Month: August 2016

Jeff Fisher would be ‘surprised’ if any Rams mimicked Colin Kaepernick

IRVINE, Calif. — Jeff Fisher’s profound respect for the national anthem was noticeable during a recent episode of HBO’s “Hard Knocks”, which aired footage of a team meeting in which the Los Angeles Rams coach walked his players through the proper way to salute the flag before games. But Fisher wanted no part of the controversy that has engulfed San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is sitting during the national anthem — his way to raise awareness for racial oppression in the United States.

Isner ended his answer — and his news conference — by declaring: “I’m a big Blaine Gabbert fan now,” a reference to another 49ers quarterback.

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said he respected Kaepernick for speaking out, even if he wasn’t sure about the methods.

Berry is unlikely to play in Thursday night’s final preseason game against the Green Bay Packers at Arrowhead Stadium. But he said he would play, and play well, in the regular season opener on Sept. 11 against the San Diego Chargers at Arrowhead.

“I’m confident in that,’’ he said. “The only thing is just getting used to having so many bodies flying around, NFL bodies. You try to fill it in with high school players and other people that are just around playing. But it’s different when you have 11 guys on the field that know what they’re doing and know where to be. Things tend to move a little faster.’’

Berry referred to the workouts near his home in the Atlanta area that he conducted when the Chiefs were at training camp. In what can be taken as a sign of how serious Berry was about those workouts, he conducted them each day at the time the Chiefs were practicing without him.

“I tried to tailor things toward the way practice is structured and the way the game is structured,’’ he said. “I just tried to do everything I could on my end to make sure when I came here it could be as much [alike] as possible.’’

While the Chiefs were practicing, Berry was working out. When they were playing, he was watching, from afar on TV. The starting defense struggled in the first couple of preseason games without five starters, including Berry.

But he was cheered by the way the starting defense played against the Bears on Saturday. Playing just in the first half, the Chiefs allowed only 20 yards and two first downs.

“One thing about our team: We adjust very well,’’ Berry said. “You saw that in the Bears game. The problems we had early on, they get fixed. It’s just about making those adjustments and minimizing mistakes.’’

How Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin gave defenses fits on third down

RENTON, Wash. — In the second half of 2015, no quarterback in the NFL was better than Russell Wilson on third down.

“I felt better today, honestly, than I thought I was going to wind-wise, conditioning-wise, running those routes being full padded and everything,” Nelson said after practice, which lasted 1 hour, 47 minutes. “I thought that was a good sign. We’ve been working inside, so we’ve been getting the conditioning aspect in. But there’s nothing like playing a game, and playing a game in Jacksonville Week 1, it’s going to be hot down there. I’m sure everyone will be having to deal with it, and it’ll be part of it.”

Nelson said despite his extremely limited return, he believes he’s on track to play against the Jaguars in the opener on Sept. 11.

“Absolutely. I don’t think anything’s changed,” he said.

With only one more full practice scheduled this week before Friday’s preseason game at San Francisco, it’s unlikely Nelson would play against the 49ers. And typically, coach Mike McCarthy doesn’t play his starters in the preseason finale, although it’s unknown if he would make an exception for the Sept. 1 game at Kansas City to get Nelson some work before the regular-season opener against the Jaguars.

The scariest thing, perhaps, is the players I haven’t named who narrowly miss out on this team. Chris Harris was an undrafted free agent in 2011 before turning into a perennial Pro Bowl corner in Denver. Jimmy Smith, Byron Maxwell and Buster Skrine could easily step in as nickel corners. Aldon Smith was as dominant a pass rusher as there was in the league before his career unraveled. Ryan Kerrigan and Pernell McPhee are dominant at their best, as is defensive tackle Jurrell Casey. Cameron Jordan has made two Pro Bowls and can’t even sniff this team. The talent level in this class is unreal. It is already historic.

What can rival it? The best defensive draft in post-merger NFL history is almost definitely the class of 1981, which produced five Hall of Famers on the defensive side of the ball: Lawrence Taylor, Ronnie Lott, Howie Long, Mike Singletary and Rickey Jackson.

That ’81 class made 15 first-team All-Pro appearances through its first five seasons in the league, a staggering number. The defenders of 2011? They have 16 All-Pro appearances in their first five seasons. Watt, Peterson, Sherman and Miller have been awarded the honor multiple times. The offensive players from that same draft have combined for just four All-Pro appearances over that span.

Can the class of 2011 live up to the lofty heights of 1981 and send five defenders to Canton? It’s not out of the question. Watt faces some injury concerns, but he’s probably already done enough to justify enshrinement. Every eligible two-time defensive player of the year has made it to the Hall of Fame, and Watt has already won the award three times.

The same logic also suggests that Peterson and Sherman have already done enough to get in. Of the 25 Canton-eligible, post-merger defenders who were named first-team All-Pros three times during their careers, 16 (64 percent) made the Hall of Fame. Both NFC West cornerbacks have done that before the sixth year of their respective careers. Miller, who has racked up the same honor two times, is knocking on the door. The fifth Hall of Famer isn’t quite as clear, but with Dareus (when not suspended), Houston and Quinn all regularly producing dominant seasons, there are reasons to be optimistic.

Joe Flacco says in radio interview he will play Friday

Despite wearing a brace on his left knee, he has moved well in practice and has even scrambled to get first downs. But that all occurred when he was wearing a red jersey, which signifies no contact.

“I could have played in the first two preseason games,” Flacco said. “But you just kind of think: Is it worth it to get a total of three series when you’re putting yourself at risk? Is that really worth it?

“We just have decided that practice would be a really, really good measure of how I feel, and once I was ready to get used to some game reps that the third preseason game would do that. I’m excited to get out there finally.”

From a salary-cap perspective, because Lynch is a rookie and Siemian is working under his rookie deal signed as a seventh-round pick in 2015, the three Broncos quarterbacks count a total of $6.811 million against the salary cap, far less than many teams’ starting quarterback counts against the cap.

Sanchez is the highest-paid of the three by a long shot, counting $4.5 million against the cap. If the Broncos were to release Sanchez because they believe Lynch could be the team’s backup, the team would take a $1 million dead-money hit against the salary cap and would have to pay the $1 million that is fully guaranteed in Sanchez’s contract.

Let’s delve into things in a little more detail:

Getting there/going home:

If you’re driving to the stadium, the Vikings suggest you park in an area of downtown that corresponds to your route getting to the stadium. The team has divided the neighborhoods around the stadium into four zones — red, gold, purple and blue — and has more information here about where you should park, depending on where you’re coming from. If you’re heading to the stadium from Apple Valley, for example, you’d likely take Interstate-35W northbound, take the exits toward downtown Minneapolis and park in the blue zone on the southwest side of the stadium. Fans from Maple Grove, on the other hand, would take Interstate-94 eastbound, enter downtown Minneapolis near Target Field and park in the red zone on the northwest side. Ideally, the plan should help fans get parked sooner and minimize congestion as cars enter and exit downtown.

Cowboys TE James Hanna to undergo knee surgery, sources say

Hanna has developed into a solid No. 2 tight end behind Jason Witten. He signed a three-year deal as a free agent to remain with the Cowboys in the offseason. In four seasons he has 33 catches for 286 yards and has started 29 games.

With Hanna out, that helps the chances of Gavin Escobar and Geoff Swaim of finalizing a spot on the 53-man roster. Escobar is returning from a torn Achilles late last season, while Swaim has had a solid camp, although he dropped two passes in the preseason opener against the Los Angeles Rams.

Rookie receiver Chris Brown suffered a broken foot in Monday’s practice that will require surgery. Brown was taken off the practice field Monday on a cart. Depending on the severity of the surgery, Brown is looking at a recovery period of six to eight weeks, which means he could see his rookie season end before it really begins.

LATROBE, Pa. — It’s rare to see Ben Roethlisberger faking a handoff and bolting toward the basketball hoop. But Sunday’s practice was about as rare as it gets.

Players filtered into the Saint Vincent College gymnasium after heavy rains and lightning made the outdoor fields untenable.

Coach Mike Tomlin said the players got a “natural bone.”

“Sometimes, God’s with em,'” Tomlin said. “We worked above the neck. These are always valuable days for us. We find ways to make it productive to them.”

“I’m very disappointed I’m not able to compete in the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, as I was really looking forward to defending my title,” Williams said in a statement to the tournament. “My shoulder inflammation continues to be a challenge, but I am anxious to return to the court as soon as possible.”

Elliott last practiced on Aug. 2. He has increased his rehab work over the last few days. Elliott did not play in the preseason opener against the Los Angeles Rams, but he went through a long running session in pregame warm-ups and was dressed in full pads for the game.

Walker, entering his eighth NFL season, had 33 tackles and two sacks in 15 regular-season games as a reserve for the Broncos in 2015. He was penciled in on the Denver depth chart as the starting right defensive end, replacing Malik Jackson, who left as a free agent for Jacksonville during the offseason.

Veteran receiver Lance Moore announces retirement

The undrafted pass-catcher out of Toledo joined the Saints in 2006 after spending his rookie season as a free-agent addition with the Browns. Over the past two seasons, Moore operated as a role player for the Steelers and Lions before signing with the Falcons last week. Projected to push Justin Hardy for snaps in the slot, Moore was a long shot to make Atlanta’s roster.

He won’t be crowned in Canton, but Moore enjoyed the kind of career plenty of NFL players would be thrilled with: 10-plus seasons, a highlight reel of big plays, a Super Bowl ring and the chance to team with one of the game’s finest quarterbacks in Brees. Moore has plenty to look back on.

Last week, Buccaneers backup quarterback Mike Glennon introduced a child into the world, and named him Brady.

Brady was born on August 3, which just so happens to be the same day four-time Super Bowl championship quarterback Tom Brady was born 39 years ago. It seems likely that the Glennons named their child after the Patriots quarterback, because, well, it just makes sense.

The Glennon camp is denying these allegations, but a certain teammate provides some interesting insight.

“Mike said he didn’t name it after Brady,” Jameis Winston told MMQB on Saturday. “But I know he was hoping that baby was born on Tom Brady’s birthday. I know that for a fact.”

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys were excited about undrafted rookie wide receiver Andy Jones in the spring, and he has done nothing to disappoint so far in training camp. He won’t crack the top three spots held by Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley, but considering the time Tony Romo is putting in with Jones, you can see the veteran quarterback likes what he sees. Jones is not the fastest, but he can create separation and does not drop any passes. “It’s not too big for him,” said executive vice president Stephen Jones. “And certainly all you have to do, he’s one of those that you look at in a uniform and go, ‘Wow.’ That’s pretty good and then he goes and plays and it’s still really good.” — Todd Archer

New York Giants

Quarterback Eli Manning is having a strong training camp. It has been 11 days since his last interception, and with star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. back after missing several days with a leg injury, the offense has really been humming. Manning and Beckham tore up the defense Monday. On Tuesday, the defense will be in search of a little redemption after a rough few days. — Jordan Raanan

Reggie Ragland injures knee during Bills practice

The hammer-head linebacker was slated for a big role in the Bills’ defense and could wind up being a steal in the second round.

Buffalo is already without first-round pick Shaq Lawson to start the season after the pass rusher underwent shoulder surgery earlier this offseason. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport delievered more bad news for Bills ‘backers: Kevin Reddick will miss time with an MCL sprain.

After a down season for his defense in 2015, Ryan’s early plans for revamping his defense are being stymied by injuries.

Dallas Cowboys

1 to 10 percent: Tony Romo had an MVP-caliber season in 2014, but he didn’t take over as the starter until age 26 and has made only four Pro Bowls. He has neither the longevity nor the peak to seriously threaten. … Zack Martin has made Pro Bowls in each of his first two seasons, but it’s virtually impossible for an interior lineman to make serious HOF headway after two years.

Dez Bryant rolled off three consecutive monster seasons before a foot injury blew up his 2015 campaign. His average season during that run — 91 catches, 1,312 receiving yards, 14 touchdowns — would qualify as most star wideouts’ peak campaign. At the moment, Bryant hasn’t done enough. He has two Pro Bowls from those three huge seasons, but he still needs to add quite a bit to his résumé to stand out in a generation with so many incredible wide receivers. If he looks fully healed from the foot injury and doesn’t have any recurrences over the next couple of seasons, Dez will be in much better shape. 25 percent

Tyron Smith has made it to three consecutive Pro Bowls, throwing in an All-Pro berth in 2014. He has the added benefit of being young for his draft class; as mentioned earlier, Smith just finished his age-25 season and doesn’t turn 26 until December. Just over 30 percent of post-merger players who made three Pro Bowls by 25 made it to the Hall of Fame. Elite offensive linemen also typically enjoy longer careers by virtue of the possibility for veteran tackles to kick inside to guard. It certainly appears Smith is in the middle of a long streak of consecutive Pro Bowls. 35 percent

Cowboys tight end Jason Witten has more than 1,000 career receptions and 11,000 receiving yards. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Jason Witten should be about as much of a lock for the Hall of Fame as any active non-quarterback. The only argument you can make is that he hasn’t had a blow-away season, but his consistency has been remarkable. Witten hasn’t missed a game since his rookie season and has caught at least 60 passes for 700 yards in 12 consecutive campaigns. He’s second on the all-time tight end leaderboard for catches and receiving yards behind Tony Gonzalez, and he’ll join Gonzalez in Canton one day. 95 percent

Lance Moore has landed back in the NFC South.

After a two-year stint in the Rust Belt, the 10-year veteran has signed with the Atlanta Falcons, the team announced Friday. Moore reportedly worked out for the Chargers earlier this week before San Diego signed fellow veteran James Jones.

Moore won a Super Bowl during his eight seasons with the New Orleans Saints, with whom he caught 38 touchdowns and compiled 4,281 receiving yards as Drew Brees’ second and third option. He never found his place in Pittsburgh in 2014, but felt rejuvenated with the Lions in 2015, playing in the slot and earning 337 yards on 20 catches in 14 games.

The 2013 draft was a mess, but here are three first-rounders with hope

The Raiders’ defense is improving by leaps and bounds, he has cover skills and an ever-improving pass rush and front seven in front of him. I love Raiders defensive backs coach Rod Woodson, who believes he can cull more from Hayden, and few have Hall of Famer Woodson’s first-hand knowledge of the position.

Despite upgrades to the roster, Hayden still has a chance to see the field. David Amerson stepped into a starting corner spot for Oakland, but that doesn’t mean Hayden couldn’t supplant him, and the safety pair of newcomer Karl Joseph and Reggie Nelson should be able to give the corners the freedom to jump routes. It’s do-or-die time for Hayden in Oakland, and I’m not ready to write him off just yet.

LB Jarvis Jones, No. 17, Steelers: This team knows a thing or two about drafting linebackers, and it hasn’t been all that unusual for some recent edge players — be it LaMarr Woodley, Cam Heyward or Jason Worilds — to take time to find their way in this 3-4 defense. So Jones needing some time to get himself going shouldn’t be a total shocker.

When drafted, he looked like a perfect fit for this scheme, though he too came in with injury concerns. He has been a sporadic contributor at best and his pass rush has yet to really flash at the NFL level.

On the bright side, he did start 15 games last season, more than his first two seasons combined. He also produced his first career interception in 2015 and forced a fumble. Yes, this is modest production … but at least he was regularly on the field, a necessary first step. Some of the other outside linebackers need work, too. James Harrison is like 40 by now (actually, he’s 38) and mulled retirement. Bud Dupree, a 2015 first-round pick, didn’t exactly have a scintillating rookie campaign.

I believe this defense will start to make strides again, and in this scheme Jones should be in position to make more plays, with no fifth-year option a motivating factor for him as well.

He’s No. 21 in your program, No. 4 in the 2016 NFL Draft and No. 1 among rookies in jersey sales through one week. That’s running back Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys, folks.

No. 21 is No. 1 when it comes to jersey sales through the first full week after the draft.

— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) May 5, 2016
Is this all that surprising? Not really. There’s a reason they call the Cowboys “America’s Team.” If they don’t have the largest fan base of any team in the NFL, it’s pretty close. And when a team with a fan base of that size not only has a high draft pick, but uses it on an exciting skill position player, they’re going to sell a lot of jerseys. (These are presumably full jerseys and not the kind that cut off just below the shoulder pads so everyone can see your abs.)

Elliott is followed on the rookie jerseys sales list by the No. 2 and then No. 1 picks in the 2016 draft. Division rival Carson Wentz, the future quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles, is in second place for his No. 11 jersey. Jared Goff, the No. 1 pick and new QB of the Los Angeles Rams, saw his No. 16 uni sell the third-most among rookies during the first week of his career.

No word on whether Elliott’s jersey sales have helped the Cowboys defense in any way.

Shaq Lawson has a big fan, possible endorsement due to Google alerts

It’s not hard to figure out from where new Buffalo Bills defensive lineman Shaq Lawson got his name. There’s a very famous Shaq that was taking the basketball world by storm when Lawson was born in June 1994. Shaquille O’Neal had just finished his second NBA season, one in which he had averaged 29.3 points, 13.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.9 blocks when Lawson’s father, Lawrence, chose to name his son Shaq because he was such a long baby, according to the Buffalo News.

“We do think that the way we play will feature some of the physical traits that he has,” Garrett said shortly after his club drafted Tapper. “He plays the right way.”

Other thoughts on the Cowboys’ 2016 draft class:

Critics will argue that running backs are the easiest position to find and thus spending a first-round draft pick on one — especially as high as No. 4 overall — is almost by definition a reach. Dallas may have paid a premium price for Ezekiel Elliott, but make no mistake: he is an elite talent, with the blend of vision, power, speed, hands and competitiveness as a blocker to be a three-down difference-maker immediately for the Cowboys. Drafted into an optimum situation with Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and a terrific offensive line aiding his transition into the NFL, Elliott is the odds-on-favorite at this early point to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year this season.

Perhaps in part because Elliott offers immediate impact potential for a team built to win now, the Cowboys’ decision a round later to select injured linebacker Jaylon Smith was a surprising one. Like Elliott, Smith’s talent is undeniable. Prior to tearing multiple knee ligaments in his knee on New Year’s Day in a Fiesta Bowl loss to Elliott and the Buckeyes, Smith looked like a strong candidate to be the Cowboys’ choice at No. 4 overall. Therefore, it is difficult to question the Cowboys for gambling on Smith 30 picks later. Last week Jerry Jones stated that the Cowboys will not place Smith on Injured Reserve this season, hoping instead that he will be ready in time for a potential playoff run.

With all due respect to Smith, it was a different post-draft declaration by Jones which created even more buzz, with the always opinionated Cowboys’ owner expressing regret that he didn’t push harder for a trade up to land former Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch. The Denver Broncos ultimately offered more, trading up with the Seattle Seahawks to land the 6-foot-7, 240 pound Lynch at No. 26 overall.