ProFootballTalk: Roethlisberger calls out Le’Veon Bell
Three takeaways from the first week of Ravens OTAs.
Bernie Kosar spoke to Browns rookies last week.
Steelers rookies spent some time at the Mel Blount Youth Home.
Titans receivers know they are facing extra scrutiny.
Former Broncos QB Jake Plummer shares his thoughts on the current team.
Position coach Ollie Watson breaks down the Chargers running backs.
The Packers have given their defense several new pieces to work with this season.
A few things to look for in Vikings coach Mike Zimmer’s third season.
Saints WR Michael Thomas explains what drew him to Ohio State.
Said Buccaneers K Roberto Aguayo, “Pressure is built from inside. I’m competitive. I want to make every kick. At the end of the day it’s your kick. So I just [say] it internally; ‘I have to make this kick, this is what I have to do.'”
Offensive coordinator Rob Boras shares some thoughts on the Rams offense.
We checked in with one Ravens pass catcher returning from an injury last week and wide receiver Breshad Perriman said he was feeling strong in his return from the knee injury that kept him from playing at all last season.
Tight end Dennis Pitta has been out of the lineup even longer. Pitta last played in a game on September 21, 2014 and has been trying to return from a second dislocated hip since that point. That comeback attempt is playing out in Baltimore’s practices this offseason and Pitta said the on-field activity has been “very encouraging.”
Coach John Harbaugh seems to agree with that assessment.
“He looks like Dennis Pitta to me,” Harbaugh said, via the Baltimore Sun. “If you’re asking for a comparison to what he was when when he was playing to what he was now, he’s removed from football for a couple of years and we’re in — this is nothing. As far as the stability of the hip, how he feels about it, running around, making catches, looking like a football player, it’s all good.”
Pitta will be in for different tests in training camp and especially preseason games when he’s taking hits to the hip that’s caused him so much trouble in the last three years. His body’s response to that will determine how far he goes in his return to the field.
Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler is heading into the third and final year of the contract he signed as an undrafted rookie in 2014, and he’d like to be paid more like the Super Bowl hero and Pro Bowler that he is than like an undrafted free agent.
Mike Reiss of ESPN reports that Butler has told teammates and friends that he plans to push for a new contract before the start of the regular season.
Under his current deal, Butler is slated to make $600,000 this year and then become a restricted free agent next year, when the Patriots could keep him with a relatively low-cost tender offer. So he doesn’t have a lot of leverage, with the Patriots able to keep him for the next two years.
The one way Butler could get some leverage is by not coming in to work. Butler did not attend Thursday’s Organized Team Activities, although it’s unclear whether his contract had anything to do with that.
Five cities competed this week for a trio of Super Bowls. The two losing cities got the NFL’s equivalent of a participation ribbon: A personal letter from Commissioner Roger Goodell urging them to keep bidding for future Super Bowl.
“It is clear the Tampa Bay region will be in excellent position to contend for Super Bowls in the years to come,” Goodell wrote. “Thank you for your leadership and many contributions to the success of the league. Our office and the Super Bowl Advisory Committee will continue to support your efforts.”
Of course it will; the NFL needs to constantly have more cities bidding on Super Bowls than it has Super Bowls to award. Otherwise, the NFL won’t get the kind of competitive offers that include free presidential suites for owners and $50,000 in per-team “credits” for expenses teams inevitably will incur. Once the supply of viable candidates to host the games matches the demand, the jig will be up for the NFL.
Which is why the NFL needs to constantly encourage the losing cities to keep trying — and why the owners of every team need to cajole the local politicians and business leaders into aspiring to host the game. The more cities at the table, the more free stuff for the people in each city who already can afford to buy their own stuff, over and over again.
Four weeks after teammate Johnathan Banks said he went from “fat” to “looking like a defensive back,” Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston shared some details of how he’s dropped an estimated 18 pounds over the last three months.
Winston told ESPN.com he’s focused on portion control in his diet, has avoided late-night snacks and has tried to make the most of high-intensity workouts with renowned trainer Tim Grover, to whom Winston reached out early in the offseason.
“I heard from around the league that most rookies that come in, if they have a great year, they don’t have a plan for the offseason,” Winston said. “I had never handled an actual offseason before.”
Winston, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft, played baseball in the spring during his college career at Florida State. He first had to convince Grover he would be committed to getting in better shape, then had to make some adjustments to follow Grover’s diet plan.
“He’s a special individual from a knowledge standpoint,” Grover said. “He just didn’t know it. He’s gone so long on natural talent, he didn’t know how to take care of his body, what to eat, what to drink or how to get his rest.”
Winston said he started in the “upper 240s” and that Grover developed a exercise and diet plan with an ideal weight range of 225-229 in mind. The Bucs list Winston at 231 pounds.
“My body feels much better,” Winston said. “When you’re working out consistently and staying in shape, you never have to get in shape. That’s the biggest thing.”
Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets are expected to agree eventually on a contract that will make Fitzpatrick the starting quarterback. But until that gets done, Geno Smith is running the first-string offense. And teammates think he’s showing the kind of leadership qualities they need to see.
“I definitely agree,” Pryor told NJ.com. “He’s always on time. He’s always doing the right things. At first [in previous years], I saw that Geno really didn’t talk to too many people. But now he speaks and he goes about things the right way. That’s what you have to do when you want guys to believe in you. You have to make sure you talk with everyone. You have to have everybody’s trust, everybody believing in you. Because we’re only going to go as far as you’re going to take us, along with this defense. Every great team, you have to see great quarterback play.”
That Smith is getting praise for being on time isn’t exactly a huge endorsement, but Smith seems to have more faith in the locker room than he did last year, when he lost the starting job when teammate IK Enemkpali punched him and broke his jaw. Pryor says the Jets now believe they can win with Smith.
“I do,” Pryor said. “He has to believe that as well. I think he’s very confident. Before the [Enemkpali] incident happened last year, I think he was having a great camp. I think he was buying guys in. In this locker room, guys were believing in him. I’m pretty sure everything happens for a reason. He learned from that moment. And I think he’s better. Guys are confident that he can get the job done. He just has to be confident in himself, and I think he is. So far, I’m happy with the results.”
As the Jets leak details of their contract order to Fitzpatrick in an attempt to gain leverage in the ongoing negotiations, these comments could also help the Jets on that front. Everyone wants Fitzpatrick to return as the Jets’ starter, but some are saying that if Fitzpatrick doesn’t return, Smith is up to the task.
When Haloti Ngata was traded from the Ravens to the Lions last offseason, he stayed in Baltimore for much of the summer, his family still lived there, and it took him a few months before he was really a fit in the Lions’ defense.
This year, however, Ngata signed a new contract, moved his family to Detroit, and he is a full participant in voluntary offseason work.
“This is totally different,” Ngata told the Detroit Free Press at Organized Team Activities. “I’m here, family’s here so I don’t really have to worry about trying to find a house or where we’re going to stay, traveling back and forth. I’ve been here all off-season and it’s just been great.”
The 32-year-old Ngata said he “definitely” views himself as a team leader, to a greater extent than he was last year.
“I’m really the oldest guy now,” Ngata said.
A five-time Pro Bowler with the Ravens, Ngata is out to show he still has something left — and to show the younger players in Detroit how its done.
Here’s a closer look at the Bills’ nepotism-free coaching staff.
Ryan Davis is now a “Lotto” in the Jaguars defense, which means parts Leo (weak-side DE), part Otto (strong-side LB). (He’d probably rather be a Liger, since they are bred for their skills and magic.)
Here’s a look at the sound from the first weeks of Raiders OTAs.
Giants RB Andre Williams, on the team’s plan to use a quartet of tailbacks in 2015: “I don’t think the four-headed monster was very scary.”
Washington TE Vernon Davis says that TE Jordan Reed “runs routes better than the best wide receiver in the league.”
Chip Kelly is gone from Eagles practices — and so is the non-stop music.
Bears WR Kieran Duncan hopes to show there’s more to him than 4.32 speed.
Get to know Packers third-round LB Kyle Fackrell.
Vikings Hall of Fame DE Carl Eller spoke to the team’s rookies this week.
Falcons special-team coordinator Keith Armstrong said the team’s unit was average last year.
Some aren’t surprised that Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan eventually sounded off about his time in New Orleans.
Here’s a recap of the first week of OTAs with the Buccaneers.
Here’s a list of five players to watch during Seahawks OTAs.
Here’s a look at some old Rams billboards. (Which confirms that today’s PFT billboard would declare, “Slow news day.”)
The Brandon Marshall who plays for the Jets is skipping Organized Team Activities even though he’s under contract, but the Brandon Marshall who plays for the Broncos is at OTAs even though he doesn’t have a contract.
Marshall, a starting inside linebacker in Denver, is a restricted free agent who has not signed his one-year, $2.533 million tender offer. But he says he’s comfortable enough in Denver that he feels OK about practicing now and worrying about his contract later.
“I love it here. I love it here, man,” Marshall told ESPN. “Ever since I got here, in 2013, they’ve treated me like family, even when I was on the practice squad. It just shows, I’m really all about ball, getting better and being with the team. . . . To stay away, that’s not me. I feel comfortable being here.”
Broncos G.M. John Elway has said he wants to get a long-term deal done with Marshall, and Marshall wants one as well. In the mean time, Marshall isn’t letting the lack of a contract hold him back.
On Friday, reports began to surface that the Jets offered weeks ago to free-agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick a three-year contract that would pay out $12 million in the first year. Curiously omitted from those reports were the rest of the details regarding the offer — details that would say plenty about its overall quality.
Let’s set aside for now the question whether Fitzpatrick deserves more than $12 million per year in light of: (1) the market for starting quarterbacks; (2) recent increases in the salary cap that haven’t sparked a similar spike in the starting quarterback market; and (3) the franchise-record 31 touchdown passes from Fitzpatrick’s first and only season with the franchise. The far more intriguing aspect of the latest Fitz-related developments is that some in the media have flat-out whiffed in their assessment of the information leaked by the team. (And of course it was leaked by the team.)
The biggest offender, from the perspective of the size and reach of the organization, has been the Associated Press. Consider this key portion of the AP article: “A person familiar with the negotiations told the Associated Press on Friday night that the Jets made a three-year offer to the quarterback in March that includes $12 million guaranteed in the first year. . . . The New York Post first reported the terms of the offer, which is higher than the previously reported amounts that were closer to $7 million per year. However, total guarantees and contract structure of the Jets’ standing offer are uncertain.”
That tail-on-the-donkey “however” doesn’t alter the characterization appearing immediately before it. Instead, it makes the overall message even more confounding.
Without knowing the structure of the full deal, it’s impossible to say that a $12 million payout in 2016 results in a three-year average that exceeds $7 million per year. If, for example, the offer pays out $9 million in 2017 and 2018, the three-year average is still $7 million.
For weeks, PFT has heard that the problem isn’t the Year One payout but the rest of the deal. Without specific information about the rest of the deal, it’s impossible to characterize it in comparison to prior reports that the deal is worth $7 million annually.
Whether inadvertent or deliberate (the fact that the article later claims that Fitzpatrick “apparently” wants $18 million per year suggests the latter), the AP has helped the Jets’ not-so-subtle effort to overstate the value of the offer that Fitzpatrick has yet to accept as part of a P.R. push aimed at persuading unsettled Jets fans that the team is being reasonable and/or that Fitzpatrick isn’t. The better approach continues to be trying to find a middle ground, but the Jets apparently aren’t willing to yield in their position.
The John Elway take-it-or-leave-it approach works best when there’s a freshly-minted Lombardi in the lobby. Four years ago, before the team went to a pair of Super Bowls, Elway didn’t lowball an aging and rickety Peyton Manning. With neither Peyton Manning in his prime nor any other franchise quarterbacks walking through the door for the Jets, the best play would be to find a fair middle ground between whatever the Jets want to pay and whatever Fitzpatrick wants.
The Washington Post poll that supporters of the local NFL team’s name believed would end the debate has potentially reinvigorated it — along with sparking a new debate over whether there should even be a debate about the propriety of the name.
On Friday, a group of Native American leaders and activists (i.e., not “white liberal journalists”) held a conference call aimed at further criticizing the poll.
Via the Associated Press, California State San Bernardino sociology professor James Fenelon called the poll “immoral.” He also echoed concerns that the poll was not representative of Native American communities. Likewise, Amanda Blackhorse, who serves as the lead plaintiff in the case attacking the team’s federal trademark protection, called the poll “misguided,” adding that it won’t diminish attacks against the name.
“This issue is not about polling,” National Congress of American Indians executive director Jackie Pata added. “This issue is about human rights.”
Some would say that these voices carry much more weight that 450 unverified self-identifying Native American adults who said in response to a series of questions about the name that the name doesn’t bother them. Moving forward, those voices need to find ways to get their message across in an effective and meaningful way.
As worthy as the cause may be, the opposition to the name has been at times disorganized, ebbing and flowing and all too often operating on a reactive instead of proactive basis. The movement would benefit greatly from a skilled and experienced P.R. professional who would launch a sustained assault on the name featuring, for example, conference calls occurring at a time other than the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. No matter how compelling the quotes, the messages sent Friday will rarely register on the national radar screen.
To launch the kind of P.R. push needed to impose pressure not on the team or the league but their sponsors, the movement first needs money. Stockpile enough of it through donations from those who believe that the name should go, and the Native American groups opposed to the name will have the foundation for devising ways to persuade Native Americans who oppose the name and non-Natives who agree with them to take the case to those truly in a position to compel a change.
Friday’s appearance on PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio from Saints coach Sean Payton focused initially on the then-fresh claims from former Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan that he wasn’t running the unit when he was, you know, running the unit. (Payton called that notion “silly.”)
It also would have been silly not to take advantage of the time with Payton to address other topics of interest. With the interview happening during Organized Teams Activities and on the heels of the Ravens losing a week of OTAs after putting rookies in pads earlier this month, I asked Payton to explain the impact of the forfeited practices.
“I don’t think it’s a big deal,” Payton said. “The reason I say that is, look, it doesn’t keep the players from lifting and running and so a week of OTAs would be three on-the-field sessions. You don’t want to lose those opportunities and, shoot, one of those opportunities you might have some type of team building experience set up. I think each team does similar things during the OTAs. There’s a lot of offense versus defense. There’s some restrictions regarding one-on-ones but the players are out there in their element, and they’re going though a little bit of a practice format for two hours. So really that equates to about six hours on the field.”
He makes a good point about the team-building day. Plenty of teams cancel the final OTA session for some sort of excursion away from football. So instead of losing three practices, the Ravens as a practical matter could say they lost only two. Which would be only four hours of lost practice time.
While it may not be a huge deal to lose a few OTAs, there’s still plenty of value in having them.
“I think it’s an important part of the process from a mental standpoint,” Payton said. “When it gets to Phase 3, the focus is on some of the nuances of what you’re trying to do defensively, offensively, or the kicking game. To get out on the field and work at the installation. I think it’s important for the coaching staffs as well. Many times you had change and you are getting on the same page and getting out there and coaching and things come up that you want to discuss. The idea being that when training camp comes this installation we’ve had before, and we’re gonna repeat it. We know that obviously a big ally to learning is just being able to go back through it again.
“The most important part though is the early phases [of the offseason program],” Payton added. “These guys come in the complex lifting weights, getting in shape, and really not feeling like they’re coming to practice. I think that’s important, the players are able to come into the facility and feel like in those early first two phases that they’re coming to really work out, condition and build that camaraderie, build the things you look for in a good football team.”
Payton’s perspective could come as a surprise to many, since most would assume that football coaches regard football practice as being more important than working out and otherwise not engaging in football practice. For the Ravens, the reality is that, even without three (or two) days of football practice, the players will be able to continue working out, just like they were in the earlier phases of the offseason program.
To hear the full Payton interview, download the podcast at iTunes or audioBoom. Or, if you’re in one of the markets that carries weekly “best of” show (like D.C, Charlotte, Minneapolis, Seattle, New Orleans, and many more), check your local listings for the two-hour slice of what was the best stuff of the week that was.
When the Jets leaked word that they’re offering free agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick a contract that would pay him $12 million this year, the clear implication was that it’s a good offer. The reality is that, for a starting quarterback in today’s NFL, it’s not a good offer.
According to the salary database Spotrac, there are 16 quarterbacks in the NFL who currently have a contract that pays an average of $18 million a year or more. So half of the league’s starters are making at least 50 percent more than the Jets are offering Fitzpatrick.
Another six quarterbacks are making more than $12 million but less than $18 million. Which means Fitzpatrick, if he took a contract paying $12 million a year, would be paid less than 22 NFL quarterbacks. And among the starters making less than Fitzpatrick are several who are still on their rookie contracts but would surely make more on the open market, including Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Andrew Luck and Blake Bortles. This year’s first two picks, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, are also in the group of quarterbacks who will make less than $12 million a year only because of the rookie salary structure, not because the market has decided that they’re actually worth less than $12 million a year.
Also bear in mind that the Jets specifically leaked only what they were offering to pay Fitzpatrick this year, not what they’re offering to pay him in future years of a multi-year contract. That suggests that the deal the Jets are offering Fitzpatrick is actually worse than $12 million a year.
Bottom line, despite some reporters portraying the Jets’ offer as “more in line with the marketplace,” the reality is that the Jets are not offering Fitzpatrick the kind of money that you’d expect a quarterback who threw for 3,905 yards, 31 touchdowns and 15 interceptions while leading his team to a 10-6 record to make.
Unfortunately for Fitzpatrick, he doesn’t have a lot of leverage. The offseason game of quarterback musical chairs is over, and he’s the only one standing, while the Jets are the only team with a seat open. He’s probably going to end up taking less money than his 2015 performance says he’s worth. But no one should portray the Jets’ offer as a good deal. By NFL starting quarterback standards, it’s not.
After spending the fourth overall pick in the draft on running back Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys fielded calls about whether they wanted to trade one of their veteran backs. But they said no.
“We got calls during the draft asking to trade for a couple of our running backs, and we just don’t have that interest,” Jones said, via the Star-Telegram.
McFadden, who is coming off a 1,089-yard season, is heading into the final year of his contract and has a $2.15 million cap hit. The Cowboys just signed Morris to a two-year, $3.5 million contract in March. Both players are affordable and have been productive, which could make them worth something in a trade.
So it wouldn’t be surprising to hear McFadden and Morris mentioned in trade talks again. Even if, for now, the Cowboys aren’t interested.
That rollocking interview in which it became clear that Rex-Rob Ryan has taken charge in Buffalo included an effort by Rob Ryan to address the notion that he got a job with the Bills due to the fact that he’s the twin brother of the head coach.
“I heard this one the other day: Well, it’s nepotism. Nepotism?” Ryan told Jenny Vrentas of TheMMQB.com. “I’ve been in this league 20 years. I have coordinated the last 12 years in a row.”
Yes, and Ryan has been fired multiple times over the last 12 years, most recently after presiding over historically bad defenses in Dallas. So of course it’s nepotism; does anyone think Rex would have hired Rob for a position that didn’t previously exist in Buffalo (assistant head coach/defense) but for the fact that their once shared a womb?
It was Rob’s effort to dismiss the notion of nepotism that caused him to launch into the questionable rant that someone else was running the defense and that Rob Ryan went entirely against his nature and kept his mouth shut while it was happening. Why not just admit that the brotherly relationship helped create the level of trust that Rex craves as he goes “all in” to try to save his job with a playoff berth?
Even if Rob Ryan somehow would have been hired but for his relationship with Rex, the Ryan twin reunion already is showing signs of the kind of symbiosis that will accentuate already strong personalities. Putting them together will only make each of them more combustible, prompting both guys to take the kind of risks they wouldn’t take if they were operating on their own.
The mere fact that Rex-Rob opted to react to a bad month in Buffalo by granting a “press record and get out of the way” interview shows that their blended personalities will result in behavior that is more bombastic, more combative, more fraught with risk.
Which will make the 2016 season in Buffalo even more compelling — especially if the situation begins to fall apart and Rex-Rob opt to try to get things under control by being even more bombastic, even more combative, and taking even more risks.
In other words, get your popcorn ready. And keep it out of Rex-Rob’s reach.