NFL Week 11 recap: The unseen stresses of football

Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak watches warm-ups before an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013, in Houston. Kubiak is returning after collapsing on the field Nov. 3 at halftime of a game against the Indianapolis Colts.(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

WASHINGTON – Two weeks ago, we saw something rather unnerving: a pair of NFL head coaches collapsed and were subsequently hospitalized. Two middle-aged men holding one of the most stressful jobs in all of sports appeared to have succumb to the pressure in a rather scary way.

Serendipitiously, Broncos coach John Fox was in Charlotte for a pre-op appointment for his previously scheduled aortic heart valve replacement surgery, when he passed out playing golf during his team’s bye week. The next day, Texans coach Gary Kubiak unpredictably had what is described as a “mini-stroke” (which is a layman’s term for a transient ischemic attack, or TIA). While the circumstances were quite different, the level of concern was much the same.

Both men insist their respective episodes had nothing to do with stress, but I know better. You see, I had a similar episode a few years back.

I was stuck in a bad work situation, dealing with a deteriorating marriage, and was a little jet-lagged because of a trip from Montana to Pennsylvania. After one day back at the job I could no longer stomach, I went out to cut the grass on a hot, August day. About three-quarters of the way through the chore, I felt light- headed, went inside to sit down, and passed out. I was rushed to the ER, where I was told I was dehydrated and fatigued.

As a broadcaster, I use my voice for a living. Meaning, I get my proper daily allowance of water just by virtue of keeping my pipes wet. Plus, I had cut grass in much hotter weather than I did that August day and never had a reaction like that. I contend that if I hadn’t been under the amount of stress I was, at the time, this episode would not have occurred.

Perhaps a better example comes from my late father. He spent several years working as a top-level executive with General Motors, and simultaneously worked to establish his own business. He essentially worked two full-time jobs while raising three children. That stress, coupled with being overweight, led to the heart disease that contributed to his early demise.

I’m sure Fox and Kubiak believe wholeheartedly their careers have nothing to do with those episodes. There’s even a chance they’re right. But if you don’t think working 60 to 70 hour weeks, in a line of work that requires near perfection, doesn’t exacerbate heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes I’m not sure I can help you.

I don’t know if there’s a way to get these guys to scale it back for their own sake. Besides being fiercely competitive, the NFL is a multi-billion dollar entity and the stakes involved aren’t going to suddenly get lower.

However, it’s a very high-profile reminder that these coaches and players we’re discussing are real people like you and I. They think and feel like we do. They’re mortal.

And now for something that’ll live forever. The NFL recap.


Colts 30

Titans 27

I’ve run out of superlatives to describe just how clutch Andrew Luck is. After this dude erased a 14-0 first-half deficit, I’ll just say that if I had to play one football game with my life on the line, I want the guy named Luck with a horseshoe on his helmet to play quarterback for me.

Redskins 16

Eagles 24

When the Bravehearts rolled into town, Philadelphia knew what was coming. And now, so do I: Back-to-back prime time losses at FedEx Field for the ‘Skins and maybe two more wins in this miserable 2013 season.

Ravens 20

Bears 23 (OT)

Thanks to Mother Nature, this game ended later than some of the late games. It’s not the first time this year either. Ravens games in New Orleans (Super Bowl XLVII), Denver, and now Chicago have been delayed for power outage and/or weather. I know there’s a dark cloud following Baltimore these days, but this is ridiculous.

Jets 14

Bills 37

Here’s some free advice, New York: If you have a choice between fine tuning your game preparations for a divisional rematch and going to Dave & Busters, maybe do the work instead. Otherwise, you might just get blown out by 23.

Browns 20

Bengals 41

Cincinnati’s bye week comes at a very opportune time. After a trip to San Diego, they play the Colts, at Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and Baltimore. The AFC North is their division to lose.

Lions 27

Steelers 37

Detroit may have ended their winless streak in Washington, but the curse in Pittsburgh lives on. A franchise as haunted as the Lions can’t exorcise all their demons at once, you know.

Falcons 28

Buccaneers 41

Look, I know injuries play a role in Atlanta’s struggles. But getting blown off the field by the most dysfunctional team in the league speaks to something much deeper. If I’m Mike Smith, I’m sprucing up my resume.

Cardinals 27

Jaguars 14

Arizona is better than people think. Jacksonville is predictably putrid. We’ve known both for weeks. So the story here? Nobody in the NFL should sport dreadlocks as long as it remains legal to rip the hair out of an opponent’s head.

Raiders 28

Texans 23

I’m sorry … there’s just no valid excuse for losing at home to Matt McGloin. None.

Chargers 16

Dolphins 20

For you NFL history buffs: San Diego hasn’t taken their talents to South Beach and won since the 1982 “Epic in Miami.” So basically, when the Chargers come to town the Dolphins are bullying the visitor’s locker room too. What? Too soon?

49ers 20

Saints 23

A great game was unfortunately tainted by the NFL’s preoccupation with protecting quarterbacks. Hopefully, it doesn’t take San Francisco — one of the league’s banner franchises — missing the playoffs to get the rules committee to come to its senses on this crap.

Packers 13

Giants 27

It’s amazing how bad Green Bay is without Aaron Rodgers. Almost as amazing as New York getting in position for an unprecedented turnaround from an 0-6 start.

Vikings 20

Seahawks 41

I know it was only Minnesota, but Seattle looks like a team starting to hit its stride. And that should scare anybody with the misfortune of having them on their remaining schedule.

Chiefs 17

Broncos 27

Alex Smith is a big reason why Kansas City is going to the playoffs. He’s also the reason their postseason stay will be brief.

Patriots 20

Panthers 24

In a rematch of the famous “Nipplegate” Super Bowl, Carolina exposed themselves as a legit playoff contender.

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