Here are my three thoughts on the Buffalo Bills (well, two on the Bills and one that honors what today is all about) as they finish up their three-day rookie minicamp:
> When I was a kid, growing up in Central New York, my father wasn't much into sports. Neither was my mom. My biggest sporting influences were neighborhood buddies and their dads.
Somewhere between the late stages of grammar school and early junior high, my parents -- and especially my mother -- recognized they had a son who pretty much loved to play and/or watch any game involving a ball or a puck, and that it wasn't such a bad thing. By then, I was obsessed with the NFL, and my mom (with my father's tacit approval) began altering the family's Sunday and Thanksgiving eating schedules to accommodate my being glued to the TV set, while on my belly in the living room with different colored pens and grid sheets in front of me to chart the action.
When, as an eighth-grader, I came home from school to share my crazy dream of one day writing about the NFL for a newspaper, my mother flashed a warm smile. Then she said, "Why not?" Mom was there every night, at the dining room table, to help get my mediocre English grades high enough so that I could become sports editor of the student paper in my freshman year.
She was the one who sent those care packages of frozen meals after I landed my first big job after college, covering the Philadelphia Eagles for the South Jersey Courier-Post. She was the one who took the trips to Buffalo to visit, undaunted by heavy snowstorms that invariably hit when she came out to watch our daughters as my wife and I traveled to the Super Bowl. She was the one who staged tea parties and teddy bear picnics and "elegant dinners" with my girls and their friends.
She was the one who beamed whenever someone would ask, "Is that your son who covers the Bills?" and who showed so much pride over the writing awards and the books and any other career achievements. She was the one who provided a soothing voice at the other end of the phone when I called her in 2007 to say I had been diagnosed with cancer, and then came out lend a hand around the house as I was going through chemotherapy. She was the one who, whenever I would express frustration or exasperation over a particularly challenging work stretch, would always say, "You're equal to it, son."
Mary Anne Carucci is 87, and I know how blessed I am to continue to have her support. Happy Mother's Day!
> Eric Striker is a dreamer. He has his sights set on proving that the NFL messed up by not drafting him because he's much smaller than a typical linebacker. The Bills gave him that opportunity by signing him as an undrafted free agent.
Striker isn't only fearless on the field. He's a guy who owns his space, regardless of the location. That includes standing in front of a bunch of reporters, as he did after Friday's first day of rookie minicamp practice. Striker leaned on a lectern as he spoke, as if having a casual conversation with long-time friends rather than fielding a series of questions from strangers. His session eventually became more of an exchange as the topic switched to reporters warning him to be more respectful of chicken wings in the place where the dish was born, and then trying to educate him on the history of small linebackers who made it big in the NFL.
After Striker said he never heard of London Fletcher, I recommended that he look him up. After he said he never heard of Sam Mills, I said he should look him up, too. So maybe Striker isn't a student of the game, but he does seem to have a firm grasp of how to engage with the media. If the kid can play bigger than his 6-foot, 221-pound frame, he's going to quickly emerge as one of the more popular players the Bills have had in a long time.
> Adolphus Washington always believed that Cardale Jones, his former teammate at Ohio State, would make a better quarterback in the NFL than in college. That sentiment is shared by others who watched Jones play for the Buckeyes.
The bottom line is that, at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, he wasn't built to be the classic, read-option quarterback for whom Ohio State's offense is designed. Jones is built to work from the pocket, and the fact Urban Meyer never could envision him as a good fit for his scheme was the main reason Jones was removed as a starter after the Buckeyes' 7-0 start last season.
Washington and Jones became close friends in Columbus and remain that way as Bills teammates. But Washington wasn't angry over Jones' demotion to backup, because he saw the qualities -- the size, the strength, the athleticism, the huge arm -- that figure to give him a decent chance to thrive in the NFL.