With the Bears having hired Mike Martz to run their offense, the team’s attention now turns to finding a defensive play-caller.
Bears turn attention to defensive coordinator
Most of the out-of-the-blue retirements happen before training camp, and involve guys who don’t have a job.
But this one is from a guy who was actually employed.
A solid blocker throughout his stint in the league, Stevens was part of an aging depth chart for the Titans, with Delanie Walker and Anthony Fasano. He re-signed with Tennessee this offseason on a one-year deal.
He started 11 games last year and had 12 catches. In his career, the former third-rounder caught 60 passes for 724 yards and six touchdowns.
In last year’s Super Bowl, playing for the Panthers, Norman generally got the better of Thomas: Thomas had six passes thrown his way and caught only one, for eight yards. Norman boasted of that in the interview.
“I don’t know what he was out there for,” Norman said. “He was supposed to be an all-world guy, and I shut him down.”
Thomas, of course, was on the winning team, however, and a Norman defensive holding penalty set up the Broncos’ game-clinching touchdown. So when Thomas saw Norman’s comments, he took to Twitter with a picture of his Super Bowl ring.
Demaryius Thomas (@DemaryiusT) August 23, 2016
And with that, Thomas gets the last laugh.
The Vikings opted not to play quarterback Teddy Bridgewater against the Seahawks last Thursday and a report emerged in the following days that Bridgewater was bothered by shoulder soreness leading up to the game.
That wasn’t confirmed by the team, but the fact that Bridgewater didn’t throw in practice on either Saturday or Sunday seemed to offer further evidence that all wasn’t 100 percent with his arm. Tuesday’s practice provided reason to believe things are headed back that way.
Bridgewater threw during team drills, although reports from the team’s session indicated that he was mostly throwing shorter passes during the workout. Shaun Hill, who started in Bridgewater’s place, also returned to action after a day off and a day off from throwing to further return things to normal for the Vikes.
Coach Mike Zimmer again passed on saying the shoulder was the reason for Bridgewater’s limited activity in recent days, but hinted that something physical was to blame for holding Bridgewater out last week.
“I told you guys when I first got here I would try and be as transparent and honest as I can and I will be,” Zimmer said, via Chip Scoggins of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “But there are certain things I’m not going to tell you. If he had an issue with his shoulder, I’m going to make sure that I err on the side of caution. If I played him and he got hurt, you guys would be killing me in the press. I’m always going to protect the players. Im going to do what I think is best for the organization. You’re going to have to respect that.”
If Bridgewater plays against the Chargers in the Vikings’ first game at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday, it sounds like it’s safe to assume that Zimmer is convinced that all is well with Bridgewater’s arm, legs and so on down the line.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco avoided the physically unable to perform list to open camp and his surgically-repaired knee hasn’t had any setbacks during practices, which leaves one big box to check on his comeback from a torn ACL.
Flacco hasn’t played in either of the team’s first two preseason games, but said on Tuesday that he will be on the field against the Lions this Saturday. Flacco expects to play the same amount he’d typically play during the team’s third preseason outing,
“It’s not super important to go out and play a game just because I need to play a game. You need to get back out there, you need to get your mind used to getting ready for a game,” Flacco said on Mad Dog Sports Radio with Adam Schein. “And then, yeah, I need to get over that last hurdle, which is going out there and being a live target for guys to hit and see how I react to it.”
Saturday’s game will be Flacco’s first with wide receiver Mike Wallace in the lineup and the Ravens hope that their connection helps fuel better production through the air than they had before and after Flacco got hurt last year.
On Monday, the first tangible suggestion emerged that fraud occurred in connection with the cancellation of the Hall of Fame Game, with quotes from Colts punter Pat McAfee coupled with a statement from lawyer Michael Avenatti making it clear that, eventually, the lawsuit filed two weeks ago will be revised to assert deliberate deceit. The Hall of Fame thereafter called the accusation “totally baseless.” Appearing on Tuesday’s PFT Live, I asked Avenatti why he believes fraud happened.
“Well, I don’t believe fraud occurred, I know fraud occurred,” Avenatti said, “because people are coming out of the woodwork now and providing us with facts and evidence that shows no question that fraud occurred on behalf of the league and the Hall of Fame. The reason why we know that now is because, for instance, Pat McAfee on the morning after the game gave a podcast during which he described exactly what he witnessed in connection with the cancellation of the game. . . . The league and the Hall of Fame informed the players, ninety players to the Packers and ninety players for the Colts, at least an hour and a half before they told the fans that the game was cancelled. Then to make matters worse they told those same individuals not to say anything about it, to tweet about it, et cetera. They clearly tried to cover this up and keep it from the fans in the interest of money.”
The argument the Hall of Fame withheld the information from fans to keep them in the stadium, buying food, drink, programs, and other merchandise that otherwise wouldn’t have been sold.
“The Hall of Fame and the league have yet to provide an answer to the following very basic question. Why did you tell the players, personnel and ESPN that the game was cancelled but you waited an hour and a half, two hours to tell the fans? They don’t have an answer for that question. . . . Someone needs to pose this question again to the Hall of Fame and the NFL and ensure they answer it. Why didn’t you tell the fans at the same time you told ESPN and the players and why did it take you at least an hour and a half to do so? They haven’t answered that question. They don’t want to answer the question because the answer is ugly.”
Avenatti eventually will have a chance to force someone to answer the question, along with an opportunity to review phones and other electronic information for evidence that would provide the answer indirectly.
“We fully expect to uncover text messages demonstrating [fraud],” Avenatti said. “I will tell you this, and this has not been announced previously, we know for a fact that a text message was sent out to members of the Hall of Fame or individuals assisting the Hall of Fame with VIP guests informing them that the game was cancelled and also expressly telling them not to tell the fans. When we get our hands on that text message the NFL and the Hall of Fame have a serious, serious problem and we expect this to reach all the way to the top. We don’t believe that some middle manager made this decision. Commissioner Goodell and Mr. Baker, the head of the Hall of Fame, are going have a lot of explaining to do in connection with the case.”
The league and the Hall of Fame have done no specific explaining yet. Eventually, they’ll be required to do so within the confines of litigation that wasn’t settled last week.
“Too many people knew about this and too many people were involved with this, and now we’re learning the truth about the timeline and what really happened,” Avenatti said. “This is going to get very, very ugly for the league and the Hall of Fame as time progresses. They should have taken our $450 [per customer] offer. Instead, they decided they want to pay their lawyers millions and this is not going end well I can assure you that.”
It will likely take a while for it to end, given the speed with which civil litigation often moves, or doesn’t move. At some point, though, the truth will come out — whatever it may be.
When Broncos coach Gary Kubiak announced on Monday that Trevor Siemian will get the start in the Broncos third preseason game, he also said that it wasn’t clear whether Siemian would be a full participant in Tuesday’s practice.
Siemian banged his shoulder while trying to make a tackle after an interception against the 49ers last weekend, leaving him with some soreness that called his Tuesday status into question. That questioned was answered on Tuesday.
According to multiple reports from the Broncos facility, Siemian ran the offense during running drills before giving way to Mark Sanchez and Paxton Lynch when it came time to put the ball in the air. The fact that Siemian was at practice in any capacity and not getting treatment from the medical staff would seem to suggest a relatively low concern level about his ability to go on Saturday.
Andrew Mason of the team’s website reports that Lynch is getting the “lion’s share” of work with Siemian out of action. Kubiak said both Lynch and Sanchez are slated to get the same amount of playing time as Siemian against the Rams this week, but didn’t say which one would replace Siemian.
Pulling a franchise tag from a player you wanted to keep around on a long-term deal is a pretty extreme move.
But the farther you get from Carolina’s decision to part ways with cornerback Josh Norman this spring, the clearer it becomes that a divorce was probably inevitable.
In the ESPN the Magazine cover story that promises to become a veritable fountain of quotes from the Washington cornerback, Norman made it clear he didn’t feel comfortable in the culture of the Carolina locker room.
“They kind of shunned me,” he said. “They turned down a lot of stuff for me, interviews, sponsorship deals, stuff I didn’t even know about. They wanted it to be about the two main guys, Cam [Newton] and Luke [Kuechly].”
While it’s entirely reasonable that there were times the Panthers wanted Norman to talk less, the idea that they took money out of his pocket (before pulling the $13.95 million tag) is a pretty bold allegation.
He said at one point he was asked to cut down on his trash talk, but he didn’t because “I’m not fake.”
Thus liberated — and paid $75 million over five years by Daniel Snyder — the Pro Bowl corner thinks he can “grow” in Washington.
“…[I]t feels like everybody can say whatever they want,” Norman said. “It’s a free-flowing kind of place. It’s like going from a dictatorship to freedom.”
Of course, Norman’s also free from the kind of talent he had around him in Carolina, the supporting cast that helped him land such a lucrative deal in Washington. And while he certainly grew as a player, the reality remains that he wasn’t in a position to outshine Newton and Kuechly for one significant reason — they’re better players than he is.
The Panthers play at Washington on Dec. 19.
Gantt’s items about a trying Tuesday for Buccaneers kicker Roberto Aguayo included a mention, via the JoeBucsFan.com Twitter page, that at one point it seemed half the fans at practice were heckling the rookie. Details regarding the heckling have now emerged.
After Aguayo missed several kicks, coach Dirk Koetter described Aguayo’s struggles as “mental.” If the fans already have turned on Aguayo, booing when he misses and giving him exaggerated applause when he converts a chip shot, the Bucs may be looking for an exit strategy sooner than later.
With a $1.147 million signing bonus, a fully-guaranteed $450,000 base salary in 2016, and $428,000 of his $634,000 salary in 2017 fully guaranteed, a divorce would be coming later than sooner. Until then, the Bucs may have to decide whether to sign another kicker to stabilize the position while Aguayo gets his mind right.
Kicking isn’t the only thing troubling Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter right now.
The Buccaneers had a joint practice with the Browns on Wednesday and Koetter spent the day watching the offense struggle against Cleveland’s defense. Jameis Winston and Mike Glennon both threw interceptions, the blockers struggled against the Browns front and Koetter thought the energy level from his team was lacking as well.
“No juice. No juice,” Koetter said, via the Tampa Bay Times. “No one wanted to practice today. … We had balls tipped, we had poor throws and we had bad protection. Bad combination. … Overall, a bad day on offense.”
Koetter said the team wanted the extra work against a 3-4 defense because they play the Cardinals in the second week of the regular season and it seems they found out there’s plenty to work on between now and then.
The day wasn’t a total loss for Koetter. While the offense and placekicking are in need of improvement, Koetter passed along that defensive coordinator Mike Smith “said we did fine over there.”
The day after the Super Bowl, PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio moved from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. ET into the early-morning slot of 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., with the final hour of the show simulcast on NBCSN. The powers-that-be liked it. Or at least they didn’t hate it.
How much didn’t they hate it? Enough that the NBCSN simulcast returns starting Wednesday, August 24 — and doubles in size. Every weekday, two full hours of PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio will be televised on NBCSN, from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. ET.
The show hits the ground sprinting from Day One, with visits from Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Jaguars coach Gus Bradley, and former NFL kicker Jay Feely. In addition to providing compelling guests who have something good to say, we’re committed to bringing you the best, most in-depth NFL analysis, with none of the rah-rah, cookie-cutter, same-old, least-common-denominator stuff that leaves you wanting finite chunks of your life back.
You may still want finite chunks of your life back after watching yours truly and producer Rob “Stats” Guerrera, but at least you will have learned something you didn’t previously know. Regardless of whether you wanted to know it.
So tune in tomorrow morning or set the DVR to NBCSN for the final two hours, and check out the first hour of the show on NBC Sports Radio. Or subscribe to the podcast. Or all of the above.
The Cowboys have brought running back Ezekiel Elliott back deliberately from the hamstring injury he suffered in training camp, but it looks like the final step to declaring him back to fully active status is imminent.
Elliott has been a full participant in practice in recent days after missing about two weeks of work. As a result, he is on track to play against the Seahawks on Thursday in what will be his first game at the NFL level.
“I’m excited to finally get some full-go action,” Elliott said, via ESPN.com. “It’s been a long time.”
Coach Jason Garrett said that he typically wants to see make sure running backs “get a couple of touches” in their first game action of the summer, although he said specific plans for Elliott’s debut have yet to be drawn up. However big the glimpse turns out to be, it will be a welcome one for the Cowboys after the wait to see their first-round pick run behind their offensive line.
The Panthers asked retired cornerback Charles Tillman to hang around practice this week, in part to teach their young corners how to do the “Peanut Punch.”
Little did they know people were going to start punching each other.
The two squared off and immediately went to the ground and wrestled for a bit, before coaches tried to intervene. When they got to their feet, Funchess still had ahold of Worley’s facemask.
“We were just working on our techniques,” Worley said. “But it’s football. People are going to go at it — testosterone — we’re all grown men at the end of the day.
“There’s no hard feelings. It’s behind us. We don’t hate each other or nothing.”
When asked his side, Funchess said: “You’re just trying to start a story that doesn’t need to be started. Nothing happened. It’s just football.”
Well, almost anyway. Tillman was able to force 44 fumbles in his career in part because he knew just when to punch, and where. And he knew that the neck of a teammate wasn’t that place.
The Packers haven’t risked — or bothered — putting quarterback Aaron Rodgers in a preseason game.
But at some point, he has to get ready for the regular season, and this week figures to be the time.
According to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com, Packers associate head coach Tom Clements said it’s likely Rodgers will start Friday night against the 49ers, even if he doesn’t play at any other point in the preseason.
“Aaron has been very sharp in practice,” Clements said. “We haven’t discussed what the exact playtime will be, but I’m sure he’ll play. I anticipate that he’ll be sharp. But really you have to be moving around quicker than you do in practice. It tests your stamina a little bit more; you have to get used to that. You have to get used to — get reacclimated to the speed of the game because as I said it’s different than practice.
“But at this point it’s like riding a bike: You’ve been there, you’ve done it, you know how to do it and you just have to go in and practice it a little bit and get ready.”
Rodgers worked with the scout team in practice early in camp (as they were trying to get reps for Brett Hundley and undrafted rookies Joe Callahan and Marquise Williams), but has transitioned to working with the starting offense exclusively this week.
He skipped the Hall of Fame Non-Game, and was tucked safely away on the sidelines for the last two. And with starters scarce in the final game of the preseason anyway, Rodgers probably won’t play in that one.
Head coach Mike McCarthy wouldn’t commit to a specific plan, but one game of exposure to the preseason is probably plenty for a 12th year player, especially when he’s a former MVP.
Wide receiver Breshad Perriman is back on the practice field for the Ravens for the first time since partially tearing his ACL during an OTA practice in the spring, which means he’s a little bit closer to playing in his first game since the Ravens drafted him in the first round last year.
Perriman missed his rookie year with a PCL injury and said he “had a better attitude toward the whole rehab process” this time around and that he’s “not really trying to baby” his knee now that he’s back on the practice field because he wants to be playing in Week One.
“[I’m] very eager,” Perriman said, via the team’s website. “It’s coming real soon. I know it will be worth the wait. … I feel real good; I’m confident. I feel like my speed is there still, so I can’t complain at all.”
Now that he’s off the physically unable to perform list, Perriman will either be on the Week One roster, injured reserve or looking for other work. The last option is hard to imagine, making a bigger question how much he can do in the offense when healthy and how quickly he can start doing it. Perriman admits there’s “some work to do” with quarterback Joe Flacco and the sooner the better to get cracking on making the results worth the extended wait.
How does a team with four quarterbacks on the roster keep all of them without carrying all of them roster? By stashing one of them on injured reserve.
Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News makes the case for using IR as the spot for rookie Christian Hackenberg, allowing the Jets to keep Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith, and Bryce Petty on the roster once the season starts.
Technically, a player has to be injured to be placed on injured reserve. But if the player goes along with it, who’s to stop it from happening?
Teams misuse IR all the time. Some teams have been accused from time to time of using players on IR in practice, even though that’s never supposed to happen.
With each team now allowed to permit one player per year to return from injured reserve, Hackenberg could (in theory) be brought back to the 53-man roster, if for example the Jets were to find a trade partner for Petty or Smith.
If the Jets are reluctant to cut Smith or Petty, using IR as the landing spot for Hackenberg makes the most sense. Especially since they have yet to put him in either of the team’s two preseason games.