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Super Bowl XLIV week begins with storyline: Will Colts' Freeney play?

MIAMI LAKES, Fla. -- We've got ourselves a story. When the Indianapolis Colts take the practice field Wednesday, everyone who follows the NFL will be interested in learning if Dwight Freeney will be in any kind of shape to play in Super Bowl 44 Sunday against New Orleans.

The Colts Sunday night described Freeney's right-ankle injury as a low-ankle sprain. ESPN described it as a serious injury that could keep the standout defensive end out of the Super Bowl, an injury that includes torn ankle ligaments. Either way, it's likely he won't be practicing much, if at all this week, and could be a gametime decision. My guess is the Colts will keep Freeney mostly out of sight Wednesday through Friday, when the serious practices will take place at the Miami Dolphins training complex in nearby Davie, Fla. I'm told he's been here since Friday, sleeping with a stimulation machine on his right ankle and spending hours per day in a hyperbaric chamber to increase the amount of oxygen his body ingests.

If the injury is a Grade 3 ligament injury, sports-injury expert Will Carroll says it means there are ligaments in Freeney's ankle that are more than 50 percent torn. How quickly they can heal after being hurt near the end of the AFC Championship Game ... well, the answer is, not quickly enough, most likely. This is all conjecture now, but I'd expect Freeney will do everything he can to play, and will try to play. Unless the ankle is simply collapsing, I can't imagine him not playing.

But Freeney's a right end, and with a right-ankle injury, sprinting, cutting and pivoting with the right leg will be problematic.

I surveyed the AFC locker room last night after the Pro Bowl to see how much of a factor the loss of Freeney would be. The answers were predictable. "This is huge for the Saints if he can't play,'' Ray Lewis said. "Freeney's one of the biggest difference-makers in the league.''

Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jacksonville running back, had the most insightful explanation about what the loss of Freeney would mean. Jones-Drew has often had to stay in to chip-block either Freeney or his bookend impact defensive end, Robert Mathis. "The difference with both Mathis and Freeney playing,'' Jones-Drew said, "is that the Saints will almost always have to keep an extra guy in to block. That means one less guy in the passing game for Drew Brees. You know how much they like to send multiple receivers out.''

Jones-Drew is right: Losing Freeney would probably allow the Saints to not help left tackle Jermon Bushrod with an extra blocker as much.

I guess I'm the lucky one; I'm the Pro Football Writers Association's AFC pool reporter, assigned to watch Colts practices and write a daily report for the assembled media on their activities. I hope before the end of the week I'm able to see Freeney at least test the ankle in something close to full speed. We'll see.

***

You've heard my feelings on overtime, and you're tired of them. I think.

But I'm not finished advocating for a change to the archaic system that calls for the two teams to take part in a coin flip at the start of overtime, beginning a period of sudden death. In the past two postseasons, two playoff games have been decided with the teams that lost the coin flip (Indianapolis in 2008, Minnesota in 2009) never touching the ball in overtime. To those who say defense is an equal part of the game, I say, Why have only seven of the 460-some overtime coin-flip winners in NFL history chosen to play defense first if it's such an equal part of the game?

Enough about my thought. This morning I've enlisted former Naval pilot Brian Burke, founder of the site Advance NFL Stats, to make a case about why he thinks the overtime rule should be changed. You might remember Burke from the Bill Belichick fourth-and-two drama in November. Burke said Belichick's reasoning was sound and he actually backs Belichick going for it on fourth-and-two with a lead in the fourth quarter at Indianapolis. The Patriots lost after failing to covert the fourth down, but Burke wasn't swayed. He produced numbers that backed his beliefs. (I still disagree to this day, but I appreciate that Burke's reasoning was math-based.) Burke's mini-essay on overtime:

Over the past decade, there were 158 overtime games, including the playoffs. There were two ties, and there was one game in which the coin flip winner chose to defend a side of the field rather than choosing to receive. (The Lions in 2002. They lost.) In 96 of the 158 overtimes, or 61 percent, the coin flip winner won the game. And in 58 of the 158 OTs, or 37 percent, the coin flip winner won on their first possession while the loser never touched the ball. This includes two of the last three OT games in the playoffs.

Don't be fooled by other numbers. In 2009 there happened to be only 13 overtime games, and the coin flip winner won seven (54 percent). In six of the 13 (46 percent), the loser never touched the ball. The sample size for any single year is too small for a reasonable estimate of the true numbers. Also, don't be tricked into thinking "only 61 percent." If we agree 50 percent would be the fairest rate, you might think 61 isn't very far from 50. But that's not the right way to look at it. The appropriate comparison is 61 percent versus 39 percent, the respective winning percentages of the coin flip winners and losers. That's a big advantage --over 3:2 odds.

The primary culprit here is the kicking game. When the current overtime format was instituted 35 years ago, kickers have become far more accurate. From 1974 until today, the NFL's field-goal percentage has climbed from 61 percent. In 1974, 35 percent of kicks were from 40 yards or beyond, but by 2008 that number had climbed to 41 percent.

In response to the increasing range of kickers, the kickoff spot was moved from the 35 back to the 30-yard line. But this only worsened the imbalance in overtime. For example, had Ryan Longwell's 71-yard kickoff to start the Vikings-Saints overtime period been from the 35, it would have almost certainly resulted in a touchback instead of a return to the Saints' 39. It would have been considerably more difficult for the Saints to score on their first possession.

While we may not agree on a solution, it's fair to say the current OT format is broken.

First, a quick and easy improvement would be to restore the kickoff line to the 35 for the overtime kickoff. This would essentially cause lots of touchbacks, forcing the offense of the coin-flip winner to start on the 20, instead of the 30 or so. It sounds like a small difference, but teams with first downs at their own 20 are no more likely to score next than the team currently on defense. By just getting past a team's own 30-yard line, the team on offense now has a 60 percent chance of scoring next -- exactly the odds we see in the current OT format. Moving the kickoff spot back to the 35 would give both the coin flip winner and loser about an equal chance of winning. I realize nobody tunes into the NFL on Sunday for the touchbacks, but it's a small price to pay for a fairer system.

But as you know, that's not what most people are upset about. The bigger problem is that in over one-third of OT games, one team loses without getting a chance to touch the ball.

An excellent summation. But I don't sense traction on this right now. It's been five years since the Competition Committee presented a proposal on a two-possession overtime to be voted on by membership. It got 16 votes, eight shy of the 24 needed to change the overtime procedure. One Competition Committee source told me he thinks sentiment peaked toward overtime when "about 19'' teams favored the rule if the kickoff were advanced to the 35- from the 30-. But he said it's never been close to winning approval to change the rule. My feeling is it'll take a one-possession game in the Super Bowl to get any real sentiment to change.

One more thing: I knew the winner of the coin flip in New Orleans in the NFC Championship Game would win the game on the first possession. In the stadium, you could just feel it. It was a rock-'em, sock-'em-robot kind of game, and the two teams were absolutely spent by the end of regulation. "I think both Brett [Favre] and Percy [Harvin] were finished by halftime,'' one Viking told me. And the defenses were dragging to the finish line. It's no wonder the opening kick of overtime was returned to the 39."

In the past three years, the team winning the coin flip to start overtime has won 64 percent of the games. It's too much of an imbalance. The NFL should act now to fix it.

The other day, one respected member of the Competition Committee told me, "I struggle with why we want a coin flip to play such a major role in who wins and loses games. The statistics have gotten to the point where I feel they're unreasonable. In the last three years, almost two-thirds of the games were won by the team winning the flip. It just doesn't smell right.''

***

Let the arguments begin.

The following is presented simply to open the discussion for the week on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2010. The 44 selectors for the Hall gather at 9 a.m. Saturday for this year's selection meeting in Fort Lauderdale. I don't throw out the Hall of Fame tote board to say that after locks Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice the guys at the top of the list will definitely get in; the odds are simply my gut feeling from years of being in the Hall of Fame voting room as one of the 44 selectors. But my jaw usually drops the same as yours when some of the votes are made public with the announcement of the new class each year. (We vote by secret ballot, so we don't know who's in until the class is announced by the Hall the afternoon of our vote. This year, the class will be disclosed at 5 p.m. Saturday.)

There are 15 modern-era candidates and two Senior candidates. A maximum of five modern candidates can be chosen; after Rice and Smith, though, 13 candidates are left to joust for three spots. The two Seniors, running back Floyd Little and cornerback Dick LeBeau, are voted in or out independent of the modern-era candidates. They need 80 percent of the vote to earn entry to the Hall.

In order, here's how I see the class of '10 falling:

.

Kurt, we hardly knew ye.

The five things I consider particularly amazing about the Kurt Warner Story:

1. It's the most amazing story in football in a half-century. I don't say that lightly. In 1955, Johnny Unitas, the fourth quarterback in Steelers training camp, was cut by Pittsburgh. He went home to Pittsburgh, worked a construction job, and played semipro football for $6 a game on the weekends. The Colts signed him in 1956. He was the NFL MVP in 1957. He piloted the Colts to a 23-17 overtime victory in the 1958 NFL Championship Game in what writers then and since have called the greatest pro football game ever played.

Warner, an undrafted free-agent in Packers camp in 1994, was cut by Green Bay and went to work for $5.50 an hour stocking shelves in a Cedar Falls, Iowa, grocery store. He bounced around Arena and pro football until earning the backup job in St. Louis in 1999, then ascending to the top job when Trent Green wrecked his knee in the final '99 preseason game. All Warner did was win the league MVP and lead his team to the Super Bowl title. Come to think of it, it might be crazier than Unitas' story.

2. The Rams never signed a veteran quarterback, like Jeff Hostetler, when Green went down. With their jobs on the line, coach Dick Vermeil and offensive coordinator Mike Martz stayed with the unknown, unproven Warner. "Dick looked around the [coaches meeting] room when it happened, and he said, 'Remember, all our jobs are resting on this decision,' '' Martz told me the other night. "But Dick loved him too. Dick thought he was special just like I did.''

That night, or soon thereafter, Martz had a conversation with a skeptical reporter about the decision to play Warner. "The guy said to me, 'How can you possibly think you can win with Kurt Warner?' I said to him, 'Well, we see him every day. We trust him. He can run our offense.' The guy kept going, and I finally, said, 'This discussion is ended.' We just trusted Kurt.''

3. As quickly as he came, he just as quickly vanished. From 2002 to 2006, a five-year window, he was brittle and seemed to fall to earth. With the Giants and Cards, he seemed to settle into a nice little backup role. But inside he seethed and wouldn't accept being relegated to second-string. I call it the five-year Donut Hole in the middle of his career.

4. As quickly as he vanished, he just as quickly climbed to the top of the football world again. Warner won the starting Cardinal quarterback job to the shock of many ... because he beat out bonus-baby and high first-round pick Matt Leinart for the job. And he quite nearly led the Cards to their first Super Bowl win.

5. Two rotten franchises, the Rams and Cards. Two makeover jobs. Quickly. Both led by Warner.

Lucky break number one came in the form of an injury.

"I'll never forget when Trent got hurt,'' Warner said by phone Friday, after his retirement news conference. "There was a lot of emotion, a lot of fear, in the locker room because of the way Trent was playing. He was so well thought of by the guys in the locker room, everyone felt awful for him. But for me, as unfortunate as it was for him, it was the opportunity that comes sometimes in football when you least expect it. It was the chance I'd been waiting for my whole life -- to be able to start for a team in the NFL. Now I could never say anymore, 'Nobody ever gave me a chance.' Now I was going to know if I could really do it or not.

"What was perfect for me was that Mike [Martz] drew the game up exactly the way I always wanted to play football -- with a lot of quick decisions to be made. He wanted to play decisively, not be afraid to make decisions and live with them. And I had the great toys at my disposal in that offense. I played exactly the way the offense was drawn up by Mike. It was a perfect marriage.''

Lucky break number two came because Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt did exactly what he said he was going to do in 2008 -- he played the best player in training camp between Warner and Leinart.

"No question I was skeptical I'd get the job,'' Warner said. "I'd heard it before -- the best man will win -- but sometime it hadn't happened. Here, I knew without a doubt I was the best man for the job. That's not a cut on Matt [Leinart]. And it wasn't a cut on Eli [Manning] when I was with the Giants. But I felt like there were times in my career where it didn't matter what I did, I wasn't going to get the job. And when Coach Whisenhunt called me into the office and gave me the news I'd be starting ... I don't want to say I was shocked, but I knew I was in the right place. I was playing for a coach who thought outside the box. He was willing to follow his gut.''

Players need coaches to show faith in them. Coaches need players who reward their faith.

"I knew we had something great,'' said Martz. "I'll never forget a pass Kurt threw against the Giants. It was about third-and-15. He was back to pass, and a tackle and linebacker came free. They were inches from hitting him. It's a sack. Easy sack. Kurt's got Isaac Bruce in the middle of a route and throws to the exact spot where he'd be cutting, like five yards down the field. The second Isaac turns his head on the cut, the ball's on him. Just about right on his helmet. First down. Kurt just raised the standard for everything we did.''

There's a special place in football lore for Warner. And there's a special place in football history for a player who came out of nowhere and ran an offense no one could stop for three years -- and had a two-year career rebirth when he was almost as great. He was a meteor across the NFL sky. Twice.

***

One last Warnerism: The three best throws of his career.

Ten years and one week ago, Warner made the throw he'll always remember. Taking you inside the three plays that will never leave him:

1. Jan. 23, 2000, NFC Championship Game. Rams 11, Bucs 6. Trailing 6-5 with five minutes left, the heavily favored Rams were at the Buc 30. Nothing was working. Tampa Bay was beating the tar out of St. Louis. All week, instead of the regular sight-adjusts the receivers would make in their patterns depending on what the defense did, Martz had the wideouts run deep. But now, late in the game, the Rams just needed to move the ball downfield, at least into guaranteed field-goal range. As Warner left the huddle, he and Ricky Proehl had a quick moment together, and Proehl wanted to know if the sight-adjusts would be the usual go-patterns. "Ricky and I said, 'Let's just leave it on. Let's go for all the marbles.' The Bucs had great coverage, but Proehl made a circus catch on the side of the end zone. Touchdown. Ballgame.

2. Jan. 30, 2000, Super Bowl. Rams 23, Titans 16. Rams up 16-0. Titans score 16 unanswered points. Two minutes left. Warner rears back and fires a bomb, perfectly placed into Isaac Bruce's hands, up the right sideline, for a 73-yard touchdown.

3. Feb. 1, 2009, Super Bowl. Steelers 27, Cardinals 23. "This throw will be etched in my mind forever,' he said. Trailing 20-16, Fitzgerald bisected two Steelers defensive backs, was perfectly led by Warner in the middle of the field, and gamboled for a 64-yard go-ahead touchdown. If not for Ben Roethlisberger's length-of-the-field drive and Santonio Holmes' great catch in the corner of the end zone, the Fitzgerald catch might have usurped the first one in Warner lore.

***

A tree grows in Philly.

Chances are you don't know Howie Roseman. Neither do I. He's a very persistent 34-year-old former cap guy for the Eagles, and he personifies the person I hear from 20 times a year, either in polite, long letters, e-mails or personal contact in airports or somewhere out in public. Roseman's the new Eagles general manager, and he's a walk-on. While a student at Florida, and later getting his law degree at Fordham, he pestered every NFL team with letters seeking employment. He'd do anything. Finally, president Joe Banner of the Eagles listened, saying he got letters from Roseman every day and hired him as a cap specialist in 2000. "Luckily,'' Roseman said, "I got into the business when the landscape was changing. I got to learn the business from the bottom up.''

Now, Roseman, who morphed into a personnel man and scout over the years, is going to have to prove a worker bee who's highly intelligent can run the football side of a team. Of course, in Philadelphia, running the football team as GM isn't the same as an all-powerful GM. Andy Reid runs most everything in Philadelphia, which I found out when I asked Roseman if he, like Reid, thinks Donovan McNabb will be quarterbacking the Eagles this fall.

"Coach speaks for all of us,'' he said. "I'm a Donovan McNabb fan.''

Said Roseman: "Andy doesn't care if you come from Mars. If you work hard, you can work for him.''

Let that be a message to you front-office wannabes. Now, about getting that foot in the door ....

1. Indianapolis (16-2). Will Dwight Freeney play in the Super Bowl? And what will it mean if he does not?

2. New Orleans (15-3). I don't care what anybody on the Saints says. If the Freeney story's legit, and he is either hampered or does not play, Sean Payton is thrilled ... and left tackle Jermon Bushrod will be high-fiving someone privately about it too.

3. Minnesota (13-5). "We'd like to be playing next week,'' Jared Allen said in the middle or the first half of the Pro Bowl on the NFC sidelines, "but at least you can come out here with your peers and jump around a little bit.'' Just a little.

4. New York Jets (11-8). Let me get this straight -- Rex Ryan gives some fans the finger at a Mixed Martial Arts event Saturday night and has to apologize for it? Wouldn't that actually be commendable behavior there?

5. San Diego (13-4). Philip Rivers missed this game because of the birth of his fifth child. Makes population explosion seem worthwhile.

6. Dallas (12-6). Happiest player of the night in Miami: Miles Austin. Signed autographs forever, gave away gloves and towels, beamed from the time he walked onto the field until the time he left it.

7. Arizona (11-7). Good piece Friday by Don Banks on SI.com about Matt Leinart, making the point that Leinart isn't a lost cause. I'd forgotten he was competent as a rookie, completing 60 percent of his throws in five of his last six games.

8. Green Bay (11-6). I'll tell you the player the guys in the NFC practice sessions were most impressed with last week -- Aaron Rodgers.

9. Baltimore (10-8). I think Ray Lewis will be playing in the 2030 Pro Bowl.

10. Philadelphia (11-6). Donovan McNabb, throwing into three of the wrong-colored jerseys on his first Pro Bowl series, looking very much like he looked in the last eight quarters of the year against Dallas.

11. New England (10-7). A little advice for Vince Wilfork: Not a smart thing to talk about how much you're being disrespected and how much of an insult it is when you can show up at work on Day 1 next year and be guaranteed $7 million if you're franchised by the Patriots. Not today. Not in this economy.

12. Pittsburgh (9-7). The Steelers are Linebacker U., again. LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison were two of the guys who actually gave an honest effort last night.

13. Carolina (8-8). I see where Julius Peppers' agent says he hasn't heard from the Panthers about a long-term deal. Where would talks for such a deal start -- $20-million a year? His contract is so stratospheric it's going to be impossible for anyone to pay him what he thinks he's worth after Peppers earned more than $18 million this year.

14. Cincinnati (10-7). That Bengal helmet looked like a monstrosity with the ugly AFC uniform.

15. Houston (9-7). Way to give the franchise a nice moment, Matt Schaub. Not to be snide or anything, but now it's time to beat the Colts.

In the past five years, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams -- first with Washington, then with Jacksonville -- faced Peyton Manning three times. Manning went 2-1 in those meetings, losing in his third game back from two arthroscopic knee surgeries, in the summer of 2008. If anything is to be gleaned from recent history, it's that the advantage heading into this matchup definitely goes to Manning. The stats from the three games:

A 70-percent passer. Fourteen scores in 24 drives. Not trying to be a Negative Nate about the Saints' chances here, and obviously the players are different than Williams had in Washington and Jacksonville, but New Orleans has a tall order Sunday, as every team has when facing Manning. Open Sports Illustrated this week and you'll see a more detailed analysis of the Williams-Manning matchup from me.

"Whoever gets me is going to love me.''-- Michigan's Brandon Graham, after recording two sacks and a forced fumble and being the most impressive defensive player on the Senior Bowl field Saturday in Mobile, Ala. Graham played for the North, which beat the South 31-13 in the annual showcase for senior football players.

"One of my goals coming into the game was just be relevant and show all the people who said, 'What is he doing in there -- the Pro Bowl has dropped off a few pegs,' that I do belong.''-- Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard, who threw for 183 yards and a touchdown in the Pro Bowl Sunday night.

No, David. A quarterback who finished 17th in the league in passer rating and 22nd in touchdown passes has no business being in an all-star game.

"It's impossible for me not to think about. There haven't been 30 seconds that have gone by since that game that I haven't thought about it ... It was the inability [mentally] to get over that first miss. On that day, I wasn't mentally strong enough to come back and swing through the ball.''-- San Diego kicker Nate Kaeding to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, on missing three out of three field goals (wide left from 36, short from 57, wide right from 40) in a 17-14 loss to the Jets in the AFC divisional playoffs. Kaeding made similar comments to Stefan Fatsis on SI.com.

If I'm A.J. Smith or Norv Turner, and I read these quotes, I get the willies. And I think: Our kicker turned to jelly in the biggest game of the year. There's no question if I were Smith or Turner, I'd insist Kaeding see a sports psychologist, and not just once or twice this offseason. I'd pay for him to see one weekly, or more often.

I said this at the time he missed the third kick. Watch the replay (4:06 mark).Kaeding pushed the ball right, like a pitcher aiming the ball and missing the strike zone. His motion was totally unnatural. He choked. Sad but true. And before he's allowed to do it again, the Chargers have to get him help.

And the new life begins.

Kurt Warner, Colin Powell, Steve Forbes, Rudy Giuliani and Laura Bush will be featured at an all-day motivational speaking event, "GET MOTIVATED'', at the U.S Airways Center Thursday in Phoenix. "Send your entire office for only $159!'' the ad blares.

I arrived in my Fort Lauderdale hotel around 3:30 on Sunday afternoon, and around 4 p.m., I left my room to walk to the media center 400 yards away to get credentialed for the week. While waiting for the elevator on the seventh floor, I looked out of the window and saw three Texas writers I'm friends with -- Charean Williams, John McClain and Richard Justice. They were waiting to cross busy SE 17th Avenue to get to the Convention Center.

When I got outside and walked across an access road to get to the street-crossing, there were my three friends -- maybe five or six minutes after I'd seen them from the seventh floor. "What's going on?'' I asked. Just as they were starting to say the road was blocked for Pro Bowl team buses coming from the east, the police officer standing in the street -- with no cars moving in any directions -- yelled at us standing on the corner, "STAY RIGHT THERE! DO NOT MOVE!'' Whoa. OK.

So we waited. And waited. For what? No cars moved. It was two minutes. Three. Four. We could have walked across the street and back 17 times. Finally, after what McClain estimated was 12 minutes standing there waiting for nothing, two Pro Bowl teams buses, led by motorcycle cops, sped by. That was it. No Obama. No governor of Florida. No mayor of Fort Lauderdale. Just a couple of buses of Jon Dorenboses and David Akerses and Leonard Weavers, holding up traffic and pedestrians for 12 minutes.

There's more where that came from, south Florida. It's Super Bowl week.

"Kurt pleeeeeeeeese stay just one more year! I take a pay cut -- hold on ummm! Ok not a pay cut but I'd wash ur car ... the 49ers talking ish already!'' -- @ddockett, Arizona defensive lineman Darnell Dockett, tweeting from NFC practice at the Pro Bowl Friday morning.

SUPER BOWL TWEETUP

Don't have all the details finalized, but I hope to see as many of you as possible Thursday night in the Fort Lauderdale area at my Super Bowl Tweetup. With me will be several guests, including Milwaukee Journal Sentinel football writer Bob McGinn, author of The Ultimate Super Bowl Book, which I've praised a couple of times in this space because no matter how great a football fan you are, it'll teach you something you didn't know about all 43 prior Super Bowls.

Bob will have copies of his book to sell and sign for you. I'll be there to talk football. We'll likely have it at a sports bar near the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center. Stay tuned to my writing on SI.com this week, and to my Twitter ramblings at @SI_PeterKing, and I'll give you plenty of notice about the Tweetup.

1. I think the turf on the Miami field was in superb shape Sunday night for the Pro Bowl, and though it rained, I don't think the field sustained any kind of damage that will impact the Super Bowl.

2. I think for those of you who asked -- and I wondered too -- this was the reaction of Army First Sergeant Mike McGuire to the retirement of his hero, Kurt Warner, in an e-mail to me Sunday:

"Yes, I heard that Kurt was retiring. Sad day to see your hero ride into the sunset. Many nights I sat up late (keeping my wife up also) to watch him. The things he has done on the field are so impressive, building a career in St. Louis from one that was not supposed to be. Then going to the Giants, no love there, so moved to the Cardinals, where he built another career.

"I have been deployed and listened to his games on Armed Forces Radio, been in Germany and watched them at 2 a.m., and so on. I have read all his books. But we live through the NFL and our favorite players. He was mine. I still can't believe I missed his phone call a couple of years ago when he called. Oh well.

"He was a great player and even better off the field. I think that is why I followed his career so much. So humble and appreciative of every thing he had. When I was deployed the second time years ago now and he sent me that autographed helmet, you would have sworn I won the lottery. Not often in life your hero responds to you. Mine did. I was watching when he took that hit in the playoff game, I knew right away that it was over. That was a hard hit.

"The best about Kurt on the field was he would sit in the pocket, watch a huge defensive player running at him full speed and he would deliver the ball and take the hit. Not many do that. When we heard he retired, my wife actually came over, hugged me and said, 'I'm sorry.' I know he did not die, but it's fun, it's life, it's a break from real life, it's your guy walking off the field for the last time. One thing, I -- we -- will be at Canton. Never been yet, but will be the day he goes in. Take care, Peter ... I am rooting for New Orleans, but Peyton is Peyton and I don't think he will lose.''

3. I think this is the luck of the Raiders: one injury Sunday night, and it was an undisclosed knee injury to Nnamdi Asomugha. Will update you as events develop.

4. I think this is the best unkept secret in the NFL: Roger Goodell told Rich Eisen of NFL Network last night that the uncapped year in 2010 is "virtually certain.'' With the deadline for a new agreement being March 5 (and I can tell you a new deal will be signed closer to March 5, 2012 than March 5, 2010), Goodell is facing the reality of what everybody in the business has seen: There's been almost no progress of any sort on the key economic issues to a new contract. "We're all frustrated there's not more progress,'' Goodell said. I have a feeling he'll be saying that a lot in the next 15 months.

5. I think I understand, and appreciate, the strident feelings on each side of the Tim Tebow argument. And I saw a good chunk of the Senior Bowl Saturday, and saw the same things you did. Tebow is noticeably slow in his mechanics and footwork. In his plodding performance, Tebow showed he'll need a redshirt year in the NFL to get his game up to speed with the rest of the league. "I think he needs to be stripped down completely, like a 12-year-old kid in Pop Warner, and rebuilt as a quarterback,'' said ESPN's Todd McShay, probably the harshest critic of Tebow.

I don't argue with those who say he's got miles to go to be a good NFL player, but I do argue with those who say it's impossible. I remember doing a draft story on the 49ers when Bill Walsh was still in power, and him telling me, "I'm a great believer in prior performance with players. If a kid was great in high school, he'll usually be good in college. If he's good in college, he'll usually make the grade in the NFL.'' Tebow's will is going to serve him well. You know what might be good for him? A redshirt year in the NFL in 2010, then, if the league has a job action in 2011, a year playing in the United Football League for seasoning in 2012 with a coach like former Giants QB coach Chris Palmer.

6. I think, if you missed it, Palmer did retire as Eli Manning's QB coach on Thursday. But I don't think he'll be retired long. I see him as the first coach of the proposed new UFL Connecticut franchise, playing at Rentschler Field in East Hartford (where UConn plays).

I'd love to see the team called the Connecticut Knights. I remember as a kid going to a puffed-up high school stadium in downtown Hartford, hard by Interstate 91, Dillon Stadium, and watching the Hartford Knights play in the Atlantic Coast Football League. Dan Henning played quarterback for one of the visitors, as I recall, and Marv Hubbard, later with the Raiders, was our fullback in 1968. There might have been a few blades of grass on the field, but because every city school used the field, it was always pretty much a dirt field. Real football.

7. I think the one thing I hope every reader and follower of the Hall of Fame process understands is that the 44 voters in the room Saturday morning know and feel the pressure to do the right, honorable and just thing with each of the candidates. We understand the gravity. I was reading a good profile of Floyd Little by Mark Kiszla in the Denver Post last night and it hit home again how important it is to the men involved.

Little told Kiszla: "Do you know the average life expectancy of an NFL player? It's 58. And you're talking to a 67-year-old man. So I'm already on borrowed time. I don't have that many years left on this earth. I don't want to go in the Hall posthumously. No sir. That's not for me. I need to be alive to enjoy the celebration with family and friends. Forget posthumously. If I'm not here to enjoy it, give the honor to somebody who's still breathing."

8. I think these are a few thoughts about the Pro Bowl, which I will heap disdain on from now 'til the end of time:

a. The reason I couldn't care less about this spectacle reared its head on the first touchdown of Sunday night's game. Andre Johnson was working against Asante Samuel wide right, and did a stutter-and-go, and when Johnson sprinted after the quick stop, Samuel stopped. Just let him run past him.

b. On the same play, my seatmate in the press box, Jarrett Bell of USA Today reported that 49ers defensive end Justin Smith knocked down Cleveland left tackle Joe Thomas and DURING THE PLAY picked Thomas up off the ground.

c. I believe trying was optional Sunday night.

d. Well, the music in the stadium was nice. And I liked the flyover.

e. I don't care how close the game was, Norv Turner should have let Chad Ochocinco kick once.

9. I think this is what I'll remember from the Kurt Warner press conference for a long time: As he took stock of his career and looked around the room in Tempe, he said, "I've enjoyed being able to be me.''

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. Watched a really good documentary/movie the other night: "Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29,'' a story about the 1968 Harvard-Yale game that, obviously, gives away the ending in the title of the movie. Here's a further spoiler alert: Harvard scored 16 points in the last 43 seconds to tie the game against the 16th-ranked team in the country. Yes, Yale, the 16th-ranked team in the country.

A few funny things about the movie, and the game: The legendary Yale coach, Carm Cozza, didn't have an onside-kick-recovery team; when Harvard onside-kicked with 41 seconds left in the game, Yale had its usual five guys across the front of the formation, though they knew there'd been an onside kick. Weird. George Bush, later the president, roomed with a Yale player. Al Gore, later the vice president, roomed with a Harvard player. Meryl Streep, then a Vassar student, dated one of the Yale players. And the story is absolutely charming.

b. Cool Super Bowl Event I: My buddy Mike Silver competed against five driving teams from Washington, D.C., to Miami over the weekend, riding in fuel-efficient diesel Audis, with the most efficient driving team getting $20,000 for the charity of his choice. This site documents the trip and allows you to contribute to Mike's cause, Type I Diabetes. His 10-year-old son is a diabetic. Mike and his partner -- competing against Chad Henne, Osi Umenyiora and other efficient aficionados -- made it down the East Coast while refueling only one time.

c. Cool Super Bowl Event II: I've attended this in the past, and if you're in the neighborhood Saturday night, you need to try to get intoTaste of the NFL. I know it's a big-ticket item at $500 a pop, and it's not for everyone, but if you've got some dough to contribute to a great cause -- combating hunger at the grassroots level in America -- it's a good event that you'll feel good about supporting. All 32 teams are represented by a chef from that city, and a former player for that franchise, and you can meet them and eat the local food. Just a great time, and when you walk out of there, you feel like you've done some good.

d. I am honored, touched, pleased and humbled by those of you who came up to me at the stadium last night and chatted with me about Monday Morning Quarterback and SI stories you recall fondly. Thanks. It means a lot to me.

e. Coffeenerdness: ESPN's Ron Jaworski, like me, was getting some of the truly rancid press box coffee in the stadium last night when we ran into each other, and I believe his stomach will be repaying him this morning for it. Memo to Dolphins PR-meister Harvey Greene: That press box runs like clockwork, and you and the NFL had it all together Sunday night as you always do. But that coffee needs to be shot at sunrise. It tastes like three-year-old coffee thrice-Microwaved, the kind of coffee prisoners at Leavenworth would spit out, then follow with a complaint to their lawyer about cruel and unusual punishment.

f. When I grow up, I want to spend two hours every day in Brookline Booksmith. Had the pleasure of ducking in there Saturday on a pleasant outing to the tony Boston neighborhood, and I just hope if Amazon, Kindle, Nook, iPad and who-knows-what-else of an electronic vein succeeds that we still keep loving classic old bookstores.

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