Week 2 of my preseason visits; Hall of Fame thoughts and more
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- We are ready for some football. Great to see it back Sunday night, with
My week began in upstate New York, stretched to the great north woods of Wisconsin and Minnesota, and ended in the Rust Belt. Along the way, I saw the Offensive Rookie of the Year, the most incredible near-miss injury in NFL history (and I mean that), and
There were only a few hundred people in the stands to watch the Jets' morning practice on this day, but they made their feelings known chants of "LEEE-on, LEEE-on," was the gist of it. Twice. The knock on Washington is that he is too small, at 197 pounds, to withstand the beating an NFL running back must take if he touches the ball 15 or 20 times a game. Bad logic. Over a three-year period late in his career,
"In my rookie year,'' Washington said, "I touched it 176 times and I never got hurt. I know what Tiki did. And my idol when I was younger was
Ryan has already told Washington the Jets will feed him the ball a lot more than he got it last year. How much is that? Ryan doesn't know. "But the thing I want people to understand about me," Washington said, "is that I want the ball so I can help the team win. I don't want the ball so I can just be a stat guy." The way Ryan sees it, Washington's going to be both this fall.
Looking for one reason Manningham just might be the guy the Giants have been looking for at wide receiver? It's the change in this kid. Last year, Manningham's iffy attitude pushed him into the third round of the draft and set his professional development way back. Then he strained a quad in training camp, and the year was a washout. And though Manning says he expects the Giants to be receiver-by-committee this year, I say Manningham is going to get every chance to be the bookend to
One more thing about the Giants' passing game that will be warmly received by their fans, many whom believe Manning is too much of a dink-and-dunker. When I asked Manning what he had worked on to improve his game this spring and summer, he said, "The deep ball. It's something we have to get better at."
And though I still feel the Giants would be sitting prettier today with
"Not really,'' said Reese. "For us, there is no template. In '07, we didn't like the value in free agency, so we went bottom-feeding. We didn't feel the early stages of free agency were a buyer's market, so that was a big draft year for us. This year, we liked the free-agent market, at least for our needs. We signed
"I think you trap yourself if you say, 'This is the one way to build a team.' For us, there is no Giant way. Nothing is set in stone. We believe in developing our own players; make no mistake about it. But we won't change the way we look at things, because we think you have to treat every year differently.''
I asked him if he ever talked to GMs in other sports, the way
Whatever Reese is doing, he's doing it right. He's done a terrific job in building a deep roster, particularly on the defensive front, without making the Giants susceptible to cap problems in the future -- if there is a cap future.
You remember Pollard. He's the guy who tumbled/dove into Brady's planted left leg on an identical rush last September, collapsing the knee, shredding Brady's ACL and knocking him out for the season. Now, on a sun-baked field miles from anywhere in western Wisconsin, here came Pollard at the man who replaced Brady and who, ironically, became Pollard's teammate after New England traded Cassel to Kansas City in February.
What makes the play even more amazing is that Brady got hit last year when a back missed a block on the onrushing Pollard. And as I'm watching, I can't believe what I see: Again, a back (I didn't catch his number) throws an
Pollard was able to put on the brakes enough so that he only tapped Cassel's left leg. Cassel flexed it a couple of times and was fine. A couple of his offensive mates hustled in to defend him against Pollard. Words were exchanged, but that was it. No harm, no foul.
"Pretty weird," a smiling Cassel told me an hour later. "Yeah, I realized it."
I caught Pollard after lunch on campus. His eyes got wide when I asked him about the play. "I got to the sidelines after that play," Pollard said, "and I realized what happened, and I thought, -- OH MY GOD! It's like a replay.''
As I said, Cassel was fine, and held no grudge against Pollard. That's football. But it's such happenstance. How history would have been changed if Pollard tapped Brady's knee the way he tapped Cassel's. If it had happened like that, what would have happened to Cassel? Would he still be the permanent backup to Brady? Or would Cassel, whose contract expired at the end of last year, have been picked off by new Chiefs GM
What might Cassel have gotten had he never played? Well, a parallel player to Cassel a year ago at this time -- a totally unproven backup with a little marketability -- was
So, Pollard's hit was a $62-million whack, give or take a million, for Cassel. On this morning, double jeopardy almost struck. Football is a funny game.
"Yesterday,"' Peterson told me with a laugh after practice, "I went up to Percy after practice when he was doing an interview with some press guys. I stood in the back and said, "My Harvin, Mr. Harvin, who do you think is faster, you or Adrian Peterson?''
This is what I wrote in my postcard from Minnesota training camp about a play I saw Harvin make:
I expect Harvin to have the opportunity to be the Offensive Rookie of the Year. He's too talented, and he has Peterson to take the pressure off him. And vice versa.
The troubled Harvin, obviously, got investigated thoroughly before he was drafted out of the University of Florida in April. When
The honeymoon is on. "
It's Nirvana. I held
I knew I was in trouble when I wanted to make a point about what a cool night this was, seeing 82 Hall of Famers march in, and so I began by saying, "Before I get to my remarks ...'' Anyway, the point I really wanted to make was what an easy job I've had over the years, because I've loved every minute of the last 25 years covering the league, and I wanted to get across what the game means to so many people. "Do you guys, you Hall of Famers, have any idea just how important you are?'' I said. (It feels strange quoting myself.) "Last year, I went on a USO trip to Afghanistan, and found myself late one night with a platoon of Army Ranger snipers. One of them told me: "We got dropped late one Sunday in a region about three miles from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Prime Taliban territory. We get on the ground, and the first thing we do after setting up camp is call back on our satellite phone and ask, 'What's the Cowboys-Giants score?' True story. The guy told me: 'When the season's over, a day feels like a month without the NFL around here.' ''
"Good message,'' Goodell said when I walked back to my seat.
Too long. King, edit thyself. What is this,
The best thing I hear all night: Berman saying
In your lifetime, sir, we're not going to find out.
I've often said this is a trip real football fans have to make at least once, even if you don't get the thrill of nosing around the archives . I'm not all ga-ga over the speeches. It's everything else -- running into
Nothing decided today in the scrimmage. Quinn threw a gorgeous, early touchdown, but still looks to have accuracy issues, and
I told Quinn he didn't look as frenetic in and around the pocket as he'd looked the last two years. Being frenetic doesn't help a quarterback be great; just ask
The Browns, however, were the first team I've been around this summer that I just didn't get a good vibe from. The players are still feeling out
Well, the Browns were 4-12 last year, fired the coach and GM, and need a new sheriff. That's what Mangini is trying to be.
This week, it's Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Chicago and then out west to see the Broncos-Niners Friday and Seahawks-Chargers Saturday. On Sunday, I will either rest or go comatose, and Monday I'll be in Denver to check out the Broncos. Then it's home. For a while.
Couldn't have said it better. Well, actually, I'll try. This is LeBeau's 51st year in the NFL as a player or coach. His play at cornerback for the Detroit Lions placed him seventh on the all-time interceptions list, and no cornerback has started more consecutive games in NFL history than his 171. He invented a defense in Cincinnati in 1984, the Zone Blitz, that everyone in the NFL has copied to some degree since then, and in three of the last five years, he's coordinated the top-ranked defense in football in Pittsburgh and helped the Steelers win two Super Bowls.
LeBeau did not succeed as a head coach, going 12-36 in three seasons with the Bengals when he finally got his chance to run a team. But I can tell, having been around that team a lot over the years, that
I don't know if I can do much, but as one of the 44 selectors, I'll try everything I can to get LeBeau into the Hall this year, or very soon.
"You'll find out during the season.''
"I don't like getting letters saying, 'Your father would never have done this,' or 'Your father's rolling over in his grave.' But in this job you've got to make tough decisions, and if we were going to build a new stadium, there's no question it had to be done with PSL money. If you're not going to get public funding, you cannot build a stadium these days without using PSLs.''
The stadium in the Meadowlands shared by the Giants and Jets cost approximately $850 million per franchise. I asked Mara the other day if he had any regrets about his decision (after the death of his father, longtime Giants owner
In 2006, at age 27,
I wanted two answers from Johnson: Did overuse in 2006 ruin him? And does he have anything left now, when coach
Point 1: "I definitely was done by the end of that season. When we went to play the Colts in the playoffs, my legs were gone. I had nothing left. But it didn't destroy me.''
Point 2: Johnson is down to 225 pounds from his norm of 233. He looks good, very fit. "I include myself in this, but I think we were getting too comfortable in the
When five current and former NFL coaches (
I learned exclusively Sunday that Eric Mangini had the stomach flu on the day he interviewed with Cleveland owner
That's what I call playing hurt.
Have you ever shaken hands with Adrian Peterson?
I don't recommend it.
"The first time I did,'' said quarterback
Here's what Peterson does: He is the aggressor when a hand is offered, digging his palm deep into yours and squeezing hard. I'd shaken his hand four times before last Thursday, and now I was going to have a plan for it. Before he got the chance to dig his palm deep into mine, I was going to dig mine into his, because I figured if he didn't know what was coming, I'd have the edge.
He walked toward me after Vikings' practice Thursday morning and I got ready. But he was like
"OK!'' I said, wincing. "Where'd you learn that? You're a killer.''
"My uncle and my father taught me to shake a man's hand seriously when I was growing up,'' he said. "So they would give me a tough handshake, and I got used to fighting back.''
We talked for 10 or 15 minutes, and when we parted, I wanted one more shot. I tried the amiable route -- hey, have a good year, stay healthy, yada yada yada, and stuck my hand out almost as an afterthought, to try for the element of surprise. He stuck his hand out. At the last second, I plowed ahead, hard, and got my hand deep into his.
No use. Even when he didn't expect to shake, he figured out in a split-second what I was trying to do, and he death-gripped me, and I almost felt like, 'Now I know how he can change lanes so quickly and make people miss.' He gripped so hard I thought I heard a bone crack. I know when I'm beaten.
Part of my rehab from 20-day-old left-knee meniscus surgery is to ride a stationary bike each day for about 20 minutes. I haven't been able to do it every day on this trip, which is in Day 14, but I haven't gone two days in a row without it. In River Falls, I needed to find a way to pedal, and the bike rack outside the Chiefs' cafeteria and meeting-room center on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls was chock-full. One belonged to Chiefs media-relations maven
As I rode down one leafy street just off campus, a 25-ish, power-walking woman with earbuds in walked purposefully toward me. When we were 20 yards away from each other, she took out both earbuds and said, "Hi! How are you today?'' A couple of blocks later, two bikers on the other side of another leafy road both waved and the first one yelled, "Howyadointoday!''
I spent nine years in the Midwest (Ohio, which isn't the upper Midwest, but a cousin of it), and I loved it, and on this pleasant valley Wednesday in River Falls, I remembered why.
"Peter since I am fighting with all the media can we go at it too, don't want you to feel left out J.''
I'll be in Indianapolis tonight, along with baseball/football maven and injury expert
Had fun at the Albany Tweetup last week. After it ended, one of the fans in the crowd came up to me and asked, seriously, "Are you
1. I think these are my quick thoughts about Hall of Fame Weekend in Canton:
a. Really happy for
b. Campaigns are going to get heavy for a few folks in the next few months.
c. I think the commissioner,
d. By the way,
g. If you go to the Hall weekend, don't think you'll catch up on sleep by missing the parade. Big, big mistake. Big-time high school bands, baton-twirlers, floats,
i. Thanks to the Army Medivac team from Sarasota, Fla., for the lift in the Blackhawk helicopter Saturday night, the one that buzzed Fawcett Stadium. Glad to see the country's in good hands, men. The thing I've emphasized to people about our military that the public might not know is how smart these soldiers and pilots are. Impressive.
2. I think the six-year, $50-million deal for
3. I think the Hall of Fame needs to change one rule, and I realized this even more after my brother-in-law,
Consider this: The average Hall class the last 20 years has been 5.3 men, and there's a significant backlog of deserving candidates. Enshrinees have to get 80 percent of the vote from the 44 selectors, unless a minimum of three don't all get 80 percent of the vote. In that case, the top three vote-getters get in. I'd want every man in the Hall to have to get 80 percent of the vote to qualify, because the threshold should be the same for every man who earns a bust.
4. I think the Eagles have to be the most different team in the league from where they thought they'd be right now. Middle linebacker
5. I think these are my quick training-camp thoughts of the week:
b. The Saints are playing down the balky knee of running back
c. Tough days for
d. The Rams played
f. I hear
g. Wonder if it's an annual thing, injuries to
i. In the Foxboro area today? Go to Patriots practice and get screened for skin cancer. The Patriots will be doing it, free, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and from 3-7 p.m. in the W3 lobby, the area where fans arrive for camp. Excellent and timely idea, considering that a million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed every year, and that Jim Johnson just died from it.
k. I've heard from a few of you about my selection of training-camp sites, and how East Coast-centric it is, and I hear you. Most years, I'll try to go to as many camps as I can in about a three-week period, and of course, that's easier when camps are in closer proximity, which they are in the East. But I appreciate the fact that you write and Tweet to tell me: Hey, there is football west of the Mississippi. This week, I begin to make my way west. I'm in Detroit today for the Lions, Terre Haute tomorrow for the Colts, St. Louis Wednesday, Bourbonnais, Ill., for the Bears Thursday, then out West for two preseason games this weekend: Denver and the Niners Friday in San Francisco, and Seattle-San Diego at Qualcomm Saturday night. I finish this trip next Monday in Denver.
l. Wish I could see all 32. But it's a death march to try.
m. Next year, I've already decided I'll hit the places I haven't been to in the last couple of years, places like Miami, Tennessee, Houston and Arizona. But I'm bound and determined to finally see the Steelers' annual practice at Latrobe High School. The players take yellow school buses to the
n. Saw that the Chargers fined
o. But I would say this about Tweeting: I'd be worried about it if I were teams too -- and what I'd do if I ran a team is ban players from Tweeting whenever they're on company property. Let them Tweet when they're home, or on the road, or on their own time.
6. I think one of the things you may learn from the new season of
7. I think
8. I think, the more I watch football this summer, Vick's new team should be the Bills. Nothing against
9. I think I've heard nothing but good things about Jay Cutler. Really excited to see him throw the ball Thursday in Bourbonnais.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. The Yankees and Red Sox can't play nice, quiet baseball games. They have to play games that rip your guts out, or rip the other guys' guts out. My guts, in fact, are laying in a heap on the floor of this nice Residence Inn a few miles from the Lions' complex. I feel sorry for the housekeeper who will have to figure out what to do with a set of guts this morning when she cleans the room.
b. For Sox fans,
c. I threw out the first pitch at the Oneonta-TriCity ValleyCats New York-Penn League game last Monday in Troy, N.Y., throwing it shoulder-high and a bit inside to TriCity's
d. Coffeenerdness: Actually had nine shots of espresso in three separate lattes. If
e. Why haven't we become technologically advanced enough to be able to go online on airplanes? Is any airline doing this yet? I'd love to hear if one is. Let me know.