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The preseason has dual goals for established National Football League players.
Preparing for the regular season is a necessity but there is no season for players who suffer serious injuries.
"It's just another camp," New York Giants offensive guard Chris Snee said Saturday night from Baltimore where he was waiting for the team's second preseason game against the Ravens. "You try to get yourself ready for the season, but you also try to stay healthy."
After starting every game he played for his first three seasons, Snee clearly fits the category of an established NFL player. The Montrose graduate worries about the same issues that concern practically every other league veteran in August.
"Every night you come home and see somebody else on some other team is out," Snee said.
Snee and the rest of the Giants offensive line worked well into the second quarter of Sunday's 13-12 win in Baltimore after appearing in just a dozen plays in last week's loss to the Carolina Panthers.
About the time the Giants were starting to switch over to the second unit, they started dropping with scary injuries. Four Giants went out in a two-minute span of the second quarter.
Wide receiver Michael Jennings ruptured his Achilles tendon, ending his season before it really started. The others are likely to be able to return soon.
Even with the risk of injury, Snee said the increased playing time against Baltimore was necessary, particularly after mistakes were made against Carolina.
"We just kind of got our feet wet to get used to the speed of the game, then the young guys got a chance to show the coaches what they could do," Snee said between the first two preseason efforts. "We hope to take a big step against Baltimore.
"We didn't really play well the first time. We had a lot of minor, technical errors."
The Giants were more effective running the ball against Baltimore, gaining 182 yards on 34 carries.
Snee said the Giants expect to be able to run the ball well even after the retirement of team record-setting runner Tiki Barber.
"The only difference really is that we're losing the main attraction of the offense," Snee said. "Tiki will be missed, but Brandon Jacobs and the others will do a good job.
"Everything's going to stay the same."
Snee, however, hopes the results will be different.
The Giants grabbed the final National Football Conference playoff berth with an 8-8 record last season.
"You won't find anyone on the team who will say he was happy with last year," Snee said. "The thing was we had a lot of talk about us going to the Super Bowl. We ended up 8-8. We made the playoffs, but we weren't happy.
"I think this year we're not going to talk. You're not going to hear anyone talking about what we can do."
WEEK IN REVIEW
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers reached ArenaCup8, the arenafootball2 League championship game, with a 46-43 victory over the Green Bay Blizzard Saturday night before a crowd of 5,635 at the Wachovia Arena.
The Pioneers used their first conference championship to qualify for their first ArenaCup appearance.
Ryan Vena hit 25 of 37 passes for 253 yards and four touchdowns.
TuTu Ferguson provided a key interception for the Pioneers in the fourth quarter.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers are at the Tulsa Talons Saturday night in the af2 championship game.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
The Racing Reporter
Hamlin Streaks To Michigan Busch Win, Brooklyn, MI – After a cycle of green-flag pit stops 15 laps beyond the halfway point in Saturday's CARFAX 250 at Michigan International Speedway, Denny Hamlin broke open a two-car duel with Matt Kenseth to win his second Busch Series race of the year and the fourth of his career.
Hamlin crossed the finish line 6.998 seconds ahead of Kenseth, who lost ground steadily over the final 50 laps of the 125-lap event at the 2.0-mile "D"-shaped oval. Kevin Harvick was third, followed by Jeff Burton and polesitter Greg Biffle.
Brian Vickers, Paul Menard, Todd Bodine, Casey Mears and Clint Bowyer completed the top-10.
Denny Hamlin, winner of Saturday's Michigan Busch race.
Hamlin's crew worked overtime to repair his car after the driver scraped the wall during practice on Friday. The No. 20 Chevy showed no ill effects from the accident, and with the temperature down about 12 degrees from Friday, the car responded favorably to the cooler weather.
“I can't say enough for these guys putting the car back together,” Hamlin said. “It seemed like the car really adapted to these cooler conditions. I don't know whether it played into our hands or not, but it's hard to imagine that the car could have been any better.”
It didn't take long for Hamlin and Kenseth to establish themselves as the class of the field. Kenseth took the top spot for the first time on Lap 16 when he passed Vickers as their two cars approached the start/finish line.
Hamlin grabbed his first lead under caution following points leader Carl Edwards' spin on Lap 25. The driver of the No. 20 Chevrolet won the race off pit road, but Kenseth regained the point on Lap 33 moments before Tony Stewart's solo spin brought out the third caution of the race.
Eight laps after a restart on Lap 37, Hamlin caught Kenseth and passed the driver of the No. 17 Ford through Turns 1 and 2. But Kenseth regained the top spot on Lap 58, only to surrender it again on Lap 68, when Hamlin went to the front for good by surging ahead of Kenseth at the stripe.
Hamlin sealed the victory with a green-flag pit stop on Lap 77 that opened his advantage to more than two seconds over the race runner-up. The gap widened considerably before Hamlin took the checkered flag.
“I had a lot of fun racing with Denny,” Kenseth said. “Through the middle part of the race, we were about the same. We just tightened up there a little bit at the end with the overcast (sky). We got too far behind there on that final pit stop and couldn't make it up.”
Top-10 Busch Series leaders: 1. Edwards-3613, 2. Harvick-2913, 3. Reutimann-2883, 4. Leffler-2741, 5. Ragan-2691, 6. Hamilton Jr.-2677, 7. Leicht-2512, 8. Ambrose-2501, 9. Biffle-2464, 10. M. Wallace-2419.
NASCAR TV Ratings Down – There’s something about NASCAR that needs fixing.
So far this season, Nextel Cup Sunday races are down nine per cent from last year, and down 20 per cent from 2005 for the same 22 races.
Of the 21 races run so far this season only two (Las Vegas and Texas) have topped the previous year’s TV rating. This is a trend that seemed to begin sometime during the 2004 season – oddly enough, the same year The Chase for the Championship began.
The latest ratings show the road course race at Watkins Glen was down by over 30 per cent.
Over the past years, each network carrying Cup races has seen ratings decline. The Busch Series races, which ESPN2 this season inherited from TNT and FX, are off 11 per cent from last year.
To go even further, the 2006 TV ratings only showed a marked improvement over the 2005 ratings in three races (the Daytona 500, Martinsville in April and Talladega in October) during the entire season.
According to the Wheeling (WV) News Register, many excuses have been given for the fall in TV ratings. Some say the NASCAR purists lost interest when NASCAR changed to The Chase format. Likewise, the entrance of the foreign manufacturer Toyota has also been blamed for a loss of fan support.
Another reason for the shrinking TV numbers may go no further than the TV itself. The rise in costs across the board in NASCAR has fans paying the price in the form of more and more TV commercials. Of the average four-hour race, one quarter of that is filled with repetitive ads that have viewers seeking their entertainment elsewhere.
Dale Earnhardt, Sr., who had a loyal and very large following, departing stars like Terry Labonte, Bill Elliott, Rusty Wallace and soon to be departing Mark Martin, Ricky Rudd and Sterling Marlin are all “old-school” drivers that fans have had a hard time finding replacements for. The loss of these stars, combined with the entrance of the more polished driver has many long time fans tuning out.
Drivers like Kyle Busch, who recently signed to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2007 is a prime example. He can win races, but he has yet to develop a large fan following.
Older drivers had developed a large fan base, but new ones just coming into the sport haven’t gained the respectability or admiration of fans.
Long races are boring in the middle and I’ve had many fans tell me they have switched to other forms of entertainment. Speed has also contributed to the slowing of viewership. Higher speeds have stretched the field and made side-by-side racing a rare occurrence.
Later and later, start times could also be to blame. What used to be a noon start has now been pushed to 2 p.m.
NASCAR can make all the excuses it wants, but the fact is that fewer people are watching. TNT’s attempt to up the ratings of its Daytona coverage by running it commercial free failed. TNT received a 3.8 for its efforts and ESPN was not the answer NASCAR was looking for either.
The answer is not with me, but somebody needs to quit telling me everything is fine, because it isn’t.
The focus will be on the 0.533-mile Bristol Motor Speedway, as all three of NASCAR’s major series’ will be racing at night.
Wednesday, August 22, Craftsman Trucks O’Reilly 200, race 16 of 25, 200 laps, 7:30 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.
Friday, August 24, Busch Series Food City 250, 250 laps, race 26 of 35, 7:30 p.m. TV: ESPN2.
Saturday, August 25, Nextel Cup Sharpie 500, race 24 of 36, 500 laps, 7 p.m. TV: ESPN.
Racing Trivia Question: Kevin Harvick has several Busch and Craftsman Trucks teams, but who does he race for in the Nextel Cup?
Last Week’s Question: Who was the winner of the first Martinsville NASCAR race? Answer: It was Red Byron, who also went on to become NASCAR’s first champion.
You may contact the Racing Reporter at email@example.com.
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