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Revis, Jets agree to new deal; Cutdown weekend awards

Some real news this morning, obviously, that will impact not only the New York Jets and Wednesday's Hard Knocks' finale, but also the foes on the first month of the Jets' schedule: Darrelle Revis will sign a contract this morning that reinforces the final three years of his contract and adds a fourth year, 2013. Technically, the contract runs through 2016, but I expect it to void to a four-year deal worth, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, $46 million over four years.

I maintained early in training camp that this would be a Labor Day deal, because I thought the Jets would get impatient and because GM Mike Tannenbaum gets deals done, even deals he knows are weighted slightly toward the player. But this one came out of left field to me, and when I finished this column early (for once) Sunday morning, I was convinced that it would be another week at least before it got done, with Revis and his reps preparing to use a shaky first game by the Jets' secondary versus Baltimore against the team in the talks. "Nothing is going on,'' a source told me Saturday around noon. Well, nothing was then -- but later in the day Rex Ryan began to thaw the ice with Revis and his family with a trip to see them in Florida.

So who won? I'd say Revis more than the Jets, but it's definitely a mixed bag.

When the Jets drafted Revis 14th overall in 2007, they paid him like a top-10 pick. I can still hear the grousing to this day from other GMs about the Jets paying Revis more than his slot. And he had three years and $21 million left on that rookie contract. I believe the Jets wanted to add a fourth year to the remaining contract, in exchange for about $20 million in new money injected into the deal. In other words, make it a four-year, $41 million deal. This way they paid Revis about $5 million more than that.

Revis certainly played himself into the upper stratosphere of all NFL players last year, shutting down receivers like Randy Moss, Andre Johnson and Chad Ochocinco; no wideout he played had a 50-yard day. And in the AFC divisional playoff upset of San Diego, Revis allowed one completion by Philip Rivers all day -- for minus-four yards. I believe he's a top-five NFL player right now, and I'd put only Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees over him in current value. The game is all about moving the chains with the short and intermediate passing game, and Revis and Nnamdi Asomugha of the Raiders are by far the two best players at clamping down good receivers and preventing teams from throwing at one side of the field.

With Asomugha earning $14 million a year, on average, over the first two years of his landmark cornerback contract (including guaranteed money the Raiders owe him if they don't exercise the final year of his deal in early 2011), Revis was way behind him, scheduled to earn exactly half of that, on average, in the next three years.

The Jets kept banging home to Revis' agents that they wouldn't tear up the existing contract, nor would they forget about it. In making this, in essence, a deal paying Revis $11.5 million a year for the next four years, Tannenbaum can say he held the line and didn't give Revis even the average of what Asomugha, the highest-paid corner in history, is making. And Revis can say he got $25 million in return for adding one year onto his existing contract.

The reason I think Revis wins, if anyone does, is because those three years left on the deal were an anchor weighing down Revis' arguments about getting the truly big money. And because he'll be 28 when the four-year deal expires. Meaning, if he continues to play well, he'll be in position to get one more mega-contract, at least, from the Jets. Or another very high bidder.

The Jets paid more than they wanted to pay (what team doesn't in mega-contracts like this one?) and it will be easy to say: Contracts with the Jets aren't worth the paper they're printed on. That's for Tannenbaum to worry about with stalwart players like middle linebacker David Harris (2010 cap number: $900,000) working on contracts they have out-performed. The upshot of this deal might be felt in coming years with players like Shonn Greene and Dustin Keller. But the Jets, obviously, felt they had to have Revis for Week 1.

Look at the New York schedule and you can see why Ryan was sweating bullets about getting Revis in. Joe Flacco in Week 1; the Ravens would have targeted first-round pick Kyle Wilson extensively in the game. Guaranteed. Week 2: Tom Brady and the Patriots. Then Chad Henne, who, despite his shaky summer, has a good track record against the Jets; Miami won both meetings last year and added Brandon Marshall to the offense in the offseason. Then Buffalo in Week 4. Then Brett Favre in Week 5. In the first 28 days of the season, the Jets face four top offenses, and Wilson and Antonio Cromartie would have been exposed.

So the Jets are whole. Now, about that offense ...

*****

The other big NFL news on Labor Day weekend, of course, was the Cardinals whacking former Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart, the 10th pick in the 2006 draft. But the way the news cycle works, that's old news this morning.

Summing up, Leinart's a goner for these reasons: He wasn't accurate enough; he didn't make quick decisions on the field and execute them well; he never won the locker room over; coach Ken Whisenhunt thought he wouldn't be a good backup to Derek Anderson because he'd be so bummed by not winning the job he thought was surely his. And one more reason. Max Hall. You'll read about him a little lower in this column. You'll want to get to know him. Take my word for it.

Before I get to the Cutdown weekend news, I want to focus on Pittsburgh for a few paragraphs. Yes, the Steelers. A certain someone's Super Bowl pick. In the wake of the team's preseason game Thursday, and the injury to presumptive starting quarterback Byron Leftwich, and the four-game suspension Ben Roethlisberger begins today, there might just be a little hometown-boy-makes-very-good fairy tale being written.

It's possible Steelers coach Mike Tomlin might play 35-year-old Charlie Batch at quarterback in the opener against Atlanta, or in one of the other three games before Roethlisberger returns to face Cleveland on Oct. 17. Or Tomlin could choose the electric but erratic Dennis Dixon to play some or all of the four games. Whatever, Batch will report for practice today without an idea what the immediate future holds for him.

"I don't know anything,'' he said over the weekend. "But I've thought about what it would be like to have that chance. It would be wonderful. I grew up here, and I dreamed about being Mark Malone or Walter Abercrombie some day. I thank God every day I wake up a Steeler. I get to put the black and gold on every day. I'm living the dream.''

Batch last started a game on opening day 2006, with Roethlisberger out after an emergency appendectomy. He completed 15 of 25 passes that day, three for touchdowns in a 28-17 victory over the Dolphins. That made him 3-0 as a replacement starter for the Steelers over a two-year period, something Tomlin might consider in deciding whether to start Batch and bring in Dixon as a changeup pitcher. Or he could give the job to Dixon. Neither would be a surprise. But if it's Batch, it would be the football gods saying, "Son, you deserve this.''

In 1996, when Batch was a quarterback at Eastern Michigan, his younger sister, Danyl Settles, was killed in the crossfire between rival gangs in the rough Pittsburgh neighborhood of Homestead, where the family grew up. Batch was drafted by Detroit in 1998 and played there for parts of four seasons. When the Lions let Batch go in 2002, the Steelers signed him as a backup. Knowing he was moving back home, he decided he had to do something about the hopelessness and violence that plagued the neighborhood where he was raised.

He started a summer basketball program for the boys and girls in town. The program began the Monday after school let out and ran until the weekend before football practice began in late July. It was a bridge, in essence, to keep kids with nothing to do off the streets. And there were a couple of wrinkles. Whereas kids in the Steel Valley School District had to have a 2.0 grade-point average to play sports, Batch made it 2.2 -- so kids would know it's a privilege, and not a right, to play in his league. And he coupled educational opportunities with the sport. Batch put computers in his foundation office in Homestead and set up a place for kids to have an after-school program -- in a community with no YMCA or Boys and Girls Club. He partnered with Carnegie Mellon University to begin taking 15 students a summer to the university to work with architecture professors to see if any of the students might have an architectural bent.

This year, 353 boys and girls, from grade school through high school, played in the Batch basketball league. All had the grades to play -- some because Batch is good friends with the high school guidance counselor, who goes to the kids on the borderline at the end of the third term and tells them: No 2.2, no basketball for you this summer.

When I visited Steelers camp in Latrobe, Pa., this summer, Batch told me about all of this, and I said to him, "You could easily be like so many other players -- just take your money, live the good life, buy a house in Boca and move there. Why didn't you do it?''

"Because I never want another family to feel the way my family did,'' Batch said. "Nothing existed there. If the kids have nothing to do, they all go hang out on one block until the cops tell them to move along. Then they just go find another block. They need something to do, something positive. I want them to understand that sports and education can go hand in hand. You've got to be good to be able to do the other.''

Terrelle Pryor, the Ohio State quarterback, was in the program. DeJuan Blair, the San Antonio Spur, was too. But Batch is more excited about the two kids who played who also found out they loved architecture. They're still in high school, and Batch is hoping they have a chance to further their education with academic scholarships.

Batch gives his cell phone out to all the participants in the program -- not so they'll call and ask him who's going to win the Steelers game that week. "I want them to know there's somebody there for them if they need to talk about anything,'' he said. "I get a few calls.''

I hope he gets another one Sunday from Mike Tomlin, telling him he's starting against Atlanta.

CLICK HERE FOR PETER KING'S ONE-MINUTE DRILLS FOR ALL 32 TEAMS

***

My Final Cutdown Weekend Awards, some ignominious:

Personnel Acumen Award, Rocky Mountain Version: To Denver coach JoshMcDaniels and GM Brian Xanders, who last year dealt a 2010 first-round pick (14th overall) to Seattle for its second-round choice -- to draft 5-foot-9 Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith. Smith couldn't crack the starting lineup, so he was shipped Saturday to Detroit for backup tight end Dan Gronkowski. This is how bad an error it was: Denver took the 14th overall pick in 2010 and traded it for the 255th pick in the 2009 draft. That's ridiculous. The Broncos also cut defensive end Jarvis Green, who got $3.2 million in guarantees from them last spring and never played a regular-season snap.

Personnel Acumen Award, South Beach Version: To Miami GM Jeff Ireland and executive VP Bill Parcells for jettisoning the 44th and 87th picks in the 2009 draft, quarterback Pat White and wide receiver Patrick Turner, over the weekend. In fairness to the Dolphins, they did get four solid starters out of the '09 crop -- corners Vontae Davis and Sean Smith, safety Chris Clemons and wideout Brian Hartline.

Personnel Acumen Award, East Coast Version: To Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan of the Redskins for having two of their six 2010 draft picks make the final 53-man roster. Now, the cuts were all sixth- and seventh-round choices, but those should be core special-teamers at manageable salaries with which you fill the bottom quarter of your roster.

The Endangered Species Award: The Giants cut tight end Bear Pascoe. The Falcons cut linebacker Bear Woods.

The Ed Werder-Will-Be-Making-A-Lot-of-Trips-to-Cincinnati-This-Fall Award: To the Bengals. Adam Jones, Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco are on their 53-man roster.

The All In The Family Award: To the Eagles. Two years ago, they thought they had 40 percent of their offensive line locked up for the next half-decade, with the Andrews brothers, Shawn and Stacy, playing integral roles. They fired Shawn in the offseason; he's now property of the Giants, and may start for the G-men, depending on the health of their interior line. And on Saturday they traded Stacy to the Seahawks for a seventh-round pick. I'm all for admitting mistakes and moving on, but that's a little ridiculous.

***

And now, getting to know two people you need to know:

Who Is Max Hall?

This is what you need to know about Max Hall, who -- you heard it here first -- will start at least one game at quarterback for Arizona this fall:

a. He is Danny White's nephew.

b. He's the grandson of Arizona Sports Hall of Famer Wilford White.

c. As a three-year starting quarterback for Brigham Young, he once threw seven touchdown passes in a game (against UCLA in 2008).

d. He threw 94 touchdown passes in his BYU career, 38 more than Steve Young did for the Cougars.

e. Hall served seven months as a Mormon missionary in Des Moines, the same city in which Kurt Warner played Arena Football. He played no football in 2005 or 2006.

f. After a game against bitter BYU rival Utah last year, Hall said he hated the Utes. "I hate everything about them. I hate their program. I hate their fans. I hate everything.'' So this year, a clothing line of "Max Hall Hates Me'' shirts came out in Utah. Very popular among the Utes, I'm told. Want one? Here you go.

g. He had more career wins at BYU, 32, than any of the great quarterbacks who preceded him -- Jim McMahon, Young, Ty Detmer.

h. More than once, disgusted with his play on a particular pass in a game, Hall called one or more of his BYU receivers and asked to meet them late at night to get the play right, according to columnist Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic.

i. From the Phoenix suburb of Mesa, Hall was given the "Arizona Cardinals High School Player of the Week'' award in 2003 after accounting for 34 points in a Mesa Mountain View High game.

j. He had the best camp of any of the four Cardinal quarterbacks in Flagstaff this summer.

Matt Leinart got cut because his coach didn't trust him to win over the locker room, and he didn't trust his decision-making on the field. True story: Whisenhunt was likely to keep Leinart around this year, and to keep Hall on the practice squad for the year, until he saw him in offseason camps and in this summer's training camp. He thought Hall was certainly ready to play now, and more suited to run the offense than Leinart was after three years in Whisenhunt's offense.

It's not just the X's and O's. Late in the first half of the final preseason game Thursday night against Washington, Hall was driving the Cardinals. On one play, he missed an open receiver, the check-down safety receiver, in his progression. And on another play, he took a big hit trying to get a couple of extra yards, instead of going down and protecting himself. When he came over for the two-minute warning, Hall got an earful from Whisenhunt. "Look, you can't miss that checkdown!'' Whisenhunt yelled. "And you can't take a big hit like that! Think out there!''

Hall fired back at him: "OK, it happened! I screwed up! Fine! Let's move on!''

By Saturday, Whisenhunt smiled just thinking about it. "You know who that reminds me?'' he said to me over the phone.

"Kurt Warner,'' I said.

"Kurt Warner, that's right,'' he said. "That's something Kurt would have done. Look, I don't know how this will work out. None of us do. I know he's not the ideal size for a quarterback. But Kurt was only an inch or two taller. Max is Drew Brees' size. His decision-making process is well above ordinary for any level of football. That's what makes him so intriguing.''

***

Who is Arian Foster?

In 2007, Ryan Grant entered the year as training-camp filler for the Giants and ended up a major playoff factor for the Packers. In 2008, Steve Slaton, a late-third-round pick, rode a hot spurt to finish sixth in the NFL in rushing. Last year, Cleveland's Jerome Harrison basically had a fantasy season down the stretch, running for 286 yards in Kansas City and, for the season, outrushing Joseph Addai with 25 fewer carries.

This year, the breakthrough running back could be the Texans' Arian Foster. On the road for much of the past month, I bet I got approached by 50 fans asking me for fantasy advice. (No! Don't take it!) I had a few pet names -- running back Ryan Mathews (easy), and wideouts Mike Wallace (all-around) and Denver receiver Eric Decker (touchdowns). But the guy who could have more value than all of them is Foster.

The 2009 undrafted free agent out of Tennessee has grabbed the starting job with no strings, and with the fleet Ben Tate on IR after a preseason injury, I expect Foster to put up silly numbers in an offense that fits him perfectly. He's the kind of one-cut-and-get-upfield runner the Denver disciples running Houston's offense (coach Gary Kubiak, offensive coordinator Rick Dennison) love, and at 6-1 and 225, he has the kind of power to break tackles and keep the chains moving.

Very interesting story. Foster was a star running back at Tennessee when, after his junior season, he petitioned the NFL to see where he was likely to be drafted. Second round, the answer came back. Foster decided to stay at Tennessee for the 2008 season. Disaster ensued. It was Philip Fulmer's last year, the program collapsed, Foster fumbled too much, and his stock dropped. At Senior Bowl practices after the season, he pulled a hamstring. He couldn't run at the combine, wasn't ready to run at his pro day and, rushing to get healthy so he could work out for teams before the draft, never allowed the hammy to get healthy. Consequently, he failed to run a decent 40.

On draft weekend, figuring he wouldn't get picked as the seventh round wound down, he had four teams interested in him as a free agent: New Orleans, Houston, Tampa Bay and the Jets. As he got on the phone with each, his girlfriend, Romina Reinhart, went online and found the depth chart of each team to see what the competition would be like.

"Oh, she's a good one,'' Foster said, laughing. "She was working hard, finding each depth chart. I'm on the phone with the Saints, and she's got their running backs lined up. What it came down to, and not to put anybody down because I respect everyone's ability, is that I thought I had the best chance with Houston. When I was growing up in San Diego, I idolized Terrell Davis. He was the same kind of diamond-in-the-rough back as me coming out of college, and he went to the Denver system and it was a great fit for him. I think that system fits my style. Zone-blocking, use your vision as a back, get a feel for the defense, get upfield. That's the kind of runner I am.''

Foster earned a spot on the Houston practice squad, and when injuries and Steve Slaton's fumble-itis hit late in the season, he was promoted. In the final two games of the season, he rushed for 216 yards and thrust himself into the Texans' 2010 plans. "Just before OTAs started up again,'' he said, "we all got letters from the team with the schedule. And Coach Koob [Kubiak] wrote in my letter, 'The biggest jump for a player in the NFL comes between year one and year two.' That struck me to my core. So I came in focused to become better at every aspect of my game. Everyone wants someone to believe in him, and I feel with me that's Coach Koob.''

Pretty interesting that Foster's on a nickname basis with his boss. Anyway, Foster's a bright kid. Majored in philosophy. Takes pride in expressing himself thoroughly and intelligently. And he realizes that the worst thing he could do now is to feel like he's accomplished something.

"History tells us that any pinnacle you're on, you'll eventually come down,'' Foster said. "My mentality as long as I'm in the NFL will be, I've never arrived. I'll always have a blue-collar attitude in a white-collar world.''

In six days, he'll have a lot to do with whether the Texans can slay the almighty Colts in the season-opener. Foster's come a long way, but don't tell him that.

CLICK HERE FOR PETER KING'S ONE-MINUTE DRILLS FOR ALL 32 TEAMS

"He handled himself with a tremendous amount of class. I was pleased with that. He showed a lot of maturity, and he thanked me for the opportunity. It wasn't an easy situation, and I know it's tough for him, but he understood. He was a man about it.''-- Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt, to me, explaining the admiration he had with Matt Leinart during their conversation Saturday morning.

"We actually have in the Collective Bargaining Agreement the ability to take it to 22 games. That's not the spirit of it. You want players to be buying into it. Certainly it has the chance of enhancing the player's financial benefits because it does grow the pie. The more the pie grows, the players get the majority of the money when the pie grows. I think the nature of how you would prepare for those 18 games would have less physical impact than we have now. At the end of the day I think we will be going to 18 games, but certainly with the positive input of players."-- Dallas owner Jerry Jones, to KRLD in Dallas, via sportsradiointerviews.com, on the prospect of the 18-game schedule -- or a longer one some day.

"I told him there are no style points for throwing the football.''-- John Elway, to me, the other day, discussing a football conversation he had with Tim Tebow.

"You can be a world champion, but not like this. We won't win it! We'll sit back and say, 'Why didn't we do it?' We didn't do it because where were our f------ priorities? How about our offense? When are we going to put it together? When are we going to put it together? Can we not run the ball down their throats every snap? Can we not throw it any time we want to f------ throw it? Let's make sure we play like the f------ New York Jets! And not some f------ slapd--- team. That's what I want to see tomorrow. Do we understand what the f--- I want to see tomorrow? Let's go eat a god--- snack."-- Jets coach Rex Ryan, ending his fiery night-before speech to his team before it faced the Redskins in preseason week three. (See the full speech here.)

A snack! A pep talk ending in a inspirational snack reference! That's the Hard Knocks Quote of All Time, Ross Greenburg and Steve Sabol.

I must say I've never seen a coach exhort his team to eat an evening snack quite the same way before.

What I like about the Football Outsiders 2010 Almanac and what I've liked about past efforts of their summer annual, is that it answers questions that always have you confounded. Last week, with the umpire-repositioning issue having the league abuzz, I wondered if the Colts were the team that would get jobbed the most by taking away the ability to run the hurry-up offense. And sure enough, Football Outsiders has a stat for the teams that ran the fastest offensive plays, on average, in 2009. In "total pace,'' which measures the rate of play for all teams on plays where there wasn't a natural clock stoppage (as with an incompletion or change of possession, the quick-playing teams in the NFL in 2009, according to Football Outsiders, in order, were Seattle, Kansas City, Detroit, Indianapolis and Atlanta.

A few other interesting numbers from the 2010 Almanac, on sale at footballoutsiders.com, and beginning with a stat about a quarterback who, for some reason, so many people believe is declining, even after a 4,398-yard passing season:

1. Tom Brady faced the hardest schedule of pass defenses of any quarterback since 1993.

2. To understand how overrated the San Diego pass rush is, you have to look past sacks and check out hits and hurries. After two straight years ranking 31st in hurries per pass play, the 2009 Chargers improved ... to 30th. They also ranked dead last with only 26 quarterback hits.

3. Like sister-in-law Elisabeth, Matt Hasselbeck loves to go to his right. The Seahawks threw more than half their passes to the right side of the field for the fourth straight season, and had the highest rate in the league for the third time in those four years.

4. Green Bay safety Nick Collins has eight dropped interceptions over the past two years. No other defender has more than six.

5. Oakland's Darrius Heyward-Bey caught only 23 percent of intended passes last year. That's the lowest rate of any receiver with at least 40 pass targets in the 17 years for which we have data, going back to 1993.

My advice to you, if you like to find out how statistics and analysis can help you understand the game, is to buy the book.

The Patriots, when the roster dust settled, found themselves with an incredibly green defensive secondary. Could there be another secondary in the NFL with nine players all shy of their 27th birthdays? They'll have to grow up in a hurry this fall, especially with no proven pass-rusher, except perhaps Tully Banta-Cain, who is coming off a 10-sack season. The youth of the New England secondary:

When Matt Moore takes the field at the Meadowlands Sunday against the Giants, it will mark the ninth straight year the Panthers open a season with a starting quarterback they didn't draft. Chris Weinke (fourth round, 2001) was the last Carolina draftee to take the first snap of the season.

This happened on the Delta Shuttle flight from LaGuardia to Boston last Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.: The flight had open seating, other than the first four rows of first class on the A319 aircraft, and when the flight was called, we were told to take any seat we liked. I settled into my exit row seat on the fairly empty flight (when's the last time you've been on one of those?) when the man in line behind me in the boarding process watched me sit down, then looked at his ticket, and looked up and down the rows.

"Where is 'Y?' '' he said. "Do you know?''

"What do you mean?'' I said.

" 'Y,' '' he said, showing me the ticket.

As on my ticket, the seat part of his boarding pass read, "Y.'' Who knows why, but everyone was just taking any seat.

"Oh,'' I said. "It's open seating.''

He looked at me, confused, about to ask another question.

"You can sit anywhere,'' I said.

"Ohhhhhh,'' he said. "Thanks!''

"A good day to be a Cardinal.''--@ddockett, Arizona defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, two hours after signing a four-year contract extension with $30 million in guaranteed new money with the Cardinals that will keep him in Arizona through 2015. He said his goal is to outplay this contract and earn another one in Arizona.

"Sitting behind kemo on the plane. Damn he has a huge head.''--@mr_carter99, Washington linebacker Andre Carter, on the Redskins' charter taking them home from Arizona on Thursday night, with his view apparently eclipsed by the melon of nose tackle Maake Kemoeatu.

So I actually ran 13 miles on Friday. Ploddingly, but my legs kept moving for all 13, through Boston's South End and Back Bay and Cambridge and Allston, past Fenway on the way home. It might take me two and a half hours to run the New Hampshire Half-Marathon on Oct. 2 in Bristol, N.H., but now at least I have the hope I can do it.

I'd love to see you all get involved. I've got a webpage if you'd like to contribute to either of the charities I'm running for -- the Wounded Warrior Project (which financially supports seriously wounded soldiers as they transition to civilian life) or Feed the Children (which provides food and supplies to thousands of needy children and families). You can just follow the directions at http://www.runpeterkingrun.com/ and enrich the lives of those who need it most.

I asked for $5 for my "Five For Fighting'' USO project last season, and we raised $204,000 for recreational equipment for the U.S. troops in Afghanistan most far-removed from anything resembling a normal life. This time, I'm asking $10, either to be split between the two charities or to be given to your choice. (Actually, I'd take anything. If you can give $1, that's great too.)

Feed the Children is working with me so that if we raise $7,200, that would fund one semi-trailer chock-full of food and family supplies to be driven to an inner city with the contents helping hundreds of families. (And if we raise multiples of $7,200, that would be more trucks to more inner cities.) Wounded Warrior Project has many different programs your donations would go to. I urge you to click onto the site and read about each organization.

I've got one prize per week that I'll be giving out to donors. Here's the first: Two club seats to the Yankees-Red Sox game at Fenway Park on Friday, Oct. 1, at 7 p.m. Face value is $175 per ticket. The first person to donate $500 to either cause (or $250 to both) will get these great seats -- very roomy, which, if you've been to Fenway, you know is a huge bonus -- to a game of the best rivalry in sports.

1. I think the most underrated roster move of the weekend was Ed Reed going on the physically unable to perform list for the first six weeks of the season. That makes an iffy secondary rely even more on young safeties Dawan Landry and Tom Zbikowski ... a secondary that will likely start newcomer Josh Wilson and Fabian Washington (coming off late-season ACL surgery), with Chris Carr in the slot. It's looking more and more like the best cover corner the Ravens have, Lardarius Webb, also coming off ACL surgery, won't be ready opening night against the Jets.

"I can't wait to see our blitzes this year,'' coach John Harbaugh told me in camp. The blitz package sounds like it will be less exotic, with more focus on using fewer rushers so as to not expose the secondary as much. It'll be interesting to see if Mark Sanchez is accurate enough, and can wait until the last second often enough, to carve up the Ravens' D in Monday night's opener. His preseason would suggest he won't.

2. I think with the Sunday cutting of fullback Tony Richardson (which clearly could be done in an attempt to float him on the market late, after most teams have their rosters intact, with the possibility of signing him after the first game to a contract for less guaranteed money), the Jets enter the first game of their season without their three most significant offensive leaders from the 2009 AFC playoff team: Richardson, Alan Faneca and Thomas Jones. Every week on Hard Knocks,' I keep hearing Rex Ryan cry out for leadership on the team. Hard to find leaders when you keep eliminating them.

3. I think Pete Carroll hasn't had to say it out loud to get the point across to the Holmgren/Mora/Ruskell regimes: I don't like the players you left me. Dealing Josh Wilson for a fifth-rounder, cutting T.J. Houshmandzadeh, signing and starting Mike Williams, looking hard at Vincent Jackson and Matt Leinart. Carroll needs to be right on most of these. The natives aren't sure he knows what he's doing.

4. I think the hidden story behind the Sage Rosenfels deal by the Vikings might be money. Might. Trading him saved Minnesota $2.7 million, and I've heard the Vikings payroll this year is approaching $150 million. For a team in the bottom quartile of NFL revenues, don't sneeze at $2.7 million.

5. I think the hidden story of the week was Maurice Clarett's return to football. He'll play for the United Football League's Omaha Nighthawks, as an understudy to Ahman Green. Clarett served three-and-a-half years in an Ohio prison for aggravated robbery and carrying a concealed weapon. Upon his release, UFL commissioner Michael Huyghue cleared him, thinking Clarett was trying hard to change his life. Now Clarett will open the season in the backfield rotation of the Nighthawks. "I am committed to working hard to earn the right for a second chance in football and more importantly in life," Clarett said in a league release. Hope he means it.

6. I think Mike Shanahan is a very good football coach. One of the best. But if you're trying to build a bridge and salvage your relationship with Albert Haynesworth, why would you play him almost all of the fourth preseason game, when his peers are all on the bench? Whatever Shanahan's reason, he would have been better served playing him a half, max. Seemed insulting.

CLICK HERE FOR PETER KING'S ONE-MINUTE DRILLS FOR ALL 32 TEAMS

7. I think the Pat White story -- Miami cut White, its second-round pick, after a terrible spring and summer of trying to make him a real quarterback -- is a great example of what happens when teams judge a player more for what he does in the winter than in the fall. In other words, the Dolphins fell in love with the White who had a great 2008 postseason. They liked his potential as an athletic Wildcat quarterback, and when they got him to camp found out he didn't throw the ball much better than Ronnie Brown.

8. I think these are the best nuggets from the enlightening America's Game 2009 New Orleans Saints show, airing on NFL Network Wednesday at 9 p.m. EDT:

a. Never knew Sean Payton, a strike-team quarterback for the 1987 Bears, threw an interception on his last NFL pass -- and it was a Saint who intercepted it.

b. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams showed his players nature videos of animals pouncing on their prey and devouring their victims ... to get them in the mood for the way he wanted them to attack quarterbacks.

c. When kicker Garrett Hartley missed a game-winning 37-yard field goal against Tampa Bay in Week 15, he came to the sidelines with a hangdog look. Peyton barked at him: "Let's go! Get that look off your face! Have some nuts!''

d. Second half, NFC Championship Game, Payton on the sidelines, to no one in particular about Favre: "This guy's going to make a mistake now, I promise you.''

e. I still can't believe Hank Baskett blew the catch on the Super Bowl onside kick to start the second half. You'll see a great view of it on the show -- and you'll be amazed that a wide receiver on the front of the kickoff-return team, clearly there because of his hands, lets the ball bounce off him and right into a pigpile of Saints.

That's a vastly underrated part of the Super Bowl story. If Baskett recovers the simple bouncer at the Saints' 45, Peyton Manning takes the ball on a short field, and if he drives the Colts to a touchdown instead of Drew Brees driving the Saints to a touchdown, the game could have been changed in a huge way. But with 25 minutes left in the game, instead of Indy being up 17-6, the Colts trailed 13-10. Baskett gets off far too easy for his error.

f. On the Peyton Manning interception that Tracy Porter intercepted and ran back for a game-icing touchdown, NFL Films has a good iso camera on Reggie Wayne. Three points.

First: Poor throw by Manning, obviously, to a spot where he thought the receiver could be just beginning his cut, because Porter stepped into the hole and made an easy catch.

Second: Great anticipation by Porter made that play happen. Clearly he knew Wayne almost certainly would be running an incut route on the play, and he anticipated it brilliantly.

Third: I don't see Wayne on an iso camera running routes often, but this one was rounded and lazy and not run with the speed that could have had Wayne cutting off Porter. All in all, I'd credit Porter for a great football play, but I'd also criticize Wayne for his route and, to a lesser degree, Manning for making a throw that Porter saw coming a hundred miles away.

9. I think, speaking of strategy and the Saints, it's significant that Darren Sharper starts the season on the PUP list. As I wrote in my Sports Illustrated pro football preview essay on spread offenses and how defenses are trying to trump them this week, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams used Sharper as his blitzing missile in the NFC title game. Williams sent Sharper through the "A'' gap (the gap between center and guard) four times. Twice Sharper nailed Favre cleanly, once so hard he left Favre badly bruised.

The interesting part of the story, to me, is how Williams debriefed Sharper when he arrived in free agency and found out the Vikings wouldn't go back and watch every game to determine where the blitzes came from early in the season, and thus didn't expect Sharper to come through the A gap. I wonder if the Vikings will go back farther than eight games to study where Williams might send the pressure from this Thursday. The Vikes should.

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

a. Welcome back to New Jersey, Ilya Kovalchuk.

b. My Lord. Who has kidnapped the New York Mets? Mets batting order Friday at Chicago: Pagan, Duda, Carter, Wright, Davis, Arias, Thole, R.Tejada, Dickey. That's closer to the Binghamton lineup than a big-league one.

c. Box score line of the week: Manny Delcarmen's debut with the Colorado Rockies: (L, 0-1) 1/3 4 4 4 0 0. That's right. Faced five batters. Four got hits. All scored. A loss, in his National League debut, against the Phillies.

d. Evidently Rich Rodriguez didn't read his preseason obituary.

e. Notre Dame lives.

f. Just how many NCAA stars are suspended, exactly? That seemed to be the story line in so many games.

g. Memo to ESPN radio: After the 39th radio spot promoting the Mike Tyson/Tupac movie Tuesday night, we not only stop paying attention, but also got so angry at the over-promotion that we became determined not to watch it.

h. Coffeenerdness: On the 76 miles of backroads down to Cape Cod Saturday night, I counted the number of Dunkin Donuts stores. Thirty-two. Saw one Starbucks. It's New England.

i. A great savaging of the Manny Ramirez "apology to Boston,'' which was about as disingenuous as any athlete's apology I've ever read, in Sunday's Boston Globe by Dan Shaughnessy: "Now -- as he transparently courts favor in his quest for one more fat contract -- Manny finally says he was wrong about everything that happened at the end in Boston ... when he quit.'' Perfect. Hasn't been the same since he got off the female fertility drug.

j. Nice knowing you, Jonathan Papelbon.

2010 DIVISION PREVIEWS

GALLERY: 25 FUNNY, FAMOUS QUOTES FROM FOOTBALL

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