The former 49er, famous for making ‘The Catch,’ stunned the football community Sunday when he announced he has the incurable disease. Plus the Beast Mode-Raiders rumor, a bad free-agency trend and more
There’s a pall over the Bay Area this morning. The weekend seemed to be setting up for a piece of football euphoria—Marshawn Lynch perhaps coming out of retirement to play for the Raiders in the hometown he loves, a bolt out of the blue that could help make the Raiders the closest NFL contender to the mighty Patriots.
Then came the Tweet from “DwightC87” at 9:03 p.m. Sunday. (I didn’t know that the man who made “The Catch” was on Twitter.)
I wanted to share some unfortunate news: I have ALS. https://t.co/RqU0fFT98g— Dwight Clark (@DwightC87) March 20, 2017
“Those words are still very hard for me to say,” Clark said in a statement released Sunday night.
Marshawn Lynch, and every other piece of news from the week, will have to wait. The NFL has a bout of March sadness this morning.
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July 1979. The 32-year-old owner of the 49ers, Eddie DeBartolo Jr., and his friend and adviser Carmen Policy (later to be club president) flew to California for training camp. The new crop of rookies was on hand to try to rejuvenate a sad franchise. Immediately the third-round pick, quarterback Joe Montana from Notre Dame, and 10th-round longshot receiver Dwight Clark stood out. They were drop-dead handsome, first of all, and just as confident. Years later, Policy recalled seeing Clark and Montana together that first summer. “You wanted to be them,” Policy said. “So handsome, so ready for this moment. Looking at them, they seemed indestructible.”
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Until Sunday afternoon, Clark was inclined to try to fight the disease privately, a friend said. While at a sports memorabilia show in Chicago, Clark ran into Jim Kelly, and Clark shared the news. Kelly posted a photo of the two of them on Instagram at 4:54 p.m. Kelly asked his followers to pray for Clark, who was suffering from ALS. That sent Clark’s statement into motion.
Here in Chicago at a autograph show. Ran into longtime friend DWIGHT CLARK of the 49ers. Pure class and suffering from ALS. I had a great talk with him and what a great attitude he has. Praying for you buddy and he needs everyone out there to say a pray for him also.
A post shared by Jim Kelly (@jimkelly1212) on
He said he began to feel symptoms of muscle weakness in 2015. I’m told he was told with finality he had ALS in the middle of 2016. Said Clark: “I can’t run, play golf or walk any distances. Picking up anything over 30 pounds is a chore. The one piece of good news is that the disease seems to be progressing more slowly than in some patients.”
And he said: “I’ve been asked if playing football caused this. I don’t know for sure. But I certainly suspect it did. And I encourage the NFLPA and the NFL to continue working together in their efforts to make the game of football safer, especially as it relates to head trauma.”
Clark and Montana always will be intertwined. They are the same age—both 60 now. Both are transplanted Californians—Clark from North Carolina, Montana from south of Pittsburgh. In their third season, 1981, Montana rolled right in the NFC Championship Game, down six as the final minute ticked down, pumped once and then again and then threw a high ball to Clark in the back of the end zone. Clark caught it with his fingertips. “The Catch” sent the Niners to their first of five Super Bowls over the next 15 years. The 49ers won them all.
That’s why the Bay Area will be in the dumps for a while. The region loves Montana dearly, and loves his decades-long sidekick almost as much. This will hit hard.
And it will put some pressure on the league to address ALS more aggressively than it has. Clark becomes at least the sixth former player in the past 10 years to be diagnosed with this incurable disease that gradually shuts down every muscle in the body. Former Patriots and Eagles running back Kevin Turner had ALS and died in 2016. Saints special-teamer Steve Gleason, who turned 40 on Sunday, lives with the malady and has become a tireless advocate for funding to try to find a cure. Former Tennessee linebacker Tim Shaw also has the disease and is an advocate for a cure. Former Raiders fullback Steve Smith suffers from it as well, as does former Dolphins and Ravens special-teamer O.J. Brigance. In 2012, the American Academy of Neurology published a study of 3,500 former players that said pro football players were four times as likely to die from ALS or Alzheimer’s disease as the general population.
As Clark said in his statement, it’s incumbent on the stewards of the game to press for as safe a sport as possible. Clark’s case is just another clarion call for the people who run the sport to make the equipment safer, and to spend generously to study the effect of brain trauma on post-football life for players. You can be sure that as evidence of links to long-term brain injuries and devastating diseases like ALS mounts, more and more parents of young people will question at what age—if ever—they’ll allow their children to play tackle football. And rightfully so.
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The Marshawn Lynch-Oakland Deal Makes Sense
This Lynch-to-the-Raiders story, birthed by ESPN, is real. Late Saturday night I talked to an excellent West Coast source on this story. “He [Lynch] really wants to play for the Raiders,” the source said. “He also wants to do good things for his foundation in the area. This is a great chance to accomplish both things.”
It could happen one of two ways. Seattle could trade Lynch—likely for a conditional 2018 draft choice, since Oakland wouldn’t be eager to give anything this year, not knowing if the rusty Lynch would be worth it. Or Seattle could release him, which would void his contract.
It’s easy to say the Seahawks should try to get something for Lynch. And logical. But let’s say the Raiders want Lynch—and I hear they do, at the right price. The price is not going to be for an existing contract cost of $9 million in 2017. The Raiders would more likely want Lynch at a more reasonable number, plus incentives, by signing him to a deal after he’s cut from the Seahawks. I don’t think Seattle will stand in his way. Lynch left Seattle with the front office and coaching staff grinding its teeth over him because Lynch was oftentimes a handful. But he was loved by most of his teammates, and there’s no way the club would stand in his way and risk the rancor of the locker room, seeing that Lynch has so many close friends still in there. It’s a complicated dynamic, but in the end Seattle’s probably going to have to release him. Interestingly, the only team I think Seattle would do a release for is Oakland … as a favor to Lynch, and a nod to the fact that the Raiders wouldn’t pick up the existing terms of the contract.
With the business out of the way, it probably comes down to this: There are two potential veteran workhorse running backs available, with an intriguing but limited market. Adrian Peterson and Lynch both would fit in Oakland. The Raiders have a strong offensive line and potent passing game, and they’d be able to fit either player in their system, but I sense Lynch would be better. Three reasons:
1. He’s an Oakland kid. He loves Oakland. His foundation does loads of work there. Even when he played in Seattle, he was a bi-city person: Seattle and Oakland.
2. Lynch can exist in the shotgun just fine. Peterson is more of an I-back type, but Lynch can play in the I or as a shotgun sidecar, or anywhere in the backfield.
3. The Raiders will need all the Oakland they can get if they’re approved for a move to Las Vegas in league meetings next week—and a vote could happen there. The smartest thing Mark Davis could do is hold off the signing of Lynch (if he can) until the day before the vote to relocate the franchise or the day after. That way, the locals will hate him and the franchise just a little less. But Lynch as a Raider, in the Coliseum, with a contender, for the next year or two, while the new stadium in Vegas is built? People will come. Oh, people most definitely will come.
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A Free-Agency Trend Bad for the Common Player
Free-agent linebacker Zach Brown, 27, ranked second in the NFL last year with 149 tackles, playing for Buffalo. But nine tackles a game, roving the middle of the field, is not getting Brown rich. Though the average NFL team entered the weekend $19 million under the NFL’s $167 million per team salary cap for 2017, Brown is waiting for the phone to ring. He’s not the only one. Big names with time left (Jay Cutler, Adrian Peterson) join contributors like wideout Kamar Aiken (27 years old, 104 catches over the past two seasons), defensive end Chris Long (played well for the Patriots in 2016), defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins (asking too much), and young safeties T.J. McDonald and Bradley McDougald. It’s not a gold mine, but we’ve gotten to the 30-cents-on-the-dollar portion of free agency quicker than any other year I recall.
“The middle class of the NFL is getting destroyed,” agent David Canter said Saturday. “So many of the contracts for all but the best players are similar, with so little guaranteed money after the first year.”
Check out the money for the middle- to upper-middle class of the wide receiver group:
• Markus Wheaton, Chicago: Two years, $11 million, $6 million year one, no guarantee year two.
• Brandon Marshall, Giants: Two years, $11 million, $5.5 million year one, no guarantee year two.
• Brandon LaFell, Cincinnati: Two years, $9 million, $5 million year one, no guarantee year two.
• Cordarrelle Patterson, Oakland: Two years, $8.5 million, $5.25 million year one, no guarantee year two.
• Torrey Smith, Philadelphia: Three years, $15 million, $4 million year one, no guarantee year two or three.
• Ted Ginn Jr., New Orleans: Three years, $11 million, $5 million year one, no guarantee year two or three.
• Terrelle Pryor, Washington: One year, $6 million, with $2 million in incentives.
See the pattern? The big stars get guarantees in years beyond the first year—not much, but certainly some—while the middle class often sign one-year deals with extra non-guaranteed years tacked onto the end, in part for image, in part for spreading the pro-rated signing bonus.
Our Andrew Brandt had a very good idea, I thought, in his Business of Football column last week. “One way to make incremental change is when the team says it will guarantee $25 million on a five-year deal,” wrote Brandt, “the agent demand that they guarantee $5 million each year, rather than all $25 million secured in the low-risk first two years of the deal. Agents with this kind of leverage have to lead the charge toward fuller guarantees, and that continues to be lacking.” Brandt’s point is that—for instance—if Jason Pierre-Paul is guaranteed $40 million in his new four-year contract, the fact that $35 million is guaranteed in the first two years means the team can cut Pierre-Paul after two years with scant consequences toward future cap implications.
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Four Players, Four Thoughts
Nothing overwhelming here, just some loose ends to tie up after the hurricane of early free agency and before the final settings of the board for the 2017 NFL draft.
On Tony Romo
Nothing new. No news. No white smoke out of Jerry Jones’s chimney. But even though the Cowboys have not released him, I’m starting to wonder whether Romo might actually consider a TV career now instead of taking one last shot to win big at age 37 (and possibly 38). Adam Schefter reported recently that Fox wants to hire Romo to replace John Lynch on its number two NFL broadcast team, and Schefter said other networks are interested too. The easy thing would be to say: He can do that after his career ends. No rush. And that’s true. This is just my opinion, but what if Romo is enjoying the family life (he is married, with two children, and a third on the way), realizes he wants to continue to live in Dallas, and thinks maybe it wouldn’t be so bad on 20 weekends a year to leave home Friday morning, get home Sunday night, do something he knows he’d be good at (talking about football in an amiable and intelligent way), and be able to make $2 million a year (at the very least). He will be smart enough to know he can’t just walk into a big-time booth without some knowledge whether he’d be good right away, and I expect he’d do his homework on that, if he hasn’t already.
I still think it’s likely a released Romo will end up getting an offer from Houston, and possibly (but less likely) from Denver. And if I had to guess I’d say he’d end up signing with Houston and taking one more shot at a title. The Texans continue to be coy about their interest, but with a premier defense, they’re not going to enter 2017 with Tom Savage, Brandon Weeden and a rookie in the quarterback room—not if they have any chance to get Romo.
But I do not dismiss the TV stuff. I understand it. Romo loves talking about football. In Dallas’ training camp in 2015, he spent 30 or 40 minutes after our interview one afternoon talking to me about quarterback mechanics and the art of playing the position in language easily understandable, not all football-ese. When I think of Romo, I think of a guy who, if he chooses TV, will make a good living for a long time explaining the NFL game to people. Who knows whether that will happen, but I do think it has to be tempting for Romo when a pretty big TV offer (or more than one) comes his way—knowing that this job or one like it may not be open in 2018 or 2019.
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On Jason Pierre-Paul
When Jason Pierre-Paul permanently disfigured his right hand in a July 2014 fireworks accident, he missed out on a chance for a huge long-term contract. Instead, the Giants paid Pierre-Paul $8.7 million on a one-year deal, and then $9.7 million for 2015. Over those two years, he played 20 games, missed 12, had eight sacks and made $18.4 million.
On Friday the Giants signed Pierre-Paul for four more years, a deal that Pro Football Talk reports will be worth $35 million in the first two years, when virtually all of the guaranteed money will be paid. In all, a damaged Pierre-Paul, who has averaged one sack per 10 quarters since his accident, is being paid like a premier rusher. In the first four years after the accident, Pierre-Paul will be paid approximately $53.4 million—even though there’s no assurance he’ll ever be a premier pass-rusher again. That average of $13.35-million per year over four years is more than some of the best and most productive defensive ends and outside linebackers in football, including Michael Bennett, Cam Jordan, Cam Wake, Everson Griffen, Ryan Kerrigan and Bruce Irvin.
The Giants have done way more than right by Pierre-Paul.
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On Roberto Aguayo
“The mistake would be to be prideful,” Bucs GM Jason Licht told the Tampa Bay Times, with the news that the most inefficient kicker in the NFL in 2016, rookie Roberto Aguayo, would have a challenger in camp this summer, and a good one. Nick Folk, an 81.3-percent career field-goal kicker, was signed to go head-to-head with Aguayo. This was a curious and risky decision by Licht at the start, and he knows it. He dealt third- and fourth-round picks to move up 15 slots to choose Aguayo in the second round last year, and the pressure of being such a high pick got to Aguayo. He led the league with nine missed field goals, and he was a miserable four-of-11 from 40 yards and beyond. Can he be salvaged? Aguayo has seen a mental coach and talked to level-headed former kicker Ryan Longwell for advice. We’ll see. But good for the Bucs to not stick their heads in the sand about the problem. If Folk, 32, is better in camp, the 59th pick in the 2016 draft will likely be on the street.
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On DeMarcus Ware
Ware’s first NFL coach, Bill Parcells, sent him a text this week upon his retirement from football. It read:
“Not bad for a wide receiver from Auburn High School. Pretty good career.”
True story: Ware played wideout at Auburn (Ala.) High School, and the local Auburn Tigers didn’t recruit him.
“DeMarcus was a defensive end at Troy,” Parcells said Saturday. He was coaching the Cowboys, and owner Jerry Jones, of course, had final say on the draft. “We were going to make him a linebacker. I’m not crazy about projections picked that high in the first round. I would rather have taken a lineman. But Jerry and them wanted to take him. Thank God they did.”
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Quotes of the Week
“I’m retired. Which camera do you want me to look into? This one? I’m done. I’m not playing football anymore.”
—Marshawn Lynch, on “60 Minutes Sports” on Showtime last summer.
“Football had just run its course. … It’s time for something new.”
—Lynch, on Conan O’Brien’s show last September.
“OH MY GOD.”
—United States relief pitcher Tyler Clippard, as captured by MLB Network, watching the catch of the year (and it’s only March), a leaping and balletic grab by Adam Jones to rob Manny Machado of a home run in Team USA’s elimination-game win over the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.
“Today is just great. It’s remarkable. Saving lives and helping people live a better life—that’s going to make life worth living.”
—Myron Rolle, the star Florida State safety and 2010 sixth-round pick of the Tennessee Titans, who will begin a neurosurgery residency at Harvard Medical School and Mass General on July 1. He made the comments to WCTV in Tallahassee.
“I didn’t see what happened here that warranted a million dollars, two draft picks and a four-game suspension. It just didn’t add up. And, being a judge, we are very concerned with process. The thought of the decider ruling on his own decision, it was just beyond me.”
—Judge Richard Berman, who made the original rulings in the NFL-Tom Brady-Deflategate case, to Kalyn Kahler of The MMQB, for “Talking Football” on our site last Friday.
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Stat of the Week
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson started 35 college football games in three seasons, and two of the best five came against the best defense he faced: Alabama. In going 1-1 against the Crimson Tide in the two College Football Playoff National Championship games (combined score: Alabama 76, Clemson 75), this was Watson’s stat line, with the NFL passer rating included:
Watson threw for 405 yards in a 45-40 loss in the 2015 title game, and 420 yards in the 35-31 win in the 2016 title game. Imagine facing a Nick Saban defense twice—and putting up more than 400 passing yards both times.
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Factoids That May Interest Only Me
The four top seeds in the NCAA women’s tournament won their opening games by an average of 57.5 points.
If you were alive on April 23, 1973, and in the Washington-Baltimore area, you could have seen Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Bruce Springsteen for $4.50 at Cole Field House.
What a time to be alive.
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Tweets of the Week
White House Pool Report: Patriots owner Robert Kraft, "who was wearing— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) March 19, 2017
black canvas Nike sneakers, also joined POTUS on Air Force One."
1 reason I do what I do is because Jimmy Breslin's column came into my apartment a few days a week when I was a boy #RIP— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) March 19, 2017
Osweiler’s problem fatal flaw is he’s too slow mentally (can be fixed) and physically (can’t be fixed).— Andy Benoit (@Andy_Benoit) March 16, 2017
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From “The MMQB Podcast With Peter King,” available where you download podcasts.
This week: NBC’s Cris Collinsworth and Rick Maese of the Washington Post.
• Collinsworth on his aim during a telecast: “I don't want to give you a guest lecture on football. I don't. I don't think I am the smartest guy who has ever watched football in the world, and I don't want to come off that way. But what I do want to do is I want to give you something that you didn't hear from Al Michaels. I want to give you something that if you are watching the ball, now tell me something I didn't see. That is the way I have always interpreted my job.
“But more than that, I want to take the helmet off the players. The numbers say that men watch football at about a 70 percent rate, and back when we started, women probably watched at about a 35 percent rate. Well, women are watching at a 50 percent rate now, and not only are they getting smarter about football, but they want to know about the people and they want to know what the stories are behind it. They want the Olympic feel to what is happening. Dick Ebersol and NBC have always lived by this storytelling mode, so if you can create human beings on the field … I think the thing Al Michaels has done great and that we try to do on a Sunday night, is to make the game about the people that are playing it, so there is this interpersonal relationship that you go through. But in order to do that, it is a lot of extra work. It is a lot of interviews, a lot of storytelling, a lot of building relationships where they trust you with stories, much in the same way that you did. Tom Brady did a podcast with you because you had built a relationship. If that was the first time you just met, there's no way you'd be in Montana, right? You build a relationship, and that's what I think is the art of it. Yeah, I want you to see some football and learn a little bit, but I want you to learn about the humanity of the game, because that is what is really going to stick with you at the end of the broadcast.”
• Collinsworth on getting a law degree while he played: “I had this really hot girl I was dating who was in law school. [It was his future wife, Holly.] I had already been accepted to law school at University of Florida, and you know me, I can get a little competitive. She was at the University of Kentucky going to law school, and I went down to visit her. She is sitting in the library grinding away during finals, and I am ready to go out and have some fun and go out and party. And she says, ‘There’s just no way. I have finals coming.’ And I said, ‘Well, I got accepted to law school. I could do this too.’ She goes, ‘Oh yeah, sure you could.’ I go through and I reapply and go to the University of Cincinnati and it ends up this cute young girl is now my wife, who ended up the number three student in our law school class, and I was somewhere just beneath her looking up as we graduated. But it was really her, it was some strange competitive thing that exists within me. I couldn't stand the idea that she was doing something that I had always planned to do. By then I kind of knew my career was starting to tick down then too, it was my seventh year and I only played eight, and my knee was starting to hurt. It was crazy, but I did it. … It never crossed my mind for a second [post-career] that I was going to be anything but a lawyer. My degree is in accounting, and the classes I always aced were the taxes and business stuff, so probably something like that.”
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Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think we know where Dallas is going in the draft after losing defensive backs Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and Barry Church in free agency. And it’s not a bad calculated risk, drafting into the teeth of a stocked secondary pool in 2017. But before these guys are a too-distant memory, I wanted to point out three things about Carr, a player I’ve grown to admire not because he’s a top 10 corner; he’s, in fact, a marginal starter. But he goes to Baltimore for two years and $12 million (though it was listed as a four-year deal), and here’s why he’ll be missed:
• Carr has played nine seasons since being a fifth-round pick out of Grand Valley (Mich.) State in 2008 by Kansas City. Games played: 148. Games started: 148. Games missed due to injury: zero.
• No cornerback has started more games over the past nine years.
• In all five seasons as a Cowboy, Carr led the secondary in snaps played. In order: 1,043, 1,148, 1,028, 1,072, 1,013.
• The best Dallas cover guy remaining, nickel back Orlando Scandrick, has missed 14 games over the past five seasons.
Moral of the story: In football, one of the most important parts of ability is availability, and the Cowboys will miss that. Baltimore understands Carr, especially in his 10th year, will need safety help quite often. But the Ravens also know he’s a feisty player they can count on for the next two seasons, at least.
2. I think I’d like to wish Steve Gleason a happy 40th birthday. (The birthday was Sunday, and Gleason had a big party Saturday night at his home in New Orleans; Mike McCready of Pearl Jam played.) I have learned a lot from Gleason both before and after he was stricken with ALS … mostly that if you live life with passion and purpose, you can impact people regardless your walk of life, and your physical condition. Steve, I hope you’ve got another 40 in you.
3. I think, still, the best place for Adrian Peterson is with the Packers or Giants. Do it, Ted Thompson.
4. I think the shocking upset of the week is that Ben Roethlisberger told a reporter for the Washington (Pa.) Observer-Reporter that he’s “leaning towards” playing in 2017. All those who think Roethlisberger was going to retire, raise your hands. Bueller? … Bueller?
5. I think for those of us of a certain age, it hits hard that Gale Sayers is in his fourth year suffering from dementia. The Kansas City Star’s Vahe Gregorian tells Sayers’ story eloquently.
6. I think I’m a big fan of coaches doing what is best for their teams, but I wonder what, with home-court/field advantage on the line, Roger Goodell would do to, say, the Falcons if they held Matt Ryan out of a Week 15 game because Dan Quinn and the Falcons knew they were making the playoffs and figured resting Ryan was to the team’s advantage. It’s not the same thing as LeBron James sitting three times in a 22-day span without being hurt, just because his coach wants him rested for the playoffs. I think a coach should do what’s best for his team, overall. But I don’t think it’s good for the game if the best player—or one of them—sits without being hurt three times in three weeks.
7. I think Rex Ryan, hired by ESPN the other day, would be better in the booth doing games than he would be in the studio bloviating, which I guess he’s going to do, on Sunday NFL Countdown. You can get lost on those pre-1 p.m. Eastern Time pregame shows, because there are so many people on every network’s set. (Just keep score: There were 20 desk people combined, not including information people, on Fox, CBS, ESPN and NFL Network last fall.)
8. I think there was an interesting note from Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News, via Pro Football Talk, about the 33-yard extra points from new Bills kicker Stephen Hauschka, who has missed 10 of them in the last two seasons. That led to his demise with the Seahawks. And I’m not calling Hauschka an excuse-maker, though I think it’s ridiculous to listen to some of the reasons why the 33-yard extra point is different from a 33-yard field goal. Said Hauschka: “The 20-yard extra points, those were just chip shots. They really were. I don’t think many NFL guys were going to miss those unless something were to really happen with the snap and the hold. But a 33-yard extra point just brings out that precision. You need to be on it with the snap, the hold and the kick all need to be there and you can’t really get away with it. Plus, I think the biggest difference is you used to have about 25 to 30 field-goal attempts a year and then a bunch of chip-shot extra points. Now you have 25 field goals and maybe 30 to 50 extra points. That can feel like 60 to 70 field goals in a season now, so you’ve got to be mentally sharp the whole game, the whole season and there’s really no room for error.” Here are two points why I’d be hesitant to have Hauschka be my kicker:
• In the two seasons since the NFL moved the PAT back, Hauschka is 69 of 79 on extra points, and 20 of 20 on field goals between 30 and 39 yards away. That’s ridiculously inefficient, particularly when the PAT—from what he told Carucci—is something challenging to him mentally.
• “You’ve got to be mentally sharp the whole game.” Last season Hauschka was called on an average of 4.5 times a game to kick an extra point or field goal. That’s 72 times in four months. I know it’s a job packed with pressure. I get it. But that is the life you’ve chosen. It’s not too much to expect a kicker to be “mentally sharp” for three hours and four or five opportunities once a week.
9. I think you never say never about anything in the NFL, but I’d be surprised if the Patriots brought back a desperate Darrelle Revis. I never sensed he was a big team guy and a big off-season conditioning program guy with the Patriots, and if he wasn’t that way in his prime, will he buy into that Belichick way three years later? If I was the GM of a good team with both cash and a corner need, I’d do a two-year, prove-it deal with maybe $8 million guaranteed—just enough so that Revis makes more than he would be sitting out and getting the $6 million the Jets owe him, but not enough where the team couldn’t cut bait if he stinks again in 2017. Would he do it?
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. One of the classiest things I’ve seen on a ballfield: Dominican Republic down to the USA 4-2, bottom seven, Manny Machado gets robbed of a home run by Orioles teammate and USA center fielder Adam Jones, and as he rounds first base and see his dream home run die in Jones’ glove, Machado takes off his helmet and tips it to Jones. Fantastic sportsmanship. Jones returned the favor with a tipped cap.
b. The WBC is fantastic, by the way. I’ll be watching this week.
c. Go Johnny Go.
d. RIP, Chuck Berry.
e. And RIP, Jimmy Breslin … one of the great New York columnists of all time. I read this one a long time ago, and re-read Sunday after word came that Breslin died, at 86. He wrote it more than 53 years ago, and it still sings today.
f. No wonder this guy is Bill Parcells’ favorite baseball player.
g. Good story, Ken Rosenthal.
h. Speaking of Rosenthals, a great one died last week. Much of America met her a few days before she died, reading one of the most powerful essays I’ve read in recent times, “You May Want To Marry My Husband,” telling every eligible woman alive why they would be so lucky to marry her husband after she died. Gone way too young, at 51, of ovarian cancer.
i. Love this story by Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe on the art and the trials and tribulations of batting-practice pitchers, and how the good ones can help a team win, and how the best ones throw 24,000 pitches a year. Imagine that.
j. Looking forward to HBO Real Sports on Tuesday night to see Andrea Kremer’s story on Matt Bush, the former No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 MLB draft, who ended up in prison for a DUI accident, and who rebounded to pitch in the playoffs for Texas last fall. Kremer asked Bush about the specter of being the biggest bust in baseball draft history (at least one of them) before his recent resurgence. Said Bush: “I mean, who wants to be the biggest bust in the draft? I didn’t. But at the same time, if you're the biggest bust, you must’ve been someone.”
k. I mean, it’s a five-hour show. Why didn’t you just take a break?
l. The low temperature forecast for Boston on Wednesday is 15 degrees. The Red Sox and Pirates play there 12 afternoons later. Man, that grounds crew is going to earn its money in the next two weeks.
m. Beernerdness: Found a gem the other night at De Novo, a wonderful bistro with small and large plates in our old home of Upper Montclair, N.J. We took the train out for dinner with friends, and I asked what Jersey beers they had on tap. “Hudson Pale Ale,” the waiter said. “Hoppy, but not over-hoppy.” Well, he was right. Hudson Pale Ale (New Jersey Beer Company, North Bergen, N.J.—near the Lincoln Tunnel) is a tremendously drinkable, smooth tasting pale ale with a distinctive light-hopped taste. I was taking the train home, so I had another. Great example of how many excellent craft beers there are, everywhere.
n. Interesting scheduling: In the first 86 games of the baseball season, Boston does not go to Tampa Bay. In the next 63 games, Boston goes to Tampa Bay three times.
o. Still no evidence, other than baseless theories from the crazies, that Obama wiretapped Trump. And yet Donald Trump keeps going deeper, last week groundlessly roping in a friendly foreign government (the British), chasing nonsensical tributaries of wild hope, and really hoping eventually people will lose interest in the accusation that the former president of the United States bugged the Republican candidate for president.
p. If you haven’t learned this lesson by the time you’re 71, there’s a good chance you never will: You are a man when you can admit you’re wrong, and when you apologize.
q. Best news of the week: The House and Senate actually make the budget.
r. Syracuse (19-15) lost at home in the second round of the NIT. A week ago this morning, all I heard was about how they got passed over for the NCAA tournament field. Hmmm.
s. Love this story by SI’s Pete Thamel about the Michigan man who has helped Michigan men from Tom Brady to this year’s NCAA basketball team.
t. Geico’s Julius Caesar Salad commercial is a gem.
u. Happy 80th birthday (Tuesday), Tom Flores.
* * *
The Adieu Haiku
Romo and TV:
Think it’s a ploy? I do not.
It would not shock me.
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