Skip to content

Brandon Graham: Calling me a bust doesn’t bother me anymore

Getty Images

In the two years since the Eagles took defensive end Brandon Graham with the 13th overall pick in the NFL draft, Graham has recorded a grand total of three sacks. So he knows some people call him a bust.

But Graham says that doesn’t bother him anymore.

Graham told the Daily Times that anyone watching him in training camp, or in the first game of the preseason, where he recorded a sack against the Steelers, knows that he’s a better player now than he was in his first two years in the league.

It used to bother me, but now, I don’t worry about it too much,” Graham said. “I feel like everybody knows that. Hopefully, I’m far from that because of what you see. It’s only going to get better.”

A big part of Graham getting better is getting healthier. He suffered a torn ACL late in his rookie year that kept him out for most of his second year, but heading into his third year Graham says he’s back to full speed.

Perhaps a healthy Graham can finally become the player the Eagles thought they were drafting in 2010. And perhaps Graham can become known as more than just the guy the Eagles drafted when they should have drafted Jason Pierre-Paul.

Permalink 32 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Philadelphia Eagles, Rumor Mill, Top Stories

Cowboys working out running backs before camp

Getty Images

The Cowboys are still waiting to hear what will happen to Ezekiel Elliott, and they’re looking at some other running backs before the open training camp.

According to Field Yates of ESPN, the Cowboys worked out former Jaguars “offensive weapon” Denard Robinson and former Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman.

While any potential suspension of Elliott isn’t really a factor here, the Cowboys would like to check out some options.

They lost Lance Dunbar to the Rams this offseason, and have Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris in reserve.

Robinson has gotten some sniffs but no jobs since the Jaguars let him walk. While they hoped he’d become a versatile offensive piece, he never did much to justify the attention.

Hillman spent part of last season with the Chargers, but averaged 3.2 yards per carry and hasn’t had much interest.

Permalink 0 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Cleveland’s chief building official says Browns stadium not a fire hazard

Getty Images

Cleveland’s chief building official assures Browns fans that they have no need to worry about FirstEnergy Stadium being a fire hazard. The Associated Press reported that the stadium uses some of the same types of panels being investigated as a possible contributor to the deadly apartment fire in London last month.

There is zero risk to the fans,” Thomas Vanover said at a news conference at the stadium, via the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “There is no risk of a tragedy like what occurred at Grenfell [in London].” 

The panels used on the London building, where 80 people died in the June 14 fire, cover some 100,000 square feet of the exterior of Cleveland’s stadium. The panels are Reynobond composite material manufactured by Arconic Inc.

The panels were backed with synthetic material that helped to insulate the apartment tower. The stadium has the panels mounted on non-combustible concrete as a trim covering the structure.

“The panels are not what caused the tragedy,” Vanover said. “The panels were part of a system that caused a tragedy.”

Permalink 3 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Anquan Boldin to visit the Bills next week

Getty Images

Veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin still wants to play, and he’s taking a visit next week.

According to Dan Graizano of ESPN, Boldin will visit the Bills next Monday.

The Bills have little in the way of depth behind perpetually hurt Sammy Watkins (though Watkins is, at the moment, OK), and used a second-round pick on East Carolina’s Zay Jones.

The 36-year-old Boldin caught 67 passes for 584 yards and eight touchdowns last year for the Lions, proving he can still be productive. The Bills could use all the help they could get, and Boldin would represent an upgrade over what’s on hand.

Permalink 5 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Marcus Mariota to play lighter, despite team’s instructions

Getty Images

Titans coaches had suggested to Marcus Mariota in the past that they wanted him to weigh between 225 and 230 pounds, in order to protect himself from hits.

But he’s coming to camp well under that goal, in hopes of avoiding them.

According to Paul Kuharsky of The Midday 180 in Nashville, Mariota’s personal trainer said he’s going to report around 215 pounds in hopes of being more mobile this season. He has been listed at 222 the last two years.

“I have always told Marcus that I thought he should play at 215 pounds because I felt like he was the fastest at that weight,” said Ryan Flaherty, the senior director of performance at Nike. “The No. 1 injury QBs suffer in the NFL is AC sprain and that’s from getting hit.

“I told him that they can’t hit what they can’t catch so he should think about playing at a weight where he is his fastest. However the Titans coaches always told him they wanted him heavier and to play around 225-230 pounds to be able to absorb hits. Finally this year Marcus agrees with me and will play at 215 and I think you’ll notice a huge difference even though it’s only a difference of 10 pounds. He will be much quicker and faster this year and the goal with that will be to take less hits which will in turn keep him healthy. Unfortunately the first 2 years he’s missed games because of contact injuries so I think with him being leaner and lighter he will reduce the number of hits and thus reduce the risk of injury.”

Of course, the Titans might not be wild about their suggestions being ignored, but they’d obviously rather have Mariota available. Their playoff chances and his season ended with a broken ankle on Dec. 24, and with their additions this offseason have them positioned to improve.

Flaherty has worked with Mariota since prior to the 2015 Combine, and concentrated on preventing injuries after knee problems cost Mariota four games in 2015. And for what it’s worth, he said Mariota will be ready to participate fully when camp opens next week, after they took a cautious approach with him this offseason.

Permalink 8 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

NFL is wrapping up the Ezekiel Elliott investigation

Getty Images

Nearly a year after Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott allegedly engaged in domestic violence, the NFL is closing in on ending its investigation.

According to NFL Media (i.e., the NFL), the investigatory phase of the process is nearing completion, and the NFL has shared its findings with the NFL Players Association. Also, the NFLPA has provided to the league a “final response” aimed at answering “any lingering question” about the probe into whether Elliott violated the personal conduct policy.

It’s unknown whether Elliott will be disciplined or suspended. Although he was never arrested or charged, the league applies a lower standard of proof in these matters, with the question of whether Elliott violated the policy essentially coming down to whether the league believes Elliott or his accuser.

Broader business considerations necessarily will influence that assessment, including pressure from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (who is believed to have made it clear that he won’t be as compliant as the Patriots were about the Tom Brady suspension), pressure from other owners who want Elliott to be punished, and the ever-critical P.R. component, which is the primary reason for the league’s decision to conduct its own investigations and impose its own discipline.

If the league doesn’t find a violation, the alleged victim can file a lawsuit or otherwise tell her story. And, necessarily, there will be people who automatically believe it and people who automatically reject it. Those who believe it will criticize the league for not taking action against Elliott, creating a potential Ray Rice-style embarrassment for the league.

Last week, ESPN reported that Elliott is bracing for a short suspension, which possibly would be the result of a compromise aimed at placating all of the various constituencies, and minimizing the potential P.R. fallout.

Permalink 10 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Frank Gore closing in on the Top 5 for all-time rushing yards

Getty Images

Frank Gore is a rare running back who’s still able to play at a high level into his 30s, rushing for 1,025 yards last season at the age of 33. If he can do that again at age 34, he’ll join some truly elite company.

Gore is already the active rushing leader, with 13,065 career yards, and the only players ahead of him in NFL history are Hall of Famers. If Gore equals his 2016 production this year, he’ll move ahead of three of those Hall of Famers — Eric Dickerson, Jerome Bettis and LaDainian Tomlinson — and into the Top 5 in NFL history. He’d also then be just behind No. 4 Curtis Martin, who retired with 14,101 yards.

Another 1,000-yard season would be the 10th of Gore’s career, tying him with Martin, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders for the second most 1,000-yard seasons in NFL history. Only Emmitt Smith, with 11 1,000-yard seasons, has more.

It’s probably a long shot to think Gore will last long enough to pass Sanders (15,269 career yards), Payton (16,726) and Smith (18,355) on the all-time rushing list. But it’s easy to see Gore moving into fourth place all-time, and making a strong case for himself as a Hall of Famer.

Permalink 16 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Adam Jones suspended one game by NFL

Getty Images

Apparently emboldened by the Sean Spicer news, the NFL is firing up the Friday news dump machine a little early today.

Bengals cornerback Adam Jones has been suspended one game by the league for violating the personal conduct policy, and has three days to appeal the decision.

Jones pleaded guilty to obstructing official business, after a January incident in which he spat on a jailhouse nurse (which sounds like a euphemism but isn’t in this case). This came after he blew up at reporters who had the nerve to ask him about the most interesting thing to happen to him this offseason.

In the league’s letter to Jones, they said the “extensive video documentation of the tone, tenor and nature of your interactions with law enforcement at the site of your arrest, during transportation to the jail, and during the booking process. As you acknowledged, your post-arrest words and actions reflected poorly on you and your family, the Cincinnati Bengals football club, and the NFL. While it is our understanding that appropriate apologies have been publicly extended, they do not completely negate your behavior and admission of culpability for the underlying conduct.”

The Bengals have consistently stood by Jones for years, primarily because he’s good at football. And they’re deep enough in former first-rounders at the position to survive the opener against the Ravens without him.

Permalink 28 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Tony Romo says he still has a ways to go as an announcer

Getty Images

When CBS made Tony Romo its No. 1 color commentator, it was surprising because he has no experience in broadcasting. And Romo himself acknowledges it’s a job he still has to learn.

Romo said on 105.3 The Fan that he’s working with Jim Nantz, calling practice games and getting better, but he’s also trying to figure things out.

“I’ve started to do the practice games,” Romo said, via the Dallas Morning News. “I do these little daily things in Dallas — just little run-throughs and practice sessions, how to feel [and] look, how to think. It’s been good. I feel a lot more comfortable now than when I started. But I still got a ways to go.”

Romo is an articulate guy who knows the game, but that’s no guarantee that he’ll be good at making short, quick observations between plays that add value to the viewers at home. It’s a good sign that he knows he still has work to do.

Permalink 20 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Mike Zimmer disagrees with the perception of his team entering 2017

Getty Images

A year ago, the Vikings seemed ready to contend for a Super Bowl appearance. Now? Not.

The team’s head coach understandably disagrees with external perceptions.

“Contrary to what everybody else believes, I still believe we’re the 11-5 team that went into the ’16 season,” Zimmer told Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press in an extended (and excellent) interview. “We’ve added more things offensively than we had. I think we’re going to be a lot better offensively.”

As Murphy interjected at that point, the Vikings almost have to be better on offense; they can’t be much worse.

“In the three years I’ve been here, we’ve been 27th in the league offensively,” Zimmer said. “If we can improve to 15th and score when we have the opportunities. . . . One of the things I always preach is don’t beat yourself. Last year, we had so many pre-snap penalties that actually killed us. Trying to get that part fixed, I think we’ll be better. I think the running game will improve with [left tackle Riley] Reiff and [right tackle Mike] Remmers and [center Pat] Eflein and our backs, now. This [rookie running back Dalvin] Cook looks like he’s going to be pretty special.”

The term “pretty special” hasn’t been applied much to the Vikings since their last Super Bowl appearance in 1976. The 1987 team shocked superior franchises from New Orleans and San Francisco in the postseason, and the 1998 team was one of the best of all time to not make it to the title game. Then there was the 2009 team, that outplayed — but didn’t outscore — the Saints in the NFC championship game.

The best news for Zimmer is that the bar is low. But it’s low for a reason, and it’s up to Zimmer to ensure that the performance surpasses the justifiably low expectations for the team.

Permalink 39 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Parole board member wore his Chiefs tie on purpose to O.J. hearing

Getty Images

No, your eyes were not deceiving you. Yes, a member of the Nevada parole board was wearing a Chiefs tie during O.J. Simpson’s hearing yesterday.

And yes, he did it on purpose, knowing he’d be on television.

Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star caught up with board member Adam Endel, and he admitted he was playing for the cameras.

“Yeah, that’s safe to say,” Endel said. “It was one of those little things I figured someone might spot from Kansas City, but I didn’t realize it was going to blow up that much. It’s crazy now.”

Endel grew up about an hour east of Kansas City, and said he doesn’t hide his fandom since he moved to Nevada (which he did after college).

“If you saw my office, it’s covered in Royals and Chiefs stuff,” Endel said.

He’s been on the board since 2009, but never drew this kind of attention. And because of that, his only nerves were about clashing, so he chose the black shirt which made the Chiefs gear stand out in even sharper relief.

“I can’t match things very well,” Endel said. “So I have to wear solid colors most of the time. My wife’s not around always.”

Somehow, we feel like Andy Reid can totally identify with that.

Permalink 17 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Emmitt Smith on all-time ranking: My stats speak for themselves

Getty Images

Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith took notice recently when a couple of rankings of the greatest running backs in NFL history put him lower than he thought he deserved.

When former Cowboys personnel man Gil Brandt ranked the top running backs, he listed Smith 10th. When Peter King assembled a panel of experts to draft their own all-time teams, Smith was the 16th back taken.

But Smith says that his legacy is secure, thanks to two all-time records: Smith ran for 18,355 yards and 164 touchdowns, both the best in NFL history.

“You always have to go back to, ‘What is the criteria for the greatest running back of all-time?’ ” Smith told the Dallas Morning News. “And if you really want to have a legitimate conversation about the best running back in National Football League history, or the best player in NFL history, then you have to create the criteria. And if you create the criteria, then anybody who’s chiming in can give you their true opinion. Because now you have something you can actually gauge it against. Everything else is so arbitrary. So I think they are just doing it to create a conversation in the marketplace. I’m not going to overly concern myself with it. Because at the end of the day, eighteen three fifty-five speaks for itself. One hundred sixty-four speaks for itself.”

Smith is obviously right that his career numbers stack up with anyone, although he also put together his numbers running behind a great offensive line that some of the other top backs in NFL history could only dream of. He also kept compiling yards and touchdowns when he was well past his prime, which put his totals out of the reach of players who retired earlier. And Smith’s yards per carry average of 4.2 is a full yard behind Jim Brown’s 5.2.

Smith is justified if he considers himself the best of them all, as are others who look at the totality of NFL history and don’t put Smith in the company of the 10 best running backs ever.

Permalink 80 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Wes Welker praises Deshaun Watson’s work ethic, demeanor

Getty Images

New Texans assistant Wes Welker had the unique experience of catching passes from both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. During a recent visit to PFT Live, I asked Welker for one thing he’s noticed about Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson that reminds him of either guy.

“I think he has a great work ethic,” Welker said. “I think that’s one of the key things that I’ve noticed from him is just the way that he handles his business. Kind of the demeanor that he has. He has a winning attitude which was showed on the field there at Clemson. I think the work that he’s going to put in that you have to have and the repetitions that you gotta go through. Not only physically on the field but mentally in your head of studying and being on top of everything day in and day out. I’ve been impressed with how he’s kinda handled himself and the way he’s gone about his business.”

Welker’s assessment meshes with plenty of other opinions and observations regarding the rookie, who currently isn’t the starter but inevitably will be. The only question is when.

For more from Welker, including a story about Welker pulling a great prank on Brady and some details about the challenges of playing slot receiver, check out the full interview.

Permalink 12 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

PFT preseason power rankings No. 10: Tennessee Titans

Getty Images

The Titans lost both their quarterback and their playoff chances on Christmas Eve when Marcus Mariota went down with a broken ankle.

The fact they were that close underscores how solidly they’re built, and how close they are to making their turnaround real.

After solidifying both lines (their offensive line doesn’t get the publicity of others, but is among the best in the league starting with tackles Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin), this offseason was spent adding skill position talent for Mariota.

While they might have surprised some by taking wide receiver Corey Davis fifth overall, they think he can be the kind of lead dog that group needs. Third-rounder Taywan Taylor also has some promise for a group that’s suddenly deep. Being able to pick up a solid veteran like Eric Decker late in the offseason was a gift, and should help Mariota balance things out offensively.

They’re not a particularly flashy team, such that a Mike Mularkey-coached team ever would be. But they’re nothing if not stable, and suddenly making people realize it.

Biggest positive change: The Titans were forced into too many shootouts last year, primarily because they were 30th in the league in pass defense.
So they made it a priority to add to the secondary, spending heavily on cornerback Logan Ryan and bringing safety Johnathan Cyprien in in free agency, and then using their second first-rounder on cornerback Adoree Jackson, who was one of the best athletes in this year’s draft.

They needed to make big changes there, and if they work out, it’s going to be harder to find weaknesses.

Biggest negative change: It’s hard to find one. Sure, they lost veteran tight end Anthony Fasano, but that’s not a deal-breaker.

If anything, they’ve lost the ability to surprise people, as they’re suddenly a trendy pick and getting more attention than they have in years.

Coaching thermometer: It ought to be absolutely frozen.

Mularkey might not inspire deep feelings among the fanbase, but his old-school methods have stabilized things there and are working.

Whether it works long-term remains to be seen, as his reputation with players is of a guy who can wear guys out (physically and mentally). But at the moment, it’s hard to argue with the job he’s done.

We’d like to crack a beer with . . . Mariota has everything you’d want in an NFL star quarterback except perhaps personality. It would be curious to know if there’s one lurking deep inside there.

Not every quarterback has to be Brett Favre (on or off the field), and perhaps his stoic demeanor is a thing to be applauded in an age where everything is hype.

How they can prove us wrong: If the grind of being a physical team wears on them more than their opponents, they could easily fade.

The AFC South, long a punchline, is deeper and more talented than it’s been, so it’s actually going to take some work to win the division this year. But if the secondary improves, if Davis fulfills his promise, and Mariota gets used to having more to work with, the Titans could become a threat for years to come.

Permalink 54 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Dwayne Harris: Cowboys “probably” look better on paper than Giants

Getty Images

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott said his team will repeat as NFC East champions, which is the sort of comment that might rile up members of a rival team but at least one Giants player is taking a more relaxed look at the state of affairs in the division.

Giants wide receiver Dwayne Harris, who broke into the NFL with the Cowboys, was asked about how the two teams stack up during a Friday appearance on NFL Network. Harris’ answer was complimentary to Prescott’s team while also making sure to drop in a reference to the Giants’ two wins over Dallas last season.

“You know, I let people think what they want to think. They, on paper, they probably look better than us right now,” Harris said. “But we always match up good with them, so we’ll see.”

Opinions will likely vary about how the two teams match up on paper, but the Giants certainly aren’t conceding anything in July. They made the playoffs last year, addressed some offensive shortcomings this offseason and Harris’ teammate Jason Pierre-Paul was willing to call the team a Super Bowl contender.

We’ll begin to find out if that’s the case on September 10 when the Giants and Cowboys open the season with a Sunday night clash on NBC.

Permalink 16 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Nicole Brown’s sister takes issue with O.J. Simpson’s “conflict-free life” claim


One of the more bizarre moments during Thursday’s O.J. Simpson parole hearing happened when Simpson at one point blurted out that he’s led a “conflict-free life.” The moment was particularly significant to the families members of the people that, according to the California civil justice system, he killed.

“Really? You beat my sister,” Nicole Brown’s sister, Tanya, told TMZ. “Regardless of . . . murdering her and Ron [Goldman] the fact is that my sister has diary entries dating back to 1978 about abuse that was inflicted, and also there was that infamous 911 call that he mentioned.”

Regardless of whether you believe Simpson did or didn’t kill his ex-wife and a man who was in the worst possible place at the worst possible time, a jury found Simpson responsible for the deaths under the much lower burden of proof than the criminal “beyond a reasonable doubt” bar.

If you personally have doubts, reasonable or otherwise, about whether Simpson did it, read this assessment of the documentary from 2016.

Permalink 30 Comments Feed for comments Back to top