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Rough draft

Just like telephone menus, it's hard to establish order

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Posted: Thursday April 12, 2001 6:57 PM


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As I explained at this time last year, this is Loony Week for me. The week before the week that ends with the draft, the week when I have to make all my phone calls to do my handicapping box for the magazine. The week when I have to try to extract first-round draft choice identities from coaches and personnel directors and scouts and GMs, all of whom would be perfectly within their rights to tell me, ďGet lost, this is private information.Ē

Some do, so the next year I just call other people on those clubs. Some, such as the Ravensí Ozzie Newsome, are fairly open, and I havenít noticed this keeping Baltimore out of the Super Bowl. Some lie and smokescreen and plant false rumors, and after awhile you get a reading on these guys, who actually are valuable in their way because they tell you whom they are not interested in (i.e., the ones they keep mentioning, got it?). Ah, itís a cat-and-mouse game, and many lives hang in the balance, and sometimes, when I cry out in despair after a particularly discouraging day, my Flaming Redhead will remind me that things could be a lot worse, I could be doing the old 9-to-5 bit in an office somewhere.

And dealing with phones that give you menus and complicated sets of instructions, instead of people to talk to. Unfortunately that stuff has invaded the NFL as well, and some of it is so ridiculous that you have to laugh. Early Thursday morning, for instance, I called Vikings coach Dennis Green on his, wow, private number! The phone didnít even ring. Instead, I got a message saying that the mailbox of the person I wanted to reach was full, but I could reach the directory by punching two. So I punched two, and was told to punch in the letters of the personís last name, followed by the pound sign, a procedure I hate because I always manage to screw it up and blow the whole equation.

So I carefully punched in G-R-E-E-N and hit the pound sign and was told that I had reached the voice mail of Bud Grant but if this didnít suit me, I could progress to the next person, alphabetically, by hitting one. After noting that Green follows Grant in the old alphabet game, I punched one and reached the voice mail of Bob Hagen and was told that I could bail out of this and take a step backward, alphabetically, by hitting two. Which I did, and now I was back to Bud Grant. Poor Dennis, caught in a Grant-Hagen sandwich, a time-warp thing that obviously had been programmed 30 years ago.

On Wednesday night I tried calling Marty Schottenheimer at the Redskinsí HQ and was told that an employee could be reached by punching in the name, first and last. Now with Schottenheimer thatís a long-term project, but I did it anyway, carefully, and reached some garbled mess that sounded like Scrmmmbschhh. I tried it three times and gave up. Whatís even worse is that there are three Schottenheimers on the Washington staff.

And I can hear someone out there uttering the old Walt Michaels quote: "Tell me not how stormy are the seas; bring the ship in." Which I will do -- next week -- in my Super-Duper Draft Analysis. I will tell you at this time, though, that I do think the Rams will trade Trent Green to the Chiefs. On to the mailbag.

Tim of Little Chute, Wis., says heíll buy me "the best steak on the menu at Vince Lombardiís Steak House at the Paper Valley Hotel (I seem to remember it being called "Inn") in Appleton if I answer his question. OK, letís get this deal straight. Nowhere did you say "intelligently answer" the question, did you? Besides that, Iíve stayed at the Paper Valley Whatever and I donít remember the steak being particularly outstanding. Also, weíre not bribable, unless itís someplace like The Palm or Mortonís of Chicago. Nevertheless, hereís my answer to your question of why didnít the Pack deal Matt Hasselbeck to Miami, thereby ending up with the 17th and 26th picks in the first round, rather than the 10th and 62nd choices, which is what they netted from the Seattle trade.

Miamiís two are better choices unless thereís a guy at No. 10 whom you desperately want and youíre sure wonít be there at No. 17. The guy the Packers like is Koren Robinson, the N.C. State wide receiver. He wonít be there at 17. Iím not even sure heíll be there at 10. And Iím not sure that the Dolphins would have made the deal youíre assuming was a sure thing.

Rams questions from Troy of Cairo (good classical pairing there. Any relation to Helen of Troy?), Ill. Why did Kevin Carter go so cheaply? No better offers. Second question concerns the Green-to-K.C. trade that Iíve already mentioned. Permit me to wax poetic here: A No. 1 will get it done.

To Brandon of Grand Rapids, Mich.: The Colts donít need a receiver. A cornerback, which is where theyíre headed, makes more sense. No, I wonít supply the name now. Thatís for next week. Iím not going to scoop myself.

To Sean, a Seahawks fan from San Diego, who wants my take on Seattleís free-agent pickups. John Randle -- I like it zero. They need run-stoppers, not matadors. Levon Kirkland -- Iím told he ballooned up to 290 last year. Heís not ancient (32) but his body is showing signs of wear. Heís a gamble, as is Marcus Robertson, who has lost a step. The guy I really like, though, is someone you didnít mention, Chad Eaton. Now thereís a really good, functional run-stuffer. If the Hawks come up with another guy like him in the draft, theyíve addressed a serious need. Scuttlebutt around the league is that theyíll go for Drew Brees, although Mike Holmgren didnít mention him to me in our conversation the other night.

Now weíre into food questions, or rather, suggestions. John of Austin, Texas, wants me to try a family place called La Mela in NYCís Little Italy. Iíll give this to you very straight, John, and I hope this wonít brand me as a snob. Iíve really had it with Italian restaurants in which the entire landscape is red, as in red sauce, as in tomato sauce. Just so boring. But those are the restaurants that thrive out here in Jersey, that get all the action, because thereís a lot of food at cheap prices. I love Italian food, but only with the grace notes. Johnís second recommendation is the House of Nan King in San Franciscoís Chinatown, and Iíll give that one a shot. Now he has to go ruin it all with a football question. Why are the Packers keeping Green and Levens, and do I like the idea of using them in the same backfield? Answers: for insurance purposes, which makes sense if they feel Levens can be functional, and no, Iíve never liked that twin-tailback approach.

Yee Fong of Auckland is a Randall Cunningham fan and wants to know his future. I believe that Cunninghamís skills have diminished to the extent that itís time for him to move to a different line of work. Oh sure, at 38, he might be able to catch on somewhere and end his career as Warren Moon did, becoming the kind of guy of whom people will say, "Oh my gosh, everyoneís hurt so weíve got to play Moon," or Dave Krieg or Jim McMahon or any number of old-timers who simply hung around too long.

Hal Hopp, who just got engaged to Jenny Jump, of Palm Desert, Calif. (my wife says Iíd better stop making fun of peopleís names because someoneís "gonna really get mad" -- not you, Hal, right?) has a couple of winners from the area I just vacated, which happens to be the one in which he lives. Translation: good restaurants in the desert. Great. Why didnít you tell me before I went there? And here come the football queries. How do I rate Troy Aikman and does the length of his career affect my evaluation? I rate him Hall of Fame. Heíll get my vote, and 11 years is long enough, with all those head shots. Besides, he didnít quit -- the referee stopped the fight.

Dos preguntas from Andrew of Kingston, Ont. Should the Vikings say sayonara to Randy Moss to get their pay structure in balance, and what do I think of a white wine called líEprayrie? The Moss question is complicated. Heís not a good team guy. Heís disruptive. But he keeps breaking games open. I think that when his personal babysitter, Cris Carter, retires, there will be a big problem there. But thereís just something holding me back from saying cut him or trade him or whatever. Maybe itís the fear of ridicule. LíEpeyrie or LíEpayrie, not the spelling you have, rings a faint bell, and Iím kind of remembering a rather metallic tasting, nondescript wine. Canada is a crummy place to buy wine, anyway, because of the huge tax, or at least that was the case when I was there. If you know of a good wine store south of the border and youíre pressed for cash, try a really fresh (youngest vintage possible) Italian Pinot Grigio or Pinot Bianco that the wine merchant recommends, if he really knows his stuff. As for your reference to Dom Perignon í54, it wasnít much of a vintage in Champagne, but it was the year in which I was supposed to graduate from college, the event being delayed four years by matters too complicated to go into now.

Stew of NYC wants the Browns to go with a runner, not a receiver. Me, too. I have them pegged for LaDainian Tomlinson, the TCU tailback, in Round 1, and then a receiver in the second round, as theyíve done for the last two years. As for Deuce McAllister, whichever team drafts him will also have to sign Tre Johnson. Then they can have Deuce running behind Tre with nothing but facecards on the bench. Finally, a good merlot under $20. Well, you know, of course, that the most expensive red wine in the world is a merlot. Chateau Petrus in Pomerol. Clos du Bois in Sonoma County is more suited to your price range. Kind of commercial, but theyíre very serious about it. A bit of oak, if that doesnít bother you.

Travis of Boston wants to know why I quoted Marty Schottenheimer when he said his remark about the five cents in the candy store was off the record. The Redhead warned me that this would come back to haunt me. I never use off-the-record stuff, but everyone, including Marty, was laughing during this whole bit.

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