With two weeks of preseason games down, the plot thickens
The quarterback job in Carolina is rookie Cam Newton's to lose
Chairman of Competition Committee weighs in on new kickoff rule
Training camp tidbits; Parcells turns 70; Ten Things I Think I Think
Preamble to a busy week:
NASHVILLE -- One reason I love NFL camps and the proximity to the players I cover: I'm standing in the Titans locker room waiting to meet tight end Jared Cook late Thursday afternoon, and the TV is showing an ESPN story on the top 10 sports rivalries, counting down from 10 to 1.
"Wonder what one is,'' asked fullback Ahmard Hall.
"Gotta be Red Sox-Yanks,'' said returner Yamon Figurs.
Three or four other guys chimed in -- Ohio State-Michigan, Steelers-Ravens, Colts-Patriots, Duke-North Carolina. Then little return man Marc Mariani, the seventh-round smurf from Montana in 2010, said: "No! Montana-Montana State!'' Glares, howls ensued. Figurs was right. When ESPN showed Pedro Martinez grabbing Don Zimmer by the head and throwing that melon to the ground, the players loved it. Just another fun day in a locker room.
Before I get to my week on the road with another few teams in camp -- the offensively diverse but slightly troubled Chiefs, the retooled Josh McDaniels, the first JoePa alum to be an NFL head coach, the Chris Johnson holdout through the eyes of a very famous peer, what I like about the Jags, and the unprecedented youth of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- let's focus on the news of the weekend:
And the Terrelle Pryor winner is ... The NFL's Supplemental Draft will be held today, and it wouldn't be surprising to see several teams duel over quarterback suspect Terrelle Pryor of Ohio State. The three players most likely to be picked are Pryor, Georgia running back Caleb King and Lindenwood (Mo.) defensive end Keenan Mace.
Teams wishing to acquire a player in a supplemental draft put in a blind bid to the league office today, and the team that bid the highest round for the player is awarded him. So if the Bengals bid a fourth-round pick for Pryor and the Raiders a fifth-, Cincinnati gets him. My favorite to pick the controversial Ohio State quarterback is Cincinnati.
Tony Dungy has no doubt about Peyton Manning's Week 1 availability. Great quote from Dungy on the Dallas-San Diego NBC halftime show about Manning's availability for the Sept. 11 opener at Houston. It's 21 days from today. "Unless he's dead,'' said Dungy, his former coach, "he'll be under center opening day.''
I've always thought, as I said on NBC Sunday night, that the Gehrig-ian record of consecutive games played meant more to Manning than the Ruth-ian numbers (touchdowns, yards). Manning has 90 games to go to pass Brett Favre's mark. In regular season outings, Manning is at 208 games, Favre 297. Manning's 90th game from today would be game 10 of the 2016 season, with Manning approximately 40 years and 7 months old.
Cam Newton has to play his way out of the starting job in Carolina. When rookie coach Ron Rivera announced Sunday that Newton was his starter Thursday night in Cincinnati and would play about three quarters, the Panther was out of the bag. Unless Newton, who has been only moderately impressive in two preseason games, messes up big Thursday night, he'll be the opening day quarterback in Arizona Sept. 11. It's possible he could play poorly, of course, but it'd have to be really bad for Rivera to go to Jimmy Clausen or Derek Anderson, who are on the team right now to be seat-warmers unless Newton can't handle the job.
Votes of 30-2 don't get rescinded after two preseason weekends. Competition Committee chair Rich McKay told me from Los Angeles -- he dropped off his son for his freshman year at USC over the weekend, which had to be pretty emotional, considering the family's ties to the Trojans -- that he doesn't remember any new rule being rescinded before it had time to take effect for a season. This one won't either, even though there is rampant fan and media dissatisfaction with the new rule that has kickoffs at the 35-yard line instead of the 30-, to limit returns and, the league hopes, some of the devastating injuries on returns. So stop begging for the rule to die. It may next March. It won't now. "After the season,'' said McKay, "we'll see how it's affected the game and the injury numbers.''
The Chargers are not looking like L.A.'s team. All along, we've thought San Diego was the most logical team to go to the new Los Angeles stadium project, because the San Diego city fathers have balked at building the Chargers a new stadium -- or helping them significantly to build one. But the vibe between the Chargers and officials with the stadium project isn't good.
Chargers attorney Mark Fabiani told ESPN it would take a "miracle'' to break ground in the next year for the AEG site in downtown Los Angeles near Staples Center. To which AEG point man for the project Tim Leiweke told the Los Angeles Times: "I think the problem with the Chargers is, [Fabiani] can sit here and talk about all the things we need to go through, but the last time I checked, they've been doing it for 10 years and they're nowhere. And the difference between us and them is we've got a guy [Phil Anschutz] willing to write a check for a billion. They've got zero financing, zero entitlements, zero design, zero deal with the city, and zero property that ultimately is not contaminated. Good luck."
And he said the Chargers "are not the only belle at the ball."
Interesting, to see the sniping between the two sides so many thought would eventually become partners. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Raiders take San Diego's place as the leader in the L.A. clubhouse, though Oakland has a sordid business history in southern California, and the Chargers have one thing the Raiders don't have: a quarterback (Philip Rivers) to put on billboards throughout Los Angeles.
Now onto the places I've been and things I've seen for week three of my camp tour with the USO.
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