"I don't know how he does it. We were watching film once in Philadelphia last year, and his phone rings. Bill Cosby. Later, Jesse Jackson calls. He comes in one day and says, 'Dude, the president called last night.' ''
-- Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb, who played quarterback with Michael Vick last year, on the winds that buffet Vick. We spoke on Friday, and it corroborated what I felt after being with Vick in March, and what I write about in Ten Things below. His enormous fame may interfere with his desire to be great at football.
"We're playing pretty much mistake-free football. New England has some good recent history, but we beat them pretty handily.''
-- Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford, after the Lions routed the Patriots 34-10 Saturday night at Ford Field.
"It's a bitter pill to swallow, to be beaten that thoroughly -- in pretty much all phases. I'm not going to single anybody out. The players will hear it from us. They don't need to read about it as well.''
-- San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh, after the Niners' offense generated zero points and 105 yards in a 30-7 home loss to the Texans.
Courtesy of the DC Sports Bog on washingtonpost.com is this exchange from Washington radioman Larry Michael and Bruce Allen, before the third preseason game between Baltimore and Washington Thursday:
Michael: "How do you view the third preseason game?''
Allen: "I see it as the third preseason game.''
One of my favorite arrivals of the summer, the Football Outsiders Almanac 2011, is finally out, a little late because Aaron Schatz and the crew wanted the book to be as current as possible after all the late free-agent signings. It's a tremendous resource for people who love football and want to dig into the important little things. You can get it as a PDF file for $12. Or you can buy the published book for $21.95.
The 2011 tidbits from FOA 2011 I thought you'd like:
Here's where Mike Munchak's firm hand may help the Titans: Tennessee led the league in 2010 with 38 penalties for the various offsides infractions (defensive offsides, encroachment and neutral zone infraction). The Titans had nine more of these flags than any other team.
Know what might keep the Steelers from getting back to the big game? An aging D. Pittsburgh will have the oldest defensive starting 11 of the 21st century. If Aaron Smith returns to start at defensive end, they'll average 31.5 years old. If Ziggy Hood beats him out, they'll average 30.5 years old -- which STILL would be the oldest of the century.
Detroit last year used shotgun on 64 percent of offensive snaps, the highest rate in NFL history.
The Gregg Williams Factor: The Saints sent five or more pass rushers 65 percent of the time on third down; the Jets were the only other defense over 50 percent.
I strongly recommend the book.
Well, this one definitely interests me.
I voted Browns center Alex Mack to my Sports Illustrated 2010 All-Pro team. If I do the same in 2011, I probably will have put $50,000 in his pocket.
Now that's a little weird.
Mack has a clause in his Cleveland contract that, to read, is to be a mouse in a maze. But I will sum it up for you, and then tell you how it pertains to the Sports Illustrated NFL All-Pro team, which used to be done by Paul Zimmerman and is now done by me after each regular season ends.
Mack's incentive clause in his contract, which runs through 2013, provides for him to make $50,000 if all of the following criteria are met:
He plays at least 45 percent of Cleveland's offensive plays;
The Browns improve their statistical performance over the team's 2008 numbers in any one of these categories: touchdowns scored (20 in 2008), yards per rush (3.9 in 2008), yards per pass play (a terrible 4.9 in 2008, 31st in the league);
The Browns finish no lower than 27th in the NFL or no lower than 13th in the AFC in those categories;
He is a first-team All-Pro or first-team All-Cnference on any of the veteran media sources recognized by the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
In addition, Mack can earn the $50,000 bonus by leading all Browns in offensive snaps played in 2011 and earning the first-team All-Pro or All-Conference honors.
In the previous CBA, there were seven all-NFL teams recognized in the veteran honors clauses. The seven did not include SI. The new CBA, on page 103, denotes a streamlining of the honors to include the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, Pro Football Weekly and the Pro Football Writers of America. From the last CBA to this one, SI is in, and Football Digest, USA Today and College and Pro Football Weekly are out.
There could be other players in the league (and I'm sure there are) who have similar honors clauses in their contracts. But Mack's deal is a significant one to me, because last year the other four media outlets chose Nick Mangold of the Jets as the center. I was the lone Mack picker. And so the plot thickens.
I wouldn't be telling the truth if I said this thought won't occur to me as I deliberate my team this year. But I'll do what I always do when I deliberate my team -- judge by what I see with my own eyes, and, especially for the positions on both lines, talk in late December to the personnel people I've gotten to know and trust over the years, and who've broken down players in the trenches. All I can do is be honest and try to make the best judgment I can.
Would I prefer that my team not be included in the honors section? Yes. But for the 10-year term of this CBA, or until SI has someone else on the staff do the team, there's not much I can do about it. For Mack, who will make $774,000 in the third year of a five-year deal, $50,000 isn't going to make or break him, but he's not earning Manning or Brady money; $30,000 after taxes, for free, is pretty good.
And no, no player or agent has ever lobbied me for a spot on my All-Pro team. I don't expect that to change now.
In a week with an earthquake and a hurricane on the East Coast, far be it from me to question the wisdom of living in Phoenix. There is no perfect weather place. But guess what the number 121 is from, which I saw at 4:21 p.m. Friday while driving at the corner of Camelback and 24th in Phoenix.
That was the number on my Hertz-rental Altima dashboard where the temperature is displayed. You say it's a phony number, inflated by a temperature gauge gone wacky? Perhaps. But when I drove Thursday evening, my gauge read 109, and I passed a time and temperature sign with 108, so I'm not buying it was off by much.
I sat outside for 15 or 20 minutes at my hotel in the late afternoon Friday, on the phone, just to get the feel of what 121 (or 119, or whatever it was) felt like. It was strange -- like my skin was in a microwave. I simply don't know how the natives do it.
I had a redeye flight home from Phoenix, and stopped at Chase Field to see five innings of the D-Backs and (unrecognizable) Pads before flying. At the beer stand, I asked the woman pouring how she stood the heat. "I've been here since '86,'' she said, "and I've never gotten used to it. I hate it. It's three months of living hell. But the other nine months are pretty great.''
There you go. Everything's a trade-off. But the wonderful winter and spring in exchange for what I felt Friday ... not sure I could make that one.
Traveling this great country, I've noticed three additional words flights attendants and gate agents cannot live without: "go ahead and." This has become apparent over the last few years, and I heard it Wednesday from the gate agent at DFW Airport in Dallas, preparing for the Virgin America flight to Los Angeles. (By the way, I love Virgin America. It's one of the great airlines in the country, roomy and quite human, with mostly new planes. I had a choice -- Virgin or US Airways. Hmmm. New planes with better legroom. Worn planes and the sardine treatment. Tough call.)
In the span of eight or 10 sentences of preboarding instructions, "go ahead and" reared its unnecessary head thusly:
When discussing the in-flight TV service: "You can go ahead and see 36 channels of TV.''
Offering seats in first class: "If you'd like to upgrade, you can go ahead and see us at the gate.''
Preparing to board: "When your boarding group is called, you can go ahead and line up right here at gate E20."
But my favorite came as I boarded: "If you go ahead and look at your boarding pass and locate your boarding group, come forward and we'll go ahead and get you on board.''
"OMG! Me too! It's like we're the same person! RT @MarthaStewart: I love to visit local food markets when I travel.''
-- @TCrabtree83, tight end of the Packers, re-tweeting a Martha Stewart tweet with his own spin, and making every follower say, "Wish I had tweeted that.''
"Hoboken's mayor is named Dawn Zimmer. If you're not picturing Don Zimmer in a dress, you're doing it wrong.''
-- @barryap1, Deadspin.com's Barry Petchesky.