Lamar Jackson says Chargers scout told him about interest in him as a receiver

AP

Remember when Lamar Jackson said no team asked him to work out at the receiver position during the Scouting Combine? Apparently, he doesn’t.

“It was a Chargers scout who told me about it,” Jackson recently told a Ravens podcast. “He was the first one to come to me about it. I’m like, ‘What?’ He caught me off guard with it. I even made a face at first like, ‘What?’ I thought he was trying to be funny but he kept going with it. So it just became blown out of proportion.

“So that was the first time I heard it, I was like, ‘What?’ Like he was like, ‘Oh, Lamar are you gonna go out for wide receiver routes?’ I was like . . . ‘No . . . I don’t recall saying that, I don’t remember telling you guys I’d go out for receiver routes.’ I’m like, ‘No, quarterback only.’ So that made me not run the 40 and participate in all the other stuff.”

Jackson also said that the request that he work out at receiver made him more motivated to thrive as a quarterback.

And, of course, the Ravens may be deploying Jackson as a receiver (or as a running back) in 2018, as the try to get Jackson on the field with starting quarterback Joe Flacco.

Eli Manning: “It’s not over”

AP

At one point last season, it seemed over for quarterback Eli Manning and the Giants. Now? Not.

“Obviously it has been an unbelievable run, but I want to continue doing it,” Manning told NFL Network on Friday, via NJ.com. “It’s not over. I know that. . . . I’m excited for this upcoming year and really prove that I can still play at a high level. We can win games. We can win championships.”

The Giants already have won two with Eli, which puts him at a minimum on the fringe of the Hall of Fame. A third would make Eli a no-brainer.

The Giants returning quickly to contention is hardly a no-brainer. After going 3-13 last year, much will need to go the team’s way, especially with the Eagles and Giants in the same division.

Titans unsure of Jack Conklin’s status for Week 1 after playoff ACL tear

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Titans right tackle Jack Conklin suffered a torn ACL in the playoff loss to the Patriots, and it remains unclear whether he’ll be good to go for the start of the regular season.

That’s the word from Jim Wyatt of the Titans’ website, who says that it’s too early to say whether Conklin will be on the field when the Titans open the regular season on September 9.

If Conklin is on the field, that would represent a recovery time of less than eight months. That’s pretty fast for an ACL tear, so it would seem more likely than not that the Titans will have to open the season without Conklin, who so far has yet to miss a game in his two-year NFL career.

Conklin has attended Organized Team Activities and minicamp but hasn’t done more than walk around watching. It may still be a while before he can go.

Saturday one-liners

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Hall of Famer Michael Strahan gave Bills QB Josh Allen some good advice.

Get to know Dolphins DB Walt Aikens.

The Jets may need TE Eric Tomlinson to step up.

Don’t quit your day job, Patriots QB Tom Brady.

The Browns have plenty of options at left tackle; the question becomes whether any of them can actually play at a sufficient level.

Here’s a look at the Ravens’ running back situation.

Could Bengals OL Cedric Ogbuehi revive his career by moving to right tackle?

Get to know Steelers WR Marcus Tucker.

Former Texans RB Arian Foster and WR Andre Johnson are hosting a youth football camp next month.

The chances are low that the Jaguars will try to get LB Paul Posluszny to unretire.

Does the looming Jameis Winston suspension mean that the Titans won the 2015 draft by taking Marcus Mariota?

Here’s a look at the Colts roster as the team enters training camp.

Raiders DL Frostee Rucker is impressed by rookie DL Maurice Hurst.

Danny Kannell is concerned that Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes will do what Kannell did (i.e., fail to live up to expectations).

Should the Chargers trade for S Earl Thomas.

Could Broncos RB Royce Freeman be another Kareem Hunt?

After that six-sack nightmare against Atlanta, Cowboys OT Chaz Green hopes to make the team this year.

Will CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie return to the Giants?

Here’s a prediction of the Eagles’ 53-man roster.

Washington DB coach Torrian Gray is feeling more comfortable in his second year on the job.

Former Bears OL Kirk Barton, 34, has been indicted for assault.

Packers DB Kevin King has followed the Herschel Walker pushup routine for years.

Some quotes from the Vikings’ historic LGBTQ summit.

Lions WR T.J. Jones can line up in any of the various positions on offense.

Is Panthers DE Charles Johnson retiring soon?

Former Saints WR Willie Snead says his situation in New Orleans “worked out for the best.”

Buccaneers LB Kwon Alexander supports embattled QB Jameis Winston.

How will the looming Jameis Winston suspension affect the Falcons?

Cardinals K Phil Dawson has been mentoring undrafted rookie K Matt McCrane.

The Rams will have 12 open practices during training camp, and a 13th that’s available only to season-ticket holders.

The 49ers were upset when CB Tarvarius Moore ran a 4.32-second 40, because they knew that meant they’d have to draft him higher.

Here’s a look at the Seahawks’ most intriguing position battle.

Odell Beckham definitely should hold out

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The New York Football Giants, a bedrock NFL franchise, have negotiated thousands of player contracts over the decades. Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who received a slotted rookie deal in 2014, has negotiated as a practical matter none. And the Giants surely have been banking on that imbalance in lowballing Beckham.

That’s why Beckham needs to hold out of training camp. It’s his only real leverage and, given his other options to force the Giants to pay Beckham what he deserves, it’s his only real choice.

If he shows up as a show of good faith and talks go nowhere, he can’t leave. Well, he can leave. But the Giants would hold all the cards.

A player who reports and then departs opens the door for the so-called “five-day letter,” which advises the player that if he doesn’t return within (wait for it) five days, the team can then put him on the reserve/left squad list, shutting down his season and tolling his contract for a full year.

In Beckham’s case, this would mean he’ll still be working under the fifth-year option — and he’ll still be a full season from free agency or the franchise tag — in 2019.

Beckham also could try to “hold in,” which in his case would entail showing up but refusing to practice until he has a contract. That position quickly would amount to conduct detrimental to the team, exposing him to fines and suspensions and other problems somewhat akin to what Terrell Owens experienced in Philadelphia 13 years ago.

Based on how Beckham handled the offseason program (showing up but not really doing anything), and given his statement from a week ago that he plans to report for camp, Beckham probably has been contemplating a report-but-refuse-to-participate-in-team-drills approach. The news that a holdout remains on the table likely indicates that his representatives hope to persuade Beckham that it’s much better to not show up than to show up and not work.

So will Beckham show up? Again, he shouldn’t. And the team needs to know now that he won’t, which would make the start of training camp a very real deadline in a deadline-driven industry.

The core question remains whether Beckham is wired to withstand a holdout. Last year, when he stayed away from offseason workouts due to his contract status (but never admitted that was the reason for it), Beckham seemed to be ultra-sensitive about any and all criticism regarding not-really-a-holdout holdout.

Indeed, Beckham blocked the PFT Twitter account simply because I repeatedly said that he should explain why he’s not participating in offseason workouts, so that the fans will understand why he’s not there.

We nevertheless support his quest to be paid what he deserves. The owners have made, and will continue to make (without any actual physical or business risk), billions. The NFL’s best and most popular players individually have one or two chances to make the millions they deserve.

And they have limited tools for forcing a recalcitrant team to pay up. For Beckham, the best (only) option is to not show up for training camp. While many who simply don’t get it would give him a hard time for doing it, those who understand the realities of the situation will — and should — support him.

Mike Vick gets some coaching experience in advance of AAF debut

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A former NFL quarterback who had a reputation for ignoring coaching has become a coach. Setting aside for now the question of whether karma will connect with Mike Vick when he officially launches his coaching career in the AAF come February, Vick is spending some time quasi-coaching in advance of the real thing.

Via MontanaSports.com, Vick made an appearance at Marty Mornhinweg’s football camp in Missoula.

“Coach reached out to me about three weeks ago and asked if I could come out to the camp,” Vick said. “He always told me about the place he was building out here. We always talked about when I retired spending some time together.”

But it’s about more than spending time with Mornhinweg, who served as Vick’s offensive coordinator in Philadelphia and who currently is the offensive coordinator in Baltimore. It’s about preparing Vick for the next phase of his career.

“The more I work with kids and the more I work with quarterbacks the more attached I get to the game again,” Vick said. “To watch them get better, and better, and better as the practice goes on, it’s so well worth it.”

Vick continues to have a rock-star vibe, notwithstanding his 2007 indictment, guilty plea, and incarceration on federal dogfighting charges.

“You know, he’s like Elvis in Atlanta,” Mornhinweg said of Vick. “In fact, at the airport and at dinner last night he was kind of like Elvis here in Missoula, too.”

Elvis will soon be coaching in Atlanta, where he once notoriously gave fans the finger. He’ll need to have a much greater commitment to the Xs and Os if he hopes to thrive in that phase of football.

Does the NFL have a referee problem?

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Of the 17 referees on the NFL’s payroll during the 2017 season, four of them have now left. Does that leave the NFL with a referee problem?

It’s a fair question to ask as the 2018 season approaches. While the departures of Ed Hochuli and Jeff Triplette had been known for months, the bang-bang retirements of Terry McAulay and Gene Steratore in recent days, reportedly to work at NBC and CBS respectively, is jarring. And the moves raise legitimately questions as to whether something has gone haywire with the NFL’s officiating department, whether more referees will leave, and whether the replacements will be good enough.

Six years ago, the Commissioner stridently boasted that replacement officials would perform as well as the locked-out black-and-white-stripers who wanted more green than the NFL would give them. Reality proved the Commissioner quite wrong, culminating in the embarrassment that was the Fail Mary.

Three days after the Seahawks beat the Packers thanks to a blatant case of offensive pass interference on the game’s last play, the “A” team was back, led by the swagger of Steratore, who’s Thursday night strut for a Browns-Ravens game let everyone know that, indeed, there’s a palpable difference between the best officials in football and those who aren’t.

With Steratore now gone (along with McAulay, Hoculi, and Triplette), the NFL will be facing a real test. And the stakes are higher than ever, since there will be actual, legal stakes on the games.

And it could have been worse. Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com reported that Clete Blakeman also auditioned for the NBC gig that went to McAulay. If ESPN hadn’t hired Triplette (who already had retired, and who many fans won’t miss), maybe Blakeman would have gotten one of the three recently-filled network gigs.

And maybe now the report that the NFL nudged ESPN to hire Triplette makes more sense. Maybe it wasn’t about helping Tripllette; maybe it was about helping the NFL not lose yet another referee as a new season approaches.

And maybe the NFL now needs to worry about possibly losing more referees after the coming season concludes.

Johnny Manziel remains firmly planted on the bench in the CFL

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Johnny Manziel’s Canadian Football League coach may think Manziel is good enough to play in the NFL, but Manziel remains a bench warmer in the CFL.

Manziel’s team, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, had its second game on Friday night, and for the second time Manziel did not get on the field.

Given the way the starting quarterback is playing, Manziel may not get on the field in the CFL any time soon. Tiger-Cats starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli completed 19-of-29 passes for 332 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception, in a 38-21 win over the Edmonton Eskimos. Tiger-Cats coach June Jones made clear after the game that he’s 100 percent behind Masoli as the starter.

“I’ve been saying it and nobody seems to believe me,” Jones said. “He has been pretty spectacular for as long as I have been here, 12 games. Jeremiah got out of some trouble and made plays which you need to do in this league. We are lucky to have him.”

So while Jones, a former NFL coach, may think Manziel is good enough to play in the NFL, he doesn’t think Manziel is good enough to unseat Masoli. Which means Manziel isn’t going to play as long as Masoli is healthy.

Despite public statement, Odell Beckham still reportedly considering a holdout

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Publicly, Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. closed the door on a training camp holdout last weekend, saying he would be there. Privately, Beckham is reportedly still considering it.

Multiple sources in Beckham’s camp told Ralph Vacchiano of SNY that a holdout is still on the table, and multiple sources in the Giants organization told Vacchiano that they’re not sure if he’ll be at training camp or not.

Beckham and the Giants appear to be far apart in contract talks. The Giants want to see Beckham prove that he can be the Beckham of old after missing most of last season with an ankle injury. Beckham believes he deserves to be the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL (Beckham has actually said he deserves to be the highest-paid player in the NFL, although there’s no way he’s going to get more than the top quarterbacks) and if anything his injury last year seems to have strengthened his view that he needs to get paid.

Realistically, the Giants would seem to have more leverage: They have him under contract for $8.459 million this year, and they could franchise him in 2019 and 2020. And given that they’re coming off a 3-13 season and in a rebuilding mode with a new coach and new general manager, they don’t need to feel like they have to satisfy Beckham right now. (Aaron Donald, who went one spot after Beckham in the 2014 NFL draft, may have a better chance of convincing his team to give him a new deal because the Rams are Super Bowl contenders this year and want all their best players on the field.)

The Giants can fine Beckham $40,000 a day for each day he skips training camp.

Ryan Fitzpatrick set to start at least three games for the 11th straight year

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Buccaneers backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is no one’s idea of a star quarterback. But with his longevity and consistency, he’s putting himself in some fairly rare company.

Fitzpatrick is slated to start the first three games of this season while Jameis Winston is suspended. Fitzpatrick also started three games last year while Winston was injured. And Fitzpatrick has started at least three games every year since 2008.

If Fitzpatrick does start three games this year, and all the other quarterbacks who are expected to be starters do as well, then Fitzpatrick will be one of just eight quarterbacks to start at least three games every year from 2008 to 2018. The other seven are Drew Brees, Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan.

Fitzpatrick is the least-accomplished of the quarterbacks on that list, but he deserves credit for how long he’s managed to last in the league.

Eli Manning on Odell Beckham: He looks great; he looks healthy

AP

Eli Manning threw to Odell Beckham Jr. after a Giants’ minicamp practice last week. The quarterback revealed the news Friday during the annual Manning Passing Academy.

Beckham, according to Manning, looked like himself again in the few routes he ran.

He looks great,” Manning told Rhett Lewis of NFL Media. “He looks healthy.”

The Giants have taken a deliberate approach to Beckham’s rehab as the star receiver works his way back from a fractured ankle that ended his 2017 season after only four games.

Although he was cleared to practice during the mandatory minicamp, Beckham participated only in individual drills.

“I think last year, it was tough on him being injured and going through those things,” Manning said. “He wants to come out and have a big year, play well and get to scoring touchdowns and celebrating and having fun again. I think he misses that part of his life — the excitement of playing football and winning games, and enjoying that part of it.”

Beckham ranked eighth in NFL Network’s Top 100 players list in 2017 after his third consecutive 1,000-yard season and third Pro Bowl in a row. He was 77th this year.

But Beckham has proved himself as one of the top receivers in the game, with 313 catches for 4,424 and 38 touchdowns in his career. He has outplayed his contract, which pays him a base salary of $8.4 million this season, but has said he will attend training camp anyway.

Kareem Jackson will play safety full time

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The Texans began experimenting with Kareem Jackson at safety during the offseason program as the team explored all options in trying to replace Andre Hal. Jackson performed so well at the position that he will play the position full time at training camp, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports.

Jackson, 30, has practiced at safety in the past, but his 108 career starts were at cornerback.

Coach Bill O’Brien said Friday that Jackson still can play corner when needed but will work only at safety for now. Jackson is more needed at safety after Hal was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Hal started all 16 games at free safety last season, and Houston signed Tyrann Mathieu to man the strong safety spot.

Jackson will compete with Justin Reid, the team’s third-round pick, for the starting job.

Peyton Manning prepared for Drew Brees to breaks his passing records

AP

Peyton Manning owns NFL records for passing yards and passing touchdowns. He knows he won’t hold either for much longer.

Drew Brees trails Manning by only 1,495 yards and by 51 touchdowns.

“He’s just been the ultimate pro, taking care of himself, being in great shape,” Manning said Friday, via video from the Times-Picayune. “It’s a credit to him for playing as long as he has, at such a high level. He changed teams, which I know what that’s like. That is not easy going from San Diego to New Orleans, and he’s just been a great model of consistently obviously [with what] he and Sean [Peyton] have been able to do in 12 years together now.

“Yeah, I don’t think it’s a matter of if. It’s just a matter of when. He deserves it. He’s been a great player for a long time.”

Brees ranks second in completions (6,222) behind Brett Favre (6,300). He trails Favre (10,169) and Manning (9,380) in attempts with 9,294. Brees’ 70,445 passing yards are closing in on Manning (71,940) and Favre (71,838). Brees is tied with Tom Brady in touchdown passes (488), with only Manning (539) and Favre (508) having more.

“Obviously, you never play for individual records of any sort, and I know Drew feels the same way,” Manning said. “I think touchdowns probably has a little more meaning to a quarterback, because it means that you got six points, and it means you were doing something good for your team. Yards, as you all know, [doesn’t] necessarily mean winning games. I think Drew’s had a couple of big yardage seasons, and maybe they haven’t been winning games, so I think that can be a little bit misleading.

“But being a fan of the history of game, when I was a Brett Favre fan and the guys who held the touchdown record before Favre — Fran Tarkenton, Johnny Unitas — I really enjoyed kind of being a part of the quarterbacks that my dad grew up watching and loved. I’m a believer in the history of the game. I’m sure Drew will feel the same way when he breaks the touchdown record, which I think he’s got to throw a lot this year to break it, but he will get it next year if not this year. I think touchdowns means you’re helping win games. When I broke the touchdown record several years ago, it was in a game that we won, and it was helping our team win. Drew has been the ultimate team player. It’s all about helping your team win. I know when he breaks any of these records, it’s not going to mean as much to him if the Saints don’t win the game that day. . . . But he certainly deserves it.”

Third man with Jameis Winston and Ronald Darby is now in prison for rape

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Since word first surfaced that Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston had been accused of groping a female Uber driver, it was known that Winston was with his former Florida State roommate, Ronald Darby, on the night in question. It was also reported at the time that a third man was with Winston and Darby, and today comes news that the third man was Brandon Banks, a former Vanderbilt football player who is now in prison for rape.

Banks’ attorney, Mark Scruggs, told ESPN that Banks was with Winston and Darby in a different Uber earlier in the evening, but that Winston went into the car alone with the driver who accused him of grabbing her crotch later in the night. Darby claimed the three of them were all in the Uber together and Winston was never alone with the woman. Scruggs said Banks doesn’t know what happened between Winston and the driver because Winston and the driver were the only people in the car.

“What happened after that, they cannot say,” Scruggs said of Banks and Darby.

The Uber incident took place in March of 2016, after Banks had been accused of raping a woman in a Vanderbilt dorm room but before he had gone on trial. Banks would later be convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Winston himself was accused of raping a woman when he played at Florida State, and Winston’s decision to associate with another man who was awaiting trial on a rape charge will fuel questions about Winston’s judgment.

Scruggs said that the NFL tried to interview Banks in prison in the league’s investigation of Winston, but that Banks refused to talk to anyone without his lawyer present, and that the NFL never contacted Scruggs.

Friday’s #PFTPM has a special guest

PFTPM

Friday’s #PFTPM featured the debut of someone with whom you may be getting acquainted, sooner or later.

My son, Alex, joined me for the afternoon podcast. So get to know him.

He’s 21. He’s a very good kid. He’s funny. And he eventually will have the keys to this operation. Hopefully later than sooner.

His contributions will be limited for now. But he’ll be making periodic visits to #PFTPM, if he wants to keep doing it.

Hopefully, he’ll want to keep doing it. Hopefully, you’ll want to keep listening to it. Start by listening now.