"They're great. They're daily. They're constant. They're unbelievable.''
-- Raiders coach Hue Jackson, to Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, on his conversations with owner Al Davis.
"I've never heard of one that hasn't.''
-- Giants coach Tom Coughlin, asked if Osi Umenyiora's knee surgery on Friday had gone well.
"I play for Belichick now.''
-- Patriots receiver Chad Ochocinco, when asked why he didn't celebrate or preen after scoring a touchdown at Tampa Bay Thursday night.
So central Indiana is having angina over Peyton Manning's rehab from surgery to repair a disk in his neck, wondering if he'll be back for the season-opener at Houston.
Owner Jim Irsay tweeted Saturday his quarterback might not be ready for the opener. Colts center Jeff Saturday told me last week Manning would be. GM Chris Polian said he didn't know if he would be. President Bill Polian said, "Only Mother Nature knows.'' We'll see.
But let's assume he plays. (I feel confident he will. As I wrote the other day on my training camp blog, this is a guy who wants to be Cal Ripken more than he wants to be Babe Ruth, in my opinion. He wants the consecutive game streak held by Brett Favre more than he wants Favre's TD record. Just my opinion.)
Let's go back to a very comparable time. In 2008, Manning hid out during training camp, the same way he's been hiding out this summer, because of an ugly burst bursa sac in his knee that required two surgeries before the season began. Before the season and early in the season, he had to rehab for at least two hours a day, and it affected his performance. He didn't work out much with the team before the season and it showed early on. "The rehab just sucked up my energy,'' he told me late that season. "My goal has always been to avoid the trainer's room, and now, for the first time in my whole career, I'm going in every morning before meetings, challenging my preparation time.'' Here's how his season was affected, comparing the first three games of that injury-marred 2008 season to the final 13:
One difference this year: Saturday is the center. In 2008, Saturday was out with a knee injury, and Manning had to spend significantly more practice time getting rookie Jamey Richard ready to play center competently.
In that late 2008 interview, Manning told me: "It's been my most rewarding regular season. Guys dug deep. I dug deep.''
I expect nothing different in the next 20 days, as Manning speed-rehabs to be ready for the Sept. 11 opener. I'd be very surprised if he didn't play that day. And as the above stats show, he may struggle early. On the agenda the first four weeks for Indy: at Houston, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, at Tampa Bay. Not particularly grueling, but certainly not easy.
For so many of you who wonder why the Colts have never gone after a better backup, Chris Polian told me a story at camp the other day about a quarterback they were interested in signing a few years ago. "If I come,'' the quarterback said, "all I'm going to do is rust behind Peyton for a year.''
That has to be a factor for backups. Manning has never missed a game in 13 seasons.
Three years ago:
Josh Freeman was entering his junior year as the quarterback at Kansas State.
Mike Williams was serving an academic suspension for the season at Syracuse.
Gerald McCoy was entering his redshirt sophomore season at Oklahoma.
LaGarrette Blount, fresh out of East Mississippi Community College, was practicing for his first year at Oregon.
Those are the four Tampa Bay Buccaneer players on billboards around Tampa-St. Petersburg now with the club's 2011 slogan, "Climb aboard!
Bill Parcells turns 70 today.
"That's pretty good,'' he said Sunday. "Considering I thought I'd be shot or hung before I turned 40.''
I asked him what he was going to do for his birthday.
"Nothing,'' he said. "Nothing at all.''
ESPN has just hired Parcells for 15 appearances on air this season. He'll be on the first Sunday and again the next night, commenting on two teams he used to coach, New England and Miami, who open in South Florida. I hope he has a few more lines like the one he had on a radio show the other day with Keyshawn Johnson and Cris Carter, both of whom said they thought Plaxico Burress was going to have a big impact on the Jets. When they started talking about how many catches he'd have, Parcells said: "Whatever you guys say, I'll take the under.''
Cornerback Brandon Carr and kicker Todd Carter, born 18 days apart in Flint, Mich., attended Carman-Ainsworth High in Flint together, then played at Grand Valley State in Allendale, Mich., together. Now they're trying to make the Kansas City Chiefs together. Carr's a starting corner. Carter's trying to unseat Ryan Succop as the kicker.
Part of the fun of driving across America is learning the geography of places you've never been. Take Thursday night, driving east-southeast on I-24 in southeastern Tennessee, a half-hour west-northwest of Chattanooga, on the way to the Falcons-Jaguars game in northeast Florida Friday night.
Seven miles north of the northern Alabama border, there's an exit for Tennessee-Alabama Fireworks.
Drive 15 minutes. "Welcome to Georgia.''
"You are now in the Eastern Time Zone.''
Drive six minutes. "Welcome to Tennessee.''
Drive 11 minutes. "Welcome to Georgia.''
Drive seven hours and 33 minutes (with a hotel stop in Atlanta). "Welcome to Florida.''
"Congrats to @LarryFitzgerald god is good.''
-- @ChrisJohnson28, shortly after the eight-year, $120 million deal for Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was announced.
No contract could have helped Johnson's cause to be paid more on the level of all but the highest-paid quarterbacks than this one.
"Not my idea of a fantasy.''
-- @MikePereira, the FOX Sports rulesmeister and former NFL VP of officiating, asked by a fan on Twitter if he played fantasy football.
"Haynesworth briefly put on helmet today. Tired by the effort, then took it off and stood around for an hour. Like a Game Day with Redskins.''
-- @RonBorges, the Boston Herald columnist, watching the terminally inactive Albert Haynesworth on the sidelines at Patriots practice Saturday.