Four weeks from Fourth of July weekend, I'm whistling a patriotic tune this morning, and alerting our men and women overseas that they're about to have some interesting visitors. There's more today -- including my thoughts on Brett Favre (who is going to have his own network, Web site and galaxy before his career's over). I've got Rodney Harrison as unplugged as he can get, the motivation of NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith, the eye-rolling in New Orleans over Jeremy Shockey and an update on your favorite college southpaw, Austin Wood, the Texas reliever who threw 13 shutout innings last week.
We'll start by waving the flag.
In 1966, the USO began a tradition of sending NFL players and commissioners to visit American troops around the world by dispatching future Hall of Famers John Unitas, Sam Huff, Frank Gifford and Willie Davis to Vietnam. That's probably the starriest lineup ever for a USO trip. But this year's roster is in the same headline-grabbing ballpark -- and I predict the speeches will be a little more colorful, with more neck veins popping.
Later this month, three Super Bowl-winning coaches from this decade -- Tom Coughlin (Giants), Bill Cowher (Steelers) and Jon Gruden (Bucs) -- will join one AFC Championship coach, Tennessee's Jeff Fisher and the AFC Championship runnerup last year, Baltimore's John Harbaugh, in traveling to the Persian Gulf to visit our troops.
"This is something I've wanted to do for years,'' Coughlin told me, "and I can't tell you how excited I am, and all the coaches are, to be making this trip. It's a great chance for us to recognize the real heroes of this country. Our troops need to know how much we appreciate what they're doing, and I mean every one of us in the NFL and every one of us in the country.''
Coughlin knows the trip will be as memorable for him as for anyone he visits. A military history buff, he is good friends with the current commanding general of the multi-national force in charge of the Iraq invasion, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, a Giants fan. Coughlin also had a double-amputee Iraqi veteran, Lt. Col. Greg Gadson, speak to his team often during its Super Bowl run in 2008. In his coaching career, he has often incorporated military themes into his talks to his teams.
The Giants' coach is not alone. You can bet all five coaches use war stories to motivate their men. For that reason, it's going to be strange for them to be talking to military men about football players rather than the other way around.
"It's going to be a challenge, figuring out what to say,'' Coughlin said. "I've already started to write some things. But it's important to me not to be off the cuff. This is too important for that. I want my words to mean something to them.
"One of the things I know I'll talk about is how we talk about team all the time. I know they talk about team all the time. One of the things I've learned from Gen. Odierno is you realize how important it is to be able to trust the men and women next to you. You place your lives in their hands; they place their lives in your hands. And when Greg Gadson talked to our team, he talked about vigilance, about being ready. Always.
"That's a fastball right down the middle for me. I've got to have everyone ready every day, because I don't know when the next guy is going to be needed. In Greg's case, he told us they worry about the soldier who didn't fire his weapon in his last day on patrol. So maybe he figures he doesn't need to clean it the next day to have it ready to fire, and when he needs it, maybe it doesn't work properly. Just that one moment of not being ready could really cost the entire platoon. Same with us. You don't want to be the man who is not prepared and lets down the entire team.''
You can bet Coughlin, at some base in Iraq or Afghanistan, will tell a room full of soldiers the story of David Tyree, the last receiver on the roster, who caught four passes in the first 18 games of the 2007 season, and then, because of injuries, stepped up to catch four in the Super Bowl upset of New England. Including the helmet catch, of course.
I hear the league didn't have a difficult time persuading the time-challenged coaches (well, the retired ones have some time on their hands, of course) to clear their calendars for a week. Commissioner Roger Goodell went last July, and he's been an outspoken advocate of not only what his trip did for the troops, but also what it did for him.
"Several things about the trip were very striking -- how our service men and [women] never complain about anything, how much I admired them, and how much the NFL meant to them,'' Goodell recalled last week. "You can never complain after seeing the conditions our troops work in. The positive attitude and pride they take in their mission and our country are inspiring. You go over there thinking you're doing something for the troops, but you return recognizing it is one of the most meaningful things you have ever done for your own sake.''
Having gone to Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan to visit troops 15 months ago, I can tell you Goodell's right. Doesn't matter what you feel about the war itself. You're dropped into a National Geographic special, into the most interesting place you've ever been, and you realize right away how much these people love everything about the NFL. My advice to the five coaches: Get ready to sign 750 autographs a day, minimum, and pose for 300 pictures a day, minimum. Get ready to fall into an exhausted sleep every night and never get more than five hours of it, because there will always be more people to see and bases to visit. In the Persian Gulf, you'll be like the Beatles were in New York in 1964 ... without the shrieking girls.
The meaning of the Brett Favre surgery -- per an ESPN report last night claiming he had his damaged right biceps tendon repaired recently by detaching it -- is simple: The man wants to play football for the Vikings, and they Vikings have obviously given him enough of an indication that if he's healthy and ready to throw full-throttle by early July that they'll be interested in signing him.
My guess is Favre had the surgery 10 to 12 days ago. An NFL medical source told me if Favre's biceps tendon was indeed "hanging by a thread,'' as I heard it was, that Favre would be able to throw a football in about two weeks and should be able to throw without pain in about four weeks.
The reason Favre could go to the Vikings late in the game, theoretically, is that it's the same offense with the same language that he ran in Green Bay. But there are a couple of X factors that could stand in the way. All indications are the Vikings haven't agreed to a contract yet with Favre; what do you pay a man who will turn 40 and is coming off shoulder surgery two months before the start of training camp? Minnesota can't guarantee him $12 million -- or shouldn't. More likely the contract would have to be for a year at $8 million to $10 million, max, with some incentives. Then there's the matter of how Favre feels. I believe if he's throwing in early July with pain, or with impingement, he won't go through with it.
It's hard to imagine Favre getting the surgery done by renowned orthopedist James Andrews if he didn't think he could be healthy and ready to go within a month or six weeks.
It'll be an upset if Favre doesn't attempt a comeback with Minnesota now.
I don't think Jeremy Shockey is out of the woods in New Orleans. Not at all. He wasn't working with the first team in this weekend's full-squad minicamp, in the wake of his May 24 removal from a Vegas hotel for "dehydration.''
I asked DrewBrees if he was worried about Shockey. He paused for a few seconds, then said, "Oh boy ... I'm not worried about him. I don't care who you are, here I feel like we can win without him, just like I feel we can win without Reggie Bush or Marques Colston. If he fits in, I'd love to have him.''
Different, isn't it, than last year, when Shockey came to camp as the quasi-second coming, and the Saints thought he'd be the most productive tight end in the league, and he finished with 50 catches, a pedestrian 9.7 yards per catch and zero touchdowns. Zero. His practice habits and route discipline weren't great, and now the Saints appear to be saying, Whatever we get from the guy is a bonus. We can't count on him to play a full schedule.
Sirius NFL Opening Drive host Bob Papa and I had the newest NFL retiree on the air Friday, and if you know Rodney Harrison, you know holds were not barred. Snippets I liked from NBC Football Night in America analyst Harrison, who will join Tony Dungy in the Sunday night studio:
On how some critics see him being imported to be Mr. Rip Job:
"I'm not about that. I played for a long time. I know the other side, the players' families, their moms, their kids, their wives. I'm not there to be critical of players as my sole purpose. My job is to be honest and not necessarily to butcher anyone. But if the truth needs to be told, I'm going to tell it. A lot of guys may not like it. I may have to criticize Tedy Bruschi or Richard Seymour or Tom Brady -- very good friends of mine. But if you don't want to be criticized, go out and play well. I had to deal with the same thing."
On deciding to retire:
"The one thing I noticed creeping in was, 'Do you really want it?' I didn't have that same hunger, that thirst, that I used to have for 15 years. When I woke up, I wanted to be on the golf course. I didn't think about working out to get better football-wise. I thought about getting better for golf. That was the thing that really told me, 'You don't want to play this game.'''
On whether he might pull a Favre and return:
"I'm very comfortable in my skin. I'm not a guy who kisses people's butts and goes with the popular trend. I'm not worried about playing football. I'm done. I have no inkling to go back out and suffer any injuries or bang any heads. I'm done.''
On whether he belongs in the Hall of Fame:
"Yes, I think I belong in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I don't have the Pro Bowls, but that's not because I didn't put up the numbers. [Tennessee safety] Blaine Bishop had 70 tackles and one interception one year and he went to the Pro Bowl instead of me. It's an all-star game based on popularity. I was never about self-promoting. I was unselfish. I would never trade in the Super Bowls for Pro Bowls, believe me.''
On his reputation as a dirty player:
"This is football in the National Football League. I hit a guy with my forearm in his throat or his chest area, and they're trying to fine me. It's football! It's not my fault if the guy curls up like a little girl because he doesn't want to get hit. Are you kidding me? And then I get hit with a $120,000 fine because I hit Jerry Rice. Do you think I'm going to let Jerry Rice catch a slant route in the end zone? I don't care what it costs me, I'm going to try to knock his head off.
"Football now is turning into a soft, pansy sport. This is not volleyball! This is not tennis! This is some of the biggest, fastest, strongest men in the world. I think it's absolutely ridiculous. I went out on my own terms. It won't bother me anymore ... They need to put some more defensive players in that NFL front office. [NFL director of football operations and finemeister] GeneWashington is an offensive guy. Do you think he wants to turn on the TV and see his fellow receivers get their head knocked off? He never liked me in the first place. But that's fine. They need to put defensive players in the office so we won't have such a biased opinion from one guy."
On being fined more than $200,000 in his career (my guess is it was more like $400,000):
"Like I told my mom, You can't miss what you never had. Hopefully, it goes to a good cause. I never stopped the way I played. I never played this game for a paycheck. I could never play this game for money. I played because I loved it. I had a chance to make a lot of money this year -- two or three times what NBC is paying me. Trust me. I decided to walk away because I was not a money player. You can't buy passion. You can't buy discipline and dedication and commitment to something. If my heart's not in it, I'm not gonna do it."
On Bill Belichick speaking glowingly of Harrison upon his retirement:
"Wow. Bill is the best coach and the best football mind I've ever been around. I absolutely love and have all the respect in the world for him. But he's also a guy I won't be afraid to criticize, either.''
The test, obviously, for every player who walks off the field and into the television industry is whether he can leave the sanctity of the locker room and speak honestly. The early returns on Harrison are good (a receiver "curls up like a little girl'' and football is turning into a "soft, pansy sport'' are good enough for me), but we won't really know until there's a legit reason to nail a Patriot this fall and Harrison takes the shot.
Consider this the Stat of the Week: In 2003, Rodney Harrison was voted first-team all-pro by a panel of sports media. Two safeties in the 32-team NFL make the All-Pro team. Six safeties make the Pro Bowl, three in each conference. Harrison did not make the Pro Bowl that year. John Lynch, Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed did for the AFC.
More and more the Pro Bowl is almost an insignificant measure of greatness for a player. Harrison was hated by many players, and they wouldn't honor him by voting him into a Pro Bowl. Harrison made two Pro Bowls in his career, a laughable total for someone with his pedigree.
In his career, with the two Pro Bowls, Harrison averaged 6.5 tackles a game and had 34 interceptions, 15 forced fumbles and 30.5 sacks.
In Lynch's career, with nine Pro Bowls, he averaged 4.7 tackles a game, and had 26 interceptions, 6 forced fumbles and 13 sacks.
Let's go back to the 2003 season, when Harrison led the Super Bowl champion Patriots in tackles in the regular season and postseason. He had 140 regular-season tackles and three interceptions; I voted him my defensive player of the year in the NFL. Lynch had 58 tackles and one pick, Polamalu 88 tackles and five picks, Reed 66 tackles and eight picks.
If you were Harrison, wouldn't you be a little bitter about a system that kept you out of Pro Bowls when you clearly deserved to be in them?
We've all been operating on the assumption the NFL and its players need to get a deal done by spring 2011 so the league can go on without any games being lost to a job action. Not the new boss of the NFLPA. DeMaurice Smith told me over the weekend he wants a new deal done by next spring, so struggling retired players won't have their benefits slashed.
Last week, the NFL Players Association voted to drop its appeal to a case in which a jury ruled the union poorly handled the licensing deals for more than 2,000 retired players. The NFLPA agreed to pay $26 million to the players, about $10,000 a player after attorney's fees. But that money will be minimally effective for many retired players if the NFL ever plays with an uncapped year.
"My overwhelming motivation is to get a deal done before the uncapped year,'' Smith said. "I look at the significant impact it would have on the retired players, the handicapped players, the families of the retired players, if we didn't get a deal done, and that is what drives me.''
For a football-related disability -- one that occurred on the field and renders a player unable to work in another occupation within six months of the injury -- a player gets $224,000 in disability payments now. In an uncapped year, the payment would shrink to $48,000 annually. An active player who becomes disabled in an accident off the field get $134,000 a year now; he'd get $48,000 in the uncapped year.
Now you know why Smith is on a different timetable than so many others in the league.
Now to Austin Wood. You remember the Texas reliever who threw 12-and-a-third no-hit innings, and 13 shutout innings altogether, in a 25-inning victory over Boston College nine days ago.
The letters and Tweets to me were divided. Some praised the kid for being gallant and got goosebumps over Wood pitching so long in such intense heat that he threw up violently and refused to leave the game. Some ripped the coach, Augie Garrido, for leaving a reliever in the game for 169 pitches.
Texas moved on to the next round of the tournament against TCU last weekend. Wood, the closer, warmed up but did not pitch in a win Saturday night. He threw four pitches and retired the only batter he faced Sunday in a TCU win. The two teams meet Monday for the right to go to the College World Series, and Wood hopes he'll have a chance to throw his 92-mph fastball and assortment of breaking pitches in a save situation.
On Sunday night, I asked Wood if he knew about the roiling controversy ... and about how he felt. ""Arm's fine,'' said the senior from Houston. "I threw 91, 92 today, and I felt as good as ever. It's responded to treatment the way it always does. I'm pretty frustrated by the way people have reacted to this. I understand pitch counts are important, especially early in the season when it's cold and you're just getting your arm going. But I know my body. I wouldn't do anything any different with what happened last week. I know my arm, I know my body, and if there was anything wrong, I'd have said I needed to come out.''
But what about the long-term damage he could have done to the arm? "I don't buy it,'' Wood said. "They said coach Garrido abused me. It's crazy. He never abused me. I'm not going to stay in a game and pitch hurt.''
With the draft coming up this week, Wood said he hopes he showed major-league scouts -- who did not draft him out of high school or after his third year at Texas last year -- "how passionate I am about the game. I hope they've seen my heart. I love this game.''
"I did not think he was disruptive to the team. As a matter of fact, you have a huge percentage of our team -- coaches and teammates -- that thought his personality was a positive thing.''-- Dallas owner Jerry Jones, on Terrell Owens, surprisingly waived by the team three months ago. Owens was signed by Buffalo.
That statement is many things -- Jones trying to make up with Owens via the media; Jones pumping up a person he likes; Jones talking for the sake of talking.
What it isn't: the truth.
"I think Lombardi's probably rolling over [in his grave] right now.''-- Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio, derisively questioning why defensive tackle John Henderson left a midweek workout with a shoulder bruise.
"I immediately asked the question that any graduate of Ohio University would ask. I said, 'Do I get an honorary degree? Do I get a doctorate? Do I get a cap, a gown, a sash, anything I can sell on eBay?''-- NBC's Today Show host Matt Lauer, addressing the Harvard graduating class on Senior Class Day last Wednesday, telling the students his first reaction when he found out Harvard wanted him to speak.
Hope Seattle is not waiting for Ryan Rowland-Smith to solve the holes in its starting rotation. Here is his pitching line for Triple-A Tacoma on Friday night in the Rainiers' Pacific Coast League 21-5 loss to Reno:
Last 13 batters faced by Rowland-Smith: Single, double, sac-fly, double, fly out, single, single, walk ... Coaching visit to mound. Six runs in already, bases loaded. Is there no mercy rule? Rowland-Smith stays in ... fly out, hit batsman, sac fly, double, single. When Rowland-Smith walks off the mound, his team trails 11-0.
Cruel game. Game of redemption. Really cruel game. That was baseball for Daniel Schlereth, the son of Super Bowl guard and ESPN football analyst Mark Schlereth, in the past week. The Diamondbacks' lefty reliever, just up from Double A a week earlier, had these three outings in the past five days:
• Wednesday at Dodger Stadium: Handed the ball with two out in the eighth, Arizona nursing a 5-2 lead. In 11 Schlereth pitches, this was his fate: Double, wild pitch, single, wild pitch, pop out. Four runs. Schlereth takes the 6-5 loss.
• Friday at Petco Park: Strikes out the side on 11 pitches in the seventh inning of an 8-0 win over San Diego.
• Saturday at Petco Park: Enters with D-backs up 2-1 and a runner on first. In 15 pitches, he faces four batters (walk, single, walk, hit batsman) and all score.
Ouch. Four days, three appearances, 1.1 innings, five earned runs, two blown saves, an 0-2 record.
Double-ouch, from the Tweet of SI baseball writer Jon Heyman: "Daniel Schlereth should not be pitching in the big leagues now, much less in a big spot.''
If son is as tough as father, he'll survive.
The Philadelphia Eagles will make the instant-news world we live in very happy this summer. They're installing a Blogging Trailer adjacent to the training camp practice fields at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., for use during and immediately after practice for bloggers covering camp and for beat guys filing to instant-news blogs.
"Reporting on the NFL has become such a 'now' business,'' Eagles PR czar Derek Boyko said. "I saw this [trailer] as being in the 'need' category, because so many bloggers are doing immediate stories, and now the beat reporters are doing the blogging, too.''
Now, instead of the reporters doing interviews as players leave the field and in a press-conference tent near the practice fields, and then getting in their cars and driving back to the press room on the Lehigh campus [the fields are about two miles from the center of the hilly campus], they'll be able to work inside the trailer.
I'm very big on the whole immediacy of coverage, but I hope this summer, as I make my rounds, I see that there's still something left for the daily papers -- some more in-depth stuff.
On Wednesday, I had a 6:03 a.m. flight from Providence to Detroit; Northwest to Detroit cheaper from Providence than Boston, or at least it was for this flight. I left Boston at 4:05 a.m. for the 53-mile drive to the airport in Providence. Not being all that familiar with the drive, I did what anyone would do -- followed the signs on the highway for T.F. Green Airport, figuring it would be the shortest route.
From I-95 north of Providence, I got on I-295 south. And drove. And drove ... and got back onto I-95 south of Providence for the final couple of miles to the airport. I couldn't believe it -- 65 miles. Seemed way too long. Got to the airport at 5:18, and if you've flown from Providence, you know it has the longest rush-hour security lines on the East Coast.
I made the flight, but I went on Mapquest later in the day and looked at the route. Mapquest would have had me go straight down I-95 all the way. So I'm an idiot for not looking at a map before I left home. I just figured if a sign on an interstate highway tells me to take I-295 to get to the airport, it wouldn't be taking me 12 miles out of my way to get there.
Let's say I'm not the only idiot out here who trusts the highway signs north of Providence. There have to be a few people every day who actually read the signs and heed them on the interstate highway system. Let's say there are 200 a day who do what the United States Department of Transportation is telling them -- get off this road, take the freeway circling the town, and drive 14 miles further to get to your destination. Wouldn't the federal government, trying to get us to drive less and emit fewer pollutants into the air, be interested in knowing that scores of cars in Rhode Island are driving more miles than they need to? Let's say it's 200; it might be 50, it might be 500. But if 200 cars follow the route the highway planners tell them to follow, then cars are driving 2,400 more miles per day than they have to.
At 5 in the morning, that's a pretty aggravating travel note.
Peyton_Manning, with 11,043 followers as of Sunday, discusses mostly vanilla Colt-related news, but implied the Colts were taking Florida's Percy Harvin in the draft.
Droppinadeuce, with "Peyton Manning'' the author, has a grand total of seven followers and discusses bodily functions mostly.
Spelling-challenged paytonmanning has 720 followers, though it hasn't had a post since last October.
Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa sued Twitter last week for a defamatory phony Twitter account under his name. These accounts for Manning aren't defamatory, unless you consider graphic defecation posts defamatory. But they're not him.
Last week, Manning sent me this e-mail: "Peter, wondering if you could do me a favor. This twitter, facebook, myspace is a problem for guys like me, Eli [Manning], (see about Ben R. and Cutler). Eli and I do not have a twitter or facebook or myspace account or page. Yet there are imposters out there acting like us. The people at twitter and facebook can't stop it. Our representatives contact them, and they may take it down for a day, but then it pops back up. If you could put something in your MMQB that these pages for me and Eli are not real, it would be a big help. The more people that know that these are phonies, the better for me, Eli, and whoever. It's just unbelievable that someone could do this and the people at twitter and facebook can allow it. Who knows what these people are posting on the pages is the scary thing. Anything you can do to bring light to it would be great. Thanks, PM.''
Consider light brought.
1. I think the reason Ralph Wilson chose Chris Berman to introduce him for induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame is simple: He likes Berman a lot, and Wilson's not close to people in the league. He's mostly a loner in league circles. That's neither a criticism of Wilson nor his peers.
There's not a single owner he's tight with. The only owner he speaks with on any regular basis is Al Davis; they speak about once a month, and not very often about football.
In the days when the Bills were the lowest team in the league, Berman always boosted the team. You can judge whether a TV host should be rooting for a team, but regardless, Wilson, Marv Levy, Bill Polian and Jim Kelly loved him for it. The Berman pick didn't surprise me in the least.
2. I think this is this week's sign that the (football) apocalypse is upon us: The San Francisco 49ers are in the midst of seven consecutive days of practices -- three mandatory mini-camp days, then four voluntary/mandatory Offseason Training Activity days. It's June. Seven straight days. "Nobody's complaining at all,'' linebacker Patrick Willis said Saturday.
No kidding. What player would complain about a relatively new coach who he -- and everyone else on the team -- is trying to impress. I've said it before and I'll say it again and again: NFL teams ask players to practice and lift and run and meet too much in the offseason.
3. I think if I'm DeMaurice Smith, one of the things I'm putting on the plate in my negotiations with ownership is the amount of mandatory and mandatory/voluntary stuff teams make players do in the offseason -- and if I'm coaching rep Larry Kennan, I'm pushing Roger Goodell to have head coaches limit the amount of work assistants do in the offseason. I know that sounds absurd, limiting the work players and coaches do in the offseason, but believe me -- coaches who have ideas and no time during the season to execute them are going to use time in May and June to work on them.
One assistant who is not allowed to speak with the media on the record told me he was in the office twice past 7 p.m. (during OTA time) last week. To me, in the first week of June, it's way over the top. I've heard Cleveland coaches are in the office much later than that, regularly.
4. I think I'd like to take this space to wish Jason LaCanfora, ex of the Washington Post, good luck in his new gig as information man for NFL Network. The network got a good man. LaCanfora's a worker bee with a good presence. Now, competing against who he'll have to compete with as a first-year TV guy ... that's going to be rough, and rough might be an understatement.
In Sunday pregame land, Jason's going head-to-head with Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter, who I assume will be on the Sunday morning show (and the rest of the Clayton/Werder/Paolantonio/Nichols team), and then there's scoopman Jay Glazer at Fox, who drops a bomb every week. And I haven't even mentioned Charlie Casserly and his enlightened spot on CBS. I know LaCanfora's work ethic, and whatever they're paying him, he'll earn. But he's got some powerhouses in his way.
5. I think Matt Millen might be getting cold feet about the Thursday night NFL Network gig. The one guy the network's considering for a spot on the Thursday games -- and I love this idea -- is Mike Mayock, using him as sort of a teacher of all things football. If Mayock, who I think is as smart as they come on this side of the business, can explain semi-complex things like coverage schemes and players' weaknesses in 18 seconds instead of the 30 it usually takes, he could come on six to 10 times during a game and become the kind of teacher every football telecast needs.
6. I think, not to overwrite TV, one of my pet peeves over the last couple of years has been how the football and media world is obsessed about how many people NBC uses on its Sunday night Football Night in America show. Obviously, I've been a part of the team for the past three years, so I'm the least partial person to comment here. But let's line up the shows and count the talent, based on 2008 lineups, and not including field reporters:
• NFL Network: Five or six, depending on the time of year. The Sunday pregame show started the year two hours and expanded to three in midseason. With the two-hour show, there were four in the studio and a reporter, Schefter, reporting often from New York. When the show went to three hours, Steve Mariucci was added to the studio.
• ESPN. Six. The two-hour Sunday show will presumably add a seventh this year in Schefter, while keeping five men on the regular set and Mortensen off to the side of the set.
• Fox. Six, with an asterisk, for the one-hour show. Five on the set, plus four or five regular shots with Glazer. But you might as well call it eight ... with JillianReynolds (weather) and Frank Caliendo (picks) appearing for a couple of minutes during every show.
• CBS. Five for the one-hour show, including the regular four- or five-minute segment with Casserly and James Brown.
• NBC. Varied between five and seven for the 75-minute show. But when it was seven, I'd bet numbers five through seven -- me, Tiki Barber, Jerome Bettis -- took a total of six or seven of the 75 minutes.
Did we have more bodies on the set? Not more than Fox, if you count Caliendo and Reynolds, and assuming Schefter joins the ESPN set, ESPN will have the same number. If NBC was overloaded, why aren't those shows overloaded, too?
7. I think there's a good reason why the Saints fell in love with Ohio State cornerback Malcolm Jenkins and drafted him 14th overall in April. He's obviously got a good football IQ. But his love of the game is something Sean Payton, GM Mickey Loomis and the football staff considered a major factor. And this past week, he showed his eagerness. He finished all his Ohio State coursework a week early (Ohio State has three terms, not two, and thus school in Columbus runs into June), pulling an all-nighter before his last final exam Friday, and flew to New Orleans late Friday so he could report for the last two days of Saints' minicamp this weekend.
8. I think if I were a boss in the media -- TV, Web site, radio -- I'd look long and hard at giving Bill Kuharich a job for the fall. First off, I should say I've been a longtime fan of Kuharich's work scouting pro players; he's relentlessly honest (when he is allowed to speak by his superiors) when judging players and appraising teams. The other day, Bob Papa and I had Kuharich on our Sirius show, and he said two interesting things. Regarding the Chargers, he said, "I think they're going to continue to go backwards.'' Regarding JaMarcus Russell, he said: "You can't live up to the billing of being the No. 1-pick in the draft. But I see him growing. Very physical, very strong arm, and his accuracy is improving. I see him learning to manage the game better. I don't know if he'll ever be in the Dan Marino category, but he'll be a good, functioning NFL quarterback.''
9. I think Brian Westbrook, coming off an ankle cleanout that will take him out of harm's way for much of training camp, will be very much what he was last year. He played 14 regular-season games last year, with 287 touches (rushing-receiving). That averages out to 20.5 touches per game. And I'd put the over/under for Westbrook touches in the Philly opener at Carolina on Sept. 13 at 21. In fact, I'd probably take the over in that game.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. If there's a better song playing on the planet right now than Breathe by U2, I'd like to hear it.
b. Jimmy Johnson has been and always will be an open book. But Dan Le Batard wrote such an insightful piece about him in the Miami Herald onSunday that I'm now thinking, "Do I really know the man?" A great, great piece. Le Batard quotes Johnson saying, "Pro coaching is ...'' and then Le Batard writes that Johnson makes a sound like he is vomiting. He also quotes Johnson as saying, "I've blocked out the past. Every dream or nightmare I had for 20 years was dealing with a football game. Stupid stuff. A nightmare that our uniforms weren't ready or something like that. I haven't had a football dream for six or seven years. You know the last dream I had? That I couldn't get through airport security because I was carrying a monkey.'' You've got to read it.
c. Congratulations, North By Northwest, one of my three favorite movies of all time. You're 50 this summer.
d. A few of you, through e-mail and by tweet, have asked me to move up my Father's Day book review column from next Monday to sometime this week. Sorry. Been busy with various work projects, and I've read only two of the books I'll be writing about next week. The column will run a week from today, with five books of various genres. And there will be enough time to shop for dads you love, or dads you tolerate. Here's the deal: If you go online a week from today on one of the various book sites, or if you walk into a bookstore next Monday or Tuesday, you'll be able to buy the book and either hand it to the dad or ship it to the dad in plenty of time for Father's Day.
e. Coffeenerdness: Had the closest-to-espresso coffee ice cream I've ever tasted the other night at Picco on Tremont Street in Boston's South End. I'll be back early and often for that one.
f. I'm thinking about a Monday Morning Quarterback/Twitter-follower gathering somewhere on the road in America during training camp this summer. The question is where. Albany? Bethlehem? Latrobe? Berea/Canton? Bourbonnais? Green Bay? River Falls? Terre Haute ? Mankato? Denver?
g. Herschel Walker said the other day on our radio gig that he's making his MMA fighting debut in November. "I told them I don't want to fight a bum. I want to fight a contender,'' he said.
h. Friday night, Fenway Park, fog and mist rolling over the right-field stands, top of the Prudential Center cut off, 56 degrees according to the Weather Channel, and I can see my breath. June 5 in New England. You've got to love it, I guess.
i. Great to hear from Mike McGuire, our Army First Sergeant fresh back in Germany after a dangerous tour clearing roads through Iraq of Improvised Explosive Devices, about his plans for leave. I wish he could have two years of it, quite frankly, but he's got 32 days. Here's the latest from McGuire:
"For some reason, I have been on a 'Prague' kick and interested in it very much. So I think we are going to travel there for a few days. It's really cool being stationed here in Europe because everything is within driving distance ... I had not told you much about what we did in on this last trip. We built the famous 'GOLD WALL' in Sadr City. It's the tall wall that literally walled in the residents of Sadr City, which is where we were receiving all the IEDs and attacks. The problem was they would attack us and then return into the city, so we walled in the whole city so that whoever wanted to attack us could not hit-and-run into the city and blend in so quickly.
Naturally our main mission was route clearance and insuring the road was clear for everyone else to move along the battlefield. No one goes anywhere on the battlefield until the engineers cleared the way. We were the 'tip of the spear,' it was a rush at times. Sadr City has to be the biggest slum in the world. I could not believe how it looked. One funny thing though was that no matter how bad a place was or what it was made of, they all had satellite dishes on them.''
j. Of course, Mike. They all need to watch the NFL.