It was a weekend of mini-camps around the NFL. It’s not often a tragedy is associated with three days of players practicing in shorts but that was before the Dallas Cowboys practice building fell down.
In Irving, Texas, the Cowboys rookies were working out Saturday afternoon when a severe thunderstorm rolled through with winds that reportedly were one MPH away from a tornado. Built about five years ago, the Cowboys indoor facility featured an air-supported, fabric roof. On this day, the wind caused the collapse of part of the roof and two sides of the building came crashing down on players, coaches and staff around 3:30 p.m. Before the incident was done, the entire building was down and in tatters.
When the carnage was finally cleared, scouting department assistant Rick Behm was permanently paralyzed from the waist down with a severed spinal cord. Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis was in a Dallas hospital awaiting surgery on Monday for a fractured cervical vertebrae and trainer Greg Gaither underwent surgery for a fractured tibia and fibula in his right leg. Gaither earned his master’s degree and worked at Kansas State (1999-2000).
That more people weren’t hurt was largely due to the small crowd involved in the practice, with less than 30 players and approximately 70 people on the field. That the afternoon left one person paralyzed was a tragic moment that would have been inconceivable just hours earlier.
“It was really loud, the rain, which is normal for a bubble,” said one Cowboys player, who asked to remain anonymous because the players were instructed not to comment. He reportedly talked with the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. “When the lights really started shaking and the walls beating is when we knew it was getting bad, and then it started to collapse. We just started taking off running. One wall fell toward the middle. We didn’t have anything fall on us.”
Could a similar tragedy happen at the Chiefs facilities at the Truman Sports Complex? Not in the same manner. The Chiefs do have an indoor building, but it’s not covered by a fabric roof and is not air-supported. The roof is metal and is held up by structural steel; it’s a completely different type of structure.
FOOTBALL LOST ANOTHER GREAT ONE WITH PASSING OF JACK KEMP
Several years ago Jack Kemp said football had been the perfect training group for his life in politics.
“When I entered the political arena, I had already been booed, cheered, cut, sold, traded and hung in effigy,” Kemp said.
Kemp died on Saturday at his home in Bethesda, Maryland. He was diagnosed with cancer just last year.
What a remarkable life this man led in his 73 years. He was a Congressmen, Secretary of Housing & Urban Development, Presidential candidate, vice presidential nominee, scholar, author, speaker and advocate. And before he did any of that, Kemp had been a college quarterback at Occidental and a pro passer for the Lions, Steelers, Giants, 49ers, Stampeders, Chargers and Bills.
He was one of 19 players in the American Football League for the entire lifespan of the circuit, from 1960 through 1969. He was the only quarterback who was a starter in ’60 (Los Angeles Chargers) and a starter in ’69 (Buffalo).
The only Chiefs player on that list of 19 players was safety Johnny Robinson.
In the first 15 seasons the Texans/Chiefs played, they gave up only 11 passing performances of 300 yards or more. Only three quarterbacks did it twice: Kemp, Babe Parilli and Joe Namath. Kemp did it with the Chargers in 1961 (357 yards) and with the Bills in 1963 (300 yards, including an 89-yard TD pass.)
Kemp led the Bills to back-to-back AFL championships in 1964-65 and was the AFL MVP in ’65, despite a TD to INT ratio of 10-18.
Maybe as a prelude to his political career, Kemp was also instrumental in setting up the AFL Players Association that gave the league’s participants their first pension and benefits.
REPORTS OF NOTE FROM MINI-CAMPS AROUND THE LEAGUE
JETS – Owner Woody Johnson said he would not s top his team from signing WR Plaxico Burress. “We’re going to look for talent where we can find it. We’re committed to improving the team … It’s all based on whether the individual can help the team or not.” As for whether No. 1 pick Mark Sanchez will be the Jets starting quarterback this fall, head coach Rex Ryan wouldn’t rule out the possibility. “I certainly understand why (teams sit rookie quarterbacks),” Ryan said. “It’s a position that it’s hard to buy experience and all that, but if a guy has that kind of ability where you think he can help your football team then I think you have to give that guy that opportunity.”
CHARGERS - OT Marcus McNeill was not allowed to practice during the team’s mini-camp this weekend as a precautionary measure as he recovers from a neck injury and surgery. McNeill hurt himself during training camp last year in some sort of strange stretching incident. He missed two games and was impeded in the rest, forced to wear a protective collar to guard the area. “It was psychological more than anything else,” McNeill said. “We made sure we kept a constant eye on it because it was my neck and I didn’t want to hurt it any further.” McNeill had out-patient surgery in February to repair the problem. “I’m 100 percent in the weight room and on the field running around,” McNeill said, “but we’re going to avoid contact until we get right up to training camp.”
REDSKINS – No. 1 draft choice Brian Orakpo will play linebacker and defensive end for the Redskins. “Brian will be a linebacker mostly on first and second downs. And when he’s a defensive end, it will mostly be on third downs,” Redskins coach Jim Zorn said over the weekend. Orakpo seems to like the challenge of playing two positions. “It’s all up in the air, seeing what can I do and how I can stay on the field at all times,” Orakpo said. “The whole thing about this minicamp is to throw everything at me and see how I adjust. Right now, we’re half-and-half. They brought me here to rush the passer, and I’m not getting away from that.”
SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY …
Born on May 4, 1978 in Hastings, Nebraska was WR Marc Boerigter
(right). He joined the Chiefs after playing in the Canadian Football League, playing in three seasons (2002-03, 2005). Boerigter appeared in 41 games with two starts. He caught 39 passes for 697 yards and eight touchdowns, including a 99-yard scoring play in the 2002 season against San Diego.
Born on May 4, 1980 in Spartanburg, South Carolina was DT Ryan Sims. He joined the Chiefs as the team’s first-round choice in the 2002 NFL Draft. He played five seasons (2002-06) before he was traded to Tampa Bay. He appeared in 59 games with 36 starts and contributed five sacks and one interception.