When we last left Westend Bistro barfly Peter King, he thought the NFL and the player’s union were closer than he thought on a new deal. But by “closer than he thought,” he didn’t mean CLOSE, of course. He’s more optimistic than ever, yet he remains pessimistic. He doesn’t like Zulu Blend as much as he used to, but he still loves it MORE THAN ANY MAN HAS LOVED ANY HOUSEHOLD PET EVER. The man is a study in extremes, and in stepping two inches away from those extremes.

So what about this week? As a city to have fun in, do we also underrate New York? Because that’s what New York is. A city. Did Claire Cain Miller come up with any other awesome coffee jokes? I can bare-ista wait to find out! Can Peter still not believe Blaine Gabbert will go number one, except that he can? Did Peter have to stand outside in a 42-degree wind chill while earning potentially millions of dollars a year? Maybe it’s because I’m an optimist, but I think this week’s column will be Fist-Rectum bad. READ ON.

Very interesting weekend.

You would NOT believe how our rotisserie draft turned out. Was trading away my top overall pick for Jim Abbott a risk? MAYBE. But I love what Jim’s example can teach our youngsters.

A multi-dateline weekend across the southeast.

Atlanta (GA) – My God! It’s 58 degrees outside. Do they really expect me to tolerate this kind of windswept moonscape for very long?

Birmingham (AL) – Boy, if you were a black person growing up here, the 1960’s sure were a busy time for death for you!

Miami (FL) – Harvey Greene, you still have a long way to go before calling this acceptable press box java.

I think — no, I know — that Carson Palmer’s serious about his intention to retire if the Bengals don’t deal him.

You KNOW?!

(confetti drops)

Everyone! Everyone gather round! Peter has gone from thinking to knowing! We’ve been hoping for this kind of breakthrough for decades now!

We’ll start by me tailing The Michael Vick Experience as he tried to fire up inmates in Avon Park, Fla., on Saturday.

VICK: Y’all should get fired up!

INMATES: Yay!

VICK: Once you get out this bitch, shit gets WAY better! You master the QB position. The Eagles sign you. You make millions of dollars again. It’s the fucking TIZZAY! You’ll love it! And it happens for EVERYONE who gets out of jail!

INMATES: Uh…

I got a good view into Michael Vick’s world over the weekend, visiting a Florida prison with Tony Dungy and another one of our NBC Football Night in America colleagues, Dan Patrick.

In other news, were you aware that I work at NBC? At that my famous colleagues and I often travel together in a single pack? We watch games on very large televisions and eat impossibly rich meals. You should come sometime. PSYCH! You can’t come.

Dungy invited us to come along to see the prison ministry group he’s become so involved with.

“With my guidance, none of these young men will stay gay after prison.”

(Vick) appears to be on his way to changing his life. But time will tell if the change can stick.

Has he changed? I don’t know. Could he be a new man? POSSIBLY. Has Vick been invaded by pod people from outer space who put on a good front in order to infiltrate Langley and snatch our nuclear launch codes? COULD BE HALF-RIGHT.

I just know if I were being told every day how wonderful I am…

I mean by people other than myself, of course…

“When I started to come to prisons [with Abe Brown],” said Dungy, “I was so surprised. I thought it’d be all these older guys.

Who knew younger men were more likely to commit crimes? Except everyone?

“You gonna learn to slide now?” one 25ish inmate asked.

“No. No,” Vick said. “Not how I play. In 20 years, I’ll look back at my career and say, ‘I never learned to slide.’ ”

I love that.

VICK: I’m a changed man.

INMATE: So will you slide?

VICK: FUCK NO! That shit’s for faggots! I ain’t ever slid, and I ain’t about to start!

/goes and kills dog

Time for Peter to slap on his leash and play owner’s pissboy!

Players want a shot at a percentage of excessive profits in every year of the deal. Owners aren’t offering it. Yet. Who’s to say they won’t?

Indeed. Who’s to say that owners won’t decide to be nice and hand out profits and free hams to players as token of good faith? Can’t you just picture Jerry Richardson and Dan Snyder committing such random acts of kindness? Maybe the owners will offer profit-sharing. Perhaps they’ll even bestow helicopters on every player. BECAUSE DAN ROONEY IS A CLASS ACT.

But to criticize a proposal that all but dropped the 18-game regular-season as a proposal (players would have to agree for an expanded season to become reality), added a neutral arbitrator (not a league exec) to referee drug and steroid appeals, and appeared to significantly increase a vested player’s health benefits for life. Trashing this proposal, to me, means more you’re going to have to take back someday.

Yeah, players! Can’t you feel the tide of public sentiment turning against you now that owners have explained to Peter precisely what they’d like him to say, and how many sugar cookies they’d like him to fetch at the bakery for Tuesday’s meeting?

“That offer by us was not intended to be take-it-or-leave-it,” negotiating committee member John Mara said in New Orleans Sunday. “We stood ready to talk about all parts of the offer, and I wish we had been able to…”

Aw, they seem so amiable to negotiating, especially now that they know they’re screwed in court. If I were a player, I totally would have known this deal was only meant as a conversation starter, especially when Jerry Jones is saying LOCKOUT in sign language at the bargaining table.

Carson Palmer is serious about not going back to Cincinnati.

Isn’t everyone who leaves Cincy serious about never returning?

What makes this interesting, though, is that Cincinnati would be able to get something decent for Palmer in trade. He’s 31. He’s healthy.

AND he throws interceptions with 97% accuracy!

He’d love to play in California (you listening, Jim Harbaugh?)

Yeah, Jim Harbaugh. Are you listening?! There’s a washed-up quarterback with numerous nagging hand and leg injuries that wants to play for YOU. Are you just gonna sit there while this opportunity to stunt your team’s growth passes you by?!

Andy Reid apparently is serious about trading Kevin Kolb.

What’s that? Trade away a decent backup when your starter is a highly injury-prone ex-con who refuses to slide? ANDY REID KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS.

I’d trade a very high draft pick to acquire Kolb instead of drafting one of the quarterbacks available this year. I’d want to reduce the risk of making a mistake high in the draft by taking the safe guy with ability? Kolb’s 26.

Agreed. All good points.

He’s a coach’s son.

CHRIST I FUCKING HATE THAT ARGUMENT. Hey, he’s a coach’s kid! That means he’s automatically better than a baker’s son at the position! Here’s what you need to know about most coach’s kids: They’re usually undersized, and on any other team they’d be the fucking fifth wideout.

Arizona could be the landing spot for Marc Bulger…

Oooh! But tell me… Which lucky team will end up with Tarvaris Jackson’s services? I MUST KNOW.

…if the Cardinals don’t pick a quarterback in the first round, and maybe even if they do.

A classic Bulge-Bulge situation!

Coach Ken Whisenhunt seems likely to be in the market for a bridge quarterback, even though he has not totally given up hope on Max Hall.

You can’t give up hope on Max Hall, not when he fumbles at the goal line with such grace and élan. He’s a coach’s kid!

“TONY! TONY! HEYYYY TONY!!!!!”
–A passenger in a car traveling through the Belmont Heights section of Tampa on Saturday about 6 a.m., as he drove past a Cadillac Escalade with the windows rolled up and tinted.

The Escalade was driven by Tampa resident and retired coach Tony Dungy.

Because he’s such a modest fellow, that Tony Dungy.

The only possible way a person could tell it was Dungy’s car was by the “O” window sticker for son Eric’s University of Oregon Ducks.

Just another sign of how well-known Dungy is in Tampa.

Are you not dazzled that Tony Dungy is so famous that people know him just by the asshole car he drives? AND I AM FRIENDS WITH HIM. I TOOK OUT AN AD IN THE TIMES TO DECLARE IT SO.

I’ve never seen New Orleans look better than it did Sunday.

Never? Are you certain?

/consults Google Satellite

It had to have looked better at some point.

Sunny, 70s, palm trees swaying gently, obnoxious drunks sleeping one off from Saturday night. This town’s coming back in a good way.

AND I saw a Starbucks. Now if THAT doesn’t tell you the lower Ninth is completely rebuilt, I don’t know what does.

I learned one valuable lesson in traversing Florida over the past three days… FM radio is a disaster.

Menawhile, Peter iPad sits in the backseat of the rental car, strangely unused. And covered in heavy whipping cream.

Interesting reaction from an 86ish-year-old lady I was walking behind at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland. Looking at the beer in my hand, she said sternly, “If you spill that beer on me, I’ll have you arrested.” Hmmmm. I see.

I then kicked her in the shins and stole a foul ball from her.

I think the hero of the week doesn’t want to be the hero of the week. John Mara, I mean.

I think your Peter King tortured writing passage this week doesn’t know it’s the Peter King tortured writing passage this week. This passage, I mean. Also, JOHN MARA’S HAIR HAS BEEN KNOWN TO CURE ALZHEIMER’S.

I think one of Sirius Radio’s faithful callers, Benny from the Bronx, got quite a surprise the other day. Goodell called him.

Roger Goodell CALLS people? And does PX90? God, he’s a fucking dynamo. Why don’t we just send HIM to Libya?

Goodell sometimes calls avid fans who write or call the league office, and this was one of his calls last week. Benny got quite excited, as he is prone to do when discussing the NFL, and I asked him what Goodell’s message was. “He told me, ‘Don’t take sides,’ ” Benny said.

Don’t take sides, Benny! We need you to NOT have an opinion, and to be the braindead fan we fully expect our fans to be. DON’T YOU JUST LOVE THOSE COORS LIGHT ADS?!

I don’t know what I’d do without Jim Irsay’s tweets. At 11:51 p.m. Sunday, this came from @jimirsay: “It’s so noisy at the Fair, but all your friends r there… the candy floss u had..and your mother and your dad..Oh 2 live on, Sugar Mountain”

Indeed, what would I do without a billionaire who earned his money through inheritance tweeting random Neil Young lyrics?

Woman in line at the Starbucks in the Tampa Airport Sunday morning…

Starbucks? YOU’RE MORE THAN ALIVE, TAMPA.

…ordered a 115-degree hot chocolate and asked for soy whipped cream. They didn’t have it. Then she said she’d take it at 115 degrees with no whipped. The barista looked surprised. The woman said, “I’ve had places make me soy whipped cream.” That’s a new one on me.

And that’s because Peter don’t take that soy crap. You get that shit right out of his face. He only drinks triple crème de menthe Venician Nutmeggiattos like a REAL MAN.

I have found a new go-to beer. Rapscallion Premier (Holyoke, Mass.), probably the best American blonde ale I have tasted.

It’s almost as good as Peroni!

Had it before, but there was something ridiculously good about it this time, on draft — maybe the slight touch of lemon zest, rare for this beer in those I’ve tasted.

Just a… a soupcon of cantaloupe, perhaps?!

Just wish I could find it in more places in the Boston area.

Only Harpoon is harder to come across.

Speaking of the Boston area, not sure if the Hub can be feeling really good about the fourth starter (Josh Beckett) and closer (Jonathan Papelbon) combining for an ERA over 12.60 in spring training.

THE SUFFERING BEGINS ANEW! EVERYONE, HOLD A CANDLELIGHT VIGIL FOR THOSE IN THE HUB DEVASTATED BY THIS TRAGEDY.

Mesmerized by the TV in midweek. I weep for Japan.

Hey, did you see Japan explode? Man, that was good TV. In other news, I despair for the current state of the Red Sox.

And then I just learned the other night we’re at war with Libya. Sort of.

MAYBE.