1. I think the Mike Wallace story tells me one thing about the Pittsburgh Steelers: They compromise their salary and architecture principles for no one. I remember speaking with a person very close to the Steelers front office in the spring, and this person told me the Steelers valued receiver/returner Antonio Brown more than speed receiver Mike Wallace. "They'd rather pay Brown in 2013 than Wallace this year,'' the person told me. "Mike Wallace had better not overplay his hand.''
In the Steelers' eyes, he did. So Pittsburgh, convinced it didn't want to risk losing both men next year when Brown would be a restricted free agent, gave Brown the deal they'd offered Wallace, a six-year, $42.5 million extension. Not bad for a sixth-round pick in 2010 from Central Michigan. Now Wallace is in limbo, not having signed his franchise tender ... and the Steelers saying they have no intention of trading him.
2. I think Randy Lerner is breathing a sigh of relief this morning, if he's the Randy Lerner I've gotten to know during his ownership tenure. I've always felt Lerner, who lives in downtown Manhattan near New York University, was more of a music and soccer fan (he owns Aston Villa of England's Premier League) than a football fan, and he'd hoped Mike Holmgren would wipe away all his troubles when Holmgren came aboard the Browns two years ago. Maybe Holmgren's work, along with GM Tom Heckert's, will pay dividends this year; the Browns are certainly better.
But the new prospective owner, Jimmy Haslam III, a Tennessee businessman, will have to become more hands-on than Lerner was. I remember being around Lerner in New York when he was hiring a new coach early in 2009. He wanted to bring in Scott Pioli as GM and Eric Mangini as a package, and became smitten with Mangini over Pioli -- he couldn't have both because Pioli had hard feelings about Mangini dating to Mangini's departure from the Patriots. So Lerner, to the surprise of many, chose Mangini over Pioli, and Mangini went 10-22 in two seasons before being fired.
Lerner badly wanted someone to come in and just take the headache that was the reconstruction of the Browns off his hands. It's been 13 seasons since the Browns were re-formed in 1999, and neither Randy nor his late father, Al, have been able to do that in their collective ownership tenure. Now it falls to Haslam, unless there are skeletons in his personal or business closet the NFL doesn't know about yet. He's a heavy favorite to be approved.
3. I think my gut feeling is the Jags won't blink in their contract standoff with Maurice Jones-Drew. Gut feeling, but nothing is etched in stone. Shad Khan's a smart businessman, but he's also a fan who doesn't want to incur the wrath of his tenuous fan base.
4. I think the pool of available free agents is not bone dry yet. A good fullback, Ovie Mugheli, signed with St. Louis Saturday, and one GM told me late in the week: "We've got 150 guys on a ready list in case we have injuries. The reason a lot of these guys haven't signed yet is not because they can't make a team, but because they want too much, and it's a buyers' market.'' You saw it in the last two or three weeks -- teams like San Diego [Aubrayo Franklin] signing good players when their pricetag came down.
5. I think I give Saints owner Tom Benson credit for two things: putting up a statue of Steve Gleason blocking a 2006 punt and symbolizing the rebirth of the city, and trying to buy the New Orleans Times-Picayune to save it from becoming a three-day-a-week paper, which is the plan of the current owners.
Benson told me he'd been to New York to meet with the owners of the paper, Advance Publications Inc., and urged them to sell. "We think it's worthwhile to try,'' Benson said. "Imagine New York without a daily paper. Or Atlanta, Houston. It's really going to affect the city adversely. Imagine you come into town for a meeting, the hotels are packed, and you go to buy a paper on a Monday to find out what's going on in town. No paper. You wake up Tuesday. No paper that day either. It'll set us back at a time this city is really starting to grow. You get out on the highways now, and you can't move half the time -- people are coming back to this city.''
As for the bronze Gleason statue, the Saints and Benson have done a terrific job -- way beyond what they needed to do -- to make the ALS-stricken Gleason feel like a part of the organization and an important leader in the community. His block of the 2006 punt against Atlanta was the kick-start to a stunningly improbable season that ended with a loss in the NFC title game. At a ceremony Friday at the 'Dome, the mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu, praised Benson and said the following about Gleason: "That day, the day he blocked the punt, was when people started to believe in the team and the city again. That young man's heart is the greatest thing this city has to offer."
As much as the Saints have been in the news for the wrong reasons this offseason, Benson's gestures to the vitality of the city and the region, and to one of its genuine heroes, shows he gets it. He understands that as far as the team's troubles go, they too shall pass. But he's trying to do things that will leave marks long after he's gone.
6. I think my Hero of the Week is Steve Smith, the Carolina receiver who donated $100,000 to victims of the Aurora shootings -- a tremendous and selfless move by a complicated man with, apparently, a very big heart. Smith said in a statement: "As a father and husband, I cannot imagine the pain and suffering the victims are going through. I hope this contribution might assist in paying some of the medical bills that will help allow these families to move forward in this tragic circumstance."
7. I think this about Arian Foster's admission that he's a vegan: It doesn't matter. I know quite a few of them, and they get plenty of protein, and several work out as intensely as NFL players do. It's a silly myth that football players need to eat meat as part of a professional athlete's regimen.
8. I think this is the cost of doing business the way I think it should be done in NFL journalism these days -- and I tell you this because it may affect my ability to know as much about the Saints as I've known in the past few years. Joe Vitt and Mickey Loomis, the New Orleans past and future 2012 brain trust, are not speaking to me, presumably because of my reporting on the Saints' bounty case. Sean Payton told me earlier in the year he wouldn't speak to me either, because he didn't think I reported the story fairly. I'd had great relationships with Loomis and Payton. But that's how it goes. For the record, I regret nothing that I've written or said on the case.
9. I think one of the mysteries of this NFL summer is the continuing unemployment of Plaxico Burress. The man's good enough to contribute to an NFL winner, and at the right price ($1.5 million a year plus a heavy incentive for eight touchdowns is what I'd offer). I believe strongly he'd win a game for a playoff contender this year.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Journalism story of the week: the Bruce Springsteen profile by David Remnick of the New Yorker. What I loved about this great piece is Springsteen admits to seeing a psychiatrist for the last 30 years. And how Remnick describes the band on the road: " ... Forget roadies hurling televisions and empty bottles of Jack Daniels from hotel balconies into the pool. The Springsteen road show is about as decadent as the Ice Capades. Band members talk about missing their kids, jet lag, Wi-Fi reception at the hotel.'' That's the real stuff right there.
b. Sally Ride, who died the other day of pancreatic cancer, is one of the greatest women of the last 50 years. A shame we didn't get to know her better. Imagine you're not long out of college, and you see an ad in the newspaper seeking astronauts, and you say, "I can do that!'' That's what she did. She went on two missions, ignoring cretins who wondered if a woman could succeed in space like men.
Johnny Carson said this as a joke, but behind it was seriousness and suspicion that women might not be up to the task: Her 1983 Challenger mission would be delayed, Carson said, because Ride had to find a purse to match her shoes. She is probably the most important role model today for young girls who want to crash the glass ceiling in professions like math, aeronautics and science fields.
"She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars and later fought tirelessly to help them get there by advocating for a greater focus on science and math in our schools," President Obama said in tribute when she died. "Sally's life showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve."
c. Missing the Olympics. I hate it when that happens. I'm a sucker for the stories. The most I've seen is a clip of the opening ceremonies in the Broncos cafeteria Saturday. Sure looked colorful. Weird shot of the Queen.
d. I did see a photo of Ryan Lochte in the Seattle Times Sunday morning. Whatever that is in his teeth looks positively awful (said the 55-year-old dinosaur).
e. I love the A's. I don't know Jarrod Parker from Travis Blackley, but I hope I get to know both in October.
f. Someone should sit all the privately sniping Red Sox players and coaches in a room and tell them they look stupid, immature and ungrateful for the lives they have, and it has to stop.
g. Who is the Yankees' No. 2 starter in the playoffs? That would worry me a bit as the Angels load up, and the A's throw one great game after the next.
h. I hear The Newsroom has had two very good episodes in a row on HBO. Much needed. Will catch them on the DVR later in August.
i. Coffeenerdness: Cool sight in the Chargers' facility: In several spots, there are Starbucks coffee machines, with two different blends to brew fresh coffee with boiling water at the touch of a button. Makes a fella want to be a Charger.
j. Beernerdness: One of the fun things about the training camp trip is sampling the occasional odd beer in different parts of the country. Such as the Beaver Street Pine Cone Pale Ale in Flagstaff, Ariz. I like a bitter end to pale ale, and this one does. The Pine Cone was dry, with a fairly piney scent. Liked it a lot.
k. A special thanks to Two Beers brewery in Seattle, and to brewer Mark Satterly and our host Scott Persson for giving us a quick tour and sample Sunday. Seattle, as usual, is one of the most welcoming cities in America because of places like Two Beers.
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