ALBANY, N.Y. -- Sorry for the late column today, and a couple of notes before I get into one of my favorite people in the NFL, David Tyree.
Thanks to the 50 to 60 folks who came out for the Tweetup last night at the minor-league baseball game in Troy, N.Y., and thanks to the people at the TriCity ValleyCats for setting up the extravaganza.
Some great questions came from the crowd. We had a guy from Toronto and another from Cooperstown come in, as well as the locals. "There's nothing like being able to press the flesh,'' said Adam Schefter, who joined Ross Tucker, Bob Papa, Albert Breer and me in spending 90 or so minutes with the people. "These are the diehard fans, and it's nice to come face-to-face with them instead of just Tweeting with them.'' He's right. Good people, fun people, interested people. We had a good time. Looking forward to next Monday's Tweetup at Victory Field in Indianapolis, prior to the Indianapolis-Columbus minor-league game in downtown Indy.
Schefter, by the way, is due for a Tweet-tervention. He's ridiculous. He never gets off Twitter. When the Giants handed him his sideline credential at camp this morning, they listed his affiliation as: "ESPN/Twitter.'' In one month, as of 3 p.m., he's up to 1,005 Tweets. Someone get him a ticket to Betty Ford.
Today's the day Ross Tucker and I part after a week together. After 1,400 miles in the car together, the big lug can wear on me, and me on him. But it's been a great education to have a conversant, bright, optimistic-but-not-cloying former player in the car to tell you what's what in the NFL. So thanks for the company, Ross. Now I go solo for the last two weeks of the journey, starting tomorrow in River Falls, Wisc., with the Chiefs.
David Tyree makes it clear he does not want sentimentality to play one iota of a part in his fate with the New York Giants this summer. Just because he made the most famous play in the history of the franchise, and probably the most incredible play in the history of the Super Bowl, means nothing to him in August 2009. And it shouldn't. The famous ball-Velcroed-to-helmet catch that keyed the winning drive in the Giants' shocking 17-14 upset of the Patriots in the Super Bowl 18 months ago is a lifetime memory, obviously. In this camp? Unimportant.
"It shouldn't be a factor,'' he told me at noon today. "It shouldn't. Not at all. This camp is not about the Super Bowl won a couple of years ago. It should be all about the one we want to win now.''
Tyree missed last season after recovering slowly from offseason knee surgery, and it may have been for the best. The Giants would have had to whack a healthy receiver in early November, when Tyree was almost ready to play. Instead, the team put him on IR and let him heal for the 2009 season.
The Giants took two receivers in the top 100 picks of the draft -- Hakeem Nicks (round one) and Ramses Barden (three). That duo, along with the standout of this year's offseason program, 2008 third-round receiver Mario Manningham, comprise what could be a formidable roadblock for Tyree. Maybe an insurmountable one.
Add Eli Manning-favorite Steve Smith, with Domenik Hixon also a fairly sure thing for the final 53, and throw the perennially disappointing Sinorice Moss into the mix, and that's six receivers ahead of Tyree. Obviously, Tyree has the edge of being the team's most experienced and dangerous special-teams player, but at 29 he knows Giant brass will have to consider whether it's smart, for example, to dangle Moss in trade with a wideout-needy team like the Jets or Cowboys and keep Tyree as a special-teamer and insurance receiver.
"I compete as a receiver,'' Tyree said, "but I do bring something different to the table that the other wideouts don't. It's not like I'm going to be the one, two or three anyway [first, second or third receiver]. I never have been. But the Giants have always been fair to me. I trust them to make the right decision for the franchise. The only way I look at it is, I have to go out there and make every play count. Every route counts.''
I asked: "So what if you get the knock on the door, or the phone call, in the next few weeks, the bring-your-playbook-and-see-the-coach call? And it's over here?''
"I don't prepare for it, but I know it's a reality,'' Tyree said. "Every year I've been here, since I was drafted [sixth round, 2003], I've been considered a fringe player. Nothing's changed. They've brought in some receivers, and all you can do is go out every day and show the coaches you belong and you can help them win.''
He said he has no desire to play anywhere else, "but I've got two or three years of really good football left in me. If it can't be here, and the Giants have one of the deepest rosters in football, not every other team is so deep. I know there's a place for me somewhere. I really, really hope it's here.''
Now onto your e-mail:
• I'M NOT DOWN ON TARVARIS. From Nick Taylor of Montreal: "Enjoy your column. I'm puzzled as to why you seem down on Tarvaris Jackson and his prospects this year. If I recall correctly, your advice to Childress about a year ago was to stick with him. Since then, Jackson must have been the most heavily criticized QB with a 95+ rating in NFL history. In fairness, stats don't tell the whole story: he was tentative at times, got benched, and played poorly in his first playoff game (but that was against an Eagles defense that made Eli Manning look just as bad the next week). Bottom line, the guy is a small-school product with a grand total of 19 starts under his belt, and he's probably still learning the West Coast offense. He's still unproven, sure, but it's way too early to suggest he doesn't belong. Why exactly would J.D. Booty leapfrog him on the depth chart? Jackson's got plenty of tools and great backs to support him.''
Look, I'm just trying to read the tea leaves here. And the tea leaves say the Vikings felt a major need to jack up the quarterback competition because they had major doubts about Jackson being good enough to play. You don't trade for a part-time starter and court Brett Favre through the offseason if you think Jackson's your long-term answer. As far as Booty goes, I just know the staff likes his down-the-road potential a lot. I'll be there Thursday, and I'll let you know what I see when I'm there.
• YES, I DO. From Todd Wallace of Shepherdsville, Ky.: "Do you think there should be a place in the Hall of Fame for defensive and offensive coordinators? The late Jim Johnson's overall record as a DC in the NFL is outstanding. No one would question that. Don't you think he is HOF worthy? Or Dick LeBeau after he retires? I understand why head coaches are inducted and even owners and general managers, but how come there is no room in the Hall for guys like Jim Johnson? I think he belongs, and I'm a Giants fan.''
You are preaching to the choir. I will be an avid backer of Dick LeBeau when the Hall discussion comes up this year, and I would consider both Johnson and Monte Kiffin. LeBeau, in my mind, is ahead of both, but all should be contenders.
• GOOD QUESTION. From Glidjy Dupont of Cambria Heights, N.Y.: "Peter, Why do NFL teams allow someone like Mike Shanahan to visit their summer camps while knowing fully they may face a Shanahan-coached team in the not too distant future (next year)? I can't imagine someone like Bill Belichick allowing a potential adversary to take a peek into his bag of tricks. Why do other NFL coaches allow it?''
Very good question, and something I asked a few Steeler officials. I think it's respect for Shanahan, number one. Two: They can pick his brain about offense while he's in camp, and don't think Belichick won't do that tonight or tomorrow in Foxboro when Shanahan is there. Three: Kinship of coach. Kyle Shanahan, Mike's son, was an assistant in Tampa Bay for two years when MikeTomlin coached there, and Tomlin liked Kyle and talked football with Mike occasionally. And as Shanahan told me, "It's not like I'm in their staff meetings and I'm getting their scouting reports on players.'' So he's in there, but I don't think they're giving him the keys to the country store, either.
• BASEBALL INTERRUPTUS. From Chris of Philadelphia: "Why can't we investigate Senator Mitchell? You can't tell me he couldn't find any prominent Boston players to put in his report, and all of a sudden, two of the biggest names in all of Red Sox history show up as positive tests? Please. This has Yankee witch hunt all over it. He needs to be investigated for wasting taxpayers dollars. This should not go unnoticed!''
Duly noted, and good point. But it wasn't taxpayer dollars that funded George Mitchell's investigation -- it was major-league baseball dollars.
• OKAY. I NEED TO HEAR THIS. From Pat Patterson of Chicago: "Don't apologize for tweeting to get the word out quickly [on my Tweet debunking the Mike Vick-to-the-Patriots report last Friday]. SI may not realize it yet, but you're actually helping them. We, the readers, get good, timely info from your tweets, which makes us more likely to read your web posts and buy the magazine. Keep up the good work.''
Good point. It's a difficult question, but you're making the point I think that's the most valid.
• HE'D RATHER HAVE SOMETHING MORE THOUGHT-OUT 20 MINUTES LATER. From Spanky of Buchanan, Mich.: "I find it interesting that our microwave society places such a premium on getting the story first. Your need to twitter the story prompted in my mind a comparison to the long-gone generation that believed that it was more important to get your news from a source you trusted, even if it meant waiting until that trusted one confirmed the story. You should know that I would rather hear the story later from you than from the myriad of writers who put out erroneous information because they were in a hurry, because I know you won't compromise your integrity over immediacy. I know it's high praise indeed, but you could consider yourself the Walter Cronkite of sportswriters. You are our trusted voice. (Although I still don't believe you can say with a straight face that you're not a Pats fan... aw, shoot... now I have to re-think my whole email.)''
Very, very good point. I really struggle with it. The other day, concerning the Vick story, I take comfort in the fact that I knocked it down first and fastest, and I was right. Had I not been positive, I would not have sprinted to get it out so quickly. But here's the problem, as I wrote: If I take 20 minutes and write six paragraphs and it gets out on our website 40 minutes after someone else breaks it, is it really worth doing? Because then we could be knocking down erroneous stories all day. But I hear, and I respect your point of view, and it will stick with me as I make my way into an increasingly difficult media world.
• CRITIQUING KING. From Anthony Grasso of Flanders, N.J.: "As my favorite football writer, I am compelled to write you when I disagree more than when I agree. Recently, I have not seen eye-to-eye with you on various topics especially your infatuation with football salaries. But I digress as I want to ask you how much can you tell from training camps about teams? I used to love your training camp reviews, but will not stoop to twittering (or facebooking) as I have no interest in random thoughts (like the Visanthe Shiancoe mindless tweet. Can't anyone write anymore?
"Every single year we hear about team after team really getting along much better at this year's camp. I have followed football for over 45 years and I think it's honestly gotten to be more and more a game of attrition, so my thoughts would be to get through camp healthy, play very few starters in the abominations that have become exhibition games and pace yourselves. Thoughts? Who cares what people are eating or doing in a meeting anyway. I have enough trouble keeping interested in people when I am sitting with them at dinner or at a bar. Sorry to say your tweets are very, very trite and boring, Peter. I am sorry you (or your boss) feel compelled to stoop to this level of journalism.''
Thanks for writing. I try to strike a balance between telling people what I think they need to know about the football side of things, and what I think people --especially in the internet age -- want to know about what it's like on the human side of training camps. There are many people who feel the way you do. I understand. So when I write Monday Morning Quarterback, for instance, I try to give you maybe 70 percent of football and 30 percent of ancillary or different stuff. In a 6,200-word column (this week's length), I'd estimate that 4,500 words were strictly football. Maybe a little more. I hope people can skip over the stuff they don't like and read what they do.
• OF COURSE YOU CAN. From Josh Blue of Brighton, Mass.: "MR KING! MR KING! CAN I HAVE YOUR GLOVE?''
Best e-mail in a long time. Thanks.
• THANK YOU SO MUCH. From Patrick Troyer of River Falls, Wisc.: "I love your columns and thank you for your great work. You point out the little or different things in your observations that make your work stand out. I was reading your piece on Ed Reed and the patience he displayed interacting with the fans. I loved it. It brought me back to the most memorable moment of my life. I am a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, have been since I was a small boy. I am 38 now and a single father of a beautiful 7 1/2-year-old daughter. She has had a thing for Ben Roethlisberger since she was 4. Well, last year I took her to her first Steelers game (only my 3rd), even though working two jobs didn't make it any easier to buy the tickets (thank goodness for the preseason).
"Well, she was excited to go and, of course, she had her Big Ben jersey on. We went into the stadium early and she would ask me every 20 minutes, "Daddy, where is Big Ben?" Well, after some time of watching him, he started running for the tunnels after his warmups. My daughter was down by the railing when he ran up and handed her the football. The look on her face when she looked at me was priceless. The look on my face was in disbelief. I cried like a little kid. There was nothing that could have ever happened to me with the Steelers that would have meant more than what had just happened. The two things I love the most having an interaction right there in front of my eyes. It brings me tears just writing this and being able to share it with someone.
"Out of the 150 Steeler fans crammed in that small area, he had picked her out before running to the tunnel. The little things that players do make the biggest difference. Ed Reed, Hines Ward giving footballs, the Lambeau Leap. All great things that live with people forever. Players like T.O. should take note on what it is all about. Ben now has two fans for life (though he didn't need to give us the football for that)and made my daughter a true life-long Steelers fan like her daddy.''