When last we left waded beef container, Peter King, he was instructing us that it’s irresponsible to draw conclusions from the preseason, BUT DID YOU JUST SEE THE BILLS STARTERS GIVE UP THAT 80-YARD TOUCHDOWN DRIVE? No way that team wins more than four games! Peter became the Mehville regional office sales representative for EvoShield. He also threw out a football for the first pitch of a minor league game, because screw you, everybody.
But what about this week? Is EvoShield still the bestest stock option on the market? Should you pour all your assets into it THIS VERY MINUTE? Or at least wait until RGIII survives Week 4? Good question. Lofty question. READ ON.
GREEN BAY, Wisc. — The highlight of the week that was, looking at my 19th, 20th, 21st and 22nd NFL teams prepping for the season?
Finding another memento from the death of a presidential assassin in a dive bar?
Easy. It was the 27-year-old coaching apprentice, talking into a walkie-talkie, communicating with his captain on the field, looking completely in charge.
Ah, the latest installment of This Week In Precociousness. This young assistant leads the league in pseudo-authority!
1. Too bad Andrew Luck will have only one national game this year. In Colts camp Friday, I asked Luck what had surprised him about his first NFL camp and preseason. He paused. “Not much, really. Can’t really think of anything.”
Andrew Luck is already a fusty old white sportswriter’s wet dream. He’s a studious white player with nothing to say and is therefore an ideal blank slate for people like PK to project all of their prescriptions for how a lofty player ought to carry himself.
Except for one bad interception at Pittsburgh Sunday night, in which Luck either didn’t recognize a well-executed zone blitz or saw it too late, he’s playing like nothing surprises him.
Nothing surprises Andrew Luck, except the one complex blitz he saw that led to a pick-six. But it’s okay, because he had nothing to say about it. His architecture speaks for itself.
3. Blaine Gabbert’s playing like the 10th pick in the draft should play. Two preseason games: 18 of 26, 174 yards, three touchdowns. Your magic spell is working, Mike Mularkey.
The magic spell that makes preseason statistics significant?
Ryan Tannehill creeps ahead of Matt Moore in Miami. It’s clear Tannehill’s going to play, and play early this season. Will that be the opener at pressure-bringing Houston?
Indeed. Week 1, fans will see game-starting Ryan Tannehill and the field-taking Dolphins battle against the home-fielding Texans in the Bowl of Awkwardish Syntax.
The league is trying to get the public on its side by revealing pieces of the talks — saying the locked-out officials want a 20 percent increase in year one of the deal, and saying the league’s offer includes making seven officials (one from each job on a crew) full-timers and adding three more full crews. The added officials, in theory, would give the NFL a “deeper bench” and allow the league to sit poorly graded officials for a couple of weeks and use officials from the backup crews.
Interesting concept, but I view it as clouding the real issue, the financial issue. The league could take the money it’s thinking of using for the three new crews and plow it into a better offer to the real refs.
And solve none of the outstanding issues with the regular officiating, which is that none of them work full-time and there’s not enough accountability when they do fuck up.
10. The $21,000 fine to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for his hit on Byron Leftwich was incredibly light. I don’t care if these players don’t get paid for the preseason games the way they do the regular season — Rodgers-Cromartie, who was unrepentant over the hit (surprise!), launched himself into Leftwich and throttled him in the head. A textbook case of launching and hitting a defenseless quarterback in the helmet during the act of throwing gets $21,000? It’s just wrong. That hit needed six figures or a suspension — or both.
Jesus, PK. It’s his first career fine. Goodell already knows you’re his lapdog without going out of your way to support outrageous fines and suspensions.
Now for the my trip across the Midwest over the past few days.
Wednesday: Chiefs (Missouri Western State University, St. Joseph, Mo.)
Football nuggets: Dexter McCluster might be listed as a running back on the roster, but he’s not anymore.
He might be listed as a running back, unless he’s not.
Let’s make one thing clear: The Chiefs weren’t 7-9 last year because they didn’t like their coach.
They were 7-9 because they didn’t dislike Boss Todd enough.
But there’s little doubt these players are breathing easier with a coach they like and respect more than Todd Haley. “It had to happen,” one player said of Haley leaving and Romeo Crennel replacing him. “Players were afraid of speaking up. The environment just wasn’t healthy. I think it really wore on Matt.”
“It really wore out his throwing arm having to constantly buff the paint on Todd’s Camaro.”
Cassel, who missed the final seven games after breaking his hand against Denver, has chosen not to say much about Haley. The ex-coach’s father, former Steeler personnel man Dick Haley, told the Pittsburgh Tribune Review that Cassel was “real average” and “it didn’t surprise me what happened in Kansas City.”
Todd Haley: “Don’t call me a dick, you fucknugget. Dick is my father’s name.”
A good story brews in St. Louis
The other day, Chris Long was talking to one of his teammates, middle linebacker James Laurinaitis, and said, “You know, I’m the second-longest-tenured Ram.” A player entering his fifth year, and only one man (nine-year-veteran running back Steven Jackson) has been on the team longer. Even in the transient world of the NFL, that’s pretty amazing. It’s no surprise, then, that the offensive signal-caller is a 24-year-old: Sam Bradford. And the defensive signal-caller is Laurinaitis, 25.
So if a 27-year-old coach calls the defensive signals anywhere, it would seem to fit here the best. And on this afternoon, inside the team’s indoor facility, young Blake Williams — Princeton-educated son of suspended defensive coordinator Gregg Williams — constantly has a walkie-talkie to his mouth before plays when the offense squares off against the defense. And Laurinaitis and his backups take the play call and give it to the huddle.
When word came down of the Saints’ bounty scandal and Gregg Williams’ role in it, he had to leave the staff, and was later suspended by commissioner Roger Goodell for at least the season. Fisher decided to make the defensive duties a team effort and didn’t name anyone the play-caller. But in some ways it seems smart to let the person closest to Gregg Williams, the person who’s been in training to someday use this attacking defensive system as a coordinator himself, have a chance to call the plays. Which is what Williams was doing throughout this practice.
There are few thing Peter King prizes more than being a coach’s son. Okay, there are lots of things, but most of them involve coffee, the Acela quiet car and citrus beer. But in terms of football, PK thinks being a coach’s son is the ultimately leg-up. Or, as is the case for shitheads like Kevin Kolb or Josh McDaniels, it covers every glaring inadequacy. In some cases, it justifies them. In other words, sorry your defense is still gonna suck, Rams fan(s).
Said Long: “He comes from a football background and has done a great job of hitting the ground running following the whole conflict. We’ve done a great job of keeping that separate from here. It’s almost as if it didn’t happen. We’ve got so many good coaches on this staff — he’s one of them — and it’s been a seamless transition. He’s doing a great job. It’s been a non-issue. We’re all adults here. Things happen. He comes from a football background, he’s got good football knowledge and he’s not one of those guys who rests on his laurels because his Dad was whoever. He’s just a good coach. He doesn’t make any issue of what happen with his Dad. It’s not something that comes up.”
Except for the 45 times I mention his football background within the span of a minute.
Friday, Colts (Anderson University, Anderson, Ind.)
This is one of the oddest rosters I’ve seen in my years covering the league.
The Colts lead the league in oddities. They’re carrying six fullbacks. And all of them are batboys.
I mean that in a good way — I think.
Kind of, MAYBE.
That’s GM Ryan Grigson’s deal — he wants to find players to consistently churn the bottom of the roster. When I told him Bill Parcells once said he spends half his time in camp thinking about the bottom five guys on his roster, Grigson slapped his hands together, “THAT’S what I’m talking about — that’s an inspirational thing for me to hear,” he said. “That’s what I believe. You know how teams sometimes talk about ‘camp guys?’ Or they say they have to get a body for training camp? I tell our guys, ‘We don’t have camp guys. And I don’t want to hear you say I found a body for camp. No. If they’re here, they’re here because they’ve got a chance to make our team and make us better. And I don’t want our scouts or coaches just repeating what they’ve heard about a guy. I want them having opinions on players.”
“No Camp Guys. We stick to Tryout Guys around here.”
I’ve always thought if I were a marginal player I’d want to sign with a coach, or a team, with the reputation of meaning it when they say, “The best players will make the team.”
So you could be cut because you were a marginal player?
Tom Coughlin’s like that; he pointed to a couple of free agent wideouts at camp two years ago, early in camp, and talked about how impressed he was with them. One was Derek Hagan, who made the team. The other was Victor Cruz, who, well, you’ve heard of him.
As opposed to other coaches, who are more than happy to let promising players walk.
I bet once this year, maybe twice, one of these new longshots makes a play or a block in the fourth quarter of a close game to determine who wins and loses. Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano would be able to point out to the team the lesson of having the best guys make the team, and the best guys play — no matter how they got on the practice field.
And in the 10 games the Colts lose, Pagano can point to the fact that his team is largely Longshot Tryout Guys and therefore fucking sucks.
Andrew Luck notes from my brief time around the Colts:
1. Nothing looks uncomfortable for him. I don’t know any better way to say it.
I don’t know; I found that look pretty uncomfortable.
Sunday, Packers (Lambeau Field, Green Bay)
This is the way my Sunday morning in Green Bay started: with a run. A five-miler. I wanted to see if I could run it all on streets with Packer connotations, and I found it was much easier than I thought.
What PK means to say is streets named for particular Packers. Streets with Packer connotations would be DOIN’ IT THE RIGHT WAY WAY and Kiddie Touchin’ Tight End Boulevard.
I started from my hotel on Tony Canadeo Run, running west, curling around Brett Favre Steakhouse, went left on Brett Favre Pass, right on Holmgren Way a short jog up to Lombardi Avenue, turned around, ran two miles or so south down Holmgren Way, then came back up Holmgren Way, took a right onto Brett Favre Pass, curled around Brett Favre Steakhouse on Tony Canadeo Run, and back to the hotel.
Had I wished, I could have jogged a couple minutes further down Tony Canadeo Run and hit Reggie White Way, then Bart Starr Drive. But why use up all the fun on one trip here?
Plus, by that point, PK had already skipped inside the Brett Favre steakhouse and was already humping his Land Baron body pillow under one of the corner booths while chugging a Leinenkugel.
Anyway, good day to catch up with the Packers. Rodgers told me he’s got no scars from the stunning loss to the Giants in the playoffs, and, like Eli Manning, he’s always done a good job at forgetting bad games quickly after they happen. “The Giants played great and we didn’t,” he said. “It’s a surprise because we were 15-1 in the regular season, but they deserved it.”
Clay Matthews, caught up in some not-so-friendly fire with the Giants because he said to Yahoo!, “The Giants didn’t beat us; we beat ourselves,” told me: “If they want to use that as motivation, let ’em. Isn’t that what everybody says after they lose?”
Rare credit to Petey for framing those quotes like that to further highlight Clay’s towering douchebaggery.
Finally, something to make ESPN really happy this morning …
On HBO’s Real Sports this week, Bryan Gumbel interviews Jon Gruden, who was handed the Monday Night Football analyst job solo this offseason and has signed a long-term deal with ESPN. The network has insisted that Gruden is a football analyst retired from coaching. But in the interview with Gumbel, Gruden says: “I’m trying’ to figure out where I’m going. If the right opportunity presents itself, I will come back.”
Arguably the only halfway useful news nugget PK has in this entire seven million word column. Of course, it’s not even a surprising revelation. AND it’s buried at the bottom of the second page. It’s like seeing a week-old newspaper headline protruding out of dogshit.
Offensive Player of the Week
Jacksonville QB Blaine Gabbert. Twenty-four hours after venting to Yahoo!’s Mike Silver about the critics who (justifiably) ripped his 2011 play (“They can’t do my job; there are 31 other guys that can do my job, and that’s it”), Gabbert continued his ascending preseason at New Orleans with a 13-of-16 night, for 112 yards and two touchdown passes. Gabbert looks night and day from last year, when Curtis (House) Painter had a better passer rating.
Not only is Peter still gleaning questionable conclusions from the preseason, but he’s venturing into Berman-level atrocious nicknames. Eventually, I could see him becoming an unstoppable force of hackery, adopting the most loathsome traits of all the worst sports media entities.
Defensive Player of the Week
Minnesota LB Audie Cole. Pretty easy choice, because of one of the craziest 13-second spans of any preseason game ever.
Of all the unverifiable things PK is willing to claim, he equivocates on whether a linebacker having two pick-sixes on consecutive plays could be considered the wildest 13 seconds ever in the preseason, which no one gives a shit about enough to call him out on.
Quote of the Week III
“We’ve offered raises of 5 to 11 percent. Just because the owners can afford to pay more doesn’t mean you do it. You’ve never paid for an NFL ticket to watch somebody officiate a game. Nobody has ever paid to watch me be the league supervisor for a game.”
— NFL vice president of football operations Ray Anderson, to Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, on the NFL’s negotiating stance with the locked-out game officials.
Nothing I can do with that airtight syllogism. After all, fans have paid handsomely for decades to watch athletes slam at each other in a no-holds-barred forum to the death, in which the victor is determined by either a vote by fans or whichever team has the most surviving players at the end of the bloodbath. No way would a appreciable deficit in officiating quality detract from the quality of the play on the field or the enjoyment of the fans. Also, the NFL wanted to take money away from the players just a year ago. And yet here is fuckweasel Ray Anderson claiming that it’s the players that fans truly want to see.
If you watched the Chiefs much last year — and in the NBC viewing room, we got to see a lot of every team —
Because we have the optimal viewing experience available only to the tippy top of the media elite, which you are not, you see.
you noticed a sloppy team.
An observation that couldn’t have been made anywhere but 30 Rock. THE DUNGE POINTED IT OUT TO ME!
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
Janoris Jenkins, the second-round pick for St. Louis, will start at cornerback for the Rams. He was the 39th overall pick in the draft. The Rams have put a program in place to be sure he can concentrate on football while still taking care of his parental obligations.
It is well-documented that Jenkins has children with three different women. But the amount of work the Rams have done with him to clear his plate and let him focus on football has been quite significant.
The Rams had a consultant to the team manage the child-support payments for the five children. The complicating factor there: Each of the three mothers lives in a different Florida county — with different child-support laws the consultant had to navigate to put a plan in place so Jenkins would be in compliance monthly. In addition, the consultant arranged for Jenkins’ mother to live in a duplex home in her hometown in Florida — and found a friendly neighbor to live in the other half of the duplex.
ARRRRRGGGGHHHHHHH! See, THAT’S the fucking story I wanna read about, not some fuckwit coach’s son who is almost certainly going to be gifted a coordinator and likely a head coaching job down the line. No, I want to know about the pour soul who has to tend to Janoris Jenkins’ various child support payments through the legal morass of Florida law. Holy shit, there’s so much potential there. I’ll just have to wait for an actual journalist to follow up on it.
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week
I noticed one thing on the driving portion of the trip: We’ve got some great high school nicknames in this country. These come from the towns we either drove through or skirted close by over the last three weeks:
1. Yuma (Ariz.) Criminals. Love Yuma High’s website: “Proud Home of the Criminals.”
Deploy all Lions scouts, at once.
2. Effingham (Ill.) Flaming Hearts, so named because a local resident started a campaign to call the town “the heart of America.” More importantly, Uwe Blab played there.
3. Cairo (Ga.) Syrupmakers. The Roddenberry’s Syrup Plant used to be there. I also like the name of the Cairo High yearbook: The Raconteur. (I have to admit we weren’t that close to skirting Cairo — likely about 70 miles. But the nickname was too good to let it pass.)
4. New Berlin (Ill.) Pretzels. Is there a better high school logo in America? Check it out.
Name five more better MS Paint logos. You can’t.
5. Speedway (Ind.) Sparkplugs. Well, I may have spoken too soon. Kids in Speedway grow up wanting to be Sparkplugs.
Who wouldn’t want to be Bob “Sparkplug” Holly?
Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think this is my last word on the officials lockout: Roger Goodell got hired as commissioner, in part, because he was a consensus-finder, a bridge-builder. People who build bridges should be able to find a solution to this stalemate with the real game officials, because there is simply too much at stake not to find one.
Where the fuck was that plea during the players’ lockout? Stifled by The Ginger Hammer Handle being crammed down his gullet?
The money involved is not a crippling sum. The bridge can be built, I’m told, with $12 million or $15 million over a seven-year period. That’s simply not a big enough amount of money to have unqualified officials lord over games that could determine a playoff spot.
“But the NFL could have gotten along with scab players, no problem.”
On my camp trip this week, one player told me: “Suppose the Cowboys lose a game because of an incompetent call in the first couple of weeks, and suppose that costs them the playoffs. We all know Jerry Jones would write a check tomorrow to end the lockout if he knew it would mean the difference in a win for his team.”
So the solution lies in the Cowboys being screwed over? I can support that.
8. I think if defensive end Chandler Jones isn’t a bona fide star as a rookie in New England, you can shred my scouting card. (If you can find it, that is.)
In pieces, after being shredded tens of thousands of times.
9. I think, for those who (rightfully) chided me last week for my nine uses of “EvoShield” in the column, I accept your criticism of me using EvoShield excessively and promise I won’t use EvoShield again except when absolutely necessary to use EvoShield. Kidding, kidding. Seriously — I was excessive in my mentions of the firm.
That’s downright noble of you. Provided you don’t have ay sickening excus –
Here’s what happens at the this time of year: I write the column in chunks during training camp, and when I write something Tuesday night, I often don’t recall everything exactly how it’s written, so the thing I might write two nights later could include references that will appear redundant when the whole thing is read together. Again, my fault.
Someone actually expects PK to proofread his own stuff? That’s like expecting a barista to remember the quadruple shot of nutmeg in your lardaccino. Once again it’s all Sports Illustrated’s fault for giving into PK’s demand of not having his endless drivel looked over by an editor before publication.
Anyway, for those who wondered about whether I get paid per mention of the protective-equipment company, I don’t; I’m not paid at all by the company. Sports Illustrated and the company made a business deal to allow me to use their 30-foot van to travel around the country to NFL camps. In exchange for using the van to make the driving portion of my training camp trip, part of the deal was to refer to the trip as the “SI-EvoShield NFL Training Camp trip” when I wrote about it in this column. Which I have done.
Just because you didn’t reap any individual gain from the arrangement doesn’t make it not monstrously unethical. In fact, that you didn’t disclose that your publication had reached an agreement with the company and dictated to you that you MUST refer to your trip by that name makes you absolutely complicit. That you just so happened to drop the company’s name in every third paragraph doesn’t make it look any better.
Now, regarding the question I asked Robert Griffin III about wearing the company’s gear last week, I’ll defend that journalistically, because the padding is a different, lighter, less obtrusive kind of rib padding that I think could be part of his story this year — simply because if a 217-pound quarterback leaves the pocket a lot (which I believe Griffin will do) then how he is protected when he leaves the pocket, and the fact that this gear is new and different from the NFL norm, could end up being significant. And that’s whether he plays out the year uninjured or misses time because of injury. That’s probably more than you wanted to know, but in the interest of full disclosure, there it is.
Yes, Peter King was just practicing journalistic responsibility by suggested we should all run out and purchase EvoShield stock if RGIII doesn’t get hurt this season. That’s sound financial reporting Darren Rovell could be proud of.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. I plead guilty to being an old man smitten with Bruce Springsteen. Guilty as charged — plenty.
Sentenced to death by Allagash poisoning.
d. I’m half-tormented about the televising of children playing baseball, and I’m slightly troubled by exposing kids to the fame that nationally televising the Little League World Series can do. But I have to say those two Friday catches by the Canadian team gave me chills. It’s just charming to see kids do great things and to exult the way they do.
I’m half-tormented, slightly troubled and all the way charmed by these exciting kid catches. The thrill of conflicting half-emotions.
h. There aren’t many more enjoyable and informative voices on the radio than NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli.
Nobody in journalism is better at covering Vatican City and making sure to put as much ridiculous Italian accent on her own last name.
i. Beernerdness: I think now that I’ve sampled most of the Kansas City-area barbeque places, I’ll take Oklahoma Joe’s. Terrific pork barbeque. And what makes it even better is Boulevard Wheat on tap. Throw a lemon in there, and that’s one great beer.
PK is basically Carl Weathers’ character from Arrested Development, only with beer instead of stew. And also a pain in the ass.
“You take this home, throw that lemon wedge in a beer glass. Baby, you got citrus going!”
j. Coffeenerdness: Never been so happy to see a Starbucks than I was at 5:40 a.m. Friday in Effingham, Ill., after 95 minutes on the early-morning road from St. Louis to Anderson, Ind. And I didn’t catch their names, but the Effingham Starbucks has a friendly, welcoming and fast couple of baristas working at that hour. Nice oatmeal too, ladies.
See, Effingham has a Starbucks. That’s a true American city. Hurry up and relocate the Jaguars there.
l. Derek Jeter with 250 home runs. Don’t know why, but that strikes me as a terrific accomplishment for a guy never known for power. To have more homers than Roberto Clemente (240), Sal Bando (242), Hack Wilson (244) and Don Mattingly (222) — that’s saying something.
Especially when Jeter has had almost a thousand more career at-bats than Clemente and 3,000 more than Mattingly. Tremendous for a guy going through something unpowerful.
m. I might be the lone member of the Frank Herrmann fan club (I coached the daughter of his high school coach in girls softball in New Jersey), but I have to give the Cleveland bullpenner a shoutout for his outing the other night. Got Mike Trout to hit into a double play, and got Albert Pujols to fan looking. How about this Springsteen Memorial Jersey At-Bat: Herrmann (Rutherford) pitching to Trout (Millville), with Phil Cuzzi (Nutley) behind the dish … in Anaheim. On the Herrmann-Pujols at-bat, Cuzzi rung up Pujols on a 3-2 fastball on the outside corner that Pujols didn’t think was a strike. It’s Jersey, baby.
o. Thinking of you, Paul Needell.
Then fucking call him.