1. I think I still have some of the same questions about whether Cam Newton's going to be a great quarterback in the NFL. But I was talking to a veteran NFL coach the other day who crystallized something for me. "Cam Newton was down 24-0 at Alabama, in a game against one of the great defensive minds [Nick Saban] in football, in one of the toughest places to play in all of football, with the national championship on the line for his school, and he came back to win it. That's not one of the best performances of the year. It's got to be one of the best performances by a college quarterback ever.''
Add these two things: 101,000 screaming fans, 90 percent of them anti-Auburn; and the pressures of playing with the NCAA investigation of his father allegedly asking for money for Newton to enroll after his 2009 junior-college season. The PA played "Take the Money and Run,'' by the Steve Miller Band, in pregame warmups, and when Newton came out of the tunnel, fans threw monopoly money at him. That's one heck of a day to have on a quarterback résumé.
2. I think this was the funniest thing I heard all week in putting together my mock draft. It came from a longtime pro personnel director: "By the time we get done looking at these guys, none of 'em can play.''
3. I think you can blame this opinion on me being friends with Bob Papa if you wish, but it's downright foolish for NFL Network to be playing with his job by making him audition for it. Foolish. There's no other word.
I absolutely do not think Papa should be replaced. But let's say the bigwigs atop the Network don't think Papa's sexy enough, or something enough, to be the voice of the Network for the Thursday night games. To have him audition after he's done play-by-play on the games for three years is a slap in his face. If they were so enamored of Gus Johnson -- and there's good reason to be; Johnson's fun -- they should have simply auditioned Johnson, then made a decision. How is Papa sitting in a booth with Mike Mayock going to sway anyone's opinion of him?
Papa's the ultimate solid play-by-play man, with strong lines and excellent set-up capability. I love listening to him, because I learn things. Yes, I do a radio show with him at Sirius, and we're friends. But I believed he was very good before I ever worked with him, and I believe it even more now. In the immortal words of Mad Dog Russo, "That's a bad job, NFL Network. Bad job!''
4. I think the reason it's so difficult to place the quarterbacks in the proper order in this draft is simple: Different teams like different players. Take Andy Dalton. The Bengals interviewed him at the combine, went to his pro day, had a private workout with him, hosted him for a visit in Cincinnati ... and will visit him one more time before the draft. Seattle's got a quarterback need too, and spent 15 minutes with Dalton at the combine. That's it. But you can't always make a judgment based on personal contact. Remember Jay Cutler and the Broncos on draft day 2006? The first time he talked to coach Mike Shanahan was in taking a phone call from the Broncos, congratulating him on being drafted by Denver.
5. I think Plaxico Burress, nearing the end of his sentence in upstate New York for carrying a concealed weapon in Manhattan and discharging it in a nightclub, is beginning to sound a lot like Michael Vick did when he neared the end of his stay in Leavenworth. When Tony Dungy visited Burress, he found a man saying all the right things and wanting very much to be a reformed person. Burress wants to attend the NFL Rookie Symposium and alert the prospects to learn from his mistakes. My guess is at least two or three teams will be in the mix to sign Burress as receiver insurance when he exits prison this summer.
6. I think the NFL-NFLPA talks were very quiet Thursday and Friday, the way they should be. They should be leakproof if the two sides are serious about getting something done. I continue to think the mediated discussions won't amount to much, because the players won't be motivated to really negotiate before Judge Susan Nelson decides whether to issue an injunction against the league; if that happens, the ruling would mean the owners have to end their lockout of the players.
7. I think, based on what I'm reading from your e-mails and tweets, we need a quick lesson in 2011 draft trading. What is allowed: the trading of draft picks in this draft or an upcoming one. What isn't allowed, unless the judge in Minnesota rules for an immediate injunction, thus opening the 2011 league year before an appeal can be heard: any trade that involves a player, or any free-agent signing of a player. There's been too much confusion on that one. Also, teams cannot discuss future trades involving players, either. That'd be a sure fire starter with the league if it surfaces, with NFL sanctions sure to follow if it finds out teams have been discussing player deals.
8. I think it sounds like Ray Lucas' interview with Armen Keteyian on "HBO Real Sports'' Tuesday will be must-see TV. Lucas, a recovering addict after getting hooked on painkillers as a backup NFL quarterback and special-teamer, tells Keteyian: "You know, 450 pills a month is not a game. That was my life. That was my life every friggin' day. And the only time I got out of bed was to go do my TV show, the only time. So family life, was none. Father, wasn't there. Husband, not there."
9. I think, even though I took Baylor nose man Phil Taylor out of my mock draft Sunday when it was reported he had a foot condition that was scaring away some teams, he still could get picked near the end of the first round. I know a couple of teams that haven't eliminated him from consideration yet.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. John Mara's not an alternate juror anymore. He's a real live juror on that South African drug case in Manhattan, because another juror was excused, and the intrepid AP reporter on the case, Larry Neumeister, says the conscientious, note-taking Mara might even be elected jury foreman when the group retires to deliberate. The trial may last into next week, which means there's a chance he could be deliberating when the NFL draft begins on April 28.
b. I don't know how it's possible for Steve Carell and Will Ferrell to be on the same 30-minute sitcom, playing off each other, and not be funny. But that was the case Thursday night on "The Office.'' So unfunny, I thought, that it was awkward.
c. RIP, "All My Children,'' the soap of my youth. Phoebe Tyler. Langley Wallingford. Erica Kane. Etched in my subconscious.
d. Soap Quiz: For how many years did Susan Lucci play that little vixen, Erica Kane, on AMC? (See answer at bottom.)
e. Congrats, Justin Masterson. Three wins for a great guy.
f. And Jered Weaver -- I looked up on Tax Day and saw him 4-0. What pitcher in history had four wins by the time we all had to pay our taxes? Turns out Elias Sports Bureau discovered that no one's ever had four wins by mid-April. Guess that means Weaver's going 48-0.
g. And Josh Beckett, Texas boy, throwing seven superb innings in 31-degree windchill at Fenway Saturday against Toronto. Heck of a job.
h. Stop slapping around the Globe's Pete Abraham, Red Sox readers and tweeters. The guy's a gem. He's tough when he has to be, and he's had to be a few times this year, obviously.
i. I love how much Toronto manager John Farrell is running early in the season. So smart, especially against a poor team at nabbing stealers like Boston, even when your baserunners have just average speed. Aaron Hill had eight steals in the last two years. He got his sixth of the season Sunday at Fenway, a cheap steal of home.
j. Relax, Carl Crawford.
k. Hey: The Bruins were supposed to have the hot goalie, not the cold one.
l. You happy about your Canadiens, Clark Judge?
m. Coffeenerdness: Guy in front of me the other day in Starbucks in the South End of Boston ordered a tall quad latte. I said to him: "Is there any room for milk in that?'' Four espresso shots in a tall cup? That's hardcore. That's like when Jon Runyan used to play for the Eagles, and early in his career, he'd drink nine shots of espresso in a venti cup before games.
n. Beernerdness: Found a gem at the Spotted Pig in the West Village in Manhattan the other night -- Captain Lawrence Pale Ale, from the bustling metropolis of Pleasantville, N.Y. Haven't had too many pale ales with the distinct taste of citrus, but it worked perfectly in this hoppy beer. Nice job.
o. Tweetup of the Week: Don Banks, the SI.com NFLmeister, will be in Mt. Horeb, Wisc., Tuesday night at 6:30 at a bar called Le Cork Lounge, 1204 Business 18. Ask him how he got the nickname "Donnie Brasco.'' It's really complicated.
p. I like what I saw last week, with the San Francisco Giants auctioning off a personalized World Series ring to benefit 16,000 children from 5 to 18 playing baseball and getting life lessons in 85 co-ed leagues in northern California, Nevada and Oregon. To have a shot at a real ring, go to www.sfgiants.com/ringraffle. Minimum purchase: $10.
q. Great job by the 28-member Arizona Cardinals delegation, led by coach Ken Whisenhunt, in supporting Pat's Run in Tempe, Ariz. The race, organized by the friends of the late Pat Tillman, drew 28,000 fun-runners in Tempe for the 4.2-mile course (Tillman, of course, wore number 42 at Arizona State), and satellite runs from El Salvador to Boston drew a few thousand more. Whisenhunt has run the race every year but one since becoming the Cardinals coach in 2007 (he had knee surgery one offseason) and has been a major magnet to get attention and local participation in the run. Jake Plummer, one of Tillman's best friends, was on hand to run too.
r. Hold me to it, everyone, and remind me. I want to run that race next year in Arizona.
s. Hang in there, Jess Sarfati. Better days are ahead.
t. Quiz answer: 40. Forty!!!
SI Now Live Friday December 13, 2013
SI Now: Dule Hill talks TV, theater and his namesake Kareem Abdul-Jabbar