Many Falcons will skip voluntary workouts, but team is not unanimous

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Players on the Falcons are the latest to release a statement through the NFL Players Association about skipping voluntary workouts, although the Falcons’ statement makes clear that some players are not in agreement.

The statement from Falcons players today says only that “many” players won’t work out with the team, but it’s unclear whether the players skipping the workouts represent a majority.

“Many of our players will decide to exercise their right to not attend the voluntary offseason program,” the statement said. “That right is afforded to every player through our CBA. While our team is not unanimous, we respect the decisions of every player across the league and will remain professional in our approach to the game. Injury data and game performance last year show that a virtual offseason is beneficial to player health and safety. In addition, many of our players feel unsafe entering the facility as COVID protocols remain unclear.”

That the team is not unanimous makes clear that the Falcons will have offseason workouts, and some players will be there. So while the NFLPA is trying to rally players to stay away, they’re not getting everyone on board.

J.C. Jackson signs tender with Patriots

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Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson has decided to accept his one-year tender offer from the Patriots.

Jackson has signed the one-year deal that gives him a $3.384 million salary for the 2021 season, according to multiple reports.

The Patriots put a second-round tender on Jackson as a restricted free agent, meaning if another team had signed him to an offer sheet, the Patriots could have either allowed him to leave and taken that team’s second-round draft pick, or matched the offer and kept Jackson in New England.

Now Jackson is poised to remain in New England for the 2021 season and hit free agency in 2022. Although the Patriots could still trade Jackson or sign him to a long-term deal, it appears that the most likely scenario is Jackson plays this season with the Patriots and hopes a good year results in a big payday next offseason.

Oddsmakers project Chiefs for best record in the NFL

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The betting odds say the Chiefs are heading into the 2021 season as the favorites to finish with the best record in the NFL.

The win totals posted by William Hill today have the Chiefs’ over/under at 12 wins, which is the highest in the NFL.

That would project to a record of 12-5, a strange-looking record we’ll have to get accustomed to now that the NFL is playing 17-game seasons.

The Chiefs were also the early favorites to have the best record in the NFL a year ago, with their win total over/under set at 11.5 wins in a 16-game season. The Chiefs hit the over, going 14-2.

Belichick says Patriots’ draft evaluation “is definitely different” after unusual 2020 NCAA season

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The 2020 college football season was unusual, with COVID-19 canceling many games, teams playing shorter seasons, players having less practice time, players opting out, and some small programs canceling their seasons altogether. For Patriots coach Bill Belichick, that has resulted in an unusual pre-draft process.

“The evaluation is definitely different,” Belichick said. “No question. We’ve hd a lot of conversations about it.”

Belichick said the 2019 season was more like a normal college football season and therefore arguably better for evaluating players, although he also noted that many players showed improvement in 2020 and he wouldn’t want to overlook that.

“In some respects the ’19 film is probably better, more of an apples-to-apples comparison of where players were,” Belichick said. “But at the same time we all know players get better with another year of experience, so there were a lot of players who improved from ’19 to ’20, as they would normally do, and there were a lot of circumstances surrounding the ’20 season. So that made the evaluation a little bit different, and you just have to try to figure out what you think a player can do for your team, what his role will be and what the rate of development, or what the process will be when you get him on your team. There’s a little less information than we normally have, but all teams are working with the same level of information.”

In a few years, we may find that teams did worse than usual at evaluating talent in the 2021 NFL draft, thanks to that most unusual of 2020 college football seasons. Belichick knows this year provides some unique challenges.

Bill Belichick marvels at Julian Edelman’s transition from a college quarterback

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When Julian Edelman arrived in New England in 2009, he was a seventh-round draft pick who had an uphill battle just to make the roster after playing quarterback at Kent State. Patriots coach Bill Belichick marvels at how Edelman carved out a spot for himself at the NFL level.

Belichick said that of all the players he has coached, he can’t think of one who has improved as much as Edelman, who had to learn how to play wide receiver and punt returner and did that at a very high level, and even played cornerback when the Patriots asked him to.

“Julian’s been one of the players that’s probably come further than most every other player that I’ve coached,” Belichick said. “His development from a quarterback in college to a receiver, punt returner and even a defensive player, all positions that he never played. To excel as a punt return and receiver for a number of years at those difficult positions is quite an accomplishment, especially considering that he didn’t do those things, wasn’t trained to do them, in college. His toughness, his competitiveness, his playmaking ability was a big part of the backbone of our team. I have a ton of respect for Julian, what he accomplished in his career, how hard he worked to accomplish it, and I have a great appreciation for al he’s done for me personally and our organization.”

Edelman announced his retirement this week after a 12-year NFL career, all in New England.

Mac Jones: Not comparing myself to Tom Brady, but I want to emulate his competitiveness

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Alabama quarterback Mac Jones wants to make clear that he’s not comparing himself to Tom Brady. But there are some traits he thinks he and Brady have in common.

Jones said in an interview with Kirk Herbstreit on ESPN that he does think he has some similarities to Brady, in that people haven’t always been impressed with him as a physical specimen, but he has the competitive fire that motivates him to win.

“I don’t like to compare myself to him, I’ve got a long way to go,” Jones said. “But coming out of college it was, doesn’t have arm strength, can’t throw a spiral, can’t move. I can do that stuff, but it’s more like the intangible stuff. . . . He’s got the fire still, and that’s why he’s so good.”

One area where Jones is not like Brady is that Brady was a sixth-round draft pick, while Jones is expected to hear his name called early in the first round, two weeks from tonight.

Bears’ players say “majority of our locker room” will not participate in voluntary workouts

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Players on the Bears are the latest to release a statement through the NFL Players Association about skipping voluntary workouts this offseason.

In a statement issued this afternoon, the Bears cited ongoing concerns about COVID-19, as well as last year’s all-virtual offseason program, as reasons not to bring the team together for workouts this year.

“COVID-19 remains a risk both to our team, our families and to our fellow NFL players,” the Bears’ statement said. “We also saw the health and safety benefits of a fully virtual offseason, as injuries across the NFL were down last year. Players remain unclear about the protocols and protections, and rules remain inconsistent despite the last-minute communication by the NFL yesterday. It is for these reasons that the majority of our locker room are choosing to exercise our right and not participate in in-person voluntary workouts in order to stay as safe as possible.”

The Bears are the sixth team to say most players will boycott voluntary workouts.

Bill Belichick: Matt Patricia has been heavily involved in Patriots’ pre-draft process

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When Matt Patricia was fired as head coach of the Lions and hired by the Patriots, he did not get the title of defensive coordinator, which had been his previous job in New England. That led to questions about what, exactly, Patricia would do for the Patriots.

One thing he’s doing is helping the Patriots prepare for the NFL draft.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick told reporters today that Patricia has been among the most important people on the staff in accumulating information about draft prospects.

“We’ve accumulated a lot of information,” Belichick said. “Matt has rejoined us and been heavily involved in the process.”

Patricia has previously worked only on the coaching side, not the personnel side, but under Belichick the Patriots have not had the strong dividing line between coaching and personnel that some teams have. Patricia has also been involved in free agent signings, and Belichick seems to believe personnel is where Patricia can provide the most value to the Patriots.

Texans sign guard Lane Taylor

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Last week free agent guard Lane Taylor visited the Texans, and now he has agreed to stay in Houston.

The Texans and Taylor have agreed to a one-year contract, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports.

The 31-year-old Taylor has played his entire eight-year NFL career with the Packers. He was usually a starter when healthy, but he’s been riddled by injuries, playing in just three games the last two years, thanks to a torn biceps in 2019 and a torn ACL in 2020.

If Taylor can get healthy, he could be a solid addition to the Texans’ offensive line. In Houston he will reunite with Texans offensive line coach James Campen, who was the Packers’ offensive line coach for Taylor’s first six years in Green Bay.

Falcons, Cordarrelle Patterson agree to deal

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Cordarrelle Patterson‘s next stop will be in Atlanta.

Patterson and the Falcons have agreed to a one-year, $3 million contract, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network.

The 30-year-old Patterson has played the last two years in Chicago and previously had stints with the Patriots, Raiders and Vikings.

Originally a first-round pick in Minnesota in 2013, Patterson never became the elite receiver the Vikings hoped he would be, but he’s a versatile player who can line up at both receiver and running back and is also one of the best kickoff returners in NFL history.

Last year in Chicago, Patterson had 21 catches for 132 yards, 64 carries for 232 yards and 35 kickoff returns for a league-leading 1,017 yards.

Nine new Hall of Famers will be enshrined posthumously as part of NFL draft festivities

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Nine new members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame will have their enshrinement ceremonies take place during draft weekend.

The nine deceased new members of the Hall of Fame will be recognized during a special that will air on NFL Network after the third day of the draft.

Those being honored include eight members of the extra-large Centennial Class of 2020, whose enshrinement was delayed last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic: Bobby Dillon, Winston Hill, Alex Karras, Steve Sabol, Duke Slater, Mac Speedie, Ed Sprinkle and George Young. Also being honored that night is Bill Nunn from the Class of 2021.

The enshrinement show will include video footage of each new member of the Hall of Fame and the unveiling of their bronze busts, which their families will place inside the Hall of Fame museum after the show.

The regular enshrinement ceremonies will be on Saturday, August 7 for the Class of 2020 and on Sunday, August 8 for the Class of 2021.

Dispute brewing in New York State over vaccine requirement to attend Bills games

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Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said this week that fans attending Bills games in the fall would be required to show they’re vaccinated. But New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says no such requirement is legal.

I don’t think the county executive is legally correct,” Cuomo said, via the Buffalo News. “But besides that, we tend to work in a collaborative with local government, and we’re just not there yet to make those decisions.”

Poloncarz responded that policies and procedures at the Bills’ home stadium are under county authority, and the governor has no say on the matter.

“The state has not approved most of the things – actually the state approves almost nothing that we do at the facility,” he said.

It’s possible that this will come down to a legal battle, with courts deciding whether the county has the authority to require proof of vaccination before admittance to the stadium. Regardless, what’s clear is that even if fans don’t legally have to get vaccinated, they should. The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and the sooner everyone gets one, the sooner we can go back to enjoying full football stadiums — and everything else we took for granted 14 months ago.

Jim McMahon: Packers are the best organization I played for, Bears are where QBs go to die

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The only starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl for the Bears has made some comments that won’t go over well in Chicago.

Jim McMahon, who started his career in Chicago and ended it in Green Bay, told 1252 Sports that Green Bay was the best franchise he was with in the NFL.

“It was the best team, or the best organization, that I’ve played for of the seven teams I’ve played for,” McMahon said. “By far. From top to bottom it was great people.”

McMahon was the Bears’ first-round draft pick in 1982, won Super Bowl XX with the 1985 Bears, and stayed in Chicago through the 1988 season. He then had stints with the Chargers, Eagles, Vikings, Cardinals and Browns before going to the Packers, where he won a Super Bowl XXXI ring as Brett Favre’s backup. McMahon said the Bears have always emphasized defense and the running game and have never been able to develop a quarterback.

“I think it’s where quarterbacks go to die,” McMahon said.

McMahon isn’t much of a fan these days. Asked what the Bears should do in the draft, he said, “I don’t know, don’t watch them, don’t care. I wouldn’t know what they need or who they’re thinking of drafting.”

Eddie George: Jeff Fisher convinced me to take Tennessee State job

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New Tennessee State head coach Eddie George is crediting his Tennessee Titans coach, Jeff Fisher, for convincing him to take his first coaching job.

George said that before talking to Fisher about it, he was leaning toward declining the Tennessee State job offer.

“I was still very lukewarm on the idea of taking the opportunity. I was probably at a 30 percent chance I would do it at that point,” George said.

But then George relayed to Fisher that he had been offered the job, despite his lack of coaching experience.

“I said, Hey man, I want to talk to you about this: Listen to this ridiculous idea: I just got approached with this opportunity to coach at TSU. Be the head coach at TSU. What do you think about that?” George said he asked Fisher.

“He says, ‘Oh, Eddie, that would be great! You would be awesome!'” George said.

And George says Fisher knows him as well as anyone, and that when Fisher told him to do it, he figured he should do it.

“Jeff drafted me in 1996. We went on an amazing run here in Tennessee. And he knows how to push my buttons. I tell you I was ready to run through a brick wall when I got off the phone with him. I said, Let’s do it,” George said.

If George is a success, Tennessee State can thank Fisher for getting him to take the job.

Broncos schedule vaccination day for players, coaches, staff, families

NFL: DEC 15 Broncos at Chiefs
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The NFL has instructed teams to arrange vaccination days for their personnel, and the Broncos have set theirs up.

Denver has scheduled a vaccination event for April 21 at which the Pfizer vaccine will be available to all players, coaches, staffers and any adult family members who live with them. Second shots will be made available three weeks later on May 13.

The Broncos are hosting the event in collaboration with the state of Colorado, and UCHealth will administer the shots.

In an effort to make sure everyone associated with the team understands that the vaccine is safe and effective, Dr. Michelle Barron, an infectious diseases expert at UCHealth and the CU School of Medicine, will lead a virtual educational seminar for the entire organization on Friday.