Here in Austin, the snakes are out. We had the toughest summer in recent history last year. A rainy spring in 2012 has brought them out in droves. Most are the good kind, unless you're a chicken farmer. They kill rats and keep to themselves. Some are the the scary kind. The ones with rattles, or the special colors we learns as kids: red on yellow, kill a fellow.
Our subconscious minds learn important things in rhymes, and haunting little rhythms that dig into your brain like earthworms. And that is not the point of this … but it kind of is.
Visiting my parents' home last week, I was sure I saw an eight-foot-long rattlesnake. I wanted him dead. I know he was at least eight-feet long, because the driveway entrance to my parents' home is approximately eight-feet wide. His body was stretched across the entire entrance as he basked in the sun. I later found out he was just a monstrously large, terrifying-looking rat snake. A friendly snake. A snake that makes your little ecosystem more efficient.
I yelled for my Dad to come outside, and, I must admit, the old man is getting wiser with his years. He just looked at the snake and said, "Son, as a species, humans don't have too many natural allies. Snakes are one of them, and so are spiders."
Obviously, I was not given approval by my father to shoot the snake as I was hoping.
People are scared of snakes. We are more scared of snakes and spiders than we are of walking on the sidewalk of a busy street with 40 mph vehicles whizzing by. One bad move by one idiot driver and your life is over. A much riskier situation than being in manageable proximity to even the most venomous snake, and we think nothing of it.
It's because we evolve quicker as societies than our brains do as organs. If you had ancestors that weren't creeped out by snakes, well, they had a better chance of dying than someone's great, great, great grandpa who jumped like a little girl when he saw one. Obviously. Look at how fat America has gotten.
Your ancestors, when presented with rare opportunities to forage on fatty, protein-rich food sources indulged. They survived through tough, long periods between those replenishing moments of gluttony, though. Protein-rich food sources are now on every corner, and we are becoming a country of fat people. You see, the point is the same.
It got me thinking of the NFL, like everything does eventually. I think about what I know, and what I think I know (or at least what I am programmed to think about in a certain way). There's no way I can begin to dive fully into the rapidly approaching 2012 NFL season until I settle this peace with myself. Here is what I learned during this offseason through personal experience. I am chronicling them here to store in my brain as things I know to be true and real (trill as they say in Houston), both consciously and subconsciously.
- Baylor Head Coach Art Briles is apparently not a fan of mine. I walked up and asked him about WR Kendall Wright at Baylor's pro day, and what he thought the difference was between "track speed" and "game speed." He looked at me like my face was literally some dude's hairy behind. Shocked and disgusted.
- Former Raiders Director of College Scouting Jon Kingdon is, and has been for decades, one of the nicest people in a business that makes people hard really quick. The life of an NFL scout is no joke, and he did it brilliantly, even working under an enigmatic GM in Al Davis. Firing Kingdon was one of the post-Al Davis, "house cleaning" moves by new GM Reggie Mckenzie that I don't think many who know what they're talking about understand.
- Rams rookie CB Janoris Jenkins is absolutely amazing, and no one has to worry about off-the-field issues with this kid or whether he'll catch on to the playbook. He was the best cornerback in the NFL Draft this year, and he is my pick for defensive rookie of year.
- Dolphins rookie QB Ryan Tannehill is a great quarterback, but he still can't make all the throws in OC Mike Sherman's NFL playbook. The good news is, he will be able to. There is a problem, though: Matt Moore and David Garrard really can't either. Tannehill already knows the playbook better than either of those guys. No one has seen a rookie come into their first minicamp and tell confused veterans where to line up like he did. I honestly think if he doesn't start the season, he will be starting by Week 5.
- ESPN's John Clayton truly is the professor. He was probably only hanging with us in the PFWA viewing suite at the NFL combine because I was kind of helping him chart certain receivers while he was frantically charting others. Double the brain juice for the professor. Say what you will about the man, but I learned a few tricks from him at the NFL combine. I know to never forget to bring a stopwatch every day in case you get called on for a pool report (an iPhone doesn't cut it, trust me), and to always bring binoculars as the PFWA viewing suite at Lucas Oil is on the 30-yard line opposite the goal the 40-yard dash begins on.
- Panthers rookie WR Joe Adams, who ran disappointing combine and pro day times, might have been the fastest, most-elusive offensive player on the field at the Senior Bowl and during the week of practice. Ask anyone in attendance. I was shocked he did not run a 40 in the 4.3's.
- After one day of Senior Bowl practices, it was obvious to me and my partner Byron Lambert that Boise State QB Kellen Moore was "undraftable." I was called a fool and a hater. The negative response was startling. How can I say that about a QB that broke every NCAA record in the book? Well, guess what happened?
- The Pro Bowl? Get it out of here. It represents risk and celebrates entitled, narcissistic gameplay. It hurts our brand and it’s time to cut bait. We can keep Hawaii relatively happy by building them a Pro Bowl museum or an Aloha Play 60 park or something. I believe that the All-Pro team should be announced in prime time on the Friday before Championship Sunday via a huge media spectacle. I have a dream that the All-Pro players selected then flock to Mobile, Ala., to join the hundreds of scouts, GMs, and NFL personnel that annually attend Senior Bowl practices as guest position coaches and NFL prospect mentors. I envision cameras from every major network in full force for various skills tests and fun charades amongst both the incoming prospects and the NFL All-Pros culminating in some sort of televised banquet, perhaps at the Seafood Jubilee. Perhaps featuring Jay-Z.
Hey, we gotta think big, right? After all, this is the evolution of our beloved sport's offseason. Remember, our minds don't always have to be behind the times, consciously, or subconsciously.
[Alex Dunlap (follow on Twitter) is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America, the host of RosterWatch on 104.9FM ESPN Radio Austin, founder of Rosterwatch.com, and a featured expert contributor to the FantasyPros.com network.]
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