On Ejections and Receptions
Monday Morning Quarterback

On Ejections and Receptions

Expect a ‘boring’ week in Boca Raton as owners meet to discuss, among other things, the catch rule and a potential change in on-field discipline. Plus a Raven tragedy, commissioner news and a late dog, remembered

The Broncos' QB conundrum
The MMQB's Peter King takes a look at who could end up as the Denver Broncos starting quarterback in 2016.

BOCA RATON, Fla. — This is not a newsy week at the annual NFL meetings. (Let me correct myself: Every week is a newsy week around the NFL; it’s just that this week, there won’t be much truly consequential NFL news.) There will be some rules-tweaking, and one or two coaches will say something headline-y, and the owners will get to know a new league image-shaper with White House experience, and the Chargers will move closer to a plan that they hope against hope the San Diego voters will approve. But as far as big news between now and the mid-morning Wednesday adjournment, the agenda here lacks it.

“It’ll be a boring week,” one top club official said Sunday evening at the chichi Boca Raton Resort, before ducking into the opening event of the meetings, Roger Goodell’s state of the NFL address. “After L.A., after Deflategate, after a lot of crises, boring isn’t bad. We can focus on some long-range planning that will be good for the league.”

A few things will get done, mostly in the rules and officiating realm. That’s what I’ll focus on atop the column—with some odds and ends happening here after that, and a few words about the tragic death of Baltimore cornerback Tray Walker and the lessons from it.

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Photo:

Odell Beckham Jr. was flagged for unnecessary roughness—not unsportsmanlike conduct—for this late, helmet-to-helmet hit on Josh Norman.

Interesting point about the Competition Committee’s rules proposal—almost certain to be passed—that a player will be ejected after his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the same game: It would not have led to the dismissal of Odell Beckham Jr. after his maniacal behavior against Carolina in December. Nor would it have led to the ejection of Vontaze Burfict of the Bengals in the Pittsburgh-Cincinnati playoff game. If the rule is being put in to stop ridiculous behavior such as that, why didn’t it address the penalties those two players got? Beckham got three unnecessary roughness flags against Carolina and zero unsportsmanlike calls; Burfict was called for unnecessary roughness for a flagrant hit to the head of receiver Antonio Brown that resulted in a concussion that forced Brown to miss Pittsburgh’s next (and final) playoff game.

The new edict, had it been on the books in the past three years, would have resulted in only two ejections in 801 regular-season and post-season games between 2013 and 2015—Cleveland’s Greg Little against Baltimore in 2013 and Tennessee’s Brian Orakpo against New Orleans in 2015.

My question to NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino here Sunday afternoon: Do you really think this new rule will go far enough, if it wouldn’t have addressed either the Beckham or the Burfict meltdowns?

“We think it does go far enough,” Blandino said. “We think that this will put the player on notice if he has one of these unsportsmanlike conduct fouls that if he doesn’t modify the behavior then it will lead to ejection. This, in conjunction with us reaffirming with our game officials that the flagrant acts are subject to disqualification even on the first instance … the combination of the two is enough to deter some of this behavior. We aren’t talking about a lot of instances; this is not something that is widespread, but it is something that we are concerned about.”

Blandino said a major point of emphasis to his officials when they meet for physical testing in New York/New Jersey in May, and then in Dallas in July, will be about ejections. “We will reaffirm that the rulebook does allow us some discretion when it comes to ejection,” Blandino said. “We’ll make sure they understand that they have that power, and they shouldn’t shy away when it is necessary.”

I still find it odd that, in particular, the Beckham behavior wouldn’t apply because his bush-league plays were ruled unnecessary roughness instead of unsportsmanlike conduct. But the league wants to avoid a player who has one roughness flag in a game—say, for hitting a player out of bounds—to possibly be ejected if he hits a quarterback a split-second late and gets another roughness call. The disqualification for two egregious calls certainly should not include a potential ticky-tack one.

When I asked Blandino about Beckham targeting cornerback Josh Norman by flying into him and hitting him in the head, Blandino said, “I think everybody agreed that that was flagrant enough to eject. And that was the message to the game officials as part of the teaching and training after the fact.”

I get the NFL’s goal here. But this is going to put tremendous pressure on the game officials, who already have a jillion points of emphasis running through their heads, to decide on the spur of the moment whether a flagrant foul merits ejection. I suspect we haven’t heard the last of the controversy on this rule.

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Photo:

There were several catch/no-catch controversies in the NFL this season, including this Golden Tate touchdown against the Packers in Week 6.

Now to what is a catch. I agree with the Competition Committee on this one: No matter what is ruled to be a catch, there will be four or five plays a year that will be tremendously controversial. When our Kalyn Kahler asked eight veteran NFL receivers what a catch should be, the overwhelming response was “two feet on the ground and possession of the ball.”

But there won’t be a proposal to change the current rule, the verbiage of which is being slightly refined, as Blandino said Sunday.

“Control, plus two feet down, plus time, equals possession,” Blandino said. “If you don’t have that while upright, and you are going to the ground, then hold on to the ball when you land.”

• HERE’S THE CATCH: What, exactly, is a catch these days? The MMQB found that even the men on the receiving end have trouble defining it

So … why not what the receivers want? Because when defenders go to dislodge the ball from a receiver immediately upon reception, two things will ensue. There will be arguments over whether the receiver had the ball long enough before either fumbling or having it knocked away for an incompletion; will a split-second possession be a possession, in other words? And defenders will be motivated to say, The heck with the defenseless receiver rule. How can there be a defenseless receiver rule if staying away from the receiver for a second ensures he’ll catch the ball? That plus the fact that smashing into truly defenseless receivers at the moment of reception would likely increase the number of concussive hits on receivers.

“We reached out to a couple of different groups to try to get more input,” Blandino said. “We had Cris Carter, Randy Moss, James Thrash, Tim Brown, Steve Largent, Chad Lewis and Jordy Nelson join us in that discussion. We had former head coaches, Jim Schwartz and Ken Whisenhunt, we had [former GM] Bill Polian, game official Tom Finken. Everybody got together and looked at the rule, and the consensus was that the rule makes sense, and they didn’t see a need to change. But again, they all felt that we just have to continue to educate and teach and use video, because there is a lot of discussion about the rule.”

I asked about the discussion over simple possession with two feet on the ground. “Absolutely that’s been discussed,” Blandino said, “and the bottom line with why it is control, plus two feet, plus time is for the on-field official—we tend to lose sight of the on-field official who has to make that decision in real time. So having that element of time allows for the bang-bang play to be ruled incomplete more consistently. If we went to control, plus two feet, then some of those bang-bang plays would be ruled catches and some would be ruled incomplete, based on the judgment of the official. It wouldn’t solve our problem. And it’s also tied to the defenseless player rule. Shortening the time a player would be seen as defenseless would shorten the time that he is protected, and that is a concern.”

A couple other notes: Chop blocks will be outlawed, but it shouldn’t play a big role in the running game, which many offensive linemen fear. “Less than 10” chop blocks were called last year, Blandino said … I don’t sense a groundswell for a third replay challenge, which is being proposed, in part because all scoring plays and turnovers are automatically reviewed, which take those plays out of the coaches’ decisions … I asked about whether there was any momentum for one of my favorite proposals, that every play be subject to replay review. I was surprised to hear Blandino say that 12 or 13 teams favor that. That gives me some hope. But it’s a long way from the three-quarters (24 teams) it needs to pass.

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Some changes are being made around commissioner Roger Goodell, whose public image has taken massive hits the past couple years.

Three other items of note at the annual meetings:

1. A change in scope. Used to be the NFL would have a newsy speaker kick off the league meetings—Bill Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, David Brooks (of the New York Times)—but that changed this year. Goodell, instead of doing the state of the league on Monday morning, moved it to Sunday night. He’ll have additional one-hour presentations on more focused matters today and Tuesday. As part of the three-part program, Goodell scheduled league executives to speak. One who did Sunday night: new league communications czar Joe Lockhart, who was President Bill Clinton’s press secretary for two years (1998-2000).

• BUSINESS OF FOOTBALL: Andrew Brandt breaks down what’s next in the Deflategate appeal decision

2. A change in PR. Lockhart, 56, will head up a revamped league public relations and communications effort as the new executive vice president of communications and social responsibility. Former close Goodell adviser Paul Hicks held that role and left the league recently to join a private PR firm in New York and Washington. In addition, senior vice president of communications Greg Aiello, who has presided over the media department since 1990, has been re-assigned to head up internal communications, not only in the New York office but also between league officials and the 32 teams. For now, Brian McCarthy will assume Aiello’s day-to-day spokesman role.

So, what to make of all this? The knee-jerk reaction would be to say Goodell has been taking such heavy and unrelenting fire since the Ray Rice/domestic violence sanction in mid-2014 that the NFL had to try some new voices to try to get out its message. But it’s rare for the day-to-day out-front PR person in such a high-octane league as the NFL to last 26 years, as Aiello did, particularly since the NFL generated $1 billion a year when he joined and now generates more than $12 billion a year. With megamoney comes megaproblems. As a source close to Goodell said Sunday night, “It was just time. It’s not what anyone did wrong, but look at how long press secretaries last in the world Joe Lockhart comes from—maybe two or three years.” Lockhart will likely import a new PR executive as part of a re-worked staff. Aiello will continue with his current title, and continue as a close adviser to Goodell. (I've got a couple of thoughts about Aiello down in 10 Things I Think I Think.) But what Goodell needs, in my opinion, is someone to tell him more often than is currently happening when he’s making a mistake. I’m told Lockhart has already done that. We’ll see if it works, and we’ll see if Lockhart’s major emphasis on getting the word out on what the league is doing about head trauma for players works.

3. Not so fast on Goodell giving up disciplinary power. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the commissioner and the players union were making significant progress toward Goodell surrendering discipline authority to a neutral third party. I was told here Sunday that it’s not inconceivable that this can happen, but it’s not close. And if it does happen, the league will want a bargaining chip in return. I don’t know what that would be, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Goodell pushes for an extra year or two to be added to the current collective bargaining agreement.  

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Photo:

Tray Walker appeared in eight games as a rookie for the Ravens in 2015.

Tray Walker: an unfulfilled life

The tragedy of reserve Baltimore cornerback Tray Walker’s death in a dirt-bike accident north of Miami last week hurt the Ravens deeply. Walker, a fourth-round pick from Texas Southern in 2015, would have battled for a regular spot in the secondary in training camp this summer. He also was a player who grew up in a broken home in south Florida and had the kind of tough shell that was difficult to penetrate. He was showing signs of getting it during the 2015 season … just before his end came on a street near where he grew up.

“It wasn’t easy for Tray to let anyone in,” veteran Baltimore cornerback Jimmy Smith said Sunday afternoon. Smith became a mentor for Walker last season. “If he didn’t trust you, he simply wouldn’t listen to you. He went through a period last year where he didn’t like what the coaches were telling him—like they were disrespecting him. I told him, ‘It’s not disrespect. They’re coaching you. You’re not back home; this isn’t your neighborhood. They’re not going to baby you in the top level of football. You gotta listen to them. You gotta come to work with the mindset that these people are trying to help you, because they are.’ As the year went on, he started understanding more and more.”

That’s what the Ravens hoped—that they could save Walker from going back to the hard life he was trying to escape. No one knows yet the full story behind what happened Thursday night in Miami. Dirt-bike racing and riding has become popular with young people in cities around the country, and it’s possible that Walker became a fan of it. He was wearing dark clothing, no helmet and riding a bike without lights on after sunset Thursday when he collided with an SUV and was seriously injured. Walker died a day later. Police are investigating.

Smith said he didn’t know how prevalent the dirt-bike riding was, but he did say that fellow Ravens corner Shareece Wright asked him recently if he should get a motorcycle. Smith said he told Wright that was a ridiculous question: “I told him I’d forbid him from getting one. I would not jump on a bike to save my life. It’s a dangerous thing—even more when you’re not wearing protective gear.”

In his last conversation with Walker earlier this year, Smith said Walker was excited about the defensive-back group going to train in Arizona this spring. “He wanted to know if we were still going,” said Smith, “and we were. He was definitely going, and he really wanted to improve. That’s why this is so sad, so disheartening. This is a young man who was going to have a chance to be a good player. Either safety or cornerback, I’m not sure which, but he could have played either one. He had so much athletic ability, and he was not afraid to tackle you. It’s just sad. So sad.”

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Photo:

The Colts feted Peyton Manning in a ceremony last Friday. The team announced it would retire his jersey and erect a statue of the QB at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Quotes of the Week

I

“I think the one thing that I want to do is kind of take my time. I think the biggest mistake would be to rush into something and go, ‘Wow, what am I doing? I’m not ready for this’ or whatnot. I haven’t had a fall off in about 25 years. Something about that has some appeal to it. Maybe go to a couple of [New York] Giants games and see my brother play, which I don’t get to do. Or to go see a couple more Tennessee Vols games.”

—Peyton Manning, on his plans for the future, at a ceremony for his retirement in Indianapolis on Friday.

II

“I think it’s foolish. It sounds like something somebody who’s never played the game would say, something they would suggest, because he doesn’t understand, he’s just a face, he’s just a suit. He’s never set foot on the field and understood how you can get a personal foul.”

—Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, to Jim Trotter of ESPN, on the NFL’s rules proposal to eject a player after two unsportsmanlike-conduct fouls in one game. The “he” in his quote is commissioner Roger Goodell.

III

“Well played!”

—Tennessee GM Jon Robinson to Nick Bosa, the brother of first-round NFL prospect Joey Bosa, at Joey Bosa’s Pro Day workout at Ohio State. Nick Bosa showed up at the workout dressed in Titans’ gear, head to toe.

Basically, the Titans would love for one of the hot prospects near the top of the draft, whether it be Bosa or tackle Laremy Tunsil or one of the top quarterbacks, to generate such a buzz that it would create a market for the prospect-needy Titans to turn the first overall pick into a trove of extra picks high in the 2016 draft.

• A STUDY OF CHARACTER: Robert Klemko examines how NFL scouts view Joey Bosa and other 2016 draft ‘risks’

IV

“I’ve been taking heat for about three years in a row now. I’ll show everybody. I promise I’ll get the last laugh.”

—Wide receiver Mike Wallace, on signing a two-year, $11.5-million deal with Baltimore.

V

“Of course, my man.”

—Johnny Manziel, asked by TMZ if he would be playing football somewhere this fall.

• THE FALL OF JOHNNY FOOTBALL: Emily Kaplan digs through Johnny Manziel's past to try to answer questions about his future

VI

“The captain question did come up. Some coaches said, ‘Hey, we know you’ve been asked about this a million times, we don’t care, let’s just talk ball.’ But for other coaches, it was the first thing they asked. I understood why they wanted to know. It is a big deal. I gave them an answer that I feel is truthful: I just didn’t get the votes. Being a captain is a title, but nobody needs a title to lead. Not being a captain never hindered my ability to lead, and it never made me doubt myself. It did, however, make me want to work harder.”

—Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook, in a column for The MMQB, on the hubbub surrounding a senior quarterback—him—not being elected a captain by his teammates before the 2015 Spartan season.

VII

“You gotta keep chasing that dream like these kids in here like [Xander] Bogaerts and [Mookie] Betts. For me to hit, I got to keep up with those guys. I got to keep on pushing. You get tired of pushing, but you got to keep doing all those things you been doing, and that’s hard. But if I don’t do it, I won’t be able to hit. Period. So, I can’t stop because the minute you stop, the game says, Goodbye to you, buddy. That’s why I’m retiring. I don’t want to wait until that happens. When I get out of it, I’ll relax. But you can’t do that and rake.”

—Boston DH David Ortiz, to Ron Borges of the Boston Herald, in an excellent column explaining why he’s decided to retire at the end of this season.

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Stat of the Week

Even when the NFL takes the Patriots’ first-round pick away (Deflategate sanction), New England finds a way to be quite relevant in the draft. Four teams have at least four picks in the first three rounds of this year’s draft—including both AFC Championship Game combatants. The details:

Team Total Picks, Rds. 1-3 Overall
Los Angeles 4 15, 43, 45, 76
Seattle 4 26, 56, 90, 97
Denver 4 31, 63, 94, 98
New England 4 60, 61, 91, 96
 

Notes: This is the fifth straight year the Rams have had at least four picks in the top three rounds. In 2012, they had five … Seattle’s extra pick, the 97th overall, is a compensatory pick for losing cornerback Byron Maxwell in free agency last year … Denver’s extra pick, 98 overall, is a compensatory pick for Julius Thomas last year … The Pats’ picks come from the Chandler Jones deal with Arizona (61) and a compensatory pick for losing Darrelle Revis last year (96) … From the 2014 Logan Mankins-to-Tampa Bay trade, the Patriots turned the 101st pick in the 2015 draft into defensive end Trey Flowers. From the 2009 Richard Seymour-to-Oakland trade, the Patriots used the first-round pick in 2011, the 17th overall choice that year, on tackle Nate Solder.

• THE MATH BEHIND WHY THE PATS TRADED JONES TO ARIZONA: Peter King explains why Belichick and Co. made the deal

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Stephen Belichick has been an assistant on the Patriots coaching staff the past four seasons.

Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me

Forty years after college lacrosse and football player Bill Belichick got his first position-coach assistant’s job in the NFL (special teams, Detroit, 1976), his college lacrosse-playing son Stephen Belichick was promoted to his first position-coach assistant’s job in the NFL. Bill Belichick named Stephen Belichick safeties coach for the Patriots on Friday.

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Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week

Curious: What’s closer to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport—Los Angeles, or the DFW car rental center?

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Tweets of the Week

I

II

III

IV

Harbaugh wrote a letter to each player on his team in the wake of the tragic accident of Baltimore cornerback Tray Walker, who died Friday.

V

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Photo:

Mike Wallace has had a forgettable three years—two in Miami, one in Minnesota—since leaving Pittsburgh following the 2012 season.

Ten Things I Think I Think

1. I think if nothing else, Joe Flacco is going to get a few defensive pass interference calls in his favor next season. He’s now got two legitimate deep threats: free agent Mike Wallace and rehabbing 2015 first-round rookie washout Breshad Perriman, whose first season was ruined by a fluky knee injury suffered on the first day of training camp last summer. Wallace, I hear, really wanted to play for Baltimore and the big-armed Flacco, for a couple of reasons. He doesn’t think he had the quarterbacks (Ryan Tannehill, Teddy Bridgewater) to get him the deep balls in his three years since leaving Pittsburgh. (In Miami and Minnesota from 2013 through 2015, he caught 179 passes for a pedestrian 12.7 yards per catch; he averaged 17.2 yards per reception in his four years with Pittsburgh.) He also is motivated to show the Steelers they should have ponied up for him after the 2012 season.

2. I think congrats are in order for Eric Winston, elected president of the NFL Players Association for a second term. Bright guy, tough guy, committed to the players. He’s a great advocate.

3. I think, as promised higher in the column, that these are my thoughts on Greg Aiello. He became an easy target (as did everyone in league PR in the post-Rice era), but not once in my years of covering this league was Aiello anything but straight with me. He wasn't always a fountain of tips, but that wasn't his job. His job was to deliver the message the league wanted him to deliver, and to serve his bosses. My job was to take that information and decide what to do with it. But I valued, and will value, his honesty and communication in some bad times for the league.

4. I think the Russell Okung contract might be the biggest debacle of a contract I have ever seen. Okung, who at this stage of his career is somewhere between the 10th- and 15th-best left tackle in football, eschewed an agent, decided to negotiate his own contract, and signed with Denver for a non-guaranteed $5 million for 2016. But as Pro Football Talk reported, even that is a phony deal. Okung will get $1 million for participating in 90 percent of the offseason workout, a $2 million roster bonus if he’s on the team for any 2016 game, and a base salary of $2 million. He could make $53 million over five years if he hits every milepost in the deal, but he also could be cut before the start of the season after making just $1 million. For a player of his stature, it’s a ridiculous contract.

5. I think we’re going to see, sometime in the next two weeks, a stadium proposal favored by the Chargers in San Diego. The next step would be putting it on the local ballot to see if San Diegans would approve limited public funding of the stadium. That, of course, would be the major determining factor as to whether the Chargers stay in San Diego or inform the league by January 2017 that they will be the second team in Los Angeles.

6. I think kudos are in order for the Ed Werder family. Werder, the ESPN reporter and a good friend, had to eulogize his 31-year-old son-in-law, Trey Bomar, on Tuesday in Double Oak, Texas, and what a fabulous job he did. This is one of the all-time sad stories. Christie Werder beat brain cancer at 12, and then another serious brain malady (cavernous angioma) occurred, which she fought after she got very close to Trey. She beat that too. But then her husband was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer, which Trey couldn’t beat. What Werder told the memorial service at Crossroads Bible Church on Tuesday, in part: “They were engaged when Christie had a brain bleed that sent her to three hospitals with stroke-like symptoms. Trey didn’t have to be there. He didn’t have to go to work, go to her apartment, walk her dog, Bandit, and then come to the hospital. But that’s what he did. And more defining was what he did next: He married her knowing she needed to have brain surgery a short time after the wedding. Nobody could have blamed Trey if he had chosen to walk away, but he joined her fight. That is love and devotion, my friends.” And Werder closed with this: “People who never met him feel a deep sense of loss. One thing to remember as we all grieve our devastating loss: Thomas Campbell said, ‘To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.’ So keep Christie in your thoughts and prayers, and keep Trey and his goodness in your hearts, and he will never die.” When Jenny Vrentas and I left the family gathering after the service, I wished Christie good luck. She said, “I don’t need it. I have faith.” That is a one special woman, from a special family.

7. I think the performance-pay system is one of the best things, and most under-reported things, the NFL Players Association has done for its players. Each team has a pool of $3,802,500 to divide among all its players, based on a formula heavy on playing time and the low earners on the roster making the most extra money. Kudos to the union for making this a priority and getting significant money to those who earned a bump but didn’t have it reflected in their regular pay.

8. I think I have one small quibble with the performance pay system. Why should huge-earning veterans get a dime of it? Last week, Jay Cutler of the Bears, who earned $15.5 million in cash last season, was awarded $6,780 of the pot—a minuscule amount in the grand scheme of things, and quite frankly an amount of money that means absolutely nothing to him. The two biggest earners on the Bears got significantly more: safety Adrian Amos, who played 1,035 defensive snaps on a base salary of $435,000, got an extra $282,158; tackle Charles Leno, who logged 933 plays while making $510,000, got an additional $215,110. In the next CBA, I hope the players, in effect, divvy up Cutler’s peanuts among guys like Leno and Amos.

9. I think the new stadium designed by a Danish architect that Washington owner Dan Snyder would like to build will either be groundbreaking and breathtaking, or it will be a building of derision. It features a moat.

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. Terrific piece by Janine Talley, the wife of former Bills linebacker Darryl Talley, about living with the post-career effects of a football life.

Photo:

Lucy

b. The King family said goodbye to another dog Saturday. Daughter Mary Beth moved to New York a year and a half ago, and she brought along her aging black lab/retriever/shepherd mix, Lucy. She adopted Lucy—a shelter dog from Idaho, we think—in 2009 while living in Seattle, and there apparently had been a pattern of abuse in Lucy’s life. She wasn’t very cool around most men. When Lucy first met me later that year (and I’m a dog lover) she greeted me with a snarl and baring of the teeth. I see. So for the first couple of visits we were at arm’s length. Then I took her for a three-mile run around the lake in suburban Greenlake, and then we began to get along. I marveled at how Mary Beth turned her into the most docile, loving, sweet dog. What a great lesson there was in that—Mary Beth rehabbed that dog by half-a-life of kindness, and I admire that so much in her, that she was always patient and loving, even when Lucy gave her reason not to be. Lucy lived with us for a year and a half, with Mary Beth ensconced in a Manhattan shoebox of an apartment, visiting when time and job allowed. My wife and I got quite attached to this sweet dog. But bigger dogs usually have hip issues, and Lucy did, and after doing what we could to soothe her pain, we put Lucy, 13 (we think), to sleep Saturday afternoon through our tears. I’ve enclosed a photo of Lucy, the cutest dog in canine history … since Bailey, of course.

c. Go see “City of Gold,” one of the coolest documentaries I’ve seen (and I love documentaries) in a long time. It’s a you-are-there-in-Los Angeles piece about Jonathan Gold, the restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times. Gold is a inquisitive sort who goes and finds the really good food in greater L.A., whether it’s in a truck (wonderful hot dogs) or a strip-mall (great Ethiopian food—and, actually, almost all of the places he reviews are in very humble locales). Amazing, too, was the stomach for absolutely anything on a menu. Such as one grotesque eel, and grasshoppers. As much as being about food, it’s also about the city, and the soul of the city, and how so many immigrants have made the L.A. food scene so inviting, and where to find the good food.

d. Journalism Pet Peeve of the Week: The MMQB is a website. We exist separate from Sports Illustrated and SI.com, though our content is often linked from SI.com and amplified via SI’s social media channels. The MMQB has been alive for three years, covering pro football. Still, our stories, when quoted in the press, are very often referred to as being from Sports Illustrated (as the Dallas Morning News did the other day on Emily Kaplan’s Johnny Manziel story) or SI.com (as the Detroit News did with our first-person Connor Cook column). We like our neighbors in our New York offices, very much. We just aren’t them.

e. I don’t know Adam LaRoche, and I don’t know the politics of the baseball clubhouse very well. And if he had an agreement with the White Sox that allowed his home-schooled son to be around the team every day, then the team should live by the agreement. But it sure seems like a weird agreement to make—for one player’s son to be at every practice in the spring and every game in the spring, summer and early fall. What other walk of life is the child of an adult allowed to be in the workplace of the adult every single day, and apparently all day? Seems like a mistake to me, to allow the son or daughter of a player to be around the team daily for seven or eight months.

f. The $115 million award by a Florida jury to Hulk Hogan for Gawker airing a short bit of a video of him having sex with a woman seems excessive. But Hogan deserves to exact vengeance of some kind here. I see no journalistic good coming from publishing a video of a famous man having sex, particularly when he didn’t know the session was being taped and didn’t consent for the tape to be shared with the public. Never mind the ludicrous assertions of Gawker that the public has a right to see this. We don’t.

g. Coffeenerdness: I am trying to be smart about sugar, so please don’t spread this around, but that Smoked Butterscotch latte at Starbucks is sinfully good.

h. Beernerdness: Ever had the American pale ale, Peeper, from the Maine Beer Company (Freeport, Maine)? It is pricey, and comes in a bigger bottle, and, well, sometimes you have to pay a premium for a great beer. Other Maine Beer Company’s offerings (I have also had MO and Zoe) are terrific, and Peeper is no exception—smooth, tasty and easy to drink. Strongly recommended.

i. Hard to imagine a better first two days of the NCAA tournament than the ones that were played last Thursday and Friday.

j. “Our house is on a cliff, and we hope it doesn’t rain,” said Coach K on Saturday after the nail-biting win over Yale. (Yes, Yale.) There can’t have been a better, and more apt, quotation, in this NCAA Tournament.

k. Sunday was even better. Ridiculously good. Bronson Koenig breaking every heart in Cincinnati with two three-balls in the last 11 seconds to beat Xavier. Stephen F. Austin and Northern Iowa getting their hearts broken. What hoops.

l. One problem: You wait around all day Sunday for basketball (well, not me, because I'm not a huge fan—but America waits), and then there are three games still going on at 10:40 p.m. ET. Sunday night. I mean, what's up with that?

m. The St.Joe's-Oregon game ended at 12:09 this morning ET. Come on.

n. UConn led Robert Morris 46-4 and 60-9 in the NCAA women’s tournament Saturday. Not good for the women’s game.

o. A word about a transaction at The MMQB. If this were the newspaper agate transactions, it would read:

MEDIA
The Ringer—Signed Robert Mays of The MMQB to an undisclosed contract, to write and talk about all things football.

p. Robert Mays—and he’s not altogether gone yet; he has two stories he’s finishing for us right now—has been a pleasure to work with in his time between Grantland and the new Bill Simmons site The Ringer, and we all wish him the best. I’ll be reading you for a long time, Robert, and I’ll enjoy it all. Good luck.

q. Happy 10th birthday, Twitter.

r. Amazing. This is how fast the media, and social media, worlds spin: Twitter was a guess at how people might want to communicate. Twitter got warm. Twitter got hot, worldwide, and was the tool of quickness for stars and schmoes to communicate with peer groups and fans. Twitter got competition. Twitter raised expectations. Twitter now is battling for its future.

s. I still love how Twitter is basically what the wire services were 25 years ago—a way to keep up with events in my world instantaneously. I need it to not go away.

* * *

The Adieu Haiku

NFL meetings.
Lobby bar. Nine dollar beers.
Expensive news tips.

• Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.