Rookie QBs star; Dolphins' Johnson tempted fate; more camp lessons
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- To Bears coach Lovie Smith, the Olympic competition he watched every night after training camp meetings in his dorm room at Olivet Nazarene University was a vital football lesson for everyone in the game.
"Imagine working four years for one moment,'' he said to me in his office on campus here Saturday morning. "This is their Super Bowl. Bigger, even. Such a good lesson for all of us. They work hard for hours a day, day after day, with no one watching. There's no result right away. You can't see the benefit of what you're doing right away. It's the same for us here in camp. In a football practice, you practice your craft every day. It's tedious, tiring, regimented. But if you don't do the tedious stuff, you'll never win. That's one of the things the Olympics can teach us all.''
One thing I noticed about the kid quarterbacks playing early -- Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden -- is none of them had happy feet in their pro debuts. The tiring, tedious, regimented stuff paid off, to varying degrees of success, and that's where we start our tour around the NFL this morning, the first day without the Olympics. Ten storylines of the first full weekend of football (albeit faux exhibition football) since January:
Luck was eerily terrific Sunday afternoon before a crazed crowd in Indy. Just as Peyton Manning had thrown a touchdown pass on his first preseason pass as a rookie 14 years ago, so did Luck, on a short pass and long run by Donald Brown against St. Louis. I remember sitting with Luck at the Scouting Combine in the hotel room of his agent, which overlooked Lucas Oil Stadium. Just as nothing seemed too big for Luck at Stanford, or at the Combine, or early in camp for the Colts, Sunday's contest looked like just another game of football for 25 minutes of the first half. Four possessions, three touchdown drives.
"Let's not get too excited about anything,'' Luck said afterward, "because nobody goes back and looks at the preseason record for anything." Good point. But that's not going to stop Hoosiers from waking up with big grins this morning.
I can tell you this:
Not so funny, but in the first episode of
Giants' rookie Jayron Hosley returned a punt against the Jags, and there was a holding call on the play, and the ref in Jacksonville called the hold on Hosley. Pretty tough for a ballcarrier to hold for himself. I hear the NFL's position has hardened regarding the regular officials, who want to keep their pension system a guaranteed-benefits plan rather than subject it to the whims of the stock market (who wouldn't?) and want a bigger bump in salary than the NFL is offering.
Now, Philadelphia might have the best defensive line depth in the NFL, but still, perpetrators Phillip Hunt and Darryl Tapp are not starting players. This was not the start the Steelers needed to see for the line. I have three words for Roethlisberger, who thought -- incorrectly, apparently -- that with the draft concentration on the line he wouldn't have many more nights under siege: Duck, Ben, duck.
Now for my week's travelogue, which started with a 607-mile jaunt from Georgia to the shadow of the nation's capital and finished in the parched midwest.
I counted 20 plays of 11-on-11 piloted by Robert Griffin III in the afternoon practice. Five were designed runs for Griffin. On this afternoon, he ran it a lot better than he threw it. There's little doubt that Griffin's ability to run quarterback draws and rollouts and options will throw a wrench into opponents' preparation for Washington. But he wasn't getting hit in practice, obviously, and he will when the real games start -- maybe even when the Colts visit Washington in Week 3 of the preseason, and Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis get a few shots at him.
Many thoughts. Among them:
• I know mobility is a great attribute for a quarterback, particularly in a division when you're facing DeMarcus Ware, Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck each twice a year. But Griffin weighs 217 pounds. Getting him out on the flank so much, trying to make people miss, is a dangerous proposition.
• Before you argue, "Well, Cam Newton ran 128 times last year and he never got hurt,'' let me remind you that Newton's a full-grown thoroughbred and Griffin's a young colt. Griffin is not Newton. At 217 pounds, RGIII is 31 pounds lighter than Newton, and doesn't have the physical suit of armor Newton has. (And I would guarantee you the Panthers don't want Newton running it 128 times a year anyway; that's a sure-fire way to no more 16-game seasons for him.)
• I talked to one influential Redskin source here, who said, basically, that Griffin ran with abandon for the past two years and didn't get hurt. I looked it up: 26 Baylor games, 328 rushes, 12.6 rushes per game, and he survived. But a 217-pound quarterback is risking his future if he runs 100 or so times a year in the NFL.
• Just my gut feeling, but it sounds like the Redskins don't want Griffin sitting in the pocket behind such a shaky line -- and don't want him to completely change the way he played in college. Which, in essence, was as a young Mike Vick or young Steve Young.
Asked whether he feared being exposed to lots of hits this year, Griffin said: "I don't want to give away any secrets for the season ... I can't talk about how I'm going to be used during the season. Trying to keep that under wraps.''
The van we're driving around the country in is courtesy of EvoShield, the protective-equipment manufacturer. It's got a huge photo of Griffin, one of their pad-wearers, on the side. When I saw Griffin Thursday night in Buffalo, I patted him on the side and wished him well. And there the rib-protectors were.
Memo to EvoShield: The world's watching. If Griffin runs 100 or so times this year and stays upright, we're all buying your stock.
"A lot of people don't want to wear the traditional rib-protectors because they make them look fat,'' Griffin said. "These ... you can't even tell you have them on, and you're also protecting your body the best way you can, rather than them sliding all over the place.''
Griffin looked great running in this practice. One advantage: He had the red shirt on. No one could touch him. Look at a 15-day stretch in October on the Redskins' schedule. Jared Allen, the Giants, James Harrison. I'm thinking Griffin might want a bullet-proof vest as well as the EvoShield.
DePalma and Arizona free- agent wideout David Douglas are tearing up camp, and remember this: Tom Coughlin loves underdog story guys who tear up camp. Remember a fellow named Victor Cruz? ... Interesting joust at middle linebacker going on. Chase Blackburn -- he of the famous late Super Bowl interception that Tom Brady underthrew -- starts the season, but sentimental hero Mark Herzlich may get a shot to win the job if Blackburn doesn't make enough plays ... Hakeem Nicks, rehabbing a broken bone in his foot, is running now, and he's on course to start opening night, which is only 23 days away.
Eli Manning has two obligations after lunch at the University at Albany dining hall -- spending a few minutes with me, then talking to an Albany-area cable station for two or three minutes. Then he looks to his Giants media-handler, PR man Peter John-Baptiste, sees he's free for the afternoon, walks to his SUV, gets in and drives away. After dinner -- the early-bird special; he's out by 4:55 -- he walks out of the dining hall, says hello to a few fans standing outside, looks around, sees nothing he needs to do, and gets into the SUV again. He's gone. Pretty sleepy training camp for the two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback, coming off another stunning upset of the Patriots last winter.
I used to cover the Giants for
This is the
"We've gone through camps with a little bit of chaos,'' Manning said. "I think we like it a little better this way."
A few factors here. The Giants have neither subtracted nor added any major characters; I don't consider a third receiver (Mario Manningham) and backup running back (Brandon Jacobs) big losses, nor are Martellus Bennett or Sean Locklear anything but meh acquisitions. And the normal media attention is fractioned further by Tebowmania with the other New York franchise, and the fact the Olympics have knocked non-Tebow football from some of the New York sports pages and airwaves.
Tom Coughlin loves it. Jerry Reese loves it. Because not only is there the benefit of working without an invasive microscope, but also it becomes easy, if need be, to play the "we get no respect'' card with the players when all the other teams are getting more attention.
But this afternoon at practice, I reached the conclusion that all of that won't matter one bit when the real games start. As the sun beat down on one of the dog days of camp, the Giants went 11-on-11, and a receiver on the bubble, oft-injured Domenik Hixon, was split right and ran about an intermediate curl route. Manning was the quarterback. With two steps left before Hixon turned to face the quarterback, Manning fired a line drive toward him. When Hixon stopped and turned, the ball was whistling toward him, just a few yards away. An impossible route, and pass, to defend. Hixon nabbed it. Gain of 13.
An August pass, of course, is nothing like a February one. But you set the stage for Super Bowl passes with precise ones in the dog days. The greatest pass Manning will ever throw came last season with the Giants down 17-14 and under four minutes left in the Super Bowl, pinned back at their 12-yard line. Manning looked safety Patrick Chung off the play with his eyes long enough to get a tiny window to rainbow a perfect ball into the hands of Manningham. Gain of 38. Biggest play of the game, by far.
Out on one of the practice fields, I asked Coughlin what sticks out to him about that memorable play six months later.
Coughlin was carrying a water bottle, and he put the bottle into the middle of his hands, stretched up into the air like a priest raising the host to heaven. There was a big smile on his face.
"The ball was right there!'' he said, still amazed after all these months. Just like it was when only a few hundred fans on a field in Albany were watching, not 119 million across the country.
It's all starting to add up now. Rex Ryan says the Jets are going ground and pound. Jets trade for Tim Tebow. Jets want Tim Tebow to play a role. Tebow bulks up to 250. The new offensive coordinator, Tony Sparano, brought the Wildcat back to football four years ago, and there's little doubt he's going to use Tebow in some diverse roles out of the backfield here. Tebow is given to special teams coach Mike Westhoff, the mad scientist of NFL kicking-game game coaches, to figure out some role in addition to whatever he'll do on offense. Westhoff rubs his hands in glee, gets Tebow into his team meetings, and Tebow suggests a few ways he can be used.
So the Jets look like they know how they'll get Tebow in the game, and the situations and formations in which he'll be used. And the incumbent quarterback is well aware of what's going on.
"It's sort of a natural next step, and it didn't surprise me,'' Mark Sanchez told me. "We advance to the championship game the first two years, then we don't make the playoffs last year. They're going to do something to give us a spark. They bring in Tim. You can see they're going to get Tim in the game.''
"I trust Tony,'' Sanchez said.
In other words, the Jets are going to put Tebow in the game, on offense and on special teams, regularly. They've been careful not to ruffle Sanchez's feelings about it, apparently even letting him know what the plan is, and Sanchez, who has a very good relationship with the new offensive coordinator, feels Sparano's not going to trample on him to make Tebow a part of the offense. It's a tight rope walk, and who knows what Sanchez really is feeling if part of the plan is subbing Tebow for Sanchez when the Jets get inside the opponents' 5-yard line, for instance.
"They've got a plan, a pretty precise plan,'' I was told here. "But they're just shutting up about it.''
Tebow ran four times Friday night in Cincinnati. He threw it eight times, but that's meaningless because of preseason. His runs? Not meaningless. "If you want to come after him, you better get to him. In time, he'll kill you running," Ryan said after the game.
It says here a good chunk of the ground-and-pounding will come from the 250-pound quarterback/punt protector/option runner. I'll put the over/under of Tebow's average snaps per game, including plays in the kicking and punting game, at 18. And if I had to go to Vegas with that, give me the over.
I was at a tailgate with some fans before the game, and expectations here are as high as I can recall since Drew Bledsoe was the hot guy. Steve Tasker said on the local telecast of the game he expects the Bills to make the playoffs. And in the press box before the game, club president Russ Brandon said: "We've got the highest expectations we've had around here in a long time.''
That centers around the defense, of course. After signing Mario Williams in free agency, the Bills have one of the best defensive fronts in football -- maybe the best. Williams at left end in the 4-3, Kyle Williams and Marcel Dareus at tackle, and Chris Kelsay and Mark Anderson on the right side.
"You want to kick off tonight, don't you?'' I say to Brandon.
"I do,'' he said.
They did, and they made Robert Griffin III go meekly on his first two series, the run defense pulverizing the Redskins' offensive front. But on the third drive, Washington took it 80 yards in eight plays for the game's only touchdown. Preseason's preseason, but that's not the kind of drive you want to show your fans when the clear expectation is that the defensive front will stifle most of what's put in front of it.
Now, I know players aren't going to go overboard with effort in the preseason, and I don't blame them. Why should Mario Williams risk injury in a practice game with nothing riding on the outcome? The games stink for the most part, and we draw too many conclusions from them. But an 80-yard drive by an efficient rookie quarterback into the teeth of the best unit of your team ... let's just say the Bills need to go to Minnesota Friday night and harass Christian Ponder more than they bugged RGIII the other night.
"The day of the dumb football player is over,'' says Jim Schwartz, and he's about to show me why.
In his office Friday, a few hours before the preseason opener, Schwartz listed the reasons the Lions -- and they're hardly alone; many teams in the league have gone to the iPad for gameplans and playbooks -- have gone to tablet form instead of the tree-killing paper way of life.
But this says it all: It used to be that when the Lions would have a correction to make in a game plan, they'd fix the page or pages, print them out fresh for every one of the players on the roster and for all the coaches ... and the secretaries would have to go through every game plan, remove the bad page for the good one, then put it all back together again, in each individual player's or coach's binder. Now coaches can make corrections up to the last minute before a team meeting and send the corrections to the iPads of every player and coach, and the fix would be made. When those late corrections would have to be made, the joke around the office was, "Well, gotta go kill another tree.'' And each week, the secretaries would spend significant time shredding all the old game plans every week.
What's amazing, and the part I didn't know, is the security of it. We've all heard stories about players who lost playbooks and got fined. Now there's a double edge of security for the iPads, if one is lost. First, each unit is password-protected, Second, Schwartz or the program administrator at the Lions can erase anything the club wants to scrub remotely. So, every Monday night this year, after the Lions have reviewed the tape from Sunday's game, the game plan for that week's game will be erased from everyone's iPad. By late Tuesday night or early Wednesday, the new game plan will be sent to every tablet, and another week begins.
To prevent any funny business by the players or coaches, the tablets are not set up to print, copy or email anything on the iPad.
"It's a lot more secure, a lot more green, and a lot more portable,'' Schwartz said. "I'd like to say we're doing it because of conservation, but the truth is it's more about the ease of operation than anything else.''
The Lions are in the home stretch of building in video on the tablets -- it should be in place for the start of the regular season. When that happens, players will be able to look at a play in that week's game plan and see the complete history of it. They'll have the ability to look at video of every time they'd run a particular pass play that season, for instance.
"It's funny,'' Schwartz said. "In a couple of years, we'll all laugh at how we did it the first year with the iPad, because it's bound to get more advanced. But right now, it's pretty cool.''
Sometimes at these practices your eyes glaze over. You're watching drills that often don't directly translate to what players are going to do on the field, and you wonder what exactly you're watching -- and why.
Then there is a duel between two good players.
This afternoon, right in front of a few media folks on the sideline of camp, we got to see four snaps, just feet away, of 6-4 wide receiver Brandon Marshall against 6-2 cornerback Charles Tillman. Tillman's the leader of the pack in the secondary, the best corner on the team, with a good resume that includes 30 career interceptions. Marshall's the Pro Bowl receiver in from Miami via trade this year, still feeling his way a bit with his new teammates but respected as a guy who gives the Bears what they haven't had: a productive big receiver in a division with a few of them.
Just before he and Marshall squared off, Tillman watched cornerback Jonathan Wilhite lose a step on free agent receiver Chris Summers by trying to joust him downfield. "Run!'' Tillman yelled at Wilhite. "Just run!'' Tillman turned to another corner prospect, Cornelius Brown, and said, "See? He's too busy trying to reach for him. Just run with him!''
Now Tillman lined up across from Marshall. Quarterback Jason Campbell hut-hutted, and they were off. Marshall ran a shallow cross. Campbell's pass was on target. Tillman got a fist in and knocked it away. Tillman, 1-0.
Two minutes later, Tillman got beat by a step down the left sideline, and Jay Cutler threw it perfectly for a long gain. Tie, 1-1.
Now another cross, from left to right. Marshall juked and got an edge just after the snap. Another completion, and now secondary coach Jon Hoke went to Tillman to confer. Marshall, 2-1.
Number four: Marshall ran a stutter-and-go, hesitating and trying to throw off Tillman with hip fakes. Then Marshall sprinted by him. Easy catch. By the time the ball landed in Marshall's hands, 35 yards down the left side, he had a couple of steps on Tillman. Marshall, 3-1.
There will be other duels on other days, and the object is for Tillman to get practice going up against a Calvin Johnson type of big receiver, and for Marshall to get used to how the big corners of the division will play him. Cool to watch.
Phase one of the SI-EvoShield Training Camp is over. Home now for three days, to write and veg out a bit. Before we parted Saturday night at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, ProFootballFocus czar Neil Hornsby, who accompanied me on the first 19 days of the odyssey (and he urges you to take advantage of his newfound knowledge and contacts by buying
So matter-of-factly eloquent. His lead from the Sunday goodbye:
"LONDON -- Day One did not begin well. En route to the
"Since then, no complaints.
"Forty-four years later, I'm still here, which is truly remarkable. How many columnists on a major American daily newspaper have spent their entire journalistic lives with one newspaper? The answer is close to zero. But why would I want to go anywhere else?''
Simple, declarative sentences are good things. Ryan specialized in them. He said what he thought without couching it, column after column. "I do want it known that I have spent 44 years doing it from the heart,'' he wrote Sunday. I have never once written to provoke or attract attention. I have always done what has come naturally, which doesn't mean it's always been right. But no one is right all the time.''
You came close, Bob.
"I thought I did a really good job, especially for the first time being out there. I was really, really calm. I just trusted what I saw.''
"Channeling my inner Tebow."
"I was young at one time. I've made some mistakes. Like I've been saying, I've made some mistakes in my life and I've moved on from them and I wish that everybody would, also. I've put those things behind me and I'm just focused on being a better person and moving forward in life ... If I don't play football, let it be because I can't perform physically, not because of what my past has been or what somebody has said. The crazy thing about it is nobody's even seen me or seen the kind of shape that I'm in. I just want to get out on the football field and get back to dominating my position.''
"Arizona will be not charged with a timeout.''
That's good to note, especially since the Arizona Cardinals were 803 miles away at the time, and their game in Kansas City wasn't due to start for another 24-and-a-half hours.
Nice debut. I watched his snaps against New Orleans' starting offensive line on tape Friday morning, during which Jones played right end in the 4-3 eight snaps and right end in the 3-4 four times. Here's how I saw his production:
Snaps: 13 (not including two penalties).
So the Jaguars wanted to ensure that they were protected in case Justin Blackmon implodes and has another run-in with alcohol and driving; he's already had two. And when his contract finally got on file late in the week, I read where Blackmon had a fully guaranteed four-year, $18.51 million deal.
How can this be? The answer: It really isn't.
The contract is fully guaranteed if the Jaguars choose to cut Blackmon at any time because of skill or injury reasons. But it does turn out the Jaguars will save 40 percent of the $11.9 million signing bonus ($4.79 million) -- if Blackmon has another alcohol-related arrest in the four-year term of the contract, and if the Jags decided to cut him.
Those are very big ifs, obviously. But I just didn't like reading the contract was fully guaranteed when there is obviously a way the Jags can get out from under some of the money if Blackmon makes another error in judgment.
At Bears' camp Saturday, there was an SUV parked between the dining hall and players dorm at Olivet Nazarene University. The vehicle had a Packers flag flying from the passenger window, and a Packers hat on the dashboard, so when players walked by they'd see it.
Bears chairman of the board George McCaskey walked by. He looked at the car, disapprovingly. He pulled a card out of his pocket and tucked it under the windshield wiper. It read: "Dear Friend, You still have time to save yourself. Go Bears!''
In April 1992, the Detroit Lions selected Washington State kicker Jason Hanson in the second round of the NFL draft. That was a week after a youngster in Rockford, Ill., Derek Dimke, celebrated his second birthday.
Hanson is still the Lions kicker, entering his 21st season. He's played more games with one team, 310, than any other player in NFL history. Dimke, a free agent kicker from Illinois, is in camp with the Lions trying to beat out Hanson.
Just before 3 a.m. Friday, the SI-EvoShield NFL Training Camp Tour docked in Sandusky, Ohio, and I roused myself and walked to the front desk of one of the local hotels. I said hello to the gal behind the desk and handed her my photo ID drivers license and my American Express card to check in. She looked at the cards and put them down next to her keyboard.
"Last name, sir?''
Not quite believing she asked this question after I handed her two plastic cards with my full name on both, I said, "Schwartz.''
She typed away for three or four seconds, and then said, "Uhhhhh ... "
"Last name is King,'' I said. "Just curious -- why'd you ask me my last name when I just handed you my license and my credit card?''
"Well, we just want to make sure it's you who's checking in instead of someone using your identification,'' she said.
My mind raced. If someone was doing that, wouldn't someone have had to bug my phone or steal my personal information from somewhere to know I had a room at this $119-a-night palace in Sandusky, Ohio, and then use my stolen or forged cards to check into said Sandusky palace?
It's the most colossally stupid thing I can remember at a hotel front desk, but I had no desire to say anything else at 3 in the morning in Sandusky, Ohio, other than, "Where is the nearest pillow?''
Sometimes you're on a grinder of a trip -- which this SI-EvoShield NFL Training Camp has been, even though it's been tremendously educational and fun -- and you build in what you hope will be a relaxing night in which the subject is something other than whether the Jets will be OK at right tackle with Wayne Hunter. And so last Wednesday, I saw we'd be finished at the Jets by 2 or 3 in the afternoon and headed to Buffalo for the Bills-Redskins preseason opener Thursday night, and there, between Cortland, N.Y., and Buffalo, was a New York-Penn League town, Auburn, with a 7 p.m. game against Jamestown.
So Team SI -- me, video man John DePetro, staff writer Matt Gagne, intern/driver Jack Ford (who, when wearing his Ray-Bans, could pass for Tom Cruise in
Falcon Field is nestled in a big-tree neighborhood just outside of the town of 28,000, a classic Single-A park with ads filling the outfield fence of an immaculately kept field. I shared the first-pitch duties with a local leukemia survivor, 6-year-old Alex Brown, and his cute-as-a-button sister, Abby. Alex threw a strike. I did not. Mine was low and outside, but not in the dirt, and Craig Manuel, the Auburn catcher, made a nice save. Laughing.
Then we lined up outside the Auburn dugout, Team SI right next to Abner, the Doubledays' mascot (Abner Doubleday once lived here). "The mascot's a 16-year-old kid from here,'' Winslow said. "He grew up coming to the games, loved the Doubledays, and always wanted to be the mascot. So he came to us this year and got the job. That's how much this community loves the team -- kids grow up wanting to be Abner."
We settled into seats on the third-base side, talking to locals who've been coming to the games for years. They told us the history of the town -- about the homes of former Secretary of State William Seward and abolitionist Harriet Tubman, and the maximum-security prison in town, where the electric chair was first used in 1890.
Whoa. The first electric chair. That's interesting, I said.
"It's downtown now, in Swabe's,'' one of the friendly fans said. "That's a bar.''
"Well,'' I said, "we're going to have to see that.''
The nice woman in front of us, Cathy Techman, drew us a map to Swabe's on the back of the night's stat sheet. And so, after Hornsby beat me in the seventh-inning keg-rolling contest on the field, we set out. "Sometimes when your expectations are low for something, those are the best times, because you smash them so far out of sight,'' said Hornsby, walking out to the EvoShield van. "This was a tremendous night.'' It wasn't over.
At Swabe's, a bar with lots of prison memorabilia, the electric chair is housed behind bars, and the bartender said there'd be no chance of us sitting in it. So the boys played pool while I read up on the chair. And here was something I didn't expect: The assassin of President McKinley was put to death in the chair in 1901. What a story, in so many ways. The Auburn paper from Tuesday, Oct. 29, 1901, reported on the electrocution of Leon Czolgosz, a self-proclaimed anarchist born to Polish immigrants in Michigan. Amazing the description of the assassination, which occurred at a world's fair in Buffalo on Sept. 6, 1901.
Czolgosz bought a revolver in Buffalo four days earlier for $4.50, and simply took his place in a receiving line at the fair where President McKinley was shaking hands with fairgoers. There was no mention of security. When Czolgosz reached the front of the line, the president extended his hand, and the assassin slapped it away, taking the gun wrapped in a handkerchief out of his pocket and shooting McKinley twice in the abdomen. McKinley died eight days later.
Ten days after the president died, Czolgosz, who'd been tried and convicted without cooperating in his defense, was sentenced to death. Talk about a rush to justice. He was put to death in Auburn, in the same chair that started it all, the same chair I was looking at now. The paper quoted Czolgosz as saying: "I killed the president because he was an enemy of the good people and the working people. I am not sorry for my actions. I am awfully sorry that I could not see my father.''
Sometimes you never know what you're going to get when you set out on the summer camp trip. But this is a day I won't soon forget, and Auburn's a town I won't forget.
"The morning after at Heathrow: Hope Solo, wearing her gold medal, on the gold elite line.''
"Davie police said fight between Chad Johnson and his wife started over a receipt for a box of condoms."
I must say that was an eye-opener.
"The way Poole is running for the Panthers, he'll have a new contract by halftime."
This came on the heels of Carolina paying a second running back to a big money deal (Jonathan Stewart, five years, $36.5 million) Saturday. Last year, the Panthers gave DeAngelo Williams $43 million over five years.
"@SI_PeterKing How could Woody be surprised at the amount of Tebow coverage?"
I asked Alex Marvez, the NFL columnist for FOXsports.com and Sirius XM NFL Radio host, for his observations after spending time doing radio shows on the training camp trails with veteran former GM Bill Polian, who is on the road for Sirius this summer. His thoughts:
One more note on the Vilma case: His court filing last week identified me as someone "commonly known as a go-to-source for NFL leaks.'' When I saw that, my chest puffed out a bit. Maybe it's true, maybe it isn't. But if it is, isn't that what reporters want? Don't reporters want to be known for finding people in the business they cover to tell them things that are hidden from the light of day? I'll never be a twentieth of a Woodward or a Bernstein, but this business is all about telling readers and listeners and viewers things they don't know. And I'd be proud if in this case I've done that.
Lofton, by the way, had a nice debut for the Saints Thursday night in Foxboro. As James Varney of the New Orleans
Lofton still has to show he's a plus player in coverage, but his first game was a good one.
They interpret. For instance, when I was in New Orleans, I liked how fourth-round wideout Nick Toon was fitting in with Drew Brees -- he runs confidently and competes well against the veteran corners, and his athleticism will serve him well in the Saints' fast-paced scheme. So I go to the Guide and read this about Toon: "Nick Toon left a positive impression on the Saints' coaching staff after the rookie minicamp in May. He demonstrated good hands during drills. Talent is not a problem, but overcoming a history of injuries will be the only thing holding him back."
I rave about how Ourlads keeps up on NFL depth charts during the season -- it's a fabulous service, and it's free -- and now I can say the same about the work they do after the draft in this invaluable guide.
"Kids are better than they used to be about this,'' said Watt, who was pushing Gatorade's "Beat the Heat'' program last week, emphasizing hydration and sports drinks to stave off heat-related illnesses. "But they have to understand how much fluid they can lose in one practice, and how important it is to be drinking before and during the practice."
a. "How about Aly Raisman?!'' said Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum when I saw him the other day, the day after Raisman won. Raisman, like Tannenbaum, is from Needham, Mass.
b. Separated at birth: Paul Ryan, Andrew Siciliano.
c. Can't take credit for that comparison. Chicago radio man Zach Zaidman of WSCR gave it to me. I looked Ryan up, and it's spot on.
d. Worst roads of the trip, by far: Chicagoland's. The I-294 area between O'Hare and I-80 are an absolute disgrace.
e. Regarding the Auburn Doubledays on Wednesday night: I got a great kick out of their front office staff. The Doubledays have a Head Groundskeeper/Vice President of Moisture Management, Brian Rhodes ... and an Assistant GM/Vice President of Tarp Operations, Jason Horbal.
f. I finally got to see a bunch of Olympic highlights on NBC Sunday night. Wow, we're good. It bugs me that I missed the Olympics -- the stories and the competition. I totally missed the Mo Farah story, and Oscar Pistorius. Bummer. Glad I caught up on Missy Franklin and that crazy U.S. soccer win over Canada. And though I'm not a great hoops fan, congrats to the men and women on their golds too.
g. Coffeenerdness: Really, Marriott Towne Place Suite and Residence Inns. Have you tasted the stuff you call coffee? It's barely coffee-flavored water. I congratulate you on your fine morning oatmeal, and when you have Cheerios -- plain, good old-fashioned Cheerios -- I couldn't be more pleased. But the coffee tastes like you've used the same coffee through the same filter about four times. Weak beyond belief.
h. Beernerdness: Sometimes in this business, you just get lucky. Leaving Washington's camp, we found a shop, Total Wine, with Bell's Oberon Ale. I'd only had this once, a couple of years ago, but had fond memories of it. Wasn't disappointed sitting in the back of the EvoShield van on the way to Giants' camp, writing and having a couple. It's a lighter wheat ale, a little spicy. Just what I needed on the Jersey Turnpike at 11 at night.
i. This is either my favorite hard-news newspaper lead of the week, or This Week's Sign That We're a Really Screwed-Up Country, or both, from Brian Ballou of the
j. Speaking of good writing at the
k. Got a lot of catching up to do on "The Newsroom." Someday.