As we do every week, let’s take a swing around the NFL, looking at a bunch of random things …
So, what’s been up?
1. The Giants won the Super Bowl. No, really, they did. I was reminded of this fact when they visited the White House this week. They were a big hit with noted Bears fan President Obama, who praised them for never quitting. But I mention this because it’s been the strangest offseason for a title-winning team ever. No one has talked about the Giants. It’s all Jets, Tebow, Patriots, bounties, Cowboys, Ochocinco, holdouts, Peyton, Payton, etc. I don’t even know what the Giants’ storyline is, except that they’re trying to defend their title. Maybe, in the end, this just means they are unencumbered by distraction. Or boring. I bet coach Tom Coughlin doesn’t care, either way.
2. I was on the Dan Patrick show with guest host Bonnie Bernstein this week, and you can listen right here. It was a fun interview, but it also made me think. One question I had no answer for was whether the impending contract for Jaguars WR Justin Blackmon would change after his second DUI arrest. The reason is, deals for top-10 rookies are usually fully guaranteed. That’s what Blackmon was looking at. But there’s no stick to go with the carrot; such a deal would give Blackmon no incentive to change his ways. I wonder if the Jags would push for year-by-year bonuses as the Patriots did with Aaron Hernandez to make sure he walks the straight line. Given his past, the team has a right to do so. It has a right to protect itself against Blackmon’s off-the-field behavior. But Blackmon’s reps may balk. I wonder if it’ll get interesting…
3. I continue to be transfixed by the Saints. I spent two days down there this week and wrote about the team in a bunch of places. I am intrigued. I’m hooked. There are so many different issues, from bounties to wire-tapping to Drew Brees’ contract to their ‘tude. Two reactions stand out. One is that they seem convinced they did nothing wrong in the course of the bounty investigation. Convinced. I find some of that hard to believe, but privately, publicly, in front of cameras, off camera, they maintain that a “whack” is a legal hit and that they did not engage in a bounty system. Any semantics advantage, they try to seize. This might be a case of everyone being on the same page. The evidence and final rulings will speak the loudest. But the Saints are incredibly united in believing what they believe. The other thing is, they won’t change. I couldn’t believe, with all the bounty talk, they fought at practice. Yet, players and coaches shrugged. They simply are who they are. Makes me think they’ll thrive, whatever the final penalties are.
4. All signs point to Cowboys CB Mike Jenkins showing up to minicamp on Tuesday. He likely won’t participate because of a shoulder injury, but he’ll be there. I’m not sure I understand why. If you’re gonna hold out and force a trade, do it. That’s your leverage. If he’s going to be part of the team, then be that. Rejoin the team, all-in and everything. Maybe this is the end of Jenkins’ desire to be traded. If that’s the case, then he should show up. But if he wants to be traded, this is the wrong move. He shouldn’t risk injury (whenever he plays), which would weaken his hand. If he stays away, my view is that it forces the team to listen to him. But we’ll see. The Cowboys are intent on not trading him, but all of that is predicated on not getting a fantastic offer.
5. The Patriots cut WR Chad Ochocinco this week, setting free a failed experiment that cost two mid-round picks, nearly $6 million and endless time. It simply didn’t work. Coach Bill Belichick had wanted to trade for Ochocinco earlier in his career, and maybe that would’ve worked. But I doubt it. He simply couldn’t learn the offense. Or, he chose not to. What’s weird is that Ochocinco was a good teammate. He wasn’t a circus. He was just a bad player. The talk is that he’ll catch on, but I have a hard time seeing him being productive. It didn’t look like he still had his legs, even watching him in camp last year. During the season, it was worse. And he drops a ton of balls. Having to learn a new offense so fast wherever he lands, I would be shocked if he returned to form next year. He’s definitely entertaining (and he’s still the only player who essentially forced me to go to lunch with him after his first practice). He has charisma. But despite what he says, he doesn’t want the criticism. He isn’t comfortable with the challenge of possibly failing. And in New England, he was in a constant, private stew. May be tough for him to fight out of that with another team.
6. There are certain things I’m still getting used to in my new life as a TV reporter for NFL Network. One is that you have to maintain real focus on the future while packing. I was supposed to be in New Orleans on Wednesday. But then a story broke about the bounties, and my job was to stay another day. Cool. No problem. Oh, and weather caused my flight out of New Orleans Airport, to be canceled, anyway. Yet I was at the back end of a six-day trip, and I had used all of my clothes. Except, as I’ve done every trip for the past eight years, I packed extra essentials (boxers, socks, etc). For the first time, I used them. Sadly, in the sweltering heat, I had no undershirt. Difficult. But this is why we’re pros. This is how we adjust. So I stayed, wrote a story, then left. Note to self: Continue to pack extra stuff. Other note to self: Make sure you have a backup restaurant plan in case you have to stay an extra night. This time, Mulate’s was perfect.
7. The more I think about it, the more I believe Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski had to accept the Patriots’ deal. The deal is much-debated because it puts a lot of power in the team’s hands and doesn’t guarantee him a lot of money up front. If Gronk stays healthy, it’s a worse deal for him (although he can always restructure) because he’ll be underpaid. If he gets injured, or has injury concerns each year, it’s a good deal. And the way he plays, I wonder if Gronk will be fighting through nagging things his whole career. He’s just so physical and never shies away from contact. Whether he hurts his back, his foot, or his head, whatever. It’s tough to command top dollar when you’re always nicked up. Now, for a fairly healthy, young player, this is good. He won’t be franchised twice after 2013 and he will be protected if something happens next year or the year after. It may not be the only deal he’ll ever sign. But it gives him security. I understand him signing it.
8. Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley apologized for his DUI arrest on the Lions’ website, which I guess is nice. Why am I lying? It’s dumb. I have heard Fairley talk. I have listened to interviews. He does not sound like this. It’s not his voice, these are not his words; why does the team bother? I’m not picking on the Lions. A lot of teams do this. They release ridiculous statements that were so obviously written by an agent or publicist, then ask us to believe the words are the player’s. Stop lying. Just say, “Fairley’s reps released a statement for him or whatever.” Or do what some teams, like the Patriots and Giants, do: use the player’s real words. Ask them what they think and use that in a release. I bet by now Fairley really is sorry. In his first in-person interview, he’ll no doubt say that. Just let him speak in his own release, and maybe it’d be more believable.
9. Minicamps start this week, and my plan is to spend the first two days in Dallas. There are so many storylines, from Dez Bryant’s development to Tony Romo’s leadership to Jenkins showing up to anything Jerry Jones says, etc. Should be chock full o’ things. I also look forward to just seeing the Cowboys work and gaining an understanding for what kind of team they’ll be. It just stinks that so few rookies will be healthy enough to participate. On Thursday, my plan now is to be in Philadelphia for the Eagles’ minicamp. I haven’t been to the facility, and have never seen Michael Vick in person, so that should be fun. But let’s be honest. I’m excited for the cheesesteaks, really. I’ve tried Geno’s, Pat’s, and Jim’s. Any other ideas? Perhaps Tony Luke’s? Should be awesome, either way.