"The 'deal' they claim the players walked away from, I know we've turned it into a slogan that it was the worst deal in sports history, but it really was The Worst Deal In Sports History. It would have been so bad. How could it make sense to do a deal where, in the first year alone, we have a five-percent rollback in our share of the revenue? And that's the best moment of the deal! From that moment on, the deal gets worse by the day!''
-- Seattle offensive lineman and player rep Chester Pitts, in a column posted on proplayerinsiders.com Sunday.
"We gotta quit trying to make the game perfect.''
-- Mike Pereira, the former vice president of officiating, and now a FOX analyst, responding to a question at the league meetings about what's next in instant-replay.
"What has he ever done that he's completed? What circle has he connected in any way?"
-- Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis, on Chad Ochocinco's tryout last week with the Kansas City franchise of Major League Soccer.
Said it before and I'll say it again: I'd be surprised if Ochocinco's a Bengal whenever this season begins. "He's under contract,'' Lewis said at the league meetings last week.
A clarification, some speculation, and a calming of the masses:
Last week in this stat space, I wrote that 20.5 percent of kickoffs went for touchbacks last year. That's the correct number of non-returned kickoffs, but they weren't all touchbacks. That percentage also includes non-returned onside kicks and kickoffs that went out of bounds before going to the end zone. The percentage of touchbacks actually was 16 percent.
Let's extrapolate. There were 7.94 kickoffs per NFL game last year. Let's call it eight. The average kickoff reached the 5.5-yard-line last year.
With the league voting to move the kickoff spot from the 30- to 35-yard-line in 2011, and keeping touchbacks placed at the 20- instead of the 25-yard-line, I think we can assume something that's contrary to those who think the kickoff return is an endangered species:
There won't be more than 40 percent touchbacks in 2011, and I'd guess it'd be closer to about a third of all kicks. At most. A couple of important factors are at play here. If the touchbacks were resulting in the ball being brought to the 25, you can bet that any kick four- or five-yards deep would almost automatically be downed. The 25 is a good place to start if you field the kickoff in the end zone. But with the ball being brought out to the 20, teams will be more likely to tell returners to return it as normal if it's fielded two or three yards deep.
And remember this: Kickoff team members can start only five yards behind the ball. Used to be they could get a running start for wherever the players wanted to, and that, for most teams, was about 15 yards behind the kickoff spot for the fastest on the kick team. Now that they can't start more than five yards behind the ball, they won't have the same head of steam built when the ball is booted. They'll still have the advantage of the ball being kicked five yards closer to the opposition's goal line, but it may not be the great advantage it'd seemed at first blush.
So if the average kick will land at the half-yard line, and if it pays for returners to take a gamble unless the kick is at least halfway into the end zone, I still see five or six returns per game, on average. Hardly a revolution.
One last kickoff point, from Competition Committee chair Rich McKay: "If you asked the Competition Committee to vote on this as a tactical matter, we're 7-0 against it. But if you look at it in terms of something to improve player safety, we're 7-0 for it. That's what this came down to.''
Last Monday, I took a couple of hours off from the NFL meetings in New Orleans to go to one of my favorite places to watch a horse race, the Fairgrounds. In the third race, a horse owned by Jake Delhomme and his family, Offseason, was running. Offseason is not very good. He went off at 29:1, but I had to bet the nag. So I put $5 on him to show. Offseason started slow, got slower and finished last, six lengths behind the field. Eighth out of eight horses. That left his career record:
Starts: 25. Wins: 1. Places: 0. Shows: 3.
Offseason's last 10 starts: 8, 7, 11, 5, 10, 6, 7, 7, 6, 7.
Not saying I know much about the racing game -- other than there's not many better days in the sun than one at the track, at least for me -- but it might be time to put Offseason in a permanent offseason.
When St. Louis coach Steve Spagnuolo visited the baseball Cardinals training camp this month, Albert Pujols signed one of his real bats, a black one, for him. Using a silver Sharpie, Pujols signed it to Spagnuolo, with "God bless you'' on it. And when Spagnuolo checked it out, he was surprised -- no, stunned -- to see that Pujols spelled the coach's often-misspelled last name correctly.
"I mean, nobody spells my name right,'' Spagnuolo said.
One more reason to put Conrad Hotels at the top of your travel list (if your bosses allow you to expense premium hotels every now and then, and if you travel to Chicago, Indianapolis and Miami, where Conrads currently are open). I sat down Saturday morning to do waaaaaay too many expense reports, and missing in my file was the hotel bill from my four-night stay at the Scouting Combine in February.
"File?'' Who am I kidding? My expense file is the outer pouch of the L.L. Bean rolling suitcase I use. I just pull all of the hotel and car-rental bills out of there every few months and start guessing.
Anyhoo, the Conrad bill wasn't there, and I called the hotel around 9 Saturday morning, and a cheerful operator named Adrian asked if she could help me. I told her my situation, and she said, "Give me your e-mail and I'll send it right away.'' Wow. That's service. But I waited 10 minutes, and no bill.
I called back and she said, "OK, I'll print it out and fax it.'' Some luck I was having. We just bought a fax machine, and it keeps ringing into voice mail before beginning the fax, so I had to call back and apologize profusely.
"No problem,'' said Adrian. "What I'm going to do is fax it through the computer. It'll go right into your e-mail. Just give me a couple of minutes.''
Five minutes later, it was there.
Now, I'm sure Adrian, being the operator for a large hotel in a city, has better things to do with her time than give some idiot who was careless with his receipts three attempts to locate a month-old hotel bill. That's what makes a very good hotel very good.
"I gave a guy $800 at highway ramp 2day where he begged, GOOD cause it will give him a new start/BAD cause he'll buy crack n booze with it?''
--@jimirsay, Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay, at 3:19 p.m. Eastern time Saturday, in one of his typically eye-opening tweets on a quiet Saturday afternoon. It's either some surprising giveaway or, more typically, a song verse from a '60s or '70s rocker Irsay adores.
Makes you want to find out where Jim Irsay lives and hang around highway entrance and exit ramps, doesn't it?
Sabres ruin Stamkos' return to Lightning with 3-1 win
Seguin's hat trick leads Stars in rout of Canucks