The NFL Scouting Combine dominated sports news this week, although training camps won't open until late July. The NFL also announced plans to push their off-season calendar back -- the combines would be pushed later, free agency would start in April, the draft would be held in May. This is primarily a public relations strategy to dominate the year-round sporting calendar.

From a news-making perspective, NFL events would essentially take center stage for the entire year. This follows a season of unprecedented television saturation. For many weeks of the regular season the Top 5 Nielsen-rated television shows were night-time NFL football. "Football in America" on NBC, which is a pre-game show, topped every other form of television. Out of hundreds of entertainment choices, Sunday, Monday and Thursday night football were the nation's obsession. No collegiate or professional sport has ever been so popular.

The looming specter of concussion consequences puts the future of the sport at risk.

The physics of collision have altered on the football field. Gil Brandt, NFL super-scout, reported Sunday that he timed a wide receiver in the 40 yard dash at 4.17 seconds. When I began representing professional football players, a receiver who broke into the 4.5 range was considered a speedster. If these differentials appear slight -- look at a 40-yard dash in slow motion and see the degree of separation and how many strides this produces. It is dramatic. Football involves bodies in motion, a traffic accident of collision on every play.

When I started my practice in 1975, Fred Dryer played defensive end for the Los Angeles Rams at 220 pounds. He faced offensive tackles that were 240-250 pounds and guards that weighed less. At this year's combine an offensive lineman ran a 4.65 40, a record. If linemen could run a 5.2 thirty years ago, they were considered amazing athletes. Today's offensive tackles need to weigh 320 pounds to compete. In 2001 I

represented the second pick in the first round of the draft, Leonard Davis, offensive tackle from Texas taken by the Arizona Cardinals. He weighed in at 375 and could break five seconds in a 40-yard dash.

When an offensive lineman hits a defensive lineman to begin the play in football a low level concussive hit occurs and the brain of each player is impacted. The definition of a concussion does not require a player to be unconscious and motored off the field. It is a blow to the head or body, which causes a change in brain function. Each one of these blows jars the brain. Not only are current players larger and faster -- they are stronger. Advanced nutrition and training techniques have produced a new generation of Robo-Warriors.

The amount of weight they can lift is extraordinary. Larger, stronger bodies moving at an accelerated rate produces much more impactful collisions. Imagine an offensive lineman who plays four years of high school football, four more at college, and ten years in the National Football League. Simply multiply the number of plays and collisions and it is possible that a player will retire from football with 10,000 or more low-level
concussive hits. What is the long-term impact of this damage to the brain?

Players who are not lying motionless on the field post-concussion have been left out of the discussion. And yet damage is occurring steadily. This is why I have called the concussion damage in football and other collision sports a ticking time bomb and undiagnosed health epidemic.

This is why I have held three conference conferences with leading neurologists since the early 1990's and followed that up with three more seven years ago. I couldn't represent the stars of football and define helping them as simply stacking dollars in their bankbooks while sending them into a playing environment that would threaten their long-term health Parents and athletes have accepted the fact that playing football breaks down the structure of many joints in the human body -- the neck, hip, elbow, knee, ankle and back. But are parents willing to accept the reality that prominent neurologists like Dr. Julian Bailes, Dr. Bob Cantu, Dr. Mark Lovell, Dr. Mickey Collins and Dr. Tony Strickland are predicting?

Our conferences showed that multiple concussions trigger an exponentially higher rate of premature senility and dementia, Parkinson's, ALS, Alzheimer’s, depression and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. It is one thing to know that years of football will make it harder for an athlete to bend down and pick up his child when the athlete is 40. What if he can't recognize the child because of concussion related dementia?

The father of the best quarterback in the NFL, Tom Brady, has been quoted saying that he would not permit his son to start football again as a youngster, given today's risks. How many other parents will allow their children to start at the youth football, Pop Warner level, with this knowledge? The lawsuit filed against the NFL by more than 1,400 retired players citing their injuries from concussions are a proximate threat to the league. Could those players have known the risk when the lead physician of the NFL, Dr. Elliot Pellman, was denying that multiple concussions had been proved to be damaging to long-term health? The damages could be crippling for the league and have a chilling effect on the willingness of players to participate. Insurance costs could become prohibitive.

I love football and think it has many teaching benefits for young people. It stresses self-discipline, teamwork, resilience, and courage under pressure -- all valuable skills. No sport has the capacity to bond teammates together in camaraderie and build friendships in a unique way. The future of a sport many of us love is in doubt unless there is urgency in trying to minimize the risks. I will write next week on ways to address this crisis. There will not be a long-term future for football at any level until this issue is addressed more proactively.

-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @SteinbergSports.

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There was a time, not so long ago, when members of the athletic community were viewed as pillars of honesty and integrity. The public gave them trust ratings much higher than those of elected representatives (not surprising) and even physicians. Those days are gone.

The explosion in the number of print, Internet, radio, and television reporters using investigative reporting techniques regarding athletes and coaches has produced an intense focus on their behavioral failings. Incident after incident begin with accusations being made and athletic figures vehemently denying the behavior. Later, the athletic figure makes an admission that he was not telling the truth. Why do they do this and how does the public discern the truth?

The use of performing enhancing drugs has been a particular challenge to athletic truthfulness. Lance Armstrong was an authentic American hero. He recovered from testicular cancer and dominated cycling competitions in an unprecedented way. He raised millions of dollars and public awareness to help stimulate research in the fight against cancer through his foundation Livestrong. For many years he vehemently denied using artificial or illegal techniques to stimulate high performance. He repeated the denial over and over again. The public wanted to believe him. He bullied cyclists who were at odds with the denial. And then came his Oprah interview and he admitted that he lied.

Marion Jones and Ben Johnson, Olympic sprinters, made similar denials. They were the epitome of talented amateur athletes competing for the pride of America. They too ultimately admitted that they had lied. Legions of baseball superstars from Mark McGwire to Barry Bonds told the American public that they performed without the aid of steroids. The Mitchell Report showed that player after player lied. A new scandal has erupted over the use of a Miami clinic that has been tied to PEDs which listed numerous baseball players including 2011 National League MVP Ryan Braun.

Superstar linebacker Ray Lewis of the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens denied that he or his friends were involved in two Atlanta murders at a previous Super Bowl. He was especially vehement in protecting his friends. Then he accepted a plea deal involving his involvement in a coverup and turned state's witness and testified against his friends. The list goes on and on.

I have counselled athletes in crisis for years. The key to handling an embarrassing situation is transparency. First, make sure they are aware of every relevant fact surrounding their misconduct so they don't end up being confronted by a fact they are not aware of. Second, admit to bad conduct. Next, state the standard of correct conduct and an awareness of how they failed. Then make an apology to any impacted constituencies. And finally, describe how they are taking steps to prevent a recurrence. Then, and only then can the healing begin. The American public can accept the lack of perfection in its heroes. Sterling effort and performance in their craft, combined with exemplary behavior can soften the hearts of their fans over time. But the public has little use for liars.

Most of the statements that athletes make in these circumstances come out of panic and fear of the consequences of their misconduct. Athletes are caught off guard with damaging facts and act defensively. Some athletes have thought through the consequences and deliberately try and obscure the truth. One thing that can damage the relationship of an athlete and the public permanently is the perception of brazen and unrepentant lying.

Athletes still function as role models, whether they choose the role willingly or not. The power of television and other media brings their images into front rooms in larger than life presentations. They are not role modeling great performance, since only an infintesimal percentage of the public can hope to be professional athletes. They are modeling qualities like self-discipline, courage under pressure and teamwork. Lying damages the tender bond between athletes and their fans.

-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @SteinbergSports.

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At 40, Michael Jordan was no longer a superhero. As his final NBA comeback was winding down, Jordan had settled into a new, unfamiliar role: Mere mortal. He was averaging around 20 points, roughly ten points lower than his career average. His presence alone no longer meant his team was destined for a title -- in fact, his Wizards would end the season at 37-45, missing the playoffs by five games.

On March 9, 2003, Michael Jordan entered Madison Square Garden for the last time as a professional basketball player. The 14-year-old me was there, hoping that for once in my lifetime, the Knicks might have the last laugh.

But just as he had done countless times throughout his career, Jordan dug deep for a game at the mecca. He drained some signature fadeaway jump shots, and shimmied and stutter-stepped his way to 26 first-half points as the Knicks clung to a 56-53 lead. After a quiet third, Jordan re-entered the game early in the fourth. Just as the Knicks seemed to be pulling away, he promptly hit two straight jumpers to bring the Wizards within four. As the game neared its end, the Wizards found themselves with the ball, down three, 97-94 with four seconds to go. Jordan had 37 points.

As the teams prepared for what might be the final possession, I rose to join the already standing Garden crowd, and noticed for the first time a sea of red jerseys before me, along with signs inscribed with things like "Let’s Go Michael!" and "Michael, Rock MSG One Last Time!"

"They're rooting for the Wizards to win," I tried to tell my brother, who couldn't hear me over the roar of the crowd. I was in shock -- Madison Square Garden was rooting for the enemy, and the scene was set for another masterpiece.

And even at just 14, even I knew Jordan's long history of tearing out Knicks fans' hearts. His Bulls had eliminated my Knicks from the playoffs five times in the 90s. Jordan is the main reason Patrick Ewing never won a ring. Jordan had chosen MSG as the arena for him to shake off the rust of his first retirement in 1995, when he dropped 55 points and made the game-winning assist in the final seconds in just his fifth game back. In his 43 career appearances at the Garden, Jordan scored 30 or more points 25 times.

But on this night, the Knicks didn't care about Jordan's legacy. They refused to give him the opportunity to perform any more last-minute heroics, immediately fouling him before he could get a shot off, sending him to the line. He hit both free throws -- points 38 and 39 --bringing the Wizards within one, 97-96. The Knicks were able to run out the clock before the Wizards could foul, and the crowd was eerily silent. Jordan quickly stormed into the locker room. At 40, Jordan had scored 39 points and grabbed eight rebounds, but it wasn't enough.

"Perfect endings happen if you play hard and do all the necessary things you need to do, but I wasn't trying to come up with something that would be a perfect ending," Jordan told ESPN after the game.

In true Jordan fashion, he was more concerned with the his teammates' effort.

"It's very disappointing when a 40-year-man has more desire than a 24-, 25-, or 23-year old, diving for loose balls, busting his chin and doing everything he can to get his team into the playoffs, and it's not reciprocated from the other players on the team," he said. "Until guys let go of that macho, cool attitude and do the necessary things that it takes to play the game of basketball, it's going to be tough for Washington to make anything."

Meanwhile, even the Knicks noticed that by the end of the game they might as well have been playing the game in Chicago.

"It was really bizarre, a strange feeling,'' Allan Houston said. "You're fighting so hard for the playoffs and it's almost like you're on the road. But you know what? It's Michael.''

Hard to believe but in 10 days, on Feb. 17, Michael Jordan will turn 50.

Since his retirement, there have been numerous players heralded as "the next Jordan," but to this point no one has come close to being what Jordan was, both on and off the court -- Jordan was larger than life, and a hero to many. He was covered TMZ-style, years before TMZ existed. The ESPN recap of this game even included a paragraph on which shoes Jordan wore that night, because, to a lot of people, which shoes Michael Jordan wore on a given night mattered:

Unlike the last time he played his "last game'' at the Garden, Jordan did not dig deep into his closet for a pair of original Air Jordans. Instead, he wore the updated gray version of his signature shoes and let his game, rather than his footwear, be the focus.

It's been ten years since the 14-year-old me left the Garden cheering, while thousands of other Knicks fans left disappointed, and I finally understand why -- for one night -- Madison Square Garden was Michael Jordan's home court. Everyone just wanted to see one more Michael Jordan miracle.

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Super Bowl XLVII is officially in the books. Here are my unadulterated thoughts on the super week that was...

1. Once you go Blackened you never go back.

2. The Ravens fans showed up in force. Niners fans were harder to find. Once again, the 80/20 rule in full effect.

3. Hurricanes taste a lot different at age 40 than they do at age 25.

4. The Tailgate Party Medallion handed to fans was Purple and Gold. These must have been made six months ago. How did they know the Ravens and Niners would be playing? I want to find out who made this decision and take them to Vegas next year.

5. Will the 49er fan who pulled the plug please identify yourself?

6. Can you please make a Super Bowl locker room cap that doesn't require a lineman's head to wear it?

7. Does Bourbon Street smell like urine year-round or just during big events?

8. The guy in front of me at the Super Bowl wearing his Steelers jersey didn't get the memo.

9. You can't just tell someone you will meet them at the Marriott Courtyard. Because there are seemingly 50 of them.

10. The Hurricane Katrina Memorial on Convention Center Blvd should not be missed.

11. The Maxim and Playboy parties have jumped the shark.

12. Does the free Papa John's pizza at the Media Center count toward Peyton's 2 million free pies?

13. The IMG dinner had 4 Manning men ... but Cooper stole the show.

14. Even though Cafe du Monde is open 24 hours, its beignets should not be consumed at 5 a.m.

15. Jonathan Ogden is a big, big man.

16. If Barry Sanders can't get into the VIP area, there's certainly no hope for me.

17. Étouffée is a-okay.

18. If you need to walk through the French Quarter without being accosted ... Chartres, Chartres, Chartres.

19. How do I get the job of Super Bowl party "girl wrangler"? Eight hundred beautiful women from all over the country shipped in for the big events. Forget Mel Kiper, I've got my own Big Board.

20. Why does Harrah's make me feel like I'm at a casino in rural Indiana. Perhaps it's the Fuddruckers. Or the crowd.

21. How did those beads get in there?

22. Drago's Restaurant at the Ravens' team hotel serves the most incredible char-grilled oysters with a breadcrumb, butter, parmesan topping. I think we know what team was the most virile this week.

23. If radio is a dying medium, then Radio Row must be Heaven.

24. Rob Gronkowski, his brothers, and his dad were everywhere this week. And his dad was partying harder than any of his kids. Apple meet tree.

25. New Orleans serves the right crab -- blue crab. Made Baltimore fans feel right at home.

26. They don't make spray washers strong enough to purify Bourbon Street.

27. They really should call them Un-Lucky Dogs.

28. New Orleans -- the only place in American where Penthouse and Hustler are relevant.

29. Is that Paul Prudhomme or Dom Deluise?

30. The Audi Event was classy, star-studded, great food and even better music. Don't know what any of this has to do with the car, but I'm glad Will Ferrell, Jeremy Renner and Jim Brown stopped by.

31. Special thanks to Sports Illustrated for basically copying's original story about deer antler two years ago and for its classy move of releasing it two hours before Media Day. Sorry, despite the clever ploy, you still won't get any sports fan under 35 years old to read it.

32. They should bring in the experienced snow-shoveling citizens of Green Bay to handle confetti removal duties.

33. I walked more in New Orleans than I do in New York.

34. When CBS is televising the Super Bowl, expect the unexpected. Wardrobe malfunctions, blackouts ... Les Moonves knows how to drive ratings!

35. Hey, did anyone hit that D-Day Museum?

36. The San Fran fans finally arrived on Saturday. Guess that's the benefit of having a private jet.

37. Walking into the Superdome this year brought back memories of the last Super Bowl in New Orleans in 2002. The first big, public event since 9/11. Lots of tension. This year, security was tight but a lot less frisky. Welcome to the new normal.

38. My high school locker room was bigger than the one the Ravens had. Good way to keep the press out.

39. No matter how excited you are about the Ravens win, there should be a mandated 24-hour cooling off period before getting any tattoos.

40. What does the the NickToons guy dressed as "Robin" do when he's not covering Media Day?

41. Did everyone else have to switch hotels every two nights?

42. Frenchman Street has been called the Lower East Side of New Orleans. Look out for cajun hipsters!

43. A week in New Orleans and it's clear why some of us have earned the nickname "Baltimorons".

44. Couldn't have been a better week for New Orleans natives Jacoby Jones and Ed Reed.

45. I want to get into the lanyard business. A two-cent piece of plastic retailing for $12 ... solid margins.

46. Last year, Eli Manning said he was "elite" and he won a Super Bowl. This year Joe Flacco said he was the best QB in the league and he went on to get his ring. Who is going to say it next year?

47. The general consensus among attendees: Every Super Bowl should be held in Nawlins. The event was both Big and Easy.

-- David Katz is the founder of Every Super Bowl he poses as a journalist. If you're bored, you can follow him on Twitter @katzmando.

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The Super Bowl, including the two weeks that precede it, is the most impactful marketing opportunity for individual players in sports today. If a quarterback performs dramatically Sunday and is selected Most Valuable Player, it sets the stage for untold millions in endorsements for years to come. Compelling back-stories and attractive personality can add to the appeal. It is because the Super Bowl and the activities around it escape the genre of hardcore football fans and reach a massive audience in the United States and around the world. People who would not ordinarily watch an NFL game or read a story are caught up in the drama of this game.

The past NFL season generated some of the highest television ratings ever. The Nielsen ratings -- which list the 90 most popular television shows each week -- were often dominated by nighttime NFL games. In some weeks the Top 5 rated shows were a combination of NFL games and pre-game shows. Whoever thought that "Football Night in America," a nighttime pre-game show would outrank "Two and a Half Men," "NCIS," "Dancing With The Stars" and every other brand of television entertainment?

The media coverage of the Super Bowl is much more expansive than even Sunday Night Football. Hundreds of newspapers, magazines, talk radio, and websites dedicate major space to the weeks leading up to the game. Thousands of writers invaded New Orleans last week.

I sat on top of a float inside the New Orleans Convention Center on Friday doing an interview with local radio station WWL. As I sat in the shadow of a giant crawfish, I met Mayor Mitch Landrieu and talked about the impact of the game. As far as the eye could see in every direction was a village of live talk radio shows. I talked my way across America show by show. Here was Miami, there Chicago, and in the distance, a Los Angeles crew. There were national and local television shows broadcasting live from elaborate sets. The week is a convention of Americana with stars from politics, business, sports and entertainment visiting the Convention Center to raise their profile.

Once the game ends, the right athlete can be pulled into the modern celebrity making publicity machine. Hundreds of magazines, magazine television shows, television and radio talk shows, newspapers and Internet sites all are dedicated to interesting people.

When I represented winning Super Bowl quarterbacks like Dallas' Troy Aikman, San Francisco's Steve Young and Pittsburgh;s Ben Roethlisberger, I watched them participating in interview after interview in the ensuing days and weeks. The audience for these shows cuts through every demographic. A viewer may see the lucky athlete presented in a variety of formats and become elevated in recognition.

Madison Avenue tracks this process looking for athletes who can achieve high Q ratings -- the ability to recognize a person in a positive way, that can be used to transfer positive feelings to a product. The right athlete is wise to only select one affiliation in each product category -- breakfast foods, apparel, automotive, financial services, soft drinks and content platforms. The key is to try and sign long-term deals that will continue year after year, allowing an association of an athlete with a product.

Steve Young worked with American Express, Frito-Lay, Sun Microsystems over an extended period of years. The commercials themselves build athlete recognition. Only a small percentage of the public regularly watches NBA games but Michael Jordan had a recognition factor of almost 100 percent at his height with the American public. They saw him in high-production value ads run respectively for Nike, Hanes and other companies.

Notwithstanding the recent spate of Manti Te'o and Lance Armstrong type scandals, the public still loves an athletic role model.

The biggest potential beneficiaries of the pre-game build up and game coverage, and the most likely participants in the post-game celebrity buildup are the quarterbacks. Game coverage casts them as the leading men in the drama, and their name recognition is many multiples of that of a offensive linemen. Joe Flacco could garner the most largesse for winning the MVP award. Baltimore's Ray Lewis is a colorful, longtime defense standout who played his last game. Winning coach John Harbaugh will also have opportunities. The most dramatic achievers from Sunday will burst into stardom for years to come.

-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @SteinbergSports.

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