Saints’ Zach Wood is the lowest-rated player in Madden

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Several NFL players have complained in recent days about their Madden ratings, with some telling fans to boycott the game, others describing themselves as salty, and others saying they’ll use Madden as extra motivation. But we haven’t heard from the lowest-rated player in the game.

That would be Saints long snapper Zach Wood, whose overall rating of 36 makes him the worst player in the NFL, if the Madden ratings are to be believed.

Long snappers dominate the bottom of the Madden ratings, possibly because EA Sports doesn’t want gamers putting them at other positions, but it’s unclear why Wood is dead last below the rest of them. He and other long snappers are listed at tight end, as long snappers often are, for reasons that don’t make a lot of sense.

The lowest-rated non-long snapper is Washington quarterback Josh Woodrum with a 44 rating, followed by Chiefs quarterback Chase Litton and Giants quarterback Alex Tanney, each with a 45.

James Conner says doctors gave him dire prognosis without cancer treatment

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Steelers running back James Conner learned of his cancer diagnosis in 2015. He recently revealed that his stage two Hodgkin’s lymphoma was caught in the nick of time.

Doctors found tumors in his neck and chest, and then the news got worse.

“My heart, I got tumors growing all around it,” Conner said during a podcast hosted by Michael Seander, via SI.com.

Conner said he didn’t have long to live without treatment.

“He said you got about a week — if you didn’t get this treated, you had about a week — at the rate it was growing,” Conner told Seander.

Conner underwent six months of chemotherapy and was declared cancer-free in May 2016. He returned to the field that season and then the Steelers drafted him in the third round in 2017.

Conner, 24, gained 1,470 yards from scrimmage and scored 13 touchdowns last season.

Trent Richardson on XFL: I’ll never give up

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Trent Richardson was a major bust in the NFL, and since then he’s tried to resurrect his career with short stints in the Canadian Football League and Alliance of American Football. And he’s not done.

Richardson is now trying to make it to the XFL, and after a recent tryout he said he’s committed to getting another chance in professional football.

“Keep showing myself and my kids that I’ll never give up and I’ll always follow my dream,” Richardson said. “I guess you can say I have a chip on my shoulder.”

It’s probably too late for Richardson to revive his disappointing NFL career, which means he’ll always be remembered as a third overall draft pick who managed to average just 3.3 yards per carry. But it’s respectable that he wants to keep trying. When the XFL launches in January, Richardson will probably be lined up at running back for some team, still showing that he’s not going to give up on playing professional football.

Will the Jets limit Le’Veon Bell’s touches?

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In our countdown of 2019 storylines, topic No. 11 focuses on the performance of Jets running back Le'Veon Bell after a year away from football. A quote regarding Bell from another countdown series suggests that maybe Bell won’t be used to the extent he was in the past.

Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News is looking at the most important players on the Jets’ roster. At No. 4 landed Bell.

The article includes this quote from coach Adam Gase regarding Bell’s expected workload: “I’ve always felt like I have a good feel of when a guy is either fatigued or we’re heading in a direction of maybe we’re wearing him down. I think we’ll start early to where he’ll get a certain amount of reps that we use. I mean, he is a veteran running back, he plays a position that’s very physical. You can wear a guy out with too many rushes, too many touches, too many snaps, too many practice snaps. We’ll keep an eye on that.”

While there’s nothing specific in that response, the general sense is that Bell won’t be thrown to the wolves, with no regard to whether and to what extent he is or could be fatigued, especially after missing a full year. Which means that Bell may not be averaging nearly 20 touches per game, like he did throughout his five years with the Steelers.

Of course, when a guy gets paid more than $13 million per year, it makes sense to use him. Then again, that investment needs to be protected.

It’s a balance that Gase seems confident he can strike, and ultimately it may come down to Gase’s gut-level assessment of whether Bell needs more, or less, rest.

Robert Ayers calls it a career

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Defensive end Robert Ayers won’t be playing any more NFL games.

Ayers announced his retirement in a post to his Facebook account on Tuesday. Ayers called the last 10 years a “helluva run” while dropping the curtain on his career.

Ayers was a first-round pick by the Broncos in 2009 and spent five years in Denver before heading to the Giants as a free agent. He spent two years there and then moved on to two years with the Buccaneers. He was released by Tampa last year and signed with the Lions in late August, but Detroit released him a day later.

Ayers set a career high with 9.5 sacks for the Giants in 2015 and had 35 sacks in 120 career games. Ayers also had 265 tackles and 14 pass defenses during his time with the three teams.

Chris Maragos announces his retirement

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Chris Maragos last played an NFL game with the Eagles in Week Six of the 2017 season and the knee injury he suffered that week has brought his playing career to an end.

Maragos spent all of last season on the physically unable to perform list and the Eagles released the safety/special teamer in February as he continued to deal with the problem. Maragos tweeted a picture of him getting ready for a third surgery on the knee Tuesday morning and followed it up with a retirement announcement a short time later.

In the message, Maragos cited the injury and surgeries as the reason why he’s hanging up the cleats at this point. He also thanked his family, friends teammates, Eagles fans and others for their support.

Maragos went undrafted in 2010 and played three games for the 49ers as a rookie. He moved on to the Seahawks for 43 games over the next three years and was part of a Super Bowl winner. The 2017 Eagles would also go on to win the Super Bowl, but Maragos was inactive for that win because of his injury.

He only made three defensive starts in the NFL, but Maragos was a regular on special teams for both Seattle and Philadelphia before his injury. He had 90 career tackles and a forced fumble.

Terron Armstead: Tips learned at OL summit can be an asset

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After Broncos linebacker Von Miller hosted his pass rush summit earlier this year, he downplayed the notion of a backlash against players from different teams sharing tips that could then be used against them at some point in the future.

Saints left tackle Terron Armstead attended an offensive line summit put together by Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson last weekend along with around 50 other pro and college linemen. The group took part in sessions that saw blockers break down pass rushers like Miller, DeMarcus Lawrence and Armstead’s own teammate Cam Jordan.

Armstead could recount what other linemen said about Jordan, but he said he didn’t think he would be able to tell Jordan much he doesn’t already know about his game. That said, Armstead does believe that there’s something to gain from talking shop with others who play the same position.

“I feel like Cam’s the best D-lineman in the NFL,” Armstead said, via Jori Epstein of USA Today. “There’s nothing I could tell him that he isn’t watching on his own that is going to be a change to him. If it’s something that could be beneficial in your game — regardless if you’re playing this team, you still got 15 other games it could be an added asset.”

Offensive line scout and trainer Duke Manyweather helped run the summit and said he thought concerns about giving up a competitive advantage “might be the reason some guys don’t show up,” but that those who did should get some things that help them with film study as the year unfolds. If that leads to better results, this probably won’t be the last offseason offensive line gathering.

Cordarrelle Patterson: Super Bowl win doesn’t mean anything

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Cordarrelle Patterson is on his fourth team in four seasons. He had played only one playoff game before last season when the Patriots won the Super Bowl.

That was last year, though, Patterson reminds everyone. This is this year.

“Honestly, that Super Bowl don’t mean s— to me, because I’m in a new role right now,” Patterson told Justin Turpin of Redline Media, via NBCSportsBoston.com.

The receiver/returner signed with the Bears in free agency.

“I’m on a new team, so it’s a new opportunity for me to bring my legacy . . . onto another team,” Patterson said. “So whatever happened last year in the past, that’s in the past. I’m trying to just move forward.”

Patterson has 270 touches for 2,554 yards and 17 touchdowns in his career. He also has returned 176 kickoffs for a 30-yard average and six touchdowns.

NFL suspends Roc Thomas three games

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The NFL has suspended Vikings running back Roc Thomas for three games for violation of the league’s substance abuse policy.

He is allowed to participate in training camp and the preseason.

Thomas admitted to felony marijuana possession in May but was sentenced to probation, with the charge dismissed if he completes conditions of the probationary term. Those include a chemical dependency evaluation and possible treatment; no alcohol or drug use; and random testing.

Officers executed a search warrant on Thomas’ apartment Jan. 16 after complaints about the smell of marijuana. Police found 143 grams of marijuana and nearly $16,000 in cash.

Thomas, 23, played in five games last season and had 10 touches for 51 yards. He played 29 snaps on offense and 59 on special teams.

NFL approves new grass field at Azteca Stadium

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The NFL began working early to ensure the playing surface in Mexico City is fit to play on come Nov. 18 when the Chiefs and Chargers meet in a Monday night game.

League officials checked out the new turf field Monday, according to tweets from turf specialist Renato Luis Lauretti of World Sports Turf.

“NFL testing the Stadium Azteca field. . . .Everything approved and it can only get better,” Lauretti tweeted.

The NFL moved the Chiefs-Rams game in Week 11 from Mexico City back to Los Angeles the week of the game because of the condition of the playing surface. That prompted Estadio Azteca officials to replace the hybrid surface installed last year in favor of natural grass.

The process began in June and now is complete.

That will allow the NFL to return to Mexico City, where it previously has played three regular-season games.

Emmanuel Sanders won’t be “full go” to open camp

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Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders believes playing in Week One is a realistic goal after tearing his Achilles last year, but doesn’t believe that he needs to be doing everything when training camp opens in order to reach it.

Whether he takes it or not, Sanders said, via Nicki Jhabvala of TheAthletic.com, that he is “definitely not going to be full go” when the team resumes practicing this month.

The Broncos open camp on Wednesday and Sanders also said Tuesday that he isn’t sure he will be taking the team’s conditioning test on the first day. If he doesn’t, he could land on the physically unable to perform list. Sanders would not be able to practice while on the list, but could be activated at any point.

Sanders had progressed to the point that he was running routes before Denver’s offseason program came to an end and reiterated on Tuesday that his primary focus is on being ready for the Raiders in Week One.

 

Adrian Peterson: We really look good with Case Keenum

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Washington is giving rookie Dwayne Haskins a chance to win the starting job over veteran Case Keenum.

Running back Adrian Peterson makes it clear who he expects to start opening day.

“With Case Keenum, the quarterback runs everything, right?” Peterson said this weekend at SportsCon 2019 in Dallas, via Patrik Walker of 247Sports. “Offensively, we really look good with Case Keenum back there. He’s a veteran. He’s been in the league for a long time. He’s a gunslinger. He’s a guy that’s going to throw the ball and spread it around.”

Keenum, 31, has started 54 games, including 39 in the past three seasons. He became a bridge quarterback once Washington drafted Haskins 15th overall.

Peterson is high on Haskins, too, believing all the former Ohio State star needs is time and reps. But there might not be enough time or enough reps to get Haskins ready to start Week One.

“Having Haskins back there, too, I’m looking forward to seeing what he’ll do in training camp,” Peterson said. “Once he gets more under his belt and becomes more comfortable, he’ll be able to play faster as well.”

Peterson, 34, returns to Washington after rushing for 1,042 yards and seven touchdowns. It was his first 1,000-yard rushing season since 2015.

Injured brother becomes Tarik Cohen’s purpose

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Bears running back Tarik Cohen has been dealing quietly with a family tragedy this offseason. He recently opened up about the situation at a youth football camp.

Cohen’s 19-year-old brother, Dante Norman, was shot in early June. Dante is now paralyzed from the waist down.

I feel like I was injured also,” Cohen said Monday at the camp he hosted at Elk Grove High School, via Larry Mayer of ChicagoBears.com. “Somebody I’ve been around my whole life. I feel like we’re one. It’s not like he’s a different person; it’s like we’re the same person. So if anything affects him, it affects me. That’s my little brother. I’ve done the best to protect him my whole life.”

Cohen had kept the matter private until last Saturday, at another youth football camp at his alma mater of North Carolina A&T.

“It just came out,” Cohen said. “It wasn’t planned or anything. I just saw a camper who was in a wheelchair also and I just saw my brother in him and I saw how much fun he was having. It just made me think of my brother and how his life is about to be.”

Cohen has now focused on doing all he can to help and support his brother.

“I feel like definitely he’s my purpose,” Cohen said. “I just want to do things for him. I know it’s not possible, but I feel like I want to walk for him. I want to experience things in my life and let him see those things so that he can feel it as if he’s done it also.”

We extend our best wishes to Dante Norman as he confronts this challenge, and to Tarik and the rest of Dante’s family as they rally to support and assist him.

Report: Broncos, Dalton Risner agree to terms

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One second-round pick down, one to go for the Broncos.

Despite a report that both of the Broncos’ second-round picks might miss the start of training camp in a contract dispute, Nicki Jhabvala of TheAthletic.com reports that the Broncos have agreed to terms with second-round pick Dalton Risner.

The question now is whether the Broncos’ remaining unsigned draft pick, second-round quarterback Drew Lock, will sign in time to report to camp on time tomorrow.

Risner was the 41st overall pick and Lock was 42nd in this year’s draft. Ordinarily, the draft contract slotting means a rookie can’t expect to make more money than a player drafted ahead of him, but Lock reportedly wants a “quarterback premium” of more guaranteed money than a player in his draft slot would ordinarily get. It remains to be seen whether Lock insists on a bigger guarantee than Risner, and if so whether the Broncos give it to him. But getting Risner’s deal done is a good step for the Broncos.

Todd Gurley should be very happy with his Madden rating

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We’ve spent plenty of time the past couple of days talking about players being upset with their ratings in the new Madden game, and the motivation they have drawn from it. One player who shouldn’t be upset (and in turn has no basis for extra motiviation) is Rams running back Todd Gurley.

Gurley is the highest-rated running back in the game, with a 97 overall. And, frankly, that decision should spark the biggest questions about the skills, abilities, and knowledge of the nameless and faceless EA employees who come up with these numbers.

Gurley’s career remains at a crossroads, at best. He has an arthritic condition in his knee, along with a clear case of denial about it. The Rams kept him in bubble wrap during the offseason program, and there are real questions regarding whether he’ll even come close to being the guy that he previously was.

So, yes, Gurley apparently has a friend at EA.

Madden gave six other running backs ratings of 90 or higher: Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (94), Jets running back Le'Veon Bell (92), Chargers running back Melvin Gordon (92), Giants running back Saquon Barkley (91), Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (91), Browns running back Kareem Hunt (90), and Saints running back Alvin Kamara (90).

That’s more than a bit out of whack. Right now, the NFL has three special running backs: Elliott, Barkley, and McCaffrey. They should be the three highest-rated tailbacks.

Others with potential beef include Bengals running back Joe Mixon (88), Washington running back Adrian Peterson (83), Steelers running back James Conner (83), Titans running back Derrick Henry (83), Eagles running back Jordan Howard (80), and Raiders rookie running back Josh Jacobs (74).

If that motivates these players, so be it. What makes more sense, motivation from a perceived slight by the makers of a video game most NFL players have played their whole lives or motivation from a radio, TV, or Internet gasbag that they otherwise ignore? That’s an important point for any radio, TV, and/or Internet gasbags who are griping about players being motivated by Madden to consider.