Big­gest stars not in the head­lines this sea­son

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Barry Wilner

In case you haven’t no­ticed, which is virtually im­pos­si­ble, Pey­ton Man­ning has gone to TV com­mer­cials full time.

Adrian Peter­son and J.J. Watt are in­jured. Aaron Rodgers is strug­gling. Todd Gur­ley’s break­out rookie sea­son looks like a mi­rage. Me­ga­tron is gone. Rus­sell Wil­son has been gimpy. Dar­relle Re­vis has been medi­ocre. Tony Romo has been in­vis­i­ble. Too many of the NFL’s head­line grab­bers aren’t in the news, or aren’t pro­duc­ing the kind of plays and drama foot­ball fans crave. With all the con­ster­na­tion about TV rat­ings for NFL games be­ing down, with ev­ery­thing from the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion to the Colin Kaeper­nick-in­spired an­them protests be­ing blamed, maybe pro foot­ball is a bit star-crossed be­cause it doesn’t have a lot of its stars be­ing, well, stars.

NFL sup­port­ers like to say it’s the uni­form and the tra­di­tion and his­tory of teams that make the game such a slam-dunk at­trac­tion. The counter-ar­gu­ment is sim­ply that with such na­tional teams as the Raiders, Gi­ants and Dol­phins be­ing non-con­tenders so of­ten in re­cent years, why didn’t view­er­ship dis­ap­pear then? No, it’s about the stars. Ar­guably the big­gest lu­mi­nary in Roger Good­ell’s league is Tom Brady. He sat out the first four weeks thanks to Good­ell’s sus­pen­sion of the Pa­tri­ots quar­ter­back in the de­flated foot­balls saga. Watch­ing Brady take vengeance on the league of­fice by way of New Eng­land’s op­po­nents has been one of the few com­pelling plots thus far.

Sure, there are oth­ers. The way Ezekiel El­liott and Dak Prescott have taken hold in Dal­las has been front-page wor­thy.

“There is no ques­tion that Dak and Zeke, there is no ques­tion they’re in­spir­ing the rest of the team,” Cow­boys owner Jerry Jones said. “This game is a lot about that.” How about Lorenzo Alexan­der’s ca­reer year in Buf­falo af­ter nine sea­sons as an NFL jour­ney­man?

“I thought he could do a lot of roles for us,” Bills coach Rex Ryan says. “But I had no idea that he was still the same player, but he might be a bet­ter player. How it hap­pens, I’m not sure.

“I know one thing, it’s hard work and his ded­i­ca­tion and all that. He’s an out­stand­ing team­mate, too. He serves all the credit.”

Great story, yes. Sport­sCen­ter ma­te­rial in this age of glitz and memes? Prob­a­bly not.

It’s un­for­tu­nate that as the sports world has be­come a ma­jor part of the in­stant­grat­i­fi­ca­tion, 24/7/365 so­cial me­dia en­vi­ron­ment, what is hap­pen­ing with the big names is of pri­mary in­ter­est. Al­most ex­clu­sively.

So head­ing into a week­end of games, there’s more fo­cus on Ben Roeth­lis­berger’s re­hab and LeSean McCoy’s po­ten­tial ab­sence than on the emer­gence of Vic Beasley Jr. as a sacks threat, or Den­nis Pitta’s valiant re­turn to the field.

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