Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my early training camp thoughts:
a. And so you say, regarding all the training camp injuries: Why are teams so willing to risk injuries to vital players by practicing full-speed so often during the summer? I say: It’s the game. Would you want Miguel Cabrera opening the regular season in baseball having faced nothing but soft-toss in spring training?
b. “It’s back to normal,” Saints GM Mickey Loomis said as camp began. Observers said that’s exactly how it appeared late in the week at the Saints’ training complex, after the mayhem of 2012.
c. Keenan Lewis got off to a good start in his first practice as a Saints cornerback. He picked off Drew Brees in team drills.
d. Sedrick Ellis retires. There’s one of the most nonimpactful seventh overall picks ever.
e. Tim Tebow caught three passes in the first practice of Patriots training camp. I see him being in the mold of a utility player if he makes the team, active some weeks and inactive others, not playing one set position.
f. He won’t get the Mariano Rivera retirement treatment on his last swing around the league in 2013, but long-time Broncos PR czar Jim Saccamano, one of the great PR professionals I’ve ever encountered, deserves it as he works his last full-time season.
g. Great to see Brian Banks, the former wrongly incarcerated high-schooler from California, begin his camp journey in Atlanta. He went down to his knees to thank God for the chance just before his first practice on Friday.
h. Shouldn’t take Kyle Long long to win the starting right guard job in Chicago.
i. Eight Washington players suspended for drug violations over the past three years, according to the Washington Post. Not good. Sounds like it’s time for GM Bruce Allen to chat with his scouts about character.
j. The more Greg Jennings says about his former team, the more you realize it was time for him to leave Green Bay.
k. Jason Pierre-Paul (offseason back surgery) opened camp on the physically unable to perform list. If a player stays on that list after camp, he has to miss at least the first six weeks of the season. The Giants think he’ll be ready to play opening day.
2. I think it’s foreign to most of us that a player can significantly improve his speed, but Colin Kaepernick thinks he’s done just that this offseason. He trained in Atlanta with some speed technicians, including long-jumper Dwight Phillips. “I trained with a few Olympic runners and jumpers,” Kaepernick told me. “Just to try to get a little bit faster, a little bit better. Anything I could do to try to get a little bit better and stay ahead of the competition. I think the biggest thing was the form of running and how to be more efficient when I run. I feel like that has helped me to this point, and it’s something I’m trying to improve on more and more, but I think those few weeks with them were very valuable.” He said he improved his stride and “the way I contact the ground. There are a lot of details to running that I never even thought about. I just went out and ran. I think I can be faster. I think I can be quicker.” Not sure if we’ll notice, but talking to Kaepernick, and seeing how excited he was about his running training, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a tick faster in 2013.
3. I think it’s amazing to me Matthew Stafford’s just 25. Born the same year as Russell Wilson (1988), Stafford will finish his fifth season in the NFL before turning 26 next February.
4. I think the star turn of Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman may be just beginning. Not just because of his appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week (if you haven’t, read the first of a series of guest columns he’s writing for The MMQB). But walking through the terminal at Denver International Airport late Thursday, I saw a young boy with a “YOU MAD BRO?” t-shirt.
5. I think one of my favorite things about the first week of The MMQB came after our intrepid Jenny Vrentas wrote a revealing profile of the Eagles’ version of a CIA operative, sports science coach Shaun Huls. Now, Vrentas asked to interview Huls, and the Eagles turned her down. The MMQB sent a photographer to Eagles minicamp practice one day in June, and Huls uncharacteristically and conveniently was absent that day. So Vrentas wrote her story, and a day later received a nice thank you email from Huls. At the bottom of the email, sent from an Eagles address, was the same kind of thing you see at the bottom of many emails but which seemed particularly appropriate given the circumstances: “CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE.”
6. I think, speaking of the Eagles, give Chip Kelly credit for having an open mind, which I believe he does when it comes to his quarterback competition. “I think we’ve got to figure out who our quarterback is before we understand the direction of where our offense is going,’’ Kelly said after running his first NFL training camp practice Friday. “Tell me who’s going to stand in the pocket against a full rush. I haven’t seen them do that.”
7. I think we’re going to enjoy Marc Trestman’s use of the English language. Every team has a conditioning test at the start of training camp, to see if the players have reported in the kind of shape the job demands. The Bears, under Trestman, now call the conditioning test “an accountability exercise.”
8. I think I’m going to start calling the drinking of water “hydration ingestion.”
9. I think I love the fact that Bears GM Phil Emery closed the window on all contract discussions as training camp began. This includes Jay Cutler, scheduled to play the final year of his current deal at $8.47 million. To those who say you’ve got to lock up the guy at the most important position, I’d agree most of the time—and there’s a good chance the Bears will do it after the season, at perhaps a higher cost than it would be today. But when you’ve got a new head coach, it makes no sense to sign the quarterback to a franchise-altering contract when you really don’t know if the coach is going to want him to be his guy long-term. You think it’s likely, but you really don’t know. So the question is: Would you want to lock up Cutler at $19 million a year (or some such figure below $20 million) for six years, or would you like to have the season to judge whether to make him the quarterback for a long time, and then maybe have to pay a bit more of a ransom and commit to him for, say, $21 million a year? Give me the option any day, with as much uncertainty as the Bears have right now.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. It’d be hard to get used to having medium-to-loud music of all sorts playing at every camp and in-season practice, the way Seattle coach Pete Carroll does. His theory: It’s going to be noisy every week in the NFL, at every stadium, during every game. So let’s get used to dealing with noise at all times. Carroll’s an eclectic music guy. I thought a polka might break out at some point Friday.
b. It’s so much fun, and so energizing, to be part of The MMQB, with so many good people.
c. Story of the week from the outside world: This vivid and slightly disturbing piece by Ed Caesar of the New York Times magazine on the dangerous “sport” of base jumping. With the feeling of what jumping from thousands of feet wearing wing-like costumes is like described by a retired (lucky for him) base jumper, Ed McDonnell: “If you’re all tuned in, there’s ‘Yes.’ On the mediocre days, there are two other voices. One’s ‘Fear.’ Your body is screaming out at you, ‘Don’t do this,’ because it’s dangerous, unnatural. You’re there to conquer your fear. But there’s another voice that hangs around every now and again, and that’s called ‘No.’ Something’s not right. You can never put your finger on it—it could be something in your pack job, or the weather, or the people you’re jumping with, or your mindset. It’s just, ‘Walk away, don’t go jumping today.’ The difficulty is trying to discern between ‘Fear’ and ‘No,’ because they’re both telling you the same thing. ‘No’ is your sixth sense that’s trying to save your life.” Recommended if you’ve got 15 minutes to read something very good about something very unusual.
d. No one in baseball deserves big money more than Dustin Pedroia. That comes from someone who watches him 40 times a year and who is never disappointed.
e. Told you the Rays would be great. Man, they can pitch.
f. Poor, poor A-Rod.
g. Joe and Maddie Mauer had twin girls Wednesday. Good luck to all. And may I say …
h. Well played, Mauer.
i. Coffeenerdness: Two tries at a vital 6:10 a.m. Macchiato at two different Starbucks at the Seattle airport. Two fails. That’s my biggest Starbucks problem: the inconsistency of the espresso shots. Sometimes rich and perfect, sometimes bitter or watery.
j. Beernerdness: I’d been familiar with only one New Belgium Brewery beer—Fat Tire—before seeing the Rockies at Coors Field the other night. Now I have two I like. Ranger IPA is among the best IPAs I’ve had, flavorful and with the slight bitterness that characterizes all good IPAs.
k. I don’t say this because we had the pleasure of Olivia Munn on The MMQB Wednesday. I say it because it’s true: Last week’s episode of The Newsroom was the best in the short history of the show.
The Adieu Haiku
Pitta, Maclin. Shame.
Brutal July injuries.
War of attrition.