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At least one report has indicated that the Saints won’t hold 2016 training camp in West Virginia, following devastating flooding in Greenbrier County, site of the team’s practice facility for three weeks in each of the last two preseasons. The Saints, however, still plan to return to their home away from home.
A source close to the situation tells PFT that the Saints intend to hold training camp at The Greenbrier resort, and that the Saints believe the practice complex and all other necessary facilities will be ready for them when camp opens late next month. Look for a statement to be issued by the team, sooner than later.
The Saints also plan to do something tangible to help with flood relief efforts. Which is very much needed and which the folks who will benefit from it surely will appreciate.
People living in that area are dealing with far bigger issues than whether a football team will practice there for a few weeks next month, but the decision of the Saints to stand with Greenbrier County should give the region a psychological lift as it embarks on the very difficult ordeal of recovering from the devastation brought about by 8-10 inches of rain falling over the course of 6-8 hours into valleys that became bowls for the water and mud that the mountains couldn’t hold.
In this week’s installment his weekly column for TheMMQB.com, Peter King took some time to update readers on how his former Sports Illustrated colleague and legendary football writer Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman is doing after suffering a series in strokes in 2008.
Zimmerman, who lives at an assisted living facility in New Jersey, has unfortunately not been able to resume the writing career that made him an essential part of the football landscape for so many years. That place in the landscape is honored each year when the Pro Football Writers of America present an award in his name to recognize the lifetime achievement of NFL assistant coaches.
The PFWA announced on Monday that Monte Kiffin and Wade Phillips are this year’s winners.
Kiffin was out of coaching last year, but returns to the NFL with the Jaguars as a senior defensive assistant this season. It’s the seventh team he’s worked for in a career that began as a graduate assistant at Nebraska in 1966 and reached its pinnacle when he constructed the Buccaneers defense that helped the team to the Super Bowl XXXVII title in January 2003.
Phillips joined Kiffin as a Super Bowl winner this February when his Broncos unit stifled the Panthers on the way to the third championship in franchise history. The ring was something Phillips was chasing since taking a job on his father Bum’s staff with the Oilers in 1976, which makes getting it pretty sweet even if the name on the bauble was initially incorrect.
With devastating flooding in and around The Greenbrier in West Virginia, real questions have arisen regarding whether the facility will be ready to host the Saints for training camp, starting in late July.
Gil Brandt of NFL.com has reported that the Saints will not be coming to West Virginia this year, and that they instead will train at the team’s facility in Metairie, Louisiana.
However, the Saints haven’t announced this news, and a team spokesman told PFT that word of a change in location of training camp has not yet made its way to him.
It won’t be a surprise if training camp ultimately is relocated, but a lot can be done to clean up after flooding in a month’s time. With initial accounts indicating that the practice facility itself wasn’t affected by the flooding, it’s possible that the situation could be remedied in time for the Saints to return for a third year in West Virginia.
Obviously, the Saints need to be sure that they’ll be able to conduct a productive and meaningful camp, and if they simply can’t do that in West Virginia, they shouldn’t. If they can, having them present for a few weeks would be a solid first step in the process of rebuilding a region that underwent dramatic changes in a very short period of time.
Recent reports regarding the NFL’s intention to interview players implicated by the Al Jazeera PED documentary omitted reference to retired quarterback Peyton Manning. Some (me) thought this arose simply from the fact that Manning is no longer a member of the NFL Players Association, and thus not part of the push-and-pull and back-and-forth between the NFL and the NFL Players Association as the interviews are arranged.
On Monday, Peter King of TheMMQB.com dropped this intriguing nugget into his column when addressing recent developments in the PED probe: “As for Peyton Manning, since he’s retired, the league doesn’t plan to interview him—though for the sake of transparency and full disclosure, it would be a good idea if the league did.”
Via email, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT that all players will be interviewed, including the retired one.
It makes sense, for a variety of reasons. First, it’s the right thing to do. Second, it would be awkward if, for example, the NFL found that the Al Jazeera report was credible as to the active players but had no ultimate comment on whether the report accurately implicated the retired player.
Third, Manning already has said he’ll cooperate. With many believing that Manning eventually will return to the NFL as an executive with a team, there can be no loose ends from his playing days.
Of course, Manning sitting for an “it’s all lies” investigation is a far cry from a full-blown, turn-every-rock effort to obtain all relevant records from the Guyer Institute regarding treatment provided both to Manning and to his wife, Ashley, who allegedly received HGH for use by Peyton. It remains to be seen whether the league seeks such details, or whether the Mannings will provide it.
Regardless of how the investigation plays out, it will include an interview of Peyton Manning. Beyond that, time will tell.
The Ravens had a new offensive coordinator for the second straight year in 2015 with former Bears head coach Marc Trestman replacing Gary Kubiak after Kubiak moved on to the top job with the Broncos.
Trestman integrated things that Kubiak (and Jim Caldwell, who held the job in 2013 before becoming the Lions’ head coach) had used to build the offense last year. That process ate up a good portion of the offseason, something that Trestman didn’t have to deal with this year.
“It’s a little unnatural when you [first] come in, and there is a pre-existing offense in place,” Trestman said, via the team’s website. “It was a very good offense, as we all know. But I spent three months on it, trying to make sure that I simulated the things that were necessary for me to do my job. Coming into it a day after the season is over, you feel you are in a lot better position, because you aren’t using those 90 days out of 120 to learn another offense. It’s the offense you know now.”
Head coach John Harbaugh agrees that it’s been smoother this offseason, saying that the offense is going to be in “much better shape” now that Trestman has more time in the job. While that may be the case, getting better results on the field will rest heavily on returns to health from quarterback Joe Flacco, wide receiver Steve Smith and others as well as strong play from an offensive line that will have a pair of new starters.
Sam Bradford hasn’t exactly been known for airing it out in his career.
But when free agent wide receiver Chris Givens was looking for a new team this offseason, he signed with Philadelphia because he’s convinced Bradford is capable of it.
“His strengths match my strengths: he can get the ball downfield and I can get downfield,” Givens said, via Tim McManus of PhillyMag.com.
Givens did have his best season as a rookie, alongside Bradford in St. Louis. He hasn’t matched his rookie numbers since then, and Bradford hasn’t exactly established himself as having a cannon, as his 7.0 yards per attempt last year were a career high, and he has a pedestrian 6.5-yard career average.
Givens also said his plateauing had something to do with the guys who replaced Bradford after injuries, which puts the Rams problems into context.
“It was definitely frustrating but at the same time, I accept full responsibility for not working the way I should have in the offseason and being the receiver I was capable of [being],” Givens said. “I just got a little complacent and a little comfortable knowing that I had Sam and things like that, and once things went south a little bit and I really didn’t have a quarterback to play to my strengths, I couldn’t really do the things I needed to do to get open.
“So I just looked at that as an opportunity for me to look in the mirror and fine-tune the things in my game that it will take for me to take my game to the next level.”
The Eagles could clearly use someone with Givens’ kind of speed to stretch the field, but it remains to be seen if Bradford is the kind of guy who can take advantage of it.
The amount of offseason arrests are down this year, but some NFL players have still wound up on the wrong side of the law.
Jaguars linebacker Dan Skuta is the latest addition to the ledger. Skuta was arrested on misdemeanor battery charges a little more than a week ago in Orlando and CBS47/FOX30 in Jacksonville reports he was released from jail on Sunday, June 19. Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union adds that Skuta was arrested after a fight in a bar.
The Jaguars have released a statement confirming their knowledge of Skuta’s situation, but offered no further comment about the circumstances of the arrest.
“The Jaguars are aware of the situation involving linebacker Dan Skuta and are currently gathering more information. The team has been in constant communication with Dan through this process in its entirety. No further comment can be made at this time.”
Skuta is in the second year of the five-year contract he signed with the Jaguars before the 2015 season.
UPDATE 12:53 p.m. ET: Per the police report of Skuta’s arrest, Skuta asked a woman at a bar for her phone number and an argument followed when she opted not to give it to him. Skuta allegedly “pushed her face with an open hand and into a glass window,” leading one of the woman’s friends to get police.
Doug Baldwin said recently that fellow Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett is “continuously improving” as he heads into his second season and it seems the team agrees that Lockett is ready for a prominent role in his second NFL season.
Coach Pete Carroll said that the team wasn’t quite sure what Lockett could do when he joined the team last season, but learned that “he can do everything” as his rookie year unfolded. As a result, Lockett finds himself “right in the middle of all our planning and all of our preparation” as they head toward the 2016 season.
Baldwin said that one of the things Lockett has been working on is beating press coverage at the line of scrimmage and Lockett believes his best tool in that effort is one of his defensive teammates.
The biggest thing is I’ve been going against Richard about 95 percent of the camp, and he’s just made me a better player,” Lockett said, via ESPN.com. “Going against Richard, I’ve got to be able to move him and get him off at the line, and I can’t use the same stuff every time because he’s a smart defender, so I’ve got to switch some things up. And if things don’t work, at least it doesn’t work in practice against him. If it does work, he’ll let me know and be like, ‘Hey, that was a good release. That really does work.’ And it just makes it easier for me to go against anybody else, especially on other teams, after I go up against the best DB in the league.”
There are still some things for the Seahawks to figure out on offense, including how to best use tight end Jimmy Graham and the right mix at running back with Marshawn Lynch out of the picture. However they answer those questions, the signals that Lockett will be a major contributor are hard to miss.
Steelers linebacker James Harrison has expressed a willingness to be interviewed in connection with the NFL’s Al Jazeera-fueled PED investigation, subject to certain stipulations. Those stipulations include doing the interview: (1) at Harrison’s home; and (2) with Commissioner Roger Goodell present.
The NFL has told PFT via email that it has no comment on Harrison’s comments.
The league may have plenty to say if Harrison ultimately refuses to be interviewed if his stipulations aren’t met, as they likely won’t be. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension supposedly arose, at least in part, from his obstruction of the league’s investigation.
The league also could conclude that Harrison violated the PED policy, in the absence of a denial from Harrison that he violated the PED policy.
Here’s where it gets complicated, and also potentially fascinating. A PED suspension would be subject to appeal under the PED policy, which as of 2014 incorporates neutral arbitration. A suspension for obstructing an NFL investigation arguably would fall under Article 46 of the labor deal, which allows the Commissioner to have final say over all matters that potentially threaten the integrity of the game.
Either way, Harrison won’t be able to stonewall without consequence. The specific consequence eventually will be determined, possibly in court.
The lawyer, Bob Hinton, said in the text that he had a receipt indicating Manziel had spent more than $1,000 at a drug paraphernalia shop, and suggested that if Manziel is required to undergo drug testing, he won’t pass. Today, Manziel spokeswoman Denise Michaels wrote on Twitter that Manziel’s lead attorney, Jim Darnell, said Hinton has withdrawn as an associate counsel in the Manziel case.
Manziel is currently facing a host of legal issues, the most serious of which is a domestic violence allegation brought by his ex-girlfriend.
Michaels also said this morning that Darnell insists Manziel will not plead guilty.
Defensive tackle Dominique Easley became a free agent much earlier than expected when the Patriots waived him off their roster two years after drafting him in the first round.
Injuries hindered Easley in New England and his departure from the team was followed by an anonymous former teammate calling Easley a “locker room cancer” who was “disrespectful and irresponsible.” Easley has since signed with the Rams and took a chance to hit back at those whispers during an interview on Sirius XM NFL Radio with Phil Savage and Amber Theoharis.
Easley said that he considers those comments “rumors” because he doesn’t know who made them and whether the opinion came from someone who really knows Easley. Easley said his main goals for the coming year don’t include changing any negative image of him that may be in place, but he also said he wants the Rams to have a different opinion of him.
“It’s really just, hopefully, that the Rams get to see what a great person and a great, hard worker I am and, really, just a great person,” Easley said.
Showing he’s a great person would be a good thing, but Easley’s long-range career prospects will look a lot rosier if he can also show that he can stay healthy and productive for an entire season.
Wide receiver Mike Wallace is coming off of the least productive year of his NFL career and he admitted recently that the speed that made him a star with the Steelers early in his career has slipped.
Wallace thinks he’s lost “maybe just a step, a half a step” from those days, which were also his most effective days as a professional wideout. Two years with the Dolphins and a year with the Vikings saw Wallace making fewer plays down the field than he did in his Pittsburgh heyday, which explains why he’ll be on his third team in as many years when he puts on a Ravens uniform this fall.
While Wallace acknowledges his speed might not be what it once was, he’s not bearish on the rest of his game. Wallace believes he’s polished the rest of his game over the year and that the fruits of that labor will present themselves this season.
“I think I’ve gotten better, even though [the] numbers don’t say so,” Wallace said, via ESPN.com. “I think I’ll get better this year, and I’ll show some people I have a lot up my sleeve.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said “you can do anything” with Wallace, which suggests the team plans to give him a chance to show he can succeed as more than a deep threat. Based on their results through the air last season and Wallace’s production in Minnesota, that development would work out well for both team and player.
The news that current NFL players have found a way to stay out of trouble comes with a curious footnote: For whatever reason, a rash of former or otherwise not currently employed players have been finding trouble in recent days.
It started with former NFL receiver Davone Bess, who could have ended up with much more than a dog bite on his arm after a lengthy standoff with police in Arizona.
Then came former NFL tight end Richard Gordon. He was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend. The far more troubling news came from the reality that he had an AR-15 in his car and harbored plans to shoot up a strip club.
Next was former NFL cornerback Stanley Wilson II, who was shot while both trying to break into a home and naked. (Apparently, he visited other homes before he happened upon a homeowner who also owns a gun.)
The week was capped by free-agent NFL quarterback Tarvaris Jackson allegedly pointing a gun at his wife and threatening to kill her. Jackson was freed on $2,500 bond, a decision that hopefully came after the relevant authorities concluded that Jackson would do harm neither to his wife nor anyone else.
Maybe it’s just a fluke occurrence, a confluence of bizarre events that happened all in the same week. Regardless, it should be cause for concern for the league. The events become newsworthy for obvious reasons; the men accused of wrongdoing played in the NFL, so the NFL gets mentioned every time something like this happens.
Surely, resources are available to help former players who need it. First they need to want the help. And then they need to know specifically how to get the help.
Hopefully the guys who were arrested last week will get the help they need, along with any other former NFL players who may otherwise be destined for a similar outcome.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn is content to let others use their brains.
He’s trusting a different body part when it comes to his decisions about going for two-point conversions or fourth downs.
“Sometimes, it’s gut,” Quinn said of the call, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The Falcons went 8-8 last year, losing five games by four points or fewer. But they only went for the two-point conversion after three of their 38 touchdowns, converting one. The Steelers led the league with 11 attempts, and are openly lobbying to do it more often.
But Quinn’s not sure he’s ready to go that far.
“How many things are they going to do from the 2-yard line?’” Quinn said. “You score 50 touchdowns. What 50 two-point plays are you running from there? . . .
“Like most things, knowing when you have an advantage, take it. Those guys like Mike [Tomlin], Sean [Payton] and Mike McCarthy are three coaches that I really respect a lot. If they have a decision about it, I’ll respect that. It might not be ours at the time. But that doesn’t mean I don’t respect it.”
The Falcons have tried to beef up their analytics department to funnel more information to Quinn. But he’s still not sounding convinced it’s a cure-all.
“There is a time for it,” Quinn said. “Real information and knowledge is power. But at the same time, it’s feel. The shift of the game may feel differently.”
But after a year of close losses, the Falcons may feel differently this year.
A positive take on the Bills’ offensive plans.
More than 1,300 players took part in a Dolphins-hosted 7-on-7 tournament over the weekend.
A projection of the Patriots’ 53-man roster.
The five biggest moves of the Titans offseason.
Who are the top safeties in Broncos history?
Raiders rookies learned more than playbooks in the last couple of months.
The 1963 Chargers are waiting for company on the organization’s list of champions.
A running list of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ best offseason quotes.
Where might the Giants make an addition to the roster?
Redskins coach Jay Gruden and owner Dan Snyder got a picture with Axl Rose at Sunday’s Guns N’ Roses concert.
How will the Falcons approach extra points this season?
Where do the Panthers rank among the league’s best receiving groups?
The Rams have gotten to work in their new community.