"I guess in this world we don't have a lot of people with, like, backbones. Just because somebody pay you money don't mean they'll make you do whatever they want or whatever. I mean, does that mean everything is for sale? I mean, I'm not for sale. Yeah, I signed the contract and got paid a lot of money, but ... that don't mean I'm for sale or a slave or whatever."
-- Washington defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, to radio station 106.7 The Fan, in September. Haynesworth has been paid $34 million since signing with the Redskins 19 months ago, and is not happy the team is asking the defensive tackle to play defensive tackle.
"Tell Peter King we already got our two wins.''
-- Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber, in the victorious Buccaneers locker room at Carolina, after the Bucs beat the Panthers in Week 2. Tampa Bay is 2-0. I picked the Bucs to be 2-14 in the SI NFL Preview Issue.
"We live in a Coors Light generation, and it's so sad.''
-- Young Willie Cornblatt, an Indiana University student and driver for me for one week on my training-camp trip, as we looked at the beer choices at a minor-league baseball game in Albany, N.Y., in August.
"You share a very intimate relationship with Brett Favre.''
-- NFL Network host Stacey Dales, to Steve Mariucci, beginning an interview in November about Favre.
"I've tasted the caviar now, so eating out of the garbage is not where I want to be.''
-- Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, on the current quarterback-troubled, Kurt Warner-less days with the Cardinals, to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic.
From March 29, at the Scouting Combine:
Colt McCoy seems like Drew Brees, nine years later. Accurate, confident, undersized, historically prolific at a major college. Obviously, he can only hope the comparisons many NFL scouts and coaches are making, linking the two, are valid. Comparing the college stat lines:
Brees was a high school football star at Austin (Texas) Westlake High. McCoy was a high school football star at Jim Ned (Texas) High.
Brees married a volleyball player at Purdue. McCoy is engaged to a track-and-field athlete at Baylor.
Brees is active in many children's charities and is a benefactor of a children's hospital in New Orleans. McCoy is active with the Children's Miracle Network telethon and volunteers at the children's hospital in Austin.
From Sept. 20:
Philadelphia linebacker Ernie Sims went 1,000 days between wins.
True fact: The last time Sims played in a game for a winning team before Sunday's 35-32 triumph over Detroit was Dec. 23, 2007, when the Lions, his original team, beat Kansas City. Since then, he was 0-1 in 2007, 0-16 in 2008, 0-11 in 2009, and 0-1 this year with the Eagles. That's a personal 29-game losing streak for Sims.
"Wow,'' Sims told me after the game. "I never sat down and figured that out.''
Well, who would?
From Nov. 1:
Sacks by Ndamukong Suh at midseason: 6.5.
Sacks, combined, by Jared Allen, Julius Peppers, Albert Haynesworth: 5.0.
From Nov. 15:
NFL quiz: What player, with a minimum of 20 passes, has the highest completion percentage and passer rating in history?
Antwaan Randle El.
The former Indiana quarterback, who's been mostly a wide receiver as a Steeler and Redskin, has been pretty good as a part-time passer too, throwing an average of three passes a season. His career line:
From Dec. 5:
Baltimore and Pittsburgh have played four times in the past two years.
Baltimore 2 wins, Pittsburgh 2.
Baltimore 67 points, Pittsburgh 67.
Baltimore 7 touchdowns and 6 field goals, Pittsburgh 7 touchdowns and 6 field goals.
From Jan. 3:
When You Know It's Time To Retire Dept.:
Brett Favre, 41, whose daughter Brittany turns 22 next month, got hurt twice this year.
The first came when, after looking downfield for 24-year-old Sidney Rice, Favre got creamed from behind by 22-year-old Buffalo linebacker Arthur Moats. That resulted in a damaged shoulder.
The second came when Favre targeted 23-year-old running back Toby Gerhart against Chicago, and he had his head drilled into the turf by 23-year-old defensive lineman Corey Wootton of the Bears.
From March 1:
Last Monday, Dolphins president Bill Parcells, a huge baseball fan, stopped by the Cardinals' training facility in Jupiter, Fla., before going to the office. It was 6:50 a.m., and Parcells went looking for his good friend Tony LaRussa.
Parcells walked by the Cards' weight room. There was one man in there. Albert Pujols.
"And he hadn't just gotten there either,'' Parcells said. "He was working hard, sweating. There's a reason why the great ones are great.''
From Aug. 9:
This Week's Sign of the Waning Influence of the Once-National Pastime: None of the five athletic sons of Tony and Lauren Dungy owns a baseball glove.
From Aug. 16:
Houston GM Rick Smith meditates every morning. He goes into a large closet in his Houston-area home very early before the day gets busy, shuts out the world and either mouths a mantra like "Peace'' softly and repeatedly or just sits in silence.
From Nov. 1:
I shared a dressing room with Rihanna on Saturday.
On home Notre Dame Saturdays, I dress for the NBC halftime segment in the room where my TV clothes are stored, along with Rodney Harrison's and Tony Dungy's. That's also the room where the star of "Saturday Night Live'' dresses. (You may remember 51 weeks ago how I stepped on Taylor Swift's red gown in the same dressing room. Then again, if you have a life, you may not.) This week, the star was Rihanna, who sings. After the Notre Dame halftime show, I went back in the room to change, and I was nearly through when a woman, maybe 28, walks in and, with a You Are NOT Supposed To Be In Here look, says, "Ohhhh. Uh, this is Rihanna's dressing room.''
"I'm almost done,'' I said. "One minute.''
"This was supposed to be locked,'' she said, annoyed, and turned and closed the door.
To the closed door, I called out, "I didn't steal anything. It wouldn't really fit me.''
From Nov. 15:
In looking into the performance of great coaches in NFL history and losing streaks this week, I have even more respect for Paul Brown than ever. Which is difficult to fathom, because I already considered him the best pro football coach ever.
I set out to look into how Bill Belichick's teams performed after a loss, which, since 2003, has been fairly remarkable. After the bad loss at Cleveland last week, I thought it merited a look, particularly since a treacherous road game lay ahead last night at Pittsburgh. So I decided to look at two-game losing streaks by the great coaches of our time. I picked out five: Paul Brown, Vince Lombardi, Don Shula, Bill Walsh and Belichick. And I compared their greatest eight-year runs as NFL coaches with Belichick's current eight-year run. How many two-game losing streaks did each one have over that eight-year span. What I found:
Belichick had one in 2006 and one in 2009. New England's victory over the Steelers Sunday night staved off number three. That's it. And no three-game losing streaks for Belichick either.
From Dec. 20:
NFL Draft, 2000, 199th overall pick: Tom Brady, QB, Michigan.
NFL Draft, 2010, 199th overall pick: Joe Webb, QB, Alabama-Birmingham.
As you may recall, I changed the name of the travel note in July because of an interesting experience with a Westin Starwood Preferred dillweed. The story follows.
The Westin Hotel/Michigan Avenue in Chicago has long been a hotel of choice for me, because of its proximity to everything in such a great city. Last week, on my last travel leg of vacation, it was also the scene of something I never could have expected: an argument that, in 10 seconds, almost escalated into a hotel-lobby brawl.
There are three elevators in the lobby of the Westin, and at rush-hour check-in last Tuesday, two were out of service. So when my wife and I got to the bank of elevators around 6 p.m., there were 15 or so people waiting for the one working lift. We waited two, three, four minutes. Now there were 25 or 30 people waiting. And then a 35ish man wedged in to the left of the crowd waiting for the elevator. He looked at the line of people and looked peeved. We all were, of course. Then the door opened and 10 or 12 people came off the one working elevator. And the 35ish man took three quick steps to the elevator.
"Hey, hey, hey,'' I said. "Come on, buddy. That's not right.''
The guy stopped. He looked at me. Angry. "Don't tell me what to do,'' he snarled. "I wasn't going on.''
"Yes you were,'' I said. "I saw what you were doing. That's not right.''
He took a couple of steps toward me.
"I'm a Starwood Preferred member,'' he said angrily.
Like that made cutting the line OK.
"You're also an a------,'' I said.
I obviously shouldn't have said that, but he deserved it. Now he walked the final three steps toward me. "You wanna step outside?'' Mr. Starwood Preferred said. He bumped my chest hard. "People who use that word are looking for a fight,'' Mr. Starwood Preferred said. "People who use that word to me, I go outside with. You wanna go outside?''
Now the elevator was full, and the door closed.
"No, I don't,'' I said.
He was breathing hard on me. "You're a big talker,'' he said, stepping back a step or two.
"And you're still an a------,'' I said. Oh, so clever.
He stepped toward me again. Almost simultaneously, a front-desk gal near the bank of elevators chirped, "I can take a few people up the service elevator!'' So my wife sidestepped the guy. I walked toward the door, me staring at Mr. Starwood Preferred the whole way. "---- you, ------------,'' Mr. Starwood Preferred hissed at me.
"Have a nice day,'' I said, and boarded the service elevator.
I don't know exactly why -- it's not testosterone, I don't think -- but I almost wish Mr. Starwood Preferred had taken a swing at me. Even if he'd pummeled me (and he may well have), he'd have known that at least one person out of 30 sniffed out the real idiot in the crowd. Then again, I like my nose unbroken.
From Aug. 9:
I had the aisle seat in a full three-seat row on the flight from Tampa to New York, and next to me was a pleasant woman, I'd say about 50, in a T-shirt and shorts. She noticed I had a photo of my dog, Bailey, looking posture-perfect, well-groomed and very obedient as the wallpaper on the desktop of my laptop.
"What a beautiful dog!'' she exclaimed. "You are so lucky!''
"Thank you,'' I said. "Yeah, she's a great dog. Almost 11 now.''
"I'm a cat person,'' she said.
"Oh,'' I said. "Cats are good.''
"Twenty,'' I said. "Wow. That's amazing. She must be very healthy.''
"Well, no,'' she said. "She's very overweight. I spoil her. I never had kids, and she's my baby. She's got diabetes and a bunch of other things we have to give her medicine for. But I love her so much. My husband and I, I don't know what we'd do without her. We just love cats. I live paycheck to paycheck, but every month I've got money automatically withdrawn for the cats -- the ASPCA, animal shelters, you know.''
"Oh,'' I said. "That's nice.''
"You want to see her?'' she said.
Not really. "Sure,'' I said, anticipating a wallet photo or a picture on the cell phone.
The woman angled her body toward me and lifted her left leg and twisted it so I could see the outside of her calf. From just below the kneecap to just above the ankle was a perfectly tattooed image of her cat's orange-and-brown round face with dark, piercing eyes. You couldn't see any leg there, just cat -- the tattoo enveloped the outside of her calf.
"I really love her,'' she said wistfully, putting her leg away.
So I see.
From April 27:
"Lendale White traded for a ham sandwich, which he ate.''
--@adbrandt, former NFL executive Andrew Brandt, now of National Football Post, after Seattle acquired the disappointing (and sometimes overweight) White and defensive lineman Kevin Vickerson simply for swapping draft spots in the fourth and sixth rounds Saturday.
From Feb. 7:
"I'm watching your Real Sports episode. You're awesome. That is all.''
--@Alyssa_Milano, actress Alyssa Milano, commenting on my star turn on HBO's "Real Sports.''
And, finally, the last words from who else? The Rexman.
From the first episode of 'Hard Knocks:' By my count, the show was 52 minutes long and featured 23 off-color words by the Jets coach: 10 f---s, eight s---s, two g-- d---s, two a--es, and one b----.
From a later episode of 'Hard Knocks,' with his offense stalled: Ryan: "You can be a world champion, but not like this. We won't win it! We'll sit back and say, 'Why didn't we do it?' We didn't do it because where were our f------ priorities? How about our offense? When are we going to put it together? When are we going to put it together? Can we not run the ball down their throats every snap? Can we not throw it any time we want to f------ throw it? Let's make sure we play like the f------ New York Jets! And not some f------ slapd--- team. That's what I want to see tomorrow. Do we understand what the f-- I want to see tomorrow? Let's go eat a god d--- snack."
From an interview with Steve Sabol of NFL Films, while he and his staff edited the final episode of 'Hard Knocks:' Ryan: "I haven't had a normal bowel movement in six weeks.''
From the pregame hype before the Jets lost to the Patriots by 42 points in December: Ryan: "Looks like they're the best team in football. That's what all the experts say. Except me.''
From the front page of the New York Post on the day of the Patriots-Jets playoff game, with New York in full froth and the tabloids leading the march: There is a bare foot, with toenails painted green with GO JETS on the nails. The headline, exhorting the Jets, sort of, screams: "LICK 'EM.''
From the bus on the way to the airport, following the Jets' 28-21 playoff stunner over the Patriots: Ryan: "I knew I'd get one shot to do this in my life. One opportunity. I'm just an average guy. I'm not for everybody. The only thing I know how to do is coach.'' Pause. Small talk. Then this: "Same old Jets. Going to the championship game two years in a row.''
From an SI dinner at the Super Bowl, speaking to advertisers, swimsuit models and Jets fans: Ryan: "Nothing's changed from the first two years. We haven't won it yet, but next year we will.''