Good Guy Of The Week
Bob Sanders, SS, Indianapolis. When Sanders, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, was growing up in Erie, Pa., he had little post-high school guidance about his educational future. As a high school senior, he says he didn't even know what the SAT was. He pulled himself together to qualify for college and went on to play and do well in classes at the University of Iowa, but he always thought he would want to help kids who grew up aimlessly.
So in December, Sanders will establish "Chasing Dreams,'' his foundation designed to help adolescents who might otherwise get lost without much guidance from home or from teachers. Sanders has vowed to take responsibility for 21 underprivileged Indianapolis middle-school children, starting in seventh grade, and help them with tutoring, advisors, college-prep classes. He will take the kids on college tours when they reach high school and make weekly visits to their school to make sure they're on the right track.
What I Learned About Football This Week That I Didn't Know Last Week
Adrian Peterson knows teams are starting to figure him out.
I'll have a story in Sports Illustrated this week, delving into the mind of one of the game's smartest players, Tampa Bay linebacker Derrick Brooks. He let me into his study sessions before Bucs-Vikes, and his video analysis postgame last Monday. It's a cool look -- with the deconstruction of one very important play from the game -- as Brooks and the Bucs try to stop the most electric player in football.
I won't give you any real spoilers here, but I will say Brooks and the Bucs did a good job on Peterson, and when I called Peterson Wednesday to explain the Tampa Bay defensive plan for stopping him, he was pretty forthcoming. In the story, I explain how Brooks and the Bucs tried to throw a front-seven net around Peterson on every logical rushing down, because the times he gashes a defense are usually the times he gets a hole -- even if for a split second -- to break a big one. It's more complicated than that, but this was Peterson's reaction: "They played me right. They did a great job staying true to their gaps. Good strategy. That's what it's all about [against me].''
I was impressed with Peterson's honesty on this and a few other issues that I write about in the magazine. Most often a player would cloud his responses if I asked him direct questions about a scouting report on him, but not Peterson.
"It says a lot about Derrick that he knows all that about me, even though he doesn't play me very often,'' Peterson said. "I'm kind of surprised.''
He shouldn't be. Peterson, and the rest of the league, should know this about his running style: Gap control is far and away the most important single factor in stopping him from running wild. That's not a cliché. It's a fact with him.
Factoids of the Week That May Interest Only Me
Five things you didn't know about Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who was honored Thursday night before the Pittsburgh-Cincinnati game for his 50 consecutive years of NFL service -- as a player, assistant coach and head coach. And I won't even include the one about reciting (from memory) Twas the Night Before Christmas to his players every year, a few days before Christmas:
1. His 171 consecutive starts at cornerback for the Detroit Lions between 1959 and 1972 is an NFL record.
2. He played pickup basketball at Ohio State with Bobby Knight, who has called LeBeau one of the 10 finest athletes he has encountered in his life.
3. He served as a stunt double for Michael Caine in a 1970 war movie called Too Late The Hero.
4. He calls his 95-year-old mother, Beulah LeBeau, in London, Ohio, every day.
5. He had holes-in-one seven days apart.
Enjoyable/Aggravating Travel Note of the Week
I have four.
1. It's quieter in hotels and on airplanes these days, with the economy the way it is. I am on a three-flight streak on Continental of being upgraded to first class with my frequent-flyer status, and two of those flights had empty seats in first .... which means there weren't enough Elite flyers aboard to fill the seats. Strange. I don't recall that happening in the last couple of years on Continental.
2. Thumbs up and thumbs down for big Marriotts, like the Marriott Westshore in Tampa. The Good: High-def TVs in the rooms are very welcome. Thank you. Nice to be able to watch the Browns-Bills with a great picture last Monday, even if I only lasted 'til midway through the second quarter.
The Bad: Marriotts simply have to change their shampoo. On overnight trips I often don't bring my full toiletry kit, so I can skate through security and not check a bag. So I find myself using whatever shampoo is in the hotel. Marriotts have been using some Bath and Body Works girly shampoo for the past year or so, and when I get out of the shower, the perfume smell is revolting. Shampooing with soap is the only option -- a grotesque one, but a necessary evil now -- to avoid smelling like a woman.
Can't you put no-smell or low-smell shampoo in the rooms, Mr. Marriott? I know you'll scoff at the toiletries in Hampton Inns, but the freebie Purity shampoo there, relatively scentless, is the way to go.
3. Drove to and from Heinz Field for the Thursday night game from my Jersey home, about 370 miles each way. People say, "You drive five or six hours to a game? You're nuts!'' I would agree that I'm nuts, but not for that reason. Driving's great, especially with Sirius Radio and a good headset for the cell phone. I kept a tally -- 33 work calls on the round-trip. What's the difference between calling from the home office and calling from the car, other than the notes I couldn't take?
4. Gas at the Sideling Hill rest area on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, late July, on my training-camp trip: $4.29 per gallon. Gas at the same station Friday morning: $2.19 per gallon.