— Each week of Sunday Night Football on NBC there’s always a ton of material that gets “left on the lockerroom floor” since we couldn’t squeeze it into our broadcast. So instead of the garbage dump, how about the recycle heap in Kremer’s Korner with my postgame notebook of sideline observations.
*After visiting with each of the newly minted Hall of Fame inductees, one common thread woven throughout their weekend experience is that they now feel they’re on a new team – the Class of 2010. After virtually three straight days of togetherness, sharing stories, rekindling memories and even occasional competitive banter (Jerry Rice telling Dick LeBeau not to rehash one of the low points of the coach’s career as Bengals defensive coordinator when Rice’s Niners beat Cincy in the Super Bowl), the seven men are forever linked as a class. It doesn’t matter if they’re first ballot inductees like Rice and Emmitt Smith or the Senior entrants LeBeau and Floyd Little who waited 38 and 35 years respectively to get their busts; they all reside in the same place, regardless of the circuitous paths they’re taken to get there.
*Assistant coaches LeBeau and Arizona’s Russ Grimm were ambivalent about returning to their day jobs. After the high of the weekend, they were looking forward to being back with their players and even a little nervous (Grimm’s word) being away from the team, but realized it would be anticlimactic to go back to work – they also are the only ones of the seven with fulltime jobs.
*On the other hand, while the inductees spent time on the sidelines talking with players, doing interviews, or tethered to their handheld devices, Dick LeBeau spent most of the first half on the Bengals sideline, around the 10 yard line, just studying the game. Two games against the Bengals a year might have something to do with that.
*And while much was made of the celebratory and prominently displaced presence of the entire Steelers team supporting LeBeau, Grimm also was honored by a Cardinals contingent including owner Bill Bidwell, head coach Ken Whisenhunt, and players like Joey Porter, Alan Faneca and Clark Haggans. The last four also have history with the Steelers. And the fact that Grimm was runner up for the post Bill Cowher Steelers job that went to Mike Tomlin, was just one more piece of the tangled web that connected many of the HOF inductees.
*Speaking of former Steelers, I talked to 2009 inductee Rod Woodson before the game. First, I had to get over the shock of seeing the longtime Steeler in a Bengals coaching polo. Woodson told me he always wanted to coach and that Cowher had actually offered him a position as assistant defensive backs coach after Rod retired but that he wasn’t ready for that. But seven years removed, he’s strongly thinking about it. This past June he started working with the Bengals DBs at Cincinnati’s minicamp, especially Adam Jones (the man formerly known as Pacman). Woodson said Jones “has a little cowboy in him,” meaning he likes to freelance more than he should. But Woodson said he has a lot of pure talent and can play. The day ofter the game, Woodson actually goes back to his day job as an NFL Network analyst (he just signed a new two year contract) but said he would still watch tape during the season and call guys with pointers, while being careful not to overstep the coaches’ boundaries. And Woodson said he’d like to do another coaching internship with LeBeau next year – who better to learn from if he does indeed enter the profession in the future.
*Best untold story of Hall of Fame weekend: just when we think we’ve heard and read it all, perhaps the most inspirational story I came across was that of Marc Little, his father Floyd’s eloquent presenter. Marc walks with a cane and I wasn’t sure why. I can’t believe how this story completely flew under the radar but, according to the elder Little, in a nutshell: his son Marc had graduated from USC in 1987. Shortly thereafter, Marc, 21, was on campus and was shot at point blank range in the upper thigh during a hold up attempt. He was rushed to the hospital, flatlined twice but was (obviously) revived. Doctors ended up having to amputate his leg and he now has a prosthetic device that runs from his ankle to his hip. Marc ended up going on to law school and practices in Los Angeles. Floyd told me his son was his inspiration, his hero, his attorney, adviser and best friend. I told him the apple clearly didn’t fall far from the tree.
*At the end of the game, I was actually just talking with Terrell Owens on the Bengals sideline awaiting a possible interview that never happened because Cincinnati scored and the Cowboys ran out the clock and he had some interesting observations. He said that he thought it would be a big deal this season (especially early on) that the umpire has moved from behind the defensive line to the offensive backfield since they’ll have a much better look at the OL, especially the left guard and left tackle and would lead to more penalties. Overall, the Bengals had NINE penalties in the first half alone.
*After Jordan Shipley’s gallop toward the end zone leading to the Bengals only touchdown, Owens opined how much Shipley reminds him of Wes Welker.
*Owens also said he’s been so focused on absorbing his new playbook he barely knows the names of most coaches and many players. But he was very engaged with his new teammates on the sidelines nonetheless.
*Here’s what you have to love about the preseason: at one point, Owens and Chad Ochocinco started playing catch like two kids on the playground, two very rich kids mind you. I asked T.O to describe their friendship: “two outspoken, personable people that have big hearts.” Wondering if that description will hold up in December.
*Final note of good news. One of the nicest guys you’ll meet and finest assistant coaches around is Cowboys special teams coach Joe DeCamillis. DeCamillis, you may recall, suffered a fractured cervical vertebrae when the Cowboys practice facility collapsed during a wind storm May 2, 2009. He had surgery to stabilize the vertebrae and coached in extreme pain all of last season. He often slept (when he could) upright in a chair. He told me he’s finally getting some relief with the pain dissipating and demonstrated how the range of motion in his neck has increased. He’s definitely the man on the spot this preseason as he tries to guide second year kicker David Buehler in his transition from kickoff specialist to fulltime placekicker.