Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of preseason Week 4:
a. I wish there hadn't been a preseason Week 4.
b. I like the reinstatement of Pacman Jones, or Adam Jones, or whatever his name is this week.
c. Adam Pacman to me: "I want to play in Dallas the rest of my career. I never want to leave.''
d. Rod Marinelli on Jon Kitna: "To me, there's not a better quarterback in the NFC.'' Nice to have a loving coach with Honolulu-blue-colored glasses.
e. Did you notice Chris Henry was one of Cincinnati's weekly captains for its final exhibition game? I think Sirhan Sirhan got his Eagle Scout badge in the big house years ago too.
f. I am amazed, just amazed, that Andre Woodson, in the span of 10 months, has gone from likely first-round pick, to the sixth round, to the waiver wire after being cut Saturday by the New York Giants. That is a team that loves prospects, and for it to toss away Woodson is an indictment on the kid's grasp of the pro game and his confidence, which flagged from the first day of training camp.
g. Matt Bryant missed field goals of 36, 36 and 23 yards in August. The Bucs aren't good enough to carry a kicker in a slump, so look for Jon Gruden to have little patience for Bryant if the slump continues into Week 1 or 2.
h. It seems bizarre, but Jim Zorn is really thinking of playing Stephon Heyer, a second-year tackle, ahead of 10-year vet and longtime starter Jon Jansen, who's had trouble in the preseason with speed rushers, at right tackle. Why wouldn't Zorn do this, with Justin Tuck set to line up across from the Washington right tackle Thursday night?
i. I love the fact that Buffalo kept on its 53-man roster rookie Reggie Corner, a corner.
j. Could the news media covering the Democratic National Convention have butchered the name of the Broncos' home field any more thoroughly for a week? Never, ever, ever, did I hear the full proper name of the place -- Invesco Field at Mile High. I heard "Invesco Field'' on CNN quite often, which is fine. But I bet 19 times on CNN, NPR, MSNBC and Fox News I heard "Mile High Stadium,'' even Friday morning, in all the post-mortems. How hard is it to get the name of the stadium right?
k. The Dayton Daily News, one of the papers covering the Bengals daily, has begun referring to Chad Johnson as Chad Ocho Cinco, from the looks of Saturday's paper. "The week leading up to the Baltimore game represents the first full week of practice time Ocho Cinco, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Carson Palmer will have together since the 2007 season finale at Miami,'' beat man Chick Ludwig wrote Saturday, apparently with a straight face.
l. Cornerback John Bowie got IR'd by the Raiders. He's the defensive back drafted by Oakland with the choice acquired in the Randy Moss trade. That means the Raiders have officially gotten nothing out of the trade for one of the best players in football.
m. Adios, John Lynch. I hope this isn't the end.
2. I think this will give you a good idea of the robbery that is the NFL preseason. Here is a partial list of the players who did not take the field for the final exhibition game of the summer, though they were healthy enough to play (and I am not including Peyton Manning or Tom Brady). Keep in mind that the teams didn't give a single rebate for these games, charging the same prices they'll charge for the real games:
Carson Palmer, LaDainian Tomlinson, Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates, Matt Hasselbeck, Patrick Kerney, Julian Peterson, Al Harris, Charles Woodson, Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Jeremy Shockey, Reggie Bush, Charles Grant, Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma, Steve Smith, Julius Peppers, Eli Manning, Plaxico Burress, Justin Tuck, Brett Favre, J.T. O'Sullivan, Frank Gore, Isaac Bruce, Nate Clements, Patrick Willis, Marc Bulger, Torry Holt, Steven Jackson, Clinton Portis, Antwaan Randle El, Marvin Harrison, Joseph Addai, Brandon Marshall, Jay Cutler ... well, you get it. In the Buffalo-Detroit game, 37 of the 44 projected starters did not play. It continues to be a disgrace that NFL owners steal money from their most loyal fans -- the ones who buy tickets -- by charging regular-season prices for preseason games.
3. I think you might be surprised at the NFL player who will be under the most pressure in September. Not Derek Anderson, the quarterback of the Browns, coming off such a lousy end to 2007. Not Steve Justice, the sixth-round rookie from Wake Forest, called on to open the season at center for Indianapolis. (Remember A Beautiful Mind, with Russell Crowe playing the genius who could crack every top-secret code? The Colts have two Crowes -- Manning and his alter-ego at center, Jeff Saturday, out for six weeks with a knee injury.) Not Matt Ryan or Brodie Croyle, handed the reins of bad teams with almost no chance of early success.
Here's my candidate: Artis Hicks. With the four-game suspension handed to left tackle Bryant McKinnie by the league last week, the Vikings turn to Hicks, and all he'll have to do in the next four weeks is protect the blind side of an inexperienced quarterback (Tarvaris Jackson) gimpy with a recovering knee. His blocking assignments: Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Dwight Freeney, Julius Peppers and Kyle Vanden Bosch. Yikes.
4. I think you might be surprised at the player who suffered the biggest injury in wasteful Week 4: Seattle wideout Ben Obamanu. He suffered a broken clavicle against Oakland and now, instead of starting next week at Buffalo -- with injuries likely keeping Deion Branch and Bobby Engram out of the lineup -- Obamanu is on IR for the year, and Holmgren is going to have to scotch-tape a passing game together for Hasselbeck. I do not like the Seattle offense Sunday in Orchard Park. That would be a huge win if the Seahawks, with those injuries, could pull it out.
5. I think if you're a fan of the Browns, or if you're interested in the mechanics of how a trade in the NFL gets done, you might want to read my diary of Cleveland's offseason in Sports Illustrated later this week. My favorite part is the contentious trade between Cleveland and Detroit for Rogers, and how Rogers went from Detroit to Cleveland to Cincinnati to Buffalo to Cleveland in about 18 hours. The emotion and anger in the discussions between Millen and Phil Savage will be fun to read. They were fun to report.
6. I think if you like gold-medal hero Michael Phelps, there's going to be something about Phelps in that story that will surprise you quite a lot.
7. I think there's been far, far, far too much debate on whether teams winning the pre-game coin flip will defer their decision to the start of the second half. Can we give it a rest please? Someone asks Belichick about it twice a week. I'll be shocked if a team's choice to receive the kickoff to start the first half or second half determines the outcome of a single game all season. Think about it. A team that wins the flip and decides to take the ball at the start of the third quarter will get the same number of possessions as one that wins the flip and decides to take the ball at the start of the first quarter.
8. I think one of the most intriguing battles in any camp -- second-round rookie Brian Brohm versus sixth-round rookie Matt Flynn to back up Aaron Rodgers -- was clearly won by Flynn. But now the Packers have to decide if they're comfortable with Flynn being a heartbeat away from quarterbacking a playoff team.
9. I think the nomination of Bob Hayes by the Seniors Committee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee is a bit odd. Fairness in journalism here: I am one of the 44 selectors, but not one of the rotating members of the senior group that picks two old-timers for the entire body to vote on at the Hall's selection meeting on the Saturday before the Super Bowl.
I have tremendous respect for these voters, and I'm not just saying that. I do. But every year we hear about the tremendous backlog of great Seniors candidates, passed over for one reason or another during their time as regular candidates. And Hayes was voted down just five years ago by the body after being nominated by the Seniors Committee. You're telling me there aren't deserving candidates whose names have not come up in the past decade by the Seniors Committee, players like Mick Tingelhoff and Jim Marshall? I understand the tremendous interest in Hayes -- both publicly and by the committee -- but should he be coming up to a vote again after being spurned just five years ago?
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Best speech of the Democratic Convention: Obama, easy. Second-best: Beau Biden. That kid's got it together.
b. I regret to inform you that there's been another fatality in Army Sgt. Mike McGuire's platoon, along with some injuries. I've been asked to not be specific about the injuries, or about the accident, except to say that there is a new explosive device that the insurgents are using, and instead of simply exploding, the device shoots off projectile explosives that can kill and maim in all directions.
I feel for Mike so much. He has had enough of the war, yet wants to support his men in any way he can. When he has leave next month, rather than spend all of it with his family, he is going to a memorial service for the late Sgt. Allen Bevington in western Pennsylvania, and then to Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington to visit Nick Koulchar, one of his men who was wounded in this most recent attack. If you are so inclined, pray for McGuire's platoon and all of the other troops abroad.
c. While you're at it, pray for the Gulf Coast of this country.
d. The Mets must have the worst bullpen of any contender in history.
e. Is Dustin Pedroia a real person? He just had a 43-hit month, with six home runs. He is 5-foot-8, maybe. He just went 4-for-4 on back-to-back nights, reaching base 10 times in 10 appearances in the two games. Terry Francona batted him cleanup twice. Ozzie Guillen pitched to David Ortiz and intentionally walked Pedroia. Ozzie Guillen said, "I just [intentionally] walked a jockey.'' This is an amazing story we're watching.
f. How on God's green earth did that official scorer rule the one hit in CC Sabathia's one-hitter a hit? It was as clear an error as there could be. If Sabathia doesn't drop the ball, he throws the runner out at first easily.
g. How on God's green earth does Anderson Cooper's hair stay so nice in a hurricane? Does he go to Jimmy Johnson's stylist?
h. Coffeenerdness: It's a controversial addition, this new Vivanno smoothie at Starbucks. But the banana-chocolate one is a well-worth-it 270 calories, if you ask me, with a real banana in it, plus some protein. Tasty.
i. Answer to NFL quiz: Lumpkin, Hall and Kuhn are three of the five backs kept by Green Bay, with Hall and Kuhn playing predominantly fullback. The team's other two backs are Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson.
How do your Week 1 picks stack up against Peter King's? Click here.