The Baltimore Ravens became the first team to report to training camp and held their first practice on Thursday ahead of their matchup with the Chicago Bears in the Hall of Fame Game in two weeks.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh is taking it easy on some of his veteran players in hopes of easing into the grind of camp with an extra exhibition game to play before the start of the regular season. According to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com, quarterback Joe Flacco, linebacker Terrell Suggs and safety Eric Weddle are among the group of veterans that won’t participate in a full practice until after the first weekend of camp.
Harbaugh wants the NFL to institute of a week prior to the start of practices that would allow for players to acclimate more seamlessly into the rigors of training camp.
“Acclimation is very important,” Harbaugh said. “If we could get a week instead of two days — not to push it back so we have a shorter time to get our guys ready for football — to put in front of training camp where we can get our guys ramped up for the collisions and hard movements, maybe we would avoid some of those first two- to three-day injuries that we get during training camp. That’s our goal this year.”
Veterans are being limited to individual drills and conditioning in the first week in hopes of avoiding serious injuries, such as the knee injuries sustained by tight end Crockett Gillmore and cornerback Maurice Canady on the second day of camp last year.
Training camps typically begin with veterans reporting for camp one day and practices beginning the next. A mandated acclimation period could potentially yield fewer injuries. However, coaches aren’t going to voluntarily give up practice time while their competitors are able to practice. It’s also no guarantee that injuries would be reduced.
But with the Ravens getting an extra week of practice due to their presence in the Hall of Fame game, it gives Harbaugh a chance to ease into a full workload more easily than in most seasons.
The NFL and its Players’ Association released a joint statement Thursday night, hours after word leaked that the Dolphins have included a “Proper Anthem Conduct” section in their nine-page player disciplinary document. The statement said the sides have had recent discussions and are working on a resolution.
“The NFL and NFLPA, through recent discussions, have been working on a resolution to the anthem issue. In order to allow this constructive dialogue to continue, we have come to a standstill agreement on the NFLPA’s grievance and on the NFL’s anthem policy. No new rules relating to the anthem will be issued or enforced for the next several weeks while these confidential discussions are ongoing.
“The NFL and NFLPA reflect the great values of America, which are repeatedly demonstrated by the many players doing extraordinary work in communities across our country to promote equality, fairness and justice.
“Our shared focus will remain on finding a solution to the anthem issue through mutual, good faith commitments, outside of litigation.”
The players’ union filed a grievance against the league over its anthem policy. In response to criticism of players kneeling on the field, the NFL changed its policy this offseason, requiring players either to stand for the national anthem or to stay in the locker room during the anthem.
Deshaun Watson doesn’t expect to be limited when the Texans begin practice next week.
“I feel great,” Watson told the NFL Network on Thursday night, via Adam Wexler of KPRC. “I’m getting ready for next week when we report to The Greenbrier; I’m going to be full-go.”
Watson shed his knee brace during the Texans’ three-day minicamp last month, feeling good about his rehab progress from an anterior cruciate tear in a November 2 practice.
The 2017 first-round draft pick threw 19 touchdown passes, an NFL record for a quarterback in his first seven games, and the Texans averaged 40.5 points per game in his six starts last season.
Tension? What tension?
James Harrison, who spent a month in New England last season, said he believes the stories about a rift between Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are fake news.
“All these stories that come out of all this friction and stuff, I honestly believe that it is made up,” Harrison said on FS1’s Undisputed, via WEEI. “I came in there looking, I was like, ‘I am going to see what is going on. They have trouble too, just like everyone else, right?’ I get in there and I see nothing. They were interacting. They were talking. I don’t see any friction. I believe they just make up these stories to pull the team tighter and closer together and that is really all it does.”
The former pass rusher hated Brady when he played in Pittsburgh. He loved him as a teammate.
“To be honest with you, I wanted to hate this dude,” Harrison said. “The whole time I am playing in Pittsburgh, I am like, ‘I hate Brady.’ Everyone is like, ‘He’s such a nice guy; he’s such a nice guy.’ We had LeGarrette [Blount], he came over and I was like, ‘What’s up with Tom Brady?’ He was like, ‘He’s such a great guy’ and I was like, ‘Stop lying to me.’ As soon as I get there, who is the first person I see happy with a smile on his face? I was like, ‘He’s just doing this because he has to do this, right? He’s just faking.’
“You watch how he acts in the locker room, how he communicates with different guys, guys who have been there forever, guys who are just getting there, and dude, he’s a great guy.”
Josh Norman and Trent Williams had their base salaries slightly adjusted downward after failing to participate in 90 percent of Washington’s offseason workouts, Field Yates of ESPN reports.
The players might not notice.
Norman’s base salary falls from $13.5 million to $13.3 million for 2018, and Williams saw his drop from $10 million to $9.85 million, per Yates.
Norman, 30, signed a five-year, $75 million with Washington in 2016.
Williams, 30, enters the third year of a five-year, $66 million contract.
Technically, the list of 2018 work rules given by the Dolphins to their players says that suspensions could be imposed for violations of the new anthem policy. As a practical matter, this doesn’t mean that Dolphins players automatically will be suspended for violating a league policy that requires anyone inclined to protest during the anthem to stay in the locker room.
Per a team source, no decisions have been made as to the punishment that the Dolphins will impose if/when players violate the new anthem policy. “All options are on the table,” the source said.
The team was required to put together a list of rules, and like most work rules, few articulate a clear, set formula for how discipline will be imposed. It’s entirely possible that the Dolphins will utilize progressive discipline in this case, beginning with a fine, escalating to a greater fine, and eventually resulting in a suspension (maybe for only one game), if he continues to violate the anthem policy.
Regardless, the notion that any Dolphins player who violates the new anthem policy automatically will be suspended four games is incorrect. Instead, a four-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team represents the maximum discipline that the Dolphins or any other team can impose on a player.
The NFL’s new anthem policy requires players to stand for the anthem or remain in the locker room. Violations will trigger fines of the teams, and punishment of the players. In Miami, it could be more than fines.
According to the Associated Press, the team has a nine-page disciplinary document that includes a section labeled “Proper Anthem Conduct.” The document includes anthem protests within the laundry list of behavior that constitutes “conduct detrimental to the club.” By rule, detrimental conduct could result in a fine and/or a suspension.
None of this means that the team will actually suspend players for violating the anthem policy. However, the new anthem policy doesn’t foreclose a suspension, since it allows “[e]ach club [to] develop its own work rules . . . regarding its personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.”
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross at one point firmly supported the player right to protest. He then flipped, explaining that the political uproar obscured the reasons for the protests during the anthem. His team is the first to be linked to the possibility of players being suspended for protesting during the anthem.
On the same team with Pro Bowl corners Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye last season, Aaron Colvin played as a slot corner. He did the job very well, but Colvin left for Houston and a chance to prove he can do the same outside.
“It’s kind of past talking for me right now,” Colvin said, via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. “It’s something burning inside me. I can’t really explain, but I’ll wake everybody up this year.”
The Texans signed Colvin to a four-year, $34 million contract after he didn’t allow a touchdown last season. Pro Football Focus ranked him third among slot corners as he allowed 0.75 yards per catch.
He will play an even bigger role in Houston.
“Truthfully, I did want to play some outside,” Colvin said. “It’s about winning my one-on-ones. It gives myself the best chance to make a play.”
A report earlier this week indicated that Brent Musburger will take over for Greg Papa as the play-by-play voice for Raiders radio broadcasts this season.
The Raiders have yet to confirm that Musburger is coming onboard, but they have confirmed that Papa is leaving the job he’s held since 1993. Team owner Mark Davis released an oddly punctuated statement on Thursday thanking Papa for his efforts.
“The Raiders organization would like to thank Greg Papa for his two decades of service to the Silver and Black.. He wasn’t just given the job.. He earned it.. With intense preparation Greg was always ready for the call.. Just as my generation remembers Bill King and “Holy Toledo”.. The Raider Nation will remember Greg Papa and “Touchdown Raiders”.. We wish Greg and his family the best in whatever the future brings..”
Former Raiders coach Tom Flores announced that he will also be leaving the broadcast booth after 20 years as Papa’s partner. No replacement for Flores has been announced or reported at this point.
James Harrison was on the Patriots’ defense that Eagles center Jason Kelce said was lacking in talent, but Harrison didn’t take offense at Kelce’s comments.
“To be honest with you, it doesn’t bother me. It’s not a farfetched statement,” Harrison said on FS1 of Kelce’s claim that the Patriots had good coaches, not good players.
However, Harrison interpreted Kelce’s comments a little differently than most people did. Although most saw it as a shot at the Patriots’ talent, Harrison took it as praising Bill Belichick.
“There’s still good players on that defense, but to be honest with you if you go over it, look at other defenses across the league, they’re not considered the top, the best,” Harrison said of his old Patriots teammates. “But they’re at the pinnacle, the Super Bowl, so the coaching is far superior.”
In a separate FS1 interview, Harrison added that “the coaching is better” with Belichick, and that former Steelers coach Mike Tomlin needs to run a tighter ship, like Belichick. Harrison didn’t play in New England for long, but he was impressed with the coaching he got.
Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey said yesterday he intended to “take my fine” and continue to protest during the national anthem.
But perhaps because the fine isn’t immediately his to pay, the Titans want to talk to him about his plans before the start of the season.
Under the league’s new anthem policy, players who are on the field have to stand and “show respect” for the anthem, and any violations will come in the form of fines for the team.
“In the case of Jurrell Casey, I think our head coach [Mike Vrabel] and General Manager [Jon Robinson] are interested in having a conversation after he gets back from the United Kingdom,” team president Steve Underwood said, via Joey Garrison of the Tennesseean. “We think there may be some misunderstanding on his part. Because the new league new policy does not provide anywhere that fines are made against players. If a player doesn’t stand, the teams can be fined, but not the players.
“There are two things that can happen that are considered to be legitimate under the policy: stay in the locker room or you can stand respectfully during the anthem. And it doesn’t apply just to the players; it applies to every employee of ours. So, we’re not exactly sure why he suggested that he would, as he put, ‘take his fine’ because there will be no fines levied against him.”
Casey made his remarks while on a promotional trip to England. He has never kneeled during the anthem, but has raised a fist afterward. No other Titans players has kneeled either, and Underwood was careful to point out there may be some “confusion about that.”
Underwood said he wasn’t disappointed in anything Casey said, but does want to talk to him when he returns, underscoring what a sensitive topic this is for teams.
Browns defensive end Myles Garrett still is hunting Ben Roethlisberger, whom he didn’t face his rookie season after saying he couldn’t wait to meet the Steelers quarterback and “chop him down.”
Garrett is trolling Roethlisberger again in a hilarious video produced by the Browns. The video, which was posted on social media Thursday by the team, has nearly a million views on Twitter.
Garrett, Tyrod Taylor, Jarvis Landry, Duke Johnson, Christian Kirksey and six other players make cameos in a parody of the intro to the classic NBC sitcom The Office. Garrett, dressed as the Dwight Schrute character from the show, shreds a picture of Roethlisberger in the minute-long video.
Shortly after the Browns selected Garrett with the No. 1 overall pick in 2017, he began talking tough about wanting to sack Roethlisberger. The quarterback played along last offseason, but the two have yet to meet on the field.
Garrett missed the first four games last season with a high ankle sprain, which included the season opener against the Steelers, and Roethlisberger sat out the regular-season finale as a precaution for the playoffs.
The teams open the regular season September 9 at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“Oh, thank God,” Garrett said in May during the team’s golf outing, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. The defensive end added he “absolutely” plans to take down Roethlisberger.
Vikings rookies are set to report to training camp on Tuesday and it looks like they’ll all be under contract by then.
Tom Pelissero of NFL Media reports that first-round pick Mike Hughes has agreed to a deal with the team. The cornerback was the only member of Minnesota’s draft class without a contract.
In addition to competing for a spot in the Vikings secondary alongside fellow first-round picks Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes, Hughes will also likely be in the mix for work as a returner. He averaged 31.8 yards per kickoff return and 16.6 yards per punt return at UCF last season while returning three kicks for touchdowns.
Once Hughes’ deal is official, there will be 12 unsigned picks from this year’s draft.
UPDATE 4:31 p.m. ET: The Vikings announced that Hughes has signed his contract.
Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith participated in team drills for the first time since his Achilles injury in December, Jamison Hensley of ESPN reports.
It already was a good sign that Smith didn’t have to begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list. But he took another step Thursday after being limited to individual drills during the team’s minicamp last month.
That bodes well for his availability for the start of the regular season.
Smith, who turns 30 next week, made three interceptions and nine pass breakups in 12 games last season.
A first-round pick in 2011, Smith has played all 16 games in a season only twice.
When the Ravens put guard Marshal Yanda on the physically unable to perform list to open training camp, the assumption was that his fractured ankle from last season was the reason.
On Thursday, we learned otherwise. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said that Yanda’s ankle is totally healed, but the team decided to put him on the PUP list because he had shoulder surgery this offseason.
While they’ve opted for the cautious approach with Yanda to start camp, Harbaugh added that he thought the veteran would be able to play in a game if the Ravens were set to play one right now. That suggests he’ll be ready to go come September unless there are any other ailments that need tending.
Yanda missed the rest of the season after injuring his ankle in Week Two and saw his run of Pro Bowl appearances end at six in a row as a result.