The Year of Rookies, Record Breakers and Fierce Competition in the NFL

After 30 years, it’s still exciting.

By Fred Zermeno, Exclusive to EGP

Yes, its winter and Los Angeles is experiencing one of the coldest spells in recent memory. But that just adds to what has made football exciting this year.

(EGP photo by Fred Zermeno)

A warm cup of tea, hot chocolate, your favorite cup of coffee, a good breakfast with the family then sitting on your couch wrapped in your favorite NFL blanket or dressed in your favorite team’s colors to watch some superb football.

If that sounds like the perfect Sunday morning, you’re right. And it couldn’t have been scripted any better for the month of January, even in a city like Los Angeles that doesn’t have a professional football team of its own.

But there’s no shortage of football fans in the city. Whether they cheer for long time, one time local favorites the Rams or Raiders, or our closest neighbors the Chargers or 49ers, Angelenos know the competition this year has been amazingly entertaining.

This year the NFL produced some of the best rookies, turning some of us into instant fans of their team or of them. Some of the ferocious veterans continued their quest to break NFL records and kept us entertained throughout the year as they helped keep their teams in the pursuit of Super Bowl XLVII.

Personally, I like to closely follow players in their rookie and second seasons. It’s when you can see what they are really made of, as they respond to the opportunities sent their way.

This season, I’ve watched coaches shape and mold some new offensive stars like San Francisco Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Seattle’s Russell Wilson, Washington’s Robert Griffin III and his teammate Alfred Morris, along with Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck and running back Doug Martin from Tampa Bay. Except for Kaepernick, one of these extraordinary rookies will become the 2012 Rookie Of the Year.

Technically the 49ers’ Kaepernick is not a rookie because he’s in his second year, but he just made his first NFL start a few weeks ago. Yet this weekend, he will be starring in the NFC Championship game against the No. 1 ranked Atlanta Falcons.

New England Patriots Tom Brady’s quest for his sixth appearance in the big game will match him up against the Baltimore Ravens and veteran linebacker Ray Lewis this weekend in the AFC Championship game. Lewis, a 15-year veteran, has announced he will retire at the end of this season. It should be quite a show for football fans.

Your favorite NFL team may already be out, but for true football enthusiasts, the NFL season is far from over. There’s still the Championship games to be played, and then it’s on to the Super Bowl, the greatest Sunday in football.

The road to the Super Bowl has been marked with great stories, like that of Peyton Manning’s recovery from neck surgery and his drive to get the Denver Broncos to the playoffs. Their game last week against the Baltimore Ravens has already been rated by the NFL as one of the most exciting playoff games of all time, and one of the best stories of the 2012 season.

The 2012 season saw the St. Louis Rams tie the 49ers and go into two overtimes against the red and gold. That game was symbolic of a season full of overtimes and close finishes, hard-hitting scenarios that will change the way referees call games in 2013.

And 2012 was the season of long passes and plenty of 100-yard runners, including quarterbacks.

There were also some disappointing big moments this season. Minnesota Vikings Adrian Peterson’s quest to break Eric Dickerson’s all time rushing record of 2,105 yards in a single season set in 1984, fell short. Peterson ran for 2,097, just 8 yards shy of accomplishing that great feat.

But on a high note, Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson broke Hall of Famer and Dancing with the Stars champion, San Francisco 49ers’ Jerry Rice’s record of 1,848 yards in a single season by nearly 100 yards for 1,964 yards, setting a new receiving record for younger players to try and beat.

Now it’s time to see if post-season play can live up to the excitement and glory of the 2012 regular season. I’ve got my spot on the couch ready, how about you?

30 Years Covering the NFL

Fred Zermeno will mark a milestone in his career in 2013: The veteran journalist and photographer has been covering the NFL for 30 years from his home base of Los Angeles County.

His stories and photos published by EGP go back to 1983, and tell the stories of many changes in the local sports landscape, including baseball and basketball as well as football.

Zermeno told EGP recently that he has saved every field pass from games he has covered, over 225 in all, despite living in a town abandoned by two NFL teams, the Raiders and the Rams, during his career. He was forced to travel to San Diego, Arizona and Oakland to get up close with his camera.

“It’s truly unbelievable how time has passed. I covered the Rams for 10 years in Anaheim and the Raiders at the Coliseum for their years here,” Zeremeno told EGP, reflecting on his time as a reporter/photographer. “I have covered the Dodgers now for 25 years and NASCAR for 15 years, that’s a really long time, but it seems to have just flown by,” he added.

In addition to sports, Zermeno has photographed a wide spectrum of Los Angeles related events and people, from earthquakes to fires, to politicians and celebrities, parades, community meetings and milestones and so much more.

He is in the process of putting together a special photographic exhibit to open in L.A. later this year. Details coming soon, he told EGP.

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January 17, 2013  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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