Will playoff seeding be affected by the ‘Fail Mary’ call from Week 3? Who has the edge in Sunday’s matchup between the Cowboys and Redskins? The PFT guys discuss this and more as they break down the NFC playoff picture.
ProFootballTalk: Previewing the NFC playoff picture
Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez has reportedly been questioned in a homicide investigation, although he is not considered a suspect.
Sports Illustrated reports that Hernandez was questioned by police investigating a possible homicide in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. The report says police talked to Hernandez on Monday and may seek to search his home as well. But the report adds that “Hernandez is not believed to be a murder suspect.”
The Sun Chronicle, a local newspaper in North Attleboro, reports that a 27-year-old Boston man’s body was found on Monday afternoon and may have been there for more than a day. That report said police found a 2013 Chevrolet Suburban registered to Enterprise car rental, and that police believe the car is connected to the homicide. The Sports Illustrated report indicates that the car was rented in Hernandez’s name.
Hernandez, his agents and his lawyer have all declined to comment publicly on the case.
When the annual NFL rookie symposium kicks off on Sunday, sexual orientation will be among the topics addressed.
Robert Gulliver, the NFL’s chief human resource officer, told ESPN that discussing issues of sexual orientation with incoming rookies will be a step toward the NFL’s goal of having a harassment-free work place.
The ESPN report says this will be the first time that sexual orientation has been addressed at the symposium, but that is not correct: At the 2006 symposium, openly gay ex-NFL player Esera Tuaolo spoke. Unfortunately, that speech included an ugly incident in which then-Titans rookie LenDale White, showing a decided lack of class, raised his hand and asked Tuaolo, “Is it OK to call you a fa–ot if you are a fa–ot?”
We would hope that there aren’t any morons like White in this year’s rookie crop. And that if there is anyone who has those views, the message at the rookie symposium will be simple: Discrimination and harassment against people based on their sexual orientation will not be tolerated in the NFL.
The Titans have a plan for their final minicamp of the spring, but they don’t have a script.
During their final three days of work before vacation and then training camp, the Titans are working without a scripted set of plays in practice, which head coach Mike Munchak said was more for the benefit of his assistants as his players.
“That’s as good for the coaches as anybody, to make them have to think how to try to attack each other and not be able to pre-plan everything we are doing out here,” Munchak said, via Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com. “Once we had everything installed, once we spent the first nine OTAs getting everything in and doing it at a teaching pace where we felt they had a good understanding, then to me this is the best thing we could do.
“You can’t tackle, this is as close as you get to playing real football, at least mentally. I just thought this would be a nice change for these couple days. Let it flow, let it happen and create some situations.”
That forced offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and defensive coordinator Jerry Gray (unless assistant Gregg Williams was doing it) to work against each other, after establishing a rough plan for the day.
“Whatever you call, you call and the players have got to make their adjustments off of it,” Gray said before the practice started. “So we’re really going through a bunch of game-type situations: You’re in two minute, you’re in four minute, you’re in goal line, it’s first-and-10. All they are going to do [on offense] is tell us personnel. Then we are going to treat it as a game, . . .
“Not only does it help me, it helps Dowell, it helps the head coach get a chance to see what we like to call in certain situations, and the players do too. You can script and say hey, ‘I can always have the pen last and win.’ You’ve got to make the call from what you are looking at, what you’re thinking, what’s that going to do to you, because that’s how the game is.”
The Titans have spent aggressively this offseason, but that only adds to the pressure on Munchak and the rest of the staff. So perhaps it’s fitting and smart that they add a little on themselves in the offseason, before the consequences are real.
Surgery on Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski’s back has concluded, a source told PFT’s Mike Florio on Tuesday.
It is believed the surgery, conducted Tuesday, was successful, the source told PFT.
At present, it’s not yet certain when Gronkowski — one of the game’s top all-around performers at his position — will again be ready to play. The Pro Bowl tight end was bothered by a forearm injury /infection late in the 2012 campaign and into this offseason before the back issue became a primary concern.
Gronkowski, 24, caught 55 passes for 790 yards and 11 touchdowns in just 11 regular-season games in 2012. Slightly more than one-in-five of his career regular-season catches have gone for touchdowns (38 TDs, 187 receptions).
If we were putting individual plays on the Mt. Rushmores we’ve been putting together for each of the NFL’s 32 teams instead of faces, there’s little doubt that the Music City Miracle would make the cut for the Titans.
Frank Wycheck played a major role in that unforgettable play against the Bills in the playoffs, which is part of the reason why he made the 12 finalists for the Titans’ Mt. Rushmore that will be revealed on Tuesday’s edition of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN. We’ll ask Wycheck which of his teammates are worthy of being one of the franchise’s faces as well as what Oilers from the old school have stood the test of time.
The team that replaced the Oilers in Houston will also have their Mt. Rushmore carved on Tuesday. Erik Kuselias, Mike Florio and the rest of the crew will give you the details for the Texans and cover the biggest news from around the league.
It all gets underway at 5 p.m. ET.
The Titans need better offensive line play next season if they are going to improve on their results from 2012, but they will have to wait until training camp to see how their projected starters look as a unit.
Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean reports that coach Mike Munchak said at Tuesday’s opening of minicamp that left tackle Michael Roos, right tackle David Stewart and left guard Andy Levitre will all be limited to individual work during the three-day session that ends Tennessee’s offseason work. That leaves center Fernando Velasco and rookie right guard Chance Warmack as the only expected starters doing team drills with the offense.
Levitre hasn’t done any team work since signing with the Titans as a free agent, although everyone expects him to be ready for a full workload when camp gets underway. The same is true of Stewart, who broke his leg late last season, and Roos, who is out because of a back issue.
If they all meet that expectation, the Titans will be breathing easier. Anything less than that would be a troubling start for a team trying to rebound.
After coming back from a torn Achilles in college, Browns sixth-rounder Jamoris Slaughter isn’t just content to make the roster.
He’s thinking about a starting job.
Slaughter didn’t participate in OTAs or minicamp, but said he’ll be ready when training camp begins.
“I’m cleared at this point to do everything, so I’ve been feeling really good,” Slaughter said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I’ve been working out hard with the team, just waiting to get back for training camp.”
Slaughter suffered the injury early last season for Notre Dame, and most of his work was on a stationary bike during spring workouts.
But he thinks he can compete with Tashaun Gipson for the starting free safety job.
“Definitely,” he said. “It’s one thing I think about every day is getting that starting position. I know it’s a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. As long I keep taking the right steps and staying positive, I think it will happen. . . .
“I’m steaming to get out there on the field, just having to watch OTAs, and minicamp,” he said. “I’ve been getting a lot of mental reps. On that side, it’s helped me out a lot, mentally just learning the playbook and watching the guys and seeing the things they do good and bad and learn from that. I know when I step on the field and get the rust off I’ll be right back.”
Gipson started three games last year, but Slaughter’s biggest obstacle might be his own condition. Confidence is one thing, but having realistic expectations when coming back from such an injury is key.
The Falcons surely hope to avoid being called “dumb” by Matt Ryan’s agents next year. Of course, if being dumb means winning the Super Bowl, the Falcons would gladly wear the dunce cap.
For now, the posture between Ryan and the team that made him the third overall pick in the 2008 draft is identical to last year’s contract standoff between the Ravens and Joe Flacco. Ryan has a year left on his deal, both sides want to extend the contract, but an agreement has not been reached.
For now, Ryan bears the risk of injury and ineffectiveness. If Ryan makes it through 2013 unscathed, the Falcons will have to choose between giving him market value, using the non-exclusive franchise tag (which exposes him to being pilfered by another team in exchange for two first-round picks), or the exclusive version of the tag (which could cost nearly $20 million for 2014 and unlock a year-to-year formula that would put the Falcons well north of $70 million for three years).
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, casual talks currently are occurring, with an expectation that things will heat up after the July 4 holiday.
Ryan has a $12 million cap number for 2013. A long-term deal often drops a player’s cap number, but if Ryan is going to be paid at or near the top of the market (i.e., somewhere between $16 million and $20 million per year), it’s unlikely that the cap number will be any lower than $12 million in 2013. Which means that a long-term deal for Ryan likely won’t create additional cap space for a potential contract with Richard Seymour.
The real question is whether Ryan (a CAA client) wants to be paid like Drew Brees (a CAA client) or Tony Romo (a CAA client) or somewhere in between. Brees is getting $20 million per year. Romo’s deal, as a practical matter, is worth $16.375 million over four years or $15.9 million over five.
Looming in the background is Matthew Stafford (another CAA client), whose cap number already is above $20 million.
As more and more franchise quarterbacks become the highest-paid player on their respective franchises, the questions constantly will be: (1) how much is enough?; and (2) how much needs to be left behind to have a competitive team?
That’s why Ryan needs to ask himself, along with whether he’s willing to roll the dice and walk away from whatever the Falcons put on the table now, in the hopes of getting them over a barrel later.
The idiots who thought it would be a good idea to make fun of Steve Gleason’s ALS paid for their lack of judgement and humor with their jobs.
But Gleason himself has taken the high road, accepting the apologies of the idiots in question, calling their contrition “genuine.”
Gleason posted that message on his Facebook page, responding with the kind of grace not everyone could muster (including yours truly).
“Regarding the DJ skit in Atlanta yesterday. I would like to thank the public for their support,” he wrote, with his eyes, since he can’t use his hands because of the disease. “’Defend Team Gleason’ now has been officially redefined. Additionally, the DJs have provided genuine apology. Received and accepted. We have all made mistakes in this life. How we learn from our mistakes is the measure of who we are.
“I think everyone can learn from this event. Its clear to me that, on a national & global scale, ALS is not understood, which is part of why its under funded and largely ignored. In the past 36 hours lots of people have been talking. Lets talk about this… There are zero treatments for ALS. If you take any action as a result of this event, I prefer it to be action to end ALS. See what we are doing to change that @ teamgleason.org. SG”
Gleason’s work on behalf of others with the disease has been remarkable and uplifting. But his forgiveness might be as impressive, and an example for each of us.
During the 2012 season, Giants running backs coach Jerald Ingram hammered rookie running back David Wilson for not being a complete running back, with a particular emphasis on the need for Wilson to become a better pass blocker if he wanted to become a major part of the team’s running game.
Wilson did see more time in the final weeks of the regular season and Ahmad Bradshaw’s departure means that he’s in line for a lot of playing time in his second season. Ingram said that Wilson has “grown” during the offseason in terms of his understanding of the offense, including the vital role of keeping Eli Manning from being planted in the turf.
“There are some goals that he has to accomplish for us,” Ingram said, via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com. “He’s definitely on a better track than he was a year ago in understanding our protections and doing those kinds of things. I think we’ll take advantage of his natural ability as much as we can.”
Andre Brown is on hand to provide balance, Ingram referred to the tandem as a “thunder and lightning-type situation,” but Wilson’s playmaking ability will be tough to take off the field if he proves competent as a blocker. Ingram notes that you can’t tell much about blocking until everyone’s in pads, which means August will bring more of an idea of whether Wilson’s reached that level.
Bill Callahan is “excited” to get to work calling plays for the Cowboys offense and the team has gotten one of the rookies Callahan can deploy this season under contract.
Nick Eatman of the Cowboys website reports that third-round pick Terrance Williams has agreed to a four-year contract with the team. The deal with the wide receiver is expected to be officially announced on Wednesday.
How much Callahan deploys him remains up in the air. When Williams came off the board with the 74th overall pick, he looked like a good bet to be the team’s third receiver in 2013 but wide receivers coach Derek Dooley offered a reminder that Williams is a work in progress as offseason workouts came to a close.
“These rookies are coming in, he’s hearing a language he’s never spoke. It’s like learning Japanese, right now,” Dooley said, via the Dallas Morning News. “He used to get a signal and he ran a route. Now he’s got to hear a play, he’s got to line up right, we’re moving him all over the place, and then oh, by the way, go run a route against Morris Claiborne and get open. There’s a lot to it. Each day, what I’m proud of, he’s getting a little bit better. He’s still got a long way to go. It’s a journey in the National Football League, especially at wide out, but I’m really proud of how he’s progressing.”
You’d expect as much for most rookies, so we’ll see what happens when Williams gets to camp this summer. Dwayne Harris is the likeliest other choice to play behind and with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant.
The various AFC Mt. Rushmores will get a lot more interesting at 5:00 p.m. ET on Thursday, when we select four Patriots for placement on their hill of immortality.
It’ll happen on NBCSN’s Pro Football Talk.
Pats fans and Pats anti-fans alike will be ready to vote for (or not for) certain specific figures who fueled the team’s run of three Super Bowl wins in four years, especially in light of the Spygate scandal and the associated arguments and/or conspiracy theories it spawned.
But despite the efforts of some to nominate men like Matt Walsh for the honor, the Pats’ still have their titles — if not all of their rings.
And the best part about the Mt. Rushmore honor is that the winners get nothing tangible. Which gives heads of state one less thing to steal.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are already committed to playing one “home” game a year in London, and tight end Marcedes Lewis is on board with that. But if the Jaguars start playing two games a year in London, Lewis believes that would be a bad move.
Lewis told Mike Freeman of CBS that playing multiple games in London “would be highly stressful for a team. It would disrupt a big part of your season. There would be a competitive disadvantage for a team that did that. . . . [P]laying two games in London would be pretty rough for any team no matter what you try to do.”
If the Jaguars do start playing two games a year in London, it would likely be one “home” game and one “road” game, so in addition to giving up one of their home dates, the players would have to make a longer road trip than they otherwise would for one of their road dates. It’s possible, however, that the NFL could book Wembley Stadium for back-to-back Sundays and allow the Jaguars to stay in London for the week in between, and save them the trip.
But the reality is, the NFL is badly wants to grow its game overseas, and the league views regular games in London as the best way to accomplish that goal. And that’s not going to change just because some of the players who are forced to play there twice a year don’t like it.
Confidence is an important trait for any pro athlete. That’s why the offseason routinely consists of plenty of boasts regarding performances to come in the next NFL campaign.
For Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, his confidence comes with a six pack of apathy.
Specifically, Cromartie thinks he can be the best cornerback in the NFL. But he doesn’t really want to be.
“Can I be? Yes. Do I care to be? No,” Cromartie recently told Brian Costello of the New York Post. “If we’re winning and I’m doing the things I need to do, then that’s what it’s really all about.”
It’s a bizarrely mature comment from Cromartie that could get lost in the headline. He’s basically saying that he’s more interested in team accomplishments than individual accolades.
That’s really the way it should be. While personal achievements can lead to big contracts and, eventually, a bronze bust in Canton, the focus never should be racking up stats or praise. It should be doing your job and hoping that everyone else does the same.
Putin apparently has reared his head. Again.
The Russian leader, not content to simply bogart Bob Kraft’s Super Bowl ring, may (or may not) have commandeered the Twitter account of Lions president Tom Lewand.
According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Lewand’s Twitter account was hacked by Russian spammers on Tuesday. The messages, as translated by Birkett, include: “Is it possible to get rid of varicose veins with the aid of an extract of beer Sophia.”
In all, 40 tweets in Russian landed on Lewand’s Twitter page, who later claimed that he was indeed hacked.
Look for the Lions to eventually release a statement explaining that Lewand actually gave the keys to his account to the Russians temporarily. You know, as a gift.