We're in official countdown territory here, folks. When it gets to mid-August, it's hard to ignore the reality that NFL -- and fantasy -- football is right around the corner. That's the good news. The bad news? It means teams are practicing harder and playing exhibition games (which is the same thing as practice, except season ticket holders get the privilege of being forced to pay to watch).
Why is that bad news? Because the injuries start piling up.
This week, two injuries occured that almost assuredly impact your draft.
The first was Bobby Engram breaking his right shoulder. Though Engram could never be deemed a WR1 for your team, that was his role with the Seahawks and he had looked like a sneaky WR2 you could get on the cheap. Obviously, you want no part of him now unless you have a huge injured reserve/bench. On the 'Hawks, Nate Burleson moves up to the No. 1 receiver slot -- and this is dangerous territory, folks. Remember when he was supposed to replace Randy Moss in Minnesota? Well, these are much smaller shoes to fill, but there's no evidence that Burleson can handle being the top option in the passing game. The other top options are Courtney Taylor and Ben Obomanu, and while both of them might afford you some cheap receiving stats, they are only draftable in deeper leagues. Our own Scott Engel has recently praised Obomanu, while Mike Holmgren suggested that Taylor should lead the team in catches.
So, flip a coin. I'm staying out of it. This is all bad news for QB Matt Hasselbeck, who already was a lower-tier option as a QB1. Now, he slides down to QB2 territory, probably right around or just below where Brett Favre is these days. And it's flat out terrible news for Julius Jones, who despite being nominally the RB1 for Seattle, wasn't considered a really good option before the passing game crumbled with Engram's injury. I'm staying away from all these guys.
(By the way, would you think about Bobby Engram any different if his name were Simon Engram? That actually is his real name, according to Wikipedia. Generally speaking, I think players get it all wrong with their names, but Simon Engram is simply not a football name. Cricket, maybe. Lawn bowling, certainly. But football? Nope. So, good on ya, Bobby.)
The other injury news was far less serious, but still quite relevant. That was the Ravens acknowledging that Willis McGahee was going to get his left knee 'scoped (that's hip terminology for arthroscopic surgery, people). Since it takes even the healthiest players two to four weeks to recover, that puts Week 1 in doubt. So, McGahee has to move down a few pegs in your draft.
McGahee had been going as the 12th running back, at around the 18-20th pick overall. The backs who were going after him get a bit of a residual bump -- that's good news for guys like Laurence Maroney, Brandon Jacobs and Jamal Lewis, but it's clearly good news for rookie Ray Rice. Which may, in fact, be bad news for you. Rice has been on my sleeper list for awhile now, and I just grabbed him in our RotoExperts draft, but I had to do it a round or two earlier than I might have had to if our draft had been held a week ago. But Rice is seriously talented and the coaches LOVE him, so he could rack up some seriously good stats, especially for a 10th or 11th round pick, which is where you can still grab him.
I can't believe I've gone on this long without talking about the greatest thing to happen in sports media -- the return of Hard Knocks on HBO. For those who never saw the show, it follows a single team through training camp and really does show the inner workings of a team. It's also operated largely as a jinx, which I'm perfectly happy with since they've returned to the Dallas Cowboys, a team I've grown up learning to loathe. (Of course, I would like to own pretty much every offensive starter for my fantasy team -- don't let emotions get in the way of winning, people.) A few years ago when they followed the Cowboys the first time, it made me realize how out of his league then head coach Dave Campo was, when he took the team to a karaoke bar. Yep, that sounds like the kind of fun football players tend to enjoy. Well, Campo is back as the defensive backs coach and he's outdone himself. At practice, he has his players do something called the 'Slide and Snap.' This is slightly less emasculating than pulling down their shorts, pointing and laughing. What it is, is that the group huddles up, then slides away (think moonwalking), and ... wait for it ... snap their fingers.
Is there anything less cool than snapping your fingers? Probably, but the list isn't very long. Since the show also makes it clear that owner Jerry Jones has his nose in every piece of the business, I expect him to clamp down on this hard. But, since I hate the Cowboys -- I hope that doesn't happen.
For what it's worth, I'm definitely naming at least one of my fantasy teams 'Slide and Snap' this year.
Perfunctory baseball note of the week -- I celebrated Big Papi Day a few weeks ago when David Ortiz finally came back off the DL. Sure enough, he cracked a dinger in his third game back and all seemed right with the world. And then? A 12-game stretch where nothing left the yard. But then came Aug. 12, where he swatted two dingers, collecting six RBIs in the process. Two days later, he went deep again. Oh, Big Papi is back, ladies and gentlemen.
Finally, Big Brother 10 is clicking on all cylinders. I love this show because it always turns out that the people you think are the craziest turn out to be the voice of reason, while seemingly normal folks turn out to be loathsome excuses for humanity. In the first category, I give you Renne, a wig-wearing 50-something flapper from New Orleans who suddenly seems to be a calming influence, as well as Memphis, a 'mixologist' (don't call him a bartender!) who finds the behavior of his housemates appalling. One of those would be Jerry, the 70-year old -- yes, he's in his 70s -- who is an ex-Marine and avid Big Brother fan. But just like every year, these so-called fans seem to forget that the entire game is predicated on people lying to each other. This is fundamentally why I love the show because PEOPLE GO CRAZY. He called Dan, the Catholic school teacher, a 'Judas' for breaking his word to him, and even questioned whether Dan was actually a Catholic at all. Sorry, Jerry, but I don't think the church excommunicates you for how you vote on a reality TV show. (I could be wrong though, as I'm Jewish.) In any case, the show is on like Donkey Kong, so check it.
Finally, a non-fantasy note (er, I guess the above paragraph is as well) with some serious props to Michael Phelps who is the greatest Olympian ever. That seems hard to believe -- it's a long history -- but the dude has more medals than many countries combined, in the history of those countries! And of course, more golds than anyone else has ever racked up. Good on ya, kid.