Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think Alex Rodriguez needs to stand up in front of the cameras and the writers when he reports to Yankees camp tomorrow and tell the world, "I made a mistake. I slandered Selena Roberts on national TV last week by saying she was stalking me and broke into my home where my daughters were sleeping, and I apologize for it.'' If he doesn't do it, I hope he gets the pants sued off him. I didn't know much about this story until I heard A-Rod tell Peter Gammons that Roberts, an SI writer who broke the story of Rodriguez testing positive for steroids in 2003, had been stalking him and his family. I went on Michael Irvin's talk show in Dallas a couple of days after the A-Rod interview, ostensibly to talk about Terrell Owens' future in Dallas. But most of the questions from Irvin were about Selena the Stalker. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Two sides to every story, I said. But Mike would have none of it; he was convinced, despite me telling him that the New York Daily News was reporting there was nothing to Rodriguez's allegations, Roberts was guilty. Well, now it turns out that Rodriguez called Roberts last week and offered a lukewarm sort-of apology, and no one in any medium has found any basis for the A-Rod allegations. He'd be one-tenth of a man if he doesn't publicly apologize.
And one other point for all of you casting either SI or Roberts as the Wicked Witch of the West here: The press exists, in part, to investigate. Sometimes reporters have to go where they're not wanted. The A-Rod story is infinitesimally as important as Watergate, for example, but in both cases, reporters went down dark roads and asked questions the establishment didn't want answered and eventually they were answered, and public opinion was changed because of it. I applaud Roberts vigorously, and not just because I work with her.
2. I think the Panthers have to get tackle Jordan Gross signed this week, or they'll get no compensation for Julius Peppers. That's how it looks to me. If Gross can be signed, Carolina can franchise Peppers and deal him for at least a first-round pick -- which I would do because he's 29, entering his ninth year, and clearly isn't going to be a program guy if he stays.
3. I think column contributor Doug Kelly -- the former NFL and USFL and network PR man -- checks in with this wisdom I just had to steal about the notion Brett Favre "tarnished his legacy'' in 2008 playing for the Jets: "I don't think anything Brett did, or did not, do in '08 takes away from what he did in 16 years in Green Bay. What you saw in '08 was what you saw in '91 in Atlanta and '92-07 in Packerland. I was a 23-year-old kid when I had an audience in 1973 with one John Unitas, in San Diego's training camp. My first job out of school, NFL Properties, and I was this totally wet-behind-the-ears lad doing a story on a guy that I'd followed closely for 15 years. We are sitting in his dorm room at UC Irvine, and he had a water bed as a 'perk' for being 40 years old. This was the 'Wild Bunch' Chargers of head coach Harland Svare. I asked John, 'Are you concerned about your legacy being here?' He said, 'I don't worry about what I've done, if that is what you mean. All I want to try and do is win games. Nothing else matters to me.' I've often thought of that quote . . . especially when it comes to Unitas, Namath, Montana, Favre, all the QBs [and other great position players] who've established themselves in one place and then had to go elsewhere, for reasons varied. None of these guys wanted it to end, and kept at it until the inevitable came to pass.''
4. I think the Lions, with sufficient cap room available and picking first and 20th in the first round 10 weeks from now, will find their quarterback of the future by May 1. I just don't know if his name is Matt Cassel, Matthew Stafford or Mark Sanchez.
5. I think if I were Matthew Stafford, by the way, I'd be keeping a collection of all these "He can't make an impact in year one like Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco'' quotes that are everywhere these days. And they'd be driving me to work a lot harder this off-season.
6. I think I wouldn't touch Pacman Jones. But I might be interested in Michael Vick. Keep this in mind: Even if Vick's free in mid-July, as he might be, I fully expect Vick to be hit with a suspension from the league of as long as a year. I don't believe he'd be available to play until at least opening day 2010. At that time, it will have been 44 months since he played a football game. Vick will be 30. If I had a moderate need at quarterback, and I knew Vick would be amenable to play different positions, and I knew Vick was in pretty good condition, I'd make a conditional-pick deal for him -- say, a fifth-round pick that could rise to a second- with the right incentives. Vick certainly had a dark side, and he was a liar. But I'm not sure he's a lost cause. He's been humbled, been stripped to the core, and he might be ready for a last chance at redemption. If not, a fifth-round pick was worth the risk. We're a country of second chances.
7. I think the nicest story I've heard in the wake of the Super Bowl came in the officials' locker room after the game. Vice president of officiating Mike Pereira entered the locker room to find field judge Greg Gautreaux crying, and they were tears of joy and relief. Seems that Gautreaux, the man who made the immediate and correct call on the touchdown catch by Santonio Holmes by seeing Holmes get both feet down in fair territory while possessing the ball as his body hit the ground, was petrified that the biggest call of his life, a call he had to make in a millisecond, might be wrong. But it wasn't. It was perfectly correct. "That's a call that will define your career,'' Pereira told Gautreaux.
8. I think it might be a banner year for tackles and receivers in the first round.
9. I think this would be my question to Drew Rosenhaus about Plaxico Burress: I know you have to worry about servicing your client, but what makes you think he's playing football in 2009 anyway? And why would any team deal for a guy almost sure to be missing (either by league suspension or because he's in jail) for a good portion of the season, if not all of it?
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. I sure hope the Mannings are making lots of money for that Oreo cookie ad, which might be the dumbest in NFL history.
b. You go, Stump. Ten years old and Best in Show. I love it. The one thing about that dog show every year is there's about 142 breeds I've never heard of, and they're the cutest dogs, and sometimes, the outcome is so incredibly strange that you think the judge must decide the winner by playing pin-the-tail-on-the-Sussex-Spaniel.
c. For all you Zim-ophiles: Paul Zimmerman is improving, slowly but surely. He is still not speaking or reading, but he is beginning to walk fairly well, with help, and his right side is showing progress after his three strokes of nearly three months ago. "He played Monopoly!'' wife Linda enthused Saturday. He got a big boost from daughter Sarah and son Michael, visiting from out West over the weekend. I visited Zim at his rehab facility Sunday, and he took great delight in my Hall of Fame tales; he missed the selection meeting for the first time in decades this year. The one thing I'll say about him is that, far from giving up, he's attacking his rehab with fervor and optimism. And the dude looks good. I must say he loves all of your letters and cards. Thank you so much for not forgetting him.
d. You ready for Dr. Z-visit round two, Matt Millen? Zim is ready for another visit, with more stories of the old days with the Raiders.
e. Coffeenerdness: I swear this was the request at Starbucks in front of me Saturday: "Chai latte apple infusion, with a shot of chocolate.'' Is that real? Or is someone making that up to test the mettle of a sleepy barista?
f. Saw the Devils beat Boston 1-0 Friday night, with goalie Scott Clemmensen doing his best Martin Brodeur impersonation. In the span of 48 hours over the weekend, the Devils beat the two best teams in hockey, Boston and San Jose. And as sacreligious as it sounds, Clemmenson has been every bit as good as Brodeur this year. Zach Parise, that mighty mite, is so special.
g. Lou Lamoriello, I don't know how you do it. But you're Ron Wolf and George Young rolled into one.