Different column this week, stretching from Foxboro (Tom Brady) to San Diego out West (Dan Fouts), from an unhappy Dolfan in the Southeast (Daniel Tosh) to Russell Wilson in the Land of Opportunity in the Northwest (Seattle), from a hotel in Oakland to a bar in D.C., from a hockey rink in New York to the busiest building in North America (Staples Center in Los Angeles) ... well, let's just get on with it.
Last of the (New England) Mohicans, and he's not planning to leave anytime soon.
Matt Light retired the other day. Peyton Manning plays for Denver now. This means that Tom Brady is the lone member of an exclusive club.
Sept. 30, 2001. Ninety players dressed for the first start of Brady's career, against the Indianapolis Colts, at the rickety old Foxboro Stadium on a cloudy and windy Sunday afternoon. Eighty-nine played. And Tom Brady, 34, is the only man who suited up that day who still plays for the Patriots, and one of just two left from that game overall, with Colts long-snapper Justin Snow the other. (Notes for you sticklers: Reggie Wayne was inactive that day, and he still plays for the Colts. Kevin Faulk had 11 touches that day, but he's an unrestricted free agent and doesn't play -- yet -- for the Patriots this year.)
Look at the turnover, less than 11 years after the first start of Brady's career. It's Brady and Bill Belichick against the world now.
"Well,'' Brady said Thursday afternoon, trying to figure out what it meant but not sounding at all surprised about it, "Matt called me a while ago and told me what he was planning to do, and I've called him every week since then trying to talk him out of it. He had such a great year for us. But there was no way I was going to be able to talk him out of it. He'll be a tough player to replace. But, you know, every year in this game, there's a lot of change.''
Except with one guy. One guy living a bicoastal life, married to one of the most famous women in the world, with two kids, and with a coach who's not very concerned with all of that stuff.
Who can know now, but it's going to be interesting to see if Brady outlasts Belichick. Because Belichick has been coaching in the NFL since Carlton Fisk willed the 12th-inning home run fair in the '75 World Series -- actually, he's been coach a few months longer than that -- and, amazing as it seems, Belichick is three years shy of 40 seasons as an NFL head coach or assistant. Not to get sidetracked, but this will be Belichick's 38th year as an NFL coach. Don Shula coached for 36.
Now, Belichick announced his new coaching staff last week, and it includes his son Steve as a coaching assistant. So Belichick, who just turned 60, will likely be around for a while to show the kid the ropes. But you get the impression talking to Brady that he'd like to be around longer than a while.
"My wife [Gisele Bundchen] said to me, 'When I met you [in 2006], you said you wanted to play 10 more years. How come that number never goes down?' It's that I love the game. I love the game. I'm going to play until they tell me they don't want me anymore.''
Coming off a season with 13 wins, a career-best 5,235 passing yards and 39 touchdown passes (second-best in his career), he won't be evicted from the lineup soon.
"I just met with coach Belichick this morning,'' Brady said. "I still feel like I'm in my first year trying to prove myself. There's no entitlement around coach Belichick. I've got to be the best guy for him to keep playing me. When I'm not, someone else will play.''
I've wanted to ask Brady about one play in the Super Bowl since the game was played. Early in the fourth quarter, with New England up 17-15, Brady escaped traffic in the pocket, faded right, and threw the ball 54 yards in the air, aiming for tight end Rob Gronkowski. The ball was underthrown by four to six yards, and New York linebacker Chase Blackburn intercepted it.
"Has anything happened to your arm, or your arm strength, that prevented you from throwing that ball where you wanted it?'' I asked.
"No,'' he said. "It was a bad throw. Bad throw. You hope your bad throws don't come at big times or really hurt the team, but that one did. Bad throw, bad decision.''
I don't think it was a bad decision at all. I thought it was a good decision and a good matchup -- the athletic Gronkowski on the not-so-athletic Blackburn. It was just underthrown. I could hear the disappointment about the play in Brady's voice, and I don't blame him for that. He had to watch that play on replay and say, Are you kidding me? Chase Blackburn in coverage and I can't get it over that guy's head?
"I can throw the ball today as far as I've ever been able to throw it,'' Brady said. "That's not the issue there. [Brett] Favre threw it great in his last year or so. Jamie Moyer's still getting people out. That's not a problem.''
Brady called the other day to discuss one of the things he's felt strongly about for years -- an organization called Best Buddies, a volunteer movement that promotes personal and professional relationships and work opportunities for intellectually and developmentally disabled people. Brady's been attending the major Boston fundraiser since 2002, and his support has helped the cause raise millions.
"This is not the hip, cool cause of the day,'' said Best Buddies founder Anthony Kennedy Shriver. "But Tom has been huge in helping us build our brand. I think he saw an underserved population, and he saw an organization with a commitment to help, and he's been there for us to help us grow.''
"Anyone who takes part is never the same,'' Brady said. "You can see how important this is in so many people's lives. It's a great feeling for me to be able to give back to a community that's been so wonderful to me.''
Brady plays in a touch football game on June 1 at Harvard Stadium, then takes part in the 100-mile bike ride from Boston to Hyannis June 2 with several Patriots and local celebs. Last year, Belichick made the bike ride. For free tickets to the Friday night game, go to hpchallenge2012.org/tickets, and for information on joining the bike ride, go to hpchallenge2012.org.
"For as long as I'm here in Boston, and beyond, I'll spread the message,'' Brady said.
As for how long that will be, Brady says all the right things -- he'd love to play his entire career in New England, but he's got to earn his spot every year. He saw what just happened with Peyton Manning, and he knows that might be something he faces one day. "That's a great example of how sometimes true professionals have to move on,'' he said. "Nothing surprises me anymore in the NFL.''
It's unlikely Brady moves on, but it's not impossible. Brady knows if it can happen to Manning, it can happen to him, especially with a bottom-line guy like Belichick making the calls.
This was a weekend for the Tryout Guys. Guys like Wayne Dorsey.
Imagine you've been playing football since you were 9. You're an inner-city kid, and you play basketball too, but you love football, and once you get to high school, you dream about one day playing in the NFL, not the NBA. You go to a junior college, then an SEC school, and the dream seems close. But you don't get drafted, as you thought you might.
You don't get signed as undrafted free agent, as you think you would. And you wonder: Is this it? The end of the line? Then you hear the NFL has expanded team rosters from 80 to 90. You hear most teams are having players in for tryouts, and at the end of the tryout, they might sign some of them to the 90-man roster, and 320 more players than a year ago will get to have their NFL dreams extended through a real training camp.
But there's a catch. At these three-day tryout camps, you won't be scrimmaging. You won't be playing full-speed with pads. You'll have helmets and jerseys and shorts and spikes, and you'll have to make the best impression you can without going live. At the end of the three-day camp, maybe you'll get signed. Maybe you won't. And if you don't, well, you can continue to work out and keep the faith that some team that liked you a little in college will call one day. In the back of your mind, though, you'll know it's probably time to start your life's work.
The Oakland Raiders had 30 of those trial guys at their weekend rookie camp, Thursday night through Sunday afternoon. One of those men was Ole Miss defensive end Wayne Dorsey, from the tough streets of Baltimore.
Dorsey started playing Pop Warner football in Baltimore when he was 9. "I was always one of the biggest kids,'' Dorsey said from his Oakland hotel Sunday afternoon. "So I was a defensive lineman then and stayed there through high school and college.'' He went to a New York prep school after high school, then to a Mississippi junior college for two years, then to Mississippi for two years.
This weekend was the Ole Miss graduation weekend, and he badly wanted to be there for his parents' sake as much as his; but he was about three weeks from finishing his final class toward his bachelor's in psychology. He'll finish, but in the last few weeks, he's had a few other things on his mind -- like doing everything he could to be an NFL player.
Dorsey, 6-foot-6 and 272 pounds, was a late-round prospect until last Oct. 15, when a freak accident happened in a game against Alabama. A teammate stepped on his arm and two bones were broken severely. He couldn't work out for several months, and by the time he felt well enough to work out, he was off every team's radar. "I believe I would have put up great numbers for the season,'' Dorsey said, "but I got hurt. It was disappointing, but that's how life goes sometimes.''
The only team he worked out for before the draft was Baltimore, but the Ravens didn't think enough of him to offer him a free-agent deal. Nor did any other team. But several teams were interested in offering him a tryout. Not that tryouts are totally new; the Patriots have done them for years, and invited a few players over the years to training camp. But this year, the numbers are way up because of the roster expansion. Tampa Bay called, and Dorsey went to the Bucs' rookie camp last weekend. After three days, the Bucs said thanks but no thanks; Dorsey went home to Baltimore.
Then the Giants called. The Saints called. He thought he'd go to New Orleans and try out. On Monday, Oakland called. New coach. New administration. Compared to the Giants and Saints, it seemed like the land of opportunity. Dorsey flew to Oakland Thursday. He took a physical and met the coaches Thursday. The Raiders gave him No. 94 to wear.
On Friday and Saturday, he had classroom work, drills on the field, and practice in the afternoon; the coaches wanted to see how much he could remember from what he'd been taught that morning. He studied at night. The final practice was Sunday morning at 11, and after that, coach Dennis Allen and GM Reggie McKenzie were going to call in the tryout guys who'd made it.
"I didn't know what would happen,'' Dorsey said. "A couple of times, coaches told me watching the film that I did the right thing, and I knew it could come down to whether I got my assignment right or not. I just tried all weekend to work hard, stay humble and play the game I love to the best of my ability. You think about things, and you know it's a numbers game, and you just think, 'I hope they have room for me.' ''
Dorsey and six other tryout players were brought into a room at the Raiders' practice facility. McKenzie told them they'd impressed the coaches, and the seven men in the room would be offered contracts and given the chance to make the team.
Seven dreams alive. Twenty-three dreams extinguished.
"Relief,'' said Dorsey. "That's all I felt. Relief that I'd have the opportunity to compete for a roster spot. You know, you always have the thought that creeps into the back of your mind that if this doesn't work out, what are you going to do. You talk to the other tryout guys, and it's a thought for all of us.''
Dorsey thanked Allen. He thanked McKenzie. Then he went to sign an NFL contract. Then he went to his hotel and called his mother, Cathy. It was, after all, Mother's Day. He had called his mom that morning, wishing her a happy day and telling her, "Hopefully my next call will come as a member of the Oakland Raiders."
His mom was at a family gathering for the holiday. When he told them, "I'm an Oakland Raider,'' there was much rejoicing in Baltimore. His mother said: "This is the best Mother's Day gift I could have gotten.''
And Wayne Dorsey, back in his hotel room, had work to do. Today the Raiders begin their Organized Team Activities (OTAs), and Dorsey would have to dig into his playbook to study a new defense -- a defense he apparently understood well enough to earn kudos in three days of weekend work. He'd survived the first gauntlet. The next one will be tougher. From 90 men to 53, when he was neither drafted nor a preferred free agent ... Dorsey knows the odds. He also knows all he ever wanted was a chance, and here it is.
"Today is the closing of one chapter of my life, the college chapter,'' he said. "Now it's on to the pro chapter. Now I'm going to try to make an NFL roster here. I'm going to remain humble, trust in God, work every day. This is the chance I've always wanted.''
Four notes of the weekend I'd like you to know about.
In Seattle, coach Pete Carroll acknowledged after the club's three-day rookie minicamp that there will be a three-way competition for quarterback this spring and summer. And 5-10½ Russell Wilson is the third wheel, joining favorite Matt Flynn and 2011 starter Tarvaris Jackson. After watching Wilson for three days, Carroll said Sunday: "He's going to be in the competition. He's shown us enough. He's in the competition.''
I can see the steam coming out of Flynn's ears right now. Not because he was promised the starting job. But because the Seahawks picked a quarterback in the third round who likely needs a couple of years on the JV, and the coach is already putting him on something of an equal footing with two guys far more accomplished. Just goes to show you: History means very little to Carroll, a "now" guy.
Is it dumb? No, it's not dumb. As GM John Schneider told me after the draft, Wilson was the third-best player he studied in all of college football last year, and Schneider doesn't care what anybody on any other team or on TV thinks of his draft-weekend decisions. Against a big-time schedule with Wisconsin last year, Wilson put up some phenomenal numbers -- 73 percent passing, 10.3 yards per attempt, 33 touchdowns and four interceptions -- and his leadership is similar to Drew Brees'.
So is his size, come to think of it ... a little more than an inch shorter, actually. But Flynn and Jackson are on notice: The best man will win this summer. In a 24-day span beginning May 22, the Seahawks will have 13 full-squad OTAs and minicamp practices. By the time that's over on June 14, we're going to have a good idea whether Wilson will belong in the fray with the two veterans in training camp this summer.
In New York, the NFL is mulling over options about which way to turn in post-career player care. Tough call, obviously, in part because the league doesn't want to overreact to the death of Junior Seau. Many meetings in the league office about how to react to Seau, and to the concerns of so many players about how to replace football in their lives, and there's been no definitive decision about how, if at all, the league should proceed here.
One of the things the league's batting around is having retired players mentor and/or counsel players late in their careers -- a sort of peer-to-peer counseling method that veteran players may look upon with more hope that it'd be relevant to what they're going through as they prepare to transition to life after football. What would help is if the league and the players union were getting along now, so there could be a cooperative effort here, because there should be.
NFLPA czar De Smith told player agents at the Scouting Combine that it should be a huge priority for them to prepare their players for life after football, so clearly he's concerned about it. But with the league and NFLPA at odds on the Saints bounty penalties, I doubt they're going to be agreeing on anything in the near future.
In Chicago, former Bear Tommie Harris is doing something tremendous for his late wife, Ashley, as Sean Jensen reported in the Chicago Sun-Times Sunday. Ashley, 29, died of a stroke or brain aneurysm in February. Sunday would have been their first Mother's Day together as husband and wife; they had two young children. But Harris, now a single dad, is formulating plans to build a school in The Sudan for enslaved or abused girls in the region, which became a passion for the Harrises. The couple visited Africa twice together, and now he's determined to honor her name by building the Ashley Harris Sunshine School through a nonprofit called Pros For Africa (prosforafrica.com/Ashley), which raises money for African causes through professionals, and not just pro athletes. Jensen's story is touching, and highlights Harris' passion for helping so many destitute and preyed-upon people with little hope.
In San Diego, a respectful crowd at Qualcomm Stadium Friday night heard great tributes to Junior Seau's life. I thought the best thing that was said came from Dan Fouts, the former great Charger quarterback. "With all the tragedies, there are lessons to be learned for all of us," Fouts said at the stadium event. "If you need help, get help. It's out there for all of you. All you have to do is swallow your pride and ask for it. We must do a better job of communication and handling our doubts and fears. Do something about it."
Has the "Concussion Crisis" peaked?
I've gotten a positive vibe from many of you when I turn over a few paragraphs of the column to players -- Eric Winston on being a free agent, Matt Light on retiring in recent weeks -- and I'll continue to do so when I think the time is right, or the topic good. The other day, I was on a SiriusXM NFL Radio show with Ross Tucker, the former NFL guard and special-teamer, and he had an interesting perspective on the topic of head trauma in the NFL, and I asked him to share his thoughts with you. His words:
"The concussion issue in football, which has been such a hot topic in recent weeks, is one I take very seriously. Because I have a big head (literally, and hopefully not figuratively), I used it often throughout my football career, especially in the NFL ... sometimes even as a weapon. As a result, I read the latest concussion information, get the updates on the progress of the Sports Legacy Institute via email, and in fact have agreed to donate my brain to the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University School of Medicine upon my death.
"That said, barring something totally unforeseen coming out of the research, I can't help but think that the issue is only going to get better from here, and that the worst of it is behind us at the NFL level. The 'crisis,' I believe, is likely overblown. It is my contention that the guys who played in the last four decades are the ones who are likely to suffer the most, whatever that ends up meaning to each individual.
"Future players should be in much better shape, for a number of reasons.
"For one, there is an awareness now about the issue of brain trauma and concussions that didn't exist during the years of smelling salts and 'seeing stars' or getting your 'bell rung.' A lot of positives have come out of that awareness, such as a protocol for how to handle concussions or even possible concussions, a new CBA that drastically limits the amount of overall hitting, new rules that protect defenseless players from hits to the head, a push for better equipment, and a dramatic culture change among the players and coaches regarding concussions that should only be enhanced as we move forward.
"The net result of all of those positives combined at the NFL level should be a diminishing of overall contact, fewer defenseless players like quarterbacks and wide receivers taking dangerous shots to the head, fewer players either hiding or being unaware of the fact that they suffered a concussion, and hopefully zero players returning to action without being cleared medically following a concussion. And all of this while wearing better equipment as the league continues to make strides in that area as well.
"I'm not minimizing concussions or brain trauma at all. Far from it. It just seems a logical conclusion that the NFL players who play in the 2010s, 2020s, and 2030s should be in better shape, at least cognitively, than the guys like me who played over the last 40 years before the awareness about head trauma increased with all the alarm bells of the last couple of years.''
Finally, this for all you grads ... and all of you who love commencement speeches, like me.
This is from Aaron Sorkin, the Hollywood screenwriter and producer and Syracuse grad. He spoke at the Syracuse graduations Sunday. What I liked from his speech:
"I've made some bad decisions. I lost a decade of my life to cocaine addiction. You know how I got addicted to cocaine? I tried it. The problem with drugs is that they work, right up until the moment that they decimate your life. Try cocaine, and you'll become addicted to it. Become addicted to cocaine, and you will either be dead, or you will wish you were dead, but it will only be one or the other. My big fear was that I wasn't going to be able to write without it. There was no way I was going to be able to write without it. Last year I celebrated my 11-year anniversary of not using coke. In that 11 years, I've written three television series, three movies, a Broadway play, won the Academy Award and taught my daughter all the lyrics to 'Pirates of Penzance.' I have good friends.
"You'll meet a lot of people who, to put it simply, don't know what they're talking about. In 1970 a CBS executive famously said that there were four things that we would never, ever see on television: a divorced person, a Jewish person, a person living in New York City and a man with a mustache. By 1980, every show on television was about a divorced Jew who lives in New York City and goes on a blind date with Tom Selleck. Develop your own compass, and trust it. Take risks, dare to fail, remember the first person through the wall always gets hurt.''
Have you heard a good 2012 commencement address? Send the link, or the speech, to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll run the best highlights next week in the column.
"I swear you'll never see anything like this ever again! So watch it! Drink it in! Two goals in added time for Manchester City to snatch the title away from Manchester United! Stupendous! The greatest moment I've ever seen in Premier League football! Unbelievable!''
-- Martin Tyler on Sky Sports, via awfulannouncing.com, after Manchester City scored its second goal in five minutes of stoppage time to beat Queen's Park Rangers 3-2 ... to win the Premier League for the first time in 44 years.
The amazing thing about this -- wait; there are many amazing things, so let's call it the most amazing thing -- is that bitter rival Manchester United had just won its final game of the season to, apparently, clinch the title over its cross-city rival, which was down 2-1 to Queen's Park early in stoppage time. City needed a win to win the crown. And City, which has been like the Mets and Man U the Yankees for two generations of British soccer, scored twice, the winner by Sergio Aguero almost four minutes into stoppage time. Truly amazing.
"I don't know what I did. But I said, 'Yes sir,' gave him no lip back and I just kept going.''
-- Fletcher Cox, the first-round draft choice of the Eagles, to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, after defensive coordinator Juan Castillo aired him out at the Eagles' rookie minicamp this weekend. Cox told McLane that defensive line coach Jim Washburn had chided him for not hustling during one practice drill.
"I know it has been a rough week, so I wanted to reach out. Players dying, players suing and on top of that my peers are just going off on you in the media. It does not help that ESPN has all of a sudden become medical TV with damn near every brain expert on the planet. This has got to be the worst week ever. Since no one is showing any support, I figured I would be the first. You are in one big a-- catch 22 and quite frankly, I am not sure there is any solution.''
-- New England wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, on his blog, in an open letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, on the sticky wicket the NFL finds itself in these days.
Thanks to Dan Pompei of National Football Post for reminding me Sunday morning of the change of the guard in the Chicago Bears receiver group, prompting this note:
The Chicago Bears could field the tallest set of receivers in club history -- and, in fact, one of the tallest ever to take the field -- this year, depending on the play-calling whimsy of offensive coordinator Mike Tice.
If the Bears line up in a five-receiver set, with two tight ends and three wide receivers, here's how they could threaten the opposition:
At wideout: The 6-4½ Brandon Marshall and 6-3 rookie Alshon Jeffery could line up split out, with 6-0 Earl Bennett or 5-11 Dane Sanzenbacher the third receiver; Sanzenbacher is more suited to play inside. This is dependent, too, on the recovery of 5-11 Johnny Knox from a severe late-2011 back injury.
At tight end: Returning are 6-7 Matt Spaeth and 6-6½ Kellen Davis, who could be used as sixth, or sixth and seventh linemen to buttress a shaky line. And fourth-round pick Evan Rodriguez, an athletic 6-2 tight end, could get some playing time if he proves his worth as a receiver too.
Conjures memories of the Chargers two years ago, when they could send three receivers 6-4 or taller downfield -- Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd and tight end Antonio Gates -- with the 6-2 Legedu Naanee in reserve.
Pretty tall group in Chicago. Not to mention the league's tallest offensive coordinator too. Tice is 6-7.
Been to a lot of baseball games in my life, but I believe Friday night's Boston-Cleveland tilt at Fenway Park was unique in this regard: The first 31 Cleveland batters of the game hit left-handed. Manager Manny Acta penciled in a batting order with seven lefty batters and two switch-hitters. With righty Clay Buchholz pitching until the seventh inning, Cleveland did not send up a right-handed batter until catcher Carlos Santana, a switch-hitter, came to the plate against left-handed reliever Rich Hill in the seventh.
I'd be curious if that's some sort of record, 31 straight left-handed batters in a game. Probably not. But any of you baseball stat-types have any idea how rare that is, or if it's rare at all?
Sorry. This isn't football either.
But I love how three teams in Los Angeles, all due to play Games 3 and 4 of their playoff series next weekend, had to smash their schedules together at Staples Center.
Six games in four days. Six games in 76 hours.
How it'll go down (all times Pacific):
Thursday, 6 p.m., hockey. Game 3, Kings-Phoenix.
Friday, 7:30 p.m., basketball. Game 3, Lakers-Oklahoma City.
Saturday, 12:30 p.m., basketball. Game 3, Clippers-San Antonio.
Saturday, 7:30 p.m., basketball. Game 4, Lakers-Oklahoma City.
Sunday, noon, hockey. Game 4, Kings-Phoenix.
Sunday, 7:30 p.m., basketball. Game 4, Clippers-San Antonio.
Sorry. This isn't sports.
But a man died last week who is far, far too little-known, and you should know a few things about him. In his life, Nicholas Katzenbach:
• Got shot down as an Army pilot in World War II. Spent two years as a prisoner of war in Germany and Italy.
• While in prison camps, read, by his count, according to his 2008 memoir, 400 books in 15 months.
• Served as adviser to President John F. Kennedy as the country mulled how to handle the Cuban Missile Crisis.
• Faced off with governors in Mississippi and Alabama -- including Gov. George Wallace in Alabama -- in the early '60s, at the behest of President Kennedy, to facilitate the enrollment of the first black students ever at the schools. He won both faceoffs, and black students were immediately enrolled at both schools.
• Consulted with Lyndon Johnson on the day of the Kennedy assassination.
• Recommended a government probe into the death of John Kennedy, leading to the Warren Commission being founded.
• As U.S. Attorney General, drafted the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
• Was one of 15 members of New Jersey's Electoral College later in life.
Katzenbach was 90 when he died on Tuesday. What a life.
Seeing as I travel quite a bit, though I don't have a lot of nerdy travel needs, a few things are important. Take hotels. If I'm in a small city, such as on my training camp tour, convenience is king. If the Red Roof Inn is closest and cuts down travel time, book it. But on regular trips during the season or covering games, I like hotels in city centers.
My hotel preferences: I like quiet. I like high floors. I love good views. I like good coffee in the lobby, or a Starbucks or Peet's on the same block. I like good food, and convenient good food, close by. I like to be able to walk where I'm going.
This is why I'll take the Westin Copley Place anytime, over most hotels in the country. I was there Friday night. And it met most every requirement: 28th floor, view of Back Bay and the Charles River and Cambridge, quiet, Starbucks just off the lobby, Legal Seafood in the adjoining mall (the biodome, my kids used to call it, because you never had to walk outside), and my walk to Fenway Park took just 24 minutes. And did I mention quiet?
And Saturday morning, when I had to buzz out of town quickly, it helped that the entrance to the Mass Pike, headed west, was right out of the front driveway.
"Happy Mothers Day LeSean Mccoy! Enjoy your special day!!''
-- @OsiUmenyiora, on Sunday morning, greeting his favorite Philadelphia Eagles running back of all-time.
These two men do not like each other.
"I should sue the @nfl for all my concussions. 30 years of banging my head against the wall watching the dolphins.''
-- @danieltosh, Comedy Central host, on Thursday.
"Siri, how do you get Josh Hamilton out?''
-- @BMcCarthy32, Oakland starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy, early Saturday morning, looking for advice from the voice inside the iPhone 4S, hours before Hamilton, of the Texas Rangers, hit his ninth home run of the week against the Angels.
Keep that up, McCarthy, and you'll be a regular in Tweet of the Week.
"Caps lose a tough one to the Rangers. Washington DC bar immediately starts chanting 'RGIII! RGIII!' ... #footballseasonyet?''
-- @RapSheet, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, hard at work in a bar, Touchdown, on U Street in our nation's capital Saturday night, moments after the Rangers ended the Capitals' season.
You've got a lot of work to do, Robert Griffin III, to fulfill the expectations of the rabid Redskins fans, if you'd seen all of these football nuts high-fiving when the chant for you was going on.
"Got mashed potatoes ... can't get no T-Bone.''
-- @JimIrsay, the Colts' tweeterific owner, at 1:15 a.m. Eastern Time Saturday.
Irsay, a buddy of Neil Young's, was obviously referring to one of Young's unfamous efforts, T-Bone. But he didn't have the words to this gem exactly right. The first stanza, taken from mp3lyrics.org:
Got mashed potatoesGot mashed potatoesGot mashed potatoesAin't got no T-boneAin't got no T-bone
It gets a lot better from there. Here's the second stanza:
Got mashed potatoesGot mashed potatoesGot mashed potatoesGot mashed potatoesAin't got no T-bone
1. I think the Minnesota stadium deal should be a template for future NFL stadium deals -- assuming the stadium's not in a state like California, where there is relatively little available in the realm of public financing. Turns out the Wilfs, who own the Vikings, will end up paying 49 percent of the stadium costs ($478 million of the $975 million bill), plus 65 percent of the annual operating costs every year for 20 years. The Minnesota governor, Mark Dayton, will announce the deal and have a signing ceremony today.
2. I think next on LA's most-wanted list, now that Minnesota is keeping the Vikings, are St. Louis, Oakland, Jacksonville and Buffalo ... in that order. But I wouldn't say any of the four teams is likely to move.
3. I think this is just one more piece of evidence to suggest not even those he was close to had an idea Junior Seau was in such despair: A couple of days before he shot himself, Seau was on the phone with USC assistant and good friend Kennedy Pola, helping him in Trojan recruiting. I mean, it's still stunning to so many people who knew him well. Or thought they did.
4. I think for the scores of you who have asked me in recent weeks where Dallas Clark will end up -- or if he'll play anywhere in 2012 -- I give you this answer: If I had to make an educated guess right now, I think the leader in the clubhouse is Kansas City. Imagine if Clark, who visited the Chiefs May 1, could give Tony Moeaki a breather for 300 snaps this year, with Kevin Boss in the rotation as well. Moeaki's been injury-prone in his college and pro careers, so the Chiefs will try to find the right number of snaps for him. But a three-tight end rotation of Moeaki, Boss and Clark would be solid, if the Chiefs wouldn't be hurt too much on special teams without major contributions from the tight ends.
5. I think the following findings of a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health were most notable in a study released last week:
a. NIOSH studied 3,439 players who played at least five years between 1959 and 1988 and noted in its study, "We compared the rate and causes of death among these players to what would be expected among men in the general population to see if there was a difference.''
b. Of the 3,439 players, 334 were dead. That compared to an expectation of 625 dead if a similar sample of men in the general population had been undertaken. Cancer-related and heart-disease-related deaths were both lower than what NIOSH had assumed would be the results in a study of the general population.
c. Deaths due to heart disease were higher than the norm for offensive and defensive linemen, but at no other position group.
d. African-American players had a 69 percent higher risk of dying due to heart disease than white players. NIOSH said it didn't know why this was, other than to report that in the general population, African-Americans have a higher risk of heart disease than whites.
6. I think the point to make on that study -- and remember, the last 24 years of football players were not studied -- is that it's probably grossly unfair to draw conclusions on retired players' health based on anecdotal evidence.
What I found looking into the post-career health of the 1986 Cincinnati Bengals roster was that it's dangerous to draw any conclusions; for every player with a bad post-football history (depressed safety Bobby Kemp killed himself, longtime linebacker Reggie Williams had a litany of serious injuries that are not going away), there were six to eight in fine condition, mentally and physically. That isn't to say that retired players are in great shape. But there are scores we never hear about who appear to be in better shape than their peers in the general population. I spoke with many of those on the Bengals last fall.
7. I think Chris Polian was a good hire by the Falcons after his career ended ugly in Indianapolis. He'll be supremely motivated to show Thomas Dimitroff he's a good scout, which I believe he is, and not just in the job because his father gave him a big job.
8. I think players like Stacy Robinson, who died of cancer Tuesday at 50, sometimes get lost because they weren't great players; Robinson caught 48 passes in six seasons as a New York Giant and won two Super Bowl rings with the team a generation ago.
I covered four of Robinson's six years as a beat writer. He was the burner the Giants drafted in the second round of the 1985 draft from North Dakota State, and even though he never became the great receiver the Giants might have hoped he would (would any receiver have starred in that offense?), I remember him as one of the best team players in that locker room, an intelligent player who understood his place in the offense and never chafed at being forgotten in game plan after game plan.
Phil Simms went to him three times for 62 yards in the Super Bowl win over Denver in January 1987. Game after game I recall sidling up to him to ask him about why successful plays unfolded the way they did, or why things didn't work, and he was unfailingly polite and helpful, with a deep knowledge of the game he cared so much about.
After his career ended, he worked with the players union to help smooth the path of players in post-career life -- he'd be a vital cog today in the wake of the Junior Seau death -- and when I ran into him he always talked about ways to improve transition from the field to life after football. What a good man Stacy Robinson was.
9. I think I like the hire by NFL.com (and all its platforms, including NFL Network) of veteran NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah, who is one of my favorite Twitter follows because of his shrewd and smart analysis. Not that it's rocket science to say this, which Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks on Twitter) did the other day, but it's smart, and true. "The bar is set much lower for Luck & IND than it is for RG3 & WAS ... 6 wins would be huge for IND & brutal for WAS.''
Good luck to him.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. RIP, Lovie Young, the wife of the late Giants GM George Young. She died Thursday. A tremendous human being who had so many non-football causes in life, and realized as much as any wife of a football man I have known that football's a game, and the sun comes up tomorrow, no matter who wins.
b. I taped some segments of the USA Network show "Necessary Roughness'' the other day in Stamford, Conn. And no, I did not quit my day job. I play myself, working for NBC, reporting on the New York Hawks around the time of the league draft. Real TV's harder. Real TV is when the script isn't written for you.
c. I'm not saying Julia Louis-Dreyfus is better as the vice president of the United States in "Veep" than she was as Elaine Benes in "Seinfeld," but it's not as far away as you think.
d. Devils-Rangers, for a lot of marbles. Palms are already sweaty.
e. Love the fact that the NHL comes down to the new Southwest (Phoenix versus L.A.) against the old Northeast (New York-New Jersey). Put me down for the Kings and Devils. Meet the new boss (Quick) ... same as the old boss (Brodeur).
f. Imagine, hockey fans, if Washington's Joel Ward doesn't take the needless four-minute high-sticking penalty in Game 5. That's a penalty that can haunt a player, and a franchise, for a long time.
g. How great is the postgame Game 7 handshake line in hockey? Ovechkin and Lundqvist. Classic.
h. Why the NHL playoffs rock ... Margins of victory in the Rangers' 14 playoff games thus far: 2, 1, 1, 1, 2, 1, 1, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, and 1 goal.
i. I've seen some weird scheduling in my time, but how about this one on the MLB slate: The Twins and Angels played three series this season. All three were finished by May 9. So by the 32nd game of the Angels' season, they'd played nine against the Twins -- and were finished for the year against them. Meanwhile, the Angels, who are due to play Seattle 19 times in 2012, haven't played the Mariners yet, and won't until Game 46.
j. Celtics seem like they're being held together by baling wire.
k. But I hope the passionate Kevin Garnett plays until he's 63.
l. I would pay to see Rajon Rondo and four high school kids play. Still can't believe Danny Ainge was thinking about trading him. Excellent question from David Aldridge on the court after the Celtics' Game 1 win Saturday night, about how the grind of the playoffs may wear down an older team like Boston. "We'll be fine,'' Rondo said. "Look at us,'' and he walked away.
m. Would the Sixers win one game in the Eastern finals against Miami?
n. Did any balloon ever deflate faster than Linsanity?
o. First reaction to stories of LeBron James winning his third MVP: I know the MVP's an important award in every sport, and congrats to James for winning a third. But until he wins a title, I'm not saying his MVPs are meaningless awards, but since Magic and Bird and later Jordan, NBA megastars are measured by titles, not MVPs.
p. See Josh Hamilton's moonshot home run Saturday off C.J. Wilson? Looked like it traveled higher than farther.
q. Barry Bonds' 18th home run in the record 73-homer season of 2001: May 19. Mark McGwire's 18th home run in the previous record 70-homer season of 1998: May 19. Roger Maris' 18th home in the previous record 61-homer season of 1961: June 9. Hamilton's 18th home run in 2012: May 12.
r. The Red Sox put waaaaay too much emphasis on this sellout streak (up to 729 straight games) at Fenway. It's not worth it. And the scads of empty seats lets you know that, even if they get people to buy enough tickets and give away enough others to declare a sellout, it looks like a phony record if the tickets aren't actually used.
s. It's obvious no one in the Red Sox organization has the stones to stand up to Josh Beckett. I covered the Giants for four years in the '80s, and I saw coaches stand up to Lawrence Taylor. Insane that no one can say to Beckett: If you're skipped in the rotation because of a sore back, you don't go golfing. And if you do, be man enough to say you might have erred. But the real problem is that Beckett has always been the golden child with that team, and too many people in the organization are afraid of him. Sad.
t. Love the nickname given Dustin Pedroia by the Globe's Pete Abraham: Scrappy McScraperson.
u. Coffeenerdness: I've tried it more than a few times, and I try to be fair, and I know it engenders deep passions, especially in the Northeast. But Dunkin' Donuts coffee just isn't dark enough for me. It's not bad, but it's an any-port-in-the-storm coffee for me.
v. Beernerdness: Cool pregame at Fenway Friday night with buddies Pete Thamel of the New York Times and Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe. Never ran into a Yard House brew pub before (there are 36 across the land, mostly out West), but I'll be there again ... 144 beers on tap. I started with Cisco Grey Lady (Nantucket), a white ale slightly less flavorful than Allagash White but easy to drink, and light. Two: Kona Fire Rock Pale Ale (Kona, Hawaii), my favorite of the night. Heavy malt flavor, and just bitter enough. Three: Sea Dog Bluepaw Wild Blueberry (Camden, Maine). Vague blueberry flavor, and I'm not sure if that's from the four fresh blueberries they put in the glass or from the beer itself. Pleasant enough, but not memorable.
w. Favorite newspaper story of the week: The New York Times on an amazing 11-year-old boulder climber from Manhattan, Ashima Shiraishi. Watch the accompanying video. The kid's an inspiration.
x. Not a big fan of the Time cover, as I said on Twitter. Big fan of breast-feeding. In private.
y. Happy Mother's Monday to moms everywhere. Hope you had a great day Sunday.