Dot-dot-dot on Week 7.
Snap counts you need to know: Tim Tebow, five (four carries for 12 yards) from scrimmage, three on special teams; Jonathan Vilma, 18 (25 percent of the Saints' defensive snaps); Terrell Suggs, 44 (55 percent of the Ravens on defense) ... Throw of the day: Aaron Rodgers' 39-yard arcing, perfect strike into the arms of Randall Cobb in the end zone for Cobb's second touchdown of the day. Rodgers, over the last two games, is a 73-percent passer with nine touchdowns and no picks ...
I asked the new owner of the Browns, Jimmy Haslam, what he would say to Browns fans across the country about the future of the franchise. "Thank you for your phenomenal support over the years. We'll do everything in our power to give you the winner you deserve,'' he said. The reason why I don't see an all-powerful coach-GM type going to Cleveland is because, as Haslam said, he and new president Joe Banner "will work collectively on all major decisions.'' My gut feeling is Tom Heckert's a long-shot to stay as GM and Pat Shurmur needs to have a very strong finish -- losing in Indy didn't help Sunday -- to have a chance to stay. When the 2013 season kicks off, the Browns want to have the braintrust (Banner, the coach and the GM) in place for several years. Haslam believes in the stability of the Pittsburgh model ...
After 27 days of treatment in an Indianapolis cancer center, leukemia-stricken Colts coach Chuck Pagano was released Sunday morning in time to be able to watch the Colts' win over Cleveland at home. As I said on NBC last night, interim coach Bruce Arians said he hoped Pagano -- who, despite his medical condition, remains intensely involved in the team -- didn't strain himself coaching from bed. "The win is so much better because of the news Chuck was able to be home,'' said Arians ... I know the Steelers had safety help consistently for A.J. Green last night, but there's no good that, with Troy Polamalu out of the lineup, Green catches one ball for eight yards against the Steelers ... Greg "The Leg" Zuerlein takes his act to London with the Rams this week, as St. Louis plays the Patriots at Wembley Stadium. In seven games, he's made 10 field goals of 46 yards or longer ... Jay Glazer reported on FOX Sunday that the league is investigating the Chargers for using illegal stickum. My question: Ever felt the tackiness of the gloves players wear? Those things are like having Elmer's glue on your hands. Why on earth do you need something to make the hands stickier? If this is true, and Glazer's evidence sounded compelling, the league will hit San Diego hard, because you can't have teams wildcatting unfair equipment -- though, as I say, I can't imagine how the goop can make players much more sure-handed.
So what does the Paul Tagliabue appointment to hear the Saints' appeals mean?
"I think it's a good first step for Paul to be the neutral arbitrator," the most aggrieved party, Jonathan Vilma, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune Sunday. "We expect that he is going to do things in a neutral capacity, which would be to allow us to cross-examine some of the witnesses, allow us to see more of the evidence -- if there is more evidence -- and be able to have a fair hearing. We just want to see the evidence, to face our accusers and be able to cross-examine them.''
The union has been noticeably quiet about commissioner Roger Goodell's decision to recuse himself and name Tagliabue, which Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, an attorney, rightfully views as the players association retaining the right to protest the appointment if Tagliabue makes some early decisions in the case the union doesn't like. Goodell, I'm told, had several conversations with union boss De Smith about Tagliabue. And though Tagliabue's firm in Washington, Covington and Burling, is representing Goodell in Vilma's defamation suit against the commissioner, the league pointed out Sunday that the commissioner's office has often appointed those with ties to the league to hear cases.
Though Vilma called Tagliabue "neutral,'' it's not up to the league to appoint a neutral arbitrator. The league can appoint who it wants, and in the past has had league counsel Jeff Pash and others hear cases on appeal. This is the system the union negotiated with the players and signed in the last CBA. If Tagliabue rules against the players, clearly they'll continue to press their case in the courts.
One last note: Tagliabue was the keystone in preventing the Saints, post-Katrina, from flirting with a move west to San Antonio. That was one of the final acts of Tagliabue's tenure before giving way to Goodell in September 2006, and the city is forever grateful. Resident and political pundit James Carville says New Orleans should erect a status of Tagliabue in the city, and the Times-Picayune on Friday called the Goodell appointment "brilliant.''
I'll be interested in seeing if Tagliabue finds significant evidence of a bounty system. When the league showed several reporters the evidence in June, there was a load of pay-for-performance exhibits but few that purportedly provide intent to injure, or to entice players to injure. I hear the league has some evidence in that regard it hasn't shown -- and if that's the case, Tagliabue will have the ability to review and use such data in his decision-making process.
Criticize me for selfishness here, because this is a book I contributed to in the offseason, but I've got to plug the Sports Illustrated Football's Greatest book. It just came out last week -- a coffee table book that, sadly, does not turn into a coffee table -- and it's filled with gems from the pages of the last half-century of great SI writing and photography and lists that you can argue about (the David Tyree Velcro Catch game more memorable than The Catch game between the Niners and Cowboys, for instance).
Football's Greatest came in the mail Wednesday, and I lost two and a half hours just leafing through it and reading some of the great stuff I remember from my youth, and later years. Such as Ron Reid's ode to the Raiders' win over the Colts in the 1977 AFC playoffs, highlight by the TD throw to Dave "The Ghost'' Casper:
"On the sidelines, coach John Madden grabbed running back Mark van Eeghen and gave him a bit of inside information. 'Look for Ghost to the post,' said Madden, the bard of the Bay. Ken Stabler dropped back, but the 6-4, 230-pound Casper, who had already scored two touchdowns, had difficulty breaking away from Baltimore linebacker Tom MacLeod. While waiting for Casper to get untracked, Stabler noticed that the Colts had switched from a coverage designed to prevent the Ghost from going to the post. So Stabler wisely lofted the ball not at the left post but rather in the direction of the right corner of the end zone. "I picked up the ball visually when it was halfway to me,'' Casper said. "When I looked up, I realized the ball was going to the corner, not the post, so I just ducked the old head, turned and ran. When I looked up again, it was there."
The perfect photo by Walter Iooss Jr., with Casper securing the catch and the scoreboard and players staring in the background, is one of several in the book.
The book's a keeper, and I'd say that even if I worked for Women's Wear Daily.
Happy 80th, Dr. Z.
Paul Zimmerman, the writer so many of us in this business aspire to be, turns 80 on Tuesday. And speaking of the Sports Illustrated Football's Greatest book, check out this passage from him, from the Feb. 3, 1986 SI, following the Bears' 46-10 drubbing of the Patriots in Super Bowl XX:
"It will be many years before we see anything approaching the vision of hell that Chicago inflicted on the poor Patriots in Super Bowl XX. It was near perfect, an exquisite mesh of talent and system, defensive football carried to its highest degree. It was a great roaring wave that swept through the playoffs, gathering force and momentum. Until it finally crashed home in New Orleans' Superdome. The game wasn't exciting. So what? Go down to Bourbon Street if you want excitement. The verdict on Chicago's 46-10 was in after two Patriot series. Don't feel cheated. Louis-Schmeling II wasn't very competitive either. Nor was the British cavalry charge at Balaklava, but Tennyson wrote a poem about it."
Miss that guy.
Anyway, so many of you have asked about the Z-man over the past four years, since he suffered a series of three strokes in late November 2008, that I thought it would be nice to give you an address where you can send him a card if you'd like. Whether it's a birthday card or just warm wishes, send it to: Paul Zimmerman, c/o Tom Mantzouranis, SI.com, 1271 Ave. of the Americas, 32nd floor, New York, N.Y. 10020.
I also wanted to give you an update on his health, after speaking to his wife, Linda, on Saturday.
The bad news is it's unlikely he'll recover his faculties to the point where he'll write again. There was so much damage done by the strokes -- irreversible damage, from the looks of it, that after nearly four years Zim has a difficult time recognizing letters and words, and even people. He's had a hard time immediately remembering people he's known over the years.
He's good with numbers, and he still enjoys Sunday afternoons in front of the TV. "He still gets enjoyment out of the games, but not as much as he used to,'' Linda said. "He just loved charting the games, and it's not something he can do anymore.'' He is not able to speak many intelligible words, though he still works hard at his rehab.
The good news, Linda reports, is he still exercises daily, is in good physical condition, and he refuses to stay down about the damage the strokes caused. "I think his mind has gotten sharper,'' she said. "We might have a day where one of us gets down a little bit, but then we rally. We're good for each other.''
Good? Having seen the two of them together since the strokes, I'd say that's the wrong word. "Great'' is much more accurate.