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The Colts placed linebacker Robert Mathis on the physically unable to perform list at the start of camp because he’s continuing to work his way back from last year’s torn Achilles.
That’s hardly unexpected and you could say the same about Mathis’s push to be ready for the first week of the regular season, but coach Chuck Pagano said Sunday that the team isn’t operating under the same timeline. Given Mathis’s age and the severity of the injury, Pagano says that the Colts are taking the long view when it comes to Mathis’s availability.
“I think we would be foolish to not consider all those things … It would be stupid on our part to say, ‘Ok, you’re healthy, you’re good,'” Pagano said, via the Indianapolis Star. “We just have to stick to the process and be patient. Everybody’s champing at the bit. You guys are champing at the bit. He’s champing at the bit. We’re champing at the bit. The position coach is champing at the bit. Slow down. We’ve got a long way to go. It’s a long season.”
Linebackers coach Jeff FitzGerald cited Jonathan Newsome and Trent Cole as two players that make it easier for the Colts to be patient with Mathis during the summer and into the season and the approach could pay off for the Colts if it means a fresher and more effective Mathis coming off the edge down the stretch this season.
Browns wide receiver conversion project Terrelle Pryor is confident he’s going to make it, and the fact he spent part of the offseason working with a legendary veteran receiver like Randy Moss and some contemporaries was a good first step.
But after a short time watching the former quarterback ply his new trade, the Browns sound increasingly optimistic about his chances.
Via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Browns receivers coach Joker Phillips said Pryor has made a good first impression, and has the thing that makes hard work worthwhile.
“It’s hard to say right now,” Phillips said. “I’m not going to put that kind of pressure on him or myself. I can tell you this, he’s very, very — and I’ll say it two times — very, very talented. There’s no question about that. The guy’s talented, and talent wins ball games. Now, we’ve got to challenge that talent with the techniques that we have and give him a chance to be successful out wide.”
Phillips said he’s been impressed with the time Pryor is spending working on becoming a wideout, saying he was “all in” and “starving to be taught the techniques.”
If he can learn them, it gives him a good chance to stand out in a Browns receiving group that lacks weapons, or his kind of size.
“He doesn’t look out of place,” head coach Mike Pettine said. “It’s still very early, too early to tell, but he does not look out of place. He does some good things. He is just behind from the learning standpoint and the subtleties of playing receiver. If you had asked where he would be at this point, I would think we would all agree he is ahead of where we thought he would be.”
The preseason will be an important indicator of his progress, as his ability to get open isn’t the only thing he has to learn. There are also blocking and special teams responsibilities, and since he didn’t do much of that at Ohio State (or with the Raiders, Seahawks, Chiefs or Bengals) he lacks experience.
But at least the early indications are good, which is enough for the Browns at the moment.
Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle writes that the former 49er has been the early “star” of camp for the Raiders.
There’s a long way to go until Crabtree becomes a star during games that count. Drops and limited opportunities punctuated his last season in San Francisco, which ended with 68 catches for 698 yards.
In six seasons with the 49ers, the 2009 top-10 pick had only one 1,000 yard receiving season, cracking the barrier with 1,105 in 2012. Once he became a free agent, Crabtree generated little interest, eventually signing a one-year, $3.2 million contract with the Raiders.
It could end up being the best money the Raiders have spent in free agency in a long, long time.
Dropped passes in practice earned the ire of Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt.
Clancy Barone has settled into his role as the Broncos offensive line coach.
The Chiefs will have their first full-contact practice on Monday.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett wants his team to cut down on “sloppy” play.
The Giants closed a musical Sunday practice with a punt catching competition between their offensive and defensive linemen.
The Buccaneers will build an indoor practice facility.
How long will it be before the Cardinals are healthy at tight end?
Rams camp will feature a battle for playing time at cornerback.
The 49ers were back on the Levi’s Stadium field Sunday after a rocky Saturday night on the grass.
Agent Russell Okung has his work cut out for him, if his goal is to keep his client in Seattle.
Peter King of TheMMQB.com has a sobering stat for the week, relating to the Seahawks. He shows that the franchise has nearly $100 million per year tied up in only 10 guys. That leaves roughly $50 million (in 2015) for paying the other 43 guys on the 53-man roster, along with all the other extra players who need to be signed as members of the active roster land on injured reserve.
Five of those players now have eight-figure annual averages, up from three only three days ago. Quarterback Russell Wilson’s average burden increased by an order of magnitude (nerd), from $1.542 million to $17.82 million. Cornerback Richard Sherman remains at $14 million per year, running back Marshawn Lynch moves to $10.8 million for 2015, linebacker Bobby Wagner has increased to $10.75 million (another order-of-magnitude move), and safety Earl Thomas remains at $10 million even.
Behind them are tight end Jimmy Graham ($9 million), defensive end Cliff Avril ($7.13 million), defensive end Michael Bennett ($7.13 million), safety Kam Chancellor ($7 million), and linebacker K.J. Wright ($6.75 million).
Bennett skipped much of the offseason program in an effort to get more money, and Chancellor was a surprise holdout for the start of training camp. Three days in, the holdout continues.
And that’s where team goals and individual needs conflict. Players always should go for every last dollar during careers of limited duration, even if the pursuit of every last dollar could land the player (or some of his teammates, like Tony McDaniel) elsewhere.
“You’ve only got so much [cap room],” Sherman said Sunday, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. “If it was like baseball we’d have quite a team.”
They still have quite a team. The challenge will be holding that team all together as guys clamor to get compensation that better reflects their perceived value, commitment, and sacrifice.
“He has taken a stand and I support him,” Sherman said regarding Chancellor. “He’s like a brother to me and when you take a stand like this, you don’t get a lot of support from the fans about honoring contracts. But we understand the things he goes through week in and week out and the trauma he puts his body through and the sacrifices he makes.”
Sherman pointed out that players constantly face very real risk of injury, and that Chancellor played in the Super Bowl with an MCL that was “80 percent torn.”
“It’s a 100 percent injury rate, as they have said so eloquently time after time,” Sherman said. “But that’s what you play for, guys play to win because we obviously play to win. The compensation is just something that comes with it and guys appreciate compensation, guys appreciate being taken care of.
“But there is always more. Kam is making $4.5 million this year. I mean, you can go down the list of guys making more than Kam Chancellor this year that are not better than Kam Chancellor in any way, stretch or form. But that’s unfortunate. So hopefully they can come together on some number.”
If they do, it’ll reduce the number available for the other 43 guys who make the 53-man roster. Which will force the Seahawks to rely on plenty of younger guys with low fixed incomes via the rookie wage scale, who eventually will be in position to earn more money from the Seahawks or someone else after putting in three or four years of high-level performance.
Of course, if/when that happens there’s a chance that the Seahawks will choose the younger stars over some of the 10 players currently accounting for nearly $100 million in cap space.
While Sam Bradford was limited at practice this offseason because of his continued recovery from a torn ACL, the Eagles talked about having Bradford and Mark Sanchez compete for the starting quarterback job.
Bradford has been fully cleared for training camp and the first day of 11-on-11 work on Sunday suggested that he’s the likelier starter come September. Bradford, wearing a rubber sleeve on his knee rather than a brace, got the bulk of the first-team reps during his first full-team drills since tearing his ACL last August. Bradford wasn’t thrilled with his performance, but said progressing to this step was the important part of the day.
“Obviously, getting adjusted to the speed of it again [is tough] … ” Bradford said, via the Philadelphia Daily News. “It’s huge for me just to get out there and get to run the offense. There’s only so much you can do in 7-on-7, there’s only so much you can learn in meetings. … I learn best on the field, getting reps. Just to be out there playing with those guys, getting to know how they feel the game, how they feel space, creating that chemistry with our wide receivers and running backs, I think that’s what I’m most excited about during this camp.”
Neither Bradford nor Sanchez knows if the snaps will continue to be divvied up the same way, but Kelly said Bradford will start the preseason opener unless there’s a setback in the next two weeks.
Linebacker Junior Galette didn’t have to wait long to land a new job after being released by the Saints, which came as something of a surprise since his off-field behavior was a big part of his departure from New Orleans and could lead to league discipline that makes Galette unavailable for a portion of the 2015 season.
Redskins General Manager Scot McCloughan said the team was “willing to take that chance” after a two-hour conversation with Galette and said that the team interviewed more than 20 people about Galette before deciding to add him to the roster.
“[He’s] not a bad guy. All players have issues,” McCloughan said, via CSNWashington.com. “We all have some kind of issues. We’ve all made mistakes. I don’t repeat offenders. I don’t want the guy that I know is not going to be a good guy to bring into our locker room. What you always read in the media and hear in the media is not always accurate. We did our investigation. We were thorough, thorough, thorough. [We talked] to the league office, other players and coaches in the league. This guy we feel very comfortable with going forward. Very comfortable.”
McCloughan said he asked Galette about the video that appears to show him hitting a woman and that he’s fine after getting “the real story” from Galette. That conversation helped convince McCloughan that Galette isn’t the kind of bad guy that he promised not to bring into the organization, although Galette’s 22 sacks over the last two seasons probably didn’t hurt too much either.
According to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, the Ravens are still waiting for full results of an MRI, but they’re “not counting on Elam to play this season.”
That likely means he suffered a full tear, which would require surgery and months of rehabilitation.
“I haven’t heard on the MRI yet, but I’m not real optimistic right now,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “I haven’t heard a final word, but it wasn’t very optimistic [Saturday] talking to the doctors. He was reaching, the receiver ran by him and kind of reached for him and caught him.”
Elam hadn’t shown the Ravens much in his first two seasons, but had impressed coaches after being challenged this offseason.
“I’m sure it’s very disappointing for him, and he told me that,” Harbaugh said. “Here’s a guy who came back with a renewed attitude. He had a better approach than he’d had the first two years. He just had grown up a lot. He’s very serious and he was in tremendous shape, and then he gets a fluke injury. That’s disappointing.”
If he’s going to make an impact for the Ravens now, it’s going to take even more work.
The five-year, $70 million contract that the Cowboys gave wide receiver Dez Bryant last month made it clear that he will remain a focus of the team’s offense in 2015 and beyond.
The focus extends beyond just pass catching. Bryant got into a scuffle with cornerback Tyler Patmon during Sunday’s practice and rather than downplay it as an inevitable part of intense training camp practices, the Cowboys are highlighting video of the scrap on their website.
You can see the two men lock up during a play, the helmets come off and both men throw punches that don’t connect, including a sweeping left from Bryant. They get pulled apart, but the video shows Bryant making his way back toward Patmon to stoke the flames after things have initially been broken up. Eventually, cooler heads prevailed.
“It’s two great competitors,” Bryant said. “We’re going back and forth. I was giving him a little bit of mouth, just talking a whole bunch of stuff to him. He was taking back to me, it just escalated over to the next play. At the end of the day, he wasn’t going to back down and I wasn’t going to back down. At the end of the day, you see us, we shook hands, we hugged and we respect one another.”
Owner Jerry Jones said, via the Dallas Morning News, that the fight was “good stuff,” although you could probably have guessed his approval by the placement of the video on the website.
Panthers special teams coach Bruce DeHaven took a leave of absence from the team this spring, and for good reason.
But even though his time with them may be limited, he decided the lure of coaching was too strong to walk away from.
DeHaven told Peter King of TheMMQB.com that a doctor told him in May he had prostate cancer, and might have three to five years left to live. That caused him to step away and consider his options, but ultimately, the longtime assistant chose to come back to work.
“I just figured that I am determined to beat this,” DeHaven said. “And I hope I can beat it. I hope I can outlast it. I’m so busy that I don’t even think of it unless someone brings it up. But I think I figured that, if I quit, 20 years from now I’d ask myself, ‘Why’d you walk away from a job you love doing so much?’”
The Panthers are working closely with DeHaven, and brought in longtime assistant Russ Purnell to help him. But DeHaven insisted on coming back for a 29th NFL season, one which has saw him work with legends of the game and win a Super Bowl.
“Look,” he said, “I love coaching. I just do. I love teaching football. There’s a story I need to tell you. I grew up in Kansas, a farm kid. And I got to be a high school coach, and in 1976, the team I coached in Wichita went to Kansas City and won the state championship. So we’re headed home to Wichita after the game on a yellow school bus, and everyone’s so happy, and I’m happy we won, of course. But part of me was so sad. The season’s over. I don’t get to coach these kids I love to coach on Monday. It’s over. So it’s the coaching, the teaching, the process. That’s what I love.
“From life on the farm to the NFL … I mean, are you kidding me? Coaching in the Super Bowl? With Hall of Fame coaches? Marv Levy, Bill Parcells. My gosh, I understand what Lou Gehrig said. I honestly feel it. I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
DeHaven is undergoing treatments for the disease, and by all appearances seems to be coaching as he ever has. And hopefully, he’s able to do what he loves for many years to come.
Now-Steelers cornerback Brandon Boykin brought up an old topic when his initial remarks on being traded from the Eagles suggested that coach Chip Kelly wasn’t comfortable with black men.
But upon arriving at Steelers camp, Boykin tried to clarify his remarks, saying Kelly’s problem was more one of communication.
“When you’re a player, you want to be able to relate to your coach off the field,” Boykin said, via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. “There were times he just didn’t talk to people. You would walk down the hallway, he wouldn’t say anything to you. I’m not saying he’s a racist in any way. . . .
“I felt a lot of guys in that locker room feel the same way. Of course, when you’re in the organization, you’re not going to voice your opinion. For me, I’ve always been a guy of honesty. Not trying to put anybody out in any way, but if you’re honest with me, I’ll be honest with you, and I felt like that honesty wasn’t there all the time.”
Boykin also said he was finished talking about Kelly, which is probably a good idea.
The idea of Kelly being racist, first broached by former Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, seemed ludicrous on its face. But Boykin’s initial remarks that Kelly was “uncomfortable around men of our culture,” can still be true while not equalling racism.
The group of people Kelly seems most uncomfortable with is people. He’s approached the NFL with a style which borders on Moneyball, only more ruthless — treating players like commodities to be maximized or brokered, rather than individuals with feelings.
It’s easier to sell that at the high levels of the NCAA, where the football coach is practically a deity whose power can be absolute. But as teenagers grow into adults, they’re going to want to feel respected. And if Kelly can’t figure out a way to strike that balance, he may eventually find himself more comfortable in the college game.
One of the oldest football cliches is that teams that have two quarterbacks actually have none. But even though the Bills have four, they may be settling in on one of them.
Tyrod Taylor, who was taking backup reps Saturday, alternated in with the starters at times as well, so it doesn’t appear they’re close to declaring anything.
If anything, none of them have seemed particularly impressive in practice (with EJ Manuel reportedly struggling the most), leaving the door open waiting for someone to walk through it.
The Bills love the mobility Taylor offers, but Cassel might be the safest of the lot, and on a team built to run and play defense, that might be enough of an edge.
With Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson signing his second contract, attention now turns to two other veterans closing in on their third NFL deals: Giants quarterback Eli Manning and Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.
As to Rivers, Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego reports that, one way or the other, an answer could be coming soon.
Specifically, Gehlken writes that, if the Chargers and Rivers haven’t worked out a new contract by the team’s first preseason game against the Cowboys on August 13, “they aren’t expected to this year.”
While the talks are described as amicable, Rivers doesn’t want talks to continue as the regular season approaches.
Rivers is due to earn a base salary of $15.8 million in 2015. To match the current high-water mark of $22 million per year in “new money,” Rivers would need, for example, a five-year, $103.8 million deal or a six-year, $125.8 million contract.
If talks end up being tabled until after the season, both sides will have much more clarity regarding whether the next Rivers contract will be held by the San Diego Chargers or the Los Angeles Chargers.
The news isn’t bad for Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson. But it’s not as good as it could have been.
Per a league source, Johnson suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain during practice on Sunday. He’s expected to be back in four weeks.
The MCL, a rope-like ligament, frays when injured to a mild-to-moderate degree. Surgery isn’t needed unless the injury is severe.
Johnson left the Bengals for the Buccaneers after the 2013 season. He was cut by Tampa after one season with the Bucs, choosing the Bengals over the Vikings.
The immediate aftermath of the Ray Rice debacle triggered widespread speculation that the Commissioner had no choice but to yield final say over player penalties under the Personal Conduct Policy.
And then the league unveiled a new Personal Conduct Policy, with the Commissioner still having final say.
The Tom Brady suspension arises not under the Personal Conduct Policy but under the Commissioner’s Article 46 power to impose discipline for conduct detrimental to the integrity of, or public confidence in, the game of professional football. It’s the only other area of player discipline over which the Commissioner has retained the ability to personally process a player’s appeal.
The handling of the Brady appeal and its aftermath have raised new questions regarding whether Commissioner Roger Goodell ever can be truly impartial in cases where he has direct involvement in the underlying disciplinary decision.
As the NFLPA argued at paragraph 151 of the original court filing in Minnesota, “It is hard to imagine any person in Goodell’s position even attempting to serve as arbitrator under these circumstances, but that is exactly what he did. He denied the NFLPA’s Recusal Motion and simultaneously (and summarily) rejected the delegation [of the initial decision to Troy Vincent] argument — trying to pave his own path to stay on as arbitrator of Brady’s appeal. This conduct shows not merely evident partiality but actual bias, rendering Goodell unfit to serve as arbitrator under any standard.”
The NFLPA also pointed out that Goodell’s public statement of appreciation to Ted Wells made it impossible for Goodell to reach a contrary conclusion in the appeal, “as doing so would undermine his own competency as Commissioner.” Not specifically articulated in the NFLPA’s initial filing (but quite likely to be raised during the federal litigation) are the delicate balance Goodell must strike when placating his 32 constituents (i.e., the owners), along with the very real influence of P.R. concerns on his decisions. Given that he never is criticized for imposing too strong of a punishment on a player but was placed under siege after not going far enough with Ray Rice, the Commissioner will be far more likely to go too far than to not go far enough.
If the Brady case isn’t settled before the first of two scheduled conferences in court, Judge Richard M. Berman could hammer that point home via aggressive questioning of the NFL’s lawyers and, quite possibly, through a direct and pointed interrogation of Goodell in Judge Berman’s chambers as part of settlement efforts. And as Judge Berman potentially peppers the NFL’s non-lawyer CEO with questions about these issues that are difficult for even a seasoned litigator to properly explain, Judge Berman likely will insist that the answers come not from any lawyers in the room with him but from Goodell personally.
That’s why the NFLPA currently believes that, as a result of the Brady case, the NFL may finally be inclined to yield on the issue of Goodell’s power over players. NFLPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler addressed this dynamic in an interview with PFT conducted before Judge Berman ordered the parties to tone down the rhetoric.
“The union has been advocating for some time that the Commissioner allow neutral arbitration of all disputes in the NFL, just as there is in all the other leagues,” Kessler said, explaining that the “contradiction between the NFL Commissioner holding himself out as an arbitrator while also being the employer just can’t stand the test of time.”
Kessler added that it’s “better for the league, better for the Commissioner, better for the players if there was neutral arbitration.”
But what of the common refrain that the NFLPA should have insisted on neutral arbitration for all disciplinary issues during the 2001 Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations?
“We did,” Kessler said. “That’s what people don’t understand. The final CBA has many things that the players demanded such as improved health and safety, reduced practice, and lots of improvement in many areas. And it has many things the league insisted on. The league made its no. 1 priority the ability of Roger Goodell to retain final say over issues of this type.”
And now the NFL may be having second thoughts about that. Kessler pointed out that the NFL doesn’t have to wait until the current CBA expires after the 2020 season to fix the problem.
“The union and the league have issues to address all the time,” Kessler said. “We changed the drug program after the CBA was done, including moving to a neutral arbitrator. There’s really no reason why the parties can’t sit down and re-do the whole Personal Conduct Policy now. . . . It boggles the mind that the league thinks it benefits from having constant legal battles. Why does the league think this is a good idea?”
In theory, it’s possible that the Commissioner’s lingering power over player discipline could be surrendered as part of the settlement of the Brady case. While that would complicate the back-and-forth over Brady’s ultimate punishment, if Judge Berman will be clunking heads together in order to get the NFL and NFLPA to settle their differences regarding Brady, why not push them for a broader settlement that would help prevent lawsuits like this one from ever being filed again?