Week 3 storylines from NFL cities across the country:
EAGLES -- Michael Vick is not going away. In fact, he's getting better.
SEAHAWKS -- Leon Washington is the gift that keeps giving. The Seahawks got him for the 138th pick in the draft last April. Wouldn't you consider that a fair price for the man who delivered the most electrifying performance of this season?
CHIEFS -- Kansas City is 3-0, and a bunch of guys names Moeaki and McCluster are about to become household names.
FALCONS -- Atlanta pulled off the upset at New Orleans, and I asked coach Mike Smith about what I figured must have been a raucous, hip-hip-hooray time in the locker room after the 27-24 overtime win. "It was businesslike in there,'' he said.
JETS -- Braylon Edwards shaves (thank God), calls Roger Goodell to apologize for being an idiot, sits a quarter and makes a big play to help the Jets beat Miami.
VIKINGS -- Minnesota is off the schneid entering the bye, and Adrian "Glue Fingers'' Peterson aims to keep it going.
COWBOYS -- Dallas is off the schneid entering the bye, and Tony Romo and DeMarcus Ware aim to keep it going.
NINERS -- The Niners are in trouble. Big trouble. And Mike Singletary is out of rabbits to pull out of his hat.
STEELERS -- The quarterback America's rooting for, Charlie Batch, gets his biggest win in years. The quarterback who will be the big story a week from today, Ben Roethlisberger, chops wood. Literally.
A very interesting week.
How much longer will we ask if Vick is fool's gold? He's responded favorably to every challenge so far as the most surprising story of the season. After Sunday's 28-3 rout of the Jags in Jacksonville, this is his 2010 resume:
• He overcame the disappointment of not being able to compete for the starting job when Donovan McNabb was traded in April -- and yes, he was crushed when Andy Reid announced immediately that Kevin Kolb was the starter, and Vick wouldn't have a chance to win the job.
• He went to training camp knowing he was No. 2 and, as a good soldier, never agitated to displace Kolb. Nor did he outplay Kolb in camp, so there was nothing of note happening to make a story there.
• He entered the first game of the season, against Green Bay, when Kolb suffered a concussion, and in the two-and-a-half games since, has led the offense to 80 points, accounting for seven touchdowns and 920 passing and rushing yards. He's thrown no interceptions, and has a 110.2 quarterback rating. He's never had a rating higher than 81 in his career.
• On Sunday, he threw three touchdown passes and ran for a fourth score, bailing out his coach after the incredible flip-flop decision Reid made to bench Kolb and start Vick last Tuesday.
• This week, he'll face his mentor and local lightning rod, McNabb, in Philadelphia. Go figure how each man will be received when the Redskins take the field.
There's a group of people (I hear from them every time I write about Vick) who won't be happy if Vick succeeds, because of his dogfighting history. But the fact is he did his time and has tried to redeem himself by doing and saying all the right things in the 14 months since the Eagles signed him. Handling the pressure of having the public's eyes burn into him for so long has to make football seem more like a game and less a pressurized business than it ever has. And he's playing like it.
Leon Washington does his best Leon Washington imitation. When I got Washington on the phone Sunday night, I was just sitting down to eat dinner after our show at NBC. Tony Dungy wanted a word with him. "Remember what we talked about at the combine the year you came out?'' Dungy asked. Washington said he'd be most effective if he had 15 to 17 touches a game, handling the kickoff returns and 10 or so plays from scrimmage; that he'd be able to impact every game that way, he told Dungy. What impressed Dungy is that Washington knew himself. He knew that at 5-foot-8 and 190 pounds, he probably wasn't suited to be an every-down back.
His career plans, obviously, were derailed last year, when he suffered a nauseating compound leg fracture against the Raiders. The bone actually pierced the skin. "Since then,'' he told me, "my goal has been to write the kind of story my kids can be proud of -- to see their dad come back from a compound fracture of his leg. And it's going great.''
On draft weekend, Seattle stole Washington, hoping he'd return to form. The Seahawks traded a fifth-round pick, the 138th overall, to the Jets for Washington and a seventh-rounder. The fifth, for New York, became fullback John Conner. And the Jets replaced Washington by taking USC multi-purpose back Joe McKnight in the fourth round. McKnight has been a disaster, a Hard Knocks piñata. It had to have galled the Jets to see what Washington did Sunday.
On the first play of the third quarter, he returned a kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown. And then, after the Chargers tied the game at 20 midway through the fourth quarter, Washington struck again, taking a low hopper at the one-yard line and storming through the Chargers for a 99-yard score. Seattle won 27-20.
"My special teams coach, Brian Schneider, has done a fantastic job identifying what I do well and figuring out the strengths of the guys in front of me,'' Washington said. "He reminds me a lot of [Jets special teams coach] Mike Westhoff that way. The great thing about a kickoff return is it allows you to swing the momentum of a game in one play, and we were able to do that twice today.''
Looks like Washington's all healed -- and worth the money he felt he should have gotten from the Jets.
The Chiefs might think they're a year away, but who says the AFC West in not winnable? Every time I talk to someone with the Chiefs -- player, coach, administrator -- I hear something like, "We're not that good yet,'' or "We've got a long way to go.'' I'm not buying it much longer. What the Chiefs are is unknown, but they're playing too well on defense (38 points allowed in three games) with too many productive new players on offense (the electric Dexter McCluster, the surprising Tony Moeaki) to sneak up on anyone anymore.
Take Moeaki. When GM Scott Pioli scouted Iowa's prospects last year, coach Kirk Ferentz told him Moeaki was one of the three most important players the program has had in his 11 years on the job. Pioli looked beyond the tight end's lack of productivity -- 76 catches in parts of five seasons -- to his intangibles: toughness, leadership, selflessness. He leads the Chiefs with 12 catches and two touchdowns after three weeks.
Pioli's draft class is rapidly becoming one of the league's best in 2010. The top six picks all played extensively Sunday in the 31-10 win over the Niners. Eric Berry's a starting safety. The second-round picks, McCluster and nickel back Javier Arenas, combined, are averaging 15.4 yards per punt return. Third-rounder Moeaki starts at tight end while the other third-rounder, Jon Asamoah, is the third tackle or extra tight end, and fifth-rounder Kendrick Lewis is the starting free safety. You don't want to get too cocky about a two-game division lead yet, especially with a team this young. But if the Chiefs don't turn it over, there's no reason they can't win the West.
Mike Smith makes a gutsy call, and the Falcons survive, thanks to Garrett Hartley. Atlanta, up 24-21, had a fourth-and-six at the Saints' 37 with 3:36 left in the fourth quarter, with the potent New Orleans offense on the sidelines waiting to strike. Instead of punting, Smith chose to go for it. And in the NBC viewing room, the Football Night in America fellows were surprised.
Logic said you pin the Saints back, or try to, with a lead late in the game. Smith chose to gamble, thinking the Falcons had a winnable play called to tight end Tony Gonzalez. "My thought process was we had a matchup we liked, and if our punt went into the end zone, it would be a net of only 17 yards,'' Smith said. "The ball got tipped at the line of scrimmage [before it reached Gonzalez]. No regrets, though. None at all.''
The Saints tied the game with a late field goal and forced overtime. Lucky for Atlanta, Hartley missed a 29-yard gimme field goal attempt in overtime, and the Falcons went down and won it on a 46-yard field goal of their own by Matt Bryant.
That's the fine line here. Both teams are 2-1. New Orleans isn't 3-0 because Hartley missed a kick high school kickers make 90 percent of the time. The Saints were left to pick up the pieces, start auditioning kickers and wonder why they have struggled in all three of their games. Atlanta walked away euphoric after running for 202 yards and dodging a loss.
"We're not even past the quarter pole yet,'' said Smith. "There was no statement made today. I told our guys this week that one of the reasons I like what I see in this team is because they handle adulation and humiliation very well. We lost to Pittsburgh in overtime and handled it, then we beat Arizona and handled that.''
Braylon and the Jets. Below you'll read some interesting facts about Edwards and the DUI case and how other NFL teams have handled such cases in the past couple of years. That is to say they've turned a blind eye to them most often. No matter what Edwards does -- and Andrea Kremer reported last night that he reached out to commissioner Goodell to apologize for getting arrested at 5 in the morning at twice the legal limit for drunkenness -- the only thing that matters now is actions over a period of time.
We've seen in the Vick and Roethlisberger cases that the public may one day forgive after a scandalous offense, though the process is slow. But this much is clear after watching the Jets' 31-23 win over the Dolphins in Miami last night: The Jets need the deep-threat presence Edwards provides, especially with Santonio Holmes missing for one more game. Edwards' 67-yard touchdown catch from Mark Sanchez put the Jets ahead for good in the third quarter.
Even though he drops too many balls, Edwards is the kind of physical receiver who can play over corners' heads and can be a security blanket for Sanchez, who now has six touchdowns and no interceptions in the last two games, both wins over their main challengers in the division, New England and Miami.
We've all had time to debate whether the punishment of sitting out a quarter was severe enough -- that was my prediction Saturday on NBC; I knew Rex Ryan wanted Edwards to sit out only a play or a series, but upper management would have none of that. Know this, if the Jets had benched Edwards, they'd have been the first team to do so after a player's DUI since 2009 began. Now it'll be interesting to see if Edwards can rehab his image, pay his debt to society and team with Holmes to give the Jets a skill-player set that can win more playoff games.
Minnesota and Dallas save themselves. I wouldn't have pronounced either team dead with a third consecutive loss, but both won impressively, reinforcing that they're still serious playoff contenders. The Cowboys completely outplayed the Texans. Tony Romo got Roy Williams involved for the first time in forever. With five catches for 117 yards, Williams had his most important game as a Cowboy.
As for the Vikings, Peterson was back to his dominant self -- 23 carries, 160 yards, two touchdowns. So far this year, he's had 83 touches with zero fumbles, proving his work on the fumbling problem -- he had nine in the regular- and postseason last year -- is working. "I just keep the ball high and tight,'' he told me last night. "It comes natural now because I did it for so long in the offseason. Now, I just play the game. It's not in my mind.''
I'm not a fan of the early bye, but Peterson is. He'll go home to Texas, "relax, see my family and go to the Oklahoma-Texas game.'' As for the coaches, they'll examine the right mix for the offense. Sunday's against Detroit looked good to me while Brett Favre continues to adjust to life without Sidney Rice -- and, now, without Vincent Jackson. "We had 185 yards passing and 183 rushing,'' coach Brad Childress said. "that's good, but we've got to throw it better, and we will throw it better. We may not know exactly what kind of offense we have 'til Week 8 or 10.''
Time to worry about the Niners and the Giants. I picked these two to win their divisions. Now I'd be surprised if either finished .500. How can a team with the front-seven talent and depth of San Francisco get steamrollered for 457 yards by the Chiefs? And how can a team with the supposed maturity of the Giants melt down like it did Sunday at home?
Eli Manning throwing a preposterous left-handed shovel pass into triple coverage instead of eating it. Five personal-foul penalties -- all against smart veterans like David Diehl and Kareem McKenzie. As I said on NBC last night, Tom Coughlin took the blame in his postgame press conference, but it was a different Coughlin who called out his players for their stupid play in the privacy of the locker room.
What peeved Coughlin is that he told his players during the week that Jeff Fisher teams were famous for provoking and needling the opposition, and you can't take the bait; you've got to just walk away. Coughlin should know. Sunday was the 19th time he faced Fisher head-to-head in an NFL game. If either team can turn it around, it's probably San Francisco, because the Niners are in a bad division. But I wouldn't count on it.
Batch tries to make his dream last one more week. A month ago, Charlie Batch was the Steelers' fourth quarterback. He faced an uncertain future, even with Roethlisberger suspended for the first four weeks, because the Steelers might have chosen to start the season with only Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon as quarterbacks, leaving him on the street. One of the most philanthropic players in the league, Batch runs a summer basketball league for the kids in the hardscrabble, gang-ridden area of town where he grew up, trying to keep kids from meeting the same fate his sister met in 1997 -- when she was murdered as an innocent bystander in the crossfire between rival gangs.
All Batch wanted, really, was one chance to shine for the team he grew up worshiping. Sunday in Tampa, he got it. Taking advantage of an injury to Leftwich to stick on the opening day roster, and then an injury to Dixon last week to become the starter, Batch used the entire playbook instead of the slimmed-down game plan Dixon had been using. He threw deep to Mike Wallace twice, connecting on 46- and 41-yard touchdowns --once beating the son of former Steeler assistant Russ Grimm, rookie safety Cody Grimm --among his three scoring passes.
"Honestly, I didn't think I'd ever get a chance for another start here,'' Batch told me from Tampa. "But what was great today was we had everything in the game plan, and we were going to take our shots downfield early. We were just trying to open it up, because we weren't playing us, honestly. And before the game, Mike [Wallace] said to me, 'Give me an opportunity, Chuck. Throw it up there for me.' We decided that if 35 [Grimm] ever turned his back to me, I was putting it up there.''
That's exactly what happened on one of the TD bombs to Wallace. Batch put it up for Wallace, and Grimm lost the ball, and Wallace won it in the end zone. Just like the Steelers drew it up.
"Game ball goes to Chuck,'' said coach Mike Tomlin after the game, tossing him the ball.
Sweetest words he's heard in years. Now he'll have to stare down the barrel of Ray Lewis, and the 3-0 Steelers will have to beat Baltimore to come out of their Ben-less period undefeated.
Not to keep you hanging, but in tomorrow's column I'll update you on what Roethlisberger's been doing while suspended.
1. Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia. Seriously. Eagles have outscored foes 80-49 in Vick's 10 quarters of play, he's thrown six touchdowns and no interceptions, and he's still the most dangerous running threat at the position.
2. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis. The hiccup at Houston was more the fault of a defense that got steamrollered by Arian Foster. Manning still makes everyone around him better.
3. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay. Who knows? Another big game for Clay Matthews tonight, and a stifling defensive performance in Chicago tonight, and this spot might one day belong to Matthews.
4. Troy Polamalu, S, Pittsburgh. Might have been higher if not for a pretty quiet game Sunday in Tampa. But to me, Polamalu looks more valuable to the Steelers than does Roethlisberger.
5. Arian Foster, RB, Houston. Averaging league-best 135 rushing yards a game and 5.9 yards per carry. We'll see if he can keep it up. If he can, the Texans are a playoff team. Easy.
1. Pittsburgh (3-0). OK, Charlie Batch. You knocked off the Bucs. Now you get the Ravens at the Ketchup Bottle Sunday. That'll be a bit more of a challenge.
2. Green Bay (2-0). Pack has a great chance to be 6-0 going into the first of two Favre Bowls. On tap: at Chicago, Detroit, at Washington, Miami ... and then Minnesota at home in Week 7.
3. Atlanta (2-1). Beat the Super Bowl champs at the Super Bowl champs. Only loss is an overtime loss to the Steelers. Pretty good recipe for success.
4. New Orleans (2-1). Points this year: Saints 63, Foes 58. Something's just not totally right. This is still a very good team, and we'd overlook it probably if an endangered species of a kicker had made a simple 29-yarder. But look at the Saints' next four -- Carolina, at Arizona, at Tampa Bay, Cleveland -- and you can see how they have a shot to recover.
5. Chicago (2-0). How they handle the Packer rush tonight interests me. And how Jay Cutler gets the ball out.
6. Houston (2-1). That four-week suspension to left tackle Duane Brown is going to hurt, and could have been the factor that tipped the scales all Dallas' way. DeMarcus Ware, playing over left-tackle sub Rashad Butler, had three sacks and two more tackles for loss Sunday.
7. Indianapolis (2-1). You know how you always hear quarterbacks say it takes so long to mesh with new receivers and get good chemistry with them? Not Peyton Manning. He pulls undrafted Michigan State free-agent wideout Blair White up from the practice squad and the kid catches three balls for 27 yards, one for a touchdown, in his first game.
8. New York Jets (2-1). Thanks for shaving, Braylon. That beard was hideous. Two signature wins in a row for Gang Green, with a nice contribution from Dustin Keller and others.
9. Philadelphia (2-1). The Eagles' line and defense probably isn't good enough to go deep into January, but we've learned one thing of late: With Vick, all things are possible.
10. Cincinnati (2-1). I remember the days when the Bengals played ugly all the time. So to win ugly, to Cincinnati, is a thing of beauty.
11. Baltimore (2-1).Anquan Boldin (eight for 142 and three touchdowns) has been an All-Pro receiver through his first month in the AFC.
12. Dallas (1-2). I still have no idea what to make of the Cowboys, but they won all phases of a game they had to have at Houston, a team we all thought was top tier.
13. Miami (2-1). You have to make a play, one play, down at the goal line with the game on the line, Chad Henne.
14. Kansas City (3-0). Chiefs are still not a great team, but they do enter October with a two-game lead in the AFC West -- and a tiebreaker game in hand over the Chargers.
15. New England (2-1). I am shocked to be putting Scott Pioli's new team ahead of his old team. But I've watched the Chiefs and Patriots play defense over the last three weeks, and there's no doubt the defense that's played better -- much better -- is Kansas City's. Points allowed per game: Kansas City 12.7, New England 27.3.
Offensive Players of the Week
Quick note about this category this week. I could name Vick, Sanchez (six TDs, no interceptions in the last two weeks), Kyle Orton and Philip Rivers very, very easily. I thought Rivers was huge in defeat, as was Orton. But I'm going with three other players who distinguished themselves over the weekend.
Austin Collie, WR, Indianapolis. With Pierre Garcon and Anthony Gonzalez out with injuries, Collie had another big game, catching 12 Peyton Manning passes in Denver for 171 yards and two touchdowns. Check out his stat line for the year:
27* Receptions; 359* Yards; 13.3 yards per catch; 4 touchdowns. (* NFL-leading totals.)
Peyton Hillis, RB, Cleveland. "Throughout my past,'' Hills said after the game in Baltimore, "no one ever gave me much of a shot to do anything individually.'' Maybe they will now. Hillis, a 250-pound throw-in to the Brady Quinn trade from Denver in the offseason, started in place of the injured Jerome Harrison and rammed the run at the Ravens all day, rushing 22 times for 144 yards and a touchdown.
You'd think the Ravens' D would be immune to this kind of day, but it's the fourth time in the last 19 games a runner has surpassed 100 yards against Baltimore, dating to the start of the 2009 season. Still, running against the physical front of the Ravens line, even though it came in a 24-17 loss, is a great accomplishment for a back who was a clear number three, at best, entering camp less than two months ago.
Jeff Garcia, QB, Omaha Nighthawks. No, I'm not going to make the United Football League a regular part of The Award Section. But Garcia, 40, deserves some praise here for rallying Omaha to victory in the first game in its history, 27-26 over Hartford. After practicing with the team Monday, he flew to California to be with his wife, Carmella, for the birth of their third child, Jax, on Tuesday, and flew back to be with the team for Wednesday's practice -- and the game Friday night. He threw the winning touchdown pass to ex-Packer Robert Ferguson, a 12-yarder, with six seconds to go, in front of 23,067, a sellout, at Rosenblatt Stadium, the longtime home of the College World Series. "That's the way to start a franchise,'' coach Jeff Jagodzinski said.
Lots of NFL folk in this game. Garcia (23-39, 226, three touchdowns, no picks) outdueled Josh McCown (22-25, 264, 2-0). Ricardo Colclough's punt return and Ahman Green's runs helped set up the winning score. Colclough, Nick Green, Stuart Schweigert and Cato June were among Omaha's leading tacklers.
Defensive Players of the Week
Trent Cole, DE, Philadelphia. With the embattled Eagle defense holding Jacksonville to 184 yards (now we can see why the upper deck is tarped), Cole led the way. He had eight tackles, two sacks of David Garrard, two more quarterback hits and a pass deflected. For Philadelphia to cover for some of their weaknesses in the back end, Cole and his front-seven mates have to continue to get the kind of pressure they got Sunday.
Tamba Hali, DE, Kansas City. He owned Alex Smith at Arrowhead, sacking the 49ers quarterback three times in the rout and forcing one fumble. The Chiefs weren't able to use the last two drafts to solve every problem they had. Fortunately for them, Hali is one of the holdovers from the Peterson/Kuharich regime who has a chance under defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to blossom into a pass-rush fixture in Kansas City.
Special Teams Players of the Week
Leon Washington, KR, Seattle. When you run back kicks for 99- and 101-yard touchdowns in one half, is there any argument about you winning this prestigious award?
Kevin Huber, P, Cincinnati. Of the many great special-team performances Sunday, why pick a guy who averaged 38.2 yards per punt? Because Huber, a second-year punter from two miles away from Paul Brown Stadium -- from the University of Cincinnati -- dropped five of his six punts inside the 20, including two gems. He put a 45-yarder at the Carolina 4 and a 37-yarder to the Carolina 2. The Bengals stopped the toothless Panthers both times and got the ball back in great field position -- at the Cincinnati 47 and the Carolina 42. That is the unseen story in so many games, the field-position the punter hands the offense. And Huber was magnificent at that in Charlotte.
Coach of the Week
Andy Reid, Philadelphia. All you're judged on in the coaching business is whether your decisions pay off. We can argue all day about Reid saying all winter that Donovan McNabb was his guy, and then trading him; and then all spring and summer about how Kevin Kolb was his guy, and Reid benching him after 15 non-concussed snaps. But the way Vick played Sunday proved that the best quarterback to lead this team right now is Vick, and sometimes decisions in which you clearly contradict yourself can be painful and awkward. But all that matters is how it turns out.
And this decision, at least this week, was a gem, with Vick throwing 61-, 16- and 45-yard touchdown passes and running for a fourth score from 17 yards out in a 28-3 rout of the Jags. Yes, Reid has to salvage Kolb for the future, but for now, in the midst of the local and national hue and cry, his decision looks golden.
Coaching Decision of the Week
The Chiefs going razzle-dazzle to break open a 10-3 game against San Francisco in the third quarter in Kansas City. Matt Cassel had struggled through the first 10 quarters of the season, and this was the perfect time to inject life into the offense. Cassel lined up wide left. Running back Thomas Jones took the snap and Dexter McCluster came around to run a reverse. With the defense keying on McCluster, Cassel came around and took a short pitch from McCluster, then threw a perfect bomb into the end zone to Dwayne Bowe. That made it 17-3, and the Chiefs cruised from there.
Goats of the Week
Garrett Hartley, K, New Orleans. His 29-yard miss in overtime, a chippy just to the right of the middle of the field, against the Falcons may be fatal to his NFL career. It's his third miss of the year in three games, all from manageable distances (46, 32, 29), and I learned last night that his time may be short. The Saints will audition kickers this week. I don't think he's about to be fired necessarily, but as I said last night on NBC, the man who kicked the Saints to the Super Bowl eight months ago is on very thin ice in New Orleans.
Sebastian Janikowski, K, Oakland. Not a good day for the booters. Janikowski missed a 32-yarder to win in the final seconds, not long after missing 41- and 58-yarders at Arizona in a game the Raiders lost by one. To miss in a weather-less environment from short range ... inexcusable. And for a $4-million-a-year kicker ... doubly inexcusable.
"We were really going to be in bad trouble if we lost this ballgame. Quite candidly, I was worried about going home and facing weeks without a win.''-- Dallas owner Jerry Jones, after the Cowboys handled Houston to win their first game of the year.
I bet I've heard Jones say "quite candidly'' 300 times. He loves saying it.
"I guess in this world we don't have a lot of people with, like, backbones. Just because somebody pay you money don't mean they'll make you do whatever they want or whatever. I mean, does that mean everything is for sale? I mean, I'm not for sale. Yeah, I signed the contract and got paid a lot of money, but ... that don't mean I'm for sale or a slave or whatever."-- Washington defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, to radio station 106.7 The Fan. Haynesworth has been paid $34-million since signing with the Redskins 19 months ago, and is not happy the team is asking the defensive tackle to play defensive tackle.
"How is Kevin doing?''-- Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, to coach Andy Reid, when Reid told Vick that he, not incumbent Kolb, would be the starting quarterback for the Eagles' game with Jacksonville Sunday. Vick and Kolb have become friends, and Vick said several times in the wake of his impressive performances in the first two Eagle games that Kolb deserved to be the starting quarterback. This is one of the reasons Reid cited as factors in the maturity of Vick.
"Blair [White] had run a couple of slant routes and they were playing inside, so he said to me, 'I think I can get him with a slant and go.' We encourage that kind of feedback. Now, I don't have to do it, but he said that a slant-and-go would give him a shot. That's the thing our practice squad guys always know: They're one injury away. They're talking about the 18-game schedule and cutting the offseason workouts. Well, Blair White does not get ready to play if you take those away.''-- Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning, on his touchdown connection with former practice-squadder Blair White, in a column this morning by Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star.
"Wow. From his Wikipedia page: 'Kareem Michael McKenzie (born May 24, 1979) is literally human garbage for the New York Giants ...' ''-- NJ_StevePoliti, columnist Steve Politi of the Newark Star-Ledger, 63 minutes after the Giants lost to Tennessee, and McKenzie, the Giants' right tackle, committed two personal-foul penalties for New York.
I checked. Politi's spot on. There's a Wikipedia sports terrorist out there.
The number of arrests, per team, in the AFC East since January 2009, when Rex Ryan was named coach of the Jets:
Miami: 6.Buffalo: 5.New England: 1.New York: 1.
I'm not minimizing the arrest of Braylon Edwards for DUI last Tuesday morning. And testing at twice the legal limit for drunkenness, being arrested after 5 a.m., and having two teammates in the car makes it fair game for critics who said the Jets should have pushing Edwards by not allowing him to play Sunday night in Miami. But I'm also asking for a little perspective in calling the Jets the outlaws of the NFL.
According to an arrest log kept by ProFootballTalk.com, there have been 22 players arrested for driving while impaired or DUI since Jan. 1, 2009. I went back and checked what happened to each player arrested, and not a single one who was a viable NFL player was kept out of his team's next game. Seven were either roster marginalia or practice-squadders who were cut by their teams and who I don't believe apply to those being kept out of their team's next game, because they weren't valued members of their teams. What happened to the other 15:
• Ten players were arrested in the 2009 or 2010 offseason, and every one played in the opening game of the following season.
• Five players (San Diego's Vincent Jackson, Atlanta's Eric Weems, New Orleans' Bobby McCray, Indianapolis' Fili Moala, as well as Edwards) were arrested for DUI during the season and played the next week.
None of this makes Edwards' case acceptable. And as Tony Dungy said on Football Night in America Sunday, the Jets could have set a good example for their own locker room by saying this aberrant behavior will not be tolerated. But the fact is, none of the other teams in a similar situation since 2009 did either.
The Green Bay Packers can thank Brett Favre for one more thing, other than a lot of memories, when they take the field tonight in Chicago.
The Packers traded Favre to the New York Jets for a conditional draft choice in 2008. The pick became the Jets' third-rounder in the 2009 draft because Favre played more than 50 percent of the snaps in the 2008 season. So when the Packers started looking for an extra pick to pair with the 41st and 73rd overall picks to send to New England for the 26th overall pick in the first round on that draft day, GM Ted Thompson reached into his trove of choices and pulled out the Favre pick -- the 83rd. He sent the three picks to New England for that first-rounder and a fifth- to get a prospect many in the league thought had some holes because of a very spotty college career. The prospect started only eight games in five years, but Thompson had a feel for him. He thought the prospect would be just what his front seven was missing. And so the deal got made, and Thompson used the ultimate headache that had been the Favre nightmare to help him get his man.
NFL sack leader Clay Matthews.
In the last seven days, I've been on Southwest, AirTran, the Amtrak Acela (twice); I've been stranded in Baltimore for four hours, been in Houston, in Manhattan ... and I have these five questions:
1. Why does Southwest have different seat belts than every other airline?
2. Why, when a child is crying that endless, bloodcurdling cry on an airplane, does a parent over and over say "Shhhhhh, shhhhhh,'' instead of taking the baby out of the seat, putting the child over his/her shoulder and rubbing or gently patting the baby in the back -- anything to change the dynamic or to try to coax a burp out of the poor kid?
3. Why could I find the New York Post, New York Times, New York Daily News, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Investors Daily at the Hudson News outlet in the Baltimore-Washington International Airport ... but not the hometown Baltimore Sun?
4. Why, if a flight is scheduled to leave at 10:15 a.m. out of Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport, and your plane backs away from the gate at 10:15 a.m. and gets out to the runway on a cloudless, windless day (last Thursday), and it isn't the morning rush hour or the afternoon rush hour, does it then take 32 minutes to get up in the air? Atlanta's infamous for this, in all weather.
5. Why don't more of us take the train, and why doesn't Washington invest in the rails across the country to give more of the country, and not just the northeast corridor, the pleasure of the Acela, with speeds up to 150 mph between Boston and Washington?
T-minus five days and counting for the New Hampshire Half-Marathon Saturday in Bristol, N.H. What began as a nightmare thought -- running twice as far as I've ever run in my life, at 53, in the middle of my crazy time of year -- has turned into one of the most interesting experiences I've had in years. Interesting because I've found I can actually run a long way and not be hospitalized after it. I actually think I'm going to do this.
Please go to our website, www.runpeterkingrun.com, for the story if you've missed it, and for a more important reason: to contribute to my causes for the race, Feed the Children and Wounded Warrior Project. I'd really like all of you to feel the pride of funding one semitrailer full of food and home supplies for 400 inner-city families somewhere in the United States ... and it costs $7,500 per trailer to do that. Also, I'm hoping you can find it in your hearts to support rehab and prostheses for the bravest people in the country, our wounded veterans coming home and trying to make new lives for themselves. I'll be contributing to both after the race as well. If I finish the 13.1-mile race Saturday at 9 a.m., I'll give each charity $1,000. If I don't finish, each charity gets $2,000. So when the two causes tell me to "Break a leg,'' maybe they'll really mean it.
I have to tell you about a great experience I had in Boston last Tuesday. The PR man for Runners World, David Tratner (some of you in football might remember Dave as one of the Jets' PR people in recent years), e-mailed me with a thought: How about if one of the magazine's editors, Amby Burfoot, came up to Boston to run with me and give me some pointers on running a half-marathon? I knew Amby Burfoot. He's a Connecticut boy (from Groton), like me (from Enfield), and I remember him very well from my youth. When I was 10, in 1968, Amby, a Wesleyan University senior, won the Boston Marathon. That was a big deal in Connecticut. "Of course,'' I told Dave. "That would be a huge honor, to run with Amby.''
And so we made the arrangements, and last Tuesday morning at 7:30, we met on the steps of the Boston Public Library on Copley Square. He's 64 now, but with a runner's body and a terrific, patient attitude ... and with a strained calf. "I'm 64, but I think I'm 24,'' he said with a grin. "Things don't heal the way they used to.'' But he was in training too -- for the Athens Marathon in Greece at the end of October, and our eight-mile run, at my pace, would actually be a good day on the road for him.
We set off down Boylston Street, then left toward the Charles Rivers, where we'd run for a mile or so, then across the bridge near Mass General to Cambridge, then around the Science Museum, then four miles southwest along the Charles through Cambridge, then back over a bridge to Allston, then over a footbridge to Boston University, then past Fenway Park back to his hotel.
I wanted to know his advice for the run. Start slow, he said. Don't run for time; run for fun. Don't sprint down the hills. Just run your short strides. Don't get impatient.
"And get behind a really attractive woman runner,'' he said. "Women are great at keeping up a pace, so you won't have to worry about your pace. And, you know, there will be some other benefits.''
I'm not much for talking when running, but I had to know about the day he won Boston. So I interviewed him as we ran. There were 980 runners that day, a Saturday. The running culture at the time, he said, was pretty nerdy. He said he was a skinny, weird nerd who couldn't get a date, as he settled into a slow jog so as not to embarrass me. He said it "was sex, drugs and rock 'n roll on college campuses,'' but he'd go to bed many nights at 9 and be up at 6 to run. He knew he'd have a chance that day because some of the world's pre-eminent runners were saving themselves for the Olympic trials and the high-altitude Olympics in Mexico City that year. After about 10 miles, Burfoot was in a pack of 10 runners. They ran together for a few miles, and he wondered what would happen if he picked up the pace just a little bit. So he did -- and only one of the runners stayed with him. That runner, Bill Clark, stayed with Burfoot for a few miles.
As we ran this morning, we cast long shadows to our right. That's the same kind of shadow, Burfoot said, that shadowed him that April day in 1968. Even as the two runners ascended Heartbreak Hill -- Burfoot was great at hills -- the shadow hung in there. But as they descended the hill the shadow went away; Burfoot found out later Clark strained a muscle coming down the hill. Now he was in the clear. And he won the race.
"Today, you get $150,000 for winning Boston,'' he said, chuckling. "In those days, I got a laurel wreath, a diamond pendant, though you could barely see the diamond, and a big bowl of beef stew -- and I was a vegetarian.''
His big celebration was getting in the family car and driving 90 minutes back to Groton. And then going back to Wesleyan for class Monday morning.
"When you went into class Monday, did anybody stand up and give you an ovation for winning Boston?'' I asked.
"God, no!'' he said. "I was such a shy kid. I'd have been horrified!''
As he told me stories, it occurred to me what a special club he belongs to -- American men who have won Boston. No American has won it in 27 years. I felt like I was taking fly balls off the Green Monster with Carl Yastrzemski.
When we finished, I had a kick left for the last 300 or 400 yards, and I felt good about that. We got a coffee in the Starbucks at the Sheraton -- the same hotel that houses the marathon runners every April -- and now I was the running nerd, needing affirmation from one of the greatest American runners ever. I didn't know how to ask it, so I just blurted it out:
"What'd you think of me as a runner?''
"You look smooth, comfortable,'' he said. "In eight miles, I never heard you breathe. You've got a very economical stride. You don't look like you're working hard. You're smooth. You're an athlete.''
"You're just a little hunched over at the shoulders. But you look like a lifelong marathoner in terms of the ease and the comfort of your stride. I really think you could run a marathon if you wanted to. You could fit into a running group with experienced runners here in Boston and fit right in.''
"You're really going to do well,'' he said. "You're going to love it.''
I know it. I can't wait for Saturday.
(Editor's Note:To read Amby Burfoot's work, go to RunnersWorld.com, where Burfoot, who specializes in sports medicine and exercise physiology, has blogs titled "Peak Performance'' and "Footloose.'')
1. I think this is what I liked about Week 3:
a. Kyle Orton has really taken command of the Denver offense, and I don't say that just because he threw for 476 yards Sunday. You notice that Tim Tebow was the third quarterback Sunday? That's a nod to the fact that Orton's running the offense so well that Josh McDaniels doesn't think there's any point right now in taking Orton off the field to throw the Tebow change-up at the defense.
b. Talk about two backs fitting well together. Thomas Jones vs. San Francisco: 19 carries, 95 yards; Jamaal Charles vs. San Francisco: 12 carries, 97 yards.
c. What a run by Rashard Mendenhall, his spinning, pirouetting move against the Bucs.
d. You're not as slow as everyone thinks, Charlie Batch.
e. Calvin Johnson had to be 10 feet tall to make that second-quarter catch against the Vikes.
f. Will Witherspoon, reborn. Who knew he could run the passer like he's doing?
g. Gus Johnson I at Pittsburgh-Tampa Bay, after a Steeler touchdown: "LISTEN TO THIS PLACE! IT SOUNDS LIKE WE'RE IN DOWNTOWN PITTSBURGH!!
h. Gus Johnson II at Pittsburgh-Tampa Bay, "CHARLIE BATCH COMING OFF THE BENCH TODAY! HE LOOKS LIKE JOHNNY U!''
i. No peeking: Sports quiz--Where'd Danny Woodhead go to college? (Answer in number 9 of 10 Things.)
j. Excellent use of instant replay by Walt Anderson twice in the third quarter at New Orleans. Reversed two calls and got both right.
k. The Saints' decisiveness in bringing in some kickers this week for auditions. Can't hold the seat forever without performing, Garrett Hartley, not after missing gimmes.
l. Bernard Pollard. A bruising hitter he's always been. In Houston, he's become a defensive leader and a tackling machine on the level of DeMeco Ryans. Fifteen more stops Sunday against Dallas.
2. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 3:
a. Adrian Peterson is going to see that first-quarter drop, with nothing but open field in front of him, for a long time.
b. If you won't trust your kicker, Dallas, and you certainly don't when you won't let David Buehler attempt a 46-yard field goal and instead go for it on fourth-and-two, then why didn't you cut him last week and sign a trusted vet?
c. When Eli Manning looks at his ridiculous left-handed interception in the red zone in the film room today, he'll puke.
d. As will Tampa Bay rookie safety Cody Grimm (son of Russ), who lost coverage on the 46-yard Steeler touchdown pass to Mike Wallace.
e. First Drew Brees interception in 261 days and 242 attempts. Come to think of it, there's a lot to like about that stat -- and the fact that the Saints' first turnover was in the ninth quarter of the season.
f. You're staring down your targets, Jimmy Clausen.
g. How do you NOT cover Percy Harvin, Lions?
h. You're not making everyone forget the way last year ended, Carson Palmer.
i. Come on, Kareem McKenzie. Control yourself. His double-shove of a Titan in the fourth quarter -- inexcusable.
j. The Giants, in general, are contending with San Francisco for 2010's most disappointing team.
3. I think a Week 4 bye is way too early. Players shouldn't head into their bye week in September.
4. I think I buy Chris Mortensen's report Sunday that Brett Favre has had second thoughts about his return to the Vikings. And why wouldn't he, when the team basically dragged him off his property a month ago? But will he act on his emotions and quit? I don't believe it. Not for a second.
5. I think there is no official in sports who loves to hear himself speak more than Ed Hochuli.
6. I think Dan Rooney took up for his old friend, Paul Tagliabue, for the Pro Football Hall of Fame the other day, and I thought I'd give you some of his logic. Since I find it, like, logical.
"His successes were often of a nature whereby he worked behind the scenes to prevent something from happening, rather than reacting after the fact. An example was during the anti-trust suit with the USFL, our outside council suggested that he would settle the case with the USFL. Tagliabue spoke up and said he had a different opinion and that settling the case would be the worst thing the NFL could do. It would open the door to other people to start a league then sue the NFL to get an award from the suit or to have teams join the NFL. His argument and logic made sense and the owners agreed ...
"As to whether or not Paul is responsible for whatever happens next [in the labor negotiations after pushing through the last agreement in 2006], that is confusing to me. Times change and both sides know that we are probably at a point where we need to make changes. Paul successfully guided us during his tenure and now it is time to examine where we will be in the future. That is always inevitable as circumstances over time demand adjustments.''
I doubt Tagliabue will get in soon; I should know, because I presented his case for three years to the body of voters, and there's a sense that he'll not get in until this labor thing is resolved -- and maybe not for a long while beyond that.
7. I think what would concern me if I were a Jaguar fan is not only the 13-of-30 performance by a quarterback, David Garrard, who should be beyond a day like this, but also the play of the two second-year tackles, Eben Britton and Eugene Monroe. Philly had six sacks of Garrard and could have a couple more.
8. I think that's the first of many, Sam Bradford.
9. I think you'll get a kick out of the silly numbers the latest New England hero put up in college. Answering the quiz first: Danny Woodhead went to Chadron (Neb.) State. Look what he did in his four years there:
10. I think these are my non-NFL thoughts of the week:
a. Congrats on 2,500 wins, Bobby Cox.
b. Austin Pettis, the nephew of one of the best-fielding center-fielders of our day, Gary Pettis, is the receiver/returner/occasional quarterback-on-the-reverse on the fun-to-watch Boise State team, and I can't wait to see what some smart NFL offensive coach does with him at the next level. He threw a touchdown pass to start Boise on its 37-24 win over Oregon State Saturday night.
c. The last week of the baseball season was looking interesting, until Papelbon and Okajima took the mound Sunday night.
d. The Red Sox have to think seriously about whether Papelbon's going to close for them next year. Maybe this is just one of those years. But he can't get the Yankees out anymore. That's sort of important.
e. I wish something could make me interested in the National League West race.
f. I've got a lot of admiration for Jose Bautista and his 52 jacks.
g. I'm not saying my wife and I went to a nice restaurant in New York the other night or anything, but when she put her purse on the floor by her chair, a server hustled over, picked up her purse and put it on a velvet footstool.
h. Coffeenerdness: Quite pleased to try the Italian Roast from the New Hampshire Coffee Roasting Company. The darker the better, as far as I'm concerned, and this one's got a good kick to it with no bitterness.
i. Missed The Office the other night. I thought Michael was off the show. What's the story? Does he have one more year?
j. A big thanks to Liz Melby and the bartenders at the Harpoon Brewery in Boston for the runpeterkingrun.com fundraiser Thursday night. A more selfless, generous group of people you'll never meet, and my media panel (Albert Breer, Ron Borges, Ian Rapoport) and I are grateful for the hospitality. And the Raspberry Hefeweizen, of course.
Green Bay 27, Chicago 20. The Bears are getting ready to show America what they can do over the next seven days -- tonight on ESPN at home, then next Sunday night at the Meadowlands against the Giants on NBC. They're better than I thought, particularly with a line that exposes Jay Cutler to the rush. They're got the firepower to win this game. I just like Green Bay's playmakers better -- and the Packers corners will hold up against Cutler's onslaught.