Also in this week’s Oct. 24 issue: Dan Wheldon in memoriam, Plaxico Burress sounds off on the NFL’s illegal hits, Jaromir Jagr’s return from Siberian exile and the soon-to-be winningest QB in college football history

You’ve seen the two covers for this week’s issue and our World Series prediction as well as details from Gary Smith’s interview with Jerry West, who discussed in great detail the depression that plagued him throughout his Hall of Fame career and most of his life. Here is what else readers will find in this week’s Oct. 24 issue, on newsstands now.

DAN WHELDON: 1978–2011 – LARS ANDERSON (@LarsAndersonSI)

Two-time Indy 500 champ Dan Wheldon’s future seemed bright on Sunday morning, when the 33-year-old signed a contract to race for Andretti Autosport in 2012. Hours later, just 11 laps into the season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Wheldon was dead, killed in a 15-car wreck. Series champion Dario Franchitti said afterward, “One minute you’re joking around at driver intros—the next, Dan’s gone. I’m struggling to get it together.” When the day ended with a low-speed, five-lap tribute to Wheldon, IndyCar’s season came to an end—and the sport had lost one of its most popular, most engaging drivers (page 56).

On the Tablets: A slideshow of highlights from Dan Wheldon’s career on the IndyCar circuit.

SCORECARD: LEARNING TO PLAY NICE – DAMON HACK (@si_damonhack)

From a numbers standpoint, the response to the NFL’s Black Sunday—Oct. 17, 2010, when three players were concussed on violent hits—has been effective. The number of fines for illegal hits is down, and no suspensions have been handed out. But the NFL has not completely gotten through to players. To wit (page 15):

  • Jets receiver Plaxico Burress: “If you have a chance to knock me out or break my leg, man, knock me out. That’s missing a game or two, not the whole season. As receivers, we know what we signed up for.”
  • Bears safety Brandon Meriweather, who has been fined $95,000 for illegal hits since the start of last season: “They teach you growing up that you’ve got to be violent and put the fear of God in people, but when you get to the league that you’ve been dreaming about your whole life, they tell you to change your game 100 percent or get money taken from you. I try lowering my target zone, but if you have a receiver who’s 5′ 8″, it’s still going to be a helmet-to-helmet collision. How do you avoid that when you’re running full speed?”
  • Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop, recalling a clear shot he had on Matt Ryan in Week 5: “I didn’t quite know how to hit him. I didn’t want to hit him too high, when it should be natural to just go hit him. I ended up getting the sack, but I didn’t hit him as hard as I wanted to.”

THE JAGR HOCKEY SCHOOL – BRIAN CAZENEUVE

After a self-imposed, two-year exile to Avangard Omsk of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, Jaromir Jagr has returned to the NHL. Now he’s providing leadership and an instant offensive boost to the Flyers. Philly is lucky to have him; it appeared the Penguins were the apparent front-runners to land him this offseason, but Jagr’s early conversations with Pittsburgh’s club management didn’t impress him. As he tells staff writer Brian Cazeneuve (page 58): “I thought the fans wanted me, but I didn’t know if the Penguins wanted me. I didn’t want to be on the third and fourth line playing seven, eight minutes; I wanted to make a difference.”

Additional quotes from Jagr include:

  • On finishing his career in the Czech Republic: “I’ll play until 50, first in the Czech B League, then C League, then I’ll make up my own league. As long as I can play on some rink, I’ll be smiling.”
  • On his evening practice sessions during off days in Omsk: “Sometimes there would be teammates, sometimes just some kids. We’d get on the ice, then play some soccer in the hallway, some basketball, then more ice, like you do when you’re a kid. It was a great workout, but it was really fun too. And it was only seven minutes away. There was no traffic in winter because most people couldn’t start their cars in the cold.”

On the Tablets: Media writer Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) hosts a podcast featuring a roundtable of SI’s NHL writers and editors: Cazeneuve, senior writer Michael Farber, writer-reporter Sarah Kwak (@SI_sarahkwak) and associate editor Mark Beech (@SI_MarkBeech). Plus, video footage of Jagr’s power play assist in the Flyers’ 2–1 victory over the Bruins on opening night.

KELLEN MOORE: MOORE WITH LESS – AUSTIN MURPHY (@si_austinmurphy)

Kellen Moore about to become the winningest quarterback in college football history, largely because of a childhood steeped in football. Years before setting several Washington high school passing records Moore, as an eight-year-old during show-and-tell, would draw plays from his dad’s playbook at Prosser High. Moore tells senior writer Austin Murphy (page 50): “My dad always wanted to talk about the big picture when he taught players. It was never just, ‘You run a hitch route.’ It was more like, ‘You run a hitch, and here’s why you’re running it and how it complements this other route. Here’s how this coverage works, and what are its strengths and weaknesses.’ He ­didn’t just want to teach you your assignment. He wanted to teach you football.”

That dedication to the game has earned heaps of praise from within the Boise State program, including:

  • Nickelback Hunter White: “He’ll look right at a defender, and go elsewhere with the ball. He’s throwing to another receiver while he’s staring at you. Try reading that.”
  • Coach Chris Petersen: “He feels the game very well. He anticipates better than any of the college guys I’ve been around. And there’s nobody in college football who works the pocket like he does. He slides, he glides, he moves up. He just has a phenomenal feel for avoiding sacks.”

On the Tablets: Hot spots on the five players ahead of Kellen Moore on the Heisman Watch list of SI.com senior producer Cory McCartney (@SI_CoryMC).

UNPREDICTABLE NFL: SO WHAT WERE YOU EXPECTING? – TIM LAYDEN (@SITimLayden)

Six weeks into the NFL season, conventional wisdom has been turned on its head and the word expectations has, increasingly, turned into a punch line (beyond the Packers, anyway). This is best embodied by the Eagles, who’s inartistic 20–13 win over the Redskins on Sunday still has them climbing uphill at 2–4 just two months after their off-season moves had people labeling them as a Dream Team. Says Eagles guard Evan Mathis (page 46): “We were aware that nobody was going to give us the Lombardi Trophy in September. This happens all the time. Somebody gets all the hype and they don’t live up to it. All it did for us was put a target on us.”

On the Tablets: Senior writer Peter King’s (@SI_PeterKing) NFL podcast features 49ers quarterback Alex Smith as a guest. Plus, this week’s edition of King’s “Last Word on the NFL.”

POINT AFTER: DO YOU BELIEVE IN TIM TEBOW? – PHIL TAYLOR (@SI_PhilTaylor)

When Tim Tebow makes his first start for the Broncos next Sunday, he’ll be going against more than the Dolphins. He’ll also be facing off against every scout, G.M. and TV talking head who remains skeptical because Tebow doesn’t play the way successful NFL quarterbacks are supposed to play. Thankfully, one of Tebow’s supporters might understand his situation better than anyone. Doug Flutie tells senior writer Phil Taylor (page 76): “You bet I’m rooting for him. I get so frustrated at all the skeptics who want to bury the kid before he’s even had a fair chance. The NFL wants to fit everybody into this cookie-cutter mold. You have to be a certain height, a certain weight, you have to play a certain way. If you don’t fit into that, they assume you can’t win games. I’m sorry, I get a little worked up about this.”

THIS WEEK ON THE TABLETS

  • SI Digital Bonus: A Series to Savor – In this Nov. 4, 1991, cover story, special contributor Steve Rushin (@SteveRushin) recaps a dramatic World Series where the Twins barely bested the Braves.
  • Off the Record: This week’s must-see moments in sports video.

INSIDE THE WEEK IN SPORTS

  • College Football (page 28): The Big Finish – You didn’t get the news? A final four is coming to the BCS, and it starts in the SEC. (Stewart Mandel, @slmandel)
  • NFL (page 32): Reborn Again – A combination of experience and a simpler game plan has—finally—turned 49ers quarterback Alex Smith into a playmaker. (Jim Trotter, @SI_JimTrotter)
  • Soccer (page 36): Jürgen’s Way – The U.S. will improve slowly under new coach Jürgen Klinsmann, who was hired to excel in the World Cup, not win early friendlies. (Grant Wahl, @GrantWahl)

THIS WEEK’S FACES IN THE CROWD (page 24)

  • Lauren Wicinski (Geneva, Ill./Northern Illinois) – Volleyball
  • Dorial Green-Beckham (Springfield, Mo./Hillcrest High) – Football
  • Rachel Hill (Somersworth, N.H./Somersworth High) – Soccer
  • Daniel Jones (Blairsville, Ga./Haywood Community College) – Timbersports
  • Ayaka Nakayama (Kanagawa, Japan/Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy) – Golf
  • Wes Lunt and Zach Grant (Rochester, Ill./Rochester High) – Football

Follow Faces in the Crowd on Twitter @SI_Faces


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