Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think the Jets have just sent the divorce papers to Brett Favre. When owner Woody Johnson said Thursday in New York that Favre would have to participate in the offseason program if he wanted to return, he was echoing something felt in the Jets locker room and said openly after the season by safety Kerry Rhodes.
Problem is, Favre will never attend a team's full offseason program. Those programs were ones he skipped for 16 springs and summers in Green Bay -- and you're kidding yourself if you think he's going to move back to New Jersey for 12 to 16 weeks in March. "I've never been in a [full] offseason program,'' Favre told me a month ago.
What makes the most sense now is, sometime after the Super Bowl, Favre and the Jets having an amicable separation, and Favre retiring. This time for good. The Jets have a new coach and need to move on to a new future with Brett Ratliff, Kellen Clemens or a rookie quarterback of the next decade.
2. I think, with no games this weekend, that I'll have Phil Savage, the former Browns' general manager who scouted all the practices at the Senior Bowl in Mobile last week, check in with his thoughts on the movers and shakers among the prospects there:
a. The senior quarterback group is not strong. Matt Stafford and Mark Sanchez [juniors from Georgia and USC, respectively] must have known if they came out, they'd go high. ... I liked the arm of Rhett Bomar, the Sam Houston State quarterback. He got a lot of exposure here and kept himself alive.
b. Alex Mack, the center from Cal, distanced himself from the pack at his position. He probably got himself into late in the first round.
c. Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga get the attention as USC linebackers, and they're good. But Clay Matthews Jr. weighed in three pounds heavier than Cushing and showed he can play inside or outside linebacker. He went from being a mid-round guy in the fall to late in the first or the second round. He was a 175-pound kid in high school. He's 246 and instinctive, just like his dad. (Clay Matthews Sr. played 19 NFL seasons in Cleveland and Atlanta, and his 278 games played are third-most in history.)
d. Cushing looks like a pro, an outside 'backer, kind of like a Kevin Greene.
e. Brian Robiskie, the Ohio State wide receiver, has had his speed questioned, but you can tell this is a kid who'd been to NFL camps and worked with his dad, because in the one-on-ones, he was very prepared and competitive. He's probably still a mid-round pick, but he's a good third-receiver type, a possession type who will make some plays with his size and his hands.
f. Rey Maualuga is a first- and second-down run defender. Not sure if he's going to be a great third-down player.
g. Pat White's been at the center of a lot of debate about whether he can play quarterback in the NFL. It's probably a longshot at 6-foot and 190, but who knows? I'd love to see him play that wildcat spot. We had Josh Cribbs do it in Cleveland because he could throw the ball. I would think Pat White's a receiver, probably, but he can be a third quarterback type and play the wildcat. He adds a dimension to the Wildcat because he can throw.
h. Michael Oher, the tackle from Ole Miss, is shrouded in mystery. He's the kid [Michael Lewis] wrote the book on, who kind of went from poverty to a suburban life because of football. He had a solid week, put himself in position to be a top 10 pick. He's 6-5, 325, with long arms. He's athletic, and he should be able to play left tackle. The great thing about taking a left tackle is if he doesn't pan out, he'll be able to be a right tackle.
i. The best three players I saw, maybe, were Cushing, Oher and Brandon Pettigrew, a tight end from Oklahoma State who is probably the most complete tight end in the country. Very impressed with him. He could go at the bottom of the first round.
j. Not much of a surprise, but 46 juniors came out, and I've seen most of them now, and I think it could potentially be the biggest draft for juniors ever. There will be something between 12 and 20 juniors picked in the first round.
k. First pick in the draft? If it's Detroit, and Jim Schwartz is talking about Bobby Layne, and the offensive coordinator is Scott Linehan, who wants a big, strong-thrower, I'd say the big strong QB with a strong arm would be the pick. Matthew Stafford is big and throws the ball so well. It's a pretty easy guess.
3. I think the Saints have absolutely zero worries about Reggie Bush resuming his career and playing well in 2009 after what was announced as microfracture surgery on his knee by the renowned Dr. James Andrews after the season. "Microfracture'' is a scary term. It's used to describe a surgery in which there's significant bone-on-bone contact with little cartilage left to cushion the contact, and the surgeon attempts to regenerate cartilage and increase blood flow in the affected area. "In Reggie's case,'' coach Sean Payton said over the weekend, "all Dr. Andrews did was prick the bone three times during the surgery [to regenerate blood flow]. He doesn't think it's the classic microfracture. I fully expect Reggie to be ready by June 1.''
4. I think, speaking of the Saints, I don't like the naming of Gregg Williams as defensive coordinator. I love it. He'll bring toughness and an accountability I didn't see with the New Orleans D last year.
5. I think the Browns must really like the Bill Belichick tree, and Baltimore. In 2005, they hired an under-the-radar general manager from Baltimore, Phil Savage, who had cut his teeth as an apprentice on the Belichick staff in Cleveland in the mid-90s; and they hired a coach, Romeo Crennel, who'd coached under Belichick with the Patriots and Jets.
In 2008, they have hired an under-the-radar general manager from Baltimore, George Kokinis, who cut his teeth as an apprentice on the Belichick staff in Cleveland in the mid-90s; and they hired a coach, Eric Mangini, who'd coached under Belichick with the Patriots and Jets. I hear the Browns have whacked 15 people since Mangini took over. And to think people in the front office were worried about a mass purge if Scott Pioli had taken the GM job.
6. I think if you're looking for a smoking gun in Mike Shanahan NOT returning to coaching in 2009, look no further than his coaching staff. Since getting fired in late December, Shanahan lost lots of his staff to other teams -- trusted quarterback coach and play-caller Jeremy Bates to USC as offensive coordinator, receivers coach Jedd Fisch to the University of Minnesota as offensive coordinator, defensive line coach Bill Johnson to the same job with the Saints, assistant Joe Baker to the defensive backfield job with Tampa Bay, and defensive coordinator Bob Slowik to the secondary job in Detroit.
I can tell you for a fact that Shanahan would not take a job if he didn't have the makings of a staff he liked in place, and so many of the guys he worked with were already gone. Give him six or eight months to line up a staff this year, and you'll likely see him back with a team early next year.
7. I think I'm still mulling the outcome of this game. I thought I was sold on the Cards for a while, but I spent time last week talking to coaches and defensive backs who have played Larry Fitzgerald, and there's a good deal of faith out there that the Steelers won't get ramrodded by this great player. Give me a few days to noodle on the outcome.
8. I think so many of you have written and called with questions about Paul Zimmerman, and I wanted to give you an update on his condition. To sum up: Paul had a third, minor stroke while in his New Jersey rehab facility, and some of the progress he'd made in the first few days in the place was lost. He is battling and working as hard as he's ever worked on any story in his life, and I can confirm that because I've seen it with my own eyes. But as of now, he cannot speak, has difficulty reading because of the effects of the strokes on his eyes, and does not have full use of his right side, including his arm and leg. He gets about three hours of therapy per day and is being trained to speak and walk again. It is probably going to be a long haul back to normalcy for Dr. Z -- and now we have to hope that the insurance company will see that his case needs more time in rehab. That's the thing Linda, a.k.a. The Flaming Redhead, is battling now.
I had an idea. This is the first Super Bowl in 41 years that Zim is missing. It'd be a great if any of you would see fit to drop Paul a card or get-well letter this week in care of SI.com and we'll deliver all the mail to him this weekend in time for the game. Yes, he's watching the games. And still loving them.
And if you'd like to send e-mail, address it to Dr. Z at firstname.lastname@example.org.
9. I think you know it's going to be a fun Super Bowl when you walk into the lobby of your hotel and, just like the old days, there's John Madden and John Robinson -- his traveling pal and confidant -- sitting and chewing the fat after a nice dinner at Lee Roy Selmon's. Madden was doing Robinson's games 20 years ago (I distinctly remember the Rams' overtime win over the Giants on the Flipper Anderson touchdown catch in overtime at the Meadowlands); it's a big-game feel when it's a Madden game. Still.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. For the love of urinals: My SI pro football editor, Mark Mravic, was quite taken with my note on the Jerome Bettis urinals with the picture window in last week's column. Manhattanite Mravic reports: "There's a bar in Soho where the doors of the bathrooms are floor-to-ceiling clear glass, but somehow frost over when you close the door. It's very disconcerting; you really have to trust whatever the technology is.'' Bar 89 is the name. Saw the doors online, and they're a tad strange.
b. Mike McGuire lives! Our favorite solider, the Army first sergeant you've gotten to know here in the column, checks in from Iraq, thrilled to see his favorite player of all time, Kurt Warner, playing in the Super Bowl . He reports via e-mail from the front line of the Iraq War, still sweeping very dangerous roads for the ever-dangerous Improvised Explosive Devices:
"Hopefully I will be able to watch the Super Bowl (mission dependant). We are lucky enough that everyone over here has the opportunity to get two beers during the Super Bowl. Two beers -- that is going to be a morale booster, I guarantee. I am really surprised that we are getting it.
"We do our patrols for IEDs in the Sadr City area. It's a very hostile city. It's like the last stronghold. A sort of 'last stand' place for these guys. Seems like every night someone's vehicle is getting hit by an EFP (Explosively Formed Projectile). Even though we spend up to 15 hours a day on patrols, they still manage to hit other vehicles not in our Route Clearance Team. Luckily not everyone that hits a coalition vehicle kills someone.
"Looking for these things is like finding a needle in a haystack. If we don't find it, it could cost someone dearly, and I don't want that on our conscience. My men put in some serious hours, 12 to 15 every day. That's not counting the prep before and after. But time goes by fast that way.
"We are all excited about the Super Bowl, as you know, none more than me. The year I am deployed and this happens, oh well, I will buy the Cardinals year in review on DVD to watch it all ... I read your article on Kurt and the Hall of Fame. Come on man! Two different teams to the Super Bowl, two-time league MVP, Super Bowl MVP, maybe a third league MVP and Super Bowl MVP, his pass completion is off the charts, yardage compares to anyone else. There is more -- just can't think now.
"Anyway, we are hunting on a daily basis still. The NFL is a key part of us and so are your articles. Thanks for your support from me and the Soldiers of Alpha Company 40th Engineers (Earthquake). Take care and talk to you later. Mike.''
c. You and the boys are in our thoughts and prayers, Mike. Be careful. I'll make sure Warner knows how much this means to you.
d. Coffeenerdness: I am writing in the NFL media center, and there are rumblings of no coffee in the Media Workroom. OK, Commissioner Goodell. I know you've got this looming 2011 work action on your plate. But no coffee in the work room? This must be rectified! We must have our legal drug!
e. I really want to meet Bruce Springsteen this week. Is that too much to ask?
f. Come to think of it, if I met him, what would I say? "I love your music?'' "The Wrestler is going to be an ESPN instant classic?''
g. I'd probably just say the same thing to him that I often say to Bailey the golden retriever: "You're so good.'' Or maybe: "I'm proud to share the same state.'' Something ridiculously gee-whiz.
h. East 12, West 11. NHL All-Star Game. And not one player went home with a scratch.
i. Finally did some catching up with the sixth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm in the past few days. It doesn't get much better than Larry getting caught stealing flowers from his best friend's mom's memorial site. Might not sound funny, but it is.
j. Hey, Tom Verducci: Sounds like you might have captured the real Joe Torre. Look forward to reading the book.