Eric Winston: We need to be prepared for 2021

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Whatever happens after the expiration of the current labor deal, the NFL Players Association has a clear message for its members: Be prepared.

“It’s not something that we can spring on them in 2020 and say, ‘You guys got to get ready for this,'” NFLPA president Eric Winston recently told Keenan Singleton of WCPO at his Bengals locker.

“We try to educate those guys as soon as we get them,” Winston added. “DeMaurice Smith and myself, we’ll have meetings with them this year.  We introduce those topics and continue to educate. Obviously it falls on the leaders in the locker room. Clint Boling, Vinnie Rey, those guys that are [union] reps — it falls on them to  answer a lot of questions.”

The last time the CBA expired, the NFLPA was still reeling from the sudden passing of long-time executive director Gene Upshaw — and the owners were determined to undo a 2006 deal that had caused them both to opt-out early and to constantly complain about the agreement. The owners currently aren’t complaining, which means they possibly won’t stage another lockout. Still, if the players want better terms, they may need to strike.

There’s a fundamental difference between the two potential outcomes. Ultimately, the question becomes whether the players are willing to lose game checks. They haven’t been in the past, at least not for long. If they choose to in 2021, they need to be prepared to be painted as the bad guys by the NFL’s politics-infused P.R. machine, which will be working overtime to win the hearts and minds of fans.

“They don’t look like it like, ‘We’re workers and they’re workers,'” Winston said. “They look at it like, ‘Oh, that’s my team. Whether it’s that player or another player, it’s still going to be my team and I want them to win and I don’t really care who’s doing the winning.'”

If the players strike, that theory will get tested by the use of replacement players, again. The real test will involve the players’ resolve, whether they’re locked out by management or choose to walk away.

Texans coach says Tom Savage is his starting quarterback


This is the week for people with questions at quarterback to try to clear them up.

And even though the Texans have insisted all preseason they didn’t have a question, they answered it anyway.

Via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, Texans coach Bill O’Brien made it clear he was sticking with Tom Savage over rookie Deshaun Watson.

Tom is our starter. He’s had a good camp.” O’Brien said.

Establishing Watson as the backup won’t make the questions go away, after they made the bold move to trade up for him in the first round this year. But as long as Savage maintains a consistent level (even if that level is consistently average), the Texans appear willing to let Watson develop on the bench.

Cam Newton on track to play Thursday night

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After quarterback Cam Newton stepped up his work in Monday’s practice, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said that he wanted to see how Newton felt on Tuesday before deciding if the quarterback will play against the Jaguars on Thursday night.

Rivera wanted to make sure there was no soreness or tightness in Newton’s surgically repaired shoulder and it sounds like Newton avoided both. Rivera said on Tuesday, via David Newton of, that Newton is on track to play and that he’s seen signs of the quarterback getting more comfortable after a summer of limited work.

“You could see the timing coming back,” Rivera said.

Given the cautious approach the Panthers have taken with Newton all summer, any game action he sees on Thursday will likely be on the limited side as the team tries to keep him healthy while also making sure he’s not starting from scratch come Week One.

Report: Little urgency from owners to reduce preseason


NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s talking about shortening the preseason again, but the question may be whether his bosses are interested in it.

According to Mark Maske of the Washington Post, “there does not seem to be great urgency among the owners to shorten the preseason,” regardless of Goodell’s recent remarks.

Part of the reason some owners seem to hesitant to push for it may be that there’s less pushback from fans about the reduced quality of the games, because they’re not (necessarily) paying as much for them. With more teams adopting variable pricing — in which preseason games cost less and the difference is inevitably made up elsewhere — the pressure is less.

Cowboys executive Stephen Jones said earlier in training camp that he thinks the sport can live with the current length of the preseason, given that shell game of ticket costs.

“I don’t know that we need any more games in terms of the overall package, the fact that you play 20 games in a season,” Cowboys executive Stephen Jones said. “The way I look at preseason is, because we’ve changed the way we price tickets now . . . I don’t think it’s as big a deal.”

Jones pointed to the expanded reps they were able to give young players this year with a fifth preseason game, and said that was important for a guy such as Jaylon Smith coming off injuries.

“We’ll be the first to tell you our coaching staff, our young players, us as ownership, our scouting department are thrilled we have five games. . . . All these young players need reps and we need to see who can contribute,” Jones said. “You’re not gonna be seeing a whole lot of Jason Witten in these early preseason games. And then everybody says, ‘Oh, that’s not good for the product because they’re not seeing the best.’ Part of getting to the best product when you hit the regular season is developing these young guys so that when you do start Day 1 that you have the very best product you can put out on the field.

“And if you don’t give these rookies and these young players like Jaylon Smith the opportunity to really get . . . his feet wet, get out there and play, then you’re not gonna have the best product on the field when we play the Giants in Week 1 [of the regular season]. . . . To me, there’s some excitement there and if you variable-price and figure that out, then I don’t see the issue.”

Charging a little less might pacify the paying customers, but players likely still hate it. But until they’re ready to trade fewer preseason games for more games in the regular season or postseason, the 16-4 arrangement may not change anytime soon.

Jamaal Charles will play a lot on Saturday night


Broncos coach Vance Joseph said last week that veteran running back Jamaal Charles would suit up for the first time in the preseason when the Broncos face the Packers on Saturday night and it sounds like the team plans to make up for the first two games by putting Charles to work.

Joseph said on Monday that Charles will play “a lot” against Green Bay in his first game action since Week Seven of last season. Charles missed the rest of the year with a knee injury and has played in just eight games over the last two seasons, leaving him with a need to show the Broncos that there’s still something left in the tank.

“It’s going to be Jamaal’s shot to go do his thing. He knows that; he’s ready,” Joseph said, via

C.J. Anderson is the No. 1 back in Denver, Devontae Booker is expected back from a wrist injury for the start of the regular season and the team has seen good things from rookie De'Angelo Henderson this summer, so Charles will need to make the most of his shot if he’s going to play a role come the fall.

Mike Martz tees off on Jared Goff, Sean McVay

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Former Rams coach Mike Martz has no warm or fuzzy feelings for the franchise’s current coach or possible franchise quarterback.

In an excerpt from Thomas George’s Blitzed: Why NFL Teams Gamble on Starting Rookie Quarterbacks, Martz unloads on both Jared Goff and Sean McVay.

“I don’t know if he can play or not, but I do know he couldn’t have gone to a worse place,” Martz said of Goff, via “If you took him and switched him with Dak Prescott in Dallas, who knows what would have happened for Goff there? Goff at Cal came from an offense where they ran as many plays as they could — fast. Jared in college did an amazing job of throwing a true ball off balance, under duress, making things happen. You knew the speed of the NFL would throw that kind of timing off. But he still throws a true ball. The Rams wanted to rewire him to what?

“I watched the Rams offense last season. It was awful football. There was nobody there on that staff that could teach him, develop him. You have a high-value guy like that and he went to the worst offensive place, the Rams.”

Now, the Rams have wunderkind Sean McVay, who helped get the most out of Kirk Cousins the past two years in Washington.

“What is he, a couple of months older than Jared?” Martz said. (McVay is nine years old than Goff.) “They hired a buddy for Jared. The NFL has nothing to do with being the friend or the buddy of the quarterback. You’ve got to coach them and work them hard with respect. But buddy? And this guy is a quarterback expert? An offensive expert? Wait a minute while I puke. Right, he’s going to be able to teach and handle and guide Jared through tough times because of all of his expertise and knowledge? Right. I’m not going to drink that Kool-Aid.”

Martz sounds like he’s been drinking something stronger. He comes off as stereotypical Glory Days grump who resents a younger coach doing a job that Martz surely believes he could do better right now. But McVay has been successful as a coordinator, the same path Martz took to become a marginally successful head coach.

Yes, Martz took the Rams to a Super Bowl after succeeding Dick Vermeil after Super Bowl XXXIV. However, the Rams arguably should have been to more — and should have won at least one — with Martz at the helm. Instead, Martz had a variety of conflicts within the organization, ultimately alienating future Hall of Famer Kurt Warner and, eventually, moving on from him. The Rams later moved on from Martz, who never received serious head-coaching consideration again.

It’s unclear why Martz has a problem with McVay. Per a league source, the two men have met briefly only once. Thus, this one possibly can be chalked up to good, old-fashioned old-man resentment of the guy who is getting it down without having to walk five miles in the snow. Uphill. Each way.

Jerry Jones declines to say whether he supports Roger Goodell contract extension

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Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was reportedly furious at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell over the Ezekiel Elliott suspension. So does that mean Jones opposes extending Goodell’s contract, as the owners reportedly plan to do?

Jones himself isn’t saying. On 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, Jones said he simply wouldn’t comment on whether he believes he and his fellow owners should keep Goodell in charge.

“That’s obviously an internal, very internal thing and I would not comment about it. And I don’t want that to be interpreted. I just will not comment about it. I’m one of the people that are basically involved in how that is being negotiated. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment about it,” Jones said.

There have been reports that Jones thinks the owners pay Goodell too much money, and that Jones is not among the six owners involved in negotiating Goodell’s contract extension. But if Jones isn’t satisfied with the job Goodell is doing, it would appear that the majority of his fellow owners disagree with him. And so Jones may think that he shouldn’t speak out publicly, even as privately he’s displeased with the Commissioner.

Bills expect Cordy Glenn, Jordan Matthews to play Week One

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Bills coach Sean McDermott has expressed concern about left tackle Cordy Glenn‘s health a few times this summer, but he expects to have Glenn on the field against the Jets on September 10.

McDermott said that Glenn will be on the field for part of Tuesday’s practice and that he has made progress in getting over the foot injury that’s plagued him recently. The same is true of wide receiver Jordan Matthews, who returned for individual work over the weekend after sustaining a chip fracture to his sternum in his first practice with the team after the trade that brought him over from the Eagles.

“Cordy is progressing, and he’ll be out on the field with the walk through going on. He’s progress, he’s moving forward, and you know, nothing has changed. We feel like we’re on schedule at this point,” McDermott said, via the Buffalo News. “Jordan you’ll see out there in the walk-through period a little bit, so he’s take a step forward today. He is on schedule, as is Cordy. You’ll see Jordan in a little bit more of activity that Cordy at this point.”

Glenn has been with the team all year and has a grasp of the offense that should allow him to get up to speed fairly quickly. Matthews will be facing more of a learning curve due to his late arrival in Buffalo, which could limit his effectiveness early in the regular season if not his playing time in a thin receiving corps.

Bucs bring back long snapper Andrew DePaola

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The Buccaneers employed Andrew DePaola as their long snapper for the last three seasons, but it looked like they were moving on this year when they signed Garrison Sanborn and didn’t tender DePaola a contract as a restricted free agent.

Part of the reason for that decision may have been the torn ACL DePaola suffered in the final week of the 2016 season. Five months have passed since the Bucs made that call and they are going to take another look at DePaola.

The Buccaneers announced that they have signed DePaola to their 90-man roster. Sanborn remains on the roster as well, so the Bucs may hold a short competition to determine which player joins them for the regular season.

Cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah was waived/injured in a corresponding move. Adjei-Barimah fractured his patella for the second time in less than a year this summer and the recovery timeline doesn’t leave much hope that he’ll be healthy enough to play in 2017.

Maybe OBJ should have held out


One of the first thoughts that rattled around inside my limited brain after Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. went down with an injury that scared everyone (except fans of other teams in the NFC East) was this: That’s why Aaron Donald is holding out.

Picked one spot after Beckham in the first round of the 2014 draft, Donald has decided to take a stand now, even with two years left on his rookie deal. By leveraging a withholding of services into a second contract (if he gets one), the dominant defensive tackle will be shifting the injury risk to the Rams, via a signifiant signing bonus and/or large injury guarantees.

Beckham, who skipped voluntary offseason workouts but reported for training camp, carries the injury risk with a base salary of $1.8 million in 2017 and injury-guaranteed compensation of $8.4 million for 2018. And he saw that injury risk nearly become reality on Monday night.

Some will say Beckham should shut it down until he gets his contract. The rules of the labor deal, however, make it much easier for a player to never show up than to report and then leave.

Even though it’s too late for Beckham to hold out, he could choose to hold in. That’s a term agents use in reference to nagging injuries like hamstrings and headaches that keep a player from being available for practices or games. While Beckham may not be wired to do that (to his credit), mindsets can change after a guy’s football life goes flashing before his eyes.

From the team’s perspective, this could be the ideal time to offer Beckham the Antonio Brown contract, with a moderate bump. Beckham has said he’d like to be the highest-paid player in football, but he may feel differently when he’s staring at an offer far less than top of the league but far more than life changing.

One day after his career almost changed badly, now could be the time for the Giants and Beckham to come together on a reasonable and fair arrangement that protects him against the next time he takes a low hit during a game.

Marshon Lattimore wants people to throw at him

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Now that he’s on the field, Marshon Lattimore is looking for something to do.

The Saints cornerback made his preseason debut last week, but the Chargers didn’t throw in his direction during the 17 plays he was on the field, leading the first-rounder to offer a challenge to future opponents.

“I want to make some plays on the ball,” Lattimore said, via Josh Katzenstein of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “I want teams to test me, so they can see I’m the real deal.”

The Saints used the 10th overall pick on the top corner in this year’s class precisely so they could close down large areas of the field. And if anyone’s looking away from Lattimore over the course of the year, it will probably be because of the personnel on the other side.

But considering the constantly under construction state of the Saints defense, Lattimore may also come to regret such a bold claim.

Ben McAdoo disappointed by Giants’ disregard for the football


The biggest story to come out of Monday night’s game for the Giants offense was wide receiver Odell Beckham‘s ankle injury and the focus on whether it was serious or not obscured a performance by the unit that would have probably garnered negative headlines without Beckham going down.

The Giants’ starting offense was on the field for five possessions in the first half of the game and generated three points while gaining 84 yards on 24 plays. Eli Manning took a sack, they failed to run the ball and wide receiver Sterling Shepard fumbled over the course of a disappointing performance from a unit that needs to be better than it was last season.

Guard Justin Pugh said it was still just the preseason, but he “expected us to be better.” Coach Ben McAdoo focused on the turnovers as Shepard’s fumble was joined by two move giveaways in the second half of the game.

“The disregard for the ball was disappointing,” McAdoo said, via Tom Rock of Newsday. “We need to take care of the ball. If we don’t take care of the ball and we give up 10 points, we lose the ballgame. Let’s not do that. It doesn’t matter what season it is: regular season, preseason, postseason.”

The Giants get back on the field for their “dress rehearsal” against the Jets on Saturday and another snoozer from the offense will likely catch a bit more notice than Monday night’s outing.

Jarvis Landry on Odell Beckham injury: “This is why I hate preseason”


Giants receiver Odell Beckham appeared to avoid serious injury when he took a hit against the Browns on Monday night, but Beckham’s friend and college teammate wasn’t happy to see him take any injury at all.

Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry, who played alongside Beckham at LSU, wrote on Twitter that he wasn’t pleased with seeing his buddy get hurt in a meaningless exhibition.

“This is why I hate preseason Bulls–t,” Landry wrote on Twitter after Beckham was hurt.

Landry’s complaint is a common one across the NFL, as players wonder why they’re risking their bodies in games that don’t matter. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is speaking out in favor of reducing the preseason, and he’ll likely have the support of players like Landry in that — at least if the league can find a way to shorten the preseason without doing something else the players oppose, such as lengthening the regular season. That’s a big “if.”

Garett Bolles wins Broncos left tackle job

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Competing for a starting spot ended with a better result for the Broncos’ 2017 first-round pick than it did for the team’s first selection in the 2016 draft.

Coach Vance Joseph announced on Monday that Trevor Siemian beat out Paxton Lynch for the starting quarterback job and he also announced that Siemian will be protected by starting left tackle Garett Bolles.

“He’s won the job,” Joseph said, via the Denver Post.

Bolles had been competing with Ty Sambrailo and Donald Stephenson and appeared to be ahead for much of the summer when it came to both practice reps and preseason starts. One thing he’ll need to clear up as his rookie year continues is penalties as he was flagged for holding three times along with a false start against the 49ers last weekend.

Bolles will join right guard Ron Leary and right tackle Menelik Watson as new starters on the Denver offensive line. If Allen Barbre gets the nod at left guard, center Matt Paradis will be the only blocker returning from last season.

Germain Ifedi: Frank Clark is a great dude

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Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark said last week that he apologized to tackle Germain Ifedi for punching him in the face during a practice fight early this month and Ifedi confirmed on Monday that the apology was accepted.

Ifedi missed some practice time after taking the shot from Clark and said Monday that he was in the concussion protocol, but didn’t have any other injuries and said that “we all have growing to do” while discussing where things stand with his teammate.

“Things got heated,” Ifedi said, via the Seattle Times. “Camp, a little scuffle between O-line and D-line. At least everybody is competing. Me and Frank talked it out it. I know his heart, I know where his heart is always at. Great dude. He lost his head for a second but we’ve all done it. It’s happened to all of us so I can’t judge him for that. I still love him like a brother. We have moved past it and we have been awesome ever since.”

The practice fight season is coming to an end, which means we’ll just have to resign ourselves to watching games for the rest of the year while waiting for scuffles to break out around the league in 2018.