S HA HA CLINTON-DIX is back in the NFC North.  Ian Rapoport tweeted it was a one-year deal.




TE JESSE JAMES lands in Detroit acting like a man who has escaped from a bad reality show.  Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:


In something of a dead period for media interaction with current members of the Pittsburgh Steelers, there’s been a vacuum of sorts for player reaction to the trade of Antonio Brown.


A newly-former Steeler was able to chime in, though, on Thursday.


Speaking to Detroit media at his introductory news conference after signing with the Detroit Lions, former Steelers tight end Jesse James said he was “glad to get away” from the drama that’s enveloped the Steelers in recent years.


A Glassport native who played at Penn State, James agreed to a four-year, $25 million contract with Detroit earlier this week.


After 2 ½ months of soap opera between the Steelers and star receiver Antonio Brown, the Steelers dealt Brown to the Oakland Raiders for third- and fifth-round draft choices. James said it was the right move for the Steelers.


“It had to happen,” James said in Detroit. “It was time for him to move on from Pittsburgh and time for Pittsburgh to move on from him. I think things grew out of control pretty fast there; I didn’t expect it to get done as fast as it did. But happy the Steelers and him are at peace and willing to move on. And really happy that’s over with.”


James on Wednesday penned a goodbye to the Steelers and to Pittsburgh in a post to his verified Instagram account, saying: “I would like to thank the Rooney Family, my coaches, my teammates, the entire Steelers organization and Steelers Nation for giving me the opportunity to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was an honor and I am grateful for the last 4 years. Thank you Pittsburgh!”


A fifth-round pick in 2015, James was viewed as a backup by the Steelers, who in 2017 traded for Vance McDonald to be their starting tight end. James told reporters in Detroit that he feels as if his ceiling is much higher than how he was used with the Steelers.


“I feel like I’m going to be a key part of this offense,” James said.


James did not miss a game because of injury over four seasons with the Steelers, making 120 catches for 1,189 yards and nine touchdowns.




LB ANTHONY BARR on why he returned to the Vikings – by Frank Schwab of


The NFL is a high-profile career, with a lot of money involved, but there are still normal human emotions involved when it comes to changing jobs.


It’s rare for someone to break an agreement made during the two days that NFL teams can contact free agents. Free agents agree to switch teams, financial numbers are reported through various media outlets, and just about every time those deals become official on the first day of the NFL’s league year when contracts can be signed.


But linebacker Anthony Barr changed his mind. On Monday night he agreed to go to the New York Jets, who reportedly offered more money than the Minnesota Vikings, his first and only NFL team.


Then, he didn’t feel good about it.


Barr was on NFL Network explaining his choice, which is rare but understandable.


“It was mostly when I hung up the phone after saying, ‘Yeah I can do New York,’” Barr told NFL Network, via “My stomach dropped, I kind of get some cold sweats.


“It was like you’re about to go down the altar and marry the wrong woman. I think I’m making a bad choice. I did what I felt was right for myself.”


Contracts couldn’t be signed until the free agency period began Wednesday afternoon, so Barr wasn’t locked into anything.


Barr had said before free agency started that he wanted to stay with the Vikings. He had spent five seasons with them, and made four Pro Bowls. It’s a big change to move from Minnesota to New York. He presumably has many relationships in Minnesota, including his teammates and coaches there.


The Vikings came back with a better offer, reportedly still not more than the Jets, but enough for Barr to stay. There’s value in happiness as well.


“And we were able to figure it out,” Barr said on NFL Network. “So I made a commitment to my heart, to myself, to my team and I’m happy to be back here.”


Barr’s change of heart probably still won’t sit too well with the Jets, who thought they had landed a key linebacker and had to change course, or Jets fans. Barr signed a five-year, $67.5 million deal with the Vikings.


Anyone should appreciate the loyalty, however. Barr talked on NFL Network about coming to the Vikings when they were down, and helping lead a turnaround. Minnesota made it to the NFC championship game two seasons ago. He wanted to continue to build something, and not leave his life in Minnesota behind either. It doesn’t sound like his decision had much to do with the Jets.


“I wanted to be a Viking,” Barr said on NFL Network. “It’s the team that drafted me five years ago. It’s home. I’ve done a lot of stuff in the community with my foundation. My teammates are my family, this coaching staff has done so much for me not only as a person, but as a player.”





The DB doesn’t think that WR GOLDEN TATE is going to be much of a replacement for the departed ODELL BECKHAM, Jr.  Sean Wagner-McGough of


In the aftermath of their decision to trade away superstar receiver Odell Beckham, the Giants have insisted that they have a plan without telling us what that plan is. The plan has yet to be revealed, but on Thursday, the Giants did manage to sign one of the best remaining free agents who also happens to play receiver.


According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Giants are signing Golden Tate to a four-year, $37.5 million deal that includes $23 million guaranteed.



 And here are the contract terms: Golden Tate to the Giants on a four-year, $37.5 million deal that includes $23 million fully guaranteed, per source.


CAA Football


Golden Tate has agreed to terms with the NY Giants.


Tate was the best receiver still available to sign in free agency. And the Giants certainly had a need at the position after dealing Beckham to the Browns.


In Tate, the Giants are getting one of the league’s best slot receivers who ranks eighth in receptions and 16th in receiving yards since he entered the NFL back in 2010 as a second-round pick of the Seahawks. Tate has since played for the Lions and very briefly — after a midseason trade — for the Eagles. This past season with both teams, he caught 74 passes for 795 yards and four touchdowns. He should help the Giants win slightly more games than they would’ve won without him, but he’s not going to transform them into a surprise playoff team.


He’s a good player and he deserves to be paid like one, but the signing is still confusing. After trading away Beckham, it certainly looked like the Giants wanted to rebuild. Signing a 30-year-old receiver to a four-year deal signals the opposite approach. Furthermore, while the Giants needed a receiver, they did not need a slot receiver when their only decent receiver, Sterling Shepard, already operates primarily out of the slot.


JJ Zachariason


 Per @PFF, Golden Tate played 70% of his snaps from the slot last year in Detroit, 77% in Philadelphia. Sterling Shepard led all Giants receivers with a 58% slot rate in 2018.


From Tate’s perspective, he’s spending what might end up being the last few productive years of his career with a team that isn’t on the verge of competing anytime soon. Then again, if Tate just took the best financial offer, nobody should blame him. At 30, this is likely the last big contract Tate will command.


In the end, the Giants got better by signing Tate, Tate got paid, and the best receiver available is no longer a free agent. That much is clear.


The Giants’ plan? Still not clear.


They’ve said they want to win, but they just traded away their best player less than a year after they gave him a huge contract. They should be rebuilding, but they just signed a 30-year-old receiver who might help them win just enough games to spoil their chances of winding up with the top pick in next year’s draft — a receiver who will likely be past his prime by the time the Giants are ready to compete again with a quarterback not named Eli Manning.


Bill Barnwell of grades the deal poorly:


Golden Tate, WR, New York Giants

The deal: Four years, $37 million with $23.5 million guaranteed

Grade: D+


Do you remember “Memento,” the movie in which Guy Pearce’s short-term memory was destroyed and he lost the ability to remember anything in the recent past? Is it possible the Giants are struggling with the same condition? Days after trading Odell Beckham Jr. to signal that they were going to build around Saquon Barkley and the running game, the Giants reversed course and gave Tate a four-year deal with $23.5 million fully guaranteed at signing.


It’s bizarre for many reasons. To start, while the franchise buried Beckham on his way out of town and called him a distraction, the Giants responded by signing a wideout who was cited while with the Seahawks for breaking into a doughnut store and who reportedly got into a fistfight with Percy Harvin the week before the Super Bowl. (To be clear, I don’t think those are actual character concerns, but they’re more meaningful than, say, getting into a fight with a kicking net or simulating urination during a touchdown celebration.)


Tate is a strange fit for a team in the middle of a rebuild, even if the Giants want to pretend otherwise. He’s a tough receiver and a willing blocker, but his best spot in the lineup is in the slot, where he caught 150 passes from 2015-17. That was the sixth-highest total in the NFL over that time frame. The Giants already have a slot receiver in Sterling Shepard, who is far cheaper than Tate; the Oklahoma product has 149 receptions in the slot over his first three seasons in the league, which is third in the NFL. We already saw what happened last season in Philadelphia when the Eagles traded for Tate and were stuck trying to fit Tate, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Matthews, and Zach Ertz in the slot for targets. Tate got lost in the shuffle.


Furthermore, Tate turns 31 in August. He’s smart enough to get by without every ounce of athleticism, but the Giants guaranteed him enough money to make this a very expensive two-year deal or a reasonably expensive three-year pact. The Giants are blindly backing Eli Manning, who will receive a $5 million bonus Saturday, for 2019; even if we assume that they’ll have a new quarterback in 2020, Tate is not going to be a long-term solution for a team that needs to be looking for long-term solutions right now. General manager Dave Gettleman is papering over the holes in this offense with trades and free-agent signings, just as Jerry Reese did with the defense years ago.


In addition, by signing Tate, the Giants are going to lose the fifth-round compensatory pick they got when the Falcons signed Jamon Brown. (A previous version of this section incorrectly stated that they would lose the third-round pick they’ll receive for Landon Collins.) They need to be targeting young talent and draft picks to build around Barkley. While Tate is a talented player, this isn’t the right move for Big Blue.




Kevin Seifert of says that QB CARSON WENTZ is a “Winner” from recent Eagles moves:


Carson Wentz

This week boosted the Eagles’ starting quarterback on a number of levels.


First, the backup who was more than just a backup finally moved on. Nick Foles agreed to terms with the Jaguars, and while there was never any indication of unease between the two signal-callers, the Eagles’ decision to let Foles leave cleans up any lingering doubts about Wentz, despite a series of injuries the past two seasons.


Second, Wentz will surely be aided by the acquisition of receiver DeSean Jackson, who is still one of the best downfield threats in the game. As Warren Sharp of Warren Football Analysis noted, Jackson excels at the routes that Wentz has thrown best during his career, namely the out and fly.





QB TEDDY BRIDGEWATER will stay in New Orleans.  Mike Florio of


Teddy Bridgewater initially decided to re-sign with the Saints. Then he reconsidered. Now he has re-reconsidered.


Per multiple reports, the Saints have signed Bridgewater, who will return for a second season with the team. The decision comes a day after Bridgewater officially visited the Dolphins.


According to ESPN, Bridgewater will sign next week a one-year, fully-guaranteed contract worth $7.25 million.


Miami was in position to offer him the starting job with an asterisk; if they draft a quarterback, Bridgewater may not have been the starter for long. In New Orleans, Bridgewater could in theory succeed Drew Brees as the starter, if Brees leaves after 2019 and if coach Sean Payton stays. Also, Bridgewater presumably will take over during the 2019 season, if Brees were to be injured.


A first-round pick in 2014 of the Vikings, Bridgewater suffered a serious knee injury days before the start of the 2016 season. He became healthy again in 2017, remained on the bench most of the year, and then signed with the Jets as a free agent. The Jets traded him to the Saints for a third-round pick after the Jets drafted Sam Darnold.


Bridgewater likely left money on the table by not joining the Dolphins, but a decision that may have been better for him in the short term may not have been better in the long term, especially if the Dolphins struggle this year — and/or if they use their first-round pick on a quarterback.


Bill Barnwell of wonders about the deal, especially after he saw signs that DREW BREES had hit the wall:


Bridgewater wants to play quarterback. Over the past three seasons, he has thrown 25 regular-season passes while recovering from the catastrophic knee injury that cost him his starting job in Minnesota. The former Louisville star signed with the Jets last offseason, was waylaid when they drafted Sam Darnold, and then impressed enough in preseason to get sent to the Saints, where he sat behind Drew Brees all season short a Week 17 start.


At the moment, there is technically one starting job open, and it’s with the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins haven’t officially cut Ryan Tannehill, and they might keep him around given that nobody seems to want their quarterback spot, but if Bridgewater wanted the No. 1 job in Miami, it could have been his. It’s possible he was afraid that the Dolphins were going to sign him and then draft a quarterback, which would have meant a lame-duck job.


You might argue that a lame-duck spot in Miami is better than sitting behind Brees in New Orleans, but there’s something interesting to look at when you check out how Brees performed in 2018 …


SPLIT      CMP        ATT         CMP%     YDS         Y/ATT      TD           INT          RATING  QBR

G1-11      272          356          76.4%      3135        8.8           29            2              127.3       88.2

G12-17    146          211          69.2%      1407        6.7           7              5              88.7         55.4


From the prime-time loss to the Cowboys on, Brees went from playing like a MVP to playing like a McCown. Brees was poor in the playoffs, missing open receivers and even at times struggling to pull the trigger on his successful throws.


Could it just be randomness over what amounts to a six-game sample? Of course. Would I worry about a middling end to the season if Brees was 28? Not at all. He’s 40, though, and when great quarterbacks get to this point of their careers, they don’t often decline gradually. They’re incredible for a long time and they suddenly lose it without regaining their old form.


Peyton Manning, as an example, posted a 107.8 passer rating with 36 touchdowns and nine picks through the first 12 games of 2014. Over the next month, he posted a passer rating of 76.8, with three touchdowns against six picks, then posted a 75.5 rating in a playoff loss to the Colts. Manning was a replacement-level passer the following season, and while the Broncos won the Super Bowl, he was benched for Brock Osweiler along the way and was a passenger even after he returned to the lineup.


I’m not saying Brees is done. (I’m tempted to shout that louder for posterity’s sake.) I’ll believe Brees is done if I see him play that way for another six or eight games to start 2019. What I would say, though, is that there’s at least something to be worried about with Brees’ play for the first time in years. The chances that he’s not going to play like the Hall of Famer we all know are higher in 2019 than they were in 2018 or 2017. And if you’re the Saints, well, you might be willing to pay a premium to make sure that you have a starting-caliber backup to fill in if Brees isn’t his usual self.


The other interesting thing here is that the Saints have Bridgewater signed to only a one-year deal, so if Brees returns to form and stays healthy, Bridgewater will just collect his $7.5 million and head to free agency again next year, with another year of his prime spent on the sidelines. I’m surprised both sides couldn’t come to terms on a longer-term deal, perhaps one that would void if Bridgewater hit certain escalators. The Saints might view Bridgewater as their long-term replacement for Brees, but right now, he’s back to biding his time.


– – –

The Saints have also made a sizeable investment in DT MALCOLM BROWN.  Nora Princiotti in the Boston Globe:


Defensive tackle Malcom Brown is the latest free agent to leave the Patriots, signing a three-year, $15 million contract with the Saints, according to a league source.


Brown had a good sense as free agency approached that there was likely to be more money available if he left New England. The Patriots drafted the 6-2, 320-pounder in the first round in 2015, but declined to pick up his fifth-year option last offseason. Brown was still a big piece of the defensive line, playing 44 percent of the defensive snaps, mostly as a space eater on first and second downs.


Brown does have some pass-rushing ability for a big guy, with 8.5 sacks over his four seasons in the NFL, and may get better production in a different scheme.


His departure isn’t a surprise, but leaves the Patriots with work to do on their defensive line with Danny Shelton still a free agent. Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler are the top defensive tackles currently on the roster, with Ufomba Kamalu, Frank Herron, and David Parry filling out New England’s depth.


The Patriots did have former Chiefs defensive lineman Allen Bailey in for a visit Thursday as they explore options to round out the group that just lost Brown.


Canal Street Chronicles with what it means for the Saints:


He fills a key void in the middle for a Saints team with some questions at the tackle position. Star Sheldon Rankins is expected to miss the first portion of the 2019 season after suffering an Achilles injury in the playoffs, David Onyemata may face a league suspension to start the year, and Tyeler Davison is an unrestricted free agent. Brown has underrated pass rushing ability, but won’t be the disruptor that Rankins is, instead more suited to the run-stopping role filled by Davison. New Orleans may still address the 3-technique spot with another free agent or early in next month’s draft, but Brown joins Onyemata, Taylor Stallworth, and Jay Bromley to give the team a powerful interior wall on their improved defense.





CB JASON VERRETT, a very good corner when healthy, is heading to San Francisco.


The San Francisco 49ers are signing former Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett to a one-year, $3.6 million deal, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.


Verrett suffered an Achilles tendon tear during a conditioning test a day before the start of Chargers’ training camp last year, forcing the TCU product to miss the entire 2018 season.


Selected No. 25 overall in the 2014 draft, the 27-year-old Verrett has missed 55 of a possible 80 games in five seasons with the Chargers.


However, Verrett is an elite cornerback in the league when healthy; he earned an invitation to the Pro Bowl after the 2015 season.


Verrett has 80 combined tackles, 19 pass breakups and five interceptions in five seasons with the Chargers.


Thoughts from Bill Barnwell of


Jason Verrett, CB, San Francisco 49ers

The deal: One year, $3.6 million

Grade: B-


Everyone wants to see Verrett succeed, and with good reason. The TCU product impressed as a rookie and made the Pro Bowl in 2015, but injuries have ground his career to a halt. In 2014, he tore his labrum and missed 10 games. In 2015, he missed two games with foot and groin ailments. In 2016, he tore his ACL after four games, and knee pain limited him to one game in 2017 before he underwent another surgery. Last year, Verrett tore his Achilles during the Chargers’ conditioning test. He missed 43 of the Chargers’ past 48 games.


I’m surprised the 49ers would look toward the 5-foot-10 Verrett, if only because they tend to prefer taller cornerbacks, although K’Waun Williams is 5-foot-9. This is obviously a lottery ticket on a player who is years removed from playing regular football, although it’s an expensive one given the circumstances. If this is a one-year deal for less money with a maximum of $3.6 million, it would make more sense, but if the 49ers are paying $3.6 million, they should have been able to get a second year in the case that Verrett does stay healthy. It’s a high-upside move by the Niners.





WR JORDY NELSON continues his inevitable late career slide as the Raiders think $3 million is too much to pay him.  Charean Williams of


The Raiders released veteran receiver Jordy Nelson, Marcus Thompson of reports.


Nelson was due a $3 million salary, up to $500,000 in a roster bonus and a $100,000 workout bonus this year. After the Raiders gave Nelson a $3.6 million bonus early for salary cap purposes, Jon Gruden declared that Nelson would return.


His $3 million salary for 2019 was scheduled to become fully guaranteed if he was on roster Friday, Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.


Nelson, 33, became the odd-receiver out after the Raiders upgraded the position with a trade for Antonio Brown and the signing of Tyrell Williams.


Nelson signed a two-year, $14.2 million deal with the Raiders a year ago after the Packers cut him.


He appeared in 15 games and made 63 catches for 739 yards and three touchdowns last season.


Now, Nelson hits the free agent market again, and the Raiders have not ruled out re-signing him to a reduced salary, according to Gehlken.


The Raiders also parted ways with QB A.J. McCARRON.





Kevin Seifert of on how the Browns are among the NFL’s Winners with their recent moves:




Cleveland Browns

We always seem to save a spot here for the team that spent the most and/or made the flashiest moves. But the Browns really are a better team now than they were at the end of the 2018 season, having used trades to supersede a mostly humdrum free-agent class.


They’ve given quarterback Baker Mayfield one of the game’s top playmakers in Odell Beckham Jr. They’ve fortified an already formidable defensive front by acquiring pass-rusher Olivier Vernon. And at some point, they’ll have tailback Kareem Hunt, who signed last month but is expected to serve a suspension for a portion of the season.


New coach Freddie Kitchens will be challenged to meld a bunch of edgy personalities, and there is some franchise inertia still to overcome, but for the first time in a quarter-century, the Browns are legitimate playoff contenders.





GM Brandon Beane says WR ANTONIO BROWN (or the media) got it all wrong about Buffalo.  Mike Florio of (who lives in West Virginia) gives Beane a sympathetic ear.


Last Friday, after trade talks that would have brought Antonio Brown to the Bills fell apart, a narrative emerged that Brown didn’t want to play in Buffalo. On Thursday, Bills G.M. Brandon Beane pushed back.


“That pissed me off, to be candid because it was an ignorant comment,” Beane told reporters. “I’m not on social media, but if you live in Buffalo or you know anything about Buffalo — don’t speak about Buffalo if you don’t know what this city and what this fan base is like. It really pissed me off because it’s not true and when you talk to players — how many guys flowed through here today? Eight, nine, whatever, and we could have had more.


“We didn’t have that narrative, it totally started with a bad rumor on the whole Antonio Brown thing. People looking for reasons, and they didn’t have all of the facts. Again, people that have been here, I can’t tell you how many people have commented, ‘This is amazing. This is awesome. What a facility. What a place. What a culture.’ All of that stuff that we have going here and we love this city and all I want to say is anybody who says that doesn’t know Buffalo and really is just speaking out of ignorance.”


The comments come at a time when the Bills have done a nice job of attracting talent players to town, beginning the process of building around a budding franchise quarterback in Josh Allen and laying the foundation to be highly competitive in the AFC East, after Patriots quarterback Tom Brady finally retires — and possibly before.


Indeed, the Bills made it to the playoffs in 2017, for the first time in a generation. Last year, they deliberately took a step back with the goal of making a major leap forward, building a team that could soon become a playoff contender on an annual basis and that could perhaps at some point finish a job that was started nearly 30 years ago before being unintentionally abandoned for a couple of decades.


With a quarterback who had a solid season that was largely overlooked amid the exploits of Baker Mayfield in Cleveland, the Bills are laying the foundation for something potentially special. The idea that Brown regarded Buffalo as an undesirable destination, if true, doesn’t mesh with the reality that the Bills may be far better positioned that Brown’s new team to compete in a suddenly deep and star-filled conference that has a growing list of top-flight teams that has yet to include the Bills.


As soon as this season, the Bills could force their way into that conversation, and Brown may end up wishing he’d climbed aboard wagons that could soon be circling as effectively as they did in the early ’90s.




We’re not sure Kevin Seifert of would be calling a lesser team “Winners” for letting players leave in free agency without a fight.  But when the Patriots do it, it’s called discipline:


New England Patriots

Sometimes you win for the moves you don’t make.


The Patriots were more than happy to sit back and allow left tackle Trent Brown to be squired away by the richest contract for a lineman in NFL history, much as they were last year when they bid farewell to Nate Solder. The same goes for their best pass-rusher, defensive end Trey Flowers, who agreed on a five-year, $90 million deal with the Detroit Lions.


It takes incredible discipline to sit tight while players at those positions walk away, but the upside is that it prevents overpayment that eats into other priorities across the roster. It would be a questionable strategy if the Patriots hadn’t shown, multiple times over the years, that they’re capable of identifying and developing cheaper replacement players.




RB Le’VEON BELL gives the Jets at least one day of upbeat P.R. after signing his deal.  Rich Cimini of


Widely criticized for sitting out last season and overplaying his negotiating hand as he entered free agency, running back Le’Veon Bell claimed Thursday night he has no regrets, saying he landed “a beautiful deal” with the New York Jets.


The former Pittsburgh Steelers star signed a four-year, $52.5 million contract, including $25 million guaranteed at signing.


“I don’t regret anything that had happened,” Bell said on the conference call with reporters. “Everything’s happened for a reason. Who can say that if I played last year, you know, if I do go out and play last year on a one-year franchise tag, if I do get hurt, do I end up sitting in this position today, being with the New York Jets on a beautiful deal?”


Bell also suggested a heavy workload with the Steelers might have hurt his market value, saying, “Who’s to say a team would take me after 400 carries?”


He wouldn’t have faced that situation if he had accepted the Steelers’ long-term offer, a reported $70 million over five years. That proposal included $33 million in the first two years and $20.5 million guaranteed in the first year.


A review of Bell’s contract with the Jets shows he’ll be making less money that what he could have had in Pittsburgh. He will make $14.5 million in the first year, including an $8 million signing bonus. His two-year payout is $26 million. The three-year payout is $39.5 million, $5.5 million shy of what he would’ve made with the Steelers.


The market for Bell wasn’t as robust as many expected. In the end, it came down to the Jets and San Francisco 49ers. His $13.1 million-a-year average ranks second among running backs, behind Todd Gurley II ($14.4 million).


Speaking publicly for the first time since the end of the season, Bell struck an upbeat tone, declining to comment on the Steelers and their recent trade of Antonio Brown. He said the year away from football has done wonders for his body.


“I’ve been playing football since the age of 4 years old, every single year,” he said. “The fact that I took last year off — it sucked having to watch football — but at the same time, from the end of December through January and February, it’s the best my body has ever felt in my life. There’s nothing that comes close or compares to how I feel, literally just resting and letting my body heal. … I’ve got so much built up in me that it’s time to let it go now.”


Bell, 27, wouldn’t say what he weighs, but he vowed to be in football shape by the start of the season.