1. I think this is what caught my eye in preseason Week 3:
a. I've liked most everything the Ravens have done with veteran players to bolster their roster in the last two or three years. I do not like the Bryant McKinnie signing. He's done nothing to show he's worth two years and up to $7.5 million (only $1.8 million for sure this year), and even less to be handed the left tackle job.
It might work, in part because McKinnie has a good chance to be kept in line by two players he looks up to -- Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. And because the Ravens really need it to work. Still, it's a dangerous move for a very smart team.
b. Tampa Bay cornerback Aqib Talib won't be suspended, according to Bucs GM Mark Dominik, after his offseason incident in Texas in which someone shot at his sister's boyfriend. I think the reason he wasn't suspended is because no credible evidence has been produced that he fired the shots or did anything to encourage the shots to be fired. Now, if he's found guilty when the case goes to trial in the spring, he'll certainly be disciplined. But not now.
c. Ocho Oucho: Two drops, holding penalty for Chad Ochocinco in the Pats' loss to Detroit.
d. You're delaying the inevitable, Jags. I know you want to be fair with a veteran quarterback and respected leader like David Garrard. But the sooner Blaine Gabbert plays, the better it'll be for the long-term future.
e. Tyrod Taylor is exciting. If I were John Harbaugh, I'd play the gamble and make him my backup to Joe Flacco.
f. Trust me, Terrelle Pryor. You do not want No. 2 and those ghosts of JaMarcus Russell. Take No. 6 and be happy.
g. Tim Hightower over Ryan Torain and Roy Helu in Washington. "If you were betting in Vegas, you'd probably go in that direction,'' Mike Shanahan told the Washington Post.
h. Good night for Thomas Davis in Cincinnati. The oft-injured Carolina linebacker had 11 tackles and a pass deflected. The Panthers really need him.
i. Washington outside 'backer Ryan Kerrigan looks like he'll be the perfect bookend for Brian Orakpo in the pass-rush game. He schooled fellow rookie Jah Reid of the Ravens a couple of times around the edge, including one time for a sack.
j. Dwight Freeney's ready for the season. He had two sacks of Aaron Rodgers in a five-play span Friday night.
k. Donovan McNabb looked smooth and confident in the quarter of work I saw of him against Dallas. He's unearthed Bernard Berrian, too. Brett Favre never used Berrian much; McNabb looked for him consistently Saturday night.
l. Matt Cassel has to play better (he was just 6 of 13 the other night in St. Louis) or all the passing game improvements the Chiefs have made aren't going to show up.
m. Mike Tice can finally get some sleep: His first-unit offensive line allowed zero sacks in 35 minutes protecting Jay Cutler Saturday at Tennessee.
n. Tom Cable cannot sleep well, however. His Seahawk line got Tarvaris Jackson sacked five times.
o. "Sports Authority Field at Mile High?'' Sorry, Broncos. That's the last time I'll ever use those words in this column.
p. Running back Chester Taylor, frozen as the third or fourth back in Chicago, didn't play Saturday night in Tennessee. He'd be a good match for Arizona.
q. Ron Rivera said Sunday that Cam Newton will start the final preseason game Thursday. Any questions about the Panthers' starter Sept. 11 at Arizona?
r. All the news about wideout Roy Williams continues to be bad. A Jay Cutler pass went through his hands at Tennessee and was intercepted. The last train to Bustville's leaving in 10 minutes, Roy.
s. Interesting to see the backs Cleveland's keeping. Three of them -- Peyton Hillis (252 pounds), Stanford rookie Owen Marecic (245) and Montario Hardesty (227) -- give the Browns an interesting set of backs for the West Coast offense. It's almost like they're combining the West Coast with the Power I.
t. Good and heretofore hidden angle to the Manning injury from Len Pasquarelli of The Sports Xchange on the future of Jags coach Jack Del Rio and Houston's Gary Kubiak:
''Manning's pain in the neck could conceivably put the heads of Del Rio and Kubiak on the chopping block. The trickle-down effect of the Manning situation, or at least their teams' abilities to benefit from it, could have dire results for the employment outlooks of the coaches. Beyond the fact that both men have contracts that run through 2012, and each is widely considered to possess only tenuous job security entering the 2011 season, the veteran coaches have a lot in common as regards Manning and the Colts. Even winning an AFC South title with the Colts undermanned by Manning's absence could earn Del Rio or Kubiak an additional year.''
Or two. Wish I'd thought of that.
2. I think the thing I learned this week that surprised me the most is that Dallas never offered Nnamdi Asomugha as much as Philadelphia did ($12 million a year). I don't know Dallas' exact offer, but I'm told categorically that it didn't average $12 million a year. So that means the Jets (three years, $30 million offer) and Dallas, the teams thought to be the Eagles' biggest competition, weren't in Philly's financial ballpark.
And I'm told Houston never made a solid offer; Asomugha's agent, Ben Dogra, knew the Texans' parameters, but as far as getting something down on paper, a Texans source told me it didn't happen. So there might be a mystery team out there that offered more money than the Eagles, but that Asomugha never seriously considered.
3. I think, speaking of highly paid Philadelphians, I had these thoughts about the ESPN Michael Vick issue:
a. I understand Vick has a private publicist who wants to maximize Vick's earning potential and make him the hottest thing on the sports planet. And creating a buzz around Vick, and shaping a new image of him, is fine. But at what cost?
When I traveled with Vick last March to a prison in Florida, and spent time with him at dinner the night before and the night of the visit, he got pushed and pulled by the public constantly when they could get to him. A line of people waited to get autographs at a benefit dinner -- while he ate. One guy came up to him and said, "I've got a great business opportunity for you,'' and proceeded to launch into this idea Vick clearly had no interest in. And I thought how fun it must be to be Vick -- but also how stifling.
As long as he plays well, he's worshipped in public, and his transgressions are back-burnered. Fine. But this is a guy who wants to work at his craft, make money and live a good life. Why seek out an entire issue of a magazine? Might be good for the marketing side of Vick. Not good for the football or personal side of Vick.
b. Re: the white Mike: First reaction was it was race-baiting at its best, but the story, written by Toure', was well thought out, especially the part about what would have become of Vick had he been in a home with a good role model for a father.
c. Re: the white Mike image: Doesn't bother me. There's nothing wrong with something that makes us think a little bit. Chad Millman, the editor of ESPN's magazine, used to work with me at Sports Illustrated and I know him as a responsible and really smart journalist. Really, is seeing an image of a black man made white such a horrible thing if it helps illustrate the question of what would have happened to Vick if he were white and in the dogfighting business?
4. I think, to clarify why Bill Belichick was so clipped with his answers after the Lions' 34-10 win over his Patriots, look at the drives by each team's first unit on offense. New England's ended in a punt, field goal, punt, punt, touchdown, interception and punt. Detroit's field goal, touchdown, punt, touchdown, punt, field goal, touchdown.
This was the third preseason game, the one when coaches can best gauge the readiness of their teams. You don't want to overrate the results of any preseason game, and I won't here, but Belichick will have good reason to be tough with his team in practice this week, particularly after a week in which he pulled out the big motivational guns. He showed his team The Fighter in camp the other day, and then had the real-life "Fighter,'' Mickey Ward, come out and talk to the team about fighting through the tough times. Then they went out in the only preseason game that's any sort of gauge of where you are as a team and laid an egg.
5. I think the Dream Team doesn't look so dreamy with a starting offensive line (apparently), left to right, of Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce (a sixth-round rookie starting at center), Danny Watkins and Todd Herremans.
6. I think one more reason that will embitter the Carson Palmer family to the Bengals came when brother Jordan Palmer got cut without ever getting a good shot to compete for the starting job. Or any job, for that matter. The Bengals will start Andy Dalton, the TCU rookie offensive coordinator Jay Gruden loves, and go with Bruce Gradkowski as the backup.
7. I think it's hard to imagine why the Niners, who will engage in contract-extension talks with the agent for running back Frank Gore today, will offer Gore more than just token guaranteed money. Gore's a warrior, to be sure, but he's also had a career's worth of surgeries since his Miami days; both knees have been cut on. He's 28. Love the guy, and you want to show him loyalty, and you don't want to show the locker room you're cold as ice, but you also have to sign guys you're sure will help you well into the future.
8. I think, from what I've seen in the preseason so far, the 2010 Stanford coach has a pretty decent chance to coach the 2011 Stanford quarterback on the 2012 San Francisco 49ers.
9. I think, still, Peyton Manning starts opening day. It wasn't the signing of Kerry Collins that made me think Manning's in a little trouble to be ready. It was what the Colts paid him -- $4 million. That means exactly what the Polians told me when I was in camp 12 days ago is still true: They don't know if Manning will be ready for the opener, and because Curtis Painter has been awful, they had to go get someone who'd have a chance to play competitively against Houston, Cleveland and Pittsburgh in September. If need be.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. I feel for everyone who got flooded, lost power or had property damaged in the nightmare of Hurricane Irene. For some reason, I am most concerned for the people of Vermont, where the flooding is of historic proportions.
CNN rarely reports live from Vermont. FOX has never heard of Montpelier. And so on -- the state is ignored by the mass media. I'm sure the natives like that for the most part. But not on days like Sunday. Downtown Brattleboro, a town of 12,000, was completely under water Sunday night. Bennington firefighters attempting a boat rescue had to be rescued because of surging water. It's like that in so many towns and cities in the East, including Virginia and North Carolina. Our best to all of you.
b. Never met Pat Summitt, and I am not sure why the news of her early-onset dementia diagnosis hits so hard. What a horrible thing. I think it must be because she's 59, and you never think someone who's 59 is going to be hit with that. I grew up in Connecticut and am partial to the Huskies, but I have to say I'll be pulling for the Vols this year -- in all other games but the national final against UConn.
c. Gotta love the New York Post. Knowledge gleaned from the paper last Monday:
Jersey Shore gets better ratings in New York than Yankees games on TV, news that came complete with photos of Alex Rodriguez (caption: "Plays third base'') and Snooki (caption: "Lets guys get to third base'').
A story about a rally in support of going topless in New York City, headlined: "Whoa Mamm! It's a breast-ival.''
Greta Van Susteren wore a black tux to the Kardashian-Humphries nuptials.
Daisy Johnson, the 23-year-old daughter of Jets owner Woody Johnson, was selected as the photographer for the Jets cheerleader calendar. Wrote Li: "A rep for the team owner said Daisy went through the interview process like any other applicant before being selected.'' That's rich.
d. Had a chance to watch a couple of innings of Sox-Rangers the other night with Texas GM Jon Daniels. He asks interesting questions about the NFL and how it relates to baseball. He reminds me of Thomas Dimitroff. They think. They don't do what was done yesterday because it was done yesterday and it worked then.
e. Congrats to Oxford (Mich.) High, the school I mentioned a couple of weeks ago for its new blue turf field. Oxford christened the field in style Friday night before 10,000 fans, defeating the defending state champs, Lake Orion, 41-20, behind 231 rushing yards and five touchdowns from their Peyton Hillis, 220-pound back Prescott Line and 6-7, 260-pound tackle Collin Goetz. Good to see high school football in Michigan so hot.
f. Hooray for Jered Weaver, who grew up in the Los Angeles sprawl and went to college at Long Beach State and was drafted by the Angels, for signing a five-year, $85 million extension rather than waiting to break the bank for $20 million-plus a year as a free agent in 16 months. "How much more money do you need?'' he said at the press conference announcing his signing. "I could have gotten more, whatever, who cares? If $85 million is not enough to take care of my family and other generations of my family, then I'm stupid.''
g. Lots of reasons that is a wonderful sentiment. One is when a guy signs for $98 million somewhere else rather than $85 million at home and says he wants to do what's best for his family, and three generations of his family couldn't spend the extra $13 million anyway.
h. Leigh Godich, the entire Sports Illustrated family sends good karma your way this morning as you head into surgery. We're all wishing you the best.
i. One of my best friends, John Czarnecki of FOX, is having hip replacement surgery in southern California this morning. Pulling for you, Czar. Good luck.
j. Coffeenerdness: So we're in East Greenbush Sunday, and there's a drive-thru Starbucks, and the wind's howling and it's raining when I go through there around 8 Sunday morning, and the gal at the window says she doesn't know how long they're going to stay open. And around 2, there's a lull in the weather, and I call over there before I waste a trip. "We're just closing,'' another gal says. But it's almost stopped raining, and the wind has died down, and ... well, that's when you know you're addicted.
k. Beernerdness: By the looks of the calendar, St. Arnold Summer Pils is going to be gone in a month. Get it while it's cold. Had it the other night at The Ballpark in Arlington -- they have a nice Texas beer stand between home and first base. A little less bite that Victory Pils out of Pennsylvania. An excellent beer with a hoppy taste (but not too heavy) for a hot night (101 at first pitch) at the ballpark. I've had a few of those St. Arnold beers (the Lawnmower is one I recall) and it's a good, solid brewery out of Houston.
l. I guess I have to catch up on the last two Curb Your Enthusiasm shows. Bummer I've missed them. Was Larry David really at the Baseball Hall of Fame?
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