OXNARD, Calif. — This is going to be a great column. Springsteen and U2 are in it.
Can’t a guy hit his musical go-tos with his first column of training camp?
We’ll head to Arizona, Colorado and California to cover the first five stops on my camp tour here, including an interesting weekend in Orange County, with two transplanted teams practicing 6.5 miles apart in traffic-mad southern California. (Trust me.) First stop: an hour north of Los Angeles, on the Pacific coast, where Jason Garrett returned to his Jersey roots to jolt the Cowboys out of any potential post-Green Bay-playoff-loss funk.
The Cowboys have been here. On the verge of great expectations, I mean. Two years ago Dallas was coming off a 12-4 season and divisional playoff loss to the Packers. Tony Romo got hurt, and a 4-12 debacle followed. Now, they’re coming off a 13-3 season and another divisional playoff loss to the Packers.
And Garrett decided to confront the we’ve-arrived, Dak Prescott/Zeke Elliott-fueled runaway optimism in an oddly negative way when he addressed the full squad this offseason.
We’re not good enough.
“Have you read the Springsteen book?” Garrett said the other day in a lengthy conversation before practice. (“Born To Run,” an autobiography, 2016, Simon & Schuster.) “He’s 20 years old, everybody at the Jersey Shore loves him, but he’s unknown nationally, and a good friend and adviser tells him, ‘If you really want to be great, you’ve got to get off the Jersey Shore.’ And so they pile everything in a couple vehicles and head west to this sort of open mike night in San Francisco.
As Springsteen wrote, the band was part of a four-band showcase; one band would get the chance to move on and perhaps get a recording contract. The Jersey guys went third and thought they killed it. The fourth band, though not as energetic, was very good. Via “Born To Run:”
“They got the gig. We lost out. After the word came down, all the other guys were complaining we’d gotten ripped off. The guy running the joint didn’t know what he was doing, blah, blah, blah.”
That night, Springsteen reflected, sleeping on a couch in his transplanted parents’ home in the Bay Area. “My confidence was mildly shaken, and I had to make room for a rather unpleasant thought. We were not going to be the big dogs we were back in our little hometown. We were going to be one of the many very competent, very creative musical groups fighting over a very small bone. Reality check. I was good, very good, but maybe not quite as good or exceptional as I’d gotten used to people telling me, or as I thought … I was fast, but like the old gunslingers knew, there’s always somebody faster, and if you can do it better than me, you earn my respect and admiration, and you inspire me to work harder. I was not a natural genius. I would have to use every ounce of what was in me—my cunning, my musical skills, my showmanship, my intellect, my heart, my willingness—night after night, to push myself harder, to work with more intensity than the next guy just to survive untended in the world I lived in.”
This was music to Garrett. Because after last season, even after the crushing 34-31 playoff loss to Green Bay, he thought the team was just a little too happy with itself. Not without reason. Prescott went toe-to-toe with Aaron Rodgers and acquitted himself well (Prescott 103.2 rating, Rodgers 96.6), Elliott outgained the Packers team 125-87 on the ground, and it took the miracle catch from Jared Cook and two late 50-yard-plus Mason Crosby field goals for the Packers to survive.
There was some gratification in the maturation of the Prescott-led offense, to be sure. But Garrett searched for a message that would tell his team they shouldn’t be fat and happy and satisfied with being the best band on the Jersey Shore. So Garrett had T-shirts made up saying “Recommit … Every Day” and the Cowboys got his message.
“People talk about taking the next step like it’s some big, obvious thing,” said Garrett. “It’s not. The next step happened just by working hard every day. I just told them, ‘This is our story. This is us. The goal is not to be local heroes. Everything we did last year, we gotta do it again this year, and we gotta do it better.’”
“It hit home,” Prescott said. “I felt him on that story. Here’s [Springsteen] and his band, local heroes, and they go west and it doesn’t work for them. That’s like us, winning the division and being local heroes in our city, in our division. That’s not what we want. We want to be worldwide heroes. That’s what we’re playing for this year—something more than the division—and that story reminded us you’ve got to work for it every day.”
There will be obstacles. Who’s going to rush the passer? Can so many young secondary pieces (free safety Byron Jones and corners Anthony Brown, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis) rise to big roles? Can the early impressive work of potential starting middle linebacker Jaylon Smith (the Notre Damer is trying to return from left-leg nerve damage to be the pivot of the Dallas defense) continue fast enough for him to start?
And can Elliott be the kind of mature long-term star the Cowboys need him to be? We should know part of that soon enough; the league is expected to rule in the coming days on Elliott’s status in the wake of a year-long domestic-violence investigation. Garrett has been working on him.
“I’ve had a number of talks with him,” Garrett said. “I’ve asked him, ‘What do you want to be?’ I’ve had him try to understand the potential paths he could go down, the opportunities he has, on and off the field. They’re off the charts. He’s an infectious, very likable, hard-working kid. My point to him is, ‘If you maximize your abilities, you might be able to make $200 million off the field, like LeBron. Or you could make a million.’ I mean, say you’re AT&T, or you’re Pepsi. You’re looking for a spokesman for your product. What would you do right now? You’d probably say if you’re one of those companies, ‘Oh, we’ll go with Dak. Or we’ll go with Jordan Spieth.’ But that’s in his control.”
The Cowboys, as always, are an interesting chemistry experiment. They have it in their power to build on the strong base they created last year, to be sure. If they do, Garrett will be able to thank two bosses: Jerry Jones, for the players, and Springsteen, for the message.
Rivers the Commuter. Spanos the Pragmatist
COSTA MESA, Calif. — Five points about the first day of the rest of the lives of the Los Angeles Chargers:
• Very weird to see two teams training 6.5 miles apart in Orange County after the greater L.A. area went from 1995 to 2015 with zero teams. With the Rams a 10K jog away at the home of the UC-Irvine Anteaters, the Chargers have taken over the Jack Hammett Sports Complex, installing two gorgeous NFL-caliber fields where soccer fields and flag-football fields once grew. Two miles away, abutting an IKEA, will be the Chargers’ office and practice complex, opening in about a month. Distance from Qualcomm Stadium: 86 miles. Fans who made the trek from somewhere Sunday on the opening day of training camp: about 5,100, according to the team, for the 10 a.m. practice. Fairly impressive, considering no one knew what to expect for crowds. But no one expects that to continue in camp as the Chargers try to build a market here.
• Philip Rivers told me he’s going to commute to the training complex from his northeast San Diego home, about 71 miles each way. He’ll have a driver so he can do work in the car to and from the complex. I asked coach Anthony Lynn how he felt about it, and he admitted, “I’m a little concerned. But Philip has such a unique situation with eight children.” Rivers said his family, obviously, played into the decision, and he said he’s going to be sure not to be rushing out of the facility at the end of the day to get home. “I think it was worth it, all the things I weighed, both sides, for this first season,” Rivers told me after his first practice not as a San Diego Charger. “It was worth a try to commute and keep ourselves in the same home and be in the same schools and have the same support system and go to the same church and do all those things. Early in the morning it will be a piece of cake, just about an hour and then on the way back it could be a little longer. I can’t be the one behind the wheel. I can’t sacrifice preparation, or if I am tired. I wasn’t going to sacrifice being a good teammate either. I didn’t want to be the guy that says, ‘Gotta run!’ That's my favorite part of football, being around the guys and being a good teammate. So we’ll give it a shot.”
• President and CEO Dean Spanos watched from behind the end zone of one of the fields as camp got underway at the facility, which sprouted from nothing in the span of three months. He said he wanted to focus on the future, but he did say a couple of things about leaving San Diego. He said he understood the fans’ ire. But he also said: “I can look myself in the mirror after what’s happened.” On whether he thinks Los Angeles will be a good two-team market, he said, “Obviously, time will tell if this is the right decision. But where were the two teams that moved going in their [previous] markets? The potential for growth is so great here. We know we have to win. That’s obviously a big key in this market.” He also said the 46 suites and the nearly 30,000 seats in the StubHub Center have been sold. When I expressed some trepidation about a minor-league-type stadium for his team for the next three years, Spanos got his back up a bit. “Is that bad?” he said. “Is it bad that every seat is sold, and the fan experience is positive? How is that bad? You may start to see the downsizing of stadiums in sports anyway.”
• Regarding distractions … I thought it was a good idea that the Chargers chose to do their offseason program back in San Diego as lame ducks there. Last year the Rams cavorted from St. Louis to Oxnard, Calif., for the offseason program, to Irvine, Calif., for training camp, and to Thousand Oaks, Calif., for the regular season, while playing near downtown L.A. The number of moves took a toll, to be sure. “Our goal was to be as least disruptive to the football operation as we could,” said Spanos. So the team stayed at its old complex until late June, and those who moved (like GM Tom Telesco) did so in early July; Telesco moved to Orange County, 10 minutes from where the football complex will be built. “It’s been remarkably orderly,” said Telesco. What toll will the move take on the team’s record? No one knows. But it seems pretty obvious the Chargers of 2017 will be less affected by the move than the Rams of 2016, and not just because one team moved 85 miles and the other team moved halfway across the country.
• Regarding San Diego … LaDainian Tomlinson was on hand Sunday as a Charger ambassador, six days before being enshrined in Canton, and early in practice he took a sideline mike to address the fans. Here’s how it sounded:
Tomlinson: “I look forward to representing the Chargers—”
Fan in crowd: “SAN DIEGO!!!!”
Tomlinson: “—in the Pro Football Hall of Fame!”
In other words, the San Diegans are not going to be calling this team “Los Angeles” anytime soon. Said San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Kevin Acee: “San Diego is split between those who think: ‘That’s our team; how can you be disloyal?’ And, ‘They betrayed us!’ But the Chargers stories we write are still getting much more traffic, by far, than Padres stories.”
Signs at camp urged fans to “Fight for LA” and “Fight for Orange County.” The Chargers have turned the page, and day one, though bittersweet for those an hour south, looked pretty sweet to the Angelenos. “We have finality, we have direction,” Spanos said. “This is a great day. Was it worth it? Hell yeah, it was worth it.”
John Elway on Competition, Leadership
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The windows of John Elway’s second-floor office in the Broncos’ offices and training complex show a pristine view of the practice fields as players filter out to cheers from the crowd on the hill across the field. It’s a beautiful day, and all seems right with the Denver world.
That’s because all, or almost all, is right. Elway, 57, signed a five-year contract to remain the team’s football czar last week. Interestingly, as one of the best quarterbacks every to play, Elway’s highest average player salary with the Broncos a generation ago was about $5.6 million a year—in his last NFL deal. This front-office deal is for a reported $6 million a year, with incentives. In so doing, it shatters the glass ceiling of NFL GM contracts; Baltimore’s Ozzie Newsome and Seattle’s John Schneider reportedly make in the neighborhood of $4 million annually.
In six seasons as GM, Elway’s Denver teams are 40 games over .500 (including playoffs). Only New England has won more games in the last six years than Denver. And I wondered: When most superstars don’t want to get up early and stay late on the front-office side of things, why does Elway do it?
“I could never get away from the competitive side of the game, or being competitive,” said Elway, tanned and looking relaxed on the verge of his seventh season running the team. “When I did get away, I had car dealerships and all those type of things, but the competitive side of me wanted to be back involved in some way to where you can have an impact on, or help have an impact on, some games and be involved with it. My gut has been right a lot of the time. I can look at tape and you can evaluate and all those things. I know what I like in coaches, I know what I like in players, I know what I like in the locker room.
“But I will say this, and I say it all the time. This job is lonely at times, because you do have to be the bad guy at times. That’s the thing about leadership. I look at leadership as a quarterback and I look at leadership as a general manager, and that's two different types of leadership. When you are a quarterback, you're working with whoever is in that locker room, so you learn how to get along with everybody and understand the personalities and also work at getting the most out of everybody who is around you as a quarterback. And then as a GM, you're not in that locker room, but you’re having to make the decisions determining who is going into that locker room. So therefore, you are going to have to make unpopular decisions because of the relationships that are created in that locker room no matter what. As hard as the decisions are, every one that I make is made with the idea that the most important thing is the Denver Broncos and our mission of trying to compete for world championships.
“Think you’ll be a football lifer?” I asked. “Or could this contract be your last?”
“If you want to get in this business, it’s the same way as a player as it is in my position: You’re either in or you’re out. There is no halfway in doing this. You can’t sit there and try to take the summer off and come in after training camp and then oversee everything and try to dictate different moves on the team if you’re not totally engaged. If I feel I can’t do it every single day and be 100 percent engaged, then I will step away. We’ve got this five-year deal, and you can say, well that looks like it might be the last one, but who knows how I am going to feel at 62? We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
• Five notes about the Broncos: Three inspirations for preseason reading for coach Vance Joseph: Tony Dungy, Malcolm Gladwell, Winston Churchill. “I love leadership books,” Joseph said, “and Churchill was an incredible leader at a very difficult time.” … I heard the words “more explosive plays” about 15 times in my day here. Denver drafted 5'8" wideout Isaiah McKenzie in the fifth round because his skill set reminded some in the organization of Tyreek Hill of the Chiefs … Von Miller has a personal videographer following him around camp. Just for fun, and for the social-media impact of lots of video postings … Miller’s thighs got ridiculously massive in his offseason workouts. He pooh-poohed that, but see if you notice when you watch Denver on TV … So far so good on Jamaal Charles. “Every time I see him,” said offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, “he says, ‘I feel great.’” Charles has missed 24 of 32 games over the past two regular seasons, and he told me—at least as of now—he has zero knee pain. Denver’s looking to get him eight or 10 touches a game if he can survive.
Can Sean McVay Turn Around Jared Goff?
IRVINE, Calif. — At UC-Irvine on Saturday, on the first day of camp, rookie coach Sean McVay was about as involved as a head coach can be in one position. It was the quarterback group, naturally. McVay bounded in and out of drills, directing the quarterbacks—most noticeably Jared Goff—with the kind of hands-on coaching Goff really needs. When you start seven games as a rookie, lose them all, complete 54.6 percent of your throws, and have the league’s lowest passer rating, hard coaching is good. And necessary.
At first blush, the completions are still hard to come by for Goff. In throws to wideouts against man coverage, he overthrew a couple open receivers, looking like he was trying to be too fine. The most impressive receivers, to me, were rookies Cooper Kupp and Pharoh Cooper. Kupp is not a great separator, but he is such a precise route-runner; his cuts are on a dime. Pharoh Cooper, meanwhile, competes for balls and looks like he’s been here three years. I’ll be fascinated to watch these two competitive players battle for balls—because Goff won’t throw all his passes exactly on target. “There’s 32 number one quarterbacks in the league,” said GM Les Snead, whose job is likely on the line this year, and some of it due to the choice of Goff number one in the 2016 draft. “Jared’s the only one who’s 22 [years old]. That’s really young for a quarterback, obviously. He’s growing into the job.”
But Goff’s arm is strong enough to make the throws, judging by his efforts downfield Saturday. Club people say the big difference between Goff with McVay and Goff last year is the number of potential solutions on each dropback the multiple McVay offense will afford him. Kirk Cousins, last year’s McVay pupil in Washington, says the great thing about McVay’s play calls is that he’d always be able to find someone—at least one receiver—with an open window for a completion. “Like Kirk says,” Goff said here, “this offense has a lot of answers. On every play, the way Sean conceptualizes things, he gives us at least one chance to make a good play. And with the variables in this offense—the deep ball, the trickeration—it’s still not that complicated for the quarterback. I think it’s a great offense for a quarterback.”
McVay will have patience with Goff, who clearly isn’t going to be yanked early in the season unless the results are putrid. I believe the most important addition to this offense is left tackle Andrew Whitworth. The longtime shutdown tackle for the Bengals will spend his twilight years (year?) protecting Goff’s blind side. That was an excellent addition, and a vital sign for a team trying to let a young quarterback have a couple more split seconds to think under pressure. Whitworth looked leaner Saturday, and he moved better than a 35-year-old tackle has a right to. Mostly, he gives off the air of, I got this. Go worry about some other position. “He’s huge for us,” said Goff. “I love having him out there.”
Time will tell on this coach, and this quarterback. McVay knows he needs to find Goff some completions, and that’s going to be his aim coming out of the chute.
Quotes of the Week
“I read a lot. If you don’t have a mentor, read. That’s why libraries exist.”
—Kobe Bryant, in part of his address to Los Angeles Chargers players Saturday afternoon at their opening meeting of training camp.
Players were buzzing Sunday about this Bryant appearance, which was arranged by new Chargers VP of public relations Josh Rupprecht, who was a Lakers’ media-relations man during the Kobe years. Bryant spoke to the team, then opened it up for questions, and spent about 40 minutes talking to the players. “Now that was cool,” said Philip Rivers.
“You don’t expect a lion not to roar.”
—Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, who say he still plans to run even though running puts him at risk for concussions. (He got one when leaving the pocket against Atlanta last year.)
“I like to Winnie the Pooh it, which is just sleep in like a hoodie and nothing else, like Winnie the Pooh. But I can’t do that here, because if I Winnie the Poohed it here in my locker, it’s just weird.”
—First-year Green Bay tight end Martellus Bennett, an iconoclastic sort, who said he slept in Lambeau Field one night last week in his first training camp as a Packer. For some reason.
—Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, on a Gatorade commercial, presumably commenting on his motivation for the 2017 football season. I’ll find out when I get to Atlanta on this training camp trip.
“I’m preparing myself to come back. I am. Every day. I’m preparing to come back.—
—ESPN NFL color man Jon Gruden, to Pewter Report, a Bucs-centric site in Florida, on his desire to coach in the NFL again.
“Pray for us.”
—Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, on the Ravens’ internal consideration regarding signing Colin Kaepernick.
A little weird.
The fact that the Ravens admitted they were talking to team sponsors and fans means, most likely, that they’ve decided internally that Kaepernick is worth the risk. Interesting, because I don’t think that how Kaepernick’s time in San Francisco ended under offensive coordinator Greg Roman—now on the Ravens’ staff—was very good. It’s interesting now, and perhaps a sign of worry about the injury to incumbent Joe Flacco, that Baltimore would consider Kaepernick. But why wouldn’t anyone consider Kaepernick now? The next 33 days, essentially, are a free trial period for Kaepernick with any team. Minus whatever guarantee a team would give him, and that’s not going to be much at this stage—a signing team would owe Kaepernick nothing in salary until and unless he was on the roster opening day. At that point, his salary for the season would be guaranteed for 17 weeks. I continue to think it’s wrongheaded to not bring Kaepernick in at least for a trial, because it’s not going to cost much, and the benefits might be plentiful. That is, if you can take the heat from some quarters for signing him.
The Arizona Cardinals have two receivers named Brown with a first name starting with “J.” They locker next to each other.
John Brown is number 12, Jaron Brown is number 13.
John Brown is 27. Jaron Brown is 27.
John Brown was a highly recruited high school defensive back and wide receiver who enrolled out of high school at a university in the Carolinas (Mars Hill University). Jaron Brown was a highly recruited defensive back and wide receiver who enrolled out of high school at a university in the Carolinas (Clemson).
Stat of the Week
Actually, it’s the Stat of the Offseason: Call it the endangered species that is the NFL general manager. Since the end of the regular season, three teams with successful recent records whacked GMs, choosing head coaches to stay in each place. It’s really quite remarkable. As one longtime (and astute) NFL scout, himself a former GM, told me the other day: “It’s hard to make sense of it, other than the job has become a popularity contest of sorts, and in some cases a competition with the coach for the owner’s affection. And other than the fact that more and more, owners want to be involved in the football end of things.”
The three changes on successful teams, along with the GMs’ résumés there:
Total seasons: 13.
Playoff seasons: 9.
Jobs retained: 0.
Factoid That May Interest Only Me
Meghan Payton is a PR intern at Dallas Cowboys training camp in Oxnard, Calif., this summer. She’s a student at Pepperdine.
And I always thought another member of the Payton family—Meghan’s dad Sean—would one day be a Cowboys employee.
Tom Brady turns 40 on Thursday. Which brings us to this little factoid spanning his first NFL appearance and his next NFL appearance:
Three other fun notes:
• Brady relieved Drew Bledsoe that day, Thanksgiving Day in Detroit, and threw three passes in a Detroit rout of New England. One was complete—to tight end Rod Rutledge.
• Detroit also had a relief quarterback for Charlie Batch that day: the immortal Stoney Case.
• The first game Brady will play in his 40s will also be the first game Belichick coaches at 65.
This is how you know you’re living on the edge of an NFL roster: The Broncos hurriedly imported Stevan Ridley in time to practice at training camp Thursday. He wore number 47. On Friday, he wore number 4. I don’t recall the last time I saw a running back wear either number in an NFL game.
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note
This note is nine days old, but indulge me with it. My wife and I did a bucket-list thing last weekend: We went to see U2 in Dublin. We always thought it would be fun to see the Irish band in its natural habitat, and we were correct. They played in Croke Park, the big Dublin outdoor stadium, located in a working-class neighborhood 10 minutes from the heart of the city, and that made it even better, because the neighborhood and the old stadium were a little gritty. And with it being tucked away in this jam-packed neighborhood, you didn’t know if it’d take 10 minutes or two hours to get a cab afterward.
We pregamed (Guinness, of course) at two bars on the street outside the stadium—and one was a bar with distinct political overtones, paying tribute to the 10 hunger-strikers who died in a 1981 protest against the British government. With U2 songs playing at 85 decibels (best guess), the drinkers were a combo platter of locals and concert-goers from around the world, there for the same reason we were.
The show was much like any on this Joshua Tree Tour. Bono made some mention of how big a thrill it was for the band to play Croke Park, but he didn’t wax eloquently about being back home on the old sod—the only concert in Ireland on this world tour. Seems like it could have been a show in Nashville or Vancouver, mostly. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like the show; I loved it. I just found it odd that with probably 90,000 people packing this stadium, many of whom came from around the world to see it, Bono didn’t talk about what it was like growing up Irish.
I’ve morphed from a fan of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” to latter parts of the album these days, particularly “Red Hill Mining Town” and “One Tree Hill.” The rendition of “Red Hill Mining Town” was accompanied by one of the coolest pieces of video and sound I’ve ever seen behind the band on the near-JerryWorld-sized video board: a 15-piece Salvation Army brass band playing the song, with Bono singing and the Edge playing to match the video. What an inspired idea. The show was very cool—and made better by the fact that, other than the video board behind the band, this was a music show, not a huge multimedia-fest the way the past couple of U2 tours have been. I liked that a lot.
Pretty odd being home in New York the next night, packing for this training camp trip, my ears still ringing from a concert a continent away.
Postscript: Carson Palmer told me at Cardinals camp the other day—as did Broncos president Joe Ellis in Denver—that friends of theirs went to the show too. So we had a good idea, I guess. We just didn’t have it alone.
Tweets of the Week
The former Super Bowl Patriot had been unemployed since November.
From the new season of “The MMQB Podcast With Peter King,” available on iTunes and wherever you download podcasts.
This week: Veteran NFL writer Rick Gosselin from Dallas, and Arizona GM Steve Keim.
• Gosselin on the impact of Terrell Davis entering the Hall of Fame this year after three great years and one very good one, and what it could mean for future classes: “I think it has lowered the bar. And I think a lot of people now are going to think they are Hall of Fame candidates because Terrell Davis is in. Terrell Davis had three Hall of Fame-caliber seasons. A guy like Sterling Sharpe played seven years. He's going to say, ‘Hey, I had a longer stretch of greatness than Terrell Davis. I should be considered.’ It's to a point where he is going to become the Lynn Swann of running backs. Every receiver not in wants to point to Lynn Swann's 300-plus catches. Hey, look, I had better stats than Lynn Swann! And that's the low bar. Every receiver that wants in, that is not in, points to Lynn Swann, and every running back that is not in is going to point to Terrell Davis. And I think a lot of players from other positions as well are going to point to Terrell Davis. I think he got in for the 2,000 yards and the playoff performances. But bottom line is, he is in the Hall of Fame for three seasons in his career.”
• Gosselin on the Hall of Fame candidate this helps the most: “Tony Boselli. Boselli took a huge step forward in last year's class. He jumped over [Washington tackle Joe] Jacoby. I think he [Boselli] is a deserving player. His window of greatness was open wider than Terrell Davis, and I think inside the next two years, I would expect Boselli to be a Hall of Fame player because of what happened in the last few years.”
Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think this is an interesting quote I heard from one training camp observer in New Orleans: “Adrian Peterson looks like he’s 20.” Fantasy footballers are either going to get rich or go bankrupt based on betting on the 32-year-old back having yet another resurgent year. This is going to be an intriguing year for the Saints, in many ways. I’m convinced Sean Payton’s not going to play the same kind of bombs-away football he’s played in the past three years, which have ended 7-9, 7-9 and 7-9. I think he wants to play ball-control football, and the Mark Ingram/Peterson/Alvin Kamara (rookie from Tennessee who should be a good receiving threat out of the backfield) trio at running back should make that possible and productive.
2. I think Jimmy Garoppolo could not be handling his situation with the Patriots any better than he is. Our Albert Breer spent time with him the other day in Foxboro, and if you know Albert, you know he tried 67 different ways to get Garoppolo to say, I’m not really pleased to still be a backup in my fourth year, even though I’ve proven I should be starting right now. No dice with Garoppolo. “I wouldn’t say frustrated is the word,” Garoppolo told Breer for a story we’ll have on The MMQB this week. “I’m happy. I think everything that happens, happens for a reason. I’m happy being here. I’ve gotten two Super Bowl rings. So I wouldn’t say I’m frustrated. Eager to play is probably a better way to put it.”
3. I think my opinion hasn’t wavered regarding Garoppolo. If you were him, would you rather have been shipped, say, to Cleveland this year and start for a franchise where the future is at best uncertain? Or would you rather stay in New England for at least one more year, and either get tagged at huge money next year, be a free agent and get to choose your landing spot, or somehow land with a coach you’ve grown to like a lot—New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels—should he get a head-coaching job in 2018. It’s not that complicated to me as to why Garoppolo knows that, for him, patience is the right play right now.
4. I think one thing really ticked me off this week: the Kansas City Star’s editorial page criticizing the Chiefs for adding Michael Vick as a training camp coach this summer. The reason for the newspaper’s editorial was Vick’s conviction in 2007 for running a dogfighting enterprise near his Virginia home. The Starwrote: “We don’t understand how thinking it was highly entertaining to watch trained pit bulls fatally attack family pets at his appropriately named Virginia dogfighting operation, the Bad Newz Kennels, might make the former star pro quarterback just the right guy to mentor and mold other football players.” So Vick does this heinous crime, spends 21 months in federal prison, serves his time, essentially ruins his career, and in the eight years since exiting prison lives a fairly quiet life off the field. He admits his grievous error, works with the Humane Society as penance. Eight years. And he doesn’t deserve to be able to rehabilitate himself and move on with his life, taking an opportunity that was offered to him by a coach, Andy Reid, with an empathetic streak, working with young players on football and on life? My message to the editorial board of the Star: Do you not believe in people changing? In people rehabbing their lives? Should those guilty of awful crimes be condemned for life to be shut away and not be able to practice some aspect of what they were best at? What a reprehensible, blind editorial.
5. I think none of us had quite the 2017 vacation that Von Miller did. He spent 40 days in Europe following Drake on tour. He saw Drake 22 times.
6. I think when I saw that tight end Eric Ebron went down with an injury for Detroit at Sunday’s practice, I thought this is a player who never will fulfill the expectations of his 10th overall pick in 2014. He’s missed eight games with injuries already. A shame for that franchise—even if this is just something minor.
7. I think the Jags can say whatever they want and minimize the fact that Blake Bortles threw five interceptions in one July practice, which he did over the weekend in Jacksonville. But that doesn’t change the fact that this franchise is highly concerned about whether he can be the quarterback of the future. As it should be.
8. I think we’re seeing a very interesting journalism experiment right now, and it’s by a friend of the show: Former MMQBer Greg Bedard started a subscription site, Boston Sports Journal, covering all the pro teams in Boston, and by this morning had exceeded early expectations, with 2,040 subscribers in the first week. The site was free in the first week and will go behind a pay wall today. Bedard and I talked Saturday about his expectations, and why he did it. “I think our business is in trouble,” Bedard said. “I’m 43, and I should be in my prime covering the NFL, and I didn’t have a job. And not just me. There are a lot of writers like me, probably 100 of us, capable and wanting to work, but without jobs. And I think this is the future—building a community of loyal subscribers and serving them and interacting with them so they preach the gospel of our site and keep us growing.” Bedard feels like I do: Aggregation sites—Pro Football Talk, The Big Lead, Deadspin—whittle away at the traffic for other sites by posting the most pertinent information from stories and linking to the stories … but how many people, after seeing pertinent info, then click the link to read the whole thing on the original site? Aggregation sites have good original content too, obviously, and do some good journalism, and they’re quick to credit other sites. But Bedard is right to try something different. I’ll be interested to see where it leads.
9. I think the Vikings, after completing extensions to vital defensive pieces Everson Griffen and Xavier Rhodes, now must be sure not to let pass rusher Danielle Hunter walk after the 2018 season, when his contract expires. Hunter has the kind of double-digit-sack potential that could make him invaluable in Mike Zimmer’s defense—or, for that matter, anyone’s defense.
10. I think the non-football section will return next week … in fact, I know it will … but let me end this week with something serious: We’re going to continue to get more stories as the months and years go on about the spate of former players being found with CTE after death. It’s inevitable. Fans, and media covering the NFL, are going to have to determine if they want to keep following and covering a sport that will have players who have mental issues later in life. For now, what I think is vital is what researchers are asking for: a wider swath of current and former players (and not just those who report having major personality changes, or who find themselves debilitated mentally later in life) pledging their brains to be examined upon death. Also, if football is going to continue to exist, more communities should do what players like Drew Brees suggest—no tackle football until at least high school. Brees coaches flag football in his offseason and is bullish on the concept of teaching the game through flag, and then, when kids are physically mature enough, having them put the pads and helmets on in high school. It’s an excellent idea, and it could lead to the game’s long-term survival.
The Adieu Haiku
Sean McVay in camp:
Perpetual motion man.
I liked what I saw.
• Question or comment? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.