- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 28, 2005

That sound you hear in the distance is, yes, football — the calling of the signals, the crashing of the pads, the pulling of the hamstrings. By the beginning of next week, all 32 NFL teams will have hit the field … and begun hitting the bejabbers out of one another. With that in mind, I bring you a cornucopia of thoughts on the coming season:

• Drew “I am a ruthless warrior” Rosenhaus is at it again. The Miami-based agent, who represents enough players to start his own conference, is seeking to renegotiate the contracts of about half of them, it seems. Terrell Owens, Edgerrin James, Javon Walker, Anquan Boldin, the Redskins’ Sean Taylor — all of them want new deals.

It’s almost as if Rosenhaus is trying to resurrect his old reputation, the one he had back in the mid-‘90s when Sports Illustrated dubbed him “the most hated man in pro football.” Owens and Taylor, after all, signed lengthy contracts — hammered out by other agents — only last year. And they want to put a match to them already?

Maybe Rosenhaus is just going through a midlife crisis. Truth be known, he’s kept a much lower profile in recent years, his “I am a hit man” persona less in evidence. I’m reminded, though, of a passage in his 1997 autobiography, “A Shark Never Sleeps.” “My first car was a Porsche 944,” he reminisces, “then I had a DeLorean. I had cars like that in high school because my dad would sacrifice the world so that I could be THE MAN. Cars were the thing at that age. They identified you. So my dad, whatever it took, found a way to make me the man.”

By making life uncomfortable for so many clubs the past few months, perhaps Rosenhaus is merely reminding everybody that the “Shark” hasn’t lost his bite, that he’s still THE MAN. Just a theory.

• That said, it’s interesting that, after considerable huffing and puffing, Owens, James and Taylor plan to report to camp rather than hold out. The question, of course, is: Will they (particularly T.O) be more of a distraction than they’re worth?

• A couple of old Redskins quarterbacks have been in the news lately. In Miami, Gus Frerotte is in the running to be the Dolphins’ starter; and in North Carolina, Heath Shuler is thinking about running for Congress. Which do you figure will be higher, Gus’ completion rate or Heath’s percentage of the vote?

• The Patriots, I’m convinced, have the best chance to threepeat since the ‘76 Steelers (who might have done it if their backs hadn’t gotten banged up in the playoffs).

All the candidates since ‘76 — the ‘80 Steelers, ‘90 49ers, ‘94 Cowboys and ‘99 Broncos — had much more serious drawbacks than the Pats do (even though Tedy Bruschi will miss the season and Richard Seymour has contract issues). Consider:

‘80 Steelers — Much of the club’s core (Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Jack Ham, Mel Blount) was in its 30s.

‘90 49ers — Joe Montana was 34, and Roger Craig, four years younger, had seriously slowed down.

‘94 Cowboys — Jimmy Johnson was gone, and free agency had begun to chip away at the defense (Ken Norton, Tony Casillas, Jimmie Jones).

‘99 Broncos — John Elway retired.

Now look at the Patriots. Tom Brady is just 28 (or will be next month), Corey Dillon is coming off his best year, Deion Branch is an emerging star and the club has enough depth at most positions to make it almost injury resistant. Why can’t the Pats win three in a row? I mean, they’ve been defying the odds for two seasons — winning a record 21 straight games, repeating as Super Bowl champs despite the loss of cornerbacks Ty Law and Tyrone Poole. In my mind, the biggest threat to their supremacy isn’t them getting worse, it’s another team (e.g. the Steelers) getting better.

• And let’s not forget: The Patriots won their first two playoff games last year — in convincing fashion — without any contribution from Mr. Seymour (who was sidelined with an injured knee).

• If Pats owner Bob Kraft had a sense of humor, he’d put a picture of Vladimir Putin — brandishing Kraft’s Super Bowl ring — on the cover of the first game program.

• For the Falcons’ sake, Michael Vick had better develop into a bona fide passing quarterback between now and January. Otherwise, the Panthers will reclaim the top spot in the NFC South. Carolina’s refusal to crumble last season, in the face of much adversity, suggests that John Fox and GM Marty Hurney (the erstwhile Washington Timesman) are really building something down there.

• I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Norv Turner’s Raiders and Charley Casserly’s Texans vied for the final AFC wild-card berth.

• And finally …

Strange, isn’t it, that Joe Theismann, whose career ended on “Monday Night Football,” will be Al Michael’s sidekick on “MNF” beginning next year? Hope nobody slips up before the first telecast and tells him to “break a leg.”

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