ARLINGTON, Texas -- Got into my hotel last night around 10, and the fancy toteboard near the front desk at the Courtyard Marriott had this temperature listed: 100.
Got into my room, turned on the news, saw the extended forecast with the highs reading: 104, 103, 103, 104, 105, 103, 104.
This answers my question about why the Cowboys are inside Dallas Cowboys Stadium for camp right now. With their practice field bubble down, they have no climate-controlled facility at Valley Ranch, so here they are.
Oh, and isn't it convenient that it's the Red Sox vs. the Rangers across the street tonight? A certain someone might be taking that one in with his new best friends from the USO.
Before getting to your mail, three NFL thoughts:
So he goes to Oakland for a third-rounder, which is steep. But you know Al Davis -- he's always going to take a chance on speed, and he's always going to take a chance on players with major questions if he thinks they can be stars. And clearly, the numbers (the 40 speed, the arm strength, the incredible high school pedigree) turned Al on.
Now we'll see if veteran quarterback coaches Hue Jackson and Al Saunders can get it out of Pryor. You can be sure that Pryor's going to have mountains of homework on his five-week break from football when he serves his NFL suspension; Saunders has the thickest playbook of any offensive coach I know.
Alualu and Mincey caved in the Atlanta line a few times. Alualu looks like anything but the reach GM Gene Smith was derided for supposedly making in 2010 when he made him a first-round pick. He's a relentless, spinning machine at various spots of the line, refusing to stay velcroed on a blocker. He's going to be good.
As will be Terrance Knighton, his fellow tackle, when Knighton gets his weight down. He reported to camp at least 30 points over his prescribed 330 and has been working to get that down. Mincey, 6-3 ½ and 272 pounds, is in a four-man end rotation. It's likely Aaron Kampman and Matt Roth will start, while Mincey and Austen Lane will sub in for 20 or so snaps a game.
Jacksonville has no choice but to improve against the run (22nd in the league last year) and overall defensively (28th), or risk being buried by Peyton Manning, Matt Schaub and, assuming he shows up, Chris Johnson in the AFC South. "We're going to be good on defense,'' Jack Del Rio vowed to me. I think Matt Ryan would tell you after getting chased by Alualu and Mincey that Del Rio's right.
The fact that Thomas is never hurt, and one of the most reliable people in the league, make this the easiest contract GM Tom Heckert will ever have to do. It's a big bite out of the $120.3 million cap over the next three seasons, because the cap's not going to go up appreciably. But starting in 2014, when the cap could skyrocket, Thomas' deal will average $10.5 million a year for four years. It may get redone in year six or seven, obviously, but that's going to be very good value then.
Now onto your email:
• CHRIS JOHNSON HAS THE RIGHT TO DO WHAT HE WANTS
It's Johnson's right to do that, and he is. I'm not arguing with his right to do so. Nor am I arguing with the Titans' right to say no. It's business. In the NFL's form of business. Johnson signed a five-year, $12 million contract with $7 million guaranteed when he entered the league in 2008. He's gotten the guaranteed money. Now he wants more. He is worth more. The Titans have said they would pay more -- lots more. In a salary cap system, the simplest thing to do is say, "Pay the man!'' Well, how much? Ten million a year? Twenty? Thirty? He'll end up making $10 million or so per year at some point. But the Larry Fitzgerald contract is really going to hurt the talks, in my opinion.
• A TEBOW FAN CHECKS IN
Good question. I think if I were John Fox I'd be working on a package of plays to get Tebow in the game, without the pressure of the third-quarterback rules this year. (Teams can use third quarterbacks regardless of the time of game without worrying about the first and second quarterbacks being ineligible to return, as has been the case in the past, because teams will be able to dress 46 players this year, not 45 players plus a third quarterback.) Anyone who watched the second half of the Broncos-Texans game last year can see Tebow has some value to a winning team, and a good coach like Fox can figure out a way to get that value out of Tebow.
• DREW PEARSON'S CASE FOR THE HALL
Thanks, Pete. I've never been bullish on things like local team's halls of fame or rings of honor or whatever being big factors in what we do. (And I would hardly call the Cowboys' inclusion of Pearson, 28 years after he retired, a ringing endorsement of his candidacy if we did.) As for the other 43 people on the committee, I cannot speak for them. But in the room, when we've debated various candidates, I don't recall team honors being a factor in election. As for Pearson, I am dubious about his chances. His career directly parallels Cliff Branch's, and I believe Branch is a more deserving candidate (though not by a lot). Their cases:
The asterisk is because Branch barely played in his first and last years, so his career basically is 12 years, Pearson's 11. I just view, in history, Branch a better deep threat.
As for Swann and Stallworth, there are some of us on the committee who felt Super Bowls played too big a part in their election, so that they're in wouldn't automatically make me a proponent of anyone in their era who had better numbers. But I do believe Branch is worthy and I'm not convinced Pearson is.
• WOW. I GUESS I'D BETTER TAKE MY JOB SERIOUSLY THEN
You have no idea how great that sounds right now. Could be a future vacation spot for the Kings! Thanks a lot.
• A COMMON THEME
Troy, you and about 100 of your friends must be thinking the same thing. I've heard from quite a few of you, and I appreciate it. I'm at Cowboys camp today in Arlington (as you can see by the dateline) and I'm going to be writing something in my training camp blog about them later in the day, and more in Monday Morning Quarterback next week.
Here's the problem this time of year: I spend a day at about three-quarters of the teams in the league. Let's take the Texans yesterday as an example. I immerse myself in the team for most of a day and try to learn as much as I can about them, because in my job at
• WHAT ABOUT THE BUCS?
Well, I would like to first defend the honor of Mr. Factoid. To refresh your memory:
Three years ago:
• Josh Freeman was entering his junior year as the quarterback at Kansas State.
• Mike Williams was serving an academic suspension for the season at Syracuse.
• Gerald McCoy was entering his redshirt sophomore season at Oklahoma.
• LeGarrette Blount, fresh out of East Mississippi Community College, was practicing for his first year at Oregon.
Those are the four Tampa Bay Buccaneer players on billboards around Tampa-St. Petersburg now with the club's 2011 slogan, "Climb aboard!
I get your point. The fact is, I simply ran out of clock at 6:15 a.m. Monday and had to board a plane to Houston; if that plane had had wireless, I'd have been able to get something to you. I'm just writing my Tampa Bay preview for Sports Illustrated's