Quarterbacks and Covid. That’s what I found myself thinking about trying to pick the Super Bowl LVI participants.
First a word about Covid, which you’re all tired of hearing about, I’m sure. I am too. But one coach of a playoff contender told me after dismissing his players for a long weekend—most teams are returning from three or four days off today or tomorrow, a luxurious mini-bye baked onto the backside of the three-game preseason schedule—he is concerned about the weekend plus what lies ahead with the virus.
“I think Covid might affect teams more this year than last year,” this coach said. “Everybody was in the same boat last year without a vaccine, but now you’ve got vaccinated and unvaccinated players on most teams, and teams are trying to keep them apart, but look at what’s happened already with the close contacts staying away for five days. And this weekend worries me. Players going home, going back to their schools. Our message to our guys before they left was, ‘Live your life, but remember you’ve got a responsibility to this team.’ “
Case in point: News broke Sunday that Cowboys starting guard Zack Martin, vital cog in keeping Dak Prescott upright, was placed on the Covid list and would miss Thursday night’s opener against Tampa Bay.
It’s weird trying to pick the best teams this year. Do you consider the Covid-hotspot areas? Should it be a factor that, per the New York Times Covid case counts, Tampa Bay sits in a county with a recent daily average of 113 daily new cases per 100,000 people, and the Bills play in a county with an average of 20 daily new cases per 100,000 residents? Or do you just throw your hands in the air and not consider the kind of havoc Covid could wreak on a team at all? I just don’t know. It’s in the back of my mind, and it influenced but did not dominate my picks.
In the end, I went against the grain in both conferences, and went with one team that could be disrupted by Covid, on and off the field.
The Lead: 2021 Picks
I’m picking a Rams-Bills Super Bowl. Obvious rejoinder: What’s wrong with Kansas City and Tampa Bay? You had them ranked 1-2 in the spring. The answer is, Nothing. I really liked the Bills and Rams when I went to their camps. I think it’s Buffalo’s breakthrough year, and I think Matthew Stafford gives the Rams the kind of offensive confidence and explosiveness they haven’t had since we all thought Jared Goff was The Answer, in early 2018. More about each in a moment, and some explanations.
Here’s how I see the pennant races, with the wild cards asterisked and teams not in the playoffs last year marked with a # sign:
2 Kansas City
5 New England*#
6 L.A. Chargers*#
Wild Card: Kansas City over Baltimore, Chargers over Tennessee, New England over Cleveland.
Divisional: Buffalo over L.A. Chargers, Kansas City over New England.
Conference: Buffalo 27, Kansas City 25.
1 Tampa Bay
2 Green Bay
3 L.A. Rams
5 San Francisco*#
6 New Orleans*
Wild Card: Green Bay over Seattle, L.A. Rams over New Orleans, San Francisco over Dallas.
Divisional: Tampa Bay over San Francisco, L.A. Rams over Green Bay.
Conference: L.A. Rams 30, Tampa Bay 27.
Super Bowl LVI, at Los Angeles, Feb. 13, 2022: L.A. Rams 33, Buffalo 24.
Ten Things About My Picks
1. Toughest call: not picking Tampa in the NFC. I can’t tell you what I don’t like about Tampa Bay, because there’s not much to quibble with about the ’21 Bucs. It’s a better team, assuming all minds are right, than the ’20 Bucs, winners of the Super Bowl by 22 points. As I’ll make clear, this is more about liking the Rams than disliking the Bucs. I will not be remotely surprised if the Bucs make it back to a second straight Super Bowl. I get the primary reasons—every significant player returns, Tom Brady’s back, Brady’s not going to let complacency ooze in, and Brady’s so freaky he’s not going to hit the age wall at 44—but there’s another one. Edge-rusher Shaq Barrett says lots of guys on defense want their 15 minutes of greatness too. Even after playing great in the Super Bowl, Barrett told me this summer, “I left too many plays on the field. If I make those plays, I’m Super Bowl MVP. Our hunger actually is coming from the fact we know everybody’s back. We all want to find a way to get on the field so our guys are gonna come out here and show it every day so they can carve a role out on the offense and defense for themselves. Coach [Bruce Arians] is like, ‘You can’t come to the field if you ain’t hungry and ready to go to prove yourself every day.’ “ Sure sounds good.
2. Bullish on the Rams. Let me give you an illustration about where the Rams have been, and where I think they’re going. The best iteration of the Sean McVay Rams came in the first 12 games of 2018. Remember the bombs-away Rams? With Goff proving (or so we thought) what a good deep-ball thrower he was, particularly on that Thursday night at the Coliseum when he strafed the Vikings? The Rams then, and the Rams since:
The first 12 games of 2018: Rams 11-1, averaging 34.9 points per game.
The 41 games since (including playoffs): Rams 24-17, averaging 23.9 points per game.
I think we’re going to see a Rams offense like that one in 2018. A couple of differences between then and now. That year, the Rams had the league’s 19th-rated defense. This year, the Rams are coming off a season when they had the top-rated defense in the league. Gone is coordinator Brandon Staley, who got the Chargers’ head job, but the three best defensive players are back: all-world Aaron Donald and one of the game’s best cornerback tandems, Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams. And the quarterback is new and improved over last year’s model.
Simply put, Matthew Stafford gives McVay, one of the smartest offensive brains in the game, the first chance in his five seasons as coach to have confidence in calling everything on his play sheet. Everything. Stafford has the arm to make every throw, and the brain to know when to make one throw versus another. One coach who has faced Stafford multiple times told me on my camp tour he thinks the marriage between Stafford and McVay will work well. “Stafford with Sean is going to be fantastic,” this coach said. “Sean’s been waiting for a guy who can execute everything he wants to call.” As I wrote in my training camp report on the Rams a month ago, McVay saw Goff as a student, and he sees Stafford as a peer. In his four months inside the Rams’ building, Stafford has become almost an extension of the coaching staff, and he’s done it organically, without usurping anyone’s authority. He trades ideas with McVay about the pass game. When the Rams traded for running back Sony Michel, it was Stafford, on a day off, who took it on himself to mentor Michel personally with a deep-dive into the offense. Last week, the Rams had their players vote for two offensive, two defensive and one special-teams captains. There were two unanimous picks: Donald, of course. And Stafford. That’s the impact he’s made in his first four months on the team.
So it’s the honeymoon period. I like taking teams on the way up, such as Tampa Bay last year. The Rams are on the way up. Now, they’re top-heavy, and a couple of major non-quarterback injuries would hurt the Rams more than, say, the Bucs. They’re playing with fire at left tackle in a 17-game season, with Andrew Whitworth turning 40 in December. You don’t find many 40-year-old left tackles in football. In fact, I can’t think of a single one in recent history. Overall, they’re thin. The Rams will need some luck from the injury gods to be playing February football at home. But I’ll take my chances with them.
3. Second straight team winning the Super Bowl at home—after it never happening before. I’m curious what kind of home-field advantage the Rams will have. Will Angelenos jump on the bandwagon, which L.A. is very good at doing? My guess is that by January, when the Rams have a home playoff game or two, front-running fans will be pretty revved up about their team.
4. It’s time for the Bills . . . assuming they keep Covid at bay. Tough pick here, because the Bills lost to KC by nine and 14 last year and we still don’t have proof that the Achilles heel of the Buffalo franchise, the pass rush, is any good. At least one of the three high edge picks in the last two drafts—A.J. Epenesa, Greg Rousseau, Boogie Basham—needs to strike fear into the hearts of offensive coordinators by midseason. Big, big need.
Even with an abysmal pass-rush last year, the Bills were 15th in the league in defense. I trust Sean McDermott to make that ranking appreciably better. So much of Buffalo’s fate rests with Josh Allen. I like that. Let’s examine Allen’s path to this moment. He played at a small California high school and wasn’t recruited by a single major-college program. He spent a year at a California JuCo. He went to a smaller college program, Wyoming. He was hurt parts of his first two years in Buffalo. Last year, his first healthy season with a top receiver group, his completion percentage went up 10 percentage points, he got the Bills to the AFC title game, and earned one of the biggest deals in NFL history.
What hasn’t he done well? Performed well late against the best team in AFC. Buffalo lost to Kansas City twice last year, never led either game in the second half, and Allen led the team to only two touchdowns in the two second halves against KC. In the offseason, Allen worked on control. It’s clear he’s talented enough, throwing and running, to be great for a long time. But even he admits he’s tried to do too much late in games early in his career. “Control” is a bit of an abstract term here, but to Allen it means ratcheting down the emotions, don’t force anything, trust the people around you more. The addition of the wily Emmanuel Sanders (if he can give Buffalo a good year at 34) and emergence of Jake Kumerow as a big target—supplementing Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley—means this is the deepest receiver group the Bills have had in years.
Allen is 25. After playing off-off Broadway as a quarterback for years, now he understands what it takes to win in the big time. Now he’s just got to do it. I’m betting he’s ready.
As for Covid, the Bills have had their issues; I could tell on my visit to camp in August it’s still something that could plague this team, because guys like Beasley won’t back down from their I’m-not-getting-vaxxed stances. They’d better be careful. A positive test by an unvaccinated player on, say, a Friday puts him out for two games. It’s football roulette. I think the Bills can overcome it, but they don’t sell insurance for these kinds of things.
5. Kansas City has a few issues. I’m not as worried about the brand-new offensive line as I am about receiver depth. Chris Conley and Sammy Watkins have provided that in recent years; Conley left in 2019 and Watkins decamped to Baltimore last spring, leaving an inordinate pressure on two wispy speed guys, Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman, to stay healthy for 17 games. Travis Kelce turns 32 next month. The spectacular tight end has missed just two games in the past seven years, and that run of good health must continue for Patrick Mahomes to have the kind of MVP season we’re accustomed to seeing. Having thrown those caution flags, there’s too much to like about this franchise, and this coaching staff, and this front office. Plus, Buffalo has to prove it can beat the AFC Kings. The last time the Bills beat Kansas City, in November 2017, Tyrod Taylor was throwing to Zay Jones for Buffalo, Alex Smith was handing to Kareem Hunt for Kansas City, Patrick Mahomes was a green DNP for KC, and Josh Allen, the Wyoming quarterback, was preparing for his last college game, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Central Michigan.
6. Teams I like: Bullish on the Justin Herbert-powered CHARGERS, with a big if: Derwin James and Joey Bosa, if healthy, give the Chargers the nucleus of a playoff defense. But James has missed 27 starts the last two years and Bosa six. The idea of Brandon Staley playing chess with those two pieces for 17 weeks is tantalizing, but, well, you know.
• I love the depth of the BROWNS, and I picked them to edge the Ravens in the AFC North because of it, particularly with all the soft-tissue injuries plaguing Baltimore right now. I think an obvious impact player early for Cleveland will be free-agent safety John Johnson, who called signals for the Rams’ number one D last year.
• It won’t surprise me to see Ben Roethlisberger play great and the STEELERS win 11. The neophyte offensive line is the key there.
• Hard not to like the PATRIOTS, with that oppressive and very deep front seven. They’ll be one of the fun teams to watch, and not only because they’ve gone all-in on Mac Jones.
7. Teams I’m cool on: I want to like the COLTS, but their two most important players, Carson Wentz and Darius Leonard, aren’t vaccinated, and Wentz just missed five days because of a close contact with an infected person. It seems incredible that, after missing five days of work with his new team on the heels of missing significant time due to foot surgery, that Wentz won’t take the shot. (A vaxxed player who has been a close contact with an infected person doesn’t sit unless he tests positive. An unvaxxed player sits for five days, no exceptions.) “Trust me, I have weighed a lot of things,” Wentz said. “I know what is at stake. It is just where I am at and where I am at with my family.” Does Wentz really know what is at stake? And is it really worth passing on an overwhelmingly safe injection for whatever reason he won’t take it? But that’s America in 2021.
• Ditto the VIKINGS, with the unvaccinated and inflexible Kirk Cousins. Imagine Jacob Eason starting a couple of big games for the Colts because of Covid, or Sean Mannion in Minnesota. Utter madness.
• I didn’t pick the DOLPHINS to make the playoffs, simply because I don’t have enough evidence to trust Tua Tagovailoa. Not saying he won’t be good; I just haven’t seen it.
• The RAIDERS are tired of hearing they’re 19-29 in Gruden Era II, but facts are facts. I think they’re still suspect at edge-rusher, despite the Yannick Ngakoue investment in free-agency, and at corner.
8. I won’t shock you with the awards. Here goes:
• MVP: 1. Matthew Stafford, QB, Rams; 2. Josh Allen, QB, Bills; 3. Tom Brady, QB, Bucs.
A healthy Stafford, in a 17-game season and with that Rams backfield, could be the first quarterback to throw for 6,000 yards in a year.
• Offensive player: 1. Matthew Stafford, QB, Rams; 2. Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings; 3. Nick Chubb, Browns.
Three backs—Cook, Chubb, Derrick Henry—will rush for more than 1,500 yards.
• Defensive player: 1. T.J. Watt, edge, Steelers; 2. Aaron Donald, DT, Rams; 3. Justin Madubuike, DT, Ravens.
This was Watt’s award last year. This year he leaves no doubt. Watch Madubuike explode this year.
• Offensive rookie: 1. Kyle Pitts, TE, Falcons; 2. Trey Smith, G, Chiefs; 3. Najee Harris, RB, Steelers.
Smith? A guard? Second? I know he has zero shot. But if he’s a top 10 NFL guard, and he could be, give him his due.
• Defensive rookie: 1. Micah Parsons, LB, Cowboys; 2. Pat Surtain Jr., CB, Broncos; 3. Trevon Moehrig, S. Raiders.
Worry about a guy who didn’t play last season, but Parsons has blown up Cowboy camp from the start.
• Coach: 1. Sean McDermott, Bills; 2. Sean McVay, Rams; 3. Bill Belichick, Patriots.
If the Bills beat back a strong AFC group for home-field, McDermott will be the beneficiary in this vote.
• Comeback player: 1. Derwin James, S, Chargers; 2. Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys; 3. Jameis Winston, QB, Saints.
James has played five games in the last two seasons. If he stars, doesn’t he have to beat out Dak?
9. Schedules gave me pause. Usually, picking at this time of year, I don’t pay much attention to the schedules of teams. I figure the teams we think might be really good, and vice versa, fluctuate a lot by October. But for home-field in the AFC, for instance, I considered it. I looked at the six games Buffalo should win (Houston, Jacksonville, Carolina, Atlanta, Jets, Jets), then tried to find six KC is likely to win—Philadelphia, Giants, Denver, Denver, Cincinnati and maybe Vegas at home. But Denver could have a very good defense and steal one win from KC, and the Raiders could do the same (composite score last year: Vegas 71, Kansas City 67). Buffalo’s schedule looks more conducive to winning home-field. Now, Tennessee (four games with the Jags and Texans, a fifth at the Jets) could be in the running for the top seed too. In the NFC, the slates for Tampa Bay and Green Bay looked like a wash to me, with some logical division wins built in.
10. My last decision: Dallas over Washington. WFT could have a top-five defense, and that alone might be good enough to win an NFC East stuck in mediocrity. Dallas, though, will have a top-five offense, and I think Micah Parsons the playmaker and Dan Quinn the playcaller move the D from horrendous (29.6 points per game allowed last year) to tolerable (maybe 24 ppg). The NFL did its best to make the NFC East the division of mystery, however. Washington plays one division game before Dec. 10, and finishes this way: Cowboys, at Eagles, at Cowboys, Eagles, at Giants. The height of weirdness: WFT plays Dallas and Philadelphia four times in a 22-day span.
Six For Sept. 610
News, flotsam, jetsam of the NFL week
New Position-Specific Helmets
Player-safety history will be made in Week 1, with at least six NFL starters wearing the first position-specific helmet ever made. VICIS, the innovative Seattle-based helmet manufacturer, has invented a helmet designed for offensive and defensive linemen. It’s called the VICIS Zero2 Trench. If you watch the Saints-Packers closely Sunday, you’ll see the odd raised front-top of Green Bay right guard Lucas Patrick’s helmet. He’ll be one of the six scheduled to wear the Trench, designed to put additional streamlined padding at the lineman’s forehead and hairline, where the repetitive, play-after-play contact with the opposition happens most often.
“When I first saw the helmet last spring,” Patrick told me the other day, “I loved it, because it’s designed to mitigate those repetitive hits we always get. I got one brain. There’s a lot of smart people out there, but no one’s figured out how to do a brain transplant yet. I plan to play as long as I can, so I’m going to do everything I can to preserve the brain I have.”
All helmet manufacturers have been in a race to design position-specific helmets. VICIS vice president of product development Jason Neubauer said designing one for linemen first of all made the most sense. One, because of the volume of players; there are more offensive and defensive linemen than any position group or groups on the field. And two, because the hits to linemen happen in mostly the same place. “If you make a heat map of where the impacts are for lineman,” Neubauer told me, “they’d all be near the same place.” Front of helmet. And so VICIS installed light and pliable padding where linemen take the most punishment. The company emphasizes light-weight in its design, because players don’t want helmets any heavier than they already wear, and they also have the ability to snap in different thicknesses of padding in six areas at the front of the helmet. Some players want the padding harder, some softer; five different pad thicknesses are available. In addition, VICIS offers to custom-make the padding for NFL players, giving players a personal fit along the jaw and cheekbone.
The Zero2 Trench is the second-best performing helmet out of the 20 approved for player use by the NFL and NFL Players Association exam teams this year. Beginning two years ago, the NFL began to outlaw some low-performing helmets, and each year players get a new poster with the approved helmets
As of Friday, Neubauer said, 30 of 32 teams have ordered Trench helmets for their linemen, through there’s no guarantee they’ll all be used. Players are fickle with helmets. They’ll try out several kinds, even during the season, but sometimes not change. The change will come, Neubauer said, when players talk to players in locker rooms.
The Packers’ Patrick is bullish on this one. He said it feels slighter lighter than his former helmet, and the sightlines are just as good. He’s gotten some guff from opponents making fun of the distended helmet in the preseason, but he doesn’t care. “Those big collisions, I feel safer in this helmet,” Patrick said. “I’ve had a few in camp where you get those big hits, with the linebacker barreling down on me and we make solid contact, and before, I would really feel it. Now, I feel totally fine, like I was in pass-protection and nobody really hit me. So far, for me, it’s a great helmet.”
Designing helmets with different positions in mind is the next frontier for pro and college players. (The Trench has been sent to some major colleges this fall too.) The wide receiver and quarterback helmets, for instance, could be designed with extra padding at the back of the head, to prevent violent head hits on the ground.
Louis Riddick Is Okay
The EF-3 tornado you might have seen ravage a small southern New Jersey town, Mullica Hill, had an NFL angle. Former player and current Monday Night Football analyst Louis Riddick lives in Mullica Hill, about 25 miles southeast of Philadelphia, and he was home Wednesday when his son came to find him and said, “Dad, look outside.”
Riddick, two days later: “I’ve probably seen the movie ‘Twister’ eight or nine times. Seeing it in real life, you can see why people get mesmerized by a tornado. The power, the size, how random it is. My housing development is next to the one where it hit, where big, beautiful houses got flattened, destroyed.
“I saw roofs, chimneys, tires, trees floating, circling in the air above my head. Very wide. When I saw it coming, I yelled to the family, ‘Get in the basement!’ I should have gone, but I just couldn’t stop looking at it. It was coming toward us, then veered off a little bit toward this other neighborhood. The noise was amazing—a cross between a thunderstorm and 100 jets taking off at the same time, with everything shaking. There was maybe five, 10 minutes, at the most, where you could feel the intense power of it. Whole treelines got destroyed. Why are roofs flying through the air? The power of it, it’ll change you. Seeing how quickly your life, your house, your future, can be turned upside down in a matter of seconds. The neighborhood next to us, destroyed. And ours, spared. Literally, no damage. Literally, a couple of flower pots knocked over. That’s it.
“When it ended, I just realized how fortunate we are. You realize how grateful you should be for every day you have.
“That night, maybe 3 in the morning, I’m on the phone in my driveway, in the pitch dark. I think it’s like this incredible destructive thing came by, winked at me and said, ‘I’m gonna spare you today.’
“So man, I’m grateful today. Just grateful for every day we have.”
Art McNally Gets His Due
The former field judge, referee, director of officiating and conscience of officiation (my words), who worked the NFL’s rules game for a half-century, was nominated as the 2022 contributor for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If he gets 80 percent of the vote from the 49 Hall voters when ballots are cast shortly before the Super Bowl next February, McNally will be the first on-field official in the 102-year history of the NFL to be enshrined. The NFL’s Sunday operations center officiating command center is called Art McNally GameDay Central.
Two reasons why McNally deserves this, and has deserved it for years. I’ve covered the NFL for 38 seasons now, and no single person in any aspect of the league has had more integrity than McNally. No one distrusted him, and I mean no one. That’s the most important thing for an official, and for an officiating department. Two: He modernized officiating. Starting in 1968, he installed a program to study and grade officials, using the same kind of film analysis that coaches used to evaluate player. He pushed for replay and other forms of technology (such as wireless microphones on refs) to make the game more transparent to fans and viewers). The people you see on TV explaining the rules today, led by Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino, think he’s the most important person in the history of NFL officiating.
Lots of contributors to the game—owners, officials, GMs—deserve consideration for the Hall, but none more than McNally. Good choice by the contributors subcommittee.
The Unnoticed Rule Change
The big rules change of the year will be the elimination of the low block. This has gotten zero attention this summer, but when you watch football this year, you’ll notice. You’ll see a corner move toward a ballcarrier in the open field, with a guard escorting the ballcarrier, and you’ll see the corner do a matador move and avoid all contact, and you’ll say, Whaaaat? It’s now illegal to block a man below the waist more than two yards outside the tackle or more than five yards on either side of the line of scrimmage. The intent is to eliminate chopping players at the knees, often at full speed. “The corners are going to have to use their athleticism to avoid those big linemen,” said Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer, who is a proponent of the rule because of safety. One of his corners is not crazy about it. Said Patrick Peterson: “We’re really gonna get smashed now. Imagine a 315-pound guard lead-blocking and running right at us. We gotta literally just almost stand there and take it, or try to fake them out and get around them to the ballcarrier. But I think a few of us [cornerbacks] are going to get leveled.”
Two points to make: I think offenses will have a big advantage here, particularly in things like wide runs or the screen game. As one coach told me, “Third-down backs will love this rule. They’ll be able to get out on the edge and instead of getting six to eight yards, they might get 15 because the play can’t get blown up by the DB cutting the guard or tackle.” Also, it’ll be interesting to see how attentive officiating crews are to this rule. Watch the first two or three weeks, when it could get over-flagged to tell players on both sides, We’re serious about calling this, so cut out the low blocks.
RIP To Two
Tunch Ilkin. I don’t have one story about Ilkin, the former Steelers offensive lineman who died of ALS on Saturday at 62. I have 20. There was about a 12-year span or so, from maybe 2005 to 2018, when I’d have some Steelers question at various times—in training camp, during the season, before the draft, whenever—and I’d think, Gotta call Tunch. What I loved about his answers is they were long, they were on point, and they were honest. He walked the sunny side of the street with the Steelers, because he loved them and broadcasted for them, but he was unvarnished with me, always.
So much about Ilkin was admirable. Born in Istanbul, emigrated to Chicago with his parents at age 2, went to Indiana State at the time of Larry Bird, sixth-round pick of the Steelers, first Turkish player in NFL history, union rep for the Steelers when it wasn’t popular in western Pennsylvania to be a union rep for rich football players, joined the Steelers radio team with Bill Hillgrove and legendary Myron Cope. And this is where I found out about Ilkin the person. Cope was starting to be forgetful on the air around 2004, and you could barely notice the times Ilkin covered for him even though he did, and it was seamless. What a mensch, and what a good football analyst. The game, and everyone who loved the Steelers, will miss him.
David Patten. “Undrafted out of Western Carolina in 1996.” Imagine someone with that profile five years later doing something that hadn’t been done since Walter Payton did it: rush for a touchdown, catch a touchdown, throw for a touchdown in the same game. Then, in the Patriots’ first Super Bowl season, Patten scored the only offensive touchdown, on an eight-yard pass from Tom Brady, in the Pats’ first Super Bowl win ever. The essence of Patten, who died in a motorcycle crash in his native South Carolina last Thursday, was the essence of the early Patriots. “As much as anyone,” Bill Belichick said, “David epitomized the unheralded, self-made player who defied enormous odds to not only earn a job in the NFL but to become a key player on multiple championship teams.” Key player to put it mildly. He scored a touchdown in both the AFC title game against the Steelers and the Super Bowl against the Rams.
For The Record: Covid Rules
Here are the most important Covid rules you need to know for the season, with approximately 93 percent of NFL players fully vaccinated:
• Unvaccinated players who test positive for Covid are out and away from the team for 10 days. No exception.
• Unvaccinated players who are deemed close contacts with Covid-positive people are out and away from the team for five days. No exceptions.
• All vaccinated players will be tested every seven days, and once more per week if they choose. Weekly testing for the vaccinated will occur on either Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday and will include all coaches and team officials who have close contacts with players.
• Vaccinated players who test positive can rejoin the team, if asymptomatic, by testing negative twice in tests separated by 24 hours. (Example: Vaxxed player tests positive. Goes home. Not feeling any symptoms. Will test each day. The first time he has two consecutive negative tests, he’s allowed back as a full participant in team activities and games.) These players must get the approval of both chief medical officer Allen Sills and the team’s infection control officer.
• Vaccinated players who are deemed close contacts with Covid-positive people are not pulled out of team activities. They will be subject to daily testing and can remain as full participants in team activities and games.
Quotes of the Week
“He’s frustrated, but this is the world we live in.”
—Dallas coach Mike McCarthy, on all-pro guard Zack Martin, who tested positive for Covid and was ruled out of the NFL’s season-opener Thursday against Super Bowl champ Tampa Bay.
“From the shoulder to the leg to the mind, I’m ready to go.”
—Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott, putting his ankle and shoulder injuries in the past a few days before the Dallas-Tampa Bay opener Thursday night.
“I enjoy what I do. I like the challenge. I’m not a sit around, do-nothing kind of guy. As long as I feel like I can make a contribution in a positive way, to continue to have a great program for the players and that that’s helping them be successful and we have an opportunity to be successful because of that, I don’t think of age as an issue. I mean, how old’s Nancy Pelosi? … Way older. Older than me, and probably has a more important job than me.”
—Nick Saban, who turns 70 on Halloween (that has to be the strangest match of birthday to person), to Alan Blinder of the New York Times.
“It was probably the most emotional day that officials around the country have had in a long time. I don’t think you realize what this means for us. The disrespect we seem to have gotten over time when it comes to the Hall of Fame is hurtful. It makes you feel like you’re not a part of a game that, quite frankly, couldn’t be played without us.”
—Former NFL on-field official and senior VP of officiating Mike Pereira, now a rules analyst for Fox, to Clark Judge of Talk of Fame Network, on last week’s nomination of former NFL officiating czar Art McNally to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I think Zach Wilson is going to be in the discussion as one of the top three to five quarterbacks [in the NFL] very quickly. I think he’s unbelievable.”
—Tony Romo, in a CBS conference call with reporters last week, on the Jets’ new quarterback.
“I was like, ‘Here’s my Known Traveler Number.’ Can you at least give me ‘A List,’ please?”
—WFT quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, to writer Mike Silver in a revealing story for the team website, on requesting a decent airplane seat (“A List” is the Southwest Airlines priority boarding group) for his trip to Washington after signing with the team in the offseason.
The answer was no. The team instead sent a private plane to fetch Fitzpatrick from Tampa for the formal signing.
When coach Ron Rivera and the Washington personnel staff considered its quarterback options in the offseason, per Silver, WFT thought it had a solid offer on the table for Matthew Stafford—including its 2021 first-round and third-round picks. Then the Rams blew that offer out of the water, and there was no way Washington could match or exceed an offer of a prospective long-term QB (no matter what you think of Jared Goff) plus the draft-choice haul the Rams sent to Detroit. So WFT settled for a one-year, $10-million deal with Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick’s had an incredible recent run—not so incredible in terms of greatness, but in terms of frequent-flier miles. This will be the seventh team he’s started for in the last 10 seasons, since 2012. I looked at the players, logically, he was competing with to be Washington’s starter, the pool that Washington could have chosen from once last season ended. And I like Washington’s choice.
The prime contenders to the Washington QB job were Fitzpatrick, Andy Dalton, Nick Foles, Cam Newton (before he re-upped with New England), Tyrod Taylor and Alex Smith. Comparing Fitzpatrick to them in significant QB categories, from 2012 to 2020:
Yards per attempt: Fitzpatrick 7.26, Newton 7.22, Smith 7.15, Dalton 7.10, Taylor 7.01, Foles 6.84.
Starts: Dalton 126, Newton 123, Smith 101, Fitzpatrick 94, Foles 55, Taylor 47.
Yards: Dalton 30,366, Newton, 27,647, Fitzpatrick 24,041, Smith 23,107, Foles 13,753, Taylor 9,752.
TD-Int Differential: Dalton +85, Smith +80, New ton +68, Fitzpatrick +51, Foles +38, Taylor +34.
I agree with Washington’s decision to not pillage the future and instead wait to see the 2022 rookie crop and available veterans (Deshaun Watson, Aaron Rodgers, etc.).
FYI, my recent preseason Super Bowl matchups:
2017: Picked New England-Seattle. It was New England-Philadelphia.
2018: Picked New England-Rams. It was New England-Rams.
2019: Picked Kansas City-New Orleans. It was Kansas City-San Francisco.
2020: Picked Tampa Bay-Baltimore. It was Tampa Bay-Kansas City.
Raiders owner Mark Davis is in the process of building a $14-million home in Nevada with a 5,422-square-foot garage, per Eli Segall of the Las Vegas Review Journal.
Marilyn Monroe purchased one home in her life, in the tony L.A. suburb of Brentwood, on a gated half-acre. Four bedrooms, three baths, cathedral ceilings. It has stood the test of time as a lovely but not over-the-top home in one of the richest zip codes in America.
Square feet of the classic Monroe home: 2,624.
Mark Davis’ garage is twice as big as the only home the great Marilyn Monroe ever owned.
Speaking of the wealthy . . .
A football field, from end of end zone to end of end zone, is 360 feet long. Jeff Bezos’ new yacht is 50 feet longer than that.
Bezos’ yacht will cost about $500 million to build.
Twenty-one NFL teams play in stadiums that cost less to build than the yacht Jeff Bezos has under construction.
King of the Road30
Many reasons to like the Acela, the faster Amtrak train that serves the Boston-to-Washington corridor. Timeliness is one.
I had to travel New York to Boston for an appointment last week, departing Tuesday evening, returning Wednesday late morning.
Scheduled departure: Tuesday, New York, 6 p.m.
Actual departure: 6:00.08 p.m.
Scheduled return: Wednesday, Boston Back Bay, 11:11 a.m.
Actual departure: 11:10.58 a.m.
Tweets of the Week
One of the really good stories of cutdown day. Out of football for a year, makes the defending champs’ roster with two interceptions in the #Buccaneers’ preseason finale. Good stuff, @NFLSTROUD. https://t.co/CSc8RsONSP
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) September 4, 2021
Garafolo, of NFL Network, on a gem of a story from Rick Stroud in Tampa.
It was after the video/photo period and I would likely have been too slow on the draw anyway, but in individual drills at Broncos practice today Jerry Jeudy made THE most ridiculous, one-handed, leaping catch I've seen in years…
— Jeff Legwold (@Jeff_Legwold) September 2, 2021
Legwold, veteran football scribe, covers the Broncos for ESPN.com.
"I've heard how kind everybody is.”
— New #Eagles QB Gardner Minshew when asked what he’s heard about Philly fans
— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) September 1, 2021
McLane covers the Eagles for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Rays have the best record in the AL by 5.5 games and they drew 6,868 tonight.
Florida has issues and the Trop is the Trop. But 6,868?
— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) September 1, 2021
Abraham covers the Red Sox for the Boston Globe.
JUST IN— St. Tammany Fire tells me that a Slidell man was attacked by an alligator, I’m told his arm was ripped off in front of his wife. His wife went to get help & came back, he was gone. He has not been found. This is believed to be related to impact of #HurricaneIda @WGNOtv
— Anna McAllister (@annamactv) August 31, 2021
McAllister is a reporter at WGNO TV in New Orleans. Two days later, she reported search efforts to find the elderly man had been suspended.
Write to me at email@example.com, or on Twitter @peter_king. More than 50 of you responded to my question about the viability of building huge pipelines to ferry water from the East and Midwest to the parched and burning West.
Cost-prohibitive. From Andy Collinson (Ph.D, senior principal hydrologist), of Oakland: “In addition to getting a water pipeline over the Rockies, the real driver is the value of the liquid being transported. Crude oil sells for $1.60 a gallon. Gasoline is two to three times that much. Water in California on the other hand sells for 2 cents a gallon to residential users, and 6 hundredths of a cent per gallon to agricultural users (which make up 80% of California’s water demand). It’s worth the energy and cost of shipping oil at those prices, but not water.”
Econ 101. From Frank Metzler: “The economics don’t work because the cost to transport the commodity (pumping uphill and very far would take a huge amount of electricity) far outweighs the price you could ever sell the water for.”
The problem is too vast. From Kirk Caraway, of Carson City, Nev.: “It’s hard for people to visualize the immense amount of water it would take to make even a small improvement to the drought-stricken West. You would need a pipeline big enough to transport the entire contents of the Ohio River 2,000-plus miles over two major mountain ranges just to make a dent. No oil pipeline comes anywhere near close to handling that amount of water.”
Science of it doesn’t work. From John Newman: “The largest oil pipeline in the world can transport about 1.2 million barrels, or around 50 million gallons a day. It’s hard to guess how much water a day the Western U.S. uses, but I guarantee that it’s a lot more than that . . . It would take literally thousands of pipelines to transport enough water from east to west to make much of a difference to the current drought.”
The scope is vast. From Jim Anderson, of New York City: “Our total daily consumption of water is 424 times greater than our daily consumption of oil. The Keystone pipeline is 30 inches in diameter. To deliver an equivalent fraction of our nation’s water supply, that pipe would need to be nearly 52 feet in diameter—roughly the height of a five-story building.”
Thanks to so many for the thoughtful responses. The logistics, of course, are overwhelming, and the cost would be debilitating. It could be the smartest thing would be to massively increase the emphasis and production of desalination plants. But the points about the cost of oil versus the cost of fresh water … Don’t you think to a Californian driving an electric car today, or living around one of the gigantic fires marring the face of the state, that there will come a day when water is more precious than oil?
Anxious about the G-men. From Cody Kushner: “Do you have any idea why John Mara has changed everything around GM Dave Gettleman but apparently hasn’t even considered moving on from the GM? You posted an excellent stat on the Ravens and Steelers and how they each won 104 games from 2011 to 2020, an average of 10.4 wins per year. The Giants won 72 games. What happened to the Mara family? What happened to this once proud franchise and how did they lose their way so badly in recent years?”
I think Mara felt three years was too short a time to completely judge a GM, particularly when the quarterback was drafted in year two and the new coach picked in year three. I’m sure he thought to be fair, he needed to give Gettleman a year with an established coach and quarterback, and proper weapons for the offense. But as I wrote earlier, the offensive line might be a disaster, and I’m dubious the Giants can have a strong year if the line is bad again. I think Gettleman won’t survive another lost season.
He wants living coaches in the Hall before dead ones. From Jason Della Rosa, of Sherman, Texas: “I think it is obvious that when it comes to the coaching choices, they are putting in those who are still alive. The two best candidates for the Centennial Committee were Buddy Parker and Don Coryell. You can put in Parker and Coryell any time, but you can’t really wait on Jimmy Johnson or a candidate like Vermeil or the other Centennial finalists, Mike Holmgren (73) and Dan Reeves (77).”
Lots of people feel this way, Jason. Get the guys in while they’re alive and their families can share the moment with them. But we’re not allowed to take that into account when we deliberate on candidates. I can’t say that no one thinks of it, but I can tell you I don’t.
10 Things I Think I Think
1. I think the Giants made two moves for the offensive line this week that left me scratching my head—and left me worried for Daniel Jones and that offense. They trade a useful defensive lineman, former Giants third-round pick B.J. Hill, to Cincinnati for Billy Price, a guard-center bust. Price, per PFF, is the league’s 86th-rated center out of 89 who have played the position since he entered the league in 2018. His guard grade is no better. Then the Giants traded a fourth-round pick in 2023 to the Ravens for guard Ben Bredeson (who I was told was unlikely to make the Ravens’ roster), and late fifth and seventh-round picks. If you look at the where those picks in the Bredeson were in the 2021 draft, the fourth-rounder would be 116th overall, the fifth-rounder 175th overall and the seventh-rounder 254th. The value of the 116th pick on the draft-trade value chart is 62 points, and the lesser two picks the Giants received are worth 21 and 1 points. So Bredeson, to be worth this trade, almost has to become either a contributing swing player for multiple years, or a starter. A big ask for someone who played 48 offensive snaps in 2020.
So now GM Dave Gettleman is responsible for importing all eight active offensive linemen on the Giants’ roster, at a total cost of $122.6 million. (Big-ticket guys: Nate Solder, who has two years of his four-year $62-million contract remaining, and Andrew Thomas, who has three years of his four-year, $32.3-million deal left. Solder has been okay, Thomas poor—and he was the first tackle picked in a rich 2020 draft crop for tackles.) The bottom line is if the line struggles to give Jones time this year and the Giants don’t somehow win seven or eight games, it’s going to be tough for Gettleman to be handed the reins for a fifth draft in New Jersey.
2. I think I learned something about Nick Saban in his enlightening interview with Alan Blinder of the New York Times. Saban’s a lot more malleable as a coach than I thought. Listen to him about how his approach to coaching has changed:
“The biggest thing that has changed for me — and you might be shocked when I say this — is that I’ve actually become, through the years and through the experiences, a lot less outcome-oriented and a lot more process-oriented. I think that approach carries over to the players because then they become less outcome-oriented, and they’re more focused on process, they’re more focused on one play at a time, exactly what do I have to do and how do I have to do it, what’s going to help me be successful here, and they’re not looking at the scoreboard like we’ve got to win the game. They’re focusing on one play at a time.”
3. I think that reminds me so much of what Drew Brees told me a couple of years ago, when I asked him what advice he’d have for your quarterbacks. In effect, Brees said, Ignore the scoreboard. Think about making every play the best it can be. Worrying about the scoreboard distracts from the only thing you can control—the next play. Great advice for football, and for life.
4. I think the Week 1 Saints-Packers ended up in Jacksonville primarily because of a concert at AT&T Stadium (a popular Mexican group, Los Bukis) the following Wednesday. The set-up time for these stadium shows is significant, and though the Cowboys would have worked with the NFL to make the game happen in Texas, the NFL had no such stadium issues in Jacksonville with the Jaguars on the road in Week 1 and no other events in the stadium there. There are two other major reasons for the NFL being so keen on playing this game at 4:25 p.m. on Sunday:
• This is the first season of what the NFL is calling double-doubleheader weeks, something the NFL is starting this year and carrying through the remainder of the new TV contracts signed earlier this year. Each year in Week 1 and Week 18, the league, instead of focusing on one network with a mega-game in the late doubleheader window, will put a big game on both FOX and CBS in the late window. This year, the schedule was set up this way next Sunday: Cleveland-Kansas City at 4:25 p.m. on CBS, and Green Bay-New Orleans at 4:25 p.m. on FOX. (CBS gets the added benefit of Steelers-Bills at 1 p.m. ET, which would be worthy of a prime-time slot itself.) The NFL needed Saints-Packers in that slot because the other FOX games that day (Seattle-Indy or Denver-Giants) wouldn’t have delivered near the audience that Packers/Aaron Rodgers/first Saints game post-Brees will deliver.
• A good doubleheader game might draw 24 million viewers (Green Bay-Indy last year, Week 11) or 23 million (Kansas City-New Orleans in Week 15). The NFL is hoping that two games with four fan bases with big TV followings can generate a total audience of 36-38 million viewers. Losing Green Bay-New Orleans would have scuttled that plan. So there was never any serious thought of postponing the game so it could be played in New Orleans later in the year.
One other note about the game: It’s a 7.5-hour straight-shot drive across I-10 from New Orleans to Jacksonville. It’s certainly not top of mind for a region that is struggling mightily to overcome the effects of Hurricane Ida, but there surely will be a good contingent of Saints fans who will find their way to Jacksonville.
5. I think there is no question Tom Brady has seen the quote from Dallas rookie Osa Odighizuwa in advance of their meeting Thursday night: “He’s not very mobile.” Well, no kidding. Pointing out a Brady weakness publicly before you’ve played your first NFL game . . . interesting.
6. I think I love C.J. Beathard as Trevor Lawrence’s backup. Beathard’s a servant-leader type, a guy who should have a 15-year career in the league because he understands his role is to serve Lawrence in all ways, with enough real football under his belt to be able to be helpful on and off the field.
7. I think it was cool to see Michael Strahan get surprised on the set of Good Morning America by his old teammates, all wearing Strahan Giants jerseys. He’ll have his number retired Nov. 28 when the Giants host Philadelphia, the team he victimized most (21.5 sacks in 28 games) in his Hall of Fame career. Interesting, too, to look back at the year Strahan was drafted, in 1993. Check out the top three rounds that year: Willie Roaf (drafted eighth overall), Jerome Bettis (10th), Strahan (40th), Will Shields (74th), John Lynch (82nd). Five Hall of Famers in the top 85 picks. That’s not uncommon, to have five Hall of Famers from one draft, but the depth of that draft was what stood out to me when looking back: Jason Elam 70, Lorenzo Neal 89, Mark Brunell 118, Frank Wycheck 160, Michael McCrary 170, Jessie Armstead 207, Trent Green 222.
8. I think this is my Acquisition of the Week in Football Media: “Go Long with Tyler Dunne” has hired Bob McGinn, the superb beat man/historian on the Packers and all things NFL draft, to do a Packers and NFL-centric podcast, to write his draft series for the 38th year, and to bring to life his past reporting on current players around the league. “Go Long” is a pay site on Substack. Dunne’s done a great job making the site lively and interesting, and I can’t think of a bigger prod to make people subscribe than to be able to download the knowledge of McGinn weekly.
9. I think I found this nugget interesting from a new podcast series (“Glory Days: Dreams and Nightmares”) about the 2014 Ohio State national championship team, from former Buckeyes Joshua Perry and Evan Spencer. Perry asks Spencer in episode two, dropping Wednesday, about an incident between two coaches on Urban Meyer’s staff in 2013: “Do you remember when [offensive coordinator] Tom Herman tried to fight [defensive line coach] Mike Vrabel? Mike Vrabel, a literal pitbull and Tom Herman, a Yorkshire terrier, ‘Hold me back. Hold me back.’ And Mike’s like, ‘No. If he wants to fight, don’t hold him back.’ Coaches get heated like players, too . . . Urban wanted to challenge the coaches as much as he wanted to challenge the players. He wanted them to feel backed into a corner, for them to be combative, for them to hash things out the way they needed to. Because ultimately that was going to make them a better staff.” Can’t see that working in the NFL, especially with Meyer not able to control the flow of info that emanates from the program as much.
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. You’ve done it again, Steve Hartman. The CBS News “On the Road” guy with a gem on World War II vet Frank Grasberger, a letter he prized, and discovering the writers of the letter after 12 years of wanting.
b. The letter came out of the blue, as Hartman reports:
The Strongsville, Ohio, resident is a World War II veteran. In 2009, a third grader wrote to thank him for his service. “If it wasn’t for you, we would never have freedom. I’m so happy you made sacrifices. Your friend, Dashauna Priest,” the letter said.
To Grasberger, that simple thank-you came to symbolize a life well served. “I’m tickled to death that I have a letter like this,” he said.
c. What came next is something we all need.
d. Football Story of the Week: Kevin Clark of The Ringer on Dan Campbell, the throwback head coach in Detroit.
e. Clark visited Campbell and wrote about his aversion to some things modern. Interesting to see, and not too surprising, that Campbell’s view on the communication toys of modern society is a dim one. I doubt he had Brian Polian speak to his team. Polian’s the Notre Dame assistant coach who wrote a short book on how to communicate with the modern athlete, on the young person’s terms. Here is Clark on Campbell:
He stands up from the desk and walks around the room to act out an explanation of how a time traveler would describe smartphones to people in the past. “They’d be like, ‘You won’t believe where I was. Everyone has these little rectangular devices and they just wander around—their fingers are doing something. They are wandering and they don’t even know where they are going. They live through this device.’ ”
Campbell thinks smartphones are the worst thing that has happened to coaching because he believes that players across sports have lost the ability to communicate with their colleagues in the locker room. “It’s a big emphasis. It’s a lost art, man, to be able to say, ‘Listen, you’ve got an issue, or something’s going on, come up and look at me and tell me exactly what’s on your mind. If something bothers you, come up and tell me. Just tell me. Don’t text your agent. Don’t have your agent call [Lions general manager] Brad [Holmes] so Brad calls me. Just come up and say it.’ We are trying to breed that culture.”
Campbell’s solution to any potential communication problems is to say exactly what he means at all times.
f. I just have this feeling about Dan Campbell, a feeling that I have about all coaches who are a little different: If the quarterback plays well, the coach is going to look a lot smarter than if the quarterback is a dud.
g. Saluting you, Paul Domowitch, on a great career in Philadelphia, and a wonderful farewell. You know this, Paul. But you’re lucky to have had the dad you did.
h. Remembrance of the Week: James Brown of CBS News on the night 50 years ago when the Pittsburgh Pirates fielded the first starting lineup of non-white players.
i. What’s so interesting, at least to me, is to see Dave Cash, Manny Sanguillen and Al Oliver, 50 years after that day, getting their due, and presenting the other six ballplayers and the late manager, Danny Murtaugh, who made that night happen.
j. The 1971 World Series: Pirates over Orioles in seven games.
k. Football Profile of the Week: Mina Kimes of ESPN on Justin Herbert.
l. Not Kimes’ first rodeo, obviously. Love how she opens the story about this humble person handed the reins of an NFL franchise:
Let’s talk about the haircut.
Justin Herbert looks away, visibly distraught. Not because he’s embarrassed by the haircut in question — in December, he showed up at a Chargers news conference looking less like a golden-haired surfer god and more like a military school cadet, a visually awkward transformation that launched a thousand memes — but because talking about the haircut means he has to talk about his least favorite subject, the one that he’s been trying to avoid ever since we sat down for breakfast: himself.
Herbert stabs his pancakes with a fork. “So John Lott, our strength and conditioning coach … he said, ‘I cut my son’s hair all the time.’ I was like ‘Sweet, you can cut mine.'” He shoves a bite into his mouth. “He cut it in the weight room, and … that’s kind of it.”
But why would you let your strength and conditioning coach …
He shrugs. “I just didn’t really want to pay for a haircut, to be honest.”
m. That’s the way to open a story about a humble guy who cares more about the important things life.
n. I’m sure someone has told him this in the gentlest of terms, but rabbit ears are a bad thing to have in the very high-profile sports business, Bryson DeChambeau.
o. Podcast of the Week: Tim Rohan of Religion of Sports, with a seven-episode pod (three are out now, with a new ep dropping on each of the next four Thursdays) on the life and times of South African Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius, who went from track hero to murderer when he shot to death girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The pod is a production of Religion of Sports and PRX.
p. Stories like Pistorius, Rohan found, usually get told from the vantage point of the hero and/or fallen hero. Most of those efforts ended up mostly or partially sympathetic to Pistorius, who still has a network of fawning supporters even through he’s in prison for Steenkamp’s murder. Rohan does an effective job early setting the scene of South Africa’s idolatry of Pistorius, and his skirting of malleable Paralympic sprinting rules. For such a huge story that the world was obsessed with at the time of the murder in 2013, I felt like we never got the full story of what made Pistorius tick, and what led to the murder. Particularly after episode three, a dissertation on his abusive behavior, I finally feel like I understand the idol worship that built up Pistorius, and the mental and anger issues that tore him down and made his behavior predatory.
q. Rohan details the relationship between Pistorius and a longtime pre-Steenkamp girlfriend, Samantha Taylor, through an extensive interview with Taylor’s mother, Trish Taylor. A passage:
Rohan: “Privately, Pistorius didn’t always control his temper around Samantha.”
Trish Taylor: “I heard him one day screaming on the phone at Samantha and I ran into her room and I said, ‘What the hell is going on here?’ And Oscar hadn’t realized initially I was in the room and he carried on screaming. And the language that came out of his mouth was vile. And then obviously when he realized I was there, he just kept quiet. And I just said to him, ‘Don’t you ever, ever speak to my daughter like that, ever.’ But I did ask Samantha, Samantha I hope he hasn’t spoken to you like that before. And she kind of just hmmm, she didn’t really answer us. And I just said this is not feeling good for me. It’s feeling really, really bad. Like we were all feeling at that stage of the relationship that, that’s abuse. Even verbal abuse is just not acceptable.”
Rohan: “Samantha would later describe their relationship in an affidavit. She said that Pistorius had many mood swings, that he could turn from friendly to aggressive in an instant. She said he was jealous and possessive. He wanted to have control over her. Here’s Samantha in a TV interview from 2014.
Samantha Taylor: “He was definitely very verbally abusive to me. Very emotionally abusive. He always wanted to know where I was, who I was with. If he didn’t believe me, he would phone my family. He would ask me to send photos of what I’m wearing and the person I’m sitting next to.”
Trish Taylor: “Samantha used to have to Skype him with her pajamas on, to prove that she was at home, she wasn’t going anywhere.”
r. Rohan has been working on the Pistorius podcast for most of a year. The effort shows, with original reporting and great insight into the real Pistorius, who is now serving a 15-year sentence for the murder of Steenkamp.
s. Hard to not feel bad for Naomi Osaka, who might need a lengthy break from the spotlight of big-time tennis. Watching her lose to Laylah Fernandez (what a player, by the way) Friday night, I saw no joy, nothing rewarding, in Osaka for the length of the match. Afterward, she confirmed that. “I feel like for me recently, like, when I win, I don’t feel happy,” she said. “I feel more like a relief. And then when I lose, I feel very sad. I don’t think that’s normal.” It isn’t. Sports shouldn’t be torturous. Hope she gets to love tennis again, and if she can’t, that she gets to love something else.
t. Radio Story of the Week: KJZZ’s Katherine Davis-Young, reporting for NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday, on the burnout of health-care workers in Arizona, working through a third surge of the virus.
u. A favor: Listen to the health-care workers. Listen to the pain in their voices. Like this description of how a seriously ill patient in a hospital’s Covid unit responded when he woke up in the hospital:
“First thing he said was, where am I, and what I am doing here? When [the nurse] said, ‘You have Covid,’ he said, ‘Oh, Covid’s not real.’ “
v. Well now. This is going to make those of a certain age feel fairly ancient: Bert Jones turns 70 tomorrow.
w. Unless this makes you feel ever older: Gary Danielson turns 70 on Friday.
The Adieu Haiku50
Rams-Bills Super Bowl.
Anyone pick that before?
Such a maverick!