In this week’s Wendy’s Rapid Reactions, Mike Florio examines strong reactions from football fans around the country that say there is no need for the NFL to eliminate kickoffs. Will fans boycott watching football if this rule takes shape? How will eliminating kickoffs factor into the frequency of concussions among players?
PFT Live: How risky are kickoffs?
There was news made at OTAs on both coasts this week and we’ll be talking about it during Thursday’s edition of PFT Live.
Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News will join Mike Florio to talk about a Jets practice on Wednesday that left coach Rex Ryan vexed by Mark Sanchez’s interceptions. We’ll find out how much that will impact Sanchez in the competition with Geno Smith for the starting quarterback job. We’ll also try to see if Mehta can explain how any member of the Jets organization would expect much else from Sanchez after his 52 turnovers over the last two years.
Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area will also join us to discuss the fallout from 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree’s Achilles injury earlier this week. The 49ers are holding out hope that Crabtree will return during the 2013 season, but we’ll talk about how they’ll cope with what will be, at the very least, an extended absence during the regular season.
You can watch it all live at noon ET.
Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks took the Giants by surprise when he failed to show up at the team’s organized team activity on Wednesday.
Coach Tom Coughlin expressed his opinion that Nicks “should” have been at the voluntary workout, although league rules say the exact opposite, and speculation arose that Nicks was firing a preliminary shot in negotiations for a new deal with his contract expiring after the 2013 season. Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports reported as much after speaking to a team source, but that report is now being walked back after a response from Nicks’ agent.
Peter Schaffer has not offered any explanation for why Nicks did not attend the OTA with other Giants, but “strongly denied” that his contract had anything to do with his decision to stay away. In a series of text messages, Schaffer said the wideout “takes his place in the community very seriously and wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize that reputation.” The team source also got in touch to say that he was merely giving his best guess for Nicks’ absence.
“We’ve all talked about our contracts and the things we’ve been through, like what’s going on with [wide receiver Victor] Cruz,” the source said. “When you talk about money and what you think the team is doing right or wrong, sometimes feelings get really hard.”
Whether or not the contract is the issue right now, the Giants are likely to spend a fair amount of time trying to strike a deal with Nicks before the start of free agency next year. If Cruz winds up playing out this year on his restricted free agent tender, things will be even busier as the Giants try to figure out how to hold onto two receivers with just one franchise tag at their disposal.
A wide receiver from Oregon State, Wheaton will compete to be one of the Steelers’ top receivers beyond starters Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. The Steelers have been willing to play young receivers right off the bat in recent years, with Mike Wallace one example. However, Sanders and Brown also earned reps as rookies, with both garnering more opportunities as the 2010 campaign progressed.
Timed at 4.45 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, Wheaton hauled in 91 passes for 1,244 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior.
Hawthorne will vie to be a reserve cornerback in his first NFL season. The Illinois product made 26 collegiate starts.
Robert Griffin III is back on the Redskins’ practice field at Organized Team Activities, four months after reconstructive knee surgery.
Griffin is able to drop back, set his feet and throw passes. Albert Breer of NFL Network posted videos of Griffin at work, and Griffin does not appear to have any difficulty moving around and passing. He’s not doing any full-speed running, but from watching what he is doing, you wouldn’t know he suffered a major knee injury in January.
Obviously, there’s a big difference between non-contact drills and playing in an NFL game, and Griffin appears to be working primarily with other players who are rehabilitating injuries, rather than partaking in the regular team workouts. But the fact that Griffin is on the field has to be taken as a good sign that all the optimistic talk about Griffin’s recovery proceeding ahead of schedule was justified.
If Griffin has progressed this far from January to May, there’s every reason for Washington fans to be optimistic that Griffin will make enough progress from May to September that he’ll be on the field for Week One.
Unlike some of his Eagles teammates, tight end James Casey doesn’t have to make the adjustment from playing for Andy Reid to playing for Chip Kelly.
He does have to make an adjustment, though. Casey spent his first four seasons with the Texans before signing with the Eagles as a free agent this offseason but isn’t going to have OTAs or minicamp to help him make the transition to his new offense. Mike Garafolo of USA Today reports that Casey had arthroscopic surgery to clean out loose cartilage in his right knee and will miss the remainder of spring practices.
Garafolo also reports that Casey’s surgery may have been part of the reason why the Eagles cut undrafted rookie running back Miguel Maysonet earlier this week. A person “informed of the team’s thinking” told Garafolo that Casey’s absence (as well as that of rookie Zach Ertz, who is not permitted to practice with the team because Stanford is still in session) left the team with a need at tight end. They filled it by signing Will Shaw and felt that running back was a spot where they could afford to lose a body.
While it would have helped Casey to be at practices in May and June, he isn’t likely to fall out of the team’s plans before training camp. As long as he’s healthy enough to participate with his teammates this summer, we should see plenty of Casey with the offense next season.
UPDATE 11:18 a.m. ET: The original version of this post indicated Casey was set to have surgery. Garafolo has updated his report to reflect the fact that Casey has already had surgery.
Giants fullback Henry Hynoski had to be carted off the field during the Giants’ organized team activity on Wednesday and the injuries he sustained will require surgery on Friday.
The Giants announced that an MRI on Hynoski’s left leg revealed an injury to his medial collateral ligament as well as a fracture of his lateral plateau. The plateau is a weight-bearing area at the top of the tibia in the lower leg. The team gave no specific timetable for Hynoski’s recovery from the injury, but the fullback is shooting for a return in time to play in Week One.
“I am going to set my mind to being ready for the first game of the regular season,” Hynoski said. “They said that is not an unrealistic goal, and I will do everything in my power to be ready for the start of the season.”
Hynoski played all 16 games for the Giants last year and was a key part of their run blocking while also catching 11 passes and a touchdown. Tight end Bear Pascoe has seen time at fullback in the past and could fill in there until Hynoski is ready or the Giants could look outside the organization for insurance in case Hynoski isn’t able to fulfill his goal of returning in time for the season.
When the Steelers were sifting through the wreckage of their 2012 season, Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley came in for criticism for his work ethic.
Steelers coaches said they wanted to see him work harder during the offseason while an unnamed teammate said that Woodley was “awful” in 2012 while opining that he was always hurt because he wasn’t working out hard enough. That led to other members of the Steelers complaining that the comments broke the code of the locker room, although Woodley says that the whole affair
“It doesn’t bother me at all. They’re coming at the wrong person when they try coming at me. I don’t listen to nothing,” Woodley said, via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Playing football my whole life growing up, and you’re in the spotlight sometimes it comes with the good and the bad. You just have to know how to accept it. I’m one of those guys, I don’t pay attention to much at all. I just go out there and do what I’m supposed to do. And these guys on the team know what I go out there and do each and every day.”
Woodley, who says he’s healthy after last year’s ankle injury, claims he took no motivation from his critics, but teammate Larry Foote told WDVE that he’s seen an “extra-motivated” Woodley at workouts this spring and thinks he could put up a “defensive MVP-type” season. The Steelers will surely take that kind of production regardless of what inspired it.
It’s fairly obvious to the neutral observer that Smith picked Roc Nation to represent him not because of the previously unknown agent but because of the man who owns the firm. If Jay-Z wasn’t involved in the recruitment of Smith, Jay-Z’s ownership of the firm wouldn’t be a problem. But if Jay-Z helped persuade Smith to hire Roc Nation not only for off-field deals (which aren’t covered by the NFLPA rules) but for his football contract (which is), Jay-Z possibly ran afoul of the NFLPA’s prohibition on the use of non-certified agents in the recruitment of clients.
One of Smith’s advisers, former West Virginia and NFL defensive lineman John Thornton, essentially admitted that Smith picked Jay-Z, not the agent, and that Jay-Z was directly involved in persuading Smith to hire Roc Nation.”It really all came down to who he was most comfortable with,” Thornton told CBSSports.com. “I was in those meetings and Jay-Z connected with him on many levels.”
(Thornton says, via Twitter, that he was misquoted by CBS.)
Jay-Z connected with Geno Smith, not the previously unknown agent Jay-Z has hired to work for Roc Nation. And so the facts at a minimum suggest that Jay-Z recruited Geno Smith to sign with the agent, which if true would be a violation of NFLPA rules.
The most important question is whether the NFLPA will do anything about it. The union has not responded to a request for comment sent via email on Wednesday afternoon. Previously, the union allowed Jay-Z to be involved in the recruitment of Giants receiver Victor Cruz by CAA, based on Jay-Z’s pre-existing friendship with Cruz.
While plenty of agents are looking at this as a way for the NFLPA to knock Jay-Z down a few pegs as he encroaches on their turf, others simply want guidance as to what is and isn’t allowed. If Jay-Z was indeed involved in recruiting Smith, a potentially gaping loophole in the rules has been created, which could prompt other agents to partner with non-agent celebrities who then would help attract clients.
Essentially, the now-defunct “runner” industry would be resurrected, with artists, actors, and entertainers replacing the anonymous figures who previously operated in the shadows. Maybe that’s a better alternative. For now, other agents want to know whether that alternative will be acknowledged as valid.
UPDATE 11:32 a.m. ET: As noted above, Thornton claims that he was misquoted by CBS. Via Twitter, Thornton says that Jay-Z did not attend meetings with Smith, and that he was in London. That said, Smith posted on Instagram last week a photo with Jay-Z.
The Bengals must have plans for Memorial Day weekend.
According to Geoff Hobson of the team’s official website, the Bengals have signed second-round pick Giovani Bernard. That leaves just two unsigned picks from their 10-man class, first-rounder Tyler Eifert and third-rounder Shawn Williams.
Bernard, a running back from North Carolina, has an opportunity to have a significant impact for the Bengals this year.
He averaged 5.87 yards per carry in college, topping 1,200 yards in each of the two seasons he played at UNC. He’s small, but has explosive ability in the open field, adding something to the backfield the Bengals lacked.
When the Cardinals lost running back Ryan Williams to a season-ending shoulder injury last October, the general reaction in Arizona was an unhappy one since it meant Williams would wind up missing all but five games in his first two seasons.
Williams had a different reaction, though. The 2011 second-round pick was feeling less than comfortable with the state of his right knee after a torn patellar tendon wiped out his rookie season. Williams described being struck with fear in the second game of the season when the Cardinals called a toss play that would leave his knee exposed to a hit that Williams wasn’t sure it could take. It’s unusual to hear a pro be that honest about playing scared and even rarer to hear one say he felt relief about a season-ending injury.
“It’s sad to say, but honestly I was happy because the first thing I thought about was getting my knee right,” Williams said, via Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic.
Williams says he feels the healthiest he has since the initial knee injury, but knows that he’s “considered damaged goods” after the last two years. The Cardinals added Rashad Mendenhall in free agency before drafting Andre Ellington and Stepfon Taylor, so it is safe to say that the team’s new regime isn’t proceeding with the expectation that Williams will be the same back that the previous brain trust envisioned coming out of college.
They aren’t blocking him from reaching that level, though. None of the newcomers present an insurmountable obstacle if the absence of fear and a return to health allow Williams to start fulfilling his potential.
According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Browns signed wide receiver Tori Gurley.
Gurley was viewed as a promising prospect, hanging around on the Packers practice squad as an undrafted rookie in 2011. Since then, he’s spent time in camp with or on the practice squads of the Vikings, Raiders, Buccaneers, Chargers and Ravens, all without appearing in an NFL game.
When linebacker Aaron Curry went fourth overall to the Seahawks in the 2009 draft, analysts hailed the Seahawks for selecting a player who was considered the safest bet for stardom at the top of that year’s draft.
Things never worked out that way. Curry was ineffective with the Seahawks and wound up being traded to the Raiders in 2011. Things didn’t get any better in Oakland and Curry signed for the veteran minimum with the Giants this year. That may be a good thing for Curry’s chances of turning his career around because he admitted Wednesday that the $60 million contract he signed as a rookie wound up taking away his motivation to play his best.
“I knew I could do it,” Curry said, via Tom Pedulla of the New York Times. “I knew I would do it. At the time, I wasn’t motivated to do it. Football wasn’t my top priority, to be honest. I think earlier in my career I was real selfish and self-centered. I was more about me than the Seahawks.”
Curry copped to not playing at full speed if there was a defensive call that didn’t cater to his strengths, a trait that helped him fail to live up to the lofty predictions that accompanied his entry to the NFL. A knee injury in Oakland dropped the opinion of Curry even further, leaving him to try to rehabilitate his career with the Giants.
Motivation shouldn’t be a problem for Curry, who also acknowledged that he’s overweight right now, if he wants to continue playing in the NFL since suitors will be slim if he fails with a third team in five years. If he isn’t able to make things happen now, it’s hard to imagine it’s ever going to happen for him.
Two future Hall of Fame middle linebackers have retired this offseason, but if they go into the Hall of Fame together when they both become eligible in 2018, Brian Urlacher has no illusions about who the best middle linebacker in their class will be.
In fact, Urlacher says that not only is Ray Lewis the best middle linebacker of his era, but Lewis is the best middle linebacker ever to play the game of football.
“If I am lucky enough to go in with Ray, I will say this about Ray: I think I was pretty good, but Ray is the best of all time,” Urlacher told Andrew Siciliano on NFL Network. “His numbers, to the guys that played with him, you watch him, he did it the right way. He played hard. He is the best middle linebacker of all time. If I get a chance to go into the Hall of Fame with him, that would be awesome. He was great. I am up there I think, but not quite. The longevity he had was crazy, 17 years.”
As great as Urlacher was, he’s right that Lewis’s achievements in the NFL surpass his own. Urlacher was an eight-time Pro Bowler, four-time first-team All-Pro, one-time second-team All-Pro and one-time NFL defensive player of the year. Lewis was a 13-time Pro Bowler, seven-time first-team All-Pro, three-time second-team All-Pro, two-time NFL defensive player of the year and a Super Bowl MVP.
I would tend to agree with Urlacher that Lewis is the best of them all. PFT Planet, tell us what you think.
Tim Tebow doesn’t sleep. He waits.
Tim Tebow has counted to infinity. Twice.
When Tim Tebow does pushups, he isn’t lifting himself. He’s pushing the earth down.
Yes, we can now take Chuck Norris Facts and turn them into Tim Tebow Facts, because the man himself, Chuck Norris, has given Tebow his seal of approval. Norris wrote a column in which he decried Tebow’s current unemployment and said that Tebow is a lot like Norris himself.
“Tebow is a player who rises to the occasion and delivers big in critical game moments,” Norris wrote. “He reminds me of myself when I used to compete in martial arts. I would spar with my black belts in class, and sometimes they would outscore me. Yet in the tournaments, I would defeat them. My students used to ask me, ‘Why can we contend equally against you in class, but we can’t beat you in the tournaments?’ My answer was always the same, ‘When it counts, I rise to the occasion.’ The same is true of the former Heisman Trophy winner: When pressure mounts and the game is on the line, Tim’s turbo turns on!”
Truthfully, Norris should probably stick with the roundhouse kicks and leave the football analysis to others, because his analysis of Tebow leaves a lot to be desired. If it’s true that when it counts, Tebow (like Norris) rises to the occasion, how are we to explain Tebow’s last game as a starter? That was in the playoffs following the 2011 season, and Tebow went 9-for-26 for 136 yards as the Broncos lost to the Patriots, 45-10.
Norris refers to Tebow as the “ultimate clutch player,” but this NFL season, Tebow is probably going to be missing in action.
As everyone was focused on when and if unsigned Giants receiver Victor Cruz will rejoin the team, the other big-name player at that same position who has a contract opted to skip OTA practice on Wednesday.
The situation, and the head coach’s reaction, create some potential problems for the Giants.
Throughout the offseason, we’ve pointed out the link between Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Cruz has no contract now, Nicks will have no contract in a year. If Cruz ultimately signs his one-year restricted free agency tender, both will be hitting the market in 2014 — and the team will have only one franchise tender to apply.
It has been believed in some circles that Nicks’ demands will be driven by what Cruz gets. As one league source with knowledge of the situation has explained it to PFT, Nicks doesn’t care what Cruz gets, because Cruz is a slot receiver. Nicks, an outside receiver, had his value set by Mike Wallace’s contract in Miami.
While this doesn’t mean Nicks will be looking for $12 million per year, it does mean that Nicks doesn’t regard Cruz’s deal as being relevant to his.
Nicks’ absence from practice on Wednesday undoubtedly means that Nicks isn’t happy with the team’s efforts, or lack thereof, to address his contract with one year remaining on his rookie deal. With Nicks saying nothing to dispel that notion, it’s safe to assume Nicks was sending a clear message to the team.
The other problem for the Giants comes from the message coach Tom Coughlin sent in response to Nicks’ decision to skip practice.
“He should be here,” Coughlin said. “I expect everybody here. We’re trying to get our team better.”
Under the pre-2011 labor deals, coaches routinely made public comments suggesting that voluntary workouts aren’t truly voluntary, and the NFL and the union rarely if ever did anything about it. As time went by, with more coaches saying things like “he should be here” and the league and the NFLPA doing nothing, coaches were emboldened to keep doing it.
The new CBA, however, added significant restrictions to offseason workouts, along with a clear commitment to eradicate contact from offseason drills. The CBA also repeated the unequivocal statement that “[n]o Club official may indicate to a player that the Club’s offseason workout program or classroom instruction is not voluntary.”
Last week, Jets coach Rex Ryan danced toward that line by calling out linebacker Quinton Coples for his perceived lack of effort at voluntary lifting sessions. This week, Coughlin jumped over the line by saying that Nicks and every other player “should be here.” If the league and union allow those comments to stand uncorrected, other coaches will follow suit, either this year or in the future.
The fact that the comment came from the coach of the team co-owned by John Mara adds some intrigue to this specific situation. For more than a year, Cowboys and Redskins fans have been riled up by Mara’s role in the stripping of $46 million in total salary-cap space from two of the Giants’ NFC East rivals. The Cowboys and Redskins, however, broke no rules.
Here, Coughlin clearly did. The only question is whether the rule will be enforced. Cowboys and Redskins fans, whose teams were punished for rules they didn’t break, surely will be watching closely.