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Talking Hand Warmers with Steelers Safety Mike Mitchell

Four days ago, in this week’s Monday Morning Uni Watch report, I mentioned that Steelers safety Mike Mitchell was wearing a hand-warmer pouch even though it was a warm day, which is something I just randomly noticed while looking at game photos. Several Steelers fans responded by telling me that Mitchell always wears the pouch, regardless of the weather.

That was confirmed by some quick photo research (going back to Mitchell’s days with the Panthers and Raiders), so I contacted the Steelers and asked to interview Mitchell. They made him available to me yesterday. Here’s how our conversation went:

Uni Watch: I’ve noticed that you often wear a hand-warmer pouch, even when it’s not a particularly cold day. What’s that all about?

Mike Mitchell [chuckling]: We’ve got a running joke, you know, that I’m cold-blooded. The true story is that I’ve been wearing it since my junior year or senior year of college [at Ohio University]. I had a teammate — he was No. 24, I was No. 34. With both of us being African-American, it would be difficult sometimes for Coach. Sometimes he’d be like, “Hey, Mike, what are you doing out there?” and I’d be like, “Coach, that’s not me.” We got tired of him always confusing us, so I started wearing the hand warmer just so he would know. I also left my shirt untucked so he would know the difference.

Obviously, in the NFL you have to have your shirt tucked in at all times, so I said, “Man, let me keep riding with this.” You know, I liked the way it looked, and everyone wears a towel, but nobody wears the hand warmer, so I’ve kinda turned it into a swag-y thing. I’ll go to see high schoolers and I’ll see them wearing hand warmers out the back, and I know I’m the only guy who does that, so that’s why they’re wearing it. So it’s pretty cool.

UW: So it’s just a personal style thing.

MM: Yes sir.

UW: You mentioned that you see the high schoolers wearing it in the back, and I’ve noticed that that’s usually how you wear it — in the back, not the front. If it’s actually a cold day, do you bring it around to the front so you can actually use it?

MM: It stays in the back at all times. [Laughs.] I sometimes put things in there — maybe gum, some seeds, my gloves. But usually it’s in the back, especially when I’m on the field — always in the back, never in the front. I will stick my hands in it when it gets cold, but it’s really not there for the weather. It’s there just for the look.

UW: Do opposing players ever say anything to you about it? Maybe talk trash about how you’re wearing a hand warmer on a warm day?

MM: I’ve definitely had plenty of people ask me about it, but no one’s ever said anything from a trash-talking standpoint. I don’t know. If they see my tape, they probably know it’s not smart to talk trash to me anyway.

UW: Are you aware of any other players who do this?

MM: No, no. I think I’m the only one in the league. Like I said, I’ve seen some younger college and high school guys doing it, and I’m thinking, you know, they had to be seeing me with it, and now they’re rocking it.

UW: And when you see that, are you thinking that they’re ripping you off, or are you proud of that?

MM: Imitation is a form of flattery, so it makes me chuckle, makes me smirk, and it’s something that I think is positive. If kids want to act like they’re Mike Mitchell and wear the hand warmer, I’m all about that.

UW: You plan to keep doing this for the rest of your career?

MM: Absolutely. I haven’t played a snap, a down, in my professional career without it, so I don’t think it’ll change.

(My thanks to the several Steelers fans who tipped me off to this one.)

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Friday Flashback: We’ve seen lots of uni-related memorials for José Fernández this week, so my Friday Flashback column on ESPN takes a look back at some notable moments in MLB memorial history (including Jason Simontacchi’s black ankle band for Darryl Kile in 2002, shown above). Check it out here.

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Click to enlarge

Fresh-squeezed: I was out seeing music last night, so I missed the NFL’s first-ever solid-orange uniform. After looking at game photos and some video, I’d say it wasn’t so bad, although it led to lots of jokes on Twitter. And the Bengals looked pretty good — this design is an upgrade over their usual white design. For those of you who watched the game, what did you think?

One thing several readers noticed is that the Bengals’ captaincy patches were inconsistently colored — some black, some orange. The orange version appears to have been the Thursday-night version of the gold patch used for five-year-plus captains.

Next week’s Thursday-night game: Cardinals (white) at 49ers (black).

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The Ticker
By Paul

’Skins Watch: The Supreme Court has agreed to decide a trademark case that could have implications for the trademark status of the ’Skins team name. A decision is expected sometime in the first half of next year.

Baseball News: Check out this great shot of a police softball team. “That’s my police department, the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, DC,” says Timmy the Cop. “The department is divided into seven districts so ‘2D’ means ‘Second District,’ and ‘Tact’ is what the plainclothes units were called back then.” … Someone in the Yankees bullpen was wearing a spring training sweatshirt two nights ago. … Nats switch-hitter Wilmer Difo wore a lefty helmet while batting righty yesterday. … A José Fernández high school jersey was reportedly stolen from a memorial shrine in Tampa. … In an unprecdented move — unprecedented, people! — all of the mascots from the Royals’ minor league affiliates will be performing in the same place. Think of it as a critical mass-cot. … The Red Sox have mowed an image of David Ortiz into the Fenway Park outfield grass for the final series of the regular season (from Andrew Cosentino).

NFL News: The Ravens have added a “CB” memorial decal for defensive line coach Clarence Brooks, who passed away from cancer earlier this month (from Andrew Cosentino). … Here’s a rare shot of Joe Theismann wearing a two-bar facemask instead of his usual single-bar. And yes, both he and the Bengals defender in that shot are wearing the 1976 bicentennial patch, which was worn the 1975 Hall of Fame Game. Better views of the patch are available here and here (good find by Miles Filbert). … Here’s a shocker: In the 1971 NFC championship game, 49ers RB Ken Willard — who was my very favorite player at the time, because I had pulled his football card out of a box of cereal (which is why I’m still a 49ers fan to this day) — was missing his nameplate! I watched that game — it was one of the first NFL games I ever watched all the way through, in fact — and have no memory of this.

College Football News: Here are this week’s uni combos for UNC, Louisville, Tennessee, WVU, and Columbia. … You know how teams now routinely tweet their uni combos before the game? That trend led to this amusing post from Georgetown (big thanks to Tim Doyle). … Here’s a video report for TCU. Additional pics here. … New homecoming uniforms for New Mexico. … Here’s why Miami is wearing green jerseys at Georgia Tech (thanks, Phil). … Also from Phil: Will Syracuse ever wear platinum unis again? Shmaybe. … A Vice Sports writer is suggesting that college football players use spatting tape to cover their shoe logos, as a way of expanding athletes’ rights and shaking up Big Uni (from Chad Fette). … There’s a new website that tracks Miami’s uniforms from 1926 through the present.

Hockey News: Great shot of former North Stars D Barry Gibbs wearing a two-bar football facemask (from Brian Wulff). … We’ve often talked about the Red Wings’ straight, block-lettered preseason NOBs, but here’s a shot of D Paul Coffey with straight sans serif font (from Rob S.). … The Sharks have announced their third jersey schedule, as well as one game when they’ll wear white at home (from Kenny Saidah). … The Albany Devils will wear Albany River Rats throwbacks for two games this season (from Dick Holbrook). … The Red Wings are asking fans to submit historical items that can be showcased in the team’s new arena next season (from Andy Rawlings).

Basketball News: Here are the dates when the Pacers will be wearing their Hickory throwbacks this season (thanks, Mike). … New uniforms for the Marshall men’s and women’s teams (from @HawksPacMan). … Ohio State found an unusual model for its new uniforms. Here’s a look at the uni laid out on the floor (from Derek Staifer). … New Nike template for Syracuse (from Ari Roth).

Soccer News: “The German Bundesliga is running a promotion with Coca-Cola that features jerseys on bottles,” writes Bern Wilms. “Coke took some care to accurately reflect the teams’ jersey designs, although they did use a generic number font. One interesting point: The promotion includes 17 of the 18 teams, the exception being RB Leipzig. The ‘RB’ in their name stands for their commercial backers, Red Bull, so it was out of the question to have them participate.”

Grab Bag: Interesting article on the clothing brands favored by young Republicans (thanks, Phil). … Jay-Z and Damon Dash have won a lawsuit involving the Roc-A-Fella logo. … The USGA honored Arnold Palmer by depicting his 1960 U.S. Open visor toss on the pin flags at the Men’s Team State Championship Tournament in Birmingham this week (from Patrick O’Neill). … Here are the details on UAB’s new contract with Under Armour. Because UAB is a public school, the contract itself is public as well. You can view it here (from Nolan Jones). … An article on the Team USA wrestling website says it’s time to move away from the singlet, in part because the singlet has no merchandising appeal (from Solomon Duncan). … I’ve written several times about athletes wearing silicone wedding bands. Here’s an article specifically about Pittsburgh athletes wearing them (from Timothy Pontzer).

Comments (84)

    Speaking of the new/old Miami uniforms – that Thursday night game when they play at Virginia Tech is going to look great. It better be on the 5 portion of the weekly 5&1!

    One thing about the Bengals-Dolphins game – why did the Nike Swoosh on the Bengals have to be orange? Woulda looked better in white, no?

    Actually, if we’re talking just aesthetics, I thought the orange swoosh was a great pop of color on the black-and-white uniform.

    The Bengals’ regular white uniforms are meh but these were worse. No Orange except around the NOB, generic numbers. Looked like bad practice tops.
    Next week could be worse – the Cardinals are named (indirectly) for the color (got old uniforms from U of Chicago, IIRC), they wear the blood clot reds too much as it is, and the 49ers keep insisting black is a team color. Enough already.

    You say “generic” numbers, I personally LOVED them. Those look like football numbers to me, and were the only attractive thing (besides the Bengals helmets) that I saw out there.


    Didn’t watch the Color Rash game last night, but I have thought the Bengals were one of the better ones. The white is nice. The orange helmet is a little striking with the look, but isn’t too bad.

    The Dolphins looked like tangerines.

    Funny though – the all white team had orange helmets, and the all orange team had white helmets.

    Only with Color Rash.

    This was a perfect example of why color rush is a failure. The Bengals – a team named for an orange cat – wore white. The Dolphins – an aquatic mammal – wore orange (one of their opponent’s main colors) instead of their much more logical options of aqua or navy blue. It’s just dumb.

    Jeff, the Bengals actually wore white because of the white Bengal at the Cincinnati zoo…. arguably the giving them the most logical reason for their color rush uniform choice.

    Uh huh. Lame reason is lame. The whole promotion is a failure because the NFL gave teams the veto option (aka chicken out & wear white) instead of stepping in and controlling everything. Which is funny, seeing how you’d expect them to go the other way, given that they’ll fine players for wearing the wrong color shoes. All of the old stubborn owners decided they didn’t want to play color vs color because tradition, so this is the garbage we got instead. Yeah, fine, there’s a white tiger at the Cincy zoo. There’s probably a few zoos (and magic acts) that have white tigers. Big deal.

    I wonder what Green Bay’s excuse for wearing white is.

    Q: I wonder what Green Bay’s excuse for wearing white is.
    A: White cheddar cheese awareness, of course!

    Color rash is so dumb.


    I hate the entire color rash thing, but last night’s color choices just didn’t match the identity of the teams. Should have been Dolphins in white or aqua and Bengals in orange or black. That would have also fixed the problem of the helmets being such a stark contrast to the rest of the uniform.

    “…all of the mascots from the Royals’ minor league affiliates will be performing in the same place.”

    Is this a Masc-Out??

    Watching the Rash game last night one thing drove me nuts: the white helmet atop a rash of orange. Orange, in my opinion is a fantastic accent color, but that much as a primary is headache inducing.

    Also, if the Bengals added a tiny bit of orange outline around the numbers and maybe the stripes on the pants and sleeves, those uniforms would be really really really awesome.

    They’d look a lot like the previous uniform, which wouldn’t be a bad thing.

    I’m partial to block numerals and not a huge fan of shoulder yokes, so I thought the Bengals’ Color Cash jerseys were a vast improvement over their standard whites. Put those numerals on the black jerseys and eliminate the side panels, and you might have something.

    Re. the Vice article on spatting as a form of athlete protest, I’d like to see a big name college athlete refuse to wear the school contracted shoe brand.

    1974 is the only year that Theismann played with Sonny AND Billy. That year all three wore single bar facemasks.

    I wonder if the 2-bar photo of Theismann is during recover from one of his broken noses. ???

    Rather writing than separate replies to all the above comments, here’s my take:

    Bengals: Looked great, way better than the normal uni. (And this is coming from a guy who’s Uni Watch membership card is rendered in the Bengals’ white jersey.) LOVE the number typeface and the lack of orange stroke around it (reminiscent of the Blackhawks latest Winter Classic jersey, also great). Thought the black and white with tiny hints of orange made for a perfect one-off look. I think it would be weird to go without the orange under the tiger stripes all the time, so I would add some of that back i ( but maybe just on the arms rather than the shoulders too) and go with that look all the time on the road. And they should match it by switching to plain white numbers in that typeface at home.

    Dolphins: If you’re gonna go with the high-school look, the lighter the color the better, so I thought Miami looked OK. There were two problems: 1) The color looked like the Bucs. It’s a little weird to dress like your nearest neighbor. 2) The white helmet, which I realize they can’t change, made the uniforms look extra high-schooly.

    All in all, definitely one of the best-looking Color Rash games so far (but with the inherent advantage of having only one team in high-school monochrome).

    I watched the 71 NFC Championship Game highlights some time ago and if memory serves Willard’s nameplate was ripped off by a would be tackler.

    That is possible but in the picture provided above it looks like the 49ers might be in line waiting to be introduced prior to kickoff.

    Loved the Bengals unis last night. Shout out to the White Tigers at the Cincinnati Zoo. Hoping that this combo becomes somewhat regular.

    Disappointing that Uni Watch chose to interview Mike MItchell. At best, he is an aggressive player. At worst, he is a Headhunter with a reputation for leading with his helmet to try to knock opposing players out, and for showboating afterwards. While his handwarmer story is somewhat interesting, I wouldn’t want to give a mouthpiece to someone who plays as dirty as he does.

    And he comes off as a total tool in the interview. I picture Paul rolling his eyes A LOT during that exchange.

    Tremendous interview Paul! Mitchell having to differentiate himself from his college teammate is good stuff.

    That wrestling article pained me. The cart is leading the horse there in terms of PR vs. functionality.

    As a former wrestler, the singlet never bothered me personally, but lots of people make comments about it and I do think its a barrier to entry for some.
    Given the advances in compression wear, I see no problem with wrestlers switching to the types of things we see guys wear at the NFL combine.


    Though I am equally pained by them leading with the merchandising aspect of it. Want to promote your favorite wrestlers/programs? Buy a t-shirt – there’s no shortage of them online and at collegiate events.

    Another issue is that the article is equating college wrestling with pro sports. Under NCAA rules you couldn’t have a jersey with a name on it. It might be different if it was a national team jersey, I suppose.

    Also, how would a wrestling jersey as a fashion item even work?

    But how would that work for actually wrestling in? (“Sports Entertainment” notwithstanding.)

    I have a nephew who’s wrestling in high school (he’s a junior now, and has been wrestling since at least 8th grade), but I don’t recall ever hearing him opine about the singlet.

    The visuals associated with the act of wrestling are already ‘bad’ enough for outsiders, fixing the singlet could go a long way to easing that and helping grow the sport by – as the article says – making it more socially acceptable.

    I agree Dan. The singlet is not ‘hurting’ wrestling.

    I coach wrestling.

    The singlet is the correct uniform: it stays in place. It cannot be pulled up or down.
    Sure, some kids do not want to wrestle because of the singlet but that doesn’t mean you make the uniform less practical to accommodate them and especially not to sell merchandise.

    Jersey’s don’t attract Athletes to a sport: MLB is concerned less kids are playing baseball, but they are selling more jersey’s than ever.

    Recruiting wrestlers is easier now than ever because of UFC: Many of the best UFC fighters were wrestlers and wore a singlet. If a kid idolizes UFC fighters they won’t be weird about the singlet.

    The good wrestlers ‘own’ the singlet, and you will see them pull their legs of the singlet up higher to show their muscles and instill confidence. If the giant football player in the article is self-conscious about the singlet, show them the video of Ray Lewis winning a state championship in wrestling.

    The two piece uniform makes the wrestler look like a cyclist and is less practical and less intimidating.

    Wrestling is incredibly hard, the practices and tournaments are grueling and odds are the kids worried about wearing a singlet wouldn’t last through the daily grind of a wrestling season.

    Kyle, can I ask a couple of questions:

    1. Are singlets still reversible? When I wrestled a lifetime ago singlets were blue on one side, red on the other, and you wore it one way or the other depending on the colour you were assigned for the match. Is that still a thing?

    2. What’s wrong with looking like a cyclist? :)

    I liked the Bengals unis and I think switching to those would be the best thing to do

    No photos of Texas Tech lids from last night? They said on tv it was the first time they’ve worn Red helmets since 1961. Interesting in that we’re the Red Raiders.

    Hey Paul- just doing some proofreading- I noticed that you’ve spelled “Joe Theismann” wrong today and yesterday when discussing his facemask. Hope you don’t mind me pointing this out!

    I never mind anyone pointing out a typo. On the contrary, I appreciate and welcome it! I appear to have had a mental block about Theismann’s surname spelling. Will fix it now.

    I’m sorry, but don’t the Cleveland Indians all wear 14 for Larry Doby’s anniversary of breaking the American League color barrier? That’s a non-Fernandez and non-Jackie example in MLB.

    I thought the Bengals looked fine, taking into account that almost anything is an improvement. Orange trim around the numerals would have been a nice touch.

    The Dolphins, on the other hand, looked awful. Even the wide pants stripes, which often save a monochromatic uniform, couldn’t help. They looked like three year olds in bad pajamas. I have nothing against orange as I used to love the Bucs’ creamsicles and the Broncos’ old unis but orange on orange was a nightmare.

    It’s all Paul’s fault for ruining me, but the part of the Dolphins’ combo that bothered me the most (aside from the dreadful creamsicle look) was that the white helmets’ stripe and logo show primarily the teal color, not orange. From any distance it didn’t even look like they went together at all. A fine detail I would have never focused on pre-Uni-Watch.

    I tweeted you this last night but David Helman, who writes for the Cowboys, tweeted last night that the Cowboys will wear their blue jerseys versus Cleveland and at home on Thanksgiving versus Washington. The idea of seeing the Redskins in their burgundy pants and white jerseys versus the Cowboys in Navy and Silver would be incredible. I wonder if there is any credence to that color rush leak that showed that Cowboys in blue and the Skins in their burgundy jerseys for Thanksgiving? That would also be quite possibly one of the best looking games ever, especially if they didn’t make them go monochrome.

    I’m probably the only person who would like to see the Dolphins wear aqua jerseys with the orange pants.

    I generally liked the look of last night’s Dolphins/Bengals game, but with one team in white helmets over orange uniforms and the other in orange helmets over white uniforms, it almost had the look of an intra-squad game, or a high school varsity/JV game.

    Also, that wide aqua stripe on the Dolphins helmets really stood out, not in a good way, because of how little aqua was on the rest if the uniform. It may have looked better if they had removed the helmet striping for this game.

    the Jeff,

    I would guess the Packers all white Color Rash uniforms were created to evoke the rich history of the white-clad butchers and meat packers for which the team was named after…

    Last night’s NFL game looked great, IMHO. Sure, a turquoise-clad Miami squad versus solid-orange Bengals would have made thematic sense, but I was glad to see something I wasn’t accustomed to seeing. Kudos to the detail of orange trim around the player names for Cincinnati, offering relief to the black+white tiger stripes. Really glad to be free of the contrasting panel down the sides and the orange yoke. A home run!

    I do like that my tweet got picked up for the ticker today. It is a bit strange to see plain straight NOBs on a Red Wings jersey that doesn’t date back to the pre-Ilitch era (1982). Although the Adirondack Red Wings had straight NOBs, and otherwise identical uniforms to Detroit, Coffey never played a game in the AHL.

    I’m not 100% certain about this, but I *think* the Wings started using their current serifed block letters in the preseason around 1998 or so.

    Did anyone else think that Miami looked oddly like Tennessee with some weird accenting? I’m not a fan of these one-offs to begin with, but this was bad. I think the problem with the Bengals jersey was the contrast with the orange helmet. Would be nice if they could’ve made white helmets and then used orange accenting all around (I understand the NFL has helmet rules).

    That’s back to back weeks where I feel a team wore a color rash jersey that is an upgrade over their regular jersey. IE: Pats and Bengals

    If you could – I’d bet the Bengals go to this template next year. I don’t think they’d go as far with the Thursday Night design unless it was on the table for next year.

    Just a thought!

    I doubt it. It’s just the current uniform with the orange removed and a standard block number font. I’d guess it was just easier to go with that style than to come up with a non-shadowed version of the current numbers. Especially since a non-shadowed version of the current numbers would be really close to Pittsburgh, and that just wouldn’t fly.

    The orange on the Bengals NOB was a nice touch. They obviously didn’t want to splash any money on monochrome letters for the NOBs when they had a perfectly good stack of two-color letters. It’s a throwback to when the Bengals were using recycled facemasks on their helmets and paying their players in cans of soup.

    Bengals looked great.

    Dolphins would have looked fine if they weren’t playing a team whose primary colour is orange.

    Which makes me wonder: did they design the uniforms before they knew who their opponent would be? Did they assume it was a divisional game and they wouldn’t be playing an “orange” team.

    Yes, all of the Color Rash uniforms were designed independently from the schedule. Then when the schedule came out, they found out they had conflicts like Patriots and Texans both having navy blue uniforms, so Houston had to wear their normal white uniforms instead of their special new Color Rash ones. Apparently, the intent is for the Color Rash uniforms to be used for multiple years, as teams like Jacksonville and Tennessee have the same sets they wore last year.

    RE: Mike Mitchell

    Am I the only one that thinks that although an interesting story, his reasoning for wearing that thing is dumb? The coach really couldn’t tell 2 players apart because of a common digit and their skin color. I don’t get it. I feel like he’s trying to justification when not necessary. “I think it looks cool” would’ve worked for me.

    What I did find intriguing is some of his responses, they further clarify why I could’ve never been a football player(lack of talent withstanding). Football players, especially defensive players, almost have to have a certain “attitude”, or something (I’m not sure I’m wording it right).

    No I didn’t get that at all. To me, it sounded like a detail to a story you just can’t make up.

    Am I the only one that thinks that although an interesting story, his reasoning for wearing that thing is dumb? The coach really couldn’t tell 2 players apart because of a common digit and their skin color. I don’t get it. I feel like he’s trying to justification when not necessary. “I think it looks cool” would’ve worked for me.

    I don’t understand this comment. Are you saying you think he’s lying? Or are you saying that you just don’t find his true story to be satisfying and wish that he’d tailored it to your liking?

    Yeah I was saying that it sounded like a lie. Mike Engle’s comment made me reconsider though. I’m now seeing that some stories are interesting because they are true and a bit ridiculous, like Engle said details you just cant make up. Dumb as it may sound just had failed to think about it that way. Did not mean in any way that the player needed to tailor the story to my liking.

    I’ve never been a fan of the term “swag”. I am grateful, however, that hand warmers make the cut.

    Regarding Theismann’s two-bar face mask, my recollection is that he would use the 2-bar helmet when he was returning punts but would wear a single bar helmet when he played QB. Can’t say for sure that he ever wore both in the same game, but he didn’t become the starter until 1977 or 1978. Before then he would do anything (obviously) to get on the field.

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