Starting this collection of thoughts and feelings with a confession: I am an Orlando Apollos fan.
Another confession: I didn’t watch much of the initial American Alliance of Football action because of some post-Super Bowl travels and catching up with friends and family, but after seeing a lot of enthusiasm for the new league on Twitter I got into it. The AAF makes that pretty easy because it’s trying to get popular, so it’s open with what it shares online and in its broadcasts. The social accounts are funny and the league is liberal with its microphone placement. I’d love to hear what goes on inside the replay booth for an NFL game — even a preseason game — as you can in the AAF.
I needed to pick a team. Enter: Apollos coach Steve Spurrier. I have no connection to Orlando or to Florida, but Spurrier plus liberal microphone placement? Sign me up.
“It was just as loud as Rocky Top,” Spurrier cracked about the crowd in San Antonio after the Apollos’ 37-29 win against the hometown Commanders there. As long as the team is winning and Spurrier keeps throwing gratuitous shade at the University of Tennessee, count me in, and consider this your invitation to jump on the Apollos bandwagon with me. They’re 2-0 but also just found out they have to move their practices to Georgia because of Florida workers compensation laws. Never a dull moment in the AAF, guys.
■ Back to the NFL. We’re in the window in which teams can apply the franchise tag. The tag is a tool to restrict player movement; a team can pay one player a high, fully guaranteed one-year salary in exchange for keeping that player off the free agent market.
The only player I can see playing under the tag next season for the Patriots is kicker Stephen Gostkowski. It would cost about $5 million, and Gostkowski’s age (35) makes it reasonable to go year to year.
Edge rusher Trey Flowers and offensive tackle Trent Brown are options, too, but if the Patriots are willing to pay what their tag numbers would be (around $18.7 million for Flowers as a defensive end and around $15.3 million for Brown as an offensive lineman), then, to me, that would indicate enough fondness for those players that long-term deals would make more sense.
Flowers and Brown are coming off great seasons and should be motivated to make long-term deals sooner rather than later, risking injury or a drop in effectiveness, so I don’t see either playing under the tag in 2019.
■ A word on Colin Kaepernick’s situation: Seems like there’s a lot of conflation of his pursuit of social justice initiatives and his recently settled lawsuit against the NFL. The lawsuit was about recouping wages lost as a result of the collusion he alleged NFL owners engaged in against him. Settling for an undisclosed (but likely big) dollar amount accomplishes that.
Outside the case, Kaepernick has preferred to operate independently from the NFL and from groups such as the Players’ Coalition that have chosen to work with the league as they attempt to create societal change within the criminal justice system. That work has nothing to do with his employment and will continue.
■ I’m not a fan of selecting running backs high in the draft but it’s impossible to come to any conclusion other than that Sony Michel was a value pick. Michel went No. 31 overall and wound up a key cog that powered the Patriots’ offense to a Super Bowl victory. In 2018-19 that’s quite a trick, Bill Belichick.
■ Here’s hoping the Patriots re-sign wide receiver Phillip Dorsett. Caught 76.2 percent of his targets this past season. Wasn’t called on a lot but when he was, good things happened. The cost shouldn’t be huge, and the Patriots need receiver depth. Run this one back, please.
■ I skipped watching the Grammy Awards this year because they were so disappointing last year, then of course regretted not seeing what turned out to be a pretty good show aired live. Won’t make the same mistake with the Oscars. I’m rooting for “The Favourite” to win Best Picture, for Regina King to win Best Supporting Actress for “If Beale Street Could Talk,” and for Black Panther to take home a bunch of the technical awards. Not super invested in most of the other categories, but I’ll be watching.
■ Looking forward to the NFL Combine this week and to a happy hour there with a group of women reporters, agents, and NFL folks in various roles. It’s a small but growing group, and an awesome one. Props to Courtney Cronin of ESPN for putting it together!
■ Antonio Brown went on LeBron James’s HBO show, “The Shop,” which takes place in a barbershop, and no one felt the need to address the blond caterpillar mustache sitting under his nose? LeBron, I trusted you.
■ Two of my favorite meals on the road of the 2018-19 season were in Nashville: Locally sourced Southern food at Husk, then modern izakaya-style fare at The Green Pheasant. Nashville rules. BBQ at Q39 in Kansas City was also a culinary highlight.