10 Things I Think I Think: On Su’a Cravens, Adrian Peterson, the Dr. Z Memoir and More
1. I think the Su’a Cravens story, is, as one person close to the Washington hierarchy said Sunday, “just plain weird.” But also, as people begin to dig deeper on it, not as much of a shock as you’d think at first glance. Cravens, drafted at age 20 by Washington out of USC in the second round in 2016, told the organization Sunday morning he planned to retire. The Washington Post reported that club president Bruce Allen talked him out of it, and the team placed him on the exempt list, which will allow him one month to decide whether he’ll come back to football. Still, this was the projected starting strong safety, walking into the office of the team president seven days before the opening game of the season, saying he was retiring. A stunner to the public, to be sure.
But as our Albert Breer reported in March, some teammates were skeptical that Cravens, who missed the final three games of last year with a biceps injury, was injured to the point that he couldn’t play. And his absence was a factor (one of many) in the team losing to the Giants in Week 17 and missing out on the playoffs. So even if Cravens chooses to come back to football, it’s fair to wonder how he would be received in the locker room by his teammates, some of whom may feel Cravens picked an inopportune time to quit.
In a revealing story about the Cravens departure Sunday, Mike Jones of the Post reported an eerie detail about how Cravens told those in his defensive backfield group: “Saturday night, Cravens informed his fellow defensive backs in a group text message that he was retiring, a second person familiar with the situation said. Cravens, in the group message, praised each of his teammates for their skills and expressed gratitude for them and their role in his life. He said that he had enjoyed playing with them, but was retiring on Sunday and ended the text message with, ‘Peace out,’ and then removed himself from the group chat. Members of the group chat were both shocked and angered by Cravens’s decision, players said. Some felt like in a sense, Cravens had let them down.” Good reporting by Jones … and in the culture of a locker room, it explains how it could be difficult if Cravens wants to come back to the team a month from now.
2. I think you can’t underestimate the kind of damage a player quite important to the welfare of a team can do by walking away after all the hay is in the barn preparing for a game. I don’t know if the Washington defense had been given the game plan yet for Philadelphia (usually that happens on Wednesday morning before a Sunday game, but with the last preseason game having been played on Thursday, the defensive coaches surely had most of the plan already prepared), but defensive coordinator Greg Manusky was surely planning for Cravens—a physical run-support player at 6'1" and 222 pounds—to be a major part of the plan.
3. I think the Jets can say whatever they want, but very action since the end of 2014—shedding Sheldon Richardson, Brandon Marshall, David Harris, Eric Decker, Breno Giacomini, the diminished Darrelle Revis and Nick Mangold, and adding a second-round pick in 2018—says this team is all about 2018 and ’19, with 2017 being only a bridge to happier days. They hope.
4. I think the Vikings punctured one of the feel-good stories from the 2016 draft. You remember wide receiver Moritz Boehringer, the German kid who blew away a U.S. pro day before the draft and got lots of dratniks fired up about him … and he was one of the Vikings’ cuts over the weekend. Turns out he just didn’t make the adjustment to the pro game in terms of receiving mechanics and instincts.
5. I think the best response to the recent news about the release of the Paul Zimmerman book, “Dr. Z: The Lost Memoirs of an Irreverent Football Writer,” came from an old journalism friend of his and fellow Hall of Fame voter, Frank Cooney from San Francisco. I’ll share some of it: “Paul and I shared a lot of similar perspectives, and probably disagreed on just as many others. We each saw football a bit differently than our journalistic brethren, whom he once referenced as ‘semi-pro,’ which I thought was hilarious. We both played minor league football and cherish those memories and the perspective offered by the experience. We both love the game, our game, and passionately care about preserving the realities of history, despite not always agreeing on those realities. Paul reduces an impassioned antagonist to a mere foil. But it was as much fun as it was frustrating. Paul was THE VOICE in our Hall of Fame selection meetings.
“Paul: ‘Dave Casper is the greatest tight end ever to play in the NFL.’ Done.
“Paul: ‘Howie Long reinvented how to play on the defensive line.’ Done.
“Although he often beat me up in those meetings, I miss THE VOICE. I was lucky to be able to disagree and agree with him face to face from the middle 60s until we were prematurely robbed of his unique self expression. So, thanks for bringing back a flood of memories.”
6. I think Mark Craig of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune got Adrian Peterson to talk some truth Sunday. There’s no way (and the Vikings know this) that Peterson was going to take his exile from Minnesota well, when the Vikings wouldn’t pay him his option-year salary with a cap cost of $18 million. Who could blame the Vikings with a 32-year-old running back? I can’t think of one GM in the league who would have carried Peterson for that money, or anything close. But it has provided motivational fodder for Peterson this offseason, as he told Craig. The Vikings host New Orleans and Peterson in Week 1, and the Vikings are the host team for Super Bowl 52 as well. “In my mind, we’re starting and ending the season in Minnesota,” Peterson told Craig. “Of course I want to stick it to them. I want to stick it to everyone we play. But going back to Minnesota, playing the Vikings? Yeah, I want to stick it to them.”
7. I think the one under-the-radar acquisition I loved over the weekend was the Giants dealing a low-round pick for Steelers cornerback Ross Cockrell. New York gets a feisty and physical insurance policy at a vital position. Watch the Steelers practice, as I did one day in August, and Cockrell really stands out for his run-support and fearlessness. He'll come in handy at a position that always needs reinforcement during a 16-game season.
8. I think Dallas has the most interesting quarterback roster in football. Imagine 13 months ago if you’d told anyone with the Cowboys that the 2017 opening-day Dallas depth chart at quarterback would read: 1. Dak Prescott; 2. Cooper Rush. End. Just amazing how fast things change in the NFL. Rush, by the way, is a Central Michigan Chippewa who completed 32 of his last 36 passes in the preseason and made Kellen Moore instantly obsolete.
9. I think I’m glad we can be done with all speculation to the contrary. One weekend of college football tells us Josh Rosen is the top pick in the 2018 draft. At least that’s what Twitter informed me late last night/early this morning. Good to know. Kidding, sort of. Hats off to Rosen for a ridiculous comeback performance (292 passing yards, four touchdown passes in the fourth quarter) to beat Texas A&M. Seven more months to determine who's going number one to the Jets. Or Browns. Or Niners. Or whichever team.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Story of the Week: by Scott Simon of National Public Radio, reporting for CBS News, entitled “When disaster relief brings anything but relief.” It’s a little cruel-sounding, but read or watch this (both possible), and you’ll understand why at times of disaster such as the Texas flooding, money is precisely what you should send—not food or drink or clothing.
b. Amazing But True Story of the Week: by Mark Arsenault and Jessica Rinaldi of the Boston Globe, about the man who set the record for quickest hike of the Appalachian Trail, Joe McConaughy.
c. The numbers on McConaughy’s hike: 2,190 miles on the trail from Georgia to Maine, 45.6 days, an average of 48 miles a day, walking/running through seven ankle sprains, seeing 16 bears, avoiding four rattlesnakes, being stung by wasps twice, consuming 8,000 to 10,000 calories a day.
d. McConaughy did the trail nine days faster than anyone in recorded history. (He did an unsupported hike, which is with no aid of food or water along the way from others waiting at pre-arranged spots on the trail. McConaughy stopped in towns to get supplies, and pre-mailed himself care packages of things like Oreos and shoes that he picked up at delivery sites along the way.)
e. Now that’s what I call the Player of the Week.
f. C. C. Sabathia is ticked off that the Red Sox’ Edwin Nunez bunted on him Thursday. Sabathia is a mediocre fielder, very heavy, doesn’t move well, and has a bad knee. Why wouldn’t you bunt on this guy! That is one of the dumbest things I’ve heard an athlete complain about. As you know, I am a Red Sox partisan. But if Chris Sale said it, I’d grill him too.
g. RIP Shelley Berman. Many roles, but the one I’ll recall him for is Larry David’s father on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
h. Larry shows up to visit his father at the family place in Los Angeles after being in New York for a few weeks. His father (Berman) greets him. Pleasantries are exchanged. Larry wonders: Where’s Mom? This ensues.
i. “She didn’t want to bother you! ‘Don’t bother him! He’s in New York.’”
j. “Curb” returns Oct. 1, and believe me, I’ll be plugging that the way the internet has plugged “Game of Thrones.” In other words, you’ll be annoyed.
k. Coffeenerdness: Matt Ryan on coffee: “I’ve cut back. Like, I don't have any in the afternoon. For me, I'll have a little bit of coffee in the morning, but no caffeine in the afternoon. I'm a venti Pike guy, and I probably drink about three quarters of it, so I should move to the grande. Black. I've been black with coffee for probably seven or eight years. I try to get away from sugar. As much as you can. I don't care who you are, everybody cheats once in a while, right? I try and not have a ton of sugar.”
l. Beernerdness: From The MMQB executive editor Mark Mravic, pinch-drinking for me this week, after a group of Colorado brewers sent along a bunch of beers to The MMQB: “I swung by Peter’s apartment Thursday for a grab bag of 10 beers; literally, he had them in a big plastic bag. So far I’ve tried eight, ranging from a Helluva Caucasian Stout from Living the Dream in Littleton, brewed with peanut butter, chocolate, coffee and vanilla (tasted like a delicious, delicious pudding) to a Salted Scotch Ale from Mockery Brewing in Denver (rich, caramel, hint of brininess) to an Imperial Kentucky Common from Factotum Brewery, aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels (way too big for me, should be poured in a shot glass). My favorite, surprisingly, was the gluten-free Fat Randy’s IPA, from Holidaily Brewing in Golden. I don’t have the need and hence the call to drink gluten-free beers, but this one—made with millet, buckwheat, rice and Belgian candy syrup—was full-bodied, crisp and easy-drinking. Not as challenging a beer as some of the others in the grab bag, but a refreshing and satisfying quaff. Note to The MMQB’s Matt Gagne and Jenny Vrentas: There are good gluten-free beers around.”
m. Good to see Michael Irvin’s son catching passes for Miami.
n. Good to see Michigan’s unis. They’ll be able to play night games without the lights on with those.
o. Great to see USC give long-snapper Jake Olson, who is blind, the chance to fulfill a lifelong dream—playing in a game for the Trojans. Olson snapped the ball for the final extra point in a 48-31 victory over Western Michigan. “Something I’ll remember forever,” Olson said afterward. Kudos to USC coach Clay Helton for making it happen, to Olson for having the resolve and sticking with a lonely pursuit, and also to Western Michigan coach Tim Lester for having his team not rush on the PAT when the game was out of reach. Very cool moment.
p. It is Sept. 3, and an injury-ravaged Matt Harvey was embarrassing Saturday in Houston, and is 4-4 with a 5.97 ERA. That is so grim.
q. RIP, Walter Becker. Thanks for founding Steely Dan. You continue to give me lots of listening pleasure.
The Adieu Haiku
Dorsett for Brissett.
It’s a trade that almost rhymes.
Labor Day haiku.
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