Quote of the Week I
"In San Diego, everything was taken away from me. There wasn't an emphasis on running the ball. My best fullback [Lorenzo Neal] was gone. The linemen were pass-blocking. We had a passing coach [Norv Turner].''
-- LaDainian Tomlinson, on the plummeting production that led to him being released by the Chargers on the eve of turning 31 this summer and to signing with the New York Jets as a backup to Shonn Greene.
You know I like Tomlinson a lot. And I respect him. But the following is what you say when you clearly aren't the player you once were: "I'm thrilled the Jets have taken a chance with me, and I'm going to do whatever it takes to help this team win. If I'm not the player who set all the touchdown records a few years ago, I know I'm still a good NFL running back, and I intend to prove that with the Jets this year.''
I don't remember Tomlinson throwing any ticker-tape parades for his blockers four years ago, or telling ESPN, "I owe half my success to Lorenzo Neal.'' To say it was the Chargers' fault that he's in decline ... and make no mistake, that's what Tomlinson is saying ... well, it's beneath the dignity and the greatness Tomlinson exhibited for so long.
Quote of the Week II
"I don't care. I'm just excited to play football again. I'm going to enjoy every minute of it, no matter where I play.''
-- Sam Bradford, asked if he's concerned about going to play for a team like St. Louis, which has won only six games in the last three years.
Quote of the Week III
"The word 'rebuilding' will never enter our vocabulary.''
-- Eagles GM Howie Roseman, to Eagles.com, two days before the Donovan McNabb trade and shortly after dealing linebacker Chris Gocong and cornerback Sheldon Brown, both 2009 starters, to Cleveland for fourth- and fifth-round draft choices, plus linebacker Alex Hall.
The trade is logical for both teams. Brown, 31, was unhappy with his contract and clearly not better than incumbents Ellis Hobbs and Joselio Hansen; the Eagles would be looking to upgrade at cornerback in the draft. Gocong was going to compete for the starting strongside linebacker job, but that was another spot Philadelphia was trying to upgrade.
In Cleveland, Brown immediately upgrades a weak position, where Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald were the starters Eric Mangini inherited a year ago. Mangini spent last year trying to get linebacker production from rookies like David Veikune and Marcus Benard, picking up Matt Roth on waivers from Miami, and last month signed veteran Scott Fujita in free agency from New Orleans. Gocong and Brown will compete for starting jobs; I believe Brown will start alongside Wright, while Gocong should start at an outside 'backer for the Browns. What Mangini is trying to do here is simple -- upgrade a marginal defense while not sacrificing the guts of a draft he spent all last season trying to buttress.
Stat of the Week
As we digest the McNabb trade, consider what happened the last time Washington coach Mike Shanahan took a 30-something quarterback under his wing and tried to win a Super Bowl with him. With John Elway, Shanahan actually won two.
For the record, Elway was 50-17 in four seasons with Shanahan.
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
The impact of this note is moot now that the Redskins have acquired McNabb, but I find it an interesting sign of an intelligent fan base. The Washington Post asked its readers last week if they favored the Redskins moving up in the draft to acquire the draft rights to Oklahoma quarterback Bradford.
In most cases, fans of teams without a certain quarterback of the future would jump at the chance to take a kid who is a legitimate franchise quarterback prospect. That's why the result of this poll surprised me. Post readers, 25,330 of them as of this weekend, were 57 percent against, 42 percent in favor. (Don't ask me why it doesn't add up to 100 percent; I'm just reading off the paper's Web site.)
Those are some mature readers who know their football, readers who are tired of an aging, leaky offensive line getting passer Jason Campbell chased all over the field. Not that GM Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan are going to pay attention to the poll, but it's interesting that a solid majority of a team's fans would rather have a tackle many of them have never heard of than a quarterback who might be a longtime Pro Bowler.
Enjoyable/Aggravating Travel Note of the Week
Part of the job that's always fun is going to new places. For me, a late-week trip to Indiana, Pa., about 60 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, to see a second-round draft prospect, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, yielded some interesting surprises.
1. IUP has an enrollment of 14,030. That makes it bigger than Duke and Butler, the Final Four finalists.
2. Indiana, a borough of 15,000, has two Starbucks.
3. Jimmy Stewart was born in Indiana, Pa. There is a Jimmy Stewart Film Festival in town every year.
4. Jim Nance was born in Indiana. He's the former Patriots running back whose claim to fame is he's the only back in American Football League history to rush for 1,400 yards in a season.
5. Indiana is the Christmas Tree Capital of the World.
I'm amazed that a college I thought had maybe 3,000 students is as big as it is.
Tweet of the Week
"I could cook spaghetti in the time it takes for one of the CBS timeouts.''
-- simandel, Stewart Mandel, college basketball writer for Sports Illustrated, at 6:51 p.m. Saturday, during Michigan State-Butler.
What, just because a 40-minute basketball game (Saturday's first game began at 6:07 Eastern and finished at 8:29) took 142 minutes?
NFL Truth & Rumors