Cam gets a very apt mentor.
Remember Ken Dorsey? Big career at Miami (Fla.) a decade ago, with some limited success as a (mostly) NFL backup quarterback. Interesting that he just finished eight days working with the first pick in the draft, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, and they'll be back at it again today in Bradenton, Fla.
There's a good reason Dorsey and Newton have become workout and classroom partners. In 2001 and 2002, Dorsey, at Miami, was coached by Hurricane offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski. In 2007 and 2008, Dorsey, with the Cleveland Browns, was coached by Browns offensive coordinator Chudzinski.
Newton was able to get a Carolina playbook, with Panthers offensive coordinator Chudzinski's encyclopedic offense, to take with him during the lockout. Dorsey spent last week instructing Newton in the finer points of the offense, in addition to telling him the expectations and coaching methods of Chudzinski.
"The best way to describe it,'' said the quarterback coach who readied Newton for his pre-draft workouts, George Whitfield, "is it's like an old pilot grooming a new pilot to take over his plane. The old pilot's teaching him about every one of the controls in the cockpit.''
It sounds smart and valuable. Compared to the other highly drafted quarterbacks, Newton ought to be as advanced as he can be when the lockout ends. How important will that be? We'll see, because there's going to be a tremendous amount of pressure on the Panthers to play Newton early.
You really need to read this story.
If you read nothing else today -- even if it means stopping right here and not finishing this column -- you need to read Lars Anderson's cover story in this week's Sports Illustrated. It is the story of the physical and human damage left by the tornadoes that struck Alabama on April 27, particularly in the area of the Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa.
It's written by SI's Anderson, who taught a sportswriting class in the spring term on the Alabama campus, commuting from his home in Birmingham once a week to mentor 14 students. One of them, Allyson Angle of St. Louis, helped him with the reporting of this story. It's one of the best stories I've read in the magazine in years, and it makes me proud to work with someone like Anderson.
I'm not the only one who was moved by it. Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive left Anderson a long voice mail Saturday, thanking him for "one of the most powerful things I've ever read.''
I'm writing about this today because it seems like we've too quickly moved on from this incredible disaster. Two days after the tornado, the Royal Wedding happened. Two days after that, bin Laden was captured and killed. And we just seemed to move to the next story without the full understanding of how horrendous the storms were that hit the deep south. So please read it.
Anderson and Angle got the minute-by-minute account of one of the most tragic parts of the story -- about a long-snapper from the Crimson Tide football team and his honor-student girlfriend --and told it well. So well that when the snapper, Carson Tinker, read the story, he texted Anderson and said: "I wouldn't change a single word.'' Anderson told me Saturday it's the best text he's ever received.
"I lived in New York City during 9/11, and this event brought up a lot of the same feelings,'' Anderson said. "There was so much emotional trauma with it. I felt so strongly about wanting to get the story absolutely right.''
One fact Anderson couldn't fit in the story, from Tinker: When he was born, in Decatur, Ala., the hospital had to be evacuated and he and his mother moved because of a severe tornado threat in the area.
And one NFL-related thing: Anderson had nothing but praise for SI cover subject Javier Arenas, the Chiefs cornerback and former Alabama star whose home was shredded during the tornado. "He's been in the thick of it every day, helping whoever needs to be helped,'' Anderson said of Arenas. "No PR people telling him what to do -- just a good man doing what needs to be done in the middle of a disaster.''
Saw longtime and well-respected football writer Vito Stellino's Twitter take on the curbing of offseason programs due to the lockout this spring. I liked it well enough that I asked the former Steeler glory-days beat man, now with the Florida Times-Union covering the Jaguars, to expand his thoughts for MMQB. Here they are:
Is it going to make any difference that the lockout is wiping out the NFL's offseason program?
Eagles coach Andy Reid recently said the less practice time a team has (because of the lockout), "the worse the product. We don't do those minicamps, those OTAs, and all those sessions just for the heck of it. There is a reason why we have those things ... We try to get the utmost out of it.''
Reid may not realize -- he's only been coaching in the NFL since 1992 -- that the real reason for these things is Parkinson's Law. Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.
They have these things because the players make so much money that they don't work in the offseason and are available to practice.
As recently as the 1970s, there were no offseason workouts. Teams had one minicamp an offseason. Tony Dungy even worked in a Pittsburgh bank after he signed as an undrafted free agent in 1977. And Terry Bradshaw used to talk about not picking up a ball in the offseason. And maybe the players were more refreshed after having an offseason away from the game. All these offseason workouts may just wear down their bodies.
Did the product suffer because of the lack of offseason workouts? You can argue the players are bigger, faster and stronger today and it is a more sophisticated game. But was it any better for the fans?
Remember in the 1970s, two Super Bowls in four years pitted Bradshaw vs. Roger Staubach.
Yes, the offseason workouts -- combined with free agency and cable TV -- have kept the NFL in the news all year round and helped make the game more popular than ever. And that has meant football writers don't have to cover things like golf the way they used to. I know you can't live in the past, but I would debate the game isn't any better for the fans. Too bad Andy Reid was only a teenager in the 1970s. He would understand the NFL did just fine without OTAs and offseason programs.
This will certainly be a good year to check out Stellino's theory.
An early Fathers Day story, courtesy of Mark Schlereth.
I went to Fenway Park Wednesday night and sat through a highly entertaining game of fogball. Red Sox 1, Tigers 0, with the fog and mist rolling in from right field making it seem like March in Scotland. Unfortunately for ESPN football analyst and three-time Super Bowl champion Mark Schlereth, sitting in the stands behind home plate, his son, Daniel, gave up a walk and double in the bottom of the eighth, handing the Red Sox the only run of the game.
"Somewhat bittersweet,'' Schlereth said. "But Wednesday night was one of the great sports moments of my life.''
"That night completed a great trifecta in our lives,'' Mark Schlereth said. "Daniel was a very good ballplayer from a young age, an excellent pitcher. I wasn't a big baseball fan growing up, but I got to be a big fan as Daniel grew up. And when he was 12 years old, I told him, 'I will never step foot in Wrigley Field, Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park until you play in them.' ''
One: As an Arizona Diamondback, Schlereth, a lefty reliever, suited up for a season-ending series at Wrigley in 2009, though he did not pitch. Two: Traded to the Tigers that offseason, he was up-and-down in the minors and majors in 2010, and got into a game at Yankee Stadium Aug. 17. Three: Fenway, last week. "He actually put this picture together for me with us on the field at Wrigley,'' Mark Schlereth said, "and he wrote how much he appreciated me pushing him over the years. That was really nice.
"He's 25 now, and so it took 13 years for the trifecta to be completed. But it's incredibly rewarding. After the game the other night, he was kind of pissed off about it, but we came back to the hotel, got some room service and just talked. What a neat moment. He's really done a great job.''
I made the point to Schlereth that I watched his son walk off the field after giving up the run, and wanted to see his reaction in the dugout. None. No glove-throwing. Totally professional. Reminded me of a good cornerback who gets beat for a touchdown in man coverage -- and has to forget it and come back and play the next snap.
"I could not do what he does,'' dad said of son. "The amount of failure you have to stomach in baseball ... it's just so hard. I couldn't have been a cornerback or quarterback, where you have to shrug off mistakes. They used to just eat me up.''
Just thought that was a good story about a father who played one sport at the highest level agonizing (but with pride) over a son competing at the highest level of another.
The NFLNet Top 100 vs. Me: 61-70.
Last week, I began to compare my 2011 list of the top 100 players in football to the players' list, as voted by 413 current players, who rated their top 20 players in the league. NFL Films and NFL Network compiled the results and scored the lists on a 20-19-18-17-etc. basis. I'll give my 10 each week compared to the NFL Network's 10 that was revealed on TV on Sunday nights this spring.
I rank players based on status today, current impact and future impact. I find it hard to believe the players' list does not include one of the best punters of all-time, Shane Lechler, who I've included here and who does not show up on the NFL list at all. But we came pretty close on Atlanta pass-rusher John Abraham -- 69th on the player list, 72nd on mine. And, by the way: Do not make a list of the top 100 players in football without having pile-pushing, game-changing defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin of the 49ers on it. It won't be valid.
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