It’s been a busy few days, taking me to a few places I wasn’t expecting. Let’s see… I spent last week in Nashville, gearing up to cover the Patriots-Titans game. Then, it was a day in Mississippi with The Banktress and her family… and now in Baltimore. I’ll talk some Ravens today, then head to Philly for the rest of the week.
But before we delve into the Ravens-Eagles slugfest this weekend, let’s review.
Want to hear what Nashville was like?
— Man, Nashville’s got to be one of the easiest cities around. No traffic, nice people, everything is close… just easy. It’s really got everything. Solid restaurants, a downtown for the young people (like Vanderbilt students), a downtown for tourists (the Honky Tonk bars), and plenty of sports bars. It’s so relaxed, I ran into Predators captain Shea Weber one night, and we chatted standing in front of a 20-foot poster of himself hanging on the arena. And no one bothered him. Lots of looks, no actual interruptions. That’s pretty sweet.
— After spending a week with the Titans, I’m still having trouble understanding what kind of team they are. Last year, Tennessee was a much-improved 9-7 last year, just missing the playoffs. But they didn’t look great against the Patriots… but how many teams will? They have some really good offensive skill guys, and that only improves when Kenny Britt returns. TE Jared Cook is definitely one of the more under-rated NFL players. But running the football wasn’t easy, and Jake Locker merely showed promise. He just didn’t put it all together. And the defense can get pressure, but they wilted in the end. They may be looking at a similar type of season this year after last year.
— I did enjoy talking with coach Mike Munchak, though. The on-field product was on the upswing last year, and there are signs for me that he’ll be a success. Just chatting with him makes me think that even more-so. I asked him about preparing Locker and it morphed into a conversation about how in sync the head coach needs to be with the quarterback. He’s making that happens with football-centric meetings and talks about non-football issues. Munchak hit on all the right topics, including tying the future of his QB to his own future. That’s the truth. It’s one reason why having Locker emerge as the starter was so valuable. They will go about this together. Munchak also, smartly, pointed out that QB Matt Hasselbeck really helped him get acclimated last year.
— I had a great food-related guide all week. My buddy Josh Cooper covers the Predators for the Tennessean and he was my mentor. The Family Wash for comfort food one night. South Street another night. Just awesome. What was great about The Family Wash was it looked like a dingy, dark place. And the food really played that up. Pot pie was served in a tin container, and mac and cheese was piled on like they’d never run out of it. Shepherd’s pie was fantastic, it was hearty. What’s kind off odd about Nashville, because it’s half South and half West is, there isn’t really a signature food. Just a lot of good stuff. It’s cool, I enjoyed it all.
— At the game, it was really great to see all the Patriots people I spent the last three years covering. From the PR peeps to players to (even) competing reporters. Nice to catch up with Tom Brady in the locker room for a moment or two, and comical to see some of the confused looks from a few players who don’t watch TV much. Like, Hey, where has that guy been? Kind of a cool twist that my first game covering things for NFL Network was the Patriots. They are looking like the beasts they were last year.
— Speaking of the Patriots, the thing that stands out to me is that they are tough. Hard-nosed and tough. When did they happen? Their defense was hard-hitting, they stopped the run, they ran the football… even Brady left with a bloody nose and welcomed it. If that’s the identity of this team, instead of being a high-flying aerial attack, that’s big news. It also puts them in a fantastic position for the postseason.
— Try to find a seat at a Nashville sports bar on Saturday. I dare you. I tried with my producer, and it took two trips. No, it’s not all Vandy fans. So much Tennessee orange, it was nuts. And then we went to the Alabama bar (just happened to be the one we picked), and that was packed, too. It’s a great college town, but not necessarily because the entire city roots for one team. It’s because it’s got fan bases from so many teams. The UT Vols dominate, though, especially if it turns out they are good. A great atmosphere to get me geared up for Saturday, though.