1. I think, from what I'm hearing (not from the horse's mouth, but from someone who would know), Brett Favre is being slightly tempted about playing football again. When I say slightly, I mean slightly. I don't think any team is going to come after him now, and I don't think he's going to pursue anything. But I do think if a starter gets hurt or stinks, and the coach has no faith in the backup, Favre is going to get a call. Depending on the team, he might consider returning.
2. I think Shannon Sharpe's speech was the best Hall of Fame speech I've ever heard. Yes, better than Michael Irvin's.
3. I think the Hall of Fame evokes so much passion, obviously, and there's no right and wrong with who gets in and who's on the outside, but that doesn't stop the tide of intensity when the subject comes up every year. My thoughts about how things look for 2012:
a. It's a cleanup year, with time to get some of the overdue guys in. Bill Parcells (two Super Bowl wins, led all four teams he coached to the playoffs) and Will Shields (12 Pro Bowls) are the best candidates in the new class.
b. There can be as many as five modern era candidates selected, and two Seniors Committee candidates. The senior nominees will be determined later this month at a meeting in Canton. For the moderns, I'd give Dermontti Dawson, Curtis Martin, Bill Parcells, Willie Roaf, Charles Haley, Cris Carter, Shields and Jerome Bettis -- in approximately that order -- the best shot.
c. But the fact that Dawson might have the best shot tells you there's absolutely, positive no slam dunks in 2012. Wide open.
d. Receivers continue to be the bugaboo for the 44 voters (me included). It's become hard for us to separate Carter from Reed, Reed from Tim Brown. I continue to be bullish on Carter, the best boundary receiver I've seen, and maybe the best of the sideline/endline catchers in history.
e. Just because I don't make any of the strong receiver candidates a lock in a relatively weak year doesn't mean I think they're not worthy. Just trying to read the tea leaves, knowing how the room works with the 44 voters trying to figure out which receiver with the very strong resume deserves it the most.
f. Want to see Jerry Kramer get one of the Seniors nods? That's the tenor of what I read and hear on Twitter. There are nine Seniors Committee members, and five of them meet every year in late August in Canton to determine who will get the two nominations. The best advice I can give those with the passion for Kramer is to write passionately to the Hall about his candidacy. Your voices will be heard.
4. I think if the NFL and the Players Association had a real concern for the people of Canton, they'd somehow cobble together $1 million and give it to the Chamber of Commerce in Canton to take care of some of the business there that got hurt by the cancellation of the Hall of Fame game between St. Louis and Chicago.
One hotel manager said his business was "devastated'' by the game getting called off at such a late date, because his hotel was filled with fans from Chicago who planned to spend three nights there -- to attend the Friday dinner, the Saturday enshrinement of Bears defensive end Richard Dent and the others, and then the Sunday night game with their Bears. Fans weren't going to drive six hours to see Dent get in without the game.
I don't care how it's done, but the league and players should see how much such a wonderful league partner as Canton is hurting and do the right thing. Go 50-50 on it. Whatever. Just provide relief to an area already economically devastated. When Roger Goodell was introduced to the crowd at the Canton Civic Center Friday night, he got a noticeable smattering of boos. One guy in the crowd behind me yelled, "Where's our game!''
5. I think this USO gig I'm on is one of the great things I've been involved in a while ... and I'll give you two stories from the last week to illustrate it. In New England, media relations czar Stacey James walked the 24 troops on hand to watch practice in front of the fans' viewing area in single file ... and fans gave the troops a standing ovation. Fans took photos of them, asked for autographs, shook hands and, in general, made the troops feel special. Robert Kraft thanked each one individually for his/her service, as did a handful of players after practice. In Pittsburgh on Saturday, 17 Steelers, including Ben Roethlisberger and coach Mike Tomlin, spent time with the troops after practice. They've been warmly received everywhere. They, and I, are greatly appreciative.
6. I think the defense is ahead of the offense in the camps I've seen. In some cases, far ahead. The Eagle D was devouring the offense in the Friday morning practice, two days after the Jets offense (minus a few first-teamers) could get very little done against the defense.
From what I hear, that's common around the league. It's easier to throw your body around on defense than it is to do something a little more in-sync, like have 11 people moving in the right direction on a pass play that might be complicated for players who haven't studied it very thoroughly yet.
7. I think it'll be interesting to see more of Kurt Warner this fall. NFL Network will announce this week that Warner will join the Sunday GameDay Morning crew, and will also be a part of the Thursday night pre- and post-game shows when the Network begins prime-time game coverage. Warner can't lie. He's not always compelling, but he'll always tell the truth.
I talked to him the other day and realized one thing he'll be very good at is telling it like it is with players' health. He told me he's still not totally right regarding his health -- he can't keep his weight up from what he lost in his final year, weight he lost because of the stress and pressure he felt from being a starting quarterback on a team with so much emphasis on the passing game.
And he won't succumb to the macho talk about sucking it up and staying in the game when hurt. He'll side with players, particularly on head injuries, because that's one of the big reasons he left the game. One final Warnerism that surprised me: Not only has no one called with an offer to lure him out of retirement, no one has even called to try. It wouldn't do any good. "I'm not going back,'' he said.
8. I think I'll miss Dave Solomon, the New Haven (Conn.) Register columnist who died in a one-car accident on I-91 south of Hartford Saturday evening. He was 59.
We covered the Giants together in the '80s, Dave for the Register, me for Newsday. Dave always called it the way he saw it -- sometimes stubbornly and against the grain -- and he ticked off Parcells more than once with a nettlesome question. But all you can ask for in a beat man or columnist is honesty, and that he calls 'em the way he sees 'em. Dave called them that way for years.
His widow requested that his final column run on Sunday, hours after his death, and his trademark "I was thinking ... '' column had the usual collection of interesting nuggets and opinions. Like this one: "New Haven's Tony Sparano, head coach of the Miami Dolphins, could use a mulligan for publicly allowing himself to be goaded by the fans who chanted Kyle Orton's name as an indictment of Dolphins starting quarterback Chad Henne in practice last week. Sparano said the chanting 'made him sick.' You know what really ought to make him sick? The fact that the team didn't rectify an unacceptable situation at quarterback for the second straight year. Good luck against the Pats and Jets.'' That's Dave.
9. I think there are some misconceptions out there about how this salary cap is going to work in 2011. Fact: Teams don't have to spend 99 percent of the cap in 2011 and 2012; rather, the 32 teams collectively must spend at least 99 percent of the cap. So the teams must spend an average of $119.2 million per club.
A league spokesman told me the other day league officials are confident the money will be spent, because of examples like the Eagles, who will end up spending about $125 million. Now, if the money is not spent, the league will come up with a plan to take money from teams to make up the difference and get to the 99 percent spending level. It could start with the first dollar coming from the lowest-spending team, but that's a decision that hasn't been announced.
As for future years (2013 through 2020) clubs must collectively spend at least 95 percent of the total cap; each team over that period must spend at least 89 percent of the cap. So don't believe it when you hear every team has to spend at least $119 million in 2011. Not true.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Think we shouldn't do anything about gun violence in this country? Read this dispatch from Saturday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
A woman still grieving the murder of her 12-year-old daughter three years ago lost a son to gun violence Friday and lay in a hospital bed, unable to speak with detectives, herself the victim of a shooting an hour earlier.
Those close to Kimberly Wade said she still struggled with the loss of her daughter, Jolesa Barber, whose killing in a hail of gunfire in January 2008 became emblematic of the ravages of gang violence. Ms. Wade, a mother of seven, moved to Koerner Avenue in Perry South, not far from the row house where Jolesa was struck by gunfire meant for her brother.
But harm followed her. Police said Ms. Wade, 45, was shot in the stomach while she sat on her porch just after 10 p.m. Thursday, by at least one gunman who riddled her house with bullet holes. A witness told police two young men darted away on foot. An hour later and less than a mile away, her son, Chris Michaux, 19, was shot in the head outside a friend's house on Leland Street.
"He was outside, crying, saying his mom just got shot," said Kenny Washington, whose house was struck by several rounds and who narrowly escaped injury himself. "I told him to sit down and get himself together. As soon as he got off my porch they lit him up."
I'm sick of stories like this getting ignored. We've got to do something to take guns out of the hands of gangs and other young criminals in this country. How many more of those idiotically horrible stories do there need to be on the front page of papers around the country before we do something tangible about gun violence?
b. Go ahead. Send me all the email you want about how stupid I am and how I know nothing about the problem and how I need to stop interfering with the Second Amendment. I welcome your feedback.
c. Congrats to the Oxford (Mich.) High Wildcats. You see the picture of their field, with the first practice ever on it, this morning shortly after midnight. Today is the first day that high school football teams in Michigan can practice, and the Wildcats wasted no time, kicking off the practice season at 12:01 a.m. The turf, loyal to the local college team, is maize (end zone) and blue (100-yard field). Great-looking field, and great source of community pride ... and also only 25-percent funded. Contact the fund drive (248-802-9905) if you'd like to help.
d. Just what we thought, those of us who care about Sox-Yanks. Started the weekend tied. Ended the weekend with the Red Sox one game up, with two games decided by a run. Interminable games, though I saw nothing except half-an-inning Sunday night in the van on USO driver Mike's iPhone. Three games left in Boston, three in New York, both teams bound for the playoffs. Nothing to see here folks. Move along.
e. Answer to NFL Quiz: Curtis Modkins is Buffalo's offensive coordinator. The Curtis Modkins.
f. It's amazing, when traveling, to see all the drivers who don't have EZ Pass, or whatever it's called in different areas. One toll line in western New York stretched for more than a mile Sunday evening. Pretty painless, folks, aside from the $20 transponder fee in most locales. If you drive a lot in the East, it's a must.
g. Welcome to our trip, Neil Hornsby of ProFootballFocus.com. Ready for a few long drives through the NFC North?
h. Beernerdness: I am sorry to report I have not had any new or fun beers this week. Actually, it's been a crazy week of late travel and early wakeup calls, so I shall try to find some good beers this week and report to you next week. Had a good fellow from Rochester drop off a few of his to me at Bills camp, and I hope to try one this week.
i. Coffeenerdness: I'm not here to bash Tim Horton's coffee, though I am here to tell you I had a cup of it at Bills training camp Sunday afternoon ... and it was as weak as Amtrak coffee.
I was looking forward to Finger Lakes Blend, which is served at St. John Fisher College, summer home of the Bills, because that's the coffee served on campus -- except, apparently, when the football team is here. With Finger Lakes Blend (see cute slogan, right, above the coffee station in the cafeteria) on hiatus, we got Tim Horton, and though I've got nothing against the Canadian coffee/donutmeister, it's not really my cup of ... uh, Colombian.
j. Wish I could send some of this rain south for those of you who need it.
k. I end this morning by sending sincere sympathy to the families of the 30 Americans who died in the attack on a Chinook transport helicopter Saturday in Afghanistan. Twenty-two of those killed were Navy SEAL, including some from the same team that killed Osama bin Laden. I know you join me in sending our best to all the families dealing with this devastating blow.
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