Wisdom Of Staubach, Rodgers Resonates In Wake Of Geno Smith Fight
Aaron Rodgers, that golden-armed gunslinger from Green Bay, sat down with the media yesterday and revealed a big part of what makes him the NFL’s most-feared quarterback today. Hint: It’s got nothing to do with his physical ability, and everything to do with the head between his shoulders.
In light of the IK Enemkpalin-Geno Smith one-sided throwdown in New York, Rodgers waxed eloquent about relationships among teammates in a crowded locker room, stressing the need for team solidarity above all else.
“Being a professional is about leaving the stuff on the field and not bringing it in the locker room,” said Rodgers. “Leadership helps with that, but also I think it comes from the top. It’s a mindset that you leave the stuff on the field. You don’t bring it back in the locker room… [Scuffles on the field] are part of training camp, but at the same time, you’ve got to rise above it. When you get in the locker room, you’re going in the same direction. So you’ve got to be a pro.”
Acting the part of a pro was not part of the equation that made up yesterday’s main-event bout at Jets camp that, according to the medical evidence released afterwards, would have made Ronda Rousey proud. Enemkpalin can congratulate himself knowing that with one swing he knocked Geno down for a count of six-to-ten weeks. Not bad for a $600 fight. Geno, for his part, should be ashamed.
Quarterbacks get a bigger salary than most because theirs is a position that demands more than any other. That Geno should have ever been in a spot to get his jaw broken in two places from the fist of a second-year linebacker was needless, while certifying as fact the popular notion that Smith has never measured up to NFL standards.
To be a starting quarterback at football’s highest level requires the individual to be a leader of men. Oftentimes, as in the case of Rodgers, the best quarterbacks lead by example. They don’t always avoid a fight. They just make sure they are fighting for the right reasons.
Like Roger Staubach did during the Dallas Cowboys’ 1976 training camp in Thousand Oaks, Ca. when he went toe-to-toe with Clint Longley. The 24-year old Longley had been the backup to Staubach for each of the previous two seasons, and had even earned a permanent place in franchise lore with his impromptu comeback over Washington on Thanksgiving Day in 1974. But when Danny White showed up at camp after a stint in the World Football League, the pressure to hang onto the No. 2 job began to wear on Longley’s nerves. It didn’t take long for Clint’s stress to get the better of him.
More than two hours into a typical grueling practice during two-a-days, Longley grew frustrated with the way Drew Pearson was running a pass route near the sideline, and used a heavy dose of profanity toward the wide receiver to emphasize his displeasure. When Staubach rebuked him, words were exchanged between the two quarterbacks, which led to a one-sided altercation that saw Staubach pound the daylights out of Longley with multiple punches to his face and body. Witnesses all agree that Longley was in the wrong, and needed a lesson. That they all viewed the incident as both isolated and done with has been testified of too.
The truth of the matter was that Longley wanted another shot at Staubach, and on his own terms. He found his chance on the following day in the locker room while players were preparing to go out for practice. So when Staubach was busy slipping his shoulder pads over his head, Longley delivered a hearty sucker-punch that knocked him into a nearby set of weight scales, cutting a gash over Staubach’s left eye.
Had it not been for linebacker D.D. Lewis and defensive end Ed “Too Tall” Jones holding him back, Staubach would have likely ended Longley’s career right then and there. As it turned out, Longley ran out of the dorm “like a coward,” according to linebacker Thomas Henderson, and was released outright that same day.
By taking a strong stance for team unity, Staubach enhanced his reputation both as a fierce competitor, and a folk-hero. If only Geno could have done so well for himself.
While in a dispute over a $600 plane ticket that Enemkpalin said he expected to be reimbursed for, Smith stuck his finger in the linebacker’s face while standing in the locker room and stated, “You’re not going to do anything about it.” To which Enemkpalin quickly proved Smith wrong, cracking his jaw with a hard, swift blow that may have very well ended both players’ Jets careers.
For Geno, this has been a high-cost lesson in proper football etiquette, a 24-hour can’t-miss lecture in locker room doctrine that both Rodgers and Staubach learned to adhere to on a daily basis long ago. Their lives and careers have been better for it. Geno’s reputation is such that it might be too late to atone for his mistake.
The Cowboys host the Jets at AT&T Stadium on the night of Dec. 19. It’s hard to imagine Geno Smith being back in the Jets huddle then, or ever.