With dreams of being like Mike and Kobe Bryant posters plastered on his walls, Justin Hunter realized early on that football, not basketball, is his future. After a devastating knee injury took away his sophomore year at Tennessee, Hunter has been working double time to make his NFL dream a reality.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
ProFootballTalk: Adversity can’t stop Justin Hunter
Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell was on the field doing individual drills with his Steelers teammates on Tuesday, something that hasn’t been the case since he tore his MCL in a November 1 game against the Bengals.
Bell’s injury became a talking point in the war of words between the teams after the Steelers took issue with Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict’s reaction to the hit that injured Bell. On Tuesday, Bell revisited that game and said he felt that members of the Bengals other than Burfict were trying to hurt him during the game.
“I don’t think it was just [Burfict]; it was like the whole team was really out there trying to like twist my ankles and do little dirty stuff in between the piles,” Bell said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Bell added that the Bengals aren’t the only team that tries to “take me out of the game.”
“Umm, a couple, but obviously a lot of teams in our division really play that same way, so obviously I know that — I just was kind of ignorant to that at first because I didn’t think people played like that,” Bell said.
Bell said those experiences taught him to take “nothing for granted” once he returns to a full workload. He expects that to happen at training camp, which would keep him right on track for a return to the lineup in Week One.
The Bills have yet to sign their first-round pick. But they’ve signed the second-round pick who would have been their first-round pick, if their first-round pick had already been picked when it was time for the Bills to pick.
Linebacker Reggie Ragland has put pen to paper on his rookie deal, agreeing to the standard four-year slotted deal that all players sign. The team announced the move on Tuesday.
Recently, G.M. Doug Whaley said that Ragland, the 41st pick in the draft, would have gone 22 spots higher, if Shaq Lawson had been selected.
“We look at it like we have two first-round picks this year, Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland,” Whaley told Don Banks of SI.com when discussing Lawson’s shoulder surgery. “Because we were going to pick Reggie Ragland at No. 19 if Shaq wasn’t there, and then we got them both. So for us, we’re playing with house money.”
For Ragland, he’s playing with a lot less money than he would have gotten if he’d been the 19th overall pick.
The Raiders got a bit deeper at wide receiver on Tuesday.
The team announced that they have signed Nathan Palmer and Robert Herron as free agents.
Palmer worked out for the Saints earlier this month along with Vincent Brown and Hakeem Nicks, but the Saints signed Brown. Palmer opened the offseason in Chicago, but was waived by the Bears and has spent time with six teams over the course of his time in the NFL.
Herron played eight games for the Buccaneers in 2014, catching six passes for 58 yards and a touchdown. He didn’t make the Bucs out of camp last year and spent most of the season on the practice squad in Miami. Both players will fall into the competition for roster spots behind Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper.
Andre DuBose won’t be part of that battle. The 2015 seventh-rounder was waived/injured and quarterback Garrett Gilbert was waived as the Raiders made room for their new players.
Generally speaking, not much of lasting impact happens at the Pro Bowl.
It looks like the ankle injury suffered by tight end Tyler Eifert is the exception to that rule. Eifert was in a walking boot after the Pro Bowl, but the issue wasn’t thought to be a particularly serious one.
Eifert wasn’t practicing with his teammates on Tuesday, however, and Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that his ankle “not responded as quickly” as initially hoped. As a result, Eifert will have a “minimal procedure” on the ankle soon.
Minimal though it may be, Eifert’s recovery is expected to take three months. That would be sometime in August, which would leave the Bengals without Eifert for much of training camp and could leave Eifert on the sideline for the preseason schedule as well.
Eifert had 13 touchdowns last season, so the Bengals will trade some lost time now for having him healthy once the regular season is underway. Tyler Kroft, Ryan Hewitt and C.J. Uzomah are in line for more time at tight end while Eifert is recovering.
For all NFL teams, the P.R. department serves as the conduit between the organization and the media. For most NFL teams, the P.R. staff has another important role.
They get blamed for all sorts of stuff.
If an owner, a coach, a G.M., or another high-level executive doesn’t want to do an interview, there’s no reason to decline directly. Instead, the owner, coach, G.M., or other high-level executive can simply blame it on the P.R. staff.
It happens all the time. On Tuesday, it happened in connection with the controversial media policy in Buffalo.
Asked by reporters about the new rules, coach Rex Ryan said (via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com), “Our media policy isn’t something that I’m involved with.” Ryan then pointed to (you guessed it) a team spokesperson.
That’s right. The new media policy came directly and exclusively from the P.R. staff, with no input of any kind from the head coach of the team. Maybe the G.M. and ownership had no say in it, either. Maybe the P.R. staff once-again has co-opted an NFL franchise, dictating policy without accountability to the various folks for whom the P.R. staff works.
That’s the lesson for today, kids. Don’t aspire to be a coach, a G.M., a team president, or an owner. The real power apparently resides in the P.R. staff.
The Texans and Raiders will play on November 21 in Mexico City, and the NFL says there’s strong interest from local fans.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, 100,000 people have already registered to buy up to four tickets each to the game. That would indicate that the game could top 100,000 fans at Estadio Azteca, just as the previous NFL game there, in 2005, did.
In the United States, football couldn’t be much more popular than it already is, and so as the NFL tries to continue growing, it is increasingly turning to foreign markets. This year, for the first time, four games will be played outside the United States, with three games in London in addition to the Texans-Raiders game in Mexico City.
Whether the NFL can ever become nearly as popular outside the United States as it is inside remains to be seen. But there’s little doubt that the league can sell out big stadiums in big cities abroad.
On one hand, Johnny Manziel currently isn’t in the NFL, and quite possibly never will be again. So his activities aren’t directly relevant to the NFL.
On the other hand, Manziel was a first-round draft pick who started eight games over two NFL seasons and who has washed out of the league due to off-field issues and a chronic unwillingness to fully commit to being a professional football player. His story continues to be intriguing.
It’s also sad and depressing. The latest comes from TMZ, which reports that “Manziel has become even more reckless with his drug problem recently — even blowing lines in front of people he barely knows.”
TMZ also cites unnamed sources close to Manziel who say that he “is going to die unless something changes soon.” Another source said that friends have confronted Manziel about his drinking and drug use, and that “[h]e flipped out and would not hear it.”
Manziel’s father expressed concern back in February that Manziel would not make it to his next birthday if he doesn’t get help. Since then, the situation apparently has gotten worse, not better.
Jaguars first-round pick Jalen Ramsey solicited additional medical opinions this week after suffering a tear to the meniscus in his right knee and the result sent him to the operating room.
The Jaguars announced on Tuesday that Ramsey had surgery on his knee earlier in the day that they termed successful. The team added that the expectation is that Ramsey will be healthy enough to return “by training camp.”
Given the inability to travel back in time and keep Ramsey from getting injured at all, that outcome would represent as good a case for Ramsey and the Jaguars as they could hope for. According to multiple reports, the surgery, which was performed by Dr. James Andrews, involved trimming the meniscus rather than a full repair that would have kept Ramsey off the field for a longer period of time.
While he’ll miss some on-field time in the near future, he’ll get plenty of time to acclimate himself to playing cornerback in the Jacksonville defense.
As expected, NFL owners have made a change to the replay rules. As not expected, the NFL didn’t dramatically change the paradigm, with the list of reviewable plays scrapped in favor only of a list of non-reviewable plays.
Along the way, the owners expanded replay review, slightly, to include certain administrative matters. Items now subject to replay review that weren’t previously subject to replay review are as follows: (1) penalty enforcement; (2) proper down; (3) the spot of a foul; and (4) the status of the game clock.
The list of non-reviewable plays also has been revised to include the following situations: (1) the spot where an airborne ball crosses the sideline; (2) whether a player was blocked into a loose ball; (3) advance by a player after a valid or invalid fair catch signal; (4) whether a player created the impetus that put the ball into an end zone. The quarterback “spike” for the purposes of killing the clock, which previously was on the list of non-reviewable players, has been removed.
Apart from including these items within the formal replay-review system, the replay official and designated members of the league office may now consult with the on-field officials “to provide information on the correct application of playing rules, including appropriate assessment of penalty yardage, proper down, and status of the game clock.”
The new rule otherwise streamlines the replay rules, eliminating plenty of verbiage that arguably was unnecessary to the process of determining what could and couldn’t be reviewed. Also, the order of the relevant rule has been modified, with the list of non-reviewable plays now preceding the list of reviewable plays. (Previously, the reviewable plays came first.)
It’s hardly a major revision to the process. However, there’s one specific facet of the new rule that justifies further attention, in a separate post.
Every NFL team has policies about what can be reported by media members attending practices and they usually include a ban on mentioning trick plays or exotic formations and guidelines for when players and coaches are available to speak to the media.
As anyone who follows NFL beat reporters on social media is well aware, they normally stop well short of barring reporters from reporting on whether passes are completed during practices and what players are on the field. The Bills would like to change that at their practices this season.
Tyler Dunne of the Buffalo News shared the new policy distributed by the Bills on Tuesday which puts things like the identity of players who drop passes, complete passes, throw interceptions, rush the passer, or line up with the first team on a list of things that are “strictly prohibited.”
The Bills are holding a practice on Tuesday and reporters are handling things in different ways. We’ve learned that Manny Lawson and Reggie Ragland are among the first-team linebackers and that Jordan Mills is seeing a lot of time at right tackle. There’s also dispatches like the one below.
Ultimately, it would seem that avid Bills fans who enjoy getting this information will be the ones most affected by shutting down the flow of information from practices as it seems unlikely that future Bills opponents will be changing game plans based on whether Robert Woods is able to hold onto a ball at a May practice session.
The list of deceased NFL players officially diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy has now reached 90.
Via Ken Belson of the New York Times, the late Bubba Smith has been diagnosed with CTE. Smith, who died in 2011, spent nine years in the NFL. The first overall pick in the 1967 draft, Smith played for the Colts, Raiders, and Oilers.
Smith, who became an actor after his football career ended, had Stage 3 CTE, according to the findings of researchers. The scale consists of four total stages.
Few are surprised to learn that players from the years before the NFL began to regard head trauma seriously had CTE. Much still remains unknown about the condition, however, including the specific symptoms that it causes.
Reports of deceased players having CTE will continue to emerge periodically. The real challenge for the NFL will arise if/when a test for CTE in living patients is developed — and if it detects the disease on a sufficiently widespread basis to impact the supply of willing participants in professional football.
Coincidentally (or not), the National Institutes of Health study over which the league allegedly attempted to exert undue influence relates to detecting CTE in living patients.
With four draft picks devoted to the receiver position, the Browns decided not to pay veteran Brian Hartline $3 million for 2016. But they still need bodies at the position.
The Browns have announced that the team has added receiver David Richards to the roster.
Signed earlier this month by the Falcons as an undrafted free agent out of Arizona (and obviously cut), Richards faces a steep uphill climb to make it onto the 53-man roster, especially with 11 other receivers on the team and Josh Gordon potentially returning in August.
The Lions did not hold joint practices with other teams in Jim Caldwell’s first two years as the team’s head coach, but that will change this summer.
The Lions and Steelers announced that the teams will practice together on August 9 and 10 at Steelers camp at Saint Vincent College before facing off in their preseason opener on Friday, August 12 in Pittsburgh. Joint practices have become popular in recent years as teams have found benefits in varying their practice routine by working against outside competition after weeks of banging heads with teammates.
The Patriots are frequently among the teams holding these sessions, which may explain why the Lions are shifting course from the last two years. They hired General Manager Bob Quinn out of the New England front office this offseason.
It’s the second time that the Steelers are holding workouts with another team under head coach Mike Tomlin. They last did it with the Bills in 2014.
On Monday, a Congressional report slammed the NFL for trying to improperly influence a National Institutes of Health study regarding the possible detection of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in living patients. On Tuesday, the man PFT’s Darin Gantt calls the world’s highest-paid piñata could be spewing candy all over the place.
Whether it happens during his post-meeting press conference or whether it occurs behind closed doors with his bosses, Commissioner Roger Goodell is going to be facing tough questions on Tuesday in Charlotte regarding the conclusion that the league crossed the line by trying to tie a supposedly no-strings-attached donation to the selection of a researcher that the league deemed to be acceptable — and then by yanking $16 million for the study when the league didn’t get its way. Goodell also may be asked to explain to those who pay him why the league didn’t respond to the report more quickly and more aggressively.
For hours on Monday, the league was silent. Which suggests that the NFL didn’t realize the report was coming or wasn’t otherwise prepared to counter the potential determination that the league had engaged in allegedly unsavory behavior. Which could spark some tough questions from owners on Tuesday regarding the league office’s handling of the issue.
It’s still unclear where this specific issue will go. Unlike most other NFL-related controversies, it won’t entail a judge banging a gavel or a jury reading a verdict. But it’s another example of the part-bullying, part-wagon-circling ways of the NFL on issues of head trauma, which will undoubtedly give the opponents of the league even more reason to continue to search for more evidence of the same kind of behavior.
Veteran pass rusher Dwight Freeney went on ESPN recently to market himself to teams that might be looking for a little bit more off the edge this season and said his preference is to join a winning team.
Freeney’s quest for that job will reportedly take him to Cincinnati. Coley Harvey of ESPN.com reports that Freeney will work out for the Bengals this week.
Freeney had a team-high eight sacks and also added three forced fumbles in 11 games for the Cardinals after signing with them during the 2015 season. That production came in a situational role that showed Freeney hasn’t lost much of his ability to get to the quarterback after 14 years in the NFL.
Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson are set to start at defensive end in the base 4-3 scheme that defensive coordinator Paul Guenther runs in Cincinnati, but the loss of Wallace Gilberry in free agency opens a role in sub packages that Freeney could fill.