Pancakes In the Age of Enlightenment- I Play the Street Life

LEADING OFF

Last week, President Bush went on the air pleading to the American people to pretty pretty please with sugar on top keep supporting his war. The response was lukewarm at best. One week later, buses are blowing up on the streets of London, during the G8 summit no less, coincidentally providing a great photo op for anyone who’s anyone on the world scene to stand on stage together in a show of how resolute they are against terrorism. Far be it from me to tell you, the reader, what to think, but my own personal bullplop meter is beeping and blurping like R2D2 right now.

There are lots and lots of yellow bumper magnets telling you to “Support our Troops”, that really mean, “Support our War, or You are a Bad American.” Well, I’m telling you, if your wheels in your head aren’t turning when weird coincidences like this happen, if you aren’t casting a critical eye at events like this, then that makes you a bad American too.

On another note, last week I gave some bad info regarding Morgan Spurlock’s new show “30 Days”. I thought the episode I saw was the premiere. A reader informed me that it was actually the third episode that had aired, which just goes to show you how poorly F/X has promoted this show. I’ve seen a million ads featuring Dennis Leary done up like a chorus girl hawking his new show on the network, but here’s a show that is actually good, and I don’t find about it until a month after it premieres.

NFC EAST
Terrell Owens told his potential employer last week he is willing to play for next to nothing. Unfortunately for Eagles fans, that potential employer is the Sacramento Kings. Being that Owens is a slam dunk to hold out of Eagles’ training camp, he has been in contact with the Kings about playing on their summer league team. The Kings said they were interested. Don’t expect to see Owens running the break with Master P, another Kings summer league player, though. He needs the Eagles’ permission to play, and the Eagles have said there is no way he will get it.

In more TO news, the Jerry Porter for TO trade I talked about last week apparently will not happen. Surprisingly, USA Today says the reason the deal is dead is not because the Eagles don’t want to part with Owens, but that the Raiders don’t want to trade Porter.

If TO does, in fact, sit out the season, don’t be surprised if understudy WR Greg Lewis has a breakthrough year. The Matteson, IL native is a bit raw, but he has the size and athleticism to be a star. The Fighting Illini alum had 4 catches for 129 yards in the Eagles’ two playoff victories last season.

The Giants are dangerously thin at wide receiver. The starters, Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress, are solid, but if one them goes down, sophomore QB Eli Manning is going to have a hard time finding an open man to throw the ball to. Tim Carter is injury prone and inconsistent, and the remaining triumvirate of Jamaar Taylor, David Tyree, and Will Ponder is pretty non-descript. For the record, the Giants let Ike Hilliard, and his career average of 500 receiving yards per season, leave for Tampa this offseason.

Newly signed Cowboys guard Marco Rivera is recovering very well from his offseason herniated disk surgery, and will be ready for the start of training camp. There was weeping and gnashing of the teeth when Rivera injured the disk shortly after signing a 5 year, $20 million contract with the Cowboys, including a nine million dollar signing bonus. But the longtime Packer offensive stalwart has battled back and says he is fully recovered.


Cowboy O Lineman Marco Rivera re-enacts WWE Superstar Viscera’s signature move.

The Cowboys’ switch to the 3-4 defense is going to present challenges for a lot of the incumbent starters. Chief among them are LB Dat Nguyen (no relation to IP’s own Patrick Nguyen, or maybe there is), and end Greg Ellis. Nguyen, a smallish linebacker, will have one less lineman to keep blockers off him. Ellis, meanwhile, will now be lined up against larger offensive tackles, instead of trying to run around tight ends.

The Redskins have been one of the more active teams in the late stages of free agency. Two prominent signings have been veterans WR Kevin Dyson, and LB Warrick Holdman. Dyson’s best season was in 2001 when he had 825 yards receiving and 7 TD’s for the Titans. Since then, he was a free agent bust in Carolina in 2003, and failed to make the Chargers squad last year. Holdman has the versatility to play all three linebacker positions, but he has struggled with injuries his whole career.

NFC NORTH

Packer DT Grady Jackson has a new agent, Drew Rosenhaus. You’ll never guess what Jackson wants to do now. If you guessed “renegotiate his contract”, then I was wrong, you did guess what he wants to do now. Jackson, who has one year remaining on his current deal, wants a contract like the one recent free agent tackle Pat Williams signed with Minnesota. Jackson is 32 years old and has had weight and conditioning problems throughout his career. He was claimed on waivers by the Packers in 2003 after being released by the Saints for “conduct detrimental to the team”.

Another Rosenhaus client, WR Javon Walker, has held out from the Packers two minicamps.

Vikings coach Mike Tice called his boss, new Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, to apologize for his Super Bowl ticket scalping incident. Tice was fined $100 thousand by the NFL for the infraction. Many felt that Tice would have to serve a suspension along with being fined, but in investigating the incident the NFL reportedly found that the practice is a lot more widespread than they had thought. They hope that the steep fine will serve as a warning to everybody else to end their second careers as ticket brokers.

On a semi related note, Wilf told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he wants to build an open air stadium and training complex for the team in Blaine, MN.

Lions’ WR Charles Rogers has gained about 18 pound of muscle during the offseason. Hopefully, all that muscle is located around his collarbone, which he has broken two years in a row, forcing him to miss most of his first two seasons in the league.

The Lions will be wearing these getups for a couple of games this year. Wow, these black jerseys are cool! Oh wait, it’s not 1995 anymore? Ok, then what am I supposed to do with this teal Dodge Avenger I just bought?

Bears coach Lovie Smith told the Chicago Sun Times that QB Rex Grossman has had an outstanding offseason. Bears fans eat this kind of news up, for, you see, most of them are also Cubs fans. Like Cubs fans, they love nothing more than to talk about how the return of oft-injured underachievers (Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Nomah) will lead them to the promised land. Grossman has played in 5 NFL games in 2 years.

To hedge against the likely event that Sexy Rexy will be injured at some point this season, the Bears are bringing 4 backup QB’s to camp this year. Chad Hutchinson, Kyle Orton, Kurt Kittner, and Ryan Dinwiddie will all make the trip to Bourbannais, IL. This will hurt the development of Orton and Kittner, as they will struggle to get reps in team drills.

NFC SOUTH
Do you know who Michael Jenkins and Roddy White are? Of course you don’t! Well, the two are likely to be the Falcons starting wide receivers when they open the season this year. Jenkins, the Falcons’ first round pick in 2004, is 6-4 and will provide a big target for Ron Mexico. He doesn’t have game breaking speed but the size and strength are there. White was the Birds’ first round pick this year, and the former UAB Blazer has great speed, and more importantly, good hands.

The pair should be an upgrade over last year’s duo of Dez White and Peerless Price, who are still with the team but expected to be backups. White’s roster spot is safe, but Price will have to earn one. Price has been a huge disappointment in his 2 seasons in Atlanta. Price, you may recall, was traded to Atlanta by Buffalo for a 1st round draft pick who turned out to be stud RB Willis McGahee. Ouch.

Don’t be surprised if rookie RB Eric Shelton is the Panthers’ feature back this season. The Cats knew he was an absolute load at 6-1 246, but he has amazed the team with his quickness in practices. The team isn’t sure if DeShaun Foster is durable enough to be the team’s number one back, and Stephen Davis is coming off a serious injury, so the job just might go to the rookie from Louisville.

The Sporting News is reporting that Saints coach Jim Haslett isn’t happy that he hasn’t received a contract extension yet. Haslett is apparently unaware that in order for a coach to continue coaching a team, he has to, you know, do kind of a good job.

Apparently they don’t build ’em like they used to. The Bucs’ Raymond James Stadium had a 28 foot long chunk of one of its upper decks collapse last month. The stadium was built in 1998.

While their stadium is falling apart, the Bucs’ offense continues to look better and better, on paper anyway. The team has a pair of dangerous running backs in Michael Pittman and rookie Cadillac Williams. Michael Clayton looks like he could be the best wideout in the team’s 30 year history, and Joey Galloway came on strong at the end of last season at the other receiver position. If QB Brian Griese can remain on track, the team could find themselves back on the upswing.

NFC WEST
Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander has refused to sign the 1 year, $6.3 million tender offer he has received from the team. Having been slapped with the franchise tag by the team, Alexander can either sign the offer, or hold out for a long term contract. He has indicated that he will only play this season if the Seahawks sign him to a new multiyear deal. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that the team has actively been trying to trade Alexander, but hasn’t found anybody interested enough to take on his salary. Alexander rushed for 1696 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. He came up 2 yards short of winning the regular season rushing title.

Alexander’s backup is Maurice Morris. Morris is a former second round draft pick, but has carried the ball only 100 times for 518 yards in his 3 year NFL career.

The Rams feel it is imperative to get their first round pick, OT Alex Barron, into camp on time. A full training camp is good for any rookie, but the Rams feel Barron in particular needs it. They felt he was having trouble digesting all the information he was being bombarded with during minicamp, and are afraid he will have a hard time catching up and being useful to the team this season if he misses part of camp.

New Cardinals QB Kurt Warner is happy that there will be no QB controversy in Cardinals camp this year. He told a team reporter, “It (being named the starter prior to camp) is very important. It allows you to step into that position and allows guys to look at you in that leadership position. When you have two guys competing for it, similar to what I was in last year (with the Giants, competing against Eli Manning), it was always tough because I couldn’t really step in and take the lead like I wanted to because you didn’t know how it was going to play out and if that was the case you didn’t want to do anything to hurt the team as a whole.”

Meanwhile, a couple of former first round draft picks will be battling to keep their roster spots in Arizona. DT Wendell Bryant, the 12th player taken in the 02 draft, and DE Calvin Pace, the team’s first round pick in 03, both could be cut if they don’t have a strong camp. They haven’t performed well in their careers thus far, and they were drafted by the old regime, not coach Dennis Green.

The 49ers marketing campaign for the 05 season is based around the word “Faithful”, as in, if you don’t buy season tickets to watch this piece of crap team we’re putting on the field this season, you are not a “Faithful” fan. Niner season tickets are currently available without a wait for the first time since the early 80s.

AFC EAST
Storm clouds have gathered on the contract front for the Patriots and DT Richard Seymour. Seymour wants to renegotiate his contract, and the Pats steadfastly maintain that they do not renegotiate contracts. Seymour is prepared to hold out for a prolonged period of time, and the Patriots are prepared to let him. Seymour is a two time Pro Bowler and had 40 tackles and 5 sacks last season.

Look for the Jets to continue their stadium-sharing arrangement with the Giants. Giants executive VP John Mara says he will meet with the Jets this week to discuss the two teams co-occupying a proposed new stadium at the Meadowlands. The stadium is supposed to be ready for the 2009 season. This comes after a plan for a proposed Manhattan stadium for the Jets fell apart.

In theory, the Jets should be running more high risk/high reward plays this year than in years past. New offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger was hired to move the team away from deposed coordinator Paul Hackett’s conservative play calling style.

The Bills are having a hard time unloading disgruntled RB Travis Henry. Bills GM Tom Donahoe is currently asking for a third round draft pick in return for Henry. Donahoe told reporters “We’re not going to budge. We feel we’ve already lessened the asking price. We don’t think we could go below that. We think we’re giving away for a three. We think that a three is pretty fair for a starting caliber running back, somebody who’s been to the Pro Bowl. It’s been perplexing to us why we haven’t been able to get it done.” Indeed, Henry is young at 26 years old, and has already had two seasons where he has rushed for over 1300 yards.

Bills receiver Josh Reed could be looking for a new team after the training camp dust settles. Reed is currently behind rookie wideout Roscoe Parrish on the Bills depth chart, and will need to impress in the preseason in order to remain on the roster. Reed was a second round pick in the 2002 draft, but has struggled thus far. He missed most of the 2004 season with a knee injury.

The Dolphins came up with a creative solution to their need for an indoor practice facility. If the Fish need to practice during a Miami thunderstorm, they will now be doing it in a local rodeo facility. The rodeo facility has a roof and is big enough for the Dolphins to hold a practice in. The team will pay $500 each time they use it. Yeeehah!!

Dan Marino’s son Daniel will be presenting the former Dolphins QB at his Hall of Fame induction ceremony on August 7.

AFC NORTH
The Steelers are relying heavily on newly signed WR Cedrick Wilson to step up his game this season. Wilson replaces Plaxico Burress, who signed with the Giants as a free agent. Wilson’s style of play is a stark contract to that of the man he is replacing. While Burress relies on his height and long body to make plays, Wilson is short at 5-10 and relies on speed and quickness to get open. Wilson caught 47 passes for 641 yards on a bad 49ers team last season, but will be expected to do more this year.

Speaking of being on the spot, that position also replies to Ravens QB Kyle Boller. The Ravens fully realize that their defense is not as dominating as it once was, and that they will have to get contributions from the offense in order to remain a good team. Before, Boller was expected only to be a caretaker and not lose the game. Now, he will be expected to win games for the team. The team will sink or swim with Boller, because there in other viable option on the roster for the starting QB position.

Add Bengals WR Chad Johnson to the list of Drew Rosenhaus clients who may want to renegotiate. Johnson is currently playing with a $25 million contract that keeps him a Bengal thru 2009. But of course, if Rosenhaus is your agent, a silly thing like a contract means nothing. Johnson will not hold out this year, but next year, look for him to want some new paper.

Browns #1 draft pick and the third overall pick in the draft, WR Braylon Edwards, had some choice words for the team that passed on him with the second pick, the Miami Dolphins. Edwards told the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel the following :”They kind of flat out lied to me. They tried to use me … more so the owner and General Manager, Mr. [Rick] Spielman, Mr. [H. Wayne] Huizenga,” Edwards said.

“They tried to get some buzz out there so they could try to warrant some trades so they could get more for the pick, when Ronnie Brown is who they wanted in the long run.”

“I don’t like being lied to. I’m a man. Tell me straight out. [They lied to] my face and on the phone. They actually called me right before they picked as well.”

Edwards will get his crack at the Dolphins November 20 in Cleveland.

AFC SOUTH
This should be a breakout year for Colts TE Dallas Clark. The team showed a lot of faith in the third year player when it allowed Marcus Pollard to leave via free agency. Clark is now the man at tight end for the team, and he has the size and speed to be one of the best in the league at a position that has grown in importance the past few seasons.

One of the more tiresome offseason NFL storylines is the mystery of what team CB Ty Law will play for in 2005. Among the teams most likely to sign the former Pro Bowler are the Jaguars. The Jags are in urgent need of a cornerback to put on the field opposite the solid Rashean Mathis. The Jaguars are a defense oriented team, and the addition of Law can only help them if he is healthy.

While most teams attempt to upgrade their offense or defense in the offseason, the Texans made a nice signing that will bolster their special teams in inking former Lions KR Reggie Swinton. The Texans’ return units were bad last year, and Swinton could help the team gain better field position, which would be helpful to QB David Carr.

The Texans are doing right by their young running back Domanick Davis. Davis is still playing under his rookie contract, and as a fourth round draft pick he isn’t making a whole lot. They are actively trying to get him a long term deal that pays him a salary that is in line with those of the league’s top running backs. Davis rushed for 1188 yards and 13 TD’s in 2004.

Early returns on the work of new Titans’ offensive coordinator Norm Chow have been very positive. This is Chow’s first season in the NFL after serving as quarterback guru at USC, making stars of Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. At this year’s minicamp, QB Steve McNair described the feeling of working with Chow as being “unleashed”. Kinky.

AFC WEST
Chargers TE Antonio Gates might be even more dangerous this season, if WR Reche Caldwell can make an effective return. Caldwell was coming on strong before suffering a season ending injury last season. If he can be the player he was before getting hurt, it will give defenses another receiver they need to be very concerned with. This would help relieve the attention Gates will no doubt attract now that he is a recognized superstar.

Don’t count Quentin Griffin out of the race for the Broncos’ starting running back job. Griffin told the Denver Post, “”I earned my spot to play and I want to do the same thing – earn it again.I don’t mind coming in under the radar.” The 5-7 running back rushed for 156 yards in the Broncos’ season opener last year. His play then tailed off before a broken leg finished him for the season.

The heat will be on Broncos CB Champ Bailey this season. While he wasn’t awful last year, he wasn’t all that great either. He was burned for more than a few big plays, and with Randy Moss now wearing the Silver and Black, things won’t get any easier.

Former Chiefs coach Hank Stram passed away at the age of 82 this week. Stram coached the Chiefs to their only Super Bowl title in 1970, and was one of the more animated coaches in pro football’s era of steamrolling into the national consciousness in the late 60s and early 70s.

The Raiders signed former Falcons DT Ed Jasper to a free agent contract. Jasper was a mainstay of the Atlanta Falcons’ defense for eight seasons before being released by the team this spring. The Raiders hope Jasper can spell Warren Sapp at tackle. From the way he played last year, Sapp almost certainly could use a breather now and then.

MEET YOUR ALL STARS!
I was planning on giving you MY all-star team this week, but instead, I will give you a rundown of the actual MLB All Star teams. I figure it is better to familiarize you, the reader, with the actual squads, rather than have you sift through half cocked soliloquies from a man who has not taken his brain medication in two days as to why Tadahito Iguchi should be an All Star instead of Scott Podsednik. You’re welcome.

So here are your All Star Starters! Why am I not listing the reserves? Because by the time they get in the game, you won’t be watching anymore!

AL STARTERS
Jason Varitek, C, Red Sox- The leader of the Red Sox, Varitek is a goateed example of what I like to call “The Baseball Steroid Face”. Congrats!

David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox- Ai Papi! Ortiz has gone from being an obscure platoon player in Minnesota to a cult hero in Boston. Good for him.

Johnny Damon, OF, Red Sox- The greatest Cambodian athlete in history.

Manny Ramirez, OF, Red Sox- I find it a little disheartening that this man is an all-star, and I’ve seen dogs better at catching fly balls then he is. Honest to God dogs.

Mark Teixeira, 1B, Rangers- I think it’s weird how someone with the letters “Teix” at the start of his name plays for “Texas”. I smell a conspiracy.

Brian Roberts, 2B, Orioles- His red eyes are from special contact lenses that help him hit better. Either that or the deal he made with Satan, I forget which.

Miguel Tejada, SS, Orioles- His name always sounds to me like something you can order at Taco Bell.

Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees- A-Rod has extolled the benefits of offseason talk therapy he has undergone. You see, young Alex is sad because he just has TOO MUCH MONEY! Oh the horror.

Vladimir Guerrero, OF, Angels- If anyone has any info on why Latin Americans have Russian first names, I would appreciate it.

Who will start on the mound? The nominees are:
Mark Buehrle, White Sox
Bartolo Colon, Angels
Jon Garland, White Sox
Roy Halladay, Blue Jays
Kenny Rogers, Rangers
And Johan Santana, Twins

I’m rooting for Kenny Rogers. Because he’s such an asshole.

NL STARTERS

Mike Piazza, C, Mets- Confident heterosexual.

Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs- The last time I saw a mouth like his, it had a hook in it.

Jeff Kent, 2B, Dodgers- He seems like a swell guy to be around!

David Eckstein SS, Cardinals- His ears are enormous.

Scott Rolen, 3B, Cardinals- Earned his spot in the starting lineup by being hurt all year. Good job!

Bobby Abreu, OF, Phillies- Most team’s fans campaign to have their players added to the All Star team. Phillie fans campaign to have Abreu removed from the All Star Team.

Jim Edmonds, OF, Cardinals- Yeah!

Carlos Beltran, OF, Mets- Way to hit .260 for your million bajillion dollars a year, ya prick.

And which of these young men will take the mound?
Chris Carpenter, Cardinals
Roger Clemens, Astros
Livan Hernandez, Natspos
Pedro Martinez, Mets
Roy Oswalt, Astros
Jake Peavy, Padres
John Smoltz, Braves
Dontrelle Willis, Marlins

Enjoy the game, and remember, this one counts, for some retarded reason.

That’s it for this week. Actually, that’s it for a couple of weeks. I am going on vacation to the much maligned island of Aruba, tracking down the elusive Joran Vandersloot and drinking Coronas for breakfast. I will return July 29, with TONS of NFL news as camps open around the league, and MLB Apprentice. Until then, take care!