Backed against an interior wall in a hotel conference room choked with media three days before Super Bowl XLII, New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin appeared to panic just a bit when he didn't understand the phrasing of one particular question. I don't remember the exact inquiry from that day, only the difficulty Coughlin had with the term "shout-out." "A what?" he said. "Would you like to send a shout-out?" a camera crew wanted to know, to some members of the military. Coughlin's ears had perked up at the mention of the armed forces, but he didn't know what a shout-out was. "I don't understand, a what?" he said. "You know, like a greeting," And, with that, Coughlin plunged into what likely was the most eloquent and earnest response he gave all week before his Giants shocked the unbeaten New England Patriots. It was not perhaps as detailed or as candid as the things he has been saying about his recent visit to Iraq, but it made clear that Coughlin knew the distinction between heroes and athletes long before the NFL and USO put together the Iraq experience that Coughlin, Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh and coaches-turned-broadcasters Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher shared last week. Sometimes, it seems no one needs a serious look at serious things more than football coaches and football broadcasters, both of whom throw around military terms way too indiscriminately. The bomb, the blitz, the ground attack, the aerial assault, the platoon system. Enough. Writers do it, too. That's why it was nice to see Harbaugh, in a video posted on NFL.com last week, sending his players this message from Baghdad: "I don't want to hear from our players in training camp that it's too hot," he said. "OK guys? It's not too hot." That's because in Baghdad Monday it was 105 degrees. Tuesday's high was expected to hit 110. Mike Tomlin laughed when I told him he should just announce the temperature in Baghdad before practice. On one of those days, it was 113. Inside of a month, the nation's football media will begin dramatizing the "sweltering" conditions in Berea, Ohio; De Pere, Wis.; Mankato, Minn.; and, of course, Latrobe (average annual August temperature: 81). All these places have an even more conspicuous advantage on the Persian Gulf operations sphere of America's servicemen and women: No roadside bombs. Like the ones that killed six Americans Monday in Afghanistan. Remember that, too, when we stir up the inevitable strength-of-schedule discussion from training camp. Somebody has to have a tough schedule. Somebody has to have the toughest schedule. But nobody has to open at Kunduz, or at Fallujah or Tikrit, or at Mosul, or at Badrah. But back, for a moment, to Coughlin, who has nurtured a rich friendship with ardent Giants fan Raymond Odierno, who now just happens to be the commanding general in Iraq. Plenty of NFL coaches, players and executives, from the beginnings of World War II to commissioner Roger Goodell's trip to Iraq last summer, have demonstrated their ardent support for Americans in the military, but few seem so effected by valor and heroism and their shamefully marginalized place in 21st-century American culture as Coughlin. "I'm a little bit older in life, and maybe I'm looking at things a little bit differently," Coughlin told Giants.com. "Maybe I'm trying to enjoy the opportunities that this wonderful position has given me to meet these kinds of people. And I don't think its happenstance. I relish the opportunities to meet these impressive people, because you know what, the other thing that is so important to me is that I can't stand phonies. I can't stand the BS that goes along with, to be honest with you, a job like this sometimes. There is none of that in any of these people, believe me. These are straightforward, honest, forthright people that cut right to the chase. I'm not interesting in conversing about BS." That's why Coughlin would rather talk about visiting amputees at Walter Reed Hospital than about what he has got planned should the Eagles run five receivers out there against his nickel defense. Coughlin likely will never have the patience to sit and talk for a living after he is finished with coaching, like Cowher and Gruden. But all three should know now, as should Fisher and Harbaugh, not to call a football player a warrior just because he is making lots of tackles. Pat Tillman was a warrior, but hardly for that reason. Tillman knew the difference between heroes and athletes, and he died proving it in Afghanistan, making him one of nearly 5,000 Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan this decade. More than 30,000 have been wounded. Not sure how Gruden will do analyzing Monday Night Football this fall, but now he should know better than to tell us the game will be won in the trenches. Because of all the factors in play when the Bills visit the Patriots Sept. 14, a months-long appointment with rats and disease and bullets and death probably is not among them. There was no more worthy NFL offseason news than Coughlin, Fisher, Harbaugh, Gruden and Cowher visiting Iraq. When the season starts, that trip might actually help all of us remember what we're talking about. Its just football.