Cutdown weekend had its moments. Actually only one big one -- the
IRVING, Texas -- The Most Persuasive Man in Sports sits across from me, in a new air-conditioned viewing room overlooking the Dallas Cowboys practice fields. "Are you coming in for the ballgame against the Giants?''
Jones motioned to the two coaches' towers on either side of the fields, with spiral white staircases leading up to windowed booths. "
I excused myself for 15 minutes when director of college and pro scouting
Now, about that video board ...
You all know the story. Seventeen days ago, then-Titans punter
The NFL came out several days later and said the board would not be raised now, but rather it would be monitored to see what effect it would have on the games, and if the board got hit again, the down would be replayed with the time of the original punt put back on the clock. You knew all that.
Jones has been quiet about the issue, mostly, until now. In my conversation with him, he made a couple of things clear: He has no intention of raising the video board, nor does he think he should have to do it under any circumstances. And he thinks it's important for the aesthetics of the $1.21-billion stadium, and for the commitment that Jones himself made to build the place, that the video board stay exactly where it is.
"I once heard [former commissioner]
The discussion of jacking the video board up, he meant.
"When [NFL vice president]
(I asked Anderson if that was accurate, and he said it was.)
"We designed our stadium knowing exactly the right place to put the videoboard, and we knew what the league rules were, about it having to be at least 85 feet above the field." Jones continued. "We put it 90. And so of course you would be sensitive to any alterations. You make a $1.2-billion investment, and it's ... it's ...''
I interrupted him and asked if it really would be a big deal to raise the videoboard from 90 to, say, 105 feet above the field.
"You want the proper aesthetics, but aesthetics is really not the proper word here. It'd work fine. But 'fine' is the operative word.''
In other words, of course the board could be raised. But the gut part of the argument was left unsaid: If Jones complied with the NFL policy, and if Jones spent more money than any single person has ever spent to build an American stadium, and if Jones built the kind of stadium that will get fans out of their mancaves on a nasty Sunday to go watch a 4-8 Cowboy team in some future year, why would he allow the league to raise the video board after one of 25 punts this preseason hit it?
I buy that. What I'm troubled about, though, is the specter of some of the best legs in the league --
"Logic tells you if they punt the way they're supposed to -- '' meaning, off to the sides " -- the ball won't hit the board. It won't be a problem. The board creates something unique. In Green Bay, punters have to account for the snow and the wind. We don't have that.''
But you can't equate something God-made with something Jones-made. I see the point, and I've gone from someone who thinks the board has to be raised to a more open position of seeing what impact it has on the eight games there this season. But if eight or 10 or 12 punts hit the board this fall, no matter who pays for it, the board has to go up. If the folks in the upper deck have to adjust their sightlines up 5 degrees, so be it.
Jones loves football. He also loves a good show. "I served on the Competition Committee,'' he said, just before I left. "I have tremendous regard for this game. It's my life and my business. But I also know how important it is for us to grow the pie.''
And that's the crux of this entire argument. Jones has built a monument to live sports. I know lots of Giants fans who, on a crummy day, would much rather eat their tickets to Giants Stadium and stay home and watch on TV. Jones has done everything in his power to make sure pro football doesn't become studio sport. He has invented the world biggest high-def TV, so that up to 100,000 people can look up and see a vivid picture -- a picture so clear it stunned
On Thursday, Anderson fell on his sword and said the league erred in their directive for how high to place the board. In 2007, the league's game operations manual mandated that scoreboards or video board not be lower than 125 feet above the field. The next year, Anderson said, the minimum height was reduced to 85 feet. Not after any exhaustive research, he said. But simply because he thought 125 was far too high. "At the end of the day, it wasn't a very wise move to move it down to 85. That's our fault. We, as a department, came to the conclusion that 85 feet was appropriate. That was a mistake on our part. At the end of the day, we didn't have enough communication.'' He said the change did not happen because Jones went to the league and asked for it.
"I think we've got to be a little bit cautious about jumping to conclusions based on one preseason game,'' commissioner
So we'll see how much of a factor the video board is. Then we'll see how insistent the league's going to be about moving it, if there are multiple strikes this season. But I'll predict one thing right now: I don't care if 25 punts hit it this fall. Jones will fight to keep the video board right where it is.
Five thoughts on the Seymour trade to Oakland for the Raiders' first-round pick in 2011:
1. In the last six drafts, here's where the Raiders have picked in the first round: 7, 4, 1, 7, 7, 2. If the trend continues, the Patriots will have no worse than the seventh pick in the 2011 draft. For a ninth-year defensive lineman who turns 30 in four weeks and who has missed eight games due to injury in the last two years ... well, let's just say Seymour would have to morph into
2. Seymour, I'm told, is angry about the deal. He lives in Foxboro, has children he may have to relocate to new schools as the school year dawns and has to get acclimated to a new defense (and an awful team) a week before the opening game. "I would not be surprised if he doesn't report,'' a good friend of Seymour's told me Sunday. I would. Aside from not earning his 2009 salary of $3.7 million, Seymour wouldn't be able to be a free-agent if he doesn't play this year. As it stands now, his contract is up after this year, and if he plays well and stays healthy, he could hit the jackpot when next year's probable uncapped season plays out.
3. This is a deal for Davis to try to win now, obviously. But how many more desperation deals can one team make? Last year, it was $55 million for
4. For New England, it simply reinforces that
5. Defensive leaders lost in New England in the last 12 months:
A sentence or two on every team's cutdown day:
"The truth of the matter is ... somebody is going to die here in the NFL. It's going to happen.''
I found that comment chilling, to say the least. The other quarterbacks at the table --
I gathered the five quarterbacks after their Friday round of golf at the celebrity golf tournament at South Lake Tahoe in mid-July. [If you think that was easy, for my next trick I'm going to pull a rabbit out of this MacBook Air.] It was a loose group. The light beer flowed, and it was the kind of scene you wish could have lasted five hours, not one. And so occasionally, a Roethlisberger would grab his phone and text someone, or chat with Rodgers about something that happened out on the course, but when Palmer said what he said, the table got quiet and everyone listened.
My question was about the endless defensive grousing concerning the overprotection of quarterbacks by the NFL, and Palmer went on, stridently, for a couple of minutes. "I don't mind [the league's protection of passers],'' he said. "In fact, I love it.'' In SI's preview issue, we edited some of his comments for space reasons, but here's much of what he said:
"Guys are getting so big, so fast, so explosive,'' Palmer said. "The game's so violent. Now that they're cutting out the wedge deal on kickoff returns, those guys [are] coming free, and at some point somebody is going to die in football. And I hope it's not anyone at this table, and I hope it doesn't happen, obviously. Everyone talks about the good old days, when guys were tough and quarterbacks got crushed all the time, but back in the day, there weren't defensive ends that were
"The game has changed, the game is getting bigger, faster, stronger, and there needs to be more protection. If I weren't a quarterback, I would be mad about the rules. If I were a safety or a defensive back, I would be mad about the new rule that you can't hit your helmet above their shoulder pads or whatever it is because it does take some of the ferociousness out of the game, but somebody is going to get seriously hurt, possibly die.
"I don't think you can change it. It's the nature of the world. The ways that guys train now, the way that guys eat and take vitamins and take supplements and all these things, guys are getting more muscle mass, more explosiveness, faster. Like I said, I hope to God it doesn't happen. Since I've been in the league, I feel like the D-Ends that come into the league, they're freaks, they're freaks of nature, and I hope it doesn't happen, but the rules need to be adjusted a little bit because [the violence] is getting a little out of control.''
"He told me the offense wasn't simple enough for him. He wants a Pop Warner offense. He limited me in formations and limited me in plays. He's been on my back all offseason.''
"I like it. I like it. I mean, it's man-eat-man out here.''
The block, of course, was reprehensible, because Favre could have seriously injured Wilson. But it was also one of those things that gets a player closer to his teammates. I was in the Vikings locker room after the game, and the players clearly appreciated that Favre was blocking for
Monday dawned with the Patriots having two quarterbacks from Big Ten arch-rivals on their roster. Tom Brady you know.
Now, don't go saying, "King thinks Hoyer's the second coming of Tom Brady.'' I have no idea what Hoyer is. But the Patriots have never cared much about what the public thinks of their quarterback situation. They abandoned
That was always the mantra in New England. In other words, don't worry about the guy next to you; if everyone does the job he's been assigned to do, and does it well, we'll win.
Two reasons why I'll be looking to fly AirTran this season after returning from Dallas to Boston the other day on the off-the-beaten-track airline:
1. Ninety stations of free XM radio on board. Listened to
2. WiFi. My first Internet-on-the-airplane experience -- $5.95 for a two-hour, 30-minute segment from Dallas to Baltimore. Not sure long-term whether that's a good thing or bad. Got a lot of net-surfing stuff done, but I could have been writing instead of i-chatting about
"I'll bet Thanksgiving at the Richardsons is gonna be a blast this year!''
It's now understood that Jon Richardson was going to be moving on this year, even though it hadn't leaked 'til last Tuesday. But Mark has been one of the two backbones of that team, and the fact that he was leaving shocked even his close associates around the league. I was with Dallas owner
Two personal points underscore the value Mark Richardson had to football in Charlotte. In 1989, I went on a trip for
He'd been a defensive end at Clemson -- we talked about him being a teammate of
I just always assumed Jerry would run the team for a generation, then Mark would take over. As one league exec told me the other day, "We all assumed that. No one saw this coming.'' But I also hear inside the Panthers that Mark Richardson had grown full of himself over the years and the father just had enough.
The Panthers have had an awful last eight months, starting with a 33-13 home playoff debacle against Arizona and continuing with
1. I think this is the best sign of the times of the past week: A group of about 20 NFL writers was in a conference room at NFL headquarters on Park Avenue in Manhattan Thursday -- me among the bunch -- and Roger Goodell announced that
2. I think, regarding the Vick penalty, that Goodell got it right. He has to go with his gut on this. He has to give Vick some penalty for being a serial liar; I thought four weeks would have been more just, but Goodell went with two because he's convinced Vick is serious about trying to save his own skin and is not snowing the commissioner or
"Hopefully,'' Goodell told us, "we can have a success story here, which would be good for our society and good for the NFL. Michael realizes he still has to prove himself every day ... He has to earn that [trust] back again and that is not going to be done by telling me anything. It's by demonstrating. He's repeated to me that, 'I have to make better judgments going forward.' I think he fully understands that and is prepared to do that.''
3. I think the Eagles could go a few different ways with Vick's roster spot. Right now, he doesn't have to be counted on the 53-man roster 'til Week 3, versus Kansas City. Before then, if he continues to be exempt from the 53-man roster, he can go to meetings with the team and work on individual things before and after practice, but he cannot practice. If the Eagles are able to trade a receiver (
4. I think I still can't get over how great middle linebacker
5. I think the thing that interested me most in the 80 minutes we spent with Goodell the other day was his comment about the future of football outside the United States. "The experience we've had over there [in London] ... has been extraordinary ... We're going to continue to feed that, frankly. And we are considering the idea of playing multiple games in London as early as next year. And I don't think it's beyond the realm of possibility that we might have a franchise in London at some point in the future.'' I've said it forever: When the current crop of owners thinks there's no lucrative market left in the United States, they'll turn to Europe or Mexico.
6. I think the London Jaguars has a nice ring to it.
7. I think I've been negligent in praising HBO's
a. A window into the contract negotiations for a first-round draft choice. We see interaction between
b. The unique way the Bengals operate. Right or wrong, Mike Brown runs the show, giving the coaches much leeway on who stays and who goes, and runs the personnel meetings with the coaches and scouts around a long rectangular table. One of the reasons I'm sure the Bengals used internally in deciding to allow the cameras to see their operation is that they wanted to deflate the myth that it's a loony way to do business. Now people can think what they think; at least they've got an idea how the Bengals run their shop
c. How good a coach
8. I think for those Bears fans worried about my pick of Chicago to make the Super Bowl, relax. I've been right on my predictions a lot. The last time was 1994.
9. I think the league shouldn't be so hardened about the blackout rule. I'm not sure what the right way is to lift a few blackouts, but I do know this: It's unrealistic to expect that Detroit, with a tragic 29 percent unemployment rate, to fill a 64.500-seat stadium regularly. I wouldn't lift the blackout entirely this year, because once the genie's out of the bottle, it's going to be hard to get it back in. But I would say it would be a grand gesture for the league to give the truly deserving franchises a couple of games with home TV for non-sellouts.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Had lunch with
Here's the lowdown: Paul is still severely limited as far as reading and speaking goes; he can now say "yes'' and "no,'' and he does mouth exercises every morning -- hours of them per week -- to re-shape his mouth in the proper form to say words. Arduous. His right side, including vision, is still mostly impaired from his three strokes and subsequent seizures. Three days a week, he does six hours or so of therapy, and the money your donations and auction bids raised for him is allowing him to see the best people in speech- and occupational-therapy fields.
He eats like a horse. What an appetite! He finished a huge cheeseburger and some fries, then began to pick at my Kung Pao chicken, and still had room for a good slab of the bread pudding. Just before Linda put him in the car for the trip home, I reached out to shake his hand and wished him well. He grabbed my hand and pulled me close to him and put his left arm around me and bearhugged me. He tried to say something to me, but I couldn't understand. Never has he done that. If you know Zim, you know he's not an emotional sort. But he was Friday. Powerful moment. It's hard to say what all he's taking in, but whatever it is, he's feeling emotions he's never felt before.
b. How did I spend my last Sunday of freedom? Read the
c. Nice week,
d. Coffeenerdness: There might not be a better cup of coffee in the world than Starbucks Italian Roast. Haven't had it in some time, maybe a year. And just the smell of it brewing Sunday was fantastic. Dark and delicious.
e. Happy Labor Day. Hope you don't have much labor to do.
f. Here is Boston, we had about 6 weeks of summer. Now it's autumn. Got down to the low fifties overnight. God, you owe me a summer
g. A few column notes as we get the season revved up:
I'll be starting a new column this week. The column will last through the end of the playoffs and will be posted on SI.com each Friday. It's going to be a look ahead at some aspect of what I find compelling about the weekend's games, along with a few other departments. You'll be able to plow through it a little easier than the Monday monster, though. The Friday column will be 1,000 to 1,200 words.
In advance of the first one, I've got a job for you: Name the column. I'll take the best suggestion you send by Wednesday afternoon, and that'll be the name of the Friday preview column this year.
What a country. What a democracy.
One last thing: I'll also be making my annual game-by-game picks and posting that column by Thursday for the
Week 1. It's here. Three days until kickoff.