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PFT Live: Health the main concern for prospects
If you were an NFL offensive coordinator and your quarterback depth chart consisted of Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder and Teddy Bridgewater, would you be optimistic? You would be if you were Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who says those three players give his team a strong group of passers.
“We’re sitting there with two quarterbacks who have taken teams to playoffs and won over 10 games, which is hard to do,” Turner told Vikings.com. “And we’ve got a young guy that’s exciting to be around. So our quarterback situation is as good as you could ask for and I think we’ll get a high level of play from those guys.”
It is true that Ponder and Cassel have both been the starting quarterback for teams that went 10-6 and got to the playoffs. Then again, Ponder and Cassel were both on the Vikings last year, and they went 5-10-1 and finished last in the NFC North. The reality is, if Bridgewater isn’t good enough to start ahead of Cassel and Ponder, Vikings fans will be disappointed.
The good news is that Turner said he sees “great upside” to Bridgewater and believes the Vikings got a steal with the 32nd overall pick in the draft. If Turner is right about that, Vikings fans can forget about Cassel and Ponder, because Bridgewater is both the present and the future of the team.
Turner also acknowledged that the Vikings’ strength on offense will likely be its running game, but Turner said he thinks the passing game will at least be good enough that Adrian Peterson doesn’t see many eight-man fronts.
“You play to the strength of your team,” Turner said. “I really believe that we have enough talent across the board, enough guys who can make plays, that we can do some things that will take some attention away from Adrian.”
Last year Cassel and Ponder weren’t able to take much attention away from Peterson. Maybe Bridgewater can do it.
Before the Vikings launched a Friday night bad-news dump regarding the ongoing Chris Kluwe drama, the NFLPA launched a preemptive Friday afternoon bad-news dump regarding the first concussion lawsuit filed a day earlier against the union.
PFT has since obtained a copy of the complaint. While it contains plenty of the same allegations made against the NFL in the many concussion lawsuits, the first attack on the NFLPA contains some contentions unique to the players’ union.
The gist of the argument is that the NFLPA “deliberately ignored, failed to warn, and actively concealed . . . information” from football players at all levels and the general public. The complaint also contends that the NFLPA “spent no significant funds on research and development of safer helmets, safer competition rules, or safer football equipment that could prevent or mitigate brain trauma to players,” and that the NFLPA failed to certify medical personnel to treat players for head injuries, even though the NFLPA certifies agents and others who interact with players.
The class action, which if certified will encompass all former NFL players, points to the “unparalleled access to and knowledge of data relating to the relationship between head impacts on football players and cognitive decline,” from among other things the union’s participation in the controversial NFL’s Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee, which allegedly concealed the risks of concussions and “attacked” (paragraph 75) studies showing a link between concussions and brain damage for years.
At paragraph 40, the complaint alleges that the NFLPA received in 1994 a report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health regarding player death rates. The report suggested further study over time on the question of whether four cases of ALS were the result of chance, or something else. At paragraph 41, the complaint claims that the NFLPA concealed the results of the study.
At paragraphs 44 and 45, the complaint contends that the NFLPA received information from the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes suggesting a substantial link between head impacts and cognitive decline, and that the “consistently concealed, ignored, and turned a blind eye to the studies’ results.”
At paragraphs 46 through 52, the complaint focuses on the NFLPA’s role in the Retirement Board, arguing that the Mike Webster case shows the NFLPA knew of the link between head injuries and brain damage (once hyped inaccurately by ESPN and the Fainaru-Wadas as a “smoking gun” for NFL liability), given the NFLPA’s role in the Retirement Board.
The complaint also includes quotes from past NFLPA leadership, including the late Gene Upshaw, long-time executive director of the union. In 2007, Upshaw allegedly said in response to the suicide of former Eagles safety Andre Waters, “We all get alarmed when we see something like this. But it’s not like we’ve been just sitting on our hands. That’s what’s being implied here, that no one is looking at this, that no one’s studying this, that no one cares about this. If that was true, I’m irresponsible and I haven’t been doing my job, and neither has the NFL.”
That same year, Upshaw allegedly downplayed the link between football and brain damage. “I think we’re just a reflection of society,” Upshaw said. “I don’t want to take that next leap to say, you know, football caused dementia. I just don’t believe that.”
The complaint also attacks comments from former NFLPA president Kevin Mawae attacking the NFL’s efforts to make the game more safe.
“For the Commissioner and for the NFL to say they are going to increase fines because hits seem to be vicious or violent — I think it’s ridiculous and I think the skirt needs to be taken off in the NFL offices,” Mawae said in November 2010.
The complaint also seizes on comments from current NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith (pictured) regarding the past failings of union leadership. “[T]he days of denigrating, suppressing, and ignoring the medical findings must come to an end,” Smith wrote to Congress in 2009.
The complaint repeats a quote we have mentioned several times in this space, given by Smith to Congress that same year: “There is simply no justification for the NFL to have previously ignored or discredited Dr. [Bennet] Omalu and others with relevant, valid research,” Smith said at the time. “For far too long, our former players were left adrift; as I emphasized at the last hearing, we were complicit in the lack of leadership and accountability, but that ends now. I am here again to make it clear that our commitment is unwavering.”
When former NFL safety Dave Duerson committed suicide, Smith said Duerson’s death “makes it abundantly clear what the cost of football is for the men who played and their families,” and that “any decision or course of action that doesn’t recognize that as the truth is . . . perpetuating a lie.”
Based on those allegations, the plaintiffs claim that the NFLPA fraudulently concealed the risk of harm arising from repetitive head trauma, that misleading information about the health risks was given to players and the public by the NFLPA, that at a minimum the misrepresentations made by the NFLPA were negligent, that the union generally engaged in negligence regarding the handling of issues and information relating to brain injuries, and that the NFLPA conspired with the NFL “to perpetrate the fraudulent concealment of the connnection between repetitive TBI and long-term neuro-cognitive damage, illness, and decline.”
The NFLPA already has said that the lawsuit has no merit, and the union undoubtedly will defend itself aggressively. But even with the concussion lawsuits against the NFL moving toward a conclusion, the former players are now taking on, as a practical matter, the current players on the question of what the union did and failed to do over the years.
When the offseason began, Raiders owner Mark Davis said that the team had no more built-in excuses after navigating their way through salary cap hell and years with diminished draft picks because of ill-advised trades.
The message isn’t any different several months later. Davis called an offseason that saw the Raiders add players like Khalil Mack, Matt Schaub, Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Derek Carr and James Jones “phenomenal” and then followed up that praise for General Manager Reggie McKenzie with a reminder that the mistakes of the past won’t be available as excuses any longer by saying that “results speak.”
“Obviously nobody’s happy with the way that season ended … this year is the year, there are no more excuses,” Davis said, via Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group. “There were games last year where we didn’t show up. The Kansas City game. One play four times? The same guy scoring four touchdowns? Philadelphia, seven touchdown passes? It wasn’t there. That can’t happen any more.”
Davis isn’t issuing any specific ultimatums, but the situation doesn’t really call for them. McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen have overseen the dismantling of what came before and they need to show this season that they are the right guys to oversee the rebuilding of the Raiders into a competitive team that can contend for postseason berths and/or Super Bowl appearances. If not, it will be time for a change in Oakland.
Hall of Fame coaching finalist and NBC Football Night in America analyst Tony Dungy made major waves on Monday with comments to Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune regarding Rams defensive end Michael Sam.
“I wouldn’t have taken him,” Dungy told Kaufman. “Not because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it. It’s not going to be totally smooth . . . things will happen.’’
On Tuesday’s edition of The Dan Patrick Show, Kaufman provided context and further insight regarding the remarks.
“I think what he was trying to say, and this is what’s going to make it very difficult in terms of an additional response, because it’s sensitive,” Kaufman said. “Dan, this is not Sammy Watkins. This is Michael Sam. And by that I mean, by definition, a seventh-round draft pick is marginal. The guy’s marginal. May make the roster, may not make the roster. Nobody’s gonna be surprised if any seventh-round pick doesn’t make the roster.
“So I think it’s almost like he’s not worth the trouble,” Kaufman said of Sam. “Now, you can’t say that, that’s a very crude way to put it. And Tony won’t put it like that. But I think you’ve got to factor in the fact that [Sam] almost went undrafted, and there’s no question that the Oprah Network and TMZ, they’re gonna be at Rams Park, and they’re not gonna be there to check on Aaron Donald’s progress at nose tackle. And you know that. They’re gonna be there for a specific purpose . . . . He put his coaching hat on and not as an analyst for NBC in answering the question and as a coach, a marginal prospect weighed against the distraction, and that’s why he said what I said. That’s what I think he meant.”
Eventually, we’ll hear more about what Dungy meant. He’s scheduled to join Dan’s show later in the week. Until then, the reaction to the comments will continue.
“I’m a little surprised about what he said,” Kaufman said of Dungy. “I was surprised at the time. I’m surprised now. Just because of his reputation as a pioneer, outspoken about minority issues. Keeping an open mind on hiring practices. Don’t go in with stereotypes. But, again, I don’t think he was being homophobic.”
Sam is indeed a marginal prospect. Rams G.M. Les Snead told PFT Live two days after picking Sam that the Rams hoped to sign a pair of defensive ends as undrafted free agents, but that the team feared undrafted free agents wouldn’t choose to join a depth chart stacked with pass rushers. That makes the uphill climb even more challenging for Sam.
And that makes this situation far different from Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball. Robinson’s talent was undeniable. Branch Rickey wouldn’t have stuck his neck out for a player who would have been struggling to stay on the roster. The Rams have willingly embraced a slew of potential distractions with no obvious strategic upside.
That’s possibly what Tony was saying. We’ll know much more when Tony addresses the comments later this week.
The Steelers defense has seen several of their top veterans leave the team over the last couple of years, leaving only a handful of players who were key parts of the two AFC Champions of the Mike Tomlin era.
Some of them, like safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback Ike Taylor, aren’t far from their own departure from the Steelers. Linebacker Lawrence Timmons has played seven years for the team, but is only 28 and should have several more years in Pittsburgh if he stays healthy and productive. As a result, he’s taking on more of a leadership role on the defense in hopes of helping to mold the next generation of defenders into a strong unit.
“I do feel like I have to do a lot for this team. With me being one of the older guys, I understand that if everybody does their job, everyone is going to make plays,” Timmons said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I want to be a model citizen for this team because we’re very young now. I can’t get carried away with having a good time because everyone, especially the young guys, have to know there’s a time and place for everything. It’s why I do the things I do and why I carry myself a certain way.”
Last year, the Steelers defense finished outside the Top 10 in yards allowed for the first time since the 1999 season as Pittsburgh went 8-8 and missed the playoffs for the second straight season. A return to their usual spot in the rankings won’t guarantee a different outcome for the Steelers, but their additions of linebacker Ryan Shazier, safety Mike Mitchell and defensive lineman Cam Thomas show that the Steelers want to get things back on track on that side of the ball. Timmons’ leadership and play will be part of that effort as well and the linebacker seems comfortable with the pressure that comes along with that role.
The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks finished last season as the clear cut two best teams in football.
In our opinion, they still are.
The 49ers have made the NFC Championship game in each of the last three seasons with a Super Bowl appearance two years ago. While some of the pieces have changed since then, the 49ers still remain one of the most talented teams in the league.
However, veterans such as Frank Gore, Justin Smith and Patrick Willis aren’t getting any younger. San Francisco has also struggled to find many contributors through the draft despite a plethora of picks over the last couple seasons with last year’s first-round pick Eric Reid being one of the few exceptions.
NaVorro Bowman is hurt, Aldon Smith could be suspended and the 49ers have some issues at cornerback as well.
But the 49ers offense could be the best its been under Colin Kaepernick’s direction with improved talent at the receiver position.
Our full 49ers preview is located here. Tell us in the poll below if you feel the 49ers deserve the ranking we gave them heading into the season.
The Bills opened up camp without left tackle Cordy Glenn, who was placed on the Non-Football Illness list last week and is barred from practicing until the designation is removed.
Coach Doug Marrone didn’t offer much of an idea about when that might happen. Glenn missed a few spring practices because of illness and Marrone said Monday that he’s “not allowed to speak” about what’s bothering Glenn or when the tackle might be able to return to the lineup.
“I don’t know that. It’s a medical condition. I’m preparing to go on as if he’s not playing, which he’s not,” Marrone said, via WGR 550. “I’m just waiting for the doctors, and I can’t speak about the condition because it’s something that happened outside of football.”
Center Eric Wood said that Glenn’s absence was “bad luck” and that, “as far as I know,” it won’t keep Glenn from returning to the lineup.
For now, though, seventh-round pick Seantrel Henderson is taking left tackle reps with the first-team offense and the Bills are without a key starter on their offensive line.
It’s no surprise that Packers coach Mike McCarthy wants to lean on air superiority to win the NFC North.
It’s the way he’s going about it that’s surprising.
According to Jeff Alexander of WBAY, McCarthy and his family took a flight in a World War II-era B-17 bomber last week, and the Packers coach had a simple request.
“All right, let’s go bomb Chicago,” McCarthy joked.
McCarthy was able to take the flight with his wife’s grandfather, 96-year-old Bob Schneider, who flew in similar planes during his service.
“This is probably as adventurous as anything I’ve ever done,” McCarthy said.
Now he just has to prepare for the flak from people who lack a sense of humor, and Bears fans.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning is coming off a miserable season, with a career-high 27 interceptions to go with just 18 touchdowns, his fewest since his rookie year. So the good news about the Giants’ new offense is that Manning could hardly get worse.
But Manning admits that learning the system of new coordinator Ben McAdoo could make things tough as he enters training camp.
“Yeah, it is different. You come into the season a little nervous; you just don’t have [the same comfort],’’ Manning said, via the New York Post. “You have a good feel for it, but not to where I want it to be. That’s with repetition and more plays. It’s a different feeling this time of year than in previous years. We’ve still got a lot of work to do and a lot to improve on to get comfortable, myself with my teammates and everything that goes on with being successful in an offense. I know we’ve got a lot of work to do. But we’re excited about that challenge.’’
Manning says his surgically repaired ankle is completely healed and won’t be an issue. Now he just needs to learn the offense well enough that he throws a lot fewer than 27 interceptions, and a lot more than 18 touchdown passes, this year.
Perhaps more than any team in the NFL, the Browns have to be ready for training camp to start.
Because then they can talk about pictures of Johnny Manziel on the field instead of off.
According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Browns coach Mike Pettine said he talked to Manziel about the already infamous photo of him rolling a $20 bill at a bathroom sink.
“I don’t want to get into a [public] discussion of every picture that comes out, but I talked to him about it,” Pettine said. “We anticipate this will quiet down once the season starts. As committed as Johnny is to football, this stuff should not be an issue once camp gets underway.”
Pettine also suggested that the “money phone” video that surfaced this offseason might not have been recent. (Then again, that raises a question as to how an NCAA student-athlete would obtain a stack of money. Hmmm. That can’t be.)
Manziel is only the most extreme example of the fear every coach faces. They want their players in controlled, structured environments as often as possible, minimizing the chances that any photos (including mugshots) will surface.
Texans linebacker Brian Cushing knows that he’ll be ready for Week One and now we all know that he won’t be ready for the first training camp practice.
Cushing has been cleared by doctors after rehabbing the knee and leg injuries that ended his 2013 season, but the team isn’t quite ready to let him be a full participant in practice just yet. Cushing has been placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list ahead of the start of camp, which means he’s barred from doing more than working out on the side as the team goes through its paces.
Like all players on the list, Cushing counts against the 90-man roster and can be activated at any time. Once he is activated, however, Cushing will lose eligibility for the regular season PUP list.
The Texans also placed linebacker Trevardo Williams and rookie defensive tackle Louis Nix on the PUP list. Williams spent last season on injured reserve with a knee injury and Nix, a third-round pick in May, missed some time this spring with a knee ailment of his own.
The Jets think they are good enough to make the playoffs, but that’s not stopping them from checking out ways to improve the roster before the start of the season.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that the team worked out veteran linebacker Quentin Groves on Monday. Groves was cut by the Browns last month after contributing two sacks in five games with the team last year.
The Jets are set in the starting lineup at outside linebacker with Calvin Pace and Quinton Coples, but they are short on experienced depth at the position. Groves has played 84 games over the last six seasons, which certainly qualifies as the kind of seasoning that the Jets don’t currently have on the lower rungs of the depth chart. If he signed with the Jets, he’d also likely see time on special teams during the 2014 season.
Groves has also worked out for the Titans, Redskins and Patriots since parting ways with the Browns and it would seem likely that he’ll land somewhere in time to compete for a job in training camp.
Injury issues to watch with the Patriots.
The Ravens have selected a new anthem singer for home games.
Said Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, “I know this. You can’t be complacent. There has to be a fire in you. Hopefully with our players it’s the right kind of fire, not one you have to put out. The past is the past. It’s about a different future. Not for myself but for this offensive football team.”
It’s not surprising that the Texans were 2-14 last year after watching them cut ties with a second 2013 third-round pick.
One last look at the Jaguars offseason before training camp begins.
What should we expect from the Titans defensive line this season.
Jim Plunkett and Marcus Allen have different opinions on where the Raiders should play.
Chargers president Dean Spanos is excited to start the season on Monday Night Football.
Has building a strong offensive line hurt the Cowboys?
Looking for progress from the Eagles defense.
The Lions unveiled the patch they’ll wear to honor the late William Clay Ford.
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner shares some thoughts about how the Vikings will move the ball this season.
Five Buccaneers position battles to keep an eye on this summer.
Optimism and questions at linebacker accompany the Cardinals to training camp.
The Rams rookies kicked off their training camp on Monday.
Finding a stand-in for LB NaVorro Bowman will be a key part of 49ers camp.
Two Seahawks fans want to erect a statue of the final defensive play of last season’s NFC Championship Game.
The Cowboys had the option of running in the oppressive heat of Texas, or waiting until they hit the milder temps of California for training camp.
Most of them chose Texas.
According to David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, around 75 players performed their conditioning tests Monday at Valley Ranch, rather than waiting until they reported to Oxnard later this week.
The test — a series of 20 sprints with prescribed times by position group — were overseen by team captains, who relayed results to coaches. Linebacker Justin Durant tweeted out word that “everybody passed,” which is a good sign.
Of course, the high participation in a more demanding climate might also be read as a positive, for a team that has cruised to an 8-8 record each of the last three seasons.
Rex Ryan’s confidence is apparently contagious.
Wide receiver David Nelson has caught it, saying that for the first time he’s convinced the Jets will make the playoffs.
“For the first time in my career, I can say it with conviction and say it with belief: this is a playoff team,” Nelson said, via Seth Walder of the New York Daily News.
“Going 8-8 with the team that we had last year, the youth that we had, the inexperience. The way we finished the season last year showed us that we had potential. The teams that we beat showed us we were capable.”
Asked if that meant they were a Super Bowl team (pushy New York media), Nelson replied: “That’s the beautiful thing about the playoffs: Anything can happen. So I’ll answer that again in [November] when we hopefully clinch a playoff spot.”
Of course, that’s all easier to say than do. The Jets haven’t made the playoffs since 2010.
Then again, they’re the Jets, so the saying is part of the charm, even if it takes them a few years to actually believe the words flying out of their mouths.