1. I think I think I love Lovie Smith's love of the Olympics. "They're on my bucket list,'' he told me. "After I finish coaching, I'm going to go. I'll just be another American supporting our athletes. That's the one thing I really look forward to doing.''
2. I think I have to agree with Neil Hornsby, the Pro Football Focus guru who traveled with Team SI to 16 camps and/or stadia over the past 19 days, about Ben Roethlisberger. On Friday, we watched the Eagles chase Roethlisberger all over Lincoln Financial Field in the first quarter of the preseason opener. I mean, Big Ben was running for his life, dealing with yet another leaky offensive line. I don't know how long the guy's going to last until the Steelers figure out how to protect him.
3. I think it's clear Jonathan Vilma had a very good day in federal court Friday, trying to overturn the NFL's suspension of him. Very good, but not great. Great would have been Judge Helen Berrigan dismissing the NFL's suspension of Vilma, and though it seemed clear she wanted to act in his favor and strike down his one-year ban by Roger Goodell, she felt she couldn't do so because she wasn't legally empowered to. She said holding off on a decision "makes me crazy because I don't think it was fair,'' speaking of the suspension process. So it appears Berrigan will take some time to try to find a way to examine what exactly Goodell has a right to do and what he can't do.
One more note on the Vilma case: His court filing last week identified me as someone "commonly known as a go-to-source for NFL leaks.'' When I saw that, my chest puffed out a bit. Maybe it's true, maybe it isn't. But if it is, isn't that what reporters want? Don't reporters want to be known for finding people in the business they cover to tell them things that are hidden from the light of day? I'll never be a twentieth of a Woodward or a Bernstein, but this business is all about telling readers and listeners and viewers things they don't know. And I'd be proud if in this case I've done that.
4. I think I have no inside information on this -- I really don't -- but I'm hearing that no one in the Cleveland front office or coaching staff should feel secure beyond December. Prospective new owner wants to judge everyone fresh.
5. I think I have not seen as symmetrical a schedule as Atlanta's: road, home, road, home, road, home. Bye. Road, home, road, home, road, home, road, home, road, home. Not saying it's unique in recent history, but when's the last time a team played a season without two straight games on the road or at home? By the end of this regular season, it'll be 20 straight regular season games alternating between road and home for Atlanta, seeing that it finished last year in a road, home, road, home rotation.
6. I think the Falcons would have paid Curtis Lofton more per year to stay in Atlanta than he got (five years, $25 million) in New Orleans, but at some point Lofton didn't feel he got the love he deserved with the Falcons, so he decided to take less at a place he felt better about. Happens sometimes. Guys get sideways when they feel they're not appreciated, and they'd rather go somewhere else, even if they could make a little more money staying.
Lofton, by the way, had a nice debut for the Saints Thursday night in Foxboro. As James Varney of the New Orleans Times-Picayune wrote after the Saints-Patriots game: "Lofton was the best defensive player on the field ... On the first Patriots plays that resulted in tackles, Lofton made or assisted on everyone of them.''
Lofton still has to show he's a plus player in coverage, but his first game was a good one.
7. I think, and it's long overdue, I owe the lads at Ourlads Scouting Services thanks for their work on this camp tour. Not that they're driving the EvoShield van or tucking me in at night on the road in the various inns of America, but the tattered pages of the Ourlads Guide to the NFL Draft and Free Agency attest to how good Ourlads' work is. Each team is given a page, and that page has a post-minicamp depth chart, a review of the draft, a review of free agency and a five-year draft review (2007 to 2011) chart, grading each year with categories such as starters and players out of the league.
They interpret. For instance, when I was in New Orleans, I liked how fourth-round wideout Nick Toon was fitting in with Drew Brees -- he runs confidently and competes well against the veteran corners, and his athleticism will serve him well in the Saints' fast-paced scheme. So I go to the Guide and read this about Toon: "Nick Toon left a positive impression on the Saints' coaching staff after the rookie minicamp in May. He demonstrated good hands during drills. Talent is not a problem, but overcoming a history of injuries will be the only thing holding him back."
I rave about how Ourlads keeps up on NFL depth charts during the season -- it's a fabulous service, and it's free -- and now I can say the same about the work they do after the draft in this invaluable guide.
8. I think it's a good idea, at this time of year (and as we've just passed the 11th anniversary of the death of Korey Stringer), with high school football practices happening all over the country, for players like Houston defensive lineman J.J. Watt to work to get the information out that young athletes need to hydrate. Not a sexy topic, but a necessary one.
"Kids are better than they used to be about this,'' said Watt, who was pushing Gatorade's "Beat the Heat'' program last week, emphasizing hydration and sports drinks to stave off heat-related illnesses. "But they have to understand how much fluid they can lose in one practice, and how important it is to be drinking before and during the practice."
9. I think I need to get buried in writing before going back out Wednesday, but here's the next round of camps on the SI-EvoShield Training Camp Trip: Chiefs Wednesday (St. Joseph, Mo.), Rams Thursday (Earth City, Mo.), Colts Friday (Anderson, Ind.), writing Saturday, Packers Sunday (Green Bay), Texans next Monday (Houston), Cowboys a week from tomorrow (San Diego, practicing against the Chargers). After that, news will dictate my fate.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. "How about Aly Raisman?!'' said Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum when I saw him the other day, the day after Raisman won. Raisman, like Tannenbaum, is from Needham, Mass.
b. Separated at birth: Paul Ryan, Andrew Siciliano.
c. Can't take credit for that comparison. Chicago radio man Zach Zaidman of WSCR gave it to me. I looked Ryan up, and it's spot on.
d. Worst roads of the trip, by far: Chicagoland's. The I-294 area between O'Hare and I-80 are an absolute disgrace.
e. Regarding the Auburn Doubledays on Wednesday night: I got a great kick out of their front office staff. The Doubledays have a Head Groundskeeper/Vice President of Moisture Management, Brian Rhodes ... and an Assistant GM/Vice President of Tarp Operations, Jason Horbal.
f. I finally got to see a bunch of Olympic highlights on NBC Sunday night. Wow, we're good. It bugs me that I missed the Olympics -- the stories and the competition. I totally missed the Mo Farah story, and Oscar Pistorius. Bummer. Glad I caught up on Missy Franklin and that crazy U.S. soccer win over Canada. And though I'm not a great hoops fan, congrats to the men and women on their golds too.
g. Coffeenerdness: Really, Marriott Towne Place Suite and Residence Inns. Have you tasted the stuff you call coffee? It's barely coffee-flavored water. I congratulate you on your fine morning oatmeal, and when you have Cheerios -- plain, good old-fashioned Cheerios -- I couldn't be more pleased. But the coffee tastes like you've used the same coffee through the same filter about four times. Weak beyond belief.
h. Beernerdness: Sometimes in this business, you just get lucky. Leaving Washington's camp, we found a shop, Total Wine, with Bell's Oberon Ale. I'd only had this once, a couple of years ago, but had fond memories of it. Wasn't disappointed sitting in the back of the EvoShield van on the way to Giants' camp, writing and having a couple. It's a lighter wheat ale, a little spicy. Just what I needed on the Jersey Turnpike at 11 at night.
i. This is either my favorite hard-news newspaper lead of the week, or This Week's Sign That We're a Really Screwed-Up Country, or both, from Brian Ballou of the Boston Globe: "The longtime parking enforcement officer tried twice to wave veteran MBTA bus driver Lataria Milton out of the left turn lane at a busy Kenmore Square intersection Thursday morning. But Milton defiantly returned the hand gesture and continued eating a breakfast sandwich inside the empty bus parked on Commonwealth Avenue, transportation authorities said. The officer wrote a $75 ticket, and when she tried to place it on the windshield of the bus, Milton inexplicably hit the gas, authorities said. The bus lunged forward and struck the officer, who managed to get out of the way before the bus plowed into several vehicles waiting at a traffic light."
j. Speaking of good writing at the Globe, how's this for interpretive beat writing six days before Chandler Jones' impressive debut against the Saints, by Greg Bedard.
k. Got a lot of catching up to do on "The Newsroom." Someday.
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