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Emmanuel Sanders: Playing with Peyton Manning is “wide receiver heaven”

AP

Emmanuel Sanders is understandably excited to be joining the most potent offensive attack in the league from last season.

Sanders signed a three-year, $15 million deal with the Denver Broncos in March after spending his first four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sanders had his first productive season last year with the Steelers as he recorded 67 catches for 740 yards and six touchdowns.

Sanders now gets a chance to play with Peyton Manning in Denver and is looking forward to the opportunities the Broncos offense will provide. In an interview with Alex Marvez and Bill Polian on Sirius XM NFL Radio, Sanders feels there isn’t a better place to be than working in an offense led by Manning.

“It feels like I just made it into wide receiver heaven,” Sanders said.

“The thing that I like about the Broncos is there is really no number one guy,” he added. “Peyton always goes with the favorable matchup and that’s what I’m really liking about this offense. Any guy could go off for 180 yards or 100 yards with 10 catches any week based off of matchups.”

Sanders said last season was the first time he had been used as an outside receiver after many years playing primarily as a slot receiver. With Wes Welker entrenched in the slot for Denver, Sanders will likely continue to be used on the outside for the Broncos. Denver is looking to replace the production lost from the departure of Eric Decker to the New York Jets this offseason. Sanders and second-round pick Cody Lattimer will be called upon to replace the majority of that production for the Broncos this season.

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Saturday one-liners

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Seven more veteran Jets could be dumped after the 2017 season.

Dolphins K Andrew Franks thinks he could “kill it from 65” without wind.

The Patriots will have several public practices during training camp.

Bills LB Lorenzo Alexander is holding a free youth football camp on Saturday in Oakland, California.

It’s a make or break year for plenty of Ravens.

Could Browns TE Seth DeValve have a big season?

Here’s a look behind the scenes of NBC’s photo shoot with the Bengals.

The Steelers think it’s time for DT Daniel McCullers to move up or move out.

Texans WR Braxton Miller is hoping to make a leap in 2017, in part by recognizing coverages.

Here’s the projected roster and depth chart for the Titans.

Colts RB Robert Turbin thrives as a pass blocker.

Projecting the Jaguars defense for 2016.

Chiefs TE Travis Kelce went yard at the Big Slick Celebrity Softball Game on Friday at Kauffman Stadium.

Raiders QB Derek Carr’s contract is backloaded, which helps the team manage the cap — and helps Carr avoid giving money to the State of California.

Broncos coach Vance Joseph thinks Glover Quin would make a great head coach.

Chargers OL Matt Slauson learned a lot from older players; now that he’s one of them, he can pass the knowledge along.

Get to know Cowboys DE Benson Mayowa.

A Giants fan has a tattoo of WR Odell Beckham Jr.’s most famous catch.

New Washington safety D.J. Swearinger knew that either he or Tony Jefferson would be joining Swearinger’s new team based on the quality of the safety play in 2016; “Watching it on film we was like, ‘Bro, one of us is going to Washington for sure,'” Swearginger told Jefferson.

Here’s a look at the development of the Eagles’ draft class.

The Bears held their annual 5K on Saturday morning. They signed seven of the runners.

Lions CB Teez Tabor made a play while trying to cover WR Marvin Jones, eventually.

Have the benefit of a full offseason with the Packers will benefit LB Jordan Tripp, who joined the team with three weeks left in the 2016 regular season.

Vikings WR Randy Moss was wired for sound when he returned to the team’s facility to learn he’d been added to the Ring of Honor. (The real question is whether they him served food that he’d feed to his dog.)

Saints LT Terron Armstead has undergone surgery to repair the torn labrum in his shoulder, and he’ll focus his rehab efforts in New Orleans.

Panthers G.M. Dave Gettleman says WR Kelvin Benjamin’s “ability to make people miss is to run through them.”

Here’s how you can witness whether Falcons players will be squabbling with each other about Super Bowl LI during training camp.

How did Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston perform under pressure?

The daughter of former 49ers DL Michael Carter, the reigning Olympic gold medalist in the shot put, will compete in the USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships on Saturday.

Rams rookies visited Warner Bros. Studios. (It’s June 24. That’s all I got.)

As he enters a contract year, Seahawks TE Jimmy Graham’s big offseason translate to a big regular season?

Cardinals LB Haason Reddick threw out the first pitch on Friday night at the Diamondbacks game, delivering a strike; “Can’t go up there and look like 50 Cent,” Cardinals OT Will Holden said.

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Bill O’Brien: Clemson’s sophisticated offense helped Deshaun Watson

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NFL coaches often say that college football offenses don’t really get quarterbacks ready to play at the next level. But Texans coach Bill O’Brien says that’s not the case with his rookie quarterback, Deshaun Watson.

O’Brien says Watson ran an offense at Clemson that forced him to develop a mind for football at the highest level.

“He had to learn a pretty sophisticated offense at Clemson,” O’Brien said, via the Houston Chronicle. “He had to do a lot of things at the line of scrimmage. I think he was trained really well. That’s a credit to the Clemson staff. He’d already been in some big games when he got here. When he came here, he put his head down and came to work every day.”

O’Brien has already been impressed with Watson’s football intellect, based only on spring practices.

“For being a rookie, he’s wise beyond his years. He asks great questions in the morning meeting, and you can tell he’s studied the night before. Every practice isn’t perfect. He knows he needs to get a lot better. And he did get better every day during the spring. It’s no pads, of course. It’s not real football, but he did improve in his knowledge of the offense,” O’Brien said.

If Watson keeps that up, he should be ready to start in Week One.

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Broncos still haven’t re-sold stadium naming rights

The Denver Broncos continue to play in a stadium that may as well be known as Vandelay Industries Park. And there’s no indication that this odd dynamic will be ending any time soon.

As noted by 9news.com in Denver, the high-priced latex salesmen from WME-IMG have yet to find a suitable buyer for the rights to “Sports Authority Field,” named for a company that went bankrupt in 2016.

“We continue to work closely with WME-IMG and have had several productive discussions with potential partners,” Broncos spokesman Patrick Smyth told 9news.com. “We’re focused more on finding the right, long-term naming rights partner than meeting any deadline for this process, which is extensive.”

The Broncos assumed full responsibility for the naming-rights deal last August, deciding to keep the name in place — presumably to avoid any negative P.R. that would flow from reverting to a non-corporate moniker and then jamming a new one back in to the official title of the facility.

Regardless, nearly a year after the Broncos decided to continue to keep the name of a non-existent company on their stadium, there’s no indication that a real name will be replacing it any time soon.

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Kerley wishes teams would ask him about Kaepernick

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One of the biggest problems with the various leaks to the media of assumptions and narratives and opinions about Colin Kaepernick is that many of those who are whispering to willing reporters have done no real due diligence about the player. The latest example of a lack of homework comes from one of the men who caught plenty of passes from Kaepernick a year ago.

Receiver Jeremy Kerley, a pleasant surprise in 2016 for the 49ers with 64 total receptions, got and kept his hands on 38 thrown by Kaepernick. Yet no one from any other team has asked Kerley what he thinks about Kaepernick.

I wish they would,” Kerley recently told SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I would speak very highly of him. First, if you don’t stand for something then you don’t stand for nothing. He spoke up about a subject at a time where maybe just the right people weren’t stepping up. He did it, he stood behind it. He made the sacrifice that maybe not a lot of guys would have made knowing that the consequences would be what they were.”

That’s one thing that often gets lost in the lingering resentment and hatred of Kaepernick regarding his decision not to stand for the national anthem in 2016. He had (and clearly still has — as do many) concerns about the training and experience requirements for the issuance of a gun and the power to use it. (If you don’t have at least some concern over the ease with which a police officer can produce a handgun and immediately pull the trigger repeatedly to neutralize a perceived threat in a confined space with a small child present, then you’ve paid no attention at all to the Philando Castile case.)

“You have people that practice law and our lawyers and go to school for eight years, but you can become a cop in six months and don’t have to have the same amount of training as a cosmetologist,” Kaepernick said last August. “That’s insane. Someone that’s holding a curling iron has more education and more training than people that have a gun and are going out on the street to protect us.”

Kerley spent most of the year Kaepernick, arriving via trade from the Lions after his decision to take action, to speak out, and to risk his career for it.

“He’s been a man of his word,” Kerley said. “He still gives back. He’s promoting change. . . . Do I agree with it? Who’s to say. Everybody goes about their business a different way. But do I have much, much respect for him? Hell yeah.”

It’s still not clear what Kaepernick truly wants or expects from his football career. And it’s quite possible that the phone will never ring, regardless of his abilities, team needs, and the inevitability of quarterback injury. The point continues to be this: Few if any teams did any real homework on Kaepernick prior to or during free agency, which suggests given the countless hours otherwise spent researching hundreds of players that coaches and executives knew they would have been wasting their time on a guy ownership would have never approved signing.

That’s where this issue continues to be. A quarterback who nearly won a Super Bowl, whose numbers compared favorably to Tyrod Taylor’s in 2016, and who is still on the right side of 30 has gotten no sniffs as a potential starter in a league where Tom Savage, Brian Hoyer, Cody Kessler, Mike Glennon, and Josh McCown currently sit atop depth charts. And Kaepernick has drawn interest from only one team about being a backup. (He was deemed to be overqualified for the job.)

If anyone wants to continue to rely on reports from those who gladly pass along negative leaks about Kaepernick in support of a belief that these decisions are based only on actual or perceived football skills and abilities, that’s their right, I suppose. But others have the right to continue to say that we’re being fed a steaming plate of BS, and that too many in the media are gladly slopping it onto the plate.

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Before football, Larry Ogunjobi was so obese his parents feared he’d die

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Browns rookie defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi weighs in at 305 pounds — which is a whole lot less than he weighed when he first started playing football.

Ogunjobi was a 350-pound teenager whose main interests were video games and junk food when his parents made him play football in a desperate attempt to get him healthy.

“His parents were afraid he’d eat potato chips, play video games and die,” his high school football coach Tommy Norwood told the Chronicle-Telegram.

Intense high school football practices burned plenty of calories, and when Ogunjobi realized he had finally found a sport a guy his size could play, he became so devoted to offseason cardio workouts that he eventually got down to 237 pounds. Then he turned to lifting weights, and by the end of high school he had earned a college scholarship as a 267-pound defensive lineman. In college he took lifting even more seriously and turned himself into a chiseled 300-pounder.

“He lost all that weight and rebuilt it,” his college coach Brad Lambert said. “That’s what’s amazing about the story.”

Ogunjobi is now a dedicated, hard-working player, although he admits that he never would have taken up football if it hadn’t been forced upon him as a weight-loss activity in high school.

“I was only there because I had to be,” he said.

Now he’s in the NFL, where he wants to be.

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Derek Carr: I’ll give it to Marshawn on the 1-yard line, not throw it

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Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has brought up a painful memory for Seahawks fans.

After signing his new contract on Friday, Carr said that he doesn’t think his status as the NFL’s highest-paid player forces him to try to win games himself. Instead, Carr said, he’ll be happy to hand off to Marshawn Lynch for a game-winning touchdown if the Raiders are in that position.

“My No. 1 goal is to make sure that I give everything I have to this organization,” Carr said. “So there’s no pressure, there’s no, ‘We’ll be on the 1-yard line and I won’t give it to Marshawn, I’ll throw it.’ None of that stuff. I don’t care about the stats. That’s not my No. 1 objective. I don’t care if I throw 10 touchdowns next year. If we win every game, that’s all I care about.”

Carr was referencing the Seahawks’ infamous decision to have Russell Wilson throw a pass, which was intercepted, rather than handing off to Lynch at the 1-yard line at the end of Super Bowl XLIX. Now that Lynch is a Raider, they plan to give him the ball at the goal line.

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Tavon Wilson seeks to throw out suits against him

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Detroit Lions safety Tavon Wilson denies he punched a former girlfriend during an altercation last year, according to TMZ.

Per TMZ, Alanda Jackson, the mother of Wilson’s 3-year-old, has filed suit against Wilson, alleging that he broke her nose during the melee. Jackson got into a verbal altercation with Wilson’s current girlfriend at a nightclub in Washington, D.C., on May 14, 2016. Jackson accuses Wilson of grabbing her, throwing her to the ground and punching her in the face. Jackson said a female friend was stabbed by someone in Wilson’s entourage, and both women were hospitalized.

Jackson was arrested, TMZ reports, with Wilson’s current girlfriend, Simone Leach, claiming she was the victim. Jackson seeks more than $2.5 million, and Wilson also faces a suit from the other alleged victim. Wilson has asked a judge to dismiss both suits.

The Lions released a statement: “We are aware of the report regarding Tavon Wilson. We have spoken to Tavon, and we have also notified the league office of this matter. Due to the personal nature of this situation, we will have no additional comment at this time.”

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Archie Manning: Adam Gase reached out to Peyton after Ryan Tannehill was injured

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At a time when many are wondering whether recently-retired quarterbacks Tony Romo and Jay Cutler would return to the NFL if a starter gets injured during the upcoming season, it turns out that last year’s high-profile retiree had an opportunity to return, sort of.

Via Josh Katzenstein of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Archie Manning said Friday that he saw last December a text-message exchange between his son, Peyton, and Dolphins coach Adam Gase.

“He said, ‘Hey 18, [Ryan] Tannehill went down,'” Archie said. “[Gase] said, ‘I think he’s going to miss some time. The first question I’m going to get at the press conference in the morning is if I’m going to try to bring you to Miami. What do you want me to tell them?'”

It’s a creative way for Gase, Peyton’s offensive coordinator in Denver, to ask Peyton whether he was interested without officially asking him whether he was interested. Regardless, Peyton wasn’t interested.

Said Archie: “The text message came back from Peyton, ‘You tell them I could probably come play, but there’s no way I can miss carpool the next two weeks.’ So, he was done.”

Peyton was done, and he still is done. But it’s fascinating to think what could have happened late last season, if Peyton Manning had swooped in to help a Dolphins team that lost to Pittsburgh in the wild-card round — and that with an upset there would have been destined for a trip to New England to face the Patriots.

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Lakers G.M. compares Lonzo Ball to NFL’s best quarterbacks

AP

Typically, new players who arrive in a given sport are compared to other great players from that same sport. For reasons neither obvious nor apparent, the General Manager of the L.A. Lakers has compared the team’s latest first-round draft pick to the two best quarterbacks in the NFL.

“In press conferences, I don’t like a lot of hyperbole and a whole bunch of words,” Rob Pelinka said regarding Lonzo Ball, via Rob Baxter of ESPN.com. “I like to tell stories. I think when this really into focus for us was, we knew the talent was transcendent. The way he passes the ball, you look at quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, that just have a gift. There’s clearly a gift, with what he’s been blessed with.”

Apart from the comparison being odd, Pelinka’s comments amount to a potential curse for a player who already will be counted on to return to relevance one of the proudest franchises in the NBA, and who enters pro sports with one of the most high-profile and universally disliked fathers in all of sport.

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Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott not resting on their laurels

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Dak Prescott won 13 games and offensive rookie of the year honors. Ezekiel Elliott won the rushing title and earned six MVP votes as a rookie. Both were ranked among the top-14 players in the NFL Network’s poll of players.

But don’t think for a second that Prescott and Elliott have spent the offseason resting on their laurels. Instead, according to teammate Cole Beasley, Prescott and Elliott have worked harder than ever since the Cowboys fell short of their goals last season.

“Dak’s the type of guy, he could be the best in the world at his position, he’ll still come in here and not be satisfied or complacent,” Beasley said, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “He’ll come in here and grind like he’s a rookie. He’s one of the hardest-working guys I’ve ever seen.

“Zeke’s approach is just like it was last year. Both of those guys have a chip on their shoulders. They’re not satisfied until we get to where we want to be. All the guys in here are the same way. Until we get a Super Bowl, we haven’t done our jobs.”

The Cowboys haven’t been to a Super Bowl since the 1995 season when they won the franchise’s fifth. They have not produced back-to-back winning seasons since 2008-09. Both are goals this season after a 13-3 regular season in 2016 ended in disappointment in the playoffs with a loss in the divisional round to Green Bay.

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Derek Carr wanted to leave money for teammates

AP

Raiders G.M. Reggie McKenzie now wants to sign some of quarterback Derek Carr’s teammates, and Carr wants to be sure McKenzie can.

“The main thing that I could just remember was all along the way, I was like, ‘How do we keep my teammates?’” Carr said at Friday’s press conference regarding his new deal, via Raiders.com. “That’s, I don’t know if it’s weird how it sounds, but that was just what I kept telling him. I was like, ‘OK. that’s cool. Yeah, that’s awesome, wow, cool. Is this good for Gabe [Jackson]? Is this good for Khalil [Mack]? Is this good for Amari [Cooper]?’ [Reggie] can tell you himself, these are things that I said to him numerous amounts of times. I didn’t want to hurt our team; that’s the last thing I would ever want to do. So, hopefully we didn’t That’s the last thing that I intended to do and that’s kind of why I was so involved.”

Few would call a deal that sets a record for new-money average team friendly, but if Carr had wanted to maximize his earnings he could have followed the Kirk Cousins path to a year-to-year haul that would have resulted in ridiculously high cap numbers, and that ultimately would have forced the Raiders to pay more than $25 million annually.

And while Carr hasn’t quite copied the Tom Brady playbook and taken considerably less than market value, Brady’s failure to push the envelope has indeed affected Carr, just as it will affect others. If Brady had decided to pursue maximum dollars, he’d be making more than $30 million per year by now, and other quarterbacks would see their own pay lifted by that dynamic. It’s a point that former NFL quarterback Brady Quinn made on Friday’s PFT Live, noting that the union likely isn’t thrilled by Tom Brady’s conscious failure to elevate the quarterback market.

For Carr, the question now becomes whether his teammates will be as charitable when it’s their turn to get paid, consciously taking less to help the team keep more players or saying, “Screw this. I only have so many years to make big money, and I’m going to.”

With limited years in a playing career, no equity, and likely orthopedic and cognitive problems later in life, players have every right to seek every last dollar, forcing teams to navigate the cap and to make good decisions through the draft, which under the current compensation rules allows teams to load up the roster with young, talented, and cheap labor, year in and year out.

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Packers spend offseason working on defending the pass

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The Packers concentrated on the passing game — and defending the pass — during 11-on-11 work during the offseason. Mike McCarthy had reasons for reducing the number of run calls.

The Packers coach insists run calls in no-pads practices create unrealistic looks, leading to linemen and running backs developing bad habits. The emphasis on the passing game served a second purpose in giving the defensive backs more work as defensive coordinator Dom Capers spent the offseason preaching improved coverage.

“We’ve really focused on the pass,” McCarthy said, via Pete Dougherty of USA Today Network.

The Packers have three new players expected to upgrade their secondary. They brought back cornerback Davon House in free agency and drafted cornerback Kevin King and safety/linebacker Josh Jones with their first two picks.

The Packers ranked 22nd in total defense last season, including 31st against the pass, so it’s obvious why Green Bay made changes in both personnel and practice plans.

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Andy Reid could move into the NFL’s Top 5 in coaching wins

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Andy Reid isn’t usually named among the great coaches in NFL history, but perhaps he will be by the time he serves out his newly extended contract.

The Chiefs and Reid have just agreed on a new five-year contract, and if the 59-year-old Reid coaches five more years at the 11-wins-a-year pace he’s been on in Kansas City, he’d move into fifth place all-time in career wins.

Reid is currently tied with Jeff Fisher for 11th on the career wins list, with 173. He needs 13 wins to tie Chuck Knox and move into 10th place. If he won 55 more games, averaging 11 a year for five years, he’d have 228 career wins, which would put him fifth all-time behind Don Shula, George Halas, Tom Landry and Bill Belichick.

That would put Reid into Hall of Fame consideration, even without a Super Bowl win. Although fans often think of the best coaches as the ones who have Super Bowl rings, the Hall of Fame selection committee doesn’t necessarily see it that way. Several coaches have made it to the Hall of Fame without winning a Super Bowl, including George Allen, Bud Grant and Marv Levy. With five more good years, Reid would have as good a resume as those three Hall of Fame coaches.

Reid, of course, is much more focused on winning a Super Bowl. If he does that in his remaining time in Kansas City, that would likely punch his ticket to Canton.

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Prosecutors appeal decision to void Aaron Hernandez murder conviction

AP

When Aaron Hernandez killed himself in prison earlier this year, he was still appealing his conviction for the murder of Odin Lloyd and that led a Massachusetts judge to void the conviction under the legal principle known as abatement ab initio.

That principle holds that a conviction can’t be finalized until the appeals process has been exhausted and resets the case to the beginning in the event of the defendant’s death. Prosecutors argued that doing so would reward Hernandez for killing himself and they are now appealing the judge’s decision to void the conviction.

Bristol District Attorney Thomas Quinn III called abatement ab initio “archaic” and noted that many other states have moved away from it to allow appeals to continue even after the defendant has died.

“A defendant who commits suicide should not be able to manipulate the outcome of his post-conviction proceedings to achieve in death what he would not be able to achieve in life,” Quinn said, via the Associated Press.

Hernandez killed himself shortly after being acquitted by a jury of two other murder charges.

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Michael Bidwill has concerns about having NFL team based in UK

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Cardinals President Michael Bidwill expresses doubt the NFL will have a team based in the UK in the near future. Bidwill, in London this week assessing facilities at Wembley and Twickenham ahead of the NFL’s games there this season, told Sky Sports News HQ that the league will “continue to study it, but I don’t think there’s any timeline out there.”

For the 10th consecutive season, the NFL will play games in London. The Cardinals will play the Rams at Twickenham on Oct. 22, while the Vikings face the Browns there on Oct. 29. Wembley will host the Ravens and Jaguars on Sept. 24 and the Dolphins and Saints on Oct. 1.

But scheduling teams to play one game in the UK obviously is much different than having a team based there.

“We’re getting a lot of support for the NFL over here, but I think one of the big things is going to be the travel; the different time zones and how it might impact the athletes playing here and traveling to play here,” Bidwill said, via Sophie Morris of Sky Sports News HQ. “One of the things we really care about is our players’ health. We want to see how this is going to impact the athlete and we want to make sure that there is no competitive imbalance.”

Patriots owner Robert Kraft appears more optimistic, insisting the NFL will have a team in London. It is a prediction he has made for several years now.

“Now we play four games a year in London and sell tickets to 80,000 people and we’re going to have a team in London,” Kraft said, speaking at Cannes Lions as part of an interview with WPP Group CEO Martin Sorrell via the New York Post. “We’re playing the Raiders in Mexico and have plans to play in Germany, Canada and Brazil and China. I don’t know why not France?”

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