As the NFL entered its dead period this past week, that blink of a break between the end of minicamps and the start of training camps, optimism reigned. Always does this time of year.
Every story about every player on every team oozed with hope and possibility. No fan base called to replace its starting quarterback (although Jets fans would like to find one), no coach found his proverbial seat at a temperature above lukewarm, and every team could at least extol its playoff chances, although some sounded more realistic than others. The Panthers say it feels like 2015 again, and in Los Angeles, Todd Gurley is communicating better with his offensive linemen after a rough second season. Even Cleveland quarterback Brock Osweiler sounded like a Comeback Player of the Year candidate.
Thus this attempt to fill in for the vacationing Peter King in this space—which I liken to how Brian Griese felt in Denver after John Elway retired—will focus on what’s possible across the league, as Optimism Season ramps up. Below you’ll read about...
• A Saint who thinks New Orleans can win the Super Bowl (and a fan who thinks so too).
• A nosetackle in Buffalo who’s excited about the new regime, and a Vikings linebacker who sees dominance ahead in Minnesota.
• A Seahawks defensive end who builds homes in Haiti when not tearing down opposing quarterbacks.
• A retired running back’s business pursuit to become the Gatorade of hygiene.
• A nod to the next project at The MMQB—Smarter Football Week begins Tuesday— and the most intelligent players I’ve covered.
And so much more. Let’s get it going...
• 1967 WEEK AT THE MMQB: Our series of articles on what the game, the players and the culture of professional football were like a half-century ago
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When The Saints...
You could argue that the Saints’ Cameron Jordan is the most underrated player in the game. Pro Football Focus bolstered that argument recently when it ranked Jordan 15th overall on its list of 101 Best Players from last season. The website touted the defensive end’s total QB pressures (79, tied with Broncos sackmaster Von Miller) and his “consistent” play against the run as factors that solidified his ranking.
So why isn’t Jordan a household name outside of Louisiana? “Well, we finished the last three seasons 7-9 and our defense was in the mid-20s,” he told me. “That’s not where we want to be. Last time we were a top-five defense we made the playoffs [2013, defense ranked fourth]. That’s what we want to be.”
Jordan is high on the Saints this season, particularly on defense. He notes the addition of free-agent pass rusher Alex Okafor, how New Orleans deepened its linebacker core and the signing of running back Adrian Peterson, who will share a backfield with Mark Ingram (a Pro Bowl replacement in Jan. 2015) and quarterback Drew Brees (one of the best players on earth). “We’re building a team to win a Super Bowl,” Jordan says. “We’re not building for the future. It’s hard not to believe in our team. We’re ready to win it now.”
Here’s what else Jordan had to say about the Saints (and Tom Brady):
• On Brees: “Is there a better quarterback? You tell me how many 5,000-yard seasons have been produced in NFL history. I would say eight. (Close, but it’s nine.) Drew has five of those seasons.”
• On Brees/Brady: “That being said, TB12 is the GOAT when it comes to rings. But when it comes to the King of the Air, we’ll call him Drew.” (May we suggest a Game of Thrones spin-off?)
• On Brady: “Can you ask him to adopt me? Between him and Giselle that’s a lot of money.”
• On Peterson: “I’m a fan. He runs the angriest of any back I’ve ever hit.”
For more proof that Jordan rules, here he is competing against Ingram in a lip sync battle for charity.
• COLIN KAEPERNICK NEEDS TO SPEAK UP: Albert Breer on what the unemployed quarterback should do if he still wants a job playing football
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My Favorite Person in Sports
For 13 years, Louisiana native Jarrius Robertson fought for a liver transplant after he was diagnosed with a chronic liver disease called biliary atresia. He underwent dozens of surgeries, started his own foundation, “It Takes Lives to Save Lives,” and followed his beloved Saints. Even in his worst moments, Robertson told his father, Jordy, “If I die, I want you to donate my organs.”
I met Robertson, now 15, last fall, while on the field at the Superdome, reporting the series Football in America with home-run hitter Michael McKnight. I followed Robertson’s story in the months since—the appearance on “Good Morning America,” where he signed a contract to become a hype man for the Saints; the ESPN video segments; his star turn at the NBA All-Star game; all the way through the liver transplant he received last month. Jordan counts Jarrius as a friend, as do most of the Saints players.
I wanted to see how Jarrius was doing post-transplant, so I called Jordy last week. “I saw a change in my son,” he says. “He’s enjoying life more. He pushes himself more. He doesn’t have any restrictions on him now. He’s able to take a breather now.”
Last week, Jarrius even tried wrestling.
I told Jordy what Cam Jordan had said about the Saints and their Super Bowl chances. He noted that before Jarrius was the Saints’ hype man, he did the same at Lutcher High School, where the football team won back-to-back state titles in 2015 and ’16. In fact, Jarrius received his latest championship ring the day before his transplant and went to his eighth grade graduation ceremony the same day as his surgery. “I’ll tell you this,” Jordy says, “If he can help Lutcher High School win a championship, I know damn well he can bring the Saints back to the Super Bowl.”
Here’s the foundation’s website and Robertson’s Go Fund me page.
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A Must-Read Story and How It Came Together
That would be this story on former NFL player Ryan O’Callaghan. It’s one of the best pieces I’ve read this year.
Start with the first sentence, a lede unlike any I can remember: Ryan O’Callaghan’s plan was always to play football and then, when his career was over, kill himself.
I asked the author of the piece (and Outsports co-founder), Cyd Zeigler, about that sentence specifically. He said he often starts writing in the middle of the story, but not with this one. Those were the first words he typed. Incredible.
Same went for reaction to the story. Zeigler said Outsports doesn’t release traffic numbers but did say that the volume of readers for the O’Callaghan story was among the highest he had ever seen on the site. He heard from friends who are gay but have no interest in sports and saw the story. “What’s most important is people in the NFL saw it,” he said. “It has been three years since they’ve had a reason to talk about this issue.”
For O’Callaghan, the interest in his story was overwhelming—in a good way. He went on Dan Patrick’s radio show, did “SI Now” with Maggie Gray and talked to several reporters, including me. O’Callaghan said he will have upcoming segments with CBS and HBO, and he laughed at the news outlets that asked him not to talk to other news outlets. They were missing the aim of why he told his story in the first place: “To reach as many people as possible,” he says. “People who might be going through what I went through.”
Quick background: O’Callaghan played college football at Cal, winning the Pac-10’s Morris Trophy (best lineman) in 2005. He then spent time in the NFL with the Patriots and Chiefs, all while trying to conceal his sexual orientation and wracked with worry and suicidal thoughts over the secret he was keeping.
Here’s how it came together: O’Callaghan sent Zeigler a friend request on Facebook. At first, Zeigler thought it might be a prank. He is a die-hard Patriots fan, and he knew who O’Callaghan was, but Outsports had received fake emails about specific athletes being gay and wanting to tell their story many times before. A few minutes after Zeigler accepted the request, though, O’Callaghan sent him a message.
A week ago, they met in West Hollywood for LA Pride weekend. That was the first time O’Callaghan had ever attended a pride event. He couldn’t tell anyone about the story and no one knew who he was. That changed when the story broke. He received more than 5,000 emails, and many of those missives were thousands of words long. He heard from dozens of friends and family members. One man wrote and said he hadn’t taken it well when his son came out and now he wanted another chance. “That was the whole goal,” O’Callaghan says.
I don’t want to spoil the piece but two things stood out. One was Scott Pioli, an executive for both the NFL teams O’Callaghan played for, and the role Pioli played in helping O’Callaghan find acceptance. That part of the story stayed with me. I was still thinking about Pioli and O’Callaghan long after I read it. O’Callaghan said he had spoken to Pioli last week and the executive had also received a ton of reaction.
The second part was this (and Zeigler said this passage had almost been cut in the final round of edits): In 2014 he was being inducted into the Shasta County Sports Hall of Fame. He had moved back to Redding, a familiar place with a support system where he could continue to learn how to manage his addiction.
He decided the thing to do at these events was to bring a significant other. O’Callaghan embraced the moment and brought his then-boyfriend, thanking him from the stage.
Then … crickets. Even with the local media there, and NFL prospect Michael Sam having come out publicly just months earlier, no one reported on it. No one asked him questions.
One last note. As O’Callaghan made the media rounds last week, several outlets asked him if he thinks the NFL is ready to accept a gay superstar. That’s the wrong question, Zeigler said. The league has already proven that it is. “We’re so addicted to thinking the NFL is homophobic and these athletes are all big, dumb jocks,” he said. “Sports have moved beyond that. I’m shocked we’re still asking the question.”
O’Callaghan agreed. “I can’t remember hearing a gay slur in the locker room,” he said, adding that “football players are more open-minded than people give them credit for. Teams are made up of so many different people from all walks of life. You become open to each other’s differences that way.”
• HOW TO BUILD WINNING FRANCHISE IN NFL: Andrew Brandt on how tanking could be part of vital strategy to achieve to long-term success
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Smarter Football Week at The MMQB
Please keep an eye out for our Smarter Football stories this week at The MMQB. We’ll examine the cerebral side of America’s favorite sport, the growth of advanced analytics and examine how one big-brained linebacker prepares for games.
I think people who fall easily into stereotypes get it wrong about pro football players. I’ve covered many sports, from pro cycling to gay softball leagues to the NFL, and I’ve always found football players to be the most insightful and thought-provoking in sports. That whole dumb-jock thing was always a dumb concept, especially in football locker rooms. Think of all the information football players have to process, the decisions they make in seconds, over and over, that determine the outcomes of their games, even all the plays they have to memorize. To hear football people talk about the game itself is to hear a foreign language, Football French. The sport is brutal, yes, but it’s cerebral in its soul as well. Most of the best football players mix brawn and brainpower. They see openings before they exist, guess plays before they unfold and win because they studied more than they practiced.
At the risk of some blowback, as a general rule, I’ve always found offensive linemen to be the smartest players in a locker room. I’m not sure exactly why that is. As for individual players, I’d cite Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (who asks astronauts about astrophysics), Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin (who recommends Netflix documentaries on the prison industrial complex) and the retired fullback Tony Richardson (who’s fluent in wine snobbery, acupuncture and leadership).
• PARTING THOUGHTS: An interview with The MMQB’s Emily Kaplan on her way out
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The Haitian Creation
Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril saw the damage Hurricane Matthew did to Haiti last October and pledged to build a house there for every sack he registered last season. Then he made the Pro Bowl, after registering 11.5 sacks. Then he built 12 homes.
Avril’s parents grew up in Haiti and came to the United States in the 1980s. He used to visit relatives there most summers during his childhood, but stopped visiting once he started playing college football. Then he saw his former teammate, running back Marshawn Lynch, doing charity work in Haiti, and so Avril went back, helping how he could, along with Lynch, Michael Bennett and others. (Quick aside: Avril agrees with my assessment that all roads in the NFL lead back to Lynch. He’s like the football version of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. “One of the best teammates I’ve ever had,” Avril said.)
To build the homes, Avril partnered with the charitable organization New Story, and they used Haitian workers and local materials in their efforts, helping to boost the local economy. When Avril visited the completed residences this spring, the occupants cried and prayed. He also saw their old homes, with dirt floors that turned muddy when it rained.
As for the Seahawks, Avril notes that the defense returns with its core intact, now that safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor are back to full health after both suffered injuries in the past two seasons. “I feel like we’re getting back to who we are,” he said.
Avril plans to continue with his pledge this season.
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The New-Look Bills and a Voice of Reason
So much is new in Buffalo this season, from a new coach in Sean McDermott to a new general manager in Brandon Beane. For defensive tackle Marcell Dareus that’s a good thing. Dareus made the Pro Bowl in 2013 and ’14, when he also was named first-team all-pro. The next off-season he inked a six-year extension for $96.5 million (with $60 million guaranteed, the highest guarantee at that time for a non-quarterback in NFL history). But his numbers dropped in the past two seasons, thanks in part to a four-game suspension and a hamstring injury in 2016.
Now, Dareus appears primed for a resurgence—and, if all goes well, the Bills hope to end the longest playoff drought in the league. (Their last appearance was in 1999.) To that end, Dareus praised quarterback Tyrod Taylor for taking a more active leadership role this spring. But here’s a twist: even in this Optimism Season, Dareus wants to see how the team actually plays before he makes any pronouncements. “We have a lot of pieces,” he said. “But I always say everything looks good on paper. Everything sounds good on the radio. But until we put the toys on and run around you just don’t know.” Points for honesty there.
Also worth noting: Dareus loves Bills fans. He does a lot of charity work when he’s in town (including a “Marcell Dareus Day” at the minor league stadium for the Buffalo Bisons) and said members of Bills Mafia have stopped him at Starbucks, Toys “R” Us and even tried to talk football … in a theater … during a movie. “Bills fans are crazy,” he said affectionately. “Most of them feel like they should be head coach.”
• EVOLUTIONARY, NOT REVOLUTIONARY: Albert Breer on the Derek Carr contract and what it means for future blockbuster deals
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In Minnesota, Pointed Forward
In his two seasons in Minnesota, inside linebacker Eric Kendricks has … established himself as a dominant force on an underappreciated defense … seen a legend (Adrian Peterson) leave … studied under a defensive guru in Mike Zimmer, until Zimmer was sidelined with eye surgeries for a detached retina … and witnessed an injury to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater that was so gruesome some teammates threw up. “We’ve gone through a lot,” Kendricks said. “I can’t say I’ve ever been on a team that went through that much in one year.”
Yet Kendricks prefers to look forward to next season, rather than back at the insanity that unfolded in 2016. He cares little that PFF ranked him as the sixth most-improved player in the league last year—his overall grade improved from 48.3 to 80.3—but agreed with my contention that the Vikings could make the postseason next fall. (I’ll throw in some disclaimers there: if quarterback Sam Bradford minimizes mistakes, the offensive line improves and the offense keeps the Vikings’ D in games. Is that a lot of disclaimers? Well, it’s the Optimism Season!)
Kendricks says his improvement last year stemmed mostly from becoming more comfortable on the field, thinking less and following his instincts. He learned that from Zimmer, who guided the Vikings to third overall in total defense last season, sixth in points allowed per game and ninth in Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average rankings. Like Kendricks, Minnesota’s D is young, improving and ready to join units like the Broncos, Seahawks and Texans in competition for the league’s best. I think the Vikings can compete with the Packers for NFC North supremacy next season.
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Sweat Equity for Forsett
Back inside the Cal the locker room in the mid-2000s, running back Justin Forsett and his teammates would lament how they often had to choose between showering and eating lunch. They would make jokes about needing to take a shower pill to continue with their day.
Then one of those teammates, Wale Forrester, became a firefighter and one day after a workout, he was called suddenly into work. He stopped by a sporting goods store and asked if they sold wipes for athletes after workouts. And the salesman said that the store did not but added that it would love to.
That’s when the ShowerPill Athletic Body Wipe was born. It’s an extra-thick disposable wipe that athletes can use when they don’t have time to shower. The product, launched commercially in 2014 but now consuming Forsett’s time post football, has been approved by the FDA and kills 99.9 percent of germs. Perhaps it can even help sportswriters.
As Forsett played for seven teams over nine seasons, he often brought the wipes into the locker room. The feedback was intense. In Seattle, even the team employees started using the wipes after yoga sessions or long flights. Forsett started the company with Forrester and Wendell Hunter, and they donated their product to residents of Flint, Mich., during the water crisis, along with homeless communities in Baton Rouge and the people of Haiti after Hurricane Matthew.
The product is backed by NFL stars from Ronnie Lott to Steve Smith and its brand ambassadors include Jared Goff, Golden Tate and Marshawn Lynch. (Everything comes back to Lynch, remember?)
Forsett recently purchased a home in Dallas, his first permanent residence since he started in the NFL in 2009. No NFL team has called him, and he said the running back market in particular is oversaturated, but he hasn’t entirely ruled out a return to the NFL. In fact, he’s playing in a flag football league this summer, staying in shape. Should he return to the NFL, he’ll have to take the ShowerPill back on the road. “We’re trying to be the Gatorade of hygiene,” Forsett said.
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Quotes of the Week
“I mean, I don’t tank nothing. So that’s all opinions outside of this organization. We don’t come here—and we’re not going to go through training camp, and have 14-hour days—to go tank a season. I’ll be damned.”
—Jets DT Sheldon Richardson to NJ.com.
Fair question. Fair answer. Good times as always in Florham Park, N.J.
“I really think that may be overdone a little bit. I mean, I don’t think the game has ever been safer than it is now.”
—Patriots owner Robert Kraft to the Associated Press, speaking about player safety.
From limiting practice contact to mandating the removal of potentially concussed players from games to penalizing with increased regularity helmet-to-helmet hits, Kraft makes a fair point. The NFL has never taken more steps to make the game safer. His argument, though, also ignores physics—that bigger, faster players will produce more forceful collisions. No rule change can alter that.
“Business should reflect productivity.”
—Panthers tight end Greg Olsen to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The two were discussing Olsen’s contract, worth $6.5 million in base salary in both 2017 and ’18, and how he wants a new one. He’s clearly among the best tight ends in football. He hasn’t missed a game since before President Obama took office. He’s right, too, but right here doesn’t equal likely or even possible.
“Robert is very important to me personally. We both understand that we have jobs.”
—NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on his relationship with Kraft, to Allon Sinai of the Jerusalem Post, during a trip to open the Kraft Family Sports Complex in Jerusalem.
I don’t doubt that the men could reconcile after Deflategate. Or even that they became friends again. But Goodell saying there’s never been a problem with him and Kraft is at best disingenuous. Anybody who saw Kraft rip into Goodell on numerous occasions knows that’s not true.
“Teamwork, fair play and the pursuit of personal excellence are the values—in the religious sense, we can say virtues—that have guided your own commitment on the field. Yet these same values are urgently needed off the field, on all levels of our life as a community. They are the values that help build a culture of encounter, in which we anticipate and meet the needs of our brothers and sisters, and combat the exaggerated individualism, indifference and injustice that hold us back from living as one human family. How greatly our world needs this culture of encounter!”
—Pope Francis, to the group of NFL Hall of Famers that visited the Vatican last week.
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Stat of the Week
Raiders signal caller Derek Carr signed a five-year extension last week good for $125,025,000 over five seasons. The $25 million average makes him the highest paid quarterback in the NFL. I agree with The MMQB’s Albert Breer that the contract is more evolutionary than revolutionary, because it’s only slightly higher than the average salaries of Andrew Luck (Colts, $24.6 million), Carson Palmer (Cardinals, $24.4 million), Brees (Saints, $24.3 million) and Kirk Cousins (Redskins, $23.9 million). In a year when the salary cap increased by 7 percent, Carr’s deal, while life changing, is closer to what should have been expected than anything transformative.
That said, no one should be more excited about the Raiders move to Las Vegas in 2020 than Carr. He’ll play out the final three years of this deal in Nevada, a state that does not tax income. I reached out to Stephen Kidder of Hemeney & Barnes in Boston, because he has a deep background in sports tax law. He said that California taxes will cost Carr about $3,286,000 in income while the Raiders are in Oakland. That means he’ll pocket almost $10 million more in Nevada than he would have if the Raiders had stayed put.
Some other points of note. The top 12 highest paid quarterbacks in terms of average salary are Carr, Luck, Palmer, Brees, Cousins, Joe Flacco, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers, Cam Newton, Matt Ryan and Tom Brady. (At $20.5 million per season, Brady’s deal ranks among the best bargains in sports.) This list confirms what’s obvious: that if you have a franchise quarterback, you don’t quibble on dollars, you pay. The only franchise-caliber QB who’s not on that list if Matthew Stafford, and he’ll be there soon enough. The rest of the NFL teams are looking for their next franchise signal caller, rather than paying one.
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Factoid That May Only Interest Me
As noted by Pro Football Talk, Chiefs coach Andy Reid is currently tied for 11th on the all-time wins list, with 173. He needs 13 wins to pass Chuck Knox and move into the top 10. If Reid records an average of 11 victories in the next five years, he’d be fifth all-time, behind only Don Shula, George Halas, Tom Landry and Bill Belichick. I think that’s worthy of the Hall of Fame and a slam dunk nomination should Reid win a Super Bowl in K.C.
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Mr. Marriott Lifetime Platinum Member Travel Note
If you’ve never been to Ketchikan, Alaska, do yourself a favor and go visit. That’s where I’m typing this column, in a hotel downtown, near what seems like thousands of cruise ship tourists. Mountains. Water. Bears. This is God’s country.
I’d recommend Bar Harbor restaurant. If you don’t order some sort of fresh seafood, I’ll trust that you’re allergic.
Only downside: no Marriotts.
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Tweets of the Week
How this man @DavidJohnson31 only have 56k follows? That's a damn shame! He won y'all TOO MANY fantasy s for you not to follow the man!— Patrick Peterson /P2 (@P2) June 20, 2017
Truer words have rarely been typed. If you’re one of the thousands who needed Cardinals running back David Johnson to win your fantasy football league last season, the least you can do is follow the man on Twitter.
Tom Brady with Takashi Kurihara!!!route wide version #tombrady #patriots #nfl #underarmour #iwill #japan #football #?????????????????? pic.twitter.com/LyH0knfFrC— Takashi Kurihara ??? (@TeeKeyy) June 21, 2017
Incredible how many fans in China showed up to watch Patriots Tom Brady play catch.
USC's QB can even throw darts from a boat (: samdarnold/IG) pic.twitter.com/49NKipIRn4— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) June 19, 2017
This video (reposted from USC signal caller’s Sam Darnold’s Instagram account) shows why Jets fans might not mind a 1-15 record in 2017. (Although their players insist, as they should, that the concept of tanking is for people who, you know, write Monday Morning Quarterback columns.)
Former Jets LB David Harris has reached agreement on a two-year deal with...the New England Patriots, source tells ESPN.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 21, 2017
Can’t beat ‘em, well …
The longtime Jet, by the way, is one of my favorite players I’ve ever covered. Always accessible, generally solid with the insight. That’s all you can ask.
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Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think the Titans will make the playoffs next season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they made a run into late January, depending on the match-ups. Not only did they add free agent wideout Eric Decker, but they also drafted another receiver, Corey Davis of Western Michigan, in the first round. Add those two into a target mix that includes Delanie Walker, Rishard Matthews and Tajae Sharpe, plus two capable running backs in DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, plus an emerging star at quarterback in Marcus Mariota, plus Super Bowl experience from signees Logan Ryan (CB), Sylvester Williams (NT) and Eric Weems (WR). Houston will also compete in the AFC South—and maybe, dare I say, Jacksonville—but Tennessee will challenge the Texans and Jaguars.
2. I think I’d be grateful if you read some of the excellent Where Are They Now? pieces we’ll be running on SI.com in the next week. I have one on Vince Young and there’s another fascinating NFL story on retired running back Clinton Portis. Plus Lee Jenkins on Allen Iverson and more.
3. I think this story confirms that Eric Berry is a good human being and that not all football news is negative. The story, told by a stranger watching from a distance without Berry’s knowledge, describes the Chiefs safety coming out of a restaurant in Knoxville, handing food he purchased to three homeless people. They asked Berry to pray with them. He did. “I don’t do it for the attention,” Berry told The Kansas City Star. “I do it to better myself and just give back. That’s what you should do it for.”
4. I think my editor/life coach, Adam Duerson, couldn’t be more wrong when he sent a passage from a soon-to-be-released bonus story written by the legendary Steve Rushin on hot dogs and their place in sports. Duerson described one line in the passage as “nasty” and said it offended him.
The line in question: Lohr would like to criminalize even some who do eat them. “I think people over 12 who put ketchup on hot dogs should have to do 100 hours of community service,” he says. “It’s the desecration of a national food. It’s like defacing Mount Rushmore.”
The last time Duerson was this wrong was the last time he cut from one of my magazine pieces. Ketchup on a hot dog is a crime against one’s taste buds. They shouldn’t even stock ketchup at ballparks, to avoid letting anyone make a horrible, life-altering mistake. The only condiment that belongs on a hot dog is mustard. That should be obvious.
“I guess I’m alone here,” Duerson wrote back. Yes, yes you are.
5. I think it was smart of Odell Beckham Jr. to read Brady’s favorite book this off-season. It’s called The Four Agreements, and the second agreement in particular—don’t take anything personally—applies to famous football players. I called the book’s author, Don Miguel Ruiz, before Super Bowl 51 and asked how that agreement applied to Brady, after his Deflategate suspension and revenge tour.
From our Super Bowl cover story: Ruiz writes that people tend to fall into narratives that others create for them, that they’re angry because they’re expected to be angry, aggrieved because most others would be too. Brady—at least publicly—never blamed Goodell, never let the noise appear to influence him.
“Brady,” Ruiz says, “has created his own truth.”
Beckham, with years of prime ahead of him, can do the same.
6. I think that Lions president Rod Wood made total sense when he told Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com that he’s comfortable making Matt Stafford the highest-paid player in pro football. There just aren’t many franchise-level quarterbacks walking around the planet. (See Stat of the Week, above.) When you have one—and Stafford is definitely one; look what he did last season without Calvin Johnson; or check back on the 5,000-yard passing year—you don’t let them walk. Unless you want to spend that next however-many-years looking for your next quarterback, drafting replacements, signing journeymen, etc. I also think that’s why regardless of any tension between the offense and the defense in Seattle, Russell Wilson isn’t going anywhere. With franchise signal-callers, as Wood told Rothstein, “it’s going to be whatever it takes.”
7. I think it’s wise of wideout Anquan Boldin to skip the NFL’s off-season programs and look to sign with a receiver-needy team before training camp. That’s the Walter Jones Approach to Optimism Season, named after the perpetual holdout at left tackle in Seattle. It worked pretty well for Jones, who made the Hall of Fame. If I’m Boldin, I try to sign with New England, looking for a ring. He’d also fit well in Kansas City, Washington, Minnesota and elsewhere.
8. I think that Jason Taylor’s choice of his former Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson as his Hall of Fame presenter could not be more perfect, given the year. Taylor will be inducted along with kicker Morten Andersen, quarterback Kurt Warner, running backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Terrell Davis, safety Kenny Easley and … Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. In recent years, Jones and Johnson have both said publicly that they patched up their feud over who could take more credit for the Cowboys dynasty in the ‘90s. But look for that to continue on stage in Canton, Ohio, this summer.
9. I think you should read this story by Malika Andrews in The New York Times. It’s about Jeff Charles, a former football coach who couldn’t bring himself to watch football anymore after one of his players sustained a fatal brain injury on the field. I won’t ruin the rest of it for you.
10. I think these are the rest of my thoughts, including some non-football ones:
a. It doesn’t matter if Rob Gronkowski spent $102,407 at a casino nightclub in Connecticut. Wasteful? Sure. Could be put to better use? Absolutely. But the time to worry about Gronk being Gronk is the day he’s anything other than amazing on the football field. I don’t think that day will come any time soon.
b. There is a football link to the anniversary last Monday of the night the Purple Cobras of Globo Gym collapsed with a four-man advantage against regional qualifier Average Joe’s Gym in the American Dodgeball Association of America tournament. That’s because one NFL star trained and starred on a traveling dodgeball team growing up. You’ll read about that—and him—in the pages of SI soon.
c. My colleague Ben Baskin is one of the best young writers exploring the world of pro football. Check out his piece on the Saints first season, as part of The MMQB’s 1967 package from last week.
d. Editors across the nation should resist all Juice is Loose headlines should O.J. Simpson be released from prison in October. His parole hearing is scheduled for July 20.
e. Having been to China a few times, I think it will be difficult to play an NFL regular season game there. The biggest problem is just how far it is. That said, I also think the NFL will play a regular season game there anyway. When Brady visited the country last week as part of a tour he said it was his “dream” to play a game there someday. He also noted how the NFL tried to send the Patriots and Seahawks there in 2007 (the league also attempted to reschedule that game for 2009) but the efforts haven’t been successful—yet. For more on the logistics, check out this piece from the excellent Jonathan Jones.
f. Stories like these are why I pay $10 a week for the Sunday version of The New York Times. I read this version in the paper (shocker) and it was better than anything I watch on Netflix. (And, let’s be honest, I watch a lot of Netflix.)
g. The piece is called The Sheriff’s War and it’s about an NYT legend (Walt Bogdanich), a murder at the home of a Sheriff’s Department employee in Florida, an investigation into that murder and the subsequent investigation into the investigator. Beyond that, I think I’ll just say enjoy.
h. Beernerdness: I’m on IR now with a displaced fracture in my left pinkie toe, which I’m embarrassed to admit resulted from when I snagged my foot on a door frame. So I was surprised to see a package arrive at my house last week that was addressed to the “Association for Disabled Sportswriters.” It came from my friend and colleague Pete Thamel, and it was a package of local beers intended to ease the pain. I particularly enjoyed the Reuben's Daily Pale, which is brewed in Seattle. The beer was light in body, balanced, crisp and clean at the finish, and chalk full of delicious undertones (citrus, passion fruit, honeydew and kiwi) … ah, who am I kidding? It tasted like beer and went down smooth.
i. Coffeenerdness: I live outside Seattle. We call coffeenerdness “Tuesday.” But I have been enjoying Urban Coffee Lounge in my new neighborhood. Wrote half a story there recently. (I think Duerson probably cut it.)
* * *
The Adieu Haiku
What doesn't kill mewill only make me stronger.So take that, haters.
(That’s actually a Kanye West song and not the exact lyrics but more of a summary. Still, s/o.)
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