Posted: Monday August 14, 2006 9:29AM; Updated: Monday August 14, 2006 11:43AM
Factoid That May Interest Only Me
Times have changed in sportswriterdom. There is no Jack Daniel's hidden in any drawers in the Detroit Lions press room at the team's practice facility in Allen Park, Mich. However, Lemon Lift and Sweet Dreams tea is available.
It has been previously reported that Green Bay rookie offensive lineman Daryn Colledge is from North Pole, Alaska, a 36-hour drive from the nearest NFL city, Seattle. You may also know that on some of the seven-hour bus trips to high school football road games, Colledge would see moose, caribou and bears.
What you didn't know until now is the street where Colledge lived:
South Santa Claus Lane.
Stat of the Week
The New York Giants have hit the 2006 scheduling trifecta: They own the toughest slate of regular-season games by any measure. Look at the Giants' rank among the 32 teams in each category:
Opponents' 2005 winning percentage
Games vs. teams over .500 in 2005
Games vs. 2005 playoff teams
*Tied with Cincinnati. **Tied with New Orleans and Tampa Bay. ***Tied with New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Dallas and Philadelphia.
Perhaps Meaningless Preseason Stat Line of the Week
Jay Cutler's debut with Denver at Detroit on Friday night
Aggravating/Enjoyable Travel Note of the Week
The Illinois Tollway must be run by a bunch of idiots. Last Wednesday morning I had to drive from north of Chicago, site of the commissioner derby on Tuesday, to Packers camp in Green Bay. Easy drive, a little more than three hours.
So around 6 a.m. I'm heading west on Lake Cook Road, a major thoroughfare in the burbs there, toward the tollway up to Wisconsin. As I get in the lane to enter the tollway, there's a sign that says you've got to have an automatic toll tag or exact change at this toll plaza. I did not have four quarters. I had, actually, 92 cents.
There was a sign saying if you didn't have the right change, call a number and report the time, the vehicle plate number and the tollbooth site, and you could remit the correct toll by mail.
Are you kidding me? In order to take this road without a pocketful of change, you have to stop, write down a phone number, call the number, report all this information, AND THEN mail a dollar bill WITH ALL THE INFORMATION YOU REPORTED WHEN YOU CALLED THEM UP! Kill me now. Please. Kill me now.
Ten Things I Think I Think
There's already speculation about Bill Cowher's future in Pittsburgh.
1. I think Jerome Bettis really upset the apple cart Sunday night on NBC, didn't he? I was with the NBC crew as part of the halftime show, and Bettis' statement about feeling that this is Bill Cowher's last year coaching the Steelers really took me by surprise. Not that he thinks this way -- I think a lot of people do. But that Bettis, in his first TV experience, had the guts right out of the box on national TV to say that he felt Cowher was in his last season with the Steelers.
We sat in the NBC production trailer in the fourth quarter, talking about it, when NBC Sports president Dick Ebersol walked in. "Jerome Bettis, journalist!'' Ebersol said. Bettis smiled. He said, "I think Bill's retiring. He talked to me about spending more time with his family and taking some time off from the game. I really think this is his last year in Pittsburgh.''
I asked him if it was tough for him to say it on national TV. And he said he wondered if Cowher would view this as a violation of their relationship, that maybe he shouldn't have revealed what he thought from their conversation. But he said he thought Cowher would be fine with it. Well, I'm going to Steelers camp later on Monday, and I'll be interested to hear how Cowher addresses it.
Briefly, Cowher's wife and daughter, a sophomore in high school, have moved to Raleigh, N.C., where the family intends to live. Cowher will stay in Pittsburgh this season, and the family will be reunited at various points during the season. And there has been rampant speculation that Cowher will join them at the end of this season, with the stress of the NFL sideline wearing on him. Let's see how Cowher addresses it today. My guess is he soft-pedals it and says he's made no decision.
2. I think the Redskins will be in a world of hurt without Clinton Portis. If Portis' dislocated shoulder keeps him out of the first couple of games of the season -- Washington opens in four weeks, on the Monday-night opener against Minnesota, followed by a game at Dallas -- this is a much different team with Ladell Betts running the ball. Just ask offensive coordinator Al Saunders what he would have done in Kansas City this year if Larry Johnson went down with no Priest Holmes safety blanket.
3. I think the Portis injury will lead us into a whole new period of debate over preseason football. Jeremy Shockey started it, and I think he's more right than wrong when he questions the "whole debacle'' of training camp. He said the other day, "Coaches always tell people to stay off the ground, but they also tell us, 'Up the pace, up the pace.' When you up the pace, someone's going to get hurt. That's just the nature of the sport.'' He's talking about the ferocity of training-camp practices, and sometimes, standing on the sideline watching these things, I wonder about the wisdom of the intensity of these practices. I understand you've got to build physical and mental toughness on a football team, but I struggle with the balance between getting a team ready to play a four-month season and keeping players fresh so they'll be able to be at their best for the season. And Sunday night, when Portis told Andrea Kremer on the sideline after the game that he was ticked off because he got hurt playing in a game he shouldn't have been playing in, all of the resentment players feel over the intensity of the preseason came to the surface.
4. I think it's a good thing for the NFL that Roger Goodell is the new commissioner. When you talk to him, you realize he's been preparing for this moment, and for this job, for much of his adult life. He's made for it. He's got a soft side to him, an optimism, that people who've made the kind of tough deals he's made often don't have. They become cynics, which Goodell is definitely not. I wrote about Goodell for Sports Illustrated this week, and you'll get a charge out of the story of him taking on Al Lerner over the cost of the Cleveland franchise.
A personal note that told me a lot about Goodell: When I used to work for the old "CNN NFL Preview'' show, a real ratings giant, I'd often call Goodell at his apartment on Saturday afternoon, to check in with him about events of the day in the NFL. We'd talk two, three times a month, maybe for a half-hour or 45 minutes. And he'd never say, "Hey, nine people watch your show. What am I doing wasting my time by helping you out?'' He just talked the same way I think he'd talk to a peer with 100 times the audience.
5. I think Goodell's first big test, at least in the eyes of those who supported his opponent, attorney Gregg Levy, will be this: Can he take a draft choice away from Bob Kraft if the Patriots cheat on the cap? Not to single out Kraft, but can Goodell discipline one of the men who supported him so forcefully when the time comes? I'd bet he can, but we'll see.
6. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts on the weekend of preseason football:
a. One word about first-string back MikeBell's starting debut for Denver: inauspicious. Seven carries, 20 yards, one lost fumble.
b. Speaking of lost fumbles, Parcells is making Marion Barber walk around Cowboys camp with a football under his arm, everywhere he goes. Fumbleitis. Not tolerated in Bill's World.
c. Tony Romo played every snap of the Cowboys' win at Seattle. I don't think I ever remember a quarterback playing an entire preseason game.
d. Jerious Norwood, the Falcons' third-round running back, looked very good, and perhaps good enough to make T.J. Duckett -- a big back -- obsolete if the Falcons get a good offer for Duckett.
e. Laurence Maroney, in the same Falcons-Pats game, looked better.
f. Carson Palmer certainly doesn't look or sound like he's ready to play a full NFL game.
g. Best performer of Week 1 of the preseason: Denver rookie quarterback Jay Cutler, whose 16-of-22, 192-yard performance with one TD, no picks and no sacks made Mike Shanahan's trade up in the first round begin to look very smart.
h. Good luck, Tony Kornheiser. I think you're going to be fabulous. Irreverence is a good trait in this game.
i. Did you see that run Reggie Bush made? There's a place for that fellow in this game, a prominent place.
j. Vince Young's 4 of 11 would have looked a lot better if his long bomb, a perfect throw right in his wideout's hands, had been caught.
7. I think the Eagles will not be in the market for a receiver. Denver would love to send Ashley Lelie to Philadelphia for a contributing player (someone who will help immediately, preferably on the defensive line, where the Eagles have some depth), but coach Andy Reid thinks, as he always does, that he can get the job done with the Hank Basketts he has on board. He's won more games than I have, but I disagree. He should offer Sam Rayburn and a four for Lelie. It might be the best offer Shanahan gets.
8. I think -- surprise! -- -Brian Westbrook's hurt again. Sprained foot. This guy is rapidly getting the injury-prone rap.
9. I think the Lions are going to cut Charles Rogers. In fact, I'm pretty sure of it.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. On FOX Saturday, during Orioles-Red Sox, one of the announcerssaid, "in my opinion, Jason Varitek is a big part of the heart and soul of the Red Sox.'' Ooooh! What a revelation!
b. I'm not sure if a team can show more warts while winning a three-game series than the Red Sox did in taking three from the pitiful Orioles this weekend.
c. The Papelbon bubble has burst. Officially.
d. Hey, Mort: It's cool that you're going to be someone's fantasy-football GM. But that commercial ... did you have to look so ... so unmasculine?
e. Coffeenerdness: So I'm writing my Goodell story very early Sunday morning in the Starbucks on Vine Street in Cincinnati, and having my morning triple grande latte, when I look up and see someone I haven't seen in 15 years. Good friend Dottie Harmon, the pretend aunt for our two girls, now Dottie Eveleigh and living in Indianapolis, was spending a getaway weekend in Cincinnati with her husband, and here she was. Talk about the weirdest coincidence. I'm in that Starbucks once a year. She's in the Starbucks once a year. And we pick the same moment to be in there. Weird.
f. I think if you see me in the Las Vegas airport at midnight tonight, do not fear. I have not gone degenerate on you. Just changing planes for Spokane at an insanely late hour.