The NFL couldn't have hoped for a 2011 regular-season opener better than the one Green Bay and New Orleans provided Thursday night.
Like millions, I watched it from home in spectacular high definition. Once the game ended, there was no traffic to deal with, no drunken fans to deal with, no headaches at all. I went downstairs and had finished a workout before most of the Lambeau Field faithful had probably reached the highway. Not a bad deal at all.
As Monte Poole of Bay Area News Group points out, the living room is the new luxury box in the NFL. He says the San Francisco 49ers, though riding an extended streak without local television blackouts, cannot take fans for granted in this new era. Poole: "In recent years, I've gotten hundreds of emails from fans complaining about the hassle and discomfort of going to local NFL games. They've corresponded with both teams. The decreasing number of fans showing up for games in San Francisco and Oakland indicates many have responded by staying home. Though NFL season ticket numbers declined three straight years, league spokesman Brian McCarthy recently told USA Today that the 2011 sales appear to be better." Noted: Teams will have to work to keep their stadiums full. A new stadium will help the 49ers tremendously, I would think. Improving the product on the field and creating a better stadium experience will be a top priority because it has to be. It's been critical for the Arizona Cardinals in recent seasons.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee sizes up Michael Crabtree's ability to play well on short notice. Noted: The way Crabtree contributed immediately upon reporting as a rookie during the 2009 season scored points with veteran players. I recall tackle Joe Staley walking over to Crabtree's locker to offer respects following Crabtree's debut performance at Houston. Crabtree had a feel for the game that went beyond his years. The 49ers could use more of the same this year.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com provides visual evidence of punter Jon Ryan's first haircut since 2009. Ryan, whose father died from cancer in 2006, was raising awareness to help fight the disease. Ryan: "I was looking on the internet for ideas to raise awareness and raise money for cancer research and I just happened to stumble across 'Lock of Love'. The more I read about it, the more I just thought it was a great idea. I thought it might be something I could do and I’m kind of in a position where I have the ability to raise awareness a little bit. So hopefully if other people see this it will encourage them to do the same or maybe donate a few bucks." Ryan's formerly flowing locks will be used in hairpieces for children suffering from cancer.
Also from Farnsworth: Pete Carroll's support for Tarvaris Jackson remains strong. Carroll: "I’m not ever worried about the critics. Ever. Tarvaris knows the offense. He’s in great command of it. He’s helping others to make adjustments and fix things. That’s always where the players have a sense for it -- when the guy can help them. And he helps them. He’s talented. He can move. He’s tough. He’s got a great poise about him. He hung tough through the hard times when we weren’t doing a good job and weren’t protecting him. It never fazed him."
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks' new right tackle, Breno Giacomini, has not made friends with the team's defensive linemen. Raheem Brock: "Yeah, he definitely irritates me. That’s a good thing."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' cornerbacks will be making their first NFL regular-season starts in Week 1. Noted: The schedule makers did the Cardinals a favor by sending Carolina to University of Phoenix Stadium for the opener. Watching the Packers and Saints on Thursday night had to be a little sobering for some other teams around the league. The Rams are the only team in the NFC West to visit Lambeau this season. They'll be there in Week 6.
Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer checks in with former Cardinals quarterback Derek Anderson, now with Carolina. Anderson: "I think expectations were a lot higher than what reality was. Obviously, being the guy coming in to play after Kurt (Warner) and trying to do the things that he did and try to run kind of his offense, things that he kind of put in there, was difficult for me. ... I struggled all season understanding a lot of things. We were bad on offense. We were bad on defense. I think special teams was one of the things we were actually decent (at) throughout the whole season. That's the way it goes."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says new Rams safety Quintin Mikell is very much looking forward to facing his former team in Week 1. Mikell: "Any time you get kinda let go, or people start saying you're old or whatever, you want to prove everybody wrong. And since I've come into the league, that's all I've been doing. Every time somebody counts against me, I prove 'em wrong. So this is no different for me." Noted: Safeties and quarterbacks tend to have a better feel for schemes than players at other positions. The Rams' knowledge of the Eagles' offense through coach Steve Spagnuolo and Mikell should help them against Philadelphia in this game.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch catches up with Rams receiver Danario Alexander, who keeps the training staff busy by making every effort to fight through chronic knee trouble. Trainer Reggie Scott: "He's a chronic sweller, so we do a lot of things to control swelling: your compressions, a lot of your cold therapies. We do a lot of things at home, around-the-clock things, a lot of different modalities that help with swelling, that decrease swelling. And also what happens, a lot of times when you get this swelling, you lose muscle tone. Swelling attacks muscles, so we do a lot of maintenance work. We do a lot of single-leg strengthening work, because we've got to maintain that muscle. The stronger I get the muscles around the joint, the less stress on the joint."