The PFT crew runs down some of the best talent available in the NFL Draft and wonders if Star Lotulelei can still be considered the best player coming out of college. Can comparisons to Joe Flacco help boost the stock of Tyler Bray and Mike Glennon?This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
ProFootballTalk: Is Lotulelei still a top-flight talent?
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.
The search for returners will be part of the Jets’ work in OTAs.
Who will step in at fullback for the Ravens?
How will the Texans offensive line look this season?
Jaguars coach Doug Marrone stressed the importance of Memorial Day to his players.
A look at some tweaks to the Broncos defense.
Giants defenders know that they need to build on last year’s improvement.
Former Lions TE Joseph Fauria has eyes on making a comeback.
Former Packers G Jerry Kramer visited Washington with Vietnam veterans.
The Vikings would love to see some recent draft picks develop quickly.
The Falcons will travel to New England this season for another meeting with the Patriots.
Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips discussed how his father Bum influenced him.
A look at how 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is delegating responsibilities on his staff.
If the Seahawks are stuck in the past, can they win going forward?
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer’s going to take another week off to rest after his latest eye surgery, but his influence will never be far from the team.
Mostly, that’s because he’s trusted old friend Andre Patterson to play his part while he’s gone.
“He just texted me and asked me to make sure I kind of get his message across to the team,” the Vikings defensive line coach said, via Andrew Krammer of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “We’ve been together a long time. We have a close friendship, and I think he trusts I’m going to do the best job I can to get his voice across.”
The Vikings haven’t named an interim coach like they did last year when Zimmer was away for a week (special teams coach Mike Priefer coached them against the Cowboys). Coordinators are running their respective sides of the ball during Organized Team Activities, and Zimmer’s still watching practice film every day, but it’s Patterson who lends direction.
Zimmer trusts Patterson for a reason. They’ve known each other since 1988, when they worked together at Weber State. Zimmer has hired Patterson four times, and his children have been babysitters for Patterson’s.
“Well, Andre knows me probably better than anyone there, including [my son] Adam,” Zimmer said.
That’s why Patterson leaned on his boss to take some time away to get well.
“On a personal level, I love the man,” Patterson said. “He’s like a brother to me. So obviously my number one concern was his health . . . because that’s the best thing for our football team. That’s the best thing for our players. That’s the best thing for our coaches. That’s the best thing for our front office. That’s the best thing for our fans.
“Mike is tough, ornery and a hard worker. I had to get the point across to him at some point that Mike had to think about Mike and get himself healthy. Whatever we had to do to get that done, that was the most important thing.”
Such that Zimmer is able to step away for a bit, having someone he trusts like Patterson on staff should only help as he takes the time he needs.
Seattle starts its Organized Team Activities a week later than expected this year, because last year’s OTAs had a little too much “A” in them, again. This time around, the offseason practices come only days after the emergence of a story that peeled back the curtain on the drama and dysfunction still lingering from Super Bowl XLIX.
So when the first session begins on Tuesday, how will coach Pete Carroll handle it? Will Seth Wickersham’s story for ESPN The Magazine become a rallying cry for team unity? Will it be used as an example of what happens when family business gets discussed outside the family? Or will it be disregarded and ignored as the product of unreliable sources and #fakenews?
Regardless, the story and its details loom over the team as the OTAs launch, and it’s safe to say that key figures in the story (Carroll, cornerback Richard Sherman, quarterback Russell Wilson, offensive lineman Germain Ifedi) will be peppered with questions about the facts reported therein. Defensive end Michael Bennett, who always has something to say and who called the article “trash” and “all gossip” on Twitter, surely will be talking about the issue, regardless of whether he’s asked about it.
At the core of the story was the notion that the Seahawks and Sherman seriously contemplated a divorce in the offseason, but ultimately opted to stay together. Will they renew their vows or are they simply biding their time for the inevitable?
The evidence as to which way this relationship will go will begin to be compiled, beginning this week — and culminating during a season that with the application of stress will either make things better or make things much, much worse.
The NFL party line, as articulated by Commissioner Roger Goodell, is that Colin Kaepernick’s unemployment is football related, Giants owner John Mara has acknowledged off-field concerns contributing as well.
Mara told Jenny Vrentas of TheMMQB.com that the Giants didn’t discuss signing Kaepernick this offseason, and that they’ve heard from many fans who would be angry if they did.
“All my years being in the league, I never received more emotional mail from people than I did about that issue,” Mara said. “If any of your players ever do that, we are never coming to another Giants game. It wasn’t one or two letters. It was a lot. It’s an emotional, emotional issue for a lot of people, moreso than any other issue I’ve run into.”
The Giants signed kicker Josh Brown to a new contract after he was arrested for domestic violence, and kept him on the team last year after he was suspended for domestic violence. It’s extraordinary that Mara says he heard from more fans about Kaepernick — a player on another team, who didn’t do anything illegal — than about Brown.
Mara’s comments say a lot about Kaepernick’s continuing unemployment: For many teams, the decision not to sign Kaepernick may go beyond whether the coach or G.M. think Kaepernick can help on the field. It may go up to the owner, who fears Kaepernick would hurt the franchise off the field.
Hockey gets its annual national close-up starting Monday, when Nashville and Pittsburgh meet for the most iconic trophy in all of sports. (Sorry, NFL, but it’s true.)
And since PFT Live operate as usual on Monday (it’s hard for me to take a day off from work when it’s not really work), we’ll devote some real estate to the game played on literally frozen tundra. With blades and sticks and a projectile that rockets around the rink, knocking out teeth and busting jaws and potentially doing serious damage to parental aspirations.
NBC’s Pierre McGuire joins the show at 7:35 a.m. ET for a Stanley Cup Final preview, and we’ll chase later in the show with MDS about football issues, and maybe some hockey.
Yes, it’s still a football show and there will be plenty of football talk. But for Monday at least it’s proper to spend some time on the second best sport in America. (Sorry, basketball and baseball, but it’s true.)
Join us on NBC Sports Radio at 6:00 a.m. ET and then on NBCSN for the simulcast that begins at 7:00 a.m. ET.
Even a one-day contract needs two willing parties.
When former Falcons quarterback Mike Vick, who created one of the biggest messes any player ever has for any team by maintaining over a period of several years a secret (but ultimately not secret enough) dogfighting operation in rural Virginia, expressed interest in signing a one-day contract to retire as a Falcon, he left out one key fact: The Falcons have not yet expressed interest in such a transaction.
“Well, I haven’t talked to anybody about it specifically,” Vick told Vaughn McClure of ESPN on Sunday. “It’s something that I’ve really been thinking about trying to get done. I was asked the question the other day — is that what I want — and I said, ‘Yeah.’
“So, yeah, I think in due time, it’s something that can potentially happen.”
It can potentially happen, but only if the Falcons want it. Frankly, why should they? While the passage of time and Vick’s second act in Philly made many to stop focusing on what he’d done, he still did what he did. And while he was doing what he did, he was an erratic and often-unprepared presence on the field, with wildly inconsistent performances and a failure to ever come close to fulfilling his God-given potential.
Vick’s legal troubles sparked one of the worst seasons any NFL team ever endured, with endless distractions and, ultimately coach Bobby Petrino quitting abruptly during the season. It’s easy to understand why the Falcons may not be rushing to arrange the ceremonial one-day contract signing.
So where does it go from here?
“I don’t know,” Vick said. “It’s just a waiting game now. You know, I’m patient. I’m patient, man. We’ll see what happens.”
While it’s a far cry from retiring his jersey or putting him in a ring of honor or otherwise making an open and permanent display, extending any sort of honor to Vick is something that owner Arthur Blank and the rest of the organization may need more than a decade to get their arms around.
Here’s how it’s properly done, Michael Scott.
Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman made a promise to provide a college scholarship to a girl he met last year, if she sufficiently improved her grades. She came through, and so has Sherman.
As explained by Wes McElroy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Sherman will make good on his vow to Varina High School graduate Hershai James.
The promise was made last year, and honored this year, at an event organized by NFL Network’s Michael Robinson, a former teammate of Sherman’s in Seattle. Robinson combines a Celebrity Waiter Dinner and a Football Camp to benefit the Excel to Excellence Foundation.
“It goes back to knowledge is power and if you have knowledge you’re going to be as powerful as you ever want to be,” Sherman said. “Nobody stops anybody from reading and educating themselves. Mike [Robinson] is only trying to empower these kids to be everything that they can be and if we can help with that with our presence, with our [autographed] jerseys [to be auctioned], with our words, we’ll do everything we can.”
For Sherman, it also ended up being money out of his pocket. Though no one is disclosing how much he’ll pay, it was enough of a carrot to inspire Hershai James.
“When my senior year began, I definitely had the scholarship in my head as motivation,” James said. “Having something to look forward to helped. It’s like saying my hard work and dedication had paid off.”
Given that Memorial Day weekend typically generates a negative headline regarding an NFL player who finds trouble (or vice-versa), it’s good to have something like this to tip the balance the other way.