"There was no bounty program in place. I never paid anybody, intended to pay anybody. That's the truth. Never sought out to injure people. That's the truth. That's really about it. I can't really go into detail."
-- New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma in an impromptu interview with NFL.com's Ian Rapoport at the New Orleans airport last week. Good hustle by Rapoport.
Regarding: Vilma's contention of innocence, time will tell.
"I told them today that not only do they not know what they are doing, but I don't know what they are doing. I don't know what I'm doing. It is the mass of information that we are giving them. It is just beginning to become a mix for them. So it is hard to tell exactly whether they are capable of playing because they are not sure exactly what they are doing.''
-- Longtime Giants tight ends coach Mike Pope, on how his tight ends are swimming right now in terms of what they know and what they don't know. Pope has a lot of company around the NFL these days, as teams try to force-feed playbooks to players in a shorter time than is customary since the new labor agreement began to limit offseason work for players last year.
"One other thing. There's the perception out there, and it's an erroneous perception, that we were flirting with Peyton Manning. I keep hearing that over and over and over again. It's silly and it's untrue. It's phony. Even the perception that we were pursuing him. We were evaluating him.
"I've said it all along, Alex Smith has been our quarterback. There's no scenario, other than Alex choosing to sign with another team, that we would have considered him not as our quarterback. And I don't like to compare or talk about somebody else that's on another team, but in this case it's time to set the record straight. Alex Smith is our quarterback, was our quarterback, and we had every intention of always bringing him back. There would be no circumstance that we would have let Alex Smith go.
"Now, were we out there seeing, evaluating if we could have them both? Heck yeah. And you evaluate that, you eliminate the possibility. And further evidence, we would not have given any player that was out there in free agency a sixth of our salary cap, and let six, or seven of our own guys go here. So, hopefully that sets the record straight and you don't have to keep reporting the silliness and phoniness."
-- San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh.
Well, OK. I've heard all the theories this week about why Harbaugh would say that when the 49ers were clearly very interested in Manning. Harbaugh is showing faith in Smith, mostly. And good for him for doing so.
But here are the facts: The 49ers wanted Manning. Harbaugh is parsing words. "Erroneous'' that the Niners "were flirting with Peyton Manning?'' Come now, coach. Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman flew from San Francisco to North Carolina and, in disguise (hoodies covering their heads to avoid a prying iPhoner from photographing them), watched Manning go through a throwing session. The 49ers thoroughly investigated Manning in many other ways, I'm told, and would have been thrilled if he'd called them that Monday in March and said, "I want to come play for you."
The financial details -- pshaw. They would have been worked out. If San Francisco wanted to spread the contract over a couple of extra phony years, GM Trent Baalke could have. And if they'd lost Alex Smith in the process, so be it. Harbaugh is a terrific quarterback coach, and he could have molded a good heir to Manning if Smith had chosen to go elsewhere.
The best I've ever seen at creating an us-against-the-world environment was Bill Walsh. He was good at isolating his team -- for the Niners' benefit -- against the press, against the opposition, against any perceived slight he could ever find. I like Harbaugh, and I think he's doing a great job, not a good one, with the 49ers. But I don't believe the 49ers weren't serious about signing Manning to be their quarterback for the next two or three years.
To illustrate how difficult -- I'd use the word "impossible,'' but I don't want to seem overly negative about an event that is the biggest waste of time in any of our lives -- it will be for the NFL Players Association to convince its members to go all-out (or something resembling all-out) in the 2013 Pro Bowl, let's point out a couple of monetary statistics about the game.
Every player gets an all-expenses-paid trip to a resort in Hawaii for the week. Every player gets at least $25,000 for playing in the game. Winners, in 2013, will get $25,000 more than the losers; the winners' share will be $50,000 next year.
So the players can give next-to-no effort and be guaranteed $25,000. In essence, the motivation is to play for the additional $25,000. I won't even get into what that is after taxes. But let's see what four rich NFL players are going to make, per week, in 2013 revenue. I've chosen players who are recently signed free agents, who have hit the NFL jackpot for the first time in their careers. And then you explain to me why these players would play an exhibition game in January 2013 at full effort, with the risk of injury jeopardizing the payday they've worked so hard for.
So Vincent Jackson, in a game that has precious little meaning to anyone, is playing a game for 6.5 percent of the money he'd make in his average NFL week in 2013. Why on God's green earth would he go full speed over the middle and lay out for a ball in an exhibition game?
He'll make the big money in 2013 unless, of course, he suffers the kind of major injury in the Pro Bowl that would make the Bucs think twice about keeping him until the completion of his $55.55 million contract.
If you follow football, you'd know that the top three quarterbacks on the Raiders roster are Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Terrelle Pryor. You're one heck of a fan if you know the fourth quarterback Oakland will bring to camp this summer.
1. One of his hobbies, according to his college bio, is grilling.
2. He majored in Commerce, Organizations and Entrepreneurship in college, and I dare say he's the first player on an NFL roster to have had that major.
3. He was the third player in his school's history to be a team captain for two years -- and the first, according to the university, since 1891.
4. Chris Berman and Zak DeOssie will know who he is.
Kyle Newhall-Caballero, of Brown.
I give credit to NFL Network for producing an annual show that fans get into, the Top 100 Players in the NFL. And all the Network can do is go by the will of the players, who vote for the top 100.
Perhaps there should be an IQ test associated with it. The players like fullbacks. Green Bay's John Kuhn, who played 41 percent of the Packers' offensive plays last year, ranked 92nd -- ahead of Cortland Finnegan and D'Qwell Jackson. Baltimore's Vonta Leach, who played 56 percent of the Ravens' snaps, was 45th ... 14 spots ahead of Jake Long, 16 spots ahead of Philip Rivers, 18 spots ahead of LaMarr Woodley. And, well, you understand. In other words, don't take this one too seriously.
Red-eying home from Los Angeles last Tuesday night. Flight leaves at 11:45 p.m. I get to the airport at 10:30 and go to the fish place/bar near the gate. I sit at a table for four and get my computer out. I have already eaten, so I order the most interesting of a group of drab beers on tap, Stella Artois.
At 10:50, a busboy comes around and starts putting chairs up on the tables. You know, the way chairs are put up at the end of a school day, upside down, with the seat on the table and the legs in the air. The guy puts all three chairs up at my table, as if to say, Drink up, schmoe. We're closing soon. Except no one says anything.
I give the guy a look and say, "Closing soon?'' He evidently doesn't speak English. He just shrugs. Then, about five minutes later, the TVs go off. A minute later, about half the lights. A waitress goes to the front door and pulls down a metal gate to the place, then positions herself at a side door, which she loudly opens, and then just stands there.
I get the message. I pack up, walk out. Wouldn't it have been a little more civil to say, at 10:45, "Ladies and gentlemen, we'll be closing at 11. So everyone, please finish up. Thanks."
"Watching Top 10 Coaches Who Belonged in College on NFL Net. Is Bobby Petrino the biggest combined embarrassment in NFL AND NCAA history?''
-- @SC_DougFarrar, NFL analyst for Yahoo! Sports and editor of Shutdown Corner.
Can't think of a bigger one, Doug.
"browns fun fact, Brandon Weeden will turn 29 this year, same age as Bernie Kosar when he was cut by Belichick in 1993 #Browns''
-- @phyland341, Patrick Hyland of Cleveland, with a good observation on a quiet Saturday.
"Jim Harbaugh is obviously a fan of George Costanza: 'Jerry, just remember... it's not a lie... if you believe it.' ''
-- @adbrandt, former NFL cap master and current ESPN NFL columnist, on San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh's statement that the 49ers never intended to give Peyton Manning the starting Niners' quarterback job over Alex Smith this year.