1. I think the first weekend of Andrew Luck in Indianapolis went about as expected: superbly. "He is unflappable,'' said coach Chuck Pagano. "Mature beyond his years. If you listen to some of those play calls that Bruce (Arians) gave him, then I know why he is an architectural engineer. He is going to do great once he is done with this in about 15 years ... We saw the same thing happen 14 years ago.'' With the Colts franchise, he meant -- and Peyton Manning.
2. I think these are two Seau-related newspaper stories I'd strongly advise you read. One is about living with depression, and almost dying from it, from Detroit News columnist Chris McCosky... The second is a terrific read from Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union Tribune, about the challenges players face when they walk off the playing field for the last time.
As I've said, we don't know why Seau did what he did, but mental illness, depression and trying to find meaning in life after the cheering stops are all issues former players struggle with. In Acee's story, former safety John Lynch, a friend of Seau's, says it's vital post-career mental-health care and finding meaningful lives after football be priorities for the league and the retiring players. "The automatic response right now is it's got to be concussion-related. I wouldn't discount the concussion [aspect]. If we did, we'd feel terrible ... But, and I don't say this in a negative conversation, it's an out for people that are lost and searching. It's a huge issue. It's one the league better pay attention to."
3. I think everyone needs to read what Seau said to SI's Jim Trotter two months ago, when Trotter asked him about some of the new Goodellian rules aimed at taking some of the vicious hitting out of pro football. "It has to happen," Seau said. "Those who are saying the game is changing for the worse, well, they don't have a father who can't remember his name because of the game. I'm pretty sure if everybody had to wake with their dad not knowing his name, not knowing his kids' name, not being able to function at a normal rate after football, they would understand that the game needs to change. If it doesn't there are going to be more players, more great players, being affected by the things that we know of and aren't changing. That's not right."
4. I think it was good to see Ben Roethlisberger walking with the grads at Miami (Ohio) University Sunday. Roethlisberger got his Bachelor of Science in Education eight years after leaving campus for the NFL. What's not good is the petty attacks Roethlisberger took when I threw out kudos Saturday on Twitter. Those are the people who refuse to believe a person can change and grow, and who revel in keeping their opinions static. Roethlisberger, these people are certain, has abused women and thus will always be an abuser, and he can never move forward in his life.
I'm not sure who Ben Roethlisberger is right now, and I'm not sure if he'll ever be the kind of person you'd want your kids to emulate. But what I am sure of is this: People are capable of changing, and very often do change when tumultuous events rake their lives. That, however, is something none of you Twitter abusers believe can happen.
5. I think I like several of new Oakland GM Reggie McKenzie's signings of free agent marginalia. Ron Bartell may resuscitate a flagging career and could still be an effective cornerback, for instance. But the signing that may pay off most handsomely is bringing in Matt Leinart. Ask the Texans: He was just getting it, just turning around his disappointing career, when he got hurt in midseason last fall. I can tell you coach Gary Kubiak thought the Texans would be able to be offensively explosive after losing Matt Schaub, because he knew what he had in Leinart. Now Leinart will back up Carson Palmer, and though Leinart shouldn't count on playing unless Palmer gets hurt, I count Leinart as one of the best insurance policies in the NFL. Some day he'll get another chance, and I think he'll be ready.
6. I think if you want to know why the Bills whacked credible veteran cornerback Drayton Florence, look no further than the 103.3 passer rating he allowed foes last year in coverage (per ProFootballFocus.com). GM Buddy Nix is too smart to give away cornerbacks who can still cover, and with 2011 second-round pick Aaron Williams and this year's first-rounder, Stephon Gilmore, in house, Nix can afford to jettison an aging, slumping player.
7. I think you should pay attention to one undrafted player if you play fantasy football: Jeff Fuller. I'm not saying you should put him atop your late-round-flyer draft list; I'm just saying you should watch Dolphins training camp and see if he can win a job in an offense that will be struggling to find downfield weapons after the trade of Brandon Marshall.
In October, Fuller, of Texas A&M, was a legitimate first-round prospect. Then, as the 2011 season progressed, he seemed to drop more balls than he caught, he lost confidence, and bombed at the Senior Bowl. When I was in Miami last weekend, I could tell coach Joe Philbin had a blank-slate philosophy with everyone on the roster, which will hold Fuller in good stead. That plus he'll be catching the ball from his college quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, and having the plays called by his college coach, Mike Sherman. Maybe the dropsies will be terminal for Fuller. But if he catches the ball well in training camp, he's absolutely an NFL-caliber receiver.
8. I think Amani Toomer's a bright guy, and a good person, but he was way out of bounds for ripping Kurt Warner after the Seau death. When Warner told Dan Patrick he'd prefer his sons not play football, Toomer told NBC Sports Network, "I think Kurt Warner needs to keep his opinions to himself when it comes to this. Everything that he's gotten in his life has come from playing football.''
Warner left the game, in part, because of a fear of further concussions after a slight concussion left him woozy for days. And he has every right to say he wouldn't want his kids to play the sport that made him fabulously rich but also left him wondering if head trauma would impact him later in life. We grow, we think, we learn, Amani. As parents, we have the right to point our children in certain directions. To blindly point them down a road you think is wrong ... well, that's just wrong.
9. I think the four-year deal Cameron Wake signed over the weekend is the best news the Dolphins have had since ... well, since having a good draft the previous week. Teams have to pay their stars, and Wake's proven himself a star after coming to the NFL from the Canadian Football League.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Now you know why the New Jersey Devils feel like stepchildren: After the scintillating overtime win over Philadelphia Thursday in Newark, the Devils, who play eight miles from Manhattan, got half a page out of 33 sports pages in the New York Post's sports section and half a page out of 35 in the sports section of the New York Daily News.
b. Tremendous experience Friday with the USO at the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Had the chance to get a tour with USO heavy Phil Parisi and two Nats, Adam LaRoche and Sean Burnett, and then to visit with some of the wounded troops adjusting to life with prosthetics. Inspirational is a word that comes to mind, particularly regarding the one Green Beret medic who lost his right leg, much of his left leg and half his left arm in an IED blast, and calmly had the presence of mind to tie tourniquets on all three wounds, and told us how lucky he was to have made it out alive.
c. Good work by the Nats, by the way, in offering great seats to the military for so many home games, and for opening their stadium and training facilities to rehabbing vets. That's an organization that gets it.
d. Very good to see the Nationals and the Orioles relevant.
e. My favorite quote from Saturday morning walking around the monuments in Washington comes from the Jefferson Memorial:
"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.''
In other words, don't tell me we cannot amend laws that don't apply, or laws that must be fitted to our society today.
f. Love Mariano Rivera saying, "I'm coming back. Write it down in big letters.'' You might have gathered I'm no Yankee lover, but I do admire many of their players -- none more than the classy Rivera.
g. Weirdest, most shaken-up month for closers I've ever seen. Wreaking havoc on my Rotisserie team.
h. Funniest thing I've seen on "Saturday Night Live'' in memory was Peyton Manning coaching football to young kids on a field in Manhattan in a United Way ad spoof, and abusing them ruthlessly, to the point of punishing one by stashing him in a portable toilet. On Saturday night, Eli Manning wasn't as funny, but I don't recall a guest host playing more roles than Eli played the other night.
He was a Swedish football player (with the accent), a cross-dressing beauty contestant, a defendant who texted a photo of himself holding a banana in his groin and making light of his manhood, a lame game-show guest, an Occupy Wall Street protester, a New Yorker giving advice to tourists (a little lame), and, in his shining moment, a Big Brother-type to a kid getting abused by his older brother -- and helping the little brother get revenge. Eli held the older bro upside down over a toilet, threatening him with -- I think this is what it's called -- a swirly. That was a great sketch. Eli says gruffly to one kid who he locks in a trunk: "Maybe you'll treat your little brother with some respect now, Peyton!''
It wasn't a better performance than Peyton's six years ago, but it's got to go down in SNL history as a candidate in the category of Most Roles Played By a Host in 90 Minutes.
i. I was impressed that Eli would play as many uncomfortable roles as he did.
j. Had the pleasure the other night of being with former Sox pitcher Bill Lee at a Red Sox game for a few innings. He's started making wine now, "Spaceman Red,'' in Napa Valley, which is fitting for a man of his varied tastes. Still a big baseball fan, with a twist. When he saw Cody Ross of the Red Sox wearing a think hood under his cap, Lee said, "What's he doing wearing a burqa?'' When the A's took out very effective starter Jarrod Parker in the seventh, Lee sneered, "Quality start,'' with disdain. And so on. Entertaining night at the park.
k. Happy 81st birthday (Sunday), Willie Mays.
l. Coffeenerdness: Can you vary the baked goods, Starbucks? Are we fated to looking at the same doughy, tasteless scones for the rest of our lives?
m. Beernerdness: Lucky enough to find Starr Hill Amber Ale ("The Gift of Great Beer'' is on the label, and I don't doubt it) from Crozet, Va., in D.C. over the weekend. Bold and full of flavor, like a strong Cabernet, and eminently drinkable.
n. Beernerdness II: Congrats to Allagash White, which beat out 49 competitors to win the best Belgian Witbier at the World Beer Cup. See? I must be drinking something right.
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