"In a sick way, I guess it's flattering. If you had a bounty on you, you were a good player and they wanted to get rid of you.''
-- Former Washington quarterbacks Joe Theismann, to the Associated Press.
"Part of what makes sports great, part of what makes March Madness great, the NFL playoffs great, is every once in a while, something happens during the playoffs that shows the character of a team. Look at the Giants this year. Nobody would have picked them. They wouldn't have been crowned as champions if you had a coaches' poll at the end of the year. But they made the plays when it counted.''
-- President Obama, in a podcast with Bill Simmons of Grantland.com last week.
Is it my imagination, or is no politician in the history of the world in favor of the college football season ending the way it does right now?
"I had nine great years. It just sucks that it has to end this way.''
-- Retiring San Diego guard Kris Dielman, who retired Thursday because of a concussion suffered Oct. 23 in a game against the Jets. The concussion was followed by a seizure on the charter flight home.
Watching not only Dielman speak, but also his teammates speak and look on at the retirement ceremony, I found it to be a great example of the love teammates have for each other. Philip Rivers got emotional about it. Dielman's line coach, Hal Hunter, got emotional too. Dielman was voted one of the best 50 Chargers of all-time three years ago, and it's not only the talent he had in keeping Rivers clean and blocking for LaDainian Tomlinson. It's the dedication and toughness he showed for nine seasons. He'll be missed -- and he'll miss the game.
"Peyton has probably, over the last couple of years, seen four of the top neurosurgeons in America. As a father that's what I feel good about. He's been involved with the right people. One of them did the surgery. Now they cleared him to play. His neck is no different from any player out there. It's a danger to anyone. That's football. As a parent we feel good where he's at."
-- Archie Manning, father of Peyton, refuting the commonly held belief that Peyton Manning is at more risk than the average player because he has had four neck procedures in the last two years.
Sad to see the Steelers divest themselves of Hines Ward as a cap casualty. While we wait to see if he plays somewhere else in 2012, it's interesting to compare Ward to his two Pittsburgh predecessors who made the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Lynn Swann and John Stallworth. Each was a better deep threat than Ward. Ward blocked downfield better than either. And though they played in different eras (mostly) -- Stallworth retired in 1987, 11 years before Ward was a rookie -- it's notable that Ward caught more passes than Swann and Stallworth combined. The odd comparison:
Call it the Month of Living Dangerously for the Pittsburgh Steelers. A month ago, on Super Bowl Sunday, they were $25 million over the projected 2012 salary cap. This morning, they are approximately $12 million under.
How they got there: They shaved $25.86 million by restructuring contracts of five veterans -- Ben Roethlisberger ($8.03m savings), LaMarr Woodley ($6.56m), Lawrence Timmons ($5.14m), Ike Taylor ($3.28m) and Willie Colon ($2.85m). The Steelers then saved $14.26 million by cutting five players -- Hines Ward ($3.39m), James Farrior ($2.83m), Bryant McFadden ($2.50m), Chris Kemoeatu ($2.39m) and Aaron Smith ($2.11m).
Total cap savings in one month: $40.12 million.
But you say, If the Steelers were $25 million over the cap and they cut $40 million, why are they only $12 million under and not $15 million under? Do the math, King!
Because to replace the five players that were cut, the Steelers have to put five players in their place. The cap is based on the top 51-salaried players on your roster. So let's assume that the five new players on the cap --and I'm being generous here -- have second-year NFL minimum salaries of $540,000. (Some probably would have first-year numbers.) Those five players, combined, would make about $2.7 million total, meaning that you'd subtract that number from the cap savings of $40 million and come up with a number close to $37 million. That means they're about $12 million to the good, assuming there are no more re-signings or restructurings.
That doesn't mean the Steelers will be able to sign a lot of players, or any players, to improve their team. It does means the Steelers will have the money to sign their restricted and unrestricted free agents to the tender numbers they'll need to use. For instance, the first-round receiver tender on invaluable restricted free agent Mike Wallace is $2.75 million, meaning if a team signs him to a contract, the Steelers have the right to match the offer, and if they don't, the signing team would forfeit its first-round pick to Pittsburgh.
Could it happen? Theoretically yes. If the 49ers signed Wallace to a front-loaded five-year, $40 million contract, and the Steelers didn't match, the Steelers would either agree to pay Wallace an onerous contract that would force more cap restructuring, or get the Niners' first-round pick in this year's draft, the 30th overall.
In other words, the Steeler worries aren't over. Wallace is a 25-year-old speed demon with good hands who runs good routes and has been productive, averaging 57 catches and 18.7 yards per catch in his first three years as a Steeler.
Thursday, 5:20 a.m., JetBlue Terminal, JFK Airport, New York: Hundreds of travelers, maybe 2,500 or 3,000, snake around the kiosks in the terminal until they reach the labyrinthine maze to get to the open X-ray portals. It is a stunning sight. Only once in my travels -- at the airport in Paris a few years ago -- have I seen a security line like this. People enter the terminal and jaws hit the floor. The JetBlues scurry to open more security lines, and finally, after maybe 35 minutes, the line starts moving pretty well. Time to get through security: 66 minutes.
Friday, 5:25 a.m., Baton Rouge (La.) Airport: I am ninth in line for the morning rush (four early planes) at the lone security gate. There is nothing noteworthy to report. No jousting with TSA people. Nothing. Time to get through security: five minutes. The time from my rental-car drop to sitting at the gate: 13 minutes.
"I got a very big statement to make tomorrow at 1 o'clock.''
--@ChrisJohnson28, the Tennessee running back, who had an off-year in 2011, at 2:13 a.m. Eastern Time Saturday.
"Statement is I'm gonna lead the league n rushing this year save this''
--@ChrisJohnson28, at 1:15 p.m. Saturday.
Stop the presses.
"Dolphins' Joe Philbin, in the row behind me on flight home, spent hours reading Pat Riley's The Winner Within, taking notes on yellow pad.''
-- NFL.com's @JeffDarlington, on his plane-mate on the way home from the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last week.
"Tek is the epitome of hard work and dedication... he will be missed in our clubhouse. It's been an honor to be his teammate. #captain
-- @JacobyEllsbury, Red Sox center fielder, on the retirement of catcher Jason Varitek.
"People who tell me they're tired of reading about Peyton are same ones who said they got tired of OJ coverage -- and watched every minute''
-- @bkravitz, columnist Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star, on the apparently insatiable desire of his readers for more Peyton Manning coverage.
Red Wings shut out Blackhawks, ttake 3-1 series lead
Rangers keep season alive with OT win over Bruins