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Kevin Ware Recovered from Gruesome Leg Break; What's Behind Drop in Football Enrollment?; Is Incognito Just a Bad Seed or an Indicator of a Larger Problem?

Aired November 15, 2013 - 22:30   ET




Uninhibited. Hall of Famer John Elway reveals Peyton Manning's quirky side and the upside of being the boss.

RACHEL NICHOLS, HOST: Is there anything about your job now that you like better than when you were playing?

JOHN ELWAY, HALL OF FAMER: The fact that I don't get hit.

ANNOUNCER: Unafraid.

NICHOLS: There was a bone sticking out of your leg.

ANNOUNCER: Mere months after that gut-wrenching broken leg, guard Kevin Ware of Louisville is back.

UNGUARDED. Kevin Ware's coach Rick Pitino shows a side you've never seen.

NICHOLS: You said, "I learned humility too late in life. I wish I had that at a younger age."

RICK PITINO, KEVIN WARE'S COACH: I was just in my own world between the lines, and nothing else mattered or existed. And that's a very un-humble way to act.



What's the most gruesome thing you've ever seen? For many the answer came during March Madness last spring when Louisville's Kevin Ware injured his leg so badly the bone popped through his skin.

Yet as shocking as that moment was, it was Ware's recovery that's been just as remarkable, inspiring his team to win the NCAA championship along the way.

This week I sat down with Ware and his colorful coach, Rick Pitino.


NICHOLS: We are sitting here less than eight months after what a lot of people think is the most gruesome injury in sports in the last 30 years, nearly. I mean, there was a bone sticking out of your leg. And we're going to do our viewers a service and not show it right now. And I understand that neither one of you has actually seen replays.

PITINO: I've it happen one time, and that was enough. And I told him not to watch it, because it serves no purpose at all.

KEVIN WARE, BASKETBALL PLAYER: Honestly, I'm strong mentally because I haven't seen the video. I kind of feel like I'll start doubting myself if I was to watch the video. I wouldn't want to jump on the leg and land on it as I'm starting to do now. So I kind of feel like that's just backtracking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you kidding me?

NICHOLS: So you played an exhibition game already, your first time out. You hit a three-point shot.

WARE: Yes.

NICHOLS: The crowd goes crazy. I think there was half a dozen standing ovations for you during that game. Take us through the emotions of that night.

WARE: Actually, I didn't even know I was playing. You know? It was just one of those things where Coach called my name and kind of like the ghost of basketball jumped out of my body and I got off the bench. But I honestly felt that my first shot would be an air ball so I could get it out of the way, but it was the total opposite.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ipso to Wright. Bounce pass to Ware. Right wing three. Got it!

WARE: When that shot went in, I kind of feel like all the jitters and all that went away right there. So it was a great feeling.

NICHOLS: You didn't tell him?

PITINO: I didn't. I knew I'd play him in the exhibition game, because it wouldn't matter to him whether the shot goes in or not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you feeling, Kevin?

WARE: Good, thank you.

PITINO: He's healed a lot quicker than we have thought. He's worked very, very hard at it. But in the first practice he was crashing into people. I was kind of blown away by it. Because he was just trying to dunk on people, going into people.

WARE: My boy back, Duncan. PITINO: And I was very surprised at that. He's had great courage from the time he had the injury all the way until now. He's shown great courage with everything.

NICHOLS: What have you learned about him through this period?

PITINO: Before the injury I had respect for Kevin. He's always been a good person. But after the injury, I had much more respect for him. Because he showed great courage under the influence of unbelievable adversity.

I mean, there he is. His leg is hanging out of his skin, and immediately he just thought of the team.

He got to the hospital, and Kevin doesn't know this, but he's just out of anesthesia like 15 minutes. And I say, "Kevin, Kevin." I shook him and woke him up.

And he said first thing out, "Did we win?" And that's kind of an amazing thing when you think about it first words.


PITINO: No. "Did we win?"

NICHOLS: "Did we win?"

He's got a little ways to go. You don't expect to see him in an actual game for another week or two?

PITINO: You know, it's all based on practice. He's mentally a lot tougher young man than most. And you know, I just want him to feel very sure of himself, very confident in himself. And he probably thinks he is. But he'll know it.


NICHOLS: You've had so many people invested in you and your recovery. Even now, what's it like for you when you go out to a restaurant to just grab a quick bite to eat?

WARE: I usually try not to go out a lot. If I go out it's like to McDonald's or I'm eating at the dorm. Because it's -- the attention is always there.

NICHOLS: Even now?

WARE: I'm not Rick Pitino but just going out.

NICHOLS: Who is, really?

PITINO: Thank God.

WARE: People want to take pictures and wanting to sign autographs. It's a nonstop thing.

NICHOLS: You've had famous faces attending to you, as well.

WARE: Yes. Guys like Kobe and Michelle Obama, people like that, just reaching out showing you they're supporting you. That was really big to me.

NICHOLS: You and Kobe made a bet, I hear.

WARE: Yes, I won. Bet was basically if -- whoever came back first, the other person had to come to their game. So I got to get in touch with Kobe, because Kobe hasn't come to a game.

NICHOLS: Do you think Kobe is going to pay him off?

PITINO: I think he'll honor his bet. Kobe's a pretty stand-up guy.


NICHOLS: Sounds like Kobe's traveling to Kentucky sometime soon.

All right. Coming up on UNGUARDED NFL Hall of Famer John Elway sits down to reveal what Peyton Manning is really like.

And more of my interview in Louisville. Just what made Rick Pitino say this?


PITINO: I was just in my own world between the lines, and nothing else mattered or existed. That's a very un-humble way to act.



NICHOLS: I'm Rachel Nichols, welcome back to UNGUARDED. We've been talking to Louisville's Kevin Ware and his celebrated coach, Rick Pitino, who actually just wrote a new book, advocating living life as if you were on a one-day contract.

That's ironic considering the biggest complaint among today's college coaches is that players are allowed to leave for the NBA after just one year of school. I pressed Pitino on the one-and-done issue and more.


PITINO: The one-and-done guys, they're really not getting a college education.

The flip side of that, and it's a very good point that the Kentucky coach makes is that today, freshman and sophomores and juniors are all paying attention much more to their academics to get eligible to go to college. So they're much better in high school. If you let them go back to going out of high school, every mediocre freshman in the country will think he's going pro, won't even pay attention to their studies.

NICHOLS: One of other big themes in your book is humility. And I want to get this quote exactly right. You said, "I learned humility too late in life. I wish I had that at a younger age."

When I heard you say that, I imagined people in New York and Boston and Lexington all saying, "Ha." I mean, what is the reaction people have had, when you've come out and been honest about it?

PITINO: Well, you know, I was just in my own world between the lines, and nothing else mattered or existed. And that's a very un- humble way to act.

There are so many people that need your attention. It's not about you. And back then it was just total between the lines, all out. And you weren't paying attention to anything else.

I never thought I was a better basketball coach than anybody, but I was just tuned into myself too much. And I learned it too late in life, but better late than never.

NICHOLS: And now I did see also that you almost quit coaching two years ago.

PITINO: I did.

NICHOLS: That's part of what spurred you to write your book.

PITINO: It did.

NICHOLS: When you were recruiting him, by the way. Did you know that?

WARE: I didn't know that.

PITINO: I needed motivation desperately, because I was getting close to 60. And I said, you know, "I've got to renew our brand as a team; I've got to renew myself."

Three years ago, if one of my players had a problem and they did something wrong, that's it. We're going -- we're going elsewhere. And the world's not that way. And my own failings, I realize that, that we all need help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Listen to the umps (ph) and the roar now.

PITINO: But I tell them the name on the front, if you take care of that, the name on the back gets taken care of, as if it's your shadow walking into success.

NICHOLS: Has that been effective for you?

WARE: Oh, definitely. It makes you play even harder. And especially how he pushes us. You've got to give your best. And that's how we look at it every day.


NICHOLS: It's going to be a lot of fun watching those guys defend their title this season. And watching Ware completing his truly amazing recovery.

And now I want to bring in our panel, former New York Giants great, current radio host Amani Toomer; agent and inspiration for the movie "Jerry McGuire," Leigh Steinberg; and Emmy-, Tony-, Golden Globe-winning actor Jeffrey Wright, "Boardwalk Empire," the blockbuster "Hunger Games" franchise.

Gentlemen, your backgrounds clearly all over the map. But that's kind of the point here. We are trying to bring in a broader range of perspectives to talk about sports.

And let's start off with Pop Warner. They reported that, in the past two years, they have seen a 10 percent drop in enrollment. And the medical director said they think that it's because of all of the reporting and awareness about concussions. Do you guys think this bodes for a larger trend in the sport of football?

LEIGH STEINBERG, SPORTS AGENT: If mothers start fearing this, you -- you will start to see players back away from football. Because their moms will tell them, "You can't do this." And it will -- the socioeconomics of football will change.

JEFFREY WRIGHT, ACTOR: The United States will win the World Cup, probably.

AMANI TOOMER, FORMER NFL PLAYER/RADIO HOST: I didn't even know what a concussion was. I got knocked out one game, and I told the coach, Coach Jay Foster, I said, "Coach, I got a concussion."

He says, "Can you go in on third down?" And, you know, this was in 2001.

So now I think the football is going to be different from now until forever. They're never going to have the same type of problems that they had in the past, because they know what it is. And they know how to treat it.

STEINBERG: I beg to differ. The players are so much bigger, stronger and faster now that the G-force that's occurring between the lines is much, much stronger.

WRIGHT: There's also another point, though, is that there's something about danger within a game that adds to the heroicism [SIC] of the plays who do it well.

NICHOLS: Well, I want to switch gears to a different part of the head: from the brain to the beard. Because pitcher Brian Wilson, the effervescent bearded star of the mound in Major League Baseball. Well, here is a guy who was going to sign with the Yankees, but they say no facial hair, and he said, "I'm not cutting off the beard."

STEINBERG: It's ridiculous in this time and age. You know what people want out of the New York Yankees? They want them to win.

TOOMER: It's too competitive of an industry to have these weird rules that don't mean anything and don't help them win games.

WRIGHT: And if they continue losing to the Boston Red Sox every year, I think they might reconsider.

TOOMER: Look at the top. The guys who won the World Series this year had beards. Maybe they might want to start rethinking how they do that.

STEINBERG: Good point.

NICHOLS: OK. Interesting stuff. Don't go anywhere. Because we are going to talk about Jonathan Martin, who was at the NFL offices today to talk about the Dolphins controversy. You're going to want to hear what Charles Barkley has to say on all of this.


CHARLES BARKLEY, FORMER NBA PLAYER: I'm a black man. I use the "N" word.



NICHOLS: Welcome back to UNGUARDED. I'm Rachel Nichols. And we're going to pick up right where we left off with my panel: NFL great Amani Toomer; agent Leigh Steinberg; actor Jeffrey Wright.

And you saw Jonathan Martin come through to New York today, part of the investigation into the bullying that he says he suffered, spearheaded by fellow offensive lineman Richie Incognito.

Now, the most damning evidence against Incognito, the racist language he used toward Martin. So first, let me get your quick take on Incognito. Is this a bad guy who's getting exposed as a bad guy or is this a regular NFL player who's being brought up into the forefront as an example?

WRIGHT: Well, first, I don't know why we're only focused on this racial remark that he made. Sure it's bad. But the other things were equally bad. I think that it's really a function of character at the end of the day.

STEINBERG: I don't know that we have a really clear view of the situation yet. I think there are more facts to come out. I've never seen anything close to this.

If you would take the way that males talk to each other in locker rooms, in fraternities, in all sorts of places, they sort of would not stand up really well if you put them on a screen and magnified them and let the public talk. They're in a private locker room.

TOOMER: I think he's a bad guy. The NFL needs to take a look at when you're taking on players like this, with a $10 billion industry, you've got to think twice.

NICHOLS: This debate goes beyond Incognito. It's transcended across sports this week. This week Clippers' Matt Barnes was fined $25,000 by the NBA, in part for using the "N" word in a tweet talking about his own teammates.

Now, Barnes is black. And this issue has Charles Barkley, among others, up in arms.


BARKLEY: I'm a black man. I use the "N" word. I'm going to continue to use the "N" word with my black friends, with my white friends. What I do with my black friends is not up to white America to dictate to me what's appropriate and inappropriate.


NICHOLS: What do you guys think?

TOOMEY: I think when you start using those types of -- that type of language around people that aren't your friends, it kind of gives them license to start using that word. And that's a very divisive word and has a lot of -- it's a very loaded word. And I try not to use it at all. Because I just don't want any -- any of my friends or anybody to get -- make the mistake that they could use that word towards me.

WRIGHT: I happen to think that Charles makes -- makes an interesting point about not being so hypersensitive, as people of color, to the perceptions of white people about who we are.

STEINBERG: We have a really wonderful test tube going on with real white, black, Hispanic, Asian people. These are real people...

NICHOLS: In the NFL. In the locker room in the NBA.

STEINBERG: ... who bleed together, who shower together. It's actually an experiment in how people can get along.

WRIGHT: But if the Yankees can -- can limit players from growing beards, then you know, conceivably an organization can limit the language that players use, as well. But it's a very complex racial dialogue.

NICHOLS: But who gets to decide?

WRIGHT: No one gets to decide. It's subjective.

STEINBERG: The person who's offended. You have to look at the offended group.

NICHOLS: Did you use it in the locker room?

TOOMER: I tried not to use it in the locker room as much as I possibly could. Because I just felt like you don't want to confuse things.

The locker room is already -- like Leigh said, it's already an area where everybody has a common goal. It's a pretty cohesive -- most of the time -- place. So why would you even bring that in to agitate an already calm situation? And I just think that it confuses people, and it confuses some of the white players.

WRIGHT: Absolutely.

TOOMER: And I just feel like it just needs -- it needs to be out of there.

NICHOLS: I do want to bring up a contextual issue here, that as the "N" word has been discussed more this week now. I grew up in Washington, D.C. Jeffrey grew up in Washington, D.C. We have seen you in your Redskins jersey and sweatshirt all over. How can the NFL start to legislate language that can or can't be used or is offensive when you have the Washington Redskins?

WRIGHT: If you go back to the origin of the word, there's a great article in the "Post," 2005, by a leading linguist at the Smithsonian Institute. The word "Redskin" was used initially by Native Americans to distinguish themselves from the whites. And so what they were doing, his argument is, is defining themselves in moral superiority to the white.

NICHOLS: Leigh is chafing here.

STEINBERG: An example of a brilliant man who's a Redskin fan. Because the issue is simply this. Are there people in the world that feel totally discriminated against...

NICHOLS: Excluded.

STEINBERG: ... for which this word is a problem?

WRIGHT: I understand that.

STEINBERG: And if there are, it's not worth having a sports nickname.

TOOMER: Every time I went to play the Redskins, I was -- you have to kind of dumb yourself down. Because you know that it's offensive.

NICHOLS: So you thought about that while you were playing?

TOOMER: While I was playing. Every time I played against them, I thought, "Man, this is the Redskins. How can they still have this name?" In Washington they would follow -- they would follow that team regardless of what the name was.

NICHOLS: All right. That is going to be the last word. But thank you, guys, for some very smart discussion. It's important to talk about these issues. We're very happy that you're here to do that. And we hope you guys stick around. Right after the break we're going to hear from NFL Hall of Famer John Elway just how hard it is to step off the field.


ELWAY: Now at 53 years old, knowing that I can't play, it's not like playing.



NICHOLS: Welcome back. I had the chance to sit down with the man in charge of putting the Denver Broncos powerhouse together. You may have heard of him: a guy named John Elway. Well, I wanted to get Elway's thoughts on quarterback Peyton Manning and whether the NFL Hall of Famer misses playing.


PEYTON MANNING, QUARTERBACK, DENVER BRONCOS: I called John Elway Monday morning and let him know that I wanted to be a Denver Bronco.

NICHOLS: When Peyton Manning was first being recruited by all of these teams, he said one of his biggest decisions about going with Denver was because of you. Now as you've gotten to know him, what would you say are the biggest things that you've noticed about him that you didn't know when you guys were just friendly and from seeing him around?

ELWAY: You know, I think everybody is different. But you know, I think Peyton's attention to detail, I've not seen anything else like it, how he works and really works with his teammates and the receivers and the precise routes he wants those receivers to run. So he does a tremendous job with the film study that he does. But like I said, to me his attention to detail is unmatched.

NICHOLS: What about for you? Because a lot of elite athletes find that when they try to go into management, they're frustrated. Michael Jordan has talked about the fact that there were times when he just wanted to say, "Just do it this way," but they couldn't do it the way Michael Jordan did it. So it was frustrating. What has it been like for you?

ELWAY: You know, it is frustrating. I think that, you know, even though I really enjoy the position I'm in now, at 53 years old, knowing that I can't play, it's not like playing. And, you know, really when you're playing, especially as a quarterback, you're in control of the game, because you touch the ball every down. And, you know, and so whether you're handing it off or throwing it you were much more in control of the game.

Whereas in my position now, all I can do is do the best I can on paper, get us in the best position to win football games. And then the coaches have to coach, and the players have to play. And so not to be able to be a part of that is the frustrating part. And I think that -- and I relate to where Michael is saying, this is frustrating. Because it's not what we're used to doing. And you're turning over control that you're not used to turning over.

NICHOLS: Is there anything about your job now that you like better than when you were playing?

ELWAY: The fact I don't get hit. That's the one thing I like better. I think that -- you know, and it takes a while to get used to, too. The hard thing about being the boss is you've got to make some tough decisions that you don't have to make as a quarterback. It's a lot more difficult. Because I know, having been a player and having had teammates, it's tough on everybody but I think even more so, having been in a locker room and knowing how it feels to be down there.

NICHOLS: Winning a championship is something that you've done. You've experienced it. You have the rings. So does it mean as much to you if you can win again now? Do you think it will mean more to you because of everything you've had to go through to get there?

ELWAY: Well, I think it will be different. But to be a part of putting the team together and making those decisions, I think, is very fulfilling.

The reason why I got back in football is because they do have a Super Bowl, and there is a world championship. And as players, we're all competitors. And so I hope I get a chance to compare them. Let's put it that way.


NICHOLS: Well, according to Vegas odds makers, the Broncos still favorites to win the Super Bowl. So hey, Elway in good position to fulfill his wish.

That's it for us tonight. But you can follow me on Twitter, like us on Facebook or visit us on the Web at And while we're going to be off for the next couple of weeks, we'll be right back again in December for a whole new run of UNGUARDED, where the end of the game is just the start of the story. Good night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Detroit's the city of champions. The whole world knows that Detroit is the American city whose products have revolutionized our way of living. And only in Michigan will you find the men and women whose talent made us the arsenal of democracy in wartime and the economic pace setter in peace time.