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Sam Huff column: Who has the ball?

Sam Huff was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982. Huff, a Middleburg resident, played in the National Football League from 1956 through 1969 as a linebacker with the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins.

The party is over. There is a settlement to the NFL lockout, such as it is. The offseason has been reduced to two weeks.  There are major changes being made, but we will have a NFL football season. I said we would have one from the beginning. As far as all these negotiations are concerned, it may be as Shakespeare said, “much ado about nothing.” Or, is it much ado about money?

The 2011 Hall of Fame activities in Canton, Ohio, are beginning. Chris Hanburger is being inducted. Knowing Chris as a former teammate and friend, I hope this will be one of the greatest days of his life. It should be; he deserves it.   

The Hall of Fame football game has been cancelled, which is very costly to those involved in the Hall of Fame organization, to the businesses that are part of the celebrations, plus to the many services involved. What a shame that pro-football has come to that point. It is an embarrassment to all.   

But, we will have a NFL football season, and the players are reporting to camp. I have said often, “Replacements are always ready and waiting to take any player’s place. NFL for some may mean ‘not for long’.” The trades are coming in and some are going out.  Donovan McNabb is one of those, Big Albert Haynesworth is gone, but they are both rich, along with their agents who probably are driving their limousines.

I have also said from the beginning this is war without guns, and it is. However, I am not sure who has won this battle, the owners or the players. Who has control? When I played ball, that was the first concern; the thing that mattered most on the field was always control of the ball. That has not changed. In the case of a NFL football team, surely control matters. 

My rookie year, my family and I were in the same apartment building with Tom Landry, the defensive coach for the Giants, and his family. (Most of our players and their families lived there during the season.)

After dinner most evenings, Coach Landry would invite me to come to his apartment to discuss defense, go over the plays, and get ready for the next game. He had watched me play guard and asked me to move to the position of middle linebacker to become the man in the middle. Between the two of us, we made that situation work and that position became my label, “the man in the middle.” What a turning point in my life! What he always said first about me was the same thing, “Sam always knows where the ball is on the field.” I always did know that. So, I ask now, “Who in the hell has the ball?” 

Of course, attorneys and agents have drawn the agreement, and probably, only they know what is involved exactly. It will be interesting to see how much authority the front office and the coaches have retained, gained, or lost. Since the games are always won by the players, hopefully, the majority of them think the agreement is fair. I think we will need to have a season to know how this agreement will play out. Who’s in charge, Roger Godell, DeMaurice Smith, or the owners? 

More and more, I find myself quoting Vince Lombardi, “What the hell is going on out there?” But, I am ready for the season. Let the games begin!


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