The two general managers recount all the action that led to the Eagles sending Sam Bradford to the Vikings for two draft picks the week before the season starts. Plus 10 takeaways from cutdown weekend and more
Saturday, 6:30 a.m., two NFL general managers and good friends on the phone, trying to finish a trade. The subject of sleep comes up. Neither Philadelphia’s Howie Roseman nor Minnesota’s Rick Spielman has had any of significance during the night, not since they’d last been on the phone five-and-a-half hours earlier.
“I’m staring at the ceiling, wide awake, at 2:30,” Roseman said to Spielman, “and [wife] Mindy says, ‘You okay?’ I said, ‘No, I’m not okay. We’re about to change a lot of lives here.’ ”
“Same thing with me,” Spielman said in return. “Couldn’t sleep. I was out at 4 a.m. walking the dogs.”
How long did it take to make the stunning deal of the year in pro football? Forty-eight hours. That’s the time from the first phone call from Spielman, in his office in Eden Prairie, Minn., to Roseman, about to engage his three boys in some baseball pitch-and-catch in his yard in Pennsylvania, just before dinner at home Wednesday evening, to the time it got very real and Spielman offered Minnesota’s first-round pick Friday evening. It was so surprising to Roseman that he said “it wasn’t even on my brain” Thursday night during the Eagles’ fourth preseason game.
A brief oral history of the Trade That Might Change This Season, from the two general managers:
Spielman, 1:20 p.m. CT: I stand on the defensive side of the field, way in the back. I saw Teddy go down. He must have tripped, I thought. I walked over to where he was down, and I see players turning their heads away, shocked. Players were in shock. By the time I got there, maybe 15 seconds after he went down, our trainer, Eric Sugarman, and other trainers had his leg up and were getting it braced. They were tremendous. It might have been a dislocation, and from what they tell me, the first thing you’ve got to be concerned with is the nerve and the artery there, so you’ve got to get right on it. I didn’t know what to think. We got dealt a shocking blow. You try to digest it, but you think, “Ten, 11 days out from the season, and we lose our franchise quarterback. What do we do?”
Roseman: I was leaving our draft room and looked up at the TV and see on the crawl that Teddy Bridgewater got hurt. I didn’t know anything. I just felt for him, and for Rick. We’re pretty close.
Spielman: Zim [head coach Mike Zimmer] called off practice and had a team meeting, and then I called all our scouts together, and [assistant GM] George Paton, into a meeting. I told them what happened. Besides all their jaws dropping to the floor and being sick to your stomach, absolutely sick to your stomach … we had a job to do. I said to them: “This is what we’re getting paid to do, finding the best solution out of the worst-case scenario. And that’s what we’re going to do here.’ I got up on the white board, and we sorted out the scenarios—guys on the street we might want, guys who might get cut, guys on teams that might have enough depth that they’d consider dealing [a quarterback]. Names and options. Then we all got to work watching tape, and I started making calls. To be honest, there was no solution. No good solution.
Spielman: I made a bunch of calls. I am not gonna mention teams. But there was blood in the water and teams knew it. The price was too high. I didn’t want to mortgage our future. Some teams asked for a first-round pick and a core young player. I can understand the pick. But we worked too hard over the past three years to put all that time and energy into drafting and developing a solid core of this team. I was taken aback who they were asking for. Players who’d been in the Pro Bowl. I mean, in the off-season you’ve got time. There’s not blood in the water in the off-season. But now there was.
He asked me then if we’d be open to trading one of our quarterbacks, and I said it’d be very hard to do anything with any of them.
Roseman: We had a home preseason game Thursday, so Wednesday was a good night at home, and my boys were waiting for me to get home so we could play catch in the yard. Right then, I look at my phone and it’s Rick, and of course I am on the phone again, and they’re following me around the yard. I think they wanted to throw the ball at my head. But Rick and I talked for 10 minutes, and I said we’d have to talk Thursday. We’d seen each other in New York in the spring at a leadership conference at the Brooklyn Nets, with a couple of other GMs. He asked me then if we’d be open to trading one of our quarterbacks, and I said it’d be very hard to do anything with any of them.
Spielman: When we talked about this as a staff, we knew we had [backup] Shaun Hill, and we really like Shaun. But the worst-case scenario is Shaun comes in and runs the offense well and then Shaun gets hurt? Then what? And we could wait and see what comes off the waiver wire, but how significant is that player going to be? We were working a couple of things, but when I asked [tight ends coach] Pat Shurmur, who’d coached Sam twice, he knew how smart he was and what a great addition he would be to our team and our locker room. I watched every game Sam played last year, and the last three games, I thought he was playing as well as anyone I saw last year. I don’t think he’s ever been on a team with a top-10 rushing offense. With 28 [Adrian Peterson] in our backfield, playing at a high level, with the defense we have, Sam’s not gonna have to throw it 35 or 40 times every game. I know our coaches wanted him. Before we played our last preseason game, Zim wasn’t too worried about the game. He was worried about the quarterback. I talked to our ownership, and they said: “Be as aggressive as you have to be. Do what you have to do.”
Roseman, 8 p.m.: I’m not even thinking about it at the game. When we talked [earlier Thursday], I said to Rick, “Rick, this is going to be a premium.” It had to include their first-round pick in 2017 [Philly had traded its 2017 in a package to be able to draft rookie quarterback Carson Wentz], plus something else. I didn’t think they’d consider that. We talked about it, but I wasn’t thinking it was very serious.
Roseman, 8 a.m.: I told Rick we were in the same place. I told him he’d have to knock us over.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson has left the team to be at the bedside of his gravely ill father.
Roseman: With all the roster decisions we’re having to make, and with Doug’s family situation, I just told Rick that unless we’re talking the one in ’17 and another first high pick, it’s useless to talk.
Late in the afternoon, Spielman offers the 2017 first-round pick.
Spielman: That’s when I got more aggressive with Howie. I knew it would be a significant compensation, asking a team to give their starting quarterback eight days before the start of the season. I will do everything in my power to always give us the best chance to win, and it came down to—this is what we’re dealing with. I can’t change that. We have a good football team, a young football team. Parting with the one, I knew I still had eight picks next year, including two threes and two fours. What really was significant for us was the second year of the contract with Sam. No one knows how long it’s going to take Teddy to recover. I had one other thing going with another team on Friday, but we liked Sam a lot.
Roseman, 7 p.m.: We were settled on the one, but we wanted better than a four in 2018. We were giving up our starting quarterback, who we didn’t want to give up. So there was some negotiation that needed to be done that night.
Spielman, midnight: We were a little punch drunk by then. We got it done, basically, but we had to button it up in the morning.
The fourth-round pick in 2018 can rise to as high as a second-round pick depending on the Vikings‘ playoff performance in 2016.
Roseman, 8 a.m.: [Owner] Jeffrey Lurie is always supportive when we're trying to improve our team, and he signed off on the deal. Give him credit, for doing something with his team a week before the season that changes the team like this. Now I spoke with Coach Pederson, who was in Louisiana with his family, and we had a deal. I called Rick. Coach Pederson called Sam. I was thinking, “We’ve changed two teams today. We’ve changed a lot of lives.”
Spielman, 4 p.m.: Sam came in the building, and he seemed very happy. I told him, “Congratulations,” and he said, “I’ve got to get to work.” And he went and got going right away with [quarterbacks coach] Scott Turner.
Neither Roseman nor Spielman sounded elated Sunday on the phone. They sounded more tired than happy.
Spielman, 1:30 p.m.: We are a better team today than we were yesterday. Mentally, I am completely drained. Not only dealing with this, but making decisions on the 53-man roster, watching tape on potential claims ’til 2 this morning, getting our practice squad lined up … [On Bradford:] I just know how he played the second half of last season, and I know he’s completely healthy, and I know this is the best running game by far that he’ll ever play with. At the end, this is what it comes down to: Did you do the best you possibly could do for your team? And we did the best we possibly could do. I think we put our team in the best possible position we can. Now we just see how it works out.
Roseman, 3:15 p.m.: Hopefully it works out great for the Vikings and great for us. But where it’s such a different scenario for us is it’s so different from the blueprint we established for our season. We’re getting powerful resources back, plus a lot of money in cap space to go out and get good players we didn’t have to help build a really good team. I believe our players will rally around our quarterbacks. If Carson [Wentz] plays, experience is a great teacher. Some guys played well right away—the Joe Flaccos, the Ben Roethlisbergers. But Peyton Manning, Troy Aikman, John Elway had their struggles. Eli [Manning] started his rookie year [and went 2-7]. There’s no one way. Whenever you play, you’re going to be learning on the job. But whatever happens, this will be a couple days we all remember when we look back on our careers.
The Norv Turner factor
In 1993, Troy Aikman tweaked a hamstring in a November game for Dallas. The next day Cleveland coach Bill Belichick fired quarterback Bernie Kosar. Two days later the Cowboys signed Kosar and, with backup Jason Garrett slated to start, Dallas coaches got Kosar ready to play against the Cardinals. Kosar got ready, all right. Ten minutes into a 20-15 win over the Cards, Kosar relieved Garrett and went on to complete 13 of 21 with one touchdown pass and no turnovers.
The Dallas offensive coordinator then? Norv Turner.
The Minnesota offensive coordinator now, 23 years later? Norv Turner.
I covered that story, and that game, for Sports Illustrated. On Sunday I looked back at what I wrote. Kosar was programmed with 67 plays, all of which were typed neatly on his wristband. Turner would call down the play he wanted to tight ends coach Robert Ford, and Ford would signal the number to Kosar—for instance, holding up two fingers, then six, for play number 26 on the wristband—and Kosar would translate the number to a play, and make the call. Worked pretty well. Is that how Turner will do it with Sam Bradford? And will the Vikings rush Bradford into the opener against Tennessee? I don’t know. But Turner has a road map to do it. He’s done it before, with a shorter turnaround. Kosar was signed five days before he played 50 minutes. Bradford was acquired eight days before the game in Nashville.
After that 1993 game Turner, sitting down for a celebratory beer with head coach Jimmy Johnson, was pretty matter-of-fact about getting the job done with Kosar. “I’m a fan just like anybody, and I loved working with Bernie this week,” Turner said that day. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime deal. How often do you pick up a championship quarterback in mid-week and get him ready to play the next game?”
Maybe it’s twice in a lifetime. We’ll see.
How Kaepernick came to kneel
When former Army Green Beret Nate Boyer met with Colin Kaepernick in San Diego last Thursday around noon, a few hours before the Niner quarterback’s important preseason test against the Chargers (he passed and will start the season as the backup to Blaine Gabbert), Boyer showed Kaepernick a text message from a fellow Ranger who was still serving overseas. Boyer shared the text with me but not the name of the soldier in the special forces—and he shared it with Kaepernick last Thursday too. It read:
Hey buddy. At first I was with you on this Kaepernick issue. However, I just stood in formation while one of our brothers was pulled off a plane with our nation’s flag draped over his coffin. I had to fight back tears as I saw the pain in the eyes of Staff Sgt. Thompson’s wife and family. While I would like to sit here and tell you I rose above it all, I have to be honest, my heart filled with rage—rage for anyone who takes for granted the ideals and symbol of what we fight and die for.
After reading the text, sitting in the lobby of the San Diego Westin Hotel with Boyer, Kaepernick was moved. According to Boyer, Kaepernick said: “How can I express my feelings better, without hurting guys like this so much?”
“Maybe,” Boyer told him, “there’s a way for you to show respect for those fighting and dying for this country.” Sitting, to some people, is an extreme act of disloyalty to the country.
Boyer suggested he stand and simply bow his head. That wasn’t for Kaepernick, presumably because he’d said he wasn’t going to stand for the anthem. Kaepernick decided to take a knee instead, because often people take a knee to show reverence. “I told him if he took a knee I would stand next to him,” said Boyer. “So that’s how I ended up on the field next to him.”
But Boyer also told Kaepernick anything he did before the anthem would be an empty gesture unless it was accompanied by taking action himself. Kaepernick announced he would donate the first $1 million of his salary to a community organization with goals consistent to his.
Still, and even with the heroic Boyer in his corner, Kaepernick is going to have a tough road in a country where many view his politics as anti-American and traitorous. “YOU’RE AN AMERICAN ACT LIKE ONE” read a sign in Qualcomm Stadium on Thursday night.
He is acting like an American fighting for his rights and expressing a strong opinion, and dissenting. That’s something more people need to understand.
Ten things to know about cutdown weekend
1. Green Bay just handed an archrival a great interior lineman. Maybe GM Ted Thompson viewed that saving $5 million a year by subbing the unproven Lane Taylor (most likely) for 30-year-old Josh Sitton was smart, given that this would likely have been Sitton’s last year in Green Bay. Whatever, now the Bears have the best guard tandem in football now (Sitton on the left, Kyle Long on the right), and for a coach who wants to run the ball heavily like John Fox, Sitton fell out of the sky for Chicago. Good move by GM Ryan Pace to hurriedly sign Sitton—particularly in advance of opening against the very strong front seven of the Texans next Sunday.
2. Seattle has faith in Russell Wilson’s health. I guess I don’t blame them; Wilson has played every game of his four-year career. The Seahawks have one backup to Wilson—undrafted free agent Trevone Boykin, who wasn’t very impressive this summer (52 percent passer, 68.9 rating).
3. Watch for Kenneth Dixon in Baltimore. While the rookie fourth-round running back won’t be a prime-time player early while he recovers from a knee injury, he could well be the regular back by the middle of October. Baltimore loves him. Lots of faith in rookies on the Baltimore offense, with Ronnie Stanley (first round, Notre Dame) starting at left tackle, and Alex Lewis (fourth round, Nebraska) starting at left guard. Dixon will make that three prominent rookies on offense. Add Breshad Perriman, who looked very good in the final preseason game—he’s a big guy with separation ability—and that’s a good infusion of talent for Joe Flacco.
4. The Texans gamble with youth—extreme youth. Cutting 28-year-old Cecil Shorts III means that all five Texans wideouts are 24 or younger: DeAndre Hopkins, Jaelen Strong, Braxton Miller, Will Fuller and Keith Mumphery. … Also in Houston, coach Bill O’Brien said there’s a decent chance J.J. Watt could return from disk surgery in time for the opener against Chicago on Sunday.
5. Brother acts. Sixth-round San Diego fullback Derek Watt made the Chargers and will, if active, try to keep J.J. Watt from messing up Philip Rivers when the Chargers and Texans meet on Nov. 27 in Houston. Undrafted free-agent fullback Glenn Gronkowski made his hometown Bills and will see big bro Rob on Oct. 2 and Oct. 30 in the Bills-Pats games.
6. Cleveland is playing for DeShaun Watson—and the next DeShaun Watson. The Browns, in shipping cornerback Justin Gilbert to Pittsburgh for a 2018 sixth-round pick, now are officially 0-for-6 on first-round picks between 2011 and 2014. But looking ahead, Cleveland has its own first-round pick and Philadelphia’s first-round pick, plus Tennessee’s two and its own two. Theoretically, that could easily give the Browns four picks in the top 40 next April, plus three picks in the first two rounds in 2018. If the Browns don’t get the top pick next year (and they are overwhelming favorites on the Peter King Big Board), they’ll have enough ammo to move up for Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson, or be in position to draft UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen (or some other top passer) in the 2018 draft.
7. These three things say it all about Justin Gilbert. One: The Browns couldn’t find a non-division trading partner for the ninth pick in the 2014 draft and so had to deal him to their archrivals. Two: The Steelers’ Achilles heel, the thing they just haven’t been able to get right in recent years, is the corner position. Thus the gamble with an unmotivated player. Gilbert won’t be unmotivated for long under Mike Tomlin and defensive coordinator Keith Butler—or he’ll be gone. Three: Gilbert couldn’t beat out a fifth-round pick, Trey Caldwell, for a backup job, or a Dolphins reject, Jamar Taylor, for a starting job. Taylor was acquired last spring for a swap of seventh-round picks. In other words, Miami traded Taylor so it could move up eight spots in the final round of the draft. That’s the guy who Gilbert couldn’t beat out under new coach Hue Jackson.
8. The Sanchize won’t be playing in Dallas unless Dak Prescott’s a total fraud. Mark Sanchez got whacked in Denver when the Broncos could find no trade takers for him. He’s strictly an insurance policy for Dallas, and no threat to Prescott’s job unless the rookie stinks.
9. Vernon Davis gets a new life. He looked down for the count after being invisible in Denver at the end of last year. But Davis beat out a reliable player, Logan Paulsen, for the prime backup job to Jordan Reed in Washington. Jay Gruden is a big fan of tight ends, so the backup will get quality time.
10. Kansas City shows faith in Tyler Bray but will really miss Justin Houston. I thought Kevin Hogan would be a great Andy Reid project, and the Stanford kid may have an NFL future still as a member of the Chiefs’ practice squad. But Hogan, a fifth-round pick, and Aaron Murray couldn’t beat out Tyler Bray as the Chiefs’ third QB. Nick Foles sticks as Alex Smith’s backup … Biggest worry about the Chiefs, to me, is Justin Houston missing at least the first six weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list. Houston, who led the NFL with 22 sacks in 2014, was a shell of himself for most of last season, missing five games and having 4.5 sacks in the last 11 games he played, then having offseason knee surgery. He’s still not right. The Chiefs are a good team with a potential playoff defense, but that’s diminished significantly without their best pass-rusher.
Steve Sabol would be proud
As NFL Films so often does, you’ll see a great telling of the Denver Super Bowl story Wednesday night—first through the eyes of the coaches (“Worth the Wait,” 8 p.m. ET, NFL Network), then in the season highlight show (“America’s Game: 2015 Broncos,” 9 p.m. ET, NFL Network). I screened the coaches’ show, modeled after the Patriots’ “Do Your Job” show last year, which was excellent. I found a few telling things in “Worth the Wait,” produced by Krys Wong and Adam Ryan, most notably the play-by-play of Kubiak yanking Peyton Manning after Manning missed two days of practice with a sore foot that week and then threw four interceptions in the first half against Kansas City. There’s no science to these things, the difficult decisions a coach makes. They’re gut things, and no textbook way to tell a player. Here’s how Kubiak told Manning he was yanking him:
Kubiak: ”Hey dude, just listen to me talk, okay? Hey, this is on me. I got you, okay?”
Manning: “All right.”
Kubiak: “I can’t [put] you out there and get you hurt. You understand that?”
Kubiak: “I had no business putting you out there today anyway, okay?”
Manning: “All right.”
Kubiak: “All right, we’ll get through it. Fair enough?”
Manning: “Yes sir.”
As Kubiak said later: “I was a little disappointed in myself, I felt bad about putting him out there to be honest. I didn’t think he was ready to play.”
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There is some terrific real football in here. Kubiak, offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and tight ends coach Brian Pariani had been in Baltimore the previous year, when the Ravens went to New England for a playoff game. In that game, the Ravens called a play from the Patriots’ 11-yard line for tight end Owen Daniels to run up the seam against New England’s physical linebacker, Dont’a Hightower. Daniels was a physical match for Hightower, and he won the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. So in the Denver-New England AFC Championship Game, exactly 53 weeks later, with the core of the 2014 Ravens offensive staff in Denver now, the Broncos lined up at the New England 21 early in a scoreless game.
Amazing, the similarities, this time two time zones away.
Daniels and Kubiak and Dennison and Pariani in Denver now. Daniels on Hightower—again. This time Daniels flexed into motion across the formation. “They do a great job in beating people up at the line of scrimmage,” Kubiak said in the show. “This time we moved Owen across the ball, to keep him from getting beat up.”
Just then, NFL Films captured Belichick on the New England sideline, from a moment he had previously with the linebackers: “81’s their go-to guy in the red area, okay?”
So Daniels moved away from Hightower, at the left of the formation, to the right, in a gap between Jamie Collins and Rob Ninkovich. As Daniels left the line and ran straight upfield, bisecting Collins and Ninkovich, neither followed him. Mistake in coverage, obviously. With Hightower nowhere in sight, Manning hit an open Daniels for the first points in the narrow win that sent the Broncos to the Super Bowl. Great storyline, and great camera work, on a play that was crucial to Denver winning a world championship.
Two other audio things stuck out. After the crucial Denver strip of Cam Newton in the Super Bowl that gave Denver a short field, running back C.J. Anderson stopped on his way to the field and, wide-eyed, pleaded with Kubiak: “Give it to me! Give it to me!” Kubiak called his number. Touchdown. And after the Super Bowl, Kubiak, in a moment with John Elway on the field in Santa Clara, referenced his previous NFL bling, and winning the Super Bowl as a head coach now. “Those three rings I have?” Kubiak said. “My boys can have ’em. This one’s mine, baby! This one’s mine!”
It’s high praise indeed to say this show approaches the storytelling and inside access of “Do Your Job.” It’s well worth your hour Wednesday night.
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Quotes of the Week
“I’m not going to lie. It’s like one of your buddies going to jail.”
—New England wide receiver Julian Edelman, on the four-game suspension of Tom Brady, which began over the weekend in Foxboro.
“[The] plan goes beyond rebuilding. It is now a detonation.”
—Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland, after the Browns traded Barkevious Mingo and Andy Lee, cut Paul Kruger, and otherwise trimmed their roster to leave only Joe Thomas and Joe Haden as prominent players on the roster.
—Retired 49ers linebacker Chris Borland, from a strong story by Tyler Dunne of Bleacher Report, on the reaction from the NFL Players Association after he chose to walk away from football in the 2015 off-season.
Dunne reported Borland never heard from Roger Goodell either. He said of the NFLPA: “Ten thousand dollars in union dues and I don’t get a phone call. If I were running a union and a player walked away because of the most pressing medical need of my workforce, I would pick up the phone.”
“We need to get more players that can play winning football.”
—Alabama coach Nick Saban, after the Tide opened the season Saturday with a 52-6 win over the 20th-ranked team in the country, USC.
“I don’t remember a whole heck of a lot that happened that night. Got a horrible headache right before the half. That’s all I remember. The next thing I know I’m waking up in the hospital with a few of my buddies around me, saying we lost the game.”
—Denver coach Gary Kubiak, on the minor stroke he suffered just before halftime of a game he coached for the Houston Texans in 2013, to NFL Films for the “Worth the Wait” show that debuts this week.
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Stat of the Week
By cutting Mark Sanchez on Saturday, the Broncos chose to keep two passers on the active roster who hadn’t thrown a pass in an NFL game.
Just five-and-a-half years ago, Sanchez was the winning quarterback in Jets’ postseason victories over Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in a span of eight days.
Brady-Manning rating in the two games: 96.2.
Sanchez rating in the two games: 91.2.
Brady-Manning TD-to-interception ratio in the two games: 3-1.
Sanchez TD-to-interception ratio in the two games: 3-1.
Score of the two games, combined: Jets, 45-37.
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Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
In the past five years, dating back to September 2011, quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson has been waived 10 times by five different teams.
He has been cut by San Francisco three times—2011, 2013 and 2014—and let go from the San Francisco practice squad in 2015.
He has been on Miami’s practice squad three times—in 2011, 2014 and 2015.
When Bethel-Thompson, 28, was waived by the Eagles on Saturday, it marked his 29th NFL transaction in five years. That’s Ross Ventrone territory.
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Book of the Week
Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship, by Robert Kurson
Recommended by NFL free-agent offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz
This is the incredible non-fiction account of a pirate ship, lost for 350 years, its whereabouts discovered by two American divers in 2008 off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic.
“I love mysteries and stories with strategy,” Schwartz said. “I’m not big on the inspirational-type books. But learning the strategy in complicated things like trying to find a pirate ship that’s been lost for hundreds of years, is the kind of book I like to read.”
Schwartz, a nine-year NFL veteran who was cut by the Lions last week, is now an author himself. His new book, Eat My Schwartz: Our Story of NFL Football, Food, Family and Faith, comes out Tuesday. (Pre-order it here.) It is co-authored by Scwartz’s brother Mitchell, a lineman for the Chiefs, and they share behind-the-scenes stories of their lives as NFL players.
“Our book is the unique journey of the first Jewish brothers in the NFL since 1923,” Geoff said. “From our bar mitzvahs to getting drafted, our family, faith and food is always a part of the story.”
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Tweets of the Week
Team have spent two first round picks, a second and two fourths on Sam Bradford. What is that definition of insanity again?— Joe Posnanski (@JPosnanski) September 3, 2016
So called leaders wanna speak up for a pat on the back. Speak up when it's uncomfortable and u may be criticized.— Terrance Knighton (@MisterRoast98) September 1, 2016
When it's uncomfortable they say "I'm staying out of it" but any chance for a pat on the back they jump up and have something to say.— Terrance Knighton (@MisterRoast98) September 1, 2016
Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think the NCAA is smart to make the week before the NFL season its big kickoff weekend. Look at the cottage industry this weekend has become, with so many great games kicking off when fans on TV and in stadiums are frothing for football. Superb games all over the place, with two huge ones in NFL stadiums: LSU-Wisconsin at Lambeau (loved the “Lambeaux Field” shirts sold there in LSU colors) and Alabama-USC at the Cowboys’ home in Arlington. By the way, loved Notre Dame at Texas. Not only a great game, but the kind of intersectional game that should be played more frequently.
2. I think I understand Ron Rivera being angry that teams with the opening Thursday game have it rough on the weekend before that opener, cutting the roster and setting the practice squad and not getting the normal time off before having to play the first game. But the B side to that argument is it gives the two Thursday teams an extra mini-bye in their seasons. Denver and Carolina get the weekend off before having to prepare for their Week 2 games, and I can guarantee you most players would want it that way—play early, play on national TV and get three days off before the next week starts.
3. I think you'll see my Super Bowl pick Wednesday on this site. Not that it matters. I stink at picking those things. My predictions in general are awful. One hint: Picking two longtime doormats to win divisions this year. Not picking either to make the Super Bowl, but you've got to walk before you run.
4. I think kudos go to two charitable sorts in the past few days: Indy punter Pat McAfee, for a benefit that raised $150,000 for relief for Kokomo (Ind.) tornado victims … and to the NFL, for getting $50,000 to Denham Springs (La.) High School’s football program, which had most of its uniforms and equipment destroyed by the floods that hit the area. The NFL will give $500,000 in all to the area for crucial needs.
5. I think one guy who stuck out to me on the cut list over the weekend was Tony Moeaki, the tight end who missed 48 games in six seasons due to injuries and got let go by the Bears. Early on with the Chiefs, Moeaki blocked and caught like a future Pro Bowler, but he just couldn’t stay on the field. Shame. After five teams let him go, he might not have a football future.
6. I think it’s great that the 2017 draft will be held in Philadelphia. The more cities that get to host, the better. Still think Green Bay and Canton should be on the list, money be damned. (Not enough hotels in Green Bay, you say? So what. Make it a co-hosting affair with Milwaukee.)
7. I think the one stadium fix/opening of 2016 that I hadn’t focused on much was in Miami, but then I saw pictures of the improvements in the past few days. Two interesting things about the Dolphins’ new venue: 92 percent of the seats will be shaded by a giant canopy, as opposed to 17 percent in the past. And the grass is new for a pro football field. It’s called Paspalum Platinum grass. The Dolphins say it grows well in shade and in hot, humid climates, and is thicker than normal turf grasses.
8. I think Colin Kaepernick’s pig/police socks, though protected by freedom of expression, are divisive and very bad form nonetheless. Wearing them just inflames a situation that doesn’t need it. Point made, man.
9. I think, though I covered the Giants’ glory years for Newsday in the ’80s and consider myself well-versed about that era of Giants history, the new Jerry Barca book, “Big Blue Wrecking Crew: Smashmouth Football, a Little Bit of Crazy and the ’86 Super Bowl Champion New York Giants,” taught me a lot about that team. Such as this: When the Giants hired Bill Belichick as a special teams coach and defensive assistant in 1979, he had to move to New Jersey at a time of sky-high interest rates. He couldn’t afford it. So, according to Barca’s book, owner Wellington Mara stepped in and co-signed the down payment for the 27-year-old Belichick to buy his house. As Barca quotes Belichick: “I will always be indebted to Wellington Mara for the faith and support he showed me. I was a young nobody coaching special teams.” That’s the kind of detail work that marks this book, and makes it worth reading.
10. I think these are my non-NFL thoughts of the week:
a. Kudos, Mike Riley, for taking a delay-of-game penalty on Nebraska’s first punt play of the year to honor late punter Sam Foltz, who died in a car accident in July. Looks like there wasn’t a dry eye to be found when Nebraska lined up with 10 players and no punter on the play. (Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter declined the penalty, too.)
b. Story of the week: Tim Graham of the Buffalo News on the strange and sad and tragic tale of former NFL kicker Bjorn Nittmo, and the brutality of this game, and how his fate left his family grasping for normalcy to this day. Wonderfully reported and written.
c. Get well soon down there in North Carolina, Harrison McKinion. You’ve got lots of friends and family pulling for you.
d. Sometimes, you’re sitting home and flipping the channels and a movie comes on and you can’t look away. I have four or five of those, including this ridiculous one:
f. That movie is almost 30 year old, and every time I find it, no matter what I’m doing, I get transfixed and begin to laugh even before the funny parts. Such as John Candy and Steve Martin in one bed in a seedy Midwestern motel, waking up with a joke about pillows. You just may know it.
g. I am a big John Candy fan, and I don’t think he’s ever been funnier in any movie. I’ve told this one before, but I met Candy once and told him what I thought of the movie. I was in Winnipeg in 1991 to cover the Grey Cup, with Rocket Ismail (the star runner/receiver/returner who spurned the NFL to sign for $4 million a year with the Toronto Argonauts) starring in the game. It was brutally cold that Thanksgiving-weekend Sunday in Manitoba, and I went down to the sideline late in the game to try to get some color for my Sports Illustrated story. There were the three owners of the Argos—Bruce McNall, Wayne Gretzky and John Candy—on the sidelines. Candy was a big man, and absolutely huge in a giant fur coat to fend off the minus-5 chill. There was a break in the action, and I approached Candy and introduced myself and told him, Hey, not that this will mean anything to you, but I loved “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” and I don’t think it ever got the acclaim it deserved. Damn right, he huffed, glad that someone acknowledged a movie he loved.
h. Coffeenerdness: I do love Peet’s, the California-based coffee place. All in all, the espresso drinks, in my opinion, beat Starbucks. But the sweet drinks are just way too sweet. They need to cut back quite a bit on the sugar, say, in the caramel macchiato.
i. Beernerdness: While visiting my daughter in San Francisco over the weekend, I tried Great White Beer (Lost Coast Brewery, Eureka, Calif.), and was a little disappointed. I’m a big witbier guy, and this one was nothing special. Not a bad beer, and not skunky, but just plain.
* * *
The Adieu Haiku
Good trade for both teams.
Yet, we really don’t know if
Bradford is that good.
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