The news of the last few days, and the coming ones:
Tedy Bruschi retires. Does anybody realize Bruschi has been around through the regimes of Bill Parcells (1996), Pete Carroll (1997-99) and Bill Belichick (2000-present)? Amazing that a battering-ram inside 'backer always battling the too-small prejudice could last that long with so many different coaches.
Bruschi made as many plays as any other defensive player in New England's three Super Bowl seasons, and it was clear he couldn't make them anymore. He told former teammate Rodney Harrison recently he was having trouble with his legs, and if he lost the ability to make plays sideline-to-sideline and in coverage, he had no chance to beat out the bevy of young linebackers Belichick had brought in over the past three or four years.
But what Bruschi did off the field was just as important. Just as Tom Brady was on offense, Bruschi was the defensive guy who never hesitated to get in mates' grills and tell them they had to play better, or stop screwing around off the field. His consistency, his devotion to the offseason program, even after winning multiple titles, and his comeback from the stroke were things that can't be measured in regular football terms like tackles and wins. "He reminds me of Junior Seau, from all the things he did off the field,'' Harrison said this morning. "Didn't matter how much he had accomplished, he was always trying to get better.''
That's a good legacy.
The NFL drops the ball on the Dallas video board. "Ludicrous,'' one NFL special-teams coach told me over the weekend. "What happened to the best interests of the game?''
They succumbed to beautiful sight lines at the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
The league ruled Friday that despite a punt hitting the video board 90 feet above the field in a preseason game 10 days ago, it would not authorize the board to be raised 15 or 20 feet higher to make sure it is not struck again during a game. Instead, if the board is struck again, the play will be re-played and time put back on the clock.
"You can bet if there's a competitive advantage to be gained by hitting the board, coaches will tell their punters to try to hit the board,'' the special-teams coach said, requesting anonymity. "I can see a couple of major problems. One is if you're near midfield and ask your punter to punt one high so your coverage team can run under it. How's he going to punt one high when he knows he's got a good chance to hit the scoreboard? The second thing is, I've got cornerbacks who will play in our regular defense who might be gunners this year [pursuit men double-teamed on the outside of the formation]. How can I ask them to run down the field two or three times in a row if a punt hits the screen, then stay out to play defense? It's unfair competitively.''
I still haven't heard an intelligent reason why this ruling was made, other than the fact that this is Jerry Jones' dream stadium, and why should there have to be changes made just because one punt hit the video board? It's wrong to think it's going to be one and done. In today's game, every NFL punter can boot a ball 90 feet into the air. So it's simply delaying the inevitable to NOT raise the board to 105 feet, or some such number. They'll be sorry.
Brandon Marshall has no friends right now. There is a wide world of opinion out there, and it's hard to find one person (I haven't) who thinks Brandon Marshall, the gifted wideout for the Broncos, is doing the right thing by trying to force a trade from Denver by acting like a jerk. Columnists are ripping him, and ever his peers and former players are taking him on. "I would tell Brandon Marshall what I would tell my children: 'Grow up.' '' Cris Collinsworth said on NBC Sunday night. "The NFL can live without you, believe me.''
It's beyond me why Marshall, on the heels of yet another run-in with an oil-and-water lover back home in Georgia, thinks he'll get his way -- a trade plus a new contract -- by trying to baby his way out of town. The Broncos have been loath to consider trading him because they don't want to continue the squeaky-wheel-gets-a-trade precedent they began with Jay Cutler. I think they'd listen now, but it's dumb to think they'd get any kind of offer that would make them listen -- like a high second-round draft choice, because of the money Marshall would want in a new contract. Who's going to pay Marshall a dime if they're not sure he won't blow up again?
Tom Brady seems to be OK ... better than Matt Cassel. All the vibes from the Patriots locker room seem positive about Brady's shoulder, rammed into the ground Friday night on a legal hit by Albert Haynesworth of the Redskins, and he has 17 days from the time of the hit until the Pats' first regular-season game, against the Bills. The news, though, is sealed with a Belichickian seal.
Then there's this from Chad Ochocinco of Eyewitness News (he is a wide receiver for the Bengals in his other life). Ocho says he spoke with Brady late Friday night, after the game, and Brady told him he'd be fine. "He's cool, he good, he's a warrior, and he'll be fine,'' OchoCinco said Sunday night. "Of course!''
Cassel, meanwhile, told a friend he'd suffered a grade-two sprain of the medial collateral ligament Saturday night against Seattle. It's a two-week injury, so it's unknown if he'll face the Ravens at Baltimore in the season opener. Then again, it's probably best if he doesn't face the Ravens. Give that one to Brodie Croyle or Tyler Thigpen, then have Cassel ready to beat the Raiders in a winnable game in Week 2.
The Packers and Saints should save some of that dominance for the real games. The Saints' first unit went 225 yards in three drives for three touchdowns at Oakland. Total man-against-boys game in the unseasonable searing heat. Drew Brees might not have broken Dan Marino's single-season passing yardage record last year, but I wouldn't breathe very easy if I were Dano this morning. Brees is ridiculously unflappable and in total command of that offense, and he's going to have the kind of year fantasy owners drool over.
Regarding the Packers, their first unit has had 12 possessions this summer and hasn't punted. Sixty-six points in 12 possessions ... just sick. And the starting defense has forced six turnovers in 12 opposing possessions.
"Three games, no punts, 31 points in this game,'' said Aaron Rodgers, who's looking more like Brett Favre than Favre. "The line was great [Friday against Arizona]. I barely got touched. It was just pitch and catch out there.''
What makes Mike McCarthy happy is that a year after L'Affair Favre, Rodgers seems to have the team in his hands. "It's clearly Aaron's team,'' McCarthy said Sunday.
The NFL loses a very big fan. When the Patriots released Ben Coates a decade ago, New England Bob Kraft got a letter from the senior senator of Massachusetts -- and a former tight end at Harvard. "I'm available,'' Ted Kennedy wrote. "Anything I can do to serve the team.''
That's something he did often, write letters. Kraft got quite a few over the years, and Belichick got several too. Kraft, for a time, was close to the inner circle of the Kennedy political machine. In the late '60s, he and Tommy O'Neill (Tip's son) ran Kennedy's 1970 Senatorial campaign in Eastern Massachusetts. "We went door to door and organized precincts,'' Kraft said. "I was in my twenties. We were young, and we were scared after the assassinations [of John and Robert Kennedy], and we really wanted to see Teddy do well.''
Kraft played tennis with Kennedy at the family compound in Hyannisport and learned about his competitive side; Kennedy would put Kraft on the sunny side of the court and say, "Let's change sides every three games, not two.'' As years went on and Kraft bought the Patriots, Kennedy stayed an ardent fan. "He was the third or fourth phone call after we won those Super Bowls. First the president, then [close friend] Elton John, then Teddy.''
I asked Kraft what he wanted people to know about Kennedy. "His service to the community, his looking out for the little guy,'' Kraft said. "His family was a family of privilege, but they always used their power to help the people who needed the help the most. People used to say to him, 'You never worked a day in your life.' But I know he did. He really, really worked hard, and for the right reasons.''
Five topics each with coaches I've not seen this summer ...
Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt
On the hamstring injury of Anquan Boldin: "When we came down from the elevation of Flagstaff after training camp ended, we told the players to hydrate, hydrate. And I'm not sure they all hydrated as much as they needed to. I mean, the temperature difference is huge. They say it's a dry heat down here [in Tempe], but that's a bunch of crap. It's hot. It was 110 degrees here when we practiced here the other day. So his hamstring caught a little bit. He should be fine for the opener.''
On the state of Boldin's head, and whether he'll be a Cardinal after the trading deadline: "You worry a little bit about his state of mind, quite frankly. But it's likely he's on our team for the year. I still think we're a much better team with Anquan on it.''
On the progress of his defense, rated 19th in the NFL last year: "I thought we were coming along great 'til the Packers went up and down the field on us [Friday] night. But you always run that risk when you don't gameplan and the other team does. We've got a few things we've got to get fixed this week, that's for sure.''
On whether his team is better than the one that lost the Super Bowl in the final minute: "We have to be. It's not a question of whether we can win; we know we can, but now we know what we have to do, and how we have to prepare to win. My message to the team before camp was, 'Don't think you can show up and win games.' We're a 9-7 football team that some people said was the worst team to ever make the playoffs. That's 9-7 -- one win better than mediocre. We won our division last year, but then we went in the tank. We're not a team that handles success very well. So we know we can't just show up.''
On the player on his team who America doesn't know now but will soon: "LaRod Stephens-Howling [5-7, 180-pound running back from Pitt, the seventh-round rookie]. He's like Darren Sproles. Wait 'til you see him.''
Miami coach Tony Sparano
On his determination to get backup quarterback Chad Henne more playing time: "Chad's had 500 scrimmage reps, reps in team periods. He's played the most of all the quarterbacks [in training camp this summer]. I like the way he's coming. He's well ahead of where he was last year. What I have to do is a better job of finding ways to get him in games this year, even when Chad [Pennington] is healthy.''
On why athletic quarterback Pat White, the second-round pick, hasn't played the Wildcat in the preseason or in training camp: "He's busy trying to learn the offense. He's in the deep end of the pool right now -- the protections, the coverages, the routes. He's starting to get it, but I want him to learn the quarterback position before we get him involved in the Wildcat stuff.
"One of the biggest mistakes I could make right now is have him get all involved with this Wildcat stuff. If we were to get an injury at the quarterback position, then he's got to be the No. 2, and I'm a lot more concerned that he'll be ready to play quarterback than whether he can do that other stuff. And Ronnie Brown's still good at all that. Pat's not ahead of Ronnie.''
On the surprise of training camp, fourth-round receiver Brian Hartline: "I think I have a lot of jobs for him -- inside receiver, outside receiver, gunner on the punt team, punt-returner, punt rush, lead on kick-return [protection]. He's not afraid to get his hands dirty. It'd be nice if one of these receivers breaks from the pack and wins a job.''
On Jason Taylor: "Every day Jason finds something new to work on on the practice field. He is a tremendous pro. A football junkie. And he's playing very well. He's hit the quarterback five times in 50 plays so far. He's in tremendous shape -- stronger than he's ever been.''
On whether Taylor is earning a starting outside linebacker job: "Yes.''
NFL Truth & Rumors