students to attend class, pay attention and make stronger efforts to succeed, the survey discovered.
By using a combination of Madden NFL highlights and plays by some of the NFL's most recognizable players, plus other content from the series, the program plans to take students inside the science and math behind football fundamentals. It will teach them how and why certain offensive and defensive plays work.
"This is an amazing new program to reach kids and engage them in math and science, and we're excited to be a part of it," said Anthony Stevenson, VP of Marketing for Electronic Arts. "We've always strived for Madden NFL to be a teaching tool for the sport of football, and now we're marrying the art of the video game to the science behind our young fans' favorite sport, teaching them both the fundamentals of the sport and the math that fuels it."
In addition to other learning tools, the program also includes a virtual field trip to EA's development studio, and a local school community night featuring an NFL player.
"Learning to love math and science has always been important, and even more so now as our world becomes more dependent on technology. Many of our players are passionate about these subjects, and through the Madden NFL: Football by the Numbers platform, kids will see that math and science can be fun and relatable," said Ahmad Nassar, president of NFL Players Inc.
AP Pro Football Writers Barry Wilner and Rob Maaddi, and Sports Writers Josh Dubow and Steven Wine contributed to this notebook.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL