Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think this is the best sign of the times of the past week: A group of about 20 NFL writers was in a conference room at NFL headquarters on Park Avenue in Manhattan Thursday -- me among the bunch -- and Roger Goodell announced that Michael Vick would be eligible to play after the second week of the season. There was a slight pause, and then Goodell said: "Yes. So you can go ahead and Tweet that.'' And I believe eight of us thumbed out the news to America.
2. I think, regarding the Vick penalty, that Goodell got it right. He has to go with his gut on this. He has to give Vick some penalty for being a serial liar; I thought four weeks would have been more just, but Goodell went with two because he's convinced Vick is serious about trying to save his own skin and is not snowing the commissioner or Tony Dungy.
"Hopefully,'' Goodell told us, "we can have a success story here, which would be good for our society and good for the NFL. Michael realizes he still has to prove himself every day ... He has to earn that [trust] back again and that is not going to be done by telling me anything. It's by demonstrating. He's repeated to me that, 'I have to make better judgments going forward.' I think he fully understands that and is prepared to do that.''
3. I think the Eagles could go a few different ways with Vick's roster spot. Right now, he doesn't have to be counted on the 53-man roster 'til Week 3, versus Kansas City. Before then, if he continues to be exempt from the 53-man roster, he can go to meetings with the team and work on individual things before and after practice, but he cannot practice. If the Eagles are able to trade a receiver (Reggie Brown or Hank Baskett most likely) this week, they'd probably reinstate Vick this week and he'd practice as normal. If not, then who knows? I don't see Brown or Baskett fetching a future draft choice, so they may have to cut one to get Vick to practice with the team.
4. I think I still can't get over how great middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans played last Monday against the Vikings. In 41 minutes, he had 16 tackles, a sack, two tackles-for-loss and a forced fumble. Ridiculous. The Texans have to make sure they sign the looming restricted free agent. He's the heart and soul of that defense.
5. I think the thing that interested me most in the 80 minutes we spent with Goodell the other day was his comment about the future of football outside the United States. "The experience we've had over there [in London] ... has been extraordinary ... We're going to continue to feed that, frankly. And we are considering the idea of playing multiple games in London as early as next year. And I don't think it's beyond the realm of possibility that we might have a franchise in London at some point in the future.'' I've said it forever: When the current crop of owners thinks there's no lucrative market left in the United States, they'll turn to Europe or Mexico.
6. I think the London Jaguars has a nice ring to it.
7. I think I've been negligent in praising HBO's Hard Knocks series this summer, because I hadn't seen it until last week, when I caught up on the summer of the Bengals. But it's a great series, obviously, with real football stuff and an incredible education for fans (and media) who'd never have a chance otherwise to see what the NFL Films show us. The three things I'm glad we've been able to see in this series:
a. A window into the contract negotiations for a first-round draft choice. We see interaction between Katie Blackburn, the Bengal negotiator, and Alvin Keels, the agent for first-round pick Andre Smith. When the scene showing Smith signing the deal last week was shot, the kid looked like a house. Clearly overweight. You got the feeling he was going to be no help to the Bengals for a few weeks, until he lost 30 or 40 pounds. And when Smith signed, Keels shook the rookie's hand and said something that I'm sure made owner Mike Brown disgusted when he saw it. "Congratulations,'' Keels said to Smith. "You are now a multi-millionaire.''
Not, Congratulations. You're now an NFL player. Or, Congratulations. Now let's get out there and earn it. And when Brown saw Smith after the signing, he was characteristically blunt. "You're not in good shape, from what I hear. You've got to get your nose to the grindstone,'' Brown said. Great stuff. And of course, two days after signing, Smith broke his left foot.
b. The unique way the Bengals operate. Right or wrong, Mike Brown runs the show, giving the coaches much leeway on who stays and who goes, and runs the personnel meetings with the coaches and scouts around a long rectangular table. One of the reasons I'm sure the Bengals used internally in deciding to allow the cameras to see their operation is that they wanted to deflate the myth that it's a loony way to do business. Now people can think what they think; at least they've got an idea how the Bengals run their shop
c. How good a coach Mike Zimmer is. It's going to be tough for Zimmer to climb the ladder from defensive coordinator to head coach unless his Bengals play a lot better than they have, and because most free agents don't have Cincinnati at the top of their list, Zimmer has to make do with lesser veterans. He's a smart, forceful, no-nonsense teacher (you see it over and over again through the lens of the NFL Films cameras) with an excellent defensive approach. I hope some owner sees him on this show and says, "That's the kind of guy I'd like running my team.'' I've known Zimmer for a long time, and I can tell you, he deserves a shot at the next level.
8. I think for those Bears fans worried about my pick of Chicago to make the Super Bowl, relax. I've been right on my predictions a lot. The last time was 1994.
9. I think the league shouldn't be so hardened about the blackout rule. I'm not sure what the right way is to lift a few blackouts, but I do know this: It's unrealistic to expect that Detroit, with a tragic 29 percent unemployment rate, to fill a 64.500-seat stadium regularly. I wouldn't lift the blackout entirely this year, because once the genie's out of the bottle, it's going to be hard to get it back in. But I would say it would be a grand gesture for the league to give the truly deserving franchises a couple of games with home TV for non-sellouts.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Had lunch with Paul and Linda Zimmerman Friday afternoon in New Jersey. A lovely two-hours-plus with them, along with Jarrett Bell of USA Today, another friend of Zim's. He looks great. He's lost 40 pounds and is down to 220. I've got to say he's never looked better. "He's doing so much physical rehab that it's gotten him in good shape,'' Linda said.
Here's the lowdown: Paul is still severely limited as far as reading and speaking goes; he can now say "yes'' and "no,'' and he does mouth exercises every morning -- hours of them per week -- to re-shape his mouth in the proper form to say words. Arduous. His right side, including vision, is still mostly impaired from his three strokes and subsequent seizures. Three days a week, he does six hours or so of therapy, and the money your donations and auction bids raised for him is allowing him to see the best people in speech- and occupational-therapy fields.
He eats like a horse. What an appetite! He finished a huge cheeseburger and some fries, then began to pick at my Kung Pao chicken, and still had room for a good slab of the bread pudding. Just before Linda put him in the car for the trip home, I reached out to shake his hand and wished him well. He grabbed my hand and pulled me close to him and put his left arm around me and bearhugged me. He tried to say something to me, but I couldn't understand. Never has he done that. If you know Zim, you know he's not an emotional sort. But he was Friday. Powerful moment. It's hard to say what all he's taking in, but whatever it is, he's feeling emotions he's never felt before.
b. How did I spend my last Sunday of freedom? Read the Globe, the Herald and New York Times. Spent 45 minutes on the elliptical trainer. Took a nap on the couch. Wrote a lot. Made a bunch of phone calls. Listened to "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me'' on NPR. Watched Jon Lester dominate the Pale Hose. Ate a terrific bowl of pasta. Wrote some more. Tweeted. Wrote some more. Went to bed.
c. Nice week, Hideki Okajima. The 13 batters he faced since last weekend went double, single, single, walk, single, single, single, strikeout, home run, popout, single, walk, groundout.
d. Coffeenerdness: There might not be a better cup of coffee in the world than Starbucks Italian Roast. Haven't had it in some time, maybe a year. And just the smell of it brewing Sunday was fantastic. Dark and delicious.
e. Happy Labor Day. Hope you don't have much labor to do.
f. Here is Boston, we had about 6 weeks of summer. Now it's autumn. Got down to the low fifties overnight. God, you owe me a summer
g. A few column notes as we get the season revved up:
I'll be starting a new column this week. The column will last through the end of the playoffs and will be posted on SI.com each Friday. It's going to be a look ahead at some aspect of what I find compelling about the weekend's games, along with a few other departments. You'll be able to plow through it a little easier than the Monday monster, though. The Friday column will be 1,000 to 1,200 words.
In advance of the first one, I've got a job for you: Name the column. I'll take the best suggestion you send by Wednesday afternoon, and that'll be the name of the Friday preview column this year.
What a country. What a democracy.
One last thing: I'll also be making my annual game-by-game picks and posting that column by Thursday for the Peter King Pickoff Challenge. I believe half the free world beat me last year, and the reason the other half didn't beat me is because they didn't enter the contest. Anyway, we're doing it again, and you can win cool stuff just by kicking my prognosticating behind.
Week 1. It's here. Three days until kickoff.
Order a copy of Peter King's new book, "Monday Morning Quarterback: A fully caffeinated guide to everything you need to know about the NFL"
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