First week of training camp visits fun, exhausting and revealing
ITHACA, N.Y. -- Fun, rewarding and exhausting, all at the same time, being back out on the road for training camps. Travel-mate
Favre was down. He just sounded beat, like he had nothing left to give, and a little depressed. "I'm sure I'll regret it down the road," he said.
I asked him about the toll this had taken on his reputation. "Two years ago you were 'Sportsman of the Year' and an American folk hero,'' I said. "Now there are kids and adults who are sick of you, who don't love you anymore. How does it feel?''
"Well, then they really didn't love me in the first place,'' he said. "Whatever. Nothing I can do about it. This whole situation, if I had it to do all over again, there're a few things I'd do different. But wouldn't we all? I don't expect everyone to like what I've done the last two years. That's life.
"For people who'd question why I did this, I didn't do it for any other reason than to try to play football for a team [Minnesota] I really wanted to play for. It had nothing to do with revenge against the Packers. Nothing. It wasn't about getting back at [Green Bay GM]
I talk to quarterback
"If the desperate shoe fits, wear it,'' I said.
You might remember that first night of free-agency. The Redskins initially thought the price for Haynesworth was too high and arranged to send their team plane to pick up
He's moving well and looks in great shape. You know the whispers about Haynesworth -- now that he has the big money, Washington will never get the same value out of him that Tennessee got over the past two years, contract years.
Haynesworth is confident the money won't affect him. "Everyone says the contract's going to put all this pressure on me,'' he said, sweat pouring off him after the second practice of the first day of camp. "The contract puts ZERO pressure on me. I put pressure on myself. My challenge is to be the best defensive tackle in a great division.''
Oh, he can be that. If I were making up challenges for Haynesworth, my biggest would be to play a full season. He's done it once in seven years.
"Ed! Ed! Mr. Reed!"
"Thank you. Thank you."
"You're my favorite player on the team."
"Ed, how's it feel to be a great player?"
"Can I have one of your gloves?"
"How about your shirt? Can I have your shirt?"
"Can I have one of your gloves? Please! Please!"
"Can I have anything?"
"Please keep signing, please please."
"Can I have one of your gloves?"
"Don't ask him that! It's my question!''
"Take one to the house this year.''
"My brother can't be here today. Can you sign his helmet?"
"Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."
"Do you need your glove? Could I have a glove please?"
"Can I have your shirt then?"
"Can you sign my shirt?"
As this is happening, I'm looking over Reed's shoulder at the quasi-legible scribble that looks like "E Reed 20."
"I try to make it legible. I learned that from
"Bet you get 12 interceptions this year."
"Mr. Reed you're my favorite player!"
"How's the neck this year? Are you OK?"
"You da man!"
"Hey, can I have one of your gloves?"
"Best safety ever! Better than Lott!"
"Ed! Ed! Ed! Mr. Reed!"
"How'd you get so good?"
"Hate math. I like science."
"You're never going to leave us are you?"
"Good, we need you."
"I like those gloves. Can I have one of your gloves?"
"Mr. Reed! Mr. Reed! Can I touch your beard?"
"Ed! Ed! Right here! One more!"
Five minutes pass. My phone rings, and it's Someone Who Knows, telling me absolutely, unequivocally the Patriots did not work out Vick, and there is no interest in signing him, and
It's a weird media world we're in right now. My allegiance, obviously, is to
"If Jim knew we were all talking about him like this, he'd be chewing us all out, and I can guarantee you that,'' said Eagles coach
I asked everyone I met during the week who might have something to say about Johnson -- a private man but not a rude one -- what kind of legacy Johnson leaves on football. The temptation is to say pressure, pressure, pressure. But one of his best friends, Washington defensive coordinator
"He was the ultimate problem-solver,'' Blache said. "If there was a hole in your bucket, he was like water. He'd find it. There will be a generation of coaches now who will study what Jim did because he got pressure and was sound behind that pressure. That's hard to do.''
"At his essence,'' said
I remember watching the Giants-Eagles game in December next to
Hobbs wasn't happy about his contract, and he saw the Pats draft
"I respect Bill as a coach more than anyone I've met,'' Hobbs said. "Bill was so smart. He went about it like the team we're playing is a building. You don't just throw a bomb at the building; it has to be strategically placed. Like against Dallas a couple of years ago. Everyone's analyzing the game and saying, 'We've got to stop T.O. to win.' Bill said to us that the key to the game for Dallas was [tight end
"Early in my career, Bill called me into his office, and we sat there -- for a long time -- studying film. He taught me to look for the simple things, and not to make football so complicated. I got better. I realize I was with one of the best coaches of all time, and he helped me become a better player.''
Shanahan, traveling with his presumptive defensive coordinator of the future,
Oh, Shanahan will be back in coaching in 2010. You can be sure of that. Until then, he'll study programs and sites. Here, he loves the Pittsburgh 3-4, the underrated defensive ends and the absolute flat-line qualities Pittsburgh has as a franchise. On the field with Slowik before this afternoon's practice, Shanahan was eating up the sights and traditions of the Steelers. "You look at things that are important for a franchise, and continuity is right up there. They've had three coaches [since 1969], and what teams have been more successful? No one. The whole staff's been intact on defense, I think for six years or more. They've won six Super Bowls. Then you look around this place. Beautiful. And it's all Steelers. Players can walk from their dorm to practice to film study to the dining hall. I think it has to be the best camp sites in the league, doesn't it? All of it adds up."
"For us, that's an academic problem, because we've got the No. 1 player at that position in the world as far as I'm concerned, and why would we ever want to do anything that would take him off the field for one play?''
"Last year, I talked to the team. This year, I'm talking with the team.''
"Hey T.O.! T.O.! T.O.! Way to stretch!''
Tell me the big stars on the Philadelphia defense in this decade.
Interesting. Douglas is the Eagles' leading sacker this decade with 40. Imagine he's the best pass-rusher you've had over the decade, and you get an idea of what good team defense Johnson orchestrated with the Eagles.
"Here we go with the meetings again ... the first week highlights fundamentals. So boring but essentail [sic].''
--vshiancoe, Vikings tight end
"Zzzzzz zzzz zzzz zzz (in meetings) lol ... Introducing the staff.''
Sure hope we do better tonight in upstate New York than we did three weeks ago in Los Angeles, when a grand total of four people -- and a few crickets -- flocked to our Tweetup. Tonight at 6 at Joseph Bruno Stadium in Troy, N.Y., adjacent to Albany, we'll have a
The five current and former NFL coaches who spent a week in Iraq on a USO trip rallying the troops this summer --
"Even when he turned over, he barely moved the covers,'' Harbaugh said. "In the morning, when he made the bed, there was not a wrinkle in it. But isn't that what you'd expect from a Tom Coughlin bed?''
One morning, when it was still dark out, Harbaugh couldn't sleep. He quietly slipped outside for a run, not leaving a note, and he got discombobulated, and he was out of the room longer than he'd planned. When Harbaugh returned, Coughlin was up, pacing, and said to him: "Where the hell have you been?! I was worried sick about you!''
"What a guy,'' Harbaugh said. "I think he kind of felt like my father over there.''
On the back of the purple T-shirt
For the first time, I've had a traveling companion for the training-camp trip. It's Ross Tucker, who played seven years on the offensive line in the NFL. Tucker joined me at Bills' camp in Pittsford, N.Y., last Tuesday and will be with me through the end the day tomorrow, when we part company after a day with the Giants in Albany. Miles I've put on the rental car as of this morning after the Boston-to-Pittsford-to-Ashburn-to-Westminster-to-Bethlehem-to-Latrobe-to-Cortland magical mystery tour: 1,243.
Tucker's a comfortable old shoe, and smart. A former Redskin, he's buddies with fullback
When a tornado warning and storms forced the Ravens inside the McDaniel College gym Thursday afternoon, Tucker said, "The players were high-fiving in the locker room when they got the news they were going inside. One less practice they have to hit each other.''
Tucker's still talking about rookie Eagles back
So, it's been fun to have him along. Friday night was cool, in a few ways. We'd just gotten to the Lehigh Valley from Maryland, a 144-mile drive, and lo and behold, Tucker, who is a Blackberry bandito, discovered
We walked into the home-plate concourse as Pedro was finishing his warmups. Ninety seconds later, on his second pitch of the night, Pedro gave up a long homer to right. (Five innings, 84 pitches, none faster than 91. Lots of 86-mph fastballs and 71-mph changes. He's going to have to get by in this reincarnation on guile, and guile alone.)
Three other notes about the evening. One: In the top of the second, Tucker and I were standing down the right-field line, drinking cups of Shock Top Belgian White beer, when a woman walking to her seat with two cups of ice cream approached. "Excuse me,'' said Tucker, who is pleasant and absolutely not shy. "What kind of ice cream is that?''
"Moose tracks,'' she said.
"It looks fantastic!'' he said. "Can I have a bite?''
"No,'' she said. "You'll have to get your own.''
Two: The ballpark, designed by HOK, is fabulous. It's a mini-Camden Yards, roomy, comfortable and ridiculously creature-comfortable.
Three: When it was time to eat, Tucker found the Aw Shuck's Roasted Corn out in right field. Now, I've been to many ballparks in my 52 years, and I've never seen a roasted corn concession at a ballpark. But this corn was ... well, I'll just say if I had my choice between a Kansas City Porterhouse or an Aw Shucks ear, I'd take the corn.
Using locally grown ears of white-yellow Sweet Corn from Nazareth, Pa. (Get it? Nazareth? Bethlehem?), three kids bake the ears, not shucked yet, in a large roaster in the straight-away right-field concourse. The ears come out, roasted, and they're shucked, dipped in butter and sprinkled liberally with Parmesan cheese and a blend of spices (I'm told the recipe is a secret) that give the corn a Cajun/Southwest flavor.
We had two ears apiece, and Saturday morning, the first words Tucker spoke to me as we went out the door of our hotel to Eagles camp were: "Was that the most unbelievable corn you've ever had in your life last night?'' Yes. Without question. My only regret is I had only two ears, not 22.
That's a pretty good Friday night in Allentown, Pa.
"The Chargers project to have the offense of the 2008 Chargers and the defense of the 2007 Chargers. They were the highest-rated offense by
Most people who follow the game, particularly the Fantasy Football players, would be happy if just repeated his 2008 performance: 1,282 yards, nine TDs, a gaudy 4.7-yard average per carry. But
"Go back and watch film on Steve,'' Schaub told me. "He had 1,200 yards or whatever, and there were so many more yards out there for him. When you have to adjust from zone blocking on your offensive line [at West Virginia] to our way, which is more man, it's tough to get used to. You've got to be sure your blocks are set up. I've seen Steve really grow in that job.''
Interesting stat about Schaub: Over the last two years, the three times he's been hurt to miss time, all three injuries came on hits that resulted in stiff fines against the defenders who hit him. "I am definitely not injury-prone,'' said the man who has missed 10 games due to injury over the past two years. He's going to have to prove it this year.