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Trestman shoots down QB controversy, Cutler will start

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While there were many things questionable about the Bears last night, the identity of their quarterback for next week’s loser-leaves-town match against the Packers is easy.

Bears coach Marc Trestman dismissed any potential quarterback controversy immediately after last night’s 54-11 loss, saying there was “no question there” Jay Cutler was going to start over Josh McCown in the NFC North-deciding game against next week.

While there’s a solid argument to play McCown, the reality is the Bears didn’t protect well enough to give any quarterback a chance last night. Cutler was sacked a season-high five times, and hit so often that the sack number seems low.

We lost the line of scrimmage,” Trestman said, via Michael Wright of ESPN.com. “We didn’t do as good a job as obviously we’ve done at protecting Jay. He got hit probably more in this game than he’s been hit at any time during the season.”

Trestman wasn’t willing to pull Cutler last night until it was truly ridiculous against the Eagles. But with the season on the line next week, it will be interesting to monitor the situation, especially since it’s far from certain that Cutler’s the guy the Bears want to build their future around, given his pending free agency.

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Seahawks G.M. on Richard Sherman trade talk: “Neither side is super urgent”

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As casually as they came up, the Seahawks sort of dismissed the Richard Sherman trade rumors yesterday.

All of which makes it an extraordinary piece of non-business in the NFL, with both sides openly acknowledging a potential divorce, while vowing to stay together for the kids if that’s what it takes. They seem to shrug as if either outcome is fine, even though it’s unlike just about anything we’ve ever seen.

“Richard may see it as a fresh start for him and we may see it as a way to clear some cap room and get younger, but neither side is super urgent about it,” Seahawks General Manager John Schneider said, via Stephen Cohen of SeattlePI.com.

Schneider said that once the rumors got out there in March, there was no point denying the obvious — that they’d part ways with the veteran corner for the right price.

“We didn’t really feel like there was anything to hide,” Schneider said. “People say, ‘Well, why do you have your business out the open?’ It was basically out there. People had been talking about it, and there were rumors about it. . . .

“We would consider it because it’s been a mutual thing. It’s OK, and we feel like it would clear cap room and we would be able to get younger, but that’s the only reason we’d do it. The guy’s one of the top cornerbacks of the league. You don’t just like give him way, you know?”

Though the relationship with Sherman hasn’t always been peaceful, Schneider said “time heals all wounds” when asked about the relationship with the star cornerback.

Of course, by talking so openly about it, Schneider also keeps Sherman’s name in the news. And with that kind of top-of-mind awareness, someone might make a late call, which they’ve already admitted they’d listen to.

And the honesty continues to amaze us, which probably says more about the NFL in general than the Seahawks in particular.

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Report: Adrian Peterson agrees to two-year, $7 million deal with Saints

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Adrian Peterson will be playing in the Minnesota Vikings season opener this September. He’ll just be doing so for the team on the opposite sidelines.

Peterson reportedly told Josina Anderson of ESPN.com that he has agreed to a two-year deal with the New Orleans Saints worth a total of $7 million.

Peterson also gave the full details of the contract as well. The deal is a one-year contract to start with an option for a second year for New Orleans. Peterson will earn $3.5 million in fully guaranteed money this season with a $2.5 million signing bonus and $1 million in guaranteed base salary.

His 2018 option would carry $3.5 million in non-guaranteed money with $2.4 million in roster bonuses. The $3.5 million comes from $1.05 million in base salary, $1.65 million in per game roster bonuses, a $750,000 roster bonus that triggers on the third day of the league year and a $50,000 workout bonus.

Incentives also exist that could raise the total value of the contract.

With those parameters in place, Peterson would carry a salary cap charge of $2.25 million this year for the Saints and a $4.75 million total charge in 2018.

The Saints currently have $8.5 million in salary cap space according to the NFLPA database.

New Orleans is set to host Peterson’s former team on Monday Night Football to open the 2017 season.

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Jameis Winston still musing about playing baseball

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Two years ago, as the Buccaneers were preparing to make quarterback Jameis Winston the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, concerns lingered regarding the possibility that Winston eventually could do what Bo Jackson, Tampa’s No. 1 overall pick from 1986, did: Play baseball.

The team addressed the possibility of Winston trying to be a two-sport player (like Jackson eventually did, but not for the Bucs) by adding language in Winston’s contract that bars him from moonlighting in America’s one-time pastime. Two years later, it seems like the window is still open for the sport that used to result in kids breaking windows (back when they used to, you know, go outside).

Appearing recently on the Talk of Fame Network (via JoeBucsFan.com), Winston admitted that he’s still considering playing baseball at some point.

I was really serious about baseball,” Winston said. “As a matter of fact, my agency is a baseball agency. They really thought I was going to be a baseball player. But this football thing ended up working out for me. It was a dream of mine to be an NFL quarterback and be a pro baseball player. But the way time has changed that isn’t really allowed any more. Being from Bessemer, Alabama, seeing Bo Jackson and hearing that name around a lot, that was a dream of mine. You never know. Football, the lifespan of this sport is not really guaranteed, so baseball might be there one day.”

He added that he doesn’t aspire to be a two-sport player. Which means that, if he’d ever play baseball, he’d first walk away from football.

Whether he intended it or not, the remark gives him a little extra leverage as he enters the third year of his rookie contract. After 2017, he’ll be eligible for a second deal — and if the Bucs want to slam the door on Jameis dumping football for baseball over the next seven years or so, they can give him the kind of mega-extension that will make him continue to choose football over baseball indefinitely. Especially if the signing bonus is sufficiently large that it would trigger a major repayment obligation if he retires prematurely.

Of course, while a football player playing baseball wouldn’t be unprecedented, the Bucs signing a quarterback they drafted to a second deal would be. In more than 40 years of existence, the Buccaneers have never done that once.

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A.J. McCarron “at peace with” being in Cincinnati another year

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Bengals backup quarterback A.J. McCarron heard the same chatter everyone else did, and thought there was a decent chance he’d be dealt this offseason.

But upon reporting to offseason conditioning, he’s now accepting the fact that he’s likely to sit behind Andy Dalton for another year and wait for his chance.

“Like I said, as a competitor you want to play. It’s just in you,” he said, via Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “I’m a huge competitor, no matter what I’m playing. I’ve always been that way. I want to play. But, like I said, these are the circumstances and it’s something I can’t control. So there’s no reason to really worry about it, think about it, because then it spills over into life outside of football and it could affect your marriage or relationships with people. I don’t want that. I try to keep it; my mindset is football and everything else and just enjoy it. A lot of people wish they could be in my, in any of our shoes, my shoes talking from my point of view, to get paid the amount of money we get paid to play a game. So I love it.

I’m at peace with it. It is what it is.”

Of course, he’ll probably be far less peaceful if he’s a restricted free agent after next season. Because he spent most of his rookie year on the reserve/non-football injury list with a shoulder problem (not activated until December), he wasn’t credited with an accrued season for free agency. If that stands, he’d be a restricted free agent instead of unrestricted next offseason, giving the Bengals control over his future for an extra year.

He’s filed a motion to have his rookie year count toward the four years you need to be unrestricted, but he said he didn’t expect to hear anything until 2018.

“It’s just something they’re going to fight on their side and I’m going to fight on my side to prove why I shouldn’t have to have another year,” he said. “It is what it is. It’s what the lawyers and all that will fix out. We’ll see what happens.”

Of course, there’s been trade speculation about him already, and some thought he’d be dealt by now. But he’s still in Cincinnati, which may be the case for a year longer than he had planned.

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D’Onta Foreman reveals he lost infant son during last season at Texas

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One of several running backs expected to be selected in this week’s NFL Draft, D’Onta Foreman’s final season at Texas was marred by a personal tragedy.

In an interview with Andrea Kremer for NFL.com, Foreman revealed his young son, D’Onta Jr., died last season after being born prematurely.

D’Onta Jr. was born last September and weighed less than a pound at his birth. He lived less than two months before developing an infection in his intestines while Foreman was in Lubbock the day before Texas’ game with Texas Tech.

“Biggest game of my life,” Foreman said. “Biggest game of my life. There was just something about that game. It was like ‘I’m doing it for my son. I’m leaving it all out here.'”

Foreman rushed for 341 yards and three touchdowns as Texas Tech that day. It’s the third highest rushing total in a game in Texas history.

Afterward, Foreman received the word that his son had passed away.

“I really didn’t know how to feel,” Foreman said. “I was like, ‘no…’ I was driving and I was crying while I was driving. I was crushed, I was so hurt. I felt like something was taken away from me before I even had the chance to experience it.”

Amidst the tragedy, Foreman posted one of the best rushing seasons in Texas history. He became just the second Longhorn running back to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. His 2,028 yards trails only the 2,124 of Ricky Williams set during his Heisman Trophy winning season in 1998. He ranks ninth all-time on Texas’ rushing list despite not becoming a full-time starter until his final season in Austin.

Foreman is likely a second or third day draft pick this week. On a positive note, Foreman and his girlfriend are once again expecting. The new arrival is due on Sept. 16, the same day D’Onta Jr. was born last year.

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Steelers have no information on Martavis Bryant reinstatement

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Despite several reports that Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant would soon be reinstated from his league-imposed suspension, the team knows nothing about it.

Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert said the team hasn’t heard anything from the league about Bryant’s status.

We have not gotten word on Martavis Bryant,” Colbert said. “We have no information. We have no idea if we’ll get information [before the draft] or not. We have to operate under the assumption that, until he is here, he is not here.”

Bryant has shown a lot of promise as a big-play threat, but he was suspended for the entire 2016 season because of multiple failed drug tests. If the Steelers aren’t going to find out until after the draft whether they’ll get Bryant back this year, they may feel they need to draft a receiver, just in case they don’t get Bryant back.

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Still using a crutch, Mike Pouncey had stem-cell procedure

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Dolphins center Mike Pouncey continues to have trouble with his hip, as evidenced by one obvious fact: He attended the funeral of former college teammate Aaron Hernandez on Monday while using a crutch.

According to multiple reports, Pouncey had a stem-cell procedure on the injured hip in an effort to accelerate its healing. Pouncey reportedly has had no setbacks.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the procedure was a normal part of the rehab process.

The Dolphins have said Pouncey will be ready by Week One of the 2017 regular season. How far in advance of that he’ll be ready to go remains to be seen.

Pouncey missed 11 regular-season games and a postseason context in 2016. He last appeared in every game of the season in 2016.

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John Lynch admits he’ll consider a quarterback at No. 2

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49ers G.M. John Lynch threw water on the report that the team is strongly considering taking a quarterback with the second overall pick in the draft during a Monday pre-draft press conference. And then Lynch essentially confirmed the report.

“I use the word ‘assumptions,'” Lynch said regarding the NFL Network report regarding the very real possibility that the 49ers will go for a quarterback at No. 2. “It’s what people do. They try to gather, but I know that, I don’t know obviously, but like I said I think the discipline out of this building’s been excellent. And so, I think that’s what they are, they’re assumptions rather than, I think in each situation it says ‘sources.’ I don’t know who those sources are because there’s only a few people that know and so we feel real good about that.”

But then the ultimate source in San Francisco acknowledged that, yes, a quarterback could be taken in that spot.

“I think we’ve stated from the beginning that a franchise quarterback is something we believe is essential to winning in this league,” Lynch said. “We hope that [Brian] Hoyer and [Matt] Barkley come in, and they were both brought in for a reason, but we feel like we’ll continue, always continue, to try to improve ourselves at that position. And so I think the answer is yes.”

Regardless of which guy the 49ers take, Lynch said they’re narrowed their selection down to two or three guys, and that he and coach Kyle Shanahan will make the final decision. One potential decision remains a trade out of the No. 2 spot to a lower position.

“What we’ve said, and the truth of the matter is, we’re willing to listen,” Lynch said. “But we’re very comfortable that we can get to the point where there’s a direction we can go where we’ll be ecstatic and we’ll be passionate about that player.”

They’ll be even more passionate if they can get the player they’d take at No. 2 and also land another pick or two for sliding down. Despite more than 20 new additions to a team that went 2-14 a year ago, the 49ers have plenty of needs — and they could use as many draft picks as they can get.

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First college games at new Falcons stadium will have roof closed

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Atlanta’s new stadium has a roof that is supposed to open and close with the flip of a switch. Until further notice, the switch will be in the “off” position.

Via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the college football games due to be played on Labor Day weekend at the new venue will proceed with the roof closed. The stated reason for the decision is to “eliminate the variable of weather.”

Of course, the main purpose for having a roof that opens and closes on demand is to allow it to open when the weather is going to be favorable and to close when the weather will be inclement. The advance decision to go with a closed roof underscores the lingering challenges arising from the complex roof of the futuristic structure.

Gary Stokan, president and CEO of the company responsible for the Chik-fil-A Kickoff claimed that the Alabama-Florida State and Georgia Tech-Tennessee games will have a closed roof for reasons unrelated to construction delays that are currently pushing the stadium’s opening right up against the preseason games the Falcons will be hosting in late August. Stokan says he didn’t even ask whether the roof could have been open.

“I had concluded we were going to keep it closed, anyway, so I never even asked if we would be able to open it,” Stokan said. “I know when it’s closed everything is going to go well. The air conditioning will be fine. . . . I think whenever you put on an event the less things you need to be concerned about, the better. And I know with the roof closed it’ll be a great atmosphere and experience.”

It would be an even better atmosphere if the roof were open, and having the flexibility to make that decision as close to kickoff as possible is one of the benefits of having a roof that opens and closes. With plenty of rumors swirling that the roof isn’t working the way it should (and there are some concerns it may not work the way it should during the 2017 season, or ever), this development justifies curiosity that the new stadium will be like that convertible with the top that won’t swing open, no matter how warm or sunny it may be.

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Report: NFL teams holding missed bowl game against Jabrill Peppers

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Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers was one of a handful of draft prospects who didn’t play in his team’s bowl game. And now that may be costing him in the eyes of NFL teams.

Adam Schefter reported today on ESPN that there are teams with concerns that Peppers didn’t play in his bowl game. Those teams apparently worry that by sitting out Michigan’s Orange Bowl contest against Florida State, he showed a lack of commitment to his team.

Why should that affect Peppers’ draft stock when it hasn’t seemed to affect the stock of LSU running back Leonard Fournette and Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, both of whom also sat out their teams’ bowl games? Apparently because Peppers didn’t reveal he wasn’t playing until the day of the Orange Bowl, whereas both Fournette and McCaffrey addressed their decisions with their coaches and teammates well in advance of their bowl games.

However, it’s a little odd that this report is coming from Schefter today, because on the day of the bowl game, Schefter reported that Peppers had legitimately suffered a hamstring injury and wanted to play but physically couldn’t.

A few NFL decision-makers, including Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, have said they would be concerned about a player who sat out his bowl game. But this is the first report we’ve heard a report that a specific player is actually dropping on draft boards for that decision.

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Albert Wilson signs RFA tender with Chiefs

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The deadline for restricted free agents to sign with other teams has come and gone, which leaves players yet to sign their tenders with little reason not to do so.

Chiefs wide receiver Albert Wilson is among the latest to come to that conclusion. The NFL’s transaction wire brings word that Wilson has signed his tender, which leaves him set to make $1.797 million in Kansas City this season.

Wilson has spent the last three years with the Chiefs and made five starts last season. He caught 31 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns and also had a 55-yard touchdown run while playing the third-most snaps at wideout behind Jeremy Maclin and Chris Conley.

The Chiefs didn’t add any free agents to the group, which also includes 2016 rookie standout Tyreek Hill. An addition in the draft this week and a bigger role for Hill could lead to a different one for Wilson come September.

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John Elway mum on Joe Mixon’s status

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Pre-draft press conferences usually don’t result in much useful draft information, given the competitive and secretive nature of the process. On Monday, Broncos executive V.P. of football operations and General Manager John Elway was extra secretive about the team’s assessment of one of the most controversial prospects in the draft class.

After declining to say whether running back Joe Mixon is or isn’t on the team’s draft board, Elway provided this vague assessment of the team’s evaluation of the former Oklahoma running back’s character: “We’re still evaluating that. Obviously, that’s an issue and it’s something that we’re continuing to look at while getting as much background as we can on Joe to see where he may fall for us.”

Elway also provided a general, and generally positive, assessment of the team’s meeting with Mixon.

“We had a good meeting with him,” Elway said. “There’s no question. I didn’t get a chance to spend a lot of time with him, but I had a meeting with him. We went through the whole process and what happened. I’m sure he had been through it several times. But for us to be able to hear it from him, and what happened — we went through all that.”

Whether any of that makes the Broncos more or less likely to pick Mixon remains to be unseen. Unlike other teams, however, the current ownership situation in Denver gives Elway more leeway than other football executives may have. The Broncos currently don’t have a single owner in the classic sense, with a small committee running the franchise until one of the children of Pat Bowlen emerges as ready and able to take over.

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Mike Maccagnan: Interest in QBs isn’t referendum on Christian Hackenberg

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The Jets used a second-round pick on quarterback Christian Hackenberg last year, but that decision doesn’t appear to have taken quarterbacks off the table for an early pick in this year’s draft.

The Jets have spent time with the top prospects in this year’s class and the sixth pick in the draft leaves them in prime position to add one of them to the roster on Thursday night. General Manager Mike Maccagnan wasn’t tipping his hand in any direction during a press conference on Monday, but he did say that the time the Jets were spending with quarterbacks over the last month was not a sign that they were writing off Hackenberg.

“I know it’s like: If this happens, then this must be the case,” Maccagnan said, via NJ.com. “I don’t think it’s a referendum on one or another player. I think it’s: Until you’re in a position where you feel [good] with where you’re at — and we’re not at that position yet. But we may be. Time will tell.”

Maccagnan’s hardly the first to espouse that philosophy and, as he shared Monday, former Packers G.M. Ron Wolf shared his belief in drafting a quarterback every year while interviewing Maccagnan as a Jets consultant in 2015.

Time will also tell whether the Jets are making the sixth pick or not, of course. They’re reportedly interested in trading down and their spot could move as they try to stockpile picks to reseed a roster that’s in need of help in several spots this offseason.

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Adrian Peterson to Saints doesn’t make much sense, for Peterson

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It’s obvious why the Saints would want Adrian Peterson. It’s not obvious why Adrian Peterson would want the Saints. Unless, of course, no one else wants Peterson.

But even if no other team currently is offering Peterson $3 million or so per year, his likely role (Mark Ingram reportedly would still be the lead back) and the perceived ability of the team to help Peterson finish his career with a Super Bowl win (the Saints have three straight 7-9 seasons in a division that produced the last two NFC champions) suggests that Peterson’s better move would be to watch and to wait. Injuries are inevitable, especially at the tailback position. If a short-list contender loses its starting running back for an extended stretch (like the Vikings did last year in Week Two when Peterson tore a meniscus), Peterson instantly has leverage along with an opportunity to become a key contributor for a team that could be playing in February.

But it’s possible that the Saints have put the hard sell on Peterson, with coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees persuading Peterson that the Saints may be ready to party like it’s 2009, the season that saw New Orleans take down Peterson and the Vikings en route to a Super Bowl victory.

Regardless, the decision seems a little hasty from Peterson’s perspective. While that could be end up being very good for the Saints, it could end up being a mistake for the player.

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Time of testing a factor in assessing credibility of diluted sample excuse

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Every player who attends the Scouting Combine must submit to drug testing. With two of the players who were tested at the Scouting Combine in 2017 generating positive tests via diluted samples, there’s an important point to keep in mind when deciding whether the explanation for the failed drug test passes the smell test.

The samples are collected very early in the morning, with the players often getting the “wakey wakey” business before doing their business into a cup. So the diluted samples either resulted from a player drinking huge amounts of water before going to be and then: (1) failing asleep with a rapidly-filling bladder; and (2) sleeping through the night with a very full bladder, or from a guy waking up early and drinking copious amounts of water in order to ensure that certain substances won’t be detected in the sample.

The statement issued on behalf of former Michigan defensive back Jabrill Peppers accounts for this dynamic by pointing out that the player “was being pumped with fluids, drinking 8-10 bottles of water before he went to bed, because he was the first guy to work out two days for the LBs and DBs.”

Is it possible he actually drank that much water before going to sleep, fell asleep with that much water in his system, and slept through the night without having to get up to unload most of the 8-10 bottles of water before proving a sample that wasn’t dilute? Sure. But it’s also possible that Foster, Peppers, and anyone else who generated a test sufficiently dilute to be regarded as an effort to beat the test deliberately ingested extra water to ensure that any banned substances would be undetectable in a sample of urine that had been overloaded with water.

Either way, teams that pick either guy will have to assume the risk that the players failed their first major football-or-banned-substance test, and that they’ll fail enough of the various future football-or-banned-substance tests to come to result in their inability to play football.

Should it be this way, with teams testing player urine to determine what they’re doing on their own personal time? Nope. But until the rule changes, the players need to be able to pass the test.

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