Let's get the ball rolling with a remark or two on our least-favourite NFL player, the inimitable Lendale White. Our chubby hero has bounced from Tennessee to Seattle to Denver this season, and has now suffered another of his many reversals of fortune.
We first met LenWhale when he was splitting carries with Reggie Bush in the University of Southern California National Championship team's backfield. He was variously described as being under-rated, being lost in the limelight focused on Reggie, or vastly overrated, riding the coattails of a pro-caliber offensive line. He declared for the NFL draft after his junior season in 2006, and then had a snack, which lasted about four months.
On draft day, he predictably fell out of the first round, based on his horrible conditioning and physical appearance. He claimed to not have been able to train because of a pulled hamstring, while the skeptic in every scout wondered if his pulled hamstring was actually caused by his poor physical fitness. The Tennessee Titans were the dupes who decided to take a chance on this second round 'bargain', picked him 45th overall, 15 picks before Maurice Jones-Drew, and were rewarded with years of petulance and underachievement. I can still remember LenDale taking the call from the Titans at home, surrounded by family and well-wishers, pumping his fist and shaking his head, wearing a white muumuu of a shirt which barely concealed and could not contain his man-breasts, and sporting an expression which plainly read: "I'll show them!"
He did no such thing. His career followed an entirely predictable arc: a failure to deliver on his athletic potential, a constant grumbling and grousing about not getting the credit he deserved from the fans and the media, and a long list of excuses and rationalizations for his poor play or fragility. All the doubters and naysayers who LenDale pouted about before the draft were absolutely right in their assessment of him.
Last season we saw him act as a correspondent for the "Jim Rome Is Burning" show, gleefully interviewing his teammates on camera, delighted with the attention. The most remarkable aspect of his pieces was the juxtaposition of his doughy physique (of which he was vocally proud and attributed to his recent abstinence from tequila) with that of his teammates, virtually all v-shaped action hero-Greek gods. Let's be clear about this: during the segments, they were bare-chested or UnderArmoured, and LenDale wore his muumuu. Thankfully.
Another indication that LenDale doesn't get it is that most of his interviews occurred in the weight room, where his teammates worked out diligently, and he clowned around. He beamed for the camera, heavy lidded and glassy eyed, his speech barely comprehensible, to the encouragement of Jim Rome, who called him one of the best correspondents yet.
This season, having purportedly lost thirty pounds, and yet still sporting a double chinned moon-face, LenDale was cut by the Titans. He was signed shortly thereafter by the Seahawks' Pete Carroll, their new coach and his former mentor at USC. He was released shortly thereafter, with a statement that read in part: "It became apparent at this time that LenDale was not ready to be a member of the Seattle Seahawks."
At approximately the same time, it was announced by the NFL that LenDale would be suspended for four games for violating the league's drug policy. It's hard to believe, based on the visual evidence, that he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug. While LenDale may have become lighter, he still displayed no noticeable muscle tone. The suspicion on this side of the keyboard is that he ingested a stimulant-appetite suppressant to reduce his weight, instead of working it off the old-fashioned way.
His career threatening to turn farcical, he was given another chance by the Broncos, whose depth at the running back position was non-existent after a rash of injuries. He seemed assured of making the 53 man roster, until he ruptured his Achilles tendon in the final pre-season game on Thursday night. While this is the kind of injury that happens frequently in sports which involve running and sudden bursts of acceleration, it's open to question whether years of overweight and lack of conditioning pre-disposed him to this injury.
So now he gets to serve his suspension on the couch. He has surgery to look forward to, followed by a year of painful rehab work to get back to the NFL. The outlook from here is not good, and his only saving grace will be his unfulfilled 'potential', the siren song which the desperate NFL head coach can never escape from.