PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as the first week of my NFL training camp tour winds to a close after stops at the Redskins, Ravens, Patriots, Giants and now Bills ...
• As the days have continued to click by in the never-ending Brett Favre un-retirement saga, I've been getting the increasingly stronger hunch that the eventual outcome is going to be that Favre plays for no one in 2008. As in, stays retired. As in, never mind. As in, the mother of all much ado about nothings when everything is said and done. Thanks for coming, and keep in touch.
Obviously the situation is about as fluid as they come -- and that's just in Favre's still indecisive mind -- but unless the Jets or Bucs convince him to accept a trade by making a passionate case for why they're a great fit for the ex-Packer, I don't think he's going to be able to talk himself into taking the plunge in either New York or Tampa Bay.
Reading between the lines, I think two things are pretty clear by now: First, Favre completely underestimated the blowback to his belated attempt to walk into the Packers' 2008 plans at virtually the last minute, without the benefit of attending even one offseason workout. He had no idea that anyone would challenge his right to re-claim the throne in Green Bay, and he's shocked and hurt by the reaction to his attempted restoration.
Which leads into my second observation about Favre's messy situation: He got here because he seems incapable of thinking anything out longer than 15 minutes into the future. As one NFL defensive coordinator told me this week: "He's not a guy who's ever been very reflective. He just reacts to what's in front of him. That's exactly the way he played quarterback, and that's how he's handling this. He makes it all up as he goes. Watching this story unfold is like watching him play. It's that same free-wheeling nature that he played with. He just thinks he'll figure it out on the fly, like always.''
But I have my doubts that there's any way Favre is going under-hand shovel pass his way out of this conundrum. He wants to play. But the Packers aren't going to let him play it completely his way, as he's always done in the past. And my growing sense is that Favre won't end up playing at all.
• Earlier last week, the Ravens surfaced as one potential landing spot for Favre, but by the time that info had been reported, it was already out of date. Yes, Green Bay called Baltimore to inquire about trading for Favre, and yes, Ravens officials kicked the idea around for a brief time before deciding that they weren't the right fit for No. 4. According to Ravens sources, here were their top reasons why:
-- Baltimore is extremely excited about the future of first-round quarterback Joe Flacco and had no desire to put his development on hold for a year or two in order to take a shot at winning now with Favre.
-- After years of cultivating something of a star system in their locker room -- in part due to their own acumen and success in the draft -- the Ravens are trying to get away from such a mentality under new head coach John Harbaugh. Favre is the ultimate NFL star of his era, so acquiring him wouldn't represent progress on that front.
-- Baltimore rightfully viewed Favre, 38, as a short-term band-aid at their troubled quarterback spot. The Ravens just went that route with Steve McNair, getting one good year, and one injury-filled bad year from him before he retired. To a large extent, it would have been Groundhog Day with Favre in purple.
-- Then there was the salary cap factor. The Ravens weren't able to strike a long-term deal with the franchised Terrell Suggs before camp opened, and they still have both Ray Lewis and Bart Scott in the final year of their contracts, with the potential of big paydays just ahead. Making room for Favre just didn't make dollars and sense.
• I had a brief but interesting conversation with Giants head coach Tom Coughlin in Albany on Saturday, and at least a couple nuggets are worth passing on. I asked him if he did anything special this offseason to help prepare his team for the rigors of defending a Super Bowl championship, in the way of talking to those coaches who have gone through it before to see what works and what doesn't?
"I didn't talk to other Super Bowl champions, but I talked to John Wooden and I talked to Joe Torre about coming off one world title and then being confronted with all the questions about trying to win another,'' Coughlin said. "Both gentlemen were very nice to speak at great length about it. But what they were really saying was that what happened yesterday doesn't matter today unless you pay the price again. That's the message to our guys. We've got to earn it again.''
Coughlin also told me that while he knows he just completed the greatest offseason of his career, at some point the constant wave of congratulations he received extended well past what he needed in order to gear up for the 2008 season.
"What happens is, you get to a point and all of a sudden the competitive juices start flowing and you start thinking about next year, next year, next year,'' Coughlin said. "Somebody kind of comes up and pats you on the back and you kind of get a little ticked off. I'm doing that a little bit in camp here. I'm saying 'Slow down,' because these people here are so nice and they're trying to still be congratulatory. But my mind is somewhere else. It's on this year.''
I think Coughlin gets it. There won't be a victory lap mentality in the Meadowlands this year. And that should serve his Giants quite well in this title defense season.
• I've written already in recent months about the change of culture that rookie Ravens head coach John Harbaugh is trying to institute in Baltimore, and how his veteran-laden roster has received such discipline-minded edicts such as keeping jerseys tucked in, switching locker assignments around, and barring players from leaving training camp in Westminister, Md., for the nearby comforts of home.
The other day I asked veteran Ravens defensive end Trevor Pryce if he knew yet whether it was change for the better or change for the worse?
"My gut tells me it's change,'' Pryce said. "A lot of it's welcomed and some of it you kind of go, 'Huh?' As a guy who's been in a league for a little while, I'm going to give it until Week 10, and then ask me again. If it works, it's great. If we don't win, it doesn't work.
"The thing is, my first year here (2006) we went 13-3. Everything worked great. Last year, we did the same exact things and we went 5-11. It was tough to tell what was broken. People want to blame (ex-coach Brian) Billick and say it was his fault and his play-calling, but he called the same exact plays the year before. I know that. I saw the plays.''
Pryce admits he was skeptical of Harbaugh's new rules at first. It led to things being a little bumpy at times this offseason between the coach and some of his veterans.
"It was a lot of bumpy,'' Pryce said. "Lots of whys were being asked. One thing I'm not a proponent of is wasted time, but we haven't done that. Don't give me busy work. Thankfully, I haven't seen that yet. Now if it comes, that's when I'll stand up and I'll say 'I think this doesn't make sense. This doesn't help us win.' But if it helps us win, that's fine. If you think moving the lockers and putting me next to a dude I'm going to fight with every day is going to help us win, OK.
"Like I said, ask me all this again in Week 10 and we'll take the temperature reading. It's hard to tell right now. By next year, none of these questions will be asked. But you've got to give the guy a chance. At the end of the day, you don't have to respect the man, but you have to respect the office. He is our head coach. So what he says, we have to do.''
For his part, I can't be more impressed with the level of conviction that Harbaugh has in his way of doing thing. He is not second-guessing his get-tough approach with his veteran-populated team.
"It's going to work, and we believe in what we're doing,'' he told me last Tuesday. "The only variable is time. There's no shortcut for that. We're building something, and you build it from the ground up. You put the big rocks in first. I know it's going to come together. It's just wondering what the timeline is going to be? How long is it really going to take? But with all my heart and all my soul I know where we're going. And I know we're going to get there. I'm just curious to see how long it takes.''
• Ah, so that's why the Eagles didn't trade demoted cornerback Lito Sheppard in the wake of the Asante Samuel signing this spring. Because with Samuel's first-day hamstring injury at Eagles camp, Sheppard wasn't destined to stay demoted for long.
• I get the LaMont Jordan signing in New England. First off, failure in Oakland does not disqualify anyone from enjoying future success. Just ask Randy Moss. Second, the Patriots had positive experiences in recent years with more powerful running backs like Antowain Smith and Corey Dillon. The 230-pound Jordan might be a fine short-yardage option behind starter Laurence Maroney.
• So why isn't there at least a camp quarterback competition in always-win-now Washington, where veteran backup Todd Collins went 4-1 as a starter and led the Redskins into the playoffs last season after he took over for the injured Jason Campbell?
It's pretty simple, really. This is Campbell's fourth NFL season after being selected in the first round of the 2005 draft. If the Redskins don't find out definitively what they have in him this year, they likely will have to start over at quarterback. So giving Collins any chance to out-play Campbell and win the job would serve only the franchise's short-term interests at the cost of its long-terms goals. That degree of foresight hasn't always been present in Washington, but it's the right call this time.
• I liked the observation that one NFL head coach made to me this week, in discussing Miami's trade of Jason Taylor to Washington. It's a deal that should help the Redskins, but it's also a tone-setting move that makes every Dolphins player that much more aware of who's running the show in Miami.
"Doesn't Bill Parcells kind of have a habit of always taking down one of the team's big-name vets once he gets to town?'' the coach asked? "It's his M.O. It's a message to the rest of his players that no one's too big for him to get rid of.''
• It's not a stretch at all to predict that the AFC North champion could be an 8-8 team this year. As schedules go, the AFC North has the Bataan Death March in '08. Teams in that division play both the rugged NFC East and the talented AFC South this season, and those two divisions were the only ones in the NFL to advance three of their four teams to the playoffs last season. And in both cases, the last-place teams in those divisions finished a strong 8-8 (Philly in the NFC East and improving Houston in the AFC South).
Take the Ravens, who finished in last place in the AFC North last year at 5-11. They face eight games against 2007 playoff teams, 10 games against teams that either made the playoffs last year or won 10 games, and 12 games against teams that were .500 or better last season. Only four of their games don't fall into one of those categories: Their two division games against Cincinnati (7-9 last year), and dates against Oakland and Miami.
Good luck, Coach Harbaugh.
• Not only was Tom Brady a lot more of a no-show at the Patriots' offseason workout program than he has been in the past -- opting to spend more time with his baby son, John, and that supermodel girlfriend of his -- he also made it clear this week that his days of practicing more than once daily during training camp are over.
"I don't think the goal this year is to go out and see how sore my arm can get,'' Brady said. "Two practices a day is good for arm soreness. That's what it's good for. Some guys can do it. I can't.''
• I'm making an early call here, given that it's late July, but second-year Bills middle linebacker Paul Posluszny is headed for a breakthrough season. The 2007 second-round pick had his rookie season ended almost before it began, thanks to a first-half broken forearm suffered in Week 3 at New England.
Posluszny has looked bigger, stronger and very hungry to make a second-year impact at Bills camp, and only another bad break on the injury front can keep him from being an emerging star in the league.
• The Giants would likely face an ugly fan revolt if they didn't make room for him, but some believe Super Bowl hero David Tyree could face a very tough battle to make New York's receiving depth chart. The Giants are going to keep Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer, Steve Smith and rookie third-round pick Mario Manningham. That could pit Tyree against the likes of 2006 second-round pick Sinorice Moss, Domenik Hixon and the wonderfully named Craphonso Thorpe for the last one or two receiving slots.
"We are stacked,'' Tyree said Friday. "We are definitely stacked. We're loaded at receiver. What do you want me to say? You all put me on the bubble, not me. You've always had me there. But I've always had confidence that I belonged.''
The Giants could always carry Tyree as a special teams performer, which is his most significant role. But then again, the offseason knee surgery that he underwent might decide his roster fate. Tyree was placed on New York's PUP list to start camp and he says he's uncertain as to when he'll be able to return to the field.
• What's it like for Dom Capers, a two-time head coach and three-time coordinator in the NFL, to go back to coaching a position? Capers is the Patriots new special assistant/secondary coach.
"One of the things about it, when you've been a head coach for nine years, you know what you look for in assistant coaches,'' Capers said Friday afternoon, between first-day practices at New England's Gillette Stadium. "I think it helps you be a better assistant coach, because you want to be that guy you were looking for.''
Capers' NFL coaching career began in 1986 in New Orleans, and in order, he's been a position coach (Saints secondary), a defensive coordinator (Steelers), a head coach (Panthers), a defensive coordinator (Jacksonville), a head coach (Texans), a defensive coordinator (Miami), and now a position coach again.
"I've been through the whole gamut,'' said Capers, who led expansion teams in both Carolina and Houston. "To me, if it's a situation you know you'll feel good about and you know who you're working for, the challenge is to find out what my role is and then do a heck of a job of trying to contribute to the big picture. I don't have a problem with that. If you do a great job of what you're doing, there's always going to be something else.''
• This just in: It's July 27, and the Bills are officially done with a two-a-day practices in training camp. That's got to be the earliest cessation of that training-camp staple in NFL history. Buffalo head coach Dick Jauron only scheduled two days of two-a-days, and they fell on Friday and Saturday, the Bills' first two days of camp.
From here on out, Buffalo will practice just once daily in a full-scale manner, although the Bills will fairly often conduct a second, walk-through practice some of those days. In today's NFL, with its long offseason workout programs in place, making sure you're healthy and not ruining your team's chances in training camp has become a coach's more important goal.
• A quick note to all those readers who wrote in to correctly point out that the 2007 Redskins had 33 sacks as a team, rather than the total of 19 than I wrote in a Monday story about the team's Jason Taylor trade and its need to keep pace with the pass rushes of its NFC East foes. I was mistaken, but with a caveat. I got my information from the NFL's newly issued Record and Fact Book, which come to find out has erroneously printed the Redskins' 2006 sack statistics on the page that featured Washington's 2007 team statistics.
Oops. Be it 33 or 19 sacks in 2007, my thesis remains the same. The Redskins pass rush needed Taylor in order to keep up with the (Jerry)Jones' in their division. Not to mention the Giants and Eagles, too.