In what appears to be an effort to combat what can loosely be defined as "bad press" surrounding the NFL and it's players, Roger Goodell has created a Sportsmanship Award to be handed out at the end of the year. Each team will nominate one player for the award, which will be then be whittled down to a group of eight finalists by a panel which includes former players Curtis Martin, Warrick Dunn, Karl Mecklenberg, and Leonard Wheeler.
The eight finalists will be listed under the standard Pro Bowl Ballot when the players do their annual vote on December 19th. Just like with the Pro Bowl, a team cannot vote for its own player. The winner will be announced on January 31st, the night before the Super Bowl.
As for the Patriots, Tommy B knocked himself out of the running over the past few weeks by weaving a tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan, and so the team had to look elsewhere. And what better candidate than Matthew Slater.
On a team which prides itself on drafting "character guys," Slater may be the character guyest. He's one of the unsung heroes on the team, a perennial captain, and one of the best special teamers in the NFL. He has more than embraced the "next man up" philosophy, and thus it makes all the sense in the world that the Patriots would put him up for the award.
Slater has some tough competition, as he's going up against guys like Larry Fitzgerald, Charles Woodson, and Connor Barwin, but it would be nice to see him get some additional recognition for his efforts and sportsmanship. File this one under "O," for "One of those stories that nobody really cares about but the NFL is absolutely desperate to repair their image and feels that making up some award for sportsmanship will somehow erase years of bad decisions and incompetent league management, but I'm still kind of interested who wins so I'll be following it loosely."
You can click here for the full list of nominees.