UNSUPPORTED BROWSER
More Sports

Excitement, uncertainty encompass Hurney, NFL as draft week begins

There's a different feel to this draft. It's somewhere between indifference and total confusion. Last week, co-hosting the Sirius NFL Radio "Opening Drive'' show with Bob Papa, we had only two callers on hold midway through the show, at 9 a.m. "That's how it's been like almost every morning,'' Papa told me off the air. "Last year before the draft, the lines were jammed every day. Now, not so much.''

It'll be interesting to see if there's the typical draft fever Thursday night at Radio City. Will Roger Goodell get booed? Will he get a cool shoulder from the drafted first-rounders? Maybe ... but in the end this draft will be a very fun story because it's got so much that we won't expect.

"A total chess match,'' said my friend Rick Gosselin, the longtime NFL columnist for the Dallas Morning News, whose first-round projection on the morning of the draft is always the first thing I look for on draft day. "There's no real number-one quality pick, and you've got a screaming need for quarterbacks by so many teams, with no lock franchise quarterback in the draft. I see trades, maybe two teams moving down because they don't want to over-draft quarterbacks, and maybe two other teams trading up from the second round to get quarterbacks low in the first round. It's one of the most unpredictable drafts I remember.''

The draft, as well as what's wafting through Marty Hurney's head this morning, the real story with an important first-round foot, Ryan Mallett shooting himself in his, Bill Parcells parceling out a few draft secrets, a coach and a tornado, another offseason ordeal for Brandon Marshall, and Peter King the Juror. Just another manic Monday.

***

Excitement. Danger. Insecurity. Fear.

You want to know what you're feeling if you're the Carolina Panthers and you're on the clock right now, with the first pick in the draft? Those four words: excitement, danger, insecurity and fear.

In 1985, I moved to New Jersey to cover the Giants for Newsday. In those days, the Redskins were the big Giants rivals, and I got to know my counterpart from the Washington Times. His name was Marty Hurney. Always working, always trying to find an angle, always trying to beat the bigger Washington Post. Really knew his stuff. We weren't close friends -- never have been -- but we talked quite often. I respected his work ethic tremendously.

I have this picture in my head of Hurney with a notebook in the Redskins locker room at old RFK Stadium, walking around with grim determination, trying to talk to as many guys as he could one-on-one. As Hurney climbed the NFL ladder, first with the Redskins, then in San Diego and finally with Carolina as GM, I always saw that same look. Whatever he was doing, he was going to try to outwork you doing it.

Now his team has fallen miles behind the rest of the NFC South. My view is that Hurney likes Jimmy Clausen a little bit, but really doesn't know if he's the answer in a division that features quarterbacks Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and rising star Josh Freeman. It's a quarterback league, and he knows he probably needs one. His owner, Jerry Richardson, has in effect given him the keys to the 2011 draft and told him to take the best man, regardless of position.

So this weekend I tried to put myself in Hurney's position. I believe it's very likely he'll take Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, even though he knows how dangerous Newton is. And assuming he does, knowing a little of what makes Hurney tick, I'm going to tell you how I think Hurney will be feeling over the next three days and nights prior to the 8 p.m. beginning of round one.

(Could the Panthers pick someone else? Still possible, but I believe unlikely. I'm told they believe they need to take a calculated risk here for the long-term best interest of the franchise.)

I think Hurney will be staring at the ceiling at 4 in the morning once or twice this week. He won't sleep well. He'll wonder about a guy who threw 292 major-college passes (Eli Manning threw 1,383, Peyton Manning 1,354, Carson Palmer 1,334, Sam Bradford 893). He'll think about how Newton didn't see enough of the blitzes and coverages in one year at Auburn that he'll see in the NFL, how he'll be learning on the job under the unrelenting microscope of a nitpicky media. He'll wonder how much offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski will have to pare down his playbook for a guy who stepped into the huddle at Auburn and called "Thirty-six.'' That's right; his plays were numbered at Auburn, called from the sideline, and so, as pointed out by Jon Gruden on his QB TV show the other night, Newton has to learn the complexities of NFL play-calling too.

That's the bad. That's the risk. That's why Hurney will go over Newton a few more times in the middle of the night this week.

Hurney will also think these thoughts:

Newton has good pocket presence. He can make every NFL throw. He hasn't seen many NFL-caliber pass-rushes or pass-rushers, but the film from Auburn shows he doesn't crack or get jittery when the pocket breaks down. He's heard Houston Nutt, Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier say the kid's got it all. He's watched Newton bring Auburn back from a 24-0 deficit in a national-championship-type game at Alabama, against Saban's vaunted defense, to win 28-27.

Hurney knows Newton walked into a junior college in Texas in 2009 and convinced a team of total strangers to follow him, and the team won the national JC title, and he knows Newton walked into Auburn in 2010 and convinced a team of total strangers to follow him, and the team won a national college championship. He knows he has the "it'' factor, whatever "it'' is. He knows he's not at his best on the board or in the film room -- he didn't need the Gruden TV show to tell him that -- and he knows that could be trouble, but he knows Newton's willing to learn.

And he'll know more than any of us. My guess is that, individually and with members of the Panthers staff, Hurney's spent a good eight hours with Newton. He had staffers go to his JC in Texas and to Auburn and to his more disastrous stay, at Florida.

If the pick is Newton, Hurney will know he's going to take the slings and arrows of the experts (and I do not use that word sarcastically, because I respect the work and opinions of those who do the video analysis of the draft for a living, all of whom have serious reservations about Newton being a franchise quarterback), and he knows his career is on the line. Not so funny thing: Hurney's mentor in the business, Bobby Beathard, lay the groundwork for three Super Bowl championship teams in Washington. But after Beathard moved to San Diego, chose Ryan Leaf with the second pick of the 1998 draft and later retired, what does he hear occasionally out at dinner or in airports now? "Hey, Bobby, how could you ever have picked Leaf?''

The money's good to be a GM, I'm sure, and the responsibility is exciting, and if Hurney doesn't want the heat, he never should have gotten in the arena. But that doesn't make this decision any easier. I think he'll take Newton, and even then, I don't think he'll sleep easy.

***

Ten Thoughts on the Draft

1. There's a team in the draft that has a deal on the table -- I'm guessing New England (surprise!) -- with a team trying to come back into the first round. The deal will net the team dealing the first-rounder the following: a second-round pick in 2011 and a first-round pick in 2012. The deal, I hear, is contingent on the player the trade-up team wants still being there. Could it be Tennessee trading into the bottom of the first round, at 28, to get Jake Locker or Andy Dalton? Stay tuned.

2. New England, points out ESPNBoston's Mike Reiss, has only five draft picks in 2012. (The Patriots own their first- through fifth-rounders; the six went to Philly last year as part of a deal for linebacker Tracy White, the seven to the Chiefs for safety Jarrad Page.) That makes deals for future picks eminently logical this year, bordering on certain. The Patriots could use, say, Mike Pouncey or Cameron Jordan with their 17th pick in the first round, or leverage that pick by moving down a few spots, then deal the 28th altogether.

3. I see Arizona picking Blaine Gabbert, A.J. Green or Patrick Peterson at five. For those who've asked about Larry Fitzgerald's frame of mind if Green's the guy, I don't think the Cards are worried. Fitzgerald won't be doubled as much with Green on the other side. And for those who've wondered why in the world the Cards would take another receiver with so many holes on the roster, remember this: As Dez Bryant free-falled last year, the Cardinals seriously considered trying to run up into the late-first round area to try to get him.

4. The reason not even the best personnel men can guarantee it will be a record-setting first round for the most questionable quarterback class ever is this: Arizona, Minnesota and Seattle aren't nutty about reaching for quarterbacks because of the presence of Kevin Kolb, Matt Hasselbeck, Marc Bulger and maybe Carson Palmer on the trade market or via free-agency markets. Plus, the San Francisco hierarchy thinks Alex Smith is salvageable. So who knows? While I think there's a very good chance Locker, Dalton and Christian Ponder will join Newton and Gabbert in the first round, the teams with a long-term quarterback need might get their men by sheer patience. I doubt it, but they might.

5. Hot running back, moving up: Oregon State mighty mite Jacquizz Rodgers, a 5-foot-7 durable machine of a back who averaged 26 touches a game in 36 college games, is looking like a third-rounder and the fourth or fifth back off the board.

6. Still can't find anyone I trust to tell me Ryan Mallett's going in the first round. A couple of points about the Mallett/Carolina debacle: You read the report (or heard it) by Bears beat man Brad Biggs that Mallett went out on the town in Charlotte the night of April 8 after dining with Panthers officials, and then said he was sick the next morning and couldn't meet with them. I've got some details that clarify the case, but still won't help Mallett.

After the dinner, Mallett's next scheduled appointment with the Panthers was breakfast at his hotel the next day with offensive coordinator Chudzinski. Mallett arrived for the meeting and said he'd been sick all night and still was feeling nauseous. He was told to go get some rest, and if he felt better, he could meet with coaches later in the day. But he continued to feel ill and just flew home that day instead of meeting with the Panthers.

Now, for the majority of players without a history of off-the-field red flags, this would be easy. Kid's been traveling a lot, kid got sick. With Mallett, he should have dragged himself through an uncomfortable day any way possible so that he didn't give the other 31 teams another log on the fireplace to burn his reputation. Not a smart move by the kid.

7. Dallas isn't solid about what to do at nine. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Cowboys stretch for versatile Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo (wisely) or Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt.

8. And if Castonzo's on the board when the Vikes pick at No. 12, he'll be in play there, along with defensive end Aldon Smith, with Locker on the outside.

9. I know he's flawed, and I know he may never be the consistent-effort guy Mike Smith demands, but Georgia pass-rusher Justin Houston has what Atlanta is looking for, at least in some quantity: explosiveness. He's in play for the Falcons at 27.

10. Finally, this Tweet from our friend Greg Cosell of NFL Films, after examining all the quarterbacks in the draft: "Very anxious to see where QBs go. A bad draft but many teams need one. Could be lot of reaches. Not a top 20 QB in draft. It's about hope.'' That just about says it all.

***

And while we're on the subject of quarterbacks...

Mel Kiper wrote this about a quarterback several years ago in the weeks before the draft (I have replaced the name of the player with "he''): "Did a great job directing a sophisticated pass offense, but in the NFL he will be looking to overcome his lack of ideal size and top arm strength. A major plus is the fact that he has all the necessary intangibles you look for. He's a tremendous competitor, always maintains his poise and has the resiliency to forget about the bad plays and move on. He's also a winner who responds to challenges in close games that could go either way. Directed his team to their first Rose Bowl since 1966. In the end ... he'll have to silence skeptics who question how effective he will be when it comes to cutting through the wind late in the season. ... He lacks big-time arm strength and has to prove to the skeptics that he's not just a system QB.''

Kiper was talking about Drew Brees. But Kiper wasn't alone. That's what the league thought of Brees a decade ago, before he was the first pick of the second round in the 2001 draft. Kiper was echoing what the decision-makers were saying.

I'm no tape-bandit, and better football minds than I have watched TCU's Dalton -- who, like Brees, is shorter than teams would like (though two inches taller than Brees) -- and come away thinking his arm isn't strong enough to be a classic NFL quarterback. I watched TCU's Rose Bowl victory on tape. There was one throw, about a 15-yard out to the far sideline, that Dalton really worked to put on enough zing. But he made the other throws comfortably.

This is not a league anymore that requires five passes a game 40 yards downfield. There might be one such throw. Maybe none. Can you read defenses? Can you run a sophisticated offense? Can you take the pressure? Can you take the hits? Can you think quickly, and have the "fast eyes'' you need to play winning football? I think Dalton can.

Many of you, loudly, have chided me for my Dalton enthusiasm. I might be wrong. It won't be the first time. I'm not saying he'll be Brees; remember, for his first five years, Brees wasn't the Brees you see today. But I would ask all of you quarterbackologists this: A decade ago, what'd you think of that short quarterback with arm-strength questions and a good football brain and a winning résumé at a place that hadn't won much recently before he got there?

***

Other draft nuggets:

Parcells back to TV. Again. Bill Parcells and Mike Tirico met in Orlando earlier this month and taped 10 segments for a "Draft Confidential'' show that will air Tuesday night on ESPN from 9:30-11 p.m. Eastern. I spoke to Parcells Friday, before the Brandon Marshall stabbing, so I don't have his take on the risk of that deal, but I thought he was interesting on the risk of taking a quarterback very high in the draft, and the lesser risk of taking a franchise tackle.

I'm referring to the pick of Jake Long in the 2008 draft, when Parcells was the authority figure in the Miami draft room, and the Dolphins picked Long, the Michigan tackle, over Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan. "One of the reasons we took Jake Long is that he was a surer bet,'' Parcells said. "Quarterbacks, you just don't know. They're so hard to predict. It's easier to project how good a tackle is going to be, and a left tackle plays a pretty important position.''

Parcells said the reach for option quarterback Pat White in the second round of 2009 "was my mistake. It was a deviation from your principles; he was not prototypical. At the time, we're thinking we could expand the Wildcat, you know. But it turns out he wasn't accurate enough and didn't throw it well enough. We learned from that.''

Parcells will try to focus some attention on the money risk of high picks, and why, even though a player like Long is tremendously paid, he thinks it's smarter to pay a player who very likely won't bust than to pay a player who might. He'll also talk about the vanishing fullback, the rising importance of third and fourth corners, and the attributes he looks for in great quarterbacks.

Phil Taylor's foot is OK. I'm writing about Taylor, the most interesting nose tackle prospect in the draft (interesting because he can play the three-technique too, not just the burlier nose job), in tomorrow's column, but I wanted to give you these two tidbits: He wasn't asked to return to Indianapolis for the medical re-check on his foot, as many players are when they have lingering health issues before the draft. He had his foot X-rayed again by the 49ers on a recent visit, and he told me the 49ers team doctor told him there was nothing wrong with his foot long-term. More about Taylor, and his prognosis at the bottom of round one, in Tuesday's column.

Spags helps tornado victims. Some 24 hours after a tornado raked the area around the St. Louis airport Friday night, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo took part in a telephone fundraiser held by a St. Louis TV station and the Salvation Army. They're still taking donations in St. Louis for tornado victims here. "I drove by the devastation Saturday morning on my way to work,'' Spagnuolo said Sunday night. "Holy cow. This area of the country, how quickly things get destroyed. The amazing thing, no one got killed or seriously hurt. Incredible.

"We knew the storm was coming. You pray you don't get hit, and when you don't, you're praying for the people who got whacked. Aeneas Williams came to help, and La'Roi Glover. Channel 2 in St. Louis put on a telethon, and we went in and manned the phones from about 9 to 10:30 Saturday night. The frustrating thing is, I couldn't call the players because of the current labor situation. It's a little bit contrary to the ... well, that's not the story.

"The story is the Salvation Army and Ch. 2 in St. Louis putting this telethon together. I got a couple suggestions on who to draft ... One gal, I was writing down info, getting credit card number, and she said: 'Let's make sure we get [Illinois running back] Mikel Leshoure.' I asked her if she had any more draft advice for me ... But it was fun. The whole thing was good, because in an event like that, you just want to be able to do something for the community.''

***

Thoughts about the schedule, with a very big "if," obviously ... meaning if the full 17-week schedule is played:

• Division games in the first 58 days of the season for St. Louis: zero. Division games in the last 58 days of the season for St. Louis: six.

• St. Louis plays Arizona twice in November. Carolina plays Tampa Bay twice in December.

• This is the seventh year in a row that the Colts and Patriots -- who are not in the same division, as you know -- play a regular-season game between Nov. 2 and Dec. 4. When they play this year, it'll be the 12th time, including playoffs, in a nine-season period that New England and Indianapolis have met.

• Fifteen Days From Heck Tour Across America: The Jets are in the Black Hole Sept. 25, at Baltimore the following Sunday night, and at New England the following Sunday afternoon.

• The Browns would like to thank 280 Park Avenue, sort of. The first three months of the season contain only one game against a team than won 10 or more games last year (at Indy, Sept. 18). But the Browns finish the season with this 29-day march of madness: Baltimore, at Pittsburgh, at Arizona, at Baltimore, Pittsburgh.

• First five NBC games: Last two Super Bowl champs at Lambeau ... the RexRob Ryan Bowl at the Meadowlands ... Vick returns to Atlanta ... Big Ben and Peyton at Indy ... Rex Ryan goes back to Baltimore, and Ray Lewis tries to rub his face in it. Not bad.

• Life Goes On In The AFC East Dept.: The Patriots don't play a 1 p.m. Sunday home game until Christmas Eve. The Bills play 14 games that start at 1 p.m.

• Jimmer Fredette Stuck In New Orleans Dept.: Carolina will be playing out the string, staying in a French Quarter hotel on New Year's Eve. Now, that's unfair, curfew in the French Quarter on New Year's Eve.

• I've got a perfect road trip for the extended Harbaugh family: On Oct. 2, Jim Harbaugh's 49ers play at Philadelphia at 1 p.m. The family will have time to hug Jim, commiserate with him on (presumably) a tough loss for 20 minutes, then hop in cars, stop at Geno's or Pat's for cheesesteaks for the road, and drive 70 minutes south to watch John's Ravens host the Jets in the Sunday-nighter at 8:20 in Baltimore. Of course, the Thanksgiving night Niners-Ravens game in Baltimore will be fun for the family too. Or torture.

• Franchise quarterback prime-time games (scheduled; keep in mind that Weeks 11-17 NBC can change with flex scheduling): Peyton Manning, Roethlisberger, Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, Vick and Joe Flacco 5 ... Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Brees, Ryan and Eli Manning 4.

"I think it's a positive whenever you're negotiating, but clearly the litigation strategy that the union is pursuing is delaying some serious negotiations that really are going to lead to a collective bargaining agreement. That part of it is frustrating. I think valuable time is escaping us, that's putting financial risk and other risk in play.''-- Commissioner Roger Goodell, to Jarrett Bell of USA Today, critical of the players' strategy to wait for the judge's decision about whether to issue an injunction instead of negotiating with a mediator appointed by Judge Susan Nelson.

"You aren't sleeping with Mrs. Dalton, are you?''-- Anonymous former NFL coach, to me, after I suggested that TCU's Andy Dalton would become the best quarterback of the 2011 draft class.

Anonymous former NFL coach and I agreed that if Dalton is a first-round pick come Thursday, said coach will acknowledge my utter brilliance, and that I have never, ever judged a prospect wrong.

"There's a lot of interest in the draft. It's great. But quite frankly, most of the people that are commenting on it don't know anything about what they are talking about.''-- Green Bay GM Ted Thompson, who has a right to say what he wants about the Mayock/Kiper/McShay set because he just won the Super Bowl. But have a couple of bad drafts, or pick a couple more Justin Harrells and Brian Brohms, and you might hear the geniuses come out of the woodwork on Thompson.

"I know one thing: When I come back as a coach, I'm gonna corner-blitz your ass.''-- Jon Gruden, in his ESPN special on quarterback prospects, to TCU quarterback Andy Dalton, when they were on the field at the University of South Florida working on passing drills.

To which Dalton replied: "Are you? I'll have it picked up.''

Number of Patriots picks in the top 33 of the draft: 3.

Most picks for a team other than New England in the top 33: 30 tied with 1 apiece.

It's become fashionable in the past couple of weeks to wonder if New England could package those picks, the 17th, 28th and 33rd overall, for a pick in the top five to get the pass-rushing 3-4 linebacker they want, Von Miller, or the franchise receiver they need, either A.J. Green or Julio Jones. To do so, clearly they'd have to move to number three overall, to assure they'd get the player they want, because Buffalo is heavily involved with Miller, and the Bengals may take one of the receivers.

So let's break out the NFL draft trade chart, which places a numerical value on the choices in all seven rounds, to see what the Patriots would have to do to move up to number three under this scenario. The answer is remarkably clean.

According to the chart, the third overall pick is worth 2,200 points. The value of the Pats' three top picks: 17 (950), 28 (660), 33 (580). Total value of the three picks: 2,190.

So the chart would tell you that to get Von Miller or A.J. Green, even if Buffalo were willing to move down, the Patriots would have to use all three picks. That, of course, is assuming the Bills and Patriots take the chart as gospel, and many teams absolutely do not.

I believe Bill Belichick would rather hire Eric Mangini as his press-conference coach than to trade all three picks for anyone in this draft. To get one of those players, he'd be trading the pick he acquired for Richard Seymour, his own, and the pick he got last year for dealing a third-rounder to Carolina for the Panthers' second-round pick this year. That's an incredible amount of loot.

Now, the chart is not gospel. Teams don't have to use it. But it just shows you how valuable the third overall pick is, and it's highly unlikely the Bills would take much of a discount, if any, for dealing that choice, particularly if it meant giving a division rival a franchise player for the next 10 years.

You're a Dolphins fan, and you're down in the dumps because of the Brandon Marshall stabbing and the fact that your team is in the midst of an overwhelmingly insignificant period. Look on the bright side: At least you don't have a second-round draft choice this year.

Someday, Miami fans may call the second-round drafting record of the Saban/Mueller/Cameron/Parcells/Ireland regimes "The Curse of Brandon Marshall.'' For now, let's document what's happened to the Dolphins' last 12 second-round draft picks:

2011: Traded 43rd overall pick to Denver as part of Brandon Marshall trade.

2010: Drafted LB Koa Misi 40th overall with pick acquired from San Diego.Traded 46th overall pick to Denver as part of Brandon Marshall trade.

2009: Drafted QB Pat White 44th overall.Drafted CB Sean Smith 61st overall.

2008: Drafted DE Phillip Merling 32nd overall.Drafted QB Chad Henne 57th overall.

2007: Drafted QB John Beck 40th overall.Drafted C-G Samson Satele 60th overall.

2006: Traded 51st overall pick to Minnesota for QB Daunte Culpepper.

2005: Traded 35th overall pick to Philadelphia for QB A.J. Feeley.Drafted DE Matt Roth 46th overall.

Let's see what we have. Smith is a solid starter. Marshall, acquired for two seconds, has the potential to be more than that, but who knows if he'll ever be great in Miami with the mayhem that follows him off the field every offseason. You have to think that even though his future with the Dolphins isn't in question as of today, his Miami future is cloudy. Marshall, who has had eight incidents requiring police attention in the past four years, is recovering from stab wounds suffered in a fight with his wife Friday night; the Dolphins could release him when the new league year begins and owe him only $3 million, according to ProFootballTalk.com. But it's likely he'll return for the 2011 season, if there is one.

Misi may turn into a good starter, but it's too early to tell. Merling, returning from a 2010 Achilles tear, is competing for a spot in the rotation, and the jury's still out on how good he can be when healthy. Henne is hanging onto his starting quarterback job by a thread. Misi, Merling and Henne all have to go in the could-go-either-way mode.

That's one solid starter, one major question mark who could be very good, and three maybes. Pat White was a terrible reach. John Beck, a pick of one-year coach Cam Cameron's, never panned out. Satele played passably for two years, then was traded to Oakland. Jake Grove was cut a year after signing a $29.5-million deal with the Dolphins via free agency. Culpepper and Feeley each lasted one dubious season, combining to win four starts. Roth, never as good an edge-rusher as he thought he was, was dumped after a contract dispute; he had 12.5 sacks in five years.

That's a pretty bad track record, to put it mildly. After picking 15th in the first round, Miami will be out of the nightmare round -- but will be reminded of it daily this week, with all the stories about what a risky trade the Marshall deal was.

I traveled nowhere in the past week -- except to a Boston-area courtroom. For the first time in my 53 years, I was selected to serve on a jury.

I'm not like most people. (You probably knew that already.) I badly wanted to be on a jury. When I lived in New Jersey, I got called three different times to be in the jury pool at the Essex County Courthouse, but I never got on a case. I always thought it would be cool to be Henry Fonda or, at least, Martin Balsam, in 12 Angry Men, the best court movie I've ever seen.

Our pool was small -- only about two dozen residents of Suffolk (Mass.) County. I was Juror 13. We needed six people, not 12, with one alternate. And the two lawyers involved in the case of the day -- a she-said, she-said catfight that turned into harassment and vandalism, with the two ladies apparently vying for the affections of a dubious character who was both homeless and unemployed -- weren't much into the peremptory challenge business. So a few of the lot got kayoed because of work or personal prejudices, and then we just went by number. I was Mr. 13. My lucky day. I got the last seat.

The case had very little hard evidence. Lots of escalating tempers, hatred, blame and confusion. Not a great job clarifying all the confusion by the lawyers, particularly by the commonwealth's attorney prosecuting the case. I sat there during the two-plus hours of testimony trying to figure out if we could get a solid handle on the two charges. Did the defendant damage the plaintiff's car, and did she do it willfully? Did the defendant harass the plaintiff through verbal or electronic means over a five-month period? Three or four times, I wanted to shout out to one of the attorneys: "You gotta be kidding! Follow up on that question! Ask her to clarify!'' Or whatever. In that regard, it was a frustrating experience, wanting to know more information, and that information quite possibly being on the tips of the witnesses' tongues, but we could never get to it.

We deliberated about two-and-a-half hours. Good group. A 48-year-old mom from the neighborhood, a 19-year-old BU student (who, by lot, was selected foreman) who had to rush from court the first day for an Organic Chemistry test, two 20-something women (one about to get married), a quiet 50-ish businessman, and me. I got up and dry-erase-boarded the charges from the judge about what we had to feel surely was proven in court to get guilty verdicts. First we discussed the case involving vandalism. Was there vandalism to the car? Certainly. Was the damage done willfully? Without question. Did the defendant do it? We all thought she probably did -- but we couldn't convict someone on the flimsy evidence presented in court. Not guilty.

Now the harassment accusation. The judge did a great job on this charge, telling us that harassment had to be at least three calls or texts or e-mails or letters that implied any form of harassment. Very helpful. The two women appeared to be equally angry with each other, but we felt strongly that the defendant on at least three occasions over the five months acted in a harassing way. All except for one of the younger women on the jury. I'll call her Mary. She just wasn't totally sure that there were three incidents or more, though she felt 99 percent sure there were. I'd written down the judge's exact words when sending us to deliberate.

"You have to have an abiding conviction to a moral certainty that it's true,'' the judge said. "It doesn't have to be 100 percent certain, because very few things in life ever are 100 percent certain.''

There could be a very slim chance that we were wrong, the judge advised, but if we had this "moral certainty'' of guilt, we should vote to convict. We batted that around for a while, and Mary gave it a few minutes of thought, and she said, OK, she was fine with being the sixth guilty vote.

I felt great about both verdicts. Though I felt the defendant did what she was charged with on the first count, she deserved to go free because the commonwealth didn't do its job of convincing us beyond a reasonable doubt. Sort of like instant replay in the NFL. If the ref cannot see indisputable evidence to overturn a call, he's got to let the call stand, even if in his heart he thinks the call would be best overturned.

When we marched back into court, I watched the defendant's response to the guilty verdict. Angry. She had no response to the not guilty verdict. And just like that, we were up, out of the courtroom and on our way home. As in 12 Angry Men, we just went our separate ways. We shook hands and said goodbye, and six people went in six different directions.

I hope we did the right thing. I'm as sure as I can be that we did. And I think it's a heck of a process. No one in the jury room was looking at his or her watch and hurrying the process. We would have stayed for two days if we had to. Everyone was heard. No one was shouted down. It was the American justice system working. The case itself had some flaws, but the jury took the evidence we had to consider and delivered a verdict. I loved every minute of it. If I could have gone back the next day to do another case, I would have, without question.

When I got home Thursday night, after dinner, my wife and I flipped through the channels and there it was: 12 Angry Men. One of the great movies I've seen, certainly in my top 10 ever. And there we sat, transfixed. That's one of the best days I've had in a while.

"Hair cut time.''--@bmarshall19, Miami wide receiver Brandon Marshall, at 4:03 p.m., Friday. That was his last Tweet before being stabbed Friday night and taken for surgery at a south Florida hospital.

"6 years ago today I waited a long time in a green room .... I'd say it was worth it!''--@AaronRodgers12, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, at noon Saturday, recalling his long wait just offstage at Radio City Music Hall in 2005, when he and Alex Smith were in contention to be the first pick in the draft. Smith went first overall. Rodgers went 24th. The rest is Packer, and 49er, history.

1. I think in the wake of Jon Gruden sitting with quarterbacks and working out quarterbacks and examining their mental and physical games, this has been the common question: If Gruden is so good with young quarterbacks, why didn't he ever develop a great one himself?

In his second year as Raider coach in 1999, he got the kind of quarterback he felt was best to win with immediately, Rich Gannon. Early in his Buc tenure, he duplicated that with Brad Johnson. Two veteran quarterbacks, both of whom Gruden used to take those teams deep into the playoffs; he won a Super Bowl, obviously, with Johnson. So that became the way he thought best to win big. Later in his Tampa term, it stopped working, and he suffered for it. Gruden's not going to be one of the patient guys who says, "Let's take our lumps with the young kids.'' He's going to be a win-now guy.

I also think Gruden likes to be known as the fixer, the guy who wins quicker than the other coaches. He fixed the Raiders, then got the Bucs a championship Tony Dungy never got. Gruden's not going to be the guy who you want coaching your team for 12 years, but he's going to be the guy who takes over a pretty good team, gives it shock therapy and a sense of urgency, and has a chance to win quickly.

2. I think, pretty soon, we're going to have to start covering Tom Zbikowski the boxer. He's 4-0 after wiping the canvas with another sap Saturday night.

3. I think I'm amazed at the attention my "redhead quarterback factor'' got in Sports Illustrated this week. I knew things had careened pretty much out of control Saturday morning when one of my favorite radio programs, "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me'' on NPR, had a chiding reference to it.

Just to be clear: The coach I discussed this with never said he wouldn't take a red-headed quarterback. He never said he didn't like red-headed quarterbacks. What he did was wonder aloud if it could be a factor. As silly as it seems, he wondered ... the same way he wondered about every other personal and mental and football factor in the guy's life. Some of the factors were quickly dismissed, some were discussed for a long time. The point was, NFL teams consider everything, some of it downright silly. But that doesn't stop them from considering everything.

4. I think this is one very good reason I follow what Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders says, and learn from him: His analysis of every offensive snap in the NFL last season revealed that the Patriots ran plays with two tight ends or more on the field 57 percent of the time last season ... and no other team in football was over 40 percent.

5. I think nothing will really matter with the solidarity of the players -- including the reported interloping law firm with players who "want a seat at the negotiating table'' -- until the specter of missing paychecks becomes real. But I will say this: There are some players, right now, with big offseason workout bonuses who are very angry, and they want their money, and if need be, they're going to be suing someone for it.

6. I think I wouldn't worry too much about the financial health of Roger Goodell. One of his VPs, Paul Hicks, said the other day that he saw one of Goodell's pay stubs in the wake of the commissioner saying he was reducing his salary to $1 for the year until the lockout got solved. "He got a deposit in his bank account of four cents. That's gross,'' said Hicks. He meant gross salary, not, "Boy, that's gross.'' I'll be interested to see the story two months after the settlement, when we find out whether Goodell made $1 for eight or nine months' work, and whether he gets a bonus to make up for it.

7. I think for those of you making plans to attend the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, you should know this: It's on, whether there's a Hall of Fame game or not, and whether there's a labor deal or not. It'd be a muted celebration, I'd imagine, and I can't imagine a way the league and Hall would be able to remove the wet blanket from the day in Canton.

8. I think the biggest question about Judge Susan Nelson issuing an injunction this week -- which I presume she will do -- to kayo the owners' lockout of the players is whether she'll order the league year to start immediately. Will she open the doors and start the league year and order free agency to begin? Or will she issue a stay and say the league can't begin until the appeals court issues a ruling in the case?

Obviously, if free agency begins and teams don't know if there's going to be a salary cap this year, there won't be the willy-nilly spending of some other free-agency periods. And the union could load up with charges of collusion if very good players aren't pursued in the free market. In short, it could exacerbate the situation, not help get closer to a settlement. "I think that is one of the factors that the court is going to seriously look at in determining whether to issue a stay or not,'' said league VP Ray Anderson. "The chaos of starting and stopping free agency is a real risk.''

9. I think this is your last chance to make your Tuesday morning in Boston fun. I'm co-hosting a Lockout Breakfast with New England tackle and player rep Matt Light to benefit his charity, the Matt Light Foundation (mattlightfoundation.org). I have been involved with this charity for a couple years now. It's a good one. He takes severely at-risk high-school boys camping and volunteering and working during the summer to try to get their lives back on track. Light is gathering NFLPA exec Pete Kendall, Broncos player rep Russ Hochstein, plaintiff-in-the-Brady-case Logan Mankins, Vince Wilfork and Brian Hoyer to discuss the lockout, free agency and whatever the folks in the audience want to know. Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston and I will be along to preview the draft and generally be nettlesome. Would love to see you there. I think you'll love hearing from Pete Kendall, who is encyclopedic about the dispute.

One more thing: We'll have a great, and quite applicable, prize to auction off: autographed Pro Bowl jerseys of three of the named plaintiffs in the case -- Brady, Manning, Brees -- with the front page of the real honest-to-goodness lawsuit the players filed, all in a frame. Now if that's not some one-of-a-kind, only-in-America auction item, I don't know what is. If Light doesn't get his minimum bid Tuesday morning -- $7,500 -- you out there in MMQB land may get a chance to buy it next week. Stay tuned.

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

a. This has to be the sportswriting lead of the week, from New York Daily News baseball writer Andy Martino after watching the Astros and the Mets cavort in the cold and drizzle of CitiField last Tuesday: "Blah blah blah blah rain blah blah blah Niese blah blah Astros blah blah Mets got spanked. Blah blah, 6-1. We really don't know what else to tell you about this one. But we will try: It was cold and wet at Citi Field and the Mets flatlined for one minute shy of three hours against one of the worst teams in baseball. Actually, now the Mets (5-12) are worse than Houston -- and the rest of the National League -- as they slipped below the Astros (6-11). Could there be a less stimulating April ballgame than the one between these sorry opponents? The only appropriate word is blah.''

b. Mets Fever! Catch it!

c. Bruins-Canadiens has to mean more to the players in the game than Yankees-Red Sox mean to those players.

d. All is forgiven, Dice-K. Well, most is. Last two starts: 15 innings, two hits.

e. What have you been eating, Jed Lowrie?

f. Someone obviously woke up Albert Pujols.

g. We'll all know the story of Sam Fuld if he keeps playing at the top of the Tampa Bay batting order the way he's played since Manny left.

h. Coffeenerdness: I'm not saying my brother-in-law makes a really dark dark-roast cup of coffee or anything, but after Easter dinner Sunday, I felt like I had my caffeine intake for 11 days.

i. Beernerdness: It's not fashionable, I'm sure. And it's not going to win me any points with the beer nerds. But I had a couple of Lone Star longnecks the other night, and that's an underrated everyday beer.

j. The Office had a couple of good moments the other night. Number one: Dwight hitting the crickets button on his sound machine when Erin and Gabe had their public breakup at the final edition of the Dundies. The Dundies is impossible to make unfunny, but this show almost was. What happened to the Bushiest Beaver Award? And the Fine Work Award? Stanley certainly deserved that again.

k. Thanks to Bill Curry and Joel Carpenter of Sullivan & Worcester LLP for doing so much to make the Lockout Breakfast happen, by the way. Good people.

l. Please see 12 Angry Men. You won't regret it.

m. Holy cow! That Blackhawks-Canucks series is amazing. A penalty shot for Chicago to tie it in the third? And an overtime goal to send the series to game seven? After Vancouver led the series 3-0? Nothing like the NHL playoffs.

Promoted Stories
Comments
SI.com

Drag this icon to your bookmark bar.
Then delete your old SI.com bookmark.

SI.com

Click the share icon to bookmark us.