Blair Walsh makes it a point to show Vikings he’s back

Getty Images

It wasn’t like the Vikings cut kicker Blair Walsh for no reason last season. They had, after all, trusted him enough to sign him to a four-year, $13 million extension before the season.

But he went 12 for 16 on field goals and missed four extra points, and the Vikings released him after nine games.

He insisted this week he has no ill feelings toward the Vikings, but judging by his reaction after two made field goals Friday night, Walsh was less than honest.

Walsh, now with the Seahawks, taunted his former team after making not one, but two 52-yard field goals in the third quarter. He pointed at the Vikings bench after both field goals, and Richard Sherman ran onto the field after the second to join Walsh in saying a few words to the Minnesota sideline, according to Bob Condotta‏ of the Seattle Times.

Walsh, 27, appears to have corrected whatever was wrong in Minnesota. He went 2-for-2 on field goals in the first preseason game and 6-for-6 on extra points. He did miss a field goal in the first half Friday night, but it was a 53-yard attempt that hit the crossbar.

George Fant carted off for the Seahawks

Getty Images

The games that don’t count routinely result in injuries that do. For the Seahawks, left tackle George Fant has an injury that may keep him out for a while.

A day after being named the Week One starter, Fant exited Friday night’s game against Minnesota with a right knee injury that appears to be serious.

Fant’s right leg was placed in an air cast, and he was carted off.

The former basketball player had gained 20 pounds in the offseason, in an effort to grow into the job. His knee buckled when a teammate inadvertently fell into his leg.

Kasen Williams makes a splash with the first team

Getty Images

Receiver Kasen Williams, a Washington native who played for the Huskies, is hoping to finally make an impact on the local NFL team.

In his third season with the Seahawks and limited contributions in the first two, Williams has made a major impact in the 2017 preseason. Of his six catches for 147 yards and a touchdown, two for 28 yards and a score came on the opening drive of Friday night’s preseason game against the Vikings.

And then he made the tackle on the ensuing kickoff, for good measure.

Williams, who lost 10 pounds in the offseason, may be playing his way in to the rotation for the Seahawks, a team that covets competition and rewards production.

As Michael Bennett sits, two teammates stand with hand on his shoulder

AP

Like five nights ago, Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett sat for the national anthem before a game. Unlike five night ago, he had two teammates with him.

Via Gregg Bell of the Tacoma News Tribune, tackle Justin Britt and cornerback Jeremy Lane stood near Bennett with a hand on his shoulder during the anthem preceding Friday night’s game against the Vikings.

According to Curtis Crabtree of KJR and PFT, defensive ends Cliff Avril and Frank Clark sat with Bennett for the closing seconds of the anthem.

Bennett sits for the anthem in an effort to bring attention to racial injustice in America. Teammates did not know he’d be sitting before the preseason opener against the Chargers.

Nathan Peterman doesn’t hear the calls for him to start

Getty Images

The Bills remain committed to Tyrod Taylor. Some members of the Bills mafia wish they weren’t.

Backup Nathan Peterman was asked be reporters on Friday about whether he hears the calls for him to start from Bills fans.

“I love Bills Mafia and all that, but I don’t,” Peterman said. “I kind of just focus on this locker room, my work every day, and I try to stay off my phone as much as I can. I’m really not on it at all anyways so for me it’s just about getting better every day, keeping tunnel vision and just trying to get better and help this team.”

He may not hear from the fans, but Peterman heard from reporters, who asked whether he’d like to get some reps with the first-team offense.

“Whatever the coaches tell me to do, I’m going to do,” Peterman said. “Obviously, it was good for the reps I got. I’m really appreciative of that. I was thankful for the reps I got in this past game and the big thing for me is just when I’m in, I’ve got to perform and be a little bit better than I was this past game. It’s just what I’m focusing on.”

The Bills officially remain focused on Taylor as the starter. But coach Sean McDermott opened the can of worms last night by not immediately dismissing as kooky talk the question of whether he’d consider a quarterback change. He gave an answer that suggested that the door is open before trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube.

Regardless of what McDermott said Friday, it’s safe to assume that more struggles from Taylor and more stellar play from Peterman will make the guy who is by definition the most popular man in town even more popular.

Jordan Howard to miss preseason game with eye injury

AP

Bears running back Jordan Howard won’t play in Saturday night’s preseason game at Arizona after suffering an eye injury in today’s practice.

The Bears said Howard suffered a corneal abrasion. It is not believed to be serious.

Howard wasn’t likely to play much if at all anyway, as the Bears know he’s going to be their starting running back heading into the season and are more interested in seeing the backups compete for roster spots. Second-string running back Jeremy Langford is also out tomorrow night with an ankle injury, but Tarik Cohen and Ka'Deem Carey will both get plenty of playing time as they compete for the third running back spot.

Running back is a position where the Bears think they’re set. The 22-year-old Howard is coming off an excellent rookie season in which he had 252 carries for 1,313 yards.

Not everyone likes the new-old approach to football in Jacksonville

Getty Images

Lost in the sudden quarterback controversy in Jacksonville is the fact that there has been a sudden, in 2017, increase in the physicality and overall demands of training camp under coach Doug Marrone and executive V.P. of football operations Tom Coughlin.

Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com paints a positive picture of the new approach, which includes the return of something that NFL players haven’t done for years: Up-downs.

“I just think when you’re talking about trying to be a physical team, it’s all in the mindset,” coach Doug Marrone told Breer. “So we’re gonna practice that way, with a lot of one-on-one run blocking, 9-on-7, combination blocking drills, things of that nature in the teaching progression. And the up-downs are something I’ve always done since I was a player, so for me, why should it end now?”

For many, it’s just starting now. And for some players, it’s not a welcome development.

Yes, some players are embracing the new approach. Others just aren’t wired that way; one league source told PFT that at least one player has remarked that the physically demanding camp will shorten his career by at least two years. Others have been quietly grumbling about it, since there really isn’t anything they can do for now. (Except maybe retire and then try to return and then get released.)

While Marrone was the one quoted, it’s Coughlin who is believed to have pushed the change. Coughlin obviously believes that these old-school ways will lead to positive results. So far, it hasn’t — particularly at the quarterback position.

Falcons signing veteran OL Austin Pasztor

Getty Images

The Falcons are signing veteran offensive lineman Austin Pasztor to a one-year deal, according to a tweet from Pasztor’s agent, Sunny Shah.

Pasztor, 26, started 43 games and played in 15 others the past five seasons for Jacksonville and Cleveland. He started 16 games last season for the Browns, playing both right tackle and right guard.

The Falcons are looking for a swing tackle behind starters Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder, and they also have an ongoing right guard competition between Ben Garland and Wes Schweitzer.

Pasztor’s experience playing both tackle and guard could make him a valuable backup for the Falcons. In his NFL career, he has started at both guard positions and at right tackle.

Stephen Paea pushing for starting NT job with Cowboys

Getty Images

Stephen Paea was miscast in a 3-4 defense the past two seasons. He’s back at a familiar spot with the Cowboys, reunited with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and playing the nose in the Tampa 2.

Just be aggressive in there,” Paea said, via Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “A lot of guys they think of a nose tackle, they’re just there playing with your hands and just playing the run, but Rod just wants more out of the nose tackle. If you don’t pass rush as a nose, then you’re not doing your job, so that’s what he wants from the nose tackle.”

The Cowboys’ biggest offseason signing in 2016 was Cedric Thornton, who left Philadelphia for Dallas’ four-year, $18 million offer. He started no games, played in 13, had 18 tackles, 1.5 sacks and nine quarterback pressures last season.

Terrell McClain started 15 games at the nose last season, and after he left in free agency, the Cowboys signed Paea, who played for Marinelli in Chicago after the Bears made him a second-round pick in 2011.

Paea missed the team’s preseason game against the Rams last week with a sore knee but will play Saturday against the Colts, and with Thornton dealing with a hamstring injury, Paea has taken first-team reps.

“We all have that next-man mentality,” Paea said. “I’m out here just taking advantage of all opportunity for me to compete out here.

“Going out here against the best offensive line in the NFL is a great opportunity for me to get better — make Sunday a little easier for me.”

A strike would create fantasy football havoc

Getty Images

When NFL players went on strike in 1987 and the league replaced them, fantasy football wasn’t really a thing yet. It now is, and a repeat of ’87 would create havoc for the millions with a passion for this twisted branch of the football tree.

Let’s play it out. The CBA expires in March 2021. The owners, happy with the current deal, don’t lock the players out, allowing the two sides to operate with a contract while negotiations continue.

Negotiations continue to fail, and on the eve of the regular-season opener, the players walk out. The NFL replace them with teams consisting largely of the players cut on Labor Day weekend.

For daily fantasy players, it truly would become a game of skill, since it would take real work to know who will be getting reps and touches — and who will be turning those chances into points. For full-season fantasy players (and particularly for keeper leagues), a huge mess would be looming.

One approach would be to freeze the rosters of regular players and create new rosters of replacement players. At a minimum, that would require plenty of work and creativity for the fantasy platforms, which aren’t built to have a primary team and a reserve lineup. Also, what happens if/when players start crossing the picket line and returning to the game, like plenty of players did in 1987?

For the NFL and the NFLPA, the stakes will be dramatically higher. But fans will have a much more at stake if a strike happens in 2021 than they did in 1987. And that surely will be a factor in the P.R. battle to come.

Washington waives WR Kendal Thompson with injury settlement

Getty Images

Washington announced it has waived receiver Kendal Thompson with an injury settlement.

Thompson, 25, signed with Washington as an undrafted free agent out of Utah in 2016. He was waived before the start of the season but brought back on the practice squad.

Washington signed him to a future/reserve contract in January but a leg injury kept him out of the offseason program. He started training camp on the physically unable to perform list and never came off.

Washington waived him with an injury designation, and, after he cleared waivers, he went on injured reserve before the team reached an injury settlement.

Stefon Diggs to wear Starbucks cleats tonight

@MACHE275

If/when Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs ever leaves Minnesota, he could be destined for the place he’ll be playing tonight.

With his team in Seattle for a game against the Seahawks, Diggs will be rocking Starbucks cleats, via SportsBusiness Daily. The shoes, made by Nike and designed by Mache Custom Kicks, look like a cup of Starbucks coffee. The shoes also include his name written on the cup, and spelled incorrectly. (“Digz.”)

Said Diggs on Twitter: “My love for Starbucks is a 4ever thing.”

Maybe he’ll eventually write a coffee table book about coffee-inspired shoes.

Bills make it clear, “all the confidence in the world” in Tyrod Taylor

AP

It was a quick evaluation. Unless it wasn’t an evaluation at all.

Via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com, Bills coach Sean McDermott said Friday afternoon that quarterback Tyrod Taylor would start next week’s preseason game against the Ravens.

He also added that he has “all the confidence in the world” in Taylor.

It didn’t necessarily sound that way last night, when he expressed disappointment in Taylor’s play against the Eagles and praised rookie Nathan Peterman, and said they’d “evaluate” the position going forward.

Coaches get in the habit of talking like coaches, and in doing so sometimes paint themselves into a corner. While McDermott and new G.M. Brandon Beane aren’t beholden to Taylor in any meaningful way, he seems to be the best option at the moment, so it’s best to make sure he hears them saying it.

Jags bringing in Patrick Murray as part of kicker workouts

Getty Images

Kicker Dan Carpenter will have some company as he tries to land a job with the Jaguars.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported on Friday that Carpenter will have a workout in Jacksonville and updated the report later in the day to note that Patrick Murray will also be getting a look.

Murray appeared in the first two games of the season for the Browns last year, making 1-of-2 field goal attempts and 3-of-4 extra points. He was 20-of-24 on field goals while making all 31 extra point attemps for the Buccaneers in 2014.

Jaguars kicker Jason Myers has missed three field goals and an extra point through two preseason games and it looks like a good bet that he’ll have some company on the roster at some point in the near future.

 

Dolphins will replace field at Hard Rock Stadium

AP

At a venue that has undergone dramatic change over the past few years, the playing surface will be undergoing the most dramatic change possible.

Via Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post, the Dolphins will replace the entire field at Hard Rock Stadium in advance of regular-season openers from both the Dolphins and the University of Miami.

Lieser notes that there have been “ongoing issues” with the sod, which has seen scrimmages from the Dolphins and Hurricanes and a pair of Dolphins preseason home games. Last month, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona played there, too.

The Dolphins had hoped to replace the sod before Thursday night’s game, but rain got in the way. And so the turf will be removed before a Coldplay concert set for August 28, and it will be replaced as quickly as possible.

Time will be of the essence; the U plays at the H on September 2. If it rains heavily that week, the D could be F’d.