A USO guest list for the ages, Ten Things, Harrison unplugged & more
Four weeks from Fourth of July weekend, I'm whistling a patriotic tune this morning, and alerting our men and women overseas that they're about to have some interesting visitors. There's more today -- including my thoughts on
We'll start by waving the flag.
In 1966, the USO began a tradition of sending NFL players and commissioners to visit American troops around the world by dispatching future Hall of Famers
Later this month, three Super Bowl-winning coaches from this decade --
"This is something I've wanted to do for years,'' Coughlin told me, "and I can't tell you how excited I am, and all the coaches are, to be making this trip. It's a great chance for us to recognize the real heroes of this country. Our troops need to know how much we appreciate what they're doing, and I mean every one of us in the NFL and every one of us in the country.''
Coughlin knows the trip will be as memorable for him as for anyone he visits. A military history buff, he is good friends with the current commanding general of the multi-national force in charge of the Iraq invasion, Gen.
The Giants' coach is not alone. You can bet all five coaches use war stories to motivate their men. For that reason, it's going to be strange for them to be talking to military men about football players rather than the other way around.
"It's going to be a challenge, figuring out what to say,'' Coughlin said. "I've already started to write some things. But it's important to me not to be off the cuff. This is too important for that. I want my words to mean something to them.
"One of the things I know I'll talk about is how we talk about team all the time. I know they talk about team all the time. One of the things I've learned from Gen. Odierno is you realize how important it is to be able to trust the men and women next to you. You place your lives in their hands; they place their lives in your hands. And when Greg Gadson talked to our team, he talked about vigilance, about being ready. Always.
"That's a fastball right down the middle for me. I've got to have everyone ready every day, because I don't know when the next guy is going to be needed. In Greg's case, he told us they worry about the soldier who didn't fire his weapon in his last day on patrol. So maybe he figures he doesn't need to clean it the next day to have it ready to fire, and when he needs it, maybe it doesn't work properly. Just that one moment of not being ready could really cost the entire platoon. Same with us. You don't want to be the man who is not prepared and lets down the entire team.''
You can bet Coughlin, at some base in Iraq or Afghanistan, will tell a room full of soldiers the story of
I hear the league didn't have a difficult time persuading the time-challenged coaches (well, the retired ones have some time on their hands, of course) to clear their calendars for a week. Commissioner
"Several things about the trip were very striking -- how our service men and [women] never complain about anything, how much I admired them, and how much the NFL meant to them,'' Goodell recalled last week. "You can never complain after seeing the conditions our troops work in. The positive attitude and pride they take in their mission and our country are inspiring. You go over there thinking you're doing something for the troops, but you return recognizing it is one of the most meaningful things you have ever done for your own sake.''
Having gone to Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan to visit troops 15 months ago, I can tell you Goodell's right. Doesn't matter what you feel about the war itself. You're dropped into a National Geographic special, into the most interesting place you've ever been, and you realize right away how much these people love everything about the NFL. My advice to the five coaches: Get ready to sign 750 autographs a day, minimum, and pose for 300 pictures a day, minimum. Get ready to fall into an exhausted sleep every night and never get more than five hours of it, because there will always be more people to see and bases to visit. In the Persian Gulf, you'll be like the Beatles were in New York in 1964 ... without the shrieking girls.
The meaning of the Brett Favre surgery -- per an ESPN report last night claiming he had his damaged right biceps tendon repaired recently by detaching it -- is simple: The man wants to play football for the Vikings, and they Vikings have obviously given him enough of an indication that if he's healthy and ready to throw full-throttle by early July that they'll be interested in signing him.
My guess is Favre had the surgery 10 to 12 days ago. An NFL medical source told me if Favre's biceps tendon was indeed "hanging by a thread,'' as I heard it was, that Favre would be able to throw a football in about two weeks and should be able to throw without pain in about four weeks.
The reason Favre could go to the Vikings late in the game, theoretically, is that it's the same offense with the same language that he ran in Green Bay. But there are a couple of X factors that could stand in the way. All indications are the Vikings haven't agreed to a contract yet with Favre; what do you pay a man who will turn 40 and is coming off shoulder surgery two months before the start of training camp? Minnesota can't guarantee him $12 million -- or shouldn't. More likely the contract would have to be for a year at $8 million to $10 million, max, with some incentives. Then there's the matter of how Favre feels. I believe if he's throwing in early July with pain, or with impingement, he won't go through with it.
It's hard to imagine Favre getting the surgery done by renowned orthopedist
It'll be an upset if Favre doesn't attempt a comeback with Minnesota now.
I don't think Jeremy Shockey is out of the woods in New Orleans. Not at all. He wasn't working with the first team in this weekend's full-squad minicamp, in the wake of his May 24 removal from a Vegas hotel for "dehydration.''
Different, isn't it, than last year, when Shockey came to camp as the quasi-second coming, and the Saints thought he'd be the most productive tight end in the league, and he finished with 50 catches, a pedestrian 9.7 yards per catch and zero touchdowns. Zero. His practice habits and route discipline weren't great, and now the Saints appear to be saying,
"I'm not about that. I played for a long time. I know the other side, the players' families, their moms, their kids, their wives. I'm not there to be critical of players as my sole purpose. My job is to be honest and not necessarily to butcher anyone. But if the truth needs to be told, I'm going to tell it. A lot of guys may not like it. I may have to criticize
"The one thing I noticed creeping in was, 'Do you really want it?' I didn't have that same hunger, that thirst, that I used to have for 15 years. When I woke up, I wanted to be on the golf course. I didn't think about working out to get better football-wise. I thought about getting better for golf. That was the thing that really told me, 'You don't want to play this game.'''
"I'm very comfortable in my skin. I'm not a guy who kisses people's butts and goes with the popular trend. I'm not worried about playing football. I'm done. I have no inkling to go back out and suffer any injuries or bang any heads. I'm done.''
"Yes, I think I belong in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I don't have the Pro Bowls, but that's not because I didn't put up the numbers. [Tennessee safety]
"This is football in the National Football League. I hit a guy with my forearm in his throat or his chest area, and they're trying to fine me. It's football! It's not my fault if the guy curls up like a little girl because he doesn't want to get hit. Are you kidding me? And then I get hit with a $120,000 fine because I hit
"Football now is turning into a soft, pansy sport. This is not volleyball! This is not tennis! This is some of the biggest, fastest, strongest men in the world. I think it's absolutely ridiculous. I went out on my own terms. It won't bother me anymore ... They need to put some more defensive players in that NFL front office. [NFL director of football operations and finemeister]
"Like I told my mom, You can't miss what you never had. Hopefully, it goes to a good cause. I never stopped the way I played. I never played this game for a paycheck. I could never play this game for money. I played because I loved it. I had a chance to make a lot of money this year -- two or three times what NBC is paying me. Trust me. I decided to walk away because I was not a money player. You can't buy passion. You can't buy discipline and dedication and commitment to something. If my heart's not in it, I'm not gonna do it."
"Wow. Bill is the best coach and the best football mind I've ever been around. I absolutely love and have all the respect in the world for him. But he's also a guy I won't be afraid to criticize, either.''
The test, obviously, for every player who walks off the field and into the television industry is whether he can leave the sanctity of the locker room and speak honestly. The early returns on Harrison are good (a receiver "curls up like a little girl'' and football is turning into a "soft, pansy sport'' are good enough for me), but we won't really know until there's a legit reason to nail a Patriot this fall and Harrison takes the shot.
Consider this the Stat of the Week: In 2003, Rodney Harrison was voted first-team all-pro by a panel of sports media. Two safeties in the 32-team NFL make the All-Pro team. Six safeties make the Pro Bowl, three in each conference. Harrison did not make the Pro Bowl that year.
More and more the Pro Bowl is almost an insignificant measure of greatness for a player. Harrison was hated by many players, and they wouldn't honor him by voting him into a Pro Bowl. Harrison made two Pro Bowls in his career, a laughable total for someone with his pedigree.
In his career, with the two Pro Bowls, Harrison averaged 6.5 tackles a game and had 34 interceptions, 15 forced fumbles and 30.5 sacks.
In Lynch's career, with nine Pro Bowls, he averaged 4.7 tackles a game, and had 26 interceptions, 6 forced fumbles and 13 sacks.
Let's go back to the 2003 season, when Harrison led the Super Bowl champion Patriots in tackles in the regular season and postseason. He had 140 regular-season tackles and three interceptions; I voted him my defensive player of the year in the NFL. Lynch had 58 tackles and one pick, Polamalu 88 tackles and five picks, Reed 66 tackles and eight picks.
If you were Harrison, wouldn't you be a little bitter about a system that kept you out of Pro Bowls when you clearly deserved to be in them?
We've all been operating on the assumption the NFL and its players need to get a deal done by spring 2011 so the league can go on without any games being lost to a job action. Not the new boss of the NFLPA.
Last week, the NFL Players Association voted to drop its appeal to a case in which a jury ruled the union poorly handled the licensing deals for more than 2,000 retired players. The NFLPA agreed to pay $26 million to the players, about $10,000 a player after attorney's fees. But that money will be minimally effective for many retired players if the NFL ever plays with an uncapped year.
"My overwhelming motivation is to get a deal done before the uncapped year,'' Smith said. "I look at the significant impact it would have on the retired players, the handicapped players, the families of the retired players, if we didn't get a deal done, and that is what drives me.''
For a football-related disability -- one that occurred on the field and renders a player unable to work in another occupation within six months of the injury -- a player gets $224,000 in disability payments now. In an uncapped year, the payment would shrink to $48,000 annually. An active player who becomes disabled in an accident off the field get $134,000 a year now; he'd get $48,000 in the uncapped year.
Now you know why Smith is on a different timetable than so many others in the league.
Now to Austin Wood. You remember the Texas reliever who threw 12-and-a-third no-hit innings, and 13 shutout innings altogether, in a 25-inning victory over Boston College nine days ago.
The letters and Tweets to me were divided. Some praised the kid for being gallant and got goosebumps over Wood pitching so long in such intense heat that he threw up violently and refused to leave the game. Some ripped the coach,
Texas moved on to the next round of the tournament against TCU last weekend. Wood, the closer, warmed up but did not pitch in a win Saturday night. He threw four pitches and retired the only batter he faced Sunday in a TCU win. The two teams meet Monday for the right to go to the College World Series, and Wood hopes he'll have a chance to throw his 92-mph fastball and assortment of breaking pitches in a save situation.
On Sunday night, I asked Wood if he knew about the roiling controversy ... and about how he felt. ""Arm's fine,'' said the senior from Houston. "I threw 91, 92 today, and I felt as good as ever. It's responded to treatment the way it always does. I'm pretty frustrated by the way people have reacted to this. I understand pitch counts are important, especially early in the season when it's cold and you're just getting your arm going. But I know my body. I wouldn't do anything any different with what happened last week. I know my arm, I know my body, and if there was anything wrong, I'd have said I needed to come out.''
But what about the long-term damage he could have done to the arm? "I don't buy it,'' Wood said. "They said coach Garrido abused me. It's crazy. He never abused me. I'm not going to stay in a game and pitch hurt.''
With the draft coming up this week, Wood said he hopes he showed major-league scouts -- who did not draft him out of high school or after his third year at Texas last year -- "how passionate I am about the game. I hope they've seen my heart. I love this game.''
"I did not think he was disruptive to the team. As a matter of fact, you have a huge percentage of our team -- coaches and teammates -- that thought his personality was a positive thing.''
That statement is many things -- Jones trying to make up with Owens via the media; Jones pumping up a person he likes; Jones talking for the sake of talking.
What it isn't: the truth.
"I think Lombardi's probably rolling over [in his grave] right now.''
"I immediately asked the question that any graduate of Ohio University would ask. I said, 'Do I get an honorary degree? Do I get a doctorate? Do I get a cap, a gown, a sash, anything I can sell on eBay?''
Hope Seattle is not waiting for
Last 13 batters faced by Rowland-Smith: Single, double, sac-fly, double, fly out, single, single, walk ... Coaching visit to mound. Six runs in already, bases loaded. Is there no mercy rule? Rowland-Smith stays in ... fly out, hit batsman, sac fly, double, single. When Rowland-Smith walks off the mound, his team trails 11-0.
Cruel game. Game of redemption. Really cruel game. That was baseball for
• Wednesday at Dodger Stadium: Handed the ball with two out in the eighth, Arizona nursing a 5-2 lead. In 11 Schlereth pitches, this was his fate: Double, wild pitch, single, wild pitch, pop out. Four runs. Schlereth takes the 6-5 loss.
• Friday at Petco Park: Strikes out the side on 11 pitches in the seventh inning of an 8-0 win over San Diego.
• Saturday at Petco Park: Enters with D-backs up 2-1 and a runner on first. In 15 pitches, he faces four batters (walk, single, walk, hit batsman) and all score.
Ouch. Four days, three appearances, 1.1 innings, five earned runs, two blown saves, an 0-2 record.
Double-ouch, from the Tweet of SI baseball writer
If son is as tough as father, he'll survive.
The Philadelphia Eagles will make the instant-news world we live in very happy this summer. They're installing a Blogging Trailer adjacent to the training camp practice fields at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., for use during and immediately after practice for bloggers covering camp and for beat guys filing to instant-news blogs.
"Reporting on the NFL has become such a 'now' business,'' Eagles PR czar
Now, instead of the reporters doing interviews as players leave the field and in a press-conference tent near the practice fields, and then getting in their cars and driving back to the press room on the Lehigh campus [the fields are about two miles from the center of the hilly campus], they'll be able to work inside the trailer.
I'm very big on the whole immediacy of coverage, but I hope this summer, as I make my rounds, I see that there's still something left for the daily papers -- some more in-depth stuff.
On Wednesday, I had a 6:03 a.m. flight from Providence to Detroit; Northwest to Detroit cheaper from Providence than Boston, or at least it was for this flight. I left Boston at 4:05 a.m. for the 53-mile drive to the airport in Providence. Not being all that familiar with the drive, I did what anyone would do -- followed the signs on the highway for T.F. Green Airport, figuring it would be the shortest route.
From I-95 north of Providence, I got on I-295 south. And drove. And drove ... and got back onto I-95 south of Providence for the final couple of miles to the airport. I couldn't believe it -- 65 miles. Seemed way too long. Got to the airport at 5:18, and if you've flown from Providence, you know it has the longest rush-hour security lines on the East Coast.
I made the flight, but I went on Mapquest later in the day and looked at the route. Mapquest would have had me go straight down I-95 all the way. So I'm an idiot for not looking at a map before I left home. I just figured if a sign on an interstate highway tells me to take I-295 to get to the airport, it wouldn't be taking me 12 miles out of my way to get there.
Let's say I'm not the only idiot out here who trusts the highway signs north of Providence. There have to be a few people every day who actually read the signs and heed them on the interstate highway system. Let's say there are 200 a day who do what the United States Department of Transportation is telling them -- get off this road, take the freeway circling the town, and drive 14 miles further to get to your destination. Wouldn't the federal government, trying to get us to drive less and emit fewer pollutants into the air, be interested in knowing that scores of cars in Rhode Island are driving more miles than they need to? Let's say it's 200; it might be 50, it might be 500. But if 200 cars follow the route the highway planners tell them to follow, then cars are driving 2,400 more miles per day than they have to.
At 5 in the morning, that's a pretty aggravating travel note.
Peyton_Manning, with 11,043 followers as of Sunday, discusses mostly vanilla Colt-related news, but implied the Colts were taking Florida's
Droppinadeuce, with "
Spelling-challenged paytonmanning has 720 followers, though it hasn't had a post since last October.
Last week, Manning sent me this e-mail: "Peter, wondering if you could do me a favor. This twitter, facebook, myspace is a problem for guys like me,
Consider light brought.
1. I think the reason
There's not a single owner he's tight with. The only owner he speaks with on any regular basis is
In the days when the Bills were the lowest team in the league, Berman always boosted the team. You can judge whether a TV host should be rooting for a team, but regardless, Wilson,
2. I think this is this week's sign that the (football) apocalypse is upon us: The San Francisco 49ers are in the midst of seven consecutive days of practices -- three mandatory mini-camp days, then four voluntary/mandatory Offseason Training Activity days. It's June. Seven straight days. "Nobody's complaining at all,'' linebacker
No kidding. What player would complain about a relatively new coach who he -- and everyone else on the team -- is trying to impress. I've said it before and I'll say it again and again: NFL teams ask players to practice and lift and run and meet too much in the offseason.
3. I think if I'm
One assistant who is not allowed to speak with the media on the record told me he was in the office twice past 7 p.m. (during OTA time) last week. To me, in the first week of June, it's way over the top. I've heard Cleveland coaches are in the office much later than that, regularly.
4. I think I'd like to take this space to wish
In Sunday pregame land, Jason's going head-to-head with
5. I think
6. I think, not to overwrite TV, one of my pet peeves over the last couple of years has been how the football and media world is obsessed about how many people NBC uses on its Sunday night
• NFL Network: Five or six, depending on the time of year. The Sunday pregame show started the year two hours and expanded to three in midseason. With the two-hour show, there were four in the studio and a reporter, Schefter, reporting often from New York. When the show went to three hours,
• ESPN. Six. The two-hour Sunday show will presumably add a seventh this year in Schefter, while keeping five men on the regular set and Mortensen off to the side of the set.
• Fox. Six, with an asterisk, for the one-hour show. Five on the set, plus four or five regular shots with Glazer. But you might as well call it eight ... with
• CBS. Five for the one-hour show, including the regular four- or five-minute segment with Casserly and
• NBC. Varied between five and seven for the 75-minute show. But when it was seven, I'd bet numbers five through seven -- me,
Did we have more bodies on the set? Not more than Fox, if you count Caliendo and Reynolds, and assuming Schefter joins the ESPN set, ESPN will have the same number. If NBC was overloaded, why aren't those shows overloaded, too?
7. I think there's a good reason why the Saints fell in love with Ohio State cornerback
8. I think if I were a boss in the media -- TV, Web site, radio -- I'd look long and hard at giving
9. I think
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. If there's a better song playing on the planet right now than
d. A few of you, through e-mail and by tweet, have asked me to move up my Father's Day book review column from next Monday to sometime this week. Sorry. Been busy with various work projects, and I've read only two of the books I'll be writing about next week. The column will run a week from today, with five books of various genres. And there will be enough time to shop for dads you love, or dads you tolerate. Here's the deal: If you go online a week from today on one of the various book sites, or if you walk into a bookstore next Monday or Tuesday, you'll be able to buy the book and either hand it to the dad or ship it to the dad in plenty of time for Father's Day.
e. Coffeenerdness: Had the closest-to-espresso coffee ice cream I've ever tasted the other night at Picco on Tremont Street in Boston's South End. I'll be back early and often for that one.
f. I'm thinking about a Monday Morning Quarterback/Twitter-follower gathering somewhere on the road in America during training camp this summer. The question is where. Albany? Bethlehem? Latrobe? Berea/Canton? Bourbonnais? Green Bay? River Falls? Terre Haute ? Mankato? Denver?
h. Friday night, Fenway Park, fog and mist rolling over the right-field stands, top of the Prudential Center cut off, 56 degrees according to the Weather Channel, and I can see my breath. June 5 in New England. You've got to love it, I guess.
i. Great to hear from
"For some reason, I have been on a 'Prague' kick and interested in it very much. So I think we are going to travel there for a few days. It's really cool being stationed here in Europe because everything is within driving distance ... I had not told you much about what we did in on this last trip. We built the famous 'GOLD WALL' in Sadr City. It's the tall wall that literally walled in the residents of Sadr City, which is where we were receiving all the IEDs and attacks. The problem was they would attack us and then return into the city, so we walled in the whole city so that whoever wanted to attack us could not hit-and-run into the city and blend in so quickly.
Naturally our main mission was route clearance and insuring the road was clear for everyone else to move along the battlefield. No one goes anywhere on the battlefield until the engineers cleared the way. We were the 'tip of the spear,' it was a rush at times. Sadr City has to be the biggest slum in the world. I could not believe how it looked. One funny thing though was that no matter how bad a place was or what it was made of, they all had satellite dishes on them.''
j. Of course, Mike. They all need to watch the NFL.