High on the Highlands
This is the first in a series of postcards Sports Illustrated's Peter King will e-mail from his annual NFL training-camp tour.
Saturday, July 21
Team: Pittsburgh Steelers
Site: St. Vincent's College in Latrobe, Pa., which gets more pristine every time I see it. Rolling hills in the Laurel Highlands, a gorgeous setting for me to watch guys trying to knock each other's blocks off. Three miles from the Rolling Rock Brewery, too. In fact, one sign I passed driving in on Route 30 advertised 33-cent Rolling Rock drafts (get it, 33?) in happy hour. Too bad I'm not staying the night.
Five observations from practice that you just can't get anywhere else:
1. Tee Martin throws the ball better than I thought. Tommy Maddox still flutters it too much, despite his success in the McMahon Football League.
2. Plaxico Burress dropped a ball in the afternoon -- right through his hands -- and the crowd on the hill beside the field let loose: "BOOOOOOOOOO!''
3. Amos Zereoue is a stud. He reminds me of Napoleon Kaufman.
4. Dewayne Washington, the suddenly rich corner, stuck free-agent wide receiver Tim Baker with a huge hit, separating him from the ball, on Saturday afternoon. Gutty kid that he is, Baker acted like nothing happened.
5. Jerome Bettis (ice on right ham and left knee) is in mid-training-camp form.
Opinion/factoid that might be interesting only to me: Or, sign that the apocalypse is upon us: The first event at Heinz Field will not be a football game. It will be an N*Sync concert.
The food: I am reminded why I love most NFL training tables with this hearty lunch in Steelerville:
Terrific, simple chicken, and a great idea, that cheesy potato. An interview with Kordell Stewart cut short my dessert attempt. I would have gone for the vanilla frozen yogurt, which looked scrumptious. Grade: B+ -- The herb dressing left something to be desired.
The thing about vegetables, according to me, Mr. Nutrition, is that to do any good they've got to be crunchy. Not watery, not limp. I'm amazed this is what they feed the players.
Dear NFL Junkie:
Three quick observations you might like:
1. Flying into Pittsburgh on Saturday morning, we flew right over downtown (dahntahn, if you live here) and saw the new stadium Gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. The great part of it, as I see it, is the open end of the stadium is on the city side, and so a team can be driving down one side of the field, throwing the ball right into city buildings. Neat. The Irish will like the place. Officials from Guinness in Ireland are building a genuine Irish pub inside the stadium that will be open year-round. It's great to be a Rooney, isn't it?
2. Stewart is as happy as he's ever been in his life, and certainly happier than I've ever seen him. I could have spent two hours with him; I'm the one who walked away from an eager Stewart after 45 minutes. Usually with him, I have to catch him walking somewhere, or grab a question outside a press conference. Saturday, he was Mr. Open Book. "I've been through so much,'' he said, "and having the quarterback job going into this season wouldn't mean nearly as much if things hadn't been so bad for me here. Mentally, I've been groomed to take any hardship that comes along now.''
3. Apropos of nothing, I'm happy to be back on the football trail. Really happy.
Up next: Cincinnati Bengals
Check back soon for more of Peter King's Postcards from Camp.