‘Chuckstrong’ Is Gone, but the Urgency Isn’t

Memories from the road.

One point from every camp/game I attended:

Dallas (Oxnard, Calif.). I got there on July 19th, in the afternoon. The team arrived around 6 p.m. But Tony Romo, who didn’t need to travel with the team because he was already in California, was there at 10 a.m., throwing on an empty field to a few Cowboys staffers who arrived early. Who knows how his season will turn out, but Romo was pretty anxious to get this camp started.

Denver (Englewood, Colo.). Felt like I was watching the old Raiders at the Broncos’ first practice of the year. Wes Welker (32), Stewart Bradley (29), Quentin Jammer (34), Shaun Phillips (32), Dan Koppen (33) and the youngster, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (27), all here to help Peyton Manning (37) drive Denver to a Super Bowl.

Seattle (Renton, Wash.). Music washes over the field, for the entire practice. This is the first camp on the trail to be alive with the sound of music. The reason: Pete Carroll wants players to get used to playing with constant noise as their companion, because that’s the way it’ll be during games.

Oakland (Napa, Calif.). GM Reggie McKenzie is not pleased with the public perception of his team—namely, that the Raiders have a 3-13 look about them. “We have better players than people think, and we’ll be better than people think,” he said. “It was bleak last year, but we see the light at the end of the tunnel now that we’ve fixed our cap.” Maybe the light will be bright in 2014. I’ll be surprised if this team approaches .500 this year.

Lessons Learned

So ends another fun, revelatory training camp tour. Here are the sights, experiences and impressions that stand out most to Peter King from his jaunt across the country.


And you can get the full lowdown on what's going on this preseason with The MMQB's Postcards From Training Camp.

San Francisco (Santa Clara, Calif.). Watched Marcus Lattimore, he of the devastating 2012 knee injury, work out on a side field. He’s running hard straight ahead. For a guy who was sure 10 months he’d never play football again, this is a significant moment. “If it’s over at any point now, and I don’t think it will be here,” he says, “I know I’ve left my mark on the game. I know I’ve done things the right way.”

New England (Foxboro, Mass.). Shane Vereen looks like the kind of multi-threat weapon the Patriots could use out of the backfield to take some of Aaron Hernandez’s touches. Soft hands, can break a tackle, makes linebackers miss. “This is going to be a year we really have to grind it out,” said Vereen. My other takeaway five days after the Bill Belichick press conference on the waived and jailed Hernandez: No one here mentions his name.

Buffalo (Pittsford, N.Y.). First meeting I’ve had with new GM Doug Whaley, who was heavily influenced by his Pittsburgh years—and by meeting vital Steelers scout Bill Nunn. “Bill taught me, ‘Be careful of guys who don’t love football, who aren’t smart, and who don’t have the heart for football,’ ” Whaley said. So that’s why E.J. Manuel’s here.

Cleveland (Berea, Ohio). Watching the defensive line against the offensive line in one-on-one drills, I gain healthy respect for nose man Phil Taylor. Twice he power-swats away interior lineman and gets into the backfield. Taylor’s about to make an impact in the AFC North, folks.

Pittsburgh (Latrobe, Pa.). Le’Veon Bell, the heir to the starting running back job, makes the most memorable play of the tour: Running upfield, he jukes cornerback Curtis Brown to the ground. I’m standing in the end zone, behind the play, and the speed and quickness of Bell is stunning. He’s been plagued by a knee strain, but when he plays, he’s going to be a major upgrade for Pittsburgh in the backfield.

Philadelphia (Philadelphia). I never saw a huddle in two hours and 20 minutes. I saw Mike Vick complete seven passes in a row in seven-on-seven drills. I have no idea if the Eagles can play any defense, but this is going to be a fun offense to watch.

Baltimore (Owings Mills, Md.). No Ray Lewis. No Ed Reed. And I will be very surprised if this defense isn’t better. Daryl Smith would have been a $7 million-a-year player in Jacksonville right now if he hadn’t gotten hurt, and Lardarius Webb was on his way to being a top-five NFL corner before shredding his knee last year. You watch. Those are just two of the guys who will upgrade this defense.

Washington (Richmond Va.). Feel like a broken record on this, because I’ve written and talked about it so much. But Robert Griffin III, on a side field, at the direction of Kyle Shanahan, is running and cutting the same way he will on opening night, Sept. 9, when he’ll take the field against Philadelphia. I wouldn’t get too excited about the Shanahan-RG3 tiff, or whatever it is. The kid wants to practice full speed. The coach wants to save him for the opener. Now, long-term, is it smart to move him out of the pocket so much? I’m still skeptical he’ll have a 15-year career that way. But we’ll see how it plays out.

Atlanta (Flowery Branch, Ga.). It’s a light workout the day before a preseason game, but Matt Ryan’s very accurate—and he doesn’t even have Tony Gonzalez on hand. Gonzalez has a few camp days off, part of his agreement about spending more time with his family during camp. No team’s going to have a skill-player roster like Atlanta’s.

Deep Dive

Everything you need to know about all 32 teams and their prospects for the 2013 season, courtesy of Andy Benoit.

Tennessee (Nashville). Chris Johnson, outside the Titans’ locker room after their first preseason game, is ebullient about coach Mike Munchak’s offensive plans. Namely, steamroll people in the running game. “Go back to 2008, when we were 13-3,” Johnson says. “People knew what we were going to do—just pound people—and it still worked.” I looked it up. Tennessee ran the ball 52 percent of the time that season. Johnson: 251 carries for 1,228 yards. (Where Have You Gone) LenDale White: 200 carries for 773 yards. I see a 320-carry season for Johnson, even with Shonn Greene in the house.

Carolina (Charlotte). For the Panthers to have a chance against the two top-tier quarterbacks in the division, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, rookie defensive tackle Star Lotulelei’s going to have to cave in the middle of some lines. All the news is good so far—he’s had a good camp—and he’ll have to be an impact rookie, the way Luke Kuechly was last year, for Carolina to be an impact team in the division.

St. Louis (Earth City, Mo.). Very good practice for the Rams on offense. A year ago, the defense won most of the summer sessions. Not anymore. But the Rams were held to 20 points or less in 10 of 16 games last year, and there’s no question the pressure will be on Sam Bradford to form an instant bond with new weapons Jared Cook and Tavon Austin.

Kansas City (St. Joseph, Mo.). Funny set-up in the end zone after practice. Ball machines are set up next to each other, one throwing tennis balls, the other footballs, both at high speed to receivers. It’s part of Andy Reid’s receiver drills. He figures you work on your eyes with the tennis balls, and your hands with the football. And your concentration with both.

Minnesota (Mankato, Minn.). For twenty minutes, GM Rick Spielman talked about his uncomfortable breakup with Antoine Winfield, who’d been a Viking for nine years. Neither thought it would come to this, but Spielman had no idea six priority free agents would all re-sign with the Vikes, leaving Winfield, 36 and with some juice left, out in the cold. “Toughest decision I’ve had to make in this business,” Spielman said. “Antoine was a great player for us.” He’s got the kind of physical corner Winfield was, rookie Xavier Rhodes, to soften the blow, but Winfield’s the kind of missing link that won’t be easy to overcome.

Green Bay (Green Bay). The offense is sluggish in practice, and coach Mike McCarthy, colorfully and loudly, tells his offense to start the period over. Underrated part of McCarthy’s coaching game: getting his players to play hard, and not having players roll their eyes even now, entering his eighth season as coach.

Indianapolis (Anderson, Ind.). Best night of the trip: Three hours of football talk at Riviera Maya, a Mexican place in this town an hour northeast of Indianapolis, with GM Ryan Grigson. Who knows if it’ll work out, but Grigson is excited about his 6-5, 257-pound Adonis from Kenya, the professional rugby player Adongo mentioned earlier. The Colts are using training camp to try to make a pass rusher out of him. “Our sights are high,” said Grigson. “We have to be able to look everywhere for players, whether it be Canada, Arena ball, rugby, I don’t care. You never know who might want to play, and who might be able to help.”

Cincinnati (Cincinnati). Everyone from Marvin Lewis to the TSA guy in security at Greater Cincinnati Airport (no kidding; he brought it up with me) knows Andy Dalton’s got to play better for the Bengals to play deep into January. The Bengals are working on Dalton getting the deep ball out quicker, and with more trajectory. In the practice I saw, Dalton lofts one into the arms of A.J. Green far downfield. They need about 25 more of those when the games start counting.

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133 comments
JOBOOZOSO
JOBOOZOSO

Your photos are a superb addition to the MMQB. Thank you!

Kevin73
Kevin73

This new bloated hijacking of the MMQB does NOT work on many levels. To put it into terms Peter King would understand, MMQB was a column that was like a corner coffee shop. Stop by, get a cup of joe, and talk football with King. Finish before the coffee was gone or cold. Then, the column started getting bloated (e.g., beernerdness, 3-4 aggravating travel notes, and the Adieu Haiku) or irrelevant (I.e., political views, movie reviews). Now, to finish the analogy, MMQB has franchised from a coffee shop into a full service Starbucks. You got guest baristas telling you the life cycle of the beans, dozens of drink choices, and guest columnists. I'm sorry but a punter (photographed all Mad Maxxed out with a sword puncturing the ball) telling us the heart-rending story of camp competition. Try waiting in line all day to be one of 2300 people applying at a new hardware store opening. Plus the new dew-dads look and work terrible on and iPad.

Please go back to King writing a column (singular) about football.

Nick B
Nick B

This website, much like life, is not Blackberry 3G friendly.

Midtown_Guy
Midtown_Guy

I've been reading Peter for years, but the best thing I can say about the new site? Haven't looked at Grantland.com once since they've started. Seriously. I'm a nurse with a busy life, and this site, plus having the magazine delivered to my iPad, is all I need to keep up with sports. Great job, guys.

chopx8
chopx8

Love the site content, but it does not work on an ipad!!!...  This week it will not even load properly..

Different design needed for mobile an dipad...

N Lilly
N Lilly

This site is becoming an embarrassment.  Fast.  The content remains fairly strong, but the site itself has problems that would have been baffling in 2003.  Just look at the flagship "Monday Morning Quarterback" piece... The font size isn't even standard!  It took 2 weeks of user complaints to get a print version in place!  These are problems a 13-year old web rookie could solve... Simply confusing that a major national football analyst is having problems that local radio shows would be ashamed of on their web platforms. 


Stop kidding yourself.... This isn't going well.  Find $50k in the budget somewhere and get a proper web person.  

diegocavalier
diegocavalier

This is the first time I've seen the new format, and I'm very disappointed.  Several of my favorite websites have adopted this same format, and it's driven me to stop reading them.  I don't understand the benefit, and I think it is extremely unpleasing to the eye.

PraveenRamadoss
PraveenRamadoss

Pages dont show up on Android, my Google Nexus 4 shows only the 1s page

KennyFatAlbertha
KennyFatAlbertha

Face it folks. Luck will be around for awhile. 

Everyone can trash talk it every which way as Patriots diehard jerkoffs or what not but you remember December 2010-January 2011 when Michael Vick went from being the most vilifed character in the country to having the Number 1 jersey sold? 

But drunk football fans have short memories as alcoholics and beating their wives (or husbands).

And Peter, you're doing a good job. But sometimes as fans, we get spoiled all the time by so much media coverage and insider knowledge we obviously don't need to do because its the job of guys like you to do. Spend all those long days researching and talking to the teams and coaches. Something bleacher creatures can't do unless their screaming drunk epithets or posting as "Random Indian Journalists" on schissing Suzy Soolber.

CMFJ
CMFJ

"But Russell Wilson’s Seahawks beat Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers last year, and he was up on Peyton Manning 27-7 when they were on the field together Saturday night."

Considering that 14 of Seattle's points were not scored by the offense (107 yd KO return and 106 yd fumble return) and that Manning had the Broncos at the 1 yard line on that fumble, the score is meaningless in comparing Wilson and Manning.

PK4
PK4

To say Coach Pagano "saw 47 percent new faces from 2012 (42 of the 90 players were first-year Colts)" is a bit misleading since the regular season roster is only 53 players.  What would be important is how many of the 48 returning players were on the roster at some point during the season  ?  

Knowitall
Knowitall

"The funniest thing about Ryan Dempster throwing at ARod"? "The funniest thing about Ryan Dempster throwing at ARod"?

This is simply sick. Don't forget, dear Peter, that your beloved Red Sox tried to sign ARod, but were too cheap to do so. He would have add a nice end-piece to go along with disgraced Manny Ramirez ( so prominent in the only two Red Sox championships you now get woozy over), and the ever-doubted Big Papi, simply lucky enough not to be a proven drug user, just an alleged one (wink, wink) at this point.

These ARod comments prove once again that you should not be taken seriously as a sports commentator. You are just as shill for your favorite teams, and your liberal causes.

Whatever ARod has done, whatever kind of ass he is, there s nothing funny. Nothing funny. About Dempster throwing at him. And nothing funny about Farrell denying it. To say otherwise is sick - just as sick as the cheering by the demented fans in your favorite town, your favorite ball park.

You want to moralize in this column? Try this: baseballs thrown at people sometimes kill, often maim. Destroy lives and careers. Just because you think someone is an a$$ (or maybe you Are still upset your team didn't

land him) does not mean we get to laugh when someone throws at him. We, of course, don't laugh. Just you.

You stink.

cottsb1
cottsb1

all this high horse attacks on PED users seems delusional. The truth is that we still don't have good enough testing to know who is using and who isn't. Are you really blaming people getting paid millions of dollars for using things that help them to continue to perform at a high level. Also A-Rod is being made a scapegoat. As much as he is a very annoying player the CBA already has suspensions in place and it is the yankees fault for giving him a huge contract they are now trying to void.

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

I can think of no ex-player or coach that has survived more on hype than Jon Gruden. He has absolutely no ability in the booth at all. None.

Scramble
Scramble

I was at the Ravens game Thursday. After watching Flacco in the first half, Denver's secondary may not have as any worries as they look like they might.

David200
David200

When he mentioned Andy Reid using the tennis ball thrower all I could think of was the quote from dodgeball: if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.

mgranadosv
mgranadosv

This is Gruden's last year in ESPN because he is completely and absolutely horrendous and awful at it. Maybe he'll do better in the sidelines being in love with every single player in the league.

GeorgeErnsberger
GeorgeErnsberger

It was one Edward Hoyt who coined the term "5-tool tool" for Ryan Braun--been one pretty much his whole career, he said.

Darren6
Darren6

Russell Wilson beat Aaron Rogers.....really? still counting that as a win

Midtown_Guy
Midtown_Guy

Chopx8, I'm reading this on my iPad via the Safari browser, so maybe it's not the site.... :)

doghockey
doghockey

@KennyFatAlbertha  The same guy who uses the phrase Patriots diehard jerkoffs waits only a few lines before deciding to hop on his high horse and preach about drunken epithets.  But I would guess that you don't see the irony.

Mike26
Mike26

@CMFJ Wilson is becoming PK's new darling, so OF COURSE it means something!

bamesbameron
bamesbameron

Hey schmuck I'm skeptical that 75mph pitches to Arod's a$$ us going to kill him

Shane Mac
Shane Mac

@Knowitall Please change your name to KnowNothingAtAll and stop your whining.  You're treading the fetid water of ARod Swamp and sinking slowly.  

Jnash23
Jnash23

@Knowitall Sox weren't 'too cheap,' the trade they were working on with the Rangers didnt work out (thankfully!). Sox are one of the only few teams that have/had the money to spend for a player like him.

ArnoldNewman
ArnoldNewman

@Knowitall Take a chill pill.  King wasn't condoning Dempster.  Would you feel better if he had used the term "ironic".


BTW, Alex "I cheat" Rodriguez should not even be playing.

Mike26
Mike26

@Knowitall You're right it's not funny at all - the whole situation is sickening.  There is no way that A-Rod should even be playing.  It's pretty obvious that his peers have no use/respect/time for him, and I doubt that this will be the last time this happens.  Each time it happens fewer and fewer Yankees will jump to his aid as well, and that is a telling sign.  A-Rod and Braun are the poster children for what is and has been wrong with baseball for the last (almost) 20 years and I have no sympathy for either of the lying, conniving cheaters.

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

@cottsb1 Your second sentence says it all, cottsb. Virtually no one fails the drug tests. Why the hell is that? I don't know, but it's clear that hundreds of guys are using them and barely tens of guys are getting caught. Could it be because baseball (and the other sports as well) aren't really all that interested in catching cheaters? I merely ask the question.

Mike26
Mike26

@Rickapolis I don't know - where would you rate Mr. .500, Jeff Fisher?  AT least Gruden won a Super Bowl, albeit with a team built by Dungy.  Fisher's barely made it there ONCE, lost, and has survived what, 18 seasons now?

Great call on Gruden though!

dhartm2
dhartm2

The 08 Lions were 4-0 in the preseason, I wouldn't read too much into it.

ConradWesleyClough
ConradWesleyClough

@Darren6 A win is a win... the only thing that matters is the check in the W or L column, not how it gets there.

Sdwalt
Sdwalt

@Mike26 @CMFJ If Wilson was on my team, I would have a man crush on him too.

FeliciaFitzgerald
FeliciaFitzgerald

@Mike26 As long as he stops his NY Giants man-love, I'll be happy with PK falling in love with Wilson.

Knowitall
Knowitall

Is that you, Mrs King? Sorry to call out little Peter's hypocrisy.

Now take your medicine and go to bed.

Knowitall
Knowitall

Go back and read the post and tell me he didn't mean " ha ha" funny. Or better yet, let's ask Mr King to clarify what he meant.

Knowitall
Knowitall

No, jnash23, you are wrong. The Red Sox wanted to restructure the contract to make it less expensive. The Players Association would not allow it. They could have stepped up to the original contract and made the deal, but declined.

It was money , not "working out" the trade. You may have other words. I call it too cheap.

Boston fans like King conveniently forget this, just like they chose not to remember the fact that their two World Series titles rest squarely on the shoulders of a proven drug chert in Manny.

chopx8
chopx8

@Midtown_Guy ok, h

just checked, its working today...nothing differnt...maybe a problem on their end...that they corrected....others reported problems on other tablets...

STILL, i htink they need a mobile version...too many huge pictures..not ipad friendly

chopx8
chopx8

@Midtown_Guy  not sure..every other site works fine

dont have anything going on.......last few weeks had minor issues loading past big pictures...but this week its not displaying correctly at all...


Goon
Goon

@Knowitall The breadth of your perspective is amazing.  You are an inspiration.

Knowitall
Knowitall

So ARod gets thrown at. How about Ryan Braun? Melky Cabrera? Nunez?

Who, exactly, is the judge of the "game's decorum" ( great phrase).

And all of this to justify throwing a baseball at certain players, but not others?

Back to the original point: thrown baseballs kill, maim, and injure. Laughing while this happens for some, and condemning it for others, is sick.

How are you feeling?

Mike26
Mike26

@Knowitall Yes, baseball has its own justice on the field for violators of the game's decorum = and A-Rod's done it and continues to defy it.

Knowitall
Knowitall

So I understand that to mean "OK" with you.

Mike26
Mike26

@Knowitall He's pointing out that other players/teams are against everything A-Rod is doing and stands for and how much he's continuing to ruin the game.  PK is hardly the only one doing it - I honestly believe it's going to get worse the longer he plays and eventually the bruises will catch up with him.  Baseball has long had their own form of "justice" = and FINALLY the players are administering it to the cheaters.

Knowitall
Knowitall

Ok. A Red Sox fan. I get it.

Jnash23
Jnash23

@Knowitall Arod OFFERED to restructure his own contract with stipulations that the sox give him ability to have various marketing/logo rights. That got shot down so the Sox did not trade Manny to the Rangers. The two WS did not rest 'squarely' on the shoulders of Manny either...as he did not come back from a 3-0 series deficit by himself.. Drugs or not, Manny is one of the best hitters in this era. Players have been using different kinds of PEDs for years and no one put up the numbers like him, so to say that drugs are the only reason his stats are what they are is ignorant because with your mentality the hundreds of hitters who have taken drugs would all have .300+ career averages, etc...

Baseball like other sports is entertainment. Drugs are being used in all major league sports....im just trying to enjoy the games at this point.

Knowitall
Knowitall

Yeah, you're right Mike26. Let's just keep throwing at him until they banish him. We can laugh right along with Peter - right up until they blind him, or crack his skull.

The point is not the contract. The point is the selective moralizing of our faithful correspondent. ARod's an ass with a belated contract, and he's selfish, so we get to enjoy him being thrown at? Ok with Peter. Not me. And you?

Mike26
Mike26

@Knowitall Knowitall:  The Red Sox and all of baseball knew that he wasn't worth that first contract OR the second one - only the Yankees have the cash to waste.  Their bonus is the unending circus that continues to besmirch baseball and Yankee tradition.  Accept it for what it is.

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