Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are a few one-liners about the first full week of the preseason:
a. RIP, Art Donovan, one of the best players and most colorful personalities at a time when the game began growing. What a fun man he was.
b. If Mike Florio’s right, and Packers left tackle Bryan Bulaga is out for the year, it’s almost as bad an injury as the Ravens losing Dennis Pitta for the year. Green Bay will probably have to move Marshall Newhouse back to left tackle and use an inexperienced right tackle—maybe Don Barclay, the West Virginia find from last year. But it’s a very big blow if Bulaga’s gone.
c. Check out the photo to the right, from Saturday’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Jonathan Ogden made Bill Parcells look like a little person.
d. Booing Mark Sanchez? Already? Lord, he’s not Ed Whitson.
e. Over-under on how much longer Mike McCarthy will keep Mason Crosby: I say 30 days. His case of the yips has extended into 2013.
f. Intense practice/scrimmage for the Saints Saturday. Sean Payton means business.
g. Great idea by the Super Bowl champ Ravens, practicing at the Naval Academy Sunday. Love that kind of stuff.
h. Washington drew 25,000 at camp in Richmond Saturday. Great example of a community inside your market zone going nuts to see their heroes.
i. The Jags had 19,000 at Everbank Field Saturday night, more than doubling last year’s stadium practice attendance. Gus Bradley Fever, evidently.
j. And a record 6,034 at Lions camp Saturday to watch practice. The team did a nice thing, picking some kids out for Matthew Stafford to throw passes to before the workout. Previous record crowd at the team complex in Allen Park: 2,200.
k. I still think it’s best for fans—though teams try to accommodate them at home facilities—for teams to go away to camp. It allows more fans to come, and allows them a better chance to meet the players they follow.
l. Biggest applause-receivers at the Friday night Hall of Fame dinner in Canton, in order: Jim Brown, John Madden, Joe Namath, Joe Greene.
m. The Cards love Ryan Williams, but he’ll never make the team if his chronic injury history continues.
2. I think Sarah Thomas is already famous (any other officials profiled on CNN’s State of the Union?), and she’s still a year or three away from NFL employment.
3. I think one of the good developing training camp stories is that the Cardinals just might have the next Roy Green in camp. Remember Green, one of the last players (Troy Brown, Julian Edelman, too) to play significant snaps on both sides of the ball, had a 21.5 yard-per-catch average in 1981, the same year the Cards used him in the defensive backfield. He had three picks that year. Now, Patrick Peterson is doing double duty, playing cornerback for parts of practice in Arizona, then shifting over to play wide receiver, slot receiver and a sort of wingback in Bruce Arians’ offense. I’ve said this since I spent a day with the Cards in June, but Arians is going to try to be imaginative and explosive—and I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t shock the three teams in the division with schemes they’ve never seen from the Cards. He’s got Peterson in about 15 offensive plays, and could use him as a wideout at anytime. On Saturday, Arians said Peterson could be one of the top five wideouts in football if the Cards chose to put him there. So it’d be very surprising if you didn’t see Peterson on the field in some four-wide sets for Arizona this fall.
4. I think, re the Sunday night Hall of Fame Game, I am reminded of this after seeing so little of any players we’ve ever heard of: In one camp last week, a GM said to me on the sidelines: “We’ve got, what, about 25 practices and four preseason games before we play a game that counts. Every day we’re on the clock, counting down time, hoping no one gets hurt.”
5. I think if I’m Josh Freeman, I know I have to impress my coach and GM in camp—and early in this season—to have a good chance to be the Bucs’ quarterback long-term. GM Mark Dominik says the team won’t address Freeman’s contract situation until after the season, which is smart. They need time to make a complete judgment. If he’s shaky early, his job will be in jeopardy, and he’ll never get an extension then.
6. I think one of the fastest risers around the league in the first week or so of camp play has been Atlanta cornerback Robert Alford. The second-round pick could challenge first-rounder Desmond Trufant—one of the most experienced college corners to enter the league in recent years—because of the clinging coverage ability he’s shown early in Falcons camp. I remember GM Thomas Dimitroff telling me before the draft not to be shocked to see Alford go in the first round. Though he went 60th, he’s a threat to beat out Trufant for the starting corner slot alongside Asante Samuel.
7. I think one of the great things about Hall of Fame weekend—and one of the things we should not overlook—is the entry of a longtime sportswriter covering the NFL into the Hall via the Dick McCann Award, recognizing long and meritorious service. Dan Pompei, longtime Chicago football writer and a good friend of mine, won it this year. He wrote about his honor in a moving piece for the Chicago Tribune Saturday that you should read. In it, Pompei thanks those who got him to the stage in Canton Friday night. “There is my father, Joe. I learned from his example that there are no excuses in life, and that failure is not an option,’’ he wrote. For those of us who had similar families (so much about Dan’s family I recognize), what Dan writes is uplifting. From all those who strive to write well about football, Dan, congratulations on an honor richly deserved.
8. I think I keep hearing great things about two offensive weapons: St. Louis utility star Tavon Austin and the guy who, to me, is a sort of Tavon Austin Jr., Jacksonville wideout/multipurpose player Ace Sanders. The Rams practiced in the Edward Jones Dome Saturday and gave local fans a whiff of what to expect from Austin, playing him at several spots. “You’re going to have to come out, watch and see what we do with him,’’ said coach Jeff Fisher. “Obviously, there’s things everybody does across the league in camp that they don’t show until the regular season.” During draft prep in St. Louis, the Rams privately knew if they somehow weren’t able to get Austin, they’d have gone after Sanders, who is emerging in camp as the kind of versatile weapon Jacksonville hoped it was drafting last April.
9. I think this is how I’d handicap the 2014 class of Pro Football Hall of Fame candidates, in order: Michael Strahan 4-5 … Charles Haley Even … Will Shields 7-5 … Marvin Harrison and Derrick Brooks 2-1 … Andre Reed, Aeneas Williams and Tony Dungy 3-1 … Jerome Bettis 7-2. And if you ever read my predictions, you will crumple up this item and throw it away, mentally.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Johnny Manziel’s got to have a death wish. I mean, is he trying to get the NFL to hate him?
b. May I please say a very big thanks to all of you who have responded via email and text and in person about The MMQB? Some with criticism, many with praise. And I need it all. We want to make this a site you visit two, three, four times a day, and we need the feedback from you so we know what you want to see more of, along with suggestions on graphics, presentation and all the other things that make a site rewarding for readers. Please send thoughts and digs to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Google+.
c. The mailbag is back, every Tuesday. I won’t have a top on it, but I’ll answer the best eight or 10 questions emailed or communicated to me through one of the aforementioned forums.
d. The MMQB NFL Podcast will begin in late August.
e. Wow: Clint Dempsey a Seattle Sounder, for big dough. Met him at the World Cup in 2010, and he’s a great competitor. Good luck to him, and to that franchise.
f. Peter Schrager, an all-around good dude and Fox Sports NFL maven, just got back from his honeymoon to Italy and Greece. Happy to report he is still happily married.
g. Depressing how out of touch I get on the road. Really depressing. Now I see we’re under a terrorism alert. Hope I’m safe driving all over the land the next two weeks.
h. For the masochistic set, my Super Bowl predictions and order-of-finish story is due to my SI NFL editor, Adam Duerson, on Aug. 23 (also the 30th birthday of my daughter Laura—now there’s some inside football for you). The magazine’s NFL preview issue is set for the Sept. 2 issue, on newsstands and your tablet Aug. 28, and in your mailboxes Aug. 28-29.
i. No, I have not decided my Super Bowl pick yet, though I did tell Charlie Rose my early guess is Denver-San Francisco.
j. A-Rod banned until 2015? What a shame. Should be a fun pre-game in Chicago tonight with Rodriguez appearing on the Yankee scene.
k. Pete Abraham covers the Red Sox for the Boston Globe. Red Sox owner John Henry just bought the Boston Globe. I assume at some point John Henry, as new owners/publishers of media outlets do, will walk into the paper’s newsroom and speak to the reporters, editors and photographers about his hopes for the paper. I can’t imagine how strange it would be to have the boss at my job also be the boss of the entity I cover.
l. Coffeenerdness: Angel In A Starbucks Dept.: Nice man walks into the Starbucks on Broad Street in Philadelphia Sunday evening. Introduces himself, says he enjoys my work. I thank him. He goes and gets a coffee. I am pounding away at my column. He comes back five minutes later, shakes my hand and hands me a $10 Starbucks card. Thanks me again. I am … without speech. “Th-th-thanks!’’ I said. People are good.
m. Beernerdness: Southern Tier Hop Sun. Find it. Very good summer beer. More hoppy than most summer brews, and that’s a good thing.
The Adieu Haiku
Six months of football
started Sunday in Canton.
Life is good. Quite good.