The Buccaneers have made it known they are in no hurry to extend the contract of Josh Freeman, and 2013 will be a decisive year for the fifth-year QB. Mike Florio runs down what Freeman can do to cement himself as the future in Tampa Bay and get the Bucs back to NFC dominance.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
ProFootballTalk: Is Freeman the future?
Some scoffed at the claim from the 49ers that they managed to get two of the top three players on their draft board with picks No. 3 and 31 in the draft. The 49ers nevertheless insist that they had decided early on to pursue Foster.
Via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle, G.M. John Lynch recently explained that when he spoke with Adam Peters before hiring him from the Broncos, Peters already had a plan for the 49ers’ first pick in the draft.
“We’ve got the No. 2 pick,” Lynch said to Peters. “Who are you taking? . . . Without hesitation, he said ‘Reuben Foster.’”
Lynch was careful to explain that Peters’ initial impression shouldn’t be regarded as a slap at the guy they took after trading down from No. 2 to No. 3.
“A lot has transpired then and [Peters] loved Solomon Thomas, too, I don’t want to get that mistaken,” Lynch said. “But he was a huge champion of Reuben Foster. Like I said, so much transpired from there to there. But [Peters] was big on that one. I know that.”
Peters knew that he wanted Foster while studying film of Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland a year ago.
The big joke was you turned on Alabama to watch anyone and you couldn’t stop watching [Foster],” Lynch said. “He just kind of kept jumping out at you. So I think while we are all proud to have claimed him, it was pretty easy to do so.”
The wait until pick No. 31 surely wasn’t easy, but team after team after team passed on Foster before the 49ers made the pick, one spot before the Saints reportedly intended to do so. Foster slide due to concerns about his shoulder and a positive drug test at the Scouting Combine from a dilute sample. While that may have scared others away, it didn’t impact the 49ers.
But the way he’s gone about it one you might not expect, at least until you consider the source.
Via Jason Wilde of ESPN Wisconsin, Bennett has his own way of communication with his soon-to-be-bestie.
“I send a lot of emojis and GIFs and stuff like that to him. Other than that, it’s just conversations,” Bennett said. “That’s pretty much it. I tell him things like, ‘I like chocolate chip cookies. What kind of cookie do you like?’ I just tell him little things. Like, ‘Hey, look my daughter did this today. She’s jumping, or she learned to use the potty.’ Stuff like that.
“It’s just conversation, making friends.”
As they progress through the early stages of Organized Team Activities, Bennett’s also learning that the best way to earn his new quarterback’s love is knowing what he’s doing on the field, in terms of learning the playbook.
“I’m always talking to him on the field, too, trying to see what he wants,” Bennett said. “‘Hey, how did that look?’ or he’ll give me the thumbs up. Or if I’m in another group, I always look back at him, ‘Hey, is that what you want? Is there something different you want on this?’ Always trying to figure out, just trying to have those conversations on and off the field, trying to get know each other as players, and as people.”
Rodgers may have an easier time in those conversations, as you can only wonder his reaction the first time he glanced at his phone to see a poop emoji (or worse) from his new tight end.
The No. 24 Raiders jersey worn by Charles Woodson wasn’t given to anyone last year after Woodson retired, but when Marshawn Lynch came out of retirement to join the Raiders, he was given the number. And Woodson is pleased with that.
“I’m excited about it for Marshawn to have a chance to come home and play in front of friends and family,” Woodson told ESPN. “That number 24, that’s something special with the Raiders. I don’t think there’s anybody more worthy than Marshawn to wear that number.”
Woodson sees signing Lynch, a hometown hero, as a “business decision” in Oakland. He also understands both the Raiders’ business decision to leave for Las Vegas and Oakland’s decision not to pour any more money into a stadium than they already had.
“They needed a stadium and it’s big business,” Woodson said. “It’s hard to hear, but you go where the financing is. The [Oakland] mayor wasn’t willing to give up money she didn’t have, so kudos to her, too. But I’m also happy for Mark Davis, getting the stadium — they need a stadium — and moving the franchise forward.”
It remains to be seen who will wear No. 24 for the Silver and Black in Las Vegas in three years, but for now, anyway, the number is going from Woodson to Lynch, and 24 jerseys will continue to be hot sellers in Oakland.
Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen’s place in the NFL looks a lot different this May than it did a year ago.
Thielen established himself as a regular on the special teams in Minnesota in 2014 and 2015, but he didn’t play much on offense and had 20 catches on his record heading into the 2016 season. Thielen got a chance to do more in his third season and made the most of it by catching 69 passes for 967 yards and five touchdowns.
The undrafted player from Minnesota State parleyed that into a three-year extension that can be worth as much as $27 million, but he’s not spending his time thinking about the change in circumstances.
“I’m waiting until I’m done playing to reflect,” Thielen said, via the Pioneer Press. “I’ve got too much to work on, too many big goals, to reflect on anything. I’m just going to come out here everyday and try to get better and bring the same mindset I’ve brought since I got to the league.”
Thielen’s breakout year has him ahead of 2016 first-round pick Laquon Treadwell on the depth chart at wideout for the Vikings. The team has been talking up Treadwell, but Thielen showed he was a reliable target last season and that will make it harder for Treadwell to race past him as they set up the receiving corps this offseason.
Memorial Day has always created conflicting emotions for me. It’s the unofficial start of summer and a time to have gatherings and relax. But it’s also an occasion for solemn and somber reflection regarding those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation, and for an expression of appreciation to the loved ones they left behind.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh recognizes the significant of the last Monday in May.
“I told the guys go home and enjoy your families,” Harbaugh said, via Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com. “It may be the most important holiday of the year. Do we all enjoy getting in a car and driving where we want, doing what we want? Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. . . .
“Memorial Day, for all of the people that have sacrificed to give us the chance to live the way that we do in this country, is something that we should all be very grateful for.”
He’s right. Our current way of life represents the cumulative result of conflicts that gave birth to our country, held it together, and opposed threats to it from other governments and extreme ideologies that resent the exercise of the freedoms on which America was founded. Without the many thousands who embraced serious injury and death since 1776, this nation would not exist in its current form and possibly would not exist at all.
Cowboys quarterbacks coach: It’s “fun to speculate” about Prescott injury opening door for Romo return
What if Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott suffers a serious injury early in the 2017 season? Would Tony Romo return?
It’s a topic that most fans don’t want anyone to entertain, for fear of jinxing the second-year signal-caller. Cowboys quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson nevertheless opted recently to go there.
“It’s fun to speculate about that, if Dak were to go down in Week Two, would Tony come back?” Wilson recently said, via Scout.com. “I don’t know the answer to that. I just don’t know. Do I think he’s capable of coming back and playing? Most definitely. Does he want to or what his commitment is to the network? I don’t know that, so it’s fun to think about, and it’s fun water-cooler topics to talk about [even without] information to make a definitive answer on that.”
Cowboys fans likely wouldn’t say it’s “fun” to think about what would happen if Prescott were to blow a tire in Week Two, regardless of whether Romo would or wouldn’t return. If Prescott were to go down, the Cowboys surely would try to lure Romo back, with owner Jerry Jones doing his damnedest to get CBS to ensure that Romo’s spot as the No. 1 analyst would remain safe and secure in 2018.
Cornerback Morris Claiborne entered the league five years ago as the sixth overall pick in the draft. His time in Dallas was largely a disappointment, largely due to the fact that he was unable to play far too often due to injury.
Now a Jet, Claiborne believes he can be successful. Highly successful. Extraordinarily successful.
“I feel like I can be the No. 1 corner in this league if I’m healthy . . . when I’m healthy,’’ Claiborne recently told Mark Cannizzarro of the New York Post. “When I’m out there playing and I’m healthy and I’m on my game, I don’t feel like there is anybody better than me.’’
The problem is that he hasn’t been healthy, missing 33 of 80 regular-season games — one more than two full seasons of the five he has been in the league.
“When I was young, I felt like I had everything in front of me,’’ Claiborne said. “I felt like nothing can stop me. I was going to go do whatever it takes to succeed and be a Pro Bowl player that first year with the Cowboys. But, God had other plans for me, and I ended up taking a different route than most guys do.
“I don’t care where my career has been, I will never quit, I will never stop.’’
He knows that he needs to not stop playing in order to get what he wants.
“[T]hat’s the No. 1 goal,” Claiborne said. “Everything else comes after that. . . . Because when you’re on the field you can make those plays. But when you’re not, you have zero chance.”
Whether Claiborne can make plays for th eJets remains to be seen, as does whether he can stay on the field. It’s easy for a body to feel good in May. Once the regular-season rolls around, and the bumps and bruises pile up before existing ones can heal, it becomes a problem.
When discussing Terrelle Pryor’s transition from quarterback to wide receiver, the focus has often been on how much catching up Pryor has had to do compared to players who have been wideouts for their entire career.
Pryor’s 77 catches for 1,007 yards for the Browns last season is evidence that he has done pretty well on that front. That work helped him land a free agent deal in Washington and Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins recently pointed out how another aspect of Pryor’s quarterback background, seeing the field like a quarterback, is playing out with his new team.
“I like it because I’ve never had a conversation with a receiver like I’ve had with him where he said, ‘Yeah, it was two-invert, so I took it to the post. It was quarters on the backside,'” Cousins said, via CBS DC. “He really can see it and he’s going to hold me accountable, so you take the good with the bad. I love it. He’s an enthusiastic guy. He’s always wanting to run another route. ‘Let’s try it again, let’s do it again,’ just a positive attitude and he’s been a joy to work with thus far.”
Pryor signed a one-year deal, which speaks to some of the doubts that appear to exist about him around the league. Another strong year should erase some of those and he’ll be in position to have one with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon leaving a hole at the top of the Redskins’ depth chart.
More than eight years ago, the Tennessee Titans sealed the No. 1 seed in their conference by winning a showdown with the Steelers, the other candidate to secure home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. In their exuberance, however, the Titans took things too far, desecrating the Terrible Towel.
The Titans promptly lost to the Ravens in the divisional round, the Steelers won the Super Bowl, and talk emerged of a Terrible Towel curse. And in the eight seasons since 2008, the Titans haven’t made it back to the playoffs.
So now with Nashville’s hockey team facing Pittsburgh’s in the Stanley Cup Final, a question arises: Is the curse transferable from football to hockey?
If that seems like a stretch, it is. But I needed to have some way to tie the two sports together, and to justify the posting of Monday’s PFT Live segment with NBC’s Pierre McGuire regarding Game One of the Stanley Cup Final, which starts tonight on NBC at 8:00 p.m. ET, with coverage for an hour before that on NBC and more coverage another hour before that on NBCSN.
Among the changes to the game approved by NFL owners last week was the move to eliminate the cut from 90 players to 75 players after teams played their third preseason game of the summer.
That interim step left teams with 22 more cuts to make before the start of the season and pared down rosters ahead of a final exhibition game that tends to feature few, if any, first-string players on the field. Lions coach Jim Caldwell thinks having 15 more players on hand for that game is a good thing for everybody involved.
“It gives us a chance to look at guys a little bit more, another ballgame under the belt,” Caldwell said, via MLive.com. “I think it helps us from a player safety issue, too. Sometimes you get rather thin that time of year, so you’ll have a few more guys to still work with.”
There probably won’t be too many players who would have been part of an initial round of cuts who wind up making a 53-man roster because of the shift, but it never hurts to get a chance to make a strong final impression when you’re on the fringes of the league.
Offseason workouts consist of football players on a football field having football practice with a football present. Coupled with the fact that up to 90 players are trying to both keep their current jobs and ascend to the final 53-man roster, contact during these practices is inevitable.
So how much is too much? The Collective Bargaining Agreement creates a bright line that is as clear as it is unrealistic.
From Appendix G to the CBA: “Contact work (e.g., ‘live’ blocking, tackling, pass rushing, bump-and-run), is expressly prohibited in all offseason workouts.” Also from Appendix G: “The intensity and tempo of drills should be at a level conducive to learning, with player safety as the highest priority, and not at a level where one player is in a physical contest with another player.”
And lest there be any confusion, this from Appendix G: “No live contact; no live contact drills between offensive and defensive linemen.”
The problem is that live contact happens. In some cities, too much of it has happened. Both the Seahawks and the Falcons have lost a week of 2017 OTA sessions due to excessive contact in 2016. The Falcons went to the league office to determine what is and isn’t allowed; the Seahawks seem to be willing to stick with a trial-and-error approach, despite multiple errors.
“We always practice really hard around here,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said last year, after the latest punishment was announced against Seattle. “That’s something we’ve done for years, and we try to practice better than anybody else is practicing, so in trying to figure out what the limits of that are, we’ve gotten in trouble over time.”
Even with punishments imposed on multiple teams over the years, it still seems that a certain amount of contact is happening.
Consider this recent explanation of the performance of Cowboys defensive end Taco Charlton (pictured) during OTAs, from the Dallas Morning News: “They started him out playing at right DE and that’s where they want to look at him. He played with really good power. You can see the power even when you watched him at Michigan. He’s one of those guys who’d take his one arm, put it in the middle of the chest of a blocker and gain a little control but he’s got to learn . . . quickness.
“He got Tyron off balance a couple of different times and then Tyron just flat hit him in the throat one time and knocked him down. It was one of those days where you get experience going against one of the best in the league. He gave Tyron a little problem with power and Tyron gave him a little problem with power.”
That sounds a lot like “live” contact and/or “contact at a level where one player is in a physical contest with another player.”
It’s possible that the Cowboys are doing what every other team is doing, and that it takes even more intensity than that to get a team in trouble. Regardless, it’s not easy to discern where the line is. The Falcons have worked directly with the league to figure it out. (The league office has not yet responded to an email from PFT aimed at doing the same thing.)
Whatever the rule, it needs to be accurately explained and consistently enforced. While the NFL made indeed be properly handling the latter, the league may be lacking as to the former.
For three years, David Quessenberry fought cancer.
Now when he lines up on the field, he has to see two of the best defensive players in football, a very different challenge.
The Texans offensive lineman told Peter King of TheMMQB.com that a recent glance across the line at teammates J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney was a quick realization his comeback is taking another step.
“There’s 99 [Watt] and 90 [Clowney],” Quessenberry said. “We’re just in a jog through. But I’m thinking: I got butterflies right now! I haven’t felt this excited about a play in years. But then: ‘Okay man, this is where you’re at, you’re back. You’re not trying to maintenance chemo, you’re not just working out. You are staring across at a couple of the best players in the league. Time to play football.’”
Quessenberry lost 50 pounds during his treatment, and hasn’t practiced since 2013, when the sixth-round pick suffered a foot injury and spent the year on injured reserve. So it would be a mistake to say the routine of May practice was routine for him.
“It’s hard to put into words,” he said. “If I could describe it, I’d say first, my prayers were answered. It was so spiritual the first day back. Getting taped up, my helmet hanging in my locker, the jersey there, trainers hollering at me, riding me, teammates hollering at me, they wanted to see my back, putting my cleats on . . . all of it just special, just very very special. Because I could just feel how much everybody else on this journey with me wanted me to get back out there. My teammates never forgot me, never let me just drift away. That made this week even better.
“I woke up every day this week, and my neck was sore, fingers banged up, legs are tired and achy, I was having to drink so much water and Gatorade, sweating in the Texas sun … loving every minute of it. Really, I almost forgot how much I love this feeling, the bruises on arms, the sore shins, that sting you feel when you make a block. I missed it so much.”
Whether Quessenberry’s football comeback lasts beyond training camp will depend on his ability to block players like Watt and Clowney. But getting this far is already a win.
Buccaneers practice went silent last week as second-year kicker Roberto Aguayo continued to struggle, suggesting that the players and coaches in Tampa realize they’re watching a young kicker show he’s not up to the pressure of the NFL. But Bucs coach Dirk Koetter says he welcomes the tension.
Koetter said veteran Nick Folk was brought in to compete with Aguayo, and the Bucs like seeing that competition in May.
“The competition has definitely started. I know everybody feels it,” Koetter said, via the Tampa Bay Times. “There’s a little tension when we’re going through that. That’s a good thing. That’s a good thing. This is pro football, there’s supposed to be competition.”
The Bucs surprised almost everyone when they chose Aguayo in the second round of last year’s draft, and when they signed Folk this offseason it was an acknowledgement that Aguayo didn’t get the job done as a rookie. From all indications Aguayo won’t have a job anymore in three months, and that’s a tense situation. As kicking in the NFL usually is.
A month ago today, the draft ended. As of three days ago, more than 70 percent of all draft picks had agreed to terms.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, 176 of 253 selections had submitted signed contracts to the NFL through Friday morning. Coupled with the news that six Raiders draft picks agreed to terms later in the day and that four other Vikings have agreed to terms, only 71 unsigned picks remain.
In round one, 17 of 32 players have signed contracts, including half of the top 10.
The Saints and Rams have yet to sign any of their draft picks. The Rams traditionally wait until the end of the offseason program before signing all of the rookies in one fell swoop. In past years, coach Jeff Fisher would bring an armored car to the practice field with $1 million in it before showing them how the money gets divided among the various constituencies that pick the pockets of the gainfully employed.
With a true rookie wage scale in place, holdouts have become highly unusual. However, Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa missed plenty of time last year due to a fight over cash flow and offset language.
The 49ers have a new coach in Kyle Shanahan and Shanahan brought the offense he’s developed over years as a coordinator with him to Santa Clara.
For many members of the team, that means they are getting a lot of new information thrown their way during the offseason program. One exception to that rule is quarterback Brian Hoyer, who played for Shanahan when both men were with the Browns and signed a free agent contract with the 49ers this offseason.
That experience has put him ahead of the pack when it comes to understanding both what Shanahan wants from the offense and how to get the unit in position to provide it.
“It’s definitely easier for me to call the plays this time around,” Hoyer said, via ESPN.com. “I remember last time kind of having to think about it, whereas now I find myself knowing that when Kyle starts to call a play I can kind of put it together. Just hearing it the second time around has helped, and knowing the plays, there are a lot of words; I think calling the play is half the battle, and it’s something I really don’t think about anymore. It comes naturally to me.”
Hoyer played some of the best football of his career for Shanahan in 2014 as the Browns got off to a 6-3 start before everything fell apart down the stretch. A reprise may not be in the cards, but getting everyone on the same page would help and that task should be easier with a quarterback who knows the offense well enough to help Shanahan teach it as they head into the season.