Everyone's into fantasy football these days-- even the players themselves
It has a certainMarty McFly-in-Back to the Future-esque quality to it: What happens when NFLplayers partake in fantasy football? Is it kosher to draft yourself? If youdraft a teammate, are you considered to be in possession of "insideinformation?" And what happens when Redskins tight end Chris Cooley'sfantasy team faces an opponent who has ... Chris Cooley?
Fantasy Plussurveyed the NFL ranks to find out. Here's what we learned: For everyone who,like Broncos safety John Lynch, simply has "no clue how fantasy footballworks," there are a half-dozen fantasy addicts such as Shawn Barber. We'lllet him, and others, explain.
This will be myfifth year in my league. I started it with nine friends who I grew up with inRichmond. We call each other all the time and talk trash. I just go byinstinct, and I've won three of the four years. My only rule is that I can'tdraft guys on my team. But once the season starts, if one of them becomesavailable, I can pick him up on waivers. I ended up with LJ [Larry Johnson]last year [they were teammates on the Chiefs]. He was huge for me. But I nevertold him I had him in my league. I was like, 'Nice game, LJ,' and inside I'mthinking, I needed that one.
Sometimes peopleask, 'Hey, man, should I draft you on my fantasy team?' I say, 'Hell, yeah, Ithink you should.' You're always going to say yes. But there are people whohave told me, 'Hey, man, I drafted you last year and you sucked!' Every day,all day, everywhere I go, I hear it. I felt sorry for people, the way I played[32 catches, no TDs in '05]. People get real serious about it. It's theirlife.
I've always had ablast playing. I try to have a couple of Internet teams, and my friends do aleague. I've been playing since I was a sophomore in high school. I lost in theplayoffs last year because I had such a good game against Dallas [for hisopponent's fantasy team]. I'd rather catch a touchdown in a real game than havemy fantasy team win!
In the past, whenI was having some lean years, only my friends drafted me. And they weren'thappy about it. I felt bad; they were really just trying to be nice. But I knowI was killing them because they didn't talk too much about their fantasynumbers and how their teams were doing. Finally, last year I had a big[season]. Now all my friends are like, 'Hey, nice game. Thanks for helping meout.'
"All the timepeople tell me, 'You were great for my fantasy team this year.' I usually tellthem, 'Well, hopefully, I was good for my reality league.' Fantasy is fantasy.We gotta stick with reality in our business." ¬†--Todd Heap TERAVENS
THEY SAID IT
"There areguys who work on our sideline who are obviously in fantasy leagues. They'llcome up to me and say [whispering], 'Is Bobby Engram going to have a big daytoday?' Or you can see it in the way they react to a certain play. JerramyStevens will catch a touchdown and there are two or three guys on the sidelinewho are way too excited."
"The[breakout] for me was in San Diego [the 2002 season finale, when he threw for449 yards and two touchdowns]. Everywhere I went, it was just nonstop: 'You had137 points! You won my fantasy league for me!'"
"Every day Iget a comment about fantasy football. Every ... single ... day. And I tell themall the same thing, 'Pick Shaun Alexander.'"
FANTASY TIPS ANDMORE
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JAMES R. MORTON/WIREIMAGE.COM (BARBER)
MICHAEL MONTES/WIREIMAGE.COM (CLAYTON)
MARC SEROTA/REUTERS (HASSELBECK)
JAMES LANG/US PRESSWIRE (COOLEY)
REINHOLD MATAY/WIREIMAGE.COM (GALLOWAY)
CHRIS GARDNER/AP (HEAP)