Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think the Bears have a underrated group of receivers, with Devin Aromashodu in particular on the verge of hitting it big. The group doesn't worry me the way it worries some Chicagoans. But Mike Martz sounds a little like Sparky Anderson saying Chris Pittaro is the next Pete Rose (remember?) when he says the receivers will be the strength of the Bears this year, and "you can put that in granite.'' Yikes.
2. I think the one rumor that should be universally debunked is the prospective trade of cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha to the Ravens. It is absolutely not happening. Baltimore is not looking to add another mega-salaried player to its stable of Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed (and soon, Haloti Ngata, and in the next couple of years, Joe Flacco and likely Michael Oher), particularly with Asomugha making so much more than any cornerback in football. He's entering the second year of a three-year, $45.4 million deal, and the Raiders have the right to erase the third year at $16.8-million -- but if they do that, he'd become a free-agent. Makes lots of sense for the Ravens to want him. Makes no sense for them to actually add him, and they won't.
3. I think the Brett Favre ankle-surgery story from the other day will have little to do with whether he plays this season, the same way something I heard the other day will have little to do with whether he plays. An NFL player who knows the quarterback well told me Favre said to him after the season, "I'm 100 percent positive I'll never put on pads again in my life.''
The reason I don't make that a headline is simple: Favre changes his mind as often as I drink a latte. Which is to say, a lot. We've seen it often in the last 26 months. Let's just wait and see what the summer brings. And the fall.
I've said a couple of things as a Favre-watcher this offseason: I'm finished predicting what he'll do, because I've been wrong every time I've predicted recently. And if I had to go to Vegas, based on the long emotional scene with several teammates and coaches in the locker room after the NFC Championship Game loss to the Saints, I'd bet he plays this fall. He loves that team. But please, keep your money in your pocket. That's where mine is staying.
4. I think the most mature thing I've heard Michael Vick say in a long, long time is something he said Saturday at Eagles minicamp: "I'm blessed to have a job in the NFL.'' I hope he believes that. Not that he ought to be kissing anyone's feet to be in the league, but he should be pretty happy he's making $5 million while working his way back into what he hopes will be a starting role. Somewhere.
5. I think I might not want to be Jeff Fisher come late August when (if) he has to call in the son of Oilers/Titans all-timer Bruce Matthews and say to the former Texas A&M offensive lineman, "Kevin, I don't have a spot for you.'' A little awkward.
6. I think, after what appeared to be a serious Achilles injury suffered by 2008 second-round receiver Limas Sweed Sunday, I'd bet Sweed's Pittsburgh career will never take off. I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't make it out of camp with the team in 2011 (assuming there is a 2011), and he may not even make it to camp.
7. I think my money's on Bud Adams in the Chris Johnson/Titans contract stalemate. Bud hates big-money contracts. Hates 'em. He particularly hates big-money contracts paid to young players after two years.
8. I think one of the league's really good, and really unknown, assistant coaches was lost over the weekend after leaving an indelible mark on the game. Defensive line coach Bob Karmelowicz, who died too early Saturday of cancer of the nasal passages, worked for Washington, Cincinnati, Houston, Detroit and Kansas City, as well as several college stops.
"We lost one of the great pass-rush-technique coaches,'' said Warren Sapp, who morphed from a tight end to defensive tackle under Karmelowicz at the University of Miami. With the Chiefs, he helped turn Jared Allen from a raw fourth-rounder into a premier pass-rusher. Tough day for all the defensive linemen in the league who were helped by him, and for all the men who coached with him.
I texted Allen Sunday night, asking him for his thoughts on Karmelowicz, and in three minutes this came back: "I just want people to know he was way more than a football coach. His life was more than the game. To be honest, what I will miss the most about Karm is his friendship. He was a great coach and is one of the major reasons for my success today. But above all else, he was a great friend, husband, father and grandfather. I will miss the man way more than the coach. I will always love him.''
Isn't that what you'd want your underlings, or your students, or your peers, to say about you when you're gone? Great tribute by Allen.
9. I think I have one question for Patriots fans: Do you think Laurence Maroney has incriminating photos of someone? Kidding, but really, they've got 12 draft picks and can't get someone to threaten the job of the terminally disappointing Maroney?
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Our prayers, thoughts, karma are with you, Gulf Coast people dealing with the oil spill. What an unending nightmare it is for all of you, careening from one disaster to the next.
b. I liked the rabbit, Conveyance, in the Derby, and I would have been a rich man if the race had been .85 miles long, not 1¼.
c. Got a great tip from a friend of a shoeshine guy on Conveyance. Seriously. The shoeshine guy had picked four straight winners, legend has it, including Mine That Bird. But, hey, when I get involved, all luck and good fortune goes flying out the window.
d. Still can't get over more men 18-to-49 watching the first round of the draft on cable than The Office and 30 Rock on NBC 11 days ago. Amazing.
e. Coffeenerdness: Tough Sunday night. Tired from a Derby party and assorted other short nights of sleep. Without Starbucks Italian roast at 5 a.m. this morning, this would have been published at noon, not 9ish.
f. As a Red Sox follower, it's been interesting to watch a bad team (so far) struggle to overcome nearly everything. With two outfielders down, they reached to Triple-A to recall 31-year-old minor-league lifer Darnell McDonald, who I couldn't recall the night he got called up, April 20, when the Sox DL-ed Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron.
McDonald pinch-hit a homer in the eighth inning to tie the game, then hit a wall-ball single to win it in the 10th. Then, former Broncos PR man Paul Kirk e-mailed and told me that was the same Darnell McDonald who was Kyle Shanahan's high school football teammate in Denver. That's when I remembered the kid, who was also the centerpiece of an SI story in February 1997.
After an incredible high-school career as a running back, he signed with Texas, ostensibly to replace Ricky Williams. But he was a first-round pick of the Baltimore Orioles in baseball, and he signed with the O's for a $1.9 million bonus. It turns out the next Texas rushing hero was Cedric Benson, not Darnell McDonald. And McDonald's been beating the bushes -- mostly -- ever since. So I called to ask about his life, and whether he thought he did the right thing way back when, and about his high school buddy being an NFL offensive coordinator at such a young age.
I was glad to hear he was a good man from Sox beat people Pete Abraham and Amalie Benjamin, and he sure sounded like one on the phone. Actually, he sounded like Moonlight Graham from Field of Dreams when we spoke Saturday.
"All those years riding the buses,'' he said. "I was just hoping I'd have at least one moment, just one, like I had that night in Fenway. In that uniform, for that team, with all the great players on the team, in that historic ballpark, down by two, and you hit a home run to tie it and send it to extras, and then to win it in the 10th ... it's just something I'll never, ever forget.''
He said he doesn't regret taking the baseball road, though he says he'd advise players in a similar circumstance now to go to college and get the experience that only college life, and college athletic life, can provide.
"I was 18, and the money was good for my family,'' he said. "But with all that money comes pressure, and it was tough. I'd tell kids to go to college, mature a little bit, have fun. You'll be a part of that college forever. I mean, when I went on my recruiting visit to Texas, Ricky Williams hosted me. What a great guy. What a great environment. It's natural to look back and wonder what might have happened, but when I signed [with Baltimore], there was no turning back. I didn't look back. That's why this experience is so rewarding for me, playing with the Red Sox. Every day I come to the ballpark thankful for what I have and where I am. I didn't use to have that perspective when I was 20, 21, 22 years old, riding the buses.''
He and Kyle Shanahan and other teammates used to go to the Broncos practice facility back in the John Elway days, and he saw how dedicated Kyle was to his dad's team, and to the sport. He's sure that hasn't changed much, with Shanahan now the offensive coordinator under his dad with Washington. "What Kyle's done isn't a surprise to me,'' he said. "He grew up around football, and he loved it so much. I saw what a great job he did in Houston [as offensive coordinator]. Now I'm going to switch teams. I've always loved the Broncos, but now I'm going to have to root for the Redskins.''
g. Great Tom Verducci Q&A with the four old Yankees in last week's SI.
h. While my rotisserie team languishes in 13th place in a 12-team league (that's what it feels like, anyway), I'd like to thank the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Jonathan Broxton in particular. I broke the dam in my league and picked the first reliever in the draft. Broxton. He was the guy all the RotoWorlds of the internet told me to pick first, and so I did. After a month, he has one save. Matt Capps, who might have been the 76th reliever taken in our draft, has 10. Yup. That's another game I know so well.
i. Re Philip Rivers: Mea culpa time in one parting football thought. Last week, I said Rivers was "full of himself'' when discussing a quarterback who has been accused of the same hubris, Jimmy Clausen. I got called on it, rightfully.
Rivers is a confident guy who sometimes lets his emotions run away on the field, but it's not fair to call a good leader, one who's admired in his locker room and with a good human base, "full of himself.'' I like Rivers and get along well with him, and consider him a good man. It's not the worst thing I've ever been wrong about, but I felt I should make it right.
NFL Truth & Rumors