- David Fleming, ESPN Senior Writer
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Players get cut all the time in the NFL. But until this season in Jacksonville I had never really heard of anyone being, uh, chopped.
Then the Jags fell to 0-3. And first year head coach Jack Del Rio had the (AAA battery) bright idea of reinforcing his "Keep Chopping Wood" message by placing a tree stump and a real-live axe in the middle of the team's locker room. (This is the NFL equivalent of Wil. E Coyote getting a package in the mail from ACME.)
Proving once and for all that NFL kickers and punters have more time on their hands then those 14 guys you always see milling around freeway construction sites, Jags punter Chris Hanson -- having just barely recovered from a nasty fondue accident in June 2002 (I can't make this stuff up, folks, there are laws) -- gashed his right, non-kicking leg while playing Paul Bunyan. He was rushed to the hospital, given several stitches and declared lost for the season. While the rest of the community breathed a sigh of relief that Del Rio's cheesy theme wasn't Show Me Some Heart.
Now, though, thanks to the, uh, Axe-cident, Del Rio and Hanson have the distinct honor of being the first-ever co-nominees in the FLEMFILE'S SIXTH ANNUAL NFL TURKEY OF THE YEAR AWARDS.
Here are the rest of the TOY nominees:
Kurt Warner: He politely demurred when asked to replace struggling starter Marc Bulger. Besides a lack of competitive fire, he was afraid Brenda would rip him on air for making a decision without asking her first.
Arizona cheapos: Asked to donate cash for fire victims in San Diego in exchange for a free MNF game, fans respond with a whopping $3.46 per person. And they call Bill Bidwill cheap?
Jeremy Shockey: Giants initially would not reveal which knee the All Pro tight end injured against the Falcons. They weren't being secretive, they just needed to teach Jeremy his Lefts and Rights first.
Jim McMahon: The Punky QB, who reportedly appears on posters for a responsible drinking campaign in Illinois, is charged with drunk driving in Florida with a blood-alcohol level three-times the legal limit, according to police.
Warren Sapp: The NFL decided to punish Sapp for his "slave master" comment by hiring him for its new network. Like everyone else who has watched Sapp play this season, the TV folks just figured he was ready for a new career.
Red McCombs: After seeing how well the Vikings responded to his post-game locker room tirade on Oct. 26, the Broncos have asked him to speak to the Chiefs before their game on Dec. 7.
Emmitt Smith: After his six carries net a minus-one yard and a cracked scapula against his former team in Dallas, the NFL's all-time leading rusher vows to comeback and continue to emulate his hero -- Franco Harris.
Carolina Prowler: We've got no problem with a fan igniting the Bucs defense by taunting them over the Ericsson Stadium PA system. What really bothers us, though, is a grown man going by the name "Carolina Prowler."
Chad Johnson: You want to really impress us? Guarantee the Bengals first winning season in 13 years, that'll do it.
Keyshawn Johnson: Now that he's been replaced by Charles Lee (ouch), his next book will have the title: "If It's Not Too Much Trouble, Could Someone Please, If You Don't Mind, Pass Me The Ball Please Pretty Please Hello, Hello With Sugar On Top Is Anyone Out There?"
Steve Spurrier: If he cooks like he coaches, here's what Old Ball Coach must be like in the kitchen Thanksgiving Day: "I've learned my lesson, this year we're having a traditional turkey with all the trimmings...nope. wait...changed my mind...Let's try fondue...nope, dangit all...turkey and stuffing...uh uh...Cocoa Puffs...turkey...PB&J...wait."
Scoop Fleming: This is the first FlemFile ever written without my big goofy yellow lab curled up and snoring under my desk. RIP buddy, RIP.
NFL Officials: Replay's a mess. The Baltimore clock blunder. Leaping in Tampa Bay? What the hell is leaping? Let's replace those whistles with turkey calls.
Matt Millen: The Lions are one L away from tying the all-time record for consecutive road losses in the NFL. If he keeps this up, Millen is gonna get hired away by the Tigers.
Deion Sanders: Never mind that Dan Reeves has 38 years of experience, has been to nine Super Bowls, won five NFL Coach of the Year awards and is just the sixth NFL coach to reach 200 wins, Deion still feels he's qualified to take over the Falcons -- which is like Clay Aiken announcing he wants to replace Bono.
Steve Smith: Panther wideout, who last year was charged with assault after pummeling a teammate during a film session, stalls a late drive in Houston with a personal foul for kicking a defender. Who is this guy's anger management counselor ... Shannon Doherty?
Bill Romanowski: Being sued for battery by a former teammate. Romo will be receiving the Golden Drumstick for his extraordinary contributions to the TOY Awards, just as soon as we get it back from Terrell Owens.
Bruce Smith: Now that he's tied Reggie White's record with 198 sacks (and begun whining about his playing time), Smith should keep going until he gets to 200 sacks. At his current pace that should only take another 15 years or so.
Jon Bon Jovi: New owner of the ALF's Philadelphia Soul. OK, let's try three. 1) Wait till you see their new uniforms: leopard-skin pants, acid-wash jerseys and hair helmets; 2) If he needs to motivate the team, Bon Jovi could always threaten to play an acoustic set after their next loss; 3) If Bon Jovi is the owner, shouldn't the team name be the (Sold Your) Soul? Or, better yet, the (Ain't Got No) Soul?
David Fleming: Player hater. Doofus. Jack ass. Turkey jerky. I hate you and your dog. There, I just saved you the trouble of writing a hate email, since I know how busy (wink-wink) you all are at work waiting for the holiday to begin.
David Fleming is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at Dave.Fleming@espn3.com.