Cal safety Ashtyn Davis the draft’s “mystery man”

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Without the distractions of being in the office — or you know, leaving the house — NFL evaluators have plenty of time to grind through tape.

But only on players they actually have tape on.

According to Peter King of NBC’s Football Morning in America, Cal safety Ashytn Davis has been declared the draft’s “mystery man,” by one General Manager, as he underscores the pitfalls of scouting in the time of coronavirus.

Davis is a highly rated safety prospect, but he was hampered last year by a groin injury. He had surgery to repair a torn adductor muscle on Dec. 18, 2019. He went to the Scouting Combine and was checked by all the medical personnel there, but didn’t work out, figuring he’d do so at his pro day. He was hoping to run a 40-yard dash under 4.4 seconds there.

When that event was canceled, he became a question mark.

“I’m antsy,” Davis said. “But this is obviously a tough time in the country. I get it, totally. I just wish I could train for the 40 and run the 40, and now I haven’t been able to do either. But whatever happens, I know I am going to give first-round talent to whoever picks me.”

He tried to use his time in Indianapolis to impress teams during interviews, and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll joked that he knew enough football he  could consider coaching instead.

King asked a General Manager when Davis might be drafted, and the G.M. said it could be anywhere from 35th to 75th overall.

“I’m guessing,” the G.M. said.

There will be a lot of that going around, and players such as Davis who have scouting reports which are incomplete through no fault of their own might slide as a result.

Brandin Cooks could be on the move again

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Brandin Cooks was drafted with a first-round pick by the Saints in 2014, traded for a first-round pick to the Patriots in 2017 and traded to the Rams for a first-round pick in 2018. Now Cooks could get traded again — if the Rams can find a team willing to pay the right price.

Peter King explores the possibility of a Cooks trade in today’s Football Morning in America, with Philadelphia, Green Bay, Oakland and Washington listed as potential landing spots.

The Rams likely wouldn’t land a first-round pick in exchange for Cooks, but a second-round pick is a possibility.

Cooks raised eyebrows on Friday when he tweeted “Free me,” although in a later tweet he suggested that he meant from quarantine, not from the Rams.

The 26-year-old Cooks is coming off a disappointing season in which he caught a career-low 42 passes.

FMIA: NFL Life At A Social Distance, and How The 2020 Draft Might Look

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NFL Team/Player Instagrams (8)

NFL life, March 30, 2020: THE DRAFT The other day, I was told that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell could kick off the 2020 NFL Draft in 24 days from a remote-controlled camera in his home in Bronxville, N.Y., a village 15 miles north of NFL headquarters in Manhattan. But, a source with knowledge of draft-logistics [more]

Tyrod Taylor: We will turn “a lot of heads” if I’m the guy calling the shots

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Tyrod Taylor was supplanted in Buffalo by Josh Allen, and Baker Mayfield took Taylor’s job in Cleveland.

The Chargers pursued Tom Brady before he signed with the Buccaneers.

Taylor knows the drill.

But he’s hoping the Chargers give him a chance as the team’s starting quarterback.

“We have a lot of talent on our team,” Taylor told Gilbert Manzano of the Orange County Register on Sunday. “If I am the guy that would be calling the shots, I know for sure that we’ll go out and turn a lot of heads.”

Philip Rivers started the past 224 games over the past 14 years for the Chargers. For the first time since 2005, someone else will start for the Chargers in Week One this season.

Taylor currently is No. 1 on the depth chart, but the Chargers could draft a quarterback with the sixth overall choice or they could sign a veteran with Cam Newton and Jameis Winston among those still on the market.

Coaches have made Taylor no promises.

“I think it’s too early to start talking about it,” Taylor said of the starting job. “I’ve never been one to focus on things that I can’t control. . . .It starts with guys who [the Chargers] may sign whether it would be a veteran or whether it would be a rookie. I can’t focus on that because I can’t control it. So I feel like if I’m putting too much time into that then I’m not putting enough time into myself to be the best player. . . .I think I kind of done a good job of separating myself from the emotional side of things and just putting it aside and just strictly focusing on me being better, and going out and attacking each job with a starting mindset.

“I’ve done that since I stepped into this league as a sixth-round draft pick going to a team with an established quarterback [Joe Flacco]. For myself, mentally, I knew I had to walk into the building with a starting mindset, so I can be able to grow into the way I needed to grow, and I’m just trying to keep that mindset throughout the years. It has allowed me to be able to focus on what needs to be focused on for me to be able to go out and play ball at a high level.”

Taylor, 30, has one year remaining on his contract with a base salary of $5 million.

Worker at SoFi Stadium tests positive for COVID-19

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A construction worker at SoFi Stadium has tested positive for COVID-19, Turner/AECOM Hunt confirmed in a statement.

The worker is recovering, and those who were in contact with him were notified.

It has not stopped construction on the new home of the Rams and Chargers.

Turner/AECOM Hunt said social distancing protocols are being followed.

“This includes limiting access to the personnel hoist, no gatherings over 10 people and those must maintain six-foot separation,” the statement said. “Certain tasks that require close contact are suspended or re-sequenced.”

Nine days ago, SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park released a statement saying California’s “stay at home” order would not cease construction on the project.

The venue is scheduled to open later this year and will play host to Super Bowl LVI in early 2022.

A construction worker at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas tested positive for COVID-19 last week. Construction continues on the Raiders’ new home as well.

Could an isolated coronavirus-free facility be only way for NFL to play in 2020?

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As the reality of life amid the coronavirus pandemic continues to sink in, the NFL needs to be sinking its teeth into the reality that a normal football season won’t happen this year.

Given the predictions and projections for the ongoing spread of the virus, and in light of the reality that different NFL cities will experience the brunt of the outbreak at different times, it’s not ridiculous to envision all 2020 games being played in empty stadiums.

But even if no fans are present, how will teams be able to ensure that the virus doesn’t spread through a given locker room? It’s inevitable that multiple players will test positive, and that others will end up being exposed to the virus before the players who test positive are quarantined. Entire teams could be knocked out of action if the virus starts jumping from player to player.

So even if the season proceeds without fans in attendance, we’ll have to be ready for a given player or coach or whoever to be out of action for at least a couple of weeks, without warning.

There’s another way to have football. It’s an extreme idea, one that was floated to a G.M. earlier this week and mentioned in the Sunday mailbag and repeated during a visit with WFAN on Sunday afternoon: The NFL takes all teams to a location free from coronavirus, tests everyone on the way in, and then sequesters the entire league for the full duration of the season.

The Premier League reportedly is considering this approach as a way to finish its 2019-20 season. The NFL needs to be considering the feasibility of this approach as a way to play (and televise) the 256 regular-season games and 13 postseason games of the 2020 season.

One possibility would be to find a place literally in the middle of nowhere and build enough fields to play the various games on a given Sunday (and Saturday, if college football doesn’t happen in 2020) and enough rooms to house the players, coaches, trainers, broadcasters, etc. for 17 weeks of football and four weeks of the postseason. Another possibility would be to add to the football facility at the Greenbrier in West Virginia, which currently has 710 rooms.

More rooms would have to be built, and built quickly. More fields would have to be built, and built quickly. Still, if/when the NFL decides that a normal season is an impossibility, this is the kind of approach that could preserve the TV money — and potentially add to it, if college football can’t be played and if the NFL takes over each and every weekend from the weekend after Labor Day through the Super Bowl.

Would it be better if games can be played in the existing stadiums? Sure. Would it be even better if there’s a way to play the games with fans present? Absolutely. Until that becomes a probability/certainty, the NFL needs to be thinking about other alternatives for getting the games played — and for getting them televised.

Teams can have plenty of pre-draft communication with prospects

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Although Pro Day workouts and private workouts and visits to team facilities can’t happen prior to the 2020 draft, teams can still spend plenty of time talking to prospects.

According to the NFL, teams may contact an unlimited number of incoming rookies up to three times per week, for up to one hour at a time. The communications may be in the form of phone calls or videoconferences, and the only requirement is that the not conflict with a player’s school work.

Given that most players are no longer in school and given that most schools have switched to online learning, few if any communications would potentially conflict with classwork.

While hardly a perfect replacement for meeting players in person, a lot can be learned by talking to them for up to three hours per week in advance of the draft — including whether and to what extent they are reliable or punctual when the time comes to make or receive a phone call.

Eagles feel J.J. Arcega-Whiteside “needs to take a big jump”

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The wide receiver position was a big topic of conversation during Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman’s conference call last week.

He touched on why the team didn’t make a trade for DeAndre Hopkins and said that Alshon Jeffery needs to get healthy after Lisfranc surgery, while adding that his view of the group is “maybe different than it’s publicly viewed.”

That view isn’t a particularly postive one. The health of Jeffery and DeSean Jackson is part of that and so was the play of 2019 second-round pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside in his rookie season. While Roseman may generally have a more positive view, he didn’t sound so different when it came to that last point.

Arcega-Whiteside had 10 catches for 169 yards and a touchdown last year and Roseman said he “needs to take a big jump” during his second season. Nelson Agholor’s departure provides an opening for that leap, although the draft could bring competition that the team finds more appealing once it is time to get on the field.

Report: Tony Boselli was in ICU with COVID-19

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The coronavirus pandemic inevitably will touch every industry, every walk of life. Although only one current member of the broader NFL family has tested positive (Saints coach Sean Payton), there surely will be more.

And they won’t just test positive. The statistics guarantee that some NFL figures will get sick, some will get very sick, and some may die. Case in point: Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report reports that COVID-19 resulted in the placement of former NFL offensive lineman Tony Boselli in an intensive care unit.

Per Freeman, the 47-year-old Boselli is doing better but he’s still receiving treatment.

It’s another reason for everyone to take the situation very seriously, and to ignore those who (for whatever reason) continue to try to downplay the situation as the seasonal flu. The seasonal flu has a vaccine. The seasonal flu doesn’t flood hospitals with people who need serious care in order to remain alive. The seasonal flu doesn’t prompt daily news conferences from the President and governors from the states who are desperate for the materials and equipment necessary to keep health-care workers safe.

Like so many other things in modern life, plenty of people with public platforms locked into an early narrative and now refuse to admit they possibly were wrong, no matter how many people they mislead or endanger. When the world returns to normal, those whose doubled down on misguided messages once it became clear and obvious that this is a unique crisis should be held accountable — especially if they continue to refuse to acknowledge that their shrugs and nonchalance made things worse by giving those who wanted to continue to normally live their lives cover for selfishly ignoring the sage advice of the experts.

Washington signs Ronald Darby

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Free agent cornerback Ronald Darby is heading to Washington.

Darby agreed to a one-year deal today, according to multiple reports.

Last year Darby started 11 games for the Eagles before he was placed on injured reserve with a hip injury.

Darby was a second-round pick of the Bills in 2015 who played two years in Buffalo before he was traded to Philadelphia.

The 26-year-old Darby grew up in Oxon Hill, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, and will now play for his hometown team.

Darby was No. 77 on our list of the Top 100 free agents.

PFT Sunday (and maybe only this Sunday) mailbag

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It’s been a long time since I’ve answered reader questions in this space. Answering questions has been, for several years, a facet of the PFT Live radio/TV show and the #PFTPM podcast. But without as much happening this weekend as ordinarily would be (today would be the first day of the annual league meetings, with plenty of quotes from owners about rule changes and other team and league matters), we asked for questions on Twitter. Some of you asked some questions, and the 10 best questions are answered below.

From @dcowboy777: Will the schedule still be released before the draft?

Peter King made the case on a recent edition of PFT Live for the schedule release to be delayed until May. (The video is attached.) Given these unique circumstances, it definitely makes sense to wait.

One of the best arguments for releasing the schedule as early as possible comes from the notion that fans who will be traveling to specific games need to know when those games will happen so that they can make arrangements for time off from work, travel, etc. But very few would be doing that this year, if the schedule is released in April.

The strategic argument for releasing the schedule before the draft comes from the possibility that draft selections will be influenced based on when, for example, a defense will be facing Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. That’s a highly nuanced factor that becomes largely irrelevant during this year’s no-frills draft.

With so many variables regarding when and how and if the season can be played, it makes sense to wait. It’s unclear how long the wait should last; ultimately, it may be a “know it when you see it” proposition.

Here’s another reason to wait — with nothing else happening in the sports world, the schedule release could become a much more significant offseason tentpole event for the NFL, rather than something that currently serves as an appetizer to the draft. If it happens in the middle of May and if live sports still haven’t returned, the schedule release could be turned into a multi-evening event, which would generate significant viewership.

The league’s official position on the matter, as of Sunday morning, is that no decision has been made on when the schedule will be released. That could end up being the official position, for a while.

From @BourbonStSaints: What’s going to happen to the morning radio broadcast of PFT Live after NBC Sports Radio shuts down after Tuesday? I and many others listen during our morning commutes. I catch up at night with the podcasts, but what about the mornings?

For those of you who haven’t heard, Westwood One has decided to stop distributing NBC Sports Radio as of March 31. It was a sudden, out-of-the-blue decision that stunned many at NBC (including me).

The bad news is that, at least for now, the radio hour from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. ET will be suspended.

The good news is that PFT Live will continue, with two hours of fresh content from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. ET every weekday, re-aired from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. ET. Without a radio clock that includes more commercial time than TV (and a pair of hard breaks every hour), the TV show will have a much better flow, with fewer stops and starts.

Also, the audio feed of PFT Live will continue to be broadcast live on SiriusXM 211 and TuneIn. A podcast of the show will be posted every day.

As to podcasts, I’ve done fewer episodes of #PFTPM since Westwood One announced its decision to end NBC Sports Radio. Once the dust settles this week, there will be more episodes of #PFTPM, which can replace the 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. ET radio hour during your commute or your shower-shave-shampoo-shiitake-mushroom-omelette time every weekday morning.

The best news regarding PFT Live is coming, eventually. It will be an exciting new twist on how we’ve done things, and we’ll have more to share on that in the not-too-distant-future.

From @RedskinsRant: Why do you hate the Redskins?

Anyone who tries to cover the NFL in an honest, candid, and objective way gets this question from time to time about all 32 teams. They also get the reverse of the question for many teams; “Why do you love the [insert name of team you supposedly love]?”

Cris Collinsworth has faced that question over and over again throughout his broadcasting career. At one point, he decided to respond to the question of why he hates a given team by saying, “I just do.”

We understand that people follow their favorite teams with a high degree of passion and engagement, and that they are always looking for any indication from broadcasters, writers, and commentators as to whether they are “with us” or “against us.” Did so-and-so say something good about our team? Or did that rat bastard say something bad, again? It’s an intensely personal reaction, along the lines of someone saying something about someone’s mother or sister or father or whoever is related by blood or marriage.

The problem for certain teams arises from the fact that, because they seem to do everything wrong, honest, candid, and objective analysis results in far more bad things than good being said. The Washington franchise has, in recent years, owned that category.

Seriously, what has the organization done right since Robert Griffin III’s knee bent the wrong way during a January 2013 playoff game on FedEx Field dirt that had enough green paint to stain the shoes of those who walked on it? Hiring Ron Rivera and firing Bruce Allen are, by far, the best moves the team has made in seven years. So maybe there will be more praise coming, from me and from others.

None of that will persuade me to resume using a nickname that has become a dictionary-defined racial slur. Some Washington fans get very upset with me for choosing to respect the Native Americans who are genuinely offended by the term. Which makes me wonder whether those fans are trying to shout down not only me but also their own consciences.

From @mikebowman2: Why do you have an agenda against Joe Burrow being drafted by the Bengals?

I don’t. I have an agenda for smoking out agendas that may be hiding from plain view, which is a very common dynamic in the NFL.

I gave zero thought to Burrow potentially trying to avoid being drafted by the Bengals until Super Bowl week. Before that, Burrow had said he’ll gladly play for anyone who’s willing to pay him. Then came Carson Palmer, a former Bengals quarterback, blasting the Cincinnati franchise for not being committed to winning. Then came the news that Carson’s kid brother, Jordan, is helping Burrow get ready for the draft.

Then came Burrow, appearing on Dan Patrick’s show two days before the Super Bowl, revising Burrow’s prior position and saying he wants to be the No. 1 overall pick, but that he also wants to play for a team that is committed to winning. It was an alarming twist, one that carried the obvious influence of Carson to Jordan to Joe.

Burrow, I firmly believe, was toying at the time with the idea of making an Elway/Eli-style power play. Burrow, I firmly believe, decided based on the advice of his agents at CAA that Bengals owner Mike Brown would not flinch in the face of a threat or promise to sit out the season and re-enter the draft. Burrow, I firmly believe, decided not to pass on the four-year, fully-guaranteed contract worth more than $36 million that he’ll be offered by the Bengals.

If Burrow truly had hoped to be drafted by another team, the better move would have been to say all the right things publicly, to provide no one in the media with any meat for an argument that he hopes to not be drafted by the Bengals, and to craft and hatch a plan aimed at having Mike Brown come to the conclusion on his own that he wanted to do something other than draft Burrow. That didn’t happen in January or early February, and it’s far too late to try to make that happen now.

From @letsgomtnrs: Is there any chance the NFL plays the season in empty stadiums?

Everything is on the table for now; there’s no other way to approach this unprecedented challenge to planning and logistics. Still, the NFL needs to be proactive about identifying every potential “what if?” question and coming up with a plan for every possible permutation.

So, yes, it’s possible that games will be played in empty stadiums. It’s possible that some teams won’t be able to play in their home markets. It’s possible that no games will be played at all.

Theoretically, it’s possible that the NFL will build in the middle of nowhere a corona-free campus where all players, coaches, trainers, doctors, broadcasters, officials, etc. would spend the entire season sequestered from the rest of the world, with games played on a series of fields from which the games would be televised, with no one else present. (I haven’t heard that this is a possibility, but it’s one that the league definitely should be considering.)

For now, it’s too early to know what will happen. But it’s not too early for the NFL to begin identifying clear and firm plans for every potential twist and turn that could play out over the next several months.

Another one from @letsgomtnrs: If you were advising a college player would you recommend they choose an agent?

Absolutely. Even though the rookie wage scale limits dramatically the topics for negotiation after a player is picked (especially after the first 20 or so picks), a good agent will help a player be drafted as early as possible, by getting the player in the right pre-draft workout program (and paying for it) and by working his or her contacts within the league in an effort to make the player’s case for being picked higher than his peers and — perhaps more importantly — responding to negative campaigning from agents who represent other prospects.

For example, Lamar Jackson quite possibly lasted until pick No. 32 in 2018 because he didn’t have an agent to advocate for him aggressively and to push back against agents representing other quarterbacks and first-round prospects who were undoubtedly spewing Bill Polian-style nonsense to any potentially interest team about the 2019 NFL MVP.

On the flip side, the late Gary Wichard launched an aggressive, multi-week effort that somehow vaulted former NFL cornerback Pacman Jones over Antrel Rolle and Carlos Rogers in the first round of the 2005 draft, despite very real off-field concerns that quickly came to fruition once Jones made it to the NFL.

That’s what good agents do in the days and weeks before the draft. This year, that advocacy by agents who are respected and trusted by executives and coaches arguably will be more important than it’s ever been, since teams won’t have the benefit of in-person visits and private workouts and Pro Days.

From @BirnUnit: What would the NFL have done if the Super Bowl was scheduled for the weekend everything started shutting down?

That’s a great question, one that the NFL is surely grateful it never had to address.

Things moved very quickly during the early days of the realization that the coronavirus presented a serious threat to American public health. If the situation had begun to deteriorate during Super Bowl week, with teams and fans in South Florida, would the NFL have pulled the plug on the game?

What if the NBA and other leagues had suspended play two or three days before the Super Bowl?

While technically irrelevant, the NFL needs to be thinking about these issues given the possibility that the pandemic will exhibit peaks and valleys and more peaks and more valleys throughout the country in the coming months. What if, for example, Tampa emerges as a hot spot a couple of weeks before Super Bowl LV?

Although the NFL avoided the question of shutting down the premier American sporting event in 2020, the next one could be affected. It will be critical to have clear contingency plans in place, which would include moving the game to a non-hot spot on very short notice.

From @treetru: Since coaches are relatively underpaid could they strike?

Coaches have no union, so they can’t strike without blatantly violating their individual employment contracts. And coaches likely will never have a union, because any effort to unionize would result in any coaches who organize the effort being blackballed by the league.

There are too many capable football coaches and not enough football-coaching jobs in the NFL for NFL coaches to roll the dice with their careers. And some (many . . . most) owners won’t hesitate to throw someone overboard permanently and move on to the next candidate if/when a coach shows troublemaker tendencies.

To the extent that some coaches in a non-union setting believe (and some do) that the market for coaching salaries has been suppressed by collusion among teams, it’s theoretically possible that one or more will file an antitrust lawsuit. Again, however, the coach(es) who take a stand will be trading the exercise of their legal rights for the privilege of working in the NFL.

From @Fuss_Nation: What does the CBA say in terms of a season being cancelled? Do players earn game checks and do they earn years of service? How would the 2021 draft order be determined?

The NBA’s CBA includes a “force majeure” provision that specifically addresses the inability to play games due to war, epidemic, etc. The NFL’s CBA and the standard player contract do not, which fuels an argument that the players are entitled to be paid even if games aren’t played.

The NFL’s position (although the basis for it currently isn’t clear) possibly will be that, in the event there is no season, the players will not be entitled to payment of any kind. For some owners, the eventual resolution of the issue by a judge or an arbitrator could force them to take out hundred of millions in loans or sell their teams, if players are entitled to be paid even though games aren’t played.

As to the 2021 draft, the order would be the least of the concerns. If there’s no 2020 NFL season, there likewise will be no 2020 college football season. Which means that teams would be drafting players in 2021 with no game film since 2019.

From @NFLeeds: Do you think Bruce Arians and being away from Bill Belichick will eventually result in a more free talking Florida Tommy where he has fun actually says something when he talks?

No. Brady has had 20 years of the Patriot Way baked into his DNA, and the art/skill of talking without saying anything is something that he surely hopes will spread to his new teammates and coaches.

Over nearly half of his life, Brady has mastered the art of creating sound bites that are 99.9-percent obvious or disinteresting. It’s not something that he’ll be willing or able to unlearn in a year or two with the Buccaneers.

Take, for example, his introductory conference call as a member of the Buccaneers. Not a word of it was surprising or enlightening. Indeed, the most significant thing he said (in my view) is that he personally attended Joe Montana’s last home game with the 49ers.

It may end up being the most significant thing Brady says during his entire tenure in Tampa Bay.

Geronimo Allison signs with Lions

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The Lions have signed a free agent wide receiver away from a division rival.

Geronimo Allison, who has played the first four years of his career in Green Bay, signed with Detroit today.

The 26-year-old Allison had a career-high 34 catches last season, but he also had a career-low average of 8.4 yards per catch. In 2018 Allison was off to an excellent start to the season, with 19 catches for 289 yards and two touchdowns in the first four games, but injuries limited him to just one catch the rest of the way.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Allison is getting a one-year deal worth $910,000, with a $137,500 signing bonus.

Anthony Castonzo sees potential to be “significantly better” than he was in 2019

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Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo wasn’t sure about continuing his playing career when the 2019 season came to an end, but he ultimately decided to sign a new deal that will keep him in Indianapolis.

Castonzo outlined the thought process behind that decision during an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio. He said he felt well physically at the end of the year and that his knees felt better than they have in a long time, but “would have ended up shutting it down” if he thought he couldn’t turn in a better year than he had in 2019.

That prospect faded out of his mind once he started working out in the offseason.

“After the season, I kinda just went back to training as if I was gonna come back and assessed things,” Castonzo said. “When my body was way ahead of where it was last year and I kinda saw the potential to play significantly better this year than I did last year I got really excited at that opportunity. That was when I told the Colts that I’d be coming back.”

Castonzo said new Colts quarterback Philip Rivers is an “exciting person to block for” and that he likes that the Colts will bring back the same offensive line as last year in their attempt to reach higher ground in the standings.

Antonio Gates says he was “very close” to signing with Colts last year

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Philip Rivers is going to be playing quarterback for the Colts this year and he said his relationship with head coach Frank Reich, offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni and tight ends coach Jason Michael was a big factor in his decision to sign with the team.

All three were assistants for the Chargers during Rivers’ long run with the franchise and that history almost landed them another former Charger star during the 2019 season. Tight end Antonio Gates announced his retirement in January after sitting out last season, but told Jim Ayello of the Indianapolis Star that he was “very close” to joining the Colts last year.

Gates said he got calls from a handful of teams, but the familiarity with the Colts made them the top choice if he was going to continue playing.

“I was in the same boat Philip is in now,” Gates said. “You understand the people you’re going to work with. They don’t have to worry about me as a human being. They know me. And they know, ‘OK, this is his ritual and how he gets prepared and gets ready.’ Sometimes as a veteran, you need that. That helps you. . . . It was just so familiar. Even the players had, like, similarities if that makes sense. It’s just crazy how everything works. It did look familiar and when they called plays, it just fit what we had done over the course of a decade in California.”

The prospect of a return was still on his mind during an October visit to Indianapolis, but the team’s slide after a 7-2 start led Gates to stay on the sideline. He said he’ll be staying there in 2020 because he doesn’t “feel like I can give that effort right now” to be the kind of player who would help a team.

Falcons still haven’t announced Todd Gurley deal

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The news that the Falcons have agreed to terms with a former XFL player raised an interesting point regarding a much more high profile acquisition that the Falcons have made during the ongoing free agency period.

The Falcons have said not a word about agreeing to terms with running back Todd Gurley.

The revised rules of the 2020 offseason, as influenced by the coronavirus pandemic, permit teams to announce a deal before a contract is signed and before a physical is conducted. Other teams (like the Texans as to receiver Randall Cobb) have done it. The Falcons have chosen otherwise as to Gurley.

Even if/when Gurley officially signs, his one-year contract surely will hinge on passing a physical with the Falcons. And that physical won’t be administered until Gurley, who remains in L.A., can travel to Atlanta for full and complete examination by team doctors.

In the interim, the deal could (in theory) fall through. The Ravens were supposed to be signing Rams defensive lineman Michael Brockers, and then before the deal was done, Brockers ended up back with the Rams. Although there’s currently no reason to think that kind of L.A. lightning will strike again, no NFL deal is done until it’s done. So until the Gurley-to-Falcons deal is done, a Gurley-back-to-Rams deal could still happen.

Gurley may not be inclined to do that, for a couple of reasons. On the surface, his claim that he didn’t see his release coming seems ridiculous. At a deeper level, and as Peter King explained it on Friday’s PFT Live, it’s possible that Gurley truly didn’t see it coming because coach Sean McVay has an ultra-positive, upbeat, rah-rah-go-go attitude that never revealed to Gurley any hint that he was anything other than McVay’s guy. If so, Gurley may have a hard time rebuilding trust with his former team, if his former team decides to try to pry him away from the Falcons.

Then there’s the fact that, if he ultimately fails his Falcons physical, Gurley arguably will be entitled to another $10.5 million in guaranteed money from the Rams, since the money the Rams avoided owing Gurley by cutting him on March 19 was guaranteed for injury.

Bottom line: No deal is done until it’s done. And Gurley’s deal with the Falcons isn’t done. And things could get interesting if for some reason it never gets done.