Reports: Bills plan new stadium in Orchard Park

NFL: DEC 19 Bills at Broncos
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The Bills are planning a new outdoor stadium in Orchard Park, New York, according to multiple reports.

Thad Brown of WROC reports the new stadium, which will have a partial covering for fans, will take 3-5 years from start to finish. The Bills could open their new facility as early as 2025, but 2026 or 2027 is more likely.

The team still needs government approvals, including funding, which could delay the timetable, per Brown.

The Bills’ current lease at Highmark Stadium expires in 2023. The team could extend the lease with Erie County and New York, but the Bills are prepared to consider other options for home games, including Toronto and Penn State, Brown reports.

The Bills have played at their current stadium since 1973.

Brown reports the team has hired Legends Global Sales to sell sponsorships and premium seats for the new Bills stadium, and Legends Global Planning will serve as an owner’s consultant.

Both companies are co-owned by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Yankee Global Enterprises.

Report: Fox, ESPN in bidding war for Robert Griffin III

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Robert Griffin III hasn’t called it quits yet, but if he decides to retire, the quarterback has a second career waiting for him.

Fox and ESPN executives were “blown away” by Griffin in his recent auditions, Andrew Marchand of The New York Post reports, and “some said Griffin’s was among the top tryouts they have ever viewed.” That has ESPN and Fox in a bidding war for Griffin, according to Marchand, with ESPN upping its offer after Fox came calling.

ESPN would use Griffin as a college football analyst as well as featuring him on its NFL shows such as “Get Up!”

Griffin created headlines last month during a BleacherReport.com draft show when he said his former backup, Kirk Cousins, could lose his starting job with the Vikings to rookie Kellen Mond.

Griffin, 31, started two games as a backup with the Ravens the past three seasons. He remains a free agent.

Tony Buzbee: “There will not be a settlement of the Deshaun Watson cases . . . anytime soon”

NFL: DEC 13 Texans at Bears
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After a flurry of comments and posturing from both sides in the Deshaun Watson cases, things got quiet as the possibility of settlement was privately discussed. The lawyers briefly returned to the public eye to chide each other regarding settlement talks that broke down over the question of whether any deal would be subject to confidentiality.

Then, it got quiet again, inviting speculation about the possibility of a settlement. Now, one of the lawyers is speaking again.

“In response to the many queries we’ve received about the Deshaun Watson case,” attorney Tony Buzbee said on Instagram, “I typically don’t respond to individual press calls, because it’s easier for me to make one statement here. As I’ve said: There will not be a settlement, at least anytime soon. I have my best people on the case. That should tell you a lot about our intentions. Lawsuits are all about the work in the trenches. My 17 lawyers, under my supervision, are doing the legal grunt work it takes to prepare the cases for trial and another win. I’ve been doing this for many years, and, as the Texas Bar knows, I have rarely lost. And, these are very important cases — these women matter!! — and our team is doing what it takes in discovery and prep to try these cases to a jury. The press folks say we’ve gone ‘quiet,’ but the truth is we made clear early on that we wouldn’t try these cases in the press and now are doing the important work required for our clients to try these cases to a jury. It’s a lot of work! I would also point out that on a daily basis our firm proudly handles cases for people who have lost loved ones, for people burned beyond recognition, for workers who have had their lives ruined, for people hurt, for people discriminated against, for people wronged, and for people defrauded. Our firm will keep doing that. Thanks for your interest! Stand by.”

The comment that “we made clear early on that we wouldn’t try these cases in the press” is, frankly, laughable. Buzbee’s entire plan in the early phase of the litigation was to prosecute Watson in the court of public opinion, aggressively and repeatedly. As Buzbee would argue to any jury in the land, a complete lack of credibility on that important point makes the rest of his comments suspect, too.

Here’s my guess: Buzbee was and is ready to settle, but he’s still not ready to waive confidentiality. Instead, he’s rattling the sword about his intent to see the litigation through to the end in an effort to get Watson and his lawyer, Rusty Hardin, to change his position.

As previously explained, the two sides would not have been discussing whether the settlement will be treated as confidential if a general agreement had not been reached as to the amount of the settlement. With 22 clients, Buzbee surely has gotten inquiries from one or more of them regarding when their case finally is going to be settled. For any of the 22 who don’t care about whether the settlement is confidential, the idea that the entire resolution is being delayed based on the question of confidentiality becomes a pointless impediment to their individual objectives.

If all cases aren’t settled by the time training camp opens, and if Watson also hasn’t been criminally charged, the NFL needs to inform Watson and the Texans as to whether he’ll be placed on paid leave after training camp opens. As recently explained, it’s unfair to Watson, the Texans, and any team that may want to perform a trade for Watson’s contract to refuse to make a decision on whether he’ll be placed on paid leave and to decline to make that decision known to all parties involved.

Amazon reportedly considers a pursuit of Peyton Manning

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Amazon is building a weekly NFL production from scratch. And it has the scratch to do it right.

Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reports that Amazon “has grappled with the idea” of pursuing Peyton Manning to serve as the lead analyst for the Thursday Night Football package that debuts next year on Amazon Prime. Marchand emphasizes that Amazon has not yet begun a pursuit of Manning and possibly never will.

It wouldn’t be cheap; Manning surely would want (and deserve) more than the $18 million per year Tony Romo gets from CBS. The fact that Amazon games likely will have lower ratings than games televised by three-letter networks could make the platform less attractive — which could in turn require Amazon to pay even more of a premium to get Manning.

Marchand previously has reported that Amazon would like to hire Al Michaels to handle the play-by-play call for the Thursday games, and that Sunday Night Football executive producer Fred Gaudelli could be in play, too.

Last year, when ESPN was making its annual run at Manning for Monday Night Football, it was believed that Manning wanted to partner with Michaels. Last year, NBC reportedly rebuffed interest from ESPN in pairing Michaels and Manning.

Tom Brady: Playing until 50 is a long time, even for me

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After the Buccaneers signed Tom Brady to an extension through the 2022 season this year, General Manager Jason Licht said that he told Brady that he thinks the quarterback could play until he’s 50 as long as he still wants to play.

That would make Brady the oldest player to take the field in league history, which doesn’t seem so farfetched now that Brady is the oldest regular starting quarterback to ever play in the NFL and has shown little drop in the quality of his play. That doesn’t mean Brady is planning on playing football into his sixth decade on Earth.

“50? That’s a long time. Even for me, that’s a long time,” Brady said, via Jori Epstein of USA Today. “I’ve always said 45 was the age that I wanted to reach and that was my goal. This year I’ll be 44, so next year I’ll be 45. I got a two-year contract. I’m going to be able to obviously play this year and God forbid anything happens but play next year and then see what happens after that. If I still want to keep playing, I might be able to do that. And if that’s enough, then that would be enough.”

Brady has long talked about playing until he’s 45, but admitted to being a “little fearful” of life after football this offseason and continued success in 2021 will make it easier to see him pushing past that point. That’s still a long way from 50, but it’s been a long time since anyone got rich doubting Brady’s ability to get the job done.

Lamar Jackson: It’s straight go-mode right now, the season is here

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Offseason programs have come to a close around the NFL and players will be off until the start of training camp next month, but Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson doesn’t want his teammates to think of this as a break.

During Jackson’s last media session before the start of camp, Jackson said that he’s seen “hard work [and] preparation” as the things that have lifted teams to Super Bowl titles. As a result, his parting message to the team is that the offseason has already come to an end and that they should be treating the next month the same way they’d treat the regular season.

“It’s really not the offseason anymore,” Jackson said, via Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com. “For us, I’ll say, we’ve just got to keep grinding and stay in shape. We can’t go backwards right now, because we already had our fun and did whatever we did during the regular offseason. Not this time; it’s straight go-mode right now. The season is here.”

The biggest task facing Jackson and the offense is taking a step forward in the passing game. There’s been a lot of emphasis placed on the deep passing game in particular and anything he can do to help that effort in the next few weeks will be much appreciated in Baltimore.

DeSean Jackson: Rams’ offense is going to be scary

Los Angeles Rams mini camp at SoFi Stadium.
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Rams wide receiver DeSean Jackson says other teams should be scared of what the Rams’ offense is going to do this season.

Jackson said that with himself joining holdovers Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Van Jefferson, and the Rams drafting Tutu Atwell in the second round, the Rams have more receivers than opposing defenses will know what to do with.

“With a quarterback like Matthew Stafford, it’s really mind-boggling for other defenses or defensive coordinators to really be sitting back, like, ‘Man, how are we going to stop these dudes?’ For me, I’ve been on some pretty good receiving corps, but Robert and Coop, in addition to Van and Tutu, it’s going to be scary,” Jackson said on NFL Network.

Jackson signed a one-year, $4.5 million contract with the Rams this offseason and indicated that the team’s recruiting pitch to him was less about the money than about the way he’d be used in their offense.

“I have an offensive-minded coach in Sean McVay who’s attuned and knows how to put his players in a position to win,” Jackson said.

If Jackson is right, McVay should have his best offense yet in 2021.

Cole Beasley calls NFLPA “a joke” over 2021 COVID rules

Buffalo Bills Mandatory Minicamp
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Anyone who follows the NFL closely already knew which way the wind was blowing. Players, who for the most part don’t follow the sport like fans and media do, have only recently learned that the rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated players will be very different in 2021.

The players who don’t intend to get vaccinated don’t like it.

On Wednesday, Bengals running back Joe Mixon sounded off. On Thursday, Bills receiver Cole Beasley chimed in, calling the NFL Players Association “a joke” via a string of tweets expressing his displeasure with the lingering restrictions for players who don’t get vaccinated.

“This is crazy,” Beasley said. “Did we vote on this? I stay in the hotel. We still have meetings. We will all be together. Vaccinated players can go out the hotel and bring covid back in to where I am. So what does it matter if I stay in the hotel now? 100 percent immune with vaccination? No.”

For starters, the players did vote on this, indirectly. They elect team representatives and executive committee members. Those individuals approved these rules.

“The players association is a joke,” Beasley said. “Call it something different. It’s not for the players. Everyone gives me the 98 percent of people who are vaccinated don’t get covid again. The odds of me getting in the NFL and playing for 10 years are lower than that and I’m here.”

Cole, here’s the reality — without a union, you’d be forced to choose between getting vaccinated and retiring. The union has prevented the league from implementing that rule. Moreover, the union has to represent the interests of all members, even when the interests aren’t aligned. In this case, a very vocal minority is complaining, and a very silent majority is saying nothing.

“I understand completely why the NFL is doing this,” Beasley said. “It gives them back the freedom to make the most money as possible again if everyone is vaccinated. But will anyone fight for the players or nah?”

Players get paid if the NFL gets paid. So, yes, they want to be able to play the games. If they play the games, the players get paid. That’s how a business operates.

“I don’t know who I need to talk to but someone has to get it right,” Beasley concluded. “That’s why I’m on here. Hopefully the right people will see it and at least think about how all this NFLPA stuff works. It needs to be changed.”

It doesn’t need to be changed because Beasley and Mixon don’t like it. And if the rules were put out to a vote, the fact that more than half of all players have been vaccinated means that the measures would be approved by a majority.

Perhaps these tweets are simply part of Beasley’s process. Anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Ultimately, if he wants to make $4.7 million to play football this season, he needs to work his way through to acceptance.

Or he just needs to get vaccinated.

Buccaneers 2021 tickets are sold out

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Winning the Super Bowl was good business for the Buccaneers.

The Bucs will play at full capacity this season and have already sold out all eight regular-season games, plus both preseason games, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.

The arrival of Tom Brady created high demand for tickets last offseason, but the Buccaneers didn’t play in front of a full stadium because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even as they won the Super Bowl on their home field, the Bucs played in front of only 24,835 fans, or about 38 percent of the 65,890 capacity at Raymond James Stadium.

This is believed to be the earliest in franchise history that the Buccaneers have sold out all their games.

85 percent of Dolphins, Saints players fully vaccinated or in the process

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Saints head coach Sean Payton said recently that he is confident that the team would reach the threshold of 85 percent of players fully vaccinated and a report on Thursday indicates he had good reason to feel that way.

Albert Breer of SI.com reports and PFT has confirmed that the Saints are one of two teams that have 85 percent of their players either fully vaccinated or on the way to reaching that status. The Dolphins are the other team in that category.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said this week that he didn’t know the exact percentage of the team’s players that have been vaccinated, but said “what I understand we’re tops in the league in terms of this process.” Based on Thursday’s report, the Steelers wouldn’t be at the very top of the list but word this week was that there are three teams with 70 or more players with at least one dose of the vaccine.

Teams that have 85 percent of their players fully vaccinated are expected to have relaxed protocols this summer and during the season, although the full nature of those relaxations have not been announced. The league did announce that there will be much greater restrictions on unvaccinated players than their vaccinated brethren this week.

Matt Nagy makes clear Justin Fields is behind Andy Dalton but ahead of Nick Foles

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Bears coach Matt Nagy has been clear that the plan in Chicago is for Andy Dalton to start at quarterback, and Justin Fields to begin his rookie season on the bench. But what if Dalton were to get hurt in the preseason?

In that case, Nagy says, Fields takes over.

He would be the guy,” Nagy said of Fields when asked about the hypothetical that Dalton is injured, via the Chicago Sun-Times.

That means Nick Foles is stuck at No. 3 on the depth chart, a year after the Bears traded a fourth-round draft pick for him. Foles is due a $4 million guaranteed base salary this season, so the Bears may be stuck with him, but they have no desire to play him.

Nagy said he sees little chance of that order — Dalton, then Fields, then Foles — changing.

“There will be a process and a plan,” Nagy said. “We will stick to that. That plan is not going to change tomorrow. The plan is not going to change in training camp. The plan is a plan — and it’s been thought out. . . . All three of those guys know that you need to produce, you need to play well, you need to compete, you need to be the best quarterback you can be. And then it’s going to be really pretty easy for us to see who that is and how that goes.”

So the Bears want Fields to have time to develop and learn on the sideline — but they want even less to put Foles on the field.

Patrick Mahomes on his toe: I don’t see any problems moving forward

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Patrick Mahomes had to undergo surgery to repair ligaments in the big toe of his left foot at the beginning of the offseason. While the initial thought was that he would be limited for the offseason program, that didn’t turn out to be the case.

Now at the end of minicamp, Mahomes feels good about his foot.

“I don’t see any problems moving forward,” Mahomes said during his Thursday press conference. “Obviously, I’ll have to continue with the rehab, continue to work on those things — strengthen it, do all that different type of stuff. But I feel like I had a good OTAs, a good minicamp. I was able to move around, scramble around and do the things that I needed to do.”

It never seemed like Mahomes would miss any snaps in training camp following the offseason surgery. But after the toe injury clearly impacted Mahomes during the postseason, it’s likely a relief for all of Kansas City that the QB feels this good heading into the summer break.

Vaccinated players will be tested once every 14 days

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The training camp and preseason (and presumably regular season) protocols for the NFL and NFL Players Association will result in daily testing for players who have not been fully vaccinated. For players who have been fully vaccinated, the frequency of testing will be dramatically reduced.

According to the NFL, fully vaccinated players will be tested only once every 14 days.

That’s it. Once every two weeks. So in a five-month season from training camp until the end of the regular season, a vaccinated player will be tested roughly 11 times. A non-vaccinated player will be tested at least 150 times.

Players who haven’t been vaccinated and who don’t intend to be vaccinated may not like this, but that’s the practical impact of being vaccinated. Setting aside all other benefits to those who have chosen to receive the shot(s), players who have received the vaccination won’t have a swab jammed up their noses every day, every day. Every. Day.

That surely will cause any non-vaccinated players who are on the fence to go ahead and get stuck once or twice between now and late July, in order to avoid getting tested repeatedly.

Mike Tomlin says he’s building a personal connection with Dwayne Haskins

USA Today

Steelers quarterback Dwayne Haskins has been through a lot in his short NFL career, and coach Mike Tomlin wants to learn all about it.

Tomlin was asked on Wednesday about a post-practice talk with Haskins, and he said that while he’s letting quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan and offensive coordinator Matt Canada coach Haskins on Xs and Os, Tomlin wants to know about Haskins’ overall development.

“I’ve been more concerned about Dwayne the person,” Tomlin said, via Missi Matthews of the Steelers’ website. “What he’s been through . . . how it’s affected the growth and development of his game.”

Haskins signed a one-year contract with the Steelers for the minimum salary and nothing guaranteed. To agree to that deal, he had to think the Steelers were a team that would spend some time developing him — to a greater extent than Washington did after drafting him in the first round. Tomlin sounds interested in helping that process.

John Harbaugh: Lamar Jackson is going to get paid, and he knows that

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Lamar Jackson will get a long-term deal with the Ravens at some point. But until the contract is signed, sealed and delivered, the quarterback, General Manager Eric DeCosta and head coach John Harbaugh will receive questions about the extension.

So when are the Ravens going to complete a deal with Jackson?

Mike Garafolo of NFL Media reports the Ravens consider Jackson’s extension “priority No. 1 and are aiming to get it done prior to training camp before moving on to several other orders of business.”

Harbaugh called an extension for Jackson a “done deal,” meaning the sides will come to terms at some point in the near future, and insists ongoing talks won’t affect the former NFL MVP.

“Look what he’s done. He’s going to get paid. He knows that,” Harbaugh said. “The question becomes: What’s he going to do? What’s his legacy going to be as a quarterback? That’s what he focuses on. That’s what’s so great about him. The other thing is a done deal.”

Jackson, 24, continues to shrug off questions about his contract. Jackson is scheduled to make $1.771 million in base salary this season and $23.106 million under the fifth-year option in 2022.

A new deal will make Jackson one of the highest-paid players in the NFL.

“I’m not going to lie to you. I’m not really focused on that right now,” Jackson said when asked whether he preferred a deal before training camp. “I’m focused on getting me a Super Bowl. I’m focused on getting better. I’m focused on working with my teammates right now.”