Quote of the Week I
"For us, that's an academic problem, because we've got the No. 1 player at that position in the world as far as I'm concerned, and why would we ever want to do anything that would take him off the field for one play?''
-- New England owner Bob Kraft, on Sirius NFL Radio Saturday, saying the Patriots aren't going to have interest in signing Michael Vick.
Quote of the Week II
"Last year, I talked to the team. This year, I'm talking with the team.''
-- Sophomore Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh, on the difference between addressing his team last year and this year.
Quote of the Week III
"Hey T.O.! T.O.! T.O.! Way to stretch!''
-- A fan at the Buffalo training camp in Pittsford, N.Y., to Terrell Owens before a practice last week. Fans have been cheering Owens for the oddest things.
Stat of the Week
Tell me the big stars on the Philadelphia defense in this decade. Hugh Douglas? Brian Dawkins? That's it. "That's what's amazing about what Jim Johnson did,'' said his friend and former staff-mate in Indianapolis and at Notre Dame, defensive coordinator Greg Blache of the Redskins. "He made the most of what he had every year.'' How the Eagles fared league-wide under Johnson's tutelage since the new century dawned: Defensive category
Interesting. Douglas is the Eagles' leading sacker this decade with 40. Imagine he's the best pass-rusher you've had over the decade, and you get an idea of what good team defense Johnson orchestrated with the Eagles.
Tweets of the Week
"Here we go with the meetings again ... the first week highlights fundamentals. So boring but essentail [sic].''
--vshiancoe, Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, time-stamped at 11 a.m. Thursday, when the team was in team meetings. That was followed by Shiancoe's next Tweet 46 minutes later:
"Zzzzzz zzzz zzzz zzz (in meetings) lol ... Introducing the staff.''
Tweetup of the Week
Sure hope we do better tonight in upstate New York than we did three weeks ago in Los Angeles, when a grand total of four people -- and a few crickets -- flocked to our Tweetup. Tonight at 6 at Joseph Bruno Stadium in Troy, N.Y., adjacent to Albany, we'll have a star-studded group of Tweeters to answer any and all of your questions. Go here for tickets.
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me I
The five current and former NFL coaches who spent a week in Iraq on a USO trip rallying the troops this summer -- Jeff Fisher, Tom Coughlin, Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden and Harbaugh -- stayed in the same large room, sleeping in bunk beds, for the week. Harbaugh said (as if this is a surprise) that Coughlin every night carefully peeled the edge of his blanket and sheet back, but only enough so he could slip in, and then pulled the cover over him, so it looked like the bed was made, with the form of a thin man the only lump in a perfect military-style bunk.
"Even when he turned over, he barely moved the covers,'' Harbaugh said. "In the morning, when he made the bed, there was not a wrinkle in it. But isn't that what you'd expect from a Tom Coughlin bed?''
One morning, when it was still dark out, Harbaugh couldn't sleep. He quietly slipped outside for a run, not leaving a note, and he got discombobulated, and he was out of the room longer than he'd planned. When Harbaugh returned, Coughlin was up, pacing, and said to him: "Where the hell have you been?! I was worried sick about you!''
"What a guy,'' Harbaugh said. "I think he kind of felt like my father over there.''
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me II
On the back of the purple T-shirt Terrell Suggs wore under his practice jersey Thursday were these words: "You Bet Your Sweet Ass I Hate The Steelers.''
Enjoyable/Aggravating Travel Note of the Week
For the first time, I've had a traveling companion for the training-camp trip. It's Ross Tucker, who played seven years on the offensive line in the NFL. Tucker joined me at Bills' camp in Pittsford, N.Y., last Tuesday and will be with me through the end the day tomorrow, when we part company after a day with the Giants in Albany. Miles I've put on the rental car as of this morning after the Boston-to-Pittsford-to-Ashburn-to-Westminster-to-Bethlehem-to-Latrobe-to-Cortland magical mystery tour: 1,243.
Tucker's a comfortable old shoe, and smart. A former Redskin, he's buddies with fullback Mike Sellers, and he said, "He's the baddest ass on the team, by far. If he challenged any player on that team to a fight, I guarantee they'd all try to find a way to get out of it.'' Watching new Raven center Matt Birk in drills wearing number 77, he said, "I guess Matt just didn't want to spend the money to buy his old number from Adam Terry.'' Terry wears 78, the number Birk wore for 11 years with the Vikings. (Though later, Birk told us, "It's not that. I just wanted a new number for a new start.'')
When a tornado warning and storms forced the Ravens inside the McDaniel College gym Thursday afternoon, Tucker said, "The players were high-fiving in the locker room when they got the news they were going inside. One less practice they have to hit each other.''
Tucker's still talking about rookie Eagles back LeSean McCoy's blitz-pickup ability. Offensive guard-turned-tackle Stacy Andrews is still rehabbing an offseason knee injury, and Tucker noted that on his pass-sets, he just doesn't look confident in the health of his knee.
So, it's been fun to have him along. Friday night was cool, in a few ways. We'd just gotten to the Lehigh Valley from Maryland, a 144-mile drive, and lo and behold, Tucker, who is a Blackberry bandito, discovered Pedro Martinez was pitching in a rehab start in Allentown, and his Lehigh Valley IronPigs announcer buddy Steve Degler could get us into the sold-out ballpark. Well, of course we were going to the game. You kidding?
We walked into the home-plate concourse as Pedro was finishing his warmups. Ninety seconds later, on his second pitch of the night, Pedro gave up a long homer to right. (Five innings, 84 pitches, none faster than 91. Lots of 86-mph fastballs and 71-mph changes. He's going to have to get by in this reincarnation on guile, and guile alone.)
Three other notes about the evening. One: In the top of the second, Tucker and I were standing down the right-field line, drinking cups of Shock Top Belgian White beer, when a woman walking to her seat with two cups of ice cream approached. "Excuse me,'' said Tucker, who is pleasant and absolutely not shy. "What kind of ice cream is that?''
"Moose tracks,'' she said.
"It looks fantastic!'' he said. "Can I have a bite?''
"No,'' she said. "You'll have to get your own.''
Two: The ballpark, designed by HOK, is fabulous. It's a mini-Camden Yards, roomy, comfortable and ridiculously creature-comfortable.
Three: When it was time to eat, Tucker found the Aw Shuck's Roasted Corn out in right field. Now, I've been to many ballparks in my 52 years, and I've never seen a roasted corn concession at a ballpark. But this corn was ... well, I'll just say if I had my choice between a Kansas City Porterhouse or an Aw Shucks ear, I'd take the corn.
Using locally grown ears of white-yellow Sweet Corn from Nazareth, Pa. (Get it? Nazareth? Bethlehem?), three kids bake the ears, not shucked yet, in a large roaster in the straight-away right-field concourse. The ears come out, roasted, and they're shucked, dipped in butter and sprinkled liberally with Parmesan cheese and a blend of spices (I'm told the recipe is a secret) that give the corn a Cajun/Southwest flavor.
We had two ears apiece, and Saturday morning, the first words Tucker spoke to me as we went out the door of our hotel to Eagles camp were: "Was that the most unbelievable corn you've ever had in your life last night?'' Yes. Without question. My only regret is I had only two ears, not 22.
That's a pretty good Friday night in Allentown, Pa.
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