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Making sense of the new CBA and how it will affect the game

And I thought after my annual four-week travelogue I could just ease back into the 15th season of Monday Morning Quarterback.

Nope. Gotta hit the ground running. No time to waste. A deal is certain to be announced after both sides agreed to terms to end the lockout early Monday pending the players' vote. The headlines of the morning:

The league's 32 player reps have an 11 a.m. conference call scheduled to approve the new 10-year collective bargaining agreement. The players association is hoping for a unanimous vote.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The players unanimously voted to approve a new collective bargaining agreement Monday. Click here to read a summary of the agreement obtained by SI.com.

I'm told chances are very good that the deal will include an opt-out for both sides, not just the players. The iteration that was getting traction Sunday night would require each side to hit specific deal-breakers to be able to opt out, and the opt-out for either side would be done in year five of the deal. If either side chose to opt out in year five (2015), the final playing season of the deal would be 2016, with the final event of the CBA being the April 2017 draft. But I must stress that this was the latest version of the opt-out being discussed as the clock neared midnight, and it won't necessarily be the one that is announced today when the deal gets done.

This is the tentative schedule of events today in Washington at the headquarters of the NFL Players Association, a group that is soon to be recertified as a labor organization: The 10-member Executive Committee and most of the 10 named plaintiffs in the Brady v. NFL antitrust case will gather starting at 9 a.m. Plaintiffs will sign affidavits saying they're satisfied with dismissal of the case; those not in attendance will have the signed affidavits sent to PA headquarters by this morning. Then the 10-member Executive Board of the NFLPA will unanimously approve the proposal, sending the deal to the player-rep vote. If all goes well (no one at the PA is worried it won't), a joint press conference with executive director De Smith and his Executive Board members could be held in the early afternoon with commissioner Roger Goodell and some of the league negotiators.

Free agency could start as soon as Tuesday, according to Pro Football Talk, which obtained a late-night email from Executive Committee member Drew Brees implying as much. Frankly, I believe most NFL general managers and coaches would prefer a Tuesday start because they don't want the beginning of free agency going on at the same time as the start of training camp this weekend. And I might pooh-pooh Brees, except he's one of the closest Executive Committee members to De Smith. So it could well be that free agency will be fast-tracked. And all training camps could be open for business by Saturday.

The players won't be happy to know that they might be forced into considering something they truly don't want -- the 18-game regular-season schedule -- come 2013. Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reported Sunday that the league could unilaterally cut the preseason schedule from four games to two in '13 or any subsequent year of the agreement. The players would have the option to either play 16 regular-season games and two preseason games, or increase the regular season to 18 games per team. The upshot: Players would lose money if they stayed at 16 plus two.

Florio wrote that it's a staredown between the owners and players, and I agree. Preseason games are easy money for the NFL, and the owners wouldn't risk the players saying, "Oh, we'll let those two exhibition games go and reduce our take.''

Late Sunday night, I asked George Atallah, Smith's right-hand man with the players, if he could see any possibility of the deal getting derailed at the last second.

"I do not,'' he said after leaving a long day of talks inside the association's headquarters. "The players have worked too hard for this moment, and they've managed to tune out the noise outside the process to focus on making a deal that would be fair to both sides.''

So that's the news of the morning. Let's get into a few of the details of the agreement that are most interesting to me, and I hope to you.

***

Term. Barring an opt-out ("It's just an insurance policy,'' Houston co-player-rep Eric Winston told me), this deal runs through the 2021 NFL Draft. Brett Favre will be completing his 30th season then. He'll be only 52.

Medical benefits. Men who play in a game in any season of this deal will be eligible to stay in the NFL medical plan for life. Currently, retired players have five years of post-career health care. Just saw Eddie George, looking like an Adonis, at the Super Bowl last February, and he said his medical benefits just ran out a couple of months earlier. "Now's not the time I need 'em,'' he told me. Born too early.

Guaranteed contracts for injury. This went over everyone's heads all weekend. Let's say a player signs a three-year, $6-million contract with a $2-million bonus and salaries of $1.1 million, $1.3 million and $1.6 million. And say he gets a career-ending injury in game five of the first season. He keeps his bonus. He keeps his first-year salary. That's normal. Now he'd get to keep $1 million of his year-two salary and $500,000 of year three. In the old days, he'd have been able to keep the bonus and year-one salary, a total of $3.1 million. Now he'd be able to pocket $4.6 million because of the maximum of $1.5 million in injury-protection money.

Restricted free agency this year. Weird. The NFL hasn't finalized the timing for it yet, but there are a slew of restricted free agents, valuable ones like Roman Harper and Antonio Cromartie, who could have up to two weeks from the time camps start to choose a new team or go back to an existing one.

"Did anyone in the negotiations think how absolutely crazy this could be?'' one coach told me Saturday. "Suppose you're counting on a guy who's restricted to come back, and a week or so into free agency he gets blown out of the water with some offer, and we've already lost the chance to get anyone good to replace him -- and we're three weeks away from playing a game that counts. Whoever made some of these rules ... I mean, we could be recruiting free agents while we're trying to put together installation periods for the playbook in training camp.''

Under the plan being considered by the league last Thursday, the restricted signings could take place until Aug. 12. Signing at the last minute would give players less than a month before they played their first real game with a new team.

Padded practices. Teams can have 14 per regular season, including only three in the last six weeks of the season. Grumbling leaguewide has begun over the sissification of the NFL; coaches won't be able to toughen up soft teams anymore.

"Not sure this is a very big deal,'' Winston of the Texans said. "We had the leading rusher in the league last year [Arian Foster] and I bet we only had 17 padded practices all season.''

TV money. Starting next year, players get 55 percent of network dough. That'll take a big jump in 2014, when the TV deals should increase 50 to 70 percent per network.

Football intelligence. "We'll be cramming two months of an offseason program into seven days,'' one coach told me Saturday. "If you're not making major changes on offense or defense, and you're in a division with lots of change, that should mean a couple of wins for you.''

Look at the AFC North. Cleveland's rebuilt from the ground up. Cincinnati's installing a brand-new offense. Pittsburgh and Baltimore (though the Ravens have a new defensive coordinator, Chuck Pagano) are relatively unchanged. Just what this division needs: more to divide the haves from the have-nots.

One coach with an established program told me, "I just wish this went another week. We'll be ready, and maybe a few of the teams we play, especially early, won't be.''

What the owners won. Not having to pay the $320 million in benefits they didn't pay last year in exchange for the players getting an uncapped year; franchise and transition tags; no judicial oversight in major-league disputes between players and owners, a major sticking point from the last CBA; the ability to keep 60 percent of all club-generated revenue.

What the players won. The continuation of the 16-game schedule; five weeks less or the rigidly organized offseason programs; $1 billion in additional benefits for retirees -- an important point from day one for De Smith; a true salary floor, with teams having to spend 99 percent of the cap in years one and two of the deal and 95 percent thereafter.

The game as we know it. Most in the football establishment, like this well-respected GM, don't like the changes that have players on the field less. "We complain about tackling all the time,'' he said. "How are we gonna teach tackling without practicing tackling enough? I will not be surprised if you see the smashmouth game disappear.''

I heard it all this weekend -- that the game will turn into the college spread offense, that lack of fundamental work will make the game sloppy, that new coaches who used tough training camps to toughen their teams won't be able to do that anymore. Maybe. But the smartest football coaches in the world -- all of whom will be playing by the same set of restrictive rules -- will learn to adapt.

The opt-outs. As I said earlier, I doubt either side will want to opt out. But it's unfortunate the opt-outs for both sides apparently will be included, because it creates uncertainty about the future of the game as early as 2015, when the networks will be in the second year of their new contracts. For the sake of the game's health, it would have been better to have no opt-outs and have this deal run for certain through the spring of 2021. Uncertainty in business is bad, and it was bad for this league this offseason.

But at the end of the day, the players demanded the opt-out because too many of them have zero trust for the owners. I mean, zero. It's been interesting to talk to a few of them over the weekend, off the record, in what should be a very happy time for them and realize how little they trust the men who employ them. Sad, really.

Overall, this is a good opportunity for a relatively new cadre of owners -- Clark Hunt, Dean Spanos, John Mara -- to build up trust with the players.

One more note on this: Several from the players' side singled out Patriots owner Bob Kraft for his role in getting momentum going when there was very little last spring. As one of the key members of the players' side told me: "He told us, 'I'm not going to hope either side makes a bad deal, because then our relationship suffers, and then the whole business suffers. And my family's going to own this team for years and years. We want to see it healthy for both sides.' That registered with us. He's a real deal-maker.''

There will be MMQB-ing on this deal for weeks, but this looks like a good deal for both sides. For years.

***

I think I got myself a big van for my camp tour. My buddy Phil Parisi of the USO (we went on the USO's Afghanistan tour in 2008) volunteered to have one of the huge USO vans used for domestic entertainment of troops and their families made available for me to take my tour of camps this year (pictured at right).

Barring some last-minute problems (like me forgetting to buy the Pop Tarts), it looks like we'll be taking off this weekend (time and place to be determined) to see about 22 to 25 camps and/or teams. Sweet ride. It has wifi, a big-screen TV and some of the other entertainment things (game systems) that 54-year-old men have no clue about. Hope to see you along the road. We'll be live-blogging on SI.com and tweeting along the way. Should be plenty to talk about. This is going to be one weird camp season.

When I last wrote this column, we'd made it to number 21 of the NFL's top 100 players. The 415 NFL players polled by NFL Network had their view, and I had mine. So here goes with their top 20, and mine ... but first, a few explanations on mine.

• On Tom Brady at No. 1 over Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning: Brady hasn't won a Super Bowl in seven years and hasn't won a playoff game in three, but his 36 touchdowns against only four interceptions last year keeps him at the top. Rodgers over Manning? A few reasons. Mobility and youth, yes. But I wouldn't have put the Packers' QB over Manning, even with latter at 35 and entering his 14th season, without the two neck surgeries in 18 months for Manning. That is starting to concern me.

• Players' 4-5-6: Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu. They are 50, 54 and 60 on my list. My reasoning: Lewis is 36, Reed will be 33 opening day and he's missed 10 of his last 32 games due to injury, Polamalu's missed 13 of his last 32 -- and was too injured in the playoffs last year to be a factor. When right, Reed and Polamalu are the best safeties playing. I just can't trust them to play a full season anymore.

• I've tried to make up for the silliness of the players having two-time Super Bowl-winner Ben Roethlisberger 41 and Philip Rivers 26 on their list by putting them seventh and 10th, respectively, on mine.

• Six quarterbacks in my top 10 too much for you? Tell me: If there were a draft of all NFL players today, with 32 teams starting from ground zero, would Philip Rivers be picked in the top 10? Of course. That's why he's so high, despite his checkered postseason record.

• Yes, Tramon Williams is 16 on my list. He's young, big and clutch, and the only two corners better right now are Darrelle Revis and Nnamdi Asomugha. That Williams didn't make the player list is, well, a horrible omission.

• Free agency will be interesting. How long has it been since a top-10 player in the game, which Asomugha is, has been unrestricted? Maybe Julius Peppers two years ago, but it certainly doesn't happen often.

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"I think the best part of it is our fans are not going to have to hear about labor-management relations for the next 10 years.''

-- John Mara, Giants owner and labor committee member, after the owners ratified the deal Thursday.

From your lips to De Smith's ears.

"As players, we have to ask ourselves, 'Why would the owners so desperately want the 10-year deal with no opt-out?' ''

-- Houston player rep Eric Winston.

"I realize it's a privilege, and I don't want to abuse the privilege.''

-- Myra Kraft, the wife of Patriots owner Robert Kraft, in a 2007 interview, putting in perspective how important it was for a person with money to care about the rest of the world, which she did. She died Wednesday of ovarian cancer.

If you have paid attention to this labor strife and have the right cable package or dish, you've gotten to know Albert Breer of NFL Network over the last few months. Perhaps better than you'd have ever liked to.

This morning, like on 57 previous days in the past five months, Breer will take his place on a sidewalk, this time in northwest Washington -- on 20th Street -- and document who walks in, who walks out, and try to get a snippet of information. For the 58th and last day, barring a stunning downturn in the talks, Breer will stake out in front of a building for the final time in these negotiations.

Unfortunately, most times the negotiators involved in the NFL CBA talks don't want to talk to him or anyone else. Not only that, they want to avoid him, as De Smith did just after midnight Sunday, when he ducked out of the building and into his car and waved, wordlessly, to Breer as he drove home.

"In Washington, for the court-ordered mediation, Roger Goodell was Houdini,'' Breer said after 1 this morning. "We'd always see him walking in, and for days and days, we'd never see him leave. He'd just vanish. But that was OK. Sometimes, in our job, we go where people don't want us to be. It's been interesting to be in D.C. for a lot of these meetings and negotiations. The sound and camera people are used to the stakeouts. It's an art form for these guys. One of them said to me, 'This isn't so bad. We staked out Monica Lewinsky for a year.' ''

But it was bad in New York City for a couple of weeks, staking out in front of a law firm at the corner of 41st Street and 8th Avenue, across the street from the Port Authority Bus Terminal, breathing in bus fumes for 12 days, a few of those sniffs stifling. There was a 120-degree heat index one day. "The air quality over there is like Three Mile Island,'' said Breer, 31.

"At the end of the day,'' he said, "I just want to have earned the respect of both sides. I just want to be fair.''

I've seen maybe half of Breer's reports over the past five months, and I think he's managed to play it down the middle very well, despite the fact Roger Goodell's signing his paycheck. That's as impressive as standing/sitting/freezing/sweating on the sidewalks of America for the equivalent of a month of 24-hour days.

How his stakeouts break down, in chronological order, since February:

Washington, D.C., 17 daysIndianapolis, 4 daysMinneapolis, 6St. Paul, 1New Orleans, 3Indianapolis, 2Chicago, 2Atlanta, 1Minneapolis, 3Hull, Mass., 1Manhattan, 12Washington, D.C., 1Atlanta, 2Washington, D.C., 3 (including today)

Total stakeout days: 58. Avg. hours per day (Breer estimate): 12.5. Total days: 30 days, four hours. Total hours: 725.

"Oh my God,'' he said. "That's depressing.''

No it's not. It's career-building.

One of the great things about vacation is it lets you catch up with reading. This gem came from Andrew Goldman's interview with Judge Judy in the June 26 New York Times Sunday magazine: Judge Judy works five days per month ... and makes $45 million a year.

Judge Judy Factoid II: Her 24,000-square-foot home in Connecticut contains a snoring room -- an extra room for guests who snore.

In the top-notch Berra where-are-they-now story by Posnanski in our July 4 issue, I was amazed to read this: From 1950 to '56, Berra caught both ends of a doubleheader 117 times ... and seven times he caught both ends of a doubleheader on back-to-back days.

I don't remember the last time this happened, in part because of the rarity of doubleheaders and in part because teams split the catching on doubleheader days when it happens.

My friend Jack Bowers from Montclair gave me another Yogi nugget that I found amazing, and it sent me to baseballreference.com to dig into. Between 1950 and 1956, Berra won the MVP three times and finished in the top four of the voting in the other four seasons. Over the years, we've had so much fun making fun of Yogisms that we forget what a truly dominant player he was. Imagine finishing in the top four of the MVP voting seven straight years. So I looked up Barry Bonds. He never finished in the top four of the MVP voting seven years in a row. Same with Albert Pujols.

We should appreciate Berra the player more -- and I have to be sure to stop by the newly renovated Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in my old Jersey neighborhood to do just that. Good job by Posnanski to delve into Berra the great player.

Well, I have many. But one of the things traveling abroad teaches you is the lack of respect for lines and personal space in much of Europe (everywhere that I've traveled there, honestly).

The personal space thing is just weird. In Venice, we stood in line for a water ferry to take us from the train station to San Marco Square. The line moved slowly, and the 30ish woman behind me kept leaning on me, as if it would make the line go faster. After the third forearm/breast push into my back, I turned and held my palm out, moving it up and down, as if to say, "Relax.'' It was no use, at the first sign of space to my left, she and her friend squeezed to our left and got on the ferry a few people in front of us. I should say that we all got on the same ferry, which arrived at the same time, and we all got off within seconds of each other. This kind of mild pushing and line-cutting happened every day, somewhere, in Italy and Austria.

Lines, too, were just foreign. It's every man, woman and idiot for him/herself. In line at a Trieste bank to change some dollars into euros, I noticed a teller signaling he was ready to take me. An older lady came from the back of the line, saying something that sounded like "Scoozy, scoozy,'' and cut in front of me, and the teller took her.

In a queue for coffee at the Vienna airport, a man behind me, in German (the national language of Austria), shouted his order over the meeker me, and when I said something like, "Hey, my turn,'' the bilingual barista said, "I make his first.''

Also at the Vienna airport, my wife and I waited in line to check luggage, and our turn was next, and a woman scurried in from the side, right in front of us, to ask some questions of the baggage attendant. "There's a line,'' we said. No use. The woman got her 90 seconds of attention and we waited.

Italy's such a terrific place, with great people. Austria is an orderly country, from what I can tell, and everyone there was good to us. Why the terminal rudeness while co-waiting? I'd love to hear some plausible explanation from some of you who have lived, or who live, in Europe.

"I said I wouldn't jump in til they agreed. They've FINALLY agreed! Sources say 2 sides this hour agree to terms of new CBA.''

-- @jay_glazer, FOXSports' Jay Glazer, at 3:52 a.m. Eastern time today.

"Can't wait to knock somebody the hell out.''

-- Madbacker57, Jets linebacker Bart Scott, on Saturday just after noon, apparently eager to get to training and knock somebody the hell out.

"I would be honored to have Brett Farve as a backup. That will be amazing Learning how to toy with defenses the way he did.''

-- @mikevick, the Eagles quarterback, tweeting Sunday about the rumor of the oft-retired Hattiesburgian coming back to the NFL. As a backup.

Sounds good, Mike. But you've got to learn to spell his last name.

"My neighbor looks exactly like Larry David.''

-- cponder7, Christian Ponder, the rookie Vikings quarterback, reflecting on his new life in the Twin Cities.

1. That I wasn't Albert Breer. Don't misunderstand -- I have great admiration for the dogged reporting of the NFL Network's Breer, who emerged as the biggest media star of the lockout by staking out every exhausting session of the players and owners and their attorneys, many of those stakeouts on 96-degree days in Manhattan. I'm just glad it was him and not me spending day after day covering angst. Oh, to be young and unattached and have the drive of Pete Rose.

2. Driving through parts of Europe. My wife and I drove a six-speed VW Passat 800 miles in Austria, Slovenia and Italy, and what a pleasure it was. Zero potholes. Very little traffic on the main thoroughfares. Felt like I was on test tracks. How fun it is to drive 90 mph and, because of the smooth roads and open spaces, feel like it's America in the 60s, with not so much company out there on the gleaming new highways. Weird highlight: Driving through Ljubljana, Slovenia, and "Suspicious Minds'' by Elvis comes on the radio.

3.Vienna. So many parks, so little time. Parks and beer. That is one underrated city. Our last night there, we went to see an orchestra dressed in period costume and playing Mozart's greatest hits. Amazing how many of those pieces are recognizable.

Weird Mozart fact: He lived to be 35 (only!) and never lived longer than two-and-a-half years at any address. Weird Austria fact: Adolf Hitler was born there. Never knew that.

4.Bicycling through Chicago. Rented a bike in downtown Chicago on a hot and sunny morning eight days ago, rode past the joggers and in-line skaters and walkers and the sun-worshipers on the city beach 5.2 miles up Lakeshore Drive, hard by Lake Michigan. Took a left on Addison and there I was -- at Wrigley Field, two hours before Cubs-Marlins. Rode around the stadium, saw the Goose Island Pub, locked the bike, and sat out on the patio for a noontime Wrigleyville White, with a lemon. Magnificent. Got back on the bike. Rode back. I doubt I had two better hours on the entire vacation.

5.Experiencing Target Field. Saw Royals-Twins 10 nights ago thanks to Paul Allen of KFAN, who donated his great seats, which were five rows from the field. I liked it far more than I thought I would, in part because of what might be the best food of any ballpark. Had walleye on a stick. That's a white fish, for those of you scoring at home. Tasty, flaky, fresh. On the way out, I ran into Sid Hartman The Statue. That's right. One of the all-time media icons is bronzed outside the right-field stands. Sid, we hardly knew ye.

6.And the best meal of a vacation that took us to Trieste, Vienna, New York, Chicago and Minneapolis came in ... Montclair, N.J. I've blown smoke at Osteria Giotto on Midland Avenue in Montclair a few times, like the time I took Brandon Jacobs of the Giants there two nights before the Giants and Pack played in the NFC Championship Game -- and Jacobs loved the lasagna so much he had to get two pieces to go for a late-night snack. It was great to see old friends and to have my annual piece of said lasagna (it's perfect -- not overwhelmingly heavy, but with some different spices, like nutmeg) and the mista salad.

7. Drinking Peroni at an outdoor café on the city square of Trieste, on two very hot afternoons. All I can say about that is I am a lucky man.

8.Reading. Got the ESPN book read. (Sheesh. The anger against SI from Steve Bornstein. Relax. The world's big enough for all of us, Steve.) Lots of knowledge in the book, but I can't help but think some of the real cornerstone players who've been there for the last two decades or so -- Chris Mortensen, Sal Paolantonio -- really got short-shrifted in the story of why ESPN has become so omnipresent. It's guys like Mort who made ESPN appointment television for people who love sports and need the knowledge.

9.Having fun with both daughters on their turf. Mary Beth in Seattle (a little before the formal vacation) and Laura in San Francisco. Happy to report they're both doing well and contributing to the nation's work force with zeal. Good to see they both have nice ballparks and environs.

10.Watching Casablanca. And a whole lot of other junk that had nothing to do with football.

I tweeted my ranking of the ballparks last week, now that I've been in every one except the Rogers Centre (nee SkyDome). And, lockout be damned, my feed got overwhelmed with people telling me -- surprise! -- I had no idea what I was talking about. Folks, it's just personal preference. Here goes again, with a quick comment on each:

1. Fenway Park (Red Sox) -- Too cramped, but it's my ballpark-away-from-home.

2. Wrigley Field (Cubs) -- Can't beat a bleacher seat with an Old Style.

3. PNC Park (Pirates) -- Best setting and views ever for a baseball stadium.

4. (tie) Target Field (Twins) -- What views. What food. Try the Veggie Kabob.

4. (tie) AT&T Park (Giants) -- I won't forget the smell of reefer at World Series Game 2.

6. Safeco Field (Mariners) -- Walk to the park on a June night. Heaven. Best beer in MLB.

7. Busch Stadium (Cardinals) -- Love a cheap scorecard and Bud jingle on the organ.

8. Dodger Stadium (Dodgers) -- Park's fine. Feel of a Perry Mason episode. Real L.A.

9. PETCO Park (Padres) -- Completes pedestrian heaven in downtown San Diego.

10. Citizens Bank Park (Phillies) -- Great spots everywhere to lean on rail, watch game.

11. Coors Field (Rockies) -- Sit upstairs. See the sun set over the Rockies.

12. Camden Yards (Orioles) -- Still love it, just not as much as I love some of the new ones.

13. Ballpark in Arlington (Rangers) -- A bit of a barn, but great sightlines. Love the RF seats.

14. Chase Field (Diamondbacks) -- Downtown stadium with mist gadgets to cool you. Cool.

15. Progressive Field (Indians) -- Same explanation as Camden.

16. Comerica Park (Tigers) -- Love watching from a standing perch in the outfield.

17. Great American Ball Park (Reds) -- Twelve-minute walk from Kentucky hotel to Ohio seats.

18. Kauffman Stadium (Royals) -- Haven't been since it was refurbished. Great, I hear.

19. Minute MaidPark (Astros) -- As Cosmo Kramer once said: "Like a sauna in here.''

20. Miller Park (Brewers) -- Probably too low. A little musty with closed roof.

21. Nationals Park (Nationals) -- A little cold, but a good effort. Gotta win a little.

22. Angels Stadium (Angels) -- Feels like a park in the middle of a parking lot. It is.

23. Citi Field (Mets) -- Weird place. Home of the Dodgers or the Mets?

24. Turner Field (Braves) -- Even on hot nights, feels a little cold to me.

25. U.S. Cellular Field (White Sox) -- Fortress-like. Cold, like its name.

26. Yankee Stadium (Yankees) -- Feels like a mall to me. I miss the old place.

27. Oakland Coliseum (A's) -- Well, at least they have nice sweatshirts.

28. Tropicana Field (Rays) If I could put it 31st, I would. Dark, hopeless.

29. Sun Life Stadium (Marlins) -- If I could put it 32nd, I would. Depressing place.

Again, I didn't rate Rogers Centre because I haven't been. No particular reason; just never went out of my way to get there.

1. I think I've never looked forward to a training-camp odyssey as much as this year. Think of how many teams have compelling stories -- and on top of it all, one of those camps is going to have Nnamdi Asomugha walk into it.

2. I think Asomugha wants to play for the Jets. Great idea, but would any team in football pay its starting corners one-quarter of the entire salary cap? That's about what it would take to pair Nnamdi with Darrelle Revis.

3. I think I doubt Brett Favre would come back to play another year of football, though if he's going to back up anyone anywhere, it would be Mike Vick in Philadelphia.

Media maestro Howard Eskin reported the possibility of this Saturday night; Jay Glazer solidly knocked it down Sunday. And so it goes. I'm not buying it. But Favre loves Andy Reid, his Green Bay quarterback coach in 1997 and '98. He loves Doug Pederson (who was in Favre's foursome in California when Favre got the news of his father's death the day before that game in Oakland in 2003), one of Favre's good friends and now the Eagle quarterback coach. And he has nothing much to do these days. Why not hold a clipboard for $4 million for five months? I believe it will not happen. But we shall see.

4. I think, by the way, I almost gagged when NFL Network -- which I believe did an outstanding job Thursday night into Friday covering the owners and players in "Let's Make a Deal'' -- ran an inspirational reel of Favre highlights Sunday night.

I'm not a TV programmer, but a note to NFLNet: Fans hate Brett Favre right now. Fans don't want to see the same highlights you ran 63 times when he retired two years ago and then 63 times again last winter. It makes them throw bricks through TVs, which is not good for ratings. Sometimes I honestly think TV does more damage to Favre than Favre does to Favre.

5. I think what's going to be interesting about the early days of Colts camp is whether Peyton Manning's going to be in it. Not only does his neck hurt -- when he's hurt, he hates to be in the public eye of training camp -- but also he's not signed.

When last we left the lovely couple of Tom Condon (agent for Manning) and Bill Polian (president of Colts), Polian had made Condon an offer for Manning to be the highest-paid player in pro football history (by a lot), and Condon said no. So this ought to be an amiable, fun contract negotiation, with Condon already having turned down approximately a fifth of the Indy salary cap for one player.

6. I think the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to be very, very busy in free agency.

7. I think this is the first time ever a free-agency period has 10 solid starters at an important position like cornerback. I don't recall ever seeing one spot so full of restricted and unrestricted guys who can help a good team. From Nnamdi Asomugha all the way down to Kelly Jennings, it's a heck of a solid group.

8. I think if Asomugha had his way, he'd sign with the Jets. The coach, the team, the city, the causes ... it all appeals to him. There's just this little matter of the Jets being $1.3-million over the cap before they start whittling away at it to get in line with the league's $120.4-million, fairly hard cap. (You can go over the cap in one year by $3 million for one player.)

As Rich Cimini astutely pointed out the other day on his Jets blog, they could restructure Mark Sanchez and Darrelle Revis (due to count a total of $27.8 million against the cap this year), and they could take linebacker David Harris' franchise number of $10.4 million this year and lower it by converting it into the first year of a long-term contract. Remember, Santonio Holmes is a priority to sign, so assume that would take about $7 million this year. The Jets would probably have to cut two or three vets and not re-sign Antonio Cromartie to have any chance of getting into Asomugha's financial league -- even if it means Asomugha would take significantly less to go to New Jersey than, say, to Dallas or Houston.

9. I think Matt Hasselbeck ends up in Tennessee. Just a guess. But the Titans would give him what he wants -- a starting job, a two-year contract and the ability to mentor a kid he likes from Seattle, Jake Locker. I'd be surprised if Seattle antes up two years for Hasselbeck. I think they'll go with someone else, someone young and able to develop, like former Viking Tavaris Jackson. Makes sense. He'd be reunited with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, now Seattle's OC.

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

a. In what will certainly make Sirius XM NFL Radio boss Steve Cohen deliriously happy, a man approached me while in line for the breakfast buffet one morning at our hotel in Vienna. "I guess this means you won't be on Sirius this morning,'' he said.

b. Another fellow came up to me in Venice and said how much he liked that I took the Acela up and down the East Coast. "So do I,'' I said.

c. Thanks to my four pinch-hitters for this column while I was gone. Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth, an NFLPA executive board member, was eloquent about the future of the game; Army First Sergeant Mike McGuire made us proud to be Americans with his July 4 column; Texans GM Rick Smith did a good job in outlining what a front office went through in lockout life; and play-by-play maestro Al Michaels summed up the importance of football to us -- and had the best travel notes in the recent history of this column.

d. Only the New York Post could get away with this front page on the late Amy Winehouse.

e. I really loved her voice.

f. I don't know if I'm going to be able to take it when Curb Your Enthusiasm ends after a 10-episode season. Only. The more Funkhauser the better. And if you're like me, you can't wait to see Bill Buckner late in the season. In fact, I can't wait to see Larry David play softball.

g. Really, Larry David: You're playing a nun in the Three Stooges movie? Sister Mary-Mengele?

h. Read the other day it's been over 100 degrees in Wichita Falls, Texas, for 31 straight days. Not sure that did much for the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce, or the Wichita Falls Realtors Association.

i. But it's a dry heat.

j. At least 10 people who were at the Myra Kraft funeral service Friday said Jonathan Kraft -- son of Robert and Myra, president of the Patriots -- gave one of the most memorable eulogies they'd ever heard. How about this part of it.

On a trip to South Africa when apartheid still was the law of the land, Jonathan and his mom saw some blacks being arrested in Johannesburg for not having the proper documentation. Myra Kraft told a police officer: "I don't have the proper documentation. Arrest me too.'' She held out her hands to be handcuffed and demanded to be arrested. Jonathan, in college at the time, literally picked up his diminutive mother and took her away from the scene. "She was beating me on the back of the head,'' he said, wanting to be put down so she could go back.

k. We overstate the value and goodness of a lot of people -- famous and otherwise -- but it would be hard to overstate the generosity and humanity of Myra Kraft.

l. Coffeenerdness: I love the way they make and serve coffee in Vienna. We tried Café Sperl and ordered Melange -- essentially a latte, with frothed milk in a small cup -- with no sugar or flavoring. It came served with a roll and a glass of water. Everywhere in Vienna water is served with coffee; never asked why, but the dehydrating elements of espresso make it a smart idea. It was so good I had to have a second. And a third. We buzzed around the city for a very long walk after that.

m. Beernerdness: Lots of bitter beer in Vienna. We found one I really liked at a sidewalk café on a hot afternoon that reminded me of the white beers I've been trending toward lately, and it was a German brew: Schneider weisse hefe-weizenbier. A hefeweizen, of course. Citrusy. The server looked at me oddly when I asked for a lemon. Watching the world go by on a busy Vienna street with a hefeweizen. Not bad.

n. Very good to be back. Looking forward to one of the strangest years since I started covering pro football in 1984. Glad to have you along for the ride.

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