AROUND THE NFL

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

Congratulations to Roddy White.

 

Logan Reardon of NFL.com:

 

The Atlanta Falcons are honoring a franchise great this season.

 

Roddy White will be the 11th member inducted into the Falcons Ring of Honor, the team announced Tuesday. The ceremony will take place before the Week 14 game vs. the Carolina Panthers on Dec. 8.

 

To break the news, White’s former teammates Matt Ryan and Michael Jenkins met with him at the team’s headquarters. Highlights from White’s career were playing as he walked in and Ryan shared the news.

 

“So, Rod, Jenk and I just wanted to be the first ones to welcome you to the Falcons Ring of Honor — you’re going in there,” Ryan said.

 

As of now, there is no more deserving receiver in Falcons history. White is Atlanta’s all-time leader in receptions (808), receiving yards (10,863) and receiving touchdowns (63). He earned one All-Pro and four Pro Bowl selections during his 11-year career — all of which came in Atlanta.

 

“I wanted to be special to this franchise,” White said. “You know when they drafted me I told [Falcons president and CEO] Rich McKay, I am going to come in and I’m going to be the best receiver have had until that point.”

 

White delivered on his promise — and now he’ll forever be immortalized in Falcons lore.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

QB KYLER MURRAY is not surprised that he knows the Cardinals offense better than any of his teammates.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Murray also noted that knowing the offense inside and out is a pretty big part of the job.

 

“Is it true? I’d say obviously I’m more familiar with it,” Murray said, via AZCentral.com. “Coach Kingsbury obviously knows it the best. But yeah, obviously with [Fitzgerald] being a veteran and not having to come to every OTA and stuff like that and me being there every day, studying every day, yes, I do know it better. But that’s my job.”

 

Murray said more than once on Tuesday that he thinks the offense can be “dangerous” once everyone is on the same page. A desire to put that kind of unit together is why Murray and Kingsbury are in Arizona, although just how dangerous they’ll be in 2019 is a question that can’t be answered until they’re on the field with other teams.

 

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

RB TODD GURLEY III concedes there is something, however slight, amiss with his knee.  Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:

 

Speculation over Todd Gurley’s left knee injury, which hampered him down the stretch of the 2018 season, does not trouble the running back. As Gurley told reporters Tuesday, he’s dealt with much worse before.

 

“I had bigger problems to worry about coming out of college,” Gurley said Tuesday at the start of Rams mandatory minicamp. “This is small.”

 

The Rams running back is referencing his injuries while at the University of Georgia from 2012 through 2014. Gurley missed three games in 2013 with a high ankle sprain and most notably suffered a torn ACL in his left knee, the same one that was bothering him last season, in November 2014.

 

Gurley chose to forego his senior year and declared for the 2015 draft, but was feared to fall draft boards because of his durability issues. The Rams ended up selecting him with the 10th overall pick as the first RB off the board. Gurley missed the entire preseason and the first three games of the 2015 regular season before making his debut in late September.

 

The running back didn’t miss a single game due to injury after that … until Week 16 of the 2018 season.

 

Given all that, dealing with an reportedly arthritic knee — or more accurately, reports of an arthritic knee — don’t bother Gurley none.

 

“I’ve be hearing stuff all my life. Just whatever growing up. Hearing comments or whatever that is. All of the stuff don’t really get to me,” Gurley said. “I feel like I do a great job, got a great supporting cast. … It’s football. It’s the game I’ve been playing my whole life, so it’s nothing new to me. I know what I’m capable of. I know what type of person I am. No big deal to me.”

– – –

QB JARED GOFF is asked about his contract status.  Boring answer chronicled by Gary Klein in the LA Times:

 

 From the moment quarterbacks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz were selected with the first two picks of the 2016 NFL draft, comparisons were inevitable in every step of their careers.

 

Last week, the Philadelphia Eagles gave Wentz a massive contract extension through the 2024 season, a deal reportedly worth $128 million with $107 guaranteed.

 

So is Goff contemplating his value and an extension?

 

“You definitely think about it,” Goff said Tuesday as the Rams opened what was essentially a one-day mandatory minicamp. “But at the same time, I know none of that is even possible without playing well on the field, and being available on the field.

 

 “So just continue to do what I’ve been doing the last few years and be myself and let it take care of itself.”

 

Commentary from Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

That’s an answer that’s as dull as possible, to what is as important a question as the Rams will face in the coming years. They said last week Wentz’s deal didn’t change their timetable for a Goff extension, but coach Sean McVay said he’s happy to be saddled with Goff as long as possible.

 

At the moment, Goff’s under contract for two more years, this season and the $22 million-plus fifth-year option for 2020.

 

Asked about his timeline for a new deal, Goff replied: “Whatever’s right. It’s not for me to worry about. It’s for the team and my agent to work on.”

 

Whenever it happens, it’s going to be the kind of deal everyone in the neighborhood will recognize.

           

AFC WEST

 

THE RAIDERS

Despite the team’s objections, the NFL makes the decision “Hard Knocks” fans have been clamoring for – Jon Gruden, Mike Mayock, Mark Davis, Antonio Brown, Derek Carr, etc. will be front and center this August.  Winnipeg, here we come!  Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com:

 

What is supposed to be their final training camp as the Oakland Raiders before next year’s planned move to Las Vegas will be documented like never before, as the team announced Tuesday that it will star in HBO’s reality series “Hard Knocks” come August.

 

While owner Mark Davis and coach Jon Gruden have aired their displeasure at the notion of cameras peering into their privacy — Davis jokingly told ESPN in March that he would rather fire Gruden than subject the team to the voyeuristic show — both put up resigned faces.

 

“Everybody wants to be a Raider,” Davis said in a team-issued news release. “Now they’ll find out what it takes to become one.”

 

Earlier Tuesday, at the start of a three-day mandatory minicamp attended by everyone on the roster, Gruden was highlighting his three first-round draft picks in defensive end Clelin Ferrell, running back Josh Jacobs and safety Johnathan Abram.

 

“Who knows? Maybe ‘Hard Knocks’ will come and cover that,” Gruden said through a grimace. “That’d be awesome, wouldn’t it?

 

“We are trying to worry about this team, this week. We’ve got a lot of adversity we’re facing right now with this team. We got a lot of distractions. I think we are playing in three countries. We’ve got about two months without a home game. We are in a process of moving. And we are going to try like crazy to keep all of our best players as we head to Las Vegas.”

 

The Raiders could provide the HBO show with a treasure trove of storylines: From polarizing receiver Antonio Brown, who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Steelers, to middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who was voted the dirtiest player in the game a few years ago while with the Cincinnati Bengals, to left guard Richie Incognito, whose list of run-ins with teammates and the authorities is as long as his list of on-field accolades, to quarterback Derek Carr, who is entering what many see as a make-or-break season, to undrafted rookie defensive tackle Ronald Ollie, who already had a star turn in 2016 on Netflix’s “Last Chance U.”

 

“It’s a hard knock life for us,” Brown tweeted, before adding: “Get your popcorn ready.”

 

Quarterback Derek Carr responded by tweeting: “Yes sirrrrr brodie!!!”

 

As Gruden noted, the Raiders are in a lame-duck transition year. They are leaving Oakland for the second time, having called Los Angeles home from 1982 through 1995. Gruden is already a TV star from his nine years in ESPN’s Monday Night Football booth, and general manager Mike Mayock spent 14 years as an analyst for NFL Network.

 

All the show is missing is Marshawn Lynch, who was not re-signed by Oakland.

 

The other candidates for “Hard Knocks” this year were the San Francisco 49ers, New York Giants, Detroit Lions and Washington.

 

Redskins coach Jay Gruden lobbied for the show to chronicle his older brother’s team in May.

 

“If they were smart, they would go to Oakland,” Jay Gruden said. “What an entertainment value that would be: Antonio Brown, Jon Gruden, Paul Guenther, Vontaze Burfict, [Richie] Incognito. You’d be crazy not to go to Oakland. You can do us next year.”

 

HBO’s cameras will get a peek at two days of joint practices with the NFC champion Los Angeles Rams in Napa. The Raiders and Rams will scrimmage on Aug. 7 and Aug. 8 before opening the exhibition season against each other on Aug. 10 at the Oakland Coliseum, a source told ESPN.

 

The new “Hard Knocks” season premieres Aug. 6.

 

‘Hard Knocks’ History

 

13 editions of the series: 2001-02, 2007-10, 2012-18

Combined record: 98-109-1 (.474 win pct)

 

Past three teams missed the playoffs: 2018 Browns, 2017 Buccaneers, 2016 Rams

 

Last to make playoffs: 2015 Texans went 9-7 but lost wild card

 

Only two teams won a playoff game that season: 2010 Jets (won two, lost AFC Championship Game) and 2001 Ravens (won one, lost AFC divisional)

 

Most wins in a season: 11 by 2010 Jets and 2013 Bengals (finished 11-5)

 

Fewest wins in a season: Four by 2016 Rams and 2007 Chiefs (finished 4-12)

 

Total playoff teams: Five: 2015 Texans, 2013 Bengals, 2010 Jets, 2009 Bengals and 2001 Ravens

 

Teams to appear twice: Bengals (2009, 2013) and Cowboys (2002, 2008)

 

“Hard Knocks” expert Dan Hanzus of NFL.com is ecstatic:

 

1) The Raiders were the best choice of the five “Hard Knocks” eligible teams. The Raiders, along with the Redskins, Lions, 49ers and Giants were the five teams that could be selected for “Hard Knocks” without their consent. The Silver and Black offer the most potential for entertaining TV. “If they were smart, they would go to Oakland,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said last month. “What an entertainment value that would be: Antonio Brown, Jon Gruden, Paul Guenther, Vontaze Burfict, [Richie] Incognito. You’d be crazy not to go to Oakland. You can do us next year.” The younger Gruden was obviously tweaking big brother through the media, but he ain’t wrong. Speaking of which …

 

2) Jon Gruden and “Hard Knocks” were made for each other. It’s fair to say most people who follow the sport have viewed Gruden’s return to coaching with suspicion after a decade in the broadcast booth. Had he been gone too long? Could he adapt to the modern game? Was he given too much power? There wasn’t much to take out of his first year in charge, as Gruden stripped the Raiders down to spare parts, but 2019 will be a true indicator of whether the coach has a once-proud organization on the right track. Gruden’s trademark intensity will be catnip for “Hard Knocks” cameras, who will undoubtedly make him the center of attention in the same way Rex Ryan stole the show during the Jets’ 2010 star turn — still the docuseries’ high-water mark. One thing you won’t see: An internal power struggle like we witnessed last year between then-Browns coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. This is Gruden’s show all the way.

 

3) QB1, please step under the microscope. Are Gruden and Derek Carr built to last? Last season, the pair had a few heated sideline exchanges caught on camera over the course of a lost season, but both sides insist their relationship is solid. The Raiders seemingly flirted with the idea of replacing Carr in the offseason, working out Kyler Murray before the draft and publicizing it on the team’s social media. But the Raiders stuck with their guy, and Carr will enter 2019 as the unquestioned starter. “Hard Knocks” should give us an inside look at the relationship between Carr and Gruden, long known to be a chronic QB needler. Add some late-summer heat and things could get spicy.

 

4) Hello there, Antonio Brown. The Raiders upgraded their offense in a huge way when they traded for Brown, one of the most productive wide receivers in the history of the sport. Brown is a stud, but he’s also an unpredictable guy who apparently changed as a person as he ascended from complementary player to superstar playmaker. “Hard Knocks” will angle to spend time with Brown, starting with his always ostentatious camp arrival. How long before we get our first summer practice skirmish between Brown and Burfict, the former Bengals linebacker who concussed Brown in a playoff game (a hit that led to a suspension for Burfict) a few years back? Let’s set the over under at 1.5 episodes in. Yes, I’m sticking to that even though they’ve both shot down talk of lingering beef.

 

5) Richie Incognito gets his opportunity. Well, two actually. The Raiders signed Incognito to a one-year deal last month, giving the veteran guard a shot at jumpstarting his career after a year out of the game. For Incognito, it also presents the opportunity to engage in some image rehab. Incognito is probably best known as the face of the Dolphins’ ugly bullying scandal in 2013, and there were multiple signs of trouble during his year out of football. In May 2018, he was taken into custody for psychiatric evaluation after an altercation at a Florida gym. He pleaded guilty in April to disorderly conduct charges stemming from two separate August 2018 incidents, per ESPN. “Hard Knocks” will want to dig into his story. We’ll find out how interested Incognito is in having it told.

 

6) The Move. You may have heard that the Raiders are relocating to Vegas in the next year or so. It will be interesting to see how thoroughly “Hard Knocks” hits this angle. Personally, I’d prefer we don’t get the obligatory segment where front office officials travel to Vegas to check in on the progress of new stadium construction — but this feels like something the Raiders will want to promote. I’d much rather “Hard Knocks” focus on the loyal Bay Area fans who have stuck with a team they know is leaving them. That’s a special kind of loyalty no fan should have to deal with.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

DT MICHAEL PIERCE is in such horrible shape that the Ravens thought it was unsafe to expect him to make it through a padless mini-camp practice.  Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com:

 

Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Michael Pierce’s first appearance of the spring ended abruptly Tuesday when he was sent off the field at mandatory minicamp for a lack of conditioning.

 

Pierce, a restricted free agent, didn’t attend any offseason practices and looked much heavier than his listed playing weight of 340 pounds. Following the stretching portion of practice, Pierce left the field after speaking with coach John Harbaugh.

 

“He’s not ready to practice from a safety standpoint and for his own health,” Harbaugh said. “We recognize that and pulled him off.”

 

The NFL pass-blocking awards: Best and worst O-lines overall, and more

Pierce, 26, ranked as the fifth-best interior defensive lineman by Pro Football Focus last season. Considered one of the better run defenders in the NFL, Pierce received a second-round tender this offseason and will earn about $3 million.

 

He signed as an undrafted rookie out of Samford in 2016, and his weight had previously never been a major issue. This is an important year for Pierce, who can become an unrestricted free agent after the season. But his season didn’t start smoothly.

 

“He’s not ready for this practice yet,” Harbaugh said. “I think you could probably tell.”

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

Bill O’Brien speaks on the departure of another GM.  Aaron Wilson in the Houston Chronicle:

 

In the wake of the surprising firing of general manager Brian Gaine last Friday, Texans coach Bill O’Brien said it was a result of an exhaustive evaluation of the entire organization from chief operating officer Cal McNair.

 

“That’s a tough decision for Cal to make,” O’Brien said Tuesday following a minicamp practice. “He did a thorough evaluation of the football operation and that included me. He was very clear with me on what we needed to do to grow as an organization. ..

 

“He’s a humble person, very good at articulating what he wants, his vision, the improvements he thinks needs to be made relative to the whole building. He’s not afraid to make tough decisions. He wants to win.”

 

O’Brien was asked what this kind of dramatic change says about the direction of the franchise following an 11-win season and an AFC South division title.

 

“Cal did a thorough evaluation of the football program,” O’Brien said. “I’m not saying he did it by himself. He made some tough decisions.”

 

Columnist Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle columnizes on Gaine’s departure:

 

We tend to bend over backward to maintain genteel coverage and sports fandom in this huge, warm-hearted small town.

 

So, some of y’all want to applaud the Texans for admitting they don’t know what they’re doing?

 

“At least give them some credit for firing the guy when they realized he wasn’t good,” read one email on the Texans parting ways with general manager Brian Gaine.

 

Are you serious?

 

Put a setup in front of that and it’ll play in comedy clubs. Such incompetence doesn’t deserve applause.

 

The spin that Gaine was in over his head  doesn’t smell right.

 

@RapSheet

 On the #Texans GM firing: My understanding is there was no one incident that created the opening. Houston did an evaluation of its football operations and believes — right or wrong — GM Brian Gaine was not good enough. Good, but not good enough. Stunning.

 

Gaine went from what Bill O’Brien described as “head and shoulders” above all the candidates the Texans interviewed for general manager last year to “wasn’t the team’s first choice” after he was fired.

 

Let’s not play this silly game.

 

I don’t know Gaine well enough to give a head nod for a bouncer at a club to let him in if he didn’t have his ID, let alone well enough to speak to how good of a general manager he might be.

 

But if he wasn’t good enough to be the Texans’ general manager, that is on them, not him.

 

It’s not like they went out and hired an unknown off the streets, based on a LinkedIn profile or some random recommendation.

 

The guy worked as the team’s director of pro personnel for three years, then left for virtually the same job with Buffalo.

 

A year later, the Texans welcomed him back.

 

To portray him as incompetent or not up to the task now that he has been fired is classless. If he is a better personnel man than a GM, the Texans should have figured that out before hiring him.

 

Gaine, who has worked in NFL front offices for 20 years, interviewed for GM jobs with a half-dozen teams. He almost got one of the jobs (Eagles), but in the end each of those teams went in another direction.

 

Not the Texans.

 

Interestingly, Gaine and Nick Caserio of the Patriots, who reportedly was the Texans’ “top choice” when they hired Gaine, both interviewed for the Dolphins’ GM position in 2014. Caserio was offered the job and turned it down.

 

New England would not grant the Texans permission to speak to Caserio in 2018. The Patriots allowed him to interview for a job with a division rival, but not the Texans? That is likely a sign that Caserio wasn’t particularly interested in Houston.

 

Look, I’m OK with admitting a mistake, taking full blame for it and acting quickly to fix the problem, even if it means firing someone.

 

That is what happened when UH’s Tony Levine fired his offensive coordinator after just one game. But he had never worked with the guy and didn’t know him that well.

 

It was a bad fit, a bad hire by a coach who had a lot to learn about being the CEO of a football program.

 

The Texans and Gaine is a far worse situation. With as much information as they had on him, how could they get that hire so wrong?

 

Maybe they didn’t.

 

I get the sense that personality had more to do with Gaine’s poor evaluation than performance.

 

Regardless, the Texans don’t get kudos for firing a general manager after a year and a half on the job because they were smart enough to see he wasn’t good.

 

That is laughable.

 

They should have been smart enough to see he wasn’t good before they hired him.

 

 

INDIANAPOLIS

QB ANDREW LUCK says he won’t be playing through injuries any more – at least in the offeseason.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Colts will not have quarterback Andrew Luck on the field during this week’s minicamp because of the calf strain that’s kept him out of action for the last few weeks as well.

 

Neither Luck nor anyone else around the team seems overly concerned about the issue. Head coach Frank Reich called Luck’s readiness for camp a “no-brainer” and Luck said that his experience with the shoulder injury that cost him the entire 2017 season taught him that it’s better to be safe than sorry.

 

“Things can be stubborn sometimes,” Luck said, via the Indianapolis Star. “I certainly don’t feel as young as I once did, but am certainly also being conservative with this. It’s one of the lessons I learned from my shoulder. . . . A lot less anxiety in my life than before. I think [that’s] trusting myself, and trusting the process.”

 

Luck was just getting back to throwing around this time last year and trusting that process paid off with a trip to the playoffs after the 2018 season. This recovery feels far less daunting, which makes it easy to understand why the Colts aren’t sweating their quarterback’s role at these practices.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

FORMER PLAYERS

A California jury convicts former NFL TE Kellen Winslow of some of the charges against him, but deadlocks on the most serious.  Jeff Eisenberg of YahooSports.com

 

After three weeks of graphic testimony and six days of contentious deliberation, the jury tasked with deciding the fate of Kellen Winslow II failed to reach a unanimous verdict in eight of the 12 counts against him.

 

As a result, the legal battle over the former NFL tight end’s future appears far from over.

 

Shortly after Judge Blaine K. Bowman on Tuesday declared a mistrial on the remaining counts against Winslow, prosecutor Dan Owens hinted that the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office is likely to attempt to retry those charges. Owens cited several incentives to pursue a second trial, namely the potential for more convictions that could dramatically strengthen Winslow’s punishment.

 

Although jurors on Monday found Winslow guilty of raping a 58-year-old homeless woman by the side of a dimly lit Encinitas road in May 2018, he for now faces a maximum penalty of just nine years in prison. He would serve up to eight years for the forcible rape conviction and six months apiece for separate misdemeanor convictions of lewd conduct and indecent exposure.

 

Winslow began the trial facing the possibility of life in prison after being charged with seven felonies, including the alleged rape of three different women. The majority of jurors voted in favor of guilt in each of the eight deadlocked verdicts, including 10-2 votes on several of the felony charges.

 

“When a jury’s vote does favor guilt, that is a significant factor in considering whether or not to proceed with retrial,” Owens said.

 

“Ten jurors did feel very strongly that he had committed forcible sexual offenses against more than one victim. That would lead to a lifetime prison term and that is a fact we will consider very strongly when considering how to proceed with the case.”

 

The soonest a potential second trial for Winslow could begin is July 29. That appears extremely optimistic given the legal wrangling the prosecution’s further pursuit of the case could inspire.

 

@CourtTV

 #BREAKING: CA v. Winslow II jury hopelessly DEADLOCKED on remaining 8 charges. Judge Bowman declares a mistrial. #WinslowTrial

 

Assuming that he serves as judge again, Bowman would undoubtedly hear arguments from both sides for and against the legality of a second trial. He would also have to decide whether jurors should be informed of Winslow’s three guilty verdicts from the first trial.

 

All three of Winslow’s alleged rape victims would have the opportunity to testify again since at least one deadlocked count applies to each of them. Jurors did not reach a unanimous verdict on the alleged sodomy of the homeless woman, nor did they reach a consensus on the alleged 2018 rape of a 54-year-old unemployed woman Winslow picked up hitchhiking or the 2003 rape of a high school senior after a house party.

 

Defense attorneys argued that each of those encounters was consensual, seizing on the holes and inconsistencies in the accusers’ stories in hopes of providing the jury with reasonable doubt. In the aftermath of Tuesday’s outcome, defense attorney Brian Watkins promised to appeal the three guilty counts and portrayed the remaining deadlocked verdicts as symptoms of the weakness of the prosecution’s case.

 

“Our position was always that these cases would not be able to stand alone,” Watkins said. “We fought to keep these cases separate. We lost that battle, we took on all these cases at once and we still prevailed to the point where we did not get convicted of everything.

 

“Clearly this case is not over. We will continue to litigate this case until our client is exonerated.”

 

There were signs this case was headed for a hung jury long before it became official Tuesday morning. Jurors deliberated for nearly a week, asking last Thursday to have the entire testimony of one alleged rape victim read back and then sending a cryptic note to the judge the following day that suggested discussions had gotten contentious.

 

When the jury sent the judge another note on Monday saying the group was deadlocked, Bowman didn’t immediately accept that outcome. He asked jurors to resume deliberations Tuesday morning despite objections from Winslow’s defense attorneys, who were happy with the outcome and were already vehemently advocating for the judge to declare a mistrial on the remaining charges.

 

While it was lucky for Winslow that he found two sympathetic jurors, he still remains a convicted rapist.  And we would say nine years in a California prison should not merit a “just” in its description.