HOUSTON, TX –The end is near. Facing down perhaps the greatest threat to the completing a regular season since the worst of the labor disputes of the 1980s, the NFL somehow made it to Week 17 and the end of the 2020 regular season. All teams will get the chance to play all 16 games, even if there was some flex. The Houston Texans are no exception.
“Been quite the season,” stated _efensive coordinator Anthony Weaver. “All the protocols and the all the upheavals. At times, we weren’t sure that we would get there, especially when we had to have some players miss time due to the health protocols. Clearly, it was all the COVID issues that gave us problems. I know that Vernon Hargreaves [III] indicated that he was so paranoid about catching the virus that he would give opposing wide receivers plenty of space when on the field. Really took the CDC-recommended six feet for social distancing to heart. That even overcame the AK-47 motivation I was trying to give him. He would just whimper, ‘I’ll take hot lead over the ‘Rona any day.’”
Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly agreed. “Yeah, those safety protocols really messed with this team at times. All the fears of close contact on the field…even with all the testing, you could tell it was in the heads of a lot of players. Could have been a factor in the running game. A lot more contact in the running game, and thus, the greater opportunity for the spread of the virus. Okay, not aware of any on-field transmission of the cases, but for our running game, well, I think some of our players didn’t want to take the chance. I know that it really got into Nick Martin’s head a couple of times, especially on our CHUM...[there was an involuntary gagging motion by Kelly at the mention of that term]…er, our inside runs. I think Nick was really worried about [Deforest] Buckner from Indy in that one game. I think that [Charlie] Heck also was worried about the Bengals edge rusher’s flag football moves and getting the ‘Rona. It is scary.”
Others, however, seemed to take everything else in stride about COVID-19 and the impact on the season. “Oh, I am just-ish FINE!!!” proclaimed Cal McNair. “Not sure where I’ll be when I get the Cap’n Morgan infection…er, I mean, injection. Already been loading up on other disinfectants…keeping the system cleaned. All the vodka, Southern Comfort…yeah, I am doing….I am doing…I am doin…[collapses in yet another classic drunken stupor].”
Yet even dealing with the biggest pandemic to disrupt US life since 1918-9, the NFL still had a season to play. The Texans can say that they managed to play all of their games. “Yeah, we got our money,” shrugged Zach Cunningham. “Don’t know what else to tell you.” We wanted to ask some more follow-up questions, but it appeared that Cunningham was really busy cleaning up his locker and packing things to get ready to go.
“Well, yeah, of course we are all trying to get our stuff situated now,” stated Jacob Martin. “Last game of the season, and we are ready to go. Besides, have you seen the traffic around 610/Galleria/I-10? Trust me, you don’t want to get caught in that traffic there. Bad enough just getting out of NRG, even in the pandemic times.” When asked why now and not wait until Monday after the game to clean out the lockers, Martin just snorted. “What’s to review? The season will be over. We get our last paycheck, which they can just direct deposit. No need to hang around for another Easterby service. Hell, I know that Eric Murray is just going to leave the car running so he can jump in and go right at the last whistle. You’d think he got away with robbery or something.”
Such concerns did not seem to be on the minds of the Texans’ final opponent, the former Houston-based squad now known as the Tennessee Titans. “Great name by dear old dad,” boasted Amy Adams Strunk, daughter of the previous owner, whose name we will not publish to protect the health of our servers. “Those powerful supreme beings from Greek mythology. Big, strong and with voracious appetites. Absolutely never lost in combat to any other force or power, including their own offspring. In fact, I was thinking about a logo change, one that keeps the Titan motif, but I think a re-branding…calling them the ‘Big Extra-Strong Fighters’…I think BE-SFs is kinda catchy. Agreed?”
While Tennessee’s owner considered the marketing merits of a BE-SF logo, her team was preparing for this match-up, one that they see as important for their goals. The players were very much focused on the results of this game. Their head coach was as well, but he took a more philosophical approach to the matter. “It is not the destination, but it is the journey that makes masters and men of us all,” pronounced head coach Mike Vrabel.
“He’s been saying those type of things really all season,” noted Derrick Henry. “If I didn’t know any better, it was like he was quoting fortune cookies or something. Still, you have to admit, whatever he has been doing really seems to be working. I mean, for me, it’srather easy. I just run the ball and try to kill people, but Coach [Vrabel], it is like he’s trying to play four-dimensional chess or something.”
“Actually,” corrected Vrabel, “I prefer the classic strategic game of Go. Much more a game of thought and action.”
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill chimed in. “Ever since last season, he has been on this real kick. I guess it is some sort of East Asian thing. Talks about “Go” and Eastern philosophy. For some reason, he has been big into reading about some dude, Zheng He. I guess he was this Chinese Admiral/explorer…big powerful dude. Actually could have come to America some 70 years before Columbus. I could almost swear Vrabel is mastering classic Mandarin.”
While Totally Not Fake News cannot confirm the linguistic skills of Vrabel, he has certainly engaged in a number of moves and actions that might appear strange at first but turn out to work for the betterment of his team. Taking liberties with the timing rules associated with penalties, whether it was running more time off the clock by committing them or getting the clock to stop because of them; such moves could be worthy of the greatest Eastern tacticians. He has even found a way to outfox his former boss, Bill Belichick.
“He just doesn’t look to the ancient Far East. I’ve seen him in his office with books by some classic Middle Eastern guys. Once, I swear I heard him listen to some strange yet beautiful high-octave singing. When I asked him what album that was, he just told me it was a classic Italian musician. I asked, ‘Who’s the girl singing?’ What was strange was that Coach came back saying, ‘No, he is a good singer.’” Tannehill observed.
When pressed about when he first saw all of this behavior, Tannehill paused, but then noted, “Well, Cohas been acting differently ever since that one pronouncement about what sacrifice he would make to win a Super Bowl. Seemed like just a statement of bravado, but now, I’m not so sure. What is really odd is that whenever I see [Vrabel’s wife] around the field, she has this bemused look on her face. That, and she always seems to be carrying this special jar with some Chinese-type markings. Whenever Coach sees it, he goes into this sort of trance. It’s like a football version of Paul Bearer. I don’t know what is in the jar. Truth be told, I am not sure I want to know.”
We at Totally Not Fake News would usually take that as an invitation to investigate further, but somehow, and in consultation with some history consultants, we decided we would really not want to confirm any suspicions. Would just be all too painful in a personal way that only male reporters can fathom…in the darkest of their nightmares.
So, with that, we will run as fast as we can to get back in time to watch the game and put on the strongest cup we can find to shield key elements of our anatomy.