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Thoughts & Jots: From not getting DeAndre Hopkins to Joe Thomas’ presenter to the Jets on “Hard Knocks”

Things on my mind

Atlanta Falcons v Cleveland Browns
Clay Matthews
Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

1. Have you seen the list of the 60 who made the list for next year’s Pro Football Hall of Fame induction? Six former Browns made the cut including LB Clay Matthews and former owner Art Modell. Matthews played for 19 years and was a smasher. Hard to believe they keep dangling the carrot in front of this gladiator. Hate to tell you, but Modell will eventually make it in. Other than relocating one of the most storied franchises in the league who have won the third most pro football titles, Modell was on a lot of league committees and did quite a bit for the NFL as a whole. There is also a name on the list that I always just assumed was already in the Hall: Ralph Hay.

Ralph Hay

It was his auto dealership that had the first and second meetings which put the NFL together. He owned a Hupmobile dealership and owned the Canton Bulldogs who dominated the Ohio League and was the NFL’s first dynasty. His dealership is the reason the Hall is in Canton, to begin with. I am just shocked to see his name excluded. He organized both meetings and invited teams to join their new organization which at first was to be named the American Professional Football Conference, as a nod to college football. With the second meeting a month later, that was changed to the American Professional Football Association and began their first season in 1920. Two years later, the APFA was changed to the National Football League.

2. The New York Jets on this year’s version of “Hard Knocks” shown on HBO? Did this shock anyone the cable network chose them? Anyone? The very second Aaron Rodgers was confirmed in the trade, that decision was made. The teams this year everyone will follow will be the Detroit Lions, and the Jets. They will be dramatastic (yeah it’s not really a word) this training camp with storylines going in every direction. And Robert Saleh is a good-looking man who should provide “The Bachelor” like theatre to the show. Rarely does anyone see team President Hymie Elhai around the facilities, but something tells me he will be around for some camera shots. Rodgers will wear Number 8, his college number, instead of #12 which was retired from Joe Namath. And get this: their colors aren’t green and white with black accents. No. Make that Gotham Green, Spotlight White, and Stealth Black. Who knew?

Cleveland Browns Offseason Workout
Dalvin Tomlinson
Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

3. Going to be an interesting training camp, especially with the defensive tackle situation. Right off, I like the competition in this year’s camp. Traditionally the club only keeps four, so who those quad players are will be down to the wire. Dalvin Tomlinson and rookie Apu Ika are locks. That leaves the final two spots to Maurice Hurst, Trysten Hill, Jordan Elliott, Michael Dwumfor, Tommy Togiai, and Perrion Winfrey to fight it out. I think Hurst will win one spot, which would leave the final roster slot to either Elliott or Winfrey is my guess. Elliott has not shown much but played a lot last year. Winfrey could be a stud if he would settle down and just play.

4. I wrote a piece about whether WR David Bell had seen his last playing days in Cleveland. I got a lot of negative feedback from that article with folks stating he was a third-round guy and only played one season. But the numbers don’t lie. I love David Bell. He can date any of my four daughters if he wanted including the married ones. I also put into the article how many accolades he had coming out of Purdue University.

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns
David Bell
Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images

He was the friggin’ Big 10 Receiver of the Year in a tough conference where usually it is an Ohio State Buckeye receiver taking home the hardware. I feel when the Browns drafted WR Cedric Tillman out of the University of Tennessee, that set into motion Bell’s departure. Under GM Andrew Berry, Cleveland had kept just five receivers in 2020 and 2022, and six in 2021. So, let’s just say they will retain six this year with an offense that may, or may not, throw the damn ball more. Count them off: Amari Cooper, DPJ, Tillman, Elijah Moore – that’s four. They signed Marquise Goodwin for his speed, Jakeem Grant for his return abilities, Jaelon Darden as a cheap return guy, and Bell. I really don’t think they will not keep Grant. If his knee is good and he hasn’t lost much of his epic speed, the Browns need an elite returner. The franchise went out and got Bubba Ventrone to coach special teams who is known for getting his group into the Top-5. Not for one second do I believe he will not have a burner to return kicks. Grant is that guy. So, one spot left. Everyone is saying how great Goodwin is. But Bell knows how to get open. The most targets he got last year was four. And none of these guys have the ability to get cut with the idea to stash them on the practice squad. Each one will get claimed.

5. Speaking of Tennessee, did you see where they had to vacate all their wins in 2019 and 2020? Ouch. 11 wins each of those years. Plus, they were placed on a five-year probation period and reduced the number of football scholarships to just 28. Double ouch. Almost every time an institution gets hit like this, they take away their ability to go to bowl games, But not Tennessee. Probably because of that hefty $8 million fine imposed. The infractions stem from when Jeremy Pruitt was the head coach and the amount of recruiting violations his administration apparently got caught doing. Odd all these issues came from Pruitt who was a Nick Saban disciple. Speaking of Saban, did you read my interview with former Browns linebacker Anthony Griggs? In the article, he told me that Saban offered him a scholarship and he told Saban, “I’ll let you know.” Seems Saban was an assistant coach at Ohio State at the time, and Villanova University was about to ax their football program where Griggs was a defensive star. Along with some other schools, Ohio State showed up to cherry-pick Villanova, and Saban approached Griggs with an offer. Griggs just wanted to finish out his degree and remain at Villanova, but changed his mind and played out his senior year at Ohio State. During my interview, Griggs and I both agreed that this was before Saban was THE Nick Saban. It is a great story that Griggs tells about how he told Saban he would think about it. I wonder if Saban tells the same story at his speaking events.

Cleveland Browns v Miami Dolphins Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

6. How many NFL receivers have totaled over 2,000 yards in a single season? The answer: none. In 2012 Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions came close with 1,964 yards. I know because I had him on my fantasy team that year and he exploded me into the championship game. Now, Tyreek Hill of the Miami Dolphins is stating that he will become the first to eclipse the 2K mark this year. Hill stated on his podcast, “I will break 2,000 yards next year, bro. 2,000 yards was on my bucket list to get before I leave this league. 2,000 yards and another Super Bowl — we getting that. Believe that.” A look at the Dolphins’ roster reveals that Patrick Mahomes no longer tosses passes his way. Does anyone honestly believe that Tua Tagovailoa will endure a full 17-game schedule? The backup is former Jet Mike White who isn’t known for those weekly 400-yard outbursts. Is Miami bringing back FitzMagic because that dude could put up huge numbers each week. My calculator tells me Hill would have to gain 118 yards a game, which if anyone can do it he would get my vote. Plus, he plays in a 17-game system so he has that extra contest which is all Megatron would have needed. But there are two parts to a receiver’s production. And Hill just doesn’t have the big accurate (and healthy) arm heaving him throws. And 2,000 yards in a season is on his bucket list? That’s like me listing dating Jennifer Aniston on my bucket list. I thought a bucket list was supposed to be things that were attainable. And regarding Aniston, I am certain we could work out if she would just get rid of that restraining order. Just sayin.....

7. I am not a fan of the idea that Nick Chubb will win the rushing title this year. He has come sooooo close in past seasons. But if the Browns begin to air it out, his receiving yards just may eclipse his rushing output. Just facts. He is a great receiver and now that there is a running QB under center, the short ditch passes and emergency flair-out patterns will become a common sight each game with Chubb. Love his cereal though.

8. Did you see the article on what Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay owns in his private collection? The latest was the championship belt from Muhammad Ali’s “Rumble in the Jungle” 1974 victory over George Foreman in Zaire. His winning bid was $6.18 million. Or the fitted Stetson hat he bought from former Texas governor John Connally’s family who had intended to present it to President John F. Kennedy at an event scheduled later in the same day he was killed in 1963. The amount of guitars Irsay owns is staggering including Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour’s “Black Strat” which cost $3.9 million. He even has the saddle used by jockey Ron Turcotte to ride Secretariat to the Triple Crown-winning victory at the 1973 Belmont Stakes and Ringo Starr’s base drum used on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964. Irsay has stated that he seeks out items of significance that are tied to seminal moments, the kind that occurs once in a lifetime. The Jim Irsay Collection, which includes almost 500 pieces, will be displayed at TD Garden in Boston next Saturday as part of a series of traveling exhibitions Irsay opens to the public for free. It’s good to be the son who inherited an NFL franchise.

9. I did an interview with Joe Thomas which will publish just prior to his Hall of Fame induction on August 5. One of the things I asked was who was going to present him. In the interview, he had told me his dad calls him “buddy” and of course the famous fishing trip the two men took on draft day in 2007 when Thomas found out later in the day which team selected him. I assumed his presenter would be his best friend Alex Mack, a former center of the Browns before being shipped off to the Atlanta Falcons. Or perhaps his college coach Barry Alvarez. Coming out of high school, Thomas was an Olympic hopeful in the shot put. He was looking for a school to accommodate his track aspirations. Track is late winter and all spring. Football has spring practices. Then there are the weight room requirements. Thomas wanted to make certain his football coach wouldn’t harass him about missing spring ball for tossing a 12-pound ball down the field. Alvarez was not only that guy but was very supportive of Thomas’ dream. Or even perhaps Thomas’ agent who swayed him to play football while he did the shot put because even if he won Olympic gold there wouldn’t be much business for champion shot putters in the real world and football could make him bank. But no, his presenter is plural: presenters. His wife Annie Thomas and their four small children will present his bust unveiling. So it got me to thinking: how many wives and/or children have been presenters? It can’t be that many. The final tally is 29 sons, nine daughters, and four wives. Yes, it was meaningless research but now I know.

The first was Walter Payton’s son Jarrett in 1997. The first daughter was Jessica Elway whose father John was inducted in 2004. The wives club includes Gene Jones (Jerry Jones), Brenda Warner (Kurt Warner), Deanna Favre (Brett Favre), and the first wife presenter was Kim Singletary (Mike Singletary). So, no wife/children combination until Thomas. Representing the Browns! Years ago it was always a former teammate, coach, or team executive but never a relative. Johnny Unitas used his QB Coach at Louisville Frank Gitschier. Dutch Clark involved Philip A. Hart, a U.S. Senator from Michigan. And Jim Brown had as his presenter attorney Ken Molloy who lobbied for him to get a scholarship at all-white Syracuse University.

10. Sources are now saying the Tennessee Titans are expected to sign WR DeAndre Hopkins. He has completed his world tour and apparently, the Titans will offer him the most money. You can tell that Hopkins is not ring-chasing because Tennessee is not on anyone’s list of Super Bowl contenders. The Jacksonville Jaguars are the team to beat in that division. According to ESPN’s Dianna Russini, Hopkins will get a two-year deal worth up to $15 million with incentives. He will get $12 million this year. Not bad for a 31-year-old. He had visited the Titans about a month ago and has some experience with a few of their coaches. But the total money was the deciding factor. Strange. I would be wanting a Super Bowl or two going into my 30s. Championships used to be the swaying factor for Hall of Fame nods, but there are a ton of players who never even sniffed a ring like Dick Butkus, Dan Marino, and Gale Sayers.