4. I think what Marc Bulger said after the lousy showing in Tennessee -- "We're not as good as we think we are'' -- will be true as long as Steven Jackson is holding out. I still think it won't be long until he's in, because the Rams know they have to have Jackson to have a prayer.
5. I think it's ridiculous that the NFL insists on charging regular-season prices for these exhibitions -- more than ridiculous, really -- and even more silly that the league forces teams to dress all uninjured players for games. The Chargers had to phony-up a sore groin for LaDainian Tomlinson to stay out of hot water for not playing him Saturday against Dallas.
6. I think I learn something every time I read Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News. The other day, he was writing about how dumb the "tackles'' stat is -- something all of us who cover the league think is true but only Goose had the brains to write about -- and made this point: "The Indy defense was on the field for 980 snaps last season. But there were no tackles [made] on 199 of those plays because they were either incomplete passes, interceptions or offensive touchdowns. That left 781 defensive snaps that involved a tackle -- and the Colts' coaching staff awarded a league-high 1,416 tackles. That's an average of 1.81 tackles per play. The Indianapolis staff awarded 891 "solo" tackles in those 781 plays. Figure that one out.'' Superb point.
7. I think approximately 7,000 of you have spoken, and here are the results of your input for the new items in Monday Morning Quarterback, beginning with the first column of the regular season, Sept. 8. I will have three new standing columns, in addition to "Awards,'' "The Fine Fifteen,'' "Quote of the Week,'' "Stat of the Week,'' "Aggravating/Enjoyable Travel Note of the Week,'' and "Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me.'' Here are the three:
a. "What I Learned About Football This Week That I Didn't Know Last Week.'' Pretty self-explanatory. This is the one you voted for overwhelmingly, which is interesting. I hope to give you something from the games or the backrooms that I saw or heard and said, "Wow. I didn't know that.''
b. "Good Guy of the Week.'' And I don't intend to pick the players who do the United Way commercials, or the stuff in front of the cameras. I'll find some players who quietly do things because they're trying to do good, not because they're trying to get noticed.
c. "Reminds Me Of ...'' (And I plan to find a new title for this one.) This is one I'm most excited about. I'll compare players from this era to those from the past and try to find similar players in style and impact on the game. I've already got one in mind for the first week of the season, and it involves a famous quarterback.
I had hoped to do something revolving around the inner game of offensive lines-versus-defensive line play, but there wasn't much interest in that. For those who liked that, I'll write about that some this year in the first of the three new categories. Thanks so much for all your responses. Let's see how the new stuff works out.
8. I think the Steelers would be smart to import Byron Leftwich or Daunte Culpepper. But both? I like what I saw of Dennis Dixon the other night; he looked poised and athletic against Philly.
9. I think the one surprising note from my second round of camp visits last week came in Jacksonville, where Jerry Porter, the free-agent wideout imported to be a deep threat for David Garrard, showed me his scar where he had the hamstring surgery just over two weeks ago, and he said he thought he could play in one of the last two preseason games. "I'm amazed how good it feels,'' he said. "I've had a bad hamstring pull before, and I feel much better having the surgery than just letting it heal on its own.''
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Cleveland's relievers are giving new meaning to "bullpen implosion.'' The Indians led 7-4 entering the bottom of the ninth at Tampa Bay on Wednesday, with the Rays sending up the bottom of the order, and the 7-8-9 hitters all batting below .270 for the season. The inning went double-double-homer-single-walk-homer. Six batters, six runs, no outs.
b. Bad news from Iraq. "You knew it had to happen,'' read the subject line in Army Sgt. Mike McGuire's latest e-mail from the front lines, where he and his platoon continue to sweep roads in dangerous areas for improvised explosive devices. "While clearing roads for IED's, Sgt. James McHale's vehicle was struck and he passed due to head injuries. This gets no easier. I am tired of seeing people I know and care about pass. I am getting to the point that I just want to go home, no more death of my buddies.
"He was in the 40th Engineers. His vehicle was struck by an IED while clearing a road up north that had not been traveled on by coalition forces in a very long time. What makes this a even a bigger loss is that he was getting out of the Army but was stop-lossed and had to stay in for this deployment. I really feel for his family and real close friends he had in B Company. Now the platoon travels that road everyday and sees where he was struck and the memories flood back. The men are taking it well (like they have a choice) and are right back out there conducting route clearance and being courageous in the face of danger every day.
"I hate telling you that another soldier of ours has passed, but it is what we do and sometimes a man gives the ultimate sacrifice. His memorial service was yesterday and I have not seen that much RAW emotion from soldiers since Sgt. Bevington's death. I don't want to see it again. Sgt. McHale was from Fairfield, Montana. He was tough, he was a real fighter, and that is the example he will leave behind.''
c. Sgt. McGuire goes on leave in October, and he'll head home to St. Louis. His fondest wish: tickets to his beloved Rams, and hopes for the Cardinals to somehow sneak into the National League playoffs.
d. Bob Costas, you look really smart in Tiananmen Square. I'm not a big Olympics guy, but I must say the NBC pictures of a country we barely know were compelling. Looks smoggy and oppressive.
e. Nice job by Cris Collinsworth getting Dara Torres to seem so person-next-doorish. I like how she said she didn't want to let all these middle-aged people down who'd been inspired by her run at an Olympics roster spot.
f. Speaking of letting people down, there's a lot of people in the King family disappointed in John Edwards right now.
g. Coffeenerdness: On the advice of Braylon Edwards, I've recently tried Panera Bread for lunch. (What do I know? Thought it was just a bakery.) Good sandwiches. Very good dark-roast coffee, the Antiguan blend. It's not Colgate blend, but for a chain, it's very good.
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