AROUND THE NFL

Chaos in Manitoba.

 

Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Packers announced they will sit 33 players tonight, including Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams.

 

The team didn’t say why, but the reason is obvious.

 

The Packers were expected to play their starters, but that was before the field conditions in Winnipeg became an issue.

 

A patch of temporary turf in the south end zone where the Canadian Football League goal post normally sits was not stable.

 

The Packers TV broadcast said the field would be shortened to avoid the end zone, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.

 

The Raiders already had decided to sit their key players.

 

UPDATE 8:23 P.M.: The goal lines were moved to the 10-yard line to avoid the old goal-post hole in the south end zone. The teams are not kicking off, because of the shorter field.

 

After the game, Jon Gruden makes it clear it was Green Bay that was sensitive, perhaps overly so.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Raiders coach Jon Gruden did not agree with the decision to play Thursday night’s game against the Packers on a makeshift 80-yard field after the NFL’s attempt to convert a larger Canadian Football League field into a regulation American field hit a snag.

 

Although the Packers insisted that the game couldn’t use the planned end zones because of an issue with the area of turf where the CFL goal post had been removed, Gruden said there was no reason to do that.

 

“The field, I don’t know that was all about,” Gruden said, via NBCSportsBayArea.com. “We thought the field was perfectly fine.”

 

Gruden made clear that it was the Packers, not the Raiders, who insisted on changing the field dimensions.

 

“I’m not going to make a big deal about the field. We like the field. We thought the field was perfectly ready to roll. You’d have to ask Green Bay about that,” Gruden said.

– – –

It’s all enough for Mike Florio to demand the preseason be slashed:

 

For nearly a decade, Commissioner Roger Goodell periodically has criticized the quality of preseason action with the not-so-subtle goal in mind of sliding the dividing line in the total 20-game season from four preseason games and 16 regular-season games to two and 18. Currently, preseason action needs no criticism; it stinks, and most now agree that it needs to be dramatically reduced.

 

The problem, of course, is that the NFL Players Association steadfastly (and wisely) refuses to trade two fake games for two real ones. Perhaps more accurately, the NFLPA wants much more than the NFL ever would give to add a pair of regular-season weekends to offset the evaporation of two preseason weeks.

 

The NFL needs to realize that the time has come to cut the preseason even without a corresponding expansion of the regular season. The current labor deal gives the league the ability to do just that. It’s a power that, as of 2011, some believed the NFL planned to utilize in the hopes of squeezing the players to agree to more regular-season games in order to offset the revenue that would be lost by giving up half of the preseason. But the league has yet to do it, because the league realizes that the threat of reduced preseason revenue, which would eventually be reflected by a smaller salary cap, wouldn’t bait the players into agreeing to grow the pie with more games that count. Put simply, the shrinkage in the pie would hurt them far less than it hurts the owners, because the reduced salary cap gets spread over 53 players per franchise.

 

With CBA talks currently ongoing, Goodell hasn’t said much if anything publicly about the preseason in 2019. Here’s his most recent quote, from 2017: “I’ve asked every football guy, ‘How many preseason games do we really need to prepare your team and develop players and evaluate players and get yourself ready for the season? And I think that has shifted dramatically in the last three years. I think that coaches and football people think that you could do this in three [games], and I actually think that’s better for the fans. I actually don’t think the preseason games are of the quality that I’m really proud of. From my standpoint, I think that would be a really healthy shift.”

 

That same August, Goodell said he doesn’t believe preseason games match the quality of the regular season “by any stretch of the imagination.” Also that year, Goodell said, “When I go around to fans, that’s maybe the No. 1 thing I hear. The NFL should do things to the highest possible standards. Preseason games are not that.”

 

Two years later, it’s gotten worse. And it promises to continue to get worse, as more and more coaches — who nevertheless crave opportunities to get their players ready for September — keep starters in bubble wrap throughout August.

 

But the owners won’t shrink the preseason because the owners don’t want to give up the revenue without a way to balance it out, through an increased regular season. While expanded playoffs could help offset the lost money resulting from a shortened preseason, growing the field from 12 to 14 teams would add only two extra wild-card games, which probably wouldn’t be enough to make up for the shortfall.

 

Whether it’s 18 regular-season games or 17 plus expanded playoffs, the owners will want something like that before giving up the TV and ticket money that comes from losing 32 preseason games, reduced quality of those games be damned.

 

It’s a theme that will continue to emerge every year, in the weeks leading up to Week One of the regular season. With fewer and fewer starters playing, it feels like it’s moving toward critical mass, if not already there. And with the NFL and NFLPA currently negotiating, now is as good a time as any to finally fix the preseason problem, before the stands get even emptier and the interest gets even lower in the month of August.

 

And this from plugged-in Adam Schefter in an interview:

 

“The preseason this year has become more obsolete than ever before. (In the new CBA), there is no way they are going to leave the preseason at four games.  The question is, is it reduced to two, to one, to none….(After discussion of money).  “There really is no use to it anymore.”

 

The headline at ESPN said Schefter said no four-game preseason “next year.”  It really is no four-game preseason in the next CBA.

 

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

Count Jay Glazer among those loving RB DAVID MONTGOMERY:

 

Which rookie running back are you looking at to have a breakout season? —AJ M.

 

I’ve said it since the offseason: David Montgomery from the Bears. I loved him coming out, just loved him. I think he’s primed to have a really good, productive season in that system and culture. I’ve been hearing great things about him. He’s had a strong start.

 

Also, the Vikings have a rookie RB named Alexander Mattison who they were all raving about when I stopped by their camp. I mean, to a man, couldn’t stop preaching his gospel. I still think Dalvin Cook will be the man but they were all about Mattison’s talent.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

Jon Machota with some thoughts and shots on the RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT negotiations:

 

Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones is seemingly escalating rhetoric against the agent of holdout running back Ezekiel Elliott.

 

Jones didn’t name Elliott or agent Rocky Arceneaux in his comments, but suggested that some agents aren’t pursuing the same interests as the players should be.

 

@jonmachota

 Cowboys VP Stephen Jones: “I have a lot of respect for most agents. I really do. I think they’re trying to do their job for these players. But I do think sometimes, they don’t have the same endgame that maybe the player should and we do.”

 

It’s hard to read this as anything but a thinly-veiled shot at Arceneaux and Elliott given their recent comments. Arceneaux, after all, suggested that recent jokes made by Jerry Jones were disrespectful of his client, and that has clearly angered the Jones family. This holdout doesn’t appear likely to end any time soon.

 

Meanwhile, the Cowboys give Ed Werder the parameters of their generosity:

 

@WerderEdESPN

Sources: The most recent offer in negotiations between holdout Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys came from the team. Elliott has been offered a contract making him one of the NFL’s 2 highest-paid RB. That would suggest team offering more than LeVeon Bell and less than Todd Gurley.

 

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

ESPN.com asked their correspondents to come up with a ceiling and floor for their team.  Here is Jordan Raanan on the Giants:

 

New York Giants

Ceiling: 9-7 | Floor: 4-12

 

Biggest variable: Offensive explosiveness. Some might lean defense here, as the Giants have a young unit that will be learning on the fly. But that’s also why the success or failure of this team will hinge on the offense, beginning with quarterback Eli Manning. The Giants have a majority of their finances and most valuable assets (top pick in each of the past three drafts) invested in their offense. In fact, 60% of their salary cap is attributed to the offense (compared to 38% on defense), so the Giants’ O needs to prove it’s worth the price. — Jordan Raanan

 

Read them all here.

– – –

Somewhere GM Dave Gettleman is smiling as QB DAVID JONES continues to justify his lofty selection.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

My, my, how quickly the tables have turned.

 

Daniel Jones has gone from being booed at a Yankees game, to being the toast of New York in just three preseason games. The No. 6 overall pick, who was almost universally decried as a reach by the Giants brass back in April, shined once again Thursday night against the Cincinnati Bengals, completing 9 of 11 passes for 141 yards in four drives.

 

For the preseason, Jones compiled a stellar stat line: 25-of-30 passing, 369 yards, two TDs, zero INTs and two sacks.

 

After vociferously questioning the pick early in the process, the New York media has flipped before the calendar even turned to September, with some calling for Jones to start sooner rather than later.

 

For coach Pat Shurmur, Jones’ performance is validation.

 

“Like I said, you can ask me all you want about why I like him,” Shurmur said, via the New York Post. “I think it’s time to start asking the people that didn’t like him what they think, quite frankly.”

 

Jones has shown pinpoint accuracy through three games, an ability to get the ball out of his hands quickly, nice touch when he does stretch the field, and the mental fortitude to succeed in New York.

 

“That’s what we thought he was when we drafted him,” Shurmur said. “It’s fun, about every six or seven days I’ve been able to tell you, ‘That’s what we saw when we drafted him.’ He just has a feel for playing the position. He’s steadily getting better every time he takes the field.”

 

Despite the impressive outings, the Giants continue to stick with Eli Manning as the opening-day starter. The leash on the two-time Super Bowl MVP, however, has gotten tauter with each impressive performance by Jones.

 

Three fumbles are Jones’ biggest issue (two lost). One came Thursday night when he was blasted on a blindside hit by Carl Lawson. After the Giants were able to recover, however, Jones came back the very next play and hit Darius Slayton on a gorgeous back-shoulder throw to the 1-yard-line to set up a TD.

 

“You take hits, you know?” Shurmur said. “He came to the sideline and said, ‘That was a good one.’ He said, ‘I’m sure I’ll get hit harder than that at times.’ He was fine.

 

“He just reconfirmed in my mind that he’s tough in a sport where that’s demanded, he’s got that. And he knows how to compete.”

 

Saquon Barkley added: “He got hit and what did he do after, the next play? I think that shows a little toughness he has, too, a little grit behind him and you love to see that.”

 

It helps that Jones has faced vanilla defenses in the preseason, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that he’s picked those apart. The rookie’s performance has underscored the Giants’ confidence in using a top-10 pick on the Duke product. As we noted at the time, if general manager Dave Gettleman was right in his evaluation of Jones, when it’s all said and done, no one would care where he was picked. Getting the right quarterback is the only thing that matters. The rest is just fodder.

 

Thus far, Jones has looked like the right quarterback. It’s just the preseason, however. The rookie will face much stiffer tests down the road, whenever the Giants finally decide it’s time to pass the torch from Manning to Jones.

 

 

WASHINGTON

It sounds like the Redskins are spreading news, FAKE or True?, that the Patriots have made an offer for angry T TRENT WILLIAMS.  Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com collects two DC area reports:

 

Washington still hasn’t seen Trent Williams, and the team continues to show signs of not being willing to show him the door.

 

According to J.P. Finlay of NBCSportsWashington.com, the team recently turned down what would appear to be a solid offer for the wantaway left tackle.

 

Echoing a report from Kevin Sheehan of 980 The Team, Finlay reports Washington was offered New England’s 2020 first-rounder in exchange for Williams, and turned it down.

 

If the reports are accurate (and not planted by someone for the sake of public relations), it would represent the Patriots being willing to invest in a top-level left tackle, after letting Nate Solder and Trent Brown walk in free agency the last two years.

 

There have been no signs so far that Williams is moving from his intent to never return to the team, after his frustration with the way the team handled his medical condition. He had a growth/tumor removed from his scalp over the offseason.

 

The team has said little, other than offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell making a public plea for him to return last week. When coach Jay Gruden spoke about the situation last, he emphasized that they were getting 2018 third-rounder Geron Christian and veteran Donald Penn ready to play.

 

Mike Florio has this to add:

 

Although it’s always hard to interpret the moves and messages of a dysfunctional organization, the reason for leaking the rejected trade offer is obvious: It essentially invites other interested teams to make an offer, and it sets the floor for trade talks at the bottom of round one, given that’s where the Patriots almost always draft.

 

The report has sparked chatter in league circles regarding what Washington wants for Williams, including one hypothesis that Washington’s wish list is topped by what likely amounts to a pipe dream: Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill. Even if the Chiefs are thinking about moving on from Hill in lieu of paying him more than $20 million per year, the better approach would be to tag and trade him after the season, like they did with pass-rusher Dee Ford earlier this year.

 

Besides, the Chiefs don’t need Williams. And even if they did, Hill would be a lot to surrender to get a guy who has made it clear that he’s done playing for Washington.

 

That’s what ultimately will make it hard for Williams to get more than a low first-round pick, if it’s true that New England made that offer. Barring an auction among multiple teams that would drive the price up, it will be very hard for Washington to get significant compensation for a player who by all appearances will never play for Washington again.

 

NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, who once covered the Patriots and still has the organization on speed dial, gets the denial.

 

@RapSheet

Retweeted The Team 980

From what I understand, this is false. “Unequivocally not true” was the precise wording. So, carry on

– – –

Another concussion for TE JORDAN REED.  Jeff Kerr of CBSSports.com:

 

Jordan Reed is getting evaluated for a concussion once again, another setback for a player who has experienced a history of head injuries. Reed took a hard hit from Atlanta Falcons safety Keanu Neal in the first half of the Washington Redskins’ third preseason game.

 

Reed caught a 10-yard pass from Case Keenum when Neal lowered his head with a violent helmet-to-helmet hit. Neal was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, and Reed had to go to the locker room as a result of the play.

 

Reed has experienced three prior concussions in his NFL career. In 2013, Reed had a Grade 3 concussion and landed on injured reserve. He missed two weeks in 2015 with a Grade 1 concussion. He tried to hide concussion symptoms in 2016, but missed two games with his third concussion. Reed also had two separate concussions at Florida. It’s all putting his football career at risk.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

Not a good look for Panthers S ERIC REID.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

After a week during which Patriots tight end Ben Watson took a shot at Panthers safety Eric Reid on Twitter, Reid took a shot at Watson on the field.

 

In Thursday night’s preseason game between the Panthers and Patriots, Reid arrived late and applied a shoulder to the helmet of Watson, who was already down on the Gillette Stadium turf.

 

Watson took issue this week with Reid’s criticism of the work of the Players Coalition and Jay-Z’s recent deal with the NFL.

 

It’s possible the hit had nothing to do with the off-field pleasantries. Regardless, it was a late hit for which Reid undoubtedly will be fined, and it will be difficult for him to claim that the fine is in some way an act of retaliation by the league office.

 

And QB CAM NEWTON was trying to put his best foot forward Thursday night and it didn’t end up that way.  David Newton of ESPN.com:

 

Cam Newton’s surgically repaired shoulder has been the focus for much of the Carolina Panthers’ preseason, but the focus turned to the franchise quarterback’s left foot and ankle after a first-quarter sack in Thursday night’s preseason game at New England.

 

Team medical staff examined Newton’s left foot on the sideline after the sack, his second in three series. The 2015 NFL MVP then walked to the locker room, the team later announcing he would not return.

 

Newton, 30, underwent surgery on his left ankle on March 2014.

 

Newton sat out the first two preseason games as the staff used extreme caution in his recovery from January arthroscopic surgery on his throwing shoulder, the second time that shoulder had been operated on in three offseasons.

 

He completed his first four passes Thursday for 22 yards before his first incompletion, a throwaway to avoid a sack.

 

Newton didn’t get rid of the ball on the play he was injured. He scrambled around the pocket before going down with New England defensive lineman Adam Butler holding onto his left foot.

 

Replay didn’t show anything out of the ordinary, but Newton was favoring the foot when he left the field.

 

An update from Grant Gordon of NFL.com:

 

The injury has been characterized as a sprain and X-rays were negative, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per a source. Newton is scheduled for further tests on Friday.

 

“He’s in a walking boot, that’s all I can tell you,” Carolina coach Ron Rivera said grimly in the postgame press conference, adding he had no further details and had yet to fully talk to trainers.

 

NFC WEST

 

SAN FRANCISCO

The 49ers will try to shake off what they hope is rust on QB JIMMY GAROPPOLO.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Jimmy Garoppolo will get a long opportunity to shake off his ugly preseason debut.

 

Garoppolo, the 49ers quarterback who had a terrible game on Monday night, will get a lot of playing time on Saturday in Kansas City, head coach Kyle Shanahan said today.

 

Shanahan’s plan is for Garoppolo to play the first half and perhaps even start the third quarter, depending on how the first half goes.

 

On Monday night in Denver, Garoppolo was a horrific 1-for-6 for 0 yards, with an interception and another pass that should have been intercepted but was blocked. The 49ers’ line didn’t give him much time to pass, and he looked rattled in his first action since tearing his ACL last year.

 

That torn ACL happened in Kansas City, and Garoppolo will return to the scene of his injury on Saturday, where the 49ers hope he can put both the injury and his previous ugly outing behind him.

 

 

SEATTLE

Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com notes strange doings in Seattle:

 

It’s a strange world where the offensive line appears to be one of the strengths of the Seahawks roster, while the defensive line could be a mess, especially until defensive tackle Jarran Reed finishes his suspension. I’m also surprised that there hasn’t been a young receiver to step up with the usual Seahawks camp hype, especially with so much opportunity for snaps.

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

First round pick DREW LOCK has a thumb sprain and is done for the rest of preseason.  Which means erstwhile Stanford QB KEVIN HOGAN is due a heavy dose of work the next two weeks.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Most teams are playing their third preseason game of the summer this weekend and that is generally the time when starters see their most extensive playing time of the exhibition season.

 

The Broncos played in the Hall of Fame Game, though, and that means Saturday’s game is their fourth game of the preseason. Whether for that reason or because they are playing a Rams team that isn’t playing its starters, Broncos head coach Vic Fangio isn’t treating this weekend as a dress rehearsal for September.

 

Fangio said on Thursday that Kevin Hogan will start at quarterback for the second time this summer. With Drew Lock out due to a thumb injury, Brett Rypien will be the other Denver quarterback to see time on Sunday.

 

Fangio also said that few starters will be playing at any position, so there will be a lot of players trying to land on the back end of a roster or on a practice squad when Saturday’s game kicks off.

– – –

Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com says that the return of WR EMMANUEL SANDERS has been the biggest surprise in Broncos camp so far:

 

Emmanuel Sanders’ electric return to the field on Monday night was ahead of schedule. Sanders, 32, tore his Achilles last December, and that’s not an easy injury to recovery from, especially for a player who relies so much on explosive quickness. His health is a boon to an otherwise-unproven Broncos receiver group. It’s also a surprise how much job security Joe Flacco has. Even if the Broncos start slow, Drew Lock’s rough August followed by a hand sprain means coach Vic Fangio only figures to give the rookie second-rounder a spin at the wheel if the team is far out of the playoff hunt deep into December.

 

AFC NORTH

 

PITTSBURGH

WR JuJU SMITH-SCHUSTER is working to become a deep threat.  Adam Maya of NFL.com:

 

JuJu Smith-Schuster has made a Pro Bowl and set numerous Steelers and league records in his first two NFL seasons. Yet there seem to be just as many questions about his abilities entering Year 3 as there were when he was drafted out of USC in 2017.

 

Actually, they’re the same questions, only now they’re being asked more frequently in the wake of Antonio Brown’s absence: Can he be a go-to receiver? Can he be a deep threat?

 

One could easily argue Smith-Schuster, still just 22 years old, has already proven the former. After all, his 111 receptions and 1,426 receiving yards last season were both team highs. The caveat, if there is one, would be that he was able to do a lot of his damage lining up inside. To that end, Smith-Schuster said he spent the offseason preparing to play more on the perimeter.

 

“Being able to catch the deep balls down the field, those go balls, those free balls that they send down the field where I’ve got to go make those plays,” Smith-Schuster told Kevin Gorman of the Tribune-Review. “That’s what I’ve focused on a lot, catching the ball over the shoulder and being able to be a threat on the outside.”

 

For what it’s worth, Smith-Schuster was primarily used as an outside receiver in college and frequently produced big plays. But running a 4.54 in the 40-yard dash had many wondering about his long-distance speed and likely contributed to his second-round selection.

 

Pittsburgh’s quarterback says any talk of Smith-Schuster being limited downfield is inaccurate.

 

“I’ve never not targeted him or looked at him or thrown him a long ball because it was him,” Ben Roethlisberger said. “He never had to prove anything to me. I think he can do anything we ask him to do. We ask him to do more than anybody else. We ask him to play slot, back-side single, front-side to the trips. He’s a very well-rounded receiver.”

 

So much so that Big Ben believes his new No. 1 is more valuable than most receivers who carry that distinction.

 

“I think a lot of No. 1s are one-spot guys,” Roethlisberger said. “You can move guys around by formations but to literally play a different position — he plays X, F, Z — JuJu can do it all and he’s uniquely different in that sense because he can do kind of everything.

 

“That’s different than a lot of No. 1s, truthfully.”

 

While Smith-Schuster’s role will inevitably be different this season, the Steelers are hoping the results are about the same.

 

AFC EAST

 

MIAMI

The battle between RYAN FITZPATRICK and JOSH ROSEN for the starting quarterback role in the opener is very tight after three preseason games.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com

 

The Dolphins started Ryan Fitzpatrick on Thursday night and played the veteran into the third quarter, which did little to suggest that the perception he’s the favorite to start Week One was out of line.

 

Head coach Brian Flores has been adamant that no decision has been made yet, however, and that didn’t change after the 22-7 win over the Jaguars. Josh Rosen‘s play had a lot to do with that.

 

Fitzpatrick piloted the Dolphins to 10 yards on their first four possessions before parleying two short fields into field goals in the first half. He opened the second half with an 86-yard touchdown drive and then Rosen led a 99-yard touchdown drive in his first series of work. Rosen finished 5-of-7 for 59 yards and ran four times for 23 yards overall.

 

“[Rosen] played well,” Flores said, via the Palm Beach Post. “And that makes the decision harder. I think that’s pretty clear and evident. But again there are other things at play here.”

 

Rosen said he is getting more comfortable “as my grasp of the offense increases,” but one of the other things at play for Flores is likely Fitzpatrick’s edge in experience with the Dolphins opening the season against four 2018 playoff teams. That may be too much for Rosen to overcome in August, but a few starts like the one the Miami offense had on Thursday could lead to a change of heart early in the regular season.

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

S PATRICK CHUNG was nabbed with some cocaine in June, although the world only learned from tiny Belknap County about it on Thursday.

 

Patrick Chung has landed in legal trouble of the New England Patriots’ third preseason game.

 

A Belknap (N.H.) County grand jury indicted the Patriots safety one a cocaine possession charge earlier this month, according to assistant attorney Keith Cormier.

 

Chung knowingly possessed cocaine on June 25 in Meredith, N.H., where he owns a home. He was indicted on Aug. 8.

 

The Laconia Sun listed 32-year-old Patrick C. Chung of Meredith, N.H. as one of several people cited in a recent grand jury session, and the paper confirmed that indeed is the Patriots safety. (Chung’s middle name is Christopher.)

 

Chung is scheduled to appear in Belknap Superior Court for his arraignment next Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. ET.

 

As the Sun notes, cocaine possession in New Hampshire is a Class B felony that carries a potential prison term of 3 1/2 to seven years.

 

It’s 136 miles from Meredith, New Hampshire (population of about 6,000, 60 miles north of Manchester) to Foxborough – so we don’t imagine that Chung makes that commute on a daily basis during the season.  It’s still interesting that he would have a home there, possibly on the shores of picturesque Lake Winnipesaukee.

 

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com says that Chung is not in imminent danger of feeling the wrath of NFL Justice despite the Class B felony.

 

With Patriots safety Patrick Chung indicted on felony cocaine possession charges, Patriots fans are bracing for (and non-Patriots fans are rooting for) Chung not being available this season. While that would happen if the Patriots choose to release Chung, the league cannot suspend Chung, with or without pay, based on these allegations.

 

Chung’s alleged misconduct does not fall under the Personal Conduct Policy. The substance-abuse policy covers criminal conduct involving substances of abuse, and the substance-abuse policy contains clear language on what can, and thus can’t, be done to a player who merely faces criminal charges, whether misdemeanor or felony.

 

First, nothing can be done until the charges are resolved. The league can’t, and won’t, conduct its own investigation and take action independent of the criminal process.

 

Second, Chung can’t be suspended with pay pending resolution of the charges. It’s simply not available under the substance-abuse policy. The Commissioner-Exempt list applies only to potential Personal Conduct Policy violations involving alleged crimes of violence.

 

Third, Chung will be subject to NFL discipline only if he ultimately is found responsible for a drug-related offense. This requires a conviction, a guilty plea, a no-contest plea, or entry into a diversion program. If Chung fights the charges and wins exoneration, the league can do nothing.

 

Unless the wheels of justice move more quickly than they usually do, this case won’t be resolved until after the 2019 season, at the earliest. Thus, the league will do nothing — indeed, the league can do nothing — until the case ends, at the earliest. While this doesn’t prevent the Patriots from making roster decisions in light of the allegations against Chung, it definitely keeps the league from imposing any sort of sanction.

 

It will be interesting to see if Chung avails himself of the talents of the same high-priced legal talent Kraftily utilized by his owner to thwart the efforts of Palm Beach County justice earlier this year.

– – –

Despite his attempts to stop you, you can still call QB TOM BRADY by the nickname “Tom Terrific” should you so desire.  Mike Reiss of ESPN.com:

 

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s application to trademark the term “Tom Terrific” has been refused by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

 

Brady, who said his goal was to ensure people didn’t refer to him by that nickname, created a stir among New York Mets fans because “Tom Terrific” is the nickname of Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver. As it turns out, Brady’s application for the trademark was officially refused by the USPTO on Thursday because “the applied-for mark consists of or includes matter which may falsely suggest a connection with Tom Seaver.”

 

Brady has up to six months to respond to the rejection. If there is no response in that time period, the request for the trademark will be abandoned.

 

In June, Brady had expressed regret for applying for the trademark.

 

“It’s unfortunate,” he said. “I was actually trying to do something because I didn’t like the nickname and I wanted to make sure no one used it, because some people wanted to use it. I was trying to keep people from using it, and then it got spun around to something different than what it is. Good lesson learned, and I’ll try to do things a little different in the future …

 

“It wasn’t something I was trying to do out of any disrespect or ill manner or anything like that.”

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

Count Jay Glazer among those thinking big thoughts about the marriage of QB SAM DARNOLD and Coach Adam Gase:

 

What are your thoughts on Sam Darnold heading into the season? Have the Jets finally found their quarterback? —Mitchell S.

 

They certainly have. I loved him last year. He’s a guy who plays really well when things break down. He did that at USC a lot but I expect a lot from him now, especially now that he has Adam Gase there to guide him — Gase is like a little evil genius sometimes with these quarterbacks.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

JUSTIN HERBERT

While his intentions are pure and noble, we’re not sure a story from Pete Thamel of YahooSports.com makes one want to draft Oregon QB JUSTIN HERBERT with a super high draft pick.  Thamel’s piece is a long one, so here is a summary from Justin Tasch of the New York Post:

 

Justin Herbert could’ve been a top pick in this year’s NFL Draft and made millions of dollars. But the quarterback’s science nerdiness kept him in school.

 

The Oregon Heisman hopeful is close to graduating with a 4.01 GPA in biology and used to raise quail, frogs, butterflies, parakeets and hermit crabs in his grandparents’ backyard, according to Yahoo! Sports.

 

Herbert’s grandfather taught biology at his high school, Sheldon High in Eugene, for 34 years, and Justin and his older brother Mitchell took to science.

 

“Some of the most competitive things I’ve seen with [Mitchell and Justin] was when they were chasing frogs or butterflies or snakes,” Roger Herbert told the website. “They were competitive in nature, and it was pretty intense when they were out hunting for things.”

 

Justin, a biology TA, also tried to teach ducks to fly when he was younger. He’d be applying to medical schools if he didn’t have a promising NFL future and knows it’s unlikely he’ll be able to become a doctor after his career is over. But he does want to win the William V. Campbell Trophy, referred to as the academic Heisman. He’s not sure if he wants it more than the football Heisman, though.

 

“I think it’d be up there,” he told Yahoo. “I don’t know if I could pick one or the other.”

 

This from Thamel:

 

On Tuesday mornings in the spring quarter of 2018, any Oregon students stumped by how insulin gets made by the pancreas would wander into the Bio 212 office hours in B009. A shaggy-haired sophomore undergraduate tutor waited with answers. His name is Justin Herbert, and he just happened to spend his fall Saturdays as Oregon football’s starting quarterback.

 

Some Bio 212 students knew that Herbert projected as a Heisman Trophy candidate. Others just needed to understand iron regulation in animals, and their homework was due the next day.

 

At 6-foot-6 and nearly 240 pounds, Herbert is more the archetype of an NFL quarterback than the stereotype of an undergraduate biology tutor. Yet as his football profile rose at Oregon, Herbert relished his secret life as a biology TA – one of the highest academic recognitions in his major – as much as his public life as a starting quarterback. “He could have that part of his life where he wasn’t Justin Herbert the quarterback,” said teammate Calvin Throckmorton, who shared multiple science classes with Herbert. “That meant a lot to him.”

 

And:

 

Herbert has completed his core science courses and is taking only an online course this quarter. If the NFL didn’t loom as such a certainty, he’d be applying to medical schools to study orthopedics like his older brother, Mitchell Herbert, who played at Montana State.

 

When Justin Herbert decided to return to Oregon in the spring, it prompted a ripple of shock through the football world. Around his hometown of Eugene, however, they know Herbert grew up with a family that fostered his dual passions.

 

Along with the poster on his wall paying homage to former Ducks quarterback Joey Harrington, Herbert spent countless afternoons raising quail, frogs and butterflies in his paternal grandparents’ backyard. He even helped start a fishing club at Sheldon High School in Eugene. When he decided to return to Oregon last winter, Herbert still had two jobs to finish – winning the Pac-12 for his childhood team and graduating with his biology degree. “I would have been shocked if he left,” said Lane Johnson, his football coach at Sheldon. “I know how important this is to him.”

 

 

PROP BETS

Sheil Kapadia of The Athletic has 10 prop bets he thinks you should jump on:

 

With the first two weeks of the preseason complete and the regular-season opener 17 days away, now seems like the perfect time to sort through the list of potential wagers for 2019.

 

Below are my 10 favorite bets, in no particular order, with one qualifier: I ruled out all of the options that had odds worse than even money. The odds listed are courtesy of Caesars.

 

Panthers to make the playoffs: +200

Cam Newton’s shoulder issues last season could prove to be a blessing. The Panthers were forced to mold their offense around the limitations of a quarterback who could not throw the ball more than 20 yards downfield. And guess what? They were still above league average, finishing 11th in offensive DVOA. Now Carolina is positioned to field one of the league’s most diverse offenses. If the Panthers want to protect Newton, he can get rid of the ball quickly to guys like Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel. We know they can run the ball (second in rushing DVOA last season). And if Newton’s shoulder is all right, they have the personnel to be explosive and hit on plays downfield again. The Panthers made improvements to the offensive line (signing Matt Paradis, bringing back Daryl Williams and drafting Greg Little) and the defensive line (signing Gerald McCoy and Bruce Irvin and drafting Brian Burns in the first round). It’s probably wise to wait until closer to Week 1 to make sure the reports surrounding Newton’s health are positive, but if that continues to be the case, I like Carolina to get back to the postseason.

 

Dolphins under 4 1/2 wins: +110

Consider this: Over the past five seasons, an average of 4.4 teams have won four games or fewer. Are you willing to bet better than even money that the Dolphins will be one of the four worst teams in the NFL this season? I am. This is an organization that has been deliberate in getting the message out for months that winning is not a priority in 2019. The Dolphins have one of the worst rosters in the NFL, a first-time head coach and the seventh-toughest schedule, according to Sharp Football Stats. Their quarterbacks coach (Jim Caldwell) had to step down for health reasons, and they changed offensive line coaches one week into training camp. This is one of those bets you might be able to cash in after Week 15 when the Dolphins are 2-12.

 

Chargers to miss the playoffs: +180

I was leaning this way a week ago, before the devastating injury to All-Pro safety Derwin James. It feels like a series of factors have already combined to make the Chargers’ path back to the postseason tough. Most concerning is that left tackle Russell Okung is out indefinitely, meaning the Chargers could be facing the prospect of pairing two below-average tackles in front of a 37-year-old pocket passer in Philip Rivers. That feels like the type of potential weakness that could torpedo a season. Head coach Anthony Lynn did a lot of good things last season, but his game management can be an issue at times. Lynn ranked last in fourth-down aggressiveness, according to the Football Outsiders Almanac. Meanwhile, the Chargers don’t have home-field advantage — their DVOA on offense and defense was higher on the road last year. Add it all up and I think it’s more likely they miss the playoffs than overtake the Chiefs in the AFC West.

 

Vikings to win the NFC North: +200

Last year, the Vikings ranked 10th in overall efficiency but laid an egg in Week 17 and missed out on the postseason. What do we know about the 2019 Vikings? No. 1, barring bad injury luck, they should have a top-five defense. In general, defensive efficiency is not a sticky metric and swings year to year. But with Mike Zimmer running the show and the continuity in personnel, the Vikings appear to be the exception. Offensively, they have two things going for them. One is that even though the offensive line might not be great, it should be better than last season. And two is that the addition of Gary Kubiak as an adviser should have a positive effect on Kirk Cousins. The odds among the top three teams in the NFC North are close. The Bears are +190 to win the division, and the Packers are tied with the Vikings at +200. There’s a case to be made for all three, but in my opinion, the Vikings’ is the strongest.

 

Steelers to win the AFC Championship Game: +1000

There are two areas in which the Steelers are positioned to perform well: passing the ball efficiently and rushing the passer. Pittsburgh ranked eighth in passing efficiency a year ago. Yes, it’s true, they no longer have Antonio Brown (you may have heard). But there are still a lot of quality pieces on the offensive side of the ball. In addition to James Conner at running back and JuJu Smith-Schuster at receiver, they have a quality, experienced offensive line. And if any organization has earned the benefit of the doubt in terms of finding and developing receivers, it’s the Steelers. Whether it’s Donte Moncrief, James Washington or Diontae Johnson, they’ll find someone who can contribute. Defensively, they’ve led the league in adjusted sack rate in each of the past two years. If rookie linebacker Devin Bush Jr. can contribute right away and safety Terrell Edmunds can make the second-year leap (not huge ifs, by the way), the Steelers can be a top-10 unit on that side of the ball, too. There are areas of concern — perhaps most notably how tough the AFC North appears to be — but given that five other teams (the Patriots, Chiefs, Colts, Chargers and Browns) have lower odds, the Steelers at +1000 are appealing.

 

Chris Carson to lead the NFL in rushing yards: +4000

No NFL team ran the ball on a higher percentage of plays than the Seahawks last year. That could change somewhat in 2019, considering their defense might struggle and they’ll have to pass late in games. But that won’t devastate Carson’s chances of winning the rushing title. According to the Football Outsiders Almanac, the Seahawks ranked first in percentage of first-half runs, first in percentage of first-down runs and second in percentage of runs when behind in the second half. Bottom line: They’re going to run the ball a lot. Carson’s odds are at +4000 because of the threat of second-year back Rashaad Penny stealing carries from him. Why that shouldn’t be too concerning: Carson is a much better player than Penny, and Pete Carroll will play the best players. Carson’s 61 broken tackles last year ranked third among running backs, and his 1,151 rushing yards ranked fifth. He wasn’t that far off from winning the rushing title in 2018 (Ezekiel Elliott won with 1,434 yards, 283 more yards than Carson) and at +4000, the Seahawks back is an attractive option to finish with the most yards in 2019.

 

Jason Witten under 39 1/2 receptions: +100

You didn’t forget he is back in the league, did you? Last year, only three Cowboys players finished with more than 39 1/2 catches. Barring injury, we know Amari Cooper is going to be heavily targeted. Ezekiel Elliott had 77 receptions last season. Second-year player Michael Gallup figures to finish with more than the 33 receptions he had as a rookie. And the team signed slot receiver Randall Cobb in the offseason. Last year, 15 tight ends finished the season with more than 39 1/2 receptions. Witten is 37 years old and was away from football last year. How many snaps can he play? How will he hold up physically? And as potentially the fifth option in the passing game, is he really going to catch 40 balls? I say no way.

 

Mike Evans to lead the NFL in receiving yards: +1400

This is probably my favorite long-shot bet. Evans finished third with 1,524 receiving yards last year (Julio Jones was in first, with 1,677). He turns 26 later this month, has never missed more than one game in a season and now gets to play in Bruce Arians’ offense. The Buccaneers figure to have one of the worst defenses in the NFL, meaning they are going to have to throw the ball a lot to win games — or even just to stay in games. Meanwhile, there are 179 targets available from last year’s team now that DeSean Jackson is in Philadelphia and Adam Humphries is in Tennessee. Evans is a great receiver in his prime, and the opportunities will be there for him to make plays every week.

 

Carson Wentz to win MVP: +900

Let’s finish up with my two favorite MVP bets. In the last five years, the MVP has been a quarterback who played at a high level and whose team finished with a top-two seed in his conference. Narrowing the criteria to fit that description, we end up with 10 to 12 potential candidates. Wentz is an appealing pick out of that group for a number of reasons. No. 1, he’s positioned to succeed. The Eagles have a top-five offensive line, tremendous weapons in the passing game and an excellent play caller in Doug Pederson. They’re also going to throw the ball a lot. In 2017, Wentz was in the MVP discussion through 13 games before getting injured. We know he has the ceiling to be in the mix. And as far as team performance goes, the Eagles are one of five teams that has made the playoffs in back-to-back years, and they have the third-easiest schedule, per Sharp Football Stats. Obviously, he has to stay healthy, but Wentz at +900 is intriguing. Note: Other places, such as the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, have Wentz at +1200.

 

Baker Mayfield to win MVP: +1000

In three of the past four seasons, the MVP has gone to a QB winning it for the first time (Patrick Mahomes, Matt Ryan and Newton). Wentz would fit that description, and so would Mayfield. When the Browns traded for Odell Beckham Jr., there was a lot of hype around their 2019 prospects. Now it seems like it’s swung the other way, with some thinking they’re overhyped. As outlined in a piece last month, I am buying in — specifically around Mayfield and Cleveland’s passing game. He can make up for struggles on the offensive line, and Beckham is going to feel like he’s playing a different sport, going from Eli Manning to Mayfield. Unlike some other candidates, I don’t think Mayfield has to lead the Browns to one of the league’s best records to earn MVP. If he lights it up and leads Cleveland to its first playoff appearance since 2002, that might be enough.

 

We think he is on to something with Mike Evans at 14 to 1.

 

 

XFL

The XFL announced the names of their eight teams and hinted at the team colors – and they are pretty vanilla.

 

Dallas Renegades               Black, light blue, a bit of red perhaps – think Carolina Panthers

 

Houston Roughnecks          Logo like the Oilers, colors look like the Texans, navy and red

 

Los Angeles Wildcats          Orange and red – think the old Buccaneers

 

New York Guardians           Hard to tell – maybe black, red and some silver, why a cat in logo?

 

St. Louis BattleHawks         Blue, a tad to the dark side, maybe some gray/silver

 

Seattle Dragons                 Green, red and maybe navy – think a Christmas dragon

 

Tampa Bay Vipers                Green and gold, think Packers with a brighter green, old Oregon

 

Washington Defenders          Looks to be just red

 

The XFL has spent the past two years determining team locations, signing stadium agreements and hiring head coaches. Its teams will play in a combination of NFL, MLB and MLS facilities. The league office has sent hundreds of draft pool invitations to prospective players and last month announced its first signing: veteran quarterback Landry Jones.

 

“We’re anxiously awaiting the Labor Day cuts that will take place where there will be another group of players available,” commissioner Oliver Luck said. “Things have gone as well as expected.”