The NFL is launching its “Crucial Catch” initiative this month, and it is concentrating on people getting screened to catch cancer early when it may be easier to treat.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on screening, with some cancer screenings declining by 90%. So the league and the American Cancer Society are allocating resources dedicated to safely restarting cancer screenings in communities with the most need.
For many forms of cancer (breast, cervical, colorectal and prostate), the five-year survival rate is above 90% when detected early before it has a chance to spread.
“It Takes All of Us to Intercept Cancer” has the NFL and ACS working together to encourage screenings. This is the 13th consecutive year the league and the ACS are working together. The initiative kicks off in stadiums Sunday and continues through Week 6 games, addressing early detection and risk-reduction efforts across multiple types of cancers.
“The COVID -19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on cancer screenings, with a screening decline that the American Cancer Society expects to lead to more late cancer diagnoses and increased cancer deaths in the future,” said Dr. Karen Knudsen, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society. “This year, it is critical to safely restart cancer screenings and to ensure that everyone has access to life-saving screening. The strong, ongoing support of the NFL and Crucial Catch is invaluable to the American Cancer Society’s work to increase cancer screenings, especially in under-served communities that need them most.”
All 32 NFL teams have the option of supporting early detection and risk-reduction efforts for one or multiple cancers in their stadiums and in their communities. Players may wear cleats, shoelaces and wristbands in any color representing the type of cancer awareness they support or have been impacted by during their team’s Crucial Catch game.
There also will be game balls with the Crucial Catch logo; multicolored equipment for players, including helmet decals, captains’ patches, sideline caps and quarterback towels; multicolored ribbon pins for coaches and teams; caps and pins for game officials; multicolored goal post wraps in end zones; and field-wall banners in the color of the cancer awareness movement that each club supports.
A TV spot will include coaches Bruce Arians and Ron Rivera, both cancer survivors; Pro Football Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson, whose mother was diagnosed with, and successfully battled, pancreatic cancer in 2013; and Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who opted out of last season to work on the front lines in the battle against COVID-19.
Justin Tucker’s NFL-record 66-yard field goal drew attention all around the league.
Green Bay Packers special teams coach Maurice Drayton saw his kicker join the festivities with a 51-yard winner in San Francisco.
“You know, it’s amazing, through it all on Sunday,” Drayton said. “I went to Mason (Crosby) before the game and obviously he saw the same highlight that we saw (of Tucker). And I said, ‘Whew, this is going to be a big day.’ It just kind of happens like that. I don’t know that there is some science behind it. It just, you know, some days there are a bunch of big returns and other days the coverage units are really good. But it seems to happen in groups and this past Sunday was a big, big kicking day.”
“It’s crazy,” veteran special teams coach Thomas McGaughey of the Giants added. “It really changed probably right around the mid-’90s. I’d say mid-to-late ’90s when it went from the backup quarterback being the fulltime holder to where the punter was the fulltime holder and then you had a fulltime snapper. It wasn’t (Hall of Fame offensive lineman) Bruce Matthews snapping.
“You have a fulltime snapper, a fulltime holder and a kicker that’s there, and all three of them are working together every day in practice. That’s when it changed.”
Denver’s Brandon McManus, who has one of the strongest legs in football, is skeptical about longer kicks — at least for now.
Asked about potential 70-yard field goals, McManus says:
“I don’t know. We attempted one last year, it was blocked. I had a good wind behind me here, it was late in the season, but yeah, I didn’t hit it well, so I don’t think it would have gone in.
“To move it another 4 yards, 70 yards. I don’t know if we’ll ever get there. Maybe we will on a fair catch free kick, I don’t know, you’d have to look up what that is, but it potentially can happen. It would have to happen I think early in the season … I think his record could be broken. But 70 yards seems a little ridiculous, but it could happen.”
Someone more bullish on a 70-yarder is Jets special teams coordinator Brant Boyer.
“Hats off to him, especially at that age,” Boyer says of Tucker, who is only 31 but in his 10th NFL season. “He’s been one of the best for a long time and to see him able to do that and everything, I think it’s pretty damn neat. I see this: As this younger generation keeps coming up, they’re getting stronger and stronger, and I think you’ll see that just keep going and going up. I really do.
“I wouldn’t put it past anybody in five to 10 years to be kicking 70-yarders, I really don’t.”
So you want to attend Tom Brady’s return to Gillette Stadium on Sunday night? It’s going to cost you — big time.
According to StubHub — and this is hardly surprising — the Buccaneers-Patriots matchup is the top in-demand NFL game of the season. It’s outselling the No. 2 highest-selling game on the secondary market by nearly 20% in ticket sales.
Key ticket demand stats include:
The average ticket price is $1,078. You can purchase a season ticket in many NFL stadiums for less.
Least expensive price is $275.
The strongest demand comes from three states: Massachusetts, naturally, California, Brady’s home state, and Florida.
By comparison, the average ticket price for next weekend’s game at Gillette Stadium against the Cowboys is $436, according to StubHub.
NFL AND NFT
The NFL, NFLPA and Dapper Labs are teaming for a digital video experience that will allow fans to purchase, trade, and own NFTs featuring some of the most popular plays in the league.
The all-new digital collectibles will feature moments from this season as well as such memorable plays as the Immaculate Reception. The initiative will launch this season.
“From the Hail Murray to the Minneapolis Miracle, magic happens in NFL stadiums,” said Roham Gharegozlou, CEO of Dapper Labs. “We can’t wait to give the more than 300 million NFL fans the opportunity to own the game that matters to them and engage with the sport in a whole new way,”
Fans will have the ability to buy, showcase, sell or trade any of their moments in a dedicated marketplace on Flow.
Baltimore coach John Harbaugh had family members in the Ford Field stands last Sunday, when Justin Tucker lifted the Ravens to a 19-17 win over the Detroit Lions with his NFL-record, 66-yard field goal.
Even though his brother, Jim, was in nearby Ann Arbor, Michigan, he was too busy preparing the Wolverines to play at Wisconsin to attend the game.
“I was watching it (on TV) and it was incredible,” Jim Harbaugh said. “I know John enjoyed the incredible. It was one for the ages. … Would’ve been great to have been there, but I think it really came through on the TV as well.”
AP Pro Football Writers Barry Wilner, Dennis Waszak Jr., and Arnie Stapleton, and Sports Writers Larry Lage, Steve Megargee and Tom Canavan contributed.
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