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ProFootballTalk: Previewing Bengals-Texans
The NFL has a history of: (1) driving a hard bargain with the NFL Players Association; and (2) taking full advantage of every right that the league has earned for itself via the process of collective bargaining. The players, frankly, don’t.
The most glaring example comes from the annual willingness of players to show up for work day after day, week after week, when they’re not required to show up for work. The presumption has become that the offseason program, which is entirely optional but for one three-day mandatory minicamp, isn’t truly optional. And while that dynamic has arisen in large part because football players: (1) enjoy working out with teammates; (2) would be working out anyway from April to June; and/or (3) realize the value individually and collectively of preparing for training camp and the football season that follows it, the fact remains that the players individually and collectively have the right not to attend the vast majority of the offseason program. But they attend anyway.
Last year, when players began to realize with power that they possess, speculation emerged that the voluntary offseason program would become the basis for players flexing their muscles by, for example, skipping out for a day or for a week of the offseason program or, possibly, for the whole thing.
From a labor relations standpoint, it’s a no-brainer; no players ever should show up for offseason workouts. If that would ever happen, the NFL would sprint back to the bargaining table, ready to give the players something/anything to end the de facto work stoppage arising from players doing that which they are already legally entitled to do.
Think about that for a second. Currently, the players have every right to band together and say, “What is it worth to you to get us to show up for offseason workouts?” They haven’t, and chances are they won’t. Which counts as a double win for the always-winning billionaires who own the teams.
First, the owners benefit from free work. Second, the lack of willingness of the players to stay away from offseason workouts that don’t result in the forfeiture of game checks makes it even less likely that players will ever hold firm during a lockout or a strike. (One of which may be less than four years away.)
The players can change that whenever they want. They can do it right now. The fact that they haven’t, and the strong likelihood that they never will, shows that the players will never match the will of the owners when it comes to getting the best possible deal that they can.
NFL Competition Committee Chairman Rich McKay acknowledges that shortening overtime can lead to more ties and less exciting endings. But he says exciting endings aren’t the point.
“This rule is not intended to make the game better,” McKay said on PFT Live. “It’s intended to deal with what we think are some consequences that we’ve seen in the last couple years from a health and safety standpoint that we’re not comfortable with. We’re not comfortable with the idea that you could play a Sunday night game or Sunday afternoon at 4 game, go into overtime, play 15 minutes, pick up an additional 18 to 20 snaps, and then potentially play a Thursday night game. It bothered us when we talked to coaches, one in particular, he said, ‘We didn’t practice. We were worn out, we didn’t practice and we came to a Thursday night game.’ That made us uncomfortable.”
McKay said the NFL may see more ties in 2017, although he doesn’t think it will be a dramatic shift, and it will be worth it from a safety perspective.
“Could we get one more tie a year? Maybe. Do we want that? No,” McKay said. “The bottom line on the rule is we’re going to do it for player safety, not necessarily to make the game better.”
So the rule might not make the game better, but it’s a rule that’s here to stay, because the owners think it will make the game safer.
Among the excessive celebration penalties that drew the biggest negative response last season was the one that tight end Vernon Davis received after scoring a touchdown in Week 6.
Davis mimicked a basketball jump shot using the ball and the crossbar, leading to a 15-yard penalty against the Redskins that set up a short kickoff that the Eagles returned for a touchdown. Davis, who wasn’t penalized for the move when he was with the 49ers, was later fined $12,154 as well, but he won’t have to reach for his wallet if he gets a chance to break it out again in 2017.
The league changed the rules on celebrations this week to allow for more expressive reactions to big plays, a decision that Davis was happy to hear about.
“Guys want to celebrate, they want to make it fun,” Davis said, via the Washington Post. “That’s what this game is – it’s all about having fun. Go out there, you don’t want to be uptight. You want to have fun and do things within the realm of your team and be in compliance, but at the same time, you want to have fun. I think that’s one thing we have to work on as players. We have to make sure that we’re doing everything that we can do to make sure that we can keep it this way so that they won’t come back and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to take it away from you guys again.’ If we just work together and do things the right way, then we can keep it.”
Davis’ teammate Josh Norman also ran afoul of the celebration police last year, drawing a penalty and a fine for miming a bow-and-arrow shot after an interception. Norman’s move appears to remain off limits due to the continued ban on simulating weapons, something he professes not to understand while also feeling “it’s good that they’re taking the fans’ perspective” on celebrations in general.
The Cardinals played one of the two tie games in the NFL last season, a 6-6 spellbinder against the Seahawks that saw both teams miss field goals that could have ended the game during a 15-minute overtime period.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said that the effort left him with a “tired football team” that had to limit their practice time leading into a loss to the Panthers the next week. This week’s rule change that cuts overtime to 10 minutes, which could leave more in the tank if teams find themselves in a similar situation.
It may not lead to a different result on the scoreboard, but Arians thinks it will lead coaches to call plays differently than they would with 15 minutes to play. It isn’t one that involves 10-minute drives that eat up all the clock, however.
“I think it’ll affect the calling of the game a little bit,” Arians said, via ESPN.com. “People are worried about a 10-minute drive. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a 10-minute drive. I guess there have been a couple but if you get the ball run on you for 10 minutes, you deserve to lose anyway.”
It’s hard to argue with the notion that a different overtime length will lead to a different approach from coaches, but we won’t know exactly how they change until we get a few extended games to use as evidence.
Bengals Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz was visiting the Browns this week.
#asexpected, there were jokes about the Browns hiring former Colts G.M. Ryan Grigson.
The Jaguars are trying to ease their high picks into things.
The Titans might get in on the catfish-tossing.
Some think the Chargers have a shot to beat the Rams to the title of L.A.’s team.
Bears coordinator Dowell Loggains is bringing the energy to his QB competition.
Will a lack of additions to the pass-rush come back to haunt the Packers?
The Falcons are still among the most talented teams in the league.
The Saints are getting their first look at their rookies alongside the veterans.
The Buccaneers took a savage shot at the Falcons on Twittter.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians says this group of WRs is his best yet.
Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins has been around long enough to know that, when it comes to NFL contracts, procrastination is a way of life.
“As one person has told me, deadlines do deals,” Cousins told reporters on Wednesday. “That’s just kind of a rule in negotiating, so why would something happen way before a deadline? It just doesn’t make sense. I’m not in a hurry, they’re not in a hurry, so we’ll just see how things go. I’m being patient.”
Cousins has experience when it comes to the key deadline for signing a franchise-tagged player to a long-term deal; last year, July 15 came and went without a contract. That could be the case this year, too.
“I feel like when it comes to the contract, I have gotten reps now. I am getting used to answering questions and going through this now the second time through so I am not a rookie anymore when it comes to this stuff,” Cousins said. “It is a similar deal here too. It has been very positive. I have had really positive conversations with everybody involved throughout the process this offseason. I feel like everybody is on the same page and I really have nothing further to add to what has already been said. So I feel good about where I am at, where this team is at, where my teammates are at. And so it is just a matter of trying to move forward and we will see what happens come July 15. It will be a telling date as it was last summer.”
Asked about the stress of the contract situation, Cousins explained that he understands, from high school to college to now, he can only “go and play and see where the chips will land and try not to let it get to you.”
That’s a lot easier to do after having made $19.95 million last year and being due to make $23.94 million this year, along with $28-plus million or $34-plus million or a long-term deal from Washington or another team on the open market in 2018. The specific outcome will depend largely on how Cousins and the team perform in 2017; it will take a strong performance from both to get Washington to seriously consider pushing Cousins’ three-year haul from $44 million to more than $78 million.
If that’s what happen, Cousins will have done a lot better than he ever would have done if he’d signed a long-term deal during or after the expiration of his fourth-round rookie contract.
A year ago, the bar was set pretty low for Dak Prescott: Come in, learn as much as you can from Tony Romo, and hopefully get enough reps to be a serviceable backup.
But even after an incredible rookie year, Prescott has managed to improve over the offseason.
According to Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Cowboys quarterback has already improved, from a physical standpoint at least. Quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson said Prescott’s numbers in the offseason program for speed, strength and agility have all surpassed what he posted as a rookie.
“They tested last Monday,” Wilson said. “He has improved strength-wise, flexibility-wise, speed-wise, quickness-wise. He is not resting on anything that went on last year.”
Such gains are somewhat natural for a player who has been through the adjustment from college training to professional training, the kind of thing you expect after a year in a more intensive program. But Prescott’s head-down approach has also benefitted him.
“It’s just working hard continuously,” Prescott said. “That is how I have gotten to where I am in life. I’m not going to forget that and keep working hard. . . .
“I don’t look at what’s behind me. I look at where I can go and what I can do. The only way I know to do that is through hard work. That is something I continue to try to do.”
Of course, the improvement he needs is not limited to the physical traits. He’s going to be a year more experienced and has the ability to spend the offseason getting starter’s reps. He joked that he got two reps during his first practice of OTAs last year, but getting enough work won’t be an issue now.
The good news is, he’s physically ready for the burden.
The Giants continue to build depth on defense, adding a veteran safety to the mix as well.
The 27-year-old Ihenacho spent the last three seasons in Washington. Injuries limited him his first two seasons but he started 1o games last year.
The former undrafted rookie from San Jose State broke into the league with the Broncos.
He immediately adds some special teams presence and figures as a solid backup to Landon Collins.
Although the NFL has loosened the rules against celebrations, one restriction remains in place: Players can’t dunk the ball over the goal post.
NFL owners voted this week to roll back some of the league’s longstanding celebration penalties, including using the football as a prop. But according to ESPN the league still doesn’t allow dunking over the goal post because it considers that using the goal post as a prop, and because of the potential for delaying the game.
Then-Saints tight end Jimmy Graham delayed a game by about 20 minutes in 2013 when he dunked over a goal post and hit the cross bar in the process, knocking the goal post off-balance. The next offseason, the league banned dunks.
Graham criticized the league for that rule change, but it’s a rule the league feels strongly enough about that it will stay in place even after this week’s move to let players have a little more fun in the end zone.
John Elway has just one year remaining on his contract as General Manager and Vice Preside of Football Operations for the Denver Broncos. And despite the Broncos first expressing a desire to get Elway a new deal since the middle of the last season, Elway still is without an extension on his contract.
But Elway sees the issue as a formality.
According to Arnie Stapleton of the Associated Press, Elway fully expects a new contract will come together before the start of the season this fall.
“We’re continuing to work at it. I don’t see any problems with that. I look forward to being here with the Broncos for a long time,” Elway said.
He later added that he’s “not going anywhere.”
The Hall of Fame quarterback has already cultivated a successful second career with the franchise after leading the team to two Super Bowl titles in the late 1990’s. Since taking over the job as G.M. in 2011, the Broncos have made the Super Bowl twice and won a third Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl 50 over the Carolina Panthers.
In some cities, there is wringing of hands and/or gnashing of teeth regarding the decision of key players to treat voluntary workouts as voluntary. In Oakland, the team is keeping recently-acquired running back Marshawn Lynch out of the OTA fray, for now.
“He’s doing great, he’s doing great,” coach Jack Del Rio said, via Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com. “He’ll continue to do the things that we’re asking him to do. He’s really soaking up the system. He’s doing a great job fitting in.”
Although the Raiders are choosing not to put Lynch in a helmet and on the practice field, Del Rio knew that Lynch would show up for the Phase Three sessions.
“He said, ‘Coach, this is home for me, so it’s not like I’m going home and I won’t be here,’” Del Rio said. “He’s committed to being here. He’s excited to be a Raider. We’re excited to have him.”
For now, the Raiders don’t want to get too excited about rushing into action a running back who hasn’t played in more than a year. In time, we’ll all see Lynch wearing a silver helmet and pounding into and through the line.
The Denver Broncos have a great defense. New defensive coordinator Joe Woods knows that, and he plans to keep it that way.
“The foundation of our defense is going to stay the same,” Woods told reporters on Wednesday. “Our first two years, we played a high level defense. We did a good job. There’s a few things that we definitely need to improve on. But my big deal is, I don’t want to come in and change the fingerprints or the foundation of our defense. All I said is I want to sprinkle a little sugar on it. It’s something that will give us a little change up, make offenses work at the line of scrimmage. That’s all we’re doing.”
One area that requires improvement relates to an uptick in first-drive points allowed in 2016. In all aspects of the game, linebacker Von Miller has faith in Woods.
“We’ve always had great defensive coordinators,” Miller told reporters. “From [Dennis Allen] to Jack [Del Rio] and Coach [Wade] Phillips, all of the defensive coordinators that we’ve had, we’ve always been good and we’ve always been able to rush the passer. Joe Woods has been with us for three years now. He knows us. He has a great mind. He knows how to relate to guys, especially the secondary. That’s the strength of our defense. He brings a calm voice. . . . It’s just a special environment here, especially on defense. We’ll come out here and work hard. Whatever happens, we’ll be OK with.”
The defense needs to be better than OK (along with the offense) if the team that won Super Bowl 50 and then missed the playoffs hopes to contend again in 2017.
They can probably go ahead and tear down the Georgia Dome.
Falcons CEO and president Rich McKay tells PFT Live in an interview to be aired Thursday morning that the team’s new stadium will be ready to go for the preseason home opener, on August 26.
McKay also said there’s no truth to persistent rumors that the unique retractable roof will remain closed for the entirety of the first year of the stadium’s operation. McKay said that the unprecedented multi-piece roof, with an array of 500-ton segments that slide open and closed simultaneously, will function as planned in 2017.
The extended interview will McKay will be played in two parts, beginning at 7:00 a.m. ET and ending at 7:35 a.m. ET. In addition to discussion regarding the stadium, McKay answered a variety of questions regarding the rule changes passed earlier this week in Chicago, given that he also serves as the chairman of the Competition Committee.
Also joining Thursday’s show will be Bob Glauber of Newsday, who’ll have some things to say about the Giants, the Jets, and whatever else comes up.
Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson took a shot at former teammate Brandon Marshall on Tuesday, saying that there were “15 reasons” for the team’s failures in 2016. Marshall responded by taking the high road.
“Last year was an extremely difficult season for all of us,” Marshall told Kimberly A. Martin of Newsday. “Players and coaches fought their tails off trying to get our season turned around and it didn’t happen for us. It was disappointing, but now it’s a fresh year for Sheldon, for myself, for the Jets, and now I’m a Giant and I’m so excited for this opportunity.”
Some would say it’s easy for Marshall to be positive, given that he now plays for a playoff team, and Richardson, who also called Marshall a “drama queen” and a “locker room cancer,” is still stuck with the Jets.
“I’m working my butt off to learn the plays,” Marshall said. “It’s like I’m starting all over again from scratch. I feel like a rookie, and I kind of like that feeling. And hopefully I can do my job this year to the best of my ability to bring that Lombardi Trophy back where it belongs. That’s my only focus right now and I’m excited to be a New York Football Giant.”
Bob Glauber of Newsday wasn’t as charitable as Marshall when it comes to Richardson.
“Richardson is hardly one to throw shade at a teammate, current or former, especially given his tenuous standing with the Jets,” Glauber writes. “He already has been suspended four games for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, and was suspended for the first game of the 2016 season for violating the league’s Personal Conduct Policy. Last year’s sanction was in response to a July 2015 arrest for driving his 2014 Bentley Flying Spur at speeds up to 143 miles per hour near his home in suburban St. Louis. Police found a loaded semi-automatic handgun under a floor mat.”
Glauber says Richardson “was the much bigger problem than Marshall” last year, and that the Jets viewed Marshall as part of the solution, not part of the problem. Richardson remains part of the problem, which could be why the Jets continue to try to make him not part of the Jets.
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles threw 16 interceptions and lost six fumbles last season. He knows that’s not going to cut it on a Tom Coughlin-led team.
Bortles said at Jacksonville’s Organized Team Activities that his top priority right now is being safe with the football.
“If you don’t turn the ball over, you’ll win football games,” Bortles said, via Mike Kaye of WTLV. “That’s our focus. Turnovers are going to happen. We get that. You have to make sure to minimize them as much as possible and stay away from the stupid ones.”
Bortles said Coughlin, who became the Jaguars’ front office boss this offseason, is already making his presence felt.
“To have a guy like that in the building that you can talk to – I’m sure [Head Coach Doug Marrone], having another head coach in the building, a former head coach in the building who has been successful and has done some good thing – I think it’s good for everybody,” Bortles said. “It allows everybody to have somebody to talk to, to help out. He has a ton of good information.”
And atop that list of good information is that if you don’t take care of the football, you won’t be around for long.