The Green Bay Packers are a wildly popular pick to emerge as this year’s NFC representative in Super Bowl XLV, and Packers linebacker Nick Barnett is unsurprisingly on the bandwagon.
Nick Barnett predicts Super Bowl for Pack
Suspended Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant has been training five days a week and will serve as a volunteer assistant football coach at a high school in Nevada this fall, ESPN reported Thursday.
“[Bryant] is as focused as I’ve seen him in a while,” his agent, Thomas Santanello, told ESPN. “He’s keeping very busy. He enjoys working with kids.”
Bryant, who’s suspended for at least a year, is back in the news this week because the Steelers are reporting to camp without him and because Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, who was serving a similar suspension for violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policy, was recently reinstated.
Santanello said Bryant has stayed clean and complied with terms of the NFL’s drug program.
Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert said last spring that Bryant needs to “find himself” and understand he’s on the verge of losing “the privilege” of playing in the NFL.
Bryant, 24, has 14 receiving touchdowns in 21 career games. He was also suspended to start the 2015 season, and he can apply for reinstatement after the 2016 season.
Tim Tebow isn’t ready to close the door on the NFL just yet.
Tebow, who was in training camp with the Eagles last year but hasn’t played in a regular-season game since he was on the Jets in 2012, said on CBS Sports Radio that
“I mean, for me, I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in,” Tebow said. “I’m still young, I still feel really good. So is that something that I feel like I can be an effective quarterback in the NFL? Yeah, I really do feel like I could be. But I think at the same time, there are a lot of other things that I’m doing that I love and that I’m blessed to do.”
Tebow’s best bet if he wanted to continue his NFL career would probably be to develop in the Canadian Football League, but Tebow sounds more interested in pursuing his other life goals if the NFL doesn’t come calling.
“Football is just one thing that I love to do,” Tebow said. “But it can’t become your everything because eventually you’re not going to be able to play, whether that’s today or five years from now. And if it’s your everything, when you’re done what do you do?”
It’s good that Tebow has other things he wants to do, because his NFL career is almost certainly over. Whether he still thinks he can play or not.
Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon met the media for the first time since he was reinstated by the NFL from a suspension that kept him off the field for all of last season.
Gordon reiterated the message that he’s grateful for the chance to return that he sent on Twitter after being reinstated and said there were times when he wasn’t sure if the Browns would want him back. He said he’s happy that they do and that he’s a different person than the selfish player that he’s been in the past. Gordon said he knows that just saying it doesn’t prove anything and wants to show how he’s changed by taking advantage of the support that the Browns are offering him.
“I have a great support staff here, moreso than I’ve ever felt before,” Gordon said, via the Akron Beacon-Journal. “It plays a part on both sides. Me wanting to give in to that support and allow them to help me and me wanting to be helped, as I opposed to before me trying to be selfish and do things on my own.”
Gordon said that quarterback Robert Griffin III is part of the support team and someone that he knows he can “count on and lean on” during the season. Gordon and Griffin have adjacent lockers, which Gordon said was no accident.
Gordon also addressed his relationship with a past Browns quarterback by saying that Johnny Manziel is always going to be his friend, but that they are “definitely two different people on two different paths.” Gordon said he has to do what’s right for him for the “sake of my career,” something that the Browns likely hope includes fewer nights with their former quarterback and more time spent focused on resuming a career that will remain long on promise as long as Gordon remains on the field.
Football season essentially has begun, with the opening of camp. But Saints quarterback Drew Brees is willing to continue to entertain contract offers from the team until football season actually launches, with Week One of the regular season.
Brees reiterated the deadline for doing a new deal during Thursday comments to the media from training camp in West Virginia.
“My approach is when the season is here it’s all about the season, I don’t want to be worrying about a contract or anything else,” Brees said. “My mind will be on the preparation week to week on the next opponent. If there’s something to be done, it’s between now and the season.”
Since it’s a deadline-driven business, the safest bet is a deal will come, if at all, in the days before the regular-season opener.
“Just to clarify, nothing is adversarial,” Brees said at one point on Thursday. “I have a great relationship with Mickey Loomis and have for my entire time here. This is just that part of the business let’s call it where, obviously, conversations happen in regards to the contract it’s between my agent Tom Condon and Mickey Loomis and, obviously, I am kept abreast as to the way those conversations are going. I think there’s a process to this and it isn’t an exact science and it isn’t an exact process. We’ll see how this shakes out over the next month and a half.”
While the questions from reporters have yet to focus on the ultimate hammer Brees holds, the 43.2-million pound elephant remains in the room. If the Saints use the franchise tag on Brees for what would be the third time of his career, he would be entitled to a 44-percent raise over his $30 million cap number for 2016.
Which translates to a tag of $43.2 million. Which also translates to a low likelihood that the team would invest so much cap and cap space in a quarterback who turns 38 in January. Which means the market would set his value next year. Which means the anticipated market would set his value now.
Which means that Condon and Loomis need to get on the same page as to what Brees would be worth on the open market in order to get on the same page as to his value moving forward. From the player’s perspective, however, his age won’t be a factor in his value.
“I don’t see any reason why I can’t play at the highest level for the next five years minimum,” Brees said. “It really comes down to how long do I want to play.”
Eventually, it also may come down to where he wants to play. Because Brees may have the ability to do what he last did in 2006: Hit the market and look for his next destination.
The Cowboys — or at least owner Jerry Jones — have stood by Rolando McClain despite his latest suspension.
But the strange career of the former top-10 pick has taken yet another turn.
According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, McClain wasn’t on the Cowboys team plane to California for training camp, with no apparent explanation.
While McClain is suspended for the first 10 games of the regular season for his latest substance abuse policy violation, Jones has been in his corner throughout.
McClain was also missing for a large portion of the voluntary offseason work, which reportedly angered his coaches. Then again, Jones denied that and said coaches were lobbying for McClain’s return, so maybe he’ll make another excuse for a guy who has had plenty made for him.
Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell apologized to the team on Thursday for his reported missed drug tests and pending four-game suspension being a distraction, but in a meeting with reporters at the team’s training camp site Bell didn’t say much else about his situation.
That’s understandable as Bell prepares to appeal the suspension. Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin didn’t want to say much about Bell’s appeal but said it’s his understanding that the hearing will be held sometime around mid-August.
That doesn’t affect the Steelers’ plans for now because the team has a reliable backup in DeAngelo Williams and because Bell is still rehabbing a knee injury.
Last week, Bell wrote on his Instagram account “I’m not gonna miss any games. Trust me.”
Thursday, Bell said he was notified of his missed test in March. He had told Pittsburgh reporters in June that he hadn’t missed or failed a test, but a recent report said he missed several drug tests.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is back with the Jets and coach Todd Bowles confirmed for those with any doubt that he’s still on top of the team’s depth chart at a Thursday press conference.
That pushes Geno Smith back down to No. 2 after he spent the offseason running the offense while Fitzpatrick and the Jets did their extended contract tango. Smith knew enough to not be shocked by Fitzpatrick’s signing, but the news still delivered a blow to a player who was hoping for a chance to play in Week One.
“I’m not disappointed,” Smith said, via NJ.com. “I’m kind of pissed off. But it’s not a detrimental thing. It’s not something where I’m pissed off at anyone, because we all want to be out there. We all know that one quarterback gets to go out there on Day 1. That just adds fuel to the fire, but not in a negative way. I don’t want that to become like a headline or something like that, because it’s not what I’m trying to say. It’s more as a competitor, as a quarterback, knowing what I’m capable of, and really believing in myself, knowing the work that I put in over the offseason. You want to be out there. But you’ve just got to kind of play the cards that you’re dealt.”
Smith was asked if he was upset about being a backup and said he wasn’t and “explained [his feelings] very clearly” about wanting to be on the field.
During his press conference, Bowles shot down speculation that Smith’s roster spot could be in jeopardy because the Jets have four quarterbacks on the roster. He added that Smith would remain Fitzpatrick’s backup unless Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg put up “great” performances that forced a change in the order.
The prior contract applicable to Seahawks G.M. John Schneider reportedly included a provision allowing the Wisconsin native and Packers shareholder to leave to become the G.M. in Green Bay. Schneider, without confirming that his prior deal had that term, says his new one doesn’t.
“No,” Schneider told reporters on Thursday, via Sheil Kapadia of ESPN.com. “There’s been lots of whispers about a lot of things and it’s a small league, and I’m from a small home town.”
The clause largely had become irrelevant, given that all signs point to Eliot Wolf becoming the successor to Ted Thompson in Green Bay. But if giving up the ability to walk helped get Schneider the deal he wanted, it had a lot more value than the non-stock stock certificate he previously bought from the Packers.
With Heath Miller retired, the Steelers need a competent tight end to enhance their offense. They signed Ladarius Green to be that guy.
The official launch of the Ladarius Era has been delayed. Via multiple reports, Green has been placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list, with an ankle injury. He had offseason surgery on that ankle.
Often when surmising, I surmise incorrectly. Last night, I surmised that Ryan Fitzpatrick’s new one-year contract has a phony second or third year, in order to shrink the 2016 cap hit below $12 million.
For change, I surmised correctly.
Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com reports that Fitzpatrick’s contract covers two years, but that the second year will evaporate. With a $10 million signing bonus and $2 million base salary, Fitzpatrick’s cap hit will be $7 million this year and $5 million next year.
This means that, if he’s not on the team in 2017, he’ll count for at least $5 million. If he is on the team, he’ll count for $5 million plus whatever his cap hit is on his next contract.
He also could count for up to another $3 million next year, if he hits the various triggers based on playing time and postseason success. The Jets need to win the Super Bowl before Fitzpatrick gets the full $3 million.
Rawls may feel ready to go, but the Seahawks aren’t going to turn him loose just yet. General Manager John Schneider said, via Curtis Crabtree of PFT, that Rawls will not take part in the team’s first practice of camp on Saturday.
Schneider said the same of tight end Jimmy Graham, who tore his patellar tendon last season. It wouldn’t be a surprising destination coming off of that injury, if only to make sure that Graham isn’t trying to do too much too soon. Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz suffered a calf injury in his return from a patellar tendon tear last year and never saw the field during the regular season.
“We’re going to be very, very careful with those guys,” Schneider said. “We’re still trying to decide if we’re going to put them on PUP [physically unable to perform]. If we’re not, we’re going to be really careful with them.”
The Seahawks said all offseason that they expect both players to be ready for Week One. Schneider said that remains their “understanding” with camp about to open.
It’s unclear whether Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will thrive in his upcoming role as starting quarterback for the first four games of the regular season. He’s already thriving when it comes to the team’s preferred approach at press conferences.
He said pretty much what would be expected, without really saying anything. He’s excited for the chance to play. He’s more comfortable in his third training camp. It’s awesome to throw to the team’s great receivers. It’s not his place to say how much he will or should play in the preseason with the starting offense.
Garoppolo got stumped a couple of times regarding advice he’s gotten from Brady, vowing to “get back to you.” Chances are he won’t, unless Brady specifically authorizes whatever Garoppolo would say.
It’s also possible Brady has given Garoppolo no advice. Why would the veteran try to help the guy who, if he’s anything like Brady was at that age, wants to send Brady to the bench and into retirement? Twice since 2011, the team has used a third-round pick and a second-round pick on a quarterback. Those selections could have been used on players that would actually be, you know, playing. At some level, that has to irritate Brady.
It’s impossible to know that or anything else about Brady at this point because, to date, he hasn’t been made available to the media. He likely won’t be until the weekly obligation to speak arises — which for him won’t happen until the days preceding his debut, in Week Five.
Until then, get used to Garoppolo perfecting the Patriot Way of saying something while saying nothing.
The long-awaited return of wide receiver Victor Cruz drew a little bit closer on Thursday.
According to multiple reports from Giants camp, Cruz went through the team’s conditioning test without any problems and he has avoided the physically unable to perform list for the start of training camp. That means he’ll be part of the active roster for Friday’s opening practice and should take part, although memories of last year mean that he will probably be taking things slowly for a while.
Cruz has not played in a game since tearing his patellar tendon against the Eagles in Week Six of the 2014 season. He avoided the PUP list last summer, but a calf injury suffered in camp and aggravated during another attempted return wound up keeping him off the field for the entire season.
The length of Cruz’s layoff and severity of his injuries create some uncertainty about what kind of player he’ll be for the Giants this season. Odell Beckham is the clear No. 1 and rookie Sterling Shepard has gotten positive reviews for his early work with the team, so things should be looking good for the Giants passing game if Cruz can be anything close to the player he was before his career was interrupted.
Browns defensive lineman Desmond Bryant was holding out hope, though there never really was that much to begin with.
The team announced Thursday that he was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list, officially ending his season. They signed tight end David Reaves to fill his roster spot.
Bryant initially said he hoped to return by the end of the season, saying he was “absolutely hopeful” even after tearing his pectoral muscle while lifting weights.
But the reality of a four- to six-month rehab meant that was never likely, and now the Browns will have to adjust without their 2015 sack leader.
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said this week that linebacker Vontaze Burfict won’t be playing in any of the team’s preseason games, explaining that there’s “no reason for us to expose him to injury” because of how important he is to the defense.
Burfict is also suspended for the first three games of the season, so the Bengals will need to get other linebackers ready to play this summer. Those other linebackers could be seeing some more reps in early training camp practices as well.
The Bengals announced Thursday that Burfict has been placed on the non-football injury list, which leaves him ineligible to practice until he’s activated. The Bengals didn’t specify the injury, although Burfict has a history of knee trouble, and Geoff Hobson of the team’s website reports it’s not believed to be a serious issue.
The Bengals also announced that they have signed veteran safety Jimmy Wilson as a free agent. Wilson spent last year with the Chargers after playing in Miami for the first four years of his career. He signed with the Chiefs in April, but was released in May.