AROUND THE NFL

The NFL is saddened again this weekend – this time by the passing of popular coach Darryl Drake.  Blake Schuster of YahooSports.com:

 

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers coach Darryl Drake died overnight, the team announced Sunday. He was 62.

 

“We are at a loss for words following Darryl Drake’s passing this morning,” Steelers President Art Rooney II said in a statement. “Darryl had such an impact on the players he coached and everyone he worked with throughout his entire career. He was a passionate coach and had a tremendous spirit toward life, his family, his faith and the game of football. Our prayers and thoughts are with his wife, Sheila, his three daughters, his grandchildren and entire family during this difficult time.”

 

Drake joined the Steelers in 2018 after long stints with the Chicago Bears and Arizona Cardinals at the same position. His career also included stops at Western Kentucky, Georgia, Baylor and Texas before he moved to the pros.

 

The Kentucky native was born in Louisville and went on to play wide receiver for Western Kentucky from 1975-78. After three years playing on practice squads for the Cincinnati Bengals, Washington Redskins and the Canadian Football League’s Ottawa Rough Riders, Drake returned to Western Kentucky in 1983 as a graduate assistant, working his was up the coaching ladder until the Chicago Bears hired him in 2004. He stayed in Chicago for eight years and was an assistant on the 2006 team that fell to Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI.

 

After five years with the Arizona Cardinals on Bruce Arians’ staff from 2013-2017, Drake moved to Pittsburgh to join the Steelers where he helped develop JuJu Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown into one the league’s top receiving groups.

 

“Darryl was a close friend and had a tremendous impact on my coaching career,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. “He was an amazing husband, father and grandfather, and it is difficult to put into words the grief our entire team is going through right now. Darryl loved the game of football and every player he ever coached. We will use our faith to guide us and help his family throughout the difficult time. My heart and our prayers are with his wife, Sheila, and Darryl’s entire family.”

 

@BruceArians

 We lost a great man, husband father, coach and a dear friend Darryl Drake. Our prayers go out to his family. RIP brother

 

Charles Tillman

@peanuttillman

 I am at a loss for words during the sorrowful time. Darryl Drake was a great man who loved the game of football but more importantly he was a great father and husband. My heart hurts knowing he is no longer with us. I will always cherish the good times and the many laughs we had.

 

DJ Swearinger

@JungleBoi_Swagg

 RIP Coach Drake!! Praying For Your Family! We Gone Miss You! I remember the good times and the trash talk from the good days in Az! Rest Easy!!

 

Larry Foote

@LarryFoote313

 Coach Drake, I love you brother.  RIP

 

Brian Orakpo

@rak98

 Just heard the news of Coach Drake. Unbelievable such good man and a true pioneer for African American coaches that thrived collegiately and professionally. RIP Coach Drake

 

Lance Briggs

@LanceBriggs

 Shared a lot of genuine laughs with this man over my career. We lost a great one. You are missed Darryl Drake #ripdrake @peanuttillman @BUrlacher54 bobbywadeaz @b_twice @rashieddavis moosemuhammad5 @alexbrown96 \

 

“Coach Drake was honestly my favorite coach that I’ve ever had in this game, he taught me so much about football and especially about how to go about life. I wish I could see you one more time.”

—Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, in a social-media post after the sudden death of his receivers coach, Darryl Drake, announced by the team Sunday morning.

 

 – – –

There were 17 reviews of pass interference calls – and Al Riveron found two not to his liking.

 

The NFL reviewed 17 instances of potential pass interference and reversed two on-field rulings during the first week of the preseason, the first data point in what will be a summer-long process of understanding how the league’s expansion of replay will be implemented.

 

As a result, there were a total of 44 reviews of all types in the first 17 preseason games, a high but unsurprising average of 2.59 per game. Since its inception in 1999, NFL replay has reviewed an average of 1.32 calls per game.

 

A spike in 2019 preseason reviews was expected after many coaches said they would use the otherwise meaningless games to test the contours of the new system. Fifteen of the 17 reviews for pass interference were initiated by coaches’ challenges, and the other two by the replay booth, according to ESPN Stats & Information tracking. Teams lose a timeout if the original call is upheld after review.

 

NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron reversed only two of the calls, spurring hope that he will limit changes to only the most clear and obvious mistakes. Establishing that high standard in the preseason would help limit game stoppages during regular season games.

 

Riveron’s first reversal came Aug. 1 when New York Jets coach Adam Gase challenged a no-call on an incomplete pass to receiver Tim White. Replay showed New York Giants cornerback Corey Ballentine had pinned White’s arm with the ball in the air, and after review, Riveron imposed a 33-yard penalty on Ballentine.

 

The second reversal came after replay official Darryl Lewis initiated a review on the first play after the two-minute warning in the second half of Saturday’s game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs. Riveron reversed an interception for Bengals safety Brandon Wilson, instead penalizing Bengals defensive back Tony Lippett 30 yards for defensive pass interference.

 

The DB actually didn’t see any “pinning” by Ballentine in the Giants game.

 

NFC NORTH

 

DETROIT

The Lions are getting hype for TE T.J. HOCKESON.  Here’s Perez Taylor at YahooSports.com:

 

Before Bob Quinn became general manager of the Detroit Lions, he enjoyed a front-row seat in the New England Patriots’ front office watching Rob Gronkowski, the greatest tight end of this era, blossom into a superstar.

 

So when Quinn selected Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson with the eighth overall pick in this year’s NFL draft — after a failed attempt to trade for Gronkowski 12 months prior — it wasn’t hard to make the connection. At 6-foot-5 and a listed 251 pounds, Hockenson is big like Gronk. He’s also athletic, can catch the ball and has a nasty streak as a run blocker. Hell, Hockenson’s last name even has the same number of syllables as Gronkowski’s.

 

Still, the selection was met with trepidation by a sizable portion of the Lions’ tortured fan base, largely due to what happened the last time the team took a tight end in the top 10, when they selected Eric Ebron 10th overall in 2014 ahead of Los Angeles Rams superstar Aaron Donald.

 

That’s why, shortly after Hockenson’s selection, Quinn was promptly asked if he’d address the Lions’ recent tight end history with his new tight end.

 

“I didn’t draft [Ebron], so I haven’t addressed it with T.J.,” Quinn told Yahoo Sports during a wide-ranging conversation last week in Detroit.

 

“He’s a very smart guy who understands everyone’s different.”

 

Yet, to take a tight end eighth overall — ahead of University of Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver and University of Michigan inside linebacker Devin Bush Jr., who went ninth and 10th and are already impressing the Bills and Steelers, respectively — Quinn shares that belief.

 

While the GM would never in a million years compare any young player to Gronk, Hockenson has already given the Lions reasons to believe he can live up to his high draft slot.

 

“He checked every box throughout the evaluation process,” Quinn said.

 

There’s a desired nasty streak

Quinn takes a deep breath, thinks for a split second and smiles. After being asked to recall the moment he knew Hockenson would be special, the memory comes to him in a flash.

 

“The bowl game against Mississippi State,” Quinn said. “He turned a 3-yard gain into a 25-yard gain with sheer effort. On that one play you could see his determination, his pass-game ability, his toughness and his willingness to break tackles.”

 

Quinn, who watched two years’ worth of Hockenson’s college tape, said the play best encapsulates the effort Hockenson consistently gave, which fit in with the hard-nosed football team he has spent four offseasons trying to build.

 

The play also encapsulated Hockenson’s receiving ability, which the Lions feel can be Pro Bowl caliber. Athletically, Hockenson’s got the goods; he tested out at the scouting combine as an elite physical tester for his position, with great explosion and agility for his size.

 

It shows up on tape in his run-after-catch ability, an area the elite NFL tight ends he has studied — from the Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce to yes, the recently retired Gronk — thrive in. It also shows up in his ability as a contested-catch weapon, an area Hockenson appreciated about Gronk.

 

“He uses his body really well in shielding a guy off,” Hockenson told Yahoo Sports this past week, referring to Gronk. “That’s something I’ve tried to do.”

 

An additional area where Gronk really shined on tape was his run-blocking ferocity. And while no one expects Hockenson to reach Gronk’s level there, teammates appreciate the rookie’s temperament.

 

“He’s nasty,” running back C.J. Anderson told Yahoo Sports. “He’s a dog — he’s gonna be a good player.”

 

 

MINNESOTA

Long before any presidential tweets, PK KAARE (Cory) VEDVIK learned about the perils of Baltimore.  But he bounced back from a horrific (and unsolved) beating to kick in an elite manner on Friday and earn a trade to the Vikings.  Jack Baer of YahooSports.com sets things up:

 

Kaare Vedvik lost his season, as well as a few teeth, when a violent robbery spoiled a promising preseason last year. Now, he might be kicking his way onto another team’s roster.

 

The Baltimore Ravens back-up kicker boosted his trade value on Thursday when he went four-for-four on field goals against the Jacksonville Jaguars, with makes from 55, 45, 26 and 29 yards.

 

@thecheckdown

 Justin Tucker went full-on proud Dad after his backup nailed the 55 yarder 😭 @jtuck9 @KaareVedvik

 

Normally, a performance like that would make a fanbase excited for a new young kicker. Unfortunately for Vedvik, he’s playing on a team that has Justin Tucker, which means there’s no place for him on the Ravens barring absolute disaster.

 

With Tucker in place, the Ravens’ plan for Vedvik is to trade him for draft picks, per ESPN’s Jamison Hensley. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said as much earlier in the offseason.

 

I fully expect that he’ll kick well enough for us to trade him. That’s kind of, I would say, the goal,” Harbaugh said. “I think we’re really set with our specialists. Obviously, we’re not looking to make a change there in all seriousness. But he’s capable of kicking in the NFL. We probably could have traded him last year.”

 

Why didn’t the Ravens trade Vedvik last year?

The Ravens probably hoped to trade Vedvik after last preseason, but a brutal development stopped those plans.

 

Days before the season started, Vedvik as assaulted and robbed in an incident that reportedly left him with head injuries and his teeth knocked out. Rather than suit up for another team, Vedvik ended up on reserve/non-football injury list and never appeared in the regular season.

 

The good news for the Ravens is that there is always a shortage of quality kickers in the NFL, and they seem to have two of them between Tucker and Vedvik.

 

In addition to his 4-for-4 night on Thursday, Vedvik was 8-for-9 on field goals last season with a 56-yard make among them. He’s also quite a punter too, booting a 58- and 53-yarder against the Jaguars.

 

ESPN listed the Chicago Bears, Arizona Cardinals and New York Jets as teams with questionable kicking situations who could be in the market for Vedvik. The Bears in particular seem to be a natural landing spot, given their infamous kicking woes.

 

The Chicago Tribune has already speculated Vedvik could end up in Chicago if current kickers Elliott Fry and Eddy Pineiro don’t look up to snuff, though Fry did manage to exorcise some demons during a preseason game Thursday.

 

A similar scenario worked out quite well for the New Orleans Saints in 2016 when they scooped up Wil Lutz after he was waived by the Ravens following a strong preseason. In three seasons with New Orleans, Lutz has made 87 of 100 field goals and recently signed a five-year extension.

 

It turns out, it was a purple-on-purple trade.

 

The Ravens traded kicker Kaare Vedvik to the Vikings for an undisclosed draft pick, Baltimore announced Sunday.

 

A league source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Baltimore will receive a 2020 fifth-round draft pick from Minnesota.

 

The trade is contingent on Vedvik passing a physical for the Vikings, the Ravens said.

 

Vedvik, a native of Norway, was 12-of-13 on field goals in the preseason the past two years for Baltimore after being signed as an undrafted kicker in 2018.

 

In Thursday’s preseason opener, Vedvik increased his value by making all four of his field goals, including a 55-yarder, and had two punts over 50 yards.

 

Kaare Vedvik made all four of his field goals in the Ravens’ preseason opener, including a 55-yarder, and had two punts over 50 yards. Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

“I’m really fired up for Kaare. He deserves it after everything he’s been through. What an opportunity for him,” Ravens special-teams coach Chris Horton said Sunday.

 

The trade creates a competition not only at kicker, but possibly at punter in Minnesota. Dan Bailey, the Vikings’ incumbent kicker who was signed after rookie Daniel Carlson was released following three missed field goals at Green Bay in Week 2 last season, has yet to have a perfect practice in training camp.

 

On Wednesday, during the Vikings’ final practice before their preseason opener in New Orleans, Bailey went 3-for-6 on field goals. Against the Saints, Bailey did not attempt a field goal but made all four of his point-after attempts.

 

Later on Sunday, ESPN confirmed an NFL Network report that the Vikings are releasing veteran long-snapper Kevin McDermott, which means rookie Austin Cutting is the team’s long-snapper. Minnesota has also used several holders in camp, situationally, instead of punter Matt Wile.

 

McDermott’s release creates about $850,000 in cap room for Minnesota, which puts the Vikings at about $5 million in cap space for the 2019 season.

 

Sources indicated to ESPN the Vikings want to see how Vedvik handles punting/holding duties in addition to what he could provide in the kicking game, so it not only puts Bailey’s status in question, but Wile’s, as well.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

It may be hype to put pressure on RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT – or RB TONY POLLARD may really be an emerging gem.  Jeff Kerr of CBSSports.com:

 

As Ezekiel Elliott continues his holdout in search of a new contract, the Dallas Cowboys are preparing in the event the superstar running back may not show up for the start of the regular season. Even if Elliott was in Cowboys camp, chances are he wouldn’t have played much of the preseason anyway (if at all).

 

The Cowboys are using Elliott’s absence to evaluate all the other running backs on their roster this preseason, with fourth-round draft pick Tony Pollard getting the first-team reps. Pollard had four carries for 16 yards in his debut, playing one series with the first team before being removed from the game for good (typical for many first-team players in Week 1 of the preseason).

 

Even though the sample size was small, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is confident enough Pollard can be the No. 1 running back for Dallas until Elliott returns.

 

“I certainly thought he had a good account of himself,” Jones said, via David Helman of Cowboys.com. “He looks confident out there, we know he’s inordinately understanding of what he does and can do. We’ve seen him do it, we know he’s capable of, if he really needs to, carry the whole load.”

 

The Cowboys are certainly looking at all their options while Elliott continues his holdout. They signed Alfred Morris to a one-year deal earlier this month, who rushed for 790 yards and two touchdowns in two seasons in Dallas (2016 and 2017), averaging 4.3 yards per carry. When Elliott served his six-game suspension in 2017, Morris had 99 carries for 430 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per carry. Morris did not play in the preseason opener.

 

The Cowboys first-team offense played the entire first series of Saturday’s preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers, giving Pollard the first crack at filling in for Elliott. Pollard, who had a nice four-yard gain on 3rd-and-2 in his short stint, has had a nice camp for the Cowboys.

 

Seventh-round pick Mike Weber (Ohio State) is another option the Cowboys are trying out at running back. Weber had six carries for 18 yards, entering the game on the second series. The Cowboys are giving Darius Jackson a look, but he had six carries for 16 yards later in the game with the second team. Dallas could also try a combination of Morris, Pollard and Weber until Elliott returns.

 

In his career at Memphis, Pollard had 1,292 receiving yards, 941 rushing yards and 25 all-purpose touchdowns as a wide receiver, running back and kick returner. Pollard, who entered the NFL Draft as a running back, had 78 carries for 552 yards (7.1 yards per carry) and six touchdowns for Memphis last year, along with 39 catches for 458 yards (11.3 yards per catch) and three touchdowns.

 

Pollard getting first-team reps with the Cowboys may be a blessing in disguise with his explosiveness once he gets the ball in his hands. If Elliott does end his holdout prior to the regular season, he and Pollard could form a dangerous one-two punch in the Cowboys backfield.

 

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Ben Shiphel of the New York Times on the self-deprication practice by new QB DANIEL JONES.

 

About a week after the Giants drafted him sixth over all, quarterback Daniel Jones and his two sisters went out for ice cream in Charlotte, N.C., their hometown. While scooping Jones’s cookie dough, the man behind the counter glanced at a television showing highlights of another prominent Duke athlete, the basketball star Zion Williamson. The man remarked that he hoped the Knicks would draft Williamson.

 

Intrigued, Jones asked whether the man rooted for other New York sports teams, too — like, say, the Giants.

 

“Don’t even get me started on this draft pick,” he said. “Daniel Jones at six? Are you kidding me?”

 

Without hesitating, Jones replied: “Yeah, man, that’s crazy. Can’t believe they did that.”

 

Jones’s older sister, Rebecca, stood there dumbfounded. Though her brother often played even-tempered mediator among the four competitive siblings, she couldn’t understand how he could let the stranger insult him.

 

 “It wasn’t important enough for me to assert myself,” Jones said in a recent interview at Giants headquarters in East Rutherford, N.J.

 

Besides, Jones added, he sort of expected that reaction. Fans attending the Giants’ draft party at MetLife Stadium greeted his selection with jeers or stunned silence. That same night, Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Tim Locastro, a huge Giants fan, swatted three homers in a minor league game and said afterward that he had channeled his frustration into his first at-bat. The next morning, the back page of The New York Post blared, “Blue’s Clueless.”

 

In that moment, Daniel Jones became proxy for Giants fans’ aggression over the players the team didn’t have. The year before, the team passed on drafting quarterback Sam Darnold, who now starts for the Jets. The Giants got rid of receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and safety Landon Collins only to take a Duke quarterback at six instead of 17. New York fans wanted the university’s biggest basketball star and got its quarterback instead. Jones was guilty, it seemed, of not being someone else.

 

But to the Giants, Daniel Jones is everything their executives hoped for in a successor to Eli Manning — tough, driven, and unflappable in the face of criticism.

 

“I said to myself, ‘He’s going to have to spit on my shoes when he comes in for me not to want to draft this kid,’” General Manager Dave Gettleman said.

 

You can read more about Jones in Shiphel’s story here.

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

First, NICK FOLES is gone.  Now, NATE SUDFELD is hurt.  Peter King:

 

I think I had this opinion as I left Eagles’ camp: Nate Sudfeld is one of the 10 most important players on a very strong roster. So that was a very bad thing that happened in the preseason opener, Sudfeld breaking his left wrist and being lost for part of the regular season. Now the Eagles will have to hope Cody Kessler, who was imported as insurance/third-QB purposes only, can hold the fort till Sudfeld gets back. Luckily for them, Sudfeld should be back by late September. For those who think it’s silly that a backup quarterback is one of the 10 most important people on the roster, just remember the last two mid-Decembers, when Carson Wentz was lost for the season. The backup quarterback has been vital two straight years for Philadelphia. Maybe the backup quarterback won’t matter to the Eagles this year, but you can’t count on that.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

NEW ORLEANS

A new facility in New Orleans dazzles Peter King and makes the scribe think that Coach Sean Payton may be a lifer:

 

Not long after the sun rose over New Orleans one training-camp morning, Sean Payton was a realtor showing off the best property in his luxe inventory. His inventory: the massively refurbished Saints training facility. There’s the ice box in the end zone, a remade long trailer where 20 or so players at a time can get refreshed in 32-degree chill to escape the 98-degree heat-index temps outside. There’s the $3-million team meeting room with Saints-logoed plush chairs and a $600,000 video screen in front of the room, the screen Payton debuted at the start of camp with an electrifying snakes-chasing-iguanas BBC video. There’s the revamped indoor facility with the gigantic mural of the Saints’ all-time team taking up one wall. There’s the plush locker room than isn’t quite LSU-pullout-beds-nice, but extremely cushy, with an important feature for the muggy Louisiana summers and autumns: fans and individuals dehumidifiers at each locker. There’s the sleeping room, where eight coaches can bunk up for the night or for an afternoon nap, complete with privacy curtains and all the power outlets they’d need. There’s the trainers’ room that has every creature comfort of the richy-rich new places in Dallas and Minnesota. GM Mickey Loomis and Payton put in the asks because they wanted to have a place the equal of any team in the league, and the late Tom Benson (first) and now owner Gayle Benson have written the checks. They get it. And now the Saints, orphans of Katrina 14 years ago, have a jewel that quite frankly is stunning to see.

 

It’s the kind of jewel, and this is the kind of team, that I believe could make Payton a Saints lifer. Could, I mean. This is his 14th season in Louisiana (13, if you subtract the year he was suspended over Bountygate), and all along we’ve assumed one day Jerry Jones would come calling with a rich trade offer and silly money, and the Saints would let Payton walk. He’d be an attractive free-agent coach—he’s won 126 games in 13 years, and his offense has the kind of John Nash “Beautiful Mind” cutting-edge feel that owners love. And maybe one day Jones or someone entices him. But the way Payton showed off this place for us, with such pride and excitement, I started to think he could grow old here, and be very happy.

 

Payton, before showing it off to me and NBC crewmates Annie Koeblitz and Nicole Granito early one camp morning, paused in the end zone of the practice field to consider all of it—the field and the adjacent team offices.

 

“In 2005,” he said, “during Katrina, our building was taken over by FEMA. The Apache helicopters you saw in the rescue missions took off and landed right on this football field. Across the street, over at the [Triple-A] baseball stadium, was the makeshift morgue. When we got here in ’06, there were tarps on the walls [inside], and you just knew a fresh coat of paint wasn’t going to be all that was needed. Now, wait till you see. It’s completely different.”

 

The ice box is fairly amazing. It’s 32 degrees, and if the digital thermometer had said 22, I wouldn’t have doubted it. “If [the late Minnesota tackle] Korey Stringer had had this, maybe he’d be alive today,” Payton said. On the walls, in majestic Saints gold lettering, are the kind of inspiration football sayings you see around football places. Here, they’re everywhere, covering the walls.

 

It’s not the will to win that matters.

Everyone has that.

It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.

—Bear Bryant

 

We sit down in the team meeting room, which slopes up to the back so that everyone can see the speaker and video screen, and Payton cues up the BBC Planet Earth video of hatchling iguanas being born out of the earth, and the stunning chase scenes of snakes going after the hatchlings. That’ll get your heart beating. That was Payton’s idea. “I didn’t want the first video to be some NFL instructional video,” he said. This had another intention.

 

“Moral of the story?” Payton said. “You better hit the ground running here.”

 

I asked Payton, in his office later: “Explain how the stuff you’ve done in the building translates to what you guys do on the field.”

 

“I think what happens on the field is a byproduct of all the things that take place prior to the game—how we teach, how we practice, how we draft, how we put together a coaching staff. The facilities and the equipment sometimes is … affirmation that we’re committed to being real good. We’re committed to excellence. We talk all the time with our players about details and I think it’s important that they feel this commitment to the little things as well.”

 

“When I look at transient teams,” I said, “they don’t do long-term projects. You and Mickey have been here 14 years. How much does continuity help the build?”

 

“It helps the vision, because the vision stays a little bit more consistent,” Payton replied. “They often say when you build your new house and you’re trying to figure out where you want your walkways to be, don’t build them. Leave the grass alone and then see where it’s beginning to wear. Then put the walkways in that way.

 

“I think our game’s changed a lot and I think we’ve changed very quickly with it. How we teach a player today is a little different. The players are still coachable. I would say the player we identify with today who we feel like makes a good New Orleans Saint is the same player in ’06. That hasn’t changed. The facility, it’s much like our computers. You might think you’ve got a recent one, and then in a very short period of time you’re like, [it’s obsolete]. It’s a little bit like those new Teslas. it’s fascinating.”

 

Payton likes fascinating things. Loomis likes enabling fascinating things. Gayle Benson is okay with paying for fascinating things. The Saints, buffeted by nature and a rocky division, are not going away. That could well mean Payton won’t go away either.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

According to Peter King, Bruce Arians is not espousing the no-risk it, no biscuit philosophy that he used with other QBs with JAMEIS WINSTON:

 

I think the most notable thing I saw in any preseason game happened in the Tampa Bay-Pittsburgh game. Last week, I told how coach Bruce Arians and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich were all over Jameis Winston to take what the defense gives him, to stop trying to be a hero, to embrace the checkdown. So Winston threw six passes in Pittsburgh. One, a deep shot down the right side to Breshad Perriman, was overthrown. Incomplete. The other five balls were complete … and they traveled a total of nine yards in the air beyond the line of scrimmage. So let’s see if that continues. Arians doesn’t want to neuter Winston. He simply wants him to stop making some of the dumb mistakes he made (mostly from over-aggressiveness) in his first four Tampa Bay seasons.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

Another executive DUI in Arizona.  Shane Dale of ABC15.com:

 

Arizona Cardinals executive vice president and COO Ron Minegar was arrested on suspicion of DUI in Chandler late Saturday night, according to a police report.

 

Per the report, Minegar was stopped by police near Pecos Road and Arizona Avenue at 11:30 p.m. Saturday for speeding, failure to drive within one lane of traffic and driving within the bicycle lane. Minegar was then arrested on suspicion of DUI. He was cited and released by police while an investigation continues.

 

“Ron Minegar’s actions last night are inexcusable,” the Cardinals said in a statement. “He made the decision to drive after drinking alcohol and is fortunate that he was pulled over before injuring anyone or himself. According to MADD, drunk driving results in almost 11,000 deaths per year and is the number one cause of fatalities on roadways. We fully recognize the seriousness of these actions and they will have serious consequences.”

 

RELATED: Cardinals release Darius Philon after arrest

 

The 60-year-old Minegar left Disney Sports to join the Cardinals’ front office in 2000. His responsibilities include overseeing the team’s marketing strategy, communications, broadcast, ticket sales, community relations and stadium operations. He was part of the team that designed and constructed State Farm Stadium in Glendale, where the Cardinals have played since 2006.

 

 

SAN FRANCISCO

Peter King has this from Kyle Shanahan:

 

“I’d rather have zero than four [preseason games]. Preferably I’d like two—one to evaluate the people trying to make the team and then one to knock the rust off.”

—Niners coach Kyle Shanahan, on the number of preseason games he would prefer.

 

AFC WEST

 

THE RAIDERS

Michael Silver on WR ANTONIO BROWN and his helmet drama.

 

1) Even before suffering bizarre injuries to his feet, Antonio Brown alarmed Raiders coaches and teammates by railing against the NFL’s enhanced enforcement of helmet regulations, a policy change which will likely force the star receiver to switch to a new model…

 

2) Brown’s vocal resistance to the mandate, both during OTAs and shortly after his arrival in Napa, Calif. for training camp, has contributed to a disconnect with the team that acquired the seven-time Pro Bowl selection via a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers last March…

 

3) According to four sources familiar with Brown’s current absence from camp, which dates back to late last week, Raiders coaches and players are concerned that the receiver’s unhappiness regarding the helmet issue may be playing a role in his decision to stay away from Napa…

 

4) Brown initially left to seek an additional medical opinion on his frostbitten feet. Before leaving, Brown pushed back for a third time against the league’s prohibition of the helmet model he has worn for his entire nine-year career…

 

5) His continued frustration surrounding the situation has created a buzz among teammates and coaches, one of whom referred to the saga as “honestly the most insane thing I have ever heard. I don’t know why it’s so important to him. It doesn’t make any sense.” …

 

6) The pushback began in May, when the receiver was informed by the Raiders that the NFL had officially eliminated the one-year grace period for certain helmet models, including the one worn by Brown, which had fallen short in laboratory testing for head-impact severity…

 

7) This meant that Brown and 31 other players who finished the 2018 season on NFL rosters, including star quarterbacks Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, would have to switch to approved helmets…

 

8) On a conference call with reporters earlier this spring, Jeff Miller, the NFL’s exec VP of health & safety initiatives, said that any team found to have known about a player wearing a banned helmet or to have facilitated the use of one would be subject to league discipline…

 

9) Each team’s equipment manager had been instructed to remove all banned helmets. All of this was conveyed to Brown at the team’s training facility a few days before the start of Phase Three OTAs—the first time players are allowed to wear helmets during on-field workouts…

 

10) When he showed up for the 1st OTA, however, Brown requested his old helmet. After being told he’d have to wear an approved model, witnesses say, the WR loudly voiced his displeasure, complaining QBs such as Brady and Rodgers were not being subjected to the same scrutiny…

 

11) Shortly thereafter, Brown stormed out of the facility in protest. Later that day, Raiders officials found video footage of Rodgers, during the Green Bay Packers’ OTA session, wearing an approved-model helmet and texted it to Brown…

 

12) The following day, Brown showed up in Alameda and acted like nothing had happened, accepting the new helmet from an equipment manager without protest and completing the workout…

 

13) However, sometime in the next couple of weeks, Brown once again tried to take the field with his old helmet, which he had since had repainted with colors approximating—but not completely mimicking—the Raiders’ silver-and-black design…

 

14) He was told the helmet was not allowed, and once again, he acquiesced and wore the new model. Before Brown arrived at training camp last month, coaches and teammates believed the issue had been resolved…

 

15) But Brown, who practiced on his tender feet for only two days before leaving Napa to seek another opinion, tried yet again to sneak his old helmet onto the practice field, ultimately being told by team officials to remove it…

 

16) “He’s still freaking out about it,” said one Raiders player. “He hasn’t been here for awhile, and no one knows where he’s at.” …

 

17) All of this has created an aura of mystery and uncertainty surrounding the receiver, whose highly productive tenure with the Steelers ended after a stretch of turmoil and dissatisfaction that dated back to last December, when Brown was benched for the season finale…

 

18) Since joining the Raiders, Brown has frustrated his new bosses by showing up late to numerous meetings and by often appearing unfocused in them…

 

19) Brown, according to witnesses, typically glances at the screens of several tablets and his smart phone during meetings, distracting himself by engaging in activities which include perusing his bank accounts and “liking” photos on Instagram…

 

20) Still, according to one source, “the meeting thing isn’t that bad… but the feet, helmet and going dark is an issue.”

 

More from Peter King:

 

Regarding the Mike Silver/Adam Schefter-reported stories Friday about the melodrama surrounding the Oakland receiver—or, I should say, the receiver employed by Oakland who is not currently playing for Oakland—the overriding thought I have is a simple one. The NFL and the NFLPA have teamed up to research helmet safety and helmet technology through exhaustive, independent studies since 2016. All players were told in 2017 they’d have to wear new helmets—league and union-approved—by 2018, with a one-year grandfather period pushing the absolute deadline to don correct helmets to 2019. I did a podcast about the helmet in May, and over the previous seven months talked to 14 players about the helmet issue. Several of the players weren’t crazy about making the change, including 49ers tackle Joe Staley, who’d worn the same model of helmet for 15 years (though it had been updated at least once) and admitted to me he would not have changed unless forced.

 

“It’s something that needs to be done,” Staley told me last fall, “and I think I’m a perfect case study of why it needs to be done. I wouldn’t have changed my helmet unless they made these rules changes.”

 

For Brown to be fighting this is just crazy. According to Schefter, Brown had a two-hour grievance hearing Friday with an independent arbitrator, arguing that he should be able to wear a helmet he has been wearing for more than 10 years. (That, in itself, makes the helmet illegal; the NFL mandates that helmets worn for at least 10 years be replaced, regardless of their condition.)

 

There isn’t much the league and players union agree on without reservation, but the current helmet protocol, the outgrowth of a $60-million investment by NFL owners in 2016 to improve helmet technology and reduce head trauma in players, is one of those things. If Brown wins, he would be the lone player out of 2,016 active and practice-squad players in the NFL this season who would be wearing a helmet—the Schutt Air Advantage, in his case—not approved for use by NFL and NFLPA testers. And this helmet is so old that it’s not even been tested by the league and the union. I’m told unquestionably it would fail any test for helmet safety, as would virtually any helmet not made in the last four or five years.

 

A few other thoughts on this nutty story:

 

• Brown has to grow up, or he’s got to get some help. Someone in his life, if anyone has a scintilla of influence over him (and that is in doubt), needs to say to him: The Raiders could void your contract for this behavior, and you’d be out $30.1 million in guaranteed money, and what team would pay you even a fraction of that after? You walked out on the Steelers and then turned into a child on the Raiders and boycotted them too—in the span of nine months!

 

• The Steelers have to be the happiest team in the league right now. They don’t have a great player, but they do have a sane, undivided training camp.

 

* “Hard Knocks” is either going to show a slice of this Brown story this week, with some real video and team reaction, or it’s Pravda. And I know Ken Rodgers of NFL Films, the curator of this show. He will want to show the real story, very much.

 

AFC NORTH

 

PITTSBURGH

Peter King on the departures of RB Le’VEON BELL and WR ANTONIO BROWN:

 

I think the Steelers are better off without both. James Conner (5.4 yards per touch in 2018) was a suitable but not perfect sub for Bell, and Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster, the amiable and totally non-controversial wideout, give Ben Roethlisberger the kind of team-first weapons Tomlin loves. I found it interesting that Roethlisberger has been talking up Ryan Switzer, the well-traveled (for 24) wideout/returner as a potential big weapon on an Edelman scale. At the afternoon practice, there was Switzer as a sidecar to Roethlisberger running a wheel route out of the backfield, as well as in both slot and wide formations. So we’ll see about the former Cowboy and Raider. The Steelers need young James Washington or veteran Donte Moncrief to produce too. Also: Vance McDonald, who has a Gronk-type stiff arm and isn’t afraid to use it (50 catches, 12.2 yards per catch last year), should see expanded importance at tight end.

 

I’m bullish on the Steelers and the cheerful/optimistic Roethlisberger—who, camp observes say, has been genuinely happy this summer—having a prolific season again. Did you know he led the NFL with 5,129 passing yards last year—774 more than Tom Brady, 1,137 more than Drew Brees? It’s understandable that he will miss the great Brown, but I also am told he is supremely motivated to prove he can be just as great without Brown than he was with him.

– – –

The Steelers are comfortable they have a great one in LB DEVIN BUSH.  Ed Bouchette in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

 

Devin Bush long dreamed of playing in the NFL, of making his preseason debut as he did Friday night at Heinz Field. The reality did not match the dream, however.

 

“I think it was better than that,” Bush said, “because I actually felt it, you know? I definitely had fun out there, just being out there, honestly, I had a lot of fun.”

 

The only ones who had to enjoy it more were general manager Kevin Colbert, coach Mike Tomlin and the rest of those involved in the bold trade to draft Bush and now coach him. Their next move is an easy one, to start Bush at inside linebacker in the opener at New England on Sept. 8. It’s the kind of no-brainer they had when they started rookie center Maurkice Pouncey in the 2010 opener. Actually, the next move should be to declare him the starter right now. Let Vince Williams and Mark Barron decide who starts next to him.

 

Sometimes it does not take long to determine the ones who can be great.

 

What more do they need to see? Bush has been the buzz of training camp, which also is a word they use to describe how he darts all over the field. He put those skills on display for half of their game against Tampa Bay. He had nearly half of the Steelers’ solo tackles, seven of 15, and nearly half of their total tackles, 10 of 22, in those first two quarters. Oh, and he had the radio helmet and relayed the coaching calls to his teammates.

 

Typical of the rookie’s play were consecutive snaps early in the second quarter. Tampa Bay had a third-and-9 at the Steelers’ 25 as they threatened to increase their 7-0 lead. Blaine Gabbert completed a short pass to tight end Tanner Hudson on the right, where Bush and Tyson Alualu stopped him one yard short of the first down. On fourth-and-1, Bush and Ola Adiniyi tackled Andre Ellington for no gain on a run, ending that threat.

 

Asked what he remembered about those two plays, Bush did not embellish anything.

 

“Ahhh, see, the thing about football, it happens so fast it’s hard to rethink the moment because it just happens,” he said. “But thinking back, yeah like he caught the pass and I was like, alright I can’t let him get the first down. He didn’t get the first down and fourth down came and they went for it. obviously they were going to run the ball. I just kind of took a shot.”

 

Tomlin again rested most of his starters in the first preseason game, will do so with many again next Saturday and won’t play anyone of significance in the fourth and final preseason game. That is to avoid injuries to his important starters. He should consider putting Bush on that list, too, as a player he can least afford to lose, even after playing only two quarters of pro football, which Bush preciously called “the highlight of my career.”

 

There promises to be many more. He wasn’t perfect, of course. He was not happy that one receiver got behind him in pass coverage and that he missed an interception another time: “I know I have to get better at that, get my hands on the ball and create turnovers.”

 

Bush matched the high expectations his employers had of him. Tomlin was more interested in something more esoteric.

 

“I was less concerned with his productivity and more concerned about his demeanor,” Tomlin said. “And I really liked his demeanor. He was present. It wasn’t too big for him. He handled the communication responsibilities associated with his job. He was alert, and those were good signs.”

 

This tweet from Dane Brugler:

 

@dpbrugler

Devin Bush has special traits with his ability to diagnose, react and close. He was the best LB I scouted in the 2019 class

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

Peter King suggests a trade:

 

I think the Texans need to trade for Washington left tackle Trent Williams, who is unhappy in Washington and threatening to not play this year. Houston’s time is now. Watt turns 30 this year. So much of this team is in its prime. They could get three or four more years out of Williams, who turns 31 next Monday, and he’d strengthen the only true weak point of this team.

 

And this:

 

I think you can overpay for a player in trade, and that player can still be a valuable piece for the acquiring team. That’s exactly the case with Houston paying a fourth-round pick that can easily rise to a third for backup Cleveland running back Duke Johnson. He’s versatile and productive. In the last two years, he’s run it 121 times for a 4.6-yard average, and caught 122 balls for a 9.3-yard average. Those are terrific numbers in what’s been a mediocre offense. But it’s also a big price. Bill O’Brien might need to trade for a tackle this summer, and so next year’s draft just might be denuded.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

Don’t read anything into the death of Jeffrey Epstein or the sale of TOM BRADY’s Back Bay mansion.  Mike Reiss of ESPN.com:

 

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s new contract makes him a free agent after the 2019 season, and it comes at the same time he and wife Gisele Bundchen are attempting to sell their Massachusetts home, which Brady addressed on Monday morning.

 

“You shouldn’t read into anything. I think it takes a long time to sell a house. My house is a little bit of an expensive one, so it doesn’t fly off the shelf in a couple weeks,” Brady said in his first appearance of the season on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show.”

 

“I think I’m at a point in my life where there’s a lot of considerations that go into playing. I have a very busy professional life, I have a very busy personal life. Any decision that’s made has to consider everything. I’m certainly at a place where I’ve been in the same place for a long time, and I love playing for the Patriots. I have such a great relationship with Mr. [Robert] Kraft, Coach [Bill] Belichick and our team. We’ll just worry about that when that happens. This isn’t the time to worry about it.”

 

Brady, who said he loves building houses and would consider a career as an architectural designer after his playing career, fielded several questions about his football future in the radio interview, including if he has allowed himself to consider the possibility of not finishing his career as a Patriot. He repeated multiple times that his focus is on 2019 and controlling the things he can control.

 

“I think I’m in a great mental, emotional place to approach the season,” Brady said on the program. “There is no point in worrying about things like that. There are so many hypotheticals — this and that — and if you spend time all your time and energy on those things, you [lose] track of what’s most important, which is what’s happening right now. This is where I want to be. This is the team I want to be a part of, and leading. I’m really excited about doing that. There’s really not much to read into it than that.”

 

As part of Brady’s new contract, the Patriots agreed not to place the franchise tag on him after the season. Brady, who repeated in the interview that he hopes to play until he’s 45, was asked why that was important to him in the contract.

 

“Those are some personal feelings, and there’s a lot of personal conversations I’ve had that really aren’t for other people’s knowledge,” he said on the program. “I think what this is about is this season and dealing with this year. Beyond this year, whether it’s signing five more years, or signing a franchise tag, or not playing, none of those things needed to be decided this year. I’m just focused on this season and being in the right mental, emotional frame of mind to go out there and perform at the highest level.

 

“Like I said, I have such a great relationship with the team. I’ve had 20 years of success with Mr. Kraft and Jonathan [Kraft], and with Coach Belichick, with the whole organization. All the coaches. They know how I feel about them. We’ve just done some great things. We’re going to try to go do it again this year. It takes a lot to get from now to March, and I don’t want to overlook the big challenge that we’re facing. I don’t want my mind convoluted with thoughts that are premature, and ones that I’m worried about beyond what the current situation is — which is us trying to go achieve what we all hope we can achieve. That’s where my focus is and that’s what I’m excited about. So let’s go baby! Put me in, Coach. I’m ready to go play.”

 

Brady, 42, was asked if he’d be open to continuing contract negotiations during the season, and he said he didn’t want to address any hypothetical situations because his focus was on the present.

 

The home is listed for $39.5 million.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

Ed Werder becomes the first of those banished by then-woke and now-fired exec John Skipper to make his way back to ESPN.  Peter King:

 

I think there’s been a cool reunion at ESPN: Ed Werder, one of the best TV journalists in the business who was laid off by the network in their massive layoffs in 2016, has been re-hired as a Dallas bureau reporter effective immediately. You may see him tonight, live on “SportsCenter,” reporting from Cowboys training camp in Oxnard, Calif. So yes, Werder can go home again—even to the place that whacked him three years ago. It’s believed that he’s the first employee laid off in 2016 to be rehired to full-time position since. The difference, most likely: Werder and his peers were let go in the John Skipper regime, and Werder was able to build a bridge to return with the new boss at ESPN, Jimmy Pittaro.

 

“When you were somewhere for 20 years, and you have allies in the building, and you never lost your love of the place, and you have dialog with a lot of people there over time, I hoped there would be an opportunity to return,” Werder told me over the weekend.

 

I asked Werder what it says that he was rehired—about him and about ESPN. “It says they’re emphasizing good journalism. I really feel relieved that we’ve reached a deal, and it’s final, and now it’s just the excitement of doing the job that I know I can do—and justifying the expectations that I have created for myself. I intend to.” Werder may cover more sports than football, and teams other than the Cowboys, the organization he regularly broke news on during his years there. He often rankled owner Jerry Jones with his reporting. “My contact list is strongest in the NFL, and my love is covering the NFL,” said Werder, 59. “But I’ve covered other sports, and I know I can.”