More NFL Camp Notes - MLB Weekend Wrap
IT'S OUR LATEST NFL TRAINING CAMP REPORTS: THE PATRIOTS AND CHARGERS JOIN IN THE FUN-N-GAMES (AND LOTS MORE TEAMS TO FOLLOW THIS WEEK) ...
BASEBALL'S HALL OF FAME WEEKEND HONORS DAWSON, HERZOG & HARVEY BUT IT'S THE SF GIANTS WHO REALLY STEAL THE SHOW WITH A FOUR-GAME SWEEPEROO IN THE DESERT (AND NOW THE D-BACKS DON'T EVEN HAVE ACE RIGHTY HAREN!)
By Jim Hurley:
In case you're wondering, it's"everyone into the pool" when it comes to the opening of NFL Training Camps by this Sunday:
The Cleveland Browns and the Dallas Cowboys were the first teams to put on the pads and get into action and than Sunday afternoon both the New England Patriots and the San Diego Chargers welcomed rookies and free agents to their camps.
Hey, and to think that we didn't even hear one word this past weekend regarding quarterback Brett Favre - he was last seen in Hattiseburg tossing the ball around with high-schoolers/college kids after yucking it up the week before at the ESPYs -- and so you can fully expect to get a heavy dose of Favre coverage this week with the Minnesota Vikings set to open their training camp in Mankato this Friday.
Can't you wait?
We'll get you some early camp goodies from both the Patriots and the Chargers plus there's more NFL News & Notes and there's Major-League Baseball too with a look at the scorching-hot San Francisco Giants but first let's get you to this important reminder:
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Editor's Note: The National Football League Training Camps are popping up all over the land and we'll have extensive in-depth coverage in the days ahead right here in our Jim Sez columns. Plus, the NFL Preseason '10 is just around the corner - the Annual Hall of Fame Game is set for Sunday, August 8th as the Cincinnati Bengals tangle with the Dallas Cowboys and so make sure you sign up in the coming days for all the NFL Preseason Winners. Go online here for the sign-up info or call 1-800-323-4453 and speak with one of Jim's service representatives. Do it today!
NFL TRAINING CAMP REPORTS
No doubt that New England coaches needed a program for all those rookies that bounded into the opening day of camp in Foxboro - the Pats owned some 12 draft picks this past April and the AFC East club is confident that every rookie will be signed by Wednesday (the first full practice day).
Two players that did sign this past weekend were DE Jermaine Cunningham (Florida) who was the second of the team's three Round II selections and TE Rob Gronkowski (Arizona) who represented the team's initial second-round pick. Look for LB Brandon Spikes (Florida) to be signed by either today/tomorrow but all eyes remain focused on first-round pick CB Devin McCourty (Rutgers) who is an immediate key figure in this division with new-and-improved wide receivers dotting the landscapes in Buffalo, Miami and the New York Jets.
Okay, so the current Patriots' depth chart actually lists Darius Butler ahead of McCourty - but don't believe that for a second as New England head coach Bill Belichick loves McCourty's overall athleticism and wants him getting plenty of reps this summer. Don't forget that the Pats have scheduled joint practices with both the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints (August 10-11) and the Atlanta Falcons (August 17-18) and all of NE's rookies figure to benefit from those scrimmages.
Meanwhile, the Pats await the arrival on Wednesday of QB Tom Brady who - depending on what source you happen to be listening to - either is fuming at the team's management folks regarding his current contract situation or simply anxious to show doubters that he is capable of another 50-TD type season. Brady famously did not work out much with his teammates this past off-season while gearing up for play in his native California (and did you see pictures of that mansion he's living in with his model wife?) and that peeved some folks in the organization but what really should have Pats fans worried is what happens if Brady gets injured in 2010?
Right now the backups are a couple of dudes named Brian Hoyer and rookie Zac Robinson (Oklahoma State) - note the latter was the 250th player taken in last April's draft - and so one sure thing next month is New England scouring the cut lists to acquire a veteran backup to Mr. Brady.
Late word filtering out on Sunday night/Monday morning was that Brady was much closer than anyone realized to signing an extension and so that bit of drama should be put to rest any minute now.
On the left coast, the SD Chargers sported only six draft picks this past spring and so the start of their camp yesterday wasn't quite as busy as it was for New England (and note the Lightnin' Bolts veterans don't arrive till Friday morning). No question that San Diego's rookie RB Ryan Mathews (Fresno State) will rake in the majority of the media coverage in the coming days and you could be wondering if head coach Norv Turner now regrets his recent comment that Mathews - the 12th overall pick in the 2010 draft -"was the most complete back in the draft" as the AFC West crew continues to have problems signing him before the full camp starts.
The Turner comment was much like what New York Jets coach Rex Ryan said last year about CB Darrelle Revis being the"best cover corner in the league" and now here's Revis looking to pump more green out of the J-E-T-S coffers. Hey, coaches, better keep a muzzle on those high-praise comments regarding your own players 'cause it's coming home to roost at contract time.
The Chargers, meanwhile, claim that free agent WR Terrell Owens is not on their radar screen despite an apparent need for help at that position as wide out Vincent Jackson remains engaged in a contentious contract dispute with the club and did you notice that the Bolts didn't draft a single WR (although they did draft TE Dedrick Epps from Miami)? Plus, former NFL star TE Randy McMichael came over from the Rams and is ultra-pumped to contribute after being a total non-factor in the St. Loo offense the past three years.
In other NFL News & Notes ...
Sincere condolences go out to former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher who lost his 54-year-old wife Kay to skin cancer this past weekend. Cowher -who coached the Steelers from 1992-thru-2006 - declined any/all coaching offers this past off-season and now it has become clear why he did so. Let's hope the gossip-mongers don't cavalierly toss his name into the coaching ring anytime soon ...
Speaking of veteran coaches, Tennessee Titans' boss-man Jeff Fisher is still smoldering over the fact that running backs coach Kennedy Pola left his post to take over as USC's offensive coordinator under Lane Kiffin. Fisher - a Southern Cal alum - didn't care for the"unprofessional manner" in which Kiffin conducted himself while lapping up Pola but should any coach out there be getting sympathy cards when they do the same at their convenience?
The truth is Pola likely never would have been the Titans' offensive coordinator and so this is a real challenge for him - we're not saying he's gonna be a perfect fit at USC but he deserves to venture out if he can upgrade his standing in life.
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BASEBALL'S WEEKEND UPDATE: THE GIANTS BRING THEIR BROOMS TO 'ZONA
Did you happen to take a glance at the MLB standings in either your morning newspaper or on your computer today?
If you missed it, there were the San Francisco Giants (56-43) in second place in the National League West and sporting the third-best record in all the Senior Circuit.
Now - one might be asking right about now - where did they exactly come from?
Well, the Giants' meteoric rise - that's three wins in four games against the New York Mets, two-of-three wins at the archrival Los Angeles Dodgers and then this past weekend's four-game series sweep in Arizona all since the July 13th All-Star Game - has been one of the real under-the-radar stories in the bigs but we've noticed!
As you can see, the Giants have won nine of their 11 games since the break and you might recall they copped six of their final seven games while heading into the break and so Bruce Bochy's crew has been hotter than a Florida sidewalk these days and now they return home with an important four-game series against Florida followed by this weekend's three-game set against the visiting Dodgers and let us remind you that San Fran's a gaudy 28-18 at home.
But let's digress for just a moment here:
The past few days the Giants took full advantage of the fact that the Diamondbacks didn't start RHP Dan Haren against 'em - Haren pitched in Arizona's 4-3 win in 14 innings against the sagging New York Mets last Wednesday night - and then the added break of the Haren trade rumors that came to fruition on Sunday that no doubt distracted the team in the desert.
Haren's headed to the Los Angeles Angels - if you heard ESPN game analyst Bobby Valentine in Sunday night's 4-3 extra-innings win by St. Louis over the Chicago Cubs than you know he's of the mind that Haren will get dealt from the Halos for more hitting (don't known about that one, Bobby V.!) - but the specter of him being dealt emotionally/mentally sidetracked the D-Backs the past few days and then were the Giants swooping down to win in straight sets 3-0 behind RHP Matt Cain, 7-4 in the start made by LHP Jonathan Sanchez, 10-4 in a Saturday night game started by future star lefty Madison Bumgarner and 3-2 in 10 innings on Sunday when RHP Tim Lincecum drew the starting assignment.
In that latest win, the Giants showed off their exceptional young star catcher Buster Posey who rang up four hits and exited the game hitting a robust .371 - and now you really know why overweight/overpaid catcher Bengie Molina was sent packing to Texas a few weeks ago. Posey doubled to start the game-winning rally in that Sunday tilt and pinch-runner Eli Whiteside scored on a Travis Ishikkawa single and - save for that blown call a week ago Sunday by incompetent umpire Phil Cuzzi, the Giants would have tacked up a pair of four-game sweeps since the break.
San Francisco had not swept Arizona in any type of series since July 2003 and suffice to say the timing was all right for the Giants here and all wrong for the Diamondbacks who couldn't muster a base-runner against Giants closer Brian Wilson (29 saves) who is starting to look more and more like the second-best ninth-inning man in the game - and you know who #1 is ... still.
The Giants broomed the 'Backs and about the only thing that went wrong all weekend was that hard-hit foul ball off the bat of SF's Pat Burrell that struck OF Eugenio Velez in the head while he stood in the dugout in Saturday's game - all signs say Velez (concussion) will be A-OK within the next couple of days and all signs say the Giants are more than just A-OK right now.
Just a quick word on new Hall of Fame inductees Andre Dawson, Whitey Herzog and ump Doug Harvey - all three gentlemen really represented NL ball at its best in the 1980s and hats off to the MLB Network for all that great footage of Herzog and Harvey arguing back in a 1987 game at a rainy Shea Stadium. Good stuff!NOTE: Get more NFL Camp coverage - and lots more - in the next edition of Jim Sez.
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