Life on the edge … of the field

Los Angeles Times - - Sports - SAM FARMER ON THE NFL sam.farmer@latimes.com twit­ter.com/LA­Times­farmer

Sam Farmer looks at some clas­sic NFL side­line an­tics.

We al­ways hear about NFL play­ers “on and off the field,” whether they’re good or bad peo­ple, lead­ers or fol­low­ers.

But what about when they’re nei­ther on nor off the field, but stuck in that mid­dle ground? In other words, how do they be­have on the side­line?

Bran­don Ja­cobs, the New York Giants run­ning back, gave us a hint Sun­day when he came off the field in In­di­anapo­lis and, in frus­tra­tion, flung his hel­met. Some­how (Ja­cobs said it slipped out of his hand) the hel­met wound up in the crowd, roughly 10 rows be­hind the Giants’ bench.

Al­though TV cam­eras missed the toss, they did zoom in on the spec­ta­tor who ini­tially re­fused to give back the hel­met and ul­ti­mately had it pried from his grasp by a se­cu­rity guard. It be­came a mini-story line, a game within the game.

That hap­pens fre­quently in broad­casts, when un­usual oc­cur­rences on the side­line — or in pre-or postgame — be­come part of the over­all story.

“What’s go­ing on on the side­lines is prob­a­bly equally en­ter­tain­ing, and maybe as im­por­tant as what’s go­ing on on the field,” said Fred

Gaudelli, pro­ducer of NBC’s “Sun­day Night Foot­ball.” He cred­its John Mad­den as be­ing the quin­tes­sen­tial ea­gle-eye, the per­son who no­ticed the tini­est de­tails that could wind up be­ing a fac­tor in the game or an in­ter­est­ing tid­bit.

“You can pre­dict, based on the per­son­al­i­ties on the side­line, what might hap­pen. If Jim Har­baugh threw an­other pick when he was play­ing for Mike Ditka, what was go­ing to hap­pen? If a young player on the Steel­ers was mak­ing re­peated mis­takes, [Coach

Bill] Cowher was prob­a­bly go­ing to start spit­ting.

“You went into the game say­ing, ‘OK, here’s the game plan to­day, but … if cer­tain things hap­pen, we want to be on Cowher, or we want to be on Buddy Ryan.”

In warmups be­fore Mon­day’s game be­tween New Or­leans and San Fran­cisco, the ESPN crew did what has be­come stan­dard prac­tice: It shot footage of the kick­ers prac­tic­ing long field goals.

The game ended with the Saints’ Gar­rett Hart­ley kick­ing a 37-yard field goal through the swirling winds of Can­dle­stick Park to win it. Had that at­tempt been a bit longer, ESPN would have set up that fi­nal kick by air­ing footage of Hart­ley mak­ing a 54-yarder in warmups.

“Our jobs are to doc­u­ment the games, but we’re sto­ry­tellers too,” said Jay

Roth­man, pro­ducer of “Mon­day Night Foot­ball.” “And it’s crit­i­cal that we don’t ig­nore the side­lines.”

If they did ig­nore them, Amer­ica might never have seen some of these mo­ments:

Early de­par­tures

In their opener this sea­son, the Cincin­nati Ben­gals were los­ing by three touch­downs in the fi­nal sec­onds of the first half. Af­ter a missed field goal by the Pa­tri­ots, the Ben­gals got the ball near mid­field with one sec­ond re­main­ing — just enough time for

Car­son Palmer to heave a Hail Mary pass. Too bad his two best re­ceivers weren’t around. Mo­ments ear­lier, cam­eras spot­ted Chad

Ochocinco walk­ing to the locker room with a Ben­gals staff mem­ber, and Ter­rell

Owens fol­low­ing them. Come on, guys, it ain’t over till it’s over.

Play­ing ketchup

New York Jets rookie

Mark Sanchez caused a stir dur­ing a 38-0 vic­tory at Oak­land when he was spot­ted eat­ing a hot dog on the side­line. He later apol­o­gized, say­ing he was feel­ing nau­se­ated and needed some­thing to calm his stom­ach. Calm his stom­ach? Ever eaten one of those sta­dium hot dogs?

In this corner …

Foot­ball is an in­tense game, and some­times those su­per­heated emo­tions spill onto the side­lines. There have been dozens of side­line scuf­fles over the years, be­tween team­mates, play­ers and op­pos­ing play­ers, play­ers and coaches … but be­tween coaches?

One of the best-known such skir­mishes was in Jan­uary 1994, when the Hous­ton Oilers were rid­ing an 11-game win­ning streak.

Ryan, then de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, was frus­trated by a play call by fel­low coach

Kevin Gil­bride and punched the of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor in the jaw. Later, Ryan ex­plained: “It’s a dif­fer­ence in coach­ing phi­los­o­phy in the heat of the bat­tle.”

Gath­er­ing Moss

Randy Moss war­ranted a cam­era crew of his own, es­pe­cially ear­lier in his ca­reer, be­cause you never knew what kind of stunt he’d pull. In 2000, dur­ing a Vik­ings play­off loss to the Rams, he was stand­ing near the bench watch­ing the game and vented his frus­tra­tion on an of­fi­cial by squirt­ing him with a wa­ter bot­tle. Moss was fined $40,000 for that, al­though the league even­tu­ally re­duced it to $25,000.

Sulk­ing Red­skin

It was a rough sum­mer for Red­skins de­fen­sive tackle Al­bert Haynesworth, who re­peat­edly failed the con­di­tion­ing test of new Washington Coach

Mike Shana­han and is frus­trated by his role. Haynesworth’s body lan­guage said it all in the opener against Dal­las, when NBC cam­eras showed him pac­ing on the side­line by him­self dur­ing a cru­cial moment while the rest of the de­fense was hud­dled.

Rag­ing Rivers

Dur­ing the week, San Diego quar­ter­back Philip

Rivers is low key, funny and one of the more lik­able play­ers in the game. He’s a dif­fer­ent guy in the heat of com­pe­ti­tion, and a few years ago cam­eras caught him taunt­ing then-Den­ver quar­ter­back Jay Cut­ler from the side­line. Rivers was also spot­ted bark­ing back and forth with fans be­hind the bench.

View­ers might see a pic­ture, Rivers said, but not the full pic­ture. “At the end of the game, you feel like you know the guys, but then it gets caught on TV and peo­ple say he’s scream­ing at the fans,” he said. “Well, I’m not scream­ing at the fans. They got to talk to me for four hours.”

One that got away

One of the most mem­o­rable and cre­ative touch­down cel­e­bra­tions came in 2002, when Owens was play­ing for San Fran­cisco in a Mon­day night game in Seat­tle. He scored, pro­duced a Sharpie pen from his sock, au­to­graphed the foot­ball and handed it to his fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sor, who was watch­ing from a field-level suite.

For Gaudelli, who pro­duced “Mon­day Night Foot­ball” at the time, the moment turned out to be a dis­ap­point­ment.

“We prob­a­bly could have seen that thing in his sock had we been shoot­ing him on the side­line,” he said. “Now, he’ll al­ways have the cam­eras on him no mat­ter where he is, be­cause you just don’t know what might hap­pen.”

Dar­ron Cum­mings

SIDE­LINE SIDESHOWS: Clock­wise from above: A se­cu­rity of­fi­cer re­trieves the hel­met that Giants run­ning back Bran­don Ja­cobs threw into the stands. Ter­rell Owens au­to­graphs the foot­ball with which he just scored a touch­down. Buddy Ryan, wear­ing head­set, delivers a punch to fel­low coach Kevin Gil­bride’s head.

Otto Greule Jr.

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