The NFL rejected the contract extension between Sean Payton and the Saints, meaning Payton will be a free agent at the end of the season. Will he be back in New Orleans? Plus, Mike Shanahan sounds like he is waving the white flag for the Redskins and the Vikings might as well do that now.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
PFT Live: Payton’s future with New Orleans in doubt
Two years ago, former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh lobbied for greater protections for mobile quarterbacks. Greater protections weren’t adopted then, and they likely won’t be adopted now, or in the near future.
In response to the most recent debate regarding whether quarterbacks who have adopted the zone-read posture have any protections beyond those that apply to ball carriers, a member of the league’s Competition Committee doesn’t see the rules changing.
“The Committee talks about this every year,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher told reporters on Thursday. “We have rules in the rule book that are very specific. If the quarterback is in a throwing position, he gets protection. But in the event that the ball is handed off, at that instant, there’s no telling whether or not he is a runner or not, so he loses that protection.
“So, I don’t see that changing. You get the complaints in opposition from those that are running the read option, and those that [don’t] understand the rule probably a little bit more. There’s obviously a push to protect the quarterback, but you have to give the defensive players a chance. All of the quarterback has to do is pull the ball and he’s a runner. How’s the defender going to know if the ball is pulled or not? The quarterback gets plenty of protection in the pocket and he picks up protection out of the pocket, he’s got protection down the field on his slides. The read-option posture, I think everybody is clear as to the rule. It didn’t look right, but the [Sam] Bradford hit, it was a legal hit according to the rules.”
The key word indeed is posture. When a quarterback adopts the know-it-when-you-see-it zone-read posture, the goal is to make the defense uncertain as to who has the ball, in the hopes of getting the defense to pursue someone who doesn’t have it.
That’s exactly what happened with Bradford. He duped Terrell Suggs into pursuing the guy who didn’t have the football. So it’s disingenuous for anyone from the Eagles to complain about the fact that Bradford got hit when the goal was to lure Suggs to guy who didn’t have the ball.
It’s like saying, “We tried to fool you and it worked. How dare you!”
Regardless, the rules remain the same, and it looks like they won’t be changing.
With the start of a new regular-season looming, it’s just a matter of time before a new league year will be launching in March.
And for those of you who look forward to the annual opportunity for your favorite team to get better (or worse) via the movement of veteran players in free agency, mark your calendars for Wednesday, March 9, at 4:00 p.m. ET. That’s when the period for signing free agents from other teams and making trades opens after the coming season closes.
The shift of the start of the league year to a Wednesday means that the three-day legal tampering period will begin on Sunday, March 6, at 12:00 p.m. ET. In previous years, free agency opened on a Tuesday, and the legal tampering period started on Saturday.
These dates were communicated on Thursday to all teams as a shift in the launch of the new league year, per agreement of the NFL and NFL Players Association.
The change also has triggered a shift in the two-week franchise tag window by a day, with the period for applying the tag opening on Tuesday, February 16, and closing on Tuesday, March 1.
With the Super Bowl happening on February 7 this year (due to the fact that Labor Day lands as late as possible this year, on September 7), there will be only nine days of down time before the offseason starts heating up — and only four weeks and three days until it explodes with the launch of a new league year.
The full list of upcoming dates and deadlines for the NFL appears here.
When Colts cornerback Greg Toler hurt his neck against the Bears last Saturday, it didn’t seem like something that would keep him off the field for long because coach Chuck Pagano said his status was day-to-day.
On Thursday, Pagano updated Toler’s condition and the revision extended the timeline for the starting corner’s return to the lineup.
“As you go through and the doctors evaluate, that’s where he’s at right now,” Pagano said, via the Indianapolis Star. “He’s week-to-week.”
With the start of the regular season a couple of weeks away, that downgrade in condition creates some doubt about Toler’s ability to make it back to the lineup for Week One. Toler started 15 games for the Colts last season as part of a corner tandem with Vontae Davis.
The Colts play the Rams on Saturday night and Toler’s injury will give other cornerbacks like third-round pick D’Joun Smith more reps with the first team.
Even with the starting quarterback on the other side unlikely to play and last week’s big hit by Terrell Suggs still a topic of discussion, Eagles coach Chip Kelly plans to play Sam Bradford in Saturday night’s preseason game at Green Bay.
Kelly isn’t saying how much Bradford will play, though, and it may depend on the weather. If it rains, Kelly might play it extra careful with his oft-injured new quarterback.
Bradford did not play in the first preseason game. He played 14 plays last week, all in one series, on what was essentially the one-year anniversary of the ACL tear that ended his 2014 season and was his second torn ACL in nine months.
Kelly has said he doesn’t need to exercise caution with Bradford but has said Bradford is making “daily progress” towards getting up to full speed physically and with the Eagles offense.
The Packers, still stinging from last week’s torn ACL that will cost star wide Jordy Nelson the season, are unlikely to play Aaron Rodgers in Saturday’s game. But Bradford is anxious to play more than one series as the Eagles prepare for their Sept. 14 season opener.
“It’s nice to go onto the field multiple times, establish that rhythm, come over, work on that communication with the line, the receivers [and] talk about what we’re seeing on the field, so when it gets to the regular season, that’s not something we’re working through,” Bradford said.
Not every team would extend a player who has been suspended three times by the league for either substance abuse or PED violations.
Then again, not every team is Father Ozzie’s Home for Wayward Boys.
In extending safety Will Hill’s deal through the 2016 season, the Ravens continued their reputation as giver of second chances (or thirds), and that’s why General Manager Ozzie Newsome was excited to approach Hill on the practice field yesterday and give him the news the deal was done.
“He said, ‘I think highly of you,’ and I told him I thought highly of him and this organization, too,’” Hill said, via Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun. ‘Now, it’s time to take it to the next level and try to win a championship.”
The Ravens brought him in last year when the Giants released him, though he was suspended the first six games of the season. Then they did what they do, which is wrap their arms around guys other teams might not give chances to.
“It means a lot to me, just for this organization to even consider [having] me for more years than what they planned to in the beginning of the offseason,” Hill said. “When I first signed and I sat down with Ozzie, I knew from that point that I didn’t want to go anywhere. I wanted to be a Raven, and this extension, it just helped out and it gives me a lot of confidence on the playing field and it helps me see what the organization thinks of me.”
Of course, there’s something in this for Baltimore beyond benevolence. Hill could lend some stability in the secondary, which Newsome has overhauled in the last year. After losing Matt Elam to a season-ending biceps injury, they needed something secure, and in showing faith in Hill, they did just that.
The Buccaneers shut wide receiver Mike Evans down for the rest of the preseason this week because of the hamstring injury he suffered in last week’s game, but Evans isn’t showing much concern that the injury will impact him once the regular season gets underway.
Evans said Thursday that while he agrees that keeping him out of the last two preseason games is the wisest course of action, his hamstring feels well enough that he could play in a game this weekend.
“I think it’s smart,” Evans said, via the Tampa Tribune. “There’s no reason to risk it. I’ve already proven myself. And this way I can just try to get back for Week 1 of the regular season.”
When Evans is back, he’s looking forward to playing the split end/X receiver spot in the offense this season. He thinks he’ll “get more opportunities” lining up on the line of scrimmage than he did as the flanker, something that should work out well for the Bucs if Jameis Winston has a firm grasp of the offense in his rookie season.
It’s been another rough week for Jay Gruden.
Questions about Robert Griffin III’s concussion and the quarterback’s continued struggles in the offense have revived talk about dysfunction inside the Redskins organization, leading to columns like the one Jerry Brewer of the Washington Post wrote on Friday around his observation that it “already feels like the season is starting to rot.”
Gruden said Thursday that he knows changing the “perception of this franchise” will require the team to win games and said that he and his players are “used to blocking out the noise” coming from outside the team. He did find one bit of negativity that crossed the line, however.
“I listen to it a little bit. I read some articles,” Gruden said, via Mike Jones of the Washington Post. “I kind of have to be up to date so when I come up here, I’m aware of what’s going on. I really dislike the guy that called me a fat ass. That really ticked me off. I don’t mind you critiquing my coaching style, but to make fun of my weight, that’s unfair. I’m only 225 [pounds]. But other than that, man, it’s football. If you win, you usually get positive reviews as a coach.”
Jones adds that Gruden was laughing when he took issue with the crack about his weight, which was made by radio host Scott Ferrall during a rant about Gruden’s decision to leave Griffin in against the Lions last week despite the repeated hits that Griffin took while trying to run the offense. Whether he really took offense or not, the good news for Gruden is that people will have plenty of criticisms to lob in his direction that have nothing to do with the size of his posterior as long as things keep going the way they have over the last year-plus.
Rookie pass-rusher Randy Gregory keeps making plays that make the Cowboys smile.
But Thursday, it wasn’t a sack or a pressure.
Via Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Gregory bought the team an early departure from training camp by successfully fielding a punt. Coach Jason Garrett told his players they’d break early if one of the six linemen he chose could catch one (although we can’t imagine he’d have unloaded the planes and stayed an extra day if they didn’t).
“I had to step up, catch one for the team, send us back home,” Gregory said. “The pressure was all on me. I guess I performed well.”
Gregory said he hadn’t caught a punt since his freshman year in high school, but that didn’t deter him, completing the challenge on the first attempt. That created a celebration, as the players got home a day early before their home preseason opener against the Vikings this weekend.
“It’ll be good to get everybody back home, sleeping in their own bed tonight,” Garrett said. “We’ll go into Valley Ranch tomorrow and have a regular day before the game schedule and then play Saturday night.”
Of course, the Cowboys are counting on Gregory having impact in other ways this season, particularly early in the year, while Greg Hardy’s serving his four-game suspension. All the early returns on the second-round pick from Nebraska have been positive, and the Cowboys hope he rewards them for taking a chance on him when other teams were unwilling to.
Could a broken jaw lead to a breakout year? Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick thinks the answer is absolutely.
Fitzpatrick, who became the de facto starter once IK Enemkpali fractured Geno Smith’s jaw, tells Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News that the journeyman-turned-starter-turned-journeyman could have a coming-out party at 33.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” Fitzpatrick said. “So much of the game for the quarterback is the mental side of it. Everybody always talks about my arm and how horrible it is. I promise . . . you can put on some tape [and see] that I can make all the throws that you want me to make or that I need to make. . . . I see myself continuing to get better rather than declining.”
Once Fitzpatrick became the full-time starter in 2010 with the Bills, he had three straight 3,000-yard seasons, maxing out at 3,832 yards in 2011. He earned the kind of contract about which Michael Bennett would have loudly complained, and the Bills opted to move on in lieu of paying a $3 million roster bonus in March 2013.
It’s not out of the question that Fitzpatrick will have a solid year; while 33 is essentially 66 for running backs, quarterbacks are proving that they can perform at a high level after blowing out two-and-a-half-dozen candles, in the sweet spot between an enhanced understanding of the game and the remaining physical abilities.
Regardless, the bar is low — which may be good for Fitzpatrick.
‘That’s been the perception every year,” Fitzpatrick said regarding the notion that he doesn’t belong in the NFL. “Somehow I keep sticking around and finding new jobs. So I don’t really listen to the perception. I hear it, for sure. I just kind of shrug my shoulders and make sure that I focus on what I can control and focus on getting myself better.”
If it works, maybe the Jets will ultimately be glad that Geno Smith wasn’t available to start the season.
A faster start on defense is a Bengals goal this week.
Andre Hal is progressing in his move from corner to safety with the Texans.
A look at positions where the Colts still have decisions to make this summer.
Who will start at running back for the Titans?
The Chiefs don’t feel injuries on the offensive line have hurt their evaluations of the rest of the unit.
Jerry Brewer of the Washington Post writes that it feels like the Redskins season has already started to rot.
The Bears haven’t had their top three wideouts at practice for most of this week, but coach John Fox won’t rule them out of Saturday’s game.
How much will Dan Quinn’s arrival help the Falcons defense?
Three players to watch when the Panthers face the Patriots.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll says he’ll be focused on the offensive line during Saturday’s game.
Gore gushed about Andrew Luck during a recent visit to The Jim Rome Show, and it’s hard to read Gore’s words without considering the implications for the quarterback about whom Gore never said such things.
“He runs meetings like a coach,” Gore said of Luck. “Basically, I’m playing with a coordinator on the field. He’s a football God. He sees everything, and he sees the big picture of everything.”
Gore made similar — but not quite as strong — remarks earlier this month.
“He’s different. He knows what’s coming,” Gore told Rome. “He lets me know when [there’s] something I don’t see. He’s just different. How he’s in the huddle, off the field, in the meetings, he runs it. He runs the show, even in the offseason, he ran it. One day he had running backs, the next day he has receivers. He’s just different. He’s a football God.”
There’s a chance that Kaepernick now has the same abilities, and that he simply wasn’t able to do so because his former head coach in San Francisco, Jim Harbaugh, had a habit of running the show. As Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area recently explained it, Harbaugh “often took control and made the play call to the offense” during training camp and regular-season practices. (He even once practiced in full gear as the team’s No. 3 quarterback.) Under Jim Tomsula, Kaepernick now runs the show.
“It allows the players to have confidence in hearing your voice and you’re the one who’s going to be giving them direction on the field,” Kaepernick said. “It’s something that every quarterback should have the ability to do.”
The real question is whether Harbaugh did the same thing at Stanford, when Luck was the quarterback there. If so, Harbaugh trained Luck well — and possibly trained Kaepernick well, too.
Like many rookie cornerbacks, Vikings first-round pick Trae Waynes had a rough time out of the gate in his first preseason appearances.
That led to a lot of negative instant feedback from outside the team, but defensive coordinator George Edwards stressed patience over immediate impact and said that Waynes was “right on course” to being the player that they wanted him to be. The timeline seems to have sped up a bit in Minnesota because Edwards said Thursday that the team had its sights on Waynes assuming a starting role for the first week of the regular season.
“That’s what we’re aiming for,” Edwards said, via ESPN.com. “That’s what we’re all working for. But we’re just going to take it from week to week. We’ve still got two more [preseason] games to go, and we’ll just keep evaluating him through the process.”
Waynes has been seeing time as an outside cornerback across from Xavier Rhodes with Terence Newman kicking into the slot when the Vikings use three corners and that may be the starting role that Edwards has in mind for the rookie in the early part of the season. Given how frequently teams use such alignments, that would still a lot of playing time for a player that Edwards says has “gotten better from week to week.”
Veteran Captain Munnerlyn would likely handle third corner duties if the Vikings decide Waynes isn’t ready for the job.
The Giants got rookie safety Landon Collins back on the field this week, but the injury news at the position isn’t all good.
Nat Berhe has missed time this summer with a calf injury and he announced on Twitter that he is having surgery on Friday to remove a hardened blood clot from his calf. According to multiple reports, Berhe won’t play again this season and Berhe hinted at that prognosis in a subsequent tweet.
If so, he’ll be the fourth safety that the Giants have lost for the season since the start of training camp. Bennett Jackson, rookie Mykkele Thompson and Justin Currie have also suffered season-ending injuries.
At different points this summer, Berhe and Jackson were considered favorites for the starting job next to Collins come the regular season. The Giants now have Brandon Meriweather, Jeromy Miles and Cooper Taylor as possibilities for that role and they could also look outside the organization for more help as players shake loose from other rosters over the next 10 days.
The Dolphins have more experience than any other team in the NFL — at least in terms of being ready for hurricanes.
So with Tropical Storm Erika expected to turn into a hurricane and possibly hit South Florida Monday, the Dolphins are well into their preparations.
“We’ve discussed a couple different scenarios,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “We’ll be ready if we need to. Everything is on the table. We have to get our team ready to play in the regular season.”
Part of the plan is to possibly move practices Monday and Tuesday to an undisclosed location. Philbin wouldn’t reveal it, which is the best part of undisclosed locations.
The team said there are no plans to move Saturday’s home game against the Falcons, and the storm should be gone by next Thursday’s preseason finale against the Buccaneers.
At a time when it’s not clear how serious former NFL receiver Randy Moss is about a return to football, Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly says Randy has developed a habit of talking about a comeback.
“He was at Cam [Newton]’s kickball tournament this summer,” Kuechly said on Wednesday’s edition of PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio. “He’s always talking about how he wants to come back and play.”
As to whether that comeback should happen with the Panthers, Kuechly said the team has “a lot of good depth” at the receiver position even after the season-ending injury to Kelvin Benjamin, citing players like Devin Funchess, Jerricho Cotchery, and Philly Brown.
“There’s a lot of depth at that wide receiver room right now and I think [receivers coach] Ricky Proehl and the coaching staff has done a great job at creating depth,” Kuechly said. “In the circumstances that we have right now I think we’ll be all right.”
Kuechly also talked about his contract talks with the Panthers, including whether he’d regard it as a distraction if the talks continue into the regular season. (He wouldn’t.) The only question now is whether you would click the thing in the thing below to hear everything Kuechly had to say.