Excuse the late hour at which I am posting this feature (nearly midnight on the east coast), but this Christmas in the NFL project turned into a much greater beast than I had originally intended. What I first thought would be a quick project after my kids went to bed -- running through the NFL's 32 teams to collect holiday videos -- became an hours-long task. Not only where there a lot of features, I ended up watching most of them without realizing I was doing so. Since nearly every NFL team had a feature other than its holiday card (the AFC edged out the NFC in fun videos, though), I have taken the liberty of dividing them up into categories: philanthropic, player Q&A, and special snowflake. You will understand the need for the special snowflake section once you get there.
It was genuinely wonderful to see all of the wonderful events put on by teams and the individual players. So much Christmas cheer being spread to those less fortunate!
- Buffalo Bills center Eric Wood and his wife, Leslie, long snapper Garrison Sanborn, quarterback Tyrod Taylor and others talking about the Bills' Christmas party to benefit local children.
- Tampa Bay Bucs defensive end Gerald McCoy interviewed teammates to get their favorite holiday gifts while shopping with kids for a community event.
- The St. Louis Rams also hosted a holiday shopping spree and a party for 3,000 local kids.
- The San Francisco 49ers adopted families for Christmas and players, staff, and their families wrapped and gave the gifts personally.
- The Seattle Seahawks defensive line hosted a party and provided gifts at the Skyway Boys & Girls Club.
- The Cincinnati Bengals showcased a number of charity events including Holiday Hearts by quarterback Andy Dalton and wife, Jordan; Vontaze Burfict, Adam Jones, and Reggie Nelson surprising more than 100 elementary school students with bikes; the Meijer’s Shop with a Bengal and the Marvin Lewis Community Fund’s Shop with A Pro; and Carlos Dunlap - Walter Payton Man of the Year Award nominee - delivering Christmas trees.
- The Cleveland Browns gave back through a few shopping trips they highlighted with photo galleries.
- Wide receiver Harry Douglas of the Tennessee Titans provided holiday treats for children.
- Players from the Kansas City Chiefs spread holiday cheer with a visit to a local children's hospital.
My top takeaway from these Q&As: boys love their toys. Top gifts by most players were video game consoles. I can honestly say I fall into that category as well; I received a Nintendo (the original) as a kindergartner. Prize for strangest answer definitely goes to Texans center Ben Jones, who says his pet pig and a cow were his favorite gifts of all time.
- Detroit Lions running back Joique Bell asking teammates for the best and worst Christmas gifts they've ever received.
- Minnesota Vikings defensive end Brian Robison went through the locker room to ask who would make the best mall Santa and Santa's helper. Unfortunately for 5-9 cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, he was the unanimous choice for elf.
- The New England Patriots wished fans a Merry Christmas and asked a few players for their favorite holiday cookies.
- Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown asks teammates about Christmas gifts while the team's "junior reporter" gave out Christmas cards to the players.
- A pig and a cow were the favorite Christmas gifts of Houston Texans center Ben Jones. Video games systems were big for a few San Diego Chargers' players.
- A few teams did written Q&As with players to find out some of their Christmas favorites. The Miami Dolphins asked guys for their favorite Christmas memories, the Colts asked for favorite Christmas gifts, the Giants asked for favorite Christmas songs, movies, and gifts.
This section truly is special. We have poems, competitions, and Ave Maria.
- The New York Jets start a new holiday tradition: a word-guessing competition between tackle Breno Giacomini, quarterback Bryce Petty, defensive end Leonard Williams, defensive lineman Damon Harrison.
- The Cowboys told the story of La'Elf the Guard. I still have no idea what was going on in that video.
- Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker sings 'Ave Maria' at a Catholic Charities benefit. This was a very cool thing to watch - he has a much deeper voice than I would have expected.
- A traditional holiday message from Jack Del Rio and the Oakland Raiders, who beat San Diego in overtime on Christmas Eve night at the Coliseum.
- The Denver Broncos wished wide receiver Demaryius Thomas a happy birthday.
- Last but not least, senior writer for Jaguars.com recites a Christmas poem.