ProFootballTalk: Keys in Packers-49ers matchup
Jameis Winston’s whole spring has been spent trying to dispel notions.
Many of those, of course, stemmed from his own actions.
But he said after his pro day workout Tuesday that his decision to not attend the NFL Draft in Chicago was a simple call based on the health of a family member.
During an interview on the NFL Network, Winston said his grandmother has type-2 diabetes and is unable to travel, so the desire to be around his family triggered his decision to stay near home.
Many have wondered whose decision it was for him to not attend, or whether it was driven by public relations complications for either side.
But if you take the man at his word, then his decision to skip a chance at a grip-and-grin with Roger Goodell shouldn’t receive any more scrutiny than Joe Thomas’s decision to fish with his dad.
Add the Jets to the list of teams who won’t be going away for camp this summer.
The team announced they would not be returning to SUNY-Cortland this year for training camp, staying put at their own training facility instead.
“SUNY Cortland felt like home because of the tremendous local support we received during our time there,” owner Woody Johnson said in a statement. “President Erik Bitterbaum and the university staff, as well as the families and businesses of Central New York, all went above and beyond to embrace our organization and create a comfortable environment for our team and fans. They always will be a part of our Jets family.”
The Jets had gone to Cortland five of the last six years, but referred to “locating camp closer to the team’s core fan base in the New York/North Jersey metropolitan area.”
They’re not alone in that desire to stay close, as 21 of 32 teams stay at their own places.
Between the cost and logistical challenges of going to another place, more teams are finding it to be not worth the trouble to go away, forgoing whatever bonding might happen when forced into an unfamiliar environment.
Joe Flacco has a new backup.
Matt Schaub, who spent last season holding a clipboard in Oakland, has signed with the Ravens, according to Peter King of TheMMQB.com.
Schaub is experienced, having been the starter in Houston for seven seasons. But he looks just about washed up at age 33. Last year he barely got on the field for the Raiders, and the year before that he suffered through a miserable season in Houston.
The Ravens hope Flacco will stay healthy and Schaub will never see the field, but if something does happen to Flacco, Schaub at least gives them the presence of someone who has started in the NFL. Even if it’s been a long time since he played well.
The world’s most irrelevant billionaire soon will be even less relevant.
Former Browns owner Randy Lerner, whose commitment to the franchise was questioned at time based on his ownership of an English soccer club, reportedly will sell the English soccer club for $222 million, according to the London Daily Mirror.
Lerner reportedly paid $94.2 million for Aston Villa of the Premier League a decade ago, which means that he has generated a profit of more than $127 million.
In 2012, Lerner sold the Browns to Jimmy Haslam for more than $1 billion. Lerner’s father, Al, founded the reconstituted Browns in 1999.
Theo Riddick, who has played for the Lions the last two years, seems to be in line for more work now that Bush is out.
“I do think that he’s going to improve,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said, via the Detroit News. “He has all of the qualities. If you’re smart, if you’re tough, if you’re disciplined, if you have a great work ethic, there’s improvement ahead. And he has all those things, so I think he’s going to improve. And I think he’ll force us to get him the ball a little bit more in some situations.”
Riddick has shown some promise as a receiver out of the backfield and lined up in the slot, but as a runner, if Riddick “has all of the qualities,” he sure hasn’t shown it yet. In two NFL seasons Riddick has played in 28 games and carried only 29 times for 76 yards, a 2.6-yard average. The longest run of his career went for nine yards.
No one played particularly well in the Lions’ running game last year. Detroit ranked 28th in both rushing yards and yards per carry last season. The Lions need someone to do better than that in 2015. Maybe that someone can be Riddick.
Looking at a college quarterback’s physique isn’t a great way to determine whether he’ll be a good pro. Tom Brady didn’t look special at the Combine. Brady Quinn looked so good they put him on the cover of Muscle & Fitness.
But the fact is NFL teams do weigh and measure draft prospects, and look at them shirtless to see whether they look flabby or muscular. And Winston looks flabby.
Winston has looked flabby for a long time now. Maybe he’s just a guy who doesn’t look very athletic, but is able to produce on the field anyway.
Or maybe he’s more like JaMarcus Russell, whom the Raiders drafted first overall despite concerns that his flabby physique was evidence of a lack of work ethic. That pick didn’t turn out too well.
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher claims he can’t understand why there are questions about Winston’s character, a ridiculous claim given that a woman says Winston raped her. There are also questions about Winston’s work ethic, and Winston’s physique does nothing to quell those questions.
It wouldn’t necessarily be big news that the Jaguars waived fullback Bradie Ewing.
But it is reasonably interesting that they don’t have any now, as Hays Carlyon of the Florida Times-Union points out.
The Jaguars made a run at DeMarco Murray, which tells you they wanted to upgrade there. And claiming Bernard Pierce off waivers shows you they’re going to look high and low for more bodies at running back.
To call his debut season with the Jaguars a disappointment would be kind, averaging 3.2 yards per carry after an early foot injury he couldn’t seem to shake.
Whether he could return to his form if healthy remains to be seen. Now, it’s worth watching to see if they simply turn him into a fullback, and try to get something for that three-year, $10.5 million contract they gave him a year ago.
There have been reports they want to turn him into an H-back, as Ian Rapoport of NFL Media points, out, which seems like as good an idea as anything.
Rodgers was of most use in the passing game during his tenure with the Falcons, catching 155 passes for 1,104 yards and five touchdowns while also playing the role of pass blocker when the situation called for it. He didn’t add nearly as much as a runner, but that’s probably not the chief concern in Chicago with Forte and Carey already on hand.
Kevin White is expected to be one of the first two wide receivers off the board in the first round on April 30 and we heard his thoughts on why he should go before Amari Cooper during a visit with PFT on NBCSN on Monday evening.
During Tuesday’s PFT Live, they’ll be an opportunity to hear even more from White. He’ll talk to Mike Florio about his preparations from the draft and what he’s heard from teams as we move closer to finding out where this year’s top prospects will land.
We also want to hear from PFT Planet. Email questions at any time via the O’Reilly Auto Parts Ask the Pros inbox or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.
It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour of the show by clicking right here.
At the first Aaron Hernandez murder trial, Patriots owner Robert Kraft was followed to the witness stand by Patriots security director Mark Briggs. And Briggs confirmed the most important aspect of Kraft’s testimony.
Via Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports, Briggs (like Kraft) testified that Hernandez said he didn’t kill Lloyd, and that Hernandez was at a “club.”
“He swore on his baby’s life he was telling the truth,” Briggs said of Hernandez.
Hernandez definitely wasn’t telling the truth about his whereabouts. The prosecution will now hope that this will help the jury conclude he also wasn’t telling the truth about his innocence.
Mark Ingram got the most work of his NFL career during the 2014 season and responded with 964 rushing yards and nine touchdowns in the final year of his rookie contract.
Ingram parleyed that success into a new four-year, $16 million deal with the Saints, but not into a role as an offensive workhorse. The Saints gave a similar deal to C.J. Spiller a couple of days after signing Ingram, all but ensuring that the two backs will be shuffled in and out of the lineup over the course of the season.
Ingram’s been in that position with the Saints before and says he’s not bothered about being in the same spot after his successful 2014 campaign.
“He’s a special player,” Ingram said, via ESPN.com. “He’s a game-breaker, can take it to the house no matter where he is on the field, punt return, kick return, pass, run. So I’m looking forward to it. … So it wasn’t anything strange or anything when we signed him. I talked to him before it even got announced.”
Ingram and Spiller bring different things to the offense, which should provide plenty of room for both of them to thrive without being asked to do things outside their skill set. Given Spiller’s receiving ability, they could even share time on an offense that figures to take on a different shape with Jimmy Graham now plying his trade in Seattle.
Testifying on Tuesday in the first Aaron Hernandez murder trial, Patriots owner Robert Kraft provided a piece of evidence that could be very useful for the prosecution.
Via Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports, Kraft told jurors that Hernandez denied involvement in the murder of Odin Lloyd, explaining that he was in a “club” at the time of the shooting.
As Wetzel notes, the evidence introduced to date makes it clear that Hernandez wasn’t in a “club” at the time of the shooting. Which indicates Hernandez lied to Kraft.
Hernandez may dispute that he gave a false explanation to the man who at the time of the shooting was Hernandez’s ultimate boss. But Hernandez has only one way to rebut the testimony from Robert Kraft — by taking the witness stand.
That’s where the right to remain silent creates a huge dilemma for a criminal defendant. While the accused isn’t compelled to testify in court, anything he has said out of court can be used against him. Since it’s a statement from a party to the lawsuit, it’s not hearsay. And as it relates to one-on-one communications, it’s unchallenged unless the defendant chooses to waive the right against self-incrimination and testify.
Hernandez most likely won’t be testifying at all. To do so would expose him to cross-examination. Which could quickly erase any chance his lawyers have of identifying “reasonable doubt” during closing arguments.
The Lions Offense struggled at times in 2014, but the team was able to advance to the postseason thanks to one of the best defenses in the league.
That unit won’t have Ndamukong Suh back in the middle of the defensive line in 2015, something that wide receiver Golden Tate reasonably considers “a big hit” to the team as they prepare for the coming season. Tate doesn’t think that the loss of Suh is going to put extra pressure on the offense to carry the load, however.
“No, I don’t think it adds any pressure,” Tate said, via ESPN.com. “We just need to be who we are. We know that we have a lot of weapons all over the field. We just need to reach our potential each and every week. We just need to go out there and play fundamentally sound football and I have no doubt our defense is going to be really good again this year and we just got to do our jobs. There’s no pressure on anyone but to be ourselves and to play good football.”
Suh wasn’t the only reason why Detroit’s defense thrived last season. He was a big one, though, and some slippage is a reasonable expectation now that he’s gone. That might not put any more pressure on the offense to improve than there would be if he was still in Detroit, but the need to improve exists either way.
Having a healthy Calvin Johnson would help on that front as would progress from tight end Eric Ebron in his second season. Throw in a running game that underwhelmed last year and there’s three places where the Lions offense could show growth that can help offset their big offseason loss.
The Patriots had largely been able to keep themselves at arms length from the Aaron Hernandez murder trial, until today.
Via multiple reports, Patriots owner Robert Kraft is in the Fall River Justice Center today, and has been called to the stand.
Trainer Brian McDonough was called to the stand in late February to testify about a series of text messages he exchanged with Hernandez. McDonough doesn’t work for the team, but worked with a number of players at Gillette Stadium.
Coach Bill Belichick and linebacker Brandon Spikes are also on the witness list, though it’s unclear if they’ll actually be asked to testify.
Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu was able to return to the lineup in Week Two last season, which marked a relatively quick turnaround after he tore his ACL late in his rookie season.
Mathieu didn’t immediately return to a prominent place in the lineup and then missed a couple of games late in the season when he broke his thumb just as he was finding his stride on the field. Coach Bruce Arians said it “was very frustrating” for Mathieu to not be the player he was used to being last year and Mathieu said he felt he didn’t make enough plays to help the team, but things are looking up.
Arians said he sees “a gleam” in Mathieu’s eyes that was missing in 2014 as the safety prepares to restore what was missing.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been healthy,” Mathieu said, via the team’s website. “Last year I felt like I took a back seat. I played well my rookie year and then last year it was kind of, eh, I was there but I wasn’t there. This [year] is more important for me because I really want to let everyone know I’m back and I can still make some plays.”
How Mathieu will fit into the lineup isn’t entirely clear since the Cardinals have Tony Jefferson, Deone Buccannon and Rashad Johnson at safety in a defense that’s been creative about utilizing all of them. If he’s back to his old playmaking ways, though, he’ll be filling a major role one way or another.