Good Morning from Oxnard/Ventura, California, where for the first time this week, I get off my tail and do a blog. Sorry about yesterday, but getting to my hotel at 4:30 am did not inspire much blogging Monday morning.
Let us begin:
In training camp, hope springs eternal. Especially in the first week of camp, the scribes tell us why things will be different this year with a tone of positivity. For instance, the guy who was hurt is now healthy, the guy who was not good enough has improved, and the guy who was ripped is now determined to get it right.
Today’s example: #38. Roy Williams! That is right. New number. New Attitude. Newly determined. Please nevermind that we have been writing this stuff for at least 4 years in a row …
JJT tells us 2008 will show us the new Roy …
Williams will earn $3.72 million this season to be a Pro Bowl-caliber player. If he is, Jerry Jones will continue making him one of the game's highest-paid safeties. If he isn't, none of us should be surprised if he's wearing another uniform in 2009.
You know it. I know it.
After Monday morning's practice, Williams said he's ready to be a force again. He sounded confident when he spoke. He smiled often and talked about having a good time at practice. He wasn't defensive.
Football, for him, is fun again. It hasn't been the past few seasons.
No one wants to hear year after year how he can't cover. No one wants to hear how committing his life to God over the last few years has made him a lesser player.
Every born-again Christian handles the conversion differently. It takes some longer to find balance than others. Then there's the scrutiny from folks who suddenly expect you to lead a perfect life.
"It's a transition. It's a constant battle to live right," Williams said. "You kind of want to do the things you did in the past, but at the end of the day if it's not giving glory to God, it's not worth it.
"I can't worry about what everyone else is saying. I'm not going to respond to foolish things. I'm not going to question who I am and my relationship with Christ for anybody."
The Cowboys drafted Williams to be a playmaker, and that's what he did in his first three seasons with former assistant Mike Zimmer as the defensive coordinator. Zimmer often played Williams 6 yards off the line of scrimmage and let him create havoc.
The result: seven forced fumbles, 18 tackles for loss and too many knockouts to count.
Bill Parcells wanted Williams to be more versatile, so he began playing him 12 yards off the line more frequently. No safety can consistently make plays in the backfield at that depth.
Last year, Wade Phillips moved Williams 10 yards off the line of scrimmage, which is close enough to allow him to read the guards and still make plays behind the line of scrimmage, but his alignment was inconsistent.
It matters whether Williams lines up 10.5 yards off the ball or 11 yards or 12 yards, especially since he has average speed.
"I probably missed 15 tackles last year because I wasn't lined up right," Williams said. "I'm really focusing on it this year. It's hard when the ball isn't on the hash mark, but that's what I've got to do."
He must also stop thinking about the horse-collar tackle. The NFL suspended him for a game last December for frequently violating the rule prohibiting horse-collar tackles.
"Last year, I really worried about it. This year, I'm not," Williams said. "If it happens, it happens. I can't let that dictate my play on the field.
"I just have a new attitude on everything – life and this season. It's not about showing anybody anything. I'm not trying to prove myself to anybody."
Peter King is on the Favre story like white on rice …
1. I think I know Thompson is not going to release Favre. If he did, my best guess is Favre would sign with the Minnesota Vikings, and for the next two years (one at least, but probably two) he would do everything in his power to beat the Packers 49-0 in the four games they played. You think Thompson is unpopular in Green Bay now? Wait to see how hated a man he'll be if he gives Favre the freedom he wants.
2. I think I know Favre is not going to stop demanding his release, at least not now. Thompson asked Favre for a list of teams he'd accept a trade to on Saturday -- for at least the second time -- and Favre would not give him one. That's because the minute Favre gives Thompson a list, the Packers will get a deal done with one of the teams on the list. Which brings us to one of the myths I keep hearing repeated.
3. I think I know Thompson is not asking for a first-round pick in trade for Favre unless he has one of the best years of his life, and unless his new team advances far into the playoffs. I don't know the particulars of the likely conditional trade and I'm not sure Thompson knows exactly what he'd accept, because he hasn't gone far down the road with any team he's discussed Favre with. But I do know the deal would be structured like a guaranteed fourth-round pick that could rise to a three or a two or a one (unlikely) depending on Favre's performance ... or maybe a guaranteed three that could rise to a two or one. Most likely, if Favre stays healthy, the team acquiring him would likely have to surrender a third- or second-round pick to get him.
4. I think I know the biggest myth out there is Thompson is driving such a hard bargain because he hopes no team will trade for Favre, and that Favre would slink back to Mississippi and stay retired. Maybe that was the case a month ago, but it isn't now. Thompson knows Favre is going to continue to push to play. And even though I think Thompson would like to have Favre in reserve in case Aaron Rodgers gets hurt -- imagine what Monday-morning-quarterbacking (hey, King, stop stealing your own line!) would ensue if Thompson traded Favre and Rodgers went down for the year the next day with a torn hammy -- I think he believes it'd be better to just let him go somewhere else now.
Meanwhile, to baseball… Rangers lose to Seattle …
The Texas Rangers tried to make a comeback Monday in the late innings, a situation
usually made for Michael Young.
But the All-Star shortstop was in the dugout after suffering a fractured right ring
finger in the first inning. The Rangers expect Young to be out five to seven days, but he said he'd be back in maybe a day or two, as soon as the swelling goes down.
His teammates couldn't quite get the job done without him in a 7-5 loss to the Seattle Mariners. The Rangers remain 6 1/2 games back in the wild-card race.
The eighth inning was probably the toughest inning for Young – and many of the 21,742 in attendance – to watch. After Ramon Vazquez singled and Ian Kinsler walked, Young's spot in the lineup came up and the Rangers down a run. Manager Ron Washington asked left-handed hitting Frank Catalanotto to bunt the runners over against lefty Arthur Rhodes. Washington said he would have allowed Young to swing away in that situation. Still, the Rangers had both runners in scoring position with one out for RBI-machine Josh Hamilton. Vazquez, though, wandered off third base too far, and catcher Kenji Johjima picked him off. Hamilton then struck out to end the Rangers' threat.
Washington said that wasted chance – the Rangers stranded 11 runners – would haunt him.
This story appeared yesterday About Rangers attendance being down …I don’t buy that attendance is down. I have said it before and I will say it again here: Nolan Ryan is insisting on honest gate counts, so for the first time in a LONG time, you are seeing honest attendance figures…
Major League Baseball appears immune to the sluggish economy and could set another attendance record this season. But the Rangers, on pace for their first winning season in four years, are suffering at the gate.
The team returns to Arlington tonight for the first time since the All-Star Game. Home attendance has averaged about 20 percent less than through the same number of dates in 2007. So far this season, about half of the available tickets have sold for each game on average.
If that rate holds the rest of the season, the Rangers would record their lowest average attendance since 1988, the year before Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan – now the team's president – first took the mound at old Arlington Stadium.
Yes, the team got off to a slow start, June and July have been unusually hot, and the top opposing attractions haven't yet come to town.
The economy also is taking its toll. North Texas fans are making tough choices as gasoline and grocery prices increase and the threat of recession looms.
"With $4 gasoline, I think a lot of people are choosing other forms of entertainment," said sports business expert Craig Depken of Rangers fans. Dr. Depken is a former UT-Arlington professor who now teaches at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Rangers management is hopeful about the second half of the season. After the slow start on the field, the team is playing well. And there are seven home games remaining against their biggest draws, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, starting with the upcoming homestand. Last year, the Rangers' nine home dates against the Yankees and Red Sox came in April and May.
"When the season is over, attendance will be very comparable to last year," said Mr. Ryan, who returned to the organization in February.
But the second half also brings challenges. There's more Texas heat, of course. And the Cowboys are back in training camp.
The biggest challenge might be simple math. To equal the 2007 attendance, the Rangers must average about 35,200 for each of their remaining 35 home dates. On an annual basis, they haven't come close to that level since 2001, Alex Rodriguez's first season here.
"We might not equal last year, but we're going to do better than we did earlier in the year," said Dale Petroskey, first-year executive vice president for marketing. "That's for sure."
Goose Gossage was a different breed …
Gossage was elected in January on his ninth try, almost unimaginable given his pioneering place in the evolution of today's relief pitcher.
Gossage _entering the hall wearing a New York Yankees hat _ finished his career in 1994 with a 124-107 record, 1,502 strikeouts and 3.01 ERA in 1,002 games. He ranks third in both wins in relief (115) and innings pitched in relief (1,556).
Of his 310 career saves, Gossage worked more than two innings 52 times. By comparison, prior to the 2008 season, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera had done that just once in 443 saves and San Diego's Trevor Hoffman, the career saves leader, has never done it.
In 125 of his saves, Gossage recorded at least six outs.
Liverpool adds Robbie Keane …very interesting move…
Robbie Keane fulfilled his boyhood ambition to join Liverpool last night as Tottenham Hotspur banked £20.3m for the Republic of Ireland striker but issued an acrimonious parting shot over the manner of his departure from White Hart Lane.
Keane will be unveiled as the second costliest player in Liverpool's history this morning having passed a medical yesterday and agreed personal terms on a four-year contract worth about £80,000 a week. It is believed both parties have the option of a fifth year on the contract.
The 28-year-old's capture represents a breakthrough for Rafael Benítez in his transfer plans this summer, having been so far thwarted in his efforts to prise Gareth Barry from Aston Villa, but Keane's transfer has not been without controversy either. Spurs' chairman, Daniel Levy, had submitted a complaint to the Premier League about Liverpool's conduct in the pursuit of the striker, in effect accusing Benítez of tapping-up the Dubliner but, despite dropping the complaint last night, he insisted Tottenham had been forced into the sale of their vice-captain.
"I was incredibly disappointed when I first heard, not only that Liverpool had been working behind the scenes to bring Robbie to Anfield but that Robbie himself wanted to go and he submitted a transfer request to this effect," said Levy. He added: "I have already made my opinion clear on the nature of this transaction. I don't regard it as a transfer deal - that is something which happens between two clubs when they both agree to trade - this is very much an enforced sale for which we have agreed a sum of £19m as compensation plus a potential further £1.3m in additional compensation."
Last night Keane said: "I would like to place on record my thanks to the board, players and fans of Tottenham for the past six years, which were the best and most enjoyable of my career to date.
"I will never forget them. I would specifically like to thank chairman Daniel Levy
for understanding that, as a fan, joining Liverpool is a lifelong dream of mine and one I couldn't let pass me by. I hope one day the Spurs fans, who have been brilliant to me, can understand this too."
Bob, P1 listener and fellow soccer fan here. Huge US national team fan. I am the DFW area contact for The American Outlaws, a national supporter's group and companion group to Sam's Army.
You probably know that World Cup 2010 qualification is underway for the USA. The next qualifier is Wednesday, August 20 @ Guatemala.
The American Outlaws (and maybe a sponsor ot two, we're working on that) are having a watching party for this (and all) qualifier at the Industry Bar in North Dallas. I would like to invite you and whomever else to come and watch the match with us! It should be a raucus and loud assembly. We're planning to have samba drums, drink specials, pretty girls, beer, and a USA win!
Thanks in advance, hope you can make it,
Deion and Pac Man
Jurassic Park re-enactment Funny