A couple of familiar faces are joining CBS Sports Network’s “That Other Pregame Show” (TOPS) this season. The network announced Wednesday that former Redskins London Fletcher and Fred Smoot, as well as former Baltimore sports radio host Anita Marks, will join Adam Schein, Amy Trask and Brandon Tierney on the show, which will air from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sundays beginning Sept. 7.
Fletcher made his debut on Wednesday’s special season preview edition of TOPS, which included a 90-second panel discussion about every NFL team and a chat with James Brown about some of the offseason’s biggest story lines, including the Redskins name controversy.
“I don’t think the Eagles are going to win the division running away,” Fletcher said during the discussion about Washington. “It may come down to that last game of the season between the Eagles and the Redskins. When you look at what they’ve added, they’ve added DeSean Jackson. You’ve got a healthy RGIII this year. He’s no longer dealing with the friction of him and coach Shanahan, so when you look at that, and the matchups that they’ll create from an offensive standpoint, with Jordan Reed the tight end, Pierre Garcon. You still have Alfred Morris, who’s second only to Adrian Peterson in yards rushing in the last two years.”
“We all forget that ACLs usually take two seasons to fully come back,” Trask said. “Adrian Peterson spoiled everybody. I think Washington may win that division.”
“The thing with Robert, what hurt him more so than just coming back from an ACL, is it stunted his growth,” Fletcher continued. “He’s still a young quarterback. That was his second year, so you wanted him to develop as a pocket-passer, but because he wasn’t able to practice in the preseason, he didn’t have a full offseason to develop.”
Fletcher, who zinged Tony Romo earlier this year with a joke about his tendency to choke, offered this advice to Jason Garrett when the talk turned to the Cowboys.
“They need to run the ball,” Fletcher said. “Give DeMarco Murray the ball, run it a lot more.”
Schein opened a segment later in the show by asking Brown if it’s time for the Redskins to change their name. The D.C. native and host of CBS’ “NFL Today” echoed many of the same thoughts he has shared in recent months on the issue.
“What I’ve said, and I’ve been very careful about this, is that, from my perspective, if it proves to be offensive to anyone — and it should not just be a Native American issue, it should be an American issue — if it’s offensive to anyone, change the name,” Brown said. “That which was a little disconcerting to me was the appearance on the part of the owner to be intractable in his attitude, having stated up front that he would never change the name. I don’t think you do that when you talk about something that could potentially impact a whole nation of folks, or any segment of the population. That’s my attitude.”
Then Fletcher weighed in and repeated a story he first shared in April about approaching Bruce Allen because he felt “a little uneasy” about the name.
“Obviously, I played for the Washington Redskins for seven years,” he said. “I represented the Burgundy and Gold with tremendous pride, the Redskins. When I would come out of the tunnel every home game and they announced the defense and announced me, I would point to the Redskins logo and I would take the helmet off and do my little deal. For me, I never thought about it being a racially insensitive name for the previous six years. And then, this year they started talking about it a little bit more, bringing it to the forefront.
“I felt a little bit uneasy about it and I went to Bruce Allen, the general manager there, and just had a conversation with him, just kind of hoping that Mr. Snyder would go have a conversation with the Native Americans. Which, from my understanding, they have. Again, I’m proud of everything I accomplished when I was with the Washington Redskins. I’m proud of what I represented with that football team. And for Mr. Snyder, he grew up a fan of the Washington Redskins. That was his team growing up, so he looks at it as a team logo. For him, it’s not racially insensitive.”
“I’m not going to be as diplomatic and as articulate as you, J.B.,” Trask said later. “No surprise there. I find it incomprehensible that in the year 2014, we’re still having this conversation. London, I understand that the fans of that team are not intending to offend anyone. I don’t believe that they’re malicious in their intent, but when you open the dictionary and the word ‘redskin’ says derogatory slur, for me that’s where the discussion ends. I have challenged everyone I know to find for me another group, a minority — ethnic, racial, religious — tell me another minority that we could refer to by using a derogatory slur. And I want to be really clear, London, I understand the players on that team and the fans of that team are not intending to slur anyone … if it’s offensive, it’s gotta go.”
“I love the fact that Mr. Snyder has gone out to talk with them,” Brown said. “Again, the order should have been reversed, quite frankly. And intent may be one thing. One can be sincere in how they use it, but sincerely wrong in understanding that it is offensive.”