1. I think the one thing I'm starting to hear teams be concerned about -- if they can't keep in touch with players or monitor their offseason workout regimen -- is a sort of withholding of aerobic conditioning by some players -- something that in the event of a long job action could affect the preparedness of players early in a new season.
"I would think big guys are a big concern, especially,'' said Andrew Brandt, the former Packer executive now with nationalfootballpost.com. "Without the constant contact and workouts, how do you know what kind of shape they'll be in when they come back? And I can tell you that medical people at the Scouting Combine were scared about their players doing rehab. Now players won't rehab in their facilities or with their team doctors. They'll rehab locally, maybe in their Y, without the supervision they should have in many cases.''
Could be especially interesting in a place like Green Bay, where players don't often stay throughout the offseason. "I included clauses in lots of contracts when I was there that would tether the players to our workout program," Brandt said. "You know where they're at, and you can also build the camaraderie that teams need.''
Interesting things that are also at stake this week with the events in Washington.
2. I think this is a really good, thought-provoking piece by Bill Simmons, and even though he writes for a rival site, I strongly recommend it. Now, the only thing he has slightly wrong is that every owner in the NFL is making $100 million a year, or whatever ungodly sum the general public believes every NFL team is making in profit. But the point of greed is an interesting one.
3. I think it's nice that the Chargers signed Bob Sanders. Nice. Nothing more. For all the Chargers fans who've gotten excited about it, don't. If he adds something to your team -- a physical presence in the secondary 15 snaps a game would be an incredible bonus -- that's good. But understand that a safety who will be 30 opening day and has missed 39 of the past 48 regular-season games due to injury is, at best, a marginally interesting prospect to help a good team get better. I hope Norv Turner institutes what the Colts should have instituted years ago for Sanders -- a pitch count, essentially. Go into the season with the idea that he'll play no more than 15 plays a game until the postseason, no matter how good or healthy or eager he looks.
4. I think what really surprised me about Mike Holmgren discussing Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher as legitimate candidates for the Browns coaching job was this: He said Cowher "wasn't ready to come back and he was very honest about it.'' I find that very, very illuminating. Think of it. Cowher turns 54 in May. That is not only not too old to coach; it's almost prime time to coach. There are four big-time coaches half-a-decade older or more. Tom Coughlin is 64, Pete Carroll 59, Mike Shanahan 58, Bill Belichick 58. This will be Cowher's fifth year out of coaching. If he's not eager to get back in now, when will he be? Now it could be that since he is only seven months removed from his wife Kaye's death that is part of the reason for his reluctance to return. Or maybe it was simply that he didn't want to coach the Browns, because he sees them far away from being a winning team, and if a good team had an opening, he'd be interested.
But when a trusted guy like Holmgren says Cowher's not ready, my first impression is this: Maybe he's done for good. Maybe if he ever goes back, he'll actually be talking himself into something just because everyone around him says it's the right thing to do, not because he actually is burning to do it. When Jimmy Johnson went back to coach the Dolphins, I could tell he wasn't burning to do it. The results showed that too.
If I were an owner, and I looked at the pros and cons of Cowher in the future, I'd ask myself, and him, some serious questions about why he's going back into it. He has, by any reasonable estimate, a good $30 million to $40 million put away from his coaching and broadcast career. Will he ever be as hungry? Understand I'm not saying he won't be. It's just something I'd need to have answered satisfactorily before I give him $7 million a year and the keys to my franchise.
5. I think I'd give Plaxico Burress, who turns 34 in August and is a year-and-a-half younger than Hines Ward, a shot in my training camp. Any day of the week. Burress is likely to be hungrier and more focused than in his prime. And remember how great he was just 38 months ago.
6. I think it was good to have a chance to spend time with Patrick Peterson at the Maxwell event in Atlantic City. Very nice kid. Honored to be at such a cool event, and determined to be good. Also had a brief and pleasant conversation with Cam Newton (didn't mention either "icon'' or "entertainer'') and said I looked forward to chatting with him further down the road. Both handled themselves well, and with class, in front of the fervent Philly-area fans.
7. I think Paul Zimmerman's on the road to recovery after having Wednesday surgery to ameliorate his spinal stenosis. The first few days are always the hardest. That's what his lunch partner, Matt Millen, told Zim the day before, when he, Zim, me and our spouses met at Café Gourmet in Parsippany, N.J., not far from La Maison Zimmy. For the scores who have asked, Dr. Z has been waylaid by this spinal stenosis for several months. It has sapped the ability of his right leg to work effectively, and so his rehab from his three 2008 strokes has been hampered severely. He's still not speaking coherently, and he's not able to totally comprehend everything he sees in a football game. So we're all holding out hope -- as is he, I can guarantee you -- of returning to write someday, but there are life's very basics that he'll have to re-master first.
I have to tell you what a wonderful person his wife, Linda, has been throughout all of this. Those of you who got to know her as "The Flaming Redhead'' I know got to really like and respect her. Now you can envision her as "The Flaming Nightengale,'' because she has been one of the great caregivers I've ever seen of a person put in this difficult position. If you pray, a few good words for the two of them tonight would be quite welcome. And I have to tell you: All of you who have sent well-wishes to Paul and Linda have warmed their hearts. When I told Paul about all the tweets and e-mails of support, he smiled and sort of blushed. That's big for him. Thank you.
8. I think this'll be a momentous week for Millen, Anthony Munoz and Merril Hoge as they head into the war zone to visit the troops in the Persian Gulf. Millen is hoping to see Airborne Ranger son Marcus, serving in Afghanistan. "I feel like I'm representing all of the parents who'd like so much to be in my place,'' said Millen. "There are 1,000 people who'd like to be in my place.''
I asked Millen how he deals daily with his boy being in harm's way; the Rangers don't sit behind a desk. They're out in the field, doing the tough stuff. "I trust his training, his instincts, and I trust the fact that he's my son, and I know what a tough kid he is,' Millen said. "But the whole thing, really, is buoyed by prayer. [Wife] Pat and I pray for him every day.''
9. I think this is the week to get it done, owners and players. And Roger Goodell.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Sure seems to be a lot of people rooting against the Heat.
b. I'm thrilled to not care about Charlie Sheen.
c. The women's Atlantic 10 title game, tonight, in Lowell, Mass.: Xavier-Dayton. The closest campus of an A-10 school to Lowell is 99 miles away (UMass, in Amherst). Saw a photo of the Xavier-Charlotte semifinal Sunday, and it looked like the empty seats outnumbered the people 100 to 1. Someone explain the logic of playing the Atlantic 10 women's tournament in a Boston suburb when there are no A-10 teams in the Boston area.
d. You go, Liverpool.
e. There must be something wrong with me. I'm a 53-year-old man, just spent 20 hours in a casino in Atlantic City, and never once said, "Hey, let's go play some blackjack!'' Never even put a quarter in a slot machine. Just seems so fruitless. Do you ever really win? I mean, win and then walk away without the temptation to go back and turn your winnings into the big score?
f. Go you mighty Devils (20-2-2 in their last 24). I don't know if they can jump four teams in the last month of the season, but it'll be fun to watch.
g. Coffeenerdness: Atlantic City has its problems, economic and otherwise. But right there in the middle of a renewal area downtown, with all kinds of trendy outlets stores, is a Starbucks. Pretty surprised at that, and pleased.
h. Beernerdness: You're got to make more of that St. Botolph's Town Rustic Dark Ale, Pretty Things Brewery. You can't make my favorite beer, then have the neighborhood run out of it.
i. Proud of both King girls for getting jobs in this economy, Laura in ad sales in San Francisco, Mary Beth in PR in the business world in Seattle. Life takes funny turns, but we love the West Coast, and we love having great places to visit.
j. Doesn't seem like Libya is going to have a happy ending, that's for sure.
k. Saw a gracious Joe Paterno give a coach of the year award to Frank Beamer Friday night in Atlantic City, and he reminded me of seeing Frank Sinatra near the end of his career. Very classy. Very old. And you cannot look away.
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