AROUND THE NFL
NEW YORK GIANTS
Cleveland QB BAKER MAYFIELD has reached out to Giants rookie QB DANIEL JONES. Kevin Patra of NFL.com:
On Wednesday, Mayfield clarified his comments from the GQ article and said he texted Jones.
“That interview was done back in April, I think right after the draft,” Mayfield said during a presser. “Just things taken out of context. That’s the problem with today’s day and age. You don’t read the whole thing, you don’t put two and two together. You just kinda read scripts. People, they combine sentences from different conversations. So it seemed very disrespectful and I can understand that. What people didn’t realize the conversation entailed of me saying that I was surprised I was drafted No. 1 overall, too. And then me going on a rant after that about QB evaluation and the frustration from the recruiting processes and stuff that I’ve, it’s very well-documented, my thoughts on all of that. It had nothing to do specifically about Daniel, about the winning and stuff. I reached out to Daniel because all that blew out, way out of hand. And I wanted him to know how I felt and I’ve heard nothing but great things from Saquon (Barkley) and Sterling Shepard, guys that have a lot of respect for him and that I respect their opinions. Just wanted to clear the air with him.”
In the GQ article, Mayfield said it “blows my mind” that the Giants drafted Jones so high. In the original story, a transition paragraph then turns the conversation toward QB evaluation in general. In most social media posts, however, the transition was lost, expounding the notion that Mayfield was personally bashing Jones.
“Once it came out, I was like, ‘Wow.’ I completely forgot that we even had that conversation back in April,” the Browns QB said Wednesday. “I was pretty confused about it, to be honest with you, because that wasn’t what the conversation was about.”
Mayfield said Jones responded to his text saying, “No worries.”
“To me that came back on my character,” Mayfield said of how the comment was received by the public. “That’s one thing that, I don’t care about a lot of opinions of if you like me or not, but that looked like my character was way out of line, so that’s the only reason I addressed it.”
After the latest hullaballoo surrounding the Giants and Browns, Mayfield wants to focus on his team.
“That’s the type of thing that frustrates me because it was taken out of context and on top of that now we’re talking about something that’s not about the Browns. To me, that’s the biggest thing,” the 24-year-old said.
So far, reports Tim McManus of ESPN.com, QB CARSON WENTZ has been making good on his pledge to spend more time in the pocket.
One noticeable change in Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz’s play this summer is that he hasn’t been using his legs as a weapon.
During practice, he has been operating almost exclusively from the pocket. He drops back, surveys and fires. There’s the occasional bootleg or rollout, but it’s hard to remember an occasion when he clicked into backyard-football mode and scrambled around until something broke open downfield.
“That part of my game is definitely not gone — it’s still going to be there — but if I don’t need to, why would I get out of the pocket when the O-line is holding up and I can find guys to get the ball to?” Wentz said.
It’s a fair point. He is fortunate to play behind one of the best and deepest offensive lines in football. And he has never had better weapons than he does now with receiving options such as Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Zach Ertz, Nelson Agholor and Dallas Goedert. Why make life harder on yourself when you can run the show like a point guard on an NBA All-Star team?
The logic is sound. But it’s also a departure from the style of play we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from Wentz. When you think of him, you think of the quick escapes and extended plays and the hard charges toward oncoming traffic.
The numbers speak to those tendencies. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Wentz ranked 26th out of 33 quarterbacks in average time spent in the pocket per pass (2.18 seconds) last season. His average time before the pass (2.77 seconds) was 19th out of 33 qualified QBs. Those numbers are mostly in line with his career averages.
Since entering the league in 2016, Wentz has been contacted 243 times — sixth most of any quarterback in that span.
PLAYER TIMES HIT
Cam Newton 430
Russell Wilson 343
Dak Prescott 299
Tyrod Taylor 279
Blake Bortles 256
Carson Wentz 243
There are two primary catalysts driving the change. The first is his growing mastery of coach Doug Pederson’s system. Entering Year 4 in the NFL, his coaches and teammates notice Wentz is “operating really quickly,” as offensive coordinator Mike Groh put it. He’s getting through his reads faster and is able to problem-solve better in real time, which reduces the need to take off and run.
“It’s part of the progression of him and his growth as a young quarterback right now,” Pederson said. “He’s getting to the line of scrimmage, he’s seeing things fast, he’s redirecting protection, going through his progressions, [the] ball is coming out of his hand quicker.”
The second, undeniable factor is Wentz’s recent injury history. After suffering back-to-back season-ending injuries, he dedicated himself this offseason to finding ways to increase the odds of staying healthy. He hired a nutritionist and got on a gluten-free diet. He assembled a team of trainers, including a soft-tissue specialist, to overhaul his training regimen. It would be somewhat pointless to go to all those lengths without examining your on-field behavior and making the proper adjustments there, too.
The challenge in front of him is finding a balance between the old style and the new, and then applying his modified approach when things change from a controlled environment to a live setting.
However that shakes out, this much is clear: Wentz has no plans of retiring his Houdini act altogether.
“I feel good just going through my reads, throwing a completion and moving on,” Wentz said. “When I need to make a guy miss in the pocket, when I need to get out and make a play, that’s still definitely going to be a big part of my game.”
And this from Kevin Patra of NFL.com on WR DeSEAN JACKSON:
DeSean Jackson gave the Eagles a minor scare in practice.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday that the Philadelphia receiver suffered a broken finger on his left hand in today’s workout, per sources informed of the situation.
While it’s never great for a man who makes his bread using his hands to suffer a break, Rapoport notes that Jackson is not expected to miss time and the Eagles aren’t concerned with the injury.
Jackson has received rave reviews during Eagles training camp for his rapport with quarterback Carson Wentz. Expected to be the field-stretching demon Philly lacked last year, the broken ring finger doesn’t sound like it will hinder Jackson’s pursuit of a Super Bowl band this season.
Was that WR JOSH DOCTSON scanning the bus schedules to Bustville? Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:
If Josh Doctson isn’t long for the Washington Redskins, his head coach isn’t letting on.
Amid rumors and reports that the former first-round wideout is a cut or trade candidate, Redskins coach Jay Gruden was mum on Doctson’s roster status when asked about it Tuesday.
“He probably won’t play this week,” Gruden said bluntly Tuesday, per The Washington Post.
Asked what that means for Doctson’s place on the roster, the coach added, “It means he won’t play this week. We’ll see what happens. I’m not going to say anybody is making it or not, making it right now. We still have another game to play and evaluations to make.”
Doctson, selected by Gruden’s staff with the 22nd overall pick in the 2016 draft, has appeared to have fallen out of favor, and Washington’s depth chart reflects that. The ‘Skins are currently slated to enter the season with Paul Richardson and Trey Quinn as starters with rookie Terry McLaurin making a bee line for the No. 2 role.
The fourth-year wideout has been serviceable over the last two years in D.C. but has not lived up to his first-round billing. Doctson missed nearly the entire 2016 campaign with an Achilles injury and has dealt with myriad injuries (hamstring, heel, shoulder) since entering the league. Doctson has played in 33 games and started 26 games for Washington, recording 81 receptions for 1,100 yards and eight scores.
Washington declined the receiver’s fifth-year option in May.
Doctson has been targeted twice and caught one ball for 16 yards in the preseason.
Some Redskins beat writers have projected that Doctson has been passed over in favor of younger, cheaper receiving options like McLaurin, Cam Sims and Kelvin Harmon, and that Washington has been angling to trade Doctson for some time. If that were the case, his $1.8 base salary would be an attractive contract for a receiver-needy team to take a flier on.
But Gruden has not said concretely that Washington is fixed on keeping, cutting or trading Doctson. And so we wait for cutdown day.
To repeat, the top three receivers for the Redskins are PAUL RICHARDSON, TREY QUINN and TERRY McLAURIN.
Will the Buccaneers be getting EDGE JASON PIERRE-PAUL back sooner, rather than later? Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:
Jason Pierre-Paul took a major step Tuesday toward his return to game action.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end has been cleared by club and independent doctors to resume rehab activities, sources told NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero on Tuesday. This comes less than four months after Pierre-Paul suffered a fractured vertebra in a one-car wreck.
Pierre-Paul was back at Bucs practice, sans neck brace, on Tuesday for the first time since the injury.
It remains to be seen when Pierre-Paul will be cleared to play again, but Tuesday’s news is undoubtedly a positive development for the veteran edge rusher.
Following the accident in May, JPP had the option to undergo surgery on his neck or let the injury heal on its own. Pierre-Paul chose the latter option, anticipating a five-to-six month recovery and a return to the field around October or November.
Asked last week about Pierre-Paul’s recovery, Bucs coach Bruce Arians did not provide a timeline for his return but was not worried about the veteran DE missing all of Tampa Bay’s offseason work.
“No, because he knows how to rush the passer and that’s all he’s going to do,” Arians said. “He’ll know where to line up. I don’t want him getting bumped on the sideline or anything else.”
Tuesday’s news gives Tampa Bay hope that JPP will be back on the sideline, free to be bumped, sooner rather than later.
COO Ron Minegar, nabbed driving drunk, is suspended for six weeks by the club. Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com:
The Arizona Cardinals suspended executive vice president and chief operating officer Ron Minegar for six weeks and fined him $200,000 as punishment for his DUI arrest on Aug. 10, the team said in a statement Tuesday.
Minegar has been away from the team since the incident, the team said. He is barred from all business operations and prohibited from attending team functions or being in team facilities.
The fine will be donated to the Arizona chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Before he’s able to return to the team, Minegar will have to complete “several additional steps,” according to the Cardinals’ statement, including, but not limited to, an alcohol assessment, counseling, mandatory DUI education and community service.
“I understand that there are no words that will make up for the extraordinarily reckless and dangerous decision I made to drive a vehicle after drinking,” Minegar said in the statement. “That said, I sincerely and deeply apologize to the people close to me — both personally and professionally — for what they’ve had to endure because of this. I also recognize that for those whose lives have been impacted by a drunk driver, my actions may have stirred painful emotions and to them I apologize as well.
“I take total responsibility for my actions. I know better and I am embarrassed that I did not do better. Right now, I am fully committed to taking all steps to ensure it will not ever happen again. In the future, I recognize that it will be my actions, not my words, that will ultimately be judged.”
Minegar is the second member of the Cardinals’ front office to be arrested on suspicion of DUI in the past two years. General manager Steve Keim was arrested July 4, 2018 on charges of DUI. He was suspended five weeks and fined the same amount as Minegar. Keim also had the same requirements as Minegar to complete before rejoining the team.
“As stated previously, the decision to drive after drinking alcohol is inexcusable,” the Cardinals said in a statement. “It is a serious offense that far too often has tragic results. We are incredibly grateful that did not occur in this instance. However, the behavior calls for severe consequences and these disciplinary measures demonstrate that. They also reflect that all those who work for the Cardinals and within the National Football League are held to a standard higher than simply a legal one.”
This from TMZ.com:
Here’s the ultimate pot-kettle moment … Arizona Cardinals’ COO Ron Minegar spoke about Darius Philon’s “bad decision” arrest — during his OWN DUI arrest!!!
It’s all in police video obtained by TMZ Sports … where Minegar — one of the Cardinals’ highest-ranking execs — spoke with officers about his player’s gun arrest in Phoenix earlier in the week.
“He pulled a gun on a gal at a strip club,” Minegar told Chandler, Arizona cops on Aug. 10. … “That’s not a good thing.”
“That sounds like a poor decision,” one of the officers responds.
“That’s a pretty bad decision, yep,” Minegar says.
60-year-old Minegar was pulled over at around midnight on Aug. 10 about 40 miles from the Cardinals’ stadium after cops say he was speeding and driving erratically.
You can see in the vid … Minegar looks pretty wasted when they begin to question him, slurring words and admitting he had been drinking earlier in the evening.
Cops say the guy reeked of alcohol too … and when they began to talk to him outside of his 2009 Chevrolet — he became combative, and argued with one officer.
Eventually, Minegar calmed down … and had a conversation with several officers about Philon — a defensive lineman the Cardinals had just cut because of an arrest involving a gun incident at a local strip club.
Minegar was eventually field tested for DUI … and after appearing to bomb all of the cop’s tests — they asked him if he’d take a breathalyzer. When Minegar refused … cops slapped the cuffs on him and arrested him.
LB MALCOLM SMITH is no longer a 49er. Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:
One of John Lynch’s first signings as general manager of the San Francisco 49ers is no longer in their plans.
San Francisco is releasing veteran linebacker Malcolm Smith after just two seasons with the team, sources told NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo on Tuesday. The team later announced the news.
A seventh-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2011, Smith was a part-time starter on Pete Carroll’s Super Bowl teams. In Seattle’s Super Bowl XLVIII victory, Smith recorded a pick-six and recovered a fumble en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. He left for Oakland in the spring of 2015 and found his way onto the 49ers’ roster in March 2017 via a five-year, $26.5 million contract.
Smith missed the entire 2017 season with a torn pectoral. Upon his return in 2018, he played in 12 games, starting five, for the Niners. This offseason, San Francisco restructured his contract so that Smith would make around $1.3 million in base salary, per Spotrac.
Clearly, San Francisco’s plans have changed.
WR ANTONIO BROWN isn’t having anything to do with BEN ROETHLISBERGER’s attempts to be friends. Lakisha Wesseling at NFL.com:
The battle between Mr. Big Chest and Big Ben continues. The latest news comes after an interview with Ben Roethlisberger that aired during the Steelers’ preseason game Sunday night.
Roethlisberger told NBC Sports reporter Michele Tafoya that he wishes he wouldn’t have called out Antonio Brown after he threw an interception at the end of a Week 12 loss to the Broncos last season.
“It ruined a friendship,” he explained during the broadcast.
Fast forward to Tuesday and A.B., now with the Oakland Raiders, decided to let folks know his side of the story.
In response to the clip of Roethlisberger’s comment, Brown tweeted Tuesday, “Never friends just had to get my ends…….shut up already.” The Raiders receiver later deleted the tweet.
Just when you thought the dust had settled with all the drama.
Amazing how the results of preseason games mean nothing, in that we are not realizing this until know. Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com reports that the Ravens have won 16 straight preseason tilts:
This is the longest such streak in the NFL in at least 25 years, according to Elias Sports Bureau data. The last time the Ravens lost in the preseason was Sept. 3, 2015, which was two days before current Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson played his first college game at Louisville.
“I don’t know how significant it is,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “I think it’s significant in a sense that I think our coaches do a great job of coaching in training camp. We develop players really well.”
Baltimore’s success has carried over into fast regular-season starts. The Ravens are 7-2 in their first three games of the season since 2016 (second best in the league during that span), according to the NFL.
But Baltimore has been to only one playoff game in that stretch, losing to the Los Angeles Chargers last season.
Backup quarterback Trace McSorley, who filled in for Jackson on Thursday, said players are aware of the preseason winning streak.
“I think it means a lot,” McSorley said. “At the end of the day, winning is what matters. Coach Harbaugh preaches winning all the time.”
The Ravens are 36-12 (.750) in the preseason under Harbaugh, who was more emphatic about the winning streak earlier this preseason.
“We like winning around here,” Harbaugh said after beating the Jacksonville Jaguars in the preseason opener. “Let’s keep doing it — in the regular season, also — for all the haters out there.”
There appear to be some teams that would take EDGE JADEVEON CLOWNEY off the hands of the Texans. Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:
The Texans can’t trade pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney until he signs his franchise tender. Texans coach Bill O’Brien said Saturday night “the ball’s in his court.”
Clowney recently fired his agent, so maybe the ball will start rolling.
The question is: Where?
The Texans seem intent on moving Clowney, but no team can sign him to an extension until after the regular season ends, complicating things.
The Dolphins are “very interested” in a trade for Clowney, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports. The Texans presumably would want Laremy Tunsil, and a report three days ago said the Dolphins were telling other teams the offensive tackle isn’t going anywhere.
According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL, Clowney already has met in person with Dolphins coach Brian Flores and members of the front office.
Clowney prefers to play for the Seahawks or the Eagles, per Wilson, and as an unsigned player, Clowney could chose to continue holding out rather than go to a team not of his liking.
So stay tuned to the continuing saga of Jadeveon Clowney.
Stephen Holder of The Athletic thinks Frank Reich is the right man to rally and adapt.
Frank Reich huddled in a room with Chris Ballard and Jim Irsay for several hours in early February 2018, talking in intricate detail about his coaching philosophy and how he might apply it as the potential coach of their football team.
As Ballard, the Colts’ general manager, and Irsay, the team’s owner, batted around ideas with Reich that might help the team emerge from the morass of a 4-12 debacle in 2017, the conversation ran the gamut. Ballard and Irsay sought to learn Reich’s thoughts on team building, his approach to working with the front office, details about his offensive principles and how he would go about creating a culture.
What they did not talk about was Andrew Luck.
Consider the gravity of this fact. At the time, most candidates for the job could have been expected to seek clarity on one of the NFL’s most enigmatic situations after complications from shoulder surgery sidelined Luck for the entirety of 2017 and his status for 2018 remained in doubt. Luck had not only missed the previous season, he’d traveled to the Netherlands to undergo alternative forms of therapy, such was his level of desperation.
It wasn’t only Luck’s immediate future that seemed in question. His very ability to play football going forward had not yet been fully established. This was the situation Reich, if he got the job, would be walking into. And he didn’t even care to ask for an update?
“To be honest with you, Frank never asked,” Ballard said then. “I had to volunteer it at the end. I said, ‘OK, let me give you an update where we’re at.’ He was good. He didn’t ask one time about Andrew.”
The significance wasn’t lost on Ballard and Irsay. Coupled with Reich’s role in helping the Eagles win a Super Bowl only days prior with backup quarterback Nick Foles, it was telling.
It demonstrated to them Reich was a “very confident man, that he can get it done … Nick Foles is a good player. But (the Eagles) lose their franchise quarterback and they don’t miss a beat. That shows me a man that’s very confident in his ability to develop and coach the quarterback position and develop an offense that can move with whoever’s under center.”
Ballard didn’t know it then, but his words now are being revealed to be amazingly prescient. The stunning retirement of Luck on Saturday makes this year-old story relevant once more. Now that the foundation for the Colts’ Super Bowl hopes has opted for retirement, it is up to Reich to steady this proverbial ship.
Last season, Reich, as a rookie coach, guided his team from a 1-5 start to a wild card berth and a trip to the AFC Divisional Playoffs. It was a massive test of Reich’s leadership abilities and he passed it with flying colors. Now, a year later, he is faced with an even greater challenge. How do you pick up the pieces after losing one of the franchise’s greatest players two weeks before kicking off the regular season?
Ballard, who believed Reich was his man not long after that interview commenced 18 months ago, was defiant Saturday night.
“Don’t write the end of the story yet,” he said. “Story’s just starting, man. Not the end of the story yet. Everybody’s gonna write the end of the story, but I’m telling you: The story’s not over yet.”
No way Ballard could make that assertion without an unshakable belief that his coach is equipped to pass this enormous test.
There’s a reason for that confidence, and it starts with Reich’s coaching savvy. Put simply, the Colts have what looks to be an elite offensive coach. Just consider how many Colts players had career years under Reich last season.
Running back Marlon Mack went from a pedestrian 3.8 yards per carry in 2017 to a robust 4.7 in 2018, becoming a much more decisive runner in his second season. Tight end Eric Ebron – a castoff from Detroit who Reich took the lead in recruiting to Indianapolis – had career highs in catches (66), receiving yards (750) and touchdown receptions (13). Guard Mark Glowinski, a journeyman claimed off waivers in 2017, went from an unknown commodity to a starter who in January earned an $18 million contract extension. There are others, too, and it’s difficult to see these events as coincidental.
As the spotlight shines on backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett, look for Reich to tailor his game plans to Brissett’s strengths. Reich’s scheme is versatile, as he displayed last season. Consider the Colts’ early season offensive game plans versus those late in the season and in the postseason. Early, while Luck was still regaining his arm strength, the Colts made use of a number of quicker, shorter throws to get him in a rhythm after his yearlong layoff. Once Luck started growing comfortable and regaining confidence in his arm, Reich shifted to a more aggressive attack.
The point is, Reich and his scheme are very adaptable and the Colts are well-positioned to make the best of this sudden shift from elite franchise quarterback to unproven backup.
But this isn’t just about Reich’s offensive acumen. In Reich, the Colts have a coach with a steady hand. Last season was teetering after the Colts’ Week 6 loss to the Jets. At 1-5, with a team whose core was so young, and a new head coach, the bottom could have fallen out. Probably should have, to be honest.
This is when you might have expected the fire-and-brimstone speech from the former Presbyterian minister. But, nope. Reich did what he always does – remained consistent. His even-keeled nature has become his calling card, and he’ll likely lean on it again even in these unprecedented circumstances.
After that loss to New York, here is what Reich said: “I fully understand we are a 1-5 team and we have to own that and get these mistakes corrected but, really, (I) just feel strongly about the chemistry of this team. And, sometimes, adversity can drive you apart or pull you together and I really think it will pull us together. I think we’ve got good guys, good players and good leaders in that locker room who will help get this thing turned around.”
The Colts reeled off nine wins in the next 10 games to qualify for the postseason.
Reich helped the Colts avert a looming disaster once. Can he do it again? We’re about to find out.
THIS AND THAT
Rob Gronkowski, in retirement, echoes Andrew Luck. Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:
Former NFL tight end Rob Gronkowski has announced what he’ll be working on now that he won’t be playing football for the Patriots on Sundays this fall.
At an event in New York, Gronkowski announced that he will be an advocate for the NFL and sports leagues to open to door to players using CBD products — namely CBDMEDIC — to aid in pain relief. CBD is currently on the NFL’s list of banned substances.
Gronkowski said he was “not in a good place” as a result of the injuries he suffered over the course of his NFL career and echoed some of what Andrew Luck said last weekend about losing the joy in life because of the chronic pain that came with playing pro football. Gronkowski said that using CBD has helped him feel “pain-free” for the first time in a decade.
Gronkowski also addressed the possibility that he’d return to the NFL. He didn’t slam the door shut, saying it “could be the case” in six months or several years before adding that he doesn’t feel close to being mentally able to return right now.
“I truly don’t see it in the foreseeable future,” Gronkowski said.
That leaves the matter open enough that people will continue to wonder if the tight end will be back on a football field one day while Gronkowski focuses on the chapter of his life he revealed on Tuesday.
Martin Rogers of FOX Sports gets an email back from PK CARLI LLOYD:
You have to move quickly when reporting about the historic possibility of a woman playing in a National Football League game, because, well, things are escalating quickly.
It all began as a bit of fun last Thursday when Carli Lloyd, one of the greatest women’s soccer players ever to don a pair of cleats, was invited to hang out with the Philadelphia Eagles at training camp.
Lloyd was relaxed enough about the whole thing that she took Preston Galanis, the sports-mad 13-year-old son of her long-time training guru James Galanis, along with her. They were warmly welcomed by the Eagles, kicked some field goals, grabbed food afterwards and chatted how it had been a fun, once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity.
But by the time Lloyd emailed me late Monday night, the United States women’s national team star was “seriously considering” attempting to become perhaps sports’ most important equal rights pioneer by chasing a career in the NFL.
“This has all been so wild,” Lloyd wrote. “Can’t believe how big this has become.”
It blew up rapidly, thanks to the virality of a social media video of Lloyd nailing a 55-yarder on the Eagles field, a kick that intrigued not only NFL fans but also several of its teams.
“I am having discussions with my husband and James about the reality of playing in the NFL,” Lloyd added. “They both feel that I could do it and should consider it. So I’m seriously considering it, as it’s a challenge (and) I would probably enjoy it.”
Earlier on Monday, I had an extensive conversation with Galanis, the New Jersey-based soccer coaching expert who Lloyd largely credits with guiding her extraordinary career, one that has seen her score the winning goal in two Olympic gold medal games and produce an incredible hat trick in the 2015 Women’s World Cup Final.
Galanis revealed that while several NFL teams had been in touch (he had concrete knowledge of three approaches), the most recent of those, just hours earlier, had come with the most dramatic development yet.
The unnamed team, he said, had offered to add Lloyd to the game-day roster for Thursday’s final preseason exhibition and allow her the chance to kick. Understandably, he wouldn’t say which team, and it was impossible to narrow it down – all 32 teams play Thursday night.
So too, does the U.S. women’s national team, against Portugal, which meant the idea was an immediate non-starter – for now.
“Today she got another call from another NFL team,” Galanis said on Monday. “The one that called today, I don’t want to say who it is, was willing to put her on the roster for their next (game). They were willing to put her on the roster.”
Galanis continued: “She was told (she could) play on Thursday, the NFL game, but she is playing Thursday with the national team, so that was the conflict.”
It is likely that Lloyd would have turned down the chance in any case, due to the limited amount of preparation time. However, the prospect of becoming a true pioneer for sporting gender equality has serious appeal.
“We are thinking about what it would do to the sport itself, every sport at every level,” Galanis said. “She would be the first female that’s really playing with males, and what would it do to the whole equality (issue).
“We are definitely thinking about it. Knowing Carli, this is why it is enticing for her because it is a challenge. That’s what Carli thrives on, it is the next thing she can conquer. That’s why we have had half a dozen conversations about it in less than a week.”
Yes, Lloyd took more steps for her kick with the Eagles than would be possible in an NFL game, but she also sailed it through the uprights without any football training whatsoever. Male kickers have been offered tryouts on the basis of far less compelling evidence.
And, if football’s gender divide is ever to be crossed, could there be anyone better than an athlete who has already performed at the highest level, and dealt with the accompanying scrutiny? Yet she also knows that if she were to try her luck in pro football, and was underprepared and ineffective, it could set the sports equality movement back years.
There’s a list of women who have played football from the high school to semi-professional levels, almost all as kickers. But the NFL is a considerably higher barrier, played in an unforgiving spotlight.
“I think Carli is perfectly made out for a job like that,” Galanis added. “She loves the pressure. She’s got one of the hardest kicks in the world when it comes to women. She is great at long range balls, she displayed that by scoring a goal from just past the halfway line in a World Cup final, and she is definitely in tune with the mechanics. She would be an ideal candidate.”
There is a whole lot else that would need to be sorted out. While Lloyd is as pure a striker of a soccer ball as there is in the women’s game, she would need extensive training to adapt those skills to the gridiron. Preparing herself for the possibility of the kind of ferocious contact permissible in the NFL would be a vital part of the equation. Would she specialize in kickoffs, field goals, or both?
They are all valid questions, but they all have answers – we just don’t know what they are yet. What we do know is that the possibility of a woman kicking in the NFL suddenly, remarkably, feels a whole lot closer.
Sounds perfect for the XFL, at the very least.
More from Galanis from Graham Hayes of ESPNW:
Don’t expect Lloyd to try to make that happen in 2019, according to the coach who helped her reach the pinnacle of her current sport. James Galanis said that if Lloyd pursues football, it will be with an eye toward training for the 2020 season.
“If she’s going to do this, she’ll do it — she’ll train in the offseason, she’ll get herself ready so that she just doesn’t do it for the sake of doing it,” Galanis told ESPN. “If she’s going to do it, she’s going to do it so that she can be a success.”
– – –
Lloyd’s longtime coach said he met no resistance when he advised her in a long conversation Monday that it would be a step for women around the world and also a great experience for her personal growth to attempt kicking in the NFL. An in-depth conversation followed Tuesday, when they began to talk about not only kicking style, but issues such as how locker room dynamics would work for a woman.
“In terms of dealing with the pressure and being able to execute the kick itself,” Galanis said, “we both feel she could definitely do it.”
Galanis also said numerous observers pointed out to him that Lloyd took five steps before connecting from 55 yards at Eagles camp, while the standard run-up for an NFL kicker in game conditions is two steps. Tweaking that will be the first step when the two of them get together after the U.S. plays Portugal in Minneapolis on Tuesday to evaluate her potential options.
“We’ll try kicking balls with a couple of steps,” Galanis said. “And if her range is still the same … then that’s an important piece we knocked over because we’ll know that she can kick the ball 55 yards with two steps, the same way an NFL player could.
“Once we knock that over, we’ll contact one of the NFL teams and tell them that we’re interested and we’d like to come down and spend some time with their field goal-kicking coaches and let them make some tweaks and fix her technique or adjust her technique. From there, bring in the team, and she can do it live at training in kind of like a realistic situation.”
Gender aside, it is unlikely anyone new to it could pick up the nuances of football place-kicking in time to make a serious run at the rosters of NFL teams entering preseason finales. But Lloyd, 37, became a World Cup Golden Ball winner, a two-time World Cup winner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and one of the all-time leading scorers for the U.S. with a methodical, almost maniacal, approach to training and attention to detail. She didn’t do anything on a whim, and that appears to be her mindset when it comes to a future on the gridiron.
“I don’t want to go in there blindly,” Lloyd told NBCSports Philadelphia after she threw out the first pitch at Tuesday night’s Pittsburgh Pirates-Philadelphia Phillies game. “I want to actually attempt to do it. But I know that I definitely could do it, because anything I set my mind to do, I can do it. And I actually do kick balls for a living. So, yeah, it’s all about the technique, and we’ll see what happens.”