1. I think there's no reason why testing for human growth hormone shouldn't be in a progressive drug policy, and I fully support it being included in the next CBA the owners and plays sign. I'd bet every clean player in the NFL wants it in the substance-abuse policy, too.
2. I think I'd be in favor of compensatory picks being higher -- sort of like the sandwich picks in baseball. I've thought this for a while, but came to a conclusion the other day when I saw the Panthers were getting the first compensatory pick for losing Julius Peppers to the Bears. The pick: 97th overall ... which is tagged onto the end of the third round, but, of course, is equivalent to the first pick of the fourth round. When I see that -- and when I see the Baltimore Ravens getting two end-of-the-fifth-rounders for Justin Bannan and Dwan Edwards, I know the system's out of whack.
Not that it's unfair the Ravens get two fives for those guys, because they're usable players. But look at it this way. The Ravens get the 164th and 165th picks for losing Bannan and Edwards. The Panthers get the 97th pick for Peppers. If you traded the 97th pick, you'd get a little more in value than the 164th and 165th picks, but it'd be a good starting point for discussions. And Peppers for Bannan and Edwards is a mismatch. The NFL should value compensatory picks somewhere in the top 50 for the best players who are lost in free agency. There's not a Peppers every year, but when there is, the value must be higher.
3. I think I found an interesting post, written by United Football League commissioner Michael Huyghue, on The Huffington Post, about the lockout. Huyghue's an informed observer, having formerly been the GM of the Jaguars, and he's an attorney. "My recommendation, therefore, being an attorney myself, is to 'kill all of the lawyers,' '' he wrote the other day. "Having worked both as a general manager and as an agent in the past, my experience has been that third parties are sometimes necessary to break logjams between agents and GMs.
"While working for the Jacksonville Jaguars, I found myself in a dead-end situation with star quarterback Mark Brunell's agents -- Leigh Steinberg and later Frank Bauer. In both cases, I voluntarily removed myself from the negotiations and got the player to speak directly to the owner. Neither party was a professional negotiator, but each had a vested interest in the outcome. In the few times I used this strategy, I found it was much easier to get over an impasse and ultimately reach a meeting of the minds.
"Perhaps that might just be what is simply needed here. Perhaps if we give both [NFL counsel Jeff] Pash and [players union chief and attorney DeMaurice] Smith a brief respite from the rancor of these negotiations, something positive might happen. Why not let Jerry Richardson or Robert Kraft sit face-to-face with Drew Brees or Peyton Manning (after all, they lent their names to this litigation) to work out a resolution. Somehow, I think, as in the case with Brunell, we would get back to playing football in the NFL sooner, rather than later.''
4. I think that's oversimplifying things a bit, but it is something Mike Vrabel of the players executive board proposed, and something the NFL appears willing to do. That should be the next step, after the issuance of the injunction, or after the league wins in court in April, meaning the lockout stays in force.
5. I think I don't buy for a second the Broncos would take a quarterback with the second pick in the draft. Denver had a sieve of a defense last year, 32nd in the league. No team allowed more yards, and only one team was worse against the run. Unless Kyle Orton is on the trade block -- and I can't imagine Elway choosing to enter camp with Tebow as his starting quarterback, without serious competition -- this team has to go defense.
6. I think the one takeaway I had from Tony Dungy last weekend is that I can't see him coaching again. Not saying it's impossible. Just saying with the mindset he has right now, it's highly unlikely he would carve out the time to go coach again. Dungy has his son Eric at Oregon, and he loves going up there to see the games and watching Chip Kelly's practice. He's got young kids at home, and he's in the thick of the carpooling/kid activities world. Religious and corporate entities, and his All-Pro Dad group, want him to speak all the time, and he enjoys that.
And, at one point on the long bus ride back from the prison we visited with Michael Vick, Dungy started talking about something he and wife Lauren love to do together: Going into Tampa public elementary schools to read to children two mornings a week. "Lauren thinks the time to get to kids is at a young age, when they're still enthusiastic about everything,'' Dungy said. "She's right.''
Dungy legitimately lives his life on this philosophy: If you've changed the path of one wayward person today, you've had one of the great days of your life. He's really inspiring to be around.
7. I think this is the saddest story of the week: Barret Robbins sentenced to five years in prison.
8. I think Johnny Jolly sure has a funny way of showing how much he wants to return to the Packers, getting caught with 600 grams of codeine in his car Friday after being banned for possession of codeine this past season. Dude, you're going to blow your career. It may already be blown.
9. I think I'm already petrified about my mock draft for SI, and wishing/hoping/praying for Paul Zimmerman to get back to work so he can take this most stressful thing off my hands. Zim used to call me, as nervous as I ever heard him, a week before the draft, when his mock draft was due at the magazine. This was a man who lived his life with tremendous confidence. (If you knew him, you'd know exactly what I'm talking about.) But his angst was noticeable over the years around this time of year.
Draft time. Lying time. Not sure whether he should trust coaches and GMs, worrying whether he was getting the straight dope or getting duped. Last year, I was able to fix my mock up to four days before the first round, because it was on a Thursday night and we could change picks up to the previous Sunday. But this year, the mag has decided to make the draft preview a week earlier. So I'll file my mock on Friday the 15th of April, and have the ability to make changes up to Sunday the 17th. Uh-oh. Trouble. Too much can happen between the 15th and 28th for me to look anything but dumb, especially in a year with as much uncertainty as this one. C'mon Zim! Come back!
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. The passing of Elizabeth Taylor was put best by Dick Cavett on CNN: "We have the smaller trees left, but this may be the last of the redwoods.''
b. Want to see why Elizabeth Taylor was so great and so smoldering to half the men in the western world a half-century ago? See A Place in the Sun or one of her other great efforts in her prime.
c. Happy trails, Jeff Blumb, and thanks for all the help over the years. Blumb's the Packer PR czar who left the organization last week.
d. I love Butler. How do you not love Butler? All those kids stepping up and making free throws in the final minutes of the biggest game of their lives ... admirable.
e. Two straight Final Fours for a team from the Horizon League? That's one of the stories of the year. Good for Butler. I remember covering a Xavier-Butler Midwestern City Conference game in Hinkle Fieldhouse the day after the 59-below AFC title game in Cincinnati. Bob Staak, the Xavier coach, wore an overcoat on the bench. It was 48 degrees in Hinkle that night.
f. One of the emerging stars of this year's NCAA Tournament has to be VCU coach Shaka Smart. Kenyon College-educated with a master's degree, he instills a lot more than basketball lessons in his players.
g. I do not understand Arizona calling timeout with 18 seconds left against UConn in the West Regional final Saturday, down two; the Wildcats, 4 of 19 at that point from three-point range, rushed to throw up a three-pointer with 10 seconds to go. What?!!! All half, Arizona had attacked the basket and won battles inside consistently. Not only does their best inside player, Derrick Williams, rush a three-pointer with 10 seconds and miss it, but Arizona gets the rebound and throws up another three. That one misses too. Mystifying. I'm OK with shooting the three and going for the gutsy win if you've got no presence inside. But that's not what this case was.
h. Amazing thing about UConn, to me, is the team never gets the wide eyes. No sign of being scared or tight, even when the foe throws a big uppercut. Seems Arizona three or four times mounted a rally and overtook the Huskies, and every time, in the great din of a crowd loving Arizona, UConn came back to smoke the 'Cats.
i. UConn's 9-0 in tournament play this month -- 7-0 on the East Coast (New York, Washington), 2-0 on the West Coast (Anaheim). Now the Huskies move onto the south coast, sort of (Houston).
j. Anatomy of falling out of the hockey pennant race: The Devils have lost five of six to go out meekly, but it's how they've lost. In those five losses, they scored two goals.
k. Baseball predictions: AL division champs -- Boston, Detroit, Oakland (Wild Card: Texas). NL division champs -- Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Colorado (Wild Card: Atlanta). World Series -- Phils over Red Sox in six. MVPs -- Carl Crawford, Boston; Ryan Braun, Milwaukee. Cy Youngs -- Trevor Cahill, Oakland; Josh Johnson, Florida. Managers -- John Farrell, Toronto; Ron Roenicke, Milwaukee.
l. My rotisserie team, the Montclair Pedroias, will be playing from behind, from the looks of the rosters in my New Jersey-based league. My starting eight: Matt Wieters, Justin Morneau (big risk, I know), Dustin Pedroia, Alexei Ramirez, Pedro Alvarez, Carlos Quentin, Jacoby Ellsbury, Nick Swisher; Jose Tabata or Hideki Matsui as DH; Jon Lester, David Price, Trevor Cahill, C.J. Wilson my starting four, with Carlos Marmol, Joe Nathan and David Aardsma (fine by April 20) my closers. A lot has to go right for me not to purge the entire roster by the All-Star Break. When you draft two Buccos ...
m. But you know what I like about my team? The unexpected. Can Morneau be Morneau? Can Ellsbury steal 65 and score 120? Will I risk my Sox karma by relying on Swisher? If Alvarez is going to be the star my buddy Will Carroll says, will it be a fun August? Can Tabata hit .310 for the season, not for a couple of months? Is Cahill the starter I think he is? Will I rue passing on Alex Rios?
n. Coffeenerdness: Saw John Mara, Giants co-owner, hustling down Canal Street in New Orleans last Monday at the league meetings. I knew his dirty little secret. Mara always tells me I got him hooked on Starbucks. Well, the nearest Starbucks to the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans was four or five blocks away, in the lobby of the big Sheraton Hotel, and he had to break away from the pressing business of being on the league's negotiating committee and serving on the Competition Committee to get his java. Oh, I understand.
o. Beernerdness: Pretty Things Brewery heard me. They're back to stocking the 22-ounce St. Botolph's rustic brown ale in Boston again, after a big run on it during the winter. I like a beer that says on the label it was brewed in March 2011. That's what I call fresh. Makes you feel good about the beer you're drinking.
p. Saw the new Paul Giamatti film the other day, Win Win. Though filmed in Rockville Center, N.Y., it's based in a Jersey town, New Providence, with Giamatti his perfect typecast self, almost understandably unscrupulous to a degree. The story is very good, about a lawyer/wrestling coach in the hard times of today's economy, struggling with life when a tough high-school kid enters his world and makes it infinitely more interesting. Not a great movie, but interesting, with good development of characters. And anytime you see a Star-Ledger banner on the sideline of an athletic contest, I mean, you've got to love that. That's Jersey, baby.
q. Cannot wait to see Dwight Schrute and Ellen Page in Super. The previews had the movie audience the other day howling.
r. We've got another good fundraiser planned for the Matt Light Foundation, which annually tries to improve the lives of troubled high-school kids. Light and I, along with ESPNBoston's Mike Reiss, will host a $250-a-plate, fully tax-deductible discussion of the CBA stalemate and the NFL Draft on Tuesday, April 26, at the Liberty Hotel in Boston. The event is from 7:30-9:30 a.m.
Light, the veteran Patriots tackle, is an in-limbo free-agent and also the Patriots' player representative. He'll give you the inside story on wherever the negotiations are at that time. I'll provide some draft insight (we all hope), and Reiss, a veteran NFL beat man, will give an NFL perspective with concentration on the Patriots, with their three picks in the top 33 of the upcoming draft. Light will sign anything other than human bodies, I'm told, and take photos with all comers.
For tickets, or ticket information, contact Margrette Mondello at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit Light's foundation website, www.mattlightfoundation.com. Hope to see you on the 26th. I know $250 is a lot, but I promise it'll be worth it. Light's a captivating speaker and excellent storyteller. There's nobody better on the Patriots than Reiss. And me? Well, I've got a nice dog at least. And I'll show up.