Saints open camp with Vilma; ref squabble no big deal yet; mail
Five thoughts for June 5th, three months away from opening night of the 2012 NFL season:
• The Saints opened their mandatory minicamp this morning without Sean Payton and Drew Brees -- but with Jonathan Vilma. The suspended linebacker is with the team while his appeal goes through the legal process, and this morning he was with the defense during a walkthrough portion and stretching before adjourning to the trainers' room where he'll rehab with injured teammates during the normal practice sessions. Vilma underwent an arthroscopic knee procedure after the season and would be available at the start of the season in the very unlikely event the year-long suspension over his involvement in the Saints' bounty scandal is overturned. Curtis Lofton, acquired from Atlanta in free agency, anchored Vilma's middle linebacker slot today as he likely will this season, with Scott Shanle likely to start on the strongside and Seattle transplant David Hawthorne at weakside.
• Catching up on Steve Gleason: The former Saints safety, 35, a victim of ALS, traveled to the United Nations last week to talk about how technology can aid ALS patients. He picked up a $25,000 donation from the charitable arm of J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, and he spoke about having a new passion he's aiding. He wants to raise $750,000 to build the second residence in the country -- Boston is the first -- for ALS patients. "My dream is to have an ALS residence with former NFL players,'' said Gleason, whose disease has progressed to the point where now he has to get around in a motorized wheelchair. At the Super Bowl this year, he still was able to walk with the aid of a cane. His vision is to have the residence serve between 10 and 20 full-time residents, most likely on a separate floor of either a nursing home or an assisted-living facility. "We want them to be able to live as independently as possible, and technology is important in realizing that goal. We don't want it to feel like they're institutionalized.'' Through his website
• A few of you got the impression -- probably advanced by the way I wrote
• Good to see Rex Ryan looking so healthy on "Costas Tonight'' on NBC Sports Network Monday night. Ryan told Costas he's lost 90 pounds since undergoing weight-loss surgery last year, 40 since the 2011 season ended.
• Regarding the NFL "locking out'' its game officials: Wake me when something important happens. Three months before opening night is no time to get panicky about scab zebras working games that matter.
And now for your email:
WHY DID THE BOUNTIES INCENTIVIZE PLAYERS?
Players love cash. (Don't we all?) And when a player can make a big play in a game -- just doing his job -- and be rewarded with $400 of found money, that is an incentive to some players. Maybe we don't understand it. But we're not in the exclusive male-bonding club of an NFL locker room every day either. Why do players play cards on team planes for $50 or $500 pots? Because it's fun, and because they compete against one another, and because it's a bonding practice.
REVIS SHOULD HONOR HIS CONTRACT.
Right, but if your boss paid you two-thirds of your money in the first two years of a four-year contract, and your boss is happy with how you've performed, and you're getting rave reviews with how you've performed, and then your boss pays you the same for the sum of the last two years that he paid you in either of the first two years, you're going to think, "This isn't very just." I do understand a contract's a contract, and in my world, if my employer wasn't willing to go into the deal and re-work it, I'd work for what the bottom line said. Athletes are different in many cases, though.
HE WANTS A COLD-WEATHER SUPER BOWL.
I'm not a fan of Super Bowls being held in the cold. Never have been. I'd like the championship game of the sport to be contested without the weather (except rain) as a factor. I want to see the game played with the best athletes in the best conditions. Now, I love playoff games in the elements. Home teams have deserved, by virtue of their regular season record, to be in the position to play games at their home venue, with the fans on their side and possibly the weather too. But the title game, I've always thought, should be played in conditions that are fairest for both, and fairest for the fans.
I AM AN IDIOT WHEN IT COMES TO RATING PLAYERS.
Fair enough. But how, possibly, can a fullback who plays roughly half of his team's snaps on offense (which, averaging the two fullbacks included in the NFL Networks' Top 100, is what the percentage is) be judged to be a more important player than very good quarterbacks and very good left tackles, which Vonta Leach was? I have no problem lauding Leach for being the best fullback in the game, if that's how you judge him. But I just feel it's not very smart to think a fullback playing much less than full time can be in the same ballpark with, say, a left tackle or a quarterback playing every snap. There's not a scout alive who would equate the contributions of a quarterback and a fullback as being equal. So the ranking makes no sense to me.
And now for the section of mail on my feeling that New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is right in trying to combat the obesity epidemic in the city by banning the sale in fast food chains and city stores of all soft drinks of more than 16 ounces.
AREN'T WE THE LAND OF THE FREE?
Thanks, Jon. And I love Currituck, by the way. Bloomberg's program is pointed at everyone, but he's clearly trying to get kids to cut down on their sugar intake. Even the land of the free has laws many of us don't like. There was a near-revolution in restaurants in many cities when politicians all over the country banned smoking in restaurants. But now it's clear that it was a good idea, and has resulted in a heathier eating environment. People complain about the speed limit all the time, but statistics show that when people drive slower, fewer people die on our highways. Bloomberg's not banning soda. He's simply putting a limit of twice what people like me used to think was a regular amount of the soft drink.
START WITH SCHOOL MENUS.
Great point, Steve. Thanks for making it.
A DOCTOR DISAGREES WITH ME.
Are any laws restricting behavior good, then? When I was 25, people could smoke on airplanes, and it used to drive me crazy. Thank God people can't smoke on planes now. That law restricts personal freedom. Is it a bad law? Should there be a speed limit? I was at the dentist Monday, and I asked her about the Bloomberg effort. She's been a dentist for a couple of decades, and she said it's not just the obesity in children that is an epidemic now -- though she said that's really increased. It's the alarming increase in the number of cavities in young children. The enamel of the teeth is being worn away by the sugar and the chemicals in things like soda, she said. Limiting it only makes sense, particularly for young people.
OH NO! MY LATTES ARE UNDER ATTACK!!!
Did a little research for you, Dave. The drink I get at Starbucks, the triple grande hazelnut latte (meaning it has a third shot of espresso and less milk) is 16 ounces, with 36 grams of sugar and 230 calories. The Big Gulp at 7-Eleven has, on average, 28 ounces of soda and four ounces of ice. That has 91 grams of sugar and 364 calories. The 44-ounce Super Big Gulp has 128 grams of sugar and 512 calories. Now, around the holidays, I do get -- maybe six or eight times a season -- the pumpkin latte or the egg nog latte, and those numbers are much higher. But my daily coffee drink has 37 percent fewer calories and 60 percent less sugar than the Big Gulp. Just for the record.
JOE MAKES SOME VERY GOOD POINTS.
Good job, Joe. Congrats on your kids being smoke-free. Good for them.
THE LAST WORD, FROM BRYAN, TEXAS:
All the guy is doing is saying: Ban the 44-ounce sodas. It's simply not healthy. the 16-ounce sodas aren't either, but he's not talking about banning them.