Remembering Al: Vitt on Davis
Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said a trip to Oakland this week brought back memories of longtime Raiders owner Al Davis.
Vitt and suspended Saints coach Sean Payton made a point last year of visiting Davis in his suite before an exhibition game about two months before Davis died. But it was Vitt’s first meeting with Davis 30 years earlier that still resonates.
Vitt had just been fired as Colts strength and quality control coach in 1981 and went to the NFL combine looking for work. He ran into Davis in the locker room during player weigh-ins and introduced himself.
"I go up to him, I say, ‘Hey, coach, my name is Joe Vitt. I’m only 26 years old, but I’ve been in the league three years. I was the strength coach, I was the quality control coach, I gave out the tickets on the plane. I told him all the wonderful accomplishments I had over my three-year-period with the Baltimore Colts,"’ Vitt recalled.
"He looked me in the eye and said, ‘Son, when I was 26 years old I was the commissioner of the AFL.’ I crawled out of the locker room. And he never forgot that, and I never forgot that."
Davis actually didn’t become commissioner until he was 34 and was a college assistant at The Citadel when he was 26.
MANNING’S SLIDE: Peyton Manning has caught a lot of grief for his ungainliness at Carolina last Sunday when he didn’t kick his cleats up high enough on a feet-first slide after a 6-yard scramble.
His left cleat got stuck in the grass and he rolled awkwardly to the ground in the second quarter of Denver’s 36-14 win over the Panthers.
Linemen Manny Ramirez and Orlando Franklin, tight end Jacob Tamme and running back Ronnie Hillman surrounded him immediately. But their concern was quickly assuaged when Manning bounced up, straightened out his left knee brace and returned to the huddle.
It was something they all had a good laugh over later on.
As the seconds ticked away, rookie cornerback Omar Bolden sat on the bench next to Manning and told the four-time MVP, "You know, after we get this ‘dub,’ we’re talking about that slide."
"I hear ya," Manning replied. "Fair game."
Manning said he caught plenty of guff from teammates.
"It’s not even worth explaining what happened. It looked bad, and the fact that my knee brace got caught, nobody wants to hear that," Manning said. "It is what it is, as they say, and it’s right there on film. I’m very aware that it’s fair game for criticism and ridicule. I have plenty thick enough skin to handle it."
One teammate who stayed away from the fray was wide receiver Eric Decker, who was the fall guy last month after tripping on his way to a sure touchdown when nobody was near him.
"He probably does not have the grounds yet," Manning said. "But (Dan) Koppen and Omar Bolden, a rookie, it’s fair game. Believe me, it’s not pretty."
The ribbing nor the slide.
TUNED OUT TO THURSDAY: George Wilson has no issue playing an occasional game on Thursday night. Just don’t ask the Buffalo Bills safety if he’s ever watched any of the weeknight, prime-time games since the NFL made it a regular part of its schedule.
"I don’t have the NFL Network," he said days before Buffalo’s victory against Miami on Thursday night. "So this is all new to me."
Wilson explained that his cable provider, Time-Warner, didn’t carry the NFL Network. He then said he wasn’t aware when informed the NFL reached a deal two months ago to have Time-Warner carry the network.
"Well, obviously, it must cost extra to get it, because it’s not in your normal cable package, so I don’t have it," he said.
Wilson, the Bills’ NFL Players Association representative, can understand the reason the league has made Thursday night games a mainstay despite the short break players have between games.
"The league is trying to boost its viewership and commercial opportunities," Wilson said. "It’s tough, but this is what we signed up for. This is what the job calls for, and we’re not going to make any gripes or complaints about it."
WAITING HIS TURN: Minnesota Vikings rookie wide receiver Jarius Wright was inactive for the first nine games, but the fourth-round draft pick from Arkansas made quite the impact in his debut.
Filling in at the slot position for injured star Percy Harvin, Wright caught a 54-yard pass from Christian Ponder on Minnesota’s first possession to set up his own short touchdown reception from Ponder. Wright was open for another potential score later in the game, too, when Ponder tripped at the beginning of his backpedal and fell down for a sack.
Randy Moss is the only Vikings rookie to catch two touchdown passes in his first NFL game.
"I’m glad I was able to help the team," Wright said. "I’m glad the coaches gave me the chance to be able to help the team. And hopefully they continue to give me the opportunity."
Coach Leslie Frazier wouldn’t guarantee that because Harvin is expected to return after the team’s bye week, but Wright’s speed clearly helped give what had been a lagging passing game a small boost.
"There are ways we can get that done if we want both of them on the field," Frazier said.
Wright actually dropped the same long pass on a post pattern in practice last Friday, and he was discouraged the Vikings might not call that play in the game. But he bounced back.
"I have high hopes for myself, and I set my personal goals really high," Wright said. "And I know I’m capable of going out and playing good football."
NO MORE HOLES: A.J. Green won’t be giving any more scouting reports.
Cincinnati’s Pro Bowl receiver created a stir in New York a week ago when he told a radio station that the Giants "have a lot of holes" in their defense. Turned out he was right. Green caught a 56-yard touchdown pass on the fifth play of the game, and the Bengals pulled away to a 31-13 win.
The low-key Green was surprised his observation became big news in New York. He won’t make that mistake again. Asked about an upcoming game in Kansas City, he refused to make the same comparison.
"No, no, definitely no holes in their defense," Green said.
Green and some of the Bengals’ other young players are learning that an off-the-cuff remark can have a long shelf life in the NFL. Quarterback Andy Dalton learned from Green’s experience that it’s important to be careful in choosing his words.
Asked about the Chiefs’ defense being vulnerable to big plays this season, Dalton said, "I wouldn’t say they’re vulnerable. I think guys are finding holes and finding windows that they’re able to get in, and guys are making big plays."
He paused to think about how his words might play in the media, then clarified: "I’m not saying there’s holes in the defense."