AROUND THE NFL

The leisurely preseason turned into a dud of a regular season opener.  Andy Nesbitt of USA TODAY:

 

Well, that was brutal.

 

I’m talking, of course, about that opening-night stinker between the Packers and Bears.

 

The Packers might have won the scoreboard, 10-3, but everyone involved in this one – the teams, the fans watching, and the NFL all lost for sitting through such a dreadful game.

 

And it’s exactly what the NFL deserves.

 

Why?

 

Because ever since 2003, the Thursday-night opener has been a home game for the defending champs, which, of course, is the Patriots this year.

 

It’s always a great night celebrating the champs with the pregame concert, the banner ceremony, and the fireworks. It’s also a perfect way to put a nice little bow on the previous year and start a new chapter for the NFL.

 

But instead of having the game in Foxborough, the NFL opted to have the league’s oldest rivalry kick off the 100th NFL season. This was an idea I slammed back in March, and was proven right for doing so in September.

 

Because this game between the Packers and Bears was predictably terrible. Which everyone agreed with:

 

@byDavidGardner

Congratulations to the Packers on winning the NFL’s Summer League championship

 

@TonyMassarotti

Oh wait. I get it now. The Bears and Packers are trying to take football back 100 years. And they are succeeding.

 

@SBNation

Can’t wait for the NFL season to start on Sunday

 

Instead of Tom Brady vs. Ben Roethlisberger or Baker Mayfield or Patrick Mahomes (all games that could have happened), we got Aaron Rodgers vs. Mitch Trubisky, who capped off a miserable night by throwing an INT in the end zone with just over three minutes remaining in the game.

 

Trubisky, who was the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft (ahead of such names as Mahomes and Deshaun Watson), looked lost the whole night against the Packers.

 

And it didn’t go unnoticed:

 

@jimrome

Tonight’s a huge bucket of ice water on that Trubisky hype

 

@DanWetzel

Appreciate Chris Collinsworth feigning surprise, right to the bitter end, that Trubisky would miss an open receiver.

 

@ringer

The Chicago Bears first game of the 2019 NFL season:

 

Punt

Field Goal

Punt

Punt

Punt

Punt

Punt

Punt

Turnover on downs

Punt

Interception

Turnover on downs

 

@RosvoglouReport

Mitch Trubisky is a glorified Blake Bortles

 

@AndrewLovelette

Mitch Trubisky fixing to be the second coming of Christian Ponder. #BearsDown

 

So yeah, that oldest rivalry game was a lot of fun. Super necessary. Always nice to have a fifth preseason game to check out.

 

Glad we didn’t have a big championship celebration for a team with the greatest QB of all time. That would have really stunk.

 

Good call, NFL.

 

Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com is a little more foregiving:

 

If defense wins championships, count the Bears and Packers as contenders.

 

Of course, it’s a 16-game season, so there’s a long way to go yet.

 

But the Bears and Packers combined for 467 yards, 10 sacks, a turnover, 20 penalties, 17 punts and 13 points. Green Bay’s 10-3 victory should leave the Vikings and Lions feeling as good as the Packers on Thursday.

 

If it seemed more like the fifth preseason game, well, perhaps it was because of limited preseason snaps for both offenses.

 

Aaron Rodgers didn’t play at all in the exhibition season, and Mitchell Trubisky handed off the ball three times. In the season opener, Rodgers went 18-of-30 for 203 yards and the game’s only touchdown, an 8-yard throw to tight end Jimmy Graham early in the second quarter. Trubisky was 26-of-45 for 228 yards and an interception.

 

Here are six more things we learned during Thursday Night Football:

 

1. Adrian Amos played the part of hero.

 

The Bears drafted Amos in the fifth round in 2015. He became a four-year starter and made 269 tackles, 18 pass breakups, three interceptions, a pick-six and three forced fumbles over 60 games with the Bears.

 

But Chicago couldn’t afford Amos, needing to pay Eddie Jackson, so Amos left for a four-year, $36 million deal with the Packers. He paid dividends for the Packers and came back to haunt the Bears.

 

With the Bears threatening to score the game-tying touchdown, facing a third-and-10 at the Green Bay 9-yard line, Amos intercepted Trubisky in the end zone on a pass intended for Allen Robinson with two minutes remaining in the game.

 

It saved the day for the Packers, who also had five sacks of Trubisky as their remade defense came to play.

 

2. The Bears defense still is really good.

 

Even without Khalil Mack getting even a quarterback hit, the Bears got after Rodgers. Leonard Floyd had two sacks and Roy Robertson-Harris, Aaron Lynch and Akiem Hicks all had one. Mack finished with five tackles, including one for loss.

 

Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari, one of the best in the game, had only two holding penalties last season. He had two on one third-quarter possession against the Bears.

 

3. Rodgers and new coach Matt LaFleur need time together.

 

LaFleur said earlier this week that he would “have a better answer for you here in a couple weeks about where I think we are.”

 

The Packers offense is a work in progress, with Rodgers and LaFleur still feeling out each other’s preferences and tendencies.

 

Green Bay gained only 213 yards, averaging 3.7 yards per play.

 

4. The Bears believe they have their kicker, but they will need more time and more kicks before they know for sure.

 

Eddy Pineiro, acquired in a May trade with the Raiders for a conditional 2021 seventh-round pick, made his only field goal. But it was only 38 yards, and it came in the first quarter.

 

The Bears had a chance to try a 51-yarder with 3:54 remaining in the third quarter but elected to leave the offense on the field on fourth-and-10. Trubisky scrambled for a 3-yard gain, with the Bears turning the ball over on downs.

 

Pineiro won the team’s kicking competition, finishing the 2019 preseason connecting on 8-of-9 field goals, including a 58-yarder against the Colts, and missing one of his four extra points tries.

 

5. Robinson looks primed for a big season.

 

He ended last season with 10 catches for 143 yards and a touchdown in the playoff loss to the Eagles in January. He opened this season with seven catches for 102 yards.

 

Robinson has become exactly the No. 1 receiver the Bears expected when they signed him to a three-year, $42 million deal during the 2018 offseason despite Robinson coming off an ACL tear in the 2017 season opener. Their patience is paying off.

 

6. Will Al Riveron ever overturn a pass interference call on the field? He hasn’t yet.

 

In preseason, the NFL’s supervisor of officials reviewed 15 pass interference calls on the field that were challenged. Riveron overturned none of them.

 

Riveron has said it has to be “clear and obvious” for him to overturn pass interference called on the field.

 

The first challenge of the regular season came with 13:44 left in the fourth quarter. LaFleur threw his flag on a 15-yard catch by Taylor Gabriel, arguing the Bears receiver pushed off Jaire Alexander.

 

The ruling on the field stood.

 

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

Berating QB MITCHELL TRUBISKY is all the rage.  Sean Wagner-McGough of CBSSports.com takes his shot:

 

We spent so much time worrying about the Bears’ kicker situation that we forgot they might have an even bigger problem at quarterback. It turns out the question isn’t, can Carli Lloyd be the unconventional solution to fix the Bears’ kicker problem? It really might be, can the U.S. women’s national soccer team legend play quarterback?

 

On Thursday night, in the 100th NFL season’s opening game that resulted in a 10-3 Bears defeat at the hands of the Packers, Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro did his job by making his lone field goal attempt. But Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky didn’t do his, failing to demonstrate any signs of development in what can only be described as a dismal performance that resulted in a cascade of boos. The Chicago crowd thought it would be getting an improved version of Trubisky — a version that would establish the Bears as a Super Bowl contender with more than just a great defense, but also a great offense — but instead left Soldier Field wishing that Jay Cutler could’ve stepped off the sideline, out of his snazzy jacket, and into Trubisky’s jersey and helmet.

 

Against a revamped, hyped and young Packers defense, Trubisky went 26 for 45 (57.8 percent) for 228 yards (an ugly 5.1 yards per attempt), no touchdowns, a game-losing interception and a fitting 62.1 passer rating. It was as awful a performance as the numbers suggest.

 

Who is to blame for the Bears loss on Thursday night? Was it Trubisky’s bad play? Nagy’s bad play calls? The Packers improved defense? Is it all a big overreaction?? Will Brinson, Sean Wagner-McGough, Ryan Wilson and John Breech break it all down in an instant reaction edition of the Pick Six Podcast. Subscribe to our daily NFL pod here and listen below.

 

Bears coach Matt Nagy deserves blame for his play-calling (a third-and-1 running play up the gut with Cordarrelle Patterson, to name one example), decision making (his decision to go for a fourth-and-10 instead of trying a long field goal, to name one example), and his eagerness to abandon the running game (the Bears ran the ball 12 times, not including Trubisky’s keepers). And the offensive line was overrun by the Packers’ defensive front. However, most coaches and O-lines wouldn’t have been able to win a game with that version of Trubisky.

 

There were missed openings that Trubisky didn’t see — just ask Allen Robinson, who was wide open on more than occasion, but didn’t always get the target his openness demanded. Below, in videos courtesy of NFL Game Pass (start your free trial today to rewatch Thursday’s game), Trubisky missed an uncovered Robinson and instead fired a late pass into traffic that very easily could’ve been picked.

 

There were carelessly thrown passes that should’ve been intercepted. He was fortunate to finish with only one interception instead of three or four.

 

And there was a game-losing interception on a pass that never should’ve been thrown — into double coverage.

 

In fairness to Trubisky, he made a couple nice throws — mainly to Robinson, who was the lone bright spot on offense with seven catches for 102 yards. But it’s those moments of brilliance that make his inconsistencies that much more frustrating.

 

It felt a lot like last year, when Trubisky posted decent enough numbers, but lacked consistency on a play-to-play, game-to-game basis. Over the course of a 14-game regular season, Trubisky completed 66.6 percent of his passes, averaged 7.4 yards per attempt, threw 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and generated a 95.4 passer rating. Those numbers are fine — good even for a second-year quarterback in a brand new system. It’s how he posted those numbers that was concerning. In six starts, he posted a passer rating below 80.0. In six starts, he posted a passer rating above 100. Consistency was lacking.

 

The problems that plagued him a year ago were the exact same problems that plagued him Thursday night. Missing open targets with both his eyes and arm. Forcing passes into interceptable coverages. Not handling pressure with poise and composure. Making unforced errors.

 

Last year’s Bears managed to capture the NFC North crown with a 12-win season and would’ve been onto the divisional round of the playoffs if not for Cody Parkey’s double-doink, which is why the Bears (and all of us) spent the offseason obsessing over their problem at kicker. But the Bears’ problem at kicker feels rather trivial after witnessing their problem at quarterback.

 

The problem is, if the Bears are going to take the next step, they’re going to need Trubisky to take the next step in his development and emerge as a consistently good quarterback, and based on what we saw Thursday night, Trubisky isn’t at that point — at least not yet.

 

The Bears need Trubisky to develop quickly because, as has been documented to death, their defense is likely to regress. A year ago, the Bears’ defense was the league’s best by a wide margin, but they also relied extensively on turnovers and good health, both of which tend to fluctuate on a year to year basis. Perhaps more importantly, they got gutted in the offseason, losing defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to the Broncos (who has to be drooling as he thinks about how he’ll deploy his new defense against the Bears’ erratic quarterback in Week 2), slot cornerback Bryce Callahan and Amos, who likely won’t ever forget Thursday night’s homecoming.

 

While the Bears’ defense submitted another incredible performance on Thursday night, it’s worth noting they did not register a takeaway — the kind of takeaway that would’ve shifted the game. They created a fumble, but didn’t recover the loose ball because, well, fumble recoveries come down to dumb luck. They almost intercepted a couple of passes, but fell short by a few inches because, well, that’s the way turnovers usually work. Based on what we saw on Thursday night, we can safely conclude the Bears’ defense is going to remain great. But we were also reminded that the turnovers might not come at as high of a clip as they did a year ago because while turnovers require skill, they also require a dose of luck.

 

The easiest way forthe Bears to offset their expected defensive regression is for their offense to improve a year after it ranked 20th in DVOA. And after the way Nagy and the Bears talked up their offense, we expected improvement, which made sense. Trubisky was a raw prospect after starting only one full season at North Carolina. He started his first NFL season on the bench behind Mike Glennon and then submitted a statistically poor, but actually impressive (from a film standpoint) rookie season under John Fox.

 

Last year, he had to learn Nagy’s innovative scheme with new teammates surrounding him. This summer, he was mastering it — allegedly, anyway.

 

Well, we didn’t see it on Thursday night. Instead, what we saw was a quarterback the Packers knew was a liability.

 

“We wanted to make Mitch play quarterback,” said Packers cornerback Tramon Williams, per The Athletic. “We knew they had a lot of weapons, we knew they were dangerous, we knew all of those things. But we knew if we could make Mitch play quarterback, that we’d have a chance.”

 

Let’s be clear about something: It’s Week 1. This isn’t the time to overreact. Fifteen games remain. Let’s give Nagy, an offensive-minded coach, time to work with Trubisky and the rest of his offense. Let’s give Trubisky more time to develop. They both deserve it. At this point a year ago, the Bears were coming off a season-opening devastating loss to the Packers and we all thought the Bears were well on their way to another playoff-less season and the Packers were well on their way to postseason glory. The Bears went on to double the Packers’ win total and Trubisky wound up scoring the same number of touchdowns as Rodgers. A lot can and will change between now and January.

 

But it’s worrying that one year later, the conservation after the Bears and Packers’ season opener is about the same player. It’s worrying that the question we’re all asking remains the same: Is Trubisky good enough?

 

As of right now, the answer to that question is a resounding no.

 

The Bears have a Super Bowl-caliber roster, but they also have a fatal flaw. Despite what we all thought, it isn’t their kicker, though Pineiro remains both unproven and untested. It’s their quarterback.

 

Until we see signs suggesting otherwise, Trubisky should be regarded as the Bears’ fatal flaw, the thermal exhaust port that might just be the reason the Bears’ Super Bowl dreams explode.

 

 

NFC EAST

 

PHILADELPHIA

Coach Doug Pederson does not want QB CARSON WENTZ to try too hard.  Tim McManus of ESPN.com:

 

The Philadelphia Eagles would prefer quarterback Carson Wentz play his position more like Chris Paul than Allen Iverson as he retakes the reins starting Sunday against the Washington Redskins (1 p.m. ET, Fox).

 

“My message to him and really to the team is, let the offense work for you, let the team work for you,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “Don’t feel like you have to do things yourself.”

 

Over the first three years of his pro career, Wentz had a propensity to shoulder a lot of the offensive weight, and would often break out of the construct of the play design in search of something bigger. Sometimes that resulted in the spectacular, as his 2017 highlight reel will attest. Sometimes it resulted in negative plays or unnecessary hits. Since entering the league as the No. 2 overall pick in 2016, Wentz has been contacted 243 times — sixth most of any quarterback in that span.

 

The past two seasons ended with Wentz on the shelf, first because of a torn ACL/LCL in his left knee and then because of a stress fracture in his back. With career longevity rising up the priority list, Wentz reconstructed his diet and workout regimen this offseason.

 

He also tweaked his approach to the position — at least in practice. Wentz, though as healthy as he’s been since 2017, rarely scrambled, opting instead to move through his reads and fire. It appears he has embraced the very message that Pederson reinforced this week.

 

“They always do a great job of scheming things and getting us in the right calls, so just taking what’s there, knowing when to take your shots, take your chances, and when to fight another down,” said Wentz, whose comfort in the system has led to faster decision-making in the pocket, playing a role in the style change. “I think that’s been really good this offseason.”

 

Besides health, there’s another reason to take the less-is-more approach: the quality of the skill-position players around him. You want to give guys such as DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor an opportunity to create. With that much talent, guys are going to spring open, leaving little reason to go off-script in most circumstances. That’s why Wentz’s plan coming out of the gate is to “distribute the ball, get it to my playmakers early, and get this thing going.”

 

The Eagles have given Wentz all the support he could ask for this offseason. They signed him to a four-year, $128 million extension. General manager Howie Roseman traded for Jackson and Jordan Howard and spent the first three picks in April’s draft on offensive players, including running back Miles Sanders and receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside.

 

 

WASHINGTON

It makes sense, but RB ADRIAN PETERSON could be a healthy scratch against the Eagles.

 

While speaking to reporters on Thursday, Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden confirmed Derrius Guice will be the starting running back on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles and hinted that veteran Adrian Peterson could be a healthy scratch according to Mike Jones of USA Today.

 

Gruden had already said Guice would get more carries than Peterson but now it sounds like he could get all of them.  This is likely the right call for a clearly rebuilding Redskins team.  Gruden already knows what he will get from the clearly diminished (but still usable) Peterson but the team needs to see exactly what they have in Guice after the 2018 second-round pick missed his entire rookie season with a torn ACL.

 

Gruden was noncommittal as to how many backs would dress for the Eagles game but obviously third-down specialist Chris Thompson needs to be available and the Redskins would prefer a No.3 back who can help on special teams.  The 34-year-old Peterson was a tremendous value for the Redskins in 2018 in the wake of Guice’s devastating injury, rushing for 1,042 yards and scoring eight touchdowns.  At this point, however, he is only an insurance policy should Guice go down again.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

NEW ORLEANS

There are those who say that QB DREW BREES was promoting hate when he asked students to include a Bible in their bookbags.  Mike Triplentt of ESPN.com:

 

Drew Brees gave an impassioned and defiant response Thursday to backlash he has received over a video he recorded to promote “Bring Your Bible to School Day.”

 

The national campaign was started by Focus on the Family — a Christian conservative group known for its anti-LGBTQ policy.

 

The New Orleans Saints quarterback said he was not aware the campaign was affiliated with any type of hateful or anti-gay messaging or lobbying that he has since read about. And he was irate that at least one article was written with a headline that said, “Drew Brees does video for anti-gay hate group.”

 

“In the video, is there any mention of any group outside of just talking about national ‘Bring Your Bible to School Day’? … No, there wasn’t,” said Brees, who opened his weekly press availability Thursday by addressing the topic for five to six minutes. “It’s not written anywhere on it. I don’t say anything about it. The only thing I was promoting was encouraging kids to bring their bibles to school on national ‘Bring Your Bible to School Day,’ to live out your faith with confidence, and I gave my favorite bible verse. …

 

“Why would they post something like that when it’s not representative of anything that that video was about? And to do it to a person like me who is the antithesis of what they’re trying to talk about? … I know that there are, unfortunately, Christian organizations out there that are involved in that kind of thing. And, to me, that is totally against what being a Christian is all about. Being a Christian is love, it’s forgiveness, it’s respecting all, it’s accepting all.”

 

Brees, who has always been outspoken about his Christian faith, also recorded a video statement that he posted on social media shortly before his media session.

 

“I’d like to set the record straight,” Brees said in the recorded statement. “I live by two very simple Christian fundamentals, and that is love the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. The first one is very self-explanatory. The second one, love your neighbor as yourself, what does that mean to me? It means love all, respect all and accept all. So that is actually how I live my life. That is what I try to do with my family, with my teammates, with people in my community, with my friends, all people. No matter your race, your color, your religious preference, your sexual orientation, your political beliefs, it doesn’t matter. So the fact that these rumors have been spread about me are completely untrue. …

 

“I do not support any groups that discriminate or have their own agendas that are trying to promote inequality. Hopefully that set the record straight and we can all move on, because that’s not what I stand for.”

 

NFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

A fun fact from David Bearman of ESPN as he looks at the Rams as slight favorites in Charlotte on Sunday:

 

I’m always worried when all the numbers point in one direction, but sometimes the angles are too good to pass up. Super Bowl runners-up are 3-16 ATS in Week 1 dating to 2000. Put the team on the road and it’s 1-12. That’s right Rams … looking at you. As for needing another reason to back the Panthers, the public tends to jump on returning playoff teams in Week 1 when playing a team that did not make it the previous year (especially one with a losing record) and the numbers would tell you to take advantage of that. In the past 10 years, non-playoff teams coming off a losing season are 30-15-1 (.667) ATS in Week 1 when playing a team off a playoff appearance. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Rams this year, but if Cam Newton can stay on the field, the Panthers can steal this one.

 

 

SEATTLE

Warning from Matt Youmans of Vegas Stats & Information for those of you thinking Seattle will run roughshod over the Bengals:

 

This play is mostly about the number. The public will want no part of this ugly underdog, so if the line goes to 10, as expected, some sharper money will finally show at double digits. Last year, the Bengals were 6-2 ATS as road ‘dogs, with straight-up wins at Atlanta and Indianapolis for former coach Marvin Lewis. Seattle had the No. 1 rushing offense in the league, and though Cincinnati was weak against the run, the Bengals’ strength this season is probably their defensive front. First-year coach Zac Taylor plans to utilize three wideouts and a tight end when he unveils his offense. In A.J. Green’s absence, quarterback Andy Dalton will need a lot of help from wideout Tyler Boyd and running back Joe Mixon. If a maligned offensive line holds up, the Bengals can stay within the big number. This is not a play at 9½ and only a small play at 10. The bookmakers will need Cincinnati, which is the contrarian side.  Pick: Pass at 9.5, Cincinnati at +10

 

AFC WEST

 

THE RAIDERS

More craziness with WR ANTONIO BROWN.  Adam Maya of NFL.com:

 

Antonio Brown is back in the news. And he might be off the field again.

 

The Raiders are planning to discipline the wide receiver stemming from a verbal altercation with general manager Mike Mayock, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Thursday, via sources informed of the situation.

 

Oakland does not expect to have Brown with the team for its season opener against the Denver Broncos on Monday night, Rapoport added. It’s not clear whether Brown will be suspended or inactive for the game.

 

Rapoport reported that Mayock was frustrated with Brown for posting a fine letter on Instagram on Wednesday, with the two getting into a heated exchange on the practice field later the same day that was witnessed by players.

 

Things did not get physical, per Rapoport, but after a screaming match, Brown told Mayock that he would hit him in the face, and then he punted a football before telling the GM to fine him for that.

 

A suspension for detrimental conduct could affect Brown’s $30 million in guarantees, according to Rapoport.

 

ESPN first reported the news of potential discipline.

 

Mayock told reporters Brown wouldn’t practice Thursday and wasn’t at the team facility.

 

“I don’t have any more information,” he said. “When we do, I’ll get it to you. That’s it for today.”

 

Later Thursday, the Raiders injury report listed Brown as not participating and as “not injury related — conduct.”

 

“Not a lot is clear yet other than that the Raiders say that A.B. should stay home today,” Brown’s agent Drew Rosenhaus told NFL Network’s Stacey Dales in an interview about Brown’s situation. “They’re trying to work through their relationship with him. We haven’t heard anything about a potential decision yet.

 

“My hope is there won’t be a suspension. I’m not aware of any as of yet. That’s their decision. I’m working with them to try and avoid that scenario.”

 

On Wednesday, Brown took to social media to publish a letter from the Raiders stating he was being fined $13,950 because of an “unexcused” absence from a walk-through on Aug. 22 and noted he was “previously fined $40,000 for missing Raiders’ preseason training camp” on Aug. 18.

 

A.B.’s post included the following response superimposed on a screenshot of the note: “When your own team want to hate but there’s no stopping me now devil is a lie. Everyone got to pay this year so we clear.”

 

“If the team suspends him for conduct detrimental, they can prove it, they show that this is not a one-time occurrence that this was something that’s happened several times,” Rapoport said on NFL NOW. “He could lose his guaranteed money — $30 million, potentially allowing the Raiders to move on from his contract. Obviously this has been a nightmare offseason for the Raiders and Antonio Brown and it sounds like it’s gotten worse.”

 

NFL Network’s Mike Silver reported the situation between the Raiders and Brown might be unsalvageable.

 

“It started with, ‘Wow, this guy’s a little out there but we can manage it,'” Silver explained on NFL NOW. “Then it was, ‘We have a problem but if we’re really, really nice to him and we just tell him that we’re on his side he’ll be OK.’ Then they went the good cop/bad cop, with Mike Mayock obviously playing the bad cop. I can not see this at this point being salvageable. This is a situation where you have one player adhering to a completely different set of rules in multiple areas. …

 

“Look at the Raiders’ history for decades. You think they’ll go after the money? I think it’s a pretty good bet that if this degenerates like the way I think it will, they will absolutely try to get every dollar back that they can from Antonio Brown.”

 

The Raiders host the Broncos on Monday night. While it is unlikely Brown will be on the field, the receiver still wants to join the Raiders eventually, according to his agent.

 

“I believe he wants to be an Oakland Raider,” Rosenhaus said. “I believe he wants to play. I believe he’s going to have a great season. I believe some things that have happened were outside of his control. The foot injury was not his doing. The helmet, we tried to address that professionally. We got it worked out.

 

“I think moving forward everything can work out. We’ve had some bumps in the road, but he’s had an incredible career. We had some setbacks recently but I’m confident we can get back to doing the great things that the Raiders signed him to do. That’s my intention. That’s my job.”

 

Eric Ting of the San Francisco Chronicle:

 

Vontaze Burfict was one of the players who had to restrain Antonio Brown: Burfict, the controversial former Cincinnati Bengals linebacker who concussed Brown during a 2015 playoff game, was reportedly one of the players who separated Brown from Mayock.

 

“One of the players holding Antonio Brown back from the near-altercation with GM Mike Mayock was … Vontaze Burfict,” The Athletic’s Vic Tafur tweeted.

 

Burfict has a lengthy history of fights and other scuffles during his NFL career.

 

Brown threatened to punch Mayock in the face: According to Rapoport, the altercation “wasn’t physical,” but there were threats of physical violence.

 

“After a screaming match, Brown told Mayock that he would hit him in the face and then punted the ball… and said, Fine me for that,” Rapoport tweeted.

 

The receiver seemed aloof in practice and threw a ball into a fence: ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez reported that Brown took plays off during Wednesday’s practice, “which was unusual for Brown, whose hard-charging practice habits are well-known.”

 

During the practice session open to the media, Brown was filmed rifling a ball into a fence for no apparent reason.

 

He also yelled at a strength and conditioning coach: Gutierrez said Brown was “overheard barking at a strength and conditioning coach before the media window closed on practice.”

 

It is unclear why this happened.

 

He apparently unfollowed the Raiders and Derek Carr on Instagram: This was pointed out by NBC Sports Bay Area’s Josh Schrock, among others.

 

The Raiders may be trying to void the guarantees in Brown’s contract: Schefter later tweeted “there are those around the league” who believe the Raiders may be trying to suspend Brown to void the $30 million of guaranteed money in his Raiders contract — making it easier to release him.

 

Like many players’ contracts, Brown’s contract contains language that states the Raiders could void the guaranteed money if there are various incidents of conduct detrimental to the team.

 

Former New York Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum tweeted that if Brown is on the active roster for the Raiders’ game against the Denver Broncos Monday night, his 2019 salary would become guaranteed.

 

“The significance of a suspension is that it would void (assuming normal contract language) his $29,125,000 in contract guarantees,” Tannenbaum tweeted. “However, if he’s on the Active Roster on opening day his $14,625,000 ’19 salary becomes guaranteed because he’s a Veteran. They could suspend him and then release him and then they would owe him nothing in terms of guaranteed money. The Raiders in all likelihood would try to recoup their $1,000,000 signing bonus as well.”

 

In other words, Antonio Brown’s days in Oakland could be numbered.

 

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com says the Raiders have the potential to destroy Brown’s anticipated income:

 

As the Raiders make a decision regarding the future of receiver Antonio Brown, there’s a chance he ultimately will receive not a penny of the new contract he signed with the team in March.

 

PFT has obtained an analyzed a full copy of the contract. The $1 million signing bonus contained in the deal actually took the form of a pair of guaranteed $500,000 workout bonuses for 2019 and 2020. The 2019 payment nevertheless hinged upon Brown participating in at least 85 percent of the 2019 offseaon program.

 

Per a league source, NFLPA records reveal that he did not earn the $500,000, which means that he failed to participate in at least 85 percent of the offseason program. Thus, to date, Brown has gotten no payment from the Raiders under the contract.

 

And he may ultimately get none. Brown’s remaining guarantees of $29.625 million (2019 salary, 2020 workout bonus, 2020 salary) can be wiped out if he’s suspended. Actually, the language of the contract allows the guarantees to be voided even without a suspension; the behavior for which he was fined $53,950 already puts him in default.

 

Here’s the language from the contract, as to each guaranteed payment: “Notwithstanding this Skill, Injury, and Cap Guarantee, Player shall report to Club, practice with Club, play with Club, and honor all terms of the Contract, including all addenda thereto. If at any time player does not report to Club; does not practice or play with Club; leaves Club without prior written approval (including, but not limited to, retirement); does not honor any terms of the Contract (including any addenda thereto); is suspended by the NFL or Club for conduct detrimental, violation of the NFL Personal Conduct Policy, violation of agreements between Club and Player . . . then player shall be in default . . . and the Skill, Injury, and Cap guarantee shall be null and void and Player shall only be eligible to earn his remaining stated Paragraph 5 salary on a weekly, non-guaranteed basis.”

 

Because he left training camp for a day and otherwise missed a walkthrough practice, Brown already is in default. The Raiders could void the guarantees and cut him.

 

If, of course, they cut Brown, he becomes a free agent. Which means he can sign with anyone. The question would be whether anyone wants him — and whether the Raiders want to pay Brown anything in order to keep him from playing for anyone else.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CLEVELAND

Jim Ingraham at Forbes.com on the Browns and the gambling markets:

 

For the first time since they re-entered the NFL in 1999 the Browns in 2019 will go into the season as the most talked-about team in the NFL. No NFL team made more news during the offseason than Cleveland. No NFL team has gotten better faster than Cleveland. And no NFL team will be under a brighter spotlight, or more penetrating microscope in 2019 than the Browns. They are the fashionable pick to do big things this season, and every one of their games figures to be a major event.

 

All this for a team that two years ago hit rock bottom, when it followed a 1-15 season with an 0-16 season. But then John Dorsey was hired as General Manager. Dorsey has been the catalyst for the rapid rebuild of a roster that in short order has gone from the laughing stock of the NFL to one of its most intriguing teams and stories for 2019. With a roster filled with stars, expectations are soaring for a team that has never been to a Super Bowl, and last won the NFL championship in 1964.

 

Projected Win Total: 9

Nothing better reflects the futility in which the Browns have wallowed better than their projected win total for 2019. Nine wins is just one click above a .500 season, but in the last quarter of a century, since 1994, the Browns have reached nine or more wins just twice, the most recent of those being in 2007. Nine wins is also nine wins more than the Browns had in 2017.

 

But the 2019 Browns are unlike any Browns team in decades. They are wildly talented on the offensive side of the ball, led by quarterback Baker Mayfield, and a host of elite receivers, featuring cover boy Odell Beckham Jr., whose acquisition in a trade with the Giants, was Dorsey’s mic drop moment of the offseason. Assuming all the key pieces on offense, and the much-improved defense stay healthy and productive, the Browns should be a playoff team for the first time since 2002.

 

Browns Win The AFC North: +145

It’s been 30 years since the Browns last won their division, but they should be squarely in the hunt this year. Their massively upgraded roster, coupled with what is seemingly a period of transition in the AFC North opens the door even further for the Browns.

 

As a result, they seem to be the consensus favorites to win the division in 2019. Perhaps the biggest unknown going into the season is how the Browns will react to being in the unaccustomed position of being the division favorites. There’s been so much hype surrounding the team during the offseason that the pressure to prove that hype was justified will be an ongoing subplot worth watching throughout the 2019 season.

 

Freddie Kitchens Wins NFL Coach Of The Year: +1000

A year ago, hardly anyone in Cleveland—or nationally, for that matter—had heard of Freddie Kitchens. He was the running backs coach on a team coming off an 0-16 season. Now he’s the rookie head coach of the most talked-about team in the NFL. That’s more than a quantum leap. That’s a mega-quantum leap. Is Kitchens ready for it? Most rookie coaches inherit teams at or near rock bottom, facing a daunting roster rebuild.

 

Not Kitchens. He has inherited a star-studded team that plays in a victory-starved city in front of the NFL’s longest-suffering fans. That’s a lot to put on the plate of any coach, much less a rookie coach. But the more you listen to Kitchens talk, the less impressed he seems to be with himself, and the less unnerved he seems to be by the challenge ahead. Folksy Freddie has waited his entire career for this chance, and last year, as interim coach for the second half of the season, his players seemed to respond to his leadership in a big way. History tells us that most rookie NFL head coaches struggle in their first year on the job. History: meet Freddie Kitchens.  

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

PRESEASON THOUGHTS

Not as bold or extensive as in some years, but going in the DB thinks the following –

 

Teams the DB Likes Better Than Most:  Dallas, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Denver

 

Teams That Might Get The First Pick If It is Not Miami:  Tennessee, San Francisco