Tom Brady documentary producer has nothing to add

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When he was promoting his “Tom vs. Time” documentary, filmmaker Gotham Chopra had plenty to say.

Now that there’s a fresh “report” saying definitively that Tom Brady either is or isn’t playing in 2018, not so much.

Chopra offered up his non-update via Twitter, and frankly that’s probably appropriate for something that may or may not be a story.

Chopra has been more effusive in the past.

In a podcast with Peter King of SI.com, he elaborated on the final scene of the documentary, in which Brady spoke about his commitment to another long football season after a difficult Super Bowl loss.

“This idea that he’s going to play for four or five more seasons, . . . I mean, this is just me, the guy who’s been around him for a while now. I just have a hard time envisioning that,” Chopra said. “But we’ll see. I do think that these next few weeks and months are a critical time for him.”

He also hinted at months of reports of friction in the Patriots organization, doing nothing to refute the idea that the tension between Brady and coach Bill Belichick (perhaps stemming from his work with trainer Alex Guerrero) is real.

“I mean, it’s an 18-year marriage, and it’s been an incredibly successful run,” Chopra said. “But there’s a lot of intensity and a lot of pressure, and a lot of big personalities. And Tom is one of them. That hasn’t been easy, and I find it interesting that by the end of the season, that all kind of faded away, because when you get to the end of the season, no matter what is going on, everyone sort of gets on the same page and focuses. . . .

“Again, they had another incredible run. And that’s what [Brady] says at the end is like, this is a very different offseason for him. It’s the fact that he’s got three growing kids, a wife who’s like, ‘You know, I’ve kind of been putting stuff on hold for a while, and I wanna go out and do my thing now too.’ And so Tom’s juggling a lot of things, and I think that’s basically what he says at the end: ‘I gotta recalibrate. I have to find that conviction again’.”

Chopra did say he thought Brady would continue to play, but it’s clear that the combination of age, family pressures, and a long run in a highly stressful environment has led us to the point where nothing is automatic.

So until someone else actually says something, we’ll have to wait for the next version of will-he-or-won’t-he.

Making sense of the new Tom Brady report

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Tom Brady isn’t committed to playing in 2018. Unless he is.

That’s the quick summary of the new report from ESPN, an obvious effort to advance a story that emerged on Monday when Brady didn’t report for the start of the offseason program — and more significantly when Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston suggested that Brady is leading an “open revolt” against coach Bill Belichick and the Patriot Way.

Here’s the story, as advanced by ESPN: Brady hasn’t said with certainty that he’ll play in 2018, but people who know him expect him to play.

Does that really count as news at this point? If ESPN wants to speculate by connecting dots, then just speculate by connecting dots. Don’t twist something that isn’t news into something that is supposed to feel like actual news when it’s really not news.

For example, after talking to Curran on Monday’s PFT PM podcast, I became slightly more convinced that a small possibility exists that Brady will pull a Barry Sanders and retire abruptly at some point between now and training camp. I still think there’s a very small chance it happens, and I didn’t feel compelled to get someone to tell me under the cloak of anonymity, “You know, now that you mention it, Brady has never said, ‘I’m absolutely, positively playing in 2018.'”

When has he ever said that? At one point in his career, Brady consistently said he plans to play 10 more years. At some point, it became a vow to play until he’s 45. He’s never been a year-to-year guy. While it’s possible that he’s now shifting into year-to-year mode, it seems like a stretch to suggest that the absence of a clear statement that he’ll play in 2018 means anything — especially when people who know him say they expect him to play in 2018.

The non-story story prompted Jimmy Traina of SI.com to make this observation: “Here’s why athletes hate the media. ESPN blasts out a story saying Tom Brady hasn’t committed to playing in 2018. Story quotes two ‘sources.’ Both say Brady will play. Not one quote in the story says he may not play.”

The truth here seems to be that ESPN wanted to plant a flag regarding the possibility of a retirement, in the event that Brady does the unlikely and walks away. This way, ESPN can claim it was at the forefront of the reporting on the issue, even if for now ESPN really isn’t reporting anything.

Report: Saquon Barkley’s agents don’t want him to go to Cleveland

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The Browns don’t exactly have a great track record of developing the players they choose in the NFL draft, and the people around one of this year’s top prospects would prefer for him not to be next.

That’s the word from a Sports Illustrated profile of Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, which says that although Barkley is ready to compete wherever he goes, his agents would much rather see Barkley go second overall to the Giants than first overall to the Browns.

“His Roc Nation handlers, however, don’t want him to be taken No. 1,” Ben Baskin writes in SI. “They don’t want him in Cleveland. They want him to go second to the Giants and play in the media capital of the world. That’s where you can become the Face of the League. His manager even implored him to pull an Eli Manning and demand that the Browns not draft him. Barkley never considered the option.”

Given that the Browns have both the first and the fourth overall pick, there’s a decent chance they’ll end up taking Barkley. They’re fortunate that he’s not planning to follow his manager’s advice.

Brett Favre disputes report that he stunk up his MNF audition

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On Tuesday, the New York Post reported that Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre recently auditioned for the vacant analyst gig on Monday Night Football. Per the report, Favre bombed.

Favre disputed that account via Twitter, making the decision seem like his, not the network’s.

“Wanted to clear something up from today’s press on me & ESPN,” Favre said. “Truth is I had a good meeting about possibly joining the MNF crew. I was intrigued when they called yet not sure I want to pursue a broadcasting career right now. I wish them the best of luck and a great season.”

Favre took a test run at a broadcasting career seven years ago, calling a game between Rice and Southern Miss. It didn’t go well.

With Favre doing nothing to hone his skills since then, it’s no surprise that he wasn’t good enough to waltz right in, gold jacket over his shoulder, and take over one of the most significant gigs in sports broadcasting. It’s also no surprise that Favre would want the narrative to be something other than, “He just doesn’t have it.”

Strahan, Bradshaw, Long to work Thursday night pregame for FOX

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FOX still hasn’t announced who will be in the booth on Thursday Night Football this season, but it has announced who will be on the pregame set.

Michael Strahan, Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long will work the pregame show on Thursday nights, FOX announced today.

Those three will continue to work with Curt Menefee and Jimmy Johnson on FOX’s Sunday morning pregame show. That show is broadcast from Los Angeles, while the Thursday night show will air from New York.

Although FOX hasn’t said who its Thursday night broadcast team will be, the favorites appear to be Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Erin Andrews, the No. 1 Sunday team.

Jimmy Graham: Packers hunger was defining factor for me

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Tight end Jimmy Graham started work with his new team this week and he took some time on Tuesday to explain what led him to sign with the Packers in the first place.

Graham said he’s been “pretty good friends” with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers since spending time with him at a Pro Bowl several years ago and that gave him insight into Rodgers’ mindset when he was considering offers this offseason.

“There was a lot of teams out there who were really pulling on me, and I turned down quite a significant amount of money to come here because I believe in not only Mike but, I mean, 12’s hungry,” Graham said, via ESPN.com. “I know how he is and I know how competitive he is, and I want to ride that wave and try to help him as best I can. For me, it’s about winning a ring. Simple as that. I know this team, I know Aaron’s hungry, I know the coaching staff’s hungry, this franchise is hungry to win one. And that was the defining factor for me.”

A return to the productivity of his Saints years would allow Graham to provide the maximum help to Rodgers and the rest of the Packers. His three years with the Seahawks provided mixed results as illustrated by last year’s 10 touchdown catches and 9.1 yards per catch.

Graham is confident that he can put up the bigger numbers — “I’m still 6’7″ and can still run a 4.5 [40-yard dash]” — and fulfilling those expectations would be a major boost to Green Bay’s chances in 2018.

AJ McCarron: Arm strength is overrated, how often do you throw 60 yards?

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When AJ McCarron was coming out of Alabama, one of the knocks on him was that he didn’t have a strong enough arm. McCarron thinks that’s nonsense.

McCarron, who spent the last four years in Cincinnati and now hopes to start for the Bills this season, said he doesn’t see a strong arm as a particularly meaningful trait in a pro quarterback.

“Me personally, I think a lot of people get sold on big arms,” McCarron said. “You look at the history of quarterbacks in the NFL, there’s been a lot of great quarterbacks in the NFL that haven’t had crazy strong arms. How many times do you actually drop back and throw the ball 60 yards? Very rarely. The game is played with timing and accuracy. If you have those two things, you can be successful.”

That may be self-serving, but there’s some truth to what McCarron is saying. There’s a minimum level of arm strength that’s necessary to be an NFL quarterback, but on the vast majority of passes, accuracy counts for more than arm strength.

Broncos put some incentives in Chris Harris’ deal

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The Broncos carved some money out of the budget by trading veteran cornerback Aqib Talib, and they’ve spread some of it back around the secondary.

According to Field Yates of ESPN, the Broncos have added $3 million in incentives to the deal of cornerback Chris Harris.

The 28-year-old Harris has two years left on his current deal, and was due to make $7.4 million this year and $7.8 million next year.

But the incentives could push his earnings this year to $10.5 million, which should help keep some people happy if they’re not going to extend him and give him a raise.

Report: Tom Brady still has not committed to playing in 2018

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Tom Brady has mused many times about playing well into his 40s. But officially, the 40-year-old Brady hasn’t even decided for sure to play past 40.

That’s the word from Adam Schefter of ESPN, who reports that Brady has not committed to playing the 2018 season. Schefter adds, however, that people close to Brady do expect him to play this year.

That raises the question of what exactly it would mean to “commit to” playing the season anyway. Players rarely announce a formal commitment to playing. It’s generally just assumed that a player under contract to an NFL team is going to play until he announces his retirement.

However, teams have been burned in the past by assuming a star player was going to play. Barry Sanders spent an offseason declining to commit to playing, and then announced his retirement on the eve of training camp in 1999. That caught the Lions off-guard, and made them wish they had prepared for Sanders’ departure better.

Which means the Patriots may need to be prepared for the possibility of Brady announcing his retirement at some point between now and the start of the regular season. And the best way to prepare would be to draft a quarterback next week. The Patriots have two first-round picks and two second-round picks, and if Brady hasn’t told them before draft day that he’s definitely committed to playing this year, they may feel they have no choice but to draft his successor.

Deshaun Watson: I won’t come back hesitant

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Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins set a high bar for what he and quarterback Deshaun Watson can do during the 2018 season and there’s no shortage of people who agree that the duo will be a potent one for Houston.

Those who have a less rosy outlook may be concerned that Watson won’t be able to recapture the form he had before tearing his ACL last year. Watson threw 19 touchdowns and ran for two others in seven games that quickly vaulted him to the top of the list of the most exciting offensive players in the league.

It’s the second time Watson has had to recover from a torn ACL, which seems to have helped him stay confident that he’ll be back to his old tricks soon enough.

“My game’s not changing,” Watson said, via ESPN.com. “Whatever you [saw] last year is going to be the same, if not better. I’ve dealt with adversity before, had injuries before. I didn’t let that slow me down. It just changed my attitude about the game. A lot of people would think that I’d come back hesitant, but I’m going to make sure I come back more forceful and with a stronger and more intense attitude.”

The Texans are reworking their offense to cater to Watson’s strengths, which shows they share his belief that the injury will not factor into how Watson plays during the 2018 season. If that bet is correct, the Texans offense should pose plenty of problems for their opponents.

NBA tanking leading to tension between owners and coaches

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If tanking is happening in the NFL, it rarely gets discussed. It’s definitely happening in the NBA, and it gets discussed plenty.

Beyond the misadventures of Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who continues to talk about tanking and who recently was fined $600,000 for doing so, other NBA owners aren’t going public with their preferences. Privately, however, NBA owners realize the value of losing now to win later, via enhanced draft placement.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski recently addressed the dynamic on his podcast, and his comments were eye-opening.

“There were teams literally signing G League players, intentionally bringing up guys they knew could not play in the NBA because they were determined to lose games,” Wojnarowski said, via TheBigLead.com. “I never heard more talk from front office executives — frustration with coaches who were winning games they didn’t want them to win. And owners, I know of an instance of an owner berating, really berating, his coach here in the last several weeks of the season for going in and beating a pretty good team on the road and going, ‘What are you doing?'”

It’s unclear who the owner and coach may be, and since I don’t follow the NBA I don’t really care who they are. For our purposes, the point is this: Tanking is real, and tanking is effective.

Tanking happens in the NBA even with a draft lottery. In the NFL, where the determining factor for draft order remains only wins and losses in the prior season, it’s a lot easier to tank and, in turn, even more tempting.

Again, tanking doesn’t consist of players or coaches deliberately trying to lose, although coaches have to be sufficiently secure in their futures to willingly go along with a plan hatched by others in the organization. The tanking comes from the front office/ownership suite, which realizes the value of making a non-playoff year as bad as it can possibly be, in the hopes of making the future as bright as possible. And it comes in the form of ownership directing the coaching staff to, for example, bench an aging franchise quarterback during a lost season for a younger understudy who isn’t in the same stratosphere as the veteran.

Which is precisely what the Giants tried to do last year. And which prompted an angry reaction from Giants co-owner John Mara regarding the possibility of tanking.

NFL owners get it. When tanking happens, there can be no evidence of tanking. Because acknowledging tanking means acknowledging that the “integrity of the game” can’t ever be fully protected or ensured, as long as the draft order is premised not on success but on failure.

Today’s the last day for pre-draft visits

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After today, the top prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft can unpack their suitcases for a moment.

Today’s the final day players can travel to teams for pre-draft visits, and for some it’s the end of the long a grueling few weeks of travel.

To round up some of the highlights today, quarterback Sam Darnold is with the Jets and Josh Allen is visiting the Giants. The Cardinals are getting the last look at Baker Mayfield.

For some of them, particularly the top quarterbacks, it’s an arduous process of bouncing from city to city, meeting a blur of coaches and team officials and eating many expensive dinners.

Each team has the ability to bring in 30 players for visits, though not every team uses the full allotment. And since each team has, on average, seven draft picks, it’s easy to see that most of the visits are for vain or largely for the purposes of establishing a smokescreen.

Matthew Stafford advises upcoming No. 1 pick to “be yourself”

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Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was asked what he thinks the Lions should do in the first round of the draft during a Tuesday media session, but he kept his thoughts to himself.

Stafford said he won’t get into that because his job is to “go out there and play and try to play as high-level as I possibly can.” Stafford was willing to offer some advice on another topic, however.

Stafford was the first overall pick of the 2009 draft and went to a team that had gone 0-16 the previous year. It looks like the Browns, who also went 0-16, will be making a quarterback the first overall pick of this year’s draft, leaving the door open for Stafford to share what he’d tell a player in a position he knows well.

“I think that’s all you can do is just be yourself,” Stafford said, via the Detroit Free Press. “Just go in there, work hard, show those guys in that locker room what you’re about. And whatever it is you’re about, it’ll come out and they’ll either accept you or they won’t and then you go play.”

Stafford got to go play right off the bat for the Lions, something that may not be the case for prospective first overall picks Sam Darnold 0r Josh Allen with Tyrod Taylor already in Cleveland, and dealt with injuries for a couple of years before blossoming in Detroit. The Browns would surely prefer skipping the injuries, but would likely be happy with much of the rest of Stafford’s trajectory.

Malcolm Jenkins thinks authorities “trying to make an example” of Michael Bennett

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Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins has been one of the league’s most active players when it comes to working for criminal justice reform.

And he has a sense that one of his new teammates might have been singled out by the legal community as well.

Via Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News, Jenkins suggested that something seems unusual about defensive end Michael Bennett being indicted on charges of pushing an injuring a disabled security guard at the Super Bowl 14 months ago.

“From the outside looking in, not necessarily knowing all the details, but just kind of using common sense, it seems like they’re trying to make an example out of him,” Jenkins said. “But hopefully, those things will work out in his favor. He’s a guy that, I was excited when we [traded for him]. Still looking forward to him being a part of this team, being part of this community, because I think he’s somebody that cares. Somebody that works hard, obviously, he’s a great athlete, but a great human being as well.”

The Eagles were acquiring him in a traded with the Seahawks just as the charges were filed. Bennett’s lawyer has called the claims “ludicrous,” and said he will plead not guilty.

Bennett has also just written a book called “Things That Make White People Uncomfortable.”

Packers get nine exclusive rights free agents under contract

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The Packers could have a competition for the starting job at right guard this offseason and two of the players who would likely be taking part have officially signed contracts with the team.

Justin McCray and Lucas Patrick were both tendered as exclusive rights free agents and Tuesday’s transaction report from the NFL brought word that both of them have now signed those tenders. McCray, who also saw time at tackle, played in 13 games and made eight starts in 2017 while Patrick started two of the 12 games he appeared in last year.

The Packers had seven other exclusive rights free agents sign their tenders with the offseason program opening up this week. The group includes wide receiver Geronimo Allison, who has 35 catches for 455 yards and two touchdowns over the last two seasons, and backup quarterback Joe Callahan.

Defensive back Donatello Brown, wide receiver Michael Clark, running back Joe Kerridge, offensive lineman Adam Pankey and defensive back Jermaine Whitehead round out the group.