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Phil Simms is still a Giant among men when it comes to talking NFL on TV

Bob Raissman November 1, 2013


The NFL season has again reached a point where top TV analysts have crossed over into the Land of the Overexposed.

The more we hear from them (games, pregame shows, and countless sports-talk radio appearances) the more we need to tune them out. Yet these men are not collaborators in their own demise.


They are cogs - well-paid ones - in a network's promotion machine. It doesn't matter whether they are repeating the same theories and analysis leading up to Sunday. Or dusting off the same tired lines concerning games already contested.


The priority for the suits who employ these analysts is always the same: Steering eyeballs to the next slate of NFL games and the gazillion hours of NFL shoulder programming.


We are not here to throw a Pity Party for these former NFL players and coaches paid to pontificate. It's what they signed up for. If they appear to be robotic, regurgitating the same line in that Wednesday interview you heard in the Tuesday one, well, it's just an occupational hazard.


Any mouth who can keep things fresh is a rare commodity, an oddity. Enter Phil Simms. He's been running his mouth for quite awhile, all the way back to 1994 when he started with ESPN before moving to NBC then landing at CBS. His rise to the mountain top was relatively fast.


With CBS Sports suits fingerprints now all over the cable side (Showtime Sports/CBS Sports Network) Simms became one of the stars of "Inside the NFL" and a new show, CBSSN's "NFL Monday QB." It is reasonable to believe Simms is not giving CBS a hometown discount to appear on these shows, which also includes his main gig as CBS' top NFL analyst and appearances on "The NFL Today."


What Simms has managed to do is to go way beyond mind-numbing football analysis. He provides the unexpected. It's spontaneous. Very entertaining too. What's this guy going to say next? Simms cannot take this approach during a game telecast. In that venue he must analyze what's unfolding on the field in front of him, not melt Jim Nantz's microphone.

With the studio stuff, he can freelance. Like on the most recent episode of "Monday QB." Reporter Jason La Canfora went into an all-too-serious soliloquy about the NFL trade deadline and who might be available and where they could be headed. This cat made it seem like NFL GM's were deciphering ObamaCare.


The normal response would have had Simms chiming in, saying: "Jason, in conversations I've had around the league ..." Instead, Simms went against the grain, casting aspersions on the report.


"I love hearing this trade rumor stuff. I do love rumors, but most of the stuff is just media created," Simms said. "If there are two (trades) I will be shocked."


Last week, prior to a discussion about the Oct. 27 Vikings-Packers Sunday night mismatch on "Inside the NFL," Simms mocked his partner, Cris Collinsworth (NBC's "Sunday Night Football" analyst), saying: "I can't wait to watch it. It's going to be a great game."


Simms knew he what he was doing. He forced Collinsworth into the uncomfortable position of defending the tilt. "This is going to be a great game," Collinsworth said. "This is going to be an epic game."


Simms: "You can be a used car salesman. You really know how to sell it."


There are plenty more examples. Like when Simms takes not-to-subtle shots at other NFL analysts. Or Simms suggesting "Monday QB" host Adam Schein "take off his pants" and do the show. Or Simms telling Schein "you know you suck the life out of the show."


Simms makes this all fun. In a world of NFL analysts who force-feed their audiences technical terminology, shove statistics down viewers' (at least anyone dumb enough not to hit the mute button) throats, Simms doesn't take every second seriously.


He makes us laugh. That's a good thing.


The man should get his own show.


Super Bowl Countdown Ticks Under 100 Days

Jerry Milani November 6, 2013


Just a few years ago, the idea of a tri-state area Super Bowl seemed unlikely. With a proposed Manhattan domed stadium plan squashed, and tradition holding that the game be played in a warm-weather city or climate-controlled building, it was a surprise to many when New York and New Jersey's bid was approved, setting the stage for one of the world's largest sporting events in our backyard on Feb. 2.


Aside from traffic and other logistical concerns (no one really thought Route 3 construction would be completed in time, did they?), there are dozens of off-the-field storylines, from the more obvious like the prospect of wintry weather, effect on local small businesses, merchandise, ticket demand, and many others.


16W Marketing partners Steve Rosner (SR) and Frank Vuono (FV) are two of the most respected sports marketers in the country and are based just two miles away from MetLife Stadium.  As they celebrate their 20th year in business together, they look forward to the Super Bowl and the business opportunities leading up to it.


NJNR: What do you think were the biggest factors in NY/NJ getting the Super Bowl?


SR: I would say some of the factors would include a new stadium (MetLife Stadium); the Giants being one of the original NFL franchises; and of course New York (and surrounding area) being the number one market in the country as well as one of the top markets internationally.


NJNR: Do you think people see it as a "New York" event or a "New Jersey" event, or are they buying the duality of the effort?


FV: I think it depends who you are talking to.  If you are talking to people who are local, they see that it as both because everyone around here is cognizant of the fact that the Stadium is in Jersey and there will be events in Jersey.  With that said, people from the outside will see this as a New York Super Bowl.  If you are coming into this area for Super Bowl, most likely you are going to spend your time in New York City, especially if you have never been there before.  When you talk about Super Bowl, most people just think about the three or four days in and around Super Bowl Sunday.  Given that a large number of people that normally attend Super Bowls are from the New York Metropolitan area, I continue to think that the parties/events leading up to the game will start the weekend before Super Bowl.  From a corporate standpoint, companies may plan private events early so they don't compete with the league events during the Super Bowl weekend.


NJNR: What will they do if it snows?


SR: It really depends when it snows.  if it snows on Friday or Saturday, that could impede people from traveling here.  If it snows on Sunday, barring a major storm, we know how to handle it around here and you can be assured the NFL will be prepared.  If we get a little snow, some may call 'old time football' and it will look great on television.


NJNR: Being a lifelong Bergen County resident, what kind of upside for exposure do you see for small business in that



FV: I think if small business owners are smart and they get themselves in the proper sights for web-based searches, etc, they will find success as a result of the rush of people to this area. In terms of exposure, if they get some new customers in and they have a good experience (particularly if they are local), there could be a long-term benefit.  I just try to caution companies that most people traveling into the area are going to be thinking about this as a New York Super Bowl.  If people have never been to New York City, they are going to want to see the sights and see what the NFL has setup there.  They would most likely spend their time in New York City, other than game day.  So I think people have to be careful about the amount of incremental business they will receive as result of Super Bowl being in the area.  With proper planning though, there is opportunity to capitalize on the local marketplace for people around this area looking to have some fun around Super Bowl and do not want to travel into Manhattan. I also think that local companies can seek out corporations and rent their space out if they are looking to throw a Super Bowl-themed party.  That may be a good way to get a bump in business.


NJNR: What would be some of the baselines of success that the event would need to get to host the game here again?


SR: If they could duplicate what Indianapolis did (Super Bowl XLVI) , they will have major success since both are cold-weather cities.  If you are going to the Super Bow this year, you know it's going to be cold.  It's the factors that surround it that will go into play including the back-and-forth to Manhattan, being able to get to the actual game without a traffic mess, the general hospitality, etc.  All of the logistics of getting around with relative ease that will make it a resounding success.


NJNR: With your extensive background in regard to NFL Licensing, how much of a concern is the issue of counterfeit Super Bowl merchandise in this area and around New York City?


FV: It is always an issue for the NFL, but they are so experienced and have a whole team that goes in and can get the necessary cease and desist orders.


The NFL is vigilant about counterfeiting merchandise in every single market they go into.  The bottom line for local business is not to counterfeit as the NFL does not take kindly to it and will not just give you a slap on the wrist.  If they catch anyone on or near the premises, they will prosecute them.


A Week in the Life of Chicago Bears Offensive Lineman Kyle Long

Dan Pompei November 13, 2013


CHICAGO — For nearly 30 minutes Sunday, Bears rookie right guard Kyle Long sat in front of his locker at Soldier Field, in full uniform except for his cleats. Most of those minutes he spent staring straight ahead, thinking about what could have been in the Bears' 21-19 loss to the Lions.


During that time, every one of his Bears teammates showered. Many dressed and left the locker room, parading past him and out into the crisp autumn afternoon. While Long sat, equipment men threw dirty uniforms into bins and wheeled them away. Pads and helmets were packed in huge duffel bags and removed from sight. Almost every locker was left barren.


Long was lost in thought. Eventually, he cut off his tape, removed his jersey and shoulder pads, and showered. And after he left the locker room, in a stadium so empty you could hear an echo, he explained why he was the last to leave.


"Reflection," he said. "You go back and you think about the third downs. You think about the plays you wish you could have back. This game is unforgiving. Take one wrong step, somebody comes free and your running back gets hit for a loss, and your defense is asked to go back out there on the field and stop a tremendous offense. You know the block I didn't make is responsible for things. That's hard to swallow."


Long talked about a fourth-quarter running play in which he blew his assignment. On first down from the Bears' 36, with Detroit leading by one and 6:20 remaining, Long had stayed on a double team of Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh rather than releasing to block DeAndre Levy. The linebacker subsequently tackled Matt Forte for a loss of one.


That was one play out of the 78 that Long played. The story of his game is not that one play, though. It is many other plays, plays that showed how much he has grown in the six short weeks since the Bears' first loss to the Lions, a game Long says was his worst of the season.


Long allowed Bleacher Report exclusive access to chronicle his preparation for the rematch against Detroit, and Suh. This is how his week played out.




Long arrives back at his suburban Chicago home at 2 a.m. after a Monday night game in Green Bay, and he does not get to sleep for another couple of hours. But he is back at Halas Hall at 8:30 a.m., reviewing the tape of the victory over the Packers.


He focuses on recovery today. Cold tub, hot tub, steam room and massage are part of his normal routine. And sleep—at least eight hours a night.


Eight games into his initial NFL season (12 if you count preseason), Long already has played more snaps than in any previous season in his life. He played only one season of major college football—and started only five games at Oregon. But he says he feels fresh, and he is not sore.


"I'll run through that wall right now," he says, quite believably.


After fulfilling a couple of media obligations, Long heads home to watch the television broadcast of the game, as he does the day after every game. But by the third quarter, he is sound asleep. Three hours later at about 5 p.m., he wakes up thinking it's the middle of the night. Monday night games are hell on the body.


He grabs a bite to eat and spends a couple hours playing Call of Duty: Ghosts, the just-released video game.




Lined up for a practice play at Halas Hall, Long notices middle linebacker Jonathan Bostic aligned more to his left than the offense had been expecting. He turns to veteran center Roberto Garza and blurts out a line call, yelling for a change to a four-man slide. Garza gives him a double take. So Long makes the call again. It is the first time the rookie has been so bold, and so comfortable, as to make a call. It usually is Garza's job.


"I wasn't expecting that," Garza says. "But he's really stepped up. It's fun to see the growth."


Says Long, "I was so excited, I was like a little kid. I'm starting to see things and understand what defenses are doing and what we're doing schematically."


This offensive line business is all new to Long. The son of former Raiders defensive end Howie Long and brother of Rams defensive end Chris Long, Kyle Long was a defensive lineman until two years ago, when he switched sides at Saddleback Community College.


Long will need to continue to show improvement this week. The Bears' opponent is the Lions, and when they last met, Long did not have a good day. He says it was his worst game, by far.


Long's primary assignment that week and this week, is neutralizing Suh. In their first meeting, Suh had two sacks when Long was blocking him (one was on a loop-around), and Long was called for a costly illegal-use-of-hands penalty.


Bears offensive line coach Aaron Kromer says Long's technique was sloppy in that game, and Suh is too talented for any opponent to get away with sloppy technique. "He's the most disruptive, active guy I've played against," Long says. "The thing he does is bring it all together. He's the total package. The thing that separates him is his attention to detail and his relentless effort. But he wakes up in the morning and pees like I do."


So Long watches that game, every play of it, every day this week. "It still gets my blood boiling," he says. "There are a lot of things I wish I did differently. I didn't play with the confidence I usually play with. I'm going to take all the steps I need to make sure I have my bases covered this week. It's a blessing we get to play them again."


To get his mind off the consuming challenge in front of him, Long takes on left tackle Jermon Bushrod at Halas Hall in the soccer video game FIFA 14. Bushrod beats him handily, so Long gets a rematch. Bushrod wins in a shootout. He takes satisfaction in the progress.


Once Long gets home, it's back to work, as he watches more tape and fills out his study guide.




Long has a healthy respect for the history of the game, which is fitting for the son of a Hall of Famer.


In between meetings at Halas Hall, Long takes note of a photograph of former Bears middle linebacker Dick Butkus on the wall. He asks Kromer about him, and they talk a little about great linebackers in history.


After practice, Long heads to Soldier Field for an appearance to promote a book about the 1985 Super Bowl champion Bears. He signs a lot of autographs and talks with a number of Bears fans. And unlike many professional athletes, Long shows as much appreciation for them as they show for him.


One man in particular stands out. His name is Al, and he was a season-ticket holder long before Long was born. "Here he was, about 75 years old, all decked out in Bears stuff," Long says. "What a great guy. He was like a microcosm of the city. When I envision a lifelong Bears fan, that's the guy I'll see in my head from now on. It's kind of humbling to me. I'm just starting out in this thing, and there are so many people who have so much invested in the team."


Earlier this season, Long had a chance to meet former Bears center Olin Kreutz, though it didn't exactly go as Long had hoped. Kreutz is a legend in the offensive line room at Halas Hall, and Long holds him in high esteem.


Long parked his car at the restaurant for the weekly dinner among offensive linemen, and he saw a man he thought was teammate Matt Slauson in the distance. Long yelled across the parking lot, razzing him about his freshly shaved face. Except it wasn't Slauson. It was Kreutz.


"He didn't respond," Long says. "He walked up to me, and as he got closer, I realized, 'Oh my gosh, that's Olin Kreutz and I'm making fun of him.' Immediately, I said, 'I'm so sorry, sir. I had no idea it was you. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.'"

Garza didn't stop laughing about it the whole dinner. But Long still appreciated the night.


"Olin started a great tradition here of tough, blue-collar offensive linemen who have a passion and respect for the game," he says. "He passed the torch to Garza. Hopefully, in a few years, I'll be able to help keep the flame going with the other guys we have here."


Long named his beagle/bulldog mix puppy Walter, after Walter Payton. "He's getting out of the puppy stage where he's confused, and developing his own personality," Long says of the four-and-a-half month old. "He's jumping around from couch to couch, getting more adventurous as the days go by."


What is that they say about dogs taking after their owners?




Temperatures are in the low 40s, so Long sheepishly asks head coach Marc Trestman if it's OK to wear sweatpants. Why ask?


Long has not worn sweatpants since his first practice as a Bear, back at rookie camp in May. That day, Trestman told the rookies it was OK to warm up in sweats, but they had to change to shorts once live reps began. "I was so fired up for my first day, flying around, not listening to anything," Long said. "So I didn't take my sweats off."


As Long lined up for his first ever snap in a Bears uniform, Trestman starting yelling. "Hold on! Timeout! Get me a right guard!" Long was sent to the sidelines to remove his sweatpants.


Since that day, Long has become known for his highly enthusiastic approach that sometimes needs a little focus. The other players get a kick out of his frenetic nature. Quarterback Jay Cutler has been known to crack up in the huddle watching Long figure out what to do with himself.


"He has a ton of energy," Kromer says. "He's bouncing off the walls a lot. We'll be warming up for practice and he's jumping up and down. It's like, 'Calm down Kyle, we have two-and-a-half hours of practice here. Let's just work on our techniques.' But he loves to play, and he loves to get better."


Already, though, Long has shown leadership qualities, blending in well without being ingratiating. In the Bears' first offseason minicamp meeting, he walked the rookie linemen to the second row and asked if they could sit behind the quarterbacks. And he has become an enforcer on the field.


"He has natural people skills they teach in seminars," Bears general manager Phil Emery said. "He knows how to fit in the group and he cuts across all demographics and situations."




After a brief morning walkthrough, Long spends some time with his mother, Diane, who has flown to see each of his Bears games. Long says brother Chris has no right to be envious because mom already has seen so many of his pro games over the previous five years. And besides, Chris has a wife in the stands; Kyle is single.


After a lifetime of watching his mother prepare meals, Long can cook a bit himself. But not like his Italian mom. "You watch her: It's a craft," he says. "I love smelling that garlic in the air. I feel the smells and tastes are what bring a house together, especially after a long day's work."


Tonight, though, it's a sushi restaurant.


Long is very close with his family. He tries to talk with his mom and dad and two brothers every day. Howie can't come to Kyle's games because of his responsibilities as a studio analyst for Fox, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a strong bond with his middle son. When Kyle is finished with a game and he checks his text messages, he finds a long list of texts from his father, who shoots them off as plays are happening.


As a player, though, Kyle is trying to be a little less like dear old dad. "His dad played defense, and defense is all about aggression and momentum," Kromer says. "Offensively, you have to play with more leverage. Seeing Kyle was a defensive player for most of his life, it's a constant battle to try to get him to use controlled leverage as opposed to momentum."


Long is back at the team hotel and ready for bed by 10 p.m. Neither he nor his roommate, Jordan Mills, wants to be the last one asleep, because both say the other snores. Mills wins the race, but Long still gets a good amount of shuteye.



This game day starts like all game days for Long, with a plate of spaghetti and red sauce, and a chicken breast.

But the rest of the day won't be like any other game day he has experienced so far.


It's an all-day battle for Long, both with Suh and fellow defensive tackle Nick Fairley. Early in the second quarter, Long points out to an official that Fairley is grabbing his helmet. "There are so many hands going on that sometimes you might grab a facemask," he says. "Anything past that is kind of bush-league." After the next play, Fairley and Long have a brief scuffle.


On the same drive, Long plows Suh several yards away from a Matt Forte run, but Suh pins Long's arm against him and slings him to the ground after the play. Long goes straight for Suh and pats him on the rear. "It was a good move on his part," Long says. "I told him, 'Let's keep going.' It's fun to play against a good player like that."


Long and Fairley keep the conversation going throughout the game, and even have an exchange after the game. "I think he has a crush on me," Long says, laughing. "He is a nuisance, and I mean that in the best way possible.


Wall Street and the Super Bowl

Joel Waldman November 15, 2013




While tourists from around the world stop to smile with the world famous Broadway Bull, it's the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee smiling, knowing this year's big game will be played so close to Wall Street.


"If you look at our roster of host sponsors it's a who's who of financial services companies," said Al Kelly, the former president of American Express who now runs the Super Bowl Host Committee.


Some marketing experts say he made a very smart business decision this year. Unlike Bud Light or Hertz Rental Car, which are exclusive sponsors (the only beer and rental car name you'll see), Kelly decided not to limit the number of financial services companies that can be host sponsors.


"We are blessed in this region to have great corporate citizens in New Jersey and New York," he said. "In particular certainly the financial services sector has been huge players."


This will be Frank Vuono's 29th Super Bowl in a row. He used to work for the NFL. Now the Princeton grad runs 16W, one of the most successful sports marketing firms in the world.


"They didn't designate one exclusive financial services company as a sponsor," Vuono said. "They opened up the category to many, and they were able to do a great job to bring in, I believe it's 13 or 14 financial services companies into the fold."


Vuono said big-money firms from Goldman Sachs to Bank of America to the New York Stock Exchange cannot take a chance missing out.


"This is the highest profile, it's in everyone's backyard," Vuono said. "Some will absolutely be there because they can't afford not to be and they want to be perceived as the blue chip, the highest echelon of the investment banking world."

So, what is the economic impact of having the Super Bowl here in the financial epicenter of the world? Well last year, the host committee in New Orleans raised $16 million. This year the committee in New York and New Jersey is expected to raise $60 million.


"It's reached a peak already," Vuono said. "It's going to be, if you're not in it, you're going to be embarrassed to not be there."


That gives a whole new meaning to being there "at any cost."


Long brothers to share rare meeting

Melissa Isaacson November 20, 2013


Once, when the Long boys were young, somewhere between the endless competitions only brothers could invent -- the bike ramps into the pool and the general havoc the three created on a daily basis -- Chris, then 11, became a bit too mean-spirited in the opinion of his parents in his treatment of younger brother Kyle, then 7.


It was Chris' first year in Pop Warner football, and Howie and Diane Long told their oldest son that if he continued the behavior, he was not going to be allowed to play football the next fall.


It must have been too irresistible to stop.


"We had to follow through, so we didn't let him play," Diane said. "If you're going to make a stand, you've got to follow through."


Diane did not, however, attempt to stop the teasing that has gone on recently as Chris, a defensive end in his sixth season with the St. Louis Rams, and Kyle, a rookie offensive guard for the Chicago Bears, prepare to take the same field for the first time this Sunday, in St. Louis.


"It's going to be awesome," Kyle said with all the enthusiasm of a 7-year-old after practice last week. "I sent him a text the other day saying something like, 'How pumped are you for next week?', and then I was like, yada, yada, yada and we were talking smack, and he said something like, 'When I beat you, my dance will be directed at you.'"


Just the same, Chris -- who has 6.5 sacks this season and one touchdown, which he scored on a 45-yard fumble return in the Rams' 38-8 victory over the Colts in their last game -- admitted to feeling conflicted.


"It will be a lot of fun, but as much as I'm going to try to treat it like a normal game, I'm a little torn," he said by phone last week. "When you get on [the] field, it's such a violent, competitive game and winner take all. It's a blurred line where you're trying to soak it in and enjoy the moment and think about how many people get to do this but also play the game to the last play and take no prisoners."

While there is every chance the two will have physical contact duri

ng the game, there won't be quite the thrill of the boyhood wrestling matches.

"It's an interesting thing. When you reach a certain age, that stuff goes out the window and it's not even acceptable anymore," Chris said with a laugh. "He's 6-6, 313 [pounds], and I'm 6-3, 265-270. It's not for play anymore. But it will be interesting to see how we react. When you see your brother before the game, do you go give him a hug? It should be a lot of fun. I know we'll both play hard. Hopefully everyone will be healthy and it will be a great day."

Their father, NFL Hall of Famer and FOX analyst Howie Long, will experience his first football Sunday off in 33 years when he, his wife Diane and 40-50 friends and family descend on the Edward Jones Dome to watch.


"I'm always mindful of how the Mannings feel … but Peyton is not hitting Eli, and, trust me, I'm not sure what we're going to be feeling on Sunday," the elder Long said. "I'm nervous every Sunday. I have a hard time when they're playing simultaneously. … Hopefully Chris doesn't reduce down over the guard a lot."


When Chris, Kyle and Howie Jr. -- 12 months and three weeks younger than Kyle -- were growing up, their mother's license plate was "3 Boy Zoo."


"So you can imagine what that entails," Kyle said. "It was just three crazy young'uns running around, physical, blood everywhere, smiles on our faces, teeth missing, hair pulled out. My parents would come home and ask what happened, and it was always, 'Nothing happened.' That's just how it was." Kyle recalled once when their mother asked for one of the boys to take the trash out and he muttered something under his breath along the lines of, "Why don't you take the trash out?"


"And all of a sudden, whack, my older brother hits me and then my younger brother is jumping on me, saying 'Don't talk to mom like that.'" Kyle said. "So, either way, I'm either getting jumped or my younger brother and I were jumping on my older brother. A lot of stories like that in my house."


Diane laughed at the memory of dirty socks and gum wrappers she found in antique urns and other strange places. "Any vessel," she said.


"If there was something to climb on, to take apart, if they could make anything into something to ride on, they would do that and not usually in the most appropriate way."


But it was actually Kyle and Howie Jr. who competed with and against each other most often.


"Growing up, I always wished we were closer in age so I could be out there with them on the same field," Chris said. "But it was a lot of fun watching their Little League baseball games. Kyle was the pitcher and Howie his catcher, and Howie, who was half his size, would come out to the mound and shake him, tell him to get your you-know-what together and then storm back to home plate."


When push literally came to shove, Kyle usually ended up on the short end.


"Chris always had my back and would put Kyle in his place," recalled Howie, now an intern in football operations with the Oakland Raiders, the franchise with which their father played his entire Hall of Fame career. "But that kind of changed when Kyle got super-big. Then we really had to team up against him.


"My mom would always complain, 'Why are you guys fighting so much?', and we'd say, 'Mom, this is what brothers do.'"

What the Long brothers also do is relate to the inherent pressures in a way few others that exist in a family like theirs can.


"We share that bond, always and still to this day," Kyle said. "People used to call me Howie's son, and now, on 'Monday Night Football,' Jon Gruden's calling me Chris Long. He can't get my name right. So my whole life I've been kind of this 'the offspring of' or 'the sibling of,' and I'm just fighting my ass off to become Kyle, which will be a pretty good thing. It's something I've looked forward to for a long time, to be my own man, but in no way, shape or form, am I embarrassed or trying to run away from the family."


Chris said he "laughed" at Gruden's gaffes, in part because he likes the former coach and also because he said he is still called Jake (an offensive tackle for the Rams who has no relation to Chris), sometimes even from fans wearing his jersey. But when it comes to being Howie Long's son, Chris said he certainly gets it.


"I just know how it feels, and, sometimes, the most valuable thing you can give somebody is just that common understanding, and we naturally have that," he said. "I've been through it where people want to tell you how you didn't earn it, that it must've been easy, all that stuff. Kyle heard it his whole football career, as ridiculous as it sounds. Like a pro organization is going to make a multimillion dollar investment based on who your dad is."


Whether or not Kyle -- who also had to deal with his brother being an All-American for their hometown University of Virginia football team -- felt the heaviest burden is a matter of perspective. But, certainly, the stress weighed heavily on him.

"I went to go play baseball, and I was so exhausted from running from [a football career], it was time for me to turn around and face my destiny, I guess you could say," Kyle said. "I didn't know it at the time, but once I got onto a baseball field and saw the people who weren't around anymore because of the lack of football in my life, it made me realize, 'Maybe this thing is special and God has blessed me in a certain way,' and I've been blessed enough to have a tremendous family when it comes to this kind of thing."


That realization, he said, resonated again a few years later after he was arrested on a DUI charge the same week in January 2009 that it was announced he was leaving Florida State for academic reasons.


"Chris didn't lecture," Kyle said. "He just understood that it's like with anything. If you get a cold, it's going to run its course. I'm not saying he gave me orange juice and Sprite, but he's somebody that made sure I had just the right amount of support to be able to get through."


Said Chris: "Everybody has a different route they take to success or adulthood. We're all constantly evolving and growing up. I'm 28 and still growing up, and I'm sure when I'm 40, I still will be.


"While a lot of kids have a neat little progression to college -- doing internships and going about their business with everything going well -- Kyle had a couple rough spots and a couple different stops along the way. He was under the microscope anyway because of who he is, and there were definitely some low points, but he was able to pull himself out of that, and that takes a lot. He's still maturing, but he has become a man. He just handles his business the right way."

Kyle praises his younger brother Howie for acting as "the older brother" with his wisdom and guidance and calls Chris "my hero.


"Obviously, people look at my family and think, 'Well, your dad's your hero. But my dad was a dad to me. He wasn't the football player. Chris is somebody I saw go from middle school to high school to college and now to the NFL, and he showed me that, here, I'm going to light the way for you and you can do what you have to do: just work hard. And he set a great example. He's my hero and one of my best friends."


Chris said their relationship only gets better with age.


"That means a great deal to me he would say that, and I definitely admire Kyle a lot," he said. "Obviously, as my brother, I love him, but what he has been able to accomplish as a person -- not even as a football player -- even when things have been turbulent, he's been able to right the ship. … I love talking to the guy now. I love calling him up and being able to relate with stories from work now that we're both doing it."


Their parents are warmed by their words.


"At the end of the day," their father said, "I know if, God forbid, something happened to me, I'm really at peace with the fact that they would take care of one another."


Howie Jr. did a little research and found that roughly 360 sets of brothers have played professional football, and "only a handful of brothers have gone against each other," he said.


"They're going to have to butt heads, and I picture it that they will take it very seriously because they're both very competitive and very excited," he said. "I imagine they will carry themselves professionally all the way through until the final whistle and then be laughing and hugging each other after the game.


"This is maybe a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it's going to be special for all of us."


Howie Sr. said FOX came to him with the suggestion that he take the day off and attend the game. "They said, 'This is so special, so unique. We want you and Diane and your family to be there together,'" he said.


"[We've talked about] understanding the significance of the moment and taking a mental Polaroid in your head, to take a second and enjoy it because the next minute will be here quickly, and you don't know when you'll be down this road again. I know I'll be trying to take a Polaroid of this."


All three brothers agreed that, while their mother's football savvy is above reproach, Sunday's game might be toughest on her.


"I'm more than a little uneasy," Diane acknowledged. "My friends are like, 'Oh, your boys are playing against each other. How fun.' I don't know if it will exactly be fun. If they played positions that wouldn't normally have any physical contact, I might put it more in the fun category. I'd probably put this in more of the anxiety-ridden category."


She said she is sure there will be hugging between Chris and Kyle afterward and is almost as sure what will happen the first time the two line up opposite, or close to opposite, each other.


"Kyle can't keep a straight face, so he will have some weird smile on his face, and Chris is better at playing possum, so he'll probably have a mean mug," she said.


She also had one more prediction.


"I'm fairly certain," she said, "there won't be any 'your mother' jokes."


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