10:10 a.m., Monday (Lions camp, Allen Park, Mich.): I have just seen my first Matthew Stafford semi-wobbler, 90 minutes into the morning practice. He sprinted right, threw about 25 yards into the back of the end zone, the nose dipped and fluttered all the way there. That's it. Everything else has been a spiraled zinger.
Reporters get paid the big bucks to stand on the sidelines at these training camp practices and make judgments about kids who started shaving two weeks ago and drinking (legally) maybe two months ago. Let me be the first to say how absurd it is to answer the question I got later in the day at Detroit Metro Airport, at the gate of my flight to Indianapolis: "Hey Peter, have we got the right guy with Stafford?''
Here's what I said, and what I believe: Stafford's got an A-minus NFL arm right now. The only quarterback I'm sure who has a better one is Jay Cutler. The game's not too big for the rookie. He seems to know how to soft-pedal himself in the locker room from what I saw today and from what I heard from Lions people I trust. This is important because a quarterback has to earn his leadership spurs, not get them handed to him.
Game management? No clue. Accuracy? Good in college but not great, which raises a red flag for me. Huddle management? I think good. Jim Schwartz told me that's impressed him. "He owns the huddle, from what I've seen,'' he said.
He's smart enough, for sure. And what I like is he's not afraid. I tell the story of how Stafford took and gave barbs equally with Dustin Pedroia while working out in Arizona in the offseason.
Watching Stafford throw, I'm impressed. He has touch when he needs touch, a fastball when he needs a fastball.
So if you ask me about the future of Matthew Stafford, I say I think the Lions have their quarterback of the future. I think. "Drafting first-round quarterbacks is a 50-percent washout business,'' says Brian Billick.
He's right. So the draft history book says either Stafford or Mark Sanchez, but not both, will succeed. That's not set in stone, particularly with Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco playing boffo last year as rookies. But I'll be surprised if Stafford tanks.
"I always kind of knew when Tony walked into the meetings," Manning said. "Marvin was always a quiet guy in meetings. The day-to-day operations are the same. Do I know every day they're not here? Yes. There's not a day that goes by that I don't notice Dungy's not the head coach and Marvin's not the right wideout. Marvin's all I knew for 11 years. And for the past seven years, Tony's been such a strong presence. When am I going to get used to it? I don't know. It takes more than a couple of minicamps and a training camp to do that.
"I'm gonna kind of whisper this because I don't like rookies to read anything I say. But I think [third-round BYU receiver] Austin Collie's got a chance. He can run. He can really run. He is working the slot only. We haven't had anyone since Brandon Stokley to work the slot only. That's all he practiced. He doesn't have to worry about anything but the slot.
"The other young guy, Pierre Garcon, can run, too. He's an outside receiver only. What we're doing a better job of with the young guys is we're saying, 'This is your position. You don't have to learn everything.' Garcon is like Marvin; after he takes five steps, he's so fast, you'd better let it go. Last year , he took advantage of it being a semi-redshirt year. He learned. He didn't waste it. I guess what I'm saying is there's some undiscovered potential at receiver that's pretty exciting. Hard, but exciting.
"For a long time, it was 88 [Harrison] over here to the right, 87 [Reggie Wayne] there to the left, 44 [Dallas Clark] in the slot. My point of emphasis has been where I can throw the out route, the in route, the comeback, I can throw anything to Anthony Gonzalez with my eyes closed. With Marvin, I could be looking left, then turn right at the last second and throw to him almost without looking. With Collie and Garcon, they're probably going to be situational wide receivers. As a quarterback, I think you've got to have at least two of those receivers you have that trust in.
"You ask any of our coaches what we have to do better, and they'll tell you we have to run the ball better. No question. We got played cover-two on first, second and third down, daring us to run the ball, and we couldn't win those battles. We couldn't run.
"Everybody keeps asking, 'Is this Caldwell's team? What kind of coach is Caldwell?' Well, how can we know that yet? Let's play the games. Let's see him call a daring onside kick. Let's see him go for it on 4th-and-2 in a big spot. You can't know now.''
And now, from left field:
Me: "You and [Tom] Brady are close. But it isn't like the old days, when Marino, Elway, Kelly, Boomer and all the quarterbacks would spend half the offseason together and play in all of each other's golf tournaments. What's happened to the relationship between quarterbacks?''
Manning: "Interesting. I kind of think there are too many golf tournaments now, too many offseason events you're obligated to. You know when the left guard's having a charity golf tournament, there are too many golf tournaments. It never used to be that way when Marino played, I bet.''
Me: "And if the left guard has a golf tournament, the quarterback has to go.''
Me: "Jim Johnson died of melanoma. You're pretty fair-skinned. You take precautions against skin cancer?''
Manning: "I do. My dad always worried about it. Since we were 7, 8, playing baseball, my dad would be adamant to the point of being annoying and putting sunscreen on before we played. Now Eli [Manning] and I, before we play golf, we'll stay at [their parents'] house, and we'll put sunscreen on before we leave the house. And we'll be on the driving range and my dad will say, here's the sunscreen. I'm like, 'Dad, we already put the sunscreen on.' And he'll say, 'Put some more on. Here, nose and ears, nose and ears, nose and ears.' Here at camp, I put it one before we go out every day.''
Me: "What's the SPF of the stuff you use?''
NFL Truth & Rumors