Julio Jones causes a stir on social media

Getty Images

Among the differences between 2018 and much of human history is that people can send oblique messages via their social media accounts when the past would have required them to make their intentions known in a clear voice.

As a result, a public figure making major changes to their social media profile can lead to a lot of speculation about what it means. That was the case with Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones on Monday.

Jones made his Twitter account private and scrubbed his Instagram profile of pictures of him in Falcons gear, which led plenty of people to wonder if there was some connection between the latter move and his absence from the first week-plus of the team’s voluntary offseason program.

The Twitter account has returned and multiple reports say that Jones was just looking for a “fresh start” for his online profiles rather than sending a message about his desire to leave the Falcons. Jones also recently discussed the perils of putting too much stock in social media with Alabama players.

Jones hasn’t made any public comment about his change in social media strategy and if there’s a larger point beyond it all or not.

Titans G.M. says most draft rumors are “wildly untrue”

Getty Images

So wait, does this mean teams aren’t going to take the best available player and explore every option? Now I don’t know what to believe.

Titans General Manager Jon Robinson pulled back the curtain on his profession during his pre-draft press conference, saying most of the rumors you hear this week leading up to the draft could lift a balloon.

“I’d say [they’re] mostly wildly untrue,” Robinson said, via Jason Wolf of the Tennesseean. “You just try to sort through it and you try to connect as many dots as possible, knowing once the commissioner puts the teams on the clock and the draft gets going, all bets are kind of off.”

Hearing this has shaken my foundation of trust in people’s inherent good nature, and is enough to make you wonder if anything is true at all.

Either that, or the draft rumors are reacting as a gas does, which is to fill the space available. With most boards set over a week ago, there’s little left for teams to do but wait and lie, and it seems that’s what many of them are doing.

Sam Darnold understands the focus on his college turnovers

Getty Images

Sam Darnold is regarded as the safer choice by the Browns at No. 1. Even if he’s not always safe with the football.

Darnold threw 22 interceptions and fumbled the ball 21 times in 27 starts at USC. As a result, he’s hearing a lot about his propensity to not protect the ball in the run-up to the draft.

“There’s obviously a lot of talk about turnovers, which I get,” Darnold said during a recent visit to PFT Live. “The tape doesn’t lie. I’ve heard that a million times. It’s fair. It’s really fair. Turning the ball over is something you don’t want to do as a quarterback. I think the number one job as a quarterback is protecting the football. I’ve been working on it, but at the same time there’s so many plays where I take my left hand off the ball and I make a first down or I throw a touchdown. There’s a lot of give and take when it comes to me turning the ball over. But, yeah, it’s something that I can’t do. It’s something that I’ve really been working on.”

His next team, whoever it may be, will surely be working on him, too — and the team that drafts him undoubtedly will be convinced it’s an issue that can be managed and corrected.

The full interview from Darnold, which begins and ends with a Darnold/Chris Simms duet, is attached to this entry.

Matt Forte: Devin Hester should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer

Getty Images

The Bears recognized running back Matt Forte and kick returner Devin Hester at a retirement ceremony on Monday, and Forte made the case that Hester should get a bust in Canton.

Forte said that even though Hester was a punt and kickoff returner and played only sparingly outside special teams, that contribution in the kicking game is enough.

“He changed the game,” Forte said. “I mean, literally, changed the game. If you can affect the game like that, he’s gotta be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The definition of a Hall of Famer is somebody who changed the game — like defenses and coaches had to carve out certain time to assess that particular guy. There’s not going to be another Devin Hester ever, I don’t believe.”

Hester noted the possibility that he could be the last kickoff returner in Canton, as the kickoff may be going away.

“It’s a big part of football, it’s one of the most exciting plays when you’re playing this game of football,” Hester said. “At the end of the day, if I’m the last, if I’m the one to be the best at the return game, it’s an honor. But at the same time, I want to continue to see it play out.”

Hester is a player that today’s generation will tell future generations about — in part because future generations won’t witness kickoff returns.

Seahawks “making less excuses” for keeping players on their draft board

Getty Images

After a strong run of drafts from 2010-2012 that helped build the Seahawks into a Super Bowl champion in 2013, Seattle has been far less effective in finding top-tier talent in the NFL Draft over the last several seasons. With the team undergoing significant changes to their roster and coaching staff this offseason, the way they handled the draft process has been overhauled as well.

G.M. John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll said on Monday that the team has reduced the number of players that will make their final draft board as they look to weed out a greater number of prospects they view as problematic.

“You evaluate your drafts all the time. You’re constantly evaluating what you think you did well, what you need to improve on. I think one of the things we’ve done is it’s really cleaned up. We don’t have quite as many names on our board,” Schneider said. “You have to have certain criteria to be on our board and we’re making less excuses for players, I would say.”

The fact this re-evaluation comes the year after their top draft pick, defensive tackle Malik McDowell, was injured in an ATV accident before training camp shouldn’t come as a shock. McDowell didn’t play or practice once for Seattle last year after the injury and his football future remains in serious doubt.

“We haven’t had a good update in a long time,” Carroll said of McDowell.

Whether it’s been taking some risks on players with character concerns, injury concerns or other issues, the Seahawks have not gotten the return on investment from their draft choices over the last several years they would have liked. Frank Clark, Tyler Lockett, Justin Britt, Luke Willson and others have become quality starters and contributors and the jury is still out on some players from last year’s class, but they haven’t been hitting at nearly the same rate they did early on in their tenure. That led to a refining of the process.

“At some point, the character stuff, there’s red flags usually on everybody but what happens is you end up kind of ignoring some of those red flags if you feel like you have a specific need or a fit for a player. I think it’s happened in the past, it will probably happen in the future but you just want to limit those,” Schneider said.

John Lynch non-committal on fifth-year options for Arik Armstead, Laken Tomlinson

Getty Images

General Manager John Lynch was non-committal on whether the 49ers will exercise their 2019 options for defensive lineman Arik Armstead and left guard Laken Tomlinson, Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group reports.

The 49ers have until May 3 to decide.

Armstead would make $9 million in 2019 if the 49ers exercise the option and Tomlinson $9.6 million, with both guaranteed only for injury.

Armstead, the 17th overall choice in 2015, has spent 18 games on injured reserve over the past two seasons. Lynch, though, has said Armstead has a “bright future.”

Armstead likely will line up at the “big end” (strong side) on base downs this season, Lynch said Monday, with Solomon Thomas at the “Leo” (weak side). Armstead and Thomas likely will move inside on passing downs with Cassius Marsh and Jerry Attaochu manning the end spots.

Tomlinson, the 28th overall choice of the Lions in 2015, was traded to the 49ers last August 31 and started 15 games last season.

Former Steelers tight end Bennie Cunningham dies at 63

Getty Images

Two-time Super Bowl champion tight end Bennie Cunningham died of cancer Monday at the age of 63, according to the Associated Press.

Cunningham played 10 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and won two rings with the team in Super Bowls XIII and XIV over the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams.

Cunningham appeared in 118 games in his career and caught 202 passes for 2,879 yards and 20 touchdowns. He also had 19 catches for 219 yards and two touchdowns in the playoffs, including a touchdown in the 1979 AFC Championship game.

Cunningham retired in 1985 and was named to the Steelers’ 75th Anniversary team in 2007.

Free agent lineman Kona Schwenke dead at 25

Getty Images

Former Notre Dame defensive tackle and NFL free agent lineman Kona Schwenke has died at the age of 25, according to his agent Jerry Marlatt.

The cause of death is not yet known.

Schwenke went undrafted out of Notre Dame in 2014 and spent parts of the next two seasons on the rosters of five NFL teams: the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks. While mostly a defensive player, the Seahawks attempted to convert him to an offensive guard during the 2015 offseason. They signed him after a tryout during rookie mini-camp.

Schwenke took part in the Spring League and forced a fumble from Johnny Manziel early this month. Marlatt indicated Schwenke had a tryout with an NFL team last week before passing away on Sunday.

He never appeared in a regular season game but played in four preseason games for the Chiefs and Seahawks.

Pete Carroll: Reports of postponement of Kaepernick workout were “blown up”

Getty Images

The NFL continues to not give Colin Kaepernick employment, even after Amnesty International gave him its 2018 Ambassador of Conscience Award. The Seahawks, however, claim that they haven’t ruled out adding him.

We’re still battling on all fronts, on all guys,” coach Pete Carroll told reporters on Monday, via ESPN.com. “We’re still looking at guys and evaluating. There are still free agents we’re looking at and in that the process just continues. We’ve gone through the information gathering and we have a pretty good feel for where we are. It’s ongoing. We’re not done with that decision at all.”

Two weeks ago, three different reports (from ESPN, Yahoo Sports, and PFT) indicated that a planned workout with Kaepernick was postponed after Kaepernick declined to commit to standing for the national anthem. NFL Media, partially owned by the Seahawks, reported that the Seahawks wanted to gather more information about Kaepernick’s overall plans, including his pending collusion grievance against the league.

Carroll now says that reports regarding the postponement of the workouts were “blown up.”

“I think we’ve been working at this thing for some time now,” Carroll said. “I don’t think that was really as telling as it came across. We’re really aware of him and he’s a fine football player and there may be a place for him. We don’t know that yet.”

If the reports were blown up or skewed or whatever, they weren’t embellished or exaggerated by the three different media companies that published the reports. Thus, the Seahawks if anything should be frustrated by the perception that the report that the team pulled the plug over the anthem issue ultimately traces to Kaepernick — especially since he never disavowed the reports.

Here’s the truth as it relates to Seattle’s interest, or any other team’s potential interest in Kaepernick at this point. When a former, current, or prospective employee is pursuing litigation of any kind against a company, everything done with respect to the employee has a strategic component aimed at successfully defending against the claim. Seattle’s interest likely has been dangled as an opening for a potential settlement of Kaepernick’s grievance, or possibly as a way to claim that he isn’t really serious about mitigating his damages by aggressively pursuing any and all NFL options available to him.

Patriots agree to terms with Ulrick John

Getty Images

The Patriots have agreed to terms with offensive lineman Ulrick John, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports.

John, 25, played five games for the Packers last season. He played 40 offensive snaps and 16 on special teams.

The Colts made him a seventh-round pick in 2014, but he spent his rookie season on injured reserve.

John spent part of 2015 on the Colts’ practice squad before the Dolphins signed him to their active roster on November 2 of that season. He played two games with the Dolphins in 2015.

He saw action in three games with the Cardinals in 2016.

Jimmy Garoppolo hosts weekend throwing sessions

Getty Images

Like finding more places in a pizza to stuff cheese, football players have a knack for finding more time to work out.

With plenty of quarterbacks organizing sessions before and/or after the offseason program, 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has another twist on the effort: During. Garoppolo told reporters on Monday that he’s now getting teammates together on Saturdays for extra work.

“We had our first one this weekend,” Garoppolo said. “It’s just something that I like to do. It kinds of gets us away from the coaches and everything, and allows me to talk to the receivers about specific things, or the tight ends or running backs. We try to get everyone out there that we can. I understand people have things that they have to get to. But we had a great showing this Saturday. It was good. Just to be on the same page with those guys, talking through route concepts and how they see it versus how I see it, it just gets us on the same page.”

Garoppolo realizes that it’s important not to overdo it on the weekend, given that players are working out during the week.

“You’ve got to take care of their legs,” Garoppolo said. “They’ve got us working pretty hard during the week, so you’ve got to be careful with that. But those guys, our receivers, tight ends and running backs came back in great shape. The conditioning part of it, it always makes my job easier when I can throw forever because those guys are willing to run. It’s nice to have that luxury.”

Garoppolo explained that it wasn’t an idea that he lifted from Tom Brady, but that it’s something Garoppolo has been doing for a while.

“I’ve done that since high school,” Garoppolo said. “It’s one of those things, when the coaches aren’t there you kind of see a different side of guys. They open up a little bit or tell you how they see a concept compared to how it is written in the book. Just a little bit at a time for us to talk through things, I guess.”

While Garoppolo chose to be candid about the fact that he and other players are working out on their own, he wasn’t willing to say everything — including the location of the workouts.

“I can’t say that,” he said.

So the place where it happens will remain a secret. But it’s no secret that the 49ers have a new franchise quarterback, and that he’s doing what he needs to do to make the team better.

Report: Cardinals picking up D.J. Humphries’ fifth-year option

Getty Images

The Cardinals will exercise the fifth-year option in D.J. Humphries‘ contract, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic reports.

Humphries is scheduled to make $9.6 million in 2019, which is guaranteed only for injury.

The 24th overall pick in 2015 has played only 18 games in three seasons. The Cardinals made him inactive for every game his rookie season. He opened 2016 as the starting right tackle before left tackle Jared Veldheer was injured, prompting the team to move Humphries to left tackle.

He started five games at left tackle after Veldheer’s injury before a concussion forced Humphries to miss the final three games of that season.

Last season, Humphries started five games at left tackle before a knee injury. He underwent surgery to repair a torn MCL and dislocated knee cap, finishing the year on injured reserve.

Tom Telesco on possibility of drafting a QB: We always have an eye on the future

Getty Images

Philip Rivers said last week he understands the Chargers will draft his future successor sooner or later. Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco didn’t rule out the team drafting a quarterback this year.

At the same time, Telesco gave Rivers a vote of confidence as the Chargers’ quarterback.

“The great thing right now is that we’re very happy with Philip,” Telesco said, via Hayley Elwood of the team website. “He’s our quarterback, hands down, rest assured, for this year and hopefully beyond. But we always have to have an eye on the future. That’s part of our job. There are a lot of other areas on our football team that we’d like to add to, too. That’s all part of it.

“I will say it’s a deep [quarterback] class, not only in the first round but some other rounds as well. We’ve seen it the last couple of years, the quarterback classes have been pretty good. Guys are coming into the league and playing a little bit quicker than they used to. But I have a hard time comparing.”

Rivers has started every game since 2006, and the Chargers have no reason to believe he won’t do the same again this season. But Rivers also is 36, so the Chargers will have to start thinking about the future at some point soon.

Kam Chancellor will undergo further testing on his neck this summer

Getty Images

The Seahawks still don’t know whether Kam Chancellor will play this season.

The safety will undergo further testing this summer to determine his future, Seahawks General Manager John Schneider said Monday.

“He’s going to have a scan I think it’s either late June or early July,” Schneider said, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.

Chancellor, 30, injured his neck in a November game against the Cardinals. The four-time Pro Bowler has indicated that he intends to play this season, but doctors will have to clear him first.

His base salary of $6.8 million for 2018 is fully guaranteed, whether he plays or not.

Chancellor has missed 16 games over the past three seasons. He played nine last season.

Tom Telesco has no time for questions about Baker Mayfield not having time to study playbook

Getty Images

Last week, comments emerged from Baker Mayfield regarding his meeting with the Chargers, and his admitted lack of knowledge about their playbook. This week, Chargers G.M. Tom Telesco had the perfect response to Mayfield’s remarks.

“I didn’t look at [the Chargers] playbook as much as a I should have,” Mayfield told Robert Klemko of Sports Illustrated. “It could have gone a little bit better . . . but at the same time, I’m prioritizing which playbooks I’m going to learn. No offense to them, but I’ve got a lot on my plate.”

Said Telesco when asked about Mayfield’s comments by Dan Wolke of the Los Angeles Times: “I’m probably not prepared to comment on that. My plate’s pretty full. No offense, Dan.”

It’s a funny twist on Mayfield’s quote, and it shows that the teams definitely are paying attention to the things these guys say. None it means much, though, because Mayfield will indeed be long gone before the Chargers are on the clock.