ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- We are ready for some football. Great to see it back Sunday night, with Vince Young beginning what he hopes is his resurrection (now, if he'd only quit talking about it) in the Hall of Fame game against Buffalo.
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 Pat Tillman's garment bag. And a few other things. Rewinding preseason Week 2 in the NFL:
11 a.m., Monday (New York Jets camp, Cortland, N.Y.): The happiest man in New York Jets camp -- other than Rex Ryan, who waited 23 years to be a head coach and walks around most of the time grinning like a kid -- is all-purpose running back Leon Washington. It certainly isn't because of his contract (Washington and the Jets are haggling over a deal that's likely to get done this summer in the $6-million-a-year range). Rather, this is about Ryan's love for Washington and what he can mean to the Jets' offense and special teams. Washington touched the ball 123 times from scrimmage last year, a ridiculously low number for one of football's 10 most dangerous players. That's about to change.
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, Tiki Barber had the most combined rushes and receptions of any back in football. He weighed almost 10 pounds more than Washington. So, if you say to me that Washington can't touch the ball 300 times rushing and receiving, I say to you: You don't know.
"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 Marshall Faulk. He wasn't a lot bigger than me. They couldn't give him the ball enough."
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.
11:50 a.m., Tuesday (New York Giants camp, Albany, N.Y.): Offseason text message from Mario Manningham to Eli Manning: "When can we get together? Want to work on the ins and outs of this offense."
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 Steve Smith at some point. That's how good Manningham's offseason was.
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."
4 p.m., Tuesday (Giants camp): I have come to the sidelines of Giants practice with a premise for GM Jerry Reese: He and director of college scouting Marc Ross are the combo platter of Theo Epstein or Billy Beane, crazy in love with player development as the cornerstone of everything they do. I told Reese I felt strongly -- as I had written before the draft -- that the Giants should have dealt a low second-round pick to get disgruntled Arizona wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
And though I still feel the Giants would be sitting prettier today with Hakeem Nicks and Boldin on the team rather than Nicks and Ramses Barden, I understood why he chose to go young: Not only would New York have had to pay the 60th pick in the draft for a 28-year-old receiver getting some wear on the tires, but also the Giants would have had to pay him $9 million a year, minimum, on a new contract. So this said everything about the Giants' draft-'em-and-develop-'em philosophy. Right? Not so fast.
"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 Chris Canty, Rocky Bernard and Michael Boley.
"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 Bill Polian of the Colts uses Jim Hendry of the Cubs and Epstein of the Red Sox as occasional sounding boards. "No,'' he said, "but [mentoring former Giants GM] Ernie Accorsi taught me you could learn from the way guys do it in other sports. He used to clip out articles for me to read about how other teams handled contracts or the difficulties of the job; I remember reading about a hockey general manager once.''
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.
9:45 a.m., Wednesday (Chiefs camp, River Falls, Wisc.): You're not going to believe this. It's midway through Kansas City's first of two daily practices and Matt Cassel, Tom Brady's longtime understudy now on his own in the heartland, fades back to pass. Quarterbacks in training camp are not supposed to be hit in camp, but in this pass drill, with Cassel setting up in the pocket, safety Bernard Pollard comes on a blitz.
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 ¡Ole!block, and precisely the same thing that happened a year ago happens now: Pollard thought he was going to be blocked by a running back last year against New England, got low to take on the block, wasn't blocked, and fell into Brady. Now, he thought he was going to be blocked by a running back, got low, wasn't blocked, and stumbled and tried to avoid hitting Cassel, yelling at the last moment, "Move!" It was too late. He fell hard and rolled into Cassel's left leg.
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 Scott Pioli, who was behind Cassel's drafting in the seventh round five years ago by the Patriots? My money's on the Chiefs taking him off New England's hands -- money being the key word. He parlayed his opportunity with the Patriots last year into a six-year, $63-million contract in Kansas City.
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 Brian St. Pierre, the third-stringer on Arizona who re-signed with the Cardinals this offseason: For one year and $1 million.
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.
11:45 a.m., Thursday (Minnesota Vikings camp, Mankato, Minn.): I came here expecting to see the fastest man in the NFL, Percy Harvin, ripping up Vikings camp. And I did see an incredibly gifted player, Harvin, getting coached very hard because the Vikings want him ready to play a big role on opening day 2009, not opening day 2010. But after seeing Adrian Peterson sprint around left end on an early-practice reverse like he'd just taken the baton in the Olympic 400-meter relay, I didn't know who was faster. Especially on the fast track of the Metrodome, I have no idea how teams are going to defend the Vikings when Peterson and Harvin are on the field together.
"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: Harvin, split wide right outside the numbers, versus cornerback Marcus Walker, playing inches across the line from him, planning to get a bump on Harvin in the five-yard bump zone to knock him off his route. Harvin juked almost imperceptibly left-right-left at the snap of the ball. Walker lunged at him but only got a piece of him as Harvin got outside Walker's left shoulder at the line. NFL corners, and highlight producers in TV stations across the country, are going to see a lot of this. Harvin is so quick off the line, then so fast, that if you give him a half-step and don't have a safety over the top for double-coverage help, the Vikings are going to throw a lot of deep touchdowns to this man. On this play, Walker never caught up, and the deep throw nestled cleanly in Harvin's arms. Touchdown.
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 Brad Childress went to Gainesville the week before the draft to meet Harvin and spend a day with him, he said he wanted Harvin to pick him up and drive him around. "I wanted to be in his car, and I wanted to smell the car,'' Childress said. You know, for the pot smell. And he asked Harvin if he was aware that because of his marijuana experiences in college and for testing positive for pot at the Scouting Combine, he'd enter the NFL already in the NFL's substance-abuse program. "You'll be eligible to be tested up to 10 times a month,'' Childress warned.
The honeymoon is on. "Urban Meyer told me the young man is going to be a pleasure to coach, and he has a high football IQ,'' said veteran wide receivers coach George Stewart. "And so far, it's true.''
1:45 p.m. Friday (Hall of Fame preliminaries, Canton, Ohio): I'm in town for one of the greatest honors of my life. Heck, the greatest professional honor -- the McCann Award, which is presented annually by the Hall of Fame to a writer for long and distinguished reporting on the game. I've got 15 family members and friends here with me, and well, we need something to do today. So the tireless Pete Fierle of the Hall's staff has set up a behind-the-scenes tour of the Hall for us with one of the Hall's archivists, Jason Aikens.
It's Nirvana. I held Johnny Unitas' 1956 contract in my hands (he made $7,000 for the Colts before he was somebody, and his handwriting was exquisite). Hanging from one of the shelves is Pat Tillman's garment bag (Samsonite, I believe). Aikens opens up one drawer and pulls out a game program from 1946, from Paul Brown's first professional game -- the Cleveland Browns against the Miami Seahawks, an All-America Football Conference game. Leather helmets. Jim Thorpe's Carlisle Indians sweater. A large piece of the Super Steelers seventies AstroTurf from Three Rivers Stadium (hard, bristly, and I can't believe they played on that stuff). I could spend a week down here. I hope to, someday.
6:45 p.m., Friday (Canton): The commissioner of the NFL should be on injured-reserve. He's not sure how it happened, but while climbing Mount Rainier to raise money for the United Way a month ago, Roger Goodell dislocated a rib. It might have happened just from the intense breathing because of the scarcity of oxygen that high above sea level. I doubt the activity of the weekend is helping. Goodell was here this morning to chat up past and current Hall of Famers, then flew to Philadelphia for the memorial service of the late Jim Johnson, then flew back. On Saturday he'll fly to Detroit to help the Lions pump up a scrimmage at Ford Field, then fly back for the induction ceremonies. So you wanted the active life of a commissioner, huh?
8:30 p.m., Friday (Canton): Did you know that when you look out at a crowd of 4,000 people you really can't see much of anything? Something about the lights in your eyes. Anyway, the folks at the Hall told me three minutes for my speech at first, then asked if I could do it in two. Of course, I took more than six.
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, Monday Morning Quarterback?
7:30 p.m., Saturday (Hall of Fame Induction ceremonies): "It feels like a Buffalo home game!'' Chris Berman says to the crowd in Fawcett Stadium. Saw the following jerseys in the crowd: KELLY, TASKER, THOMAS, TALLEY, HULL, NORWOOD (now there's a real fan), REED, BENNETT, PIKE. Mark Pike? Remember him? Poor man's Steve Tasker.
The best thing I hear all night: Berman saying Ralph Wilson never voted for one single franchise transfer in his 40 years as an NFL owner. Beautiful. Reminds me of a conversation I had with Wilson last year. "I will not move this team,'' he said. "I cannot move this team. What would the people of Buffalo do without the Bills?''
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 Forrest Gregg downtown, seeing Warren Moon and John Madden nosing around the Hall, seeing all the intense fans, and learning about the roots of the game.
4:05 p.m. Sunday (Browns Family Day, Cleveland, Ohio):If autograph-signing won quarterback jobs, Brady Quinn would be a Hall of Famer. Now. For 65 minutes, he signed for the crowd of 14,000 attending the Brown-White Scrimmage at Cleveland Browns Stadium, and when he got back to the locker room after the scrimmage, most of his teammates were gone.
Nothing decided today in the scrimmage. Quinn threw a gorgeous, early touchdown, but still looks to have accuracy issues, and Derek Anderson threw a bad interception to D'Qwell Jackson at the goal line, ruining one drive.
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 Kyle Boller. Quinn told me he spent part of the offseason looking at all of Brady's 599 pass-drops in the 2007 season, trying to get a feel for his footwork and pocket presence. Good idea, and it's showing. Quinn looks calmer, which is good, and he's sucking in the knowledge from new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, formerly with the Patriots, on all things Brady.
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 Eric Mangini, and more than a few think he's working them too hard.
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.
"Dick LeBeau. Man, I hope the voters, seriously, I hope the voters get it right. First of all, he belongs in [the Pro Football Hall of Fame] as a player. Secondly, if you don't want to put him in as a player, you put him in as a contributor, because he did so much for the National Football League as a player and a coach for over 50 years. He deserves it.''-- Rod Woodson of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2009, in his speech Saturday night in Canton.
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 Vince Lombardi could have coached them with Bill Walsh his offensive coordinator and Bill Belichick on the defensive side, and it'd still have been a disaster.
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.''--San Francisco defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, on his defensive philosophy.
"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.''-- Giants president/CEO John Mara.
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 Wellington Mara) to build the stadium, set to open in 2010, with personal seat licenses. That choice has caused some fans who held season-tickets for decades to rip the team for having no loyalty to those who trekked to Yankee Stadium, Yale Bowl, Shea Stadium and the Meadowlands as the team wandered over the years. "Not really,'' he said. "We studied it for so long. Maybe there's one thing -- I wish we could have done the construction sooner so we'd have been able to sell the stadium before this economic downturn. And maybe some of the pricing structure would be different. But the concept? No. I've had some people say the stadium we have now is perfectly good and we don't need a new one. But I'm not sure I'd feel good about our situation 20 years down the road if we didn't build this stadium now.''
In 2006, at age 27, Larry Johnson had an NFL-record 457 touches from scrimmage (416 rushes, 41 receptions). In the last two seasons, Johnson has missed 12 games due to nagging injuries and touched the ball 393 times total (351 rushes, 42 receptions).
I wanted two answers from Johnson: Did overuse in 2006 ruin him? And does he have anything left now, when coach Todd Haley -- the world considers Haley a 60-40 pass-run play-caller -- wants to run the ball more than anyone thinks?
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 Herman Edwards/Dick Vermeil era. I feel great right now. Nothing hurts. I know I'm not done. I still have the juice. I can definitely be a 300-plus carry back again.''
When five current and former NFL coaches (Tom Coughlin, Jeff Fisher, John Harbaugh, Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher) journeyed to Iraq earlier this summer to visit the troops, they spent the morning of the Fourth of July in a top-secret Battle Assessment Meeting, where looming combat plans were discussed. Before the meeting began, the coaches had to sign anti-treason forms, saying if they disclosed to anyone what was discussed in the meeting, they could be tried on federal treason charges.
I learned exclusively Sunday that Eric Mangini had the stomach flu on the day he interviewed with Cleveland owner Randy Lerner for the Browns' coaching job last November. He felt queasy on the drive to Lerner's Long Island home, and had to have his driver and brother-in-law pull over a couple of blocks from the house so he could throw up, twice. During a break in the meeting, Mangini used the bathroom and threw up a third time. And during the second half of the meeting, he asked Lerner to hold that thought ... while he threw up a fourth time.
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 Sage Rosenfels, "I felt it all the way up to my shoulder.''
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 Gary Cooper in High Noon. He drew first and shot. Even though I tried to get my hand far down into his palm, he was quicker. And when I squeezed, he destroyed me.
"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.
• River Falls, Wis., Wednesday, 2:25 p.m.:
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 Pete Moris, who generously offered to let me borrow it for a spin through the flat streets of the western Wisconsin village.
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.''
--Chad Ochocinco, OGOchoCinco on Twitter, to me on Wednesday. When I expressed my amazement that he found time to do anything else but Tweet, he wrote back the following: "My mom taught me to do multiple things at once, talk trash, run routes, eat mcdonalds,celebrate and now I can tweet.''
I'll be in Indianapolis tonight, along with baseball/football maven and injury expert Will Carroll, to meet and greet fans. Meet us at 6 p.m. at Victory Field in downtown Indy (prior to the Indianapolis-Columbus International League game). For tickets, call 317-269-3545, and ask for the King seats.
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 Peter King, the Congressman from Long Island?''
1. I think these are my quick thoughts about Hall of Fame Weekend in Canton:
a. Really happy for Ralph Wilson especially. I know it's a cliché, but it's so much better, if he's going to make it into the Hall, to have him make it while he's still alive. And no one appreciated it more than Wilson.
b. Campaigns are going to get heavy for a few folks in the next few months. Richard Dent, for one. Bud Adams. Maybe Art Modell. And, of course, Dick LeBeau. At least 15 people said something to me along the lines of, "You've got to get LeBeau in.''
c. I think the commissioner, Jerry Jones, Dick Ebersol,John Mara, Adam Schefter and others were way too kind in this piece my editors asked Schefter to write in recognition of me receiving the McCann Award.
d. By the way, Deion Sanders is eligible in 2011, not 2010. I've read the erroneous report in a few places. Next year, the locks are Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith.
e. Pot Calling Kettle Black Dept.: As I said earlier, I was supposed to speak for three minutes accepting the McCann Award Friday night. I went six-and-a-half. So I'm hardly the right guy to try to shorten the real program Saturday night at Fawcett Stadium. But the Hall has to do something to combine the four-minute video presentation and the presenter's (supposed time length of) five minutes. Too often they repeat each other. And the speeches themselves. The enshrinees are supposed to go 10 minutes. Okay, 15 maybe, or 18 ... Understood. But Carl Peterson went 26 in speaking for the late Derrick Thomas. That's simply too long. The program would be great at an hour and 45 minutes. At three hours, it borders on painful.
f. Goosebump moment of the weekend: Watching 82 Hall of Famers be introduced to the Canton Civic Center crowd, one by one. Fantastic. Yale Lary, Larry Wilson, Lance Alworth, Forrest Gregg, Gino Marchetti. Ran into Ozzie Newsome before the event. "I'm a little kid around these guys!'' he said. "I'm a fan!'' That's one of the best tight ends in history speaking.
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, Rod Woodson and Dan Fouts riding in convertibles and waving, crazy things like dancing garbage-can haulers. Total Americana.
h. Memory of the Induction Ceremony:Marty Schottenheimer's lips quivering and the sentimental old coach bawling during Peterson's speech on Derrick Thomas. Very touching.
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 Roddy White in Atlanta seems fair as long as White, no matter how well he produces in the next four years, doesn't try to reopen it. The Falcons were willing to play ball with White with a year left on his deal, and the ability (quite likely, because of the looming uncapped year) to make him a restricted free-agent after this season. White had two nothing seasons and then two very good ones. For that, the Falcons should get a bare minimum of four years out of this contract.
3. I think the Hall of Fame needs to change one rule, and I realized this even more after my brother-in-law, Bob Whiteley, prodded me on it this weekend. The Hall mandates a minimum class of three each year, the theory being that in the off year that there might be a light class, it's good to ensure that at least three men can headline the Hall's premier weekend.
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 Stewart Bradley was lost on the first weekend with an ACL tear, and now rookie tight end Cornelius Ingram -- who'd been burning up camp with his athleticism and hands -- is out for his second straight year with an ACL tear. DeSean Jackson (MCL strain) is hobbling. With Jim Johnson gone too, the Eagles are the team with the toughest last two weeks of any in football.
5. I think these are my quick training-camp thoughts of the week:
a. Cleveland's Dave Zastudil punted like his foot had a rocket in it Sunday.
b. The Saints are playing down the balky knee of running back Reggie Bush, but every time I look up, he's missing practice, and the team keeps calling it a precaution. "He's fine,'' Sean Payton said Saturday. "I feel positive about it, but just want to monitor it." We'll see. Bush told a friend Saturday night he was 100 percent and wanted to play in the scrimmage, but Payton held him out.
c. Tough days for Drew Brees. With the law closing in on the troubled mother he was estranged from, Brees got word Friday that she had died, and he immediately left the team.
d. The Rams played James Laurinaitis with the first unit Sunday at middle linebacker, and it seems like a matter of time before the job is his for good. "He's picked up things really good right now,'' said coach Steve Spagnuolo. "The volume keeps getting heavier and heavier, but he's handled it pretty good.''
e. Vernon Davis. Does he have a death wish? The coach orders the team not to fight, and he fights. Mike Singletary is going to have some long days with his young tight end.
f. I hear Martellus Bennett makes a highlight-reel catch every day in San Antonio. Does any team have a better 1-2 combo platter at tight end than the Cowboys do with Jason Witten and Bennett, assuming Bennett produces this year in games the way he has in practice?
g. Wonder if it's an annual thing, injuries to DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. They're down with toe and hamstring problems.
h. Jay Cutler, in front of 27,000 at Soldier Field Saturday, went 22 of 27. There's no stopping the hype now, and it's (mostly) justified.
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.
j. Braylon Edwards is actually upset that I picked the Browns to be the worst team in football in my spring Power Rankings. It amazes me what grates on players. A team goes 4-12, changes coaches, doesn't have a clear-cut quarterback, doesn't have a pass-rush ... and the Browns should be what? Fifteenth? Twentieth? Which reminds me: I have not had a soul in the game -- neither player nor club official or coach -- tell me I ranked their team too high. Next year, I've got a solution: I'm going to have a 32-way tie for first.
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. John Clayton did it once, and he survived. I'd fear for my health, my marriage and my sanity.
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 Friday-Night-Lights kind of practice, carrying their shoulder pads and helmets off the bus like they did in high school. "There's nothing like it in football,'' Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says, and it's one of the great things about this game I need to experience.
n. Saw that the Chargers fined Antonio Cromartie $2,500 for negatively Tweeting about the quality of food at training camp. That's absurd. Maybe he can earn the money back if he praises the oatmeal this morning.
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 Hard Knocks, beginning Wednesday on HBO and featuring the Bengals this year, is how open the network presents the normally reclusive Mike Brown, the club owner. And you may see a different side of Carson Palmer, who is bonding with brother Jordan, the backup quarterback, by developing iPhone applications in their down time. I'm praying for the network to use the story about runpee.com, which the Palmers developed to tell moviegoers when the best time would be to take a bathroom break. When you return, the iPhone could be programmed to tell you what you missed.
7. I think Tony Dungy knows the Mike Vick story far better than I, and if he says Vick will sign with a team in camp, I say he's right. I also say, again, that it won't be with the Raiders.
8. I think, the more I watch football this summer, Vick's new team should be the Bills. Nothing against Trent Edwards. I just think the Bills are in it to win it this year.
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, David Ortiz is getting to be like Ilsa in Casablanca. Instead of "We'll always have Paris," we can say, "We'll always have '04."
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 Erik Castro,a right-handed hitter. It was a fastball, but thrown at a Wakefield-like speed. I've never done it before, and I was so determined to not throw it in the dirt that I probably aimed a little high. One piece of advice for you first-pitch throwers: Don't think about it too much. Thinking and throwing can turn you into Steve Sax in a hurry.
d. Coffeenerdness: Actually had nine shots of espresso in three separate lattes. If Adam Schefter needs a Tweet-ervention, I need an Espresso-vention.
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.
(Editor's note: Former NFL.com insider Adam Schefter wrote a special tribute to Peter King for SI.com. You can read it here.)