When last we left assistant vice president of moisture management, Peter King, he was describing The Schiano Factor, the difference a team sees when it hires a head coach that will dress down underlings who serve him the wrong pasta noodle. PK also raved that the Raiders training camp now contains Wifi and fewer zombies. Peter also broke the news that grits are served in the South. Lofty nugget. GRITTY nugget.
But what about this week? Where is Chicago located in relation to Mehville? How important is the preseason? UBER IMPORTANT or FAUX UBER IMPORTANT? Can it be both? READ ON.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — To Bears coach Lovie Smith, the Olympic competition he watched every night after training camp meetings in his dorm room at Olivet Nazarene University was a vital football lesson for everyone in the game.
“If any of you show up with Gabby Douglas hair, you’re cut.”
Ten storylines of the first full weekend of football (albeit faux exhibition football) since January:
That’s right; preseason is fake exhibition football, which means it counts? Unless it doesn’t? Should all sentences having to do with the preseason end in a question mark? They probably should? I’ll work on it? MAYBE?
Luck was eerily terrific Sunday afternoon before a crazed crowd in Indy. Just as Peyton Manning had thrown a touchdown pass on his first preseason pass as a rookie 14 years ago, so did Luck, on a short pass and long run by Donald Brown against St. Louis.
Fire up the Xerox of Fate. Another coincidence: Just as Peyton receives credit for things that are scarcely his doing, so too will Andrew Luck.
I remember sitting with Luck at the Scouting Combine in the hotel room of his agent, which overlooked Lucas Oil Stadium.
“I talked with him! ME! Remember that time I came up with a fictional architecture career for him, just like I did with Eli Manning, who is another person I have talked to! ME ME ME!”
“Let’s not get too excited about anything,” Luck said afterward, “because nobody goes back and looks at the preseason record for anything.” Good point. But that’s not going to stop Hoosiers from waking up with big grins this morning.
You know what’s wrong with Chad Johnson? He doesn’t understand his environment.
Only AFC North teams will tolerate domestic abuse, after all.
Not so funny, but in the first episode of Hard Knocks, Johnson turns to leave the Dolphins’ facility before a day off for the players and says to club director of security Stuart Weinstein: “Hey, Stu, Stu! I promise I’m getting arrested while we’re off.” Weinstein isn’t seen on camera, but a voice, sounding like Weinstein’s, calls back: “Thanks. Call me. I’ll come get you.” Cable TV imitates life.
And media people on The Newsroom are self-obsessed dickholes, just like real life!
I have three words for Roethlisberger, who thought — incorrectly, apparently — that with the draft concentration on the line he wouldn’t have many more nights under siege: Duck, Ben, duck.
Yes, Ben, be sure to tilt your head toward the point of contact with the defender. You might draw an extra flag or two before being crippled.
It’s only coincidental that a big summer storm followed the Browns back to Cleveland from Detroit in the wee hours of Saturday morning.
Unlike the thousands of other coincidences to which PK attaches cosmic significance.
The Packers sign a three-time 1,000-yard rusher, Cedric Benson. He’s rushed for 3,429 yards over his past three Cincinnati seasons, and it’s a why-not signing: Green Bay got the 29-year-old Benson for the veteran minimum.
All parties involved in why-not signings are contractually bound to shrug their shoulders before entering into said agreement.
Jacksonville cuts Lee Evans. It will be a shame if the last ball thrown to Evans in his eight-year career was the difference between Baltimore going or not going to the Super Bowl last January.
Yet also absolutely fitting.
Perhaps I was mistaken: RGIII’s looking very much like a runner.
I counted 20 plays of 11-on-11 piloted by Robert Griffin III in the afternoon practice. Five were designed runs for Griffin.
I know mobility is a great attribute for a quarterback, particularly in a division when you’re facing DeMarcus Ware, Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck each twice a year. But Griffin weighs 217 pounds. Getting him out on the flank so much, trying to make people miss, is a dangerous proposition.
I talked to one influential Redskin source here, who said, basically, that Griffin ran with abandon for the past two years and didn’t get hurt. I looked it up: 26 Baylor games, 328 rushes, 12.6 rushes per game, and he survived. But a 217-pound quarterback is risking his future if he runs 100 or so times a year in the NFL.
Apparently PK didn’t count the zero times RGIII ran the ball in the ‘Skins first preseason game. Obviously, he’s gonna take off at some point during games because the ‘Skins line is dogshit, but just because the team went over a play a few times in one particular practice doesn’t mean it’s gonna be a huge part of their regular gameplan.
Asked whether he feared being exposed to lots of hits this year, Griffin said: “I don’t want to give away any secrets for the season … I can’t talk about how I’m going to be used during the season. Trying to keep that under wraps.”
JUST LIKE A ME-FIRST GLORY BOY TO KEEP ALL THE SECRETS TO HIMSELF!
The van we’re driving around the country in is courtesy of EvoShield, the protective-equipment manufacturer.
Oh sorry, apparently there’s a pop-up ad in the middle of this football column. HO HO JUST KIDDING – IT’S JUST PETER KING HAVING NO PROFESSIONAL INTEGRITY.
It’s got a huge photo of Griffin, one of their pad-wearers, on the side. When I saw Griffin Thursday night in Buffalo, I patted him on the side and wished him well. And there the rib-protectors were.
Memo to EvoShield: The world’s watching. If Griffin runs 100 or so times this year and stays upright, we’re all buying your stock.
DePalma and Arizona free- agent wideout David Douglas are tearing up camp, and remember this: Tom Coughlin loves underdog story guys who tear up camp.
“YOU THERE, MAGGOT WHO LOVES ADVERSITY! SCALE THE SIDE OF THAT BUILDING HOLDING THREE SANDBAGS WITH YOUR PANT LEG ON FIRE OR YOU’RE CUT! SCREAM SCREAM SCREAMMMMMMMMM!”
Eli Manning has two obligations after lunch at the University at Albany dining hall — spending a few minutes with me, then talking to an Albany-area cable station for two or three minutes.
Worst day of summer camp ever.
I used to cover the Giants for Newsday, and one of the competitors on the beat was Mike Eisen, who still covers the team — now for Giants.com. He’s covered the Giants for 27 years. He watches Manning come and go every day. “He could be a free agent from Kent State lots of days,” Eisen said. “He comes out of the cafeteria, and if you want to talk to him, fine; he’ll talk. If you don’t, he just walks on by. It’s no big deal.”
It’s like he’s used to the presence of a person he’s been around his entire career. Incredible!
This is the New York Giants’ camp. This is the Super Bowl champion training camp. In all the years I’ve covered football, I don’t recall a champion going through a camp as anonymously as the 2012 Giants.
They’re actually practicing in undisclosed CIA black sites in Eastern Europe. Peter King had to be kidnapped and taken there with a hood over his head. The all-time annals of anonymity, the Giants are champions of it.
A few factors here. The Giants have neither subtracted nor added any major characters; I don’t consider a third receiver (Mario Manningham) and backup running back (Brandon Jacobs) big losses, nor are Martellus Bennett or Sean Locklear anything but meh acquisitions.
Gonna have to remember to list “mehquisitions” when I write up the Giants preview.
But this afternoon at practice, I reached the conclusion that all of that won’t matter one bit when the real games start.
Unless Eli ran a bootleg in practice, in which case HE’S GONNA DIE!!!!
Tebow ran four times Friday night in Cincinnati. He threw it eight times, but that’s meaningless because of preseason.
Faux exhibition throws, they were.
His runs? Not meaningless.
Because they were the type of runs he only made because Marvin Lewis asked Rex Ryan not to use the Wildcat against the Bengals. THAT MEANS SOMETHING. Unless it doesn’t. MAYBE.
It says here a good chunk of the ground-and-pounding will come from the 250-pound quarterback/punt protector/option runner. I’ll put the over/under of Tebow’s average snaps per game, including plays in the kicking and punting game, at 18. And if I had to go to Vegas with that, give me the over.
Because the Jets are going to have to punt a dozen times a game?
Thursday: Buffalo (Bills-Redskins preseason game, Orchard Park, N.Y.)
Three football nuggets: Odd first game for the starting offense: 14 plays for the starters, 14 passes, no touchdowns. “What it was was a great lesson in our lack of discipline at this point,” said coach Chan Gailey
Wait, so the preseason is significant again? You’re gonna have to do a better job of signaling which things you’re arbitrarily considering meaningless or pointless.
I was at a tailgate with some fans before the game, and expectations here are as high as I can recall since Drew Bledsoe was the hot guy
Hot guy? Obviously don’t have to look far in Buffalo.
Also, if your fan base is being described as the most excited it’s been since the Drew Bledsoe days, you’ve been doing a lot of drinking, my friend.
[Buffalo] made Robert Griffin III go meekly on his first two series, the run defense pulverizing the Redskins’ offensive front. But on the third drive, Washington took it 80 yards in eight plays for the game’s only touchdown. Preseason’s preseason
but that’s not the kind of drive you want to show your fans when the clear expectation is that the defensive front will stifle most of what’s put in front of it.
Now, I know players aren’t going to go overboard with effort in the preseason, and I don’t blame them. Why should Mario Williams risk injury in a practice game with nothing riding on the outcome? The games stink for the most part, and we draw too many conclusions from them.
But an 80-yard drive by an efficient rookie quarterback into the teeth of the best unit of your team … let’s just say the Bills need to go to Chicago Saturday night and harass Jay Cutler more than they bugged RGIII the other night.
The Lions are in the home stretch of building in video on the tablets — it should be in place for the start of the regular season. When that happens, players will be able to look at a play in that week’s game plan and see the complete history of it. They’ll have the ability to look at video of every time they’d run a particular pass play that season, for instance.
“Hmmm. I wasn’t sure this ‘throw a jump ball to Calvin Johnson’ play would be successful, but this video has convinced me otherwise.”
Sometimes at these practices your eyes glaze over. You’re watching drills that often don’t directly translate to what players are going to do on the field, and you wonder what exactly you’re watching — and why.
But then you watch a couple designed RGIII scrambles and you might as well start putting together his obit.
Sunday: In Summation …
Phase one of the SI-EvoShield Training Camp is over.
PHASE TWO: MORE EVOSHIELD WHORING
PHASE THREE: PROFIT (for EvoShield)
Home now for three days, to write and veg out a bit. Before we parted Saturday night at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, ProFootballFocus czar Neil Hornsby, who accompanied me on the first 19 days of the odyssey, asked each other this question: What’s the one major thing we took from every team’s training camp and/or first preseason game? The answers:
San Diego: Starbucks vending machine on site. Minimum 19 wins this year.
Dallas: Such a nice hotel the players get to stay at. I watched no football.
Miami: Could this be the worst receiving corps in the NFL? Could be, unless wing-and-a-prayer wideouts like Legedu Naanee and Roberto Wallace, at least one of them, come through.
Good thing they were super quick to dispatch Chad, then.
Washington: This is Robert Griffin III’s town. Everyone else but Obama is just renting space.
It’s funny because Obama doesn’t own the White House.
New York Jets: In a suburb of Tebowville is concern about where the pass rush will come from. Aaron Maybin and then who?
Ah, Tebowville, the first theocratic small town in America, where loose women are stoned in the street and there’s a Chick-Fil-A on every corner.
Detroit: Running game, meh. If it’s mediocre again, the Leos need someone like tight end Brandon Pettigrew (speaking of meh) to finally play worthy of his first-round pedigree.
Chicago: For the first time in any of our lifetimes, the Bears are north of meh (speaking one last time of meh) at wide receiver.
Someone’s got mehs on the brain. Spending that much time around Cutler will do that to you.
Simple, declarative sentences are good things. Bob Ryan specialized in them.
Which is a lesson PK took to his quasi-heart-ish location, I think, which is a place one takes important lessons about life and writing, a thing I get paid to do, somehow.
He said what he thought without couching it, column after column. “I do want it known that I have spent 44 years doing it from the heart,” he wrote Sunday. I have never once written to provoke or attract attention. I have always done what has come naturally, which doesn’t mean it’s always been right. But no one is right all the time.”
You came close, Bob.
A suburb of Rightsville. A close-in suburb. Not one of those Rightsville exurbs that all the minorities are being chased out to.
Quote of the Week IV
“Arizona will be not charged with a timeout.”
— Replacement referee Craig Ochoa in the Baltimore-Atlanta preseason game.
That’s good to note, especially since the Arizona Cardinals were 803 miles away at the time, and their game in Kansas City wasn’t due to start for another 24-and-a-half hours.
And they still had all their timeouts. Lookin’ good, Buzzsaw!
Offensive Player of the Week
Kansas City QB Matt Cassel. The afterthought of all NFL quarterbacks heading into the 2012 season, Cassel played two series Friday night against the Cardinals. Eleven minutes. Two 72-yard drives. Two touchdowns. If he continues on that pace, the Chiefs will score 896 regular season points and Cassel will have a 152.8 passer rating. That just might be good enough to knock Peyton Manning off the AFC West front page occasionally this season.
Newspapers are dying all over the country, save for AFC Westville, where the daily continues strong, despite its meager circulation of four teams.
Special Teams Player of the Week
San Francisco WR/KR Kyle Williams, who got back on the bicycle Friday night against the Vikings. Almost seven months after fumbling one punt and muffing another in the NFC title game loss to the Giants (see last week’s MMQB and my item about Kyle Williams and his father, White Sox GM Kenny Williams), Kyle Williams returned two punts in a sure-handed way for 28 yards.
He fielded two punts in the preseason without fumbling? REDEMPTION
Goat of the Week
Philadelphia CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, for his irresponsible launching and shoulder/upper arm cheap shot of a defenseless Byron Leftwich, the Pittsburgh quarterback, in the preseason game at Philadelphia. Rodgers-Cromartie is in line for a significant fine — maybe six figures. I think it’s worthy of a suspension. That’s one of the most egregious hits I’ve seen in the league in the last couple of years — worse than James Harrison on Colt McCoy, because you could argue that Harrison thought McCoy was a runner when he lined him up to hit him. Rodgers-Cromartie launched himself in violation of a well-publicized rule, and then hit Leftwich in the head in violation of a well-publicized rule.
The best part about that was dipshit Philly fans booing incredulously that a plainly flagrant hit got flagged.
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me II
In April 1992, the Detroit Lions selected Washington State kicker Jason Hanson in the second round of the NFL draft. That was a week after a youngster in Rockford, Ill., Derek Dimke, celebrated his second birthday.
Hanson is still the Lions kicker, entering his 21st season. He’s played more games with one team, 310, than any other player in NFL history. Dimke, a free agent kicker from Illinois, is in camp with the Lions trying to beat out Hanson.
Really working hard to work up a patented PK fate boner. He wasn’t even born that week. And it was his second birthday. KID EXPERIENCED UNEXCEPTIONAL THING WHILE EVENT OF AS-YET-UNREVEALED SIGNIFICANCE TRANSPIRES.
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week I
Just before 3 a.m. Friday, the SI-EvoShield NFL Training Camp Tour docked in Sandusky, Ohio, and I roused myself and walked to the front desk of one of the local hotels. I said hello to the gal behind the desk and handed her my photo ID drivers license and my American Express card to check in. She looked at the cards and put them down next to her keyboard.
“Last name, sir?”
Not quite believing she asked this question after I handed her two plastic cards with my full name on both, I said, “Schwartz.”
She typed away for three or four seconds, and then said, “Uhhhhh … ”
“Last name is King,” I said. “Just curious — why’d you ask me my last name when I just handed you my license and my credit card?”
“Well, we just want to make sure it’s you who’s checking in instead of someone using your identification,” she said.
My mind raced. If someone was doing that, wouldn’t someone have had to bug my phone or steal my personal information from somewhere to know I had a room at this $119-a-night palace in Sandusky, Ohio, and then use my stolen or forged cards to check into said Sandusky palace?
It’s the most colossally stupid thing I can remember at a hotel front desk, but I had no desire to say anything else at 3 in the morning in Sandusky, Ohio, other than, “Where is the nearest pillow?”
Heavens! You had to hand this woman your license AND tell her your name? That is less hospitality than it is outright torture. You were right to waste a minute of our time with your second of inconvenience.
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week II
Sometimes you’re on a grinder of a trip — which this SI-EvoShield NFL Training Camp has been, even though it’s been tremendously educational and fun — and you build in what you hope will be a relaxing night in which the subject is something other than whether the Jets will be OK at right tackle with Wayne Hunter. And so last Wednesday, I saw we’d be finished at the Jets by 2 or 3 in the afternoon and headed to Buffalo for the Bills-Redskins preseason opener Thursday night, and there, between Cortland, N.Y., and Buffalo, was a New York-Penn League town, Auburn, with a 7 p.m. game against Jamestown.
So Team SI — me, video man John DePetro, staff writer Matt Gagne, intern/driver Jack Ford (who, when wearing his Ray-Bans, could pass for Tom Cruise in Risky Business) and Pro Football Focus’ Neil Hornsby, along for the ride — dropped into Auburn for the game. The GM, Adam Winslow, invited me to throw out the first pitch, and Matt Gagne came up with the brilliantly potentially embarrassing idea of me throwing out the football in our van for the first pitch instead of a baseball. “Go for it!” Winslow said.
Fuck you forever, Adam Winslow.
Then we lined up outside the Auburn dugout, Team SI right next to Abner, the Doubledays’ mascot (Abner Doubleday once lived here). “The mascot’s a 16-year-old kid from here,” Winslow said. “He grew up coming to the games, loved the Doubledays, and always wanted to be the mascot. So he came to us this year and got the job. That’s how much this community loves the team — kids grow up wanting to be Abner.”
Who wouldn’t want to be the guy who gets credit for doing something he never did? Every kid should have such lofty aspirations.
We settled into seats on the third-base side, talking to locals who’ve been coming to the games for years. They told us the history of the town — about the homes of former Secretary of State William Seward and abolitionist Harriet Tubman, and the maximum-security prison in town, where the electric chair was first used in 1890.
Whoa. The first electric chair. That’s interesting, I said.
“It’s downtown now, in Swabe’s,” one of the friendly fans said. “That’s a bar.”
“Well,” I said, “we’re going to have to see that.”
“Is there ash from burned people that I could add to my concentration camp gravel collection?”
At Swabe’s, a bar with lots of prison memorabilia, the electric chair is housed behind bars, and the bartender said there’d be no chance of us sitting in it. So the boys played pool while I read up on the chair. And here was something I didn’t expect: The assassin of President McKinley was put to death in the chair in 1901. What a story, in so many ways. The Auburn paper from Tuesday, Oct. 29, 1901, reported on the electrocution of Leon Czolgosz, a self-proclaimed anarchist born to Polish immigrants in Michigan. Amazing the description of the assassination, which occurred at a world’s fair in Buffalo on Sept. 6, 1901.
Sometimes you never know what you’re going to get when you set out on the summer camp trip. But this is a day I won’t soon forget, and Auburn’s a town I won’t forget.
They have children with depressing dreams and an old electric chair that came from somewhere else. What a country.
Tweet of the Week II
“Davie police said fight between Chad Johnson and his wife started over a receipt for a box of condoms.”
— @BenVolinPBP, the Palm Beach Post’s beat writer for the Dolphins, Saturday evening.
I must say that was an eye-opener.
I, too, was surprised that Chad engaged in protected sex.
Tweet of the Week IV
“@SI_PeterKing How could Woody be surprised at the amount of Tebow coverage?”
— TonyDungy, asking me the question after Jets owner Woody Johnson said he was surprised at how much media Tim Tebow, the crossover religious/sports news magnet, was getting in training camp.
“SEE!? YOU SEE!? THE DUNGE! TALKING TO MEEEEEEE! EVEN WHEN HE DOESN’T HAVE TO PUT UP WITH MY PANTING ON HIM AT ROCK CENTER DURING THE SEASON!”
Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think I think I love Lovie Smith’s love of the Olympics. “They’re on my bucket list,” he told me. “After I finish coaching, I’m going to go. I’ll just be another American supporting our athletes. That’s the one thing I really look forward to doing.”
I do remember thinking the dressage competition could use more challenge flags.
3. I think it’s clear Jonathan Vilma had a very good day in federal court Friday, trying to overturn the NFL’s suspension of him. Very good, but not great. Great would have been Judge Helen Berrigan dismissing the NFL’s suspension of Vilma, and though it seemed clear she wanted to act in his favor and strike down his one-year ban by Roger Goodell, she felt she couldn’t do so because she wasn’t legally empowered to. She said holding off on a decision “makes me crazy because I don’t think it was fair,” speaking of the suspension process. So it appears Berrigan will take some time to try to find a way to examine what exactly Goodell has a right to do and what he can’t do.
One more note on the Vilma case: His court filing last week identified me as someone “commonly known as a go-to-source for NFL leaks.” When I saw that, my chest puffed out a bit. Maybe it’s true, maybe it isn’t. But if it is, isn’t that what reporters want? Don’t reporters want to be known for finding people in the business they cover to tell them things that are hidden from the light of day? I’ll never be a twentieth of a Woodward or a Bernstein, but this business is all about telling readers and listeners and viewers things they don’t know. And I’d be proud if in this case I’ve done that.
“Aren’t I right to feel proud because I’m the best at what I do?”
Also, Goodell favors PK because he’ll print whatever he says without putting it through the filter of analysis or scrutiny. While that may technically be a leak, it’s only the information or slant that the source wants to get out. In short, PK feels even better about being the worst.
4. I think I have no inside information on this — I really don’t
— but I’m hearing that no one in the Cleveland front office or coaching staff should feel secure beyond December. Prospective new owner wants to judge everyone fresh.
Also the go-to source for unattributed hearsay you can’t trust him on.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
b. Separated at birth: Paul Ryan, Andrew Siciliano.
c. Can’t take credit for that comparison. Chicago radio man Zach Zaidman of WSCR gave it to me. I looked Ryan up, and it’s spot on.
Sorry, Paul Ryan can’t achieve flight by flapping his ears so the comparison doesn’t hold.
e. Regarding the Auburn Doubledays on Wednesday night: I got a great kick out of their front office staff. The Doubledays have a Head Groundskeeper/Vice President of Moisture Management, Brian Rhodes … and an Assistant GM/Vice President of Tarp Operations, Jason Horbal.
Assistant Secretary of Going Through Something Emotional
g. Coffeenerdness: Really, Marriott Towne Place Suite and Residence Inns. Have you tasted the stuff you call coffee? It’s barely coffee-flavored water. I congratulate you on your fine morning oatmeal, and when you have Cheerios — plain, good old-fashioned Cheerios — I couldn’t be more pleased. But the coffee tastes like you’ve used the same coffee through the same filter about four times. Weak beyond belief.
MUST I ALWAYS BE FORCED TO TREK TO CHARGERS HEADQUARTERS FOR QUALITY COFFEE!
h. Beernerdness: Sometimes in this business, you just get lucky.
Constantly, horribly, undeservedly lucky.
Leaving Washington’s camp, we found a shop, Total Wine, with Bell’s Oberon Ale. I’d only had this once, a couple of years ago, but had fond memories of it. Wasn’t disappointed sitting in the back of the EvoShield van on the way to Giants’ camp, writing and having a couple. It’s a lighter wheat ale, a little spicy. Just what I needed on the Jersey Turnpike at 11 at night.
That stings. I shop at Total Wine pretty often, but I guess I have to hate it now ’cause PK went there. At least I can take solace in the fact that he went to a supermarket-sized alcohol retailer with a massive selection to get a beer that is sold at Safeway.
i. This is either my favorite hard-news newspaper lead of the week, or This Week’s Sign That We’re a Really Screwed-Up Country, or both, from Brian Ballou of the Boston Globe: “The longtime parking enforcement officer tried twice to wave veteran MBTA bus driver Lataria Milton out of the left turn lane at a busy Kenmore Square intersection Thursday morning. But Milton defiantly returned the hand gesture and continued eating a breakfast sandwich inside the empty bus parked on Commonwealth Avenue, transportation authorities said. The officer wrote a $75 ticket, and when she tried to place it on the windshield of the bus, Milton inexplicably hit the gas, authorities said. The bus lunged forward and struck the officer, who managed to get out of the way before the bus plowed into several vehicles waiting at a traffic light.”
Replied all of Boston: FIRST YOU LET THE DAHHKIEES RIDE THE BUS, THEN YOU LET DAHHHHHKIES DRIVE THEM! WE SAID THIS WOULD HAPPEN! NO ONE DENIES THIS!
k. Got a lot of catching up to do on “The Newsroom.” Someday.
I’d say that show is pretty much your life, Peter, but at least The Newsroom stays on subject.