Greg Olsen’s not sweating whether he’s next for extension

AP

Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis broke the seal on contract extensions this week, which would seem to be good news for teammate Greg Olsen.

But after failed attempts to get a raise this summer which included hints that he might hold out of training camp (though that was never likely), Olsen has taken a measured approach to recent developments.

Via Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, Olsen said he hasn’t spoken with interim General Manager Marty Hurney about his status.

I haven’t talked to Marty about it or anybody about it,” Olsen said. “ If something gets done, great. But we’ve got a lot going on now with training camp and preseason and whatnot. So it hasn’t been really something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about.

“But we’ll see over these next couple of weeks what happens.”

Since Olsen had two years left on his deal, and former G.M. Dave Gettleman wasn’t in a rush to tear that deal up, a new contract didn’t seem likely before. But Hurney was the G.M. who traded for Olsen in 2011, and has been regarded as easier to deal with by players and agents alike.

The fact Olsen’s coming off three straight 1,000-yard seasons (the first tight end in league history to pull that off) on a team not overburdened with downfield receiving threats helps his case more than a change in administration. But even if it doesn’t happen, Olsen said his focus won’t be different.

“The goal is to go out and be highly productive, be consistent and that’s been my approach,” he said. “And that will never change.”

Biding his time is likely the right move for Olsen now, after overplaying his hand this summer. With Davis getting his reward this week, they’re at least in the mindset of paying their producers, and Olsen’s value to Hurney was established years ago.

Rams still like Tavon Austin’s potential, despite injuries

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Tavon Austin hasn’t become the kind of player the Rams thought he would be when they traded up to take him with the eighth overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft. But the Rams still think he can be that player.

Rams General Manager Les Snead said on PFT Live that Austin’s wrist and hamstring injuries have been a setback in his ability to learn new coach Sean McVay’s offense, but that doesn’t mean they have lost confidence in him.

“A freakish wrist injury that he actually did doing some clean and jerks during the offseason,” Snead said. “Can you imagine small Tavon doing cleans? Then he comes and has a small hamstring injury during camp.”

Austin has made big plays at times: He has 12 career receiving touchdowns, eight career rushing touchdowns and three career punt return touchdowns. Now the Rams want to see him do it with more consistency.

“We haven’t figured out how much he evolves as a receiver in this offense because he hasn’t had a chance to play,” Snead said. “Plan to see him used very similarly to how he’s been used in the past. By that I mean, he’s scored as a receiver, he’s scored as a running back, he’s scored as a returner. That’s why we like him. He threatens the opposing team in many different ways. We’ve just got to get him healthy.”

If Austin does get healthy, the Rams still believe he has the potential to justify that Top 10 draft pick.

Michael Bennett’s cause would benefit more from a franchise quarterback

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Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett believes that national anthem protests would benefit from the involvement of white players. There’s another group of players that would benefit the effort even more.

Franchise quarterbacks.

Regardless of race, the decision of the best of the best players at the most important position on the field are the ones who can give the effort to bring awareness to matters of racial injustice, police brutality, and other similar causes that are motivating players to not stand for the anthem. From Russell Wilson to Aaron Rodgers to Cam Newton to Tom Brady to Eli Manning to Ben Roethlisberger to Drew Brees to any other players with maximum profile (and job security), these are the players that could make the protests more mainstream and, in turn, perhaps get those who refuse to understand the reasons for the protests to have a slightly more open mind.

Or maybe it ultimately won’t matter. Regardless, Bennett has the right idea but landed in the wrong spot. It’s not about having white players behind the effort; it’s about having the biggest and brightest stars on board. And in the NFL there are no stars bigger or brighter than franchise quarterbacks.

Deshaun Watson feels he can control the Texans offense

AP

Texans coach Bill O’Brien said early this month that Deshaun Watson is “ahead of any rookie quarterback I’ve ever been around” and Watson’s been seeing time with the first team as the Texans try to keep the progress coming in his first NFL season.

O’Brien said that both Watson and Tom Savage had two good days of work during joint practices with the Patriots and Watson believes that the experience he’s gotten this summer has left him with a firm grasp of what he’s supposed to be doing on the field.

“Honestly, in the spring I knew what I was doing, but at the same time my head was swimming,” Watson said, via ESPN.com. “But whenever I step on the field today, I can go out there and control the offense and do what they ask me to do and make good decisions, fast. I’m just trying to improve in all areas and continue to do that.”

While O’Brien and others around the Texans have been overwhelmingly positive about Watson, there’s been no sign that they’re ready to jettison the plan to start Savage when the regular season gets underway. Watson said he’s being patient and learning as much as he can so that he’s ready for the moment when it “just kind of clicks and everyone sees” that it is time for him to move into the starting lineup.

NFLPA’s Lorenzo Alexander calls NFL statement on Ezekiel Elliott “appalling”

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Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, a member of the NFL Players Association’s executive committee, is not pleased with the NFL’s statement accusing the union of smearing Ezekiel Elliott‘s accuser.

“It’s really appalling,” Alexander said on PFT Live. “We’re about representing our players at the end of the day and making sure they’re getting a fair and just trial whenever they’re going through anything with management.”

Alexander said he is “not comfortable at all” with the NFL’s disciplinary system.

“Things are not fair or consistent. They’re really all over the place,” Alexander said. “You can have two players do the same exact thing and get two different punishments.”

And although Elliott has the right to appeal, that appeal will be heard by former NFL employee Harold Henderson, whom Alexander doesn’t trust to be neutral. Although Henderson is no longer an NFL employee, he’s routinely paid by the NFL to handle appeals cases, with 87 such cases from 2008 to 2014.

“He’s in house. He’s an NFL employee. And obviously he works for Roger Goodell and they’re going to talk about it and come out to the same decision. He’s just passing the buck who’s going to oversee the case. We feel the same whether it’s Roger or Mr. Henderson doing the hearing,” Alexander said.

Henderson is supposed to be neutral, but the union has no faith that he is — and no faith in the process that got Elliott suspended.

Jim Mora: I’m never going to stifle Josh Rosen’s opinions

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UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen recently found himself in some hot water when expressing opinions about the intersection of academics and athletics on college campuses, but his coach is OK with it.

Jim Mora said on PFT Live that Rosen, a likely future first-round draft pick, is entitled to say what he wants to say.

“I’m never going to stifle his opinions,” Mora said. “I just want to make sure he’s aware when he does say things publicly there are going to be ramifications.”

Mora said Rosen learned after the backlash to his comments that he has a big platform.

“He’s realizing any time you speak out people are going to form an opinion of you, sometimes good, sometimes bad, there might be some backlash, perceptions are changed and you have a responsibility to make sure you think about those things before you speak,” Mora said.

Still, Mora remains in Rosen’s corner.

“Those comments were made several months ago,” Mora said. “Josh and I are very close. I’ve known him a long time and I have a tremendous relationship with not only Josh but his whole family. Josh has really come to understand how his words can affect and do affect people’s perceptions of him. This is a fine young man, this is a leader of our team, he’s a hard worker, he’s passionate about football, he loves his team, he loves his teammates, he loves his university, he’s pursuing a degree in economics and is thinking about getting an MBA.”

Rosen is a smart young man, and if he keeps speaking out, that’s refreshing.

Rams enjoying Sammy Watkins’ speed and juice down the field

AP

Wide receiver Sammy Watkins hasn’t been a member of the Rams long enough to have the entire offense down, but what he’s done in practice with the parts he has grasped has left him with plenty of admirers on his new team.

One catch Watkins made over the middle on Wednesday left quarterback Jared Goff shaking his head and looking around to make sure that everyone else was seeing what he was seeing. Goff said it was “obviously a special play and special player” and coach Sean McVay appears to be on the same page with his quarterback.

“When the ball’s in his hands, you could feel his speed and his juice down the field,” McVay said, via the Los Angeles Times.

McVay said that they’ll get Watkins involved in Saturday’s game against the Raiders and it won’t be a surprise to see him make a few big plays for the Rams in that contest. Talent has never been Watkins’ issue, but staying healthy has been an obstacle that the Rams can only hope will be less troublesome in L.A. than it was in Buffalo.

Thursday morning one-liners

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Philadelphia is just another business trip for Bills coach Sean McDermott now.

The Dolphins took a look at some veteran LB depth.

The Patriots got a chance to catch up with old friend Mike Vrabel during their workouts with the Texans.

Jets LB Darron Lee gained nine pounds this offseason to play with more “physicality.”

The Ravens are looking for some rhythm on offense.

Bengals rookie WR Josh Malone is trying to take things one step at a time.

Browns LT Joe Thomas likes the way rookie DE Myles Garrett is going about his business.

Steelers DE Cam Heyward is suddenly the old man in his room.

Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins is getting plenty of time to heal.

Colts WR Phillip Dorsett is back on the field and trying to reclaim his status.

The Jaguars are still sifting through their returner options.

Titans QB Marcus Mariota likes what he’s seeing from his WRs.

Broncos QB Paxton Lynch is trying to keep an even keel during the competition for the starting job.

Like a lot of people, Chiefs QB Alex Smith can’t believe Colin Kaepernick isn’t on a team right now.

Chargers RB Branden Oliver is ready to run after last year’s injury.

Raiders CB Sean Smith is bouncing back after a demotion.

Cowboys DT Stephen Paea is pushing for a starting job.

Some LB injuries have given a few Giants rookies a chance to shine.

There are so many connections between the Eagles and Bills.

Washington WR Jamison Crowder expects to play this week.

Bears CB Prince Amukamara is out with a hamstring injury.

Lions TE Eric Ebron was held out of practice, though coach Jim Caldwell says there’s no setback

Packers G Jahri Evans is adjusting from one star QB to another.

The Vikings’ kicking competition is still up in the air.

Falcons QB Matt Ryan doesn’t think there will be much of a transition on offense.

The Panthers left some injured players home for their joint workouts in Tennessee.

The Saints are welcoming CB Marshon Lattimore back to the field.

With a little luck, the Buccaneers didn’t stick their undrafted rookies with the traditional expensive dinner tab.

The Cardinals seem to be getting a little bored.

Rams WR Sammy Watkins has impressed his new QB.

Von Miller heaped praise on 49ers RT Trent Brown.

The soldiers who visited Seahawks camp said they had no problem with DE Michael Bennett’s protest.

Bruce Arians on John Brown: If he can’t run long enough, we have to replace him

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When Cardinals coach Bruce Arians gave a negative critique of his receiving corps this week, wide receiver John Brown‘s inactivity because of a quad injury was among the issues affecting the group.

Brown said that he doesn’t think he helps the team if he’s playing at less than full speed and that the sickle-cell trait that contributed to last year’s injuries means that he heals differently than other players. Arians acknowledged that was a fact that couldn’t be changed, but he did say that the team may have to make a choice about sticking with Brown if his availability remains intermittent.

“I don’t have any choice,” Arians said, via the team’s website. “If he can’t run he can’t play. Now, if he can’t run long enough [after he returns], you’ve got to replace him.”

Brown was a major part of the offense in 2015 as a speedy complement to Larry Fitzgerald at wide receiver, but he was clearly a different player because of the same kind of soft-tissue injuries he’s dealing with now. That leaves the Cardinals with a need to have other options lined up in the event they come to feel they can’t rely on Brown bouncing back this year.

Dolphins worked out Kelvin Sheppard Wednesday

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Rey Maualuga had some company as the Dolphins kicked the tires on veteran linebackers in the wake of Raekwon McMillan‘s season-ending knee injury.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports that the team also worked out Kelvin Sheppard on Wednesday. Sheppard spent last season with the Giants, starting 11 games, and was a member of the Dolphins in both the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

Sheppard spent the second of those seasons as a starter and left Miami with 129 tackles and a forced fumble in 30 appearances.

Jackson reports that the Dolphins opted not to sign either one of the players and “will keep monitoring options.” For now, the linebackers in Miami are Kiko Alonso, Lawrence Timmons, Mike Hull and Neville Hewitt.

Janoris Jenkins shrugs off being posterized by Odell Beckham Jr.

AP

Though it was lost in the hype about Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s latest greatest catch of all time, there’s also the small matter that cornerback Janoris Jenkins had what would have been really good coverage against a mortal wideout.

But as many cornerbacks have learned over the years, sometimes even great coverage against Beckham can leave you as a prop in his poster or viral video.

“If you know football, you know coverage, it was great coverage,’’ Jenkins said, via Paul Schwartz of the New York Post. “It was a fantastic catch by Odell. He made the impossible possible.’’

On the recent practice drill which earned millions of eyeballs, Jenkins was step-for-step with Beckham, who reached over him at the last second with one hand (the backhand, at that) to grab the ball.

“I saw him jump early so I was like, ‘He can’t be jumping for the ball,’ ’’ Jenkins said. “But he was coming down, he happened to get his index and thumb on it. . . . I was in great position, I made him make a great play, I can live with that. That’s my teammate. He’s getting better, I’m getting better. You know how it goes. I made him make a play . . . an impossible play. Me and him, we cool, we laugh and we just talk about it. That’s that. Great catch, fantastic catch, helluva throw.

“After he made it I was like, ‘Hell no.’ We joked about it after practice. I was like, ‘What can I do different?’ He said he just made a great catch and I was like, ‘Yeah, basically nothing else I can do.’ ’’

It could have been worse for Jenkins. He could have been like then-Cowboys corner Brandon Carr, who’s memorialized by Beckham’s three-fingered grab in 2014. So for Jenkins, he just has to take comfort in the fact he’s getting work against one of the best, and won’t ever have to face Beckham in a game situation.

Hue Jackson: Joe Thomas knows I make the QB decision

AP

Browns left tackle Joe Thomas recently said he believes quarterback Brock Osweiler is being groomed to start the regular-season opener against the Steelers. Coach Hue Jackson, after announcing that Osweiler would start the team’s next preseason game, was asked about the comments from Thomas.

“I think our players all have opinions,” Jackson told reporters. “Joe is here every day and sees what is going on. That is good that he feels that way. That means Brock is doing some good things in the locker room and on the field. But at the same time, I think Joe knows that I get to make that decision. I do talk to our players because I think it is important. Our players know exactly what I am thinking all the time, but we will see how it all unfolds. There is a chance that could happen, and there is a chance that couldn’t happen. We are just going to work through it and keep going.”

On one hand, it’s helpful for Osweiler to have the support of a guy like Thomas — even if Thomas didn’t say something stronger like, “I believe Osweiler should be the starter.”

We’ll know a lot about Jackson’s beliefs before the next preseason game.

“I think the major game in the preseason is the third game,” Jackson said. “I think hopefully we will have it all nailed down about exactly where we are headed and where we are going. I think whoever trots out there [in the third preseason game] has a very good chance of trotting out there against the Steelers.”

Starting against the Steelers doesn’t necessarily mean starting every game. Some have suggested that Jackson should hold Kizer for a few weeks, given the challenges presented by the defenses the Browns will be facing out of the gates — challenges that are currently complicated by an injury to guard Joel Bitonio that may render him unavailable for the opening game of the season.

So maybe it will be Osweiler for a while and then, eventually, Kizer. Which would still be stunning if it happens, given that Osweiler was a hot-potato afterthought when the Browns bought a second-round pick from the Texans for his $16 million guaranteed salary.

Anyway, this ended up being a useful preface to the PFT Live question of the day: Who should start Week One for the Browns? Answer it, drop a comment, etc. etc. And then tune in. Guests include NFLPA executive committee member Lorenzo Alexander, Rams G.M. Les Snead, and UCLA coach Jim Mora.

 

Mitch Trubisky not buying his own hype

AP

The hype around Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky may reach Tim Tebow proportions, but Trubisky himself is shrugging it off.

I don’t know what hype you’re talking about,” Trubisky said when reporters asked him about it. “I don’t pay attention to it. It’s good to be back at Halas. Finished up camp pretty well. We’ve just got to continue to bring the energy and keep getting better every day like we have so far. We’ve still got a lot of work to do. But it’s good to be back here and getting back at it.”

The hype is because the Bears’ offense, which had stagnated with Mike Glennon and Mark Sanchez running the show, came alive when Trubisky took the field in the preseason opener. Trubisky completed 18 of 25 passes for 166 yards and picked up three first downs running the ball.

“I’ve still got a lot of work to do,” Trubisky said. “I was pleased with how I played, but plenty more mistakes are going on in practice for me that I need to work on and continue to improve in my game and make sure when I go out there that I’m doing my job to help other people do their job. I think it just showed me that I’m making progress, that I could go out there and lead and do my job like I wanted to show. But it was just a small sample; it was the first game and you’ve just got to continue to be consistent in reproducing that. That’s why we’re out here working and practicing.”

Bears fans loved the way Trubisky played in the preseason opener. The Bears’ coaches have to love the fact that Trubisky isn’t impressed with himself.

Ty Montgomery injury opens door for Packers rookie

AP

Packers running back Ty Montgomery is still getting used to being a running back.

But at the moment, he’s sidelined by an unspecified leg injury, which is creating an opportunity for some other backs on their depth chart to get some reps.

Via Jason Wilde of ESPN Wisconsin, rookie Jamaal Williams will get more and more reps with Montgomery out.

Montgomery has missed the last two days of practice with what he called a “soft tissue” problem, and coach Mike McCarthy called a “lower leg” injury. I’m no doctor (or McCarthy’s dairy-farming neighbor), but that kind of narrows it down. Either way, Montgomery’s probably not going to play Saturday against Washington.

“It was just something on and off, something I’m dealing with,” Montgomery said. “Nothing in particular that happened, nothing major, nothing to worry about.”

While he’s recovering from whatever it is, Williams — a fourth-round pick from BYU — has earned praise from teammates and coaches, with quarterback Aaron Rodgers referring to his work as “spectacular.”

“It’s going to be important for him to step in there because running back is a tough position. You’re always dealing with nicks and bruises throughout the season, so we need multiple guys there that can do it,” Rodgers said. “He’s done a nice job mentally – that’s the biggest jump for a running back. They’re asked to do so many things in pass protection, route running.

“We’ve got to get him more opportunities to run the ball. But everything else, he’s been spectacular. He’s definitely improving.”

And with Montgomery on the sidelines, he should get more of a chance to show it this week.

Michael Bennett: Protest for equality needs a few white faces

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Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett has been the most outspoken of late, among the players protesting during the national anthem by sitting or raising a fist.

And he’d like to have a little more help in the effort — specifically from a white player.

It would take a white player to really get things changed,” Bennett said during an appearance on ESPN. “Because when somebody from the other side understands and they step up and they speak up about it, . . . it would change the whole conversation. Because when you bring somebody who doesn’t have to be a part of [the] conversation making himself vulnerable in front of it, I think when that happens, things will really take a jump.”

Bennett joined a group of players carrying out the work started last year by then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, as has Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch. Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins has continued his protests, along with a few other players disturbed by issues of racial inequality.

Other than Eagles defensive end Chris Long — who decried the racism that overtook the city he grew up in (Charlottesville, Va.) last weekend, along with the lack of leadership in the aftermath — few white players have spoken out about the issues.

Bennett said he was stirred by watching those scenes, where white supremacists and neo-Nazis clashed with counter-protesters before a woman was killed and 19 were injured when a car was driven into a crowd.

“Over the weekend, so much violence, so much hate,” Bennett said. “I just wanted to remember why we were American citizens, remember the freedom, the liberty and the equality, make sure we never forget that. I really wanted to honor that, the founding principles of what we’re all supposed to be. Charlottesville was so crazy, so much going on in the world now, it just made sense.”

When he says it like that, you realize the issues aren’t necessarily about black and white. They’re about right and wrong, as Long pointed out.