When I last wrote this column, we'd made it to number 21 of the NFL's top 100 players. The 415 NFL players polled by NFL Network had their view, and I had mine. So here goes with their top 20, and mine ... but first, a few explanations on mine.
On Tom Brady at No. 1 over Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning: Brady hasn't won a Super Bowl in seven years and hasn't won a playoff game in three, but his 36 touchdowns against only four interceptions last year keeps him at the top. Rodgers over Manning? A few reasons. Mobility and youth, yes. But I wouldn't have put the Packers' QB over Manning, even with latter at 35 and entering his 14th season, without the two neck surgeries in 18 months for Manning. That is starting to concern me.
Players' 4-5-6: Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu. They are 50, 54 and 60 on my list. My reasoning: Lewis is 36, Reed will be 33 opening day and he's missed 10 of his last 32 games due to injury, Polamalu's missed 13 of his last 32 -- and was too injured in the playoffs last year to be a factor. When right, Reed and Polamalu are the best safeties playing. I just can't trust them to play a full season anymore.
I've tried to make up for the silliness of the players having two-time Super Bowl-winner Ben Roethlisberger 41 and Philip Rivers 26 on their list by putting them seventh and 10th, respectively, on mine.
Six quarterbacks in my top 10 too much for you? Tell me: If there were a draft of all NFL players today, with 32 teams starting from ground zero, would Philip Rivers be picked in the top 10? Of course. That's why he's so high, despite his checkered postseason record.
Yes, Tramon Williams is 16 on my list. He's young, big and clutch, and the only two corners better right now are Darrelle Revis and Nnamdi Asomugha. That Williams didn't make the player list is, well, a horrible omission.
Free agency will be interesting. How long has it been since a top-10 player in the game, which Asomugha is, has been unrestricted? Maybe Julius Peppers two years ago, but it certainly doesn't happen often.
|Top 20 Players|
"I think the best part of it is our fans are not going to have to hear about labor-management relations for the next 10 years.''
-- John Mara, Giants owner and labor committee member, after the owners ratified the deal Thursday.
From your lips to De Smith's ears.
"As players, we have to ask ourselves, 'Why would the owners so desperately want the 10-year deal with no opt-out?' ''
-- Houston player rep Eric Winston.
"I realize it's a privilege, and I don't want to abuse the privilege.''
-- Myra Kraft, the wife of Patriots owner Robert Kraft, in a 2007 interview, putting in perspective how important it was for a person with money to care about the rest of the world, which she did. She died Wednesday of ovarian cancer.
If you have paid attention to this labor strife and have the right cable package or dish, you've gotten to know Albert Breer of NFL Network over the last few months. Perhaps better than you'd have ever liked to.
This morning, like on 57 previous days in the past five months, Breer will take his place on a sidewalk, this time in northwest Washington -- on 20th Street -- and document who walks in, who walks out, and try to get a snippet of information. For the 58th and last day, barring a stunning downturn in the talks, Breer will stake out in front of a building for the final time in these negotiations.
Unfortunately, most times the negotiators involved in the NFL CBA talks don't want to talk to him or anyone else. Not only that, they want to avoid him, as De Smith did just after midnight Sunday, when he ducked out of the building and into his car and waved, wordlessly, to Breer as he drove home.
"In Washington, for the court-ordered mediation, Roger Goodell was Houdini,'' Breer said after 1 this morning. "We'd always see him walking in, and for days and days, we'd never see him leave. He'd just vanish. But that was OK. Sometimes, in our job, we go where people don't want us to be. It's been interesting to be in D.C. for a lot of these meetings and negotiations. The sound and camera people are used to the stakeouts. It's an art form for these guys. One of them said to me, 'This isn't so bad. We staked out Monica Lewinsky for a year.' ''
But it was bad in New York City for a couple of weeks, staking out in front of a law firm at the corner of 41st Street and 8th Avenue, across the street from the Port Authority Bus Terminal, breathing in bus fumes for 12 days, a few of those sniffs stifling. There was a 120-degree heat index one day. "The air quality over there is like Three Mile Island,'' said Breer, 31.
"At the end of the day,'' he said, "I just want to have earned the respect of both sides. I just want to be fair.''
I've seen maybe half of Breer's reports over the past five months, and I think he's managed to play it down the middle very well, despite the fact Roger Goodell's signing his paycheck. That's as impressive as standing/sitting/freezing/sweating on the sidewalks of America for the equivalent of a month of 24-hour days.
How his stakeouts break down, in chronological order, since February:
Washington, D.C., 17 days
Indianapolis, 4 days
St. Paul, 1
New Orleans, 3
Hull, Mass., 1
Washington, D.C., 1
Washington, D.C., 3 (including today)
Total stakeout days: 58. Avg. hours per day (Breer estimate): 12.5. Total days: 30 days, four hours. Total hours: 725.
"Oh my God,'' he said. "That's depressing.''
No it's not. It's career-building.
One of the great things about vacation is it lets you catch up with reading. This gem came from Andrew Goldman's interview with Judge Judy in the June 26 New York Times Sunday magazine: Judge Judy works five days per month ... and makes $45 million a year.
Judge Judy Factoid II: Her 24,000-square-foot home in Connecticut contains a snoring room -- an extra room for guests who snore.
In the top-notch Berra where-are-they-now story by Posnanski in our July 4 issue, I was amazed to read this: From 1950 to '56, Berra caught both ends of a doubleheader 117 times ... and seven times he caught both ends of a doubleheader on back-to-back days.
I don't remember the last time this happened, in part because of the rarity of doubleheaders and in part because teams split the catching on doubleheader days when it happens.
My friend Jack Bowers from Montclair gave me another Yogi nugget that I found amazing, and it sent me to baseballreference.com to dig into. Between 1950 and 1956, Berra won the MVP three times and finished in the top four of the voting in the other four seasons. Over the years, we've had so much fun making fun of Yogisms that we forget what a truly dominant player he was. Imagine finishing in the top four of the MVP voting seven straight years. So I looked up Barry Bonds. He never finished in the top four of the MVP voting seven years in a row. Same with Albert Pujols.
We should appreciate Berra the player more -- and I have to be sure to stop by the newly renovated Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in my old Jersey neighborhood to do just that. Good job by Posnanski to delve into Berra the great player.
Well, I have many. But one of the things traveling abroad teaches you is the lack of respect for lines and personal space in much of Europe (everywhere that I've traveled there, honestly).
The personal space thing is just weird. In Venice, we stood in line for a water ferry to take us from the train station to San Marco Square. The line moved slowly, and the 30ish woman behind me kept leaning on me, as if it would make the line go faster. After the third forearm/breast push into my back, I turned and held my palm out, moving it up and down, as if to say, "Relax.'' It was no use, at the first sign of space to my left, she and her friend squeezed to our left and got on the ferry a few people in front of us. I should say that we all got on the same ferry, which arrived at the same time, and we all got off within seconds of each other. This kind of mild pushing and line-cutting happened every day, somewhere, in Italy and Austria.
Lines, too, were just foreign. It's every man, woman and idiot for him/herself. In line at a Trieste bank to change some dollars into euros, I noticed a teller signaling he was ready to take me. An older lady came from the back of the line, saying something that sounded like "Scoozy, scoozy,'' and cut in front of me, and the teller took her.
In a queue for coffee at the Vienna airport, a man behind me, in German (the national language of Austria), shouted his order over the meeker me, and when I said something like, "Hey, my turn,'' the bilingual barista said, "I make his first.''
Also at the Vienna airport, my wife and I waited in line to check luggage, and our turn was next, and a woman scurried in from the side, right in front of us, to ask some questions of the baggage attendant. "There's a line,'' we said. No use. The woman got her 90 seconds of attention and we waited.
Italy's such a terrific place, with great people. Austria is an orderly country, from what I can tell, and everyone there was good to us. Why the terminal rudeness while co-waiting? I'd love to hear some plausible explanation from some of you who have lived, or who live, in Europe.
"I said I wouldn't jump in til they agreed. They've FINALLY agreed! Sources say 2 sides this hour agree to terms of new CBA.''
-- @jay_glazer, FOXSports' Jay Glazer, at 3:52 a.m. Eastern time today.
"Can't wait to knock somebody the hell out.''
-- Madbacker57, Jets linebacker Bart Scott, on Saturday just after noon, apparently eager to get to training and knock somebody the hell out.
"I would be honored to have Brett Farve as a backup. That will be amazing Learning how to toy with defenses the way he did.''
-- @mikevick, the Eagles quarterback, tweeting Sunday about the rumor of the oft-retired Hattiesburgian coming back to the NFL. As a backup.
Sounds good, Mike. But you've got to learn to spell his last name.
"My neighbor looks exactly like Larry David.''
-- cponder7, Christian Ponder, the rookie Vikings quarterback, reflecting on his new life in the Twin Cities.