Friday, 11:30 a.m. (Ravens camp, Westminster, Md.) Ed Reed walks the autograph line. One reason I'm always so adamant about teams having training camp away from home is because I've seen how players can impact so many lives with the simple act of human kindness through an autograph or a handshake to a kid. I want to show you this, and the best way I know how is to walk with Reed and let you hear and feel what he hears and feels as he spends 37 minutes signing autographs and interacting with kids who, one after one, looked at him like kids used to look at The Beatles. The play-by-play of Reed on the autograph line, with the Reed words in italic:
"Ed! Ed! Mr. Reed!"
"I'll get there. Don't worry. I'll get there."
"Thank you. Thank you."
"You're my favorite player on the team."
"Ed, how's it feel to be a great player?"
"Pretty good! Thank you."
"Can I have one of your gloves?"
"No. I need them for the afternoon practice."
"How about your shirt? Can I have your shirt?"
"If I gave you my shirt what would I practice in?"
"Can I have one of your gloves? Please! Please!"
"No, I need 'em."
"Can I have anything?"
"You can have an autograph."
"Please keep signing, please please."
"Don't worry, I will. Just don't push."
"Can I have one of your gloves?"
"Don't ask him that! It's my question!''
"Eighty people have asked me for my gloves. I can't.''
"Take one to the house this year.''
"My brother can't be here today. Can you sign his helmet?"
"Sure. You got one too? Give it to me, little man."
"Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."
"Do you need your glove? Could I have a glove please?"
"Can I have your shirt then?"
"Can't have that either, but I'll sign for you."
"Can you sign my shirt?"
"Yes, sir. How's that?"
As this is happening, I'm looking over Reed's shoulder at the quasi-legible scribble that looks like "E Reed 20."
"I try to make it legible. I learned that from Arnold Palmer," Reed said. "I was watching the Golf Channel once and Arnold Palmer came on and was talking about autographs. He said, 'Make sure people can read it so they remember you.' So that's what I try to do, even on a long line like this. I want people to look back at that and know it was me and remember me."
"Bet you get 12 interceptions this year."
"Nope. 13. I'll get 13."
"Mr. Reed you're my favorite player!"
"How's the neck this year? Are you OK?"
"It's a little sore I'll be OK."
"You da man!"
"Hey, can I have one of your gloves?"
"I can't give you my gloves. I need 'em today."
"Best safety ever! Better than Lott!"
"I guess I'll take that."
"Ed! Ed! Ed! Mr. Reed!"
"Don't worry, I'll get to you. Don't push."
"How'd you get so good?"
"Practice. Like doing math in school. You like math?"
"Hate math. I like science."
"OK, science. The more you practice it, the more you study it, the better you get. That's like football."
"You're never going to leave us are you?"
"Good, we need you."
"I like those gloves. Can I have one of your gloves?"
"Mr. Reed! Mr. Reed! Can I touch your beard?"
"No. How do I know where your hands have been?"
"Ed! Ed! Right here! One more!"
Friday, 4:45 p.m. (Somewhere near Gettysburg, Pa.) Tucker rides shotgun and fires up Twitter, profootballtalk.com and whatever other news ports he has on his Blackberry. For a former player, he's a real sports junkie. He tells me someone's reporting that Mike Vick just worked out for the Patriots at 3 o'clock this afternoon in Foxboro. Immediately, I get a remember-where-you-heard-the-Vick-news-first text from Sal Paolantonio, who told the crowd at the Dr. Z benefit back in May that he thought the Patriots would be a major player for Vick. I'd been saying the Patriots were my best-guess landing spot for Vick too.
Five minutes pass. My phone rings, and it's Someone Who Knows, telling me absolutely, unequivocally the Patriots did not work out Vick, and there is no interest in signing him, and Bill Belichick likes Kevin O'Connell as Tom Brady's backup, and the team doesn't need the circus that Vick would engender.
It's a weird media world we're in right now. My allegiance, obviously, is to SI.com, but I know if I take 10 minutes right now to dictate the item to someone on the news desk, the story will get up in 20 minutes, and we'll probably be too late. So I decide to throw a couple of Tweets up, the first at 4:59 saying Vick wasn't in Foxboro, and the second that the Pats don't want Vick and like O'Connell. Sure enough, at 5:01 p.m., Adam Schefter Tweeted that Vick wasn't in New England either. It's a crazy media world. Forgive me, Time Warner.
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