Confessions of a Buffalo Bills Football Freak: The Asterisk

Tyler Bass

This week’s confession is all about that nasty little asterisk! By definition, an asterisk can be an indication of the omission of letters or words, to denote a hypothetical. In sports, the asterisk represents something that is tainted.

All of the major sports have utilized the asterisk in some form or fashion throughout history, whether it be the MLB slapping it on Roger Marris’s home run record or in the NFL to denote a record broken but under different circumstances (i.e., Marino breaking Fouts record in a more extended season). The asterisk may make its presence felt again this year.

Reaction: 2020 Season *

Covid-19 has made its impact on the world this year and may very well impact the record books. With the opt-out deadline passed, changes to training camps, and the overall schedule changed, the question arises: does the 2020 season get an asterisk next to it?

If it were my call, I would say NO! The list of reasons some could come up with for the asterisk is not enough, in my opinion.

First up, a modified training camp is relatively low on my list of acceptable reasons. Training camp is meant for new players to acclimate to the new team. Rookies and UDFA get their first taste of the NFL, and the vets tend to be limited in precipitation to allow for roster battles. Although, I do believe camp is a massive piece of the puzzle for a team to gel and find out what they have. Making small changes to the format doesn’t throw enough of a wrench in things to make me feel like this season is different from seasons past.

What Does an NFL Training Camp Schedule Look Like?

NFL training camps have changed over the years, becoming a player-friendly experience…at least that’s what the rules in the latest collective bargaining agreement would lead you to believe. Still, there is plenty of overlap between now and back when I played six years earlier.

Second, no preseason games threw me in a bit of a tailspin. I feel this way mostly because I have never witnessed a season with no preseason games. Yet, when I take a step back and look at the big picture, I am not sure this really would warrant adding an asterisk either. Realistically, for three of the four games, the “starters” don’t even see any action or minimal action. Again this is meant more for fine-tuning what you plan to do for the year and to finalize those final roster spots.

Although this may limit players’ opportunities to make the team in a league with relatively low turnover each year, I believe most organizations can get themselves prepared without a few dress rehearsals against other teams.

Thirdly, the turnover caused by the opt-out option. I would have sided with one argument for a reason for the asterisk to be applied to this season, and this would be it. At least that was my initial thought when the opt-out became an option for players. I envisioned a massive list of players not wanting to play and causing a “Replacements” type of scenario.

Tracking NFL players opting out of the 2020 season because of coronavirus concerns

Sixty-six players have opted out of the 2020 NFL season because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif was the first to announce his intention to sit out the season, and the deadline to opt out has now passed.

As the deadline passed last Thursday, the total players opting out only reached 67 players out of almost 1700 players in the league each year. Some teams had more players opt-out than others, but that is roughly two players per unit, and the majority of the players were on the field in a limited capacity.

I would not say that this is enough of a reason to place an asterisk on this season.

My final reason for no asterisk is simple. Why this year, and not others? The Patriots have proven time and time again that no season deserves an asterisk, even when cheating! Now, if this season gets chopped or cut short, I am all for the asterisk, but not now, with all teams being relatively equal.

Roster: Safeties *

Time and time again, you will hear me say, “This is the deepest roster we have had in a very long time.” There is one position group I think we could place an asterisk next to: the safeties. Now, I know what you are thinking.
I have no clue! We have Hyde and Poyer.

That answer is precisely why I have a concern and am placing the “asterisk” on this group. It has hardly anything to do with Hyde and Poyer. They both are incredible players, and possibly the best duo in the league. My issue lies with the lack of depth behind them, which brings me to Siran Neal, Dean Marlow, Jaquan Johnson, and Josh Thomas.

NFL S Position Grades | PFF

PFF’s exclusive metrics provide Safety (S) position rankings, grades, and snap counts.

The guys mentioned above have minimal experience in the league. I am not suggesting that Hyde and Poyer are not elite and capable of playing for years to come, but this depth indeed concerns me. I have seen flashes from Marlow and Neal, which make me believe that they are capable, but capable is a significant drop from the elite. One injury to Hyde or Poyer, causing them to miss considerable time, concerns me. Not only do we lose the cohesiveness, but we also lose experience.

The other reason I have a concern here is that Hyde in under contract till 2021, and Poyer until 2022, at which time they will both be in their thirties. With their age creeping up, deals coming due soon, and the possibility of an injury any given game, I will put an asterisk on the safety position group until I can see Neal, Marlow, Johnson, or Thomas step up and progress to the next level. If none of the four can leap, then the depth at the back of the defense has me concerned and wondering what the solution moving forward will be.

Prediction: Tyler Bass beats out Hauschka *

To keep this short and sweet, Bass would beat Hauschka out for the starting job in a typical offseason program. In this modified version, I still think Bass will win the job, yet Hauschka will remain the starter.

So if Bass is going to win the job, why is he not the starter? Experience. Hauschka had a rough year last year, is 35, and his leg appears to be gone passed 50 yards. With that said, I still believe his experience in the shortened camp will result in McDermott awarding him the job.
I especially believe this takes place with the new protected roster spots on the practice squad. The Bills can go into the season with the veteran kicker, and allow Bass to progress as a pro.

If Hauschka has another dismal year, you can make a move during the season, saving some cap. If he comes out and performs the way he can then Bass gets a full year to learn from a vet and continue to work on his craft without any pressure.

No matter how it plays out, I anticipate this is Hauschka’s last season as a Bill.

Fun Fact: Bills History *

As discussed a little earlier, there have been many different uses of asterisk throughout sports history. So, what Buffalo Bill players’ record has an asterisk next to it, and why?

Bruce Smith’s single-season sack record and career sack record (current NFL record) both have an asterisk next to them. So why is that the case?
P.E.D.’s? Strike? More games played? None of the above is correct. Smith did nothing during the season to result in the asterisk. The reason for the asterisk, in this case, was because, before 1982, the sack stat didn’t exist. Technically, every time the sack stat is broken, whether single-season or career, there will be an asterisk.

Based on this logic, even if the 2020 season does not get an asterisk. The 2021 season will result in all records in the future to have an asterisk based on the number of games increasing.

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